Tag Archives: perfection

On The Mat

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Today I took my first yoga class in about seven months. It was… ahhhh… that’s a description, right? There were six of us in the warm, humid room. After being off the mat for a while I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. It can be frustrating to not be able to hold a pose and feel the wobble in your feet or knees. For one hour I practiced my poses and also my focus, keeping my eyes trained forward as much as I could.

There’s always that temptation, though, to look around and peek at what others are doing. It’s easy to feel bad when your posture is corrected or you lose your balance or you have to come out of a pose early. On the flip side, it’s easy to get a little full of yourself when you strike a near-perfect pose and you don’t wobble at all, when things seem effortless.

The instructor I had in Fort Myers was tough. He called us out for incorrect postures, clunky movements, not pushing ourselves, looking at others, and not focusing on our own practice. He reminded us that yoga is about you, not the person next to you, and that it’s about the practice, not the perfection.  I was flipping through a magazine a few days ago and saw a little blurb from Portia de Rossi that related yoga and life. When you look at someone next to you and berate yourself for not being able to stretch as fully or hold that pose as long, you have to tell yourself, “Stay on your own mat.” True in yoga. True in life.

We beat ourselves up with the weapon of comparison. The better choice might be to simply acknowledge the lovely differences in everyone and appreciate the complexity of the human race. How boring it would be if we were all the same. There would be no wonder, no awe. There would also be no compassion or tenderness. Sounds pretty dull to me.

So, during class today, I deliberately tried to focus on my own practice and stay on my own mat. Every now and then I found myself sneaking a peek at one of the other students who held beautiful poses, a little twinge of jealousy trying to creep in. I had to turn back and refocus. Midway through, I found that place of focus and as I left to go about my day, I just appreciated the fact that there were six very different people who came together to do some yoga, each of us at a different place in our practice, just as in our lives. There was great joy in staying on my own mat.

Your Own Mat = Joy

My Story… the End & New Beginning

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The last part of my tale is the hardest to tell. My life became a roller coaster from 2009 until… well, now. I feel like maybe the brakes have been put on and I’m finally pulling in to the station where you get off the roller coaster and move on to more calm rides, though I still wonder in the back of my mind when the next bomb will drop, what will go terribly wrong next. The bingeing and starving did not stop, they got worse, but I felt better. I was more in control. People were even complimenting me on how I looked.  So I continued to not eat whenever I needed to take just a little more weight off.

I kept thinking things would get better if I looked better and I finally reached 105. That was such a big milestone for me that I decided a few more pounds would be even better and maybe a number below 105 would be the magic number, where my life would settle down and my marriage would be repaired and everything would be good again.

There aren’t many photos of me during this time, but there are is one set from a paddle boarding day. I weighed 102 in the photos. I can still point out the flaws in those pictures, the parts of me that don’t look right. Not long after that day I hit 100 pounds. I felt like I could manage my weight and I’d never have to see those high numbers again.

While I was in control of my weight, I was out of control with everything else. My life was still crumbling around me and things kept happening that threatened to destroy everything I wanted. I was so lonely. Over that period of time, just as I was thinking a weight in the double digits would be the key, I began to realize that something bigger was wrong and that maybe my weight, the way I looked, the picture I had created, was not going to fix anything.

Miraculously, I stumbled on Portia de Rossi’s book, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. It saved me. In those pages I read about her struggle and I identified with the words she said, the emotions she felt. I saw myself and something clicked in me. I knew I had to stop the cycle of bingeing and starving. She seemed to be in a better place in her life after dealing with her eating disorder, a different method than I used, but they are all just as destructive. I had thought I was in control all this time. I wasn’t…food was.

