Monday, August 16, 2010

How to love myself

In a couple of days I am leaving for a retreat that will begin my grad student career. I am very excited; I am so ready to start this next part of my life! Before I leave for the retreat though I want to share a couple of posts that I have been thinking about for several months. This first one is actually something I wrote several months ago when I went home (to Kansas) for my sister's graduation. It was a journal entry I was writing for myself, so is very personal, but I think it is worth sharing because I think this is a moment when I figured out some of the mechanics of how to actually practice self-love--whenever I tell a friend about how I am learning to love myself, I come back in my head to this moment.

The background first:

I wrote this on one of my last nights during my visit home for my sister's graduation. This was after all the festivities were over and my sister and I were staying with my grandma for a couple of days. Earlier in the trip home I'd been feeling a lot of despair--despair about my present situation. This was before I found out I got into grad school, so I was trying to figure out how I was going to find a job, where I was going to live, how I was going to survive the next year--I felt very hopeless; things felt very dark.

A couple of things changed that started to change this despair. One is that I called one of my best friends--and he told me that it is totally okay to feel despair, and he reminded me that despair is a feeling and not a truth. This was a little difficult to assimilate--feelings *feel* so true when you are in them--but I was with a little thought able to remember that this was true--I was feeling despair, and that feeling was real and legitimate and ok, but it did not also mean that my future would actually be gray and hopeless.

The other thing that changed my despair is that being in the Midwest (rural, Kansas, Missouri, etc.) does deep things to me. Sometimes it brings out despair but also, the Midwest is the last place where I knew what it was to truly dream and hope. College and teaching crushed some things in me, beat into me the futility of dreaming with any substance or real hope of happiness. I think when I go back to the Midwest, I remember the ways I felt alone growing up yes, the ways I had to constrain myself, but I also remember the days when I was a brilliant girl from a small town in Kansas yet untested on the bigger world outside. i.e. I remember what it meant to watch the landscape pass by through the window of a car and the sky and the beautiful complex clouds--what it meant to watch the land and the sky slide by and to feel my spirit begin to soar. Growing up, I knew there was more out there--and there was more in me--and I hoped that when the me met the out there, all the more would come to light, and I would finally be wonderful and beautiful and worth something.

So after several days of feeling bad and hopeless, I worked my way out of my despair and wrote this (I've edited slightly just for clarity and quality of writing--but I haven't added anything or taken out anything important):

For the first time since not getting into grad school, I perceive a glimmer of sunshine when perusing my future.

I feel more powerful than I normally do.

I feel more powerful than I normally do; I do not seek a power of domination; I do not wish to dominate life--for how could I ever imagine and produce all the wonderful things and surprises life has in store for me?

But that doesn't mean I have to simply submit either.

I will get knocked down. I will be reduced to a huddling mass.
And I will huddle, and I will let grief roll through me and depression overtake me.

But I will not huddle forever. Even grief cannot last forever as an immutable object--each wave is a new experience of grief, and even if the waves never disappear, they will be always changing.

And I do not have to hold onto my grief, imagining that I can only deserve love and care if I am in pain and in need. Grief is not the only path to my humanity. It is not the only marker of my worthiness of love--; I deserve love when I am great and beautiful and strong and happy, not only when I am in dire need of compassion and care.
Love does not only love those in need, in pain; love does not only exist from compassion. Love loves the good. I can see this because I love the good in others. (I love the whole of others--but how can one look at the whole of those dearest to me without being overjoyed and awed at the sight of such good, such beauty?)
Perhaps I can deserve love not only because I suffer, but also on the merit of the incredible good coursing through my veins.

The Buddha says there is no one more deserving of my love and affection than me.
I think when trying to learn to love myself, I often take the approach of trying to learn to love any person because I hold myself in such low esteem that I believe that I could only deserve love if everyone--if the most wretched being--deserves love. (Side note--I do, for the record, believe that even the most wretched being deserves love! haha)
Maybe I could learn to love myself for my good; for all that I am; seeing all that I am. Seeing the magnificence in me rather than just the dull, shadowed reflections that I normally perceive when contemplating myself.

