My Body, My Shame, My Enlightenment
Through much deep work inside myself, I have left a very important piece for last. My body image and destructive self talk about my body, has always loomed over me and in my mind. I've been shamed most of my life about my weight. My brother and sister often teased me, “Fatty, fatty, 2 by 4 can't get through the bathroom door,” is the one I remember most. Looking back at my fifth grade class picture, I'm one of the heaviest in my class, and I felt it. Along about the eighth grade, I begin to slim down. Cheerleading helped. I was always busy and on the go. But still I was a fat little girl inside. I remember often walking through the halls at high school feeling like I took up too much space. (There is more on this in another writing project) I remember sitting on the railing of the steps and pressing my feet hard into the stones so that my thighs would not spread out if I relaxed. I look back at the pictures now and I think, I was so thin and fit then. After high school, I was in college and working, and I did not have time to work out. At one point I had three part time jobs and was taking classes. The weight caught up with me. My boyfriend, at the time, made sure I was aware of my expanding size. I was clueless how to lose weight, and just thought being in a bigger body was my destiny. I mean, in my head, I was always the fat girl anyway.
For some reason, I got engaged to this guy. When we ultimately broke up, I was devastated. He controlled me for so long, I could not see myself without him. I stopped eating and started taking long walks almost every day, as an emotional response to our break up. Not healthy, but I did not even realize it. One day as I was putting on my"favorite" pair of jeans, they literally fell to the floor. I had no idea I had lost that much weight. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. I noticed my body for the first time ever, as being strong, fit, sexy and attractive –to myself. Attempting to heal from my heart break, I begin to put myself out into the world once again. I found out that I was attractive, funny and that guys liked me. I danced, laughed and, for once, felt good in my skin and with my body.
As my life shifted, I started dating my, now, husband and moved to Raleigh to go to NC State University. Because I was financially on my own, I worked 40 hours a week and took a full load of classes. I put on about 10 pounds. That “fat girl" started creeping into my head. Still, I was clueless about how to lose weight. When I had time, I'd go to the gym or walk but it wasn't consistent enough to drop those pounds. I bought bigger jeans and just tried to not gain more. “Fat girl” was always looking over my shoulder.
The last semester of my college senior year, I moved back home to do my internship in my hometown. Moving back in with my parents was a blessing and during this time, I was so busy with my internship and work that I basically maintain that extra 10 pounds without too much trouble.
After graduation, I started eating dinner with my parents, and my, now, husband, eating out and having some downtime that I haven't had most of my life. I began putting on weight and no attempt at exercise etc. made a difference. My wedding dress was a size 12 and once again, I felt it was my destiny to be the “fat girl.”
In the summer of 1998, I begin my Master in Social Work program. I was driving to Chapel Hill once a week for a few days, eating out, most meals and putting on more weight. I sat, studied and ate.
During a weekend cook out, a friend, I had not seen in several months, showed up slim and healthy looking. I asked her what she was doing. She said Weight Watchers. So I signed up. I was diligent and began packing all of my meals for my trip, following all the guidance and bought workout equipment. On graduation day, as an MSW, my dress size was a 6. I felt so proud, healthy, back to feeling good in my skin, for only the second time in my life.
Then I got pregnant. I was overjoyed and so blessed. During my pregnancy, my doctor constantly stayed on me about my weight. He told me many, many times I was gaining too much. But I was not eating excessively or indulging in ice cream and cake. I did crave mashed potatoes all of the time, though. At 5'2" and nine months pregnant I weighed 192 pounds but I had an easy delivery and an incredible, healthy, beautiful baby boy. As soon as I could, I signed back up at Weight Watchers. By the time he was seven months old I was down to 140 pounds. With my muscular frame, this was reasonable and comfortable to maintain. I was walking regularly and home with my baby, so I prepared meals and was very conscious about food.
In October 2001, I was pregnant again. In June 2002, at 192 pounds, I delivered another beautiful, healthy, baby boy. I went back to Weight Watchers. This time I got down to 145 pounds. And then maintained that weight until February 2004, when I got pregnant again. And in October of that year, at 192 pounds, I delivered my beautiful healthy baby girl.
