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Recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that doctors refer all patients with a body mass index of 30 or more to a program designed to promote weight loss. A successful program, according to the panel, combines counseling sessions with concrete weight-loss goals, nutrition advice, and education on setting limits and recognizing barriers to change.  The recommendation was met with mixed reviews from doctors and politicians involved in the healthcare debate. Some cited it as a “long-overdue” prod to physicians while others acknowledged the additional responsibility it would place on doctors who are already facing time and resource constraints.

What the debate skims over, however, and what may be the most important point is not a single study demonstrates the long-term benefits of an intensive weight loss program for health. This oversight is at the crux of the war on obesity and America’s obsession with weight loss.

One of the central misconceptions fueling the task force’s recommendation is that body weight alone is indicative of health. Many studies have indicated that weight, when viewed in conjunction with other lifestyle habits like exercise, is not related to disease or early death except in the morbidly obese. Other studies point out that equal numbers of thin and fat people exhibit unhealthy eating habits and whether or not those habits become externally apparent is largely determined by genetics. To assume all fat people are unhealthy and all thin people are healthy is prejudicial and does a disservice to both groups.

Another misconception is that everyone who is fat must suffer from some form of disordered eating. In reality many people with a BMI above 30 are healthy adults who exhibit moderate eating and exercise habits. Likewise, many people at a “normal” BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 do display maladaptive eating habits. Using BMI alone as the criteria for admission into a free counseling program both sets the stage for further discrimination against fat people and excludes many “normal” weight individuals who might benefit. In short, It is a grave mistake to assume everyone at a “normal” BMI is making healthy choices and everyone above a “normal” BMI is not.

As part of the initiative, doctors are urged to refer obese individuals to programs where weight loss is the primary goal and benchmark for success. There are many problems with this. First, weight loss programs fail for about 95% of dieters and ultimately cause more health problems from the resulting weight cycles. Second, there is not sufficient evidence linking weight loss with improved health outcomes in the long run, which the task force openly admits but appears to dismiss in another classic case of succumbing to popular culture rhetoric about dieting. The task force states that in some cases, programs include exercise sessions. From an evidence-based perspective, this should be priority number one. Research has shown dramatic improvements in health from exercise alone, and obese but fit people are as healthy as fit people falling within the normal BMI criteria. A focus on weight loss over increased physical activity gives people an inaccurate tool for gauging health.

Dr. Jack Der-Sarkissian notes that more than half of all obese patients are never told they need to lose weight, and that’s just “not fair to the patient.” Hmmm…. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. It’s not fair that doctors assume all fat people have homogenous eating habits and weight loss is the lifesaving miracle panacea. It’s not fair that doctors assume a fat person is automatically unhealthy and on the flip side, a thin person is healthy. It’s not fair that so many medical problems a fat person encounters are attributed to weight with no further investigation. It’s not fair that people at “normal” weights are rarely offered nutritional advice, diagnostic testing, or counseling because they are assumed to be healthy. It’s not fair that so many people with diagnosable eating disorders do not get the treatment they need because they don’t meet certain weight criteria, while the government wants to the foot the bill for every fat person to a enter a weight loss program.

When will health officials come to realize that both physical and mental health are independent of body size and the people who could actually benefit from counseling fall all along the weight continuum.

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Don’t let the smiles in those photos fool you, being pregnant sucks! And to anyone who says otherwise, please just stop talking, you’re making the rest of us look like whiny, complaining weaklings.

I hit the 35-week pregnant mark on Monday, and every time someone asks me when I’m due, I say “in a couple weeks.” Ah, if only proclaiming that he was coming in a couple weeks translated into an earlier due date; it’s wishful (delusional) thinking at its finest.

While my aches and pains aren’t unique to me, I certainly feel somewhat isolated when I hear how much other women LOVE being pregnant. “I love feeling the baby move, knowing that I’m carrying this life inside me,” I hear many women say. I want to counter with, “I love when the baby decides to stop moving for a moment; my internal organs need a break from the constant beating.” Another one I hear a lot is, “I don’t really feel all that different; I’m just so excited to be a mom I guess I don’t mind the minor discomforts.” Don’t get me wrong; I am looking forward to meeting baby H, but at this moment it has as much to do with wanting to get rid of the nausea, fatigue, stomach pain and pressure, back and leg pain, and constant need to pee as it does with holding him in my arms. Does that make me a bad mother? Am I the only one who yearns for her pre-pregnancy body to come back so she can finally feel “normal” again?

Better yet, am I the only one who thinks midnight feedings and a crying baby are going to be a breeze compared to the discomforts of pregnancy? On second thought, don’t answer that, I’m afraid of what I might hear.