Imagine, a love affair with myself in which I exult in all the good I do, exult in all the beauty in me.
Imagine! How that would open up my world; what possibilities it could create.
Such a love is so essential--self-love, a sense of my power and self-efficacy and beauty and goodness and love--to love myself!
--Is worth more than perhaps anything else I have so far encountered in this world.

Power, not of domination, but of strength and vision--a partnership with life where I do not have to be bowled over forever by pain, but can grapple and--by continually challenging my own strength--
--experience joy! Growth, love,--joy!

A full, joyful, clear, strong love for myself--

Not just pardon/forgiveness for my imperfections, mistakes, failures...Not just permission to be human.

But an exultation of all that I have done and am and can do--a vision of the beauty of this particular human being.

All this is in me. I would like to explore my ability to exercise it
--both by the giving of myself and the exultation of myself--
Without setting impossible (i.e. grandeur-laden, pressuring-bearing) marks for myself to reach.

Stumbling is ok. Losing sight is ok.

I have had this sight for the first time in a very very long time, and it is now a part of me, and even if I lose it for a while, perhaps I will see it again.

Self-love really is the most important thing.

Ah, I just heard some aching loss sad music in my head; it reverberates through myself, my feelings, my consciousness.
If it wants to wring, it may. Sleep comes soon for me.

Oh Kansas, what soaring heights you bring me to, yet also such despair.

There is nothing to crush me this time.

(I wish it ended there, but after contemplating sleep, I swung into a guilt cycle about having felt so good about myself....)

With hope comes fear. Oh my, what fear!

When I let go of my insistence that nothing really matters because nothing in my life can change very much and gray is gray, whether it be shaded lighter or darker....then--if colors exists--I am stepping into the unknown!
When I soar and hope--what fear! What guilt and shame encroach!

Ok guilt! Ok shame! Do your worst!

Am I actually so horrible for hoping? For soaring? Have I committed such a deadly sin? Have I been too prideful with my delusions of grandeur?
Must I grovel now?
Or must I fall from the heights? Plunge off the cliff?

Is it so horrible to believe I deserve love? Joyful love? Is that so selfish and unforgivable?

Just because I feel guilty does not mean I am guilty.

This is where I did finally stop and sleep! After I first wrote this it took me a while to look at it again because I was afraid it would be--somehow not okay--but it's held upon re-reading, feels good to revisit.

Ever since I wrote this I actually have had a more readily accessible sense of self-love and care, of holding myself with care and esteem. It gives me a sense of being rooted in myself, which I really like. I think there is a LOT of room for me to keep growing my ability to love myself; and I do believe that it is good work for me to do, because time and again I have observed that the more love I feel for myself, the more love I have to give to others.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is happiness, or rather; this is life.

I think....this is what it means to be happy. It's come upon me unexpectedly, but somehow things in my life suddenly seems to be falling into place, and even more crucially, I am actually able to appreciate it.

Yes, I still often feel sad or upset. And I still spend a remarkable amount of time with vague but persistent feelings of guilt settled in my stomach, ready to lurch out at any particular "misdeed".

Last week I got so grossed out at something that I threw up. I haven't done that in years--those of you who knew me as a child know that I used to do it all the time--I've always had a weak stomach. I'm not upset about this incident, though. I think it is all part and parcel of, funnily enough, being happy. It means I am more connected to my feelings--it means I've lessened my reactions that push away anything unpleasant.

I still feel, yes, sad/guilty/bad for even extended periods of time, say a week or so. It's not that that has gone away.

The point isn't for the bad to go away.

The point is--I am open. I got good news today--I got a work study job which will enable me to make it through the next year. It's a real relief.

What is amazing is--I have felt happy about it all day. My moments of satisfaction, happiness, respite from worry--used to be so short-lived. For example--my junior year of college I found out that I'd received a very high honor from my university--for a moment I was elated, but by the time I'd told my parents and a couple of friends, most of the good had worn off--I'd already begun to convince myself that it couldn't be such a great honor after all if they'd given it to me--it ever so quickly became empty. Throughout so much of my life, my accomplishments have earned me only a few moments of happiness, soon to be followed by a sense of hollowness.

