Diagnosis: Fat

Yesterday I went to the doctor for two things: my ongoing and increasing back pain and horrendous menstrual periods, which I wanted to ensure didn’t have anything to do with each other. The reason for this was because I had started to see some progress with my back, but another hellish cycle struck and I was sidelined again by the back pain – to the point I had to call out from work.

So I did a little research to see if the two things might be related, and in doing so I realized that the kinds of heavy, painful periods I have been having, which I chalked up to aging, aren’t necessarily perimenopausal like I had previously thought. Instead I was reading about fibroid cysts (which my mother had) and how the pressure of large cysts could cause back pain.

Seemed plausible, but I’d need a doctor to confirm so I made an appointment. I thought maybe if THAT was the cause of my current back pain, then perhaps that was a treatment I hadn’t considered, one that could make a dramatic improvement in my current health.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. The sketchy thing about back pain is that it’s one of those diagnose by process of elimination things. I’ve been through it all. MRIs, physical therapy, chiropractors, etc. I figured with the possibility of a cyst, I’d probably have to get another ultrasound.

I was about to climb yet another mountain, and I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I had no choice. It’s everything I can do to get through an eight-hour shift. I’m not sleeping well, obviously, and by the time I go to work I’m already tired. I sit at a desk for eight hours, which, as expected, sends my sciatica through the roof. I try to walk it out, like I had in months past, trying to limber up and get moving at least twice a day with a ten minute jaunt around the complex where I work. If I can make just three of those laps, I easily make my 10K steps.

Recently, I’m lucky to make it once. By the time I drag myself home in the evening, I’m done. I’m doner than done. There is no cleaning, no errands being done – like grocery shopping, for instance, which has thrown my diet out of whack because we’re grabbing things out more often than not. This includes lunch and dinner, which spells disaster for what I’m trying to do to lose weight.

I thought if nothing else, I’ll get the standard prescription treatment for my back, the narcotic/anti-inflammatory/muscle relaxer, and I’d take this weekend just to medicate the hell out of myself and try to get past this acute episode.

This ain’t my first rodeo. This has been the protocol towards “fixing” my back since 2006. Only it never fixes anything, it just keeps me a faithful customer to Big Pharma.

When I wasn’t working, I could medicate with cannabis and saw much better results. But because of the stigma that goes along with the use of cannabis, not to mention the legal ramifications even now that it’s “technically” legal in the state of California, that’s not the go-to option anymore. When I applied for my job, I was given a drug test. Since I had worked with employee files up till then, I knew what the perimeters were to pass. I could have 1000mg of cocaine, but 25mg of THC would have given me a hard stop.

Cocaine – acceptable. A plant that has been used medicinally for ten thousand years (and never killed one person) – not.

It’s frustrating. Every bit as fucking frustrating as my weight being the sole focus of any and all doctor’s appointments.

I mean, I must be one of the easiest patients for doctors to see. Instead of probing and getting to the root cause, they can just look at me and make an instant diagnosis. Oh, your back hurts? Well, you’re fat. Case closed, moving on, next patient.

I spent maybe ten minutes talking to my doctor about the issues that brought me into the office. She dismissed immediately that cysts might be my problem, and shrugged off my hellish periods as just a woman thang, even when I told her that (TMI alert) I have horrendous flooding that will have me going through every protective barrier known to (wo)man within an hour. Seriously, I’ve almost passed out before from the blood loss. I have gone from the bathroom five steps to my bed and collapsed in a heap, hoping Steven didn’t come in the room before I could pull myself together in order to clean up the mess so he wouldn’t think someone had tried to murder me.

Those are the days I barely even want to leave the house because movement = flooding, which means I have to change three times a day. But she just smirked and said every woman feels that way.

chandlerreally

Basically none of what I told her registered to the doc, who expects me to trust her when she was absolutely not going to trust me when I was telling her what was wrong. That flooding thing is new within the last few years. It’s not “just a woman thing” or me being a baby about my period. I’ve had my period since I was nine, just like I’ve had this back pain since 2006. I KNOW when something is up. I DON’T just go bug her for nothing.

Instead she pushed around on my back for a whole thirty seconds, nearly sending me flying off of the exam table in the process. Within those thirty seconds, she decided it was completely muscular and declared I needed to lose weight “yesterday” to avoid the weight compressing my discs in such a way that I’m virtually crippled by the pain in a decade.

All she saw was the weight. That’s all any of them see. And they won’t take my complaints seriously as a result.

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She made the same snap judgment everyone else does: I’m fat so I’m clearly not doing anything about it. If I did, it would fix all my woes. I explained to her I was currently trying to lose weight for that very reason, because I’m tired of my life being so fucking limited, but without the ability to exercise I’m between a rock and a hard place. She told me that I could technically do it diet alone, but I told her I’ve been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for the last four months. The diet thing works for about a week and then if I don’t add exercise into it, it stalls.

I mean, I’m 47 years old and I’ve been fat since I was a child. I know my body pretty well by this point. I know what works and what doesn’t. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. I’ve tried almost everything, except maybe for surgery. When I was a kid, there was a diet aid literally called “Ayds” (this was before the 1980s.) They were these little pieces of chocolate that were supposed to curb my appetite.

By the mid-eighties I went on Nutrisystem and stayed on that as long as we could afford. Back in 1984, it was $90 a week for both my mom and me, not including all the fresh food you had to buy (not to mention all the other non-food grocery needs.) To put that in perspective, my weekly grocery budget in 2017 is $100-150 to feed a family of FIVE. As a single mother in 1984, working for barely over minimum wage, Mom simply couldn’t afford us to stay on it, and so I capped out at 36 pounds lost in six weeks. Yay! Magic! It works… as long as you’re chained to the program.