Like most trying life situations, at least I can say I’ll be walking away from this one with some valuable life lessons:

1) My body has limitations

Silly me, I used to think I was invincible. I believed I could do anything if I tried hard enough: overcome any obstacle, become stronger, faster, work harder, push past my limits, because heck, I don’t have limits. I was a walking, talking Nike ad on steroids. But when I traded in my workout attire and running shoes for maternity jeans and nursing bras, it was time for a reality check. Sometimes, despite my wishing and willing my body to do one thing, it has its own agenda for the day and will not cooperate. No amount of mind over matter will get me off the couch and to the gym when sharp pains are shooting down my back and legs. No amount of determination and will power will get me to do the laundry or clean the apartment after a sleepless night and a mid-morning bought of nausea. Sometimes, I am limited. Sometimes I have to accept that instead of trying to make my body cooperate with me; I need to cooperate with my body. But that doesn’t make me weak.

2) Things don’t always have to go according to plan

When I was younger, I was fairly inflexible. I believed rules were meant to be followed, schedules adhered to, and organizational systems maintained. Tell me something was going to happen, be it a trip to the dentist or a trip to Disney World, and if it didn’t happen, I became distressed. Yes, I was that kid. And that kid’s attitude still has a way of popping up from time to time in this adult’s life. What can I say, I like when plans are made well in advance, I know what to expect, and I can adjust accordingly. Becoming pregnant has set my world off balance a little. In my mind I planned to get pregnant in July (the 6 month mark past when we intended to start trying) and have the baby in March. By the start of the third trimester I’d be an established free-lance writer with a decked out nursery, and all my little baby booties in a row. At 8 months pregnant I do not yet own a single pair of baby booties. Our nursery is strewn with shower gifts and little outfits waiting to be washed, and my career as a freelance writer has failed to launch (for now). Despite all this, ready or not, baby H will be here in July. I’m guessing like his arrival, most things surrounding our son will not happen on a set schedule, and I’m learning that I can adjust.

3) Despite its limitations, the human body can do some pretty miraculous things

Pregnancy is a miracle in itself. Me becoming pregnant is beyond miraculous. To have my body bounce back after years of neglect still astounds me. To follow the elaborate string of events that must occur for two single cells to turn into a tiny person in just nine months is beyond my understanding. If I were a religious person, it would be easy to see God’s hands at work.  It is witnessing this phenomenon first hand that teaches me that while I do have to respect my limits, those limits are often a little higher than I may think upon first glance.

4) Becoming an adult isn’t about hitting some arbitrary milestone

Growing up I kept waiting for that magical moment when I would transform from a pimple-covered, pigtail wearing, lunch box toting little kid to a sophisticated adult. When I hit a certain age, say 16 with license in hand or 18 when high school ended and college was on the horizon, then certainly I’d be a grown up. Or perhaps when I land that first “big kid” job, buy a house, get married, or, like my mom always told me, become a parent, then I’m an adult. Well at 27 years old with many milestones under my belt including a baby on the way, I’ve come to realize becoming an adult has more to do with an attitude than the number of candles on a cake. It comes from the wisdom gained through life experiences and the new perspectives those experiences offer.

5) Putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own does not mean forgetting entirely about my own needs too

Raise your hand if you’ve even been on a plane. Now raise your hand if you actually pay attention to the preflight announcements. Let me refresh your memory. If the plane cabin looses oxygen all adults are instructed to first place the oxygen mask over their own nose and mouth before assisting young children. There is an important life lesson to be learned here. I bet you didn’t realize there was free advice that went along with those peanuts. How many times have you heard a parent say, “I have no time for myself anymore?” What they’re really saying is “I forgot that I am a person too, and I have needs.” It’s common to think that having a child means your desires and dreams will be relegated to the back burner, but that doesn’t have to be the case. One of the best things you can do for your child is to be a present parent, to be a parent that has the energy and desire to give all of her attention and love to the baby in the moment. This is a nearly impossible task when you forget your own needs and become drained. To meet your child’s needs it is essential to also take into account your own; so put on your oxygen mask.

6) I have an amazing husband, and I will be a much better mother because of him.

My husband is a pretty amazing man, but you might not know it just looking at him. You see, his greatness doesn’t lie in a flashy, ostentatious life or a long list of personal accomplishments (although his wall of degrees is quite impressive). His greatness is a subtle and quiet kind that sneaks up on me when I least expect it. I find in trying moments, when I am at my breaking point, my husband steps up and offers the strength and support I couldn’t muster. In areas where I fall short, he excels. It is the moment that I am ready to quit, to give up and throw my hands in the air in frustration that he calmly reminds me that I can persevere, whether it’s of my own accord or he has to carry me. As an individual I may not be up for the task of parenthood, but I’m confident that with him as my partner I can handle anything. And if our son turns out anything like his father…then I will consider myself a very lucky woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIET: that dirty four-lettered word that is so ingrained in our national vocabulary that it’s mention is akin to discussing the weather.

“What’s the forecast for tomorrow?” you ask.

“A high of 1200 calories with a slight chance of deprivation.” How gloomy.

