Comfortable

We’ve only had a few really warm days and I’m already fed up. Not with the heat but with the sanctimonious pronouncements like this one cropping up on social media:

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Dress for the body I have? Well, the body I have gets hot when the temperature goes up. Just like yours, random internet troll. So, I will dress however I fucking well please. Being fat does not mean that I’m sentenced to months of discomfort. It does not mean that I must shield myself away from your delicate sensibilities. It simply means I have more fat on my body than some other people do. That’s it. If you don’t want to see my dimply knees or chubby thighs, look away because I’m wearing shorts and sundresses. If you think the fact that my upper arms are flabby is gross, look away because I’m wearing tank tops. If the sight of me in a swimsuit makes you uncomfortable, look away because I’m going to the pool. And when it’s hot I’ll choose my clothes based on what feels good, comfortable, appropriate, and attractive to me. 

 

I searched (and searched) for the bottom image by  itself. I could not find it and instead sifted through way too much of the very thing this post is about.

 

Btw, I searched and searched (and searched) for that second image by itself but could not find it. I did however encounter a lot hate. I don’t usually get so angry in a post and I second guessed myself when I previewed the post. Then I did the image search. I’m, not second guessing myself any more. In fact, I wasn’t mad enough.

Oh, and on a related topic (just so I don’t have to do a separate post)…

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So, to all the haters sharing these hilarious  ignorant  memes, your discomfort when looking at my body will not dictate my comfort when I’m dressing my body.

Katy Trail: Black Walnut to Machens

I did it! I started my Katy Trail Challenge! It was a LOT harder than I’d anticipated and about half way through I was questioning my sanity. After all, this first leg was the shortest distance I have planned and I baaarely managed it. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I haven’t written here (partially because I don’t like to complain, partially because not writing about it allowed me to diminish it) but shortly after I decided to do this challenge I injured my knee. I’m pretty sure it’s a meniscus tear, though that can’t be confirmed without an expensive MRI which wouldn’t actually change the course of treatment so I’m not getting one. So, I didn’t train properly for this first leg of my challenge. When I tried to walk more than about 1.5 miles my knee would swell and cause me a lot of pain. I also sometimes have pain during normal daily activities so I was trying not to aggravate it further. But I was determined to start this challenge anyway- the way I have it set up if I miss many of my planned walks I won’t be able to finish before my 40th birthday. I’m prepared for that if serious injury occurs but I’m not willing to give up before I even start because of a little knee pain. So, I researched how to tape up the knee and figured I’d do the first leg and hope for the best.

As I was getting my stuff prepared the night before Kya decided that she wanted to come along. I, of course, agreed but was unsure at first how it was going to impact my experience. I had to leave later than I’d planned and when we first began she was complaining a bit. In the end it was a really great thing that she came along because when things got REALLY hard she helped me keep going- but I’m getting ahead of myself again!

keepIMG_1248We headed to the trailhead at Black Walnut (tiny town outside St. Charles) and planned to walk the 3.1 miles to Machens, the terminus of the East end of the trail, and back to Black Walnut. I should mention that a lot of people don’t bother with this section of the trail. St. Charles is the unofficial end/beginning of the line for many people who are hiking or biking the entire trail. But the perfectionist in me would never be able to say I’d walked the entire trail if I skipped this section and with the short distance between the two outposts it seemed like a good place to begin my journey.

I knew the Machens trail head was seculuded but that a picnic table, primitive toilet, and shade would offer us an opportunity to rest before turning back so I figured it would be okay. We started off in good spirits, passing one other pair of hikers and several cyclists who also wanted to travel to the actual end (beginning?) of the line.

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The trail itself is well maintained and stretched out before us with trees and farm land lining the way. It didn’t really offer much in the way of scenic interest because private lands jut right up to the trail here. I know from my research that other areas are more beautiful and interesting but, again, this was a shorter leg and that seemed more important for my first walk than beauty. However, even with all my research I still didn’t expect junk…

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This was the first of a few run down properties we passed that were right next to trail. We also spotted quite a bit of litter on the sides of the trail. I’m not really sure why it surprised me so much; rural Missouri farm towns are generally economically depressed and this little used section of the trail probably doesn’t offer much to turn that around. I can only hope the rest of my walks offer less depressing views.

About a mile in we spotted a bench and we rested for a few minutes before heading on. As we started walking again we wondered if there would be more benches. There weren’t.