And yes, THAT I did without exercise, if you don’t count P.E., but it was the only time that worked.

After Scott was born and I had forty pounds of pregnancy fat to lose, I created my own system that alternated between fasting and limited calories, as well as walking at least thirty minutes a day. Today they call these things intermittent fasting and the 10,000-step plan to walk yourself thin. (I was so ahead of my time.) I lost enough weight to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I was still fat. It didn’t go any lower.

Out of desperation I tried the Mayo Clinic* Diet (misleadingly named after the medical institute,) where I was supposed to drop 10 pounds in a week if I ate certain foods on certain days in certain combinations. It worked, I lost 10 pounds… of water weight. The next week it was back, even though I kept using the plan.

When I was homeless in LA I lost quite a bit of weight quite dramatically – but it wasn’t just from lack of food. Whether we were at the beach or at Griffith Park, we walked everywhere we could just to have something to do that didn’t cost any money.

Then I got pregnant and, well, I went back to old habits.

Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of things. I’ve tried Slim-Fast, I’ve gone on the Richard Simmons plan (which helped me lose thirty pounds in time for my wedding to Steven, dropping me from a scary 350 to 320 and size 32.) I did the Cabbage Soup diet until I couldn’t even look a head of cabbage in the face. I lost 70lbs using SparkPeople, but, again, I had to have an exercise plan to go along with or else it would stagnate and frustrate the hell out of me. I’ve gone vegan, I’ve gone low carb, I’ve gone sugarless. In each and every experience, if I didn’t add physical activity onto it, my body stopped losing weight once it became accustomed to the new eating plan.

This is what has happened now with my intermittent fasting. I still only eat about eight hours a day (this week being the exception to that rule,) but without the physical activity I add to it, either using my stationary bike at home or walking whenever I can fit it in, it really doesn’t do much to help me move the scale.

Hence why I’ve been stuck between 290-297 for the last four months of weekly weigh-ins.

I know my body. The diet, though they say it’s 70% of the battle, only takes me so far. I need to add exercise. And yet every single time I add exercise, I end up throwing out my back and it undoes all the progress.

So I tell her this, and just like the whole period thing she dismisses it. “So you’re telling me there’s nothing you can do about your weight.”

No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I need help. She said that Kaiser Permanente offers food plans much like Weight Watchers. And like WW, I have pay by the week for a sixteen-week program AND I have to show up to weekly meetings.

If that was what I wanted, I’d have joined WW. (Actually, no I wouldn’t – because I abhor any kind of weight loss program that makes a profit off of desperate fat people. I won’t buy pills, I won’t buy pre-packaged foods. These companies don’t protect their bottom line by helping you succeed – and I don’t want to be stuck on a program the rest of my life. I’m not trading one set of shackles for another, thank you very much.)

She gave me the standard prescription protocol for my back, with an order for steroid injections – since that’s the only thing I haven’t tried to help me stay upright, rather than flat on my back, doped out of my mind for days at a time.

But I still woke up three times in the night with white hot pain radiating down my leg. I face another day of poor sleep and relentless pain.

Yay.

It dawned on me fairly quickly yesterday that despite reaching out for help, I’m alone in this. And I guess I always have been. People look at me and make their assumptions, which is nothing new. Back in Texas, I had a doc tell me in our first meeting together that I was diabetic. This was without any kind of symptoms, this was without any kind of blood work. This was her looking at me and deciding since I’m “morbidly obese” I must have diabetes. I told her no, I’m not diabetic. That’s the first thing any doc ever tests me for, even when I was pregnant. I’ve done the fasting blood tests, I’ve been checked consistently for years and *knock on wood* it’s the one thing I’ve managed to avoid. Yet she didn’t hear any of that. She insisted I was. It took the blood work coming back to convince her, because my word CLEARLY wasn’t enough.

(Which, by the way, I got my results back from my blood work yesterday. My A1C is 5.3. The normal range is 4.8 – 5.6. In 2012, the last time I had my blood drawn, it was 5.1. Please stop assuming I have diabetes because I’m fat, k?)

In fact, all my tests came back fine and in normal ranges. The only thing that was a bit high was my RDW blood test showed 15.1 when the normal range caps off at 14.5. I immediately researched to find out what this means.

This is what I found:

When your red cells have a lot of variation in their size then you will see higher RDW values in your test. If your rdw blood test is high then there could be a few reasons for the cause.

A common cause of high RDW values is Vitamin b12 deficiency or Folate deficiency. This can lead to macrocytic anemia (or large cell anemia). People with macrocytic anemia almost always suffer from elevated RDW levels.

Hum. Would you look at that. Anemia. Blood. Why did I go to the doctor again?

But…. FAT. FATTIE FAT FAT FAT. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

My blood pressure was slightly elevated at 135/69, but I was also in a lot of pain. I’ll take it again with my own machine later to monitor. After last year’s scary episode, I don’t play around.

See, people will think to look at me I don’t care about my health, when in fact I’m rather obsessed about it. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m not doing something about it every single day.

It’s just taking a slow ass time, made even slower by the fact I. Can’t. MOVE.

Basically I paid $70 to find out things I already knew. I’m on my own in this, and I’m the one that is going to have to fix it because I’m the expert when it comes to my own body.

I’ve had to be. Everyone else just sees the fat, not anything that is going on underneath it.

So glad I’ve paid nearly $3000 so far this year for this kind of stellar health coverage.

princesideeye

So. What’s my plan?

