Body Perception (Part One)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my body lately.  I’ve spent much of my life hating my body, seeing its flaws, seeing its fat.  I could see only its flaws, what it couldn’t do for me. I’d hear in my head all the names people (children and adults) (strangers and family members) would call me because of my body size.

When I was maybe 16 or 17 I clearly remember being at a birthday party for my uncle, and I overheard several of his friends refer to me as “Walter, the refrigerator, Perry”.  These were ADULTS, and no one stopped them or told them their comments were infantile and inappropriate.

Then there was the time I was at the mall and these teenagers, probably 16 to 18 years old, followed me around taunting me with some pretty hideous comments.  I could go on, but you probably get the point.  It didn’t really matter where I was, someone could be trusted to be there to berate me because of my body size.  Or look at me with abject horror–no I’m not exaggerating.  I wish I was.

Given all that, is it any wonder I’ve had a skewed perception of my body, of myself, of my SELF worth?

But there’s something inside me that is changing.  Watching my father struggle to do simple things, like go to the bathroom by himself, is profoundly affecting the way I view my body, the way I view myself, my SELF. Thinking about him motivates me to push myself to SAFELY explore where my body can go–to understand that my mind limits me more than my body.

I’ve also learned to appreciate my body more for what it can do during my Bikram yoga classes.  Two weeks ago I decided to try taking two classes back-to-back, and you know what?  I not only survived.  I thrived, so that’s become my new habit: three times a week I go to two back-to-back Bikram Yoga classes, and that effort has paid off immensely. Last Friday, for the first time ,I discovered that I could, with help from my instructor, grab my foot from behind while doing standing bow pulling pose.  Also, with his help I can now grab my ankle while doing bow pose.  When I first started two months ago (yes I’ve only been doing Bikram for two months), I never imagined I’d be able to reach these new places so soon.

This makes me LOVE my body for what it can do, for where it can go.

It’s not that I have always hated my body.  Even when I was at my highest weight I’d be seen in public in a bathing suit, and I’m including a pic here to prove it. And when I’d travel, I’d always go dancing in public (but only in hotel fountains:)).

But there’s a difference now. I don’t see my fat with hatred, with loathing.  I’m learning to see with new appreciation, and I think I’ll save that for another blog post, one that is fully about loving my body for where it’s taking me and how I’m learning to perceive it.

For now though, I leave you with this: it’s hot; it’s really hot.  IF you want to wear a bathing suit, wear one.  If anyone else judges you, that’s their problem.  If you judge you that’s a judgment you’ll live to regret.  Have no regrets.  Live.  You’re worth it.  You always were, and you always will be.



The Choices We Make

Yesterday I chose to go to two Bikram Yoga classes, back to back.  Why? Because I’m on a mission to live my life to the fullest, and I’ve seen what happens when people make choices that keep them from living their dreams.

In 1995 I met a wonderful woman by the name of Sharon. We connected almost immediately, and, within a short time, I became the daughter she never had. We laughed together. We cried together. She had a heart of gold and a zest for life, yet, in so many ways, she never really lived.

She wasn’t just overweight; she was “morbidly obese” to the point where she always had to call ahead to restaurants to make sure they had chairs without arms.  When it came time for her to buy a new car, the #1 factor in find the right vehicle? It had to be one she could fit in. She could barely walk a block and climbing up a set of stairs became a chore that would leave her gasping for breath as though she’d just run a mile. And flying?  Forget that.  Unless her boyfriend Don (a super-skinny guy) would fly with her, so then she could have half his seat.

I don’t mean to imply that she didn’t have fun.  Before she got sick we’d go on carriage rides at Christmas time and it would take so little for us to just fall apart laughing hysterically.

And yoga.  Sharon introduced me to yoga.  She practiced a gentle yoga at a local studio, and we’d often go to classes together.  One day, when I was going through a particularly rough time she surprised me by placing a stuffed iguana on my mat.  I still have that iguana, and whenever I look at it, I smile and know Sharon is with me in spirit.

In 2004 they found lump in her breast.  It turned out to be cancer, but discovering that was not an easy process.  For people who weigh more than 300 pounds (and she did) diagnosing diseases becomes much more cumbersome as most medical diagnostic devices come with 300 pound weight limits, so something as simple as a biopsy required surgery for Sharon.

For 4 years she was one of the lucky ones.  She entered remission.  But even then she never cared enough to even try to make her life what she wanted it to be.  That may sound harsh, but I was with her. I listened to her dream of traveling, walking with her dog, doing normal activities, but they stayed dreams. She couldn’t break the addictive cycle of needing the creature comfort of foods.  In spite of years of therapy she couldn’t push past the pain.

In 2008, she fell and broke her hip, or so we thought.  She spent three months in the hospital with a staph infection (from the hip surgery) before they diagnosed the “real” problem: bone cancer.  It wasn’t the doctors’ fault it took so long: I witnessed them doing their best. I hope Sharon forgives me for saying this, but, at that time, she weighed 500 pounds and that just made her more difficult to diagnose and treat.

She died a year later, on November 4 of 2009.  In the year that led to her death, she gave up when she didn’t have to. She had people who loved her and money to do things she always wanted to do, but, for whatever reason, she couldn’t push through the mental walls.