But today, I've been happy all day! I went into Berkeley this afternoon, and I was positively glowing, smiling at everyone I saw, laughing to myself, enjoying myself.

Not having a job had been a big worry, but it, like so many other worries in my life recently, has now been resolved, and somehow, I haven't lined up another worry to rush right in and take its place. I've actually been letting myself enjoy it.

And--I find these days--it's not only moments of happiness I am experiencing, but sometimes even joy. It's been so long since I've been able to experience the kind of glow--a glow that seems to be cropping up here and there almost regularly now. I went to a concert a week ago--I was so moved that I wept, sitting in the sunshine in the park. I was overcome with joy. Music does seem to be the most frequent conduit for ecstatic joy for me, these days--but I have had music in my life for all of these years. It is not the music that has changed, but my ability to be open to it.

I wish I could say how I've gotten to this point, so that I could share techniques and ideas for those of you facing similar challenges in your lives. I don't know entirely but it seems--now that I've gotten used to the idea of going to grad school in the fall--I've started to become open to hope. I am genuinely excited for several upcoming events in my life (it's been so long since I was able to feel excitement like this!)--starting school in the fall, finding an apartment in the city with a friend, being a bridesmaid in a wedding, and much more! I think the presence of hope has a lot to do with my ability to experience happiness and joy in the moment.

What has changed that allowed me to hope again for the first time in what seems like eons? I think it is partly circumstance--several good things have happened to me all right on top of each other.

There's more to it than that though, I think--something also is slowly unhooking me from my worry-tendencies, leaving me free to flow along with the good things passing my way, to take risks. I feel like I'm stepping out into the flow of life--I am the joy of swimming in cool, invigorating, moving waters.

Also, I am experiencing moments of self-love. Of truly believing that I am a good, extraordinary person, and feeling the joy of that knowledge.

Many of these things I have practiced--I have practiced taking a moment to tell myself "good job" when completing a task, I have practiced compassionately forgiving myself for my mistakes, I have practiced keeping myself to painful feelings rather than shutting them away. I haven't practiced them with any remarkable sort of discipline, but even the seemingly small efforts I've made perhaps are adding up.

I am not happy all the time.

I'd like to share some wisdom recently voiced by one of my best friends--The point of life is not to be happy, but to feel whatever you're feeling fully, to truly be with what comes up for you rather than going through the motions.

There is no point in the future that I will reach where I will be fully happy, where everything will finally fit and make sense. This--some days of guilt, some days of sorrow, some days of boredom, some days of happiness, some days of hope and joy--this is it. Right now. Before I have achieved my goals--before I am a counselor, before I have a partner and children, before I am a leader in my community.... Not then, but now. Days of silly activities, like Star Trek marathons and ice cream--days of boring activities, like chores and job applications--days spent with others, normal quiet moments, fun moments, deep moments--these are life.

This is happiness, or rather; this is life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beautiful Day

I had a truly beautiful day today, so so lovely! I feel good in my body, good in my soul. I spent the day with friends in San Francisco, walking, parks, dogs, ice cream, a beautiful film, games..... Upon coming home I found myself concerned with trying to somehow preserve a record of this lovely day, somehow capture the feeling....but as I sit here, with this glow, I realize, I don't have to hold onto it. I can glow and then let it slip away as it chooses, and in simply enjoying it and letting it pass, I will have not in any way erred. I don't have to take on the work of trying to preserve what I have right now--what a futile and perhaps wearisome task that would be anyway! So I will simply sit here with this love breathing in and out of my body, and wish you all a good night. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm alive

and right now that's enough.

Sometimes just being alive is good enough. Even with all the hurting and hurting I've been doing, I am quite simply glad to be alive.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Again, haha, I'm here wishing I hadn't taken so long to write. Reminding myself there's no point in guilt. There are many little insights I've had over the last few months, though, that I haven't put up here yet that I would like to; perhaps I'll write a series of shorter posts here in the near future and share some of those thoughts.