I started to change my habits, but it was difficult. It was hard to eat and see the scale move up. I was afraid of seeing certain numbers. I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to see the fat start showing up. Last year my chiropractor started doing more work with nutrition and he offered some testing to existing patients. I’m not sure where I’d be today if that offer hadn’t been extended to me. Through the testing and finding out some of my intolerances to foods, I started to eat differently. I also confessed my bingeing and starving cycle to him. He didn’t judge me. He just told me I needed to eat and that I should follow the method of eating for 60 days and see how I felt. He was less concerned with my weight than with my body fat, which was too low. I agreed to try it and see what would happen. What happened was within two weeks my insomnia was gone, I was never hungry because of how much food I was consuming (extremely difficult the first few days), my digestive problems were being resolved, I had a lot of energy, and without exercising I hit a weight and a body fat percentage that felt…strangely good.

A few months after all of that, my world fell apart again and Brian was diagnosed with cancer and, well, you’ve read those stories. Admittedly, during those months of taking care of him, I did not take care of myself. I stopped eating the way that had proven to be so good for me. There were days I ate too much because it felt good to cover up my emotions. There were days I didn’t eat because I couldn’t stand the sight of food and I didn’t want to start packing on pounds. Some habits are hard to change.

Since Brian’s death I have had very candid conversations with a long-time friend of mine who was angry about what I had been doing to myself for so many years. Those talks were hard for me but the honesty I heard, again without judgment, helped me to see that I would eventually destroy myself – probably kill myself – if I didn’t stop. It was the first time someone had told me not to do that to myself and also the first time I heard that I was perfect exactly as I was. Wow…exactly as I was.

This summer has been very different for me. I’ve stepped on a scale twice. Yeah, twice the whole summer instead of twice every day. I went on two vacations and ate everything I wanted. Yes, I binged. And the food was delicious. I tried new things and was happy. I laughed as I ate and savored everything. I will even confess that some emotional bingeing has occurred. The big difference is that I have not starved myself in order to fix things. I have wanted to a few times. Oh, how much I have wanted to. I have put on enough weight that not a single pair of my jeans fits. Most of my shorts don’t fit. Half my dresses don’t fit. But in order to get back into those clothes, I’m not going to deny myself nourishment. And, quite frankly, some of those clothes will never fit me again because of what I’d have to weigh in order to put them on. I’m tired of being sick, of trying to control everything, of not nurturing myself as I should.

I know what I should be eating and how. I know how to be healthy. This week has been particularly good. I went back to the way of eating that put me at a good body weight and percentage of fat, that helped me sleep and feel great, that requires a constant flow of nourishing food. I still struggle every single day with looking at myself in the mirror. I see so much that is wrong and needs fixing. I’m not sure if that ever goes away. I hope it does. I want to one day look in the mirror and see a happy, vibrant woman who is perfect…exactly as she is.

Exactly As I Am = Joy

My Story – The Downward Spiral

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This was taken 4/12/2009 and 13 days later my life took an unexpected turn. I weigh 118 here. In my mind, even today in a much better state of thinking, I still see the flaws. Admitting that is difficult.

Hmm, where did I leave off last night? Oh yes, numbers defining my worth and triggers causing me to resume my cycle of binge eating and starvation.

My obsession with how I looked and what I saw in the mirror became a big numbers game. I weighed myself at least once a day, usually twice. I can tell you what I weighed before I got pregnant with each of my kids. I can tell you what I weighed before I moved to Missouri and Florida, during significant times of my marriage, and other milestones. My chiropractor in Denver once asked me what I weighed and I replied, “About 112.2.” He said Brian and I were the only people he knew who answered that precisely. It’s pretty telling that I put the word “about” in front of that precise number.

There was a period of about two years where bingeing was all I did. Some hurtful words were said about my weight by someone close to me and I went on a downward spiral. I ate and ate and got further disgusted with myself for having no self-control. Then I decided I’d go on a real diet. Well, the one I found, if followed correctly, might work, but for someone with my problem, it gave me permission to fast for days at a time. I did that repeatedly. The weight came off and I felt better… emotionally. I had other problems, but I didn’t relate them to my poor eating habits. I started to feel good and in control of myself again.

