Fat girl abroad – April’s Story

“Oh I’m sorry, here, we can leave it like this,” the young man with thick and dark glasses said to me as he lifted up the arm rest between our seats by a few inches.  I was just settling myself into my new 31 x 17 inch airplane seat that I would be calling home for the next 360 minutes of my life when I was suddenly thrown off guard by how large my thighs may truly be.  I quietly muttered “thanks” as I lifted my legs more into a straight upright seated position, rather than my awkward yet comfortable leg position that makes women of all sizes thigh’s fluff out a little when fully relaxed.  Magically, my  thighs went from fluffy to firm and provided multiple inches between myself and glasses man. I know the man was just trying to make me feel more comfortable for my final flight home from Europe, but it just added to the bitter sting of moments when I felt ashamed of my body on my trip.

Fluffy thighs helping to proudly display my awesome building I made at the Museum of Liverpool

Fluffy thighs helping to proudly display my awesome building I made at the Museum of Liverpool

Just in case you were unaware of where I’ve been for the past five weeks, I’ve been gallivanting around many, many countries in Europe.  My strong yet large thighs, calves, and feet have carried me across England, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal!  By the end of my trip, I was feeling so proud of myself and the amount of walking I was doing every day.  It was an easy day if I had walked anything less than three miles over a span of a few hours and those days were very rare.  I even began running up stairs JUST BECAUSE I KNEW I COULD!  (but I’ll blog about my love affair with stairs later…)

My thighs looking much firmer outside Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

My thighs looking much firmer outside Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Regardless of what my physical condition was for my body, people were not seeing me trot up stairs like a unicorn running towards a rainbow of sparkles.  People were seeing me as my thighs smashed outward or when I would step inside a crowded elevator to looks that made me believe the people were  thinking  “Is this girl seriously going to try to squeeze in here?”  Like Alyssa dealt with on her Thailand vacation, I sometimes felt very out-of-place as I wandered across many of the countries I visited.  In some places, like England and Ireland, I didn’t feel as different as there were plenty of overweight people around.  There definitely wasn’t as many hefty folks as I’m used to seeing here in the United States, but I didn’t feel nearly as ashamed as I did when I visited places like France and Switzerland (last year).

I noticed the stares the most while I was in Portugal.  My Couchsurfing host tried to assure me that people only stared because they are not used to tall blonde girls but the way the looks made me feel said otherwise.  There was one instance that my host took me to his local market shop and I had one woman give me a complete stare down, turn back to her six friends sitting around a table and say something in Portuguese, only to have every single person at that table look at me as well.  I’m not used to these kinds of looks and it made me feel incredibly self-conscious.The thing about other places outside of the United States is that many of the people of the world simply DO NOT live like an American and thus tend to be on the thinner side of the body size spectrum… at least in my own theory.  While I was in Europe, I spent my time using public transportation and my own two feet to get me where I needed to go.  I didn’t seem to even notice the amount of walking I was truly doing every day just because it had become a normal part of my life.  I didn’t have a car and the only time I was really excited to be in one is when my Couchsurfing host took me to the gorgeous town of Sintra, Portugal on a route that was MUCH easier with a private set of wheels.

The Palace lakes in Sintra, Portugal

As much as Portugal made me feel ashamed of my body size, I experienced the opposite feeling while visiting the beach town of Cascais.  Upon walking on to the gorgeous but crowded beach, I immediately noticed the vast array of women in bikinis.  I explained to another Couchsurfing girl friend, in the United States, once you turn a certain age, you are no longer allowed to flaunt your figure.  Your selection of “appropriate swim wear” quickly drops into a tiny assortment of one piece bathing suits with underwire for sagging breasts and skirts already attached, ready to hide your aging thighs.  You also aren’t supposed to wear a bikini if you have any sort of flab going on with your stomach.  If you can sit down and have a small pouch ready for a kangaroo to jump into, surely you shouldn’t be wearing a bikini.

In Cascais, however, none of that seemed to matter.  Many women over sixty were proudly rocking their metallic bikinis with the sun glistening off their gray hair and golden bodies.  Women with double chins and double rolls of back fat tied on small triangles for swimsuit bottoms and tops and showed no shame at all as they made their ways to swim in the non-judgmental waters of the Atlantic.  I immediately felt less worried about how I looked and became fascinated with how comfortable everyone on the beach was in their own skin.  Some men wore small spandex bathing suits and a few women were completely topless, all without a single long stare from the crowded beach.

The Queen’s Beach in Cascais, Portugal. Not a single one-piece bathing suit in sight.

I left my afternoon at the beach feeling much more confident and as I walked back from the train station to my temporary home, instead of my eyes cowering down to the sidewalk as I would catch people looking at me, I would stare them straight in the eye and give them a smile that matched my big body.