Tonight, though, I'm going to write about what's going on right now. I've had a particularly hard month--having to work out some hard (good, important, but hard) stuff in personal relationships, finding out I didn't get into either of my top 2 choice grad programs, deciding the one I did get into was just not a good fit, having to accept the (terrifying, dread-inducing) reality that I need to go back on the job market full force to find a job to tide me over for the next year. My best friend is moving away for some time, and if I don't find a job soon I may need to move too. And other things, some of which are perhaps best not detailed in a public forum. It's like I was knocked down, then given a sucker punch to the gut, and then pummeled repeatedly after that.

Oh boy, I don't mean to sound melodramatic. But it's been genuinely one of the hardest periods I've ever gone through, and I've been through some pretty hard things.

I think the moment that hit me hardest was opening the letter from the last school I was waiting to hear back from and seeing the word "waitlist". If I hadn't already been dealing with other hard things, perhaps I would have reacted differently, but the cumulative effect was devastating. For the first couple of weeks after that, I gave myself a break from working (for the first time since 4th grade, I took a test without studying! haha, it was an adventure) and really just abandoned myself to feeling whatever I had to feel. This is the first time I've ever really understood what they mean when they say grief comes in waves. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Like I wasn't standing on solid ground anymore--like my world was falling apart.

I have been, and remain, determined not to let this drag me back into depression. Or, at least, determined to do all I know how to to keep myself from sliding back into depression--I am honestly less certain of my ability to do that than I was at first, but we'll see how it goes.

As I understand it, one of the primary causes of my depression was my years of learning how to repress my feelings. Of growing numbness, turning into an oppressive grey emptiness. So I've been determined to not push away the difficult feelings all of this has brought up.

So when the waves come, I've let them hit. At first, I was just in survival mode. Let the pain come, be gentle with myself, don't do anything that hurts more than I hurt already...very very slow and gentle. This was the first two weeks, and I'm proud of how I handled them. I did let the pain come, when it came. (One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten was about not holding onto grief. You don't have to try to hold onto your pain, hold onto your grief. It's still there, and when it's ready it will come, and when it's giving you a break, take the break. It won't disappear on you.) And when the pain went, I let it go. I actually had some really good hours, even days--one thing that helped was that a friend from out of town was visiting, and I got to see everything that I love about the Bay fresh through her eyes. My extremes of emotion were such that I felt like I was going a little crazy--but I've read that that is common when you go through something really difficult, so I let myself be a little crazy without dredging up too much guilt.

After two weeks, I made myself start working again. I've started applying to jobs again (as well as working on another grad school application). Right before I started this, I had a very fortuitious conversation with a friend who is dealing with immense amounts of grief (WAY beyond the scale of my suffering, but then, what's the point of comparing? That's one thing Buddhism teaches that I really love--every human being experiences the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows. Every human being deserves compassion. In any case, this friend's ability to survive what he's survived is inspiring, and we support each other in our paths of healing.) He recently was laid off and, like me, has had a chance to finally let himself fall apart. And he, like me, is now in the process of slowly putting himself back together. He talked about setting just one goal a day for himself--such as, today, I will fill out this insurance paperwork. Before talking to him, I had been planning on rushing headlong into the job search, even though it felt immensely overwhelming to me; but learning from his example I was able to give myself permission to set much more moderate, and thus actually achievable goals for myself. I have, to my astonishment, actually been meeting my daily goals for the most part, and slowly ratcheting them up, but never beyond a point where they feel overwhelming. This is still an experiment in the making, but I hope that with this kindness to myself I will be able to actually build my capacity and sense of self-efficacy rather than falling into my old patterns of guilt and overwhelm.

Ah, yes, the topic of this post was patience. That, tonight, is what I feel so much difficulty around. I've let myself feel so much in this past month--sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, guilt, fear, dread, grief--but there's still so much more yet to feel. What I'm discovering is that my thoughts move way faster than my emotions. My thoughts move very quickly. I've thought out all my plans; thought out all the ways I have to change my expectations for the next year and even for life in general (this all has hit at some pretty deep levels); thought how to keep surviving the next day and the next. My thoughts have picked up the pieces and put them in place again. I've got my feet underneath me again. And I think I keep expecting my emotions to have followed suit.

