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Archive for the ‘The Rewards’ Category

While understanding my core value and worth is clearly the most important work I can do, in my journey to go health and in everything else, on a more superficial note… there’s nothing like trying on old clothes to feel better about an endless plateau and small weight gain.

I hit the event horizon in my ability to deal with my messy closet and on a whim started dragging all my clothes out to sort into keep and give away piles. Of course, I had to try many things on to see if they still fit. And what a joy to be seeing if they were too big on me now (instead of the old days when I had to get rid of things because they had become too small).

It was an even bigger joy to try on things that were way too big, with inches and inches of extra fabric, pants just falling back off. It was good, physical evidence of how much I’ve changed. It was an important perspective to be reminded of.

I found and put on my old jeans, my biggest pair of jeans, which were too small for me to wear comfortably before I started working with my trainer. They are so huge on my now that I have to hold them on. So of course, I took a picture:

Hell yes!

Hell yes!

The photo doesn’t even do justice to just how much extra room there was in these pants. So much room. I folded these pants and put them back in the drawer. I’m keeping them because this is a good reminder to have. It’s important to remember where I came from, because even though I’m not yet where I want to be, I can see clearly just how far I have come.

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One of my favorite things about being in great shape is that I can enjoy hiking again.

I loved hiking as a child and young adult, but as an adult, I unlearned that love. I kind of started to hate it in fact. Because every time I went hiking I was made clearly and painfully aware of how out of shape I was. I could not keep up with my friends; I always felt like my heart would explode from exertion, as I panted heavily, gasping for air. It was not pretty. So I started avoiding it and continued to do so for years. On the occasions I found myself having to hike, I was anxious and self-conscious about how much more out of shape I was.

It continues to be a thrill to me that I no longer feel this way. One of the big activities from this past weekend was a long hike in Joshua Tree National Park. We picked the hike to be a challenging but not excessively so. We hiked Mount Ryan, a good three-ish hour hike (including lunch break) to a mountain peak and back down. Moderately challenging, but nothing crazy.

And that’s exactly what it was for me! I felt like I was getting a good workout, but I did not feel over-exerted. And I certainly did not feel exhausted, miserable or self-conscious. And it was glorious! I hiked the long uphill to the top of the mountain, consistently and comfortably at or near the front of our group. I was happy to stop and take pictures or wait for others, but I didn’t really need to. And when we got to the top, I was glad to be there, but it was not the near-hysterical relief at the end of an ordeal I have felt in the past.

I have been hiking in Joshua Tree before. The first time, just over five years ago, was also with a group of friends. I was at the back of the group the whole time, well behind most of the other hikers and deeply grateful that one of my friends was a heavy smoker, which…is a pretty messed up thing to be grateful for, but that’s how desperately self-conscious I was, how badly I didn’t want to be the most obviously, only person, trailing far behind.

I hiked in Joshua Tree again just over two years ago with Stephen. We picked a mostly flat and easy hike on purpose, so that I would not feel miserable the whole time.

At the end of our easy hike two years ago. I looked and felt different then.

At the end of our easy hike two years ago. I looked and felt different then.

This time, I did not have to worry about picking an easy hike or suffering through a hard one. I did not have to worry about slowing everyone down or making them wait (which I see now was probably not a big deal to anyone but me). I am in great shape now, so this time, I could enjoy the hike. I took in the sweeping vistas. I appreciated the work my body was doing and how it felt good to move. I appreciated the company of my friends. And when we got to the top, I felt, as I so often do these days, like my true, happy, and fabulous self.

I'm the King of the World!

I’m the King of the World!

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Shopping for a wedding dress is a fraught experience for me. I think it is for many women because there is a lot of cultural expectation around it: this idea that you’ll have a Moment when you find The Dress, and it will be emotional and happy and amazing. Yeah… That’s not really my way.