After my daughter was born, I tried a few other ways to lose the weight because I was so busy with my three babies. This time, I got down to about 152 pounds. I was working out consistently and cooking most meals at home. I felt healthy, vibrant and so blessed. I felt good in my skin and so grateful that my body was able to birth three healthy babies.
One evening, at my in-laws house, my husband's step mother, looked me up and down and said to me, “Carrie, are you pregnant again? Your belly is bulging, I noticed.” I was shocked, hurt, and immediately went to my husband and told him we were leaving. She knew my husband had had a vasectomy, and we were not planning on having any more children. Now she has never been friendly and complementary to me, but this felt so hurtful. I know it is because my inner wound was the “fat girl,” but she was so intentional to hurt me. As we were leaving, she innocently said, “Did I say something wrong?” Hmmmm….
In early 2007, we planned a trip to Jamaica to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. In preparation for that trip, I wanted to look my best, I chose protein shakes to lose weight and drank those twice a day, along with eating a healthy dinner. On the day we left for our trip, I weighed 137 pounds, and my size sixes were loose on my hips. I wore a tiny bikini in Jamaica, and an amazing red dress one night to dinner, and I felt fabulous. However, looking back at the photos of our trip, I was thin, but not fit. (Interesting that this is now my observation.)
But then I started eating actual food again and slowly crept back up to 150 pounds.
Shortly after I realized how much I had gained back, I hired a personal trainer who was incredible. I worked out with her 2 to 3 days a week and even though my weight did not change a whole lot, my body changed. I was toned, strong and I felt healthy, attractive and energetic. In addition, the new found energy, strength and confidence, led me to take my kids on adventures, hang out with friends and stay active.
During this time, my husband and I had a deep connection and fiery sex life. I was channeling my inner goddess and felt like I glowed all the time. Friends, even today, will remind me of this time in my life, when all my blessings appeared to be aligned and it showed in my face, my aura and every aspect of my life. I was the most toned, strong and healthy than I had every been in my life. I felt incredible!
From Preschool moms and the gym, I made new friends and we hung out with a new crowd. This new crowd was a little different than other sets of friends we have had. I started getting attention from the men in this crowd. In some ways, it felt good, but in some ways, it felt icky. My husband’s jealousy began to emerge and our relationship shifted. Even though, all of my attention was still on him, he felt threatened and lacking, for some reason.
He began talking to other women and with a whole host of other distractions and disruptive behaviors, arguments took over our relationship. Maybe, partly, I felt it was my fault for being attractive and gaining other men’s attention, even though I never acted upon the other advances. I know it was subconscious, but I stopped working out as hard and started more emotional eating, due to his distractions and lack of attention. So, of course, my waist line, once again, expanded.
We went to marriage counseling and things seemed to even out a bit. In 2012, we began to build our dream house. I spent the better part of the year going through our home, getting rid of what we no longer needed and packing up the rest. Luckily during this time, I found a steady yoga practice. I have done yoga off and on for several years but never a consistent practice. I tried Bikram at first, but the heat was too much for me. I tried “regular” yoga, which I did love and still do, but I longed for a deeper practice. One day a friend of mine and I went to a Baptiste yoga studio and I fell in love with this practice. During the year and a half it took us to build our house and move in, we ate out a lot and even with my intense yoga practice, I felt like I put on pounds.
In May 2014, I signed up for yoga teacher training through the Baptiste Studio. In June 2014, I discovered my husband had been having an affair for 2 1/2 years. This disrupted my life, my eating, my mental, emotional, and physical being. I sunk into depression, alcohol and erratic behaviors.
In September 2014 I began the yoga teacher training, which was every other weekend, Friday through Sunday. During this time I picked up my yoga practice and briefly found my healthy body, even though my emotional state was a wreck.