Knowing her changed my world, brought me love and laughter when I needed it. But that last year of her life I couldn’t spend that much time with her because she gave up on life long before it gave up on her, and the negative energy consumed her, and I could no longer allow it to consume me.

I remember delivering her eulogy, wishing she’d have made different choices so I could still have her with me, laughing and crying.

This is why I work so hard at improving my world, so someone doesn’t have to give my eulogy, thinking that they wished I’d cared enough to better my life.  I do care. I’m on a mission. To show the world and to show myself that all things are possible if only you/I believe they can be…………………..

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:


Sharon, Veronica, and me at The Secret Garden for my Birthday

Sharon, Veronica, and me at The Secret Garden for my Birthday

Nancy Versus the Volcano

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my last full day in Maui last fall, the day I hiked through Haleakala.  I remember waking up that morning to the sun shining so majestically through the window of my hotel room.  My body felt flooded with exhaustion from all the activities I’d participated in during just a few short days: parasailing, zip lining, swimming in the ocean, to name a few, so my mind engaged in an internal dialogue that went something like this: “you’re tired. you love this hotel. there’s nothing wrong with staying around here all day. you’ll enjoy it.”

But, for some reason, I felt driven.  I had to drive to Haleakala.  I had to hike in the volcano.  I didn’t have a choice. I had to fulfill my dream.  When I was in Maui 19 years ago, I did not have the physical stamina or strength to do much more than walk across the parking lot at the top of Haleakala.  I had come too far not to realize another moment that was years in the making.

Around 9a.m. I set off.  It’s only 37 miles from the hotel, but the road up to the top is windy with switchbacks, so the drive takes about two hours, not an easy task when one is already tired……..Near the base of the volcano, I stopped at a small stand for a veggie burger and the cook was wearing a shirt that read “I’m from Hell.” An interesting omen……

Driving up the volcano, I kept thinking there had to be a treasure awaiting me, had to be a reason I felt this urge welling up within me to hike through this volcano.  A reason beyond fulfilling my dream.

As I drove up Haleakala, and reached the point above the clouds I started to sense an inner peace growing within, a sense of wonder, a sense of calm so deep nothing could ruffle it. I started to feel as though I was on top of the world, at the edge of the precipice of this thing called life.

When I reached the top and started walking around I could feel a transformational shift begin to stir.  After finding someone to take some pics of me at the top (one of which is banner image for this blog), I began my hiking journey.

I don’t know how many miles I hiked, but that’s another number that doesn’t really matter. With each step I marveled at the sight before me: mother nature’s majestic canvas, a beauty unlike any other.  A beauty that also exists within me, if I choose to see it.

After several hours, I could feel the exhaustion begin to overwhelm me.  I wanted to stop and go back to the hotel, but the same inner voice that propelled me to drive to Haleakala told me to keep going, keep walking to the top of the ridge in front of me, and when I reached that point and stood overlooking Haleakala, high above the clouds, I understood; I got it; I knew why I had to hike here on my last day:

For all of my life I had been chasing rainbows.  It took the warm and embracing power of Haleakala to let me know the time had come for the rainbows to start chasing me…………..

Me at the top of Haleakala with "baggage" I won't be traveling with again......

Me at the top of Haleakala in 1993 with “baggage” I won’t be traveling with again……

Me at the Top of Haleakala 2012

Me at the Top of Haleakala 2012

Another View from the Top of the Crater!

Another View from the Top of the Crater!

My favorite picture of the volcano!

My favorite picture of the volcano!

Above the Clouds!

Above the Clouds!

Standing at the Horizon of Life!

Standing at the Horizon of Life!

With the Wind of Life Blowing through My Hair 2012

With the Wind of Life Blowing through My Hair 2012

Creating a “Fresh” Start

So I’ve been thinking lately about the foods I eat and how they make me feel, how they make my body feel.  I don’t really like what I see, what I consume. I look in my refrigerator and am not excited about what I see, and I want to feel motivated and energized about the consumables I consume.

What to do about this? There’s only one thing really, one way to have a fresh new start.  Clean out my cupboards, my pantry, my fridge, and my freezer, so I made a plan, a date to do just that.  My Saturday night special date with myself.

I grabbed a few bags and started with the pantry.  I took ALL the items out and threw away the ones that I had no interest in, the ones that expired, and the ones I decided just weren’t healthy for my body. I moved from the pantry to the fridge, to the freezer to the cupboards, following the same procedure each time.  I felt a certain freedom in disposing of that which did not and does not bring me joy. I even gave away healthy foods that I just had no desire to eat.  There are plenty of veggies (like brussel sprouts, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, etc.) that I enjoy, so why keep ones that make me cringe!

I sorted through all my tea bags too!  Life is just too short to drink stuff that doesn’t please the palate!

Removing all that food and “stuff” felt a lot like getting rid of unnecessary baggage and along with that comes a certain amount of freedom and fun, for now I get to decide what to fill the empty spaces with, and I’m not sure what that will look like.  But this I do know.  It will be foods I want to eat, foods that will give me the stamina and strength to keep going to Bikram Yoga classes (going ever deeper into postures), to continue going on longer hikes, and to feel even happier and giddier about this life I’m leading. I will fill my life and my fridge with foods that feed the soul, for those are the foods that really matter.

The current, deliriously happy, state of my fridge!

The current, deliriously happy, state of my fridge!