Dieting has become as American as baseball and apple pie, that is, as long as you make it a slice of sugar free, fat free pie.

Yet despite how often we talk about dieting, very few actually succeed in losing weight and keeping it off. So why do we persist? Are we all insane, as a popular quote would suggest?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Or maybe we’ve been bamboozled by an industry that profits off of our failures, an industry that designs a faulty product and then places the blame on the buyer? Today I challenge you all to embark on a different kind of diet: the anti-diet.  Let go of all your complicated food rules and beliefs about “good” and “bad” foods and begin to trust your body to tell you what it wants and needs.

To provide you with some motivation, I’m counting down the top ten reasons to ditch dieting for good.

10. Dieting wrecks havoc on your metabolism.

Dieting slows the metabolism down tremendously, as the body enters what it assumes to be a period of famine. And while fat people who lose large amounts of weight may look similar to a naturally thin person, their bodies are actually behaving more like that of a starving person. In other words, a fat person who loses weight will not acquire the health characteristics of a naturally thin person. On average, the metabolism slows so that a formerly fat person burns about 24% fewer calories per square meter of their body’s surface area than a naturally thin person. By avoiding diets, you can ensure your metabolism is functioning at its optimal level.

9. Your body produces hormones that fight against weight change.

Your body has a natural set point for weight, largely determined by genetics, at which it feels most comfortable. Deviating much beyond this point triggers a cascade of hormones designed to resist further weight fluctuations. These hormones can stimulate or suppress appetite, decrease or increase metabolism, and encourage or discourage activity. Dieting interferes with the mechanisms that regulate set point and makes it difficult to respond to hormonal cues. Much like a broken gas gauge on a car, dieting makes it difficult to tell when the tank is full or running on empty.

8. Dieting can lead to many psychiatric problems.

Here’s a novel idea: your body, as adept as it is at carefully regulating all your bodily systems, cannot tell the difference between a diet and unintentional starvation. And starvation has been shown to cause a lot of psychological problems. In the classic Minnesota Starvation Study, healthy men were put on 1,600 calorie diets with the intention of losing 25% of their body weight. Over the course of the experiment, the men experienced what head researcher Dr. Ancel Keys came to call “semistarvation neurosis.” They became nervous, anxious, withdrawn and overly critical of their appearance and weight. Many exhibited signs of depression, losing their ambitions, interests, sense of humor, and desire for social interaction. They became obsessed with food and many developed odd food rituals. And to think this all happened on 1,600 calories per day. Many popular diets today prescribe much less!

7. Dieting wastes a lot of time and energy.

As noted by a participant in the Minnesota Starvation Study the act of restricting food “made food the most important thing in one’s life.” Whether your counting calories, weighing out just right portions, or dreaming about all the food you wish you could be eating, dieting can quickly become an all-consuming undertaking, often at the expense of other areas of your life. When we deny ourselves food we enjoy in favor of “healthy” foods we dislike, a lot of time gets spent fantasizing about that forbidden food.

6. Dieting robs a lot of the pleasure from eating and can make for more complicated social situations.

Despite what many popular diets lead you to believe, getting pleasure from food does not make you a hedonistic, weak-willed person. Eating can and should be a pleasurable experience. Think about digging into a big stack of fluffy pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning, eating a slice of cake on your Birthday, or clinking champagne glasses with friends and family on New Years Eve. Food is a part of many of social situations, and when your web of complex food rules keeps you sidelined from digging in with everyone else it can be an isolating experience.

5. 95% of dieters regain the weight and then develop a higher weight set point.

Because of the numerous regulatory checks that your body employs, in the end, dieting is more synonymous with weight gain than weight loss. It slows metabolism, increases the body’s efficiency at getting calories from food, increases appetite, decreases activity levels, lowers your body temperature, breaks down muscle tissue, and increases fat storing enzymes. All these checks ensure you are on the fast track to gaining back any lost weight. And because our bodies are programmed to protect us from weight loss but aren’t too concerned with weight gain, they settle at a slightly higher set point than they were previously at. In other words, the same amount of calories you were once eating to maintain weight X are now how many you need to eat to maintain X+10lbs.

4. Dieting and weight cycling causes a lot of the problems that excess weight is blamed for like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and liver damage.

It’s a classic case of what came first, the chicken or the egg? Many people see a correlation between excess weight and disease and assume weight is the cause, when in reality the relationship isn’t so straightforward. What often underlies conditions like heart disease is the damage done to the body by losing and regaining the same weight over and over again, the same cycling that leads to higher set point weights.