Well, I’m going to have to do as the doc says. I’m going to concentrate on my diet, rather than the exercise, simply because I have no choice. I can’t walk right now and if I try, I’ll end up hobbled again and missing work, which I can’t afford to do. The only thing I can control is what I put into my face. I only have two rules for a “diet”: One, it can’t cost me money, i.e. Slim-Fast, WW, Nutrisystem, fat burning pills, etc. (See above.) Two, it has to be health-based. I want whole foods, real foods, not processed junk that is marketed to a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, whose profit margins have raised right along with the skyrocketing obesity rate. No Lean Cuisine. No Diet Coke. No low-fat, sugar-free, fad o’ the moment quick fix.

Unfortunately for me, this is still going to cost me. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and spend a little more on groceries to split apart from my family. Of the five people in my household, only two of us aren’t picky eaters. My husband is the pickiest, he hates most fruits and vegetables (it’s a texture thing,) and is a carb junkie despite being diabetic. (Did I mention he’s 100lbs lighter than me? He eats junk, I don’t. He has diabetes, I don’t. Fuck anyone who makes this trigger judgment of me as a result, especially if you’re a goddamned doctor.)

My future daughter-in-law comes in second-pickiest. She eats more foods than my oldest son Tim, BUT it’s HOW she eats them. She’s virtually Sally from When Harry Met Sally:

She’s not an experimental eater. She reluctantly tries new things. Here’s our biggest Food Tug-of-War at the moment: I want her to branch out and eat different kinds of salads. She’s a HUGE salad eater, but it has to come with specific ingredients that can work well with ranch dressing. If there’s no ranch dressing, there’s no salad. Period. Honestly, I think salads are basically her ranch delivery service, but that’s typical of a lot of people from Texas. I am trying, now, to get her to try salads that incorporate fruit and nuts but she’s thrown on the brakes because she can’t imagine that level of experimentation. She can’t have a salad without ranch dressing, and fruit with ranch dressing?

liarliarpuke

This, to me, was my favorite part of going vegan. I tried all kinds of new combinations AND new veggies. I love food, y’all. Let me play with it. I went to Pinterest last night to see what kind of foods I could eat instead of the standard family friendly fare we normally get, and I pinned dozens and dozens and dozens of new recipes. It amped me up. I got excited. I couldn’t wait to try new things.

Not her. She would rather go without than eat something she doesn’t want to eat, even if she’s hungry.

I don’t quite grasp this concept. Obviously.

She likes her deep fried stuff, her alfredo sauces, all the things I can’t eat because of a tricky gallbladder. And, like me, she’s been gaining and losing the same ten pounds for three whole years – the only difference is she’s seriously UNDER-weight. She can afford the junk. She can indulge the sweet tooth, which is a daily requirement for her and, as such, a daily temptation for me. And I don’t deny them, I just fit them in to everything else, making my compromises elsewhere.

But, for the next week or month at least, I have to split apart from this because our goals are diametrically opposed. I’m going no sugar again… and I apologize ahead of time for the massive bitch this is going to turn me into.

My older son is attempting a health regimen himself and, as his father’s son, he has some opinions about what I’m doing wrong. (Don’t they all?) But he’s on my side with the no soda, no processed sugar thing, so I have his support. He also told me I need to be more compassionate of myself whenever I succumb to temptation… like this week when I kept hopping on and off the wagon.

People love me and want to take care of me, which so often times includes food. This week a nurse left an egg roll for me, which was very sweet of her. It was also at 9am, way before I allow myself to eat. The next day there was red velvet cake, because life is just that cruel. The next day was a goodbye brunch, ALSO way before my eating time frame.

If I try to muster any will at all to say no, I always hear the same thing: “Just one bite won’t hurt you.”

Like I need a lot of convincing… especially when I’m in the kind of pain I’ve been in lately. I just want to feel good and we all know by now food is my vice of choice, especially at work where my other vices are limited.

I even succumbed to the rare Diet Coke (blame the cake.) Within minutes Hal posted a link on how Diet Coke contributes to weight gain.

It was like he KNEW. My one and only coke and he freaking knew.

Despite these setbacks, I kept mostly with the plan, and my 100+ ounce of water consumption. We still ate out a lot this week, mostly because no one felt up to cooking. The fam has been battling some stomach bug and my back has been breaking to the point I don’t do ANYTHING when I get home.

It’s going to be a(nother) disappointing weigh in. And I’m just going to have to forgive myself and move on with a plan that I’m going to have to follow solo. Steven has offered to throw himself on the grenade, learning how to eat more plant-based foods (which I truly believe is the key to better health – and one of the reasons I think that, despite the inability to exercise, I am in mostly good health except for the back thing.) But he’s so picky that I know I’ll be tempted to come up with stuff that will appeal to both of us, and – quite frankly – I can’t be held down by that limitation. I’m going to get what I like, what I’ll eat, what I know is good for me. I can eat nothing but salad for a week straight, limiting my sugar to fresh fruit. Steve? Not so much. And I can’t allow that to be yet another stumbling block. I have to be a little selfish here, a little rude, a little impolite.

I’ll make what I want, what I know is good and right for me. He has to decide if he will like it or not. Or else he can eat what the family eats.

Because that’s the way it’s just going to have to be. I’m done compromising, because I always end up on the losing end of that. Just like right now, Brit texted because she’s just now getting off of work and wants lunch while they’re out. That means fast food. That means more junk. She asked if I was hungry, which I am, but I said no, I’m good.

