Trigger Warning: When you need to talk about that stuff you can’t talk about.

Today’s blog begins with a forward, because it’s going to look like I’m veering away from what this particular blog normally does and it might come as a little shock to people who expect one thing when they come here, only to get something completely “off topic.”

You’ll see how it comes together eventually, but first, let me get you up to speed:

From about 2004, my online presence has been fairly political. It wasn’t because I had any aspirations to be strictly political and never wanted to paint in such a narrow lane, it’s just that I have always, always, always been very politically conscious, even way before I could vote. It permeates in my writing, whether professional or personal. It’s just who I am, as is being outspoken about it.

This was how I developed my following. This is how I honed a lot of my writing. It is what drives so much of my passion towards stories that change the current narrative. Every time I write about a fat girl finding love, it’s a sociological statement. Needless to say that when you are that driven to make a sociological impact, politics often ride shotgun because this is the framework of our society.

Several of my stories have blurred the lines with politics, because you can’t talk about the current condition without addressing the perimeters that have created it.

As a “public figure” I’ve been warned relentlessly to back away from it, and I did try for a time when I was trying to save the sinking ship of my writing career after careening into the iceberg known as Amazon Unlimited. (Topic for another day.)

What I found, particularly with my readers, who many times are just as passionate about these things as I am, backing away and playing it “safe” was not beneficial. Many of the people who found me and followed me did so because I was fiery, outspoken and saying the things they many times didn’t have the words to say.

I have ALWAYS taken this responsibility very seriously.

The “you’ll make more $$ if you keep your mouth shut” strategy didn’t work for me. As an indie, I can literally tell in real time how what I do impacts my profits. When I was saying nothing, exactly nothing was happening. If I participate in a Twitter hashtag, the sales begin to ring up.

(Literally. I have a report system that rings like a cash register whenever I make money. I can tell IMMEDIATELY if it helps or hurts the bottom line.)

So I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and I’ve finally gotten to a place where I do what I know is right for me, regardless of what other people have to say about it.

(It only took 47 years, but better late than never.)

Still, I have my own set of rules of where I put this information, who sees it and why. Everything I write in a public space is for a purpose, period, and I’m very conscientious about it.

When it comes to my personal FB page, I let loose on whatever topic fires me up. It’s my living room, so to speak, and I get to take the floor amidst my chosen family of friends who have decided that what I say adds to their life experience, hence why they decided to add me in the first place. Whether you unfriend me, hide my statuses or challenge me, that choice is yours. But my FB is my place to share what I think, and what I think has value, and I’m not going to shut up if I feel I need to speak up. I’ve always figured that the people who have befriended me or follow me know this is a part of who I am and make their decisions accordingly, as I do with them.

No doubt there have been some readers who have reached out to befriend me that find me a little off-putting. Like I said before, I know I’m not for everyone. I’m 100-proof, and if you need me watered down, my personal FB is not the place for you. Facebook, the way I see it, is a place for friends. And if you’re my friend, you know this comes with part of the deal, and accepted it because you have accepted me.

I save the more homogenized version of myself for my professional Author Page on Facebook. There, I don’t get as controversial. I talk mostly about the books. I try to engage on less confrontational topics. (And, not for nothing, I don’t post a lot or engage as many people as a result, because it’s damn-near impossible for me to divide myself this way. So that’s irrefutable evidence of how keeping me out of my brand actually affects it.) I have way more followers, which looks successful, but I’m not sure it translates as much into the kinds of sales my reps tell me I could get if I were just more of a soft touch.

What matters more is that even ONE person decided to follow/fan/friend me, whether they buy every book or not. Their support for what I do inspires me to do more of it, and that’s invaluable. And, to quote Kurt Cobain, I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I am not.

This makes me a HORRIBLE marketer for myself, I know because I’m not trying to get the whole world to buy a book. But my books aren’t for the whole world, so… what’s a girl to do?

Twitter, though I use it for writing, sort of gets the same treatment as my personal FB page. The fact is, from a marketing perspective, it pays for me to get involved there in the national discussion. One cannot ignore that, particularly in the last year or so, our national discussion has been mostly political. I don’t shy away from that. And the readers I’m trying to court wouldn’t, either. More people see me if I participate, and – if they like what I say – they check out what I do. Eyes on me is not a bad thing for my career, hence why I’ve kind of married the two there even when many, many of my writer friends religiously follow the “no politics or religion” rule.