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We walked on, taking in the farm land and occasional bits of trash and junk. We were going at a pretty leisurely pace (about a 25 minute mile) because we had no reason to hurry and we knew we had a long way to go. At about 2.25 miles though something shifted. My legs started to ache, my spirits started to plummet, and I realized I was pretty hungry. I’d walked further than this before, and with more hills, but it had been before my injury and my lack of training was catching up with me. There were no good places to rest for a minute and get my bearings so we plunged forward, albeit a bit slower (about 33 minutes per mile). We finally made it to the Machens trailhead and were SO happy to have a place to rest and eat the fruit I’d packed for us.

keepIMG_1254We weren’t in a hurry and knew that if the first half was tough the second half would be tougher so we rested for quite a while. We ate, used the restroom, updated Facebook and just relaxed for about half an hour. I felt refreshed and ready to take on the walk back to the car. At least that’s what I thought.

The first half mile was okay but then my legs really started to protest this sudden jump in activity. In addition to not walking I’d also been avoiding my beloved yoga because of the way it sometimes pulls at the knee. This was perhaps a bigger problem than my lack of walking because my hip muscles were so tight and screaming the most. We found a grassy knoll where we stretched for a minute, me doing a few lying yoga poses that I knew would loosen my muscles. Then we were on our way again, me feeling like I couldn’t go on.

Kya, however, had gotten her second wind. She made up a game of all the ways we could get back to our car (superpowers to teleport, jumping the passing train and riding it all the way back around, hitchhiking with the farmer passing on his tractor). She was patient when I slowed down, offered a hand to help me up from our spot on the grass and just generally kept talking and making jokes to keep me distracted. When I cracked that I was just going to stop and live in this place on the trail she said I couldn’t because I needed to go grocery shopping. 😉 In these small gestures she never made me feel as if I was slowing her down or that she was condescending to me. I realized that I have always respected my kids limitations, from the physical to the emotional, without judgement and by offering whatever help I could. She was doing the same for me and I swelled a little with pride. It pushed me forward.

During our loooong walk back the sky began to darken even though it was still early and we could see rain in the distance.

keepIMG_1257It was far enough away that I wasn’t terribly worried but I also knew our current pace (42 minutes per mile) could mean getting caught in the rain if we weren’t careful. However, we soon came to that bench that we knew was a mile out and I figured we’d be okay. At this point we’d run out of water (most outposts have a way to refill water but not Machens and I simply hadn’t brought enough) but we had a few strawberries left. We sat on the bench and finished them and they were hydrating enough to take us the rest of the way.

When we finally spotted our car I wanted to cry. My legs ached, my knee (which the tape had kept from hurting for about 5.5 miles) was screaming and we had finally felt a few raindrops as the storm caught up with us. There had been a few low points when I wasn’t sure how I was going to go on but I did. It was grueling and it took us 5 hours to complete (which included all the times we stopped). I could barely lift my legs to get into my very low to the ground car. The 2+ hour drive home only made my muscles stiffen more. But I’d done it. And I’d figured out a few things to help the next time be easier…

  1. Train more. The athletic tape works. I can walk and do yoga without exacerbating my knee injury if I tape it. Which I definitely will.
  2. Bring more water. The last 1.5 miles were the worst not because I was so tired but because I no longer had water. Water is key.
  3. Don’t be afraid to rest when I need to. Even if there’s nothing more than a bit of grass it helps to give my legs the break they need. As time goes on I’ll need fewer breaks but I need to listen to my body and rest when I need to.

I had a couple of surreal moments that brought a bit of clarity to the struggles. As I sat at the Machens trail head I realized that just a few moments before I’d felt like I’d never make it, that it was just too hard. But then I did make it and that exhausted, tired, achy me was already a memory that I could disconnect from my present self. It had only been about 15-20 minutes but I still had the very real understanding that it was in the past. And that moment of clarity would also soon be in the past. I knew then that even if it was slow, even if it was difficult, even if the rain caught up with us that it would all pass. I kept that thought close to the surface during the difficult walk back to the car. And it worked. I put one foot in front of the other and I made it.

Before Saturday the furthest I’d ever walked was 3 miles and I’d worked my way up to that. Then in one day I more than doubled that distance after weeks of rest. It was hard but it proved to me that I CAN do this. This was only the beginning.

Worth It

In my last post I mentioned that I rarely spend money on myself but for this challenge I have. That’s actually kind of a big deal for me. When I spend money on things I want, and sometimes even on things I need, I feel selfish and indulgent. Intellectually I understand that isn’t true (or perhaps more accurately, it is true but it’s okay to be selfish and indulgent once in a while). But knowing and feeling aren’t often the same thing. So, it was with a lot of anxiety that I bought some things…

keep2A guide book, some comfortable clothes for walking, headbands, a backpack with a water bladder for the longer walks, and some money set aside for new shoes as soon as I get to a store with people to help me find the right pair for my needs. Not much (but still a significant amount of $$ for our budget minded family) and yet I’m feeling the need to justify these purchases, to reassure myself that it’s worth the money I’m spending. And one of my justifications is giving me pause.

