Body Positivity and Weight Loss: Can you have and want both?

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending BlogHer for the very first time. It’s always fun to connect in person with other members of the blogosphere and learn from their successes (and flops). I was hanging at a protein powder booth at the expo hall, and introduced myself to the brand rep. “Hi, I’m Alyssa,” I said, beginning my usual elevator pitch, “I blog about losing weight without losing my sense of humor, though lately this weight loss blog is more of a weight gain blog because I recently had a baby.” The rep and I chitchatted for a few minutes, and then I turned to leave, when I saw a girl approach me. I knew she was on the younger side as she had that youthful skin that no lotion or potion can give you back. “Hi, I heard you say you’re a weight loss blogger and I have a question for you.” She went on to explain how she struggles finding the balance between being body positive but also wanting to and trying to lose weight. She wanted to know, how did I find balance between the two and what was my perspective on it all? First of all, I asked this girl her age and she’s 17! Seventeen! Wow! Color me impressed for such an awesome, thoughtful query at such a young age.

BODY POSITIVITY

The answer to this question is both simple and complicated at the same time. The question, if we reduce it to one direct statement is “Can you still be body positive if you are trying to lose weight?” To that, my answer is yes, yes, and more yes. I’ve actually had a few bloggers snark on me for not “being body positive” because I want to lose weight, but if you go through my blog, I think you’ll find my body positivity is pretty on-point. The key to this equation for me is that I can love myself just as I am, and I should, because once that weight comes off, there’s a lot of me that will still be the same. But more importantly, it’s about loving my body ENOUGH to know that it deserves the very best. For me, the very best is a lighter body — not just for how it will look in size 12 jeans, but to walk miles without my heel spur aching, to get my blood pressure taken without anxiously spiking it, to not fret about fitting in airplane seats or going ziplining.

 

Now, these two things can exist and both be true, and that said, I’m a big advocate of body positivity and am grateful it’s become a “thing” now that I am a mother. Images like this make me so very happy, to be living in a world where different shapes and sizes are becoming more accepted, just like skin color, sexual orientation, and gender.

However, I have to scrutinize a little bit about the body positivity community if those who are wanting to lose weight are being challenged. If we’re advocating for acceptance of all bodies, wouldn’t it be hypocritical to be against those who are wanting to make a change to their body? I think that you can love yourself just as you are but still want to make improvements; for example, how my husband adores the heck out of me but really wishes I didn’t need 10,000 reminders to empty the dishwasher. I think perhaps the emphasis of body positivity can shift slightly to be just more positivity in general; with your pants size, your religious beliefs, your diet, your hobbies, whatever makes you YOU. However, I suppose a key difference here is if you’re coming at your body and size with negativity, no confidence, and self-hatred while wanting to lose weight, THAT doesn’t really work as body positivity, ya know?

I guess the point of this is, and what I told that girl, is that you can lose 100 pounds, 5 pounds, or 1 pound — and you might look “perfect”, or whatever the meaning of that word of what we’re desiring really is, and if you haven’t done the hard work on the INSIDE of learning to love the person you are, then you’re not much better off than when you started. We all know happiness comes from within, and it sounds cliche, but it’s true. If you hate yourself at 300 pounds there’s a chance you’ll hate yourself at 100, too. So, I say, rock on with your body positive self, but if you’re wanting to lose weight to feel better or heck, even look better, rock on with your self-loving self. Because there’s nothing more positive than believing in the person you are and were meant to be — regardless of what the number says on the scale.

Embracing my awkwardness: shaking my booty in Zumba

Fraggle Rock!!!!!

When I was a teenager, it took me awhile to realize that I wouldn’t ever be cool in a conventional way. I would never be the girl who had a sheath of straight, blonde hair that fell in a perfect waterfall down my back, nor would I collect phone numbers en masse. My first two years of high school I remember trying desperately to fit in, to have the same L.E.I. jeans as everyone else, even though mine were a juniors size 14. With my brace face, cowlick curls and curvy hips, I never quite fit the mold. I muddled along feeling awkward until something magical happened in my junior year. With the help of my best friend Katelyn, I learned to let my awkward out. I embraced the dorky music lover inside of me, and started to realize that I didn’t CARE if playing the flute was nerdy or if liking Lenore comic books wasn’t cool.

Rockin’ out with My Ruin at the merch table (I was SO SKINNY!!! Why on Earth did I think I was fat?!)