And yes, they may be more successful than me because of this but like I said before – I’m striving for significance.

oprah

Kind of like when a reader of this blog wanted to recommend a Ginger Voight book to me to find some personal value as a heavy person. THAT is my reputation as a writer now, and I couldn’t be more proud or feel more successful.

Again, it’s a matter of putting me in my brand. Lots of people can write a book. But only I can write the books I write. I’m what’s different, and so I’ve never really felt it productive to whitewash me out of it just because I’m a little harder to take, saying things people don’t want to hear, or addressing issues polite society normally ignores.

That’s not me. Then, now, or ever.

I just dole it out differently, like FB and Twitter above. Likewise Instagram is *mostly* personal and Snapchat is just for pure silliness. My blogs are broken up between political, professional and personal – with this being my most personal blog.

Since I decided to put myself back in my brand by posting this blog on my professional author page on Facebook, I’ve been extraordinarily conscious of the idea that I have to keep on topic in order to protect the audience I’ve created there.

But what do you do when your personal life is affected profoundly by the political?

I’ve created this space to be a No-Bullshit zone, where I can talk about ANYTHING I think affects my progress becoming the Ginger I want to be.

And that’s where we are today.

Honestly I’ve wanted to have this conversation for months but I’ve held off, working up my nerve to write it. Today I am just going to rip off the band-aid. I can only hope that you can stick with me all the way to the end to see why this discussion was necessary, particularly after this week.

Buckle in. Keep your arms and legs inside the car. I promise I’ll get you to the other side and it’ll be fine.

Let’s talk about November.

Last year I started my physical transformation in July and things were going great. I was losing weight, my body was transforming, people I regard highly were starting to see me in a new light because I was finally conquering one of my demons. It was a productive time.

Then October happened. A tape was released of presidential candidate Donald Trump making some shocking comments about women.

I wasn’t so much surprised by this. I’ve been familiar with his work from the 1980s. He’s always been sexist. He’s always been crass. The things he’s said about women, much less the way he’s treated the women in his life, have laid the groundwork that – when it comes to women – DJT has little to no regard for them if they don’t have something he wants.

This tape laid it out in black and white, irrefutable evidence how little he regards women. In a moment of what they tell me is “locker room talk,” this braggart basically admitted to sexual assault as defined by the simple term: one needs consent to touch another person.

See, a lot of people misunderstand the immediate backlash, thinking the word “pussy” was offensive. It wasn’t. I write lady porn, FFS. I curse like a sailor. I play “Cards Against Humanity” in mixed company. What affected me – profoundly – was the four-letter word he used before that. It is the word “grab” that makes me physically recoil.

We’ve spoken here a lot about my sexual assault when I was four. I’ve been open about it. I’ve talked a lot about it. I feel I’ve got keen insight on how it has impacted me my entire life.

But oddly enough, it wasn’t *that* event that Trump’s comment triggered.

It unearthed another memory, one I had done my level best to suppress, but awoke in my brain like it had just happened, and, honestly, I’m still reeling from it.

I was about 15 years old and I was with a friend of mine in an auto repair shop visiting the owner there, who was our mutual friend at the time. There was this old man there in the shop, kind of Santa Claus looking, in his Texas overalls, just sitting on a stool and shooting the shit with everyone. When I walked past him, he grabbed my breasts with both hands.

I was fifteen years old and wore a size 42C bra, and this guy just grabbed him like he had every right to. Like it was a part of the conversation. He didn’t ask. There was no preamble. They were just breasts in his general vicinity and he decided that was enough to grab them.

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump

how about now

Still to this day I get incredibly antsy when men I WANT to touch my breasts get too grabby. I will automatically shy away and shut that shit down, even if you’re my husband. Ryan Effin Reynolds himself, who holds steady at #1 on my Laminated List, couldn’t even pull that shit off.

This event was why.

And I had all but forgotten it… until October of last year.

After that it became my mission to ensure that a man who could say what Trump said would never make it to the White House. Ever. Just like Clayton Williams sealed his fate with me in 1990, by comparing the weather to rape and saying, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” That ‘off the cuff’ comment virtually ensured my vote for the incomparable Ann Richards back in the day, and I made it my mission for her to win. Likewise in October of last year, I made up my mind DJT could never make it to the highest office in the nation, becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Because… no.