I am a slow decision maker, in part because I’m too able at seeing every angle and option and thus am often very indecisive. And the more important the decision is, the harder it feels for me. I knew dress shopping was likely to feature this problem. Also, I was not excited to spend tons of money on a white dress I’ll wear once. I have watched “Say Yes to the Dress” enough times to know that I am not a good candidate for the high pressure, This Is Such an Important Purchase intensity of the wedding dress industry. And I also saw this video about why wedding dresses cost so much, which further solidified the idea that a lot of the industry was a racket.

But most of all, I think of clothes shopping as a fraught emotional experience. This is because I have been shopping as an overweight woman for most of my adult life. And it’s not fun to have trouble finding clothes that fit. It sucks in fact to have to look for stuff with enough give to fit, to eventually give up on regular size stores and just go to the plus-sized ones, to even there have to worry about whether or not the clothes accentuate or hide fat. I got really good at finding clothes that made me feel happy and attractive, but it took years of effort and heartache to do so. As a result, I’m always a little touchy about having to buy something and needing it to look good.

It has not been easy for me to find a wedding dress. Everything either cost way more than I was willing to spend or didn’t feel at all like me. And I want to feel like myself on my wedding day. But there was one part of dress shopping I didn’t expect, which has been a wonderful surprise: I think I look good in everything.

I was so nervous the first time I put on a dress. It was a sample size too, so I knew it wasn’t going to zip up or anything useful like that. But I looked in the mirror, once all the clips to hold it on were in place and I looked bangin’. I was thrilled. Instead of worrying about how fat the dress did or didn’t make me look, I was just like daaayum! And it wasn’t a fluke. The majority of the (many) dresses I tried on looked good on me. And it was SUCH a great feeling.

Because I have worked my ass off to lose weight and be in better shape. I’m still not super skinny (I wear a size 12 – 14 depending on the brand), but I’m a fuck-lot skinnier than I used to be (size 22). And it feels amazing. Because I know I EARNED IT. And I’m so proud of myself. So when dresses didn’t come in my size or wouldn’t zip, I did not give one single fuck. Because I knew how good I looked and I knew how much effort I had made on my own behalf to get to this place. And I felt – and still feel – fucking great about it.

I’ve tried on what seems like an endless parade of dresses, and it’s been frustrating a lot of the time. But never because I felt too fat, never because I didn’t feel good enough about myself to feel good in a piece of clothing. It has been one of the great rewards of all my hard work to try on these many dresses and, each time, feel really good about myself, my body, and everything I’ve done and am doing to care for myself. I finally found a dress. I went back to the store three times before making up my mind, and I still might not have done it if I hadn’t had my best friend in town, there to help me realize that, yes, I could keep looking, but also, this was a great dress and a very me dress and getting it was a good idea.

NOT the dress I'm getting married in, but I think I look pretty good in it all the same!

NOT the dress I’m getting married in, but I think I look pretty good in it all the same!

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It’s birthday time again, and I have always loved my birthday. I look forward to it and celebrate it because at it’s most simple it is an indicator of the great good fortune I’ve had to live another year.

As I’ve gotten older though, a certain element of dread has also crept in. It doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re younger and you want to get older, but as time continues to pass, the horror dawns that aging will come for you too. Yes, you too will age and get wrinkles and fall out of cultural relevancy. Yes, you too will get old. These are obvious statements, but in a youth obsessed culture, I didn’t understand at all the degree to which I valued my own youth until it started to slip away.

It started in my late 20s because each year indicated I was getting closer to 30. Closer to 30 and still unmarried, still overweight, still floundering with my creative work and career. But the real awareness of aging set in after 30. Now well into my 30s, it seems hilarious to me that I once thought of turning 28 as “getting older.” Now there is no hiding the fact that I am moving, at the steady rate of time passing, towards middle age. I very much want to add that I’m not there yet because I’m not totally comfortable with that truth, as much as I try to remind myself that each year is a blessing and aging is a inevitability I’m lucky to have.