If I’m in this alone, I have to do what’s best for me. Same thing when I went vegan all those years ago. I have to look out for myself because no one in my family can or will join me. I’m in the fight for my life now, particularly in terms of my mobility. I may be like a stallion locked up in the starting gate, but let’s face it – I’m used to things being difficult.

It’s going to take some time, much longer than I want it to be, mostly because fat is the only thing people see when they look at me. The doc said I have to lose weight “yesterday” and she’s not wrong. In order to fit in with her and with everyone else, I have to have the “After” body, not the “Before” and certainly not the “During.” I’m fighting my way out from behind my body for the kind of value that other people take for granted. They can go to the doctor and be heard about their concerns. They can walk down the street without people assuming they’re lazy and don’t give a shit about themselves. Despite the fact I eat much healthier than she does, Brit turns heads when she walks down the street. Men want to get to know her. She’s a smoker, she eats crap, but she’s got the “After” body, even when she’s in the “During” process to get to a healthier weight.

But she can be seen and accepted and heard, just like everyone else who doesn’t commit the high crime of being fat. They can be seen for who they are instead of what they weigh, and I’m going to have to wait a helluva long time for that, made longer still by the limitation of my back pain.

I’m just going to have to make peace with that, which, frankly, is harder than losing the weight. It’s going to take time before people will hear me, or see me, or recognize anything that I’m doing that’s good. They’re going to make their assumptions. They’re doing to diagnosis me with terminal fatness.

But they don’t count. They can’t. In order to claim my value I must first find it in myself. Here’s what I know:

I’m not a bad person.

I’m not a failure.

I’m not careless about my health.

I’m not lazy.

I’m not weak.

I have a specific challenge to fight, but I’m strong enough to beat it. It may not happen in a year, but like any war it is won one battle at a time, one day at a time.

Time to make this a good day.

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Dear Damaged Girl: Letters, Chapter 1.

A lovely friend of mine posted a blog not too long ago that was basically a letter to her younger self. I thought wow, that’s a neat idea. What would you say to your younger self with all the knowledge and experience you’ve gained from getting through all those past experiences?

My bestie and I were talking earlier in the week about how stunned our thirteen-year-old selves would be if we were to sit down and chat with them now, in how far we’ve come personally and as a society. That the things we thought were so set in stone back then turned out to be swimming around in a gray area we were too young to entertain way back then. For instance, the thirteen-year-old me was rabidly anti-cannabis. I believed the “Just Say No” hype. It wasn’t till my back gave out on me in 2006 and I needed really strong pain pills to deal did I realize where the true threats are, and often dispensed by the men in white coats we have been taught to trust.

But, again, blog for another day.

If I were to tell that thirteen-year-old that I’d one day trade those scary pain pills for a natural plant that worked better and actually healed, she’d be floored. But that’s the magic of insight. It teaches you where you were misled or mistaken, and you can change your mind accordingly.

Sounds like a brilliant exercise, honestly. After yesterday’s blog, I’ve moved up the theme in rotation on the blog because I think it’s an important thing to do right now, considering I’m still working through some PTSD issues from this past week.

So maybe, just maybe, this exercise will reach way deep inside my psyche where these “damaged” girls still reside and help them heal from their mistakes and trauma, because the one who guides them now has benefit of all these years, all these experience.

And hindsight is 20/20, after all.

I predict this may become an ongoing series of blogs, though I plan to write more than one letter today. I know I can’t cover it all.

But I’ll try to fix at least one thing anyway.

Let’s get to it.

Dear four-year-old me:

fouryearoldgin

I know how scared you are about what’s happened to you. I know you’re confused. You don’t understand why this bad, horrible thing happened, and you think it may be your fault that you are now “damaged” in society’s view and in the view of your God. You knew it was a bad idea to go with a stranger without asking your mother. But I want you to know that what followed was NOT your fault. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t deserve it. God wasn’t punishing you. A very sick man simply took an opportunity to harm someone, and now you feel like you are paying the price.

I wish I could tell you that it will get easier, but that would be a lie. The truth is you’ll get stronger, so much stronger, in fact, than what has happened to you. I know that’s hard to believe given how small and powerless you feel right now, and you’re going to spend the next many years trying to hide that, so everyone around you will see a good girl. A perfect girl. You will chase that perfection until your soul aches, going out of your way to make the best grades, be the best Christian, be the best daughter, until you realize that no matter what you do – you can’t erase what has been done to you.

But this landed in your lap for a reason. Not because you deserve to be hurt, or used, or violated. But because you’re strong enough to take this thing and turn it around to help others, and that is your purpose in this world. One day girls will come to you, to share their stories, because they will be inspired by your bravery. And you will champion them and make THEM feel stronger, better, less damaged as a result.

You will do for others what no one will do for you, because you know how important that is.

I know you don’t feel that brave right now, and that’s okay. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be scared. What that man did to you was wrong. And confusing. And scary. But it’s all on him, honey. You are a sweet, innocent child who did what you did with all the best intentions of a child. He violated your trust because of his own sickness. And though it feels like it now, it had nothing to do with you. It could have been any girl on that street, maybe someone who wasn’t strong enough to handle it – who might have one day used this event to harm themselves in ways they can never take back.

But that’s not you. You’re strong. You’re special. You’re meant for much greater things. And though you feel it right now, you’re not alone.You feel like you can’t tell anyone because the people who love you most won’t love you anymore if they know. That, too, is another lie. They will still love you, and they would do their best to protect you. And one day you will trust enough in someone to tell your story, and he will change your entire life. He’ll save you because he thinks you’re worth saving.

Because you are.

