Getting Rid of Your Scale… And other people’s perceptions.

all you need is loveTwo things happened in the past couple of days that have led to this blog. First, a friend of mine wrote to me, “I love how you carry yourself. The way you walk and dance and play, you move like you own your body. I think so many of us (women) are enslaved by our perceived abundances or lacks and we carry ourselves as if to hide those imagined imperfections. You seem to celebrate with your body.” I had to read it several times and then think on it for a while before responding. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I merely move through my life the way I want to move, I love who I love, and I do what I want to do. See, it took me almost 41 years to get to this point, and I’m not going to let other people’s ideas about what a fat woman should and should not do/wear/be/say dictate how I behave.

In a way, as I responded to that friend, being a big woman in this society is an act of defiance. I will not hide myself or shrink myself or try to conform myself to someone else’s standards of beauty.

On the opposite side of that is not letting people’s outspoken approval of my moves toward a more societally acceptable appearance turn my head either. The second thing that happened was this exchange at work:

Co-worker: Are you losing weight?

Me: Probably. Seems my pants go on a little easier these days.

Co-worker: How much have you lost?

Me: I don’t know.

Co-worker: Well, when do you weigh?

Me: I don’t. Or won’t.

Cow-worker: (Dumbfounded) Well, how will you know how much weight you lost?

Me: I won’t.

Co-worker: What will you tell people?

Me: What people?

Co-worker: The ones who want to know how much you lost.

Me: It’s none of their business.

Co-worker: I just don’t understand.

Me: You’re confusing a number on a scale with my worth as a person. I don’t.

We exchanged a few more words, but I could tell she walked away without any understanding. I was trying to explain to her that I do not own a scale. I got rid of it a couple of years ago and I will not set foot on one again. Here’s the thing. I am not defined by a number on a scale. I am a strong, creative, beautiful, sexy, funny woman, and some arbitrary number cannot define my self-worth. It took forever for me to realize this… that someone else’s opinion of the way I look matters not one bit to me. They can’t change who I am. They don’t get to define me.

Am I losing weight? Yes. I went vegan a few weeks ago, not out of a weight-loss plan, but to be a better citizen of this universe and for my own health; soul health, emotional health, physical health, and mental health. I have been exercising a little bit because I feel better when my lungs and heart are working well. I meditate daily because it brings me calm and helps to retain my joy. Does all of this contribute to weight loss? Probably. I am definitely heavier than I want to be for my OWN PERSONAL life goals. That is, I want to be able to run up the stairs, and walk five miles for fun, and hike up hills, and kayak, and swim, and play in the woods. But I do not need to be a certain societally prescribed number to do those things. If I lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy. If I don’t lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy.beth at fest

Society has told us from the time that we were little girls that we should look a certain way. Women need to conform to a certain look that has been deemed attractive. It’s the media and our parents and our teachers. I remember my mother in a constant battle with her weight and that translated to all three of the girls in my family. I heard a family member saying about her maybe eight year old daughter, “She was so tiny when she was born. I don’t know what happened.” I hear a friend of mine constantly saying, “Some women should not wear things like that.”I have another friend who actually weighs herself five times a day. FIVE TIMES. And just try reading your Facebook or Twitter feed during things like the Oscars and seeing posts about how fat a certain celebrity looks in a dress. Seriously? Every time someone mocks a woman for the way she looks, she is sending a message to every one around her (and to herself) that no matter what other accomplishments that woman has achieved, she is not good enough unless she conforms to the prescribed way of looking. Is that pathetic?

It’s time to throw away the scale. Take whatever self-care you need to make you happy, and leave it at that. Shaming has never helped anyone get healthy. Shaming someone about their weight does not make them want to lose weight… it simply puts them into a lifelong battle with their weight that they will have to overcome if they ever want to be truly happy. So start right now with getting rid of the scale. Repeat the mantra to yourself, “An arbitrary number does not define me. Society’s *rules” do not define me.” Fat, skinny, old, young, white, black, tall, short, over abundant, under abundant, big breasts, small breasts, no breasts… whatever your appearance, take it back. Take it back and live your life as an act of defiance. Be who and how you want to be and if anyone has a problem with it, remember that it is indeed just that – THEIR problem. It is time to stop giving in to the culture that raised us to think we aren’t good enough. You know what? We ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Confidence is the ultimate reward. Understand that loving yourself is the ultimate act of rebellion. Flipping off the weight loss centers and the makeup industry and the billions of dollars spent to try to look the way we were told we should look is our choice. We have the power.