When I’m being completely honest with myself I acknowledge that little voice in the back of my mind that is patting me on the back for being a “good fatty”. For those not familiar with that term it boils down to this… A lot of people are raising their voices to promote size acceptance and some of those people like to break down the stereotypes that fat people are lazy, have difficulty with physical activity, aren’t athletic, have high blood pressure and cholesterol, etc. It’s an important message but has created a bit of backlash because now some people think that overweight people are worthy of acceptance only if they defy these stereotypes. A recent viral blog post (which I’m not linking because it doesn’t deserve it) was supposed to be inspirational but was really very condescending in this manner. The thin runner was “proud” and “inspired” by the fat runner, upon whom they heaped heavy doses of stereotypes. This went viral because other thin people couldn’t understand why I person of size wouldn’t be flattered to be complimented on being considered good and worthy of admiration by people who are obviously superior. (No one says this outright but it’s in the subtext; kind of the way some men are flabbergasted when women aren’t flattered by catcalls or some white people still think articulate is a compliment.)

So, you can see why it bothers me, a loud proponent of size acceptance, to find myself feeling proud of being “good” in the eyes of other people. Yes, I’m excited about this challenge and have a lot of sound reasons to be proud of myself but there’s also a tiny little part of me that is proud for a really dark reason. That dark little part was one of the reasons that made me feel better about spending money on myself. Not because it made me happy, would improve my health, would help me have more joy (which are ALL true) but because other people would see me being a good fatty. Ugh.

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And then I remember, as my angsty teen self learned so long ago, that I am not a toaster. I’m not just one thing. I am a confident person who is accepting of myself and my body. I am also a person who lives in this world full of size stereotypes and has faced discrimination and judgement as a result. And I have feelings and thoughts that reflect both of those (and a multitude of other things). And true self acceptance is acknowledging those dark corners of yourself without judgement. I see that this is something that is still an issue for me, that I still have some work to do. But then I remember how far I’ve come in this journey and I know that darkness is a part of me but it is not all of me.

So, I lace up my old walking shoes, put on my new clothes and walk. A little bit in the interest of being “good” and “worthy” but mostly because it feels good and makes me happy. And I am definitely worth that.

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What I’m Doing and What I’m Not

People who know me well IRL or who read my blog frequently enough have had some really fantastic, supportive responses in regard to my decision to walk the Katy Trail. People who don’t know me well think they are being supportive but kind of miss the mark. So, I just thought I might take a minute to clear up a few things about what I am and am NOT trying to do/accomplish with this challenge. 🙂

1. I AM trying to improve my health.

I have diabetes. Exercise is a really important component of controlling my blood glucose which, in turn, helps reduce a lot of the health risks associated with diabetes. It’s not a magic bullet but it’s the closest thing I’ve found. But here’s the thing, I struggle with exercise. I think I associate it with all of those diets that failed me on so many levels and my subconscious rebels. But I also simply struggle with motivation and follow through. Having an end goal, deadline, and specific parameters helps with that.

2. I am NOT trying to change the shape of my body.

When you say to someone who has struggled (or not struggled since not all fat people struggle with that fact) with their weight that you think it’s so great that they’re “trying to get in shape” it’s condescending. I have a shape and I’m pretty okay with it. Yes, there are things that are difficult when you are fat but honestly, being short is more challenging for me than being fat. I have to ask my children to reach things on high shelves all the time. Like, nearly every day. It’s really rare that my weight keeps me from doing something or forces me to ask for help but my height is a problem all the time. So, this challenge isn’t really about what I look like, what size my jeans are, or a number on a scale because those things don’t matter (much) to me any more.

3. I AM trying to have fun.

I know exercise is important but I also just don’t think it’s very fun or interesting when I could be reading, writing, watching some cool sci-fi, or hanging out with friends and family. I’ve read lots of HAES focused blogs about moving for fun and health, not as a means to punish yourself, but I’ve never had much luck finding that for myself. However, this challenge finally has me excited about exercise. It’s fun again, like it was when I was a kid playing tag or a teen on the cheerleading squad, and that motivates me to get up off the couch and go.

R and I about halfway through a fun, relaxing walk on the first really beautiful day we'd had in a while.

R and I about halfway through a fun, relaxing walk on the first free, beautiful Sunday afternoonwe’d had in a while.