3. You don’t need to diet to maintain your body’s healthy weight.

Too many people are under the impression that without constant vigilance the pounds will keep piling on, when in fact, this is far from the truth. A scientist at the University of Vermont, Ethan Sims, conducted an experiment that was the mirror image of the Minnesota Starvation Study. Instead of looking at the effects of calorie restriction, Sims put men on a calorie dense diet. In order increase their weight by 20% above their natural set point the men had to eat as much as 10,000 calories for up to six months time. Sims discovered that the amount of weight the men should have gained based on a simple calories in versus calories out equation was much more than they actually gained. Their bodies fought hard to maintain their natural set point, and at the conclusion of the study they returned to these weight without effort. Your body knows the weight it is healthiest at and will fight you to maintain that weight. Ironically, you have to diet to NOT maintain your healthy weight. Watch a documentary that puts participants through a similar weight gain experiment here.

2. Being thin does not necessarily make you healthier. Moderate activity and healthy, moderate food choices make you healthier.

Fit, active people are much healthier than sedentary individuals, regardless of weight. In fact, fit obese people are healthier than thin sedentary individuals and just as healthy and thin active individuals. When fat people exercise, they reap all the benefits even without an accompanying weight loss. In other words, losing weight will not make one healthy but exercising will. Several studies also indicate that fostering an active lifestyle increases self-confidence and acceptance while dieting often has the opposite effect. Read more.

1. Dieting is NOT about loving and respecting your body.

How many times have your heard someone say (or said yourself) “I’m trying to lose weight because I want to take care of myself?” While the intention is good, dieting is a misguided attempt at promoting health and well-being. Choosing a healthy, varied diet, staying active, and accepting your body in its present state sends a lot more powerful message if you ask me. You wouldn’t tell your partner or your best friend, “I’d love you more if only you were….(fill in the blanks).” So why do we repeatedly tell ourselves this message by trying to lose weight? Love and respect come from an understanding that I am a complete, whole person as I am.

For a great resource on the research behind these reasons check out Big Liberty’s blog. Or pick up a copy of the book Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos or Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata.

I hate to admit it, but I was wrong.

Back in April of 2010 I wrote a blog entitled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fatness” discussing the fat acceptance movement. I questioned its motives, pointed the finger at what I thought were its unreasonable claims, and flat out refused to believe that being fat could be healthy. You see, like most people who have grown up in the “fat is bad” era, when I heard news reports claiming we are drowning in a nationwide obesity crisis (talk about a loaded expression), I jumped on the lifeboat.


It took a good amount of critical research, reading between the lines, and turning a deaf ear to the popular media fat-bashing machine before I would be willing accept the possibility that all my nutritional indoctrination might be wrong. But wrong I was.

A lot of current claims about the obesity crisis are based on misinformation. In 2002, Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general described obesity as “the terror within, a threat that is every bit as real to America as the weapons of mass destruction.” And how could it not be when the Center for Disease Control reported that more than 400,000 Americans die from being overweight or obese? This shocking statistic became the headline for thousands of popular media articles and pumped millions of dollars into scientific research aimed at curing obesity.

But in 2005, an updated report from the CDC acknowledged that the previous analysis suffered from computation errors and reduced the estimate fifteen-fold, taking the 400,000 deaths down to 26,000. Further separating “overweight” and “obese” individuals from “extremely obese” individuals (BMI over 35) decreases the number even more, as most deaths are clustered in the BMI over 35 category. When “overweight” individuals (BMI 25-30) are compared to “normal” weight individuals (BMI 18.5-24) an even more interesting statistic surfaces. Overweight individuals actually live longer than normal weight people.

Research from a Canadian national health survey following more than 11,000 adults looked at the relationship between BMI and longevity. Compared to people who fell into the normal-weight category:

– Those classified as underweight were 73% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as extremely obese were 36% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as obese had about the SAME risk of death
– Those classified as overweight were 17% LESS likely to die

Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago says the obesity epidemic is really “a relatively small group of scientists and doctors, many directly funded by the weight loss industry, (who) have created an arbitrary and unscientific definition of overweight and obesity. They have inflated claims and distorted statistics on the consequences of our growing weights, and they have largely ignored the complicated health realities associated with being fat.”

“So what?” you may be thinking. “Just because people are living longer doesn’t mean they are living healthier lives. Everyone knows fat people are unhealthy.”


While weight is a causal factor in a couple diseases, say osteoarthritis or sleep apnea, there isn’t much evidence that excess body fat itself causes disease. Instead other variables might be at play. For example, most overweight individuals report weight cycling at some point during their lives. A single weight cycle, think a failed crash diet, has been shown to damage blood vessels and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Rat studies indicate that obese rats that have weight cycled have very high blood pressures compared to rats that have maintained a consistent weight.

Additionally, there is a weak association among obesity and hypertension in cultures where dieting is uncommon. Could the “cure” for hypertension actually be the “cause?”

Research also finds that overweight people report feeling more stress and anxiety, both of which are a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In countries where there is less stigma attached to weight, overweight individuals are not prone to the same diseases associated with obesity in the United States. Additionally, when researchers looked at a group of more than 170,000 U.S. adults, they found the differences between actual weight and perceived ideal weight was a better indicator of mental and physical health than BMI. In other words, feeling fat has a stronger implication for health than being fat.