One Week of Oil Pulling. (Did I just say oil pulling?)

This is what Wikipedia has to say about coconut oil:

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant torancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling

ImageWell, I guess I’m slow to the game because apparently, everybody I know has been using coconut oil for everything from natural moisturizer to lubricant to wrinkle cream to deep hair conditioning. Well, I’m not going to speak on the lubricant usage, however, I will address the rest of the alleged benefits. I picked up some cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil a couple of months ago on the advice of a friend who suggested it would make a good moisturizer. In those weeks, I have used it on my lips, where it has gotten rid of all of the chapped lip crap of winter. I put it on my nose, thus alleviating that big ugly patch of dry skin that comes from blowing it all of the time. I rub it on my face, neck, and chest at night and have seen an incredible improvement in the quality of my skin, which has gotten softer, smoother, and more radiant. I even slather it on my hair sometimes about twenty minutes before a shower to deep condition and it works beautifully. So, I was already a fan of coconut oil when my sister posted a link about “Oil pulling.”

Apparently, oil pulling involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and squishing it around for twenty minutes before spitting it out.

NOTE: DO NOT SPIT IT INTO THE SINK. (Says the voice of experience.)

Apparently the health benefits range from curing migraines to regulating blood sugar to whitening teeth to preventing yeast infections. (I think there’s more, but the curing migraines thing is what stopped me in my tracks.)

You know, I hate taking pills and I am a big opponent of big Pharm and I’ll try just about anything I read on the internet that doesn’t involve anal insertion, so I thought, why not? I’ll give it seven days and see what happens.

The first thing to note is that coconut oil isn’t in a particularly oily state… it’s pretty solid. So it Imagefeels a little strange when I first put it in my mouth. It’s almost kind of gummy… but I just started kind of moving around in my mouth and after a minute or so, it started to melt. When it melts, it doesn’t feel slimy, like I expected oil to feel. It feels just kind of thicker water, I guess, and it doesn’t have much of a taste at all.

The first day I made it about thirteen minutes before my mouth got too tired and I had to spit it out. (In the sink…. Again, DO NOT DO THIS!) My sister told me that it will resolidify and clog the drain, so I had to run some boiling water through and hope it all washed down. (It did.) I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary, except that my mouth felt really clean. I brushed as usual with my non-fluoride Tom’s toothpaste and went about my day.

The second day, I noticed that a couple of pimples I had around the side of my mouth from being menstrual were almost completely gone overnight.

Day three, I realized that the small sores that I sometimes have in the back of my mouth because I have a tooth back there that is pointy and rubs against the inside of my gum were all gone. My mouth felt fantastic, very healthy.

Day four, I woke up with one of those headaches that have the potential to turn into a migraine. I usually try to stop these by eating a small breakfast, taking a couple of Tylenol, and drinking a cup of coffee. Of course, if it DOES turn into a migraine, all of that will come back up, so it’s not the best plan in the world. At any rate, on that day, I did my oil pulling and by the end of the fifteen minutes, my headache was gone. It stayed gone for the rest of the day, even at work where the glare of the fluorescent lights on the computer sometimes activates a headache in me.

Today was day seven and I can say that I feel the experiment has been a success. I haven’t had any headaches and my mouth feels healthy and clean. I can’t really say whether or not it is making my teeth whiter, but since that wasn’t one of the things that I cared about in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. My experiment did get my sister doing it, too, and she is very prone to migraines and stomach issues. She is not only oil pulling, but putting a small spoonful in her hot tea every night. She has had no stomach issues or headaches since she started.

As a side note, I sometimes get anxiety, and I have noticed that my fifteen minutes of pulling in the morning is kind of a meditation. I try not to do anything else during this time. I just sit back in my chair, put my feet up, sometimes pet the dog, and swish my oil. It has kind of a zen effect of me.

So, I guess the conclusion of the week is that I will keep going with the oil pulling as long as it still feels good and healthy to me… that is, until someone comes out with a study that shows I’ve been giving myself brain cancer with it or something.

Living in Joy

awesome 1For the past few months, I’ve been living a little experiment in joy. As part of the changing my life process, I made a decision to try to live in joy every day, no matter what the circumstances of my life brought me. Some days, it was blissfully easy. Some days, I woke up in a ray of sun with a gorgeous woman next to me and a smile on my face. Some days, it was a little harder. Some days, I woke up alone with a sore back, a stuffy nose, and a shitty attitude.

People tend to think that I am just a naturally happy person and for the most part, that is true. I have always been a positive person and I generally think it is better to look on the bright side of things than the dark. The biggest part of me believes that happiness is a choice and I have spent so long choosing happiness that is has become my default.