You are not damaged, merely changed. Shame will try to convince you that no one will ever be able to love you the way you are now, but they will. Some will even love you more. One day you will have children who know your story, because you will have long since shed the shame of it and tell it to the world, and they will think you’re one of the strongest people they know.

Feel the pain, because that’s okay. What happened to you really sucked and should never happen to anyone. But you’re going to be okay. You will survive to tell the tale, and tell the tale you will. And you will heal others, because of your strength and the talent that God has given you to re-purpose this evil thing for the good.

That man tried to damage you, but the truth is he cannot damage you, no matter what the world says and no matter how you feel. You are as perfectly you as the day you were born, created by God for a purpose that only you can fulfill.

He tried to extinguish your light, but my darling, darling child – you will burn so much brighter as a result. Some people fear the fire, they run from it, hide from it, do whatever they need to do to protect themselves from it. You, however, were reborn into it. And just like a phoenix, you will rise… beautiful because of your scars – not in spite of them.

***

Dear fifteen-year-old me;

ginpose1985

A long time ago, something bad happened to you that rewired your brain to think you didn’t deserve to say no or draw boundaries, like your body wasn’t yours anymore and you didn’t even really want it to be. You were born a perfect child of God but ultimately damaged by an act of man. Now you see yourself as a half-thing, who will only be beautiful and lovable if someone else finds those things in you.

But the truth is that you will find love many, many times, by many, many good men, and you will still feel this nagging feeling that no one can fully love you because of what happened to you.

Worse, you’re going to think you deserve certain things that happen to you. That God himself smote you in some way and you no longer deserve the happy ending designed for those who are undamaged and perfect. All those books you read reinforce that idea, that you have to be a certain kind of woman to win the heart of a good man.

One day, though, you’re going to write your own books, about girls who look and act more like you, who are deeply flawed and can still find their way to their Happily Ever After, no matter what the world around them has to say about it.

You’ll write those stories because you’ll live those stories, and one day decide the book world is big enough for this radical concept. And you’ll gain a passionate following of women just like you, who were waiting for someone brave enough to tell these stories. Their stories.

Your story.

No one is telling you this right now. They tell you that you have to change who you are to be happy. One day, though, you’re going find that love more than once, and all you’ll ever have to be is you.

Because you are more than enough. The people who can’t see that right now simply aren’t your people. Your people are coming, and they’re going to love you as fiercely as you love them.

Right now, though, you accept a lot of stuff you shouldn’t from people who can tell how vulnerable you are and how lonely you feel. You give yourself away because you think the damage is already done. You accept this crazy idea that if you can’t be loved for real, then an hour of being held or kissed or “loved” will do.

Yet you hate yourself more and more with each indiscretion. You’ll see how little they love you beyond what they can get from you, and you’ll love yourself less as a result.

And with each passing moment you’ll feel more and more damaged, like you deserve the pain they inflict.

You have the right to say no. Though your consent was circumvented so long ago, robbing you of the decision who might earn their way into your body, you never give up this right. So when that man touched you today against your will, that wasn’t him taking something you’ve lost the voice to protect. That was him doing something very wrong because he felt like he could.

There are a lot of guys out there like that, then and now. They look at women as half-lings that are only as valuable as their desirability. And you’re going to figure that out on a subconscious level way before you figure it out as a conscious thought. You’re going to do everything you can to repel guys like that, to keep them away, because you know inside that the next man who touches you without your consent will pay the price for all of them. Inside you burn with this hopeless rage, ready to tear the heads off of these jerks. You’ll fantasize about it in your weakest moments.

And one day you’ll write stories about it, to summon strength that lays dormant within you, so you just won’t feel so damned vulnerable anymore.

I know how much you hate it.

But sweetie, you are so much stronger than you know. You’re going to find your voice and establish your boundaries, and one day people will step out of your path to let you pass. Men will try to intimidate you and you’ll back them down simply with a look. You are formidable. In time, men will call you a force of nature.

And a few will love you enough to brave the storm.

Those are the keepers, and they don’t deserve to pay the price for what that man did to you today.

Where you will need to be brave isn’t to karate-chop some handsy jerk – but to allow those close to you who want to be there. You can’t fear intimacy, because there will be good men who will deserve your best and won’t get it because of fuckos like this one.

Today he grabbed you and you didn’t say anything, mostly because you think you lost that right. It was okay to be scared. It was okay to be shocked. It was okay that you didn’t know what to do. Despite how old you feel, you’re only fifteen.

One day, when you’re much older, you’ll know what to do and it’ll never happen again. And you’ll make a vow that no one will touch you that doesn’t deserve to, and that list will be exceedingly small. Because you matter. You matter big time. As you are no one will ever be again, and one day – way in the future – you’ll figure that out for yourself. Because I know you’ll have to do it your way and in your time, despite those mistakes you could have avoided along the way.

Everything that is happening is leading you somewhere pretty freaking special. And you are strong enough to endure, to get to that finish line… to win.

I know you think you have to be perfect or intact to do that, but let me tell you honey… you already are. You are perfectly Ginger, who is flawed, passionate, intense, vulnerable, strong, fiery, unlovable, lovable, domineering, a pushover, funny, melancholy, angry, stubborn, obsessive, purposeful, smart, stupid, courageous, a coward… every good and bad thing rolled into one… just like every other human on planet earth. You’re just turned up to 11, because you were meant for something greater.

Why?

In that ball of conflicting craziness, you’re kind; you fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, you have the fortitude to stand alone if it means doing the right thing. That’s what makes you special and so, so brave, no matter how weak you feel. Never, ever forget it. All those heroes you admire, who stood up, stood strong, made a difference? You’re one of them. Mostly because of things like this. You know what it means to feel powerless, ashamed, and outcast. And you will spend the rest of your life giving more love to those in need so they don’t feel that way.