But emotions move slower than thoughts. Even with my plans, my solutions, my bracing words for finding the courage to face what lies ahead--I still hurt. A lot.

I've been hurting a lot for a while now. I'm starting to lose patience. I'm becoming less willing to sit with the pain. I'm tired of facing it over and over and over again. The grief is less sharp, or at least sharp less often, but it seems to have taken ahold in a way that scares me that I may end up in depression again.

If I do though, it won't be the same depression as before. I know so much more than I did before, have so many more tools and different beliefs and new skills and support. i.e. I may backtrack, but not all the way back to the beginning of the road.

And I'm trying to find the strength to keep letting this grief roll through me. In the words of one of the teachers at a meditation class I attended today, I am trying to learn how to "be willing to be present with what doesn't seem to be moving." Someday, it will move.

And as hard as it is, every time I find the strength and patience to be open with yet another wave of grief, I am keeping myself open to being fully alive. I love life, so it is worth it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sad tonight

For no particular reason.

In fact, things are going really well in my life. I got a lot of work done today. I've been eating more fruits and vegetables. I got into grad school. (Though still waiting to hear back from two more schools). I've been making important strides in learning how to trust more deeply in one of my closest friendships, which has been an incredibly rich experience.

Everything is great.

The air smells like honey. For real. I live in a place where the sun shines and it's usually 60-70 degrees out and the air smells like honey.

And I am sad.

Don't get me wrong, these things are not unimportant; they actually make a huge difference for me. I'm just noticing one of those moments where...the sadness is just there.

Perhaps a few months ago I was talking to my therapist about feeling sad. He asked me to describe what it felt like in my body. I said, it's here, in my chest, sort of like a ball, made up of lots of individual strings going every which way, all tangled together. He said, that is grief.

Tonight it does not feel quite like that; tonight it is in my chest, and also in my head, in my eyes that want to cry. Tonight it has less of a shape, more like an infusion in my flesh. Tonight it feels dark blue; it is not made up of strings but is of a smoother quality. But it is still grief.

Have I shared with you all the poem by Rumi, the Guest House? If so, oh well; it bears repeating:

This being human is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I try to let whatever comes, come. When I realized I felt sad tonight, my first reaction was to feel sad *about* feeling sad. I am not nearly as depressed as I used to be, but I still get tired of it, and I think perhaps view sadness as some sort of failure on my part, as if I were shamefully dwelling on misery.

Did I inadvertently invite this sadness? Perhaps it does not even matter; the sadness is here, and is my guest. I don't necessarily believe the part about the guest being a guide from beyond, because I don't necessarily believe in beyond. But I know it is important nonetheless. My ability to grieve is the very essence of my humanity. If I lose the ability to feel sad when I see something bad happens to something good in the world (including to myself), what is left? What do I value? How can I feel joy, how can I appreciate beauty, how can I live a life of love, if I care not when harm occurs?

What do I grieve for tonight? Perhaps....for the years of loneliness I survived. It has been a topic on my mind recently, and perhaps tonight's sadness comes as I try to understand what exactly it was I endured. Or perhaps, the sadness has to do with how *hard* it is for me to love myself; always, that is on my mind.

Ah, I see: I am sad because I am afraid that my past will predict my future; I am afraid that I will go back, that I will be alone again. Back to being numb. Back to being unable, overwhelmed; unable to find my way in this world when it becomes so gray.

My best friend has deep faith that I will not go back. I am going to try to trust him.

Is that a flicker of hope I detect? Heaven forbid I let it grow into a flame and risk disappointment! :P

To feel grief is to tap into the very heart of what makes me alive. But also, to feel joy is to tap into the very heart of what makes me alive. Joy, I have found, is often much harder for me to access than pain. Yet, I felt great joy for the first time in a long time a few days ago, playing Beethoven in orchestra rehearsal.

I have been learning how to feel desire again; I have been learning how to feel excitement again; perhaps, even, I will learn how to hope again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Look at that beautiful fat woman!