(Incidentally, it was “mansplained” to me in 1990 that what CW said wasn’t that bad, because ALL men talked like that. I didn’t buy it then either. Maybe I just hold men to a higher standard? I don’t know.)

But then… November happened.

The unthinkable happened.

And that was where I started to fall apart. And I know that I risk the dreaded “snowflake” comparison by admitting that, but this wasn’t just about Trump winning an election. This was about something much, much, much deeper and more distressing than that, that had taken root in my spirit a long, long time ago, that had been simmering just below the surface of everything, this past trauma that had never been dug out like the cancer that it was.

His becoming president was merely the trigger bringing it all to the surface.

I spent the whole night of 11/09/2016 sobbing when I realized that I lived in a country where someone could say something like that – and all the other horrid things he said or did – and it wasn’t enough to prevent him from becoming one of the most powerful men in the world.

As each minute passed, I felt more powerless. I felt more vulnerable. And that’s when I did what I have always, always done. I ate. I was crying while I did it, even on November 10, when I was trying to explain to my coworkers why it was hitting me so hard.

I knew when I was binging, too. I wasn’t in denial one bit. I was aware every second with every bite. I would eat past being satiated and keep going, till I was miserable and in pain. I kept going. I kept going and going and going. Just the act of eating made me feel, for the lack of a better word, safe.

My bestie and I were talking about anxiety not too long ago and he said, “Chew something, it gives you the feeling of being safe. It’s primal, going way back to when we lived around campfires. If you were able to eat, you were in a safe space.”

I chew gum now, but back in November/December, I was eating everything that wasn’t nailed down. I’m not the four-year-old I was back then, or even the fifteen-year-old. I knew from experience the only way I could protect myself from DJT and his ilk was to make myself repellent as possible, so gaining weight was a complete win.

And I knew in my head I couldn’t keep going like that, that DJT and his ilk aren’t worth dying over, so I knew I’d stop the insanity eventually – and of course I did. We’re in the fight of a lifetime now, and childhood defenses won’t work anymore. You can deflect confrontation if you look a certain way, but you need to be prepared if that confrontation comes and someone finally calls your bluff.

Now that we live in a country where men far and wide can wear “Grab Em By the Pussy” T-shirts, virtually triggering PTSD in someone like me on the regular, I know I need to be stronger to make my stand.

I don’t stand alone, and that helps.

But it’s still a struggle, particularly this week, when I was tossed into a fight or flight situation full of triggers that affected me HARD.

Honestly I had a pretty stellar week as far as the food goes. I kept off of sodas, drinking more than 100 oz of water per day. I laid off of sugar, only indulging in a little chocolate sauce on some fresh banana as a dessert for a couple of nights. I allowed myself to eat better foods, mostly devoid of dairy except for a few exceptions. As a result I felt better, even with my back. It’s still in shoddy shape but I’m more mobile, and that’s a win.

THEN… Thursday happened.

I work in a hospice, which is Medicare mandated to have a certain number of hours performed by volunteers. One of our volunteers is a special needs individual, who comes to work with us as part of his life skills program. He has Down’s Syndrome, and is a friendly guy loved by almost everyone in the office. We treat him like he is one of our own and he loves it there.

Last year, around election season, I realized that he was vocally pro-Trump, which the gray-haired lady who brings him every week, made it clear she was as well. At the time I thought she was his parent, and I couldn’t for the LIFE of me understand why she’d worship the likes of Trump after what he did with Serge Kovaleski, much less encourage what I thought was her special needs son to do. I knew at that point to stay away from either of them because any conversation there would be unproductive.

This volunteer comes every Thursday and they always start in the lunch room, where he can socialize with everyone, which he loves to do. They were already there when I walked in the other day, so I decided to sit at the other end of the table with my friends and just hide in my phone until they left.

Alas, it was not to be.

While they were having their own conversation, my coworker leaned into me saying, “They shouldn’t allow Trump to tweet.” It’s a sentiment I fully agree with, so I leaned in to share what I was finding on my phone. Our coworker next to her decided to ask what we were talking about, and my coworker said, “Oh, just how much of an idiot Trump is.”

It was the wrong thing to say.

The volunteer said, “I like Trump!” His handler, whom I found out later was not his parent, said, “I like Trump, too. I think he’s doing great things for this beautiful country, bringing it back to what it used to be.”

So she posed the question: “Why don’t you like him?”