You’re everything and nothing rolled into one – and that’s okay. Not everyone will like that. You’re going to scare a lot of folks off. You’re even going to hurt people, not because you want to or mean to, but because that’s the price we often pay to live through the kind of trauma we’ve faced. Hurt people hurt people, and you’re going to do that even with the best of intentions.

Some won’t even be able to forgive you… but you have GOT to learn to forgive yourself.

When you make a mistake, you will do what you need to fix it and move forward, even if the only thing you can ever do is say, “I’m sorry.” You truly mean it, and that’s what counts most. You’ll learn from it, and never repeat it again.

You will make your share of mistakes, but this event was not one of them. You feel forced into silence again because the fact of the matter was that you have been sexually active for a year now, and you feel that you can’t argue that what that man has done to you was bad because you allow older men to touch you all the time.

You’ve internalized all the arguments that they’ve said about victims of sexual assault deserving what they get because you buy this bullshit that you’re only worth what someone else thinks you’re worth.

This is the greatest lie of all. You matter. Your voice matters. Your consent matters. You are the Queen of your own life, and your body is your empire. People must earn their way into your favor. No one can just take it or steal it away, no matter what. No matter who you let touch you, no one else can circumvent your will and touch you without your green light. And you didn’t give it, so what that man did was wrong and you have every right to be upset about it. Your first impulse will be a shameful one, to bury it so no one else knows. It’s something that you’ve been doing for eleven years now, hiding the scars that others have inflicted, because you think they make you ugly and lesser than… that they leave you damaged and unworthy of any good thing.

They absolutely don’t.

One day you will see that you’ve suffered enough, that you didn’t deserve any of that, so punishing yourself beyond that is stupid.

When that day comes, you’ll use it as ammo to fight against a society that has created these shitty rules for girls and women. And, with all your fiery intensity and stubborn persistence, you WILL make a difference, even if it’s only with one girl who feels less alone, less scared, less damaged as a result.

The world needs you, flaws and all, which is why you’re here. You won’t be able to change a lot of the bad stuff that has happened to you, but that was never your job in the first place.

It’s your job to embrace every flaw and every scar and show the world that you can be fucking perfect anyway.

***

Weigh in: 290.4 (-4.2lbs from last week)
Monthly measurements: 48/44/55, size22/24 (down from 49/45/58, size 26/28 from last month)

 

The Selfie Experiment: Learning to add myself back into my life.

Not too long ago I read this article on how women in particular shy away from photos, which virtually remove them from the history of their lives and their children’s lives. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. I know as I was growing up, being “vain” was frowned upon and widely discouraged if you were a girl. If you liked your image too much, there was something wrong with you.

In today’s Selfie-obsessed culture, many older folks carry the same kind of belief. Why do you need so many photos of yourself, they might ask. You just want attention, they might say. It’s unhealthy to need that kind of validation from others, they may assert.

Whether you post a photo for yourself or for others, you’re going to get nailed to the wall for it. You’re “narcissistic,” you’re “mental.”

The peanut gallery has plenty to say on the subject of you and what you think about your self-image, and has always, always, always felt the definitive authority on the subject of, well, you.

If you are a bigger girl, in particular, trolls Internet-wide often make posting selfies an exercise in stamina, to see how much body shaming you can withstand if you dare to share a little too much self-love.

There are those “brave” girls who dared to post a glam shot before prom, only to be kicked in the teeth by Internet strangers. There’s only one thing worse than a non-perfect girl posting a selfie, and that’s her audacity to be happy about it. For that they must shamed immediately and put right back in their place… the shadows.

In the end, when we look back over our lives, we see the decades of watching our children grow up with nary a hint that there was a non-perfect mother around to guide them. After we’re gone, it’ll be up to our children to piece together the limited info we leave behind, often already painstakingly edited by us, leaving gaps and holes that our children – who have often been much more merciful to us than we ever could have been – to fight for each memory we left behind to share with their children and grandchildren who follow.

Eventually we’ll be erased entirely, much to the delight of our critics. This is, after all, what we deserve.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently. Being somewhat in the public eye as an author, my image is often meticulously groomed to court a wide audience. There are those folks who won’t read a book by me because I’m *gasp* like the imperfect girls I write about. In fact, I’m worse. I’m heavier. I’m not as attractive. I’m older. There is nothing about my image currently that begs for the attention of a wide crowd. So to protect my image I have to be hidden, out of view, all my selfies policed by those who want me to sell as many books to as many people as possible.

Yeah. About that. I’m kind of over it.

When I started writing I wanted the career of Danielle Steel, who was the top-selling romance writer of the day. I wanted people far and wide to read my work and love it. I tried to write books that I thought might appeal to everyone. It never worked for me. Mainstream wasn’t my lane. They say write what you know, and here’s what I know: I’m not for everyone.

But I know who my audience is: my audience is that group of women who have been told subtly and outright all their lives that they don’t deserve a place in the spotlight. My audience is the group who edits themselves out of their lives because they don’t want to make the people that love them look bad. They’re embarrassed for their kids who show around their family photos, which dare to include a non-perfect mother. They don’t want their husbands to proudly display a photo on his desk at work, lest he be thought less than for having such a non-perfect wife. They’re the ones taking dozens of photos to post on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s always, always, always of their kids, their families, their friends, food or places they get to see, with nary a selfie in sight.