I've been reading a lot lately about fat-acceptance, health, obesity (goodness I hate that word!), and so forth. More and more I've been drawn to reading fat-acceptance blogs (favorites include and ); I feel that it is of crucial importance that I take seriously the work of learning how to see myself, and especially my body, in a positive light because I live in a society that tells me over and over again, with varying levels of subtlety, that as a fat person: I need to lose weight, I am lazy, I am unattractive, I am unhealthy, I am less intelligent--that all in all, I am less worthy than other human beings.

Thankfully, the people in my life do not repeat such harmful messages to me, and they are largely very supportive of my quest to learn to see myself as an equal human being despite my size. But this does not take away the cacophony of media and advertisements, the frequent thoughtlessness and sometimes cruelty of strangers, or the nearly twenty years of mostly believing what society told me I ought to think of myself because I was "too big" (I haven't been thin since 2nd grade; I am now 25).

And believe me, I absorbed those messages. Even though I now constantly practice seeing myself as beautiful, there is still a deep-set part of me that believes that I am less than because I am fat. (I often feel self-conscious about my size/appearance when in public, so I've taken to imagining that when strangers see me, they think, "Look at that beautiful fat woman!" hahaha)

Because of how much of an uphill-battle this is for me personally, and how passionate I am about spreading awareness of fat-acceptance (fat-rights? size-acceptance? we're definitely a fledgling movement!), I would like to share with you what all my reading and experiences have led me to believe, at least at this point in time, when it comes to fat. (Btw, I'm simply too tired--or fat and lazy hehe--to look up all the links for the things I mention here, but please feel free to ask about ANY or ALL of them and I will provide you with info! A fair amount of this is paraphrased (and further linked to studies) from Kate Harding's "But Don't You Realize Fat Is Unhealthy?" post which can be found here: )

1. Studies show that diets--even healthy ones--any kind of eating-program that restricts your eating, even if it's focused on healthy eating, and even if it's also combined with exercise--on average DO NOT work. In the short term yes, but the large majority of people gain the weight back and then some. So diets on average actually lead people to gain more weight. Also, it's hard on your body to always be going up and down with weight (so-called "yo-yo dieting"). I have experienced this personally: when I was teaching in New Mexico, I went on the one and only diet of my life (simple calorie-counting)--I first lost 15 pounds, and then gained that 15 back plus another 30 or so.

2. The human body tends to settle into a size and becomes very stubborn about changing--and it is often a futile and potentially very psychologically and physically damaging battle to try to change it. Studies show that when larger people go on diets and lost weight, their bodies enter starvation mode. Even if they become and look thin, what's going on inside of their bodies is drastically different from what's going on inside naturally thin people's bodies--which is why the weight is almost always regained. Similarly, it is extremely difficult for naturally thin people to gain significant amounts of weight. In one study, thin people had to eat 10,000 calories a day to gain 20-25% of their body weight, and as soon as they stopped eating this much they lost the weight again. Bodies tend to like to stay where they are. (Also, I have Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which makes it even more difficult to lose weight.) (Also, genetics may be a very strong factor in determining weight/size.)

3. You can be healthy at any size: what matters is much less your size and much more your behavior--whether you eat well and exercise. Exercise and food DO affect your health and longevity, and they are very important. I personally think it would be very helpful for people to focus on food and exercise rather than on weight, because it is not possible in the vast majority of cases for people to control their weight, but it is possible for them to control in a healthy way their food and exercise. (Note: when I say "control" I don't mean to imply any type of perfectionism...eating healthy doesn't have to be perfect, and neither does exercise; what matters is that you do it, not that you do it perfectly.) That way you aren't setting people up to feel like failures when they can't lose (or keep off) weight, which then discourages them and causes them to fall back into unhealthy habits.

In fact, there's this super-cool movement called the "Health at Every Size Movement"; it's really quite beautiful. It is about making peace with your body; learn more here: .

4. People of ALL body shapes and sizes are attractive. I felt unattractive my entire life growing up. For the most part I wasn't even very big, but I thought of myself as not good-looking at all.