I’ve walked two miles every day but one (and I was helping my brother move that day) since deciding to do this challenge. I don’t have to force or chastise myself, I don’t need other people to remind or encourage me, I just do it because I really want to. Because I’m having FUN! 🙂

4. I am trying to reach new limits but I am NOT trying to push myself there.

Yes, this is a challenge for me but it’s more a challenge of endurance and follow through than anything. The Katy Trail is used by runners and walkers but it is designed for bikers, converted from a rail line. It’s flat and easy. I’m not really hiking, I’m long distance walking. And I’m perfectly okay with that. I will have to push myself to accomplish the longest walks so I’ll gradually improve my physical strength and endurance but I’m not pushing it. I know myself and if this stops being fun, I’ll quit. Right now I’m walking about a 30 minute mile at a comfortable pace. I can feel a slight invigorating burn in my nose and chest when I breath in at that pace. I warm my muscles enough to shed extra layers of clothes but not so much that I’m dripping with sweat. I am tired enough to need a break when I’m finished but not exhausted. It’s a comfortable level for me, for now. I figure as time goes on and I increase my distance (I’m shooting for 2.5-3 miles today) my pace will also increase. But it will happen gradually, not because I forced it.

5. I AM doing this for myself. I AM also doing this for the people I love.

I wanted something motivating, fun, challenging and just plain awesome to help me ring in my 40th year. I don’t really spend money on myself but I have for this project. I’m also carving out time for myself not just on the Katy Trail but also for training. This is most definitely about wanting to feel good as I grow older. It’s also about seeing family members lose limbs to diabetes and being afraid of that future. This is, first and foremost, a selfish endeavor. And I’m okay with that because I don’t live a selfish life. I think it’s okay to be selfish sometimes, just not all (or even most) of the time. But in the back of my mind I’m also doing this for my kids. In the darkest corners of my imagination I’ve contemplated what it would be like for them if something happened to me, like a diabetes induced stroke, and I don’t want that for them. I don’t dwell on it and I know I can’t control everything but, I’ll do what I can to protect them. As parents we protect our kids from so much and often don’t even think about protecting them from our own self destruction.

So, that’s it. A fun, challenging, healthy, self-motivating, primarily, but not entirely, selfish endeavor. I’m ready! 🙂

Katy Trail Challenge

Oh, wow guys, I have been planning and plotting! There have been so many times in the last week that I’ve wanted to come here and write about my Big, Exciting (at least for me!!) Plans but life keeps getting in the way. Finally, I’ve managed to carve a little time out to share my news!

I’m going to walk the Katy Trail, section by section, before my fortieth birthday next year. 🙂

The Katy Trail spans most of Missouri and began it’s life as the Missouri-Kansas-Texas, or MKT, rail line. After the trains stopped running it was converted to a biking/walking trail. It’s not hilly or rugged but it is long. 247 miles long. I considered choosing other hikes that would offer more rugged terrain and therefore more of a physical challenge but I honestly didn’t consider it for long. I know myself and I need a self-contained goal with a deadline. That’s how I actually get things done. So, I’ll challenge myself in other ways, mostly by making my walk/hikes longer and longer as time progresses.

I suppose that in an ideal world I’d be able to just pause my life and walk continuously for 2-3 weeks and then pick back up where I left off but this isn’t an ideal world. My kids are old enough that I could probably get by with planning such a trip but then I’ve missed 3 weeks of the very limited time we have left when we are inextricably woven into the fabric of each other’s daily lives. Who’s to say how those three weeks could change that. I know they wouldn’t hold it against me and everyone would be fine… but when I get back will we have lost the habit of stopping to chat several times per day? Will we still want to wait to watch our favorite shows when we can watch together? Will our routines still include each other? Maybe. But maybe not, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I would also miss them, and my husband a lot. So, no, it’s not going to be a continuous walk from one end of the trail to the other.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Katy Trail website and mapping out a plan that actually fits into my life. (I’ve also ordered a guide book but couldn’t just sit around waiting for it to arrive before I started planning!) 😉

My notes, mapping the trail by geological and chronological order as well as ideas for which sections would make good muilti-day trips.

My notes, mapping the trail by geological and chronological order as well as ideas for which sections would make good multi-day trips.

It’s going to take me 16 months to complete this challenge, beginning next month and ending in July 2015 when I turn 40. I plan to do one walk/hike per month in that time; most of them will be one day trips but there will also be 3 overnights (including one in wine country with my BFF) and finally, a three day trip at the culmination of the challenge. Because I’ll be doing a little backtracking to get back to my car I’ll actually walk 305 miles on the trail in addition to other walks and challenges close to home. That final three day trip I mentioned is going to span over 55 miles, 25.7 of which will be walked on the last day (nearly a marathon) so I’ll definitely need the walks at home to help me prepare; in fact I’ve already begun but I have to save something for next time…

Fake It ‘Til You Make It: I’ve (Almost) Made It

I am a natural procrastinator; I inherited it from my mom. Sometimes that procrastination pays off. At least my mom’s does.