And the reason that is my audience is because that is who I have always been. I’m not a selfie person. For every one I dare to post, there have been a dozen taken and rejected because I didn’t like the way they looked. It’s like I’m that chick on Seinfeld who looked gorgeous in one light and hideous in the other, so I can *only* post the ones where I feel I look attractive enough to be seen, even though they’re all pictures of the same person.

Years back my bestie, who loves me regardless of which light I’m in, asked me to take a selfie at one of Hal’s shows I attended. When I told Hal of this directive, the Selfie King grabbed my phone and spun around so we could take a photo, no fucks given about the angle, the lighting or the Ginger he happened to snap at the time. It was one and done, because there really IS only one Ginger, and he’s always been as OK with that as my bestie has been.

halselfie

The people who truly love you feel that way, even if you don’t. That’s why they tag you on the photos they share on social media. It’s not to embarrass you or make you look bad. They are happy to include you as part of their world.

showselfie

The people who truly like you, respect you, admire you – they don’t care that you’re non-perfect because they figured something out the people who need you to be perfect haven’t: there’s only one kind of perfect any human can accomplish. You’re perfectly you, and that’s the only thing that matters. In the end, we’re all varying degrees of beautiful, part of this glorious, diverse mosaic of individuals that deserve to be recognized for the unique people that we are.

And guess what? The picture simply wouldn’t be the same without you. So you’re fucking perfect as a result.

The truth is editing myself out of my life, including my career, has done nothing but *damage* my image. How can I write books that empower women to feel beautiful and worthy of love if I’m too scared to post a selfie because it means someone I don’t know won’t like me? My own characters would smack me silly for such foolishness. It’s not only okay that I’m non-perfect, it’s okay that I exist just as I am. I have value just as I am. This journey to health and wellness isn’t about finding that value, it’s about *owning* what was already there. If I’m unhealthy it’s because I’ve forgotten that, and won’t take care of myself as a result.

That’s something the shamers don’t get, nor do they even care. Your health is not the point, no matter how much they claim it is.

So I weighed the pros and the cons of becoming more Selfie-proficient as I’ve dipped my toes in the public image pool. Granted, not too many men are going to “like” my photos. The ones who do are generally older, married, friends, family or gay. I am okay with this. As a married woman, I don’t need a lot of guys paying me attention anyway, and I’ve always preferred the safety of guys who actually don’t want to have sex with me.

Women will like my photos more often than not, and since they’re my audience anyway – that’s ideal. Especially if they’re “non-perfect” like me. (Spoiler alert: EVERYone is non-perfect like me, we all just have different ways to hide or display it.)

So I won’t get any attention I don’t want from predatory men, and I’ll hit my target audience for women. Sounds like a couple for the pro column to me.

Some women will recoil every bit as much as a guy when they dare to see my audaciously posted non-perfect selfies, which means I might lose them as a reader. Honestly what I write would never appeal to them anyway, so really… what’s the loss? If you won’t read my book because you think I’m (insert pejorative here,) you really wouldn’t get much out of my books. I don’t swim in the shallows. I navigate deeper water, one that dares to wear the skin of the non-perfect. If you need your writers to be pretty or perfect, or the “fantasy” of living through the characters they write who are, then I’m simply not the writer for you.

I consider this a pro as well. It’s okay that you don’t want to read my books. There are plenty of writers out there who write those kinds of books, you’re going to be okay. There are plenty of readers out there who read my books, so I’ll be okay too. Hat tip and move on.

See, what many don’t seem to understand about me is that I don’t mind a smaller career as long as it is significant. I’m not out to become a millionaire from my books. I’m out to change the message, which is my only real barometer of success. The fact that I’ve sold even one is a miracle according to the industry, and I’ve sold many more than that, remaining solidly in the top 20% of all independently published writers for six years.

That means there’s room for the non-perfect. There’s room for the message. There’s room for me.

I was perfectly content selling enough to live on, and I did that *without* white-washing my image to some lesser non-perfect image a wider audience could find palpable. My first series hit big even though it broke a lot of rules and smacked conventional romance in the face. For those who couldn’t stand the idea of reading about such non-perfect characters, I basically said #byefelicia. This isn’t the book for you, I’ll tell you before you even buy it. I’ll discourage you from spending your money on something we both know you won’t like.  I’m not for everyone. I know this. You need to know this.

And you need to know that I’m perfectly okay with it.

That’s the kind of ovarian fortitude that built my career. When I caved on that, thanks to industry pressure, my burgeoning career flatlined. I don’t think this is a coincidence. You can’t build a career on bold honesty and then hide from the spotlight and expect things to get better.

That’s not how I roll. That’s never how I rolled. And since my instincts have proved the more successful, Ima go back to what I know works for me.

This is why I’ve dared to make this blog public, to explore all my deepest darkest demons on a public stage. THIS is how I built my image. The people who will buy my books, who will love my work, have always, always, always been the group who looked a little deeper, who cared a little more about what a non-perfect like me had to say. They seek me out. They find me… and they stay.

THAT is my audience.

And I’m done lying to them, watering myself down trying to pretend I’m something I’m not. I’m 100% proof. Some can handle it. Some can’t. That’s just the reality of my entire life.

Knowing this, there is really no risk then in throwing myself into the selfie pool, so I’ve not only been posting more selfies on Instagram but I’ve started posting on Snapchat. I get to utilize these social media accounts for my public image every bit as much as every other account I have. It is limited thus far, but I notice the more I post of my image, the more forgiving I am of it. This is just me, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Each selfie I post is a bold declaration that I deserve to be a part of my history, my family and my career.