Research indicates that activity level, combined with other lifestyle choices like sleep and social habits, are more related to health than body fat percentage. For example, one study found that obese men classified as “fit” based on a treadmill test have similar death rates as lean men classified as “fit.” The obese fit men actually had death rates one-half those of the lean but unfit men.

What about type 2 diabetes? This disease, characterized by a reduced sensitivity to insulin, is much more common among obese individuals, and thus, obesity is often blamed for its emergence. But is it possible that insulin resistance causes obesity? In this classic which came first scenario, research suggests that high levels of insulin appear before weight gain in future diabetics.  This finding is consistent with the “thrifty genotype” theory, which views insulin resistance as a helpful adaptation for storing more fat during times of famine. Because fat cells do not develop insulin resistance as readily as other cells, they allow glucose and nutrients to enter, promoting excess fat storage and weight gain. The added weight gain further increases insulin resistance and the cycle continues. So is weight loss the answer?

I’ll give you a second to guess what my answer is going to be (cue the Jeopardy music).

What is a resounding NO!?! A review of controlled weight loss studies for type 2 diabetes shows that initial improvements were short-lived, and study participants returned to their starting values within eighteen months, even when they maintained their weight loss. In another study, women who underwent liposuction resulting in an average loss of twenty pounds of body fat did not show improvements in insulin sensitivity. What have been shown to improve diabetes time and time again are changes in nutrition and increased activity, even without any resulting weight loss.

What’s most unfortunate about our culture’s association between body size and health is that it paves the way for fat bashing, prejudice, and discrimination. We demonize fat, and as a result, view the people carrying it around as vessels for evil. In our quest to cure obesity, we ostracize a segment of the population. We confer them with labels like lazy, sick, bad, stupid, and unhealthy. We spend so much time trying to rid the world of “fatties” that we lose sight of what is really important: health. If we could refocus our attention on finding health at any and every size, and let go of the notion that only “average” or “normal” weight people can be healthy we could start to see actual improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and a slew of other conditions previously linked primarily with weight.

In the end, by focusing so much on weight, we are preventing people from finding what every weight-loss venture promises to deliver: a long, happy, and healthy life.

Note: For further reading please check out the book Health and Every Size by Linda Bacon or refer to her blog at www.healthateverysizeblog.wordpress.com. Another great resource that promotes health and every size is thefatnutritionist.com. If you would like more information on the research I am referencing please comment or send me a message.

I’m minding my own business at the gym the other day, happily meandering around the weight room when one of the “fitness consultants” approaches.

(How bad-ass I imagine I look) Source

“Hey, you’ve been working out here for awhile now, but I don’t think I’ve ever learned your name,” he says casually. Hmmmm, I think to myself, it’s probably because I have no desire for you to know my name. My antisocial, just leave me alone and let me work out in peace attitude starts to surface.

“I’m Dana,” I politely respond stifling my inner bitchiness.

“Hi Dana, I’m Jeff**.” He extends his hand. You really want to shake my hand right now? Can you not see how sweaty I am? I politely shake his hand, intending to end our little exchange and get back to lifting. But Jeff persists, “I can’t help but notice you look like you’re losing some of the definition in your stomach. If you want to set up a session with me I can show you a great workout to tighten that area up.”

I glare at Jeff with my “I can’t believe you just said that, I’m ready to go all psycho on you and rip your head off” eyes. He doesn’t seem phased. I muster up the gumption to interject but Jeff continues.

“A lot of women notice that has they get older (excuse me, when has 27 ever been classified as old?) it’s easier to accumulate fat around the midsection. But if we go over your diet and exercise plan I’m guessing there are some simple changes we can make to keep that from happening.”

Can your diet and exercise plan remove this baby from my midsection? I’m sure that would tighten things up quite a bit you ass. I almost say this out loud, but I decide to let him continue knowing that once I do reveal I am pregnant, not just the fatty he is implying I am, he will feel like an even bigger ass. Sometimes I can be a little evil.

Jeff continues on about the importance of high intensity interval training for fat burning and avoiding sugar because it turns to fat. “Do you want to go downstairs with me for a consultation?” he asks. “We can get some baseline measurements for weight and waist size. Give me four sessions and I’ll bet we can knock a whole inch off your waist and 5lbs off the scale.” Do these aggressive, make you feel like shit tactics really work on most women?

Source

I finally decide to spare Jeff any further humiliation, plus he set himself with that last statement. “Well Jeff,” I say “I don’t think my doctor would approve of me losing 5lbs right now, but if you want to wait until mid July, I’d be more than happy to drop say 6-8lbs all in one day and you can take full credit, although my husband might not like that.” I’m relishing in the confused look on his face. I wait long enough for there be that cinematic, dramatic pause. “Yea, I’m 19 weeks pregnant.”