Last October we went to Gulf Shores with my parents. We had a great time, relaxed on the beach, did some sightseeing, annoyed each other- typical family fun.

There were, of course, lots of snapshots taken. For years I avoided the camera and basically erased myself from family memories but on this particular trip I made more of an effort to be in front of the camera from time to time as part of my journey to self acceptance. But, I’m still the one carrying the camera around most of the time so there just aren’t as many opportunities for me to be in pictures.

Which brings me to my mom’s procrastination. She had some cheap, disposable, water cameras that she didn’t get developed until a couple of weeks ago. 9 months later we were excitedly digging into the pics of us actually in the water, not just on the beach. 9 months since we were soaking up the sun and 9 months further along in my journey. And because they were Mom’s cameras I managed to be in a few shots.

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When these pictures were taken I was somewhere along the path of “fake it ’til you make it”. I wasn’t all the way there with body love and self acceptance but I knew I was on my way. And I knew that genuinely smiling for the camera instead of  worrying about how I look, hiding, or protesting was a step in the right direction.

I’m actually still on that path because I still have moments of self criticism and doubt that I have to push through. But I’m definitely further down it than I was when these pictures were snapped. Day to day I don’t really feel a lot different but when I look back so much has changed.

At that time I was beyond forcing myself to smile and be in pictures  but I was still cajoling myself into it. My internal dialogue was coaching, reassuring. And that’s a far cry from where I am now.

When my mom picked up these pictures I didn’t need to reassure myself. In fact, it didn’t even occur me to obsess about my body in them. I am so far removed from that mindset that it didn’t even occur to me that there was a time when I would have obsessed about it until nearly 24 hours after I’d first seen them.  Apparently I’ve been faking it long enough to have actually made some progress.

Because all I see when I look at this are the smiles on our faces.

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Day 29/Post 29: Before and After?

I’ve already shared how I feel about before and after pictures used in diet ads. As my birthday approaches (it’s Wednesday) I’ve been thinking more about the juxtaposition of these photos and what they are supposed to represent. When diet companies show us these pictures they want us to see the “after” picture and associate thin with happy. They are trying to sell us their product with promises of this happy life. You know what I think of that. I don’t need to tell you. But, as I approach my 38th birthday and my 20th (!!) high school reunion I want to share a little bit of my long journey to this place.

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So, here are some pictures of that journey. Seeing them all together like that, these pictures from 18, 28 and (almost) 38, I understand the appeal of the before and after shot, I really do. The photographer in me knows that we like having visual imagery to represent the big changes we feel inside. That same photographer really hates to admit that pictures just can’t tell the complete story.

That first picture, the perfect “after” picture for diet ads with a smiling, thin girl,  can’t tell you that I was  feeling very grown-up without realizing that I was merely playing dress-up. I was happy enough but it was superficial. It was a happiness based on fitting in, passing for “normal” and very little introspection. I was a pretty typical teen and I really don’t have much to complain about. But I was also pretty insecure and had a budding eating disorder.

The picture in the middle doesn’t tell you that even though I’m smiling in Paris I’m on a downward spiral toward my rock bottom. You can’t see that I had moved on from one eating disorder and plunged head first into the next. You can’t tell from my smiling face that I had suddenly and completely realized that collecting things that represent the perfect life (house, husband, kids, career, vacations) wasn’t the same thing as actually having one. This picture can’t show you that I was clinically depressed, binge eating and miserable.

And the last picture, the one that  does a great job representing what diet ads use for those “before” pics doesn’t tell the full story either. I’m not smiling (I was but I talked just as Kya snapped the picture so it came out without a smile) and as a result I look fat and unhappy. The opposite of that thin, smiling girl in the first pic. But I am no longer playing dress up. I’m no longer striving to fit in. I’m introspective to a fault. I’ve defeated eating disorders. I’ve overcome depression. I am not just happy but JOYFUL. My appreciation for the life I have is not based on my mood or the circumstances of the day. Even on my worst days I am capable of moments of pure, unadulterated joy because I am happy with myself.

So, even though my “before” is smiling, skinny and young, my “in between” is having an adventure in Paris, and my “after” is making a weird face, fat, getting older and settling for Branson instead of traveling the world I don’t mind. The truth is that all of those people are me, none of them are simply a before or after because they all brought me to this place. And I not only like where I am but I also appreciate the journey that brought me here.