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m a billboard for perkiness every moment of every day. Bad things happen. Pets die. Relationships end. Dogs throw up on pillows in the middle of the night. Cars break down. Bills pop up. Friends argue. Life happens. And let’s be honest – when you’re in the middle of a terrible breakup or your cat has just died or you’re broken down on the side of the freeway in negative ten degree weather, you probably aren’t going to grin like an idiot and say, “Look at me! I’m living in joy!”

That said, there are some tools I’ve learned along the way that have helped me regroup and recover my equanimity when I’m struggling with sorrow.

1. Remember that nothing is permanent. Nothing is ours. Nothing belongs to us. Houses burn down, spouses die, cars crash, people get sick, lovers leave. We own nothing on this planet, not even our lovers or our children. We only have ourselves and it is up to us to make the most of the time we are given with a certain person or in a certain situation. Conversely, understanding impermanence means understanding that pain is also temporary and the heartache that feels like a gaping wound today will feel less so tomorrow.

2. Change perspective. Recently, I was whining to a friend that I was not only having to work a day job instead of writing full-time, it was a crappy job. Here I am in corporate America again, dressed in business casual, taking phone calls from low income people who want to finance ridiculously over-priced merchandise with ridiculously high interest loans while someone tells me what time I can eat lunch. She challenged me to find the good in the job. Well, it is allowing me to go to Northern California in July, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in August, and The Left Coast Lesbian Conference in Palm Springs in October. Beyond that, in my effort to reframe my space in this new order, I looked at what I could offer to the people working there. In fact I had a conversation with a co-worker about compassionate communication. She was complaining about an interaction with her boyfriend, and I suggested the next time the issue came up, she could respond in a different way and see if it helped. Yesterday she came in and told me that she used the words I had suggested and for a few moments, felt like they were actually communicating. So maybe I do have a bigger purpose at this place than just answering phones. And again, impermanence. It won’t last forever.

3. Be grateful. If I am in a slump that I can’t seem to get out of, I start listing the things for which I am grateful. Some days, the list is short, some days it is long. Every day, I can at least be grateful that I am alive, that I am with my loving dog, that I have soulmate friends who would be there for me in any way they can. Today, I am also grateful that the sun is shining and that my nose isn’t running. I’m grateful that I get to have lunch with my mom tomorrow. I’m grateful that because of my new job, I can afford to buy new glasses, something I have not done since I broke them on Liz McMullen’s breasts back in July of 2013. (And I was grateful for that experience, too.) Something happens when you start making a gratitude list…. you remind yourself of all of the great things about your life and yourself. It’s a beautiful circle.

4. Practice self-care. Practice it in whatever form this takes. For me, it has recently been about trying to exercise more, eating healthy, and meditating. I am happier on days when I have exercised in some way and eaten a healthy breakfast.

5. Stop being mean to you. This may fall under self-care, but it deserves its own number. Don’t criticize yourself. Don’t mock your appearance, don’t judge yourself because of your weight. Don’t call yourself stupid or ugly or gross or unable to do something. Don’t do it. Just stop. If you find yourself looking in the mirror and making a negative self-comment, stop. Just keep stopping until you don’t do it anymore. And along these lines, stop judging others. Stop looking at celebrities and saying, “Wow, she looks fat in that dress.” Imagine what it is doing to your subconscious when you are saying a size zero actress looks fat. Just stop. Don’t criticize people on the street, not even to yourself. It will not only help you becoming more loving of your own self, but happier because you are not being judgmental of others. This doesn’t just go for your appearance, but for anything. Don’t come down on yourself. Remember you are amazing! You are awesome! You are beautiful! You are a work of art! You are uniquely you and you have the power to recognize your worth.

6. If all else fails, remember that everything in life is an AFGE. (Pronounced aff-gee with a hard ‘g’) Another f**king growth experience.

7. :Last but not least, the best advice I have ever been given. Be nice. Really. It’s that easy. Be a nice person. Hold doors open for people. Smile at clerks at store. Pick up things for people who have dropped them. Ask if someone needs help. Always wave at children who wave at you. Be friendly when you are in a store, especially if you have had to stand in line. The benefits of this are incredible. When you’re nice to people, most of them are nice to you. And that positive energy spreads and infests your mood and helps to pick you up.

The point is that while it is not possible to be bouncy and happy every single moment of every single day, it is possible to do the self-work that it takes to put yourself in the frame of mind that makes day to day living in joy a reality.