These reminders help me to let go of any anxiety about getting a year older, about seeing that new higher number. But what has made the biggest difference in me being able to more gracefully accept my age are the changes I’ve made. The more I have focused my energy on accomplishing what matters to me and on making significant meaningful changes in my life, the less I care about my advancing age.

As it turns out, a lot of what scares me about getting older is missing the chance to live my life truly and fully. The more I move towards becoming the person I know I am capable of being and doing what matters most to me, the more content I am.

So I’m older, and it’s no joke. I can’t even call this business the mid-30s anymore. But it’s okay. It’s great in fact. Primarily because I am alive and well, and extraordinarily fortunate in the people I know and the life I live. But it also doesn’t hurt that I look better now than I did two years ago!

Here I am on my birthday two years ago:

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And here I am celebrating this year’s anniversary of my birth:

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It feels good. To know that even though time passes, I can always become more of myself is a gift in itself. Getting older doesn’t mean anything more than the chance to more fully become who I truly am. As long as I’m willing to take that opportunity and work with it. And I feel very grateful indeed to have that opportunity.

P.S. – Also note the change in beverages, from a margarita to a glass of water. That’s not irrelevant at all!

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Dresses: Old and New

Dresses: Old and New

On this, the last day of the year, I would like to share another awesome thing. It seems like an appropriate way to close out the old year and welcome in a new one.

There’s a dress store in Silver Lake that I adore. Matrushka has funky, lovely, cool dresses all designed and made by the shop’s owner. The first time I wandered in there with a friend, I wanted to buy all of the beautifully patterned, flatteringly cut dresses in the store. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit into any of them. I’d never gone into the store on my own because I knew nothing in a boutique store featuring sizes S, M and L would be large enough for me. When I was there with my friend, I resigned myself to admiring the dresses and giving advice while she tried things on.

But the store won my eternal devotion when the saleswoman mentioned that they could make any of their dresses to fit – all they needed were my measurements. Even though I was plus-sized, even though I wasn’t the kind of girl who got to shop in cute neighborhood boutiques, in this instance, in this store, I could shop, and I could have an awesome dress. Anyone who has ever been too large for all the clothes in a store – or in many stores – knows how isolating and marginalizing it feels. Wandering among racks, looking at clothes I know not to bother trying on, while my friends shop with intention has always made me feel awkward and overly self-aware, each piece of clothing reinforcing to me how much I don’t fit in (literally) because of my size.

I had my places I shopped – stores that catered to plus-size women – but it was thrilling to find that I could participate at a regular store. That I could be normal – sort of, almost. I had to get measured and order the dress and come back for it. But I could participate too, and even though I still felt self-conscious, it meant so much to me. And I wore that dress all the time.

It’s way too big on me now (even though I still have it), but I hadn’t gone back to Matrushka until today, when I was in my old neighborhood with another friend. We went in the store, and it was the same but totally different …because I could shop off the rack. All those beautiful dresses? I could try them on. And you know what else I could try on? Everything on the sale rack. I didn’t have to worry about what looked biggest, or what could be altered. I just had to find my size and try it on.

It felt not quite real to step out of the dressing room and see myself in the mirror wearing a dress at a place I never imagined myself being able to shop. I felt different from how I’d felt before, but also the same. Like two people standing in the same space. A newer version of me looking back from the mirror, but still the same woman with all the same feelings and memories. Sometimes I wonder why it should be so satisfying and mean so much to me to buy smaller clothes, when I am still the same essential being. Why should clothing at all, much less its size, matter in the scheme of greater things?

I think it’s because of what is actually different. To change how I looked on the outside, I had to change who I was on the inside in how I behaved. I had to start showing up for myself. Not just saying I wanted a different life, but meaning it, proving it by actions taken over and over again, each day, on my own behalf. Eating well and exercising is all about caring for myself, taking the time to prioritize myself and demonstrate, through action, how much I value my own self. The slowly accumulated, massive value of those many repeated actions is not something I could have ever anticipated or imagined. It is the substance of the change, the foundation that makes the whole edifice of a new me permanent and solid.

