Monday, January 30, 2012

what would you trade for better health?

Would I trade gaining ten pounds to be rid of these awful migraines? Would I trade fifteen to get rid of these restless legs? Would I put up with them indefinitely if it meant I was 25 pounds lighter? These are the questions that have been plaguing me since my last post. My migraines are getting worse and more frequent. On saturday night the light sensitivity was so bad I was lying in a dark room, with a blanket over my head and still complaining to my husband that it was too bright. The brightness was clearly in my mind's eye, and it was real. And it hurt.

Sometimes I just hurt everywhere. Mostly though I just feel fragile. Usually I feel strong, but lately fragile is the word. I feel like I am always waiting for the shoe to drop, for the lights to arrive blinking and wavering and freaking me out! And then they do, and then I just feel sad.

So what does this have to do with blogging about body image. Well, when I feel good and healthy then my weight is not so much an issue. My body gets me where I want to go - it works. But, when I feel sick like this I blame myself. Maybe I am not eating enough fruit, or drinking enough water, or walking enough. Maybe my headaches are all my fault and doctors would take me more seriously if I was the 'right' weight for my height.

I am scheduled for two specialists. One in March (booked in September), and the other for May (booked in December). So I guess I am suppose to have 3 or 4 migraines a week until then. Sigh.

But no! I am going to go for acupuncture, and massage, and whatever else I can think of. At least that is what I need to do, but when locked up in this vice of feeling like I do, it affects my mood and then the vicious cycle repeats.

It has been hard taking this blogging challenge. Too much self reflection (no pun intended cause I haven't been doing the mirror thing), and I am looking forward to blogging about my class and my teaching.

So, dear women who have been blogging along with my daughter and the DWC, I have enjoyed reading your stories, and they have inspired me in many ways. We are all wonderful. We are struggling, but we are together in the struggle. We are in good company. I am in good company. It is good to not feel so alone. Even with blinding headaches, I know I am not alone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Perception is reality

Funny how the stars align. Within three days of each other I heard two quotes about perception. The first was "Perceptions + selective memories = extraordinary results but not necessarily reality...", and the second was "Perception is reality". This second statement was followed up by the comment - "That's Marketing 101".

Thinking about body image and marketing over the past few weeks thanks to my daughter's blogging challenge and now thinking about perception. Is it reality or not?

Certainly the young anorexic I know perceives something different in the mirror than I do when I look at her. Her perception is reality. My perception is reality. I guess the real question is where in our two realities is the truth. Or, is it possible there is more than one truth.

Despite all the videos and articles I have read on Photo-shopping, there is still some sort of truth in the finished product. It may not be reality, but there is a truth there.

Since starting this blog challenge I am actually feeling good about my physical self, not necessarily avoiding mirrors, but not seeking them out either. Moving the mirror that was on the floor beside where I dressed and undressed every morning and night was a stroke of genius on my part.

More on my mind these days is my health - I have been plagued by migraines, sometimes 3 or 4 a week, and I am feeling fragile. My restless legs are getting worse, now working up my leg to my mid thigh. Sigh. My appointment with the neurologist isn't until May. I can't imagine coping with these visual auras and headaches until May. I did buy some good sun-glasses this past weekend, and I am hoping they help, if light glare is a source of the problem.

So, I have been looking at diets recommended for Migraines - some are quite extreme and all want me to avoid carbs, and dairy. There is the little voice in the back of my head that says "and I would probably lose weight too". Although it is weird that since Christmas, and since not worrying about my weight, I have been hungry and eating often, and yet I feel like I am losing weight. Ironic, no?

And, a closing thought about perception and reality. I remember a friend of Brian's who went through a horrible divorse many, many years ago. We went to her new apartment for dinner. She was devastated, and looked tired from lack of sleep. You know what I thought? The 27 year old me thought, well, yes, her marriage has fallen apart, but how bad can it be when she is so thin and fit? Horrible, yes? My perception? Yes. My reality? Yes. Her reality? Not so much.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I am teaching anatomy this month. I have a skeleton hanging in my classroom. It is a real skeleton, a young female, probably around 23 years old, around 5 feet tall. She is lovely.