A flash of understanding crosses his eyes, and I’m expecting him to apologize and wander off to find some other girl with an expanding midsection to torture. But instead Jeff surprises me. “Oh, you didn’t really look pregnant.” He laughs a little too confidently. “In that case, definitely look me up later in the summer and I can help you get off all that baby weight.” I cannot believe this guy. Oh Jeff, yes of course the first thing my former anorexic midsection wants to do after giving birth is come find you to be ridiculed and shamed. It would be the start of such a beautiful relationship.

I desperately search for something snarky to say, but in the end all I can think of is “no thanks,” and I walk away.

The world is full of people like Jeff: well intended but clueless. They make comments that lead you to question your self-worth, your beliefs, and your inherent goodness and beauty. They’re ready with a snap judgment or inappropriate remark that can bring you down even when you’re feeling on top of the world. You can’t avoid them because they’re everywhere. And unfortunately, despite my desire to mark this Jeff with a big, flashing neon sign that read Unintentional Jerk, they don’t come with any warning label or exterior sign of inner thoughtlessness.

The best remedy for a Jeff is to educate and move on. If you’re feeling brazen enough (which I was not at the time) tell him or her that, while you’re too confident to be brought down by their comment, other people not as tough as yourself might find it hurtful. Your advice might register with them, but since I don’t call them “clueless” without reason, it probably won’t. In that case, just walk away. Everyone views the world and the people in it through a unique lens. The way one person sees you does not truthfully reflect who you are as a person. It only reflects who you are through the personal experiences and biases of the person looking. Work on creating the most favorable, forgiving, and loving lens through which to view yourself. In the end, that’s the only perspective that really matters.

In the meantime, if anyone does come up with a good “jerk tagging” system, please let me know. I’ll spearhead the campaign!

**Name has been changed to protect the identity of said fitness consultant (you’ll see why he needs protection in a moment).

The shirt I contemplated buying but decided it wasn’t worth spending $20 to flaunt my insecurity:

Source

Shield your eyes! What you are about to see may scar you for life!

It’s my 17 week pregnant belly bared for all the world (or all my lovely blog readers) to see.

I love my belly. I love its roundness, its softness, and its new-found ability to bump into things when I forget it is there. I love that my puppy has made it his new favorite pillow. I also love that it has given me an excuse to shop for some new clothes. My husband wishes his belly looked as awesome as mine.

“Expect to gain 25-30 lbs over the next 30 weeks,” the doctor said. “Really,” she paused to chuckle “after week 20 it’s going to be hard not to gain a pound a week.”

Those words sound eerily familiar. Almost eleven years ago, I was sitting inside another doctor’s office, albeit one filled with a plush “tell me all your problems” couch and a box of tissues instead of an exam table and lubricating gel, but the message was the same. “Our goal is for you to gain about 30 lbs over the next 3 months, say about 2 pounds a week.” My reaction eleven years ago: I burst into tears, hide my face in an oversized sweatshirt, and silently promise to myself that I will do no such thing. My reaction one week ago: the most nonchalant “okay, sounds good” you can imagine. My how far I’ve come.

Before my husband and I even discussed children, long before I even knew if I wanted kids at all, I was convinced I could not have them. With the slightest mention of babies or grandkids, I would ardently declare, much to mother’s dismay, “I’m never having children…EVER!” Even though I knew it was something I wanted, my fear that I would not be able to have them overtook any optimism and faith I could muster. After years of damaging my body and depriving it of the essentials it needed to develop, how would it have the energy or vitality to create another life? I viewed myself as damaged goods, as irreparable. I labeled my body as defective, and decided I deserved whatever was coming to me. My mind was ready to accept defeat; my body on the other hand, was not.

When I begrudgingly took the first home pregnancy test, I thought I was being paranoid. When the test came back positive I assumed it was defective. When the second came back positive, I believed the whole box to be defective. When, two months later, I looked at the ultrasound monitor and saw our baby for the first time, I was still in disbelief. I was convinced that the image on the screen would display an empty nothingness, but instead, I saw wiggling arms and legs, a defined head, a body, and a heart that was beating despite all my fears and doubts.

Now, I feel like the ambassador, like the protector of this new life growing inside me. I can’t officially claim the title of “mother” yet, but my maternal instincts have kicked into high gear. “What’s that ghost of an eating disorder? You don’t like the idea of gaining weight, of putting someone else’s health and well being above your desire to restrict, to binge, to purge? Well guess what, I don’t care.” It’s interesting how easy it is now to shut off the voices in my head that belittle and try to convince me my worth is only skin-deep. It was so difficult when I was only standing up for myself, but now I’m standing up for two, and like the saying goes, strength comes in numbers.

I’m not going to lie; I am terrified of becoming a mom. I’m terrified of the power I will soon wield over another person’s life. I’m terrified of the responsibility to nurture, strengthen, inspire, teach, motivate, and love and on the flip-side, the potential to destroy, letdown, scar, and demoralize. I instantly want to protect this baby from every future hardship, from scraped knees to broken hearts, but I know that those are the trials I can’t control once he or she enters the world. But right now, while he’s still just a small fig-sized** baby inside me, I do have the power to protect him. And protecting him from the backlash of my neglected, kicked-to-the-curb eating disorder voice is the least I can do.