This cycle repeated itself a couple times. Then, 2009 came. That was the beginning of three years of hell, to put it bluntly. In April of 2009 something devastating happened and my response was to try to make myself into what I knew I should have been all along: the perfect wife and mother, the ideal homemaker. I weighed 118 at the time. My goal was 105.

I had been running for about a year and I kept it up very regularly at that time. Running is a great way to relieve stress and make your heart healthy. There’s nothing wrong with running. But there’s a huge problem with not feeding your body after running. I know that now, but at the time, all I knew was the pounds were coming off again and I was on my way to becoming a person my family could be proud of.

I’ll stop my story again here. It’s difficult to write these things and not feel as though I sound crazy! I am finding joy in the telling of my story though. In writing this, I realize I’m in a much better place today than I was for so many years. I’m glad that I’m able to admit to myself and to others that I’m not perfect, that I have struggled with who I am and what I’m supposed to be.

Admission = Joy

My Story… the Beginning

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Over the last six months I’ve been pretty transparent about my feelings and my circumstances, letting people in like I never imagined  I would. I have not shared every part of my life, of course, but I’ve gone back and forth with myself about talking about one issue, wondering if I should say anything. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that maybe someone out there… just one person… might need to hear what I have to say.

This tale is hard to tell, but I would rather tell it in its entirety. I want anyone who might need to hear it to know where I’m coming from, to understand what I’ve been through and where I am today.  I can’t tell all of this in one post.

It is unimportant what first compelled me to start binge eating. It was triggered by emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. It started slowly when I was a young teenager, and grew into more of a problem the older I got. It’s tough to be a teenage girl sometimes.  Girls are supposed to be thin and beautiful and I fell into the same trap many girls before me and countless after me have fallen into: do what you have to do in order to be what you are supposed to be. Binge eating helped me deal with my emotions, insulated me against things I did not want to handle. I put on weight when I needed to, in order to cover up what I didn’t want to see, or didn’t want others to see. But then I’d have to take the weight off in order to be acceptable. I don’t like throwing up, so that wasn’t really an option. It’s hard for me to do that even when I’m truly sick. Working out was fine, but it took too long. The only logical way to manage things was to binge when I needed to, and then stop eating all together to reverse the damage, to change the person in the mirror. I lived that way for a long time and it wasn’t even noticeable. There are so many ways to starve and make excuses for not eating that are believable. I kept up the cycle through high school, thankfully never getting dangerously underweight, though I was still very unhealthy, doing damage that couldn’t be seen on the outside.

After I got married I stopped the binge eating and starving for quite a while. Well, I stopped the starving. I still gave in to food calling to me whenever I was feeling worthless and so imperfect in the body I was in. Having kids, growing older, life getting busy – those all have ways of making us lax and we forget to take care of ourselves. Then, someone says something and a trigger gets pulled. At least that’s how it was for me. The power of words is incredible, and in my case, they were so hurtful that my habit started again. I realized the only way to be normal, to be thin and look right, was to stop eating so my weight would be correct. For me, correct was a very specific number and anything more than that meant punishment was necessary. Numbers became my life and a measure of my worth.

After writing this, it seems like I would have nothing that could “= Joy” about it. But the joy is in sharing something that someone out there might identify with. Sitting here today, looking at these words, I see one that stands out: trigger. Everyone has them, those things that cause us to act or speak a certain way. Usually triggers are negative, but I believe we can have positive triggers if we start looking for them, or creating them. Our children can be triggers that make us smile and feel good. True friends in our lives who love us unconditionally can be triggers. A piece of art, a memory of our past, visiting a place we love, a photograph of a loved one… all of these things can become joy triggers. So, leaving you with the first part of my story, I would ask you to look at your life and come up with some joy triggers and start pulling them when you are feeling down or worthless or anything less than wonderful.

Positive Triggers = Joy