In January 2015, I begin working for this Baptiste studio and later that spring they offered me a partnership to open a yoga studio with them. My head was spinning because it happened so fast. At this time, I was lost in who I was and thought this was a good opportunity to find myself and continue in my yoga practice and healthy journey. In October 2015, I opened Go Yoga at Biltmore Park. I had no idea how to run a business and their idea of a partnership was lacking, to say the least. I spent endless hours trying to figure out how to run a successful yoga studio, while figuring out they were just using me and wanting the money for the “knowledge and name” that they offered. By January 2016, it was clear that they had no intentions of all they had expressed to me, their marriage was falling apart and they were using me. Meanwhile, I was buried in trying to figure out how to run a studio, pay for the studio and try to make sense of the demise of my own marriage. One day, the male owner, came into my office and said to me, “I thought you were losing weight before Christmas.” I once again felt a punch in my stomach and my shoulders drop to the floor. He also had no idea what I was dealing with in my marriage nor did he care. I can not even remember what I replied, but I remember what I felt. I felt like like crawling under my desk and crying.
Since 2015, I have been through hours of counseling, read countless books, written numerous poems and blog posts, filled journals, taught so many yoga classes, listened to podcasts, conversations, meditations, and so much more, digging deep into my self. Since my last Weight Watchers experience, I have tried diet after diet, lost and gained more than I care to think about. Still, I beat myself up every time I step on the scales or put ice cream in my mouth. Since I closed my studio in November 2020, every night, as I lay my head down, I think, tomorrow is the day I will eat better, exercise more, love myself more, finally be in the head space to have the body I have always dreamed of. And about noon everyday, I am beating myself up, because I have had a Diet Dr Pepper or two and nothing green yet. I am still in my pajama pants and sitting at my computer, or cleaning the house. And then, beat myself up more because I see someone uber fit and think, why can I not be like her? It is such a vicious cycle. It is a cycle that I am now willing and ready to break.
After closing my yoga studio, I developed a Re~Wild for Women program. We start with Re~Membering. I can not lead this group if I am not willing to work through the process myself. What I am remembering is that I am healthy, I deserve to love myself and I am capable of whatever I set my mind to attain. When I step on the elliptical to get my cardio in, I now remember how awesome I feel when I am striding and then done with my workout. When I step off the elliptical, I now remind myself, this feeling, right here, that is why I step on this machine. I feel exuberant, refreshed, cleansed and motivated. Those moments during and after a yoga class, when the peace settles in and the breath is full and calming…. This is the feeling I strive for, instead of the negative self talk, the self defeating behaviors, the excuses and comparison.
I am working to release that perfection that I have inundated myself with most all my life, others expectations and the feelings that I am fat, lazy, unacceptable and not good enough to be healthy, or part of a crowd or worthy of love. Even in the “universal love and acceptance” of the yoga community, I have felt shunned because of my weight. I no longer will allow myself to feel judged by the size of my thighs or width of my waist. I AM healthy, compassionate, strong, capable, kind, intelligent, and so much more that is not defined by the size of my jeans. It is not my place to bend and mold myself into anyone’s skewed vision and expectations of who I should be and what size I need to be. I have known I am built like a line backer all my life, with broad shoulders, fiercely strong legs, and the heart of a warrior. More than that, I move from my heart and soul , knowing that I am beyond good with who I am as a loving and compassionate human being.
I have been through my experiences to make me strong in every aspect, powerful from my soul and purposeful in my path. I am always a work in progress and will always be. Being aware of my journey and how it has perpetuated who I am, is now my place of acceptance, self love and hope. Because I have been through my struggles, I am purposeful in being a vessel of knowledge, hope, and guidance for others who are in the midst of their journey, frustrations and muddled path.
In addition, especially as women, we are so conditioned to be like everyone else, meet all societal standards and put everyone else first, we allow ourselves to absorb our “lack” as unacceptable and failures. As I have witnessed my 16 year old daughter working her way through Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and the weight she gained, and now lost, I watch her in awe. She is disciplined and motivated and has found a balance in nourishment, movement and self acceptance. Rarely, have I ever heard her speak self defeating words aloud. Her world is very different than mine at 16 years old. The social media, the negativity and the constant expectations shoved in every young girl’s face, has to effect her. However, she is so strong and has the air of self love that I can barely relate to. I see her blooming from the inside out, instead of from the outside to the detriment of her insides. I am unsure how she developed into this beautiful place, but I am so completely proud of her. I strive to learn from her and also be a role model for her, even though, I think, she is a role model for me.