At first, I tried to shut the conversation down. I just mumbled, “There are too many reasons to list,” and tried to back out of it. (I want credit for that at least.)

Nevertheless, she persisted.

So finally I said, “Because I am a rape survivor.”

She looked at me, this woman of 50 years plus, and said, “What’s that?”

My coworkers and I blinked at her for a second before I said, “It means I’m a survivor… of sexual assault.”

She immediately disregarded that, and me, “Well that has nothing to do with Trump!”

I tried to explain about the comments he made, and she wasn’t going to listen to that either. She shut it down by saying, “FAKE NEWS.”

THEN she deflected to Clinton and Hillary, and Obama, and all the ills of progressive policy, which she says have ruined this country in the last thirty years. When I pointed out that Republicans have, by and large, been in charge of policy for the last thirty years, she deflected again.

It devolved to the point where I could sense how it was affecting my overall health, noting how it raised my heart rate and caused me to tremble with this impotent tension that had no where to go, and I finally said, “You know what, we can’t have a conversation about this because we just have two differing opinions.”

She said no at first but then kept going, on and on and on, prodding the bear on the chain just like a child teases a dog tied to a tree, ultimately calling me a communist and a socialist because I believe we need to take care of each other, to which I replied, “Gee, I thought wanting to take care of each other is what made me a good Christian.”

Finally I said, “Fine. Sway me. Tell me one good thing he’s done. Just one.”

After she stammered for a minute she decided, “You’re right. We can’t have this conversation.”

That, after hammering me with her opinion for nearly twenty minutes straight, taking up my precious lunch hour to hurl a few personal insults as well.

The whole thing was so distressing to me that I ended up in severe pain from holding back all I WANTED to say to her but didn’t, mostly because our volunteer was right there and I wasn’t going to attack her and – by default – attack him for the beliefs he shares.

The girls took care of me afterwards, we even went for a walk though I was not well, physically or emotionally, after such an upsetting conversation. It wasn’t her necessarily. It was everything else that has been bubbling up for the past however many months. She just unleashed it because, as I later learned, she likes to poke people who work there and has had about three other blow-ups before. Some employees changed their entire lunch schedule JUST to avoid her.

As was her MO, she just wouldn’t let up until I had to confront it, which honestly pisses me off even more because I feel she does it mostly for the LOLZ of doing it. She dropped her grenade and happily skipped away, having wiped her ass on me like she felt I deserved. She devolved to name-calling, I didn’t. I kept it to the issues, she didn’t. But she got the last word in, so she was happy as a pig in shit.

Meanwhile I was left in the debris of my good day, trying to recover from a drive-by of nastiness that I had withdrawn my consent even to participate in, right from the beginning.

Consent is everything, folks.

Later I comforted myself with a diet soda and a sliver of chocolate cake because that’s how that shit works for me. I needed to feel better and that’s the quickest route.

But it just drives it home that when I feel powerless, I do that kind of thing. It’s a defense mechanism I developed when I was very young and it still gets used in a very reactionary way.

This was my stumble this week, and why I had to talk about it.

People might say, “Well, just don’t engage these people. Don’t allow them to have that kind of control.”

I’m working on it. I’m not there yet. Not by a long shot, especially when current events trigger such deep-seated post-traumatic stress that physically bubbles up in me no matter HOW I handle the situation. I only engage because if I ran from it, I would feel even MORE powerless, which isn’t an option.

My buddy Hal is a master of not taking it personally, and I would have PAID MONEY to see him handle that woman and that conversation, because I don’t know how to take my own personal reaction out of it. DJT is a personal affront to me. And this has nothing to do with the fact he’s on the other side of the aisle. This has everything to do with the fact I consider him a vile sexist who contributes NOTHING useful to any conversation he’s in, and felt that way even back when he had a (D) behind his name. My husband was threatened with the pain of divorce if he made me watch that stupid Apprentice show because for the past thirty some odd years something about this guy has triggered me. HARD. He’s a smug, condescending elitist who would have no use for that woman, or particularly her volunteer, if they didn’t worship the ground he walks on. We know this because we have three decades worth of evidence supporting the hypothesis, particularly the way he speaks about the people he thinks are beneath him (which, btw, is everyone.)

That audiotape finally showed me WHY he vexes my spirit. He’s a predator in every since of the word, and someone who has been hunted as prey could see it.

