Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Skewed Sense of Self

May, 2009. I'm fat. And I don't really care that I'm' fat. I'm an awesome person and I like to have fun with my friends and I'm a great mom and wife and life is good. But now I look back at that picture and wonder how I didn't realize how fat I was. August, 2009. Still fat. Maybe fatter. Gaining. And getting to the point that I really didn't care how I looked. This was taken at a gathering of friends- many of whom I'd never met face to face. And I didn't have clothes that fit so I wore stretchy maternity pants and a 2XL t-shirt.
March, 2010. I'm just a few weeks into my journey to become a Healthier Me. I still like me. I'm still all those great things I was in May of 2009. But my focus has changed. I'm starting to see the fat when I look in the mirror. Crazy, isn't it? I hadn't realized just how fat I was. But the picture don't lie. I was fat. I was pushing 240, maybe even gotten past it.
I've been living this new, healthy lifestyle for over a year now. My diet has improved incredibly. I feel strong and healthy. The benefits of exercise and fruits and veggies amazes me. I like how I look in my clothes again and sometimes catch myself... dare I say... admiring what I see in the mirror.

The funny thing is that I see and feel these changes. I see the label in my clothes that says 12 or 14 instead of 18. I am aware of my muscles. But there are times when I look in the mirror and I see the fat that lingers. When I was at my heaviest, I wasn't aware of the fat on my body. Now that I'm focused on a healthier way of living, I see the fat and I get critical of it for at least 2.4 seconds. And just as quickly. I remember where I came form, how hard I've worked. Most of all, I remember that my goals are about running, endurance, strength, teaching my kids healthy habits.

But I still sometimes have these odd experiences where what I see when I look down at my body and what I see when I look in the mirror don't always match what is actually there. Last week, I posted a couple of pics on my personal Facebook page. I had, on a whim, picked up a top at a store and was trying to decide if I should keep it or return it. It wasn't tight but it was designed to be more form fitting than anything else in my closet. I liked the front view but when I turned to the side, this is what I saw:
I see that poochy tummy. I see the junk in my trunk. I see pants that suddenly seem a bit too tight. I see a shirt that is showing too many curves. I look in the mirror and I see the areas that are still under improvement.

But then a friend left a comment on the pic I'd posted. "the shirt is cute, but as far as your figure, wow Liz! :) You've done an awesome job" " I know I was going to say good job!!! You look really good Liz! The shirt looks cute on you too!" "I wanna butt and tummy like yours. Oh, yeah, keep is my vote!" "It's a keeper! It flatters you and that rockin' body!" Thankfully, I also have friends that save me before my head explodes. Friends like Garret and his comment: "Lovely shower curtain."

Say what?? These friends are complimenting my body? I'm looking for feedback on a shirt and they are pointing out specific areas of my body that they admire? Really? So I went and looked at the picture. I have to admit I hadn't actually looked at it. I took it, I posted it, I asked for votes on keep or return. But I figured I knew how it looked. I figured it was too fitting and would just show off that flab in the front and bumpy in the back- like my arrows indicate.

I'm working to reprogram how I see myself. I'm working on being realistic about what I see when I glance in the mirror. I'm still measuring myself by endurance, diet, exercise, accomplishments and not by pounds or inches or clothing size. But I'm also realizing just how much I need to work on fixing my skewed body image. I've worked hard and the pictures speak to the results of my hard work. And I think remembering that hard work is important when I struggle on a run or lack motivation to exercise or want to dive into a gallon of ice cream. I need to see these pictures below and appreciate them for what they are- representations of the work I've done, captured images of the changes I've made.

I look... normal. This last picture was taken this past Sunday. A group of us went to Marsh, a grocery store located next door to our church, and we shopped for our local food pantry. 9 families, 30 minutes, fellowship and fun in the store, and we were able to donate 300 pounds of food. One of the men from church brought his camera and this is one of the pics he snapped- me handing a can of spinach to Teagan. It's a moment where I wasn't posing, I wasn't aware of the camera, I wasn't sucking anything in or trying to give a cheesy grin to divert attention from my gut. It's a real moment- and I look normal. And I am proud of the hard work I've done and continue to do. I am proud of the changes I've made and continue to make. Most of all, I'm excited that so many of my friends are out there making changes, finding time to exercise, finding ways to change their diets and make their homes healthier.
One of those friends is Heather. And here is where I ask you to do something! She's been busting her hiney (and losing some pounds in the process) to prove her dedication to a healthier lifestyle. She wants to be the next Mamavation mom. And now she's been chosen as a finalist. If she becomes this mom, she will have a 7 week foundation that includes help from trainers, dieticians, nutritionists, and an online support system like no other! I'd love for her to get the votes she needs to win this amazing opportunity. Would you please help her out? Go to the voting page and scroll down to the 4th video- @justheather. Click by her name and then scroll down and click "vote." You don't have to register or anything. Just click by her name, click vote. Maybe you will help change her life!! Isn't that an amazing feeling? Maybe she will make serious changes in her life, in her family's lives, and she will be the one writing a post about being in shock about the changes she doesn't see but is becoming aware of in her own body.


Katherine said...

You are doing an amazing job, and you do look amazing. I think that many of us have skewed body images that never really change, despite our weight.

Lisa said...

Thank you for reminding us how critical we can be of our own bodies. You do look great, Liz. Better yet, you are great. How cool that you are teaching your kids the joy and importance of giving to others.

Garret said...

I think you need a new headband. Perhaps a Wonder Woman tiara??

I'm back to Weight Watchers! I hope I can do it this time! I'm tired of constantly buying larger clothes.

Congrats on your constant improvements.

julie moore said...

You look great! I can see all the work you've done and you should be proud. You've come a long way from where you started. I am inspired to keep going and add more exercise.

Anonymous said...

You know Liz...I can really relate to this. Back in 2009 I was around 213lbs. I say around because i didn't weigh in for quite some time after I started changing my eating habits and that is when I finally found out the truth. I wasn't about 185lbs...not even close!

I went from a 2X 18/20 to a MD 11/12. I got down to 165 lbs. I had a waistline and yet all I could focus on was the fat. The pooch. The junk in my trunk. The dreaded arm flab.

The funny thing...and sad thing is that once I got comfortable with how I looked...I started gaining weight. It was like I had finally made it to healthy. Check that off the list and back to being unhealthy.

Not sure how that happened or what my point is other than to say "I feel ya" and keep up the good work!

Liz Mays said...

Boy do I understand the self-critical thing, but honestly, when I saw your picture I thought, man she's lucky. Her butt is up nice and high and looking perky!

mammapegg said...

I love the way you look in the shirt and I was totally jealous of your butt (I don't have one) even though I didn't say so. But after seeing your before! I had no idea of the transformation you have gone through since 2009. You are so amazing and should be very proud of I totally get all the wonderful things people were saying about your body. WTG and good for you!

Karen M. Peterson said...

You look fabulous, Liz! You really should be proud.

No said...

Wow, congrats!!!

Mrs4444 said...

Never read this one before, and I love it; you're such a "real" person and in inspiration, Liz.

But I'm looking (again) for your running shoe recommendation post..?