These are my first steps on the crowded dance floor of life. Yes, I hear you snickering. Yes, I know for some of you this makes me the butt of your joke. For some, it makes me easier to reject because you find me so repellent.

But, since I was never trying to attract you anyway, I can’t care.

My characters, my audience, my family and my friends… and all of those who dare to swim past the shallows…  deserve more of me, not these limited scattered pieces I’ve been encouraged to leave behind by the people who don’t give a shit about me in the first place, who would rather I be erased entirely.

But I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

I’m putting myself back into my life because I deserve to be there.

Screenshot 2017-06-11 13.22.55

Sunday weigh-in: 292 (1.6lbs lost) 58lb muscle (+3lb gain.)

Non-scale victories: Three of four instances where I was going to excuse a binge, I avoided the binge entirely, and maintained walking 20 mins per workday all week despite back pain.

 

 

Learning not to give a shit about what #theysaid

I was reading an article by UpWorthy today, regarding a sad hashtag that had taken root for people to share their body-shaming history with the world. It was called #theysaid, and the hateful things people have said to us, often under the guise of caring or concern, broke my heart, especially when it was said to very young girls. I started going through my history on Facebook, encouraged by another brave friend doing the same, and ended up remembering some of the more shocking and upsetting things that were said to me, stuff I normally keep buried because that’s where truly hurtful stuff belongs.

Suffice it to say if I had a nickel for every time they said what #theysaid, I’d have a shit-ton of nickels; enough to fill a sock and bonk people on the head with it. I walk around a public invitation for their oh-so-helpful advice and critique. Whether it was said with malice or not, they helped wire my own sadistic chatterbox with lots of ammo to virtually beat myself up for thirty some-odd years, and they did so knowingly and gleefully, thinking I somehow deserved it, telling it would help.

It totally fucking didn’t.

If that’s not a reason to blog it out and work it out, I really don’t know what is.

“Did you get held back?” – said to me by my fifth grade classmates, because I had boobs at 11. They never did believe me when I said I wasn’t. #theysaid

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“You’d be hot if you’d just lose weight.” Said to me by many folks, but the first time I remember hearing it was from my brother-in-law. I was 12. #theysaid

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“Don’t you want to lose weight?? Don’t you want to be thin?” Said by my P.E. coach on the first day of co-ed P.E., when we were tasked with running a mile and I couldn’t do it. I was 15. #theysaid

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“Do your nipples point outward or down?” asked a DJ who was trying to figure out before he met me if he wanted to have sex with me. I was 17. #theysaid

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“Nobody is going to want you.” Said by my first husband, back when he was unmedicated, when he thought tough love would help motivate me change. I was 22. #theysaid

gindangarland

“GO ON A DIET!!” – screamed at me by a guy driving past me as I was *riding a bike*. I was 23. #theysaid

ginkids2002

“Your haircut makes you look like a lesbian. Since you’re associated with me and we’re the same size, this makes me look bad.” – said by a former boss. I was 25. #theysaid

danginportrait

“What does she know about losing weight?? She looks like she weighs 300lbs!” – an anonymous comment when my blog was featured on AOL. I was 33. #theysaid

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“What do you know about sex? How can anyone find your pussy? It’s probably underneath layers of fat and sweat, like fucking cottage cheese!” Another anonymous male on the Internet, who challenged what I might have to say about birth control in a political forum. I was 36. #theysaid

My doctor, at a first appointment, without any testing: “You’re diabetic.”
Me: “I’m not diabetic.”
Doctor: “Do you get up in the night to pee?”
Me: “Yes. I always have.”
Doctor: “Then you’re diabetic.”

SPOILER ALERT: I wasn’t diabetic.

I was 36. #theysaid

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“Have you tried to lose weight?” a smirking doctor asked, when I told him I had tried everything to get rid of my chronic back pain – even though I was flat on my back three times a year because of it. I was 38. #theysaid

headshots2009

“Look I know you women hate to hear the truth, but there is such a thing as a “universal standard of beauty:” and it isn’t you. Men really don’t care about your intelligence, your wit, your charm, your job, etc. All men are genetically programmed to seek the conventionally attractive women… Men don’t want heavy women and we will never hesitate to let you know it.” – an anonymous comment to a blog where I talk about how ineffective fat-shaming is. I was 42. And married. Twice. #theysaid

This was also the same year where a “friend” confided in me what a mutual friend had to say about my size, that this person never wanted to see me hanging around because of my weight, and that I should have gone to the gym instead.

Turns out that friend did NOT say those things. So either she said them because SHE felt those things or she said them because she knew it would hurt me the worst. Either way… #theysaid.

2012Fierce

“Is this writer even a woman?” – said by a book reviewer when I dared to use actual measurements for my Rubenesque heroine, whose HUUUGE bust size was still five inches smaller than what I wore at the time. I was 46. #theysaid

2015

As you can see, scrolling through the pictures, all that “helpful” advice only made the problem worse… as if I really didn’t care to win your favor, to attract you or to make you love me any more.

And guess what?

I don’t.

It’s taken me a few decades but I’ve come to realize that body-shaming doesn’t make you a straight-shooter. It makes you an asshole. And frankly, I’m glad you don’t like me. I get to have a standard too, and shooting you straight, you just don’t measure up, buttercup.

You are one of the main reasons I have had the toughest time dropping the weight, because without this barrier that repels you I MIGHT actually have to deal with you one day, and the thought actually repels me.

When that day comes, and it will not because of you but in SPITE of you, I’ll just have to find clever new ways to repel you.

Until then, while I try to figure that out, kindly fuck off.

And have a nice day. #Isaid