My parents let me go to heavy metal shows in the city, and I became a little band-aid to a bunch of girl rock metal bands. It was the best thing ever. I bought a BC Rich Warlock Guitar and I had pink streaks in my hair. I drew creepy little monsters in my text books, started to make my own lunches and dated a boy in a band. (I married him. Aww.) My life got much, much cooler but only because I learned to let myself be awkward. The day I embraced myself was the day I realized how liberating it was to just be yourself — to say, I don’t give a crap if you don’t like my cow-print socks or my fondness of Phantom of the Opera – because I do, and I am awesome. Embracing your awkwardness is incredible – and I’ve recently had a mini-renaissance of this feeling from Zumba.

You see, I’m not a dancer. I would never call myself graceful. I bruise easier than a ripe peach on a hot summer day, and I’m constantly tripping over my own shadow. I took my first Zumba class several years ago and was horrified by the shimmying, the shaking, the legs crossing over each other and the sheer amount of dance patterns you had to perform. I went once and never again – because I felt too awkward. Nobody wants to see a fat white girl gyrating to latin music, right? At FitBloggin’, I participated in a group Zumba class. The old familiar feeling crept in – the embarrassment, the awkwardness. The negative thoughts started coming. “I look fat. Everybody’s looking at me. I can’t dance. I’ll never get these steps right. I’m so offbeat… I should just give up.” But, by the grace of Buddha, I shushed those thoughts and kept going. And I had fun. Eventually the little voice waned into a quiet whisper, and I shook and shimmied and tried to dance — and it was fun, and I burned calories.

Awkward and Awesome!

I did Zumba tonight and some of the old familiar thoughts came back as I caught sight of my pasty white arms in the mirror. My tummy clung to my hot pink tank top and I thought “Ugh, I look gross.” But I kept going – and I reminded myself that I’m never thinking about what other people look like when I’m working out – I’m thinking about how tired I am or how I’m going to sneak a handful of chocolate chips out of the cupboard when I get home. And BAM – the negative voices stopped. I danced, I shimmied, and I shook — and I burned calories —  smiling and laughing while doing it. On the way out, the teacher even told me how she loved my smile. That’s right. You don’t smile at the gym if you’re not having fun! Tonight I realized I may never feel 100% confident in my skin, but as long as I can embrace my awkward rather than fight it, I remember that it’s not so bad being me. I can’t dance but it’s not about whether or not I can dance. It’s about working up a sweat, churning up some endorphins, and burning fat. It’s about saying, “I don’t need to be the Zumba Queen. It doesn’t matter if I do the Salsa! Eff the standards of perfection – I’m gonna shake my booty!” So thank you, Zumba — for reminding me how to embrace my awkwardness.

 

Thursday Ramblings

Hi Everybody! Last night, I had planned on doing an awesome post about the self-proclaimed “fat kid” in Paranorman… but then I got tired and went to bed. So in short, you should see Paranorman, because the protagonist, Neil, is a fat kid who has confidence and chutzpah (and allergies! maybe another reason I loved him) and doesn’t apologize for his size. Not advocating childhood obesity or anything, but it was refreshing to see a fat kid character who knew he was fat, yet still loved himself despite his efforts to lose weight. How refreshing to see some diverse characters in a kid’s movie that have notable flaws, yet still have confidence and charm.

My Joan Holloway dress.

In other ramblings, my friend Amy is getting married on Sunday! Her wedding is going to be a kind of 1930’s glam, and I knew I wanted to get a new dress. I headed to Nordstrom’s Rack, and by some luck, found this awesome cocktail dress that was originally $225… marked down to $59! AND… it’s a size smaller than I usually wear. YAY! Those 11 pounds lost are starting to show (err.. not show?).  I’m pleased with what it does for my shape, and the ruching helps hide some unsightly pudge. Sorry for the dressing room photo – I’ll post a nice one when I’m all dolled up on Sunday 🙂 Yay for plus-size evening wear that works!

Crazy cat lady strikes again

Some of you know I’m now working fulltime from home. Unfortunately the new job I started just didn’t feel right for me, and I got a newer opportunity to direct social media for an awesome start up company based in San Francisco. I’m working from home and about once a month will work on site in SF… which works for me since my family all lives up there – and I get to work with my baby brother! Very cool. 🙂 Since I work from home that means… lots of cat pictures. And lots of yummy, healthy breakfasts, like this morning’s special k red berries with fresh sliced banana and ice cold milk. YUM!

One last thing for me to ramble about… my sister is a huge San Jose Sharks Fan, and recently took her San Jose Sharks sign to Niagara Falls! Her picture was chosen as one of the top 5 – and now we need to make sure it gets chosen as #1! Will you please visit this link and vote for April Lofgren, Niagara Falls?  Thanks for your help!!!