She comes complete with a closet. Yup, I have a skeleton, in a closet.

Don't we all.

It is interesting looking at and talking about the skeleton with the class. We count the ribs, talk about the spinal column, touch the scapula, rotate the tibia, examine the feet and hands.

We wonder what she would have looked like. Was she thin, or fat? Were her cheek bones high, or flat? What did her nose look like?

We look at her objectively. There is no judgement looking at those bones. If she happens to be missing a tooth (which she is), it is noted, but no connection to whether that makes her beautiful or not.

We are reverent towards her. She has given us a gift, to allow us to look at her very bones. She is perfect, and we have named her Robin.

Looking at her skeleton makes us appreciate ours. It helps us to understand why we would want to care for it. It gives us some idea of how to care for it. Why good posture, strong bones, good shoes would be important.

And under our skin, and fat, and muscles we are all pretty similar. Our skeleton doesn't need to be photoshopped. Actually when you buy a skeleton for an anatomy class you can buy ones that are 'perfect', ie, no abnormalities, or you can buy ones that have healed fractures, or missing ribs. The ones that aren't 'perfect' are actually more interesting to the student of anatomy. The ones that aren't 'perfect' have more to teach us it seems. I think there is a lesson there somewhere.

The symmetry of our bones is fascinating. The perfect design it seems. I am more understanding of my fused spine from an old back fracture, then I am of my scar from surgery that occurred around the same age.

Because the scar everyone can see when I go to the beach. The healed fracture is a secret that only my skeleton shows. My skeleton, in the closet.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

23 years ago today...

...I held my baby girl in my arms for the first time. With the loving support of my husband and sister she arrived. She was perfect. She is perfect.
Raising a daughter was something I had dreamed for, hoped for, but didn't realize I wanted so much until - there she was.
I tried to empower her, to tell her often how beautiful, strong, capable she was. To never devalue myself in front of her. To never moan about my weight, my thighs, how I look in a bathing suit, in front of her.

But all the while, I was dieting. Starving myself, while I breastfed her, to lose the 'baby fat'. Working for weight watchers when she was only a few years old. Measuring my portions on a little scale. Using a measuring cup to mete out my cereal, or rice, or pasta.

I confided in her this past Christmas, that I also worry when she comes home, and sees me after months and months apart, that she will see I have gained weight. She confided in me the same concern. How horribly sad is that? Two women, a mother and a daughter, who love each other so powerfully, and truthfully, would be afraid that weight, or fat, could come between us. Make us judge the other. How very sad is that?

She is beautiful. She, who is 23 today, is beautiful and unique and powerful and inspirational and, quite simply, perfect.

I am writing this today because of her blogging challenge for the womens' centre she works for. I am writing this today because I love her and I don't want her to spend the rest of her life ashamed of her beautiful body.

This body we have, if you follow anthroposophy, we chose for ourselves for this life incarnation. How can we have hate for something we, as spiritual beings, chose for ourselves? We chose it for the lessons it had to bring us, for the truths we knew to be inherent in its form.

When my daughter was 16 we all attended the wedding of my niece. Video and pictures were taken for my mother, who did not attend. When my mother saw the videos of my beautiful girl in her mini skirt she told me that my daughter didn't have the body to pull off that 'look'. I was so angry. I hated my mother for saying such a thing. How could she say such a thing? Why did it matter so much? And what did my mother think about me, and two of my sisters, who all carry weight, who are fat? And yet, I know, intellectually as I write this, that she too was a victim of society's fear of fat.

I have such conflict around my mother and her fear of fat. I remember a beautiful picture I have of her holding my daughter when she was such a little baby. The look on my mother's face is pure joy. And yet, when my mother, and my eldest sister, saw the photo they told me to take the photo out of the album because the photo showed my mother's stomach to have a roll of fat. I don't even know what to do with that memory.

So, dear girl, happy birthday. I have been reading your blogs and learning things about you I never knew before. Things I am grateful to know now. And perhaps, you will indulge me as I give a piece of advice to you and all who are reading this and struggling with loving themselves.

