“She’s had enough!”
“Oh my God don’t give her anymore.”
“You look huge in that, go change your clothes.”
“Doesn’t THAT girl have a beautiful figure.”
I can remember from as young as 3 years old, people trying to curb my food intake. I was never small but never fat, larger than the other girls but not enough to be obese. Went through puberty the earliest in my class, had an exaggerated womanly shape by nature at age 10. You might think, wow you’re lucky! But no, just no.
Not when you are told every single day of your life that you are too big. Too wide. Too busty. You eat too much. You don’t dress right. When you are made to feel completely ashamed of your innate, natural appearance by those closest to you, it takes a toll on how you view yourself.
Oh and to top it off I had a horrible case of acne from about 8 years old till present day, and endured intense bullying in middle school. After years of the same daily looks, comments, and attempts to put me on one diet or another, I was deeply, immensely hurt. Sad. Beaten to the core. Wounded. Exhausted.
“They must be right.”
“You are disgusting.”
“If I lose weight then they’ll like me better.”
“If I looked like her I’d be pretty.”
“I am worthless.”
Or so my mind would tell me all day, everyday.
And so I began to sneak food. Eating alone, with no one to tell me no was completely freeing, but also a trap. I would have to hide what I was doing for fear of punishment, sometimes that meant to eat normally in front of others again, despite being completely stuffed, so they wouldn’t know what I had previously done. When I was stressed, I ate. When I was alone, I ate. I see now that food addiction and binge eating is completely wrapped up in a feeling of not being able to be fully myself. Being made to feel shame about who you feel you truly are, the things you want to be and do, you cover it up.
You dull yourself down to match how others view you.
I hid in plain sight with food and weight gain. This goes hand in hand with the depression and anxiety I coped with since my early teen years. I discovered yoga in 2004, and felt immense relief every class. I began to go often, and even volunteered at a studio just to be there more and receive unlimited classes in return. I was able to curb my anxieties, my thoughts and mood felt more balanced, and I was able to cope with stress more effectively. I felt good for the first time maybe ever. I wanted to keep that feeling so badly and share it with others that I went for my Moksha Yoga Teacher Training in October 2010. I taught for just over a year before not even yoga could help me keep a handle on things.
After being active in childhood through sports and later with yoga and fitness, right before marriage, my bingeing started to spiral out of control. After our wedding, I became more depressed and anxious than ever. I changed my work schedule to be able to see my husband more, and ended up with a lot of alone time.
Depressed, on my own, and anxious, I ate and ate and ate.
I was trying to hide something, trying to mask emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. Trying to hide myself. My yoga practice became infrequent as I was soon pregnant and life just bounced all over the place. I became angry, hurt, and resentful that my life was changing so rapidly while it felt like much of my husband’s life, and my friends’ lives remained the same. I gained around 40 pounds in as little as a few months even before my pregnancy. I began to feel desperate to lose weight but once I found out we were expecting our first son, any extreme dieting behaviour I would have engaged in in the past was out of the question.
I am 5’4” tall, and for most of my adult life, my weight hovered around 145 pounds, wearing a dress size 8. Fast forward this dark time with depression and anxiety, plus two kids later, my highest known weight was 235 pounds, dress size 18. I haven’t recognized myself in the mirror for 7 years, and with limited time for self care as a work at home mom, my yoga practice has been almost entirely non existent. I did no formal movement or exercise during this period of time, while my children are so small and so demanding on me.
When my first son was born in 2012, I most certainly had Post Partum Depression and Anxiety.
Breastfeeding was off to a horrific start with him, which marred the beginning of our time together from the start, and only reinforced my negative emotional state. I felt that I couldn’t get my footing as a mother, I had a baby who constantly wanted to be held, and I couldn’t do anything except play with him or suffer through his crying till I gave in. I felt guilty for taking the hour for yoga, let alone a shower on top of that. So I just didn’t do it. I was in such a dark haze that even doing the dishes was an immense task to me. I was stuck between being consumed by motherhood while also my baby was the only thing keeping me going. I wanted to take care of my child and do the best for him, and that meant putting one foot in front of the other. Getting up and pushing through the anxieties instead of giving in.
My second son arrived with much less fear and anxiety. I had grown used to a low mood and anxious thoughts being part of my everyday.
But I was so uncomfortable in my body. I think mostly, I was just tired. Tired of putting myself last. Tired of a lifetime of self loathing. Tired of the comments and tired of listening to others’ opinions of me. I was so done with the shame.
After being knocked down and counted out so many times because of my appearance, I decided to do something radical — I decided to accept myself, and just go from there.
The first step was getting to an exercise class. Pushing through the nearly debilitating anxiety that had tripped me up for almost 7 years. Everyone would judge me as soon as I walked in the room. They would think I was too fat for this class and should just go home. Or they’d somehow know that I have avoided looking myself in the eye for so long because I couldn’t bear to face the truth.
When you step on a scale and know you should weigh 100 pounds less than you do, it’s a tough pill to swallow. If people said I was “too big” when I was a size 8 for most of my adult life, what does that make me now? The weight of it (literally) would send sheer panic throughout my entire body and freeze me in my tracks, preventing any significant change from taking place. I was literally stuck.
I got to that first Zumba class back in the fall because even if I couldn’t really do yoga or many other exercises (it was simply too physically uncomfortable and frustrating with the extra weight) I knew I at least loved to dance. The first few classes I was so awkward but slowly got my groove back, and actually started to feel kinda good. I’d lose myself in music and just be present. The anxiety slowly began to lift, which is nothing short of miraculous. I recently took the plunge at becoming certified to teach Zumba. Even though I’m still very very overweight and not completely ready, I pushed myself to go. I’m thinking I might find something on the other side of that fear, maybe even me again.
I’ve avoided speaking about it directly, worried that those who know me but don’t know the full truth would be hurtful and judgemental. But the truth is, they’re probably already thinking that anyway. I can’t stay silent.
As part of my experiment in radical self acceptance, I began documenting my fitness progress and journey into overcoming food addiction and anxiety on Instagram over on my account @agirlhasnoblog. My hope is that there might be someone out there that my experience and words can comfort or help. Like Cayla, the founder of Move 2 Heal-
I believe we are stronger for sharing our experiences, stories and showing our hurts. I feel the time is here to shed all that no longer serves us.
By speaking openly about it, it kills the secret and likewise strangles that monster that once had supreme control over me. I’m learning to ignore that constant feeling of lesser-than; but instead stand in myself, exactly as I am.
I’m grateful for my experience because I’ve begun to get more comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I have learned that I need to trust my own inner voice more than the voice of any other, no matter what place they have in my life.
I know what’s best for me, I know what moves me, what feeds me, what nourishes me. I’m no longer interested in dulling myself to let others feel brighter.
We are all amazing, unique and beautiful, and to tear someone else down is a sign of your own internal doubts.
I’m not out to compete with other women, I’m only out to compete with myself; To keep the big monsters of my anxiety and depression away by channeling and releasing them through movement.
Daily exercise through Zumba or now also the Tracy Anderson Method has become irreplaceable and a non negotiable. I used to feel so guilty about taking time for myself, but my kids have gotten used to seeing me do the exercises and engaging in more self care. I am most motivated by a desire to model for them what was never shown clearly to me: the power of standing firmly within yourself, and allowing yourself to transform as many times as you need to get there.