Ok, that’s all I got! I promise to try and think of a blog with more weight-lossy substance soon – but it’s been so crazy busy my mind is kind of just piece-mealing a bunch of things together 🙂 I hope you’re having a great week!

The 3 Letter Word and What it Means to Me

Fat.
Three letters. So powerful.
Or is it?

I know the power of words. I use them everyday. I make a living from putting them together in pretty patterns. Words can save lives, hurt feelings, educate, make people laugh, make people cry, cause wars, invoke injury, death – you name it. A word is often times not just a word. The word “Fat” is a particularly interesting one because of its loaded meaning. As a little girl, fat was the worst word in the world. It was that thing you never wanted to be – the word that was whispered in hush tones, the ultimate failure, the sad word that caused bad eye contact and blushing cheeks. But now – fat is just fat to me. It’s a jiggly tummy, it’s the draping skin of my arm. It’s soft and plush and a place for my husband to rest his head. It’s yummy meal after yummy meal. It’s a part of me, and maybe one day it won’t be, but for now, fat is fat. I’m not going to let it have the power over me that it used to. There was worse things in life than being fat.

First Progress Picture - 48 pounds to go!

Some people disagree with me. That’s fine. It’s not their battle to fight. It’s mine – and for now, fat and I are kind of like acquaintances, neighbors. We’re not friends, but we live in the same neighborhood and we gotta make it work for the time being, ya know? We’ve known each other for a very long time.

That picture up there was taken a few minutes ago in my backyard. When I look at it I might think “fat”, but it’s not out of hatred. It’s just me. It’s 5 feet, 9 inches of strong, capable body, courageous and maternal heart, creative and powerful brain. I see a confident woman,  a happy woman, somebody who believes in the power of her brain and personality, and yes, even her good looks. I see me – happy, successful me, who’s graduated college with honors, married an awesome guy, started a wonderful career, and is working on making peace with her rambling and random mind.

So, I’m fat. So be it. Fat is fat. It is what it is, and I’m working on losing it to be a healther version of the Me that I already know and love. So I can have a family and keep up with ’em, so I can hike up a mountain overlooking the valley without huffing and puffing. So I can react to stressful situations without a scary spike in blood pressure, and so I can go on airplanes and roller coasters without fretting about a tight belt. So I can buy cute dresses and flattering swimsuits.

Fat is mean, scary, unfair, and unhealthy, but it’s also just fat. Three letters. Not so powerful to me, anymore.

What does fat mean to you?

 

Identity

We had our dear friends Jason and Juan over for dinner last night, and as we were finishing off the remains of a carrot bundt cake (there goes my ketosis (low-carb lifestyle)) (And I had been SO GOOD- we went out for mexican food and I didn’t have ONE chip. Do you know how hard that is to do?!?!?!) , I saw an article in the LA Times that caught my eye. It was called “The Fat Man Dreams of Running the LA Marathon“. I briefly skimmed over it and was enamored with this line: “If he does (finish the marathon), he says he will be sending a message to a society obsessed with being thin. “Big people,” he says, “can do the unimaginable.”

I read it out to my friends and made some sort of exclamation about how I loved that message, and our friend Juan, (a licensed therapist – a Ph. D.), said “You really identify as a fat person, don’t you?” The question set me back a little bit, but then as I thought about it, I thought, Yes, I do identify as a fat person.  He explained to me how most people he treat view being fat as a complete setback, and allow themselves to wallow in misery, but that he was surprised that I seemed to be so at terms with my weight. I definitely have my insecurities, but I’ve realized that in the past few years, I’ve really learned how to OWN who I am. My body, despite the excess weight, can do amazing things. My body wailed on a punching bag for 60 minutes yesterday in my impact kickboxing class. My body carries me through 45 hours of work a week, and then 15 hours of school. My body lives and breathes, and hurts and aches and comes back around and heals and does it all over again…. and it does this all despite the excess weight. My body is an amazing thing.

The boxing gloves I just ordered for my kickboxing class.

If I could, would I snap my fingers and turn thin? Absolutely. But that’s not possible, and as Popeye says… I am who I am.  My capacity for joy or success is no less attainable than somebody who weighs 114 pounds. And who knows – maybe because of the challenges I’ve gone through with my size, I’m apt to appreciate the smaller things more. All I know is that identifying with myself as a larger person is not a bad thing. It took me awhile to be ok with who I was, and now, there’s a tremendous sense of freedom of being able to accept myself at any weight. I’ll continue to work towards my health, but I’m no less of a person (heh, that’s punny) at 200 pounds… or 100 pounds.

Do you feel that you identify with yourself based on a size? I know I have some naturally thin and petite readers too, so don’t feel that you have to be chubby to chime in. Have you embraced yourself, size and all?