Love yourself. If others leave you, or judge you for who you are,or what you look like, then, as painful as it is, so be it. Love yourself. Be yourself. People will then have permission to love you too. Love is not defined by numbers on a scale, or how we look in an outfit. Love is defined by the care and respect we show ourselves and others. We are all worthy of love.

Our bodies are worthy of love.

My body is worthy of love.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

mirror mirror on the wall

I have been taking the challenge today to not look in the mirror. That is hard. The whole wall in my bathroom is a mirror, and it is right across from the shower. There is a mirror on the floor bside my dresser, and another across from my bed.

Wneh I am not around mirrors I feel good about myself, my body. I feel strong. I feel healthy. Then, a quick glimpse in a mirror and I see the scar on my stomach from a 30 year old surgery, the dimples in my thighs. Of course as I write this I resolve to do one thing. Lose the mirror on the floor beside my dresser. There. Done.

Really tonight though, I don't want to write about me. I want to write about a 14 year old girl I know. She is getting thinner and thinner. She is disappearing. She, who is so smart, so beautiful, so talented, so loved is losing weight. More than that she is losing herself. Her parents are heart-broken, her teachers are afraid for her, her girl-friends are silent in their shock about her appearance. It was so much more obvious since the Christmas break.

This beautiful young woman is in control. I am not a psychologist, but I can imagine some of the things that have led to her desperate efforts to be thin. To be in control.

I have been that girl. My mother was that girl. That girl is standing before me, with her beautiful eyes, and her sad smile. She is asking something of me. How can I help her without her feeling judged? How can I make her see she is perfect? She was perfect. She will be perfect. There is judgement in my words as I write this.

So, I can put away a mirror. I can put away a scale. I can stop commenting when people have lost weight. But, how can I stay silent when I am witnessing someone, who should be shouting to the world "Look at me", disappearing.

No one should feel that to be seen they have to be smaller. No one.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm hungry

No the title isn't metaphorical. I am hungry. I have been hungry all weekend. And it isn't because I am not eating, or depriving myself or anything like that. I am just hungry. And it feels good and positive. But it is odd because I haven't felt hungry for years. No, really, literally for years.

So I eat when I'm hungry. I also am trying to drink more water, but that's weird too. I have trouble swallowing when I make myself drink water. I know I am supposed to, that I feel better when I do, and perhaps hydration helps with my migraines, but often I can't actually swallow the stuff.

This is a stream of consciousness kind of entry today. I am trying to blog three times a week about body image and the like. I realize in my last blog I listed the parts of my body I like, and the parts I don't like. I didn't mention my breasts.

I was a La Leche League Leader and Lactation Consultant for 10 years. How, or why, did I miss that? Anyways, I like my breasts. I like how they look and how they feel - both to the touch, and as they move under my clothes, and against my rib-cage. My breasts fed two babies for many years. They produced milk for about 4 years. That's something,no? How could I not like something that can do that. So, yeah, for the record? I like my breasts.

I had dinner with 7 women last night ranging in ages from 37 - 62. It was a riot. We laughed. We ate great food, and drank great wine. We played bananagrams. We told outrageous stories about each other. No one mentioned diets, or how they shouldn't eat this or that. We just enjoyed: the evening, the company, the food, the wine, the warmth, the laughter. It was lovely.

There is a power in the companionship of good friends. There is a comfort in hugging someone of substance. Substance in every way. I am a woman of substance. And, I am hungry. So be it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Me and my body

The first time I dieted I was 15. It was the end of the summer, and I was heading out into the backyard to have morning coffee with my mother. It was something we did. I had noticed that morning as I got out of bed that when I sat down there was a wrinkle on my belly that didn't go away when I stood up. Really, we are talking a wrinkle, not a roll.

I immediately went to weigh myself. I was 130 pounds. I was five foot five (and 1/2) inches tall. I was upset. I confided all this to my mother. Her solution - to put me on a diet. She joined me. It was a bonding moment I suppose. I remember the card she gave me for my birthday that following October. It referenced being 'our age, and going on a diet'. It was funny. I weighed 117 pounds. I was thin. That was the beginning.