So of course, I am thrilled by it. Any time I see evidence of it, any time I see myself. It reminds me of how much I’m capable of, that I didn’t know I was capable of, how much power and potential I have. And it’s really fun to see all of that in a dress.

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I forgot that there were still people who hadn’t seen me since I lost weight. I remembered this morning when my parents’ housekeeper, Armandina, came over to drop off about a thousand dozen tamales.

It’s Christmas Eve Day in Houston, Texas. It’s sunny and temperate, and we have a lot of tamales in our house now because, every year, my family has friends over on Christmas Eve for tamales and chili, which means every year, my mom orders about twice as many tamales as we need from Armandina (who has a side business making and selling tamales, clearly), who then brings us those tamales plus a couple dozen extra as a Christmas gift.

I was excited to see Armandina when she arrived. She’s worked for my parents since I was in high school, so I’ve known her for a very long time; and I always enjoy catching up with her. Plus, she’s never met my fiance, so I was all eager to introduce him.

But before I could do that, she held me out from the hug I’d just given her and spun me around, saying “Mira, mira.” Look at how much I’d changed, look at how good I looked, look at this! I was caught off guard and was flustered and also totally flattered.

I’m getting used to the difference in how I look. Which is good because that means it’s becoming my new normal. But it’s also good to be reminded of how significant the change is and how it is a big deal. It’s nice to be noticed and appreciated.

When I was overweight, I used to think that people wouldn’t like getting complimented on losing weight because telling them how good they looked would imply they hadn’t looked good before, and I didn’t want anyone thinking they were somehow inherently better just because they were thinner. What I have learned from personal experience is that, actually, it’s just nice to have all of my hard work noticed and appreciated. I have sweat for this change; I have put my back into it. I’ve worked hard for something I’m proud of, and I’m happy to accept the compliment.

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Every time I get out of the shower now, I have a moment of awesome. It’s a little thing, but it’s one of the many small moments that makes this whole process of change so worthwhile. I can wrap a normal frickin’ towel around my body, and secure it folding the extra bit into the snug wrapped part. And then I can walk around without flashing my empty bedroom or the busy gym locker room any of my lady parts.

And this is awesome because it’s something I haven’t been able to do for years. At least not with a normal towel. With a beach towel, sure. And I sure as hell carried a beach towel with me everywhere I could use. It’s certainly the kind of towel I kept at home. Because it’s nice to get out of the shower, wrap oneself in a towel, and walk around. And if it takes a towel big enough to act as your beach bedspread to do it, hey… well that’s what it takes.

I figured that trick out years ago, and I barely had to even remember that I was different from my trimmer friends. I could wrap my towel around me after i got out of the pool too. Sure my towel took up a lot more room in my bag than anyone else’s did, but WHATEVER. It worked.

Unless I ended up in a place where the towel was provided for me. Like a hotel, or a hotel pool, or a friend’s house, or the locker room at my most recent gym. Then, I would be stuck with a standard issue towel. The kind that was still plenty big enough, the kind my friends could still easily wrap themselves in. It’s stressful to try to hide the fact that the bath towel won’t go all the way around your body. To try to figure out which part of your bare body you’d most like exposed, which part will seem most on purpose. (For the record – the side.) It’s awkward having to hold your dirty clothes/wet bathing suit over that exposed area where the two ends of the towel don’t meet in an effort to obscure that gap. It’s awkward to walk around without dropping anything, including the towel.

It was amazing the day I realized that I’d wrapped the gym towel all the way around my body and done the tuck in. It was like I had a beach towel! But I didn’t. It was the same old standard issue gym towel that I’d been holding with a hand pressing each end firmly onto my body. Only now, I didn’t have to hold it up – because it mother-fuckin’ fit! And lo, I was a normal woman, just like the other women in the gym, walking around in my towel, appropriately covered, but not wrapped up like a nun, hands free, my body a normal circumference. It still makes me smile every time I do it. Which is almost every day.

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