 

Now that I’m home and feel at peace to be back with my fellow overweight Americans, I feel more dedicated to finally getting off the rest of this weight.  I definitely lost weight over my five weeks abroad, anywhere between six and twelve pounds, depending on the scale I used to judge this by.  I can tell the most though by the clothes I brought as everything just simply is looser on me.

I shall be getting back to my normal routines of healthy eating and exercising as I feel more dedicated than ever to get a grip on my health.  I’ve got a bunch of reviews to do, including a detox program by the Italian company, Erba Vita.  In true April fashion, however, I am ending my gluttony with Dutch cookies (stroop-wafels) and a Coke from McDonald’s.  Alyssa specifically told me I had to fess up to my poor behavior for the day, that “You’re gonna need to blog that. Anything you say can and will be used against you.”  So just for her, I shall admit to my sinful eating with much pleasure as I know the next many months will require much more discipline if I successfully want to get off the last fifty pounds of excess weight.

I’m happy to be home and excited to share more tidbits of my time abroad with you all over the next few days.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

AprilSignatur

Fat girl fear debunked: my right to bare arms.

My mom is a photographer, which means that several times a year, whether we want it or not, we’re subject to family photo shoots. Most of the times I’m grateful for beautiful, professional portraits at no cost — I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? Good photography is expensive (but well worth the cost. Don’t get me started on that — pay for a professional for your wedding, your maternity and infant portraits, and your professional headshot. It’s SO WORTH IT! Memories last forever, and so does a crappy underexposed selfie of yourself on LinkedIn).

Beautiful Photography by Lynnette Joy. 3/4 sleeves for the win!

Beautiful Photography by Lynnette Joy. 3/4 sleeves for the win!

She’s taught me and my sister how to pose to slim our bodies, but there’s one body hangup that I KNOW drives my mom crazy. My fear of my arms! Why does it drive my mom crazy? Because if I’m sleeveless in a photo, I ask her to photoshop my arms to be smaller. Ridiculous, right?! She probably wanted to kill me as she designed my wedding album because I asked her to photoshop my arms in like, every picture. And that was 30 pounds lighter than I am now. Hahahah. Vain and horrendous, but at least I’m being honest! I carry most of my weight through my abdomen, ass and arms (AAA!). My arms, no matter how much weight I’ve lost in the past, still remain pendulous and large, reminding me of bat wings. I need to get over it.

Behold, my unphotoshopped arms on my wedding day!

Behold, my unphotoshopped arms on my wedding day, now on the interwebz for the world to see!

My mother lovingly slimmed down my arm in this photo!!!

My mother lovingly slimmed down my arm in this photo!!! Can you tell?

My self-consciousness about my arms means I own more cardigans than anybody on the planet. Gray, black, white, turquoise… I’m a cardigan fiend. It means that I wear these cardigans even when it’s 103 degrees out, like it was today. But today, I did something pretty brave. I left the cardigan in the car when I got back from my lunch break. And surprise, nobody said anything about my arms, and I was a lot less hot than I would have been in my cardigan. Stupid insecurity? Yep.

My husband notices my weirdness about my arms, too. In Mexico, I had put on this  adorable, polka dot tank top with a little bolero, a fancy little short sleeved jacket to COVER YOUR ARMS. He asked why I put it on and I sheepishly had to admit I was self conscious about my arms. And that was in front of my HUSBAND — the man who’s seen the worst of me probably a heck of a lot more than he’s seen the best. We’ve been together almost 11 years and I’m pretty sure he knows me better than I know myself. A little pep talk from my hubs and the bolero came off, and once again, nobody said anything and my arms lived to see the light of the day.

My husband helped me get over my arms in Mexico. Cute tank top, eh?

My husband helped me get over my arms in Mexico. Cute tank top, eh?

Despite all these arm-fearing situations, I have come a long way in accepting my arms because three years ago, I would have never stepped foot in the gym in a tank top. It would have to be sleeves all the way, because god forbid somebody see my big fat upper arms. Ridiculous! It’s only when we take a step back sometimes out of our own insecurities that we see how stupid and miniscule they really are. Letting my insecurity of my arms affect my physical comfort is stupid. My arms may be big, but like the rest of me, they’re a work in progress, and quite frankly, I highly doubt many people have looked at my arms and been like “LAWD! She should NOT be wearing that tank top!” And if they do… well, who gives a fart? (You thought I was gonna drop an F bomb, didn’t you?! I didn’t!)

I have a right to bare arms. I have a right to show off my arms no matter what state they might be in. I have a right to say yes to tank tops, tube tops, strapless dresses, deodorant, arm tattoos….you name it. Arms are arms are arms. So this is my new mantra… I have a right to bare arms.