I dieted off and on and off and on until my 40s. And then I decided to stop weighing myself. So I can't tell you what I weigh. I can tell you it is more that 130 pounds. And yet, I am more comfortable in my body now then when I was younger.

And yet, it is New Year's and it seems all the newspaper articles, and radio shows, and tv commercials are about weight loss. The most upsetting one is the one that shows a number of pairs of feet, obviously women's feet, standing nervously, hesitating before a bathroom scale. It is clear, even from their feet, that they are beautiful women and I feel bad for them. Because I have been those feet.

I have starved myself, berated myself, hated myself for not being thin and cellulite free. I still have moments where I think - what do I look like from behind? Does this outfit make me look fatter? What do my friends think when they see me in a bathing suit?

I am getting better about this. Last February I had a break through in a hot tub situation that I blogged about. I started to wear more fitted clothes and stopped being apologetic about my weight.

And yet, and still, there is a picture of me on top of the Stawamus chief. When I saw that picture for the first time I didn't think - wow, that woman just climbed the Chief. I saw and was embarrased by the roll of flesh at my waist. Really? Have I learned nothing in my 56 years?

There are parts of my body I love dearly. My toes, my shoulders, my back, my face. There are parts of my body that disappoint me - my legs, my tummy, my bum, my neck.

And it hurts me to see my beautiful daughter, sisters, friends fretting about the same things. They are all beautiful to me. Not just 'beautiful on the inside, beautiful' but beautiful.

And, I hate it when people say - you look great. Have you lost weight? Because what I hear is - man, you were not looking great before.

The same thing happened when I cut my hair - but that is another, and yet perhaps, the same story.

So I am taking my daughter's challenge. I will reflect on how I speak about myself and to others on issues around weight and society. I think it is important that we speak out loud and with truth. Maybe then we can ignore the Jennifer Hudson Weight Watcher commercial, or the Mariah Carey Jenny Craig commerical. Maybe then we won't have to tolerate watching beautiful women cringing at the thought of getting on a scale. Maybe, just maybe our scales will be only for weighing our luggage so we don't get over-charged at the airport and for nothing else.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Memories are made of this

It has been a glorious Christmas holiday. My girl was home for 3 1/2 weeks, my boy home as much as his busy work life allowed. The important thing we were all together on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

On Christmas Eve the three of us entertained my husband for quite some time playing Christmas carols in three parts on our recorders. There was ALOT of laughter, and some of the carols did end up sounding quite good. My son accompanied me to the Christmas Eve midnight service. This has become our tradition over the past many years. We go to the Christmas Carol sing a long before the service and he sits beside me singing all the tenor parts, while I attempt some of the descant. It is a magical evening in a little tiny church in North Vancouver.

Christmas morning was filled with wrapping paper and laughter and profound feelings of gratefulness to be altogether. And then a lovely drive to the valley for Christmas dinner with sisters and brothers, brother-in-laws, nephews and great-nephews, and two jack russels!

On the 30th another family dinner, my little house full to bursting so nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews could re-connect. It was a spectacular evening and the food (even the brussel sprouts) was amazingly good. I have been eating turkey sandwiches, at least two a day, since then.

And then to New Year's Eve. Just my husband, daughter and I at home playing scrabble and bananagrams and toasting in 2012. With wine, and of course, turkey sandwiches!

New Year's dinner was a wonderful Indian feast prepared by my son, daughter and I - mussels and prawns, spinach and home-made paneer, gluten-free beer, and love, warmth and candlelight around a little table. I am so blessed.

And now? Now the house is quiet. Everyone has gone out to do errands, or go to work, or see friends. I am here, blogging these memories. Memories of a family I love so deeply that my heart aches with it. It is a good ache.

I know there are people in my life that do not have such luxuries. I know I am truly blessed.

Tomorrow my girl flies home to her life across this large country. I already miss her. But this has been an amazing three weeks, weeks where her father and she got to talk and talk and talk. It has been just so perfect.

And you know what? I am not afraid of the other shoe dropping. Because nothing can take these three weeks away from me. Nothing.

So here is to 2012. May our dreams lead us, but not confine us. May our hopes inspire us, but not fetter us. May our love for each other be the one true abiding feeling for the future.