The first time this perception of myself was really challenged was my freshman year of college when I dressed up in an 80's costume for a party, and someone told me second-hand that another person had described me as hot. I later was studying with a new friend (now one of my best friends!) and told him this story because it was the first time I'd ever heard myself described as hot. He told me I was totally hot, and he was shocked no one had ever told me before. This was an amazing moment in my life--I began to realize that I didn't have to be thin to be attractive, though it took me many more years to truly believe it. It also helped when I started having sex; having someone appreciate my body that much went a long way toward helping me believe in the reality of my beauty. Ever since then I've been slowly building and strengthening the belief that I am attractive even though I'm really big; and I've also been learning how to see other big people as attractive.

Yeah, I'll say it, and mean it: I'm pretty (and by pretty, I mean REALLY) damn hot! Who would have thought I'd have my best body image at my biggest? Go figure.

5. A lot of the research that is reported on obesity, weight loss, disease, etc in the mainstream media is actually funded by companies in the weight loss industry. They are very invested in making sure everyone believes without a doubt that if you are large, you cannot be healthy (or attractive), because they make a lot of money off this belief.

6. The treatment of fat people in our society is absolutely unacceptable--it is prejudice, plain and simple. A lot of people who discriminate against fat people excuse their prejudice by saying that they're just concerned for people's "health"--which is often nothing more than prejudice masquerading as science. (Did you know that of all the BMI categories, people in the "overweight" category have the longest lifespans?) Fat people face significant discrimination in employment--it's a lot harder to get hired, and even once they're hired, fat people often face hostile work environments. More generally, fat people face hostile environments everywhere--work, school, family (not mine, thankfully, but I've heard oodles of horror stories), media, stores, on the street.

It is a prejudice that has caused us to forget our human decency. In the wonderful words of Kate Harding (minus expletives lol): "Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. See how that works? In any case, shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn't be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: 'You cannot hate people for their own good.'"

7. Personally, I am in a process of continually, step by step, adopting healthier habits for my body--i.e. eating more fruits and vegetables and moving/exercising more. But I am not going to make my goal weight loss. I can't, and maintain my sanity: all I have control over is how I eat and how I move. Whether that ends up affecting my weight or not is up to my body, not me. Also, meditation (which I've been doing more and more of) is supposed to be good for physical health, not just mental health.

Is this enough? I don't know. What is enough? There is no combination of diet and exercise that will allow me to live forever--though in our culture, I think we have a very peculiar relation with death; specifically, we try to live forever. We sanitize death and hide it from view as much as possible (in The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion points out that we give very little space for the long and hard process of grieving); ultimately, if not fully consciously, we are trying to avoid death. Death is not avoidable and everyone knows this, but it is so imperfect (messy, dark, unhappy, difficult) that it is continually swept under the rug in this perfectionist, glamorous, clean, happy America.

Don't get me wrong; I want to live a long and healthy life. I just don't buy into the idea that I have to be perfect to have a decent shot at this. Similarly, I don't buy into the idea that getting sick, or even dying, is necessarily the fault of the individual. (Someone made a great point somewhere on some blog I read--heaven only knows which: notice how it benefits insurance companies to blame maladies on the sufferers themselves. Keep your eyes open; I bet you'll start to notice the increasing tendency to blame people for getting sick.)

In any case, my attempts at more vegetables and exercise are a start--and, in line with what I've learned in fighting my depression, I am trying to approach them from a very non-guilt-based standpoint. Every effort I make is a step, and is important, and is laudable.

In particular, with eating, I've not been focusing on restricting food a lot. Rather, I've been focusing on trying to work in more healthy foods into my diet, and even more generally, to just pay attention to how different foods feel to me. (i.e. when I eat a certain food, does my body feel good? does it feel ok? does it feel yucky?) I'm rather shocked to find that I've actually been NOT craving lots of "bad" foods that I normally would go for--today I had to buy myself lunch and I noticed my thoughts trying to force myself to want a cheeseburger (oh habit), but I just couldn't make myself want it and ended up getting a falafal-pita sandwich instead. Who woulda thunk! This is a very recent phenomenon so I don't know how well it will last, but it's certainly more than I ever expected! Perhaps my body really does know what's best for me, and all I have to do is listen to it, without judging myself. Hmmm, what an idea!

One last note: I just read a STUNNING piece about appreciating one's body, please please check it out!