Who’s with me? What ridiculous body insecurity do you have? Let’s get it out in the open today and I’ll comment back with my thoughts… this is a safe place! Get it out in the open. When we address our inner demons, they become a lot less scary! Take the power back and tell me, what’s a stupid body insecurity you have? Why?

Throwing away the scale.

Yesterday morning, I stepped on the scale, giddy at the thought of what the numbers would show. But they didn’t show what I wanted. They showed a gain, after a week and a half of diligent Paleo eating. Since I stopped eating Diet to Go I’ve gained a few pounds too – amazing what a shift in my nutrition does to my body. I was frustrated. How can three numbers have such an impact on my mood and attitude?

This weight loss journey sometimes feels like the biggest, longest challenge I’ve ever worked towards. I get so angry when the numbers don’t move favorably, because doesn’t the scale see the hour of boxing class, how I left class drenched in my own sweat? Doesn’t the scale see how I skipped my friend’s amazing looking tres leches cake to have a banana with almond butter? Doesn’t the scale see me dancing my butt off in zumba class, or climbing the treadmill like a mountain, pressing the incline button more and more, until I’m towering above the treadmills around me, climbing, climbing, climbing towards a healthier me? Doesn’t the scale see how every time in the past four years I’ve ordered my turkey burger with a side of salad, skipped the french fries, dressing on the side?

The scale doesn’t see these things.

Image borrowed from thechildhealthblog.com

So yesterday, when I talked to a professional athlete and body builder at an event, I was surprised when he told me to throw out my scale. I’ve heard this sentiment before from people in the know – the hydrostatic body composition owner, a triathalon expert, a kinesiologist. But it’s hard to disconnect my goals from my weight, that ominous number that reminds me how I’m at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, you name it. The problem is, that number on the scale has a huge influence on the decisions I make afterwards – like saying, “Screw Paleo, I’m eating gluten-free pizza and popcorn for dinner.” Because when I’ve been working hard and seeing what I feel are no results, why even bother? Why keep going?

But I know I can’t give up. I know I need to keep going. And even if the scale doesn’t move, I’ll get there, one day, to the better, stronger, healthier, slimmer me.

Does your weight have an influence on your attitude towards eating, fitness and your mood in general?

What do you LOVE about your body?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whether or not you enjoy this holiday, April had a great idea that in the spirit of love, we each share a few things we LOVE about our bodies. It can be hard in our society, especially for women, to embrace what some perceive as flaws, but ultimately, I know the path to a healthy body includes working on a healthy mind; acknowledging the fantastic things my body can do and be at any size. Please read what April and I love about our bodies, and then, we challenge you to comment with one thing you love about your body. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting or can’t think of anything, know this: you are unique, you are beautiful, you are loved.

April, Alyssa, and Tommy at an age when body image didn't matter.  What matters was who got the coolest shell.

Here’s what Alyssa had to say about her body…

plus size wedding gown corset bodice lace victorian dress

Corset dresses were made for curves!

1) I love my womanly shape. I’ve always said in regards to my weight loss plans that I don’t need to be skinny, I just want to be healthy. I want a little “ba-donk-a-donk” or junk in my trunk. I love that I have big hips, an ample bottom and a voluptuous chest. I’m proud of my hourglass figure, and without it, couldn’t have rocked my corset-style wedding gown.

2) I love my hands. As a writer, my hands are the vehicle for my livelihood. They also help me do some of my favorite things – bake and decorate cupcakes, plant flowers, paint my nails, pet my kittens, text my friends.

3) I love my strength. Despite being obese, I’ve always been proud of how strong I am. I can carry my own groceries, I can open doors, I can flex, and bend, and stretch and feel my muscles working.

4) I love my height. A lot of tall girls say they hate being tall, but not me! Never once have I had to ask someone to reach something for me. It can be annoying to find pants that fit, but I love being tall and would be lying if I said I didn’t feel more powerful because of my lucky five feet and nine inches.

Dewy and milky is fine with me!

Dewy and milky is fine with me!

5) I love my skin. I have a very milky white complexion and I used to be embarrassed of how pale I was. Now, I realize that not everyone needs to be tanned to be pretty, and I will happily accept compliments about my “peaches n cream” skin and “lovely complexion”. My cheeks turn a pretty rosy pink, and I look great in purple and black. No shame in being ghostly!

And here’s what April had to say about her body…

It can be rather hard to remember to love your body if you have struggled with weight or other physical appearance insecurities, especially if you’ve been reminded of what you don’t like about yourself from sharp-tongued others.  However, as fast as your self esteem balloon can be deflated, it can easily be filled up again when someone kinder pays you a compliment or perhaps you find the confidence to overlook harsh words.