Today, at eleven weeks 2 days pregnant, when I look at the small image of the baby hanging on our refrigerator, I’m truly amazed. My body has done what my mind perceived to be impossible: it has healed.

**Thank you babycenter.com for all your fruit and vegetable references. Although, I had to wait until week 11 to post this because normal people don’t know what your week 10 fruit, a kumquat, looks like.

I’ve officially been a “Mrs.” For 6 months, 8 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes, and 24, 25, 26 seconds. On May 28th in front of family, friends, and, thanks to our parents’ extensive guest lists, about 60 other people I barely knew (but was glad they were there), our carefully crafted ceremony ended with the quote, “Love each other and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.”

After hours of scrimmaging through online databases of quotes on marriage, love and friendship I happened upon this decidedly simple yet very poignant message.  To me, it says three things. First, loving someone, oneself included, is an active process. It is a choice we make, and it requires our conscious decision to do so. Second, despite the simplicity of the statement, choosing to love someone, choosing to accept that person wholly with all his or her faults can be effortful. Third, love can lead to happiness.

As much as that quote applies to married life, I chose it because it is also highly applicable to the relationship people have with themselves. In our complicated adult world filled with anger, disappointment, fear, and shame, making the choice to love ourselves can be difficult. More than any other person in our lives, we see all the shortcomings, all the faults, and all the bad decisions, and we dissect and analyze them to the point that they define us. It’s often easier to believe that we are unworthy of love, and that we are deserving of all the bad things that happen to us. It’s often easier to ward off disappointment by viewing oneself as a failure, but this way of thinking does not lead to happiness.

To choose to love oneself is perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves. To do so is to say, “I believe in my own worth.” When we overlook our flaws, and forgive our indiscretions, when we seek out our strengths and focus on all that we have to offer the world, we put ourselves in a position where choosing to love ourselves is easy. Too often in life, we are taught to set low expectations to ward off disappointment. ‘You’ll be happily surprised if things turn out better than you thought,’ we are told. But if we repeatedly expect disappointment in our lives, if we are repeatedly choose to believe we are inferior and don’t think we are worthy or loveable, we create an environment ready to confirm our deepest fears.

When I was younger I remember someone telling me “You have to learn to love yourself before anyone else can love you.” While I don’t think this is entirely true, I do believe that people who love themselves and are at peace with themselves are more open to accepting love from others. If I have a hard time finding redeeming qualities about me it’s going to be difficult allowing people into my life who do. Likewise, when you love yourself, you exude an air of confidence and pride that others pick up on. Tell someone you possess a certain quality, whether it’s true or not, and others are likely to see that quality in you. Love yourself, and others will follow suit.

The best thing about learning to love oneself is that it often leads us to act in ways that confirm our worthiness. Think about this. Imagine the last time you were feeling down or even outright depressed. What did you do all day? If I am sad, I often lie around feeling lethargic, cry on and off (sometimes I don’t even know about what), and put off completing things on my to-do list or reconnecting with friends. At the end of the day, when I look back and think about what I’ve accomplished, I come up with a big, fat zero. My behavior throughout the day only serves to make me more depressed and the depression only leads me to behave in more counterproductive ways. It’s quite the vicious cycle. Now imagine this same process occurring but on a day when you feel great about life and about yourself.

In a way, by controlling our actions, we have a lot of power over how we see ourselves. By choosing to act in ways that reinforce our worthiness, we build up a store of positive feelings that lead us to behave in more life-affirming ways. Remember what I said at the beginning about this process being effortful, well here is where that effort comes into play. Choosing to act in a manner consistent with loving oneself will be extremely difficult if you don’t already love yourself. Just like choosing to act happy is hard when you’re depressed, choosing to treat yourself with kindness will be hard if you don’t feel worthy of such kindness. But it’s something that must be done, one small step at a time.

During this holiday season, let’s work on extending the same good will toward ourselves that we so eagerly hand out to others. Love yourself and you will be happy; it’s as simple and as difficult as that.

I spent the last hour trying to concoct the perfect opening to my blog on how exhausting perfectionism can be. Ironic, I know.  So before I’m forced to don my pajamas and take a nap on the couch after writing the grueling 42 words you see above, I’ve decided to settle for good enough, and thus you see the sentences before you.

There was a time not too long ago when writing this blog would have been agonizing. I could spend hours debating whether or not the selected words captured the exact sentiment I was trying to convey (impart? communicate? divulge? express?). Let’s just stick with convey. I would become extremely unhappy if, when finished, I still thought ‘I can do better than this.’ And as a perfectionist, ‘I can do better’ is a phrase that’s as clichéd as it gets. Over the years I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to be perfect and to do everything perfectly. It’s time that could have been spent actually improving myself. As a perfectionist, I believed that everything I did could be done better, and as much as I sought perfection, I never felt like I attained it. If only I could have seen how the more I sought perfection the farther from perfect I became.