It has taken me many years to be able to say that I love my body and even though I struggle with shame over my weight, I still am grateful for the body that I have and what it enables me to do.

– I *love* my legs.  I’m 5’11” and like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I’ve got “88 inches of therapy” to wrap around Richard Gere when he’s feeling blue…   Or more realistically to be able to step over fences and reach top shelf items with ease.  My legs also enable me to be “sturdy like a tree” in ska mosh pits so I don’t get knocked down and they also provide me with some extremely awesome balance… which has helped a lot in yoga.

Julia and Richard with her 88 inches of legs.

Julia and Richard with her 88 inches of legs.

– I also love my hips.  I once was not a fan of my hips but after being told enough times now that they’re awesome, I have come to appreciate the way my waist curves around my hips and how I get this sexy little bump when I lay on my side.

– This may be strange, but I love my fingers!  I always joke about how my fingers are the only skinny part about me.  They’re super long and I am said to have “piano hands”, which means when I spread them out as far as I can go, they can hit 11 piano keys.  I get random compliments on my hands too, some are nice and come from grocery store clerks and such… and some are creepy.  Thanks, okcupid, for helping me receive the creepy comments.

– The last part of my body I adore are my shoulders.  I think most women are a fan of their shoulders because it’s a part of our bodies that are very feminine and lead to some our other best assets (BOOBS!).  My shoulders lead to my least favorite part (ARMS!) but it doesn’t stop me from rocking strapless tops and dresses in opportunity to show them off.  I also love shoulders on men, it’s just something about that clavicle bone that is so attractive to me, haha.

April loving her body and showing off her great balancing skills!

April loving her body and showing off her great balancing skills!

Ok ladies (and gents), it’s your turn.

What is one thing you LOVE about your body?

*** There’s still time to join the Double Chin Diary DietBet! Our pot is over $600. Score a split of the pot with only a $15 buy in. Hurry, the game starts tomorrow!

Weekly Weigh In – June 4th

Post-workout healthy treat - frozen yogurt with fresh fruit! Like my "I Voted" sticker?!

Hey everybody! I don’t think I’ve posted about my reality check moment last week, so I’ll start there. I met with my awesome registered dietician last week, and I had maintained my weight…which is better than a gain, but not really what I’m goin’ for. We basically talked about how if I really tried for the next week with tracking and exercise and I didn’t lose weight, we’d need to revisit some blood tests and health check ups to make sure my body wasn’t “broken”. That seemed to knock some sense in to me, and I left her office feeling determined to really TRY for the next week.

So I tracked diligently on MyFitnessPal (Friend me! I’m @lyssacurran), avoided tortilla chips, exercised, and did magical weight loss dances around the kitchen. Maybe I lied about that last part. But basically, I really TRIED last week – and the scale showed that I…

Lost 3 pounds!

This bit of success was exactly what I needed to motivate myself. I have to keep in mind that nobody ever said weight loss would be easy – but the more I do it, and the more I get used to it, the easier it will be to get into a routine and focus on the goal. I’ve been having some good breakthrough moments lately where I remind myself that I’m not losing weight to look cute in skinny jeans or shop in the Junior’s department – I’m losing weight for my HEALTH. It’s not about vanity or beauty, it’s about feeling good in the skin I’m in, and boosting my energy, reducing my risks of heart disease and diabetes, and making sure I take great care of the gift of life. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true! You never know when your number is going to be called – so I want to live life to the fullest and feel great while I do it.

How’s your week going?

***If you haven’t “liked” my Facebook page, please do so for a chance to win an awesome upcoming goodie bag of my favorite things! I like you, will you “like” me too?!

 

Mirrorless Monday

Last week, I walked into my university’s bathroom to find green paper covering all the mirrors. It was Mirrorless Monday, sponored by JADE, an eating disorder awareness group.

Mirrorless Monday at California State University, Northridge

All of the mirrors were covered up, and each one had this message:

Trust us, you look great!

I contributed my own message:

NO, your butt doesn't look fat in those jeans.

And my friend and fellow grad student Stephanie wrote a message too.

Nobody cares that you have kale in your teeth!

I really liked the idea of Mirrorless Monday. As a woman, I place a lot of emphasis on what’s in the mirror. Too much. Who really cares if I wear my hair down or up? Does a zit on my nose, shining like Rudolph, determine my self-worth or value? I think not. I’m blessed to be a plus-size lady who doesn’t suffer from horrible self esteem. I’m self-concious about my body, sure, but I know I’m attractive and it’s more than just my pretty blue eyes or spiraling blonde waves. But I’m not invincible, and sometimes, you feel like the mirror determines the outcome of your day. Mirrorless Monday could help fix that. It was refreshing.

How would you feel about Mirrorless Monday? Do you like the idea or is it weird to you?