Perfectionism also robbed me of my ability to easily adapt and change in novel situations. It’s odd that something so critical to our survival as a species, adaptation, is such a foreign concept to a perfectionist. It’s like somewhere along the way the evolutionary umbilical cord was cut and in its place a conglomeration of rigid rules and standards arose. Adaptation requires an acute connection with reality. It requires an honest assessment of the situation so that the necessary, survival focused change can occur. This is the perfectionist’s first problem. Perfectionism traps people in rigid black and white, good or bad thinking. It blinds them, turning facts into fiction and fiction into facts. People suffering from an eating disorder tend to fall victim to these illusions. For them, there is only one right, one perfect way to eat, to exercise, to look, and to behave. I must only eat xxx calories; I must only weigh xxx pounds; only then will I be perfect. When the goals set are found to be impossible, instead of embracing flexibility and moderation, the perfectionist barrels forward, often on a path to self-destruction, depression, and extreme self-loathing. Perfectionists fails to recognize the limitations within the environment. Instead they only see the limitations within themselves.

Perfectionism ultimately deprives people of the ability to learn and grow. Making mistakes is often the first step to learning. Trudging through the trial and error of decision making, embarking down the wrong path and being forced to blaze a new, and picking the wrong door to walk through or curtain to look behind (I’ve clearly watched too many game shows in the 80s), all of these are necessary steps to gaining new insights. But a perfectionist does not like to make mistakes. A perfectionist does not like to be wrong or to admit error. Instead of joining in the race and risking the potential of taking a wrong turn or, goodness forbid, finishing last, the perfectionist would rather sit on the sidelines observing. I have all too often adopted the attitude of ‘if I can’t be the best I might as well not even try.’ This ultimately translates to, ‘my whole identity is wrapped up in how well I perform and if I’m not the best, I don’t know who I am.’ Missing out on the opportunities for growth that go along with making mistakes is unfortunately a price many pay when identity is on the line.

Are there benefits to pursuing perfectionism? Of course. When a perfectionist finds a skill set at which he or she excels, the ‘nothing but the best’ mentality tends to produce superior results. Psychology research suggests that when people are extremely prepared, knowledgeable, or skilled at a task, high expectations, in this case perfection, sets the person up for a superior performance. However, on the flip side, expecting perfection in an area where one does not possess superior skills, as opposed to holding more moderate expectations, often leads to poorer performances and higher levels of anxiety. Since most of us aren’t true Renaissance men and women, are the benefits of expecting perfection in every area of our lives all the time really worth it?

Perfectionism is elusive and fleeting. In the face of continually changing standards and subjective ideals, one must admit that attaining perfection is not really the attainment of reaching an external maxim. It’s more about living up to the ridiculously high internal standards we set, some which have no basis in reality at all. Having recently come to the conclusion that my life is far from perfect, both personally and professionally, I’ve had to let go of the notion that only perfect things can be good. I’ve had to let go of the belief that there is a right way and that there is a wrong way. Because in the end, the only way I can do anything, perfect or not, is my way, and that will have to be good enough for me.

This is how I feel with every attempt (or lack of an attempt) I make at freelance writing.

This video was inspired by countless “body shot” videos I’ve seen on YouTube. It is my declaration that I will not participate in the debasement and self-loathing that often goes on in the online eating disorder community.

This is not your typical body shot. I will not tell you how fat I look. I will not point out my flaws. I will not ask you to judge me, to guess why weight, or to reaffirm my negative body image. I will not hide behind layers of clothes nor pinch and pull at my exposed skin, trying to prove to the world just how awful I look. I will not apologize for the way I look, nor will I ask for your forgiveness because I am a body with mass and I take up space.

What I will do is show you a woman who is proud to stand in her own skin. A woman who believes she is strong, powerful, a force to be reckoned with. A woman who is beautiful, intelligent, and worthy of love and respect. I will show you a woman who accepts herself…not the person she was, nor the person she could become, but the person she is right now in this very moment.

While sometimes my confidence waivers and I too am wrought with self-doubt, if I continue to tell myself these positive messages I am winning half the battle. As long as I continue to fight, as long as I continue to challenge the negativity and the doubt, I am winning. And I believe I am person worth fighting for. I will be my own cheerleader when the world turns on me. When I am inundated with messages that only serve to bring me down, that try to fit me into a cookie cutter image of the perfect person… I will stand tall and say one simple word. NO!

No, I will not define my life by what the others think I should be. No I will not let someone else dictate what is right for my body or for my life. I am will be the author to my own story. I hold the pen, I decide who I am and what I stand for, and I decide how I should feel about the number on scale and the size of my pants.

So no, this is not your typical body shot, and you know what, I’m okay with that.

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