But I can’t convince her of this. I can’t convince anyone of this, which has been the most heartbreaking part. Every day there’s something new that makes me point and say, “THIS! This, this, this. THIS is why,” and it doesn’t seem to make any kind of impact at all. For a while there I actually felt like I was going crazy. I grew up thinking Nazis were bad, Russia should be regarded as a potential threat and no one – EVER – made fun of someone physically disadvantaged without branding themselves an asshole.

Simply put: This is no longer the country or society I thought it was seven months ago.

Which brings me right back to feeling powerless. Every day is a struggle to come to terms with this and not change my core beliefs as a person.

They tell me this is why people voted for him, because they felt that powerlessness for the last eight years. If this is how you felt, then know I empathize. And I empathized beforehand too, because feeling powerless is nothing new to me, or the other people who felt like the last eight years actually made us feel a part of something again, where this was our country too and we had a right to it every bit as much as you did.

Things may be back to “normal” for you, but like the old saying says, “Normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

How do we fix this where we call ALL feel normal at no one else’s expense?

I honestly have no idea. I think it has something to do with learning that we’re all the same deep down, that a difference of opinion doesn’t make us an enemy, and a win for the least of us is a win for all of us.

Again, blame that on my crazy Christian upbringing, which is why I’ve always championed those who needed an advocate.

Now I just need to figure out how to be an advocate for me in the process. This, I fear, will take a lot more time and self-examination, which is exactly what this particular blog is for.

Stay tuned, I guess…

workinprogrewss

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.

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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.

 

 

Fat Town.

It should go without saying that I love to travel. An open freeway beckons to me like a lonely lover. I have literally traveled – by car – from one coast to the other, and loved each and every minute of it. This is my idea of paradise:

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And I plan to do it again and again and again, until the wanderlust is exhausted at last.

I don’t anticipate this happening anytime too soon, especially since my Muse loves to travel every bit as much as I do. You put me on the open road with some good music on the playlist, and my creativity just unlocks. It’s unchained. Unstoppable. Other people see mountains and cactus and oceans and forests from their windows. I see stories. I see the history of the Native American going west, and the backdrop for the civil war going east. I see monsters and aliens and heroes and survivors as I pass through place to place, summoning the spirits of those long gone, as legend, history and imagination blend into one.

I’ve even been known to meander through cemeteries, the older the better. I love reading names and dates and wondering exactly what their lives were like. I long to know what comprised the dash between their birth date and the day they died.

If there’s a story there, I want to know what it is. The more forgotten, the better.

I guess you could say I’m a seeker.

My mother must have been too because we never stayed in one place for very long. By the time I was eighteen I had moved over twenty times, across two states and a smattering of towns. I learned at a young age that if you get stuck where you are unhappy, you simply move.

Dan was the same way, so I became even more of a nomad once I met him.

During my many travels, I’ve gone through tiny little slips of towns that barely have anyone living there, yet live there they do. They seem satisfied with that tiny little parcel of land, and breathe life into what might otherwise be a ghost town without them. I often wonder if maybe the people who settled that town were heading somewhere else, and just decided that particular speck of land was good enough, and no one that followed ever thought to question. Kind of like the scene in Pleasantville, where wild child Jennifer, as played Reese Witherspoon, asked her class what was beyond the borders of Pleasantville, and everyone seemed so puzzled by the question.

Why would anyone go beyond Pleasantville? It’s just so darned… pleasant.

Clearly these small town folk across our nation feel the same way. A small number of people stay there in those little one-streetlight towns, where the only jobs seem to be at the fast food restaurants or gas stations where people passing through need to stop to refuel before they head on out again.

Seemingly, they never feel stuck enough to move, as if they are perfectly comfortable there. I can’t fathom such things, personally. Not when there’s so much to see and do and experience.

Why stay in one place?

And yet… here I am, for the fourth decade straight, living right square in the middle of the same place I’ve always lived: Fat Town.

I first rolled into Fat Town way back in the 70s and figured, hey. It’s comfortable here. I know who I am here. Nobody bothers me much. The expectations are low for all the residents here. People outside our borders look us up and down, decide what we can give, and what they want to take, and more often than not pass us by.

It is that “passing us by” thing that is a big, big appeal for Fat Town, especially for someone like me.

Though it seems illogical to everyone else who damns fat as the quick pathway to an early demise, Fat Town is safe.

That hidden speck of town is off the beaten path by design. Fat works many times like a fortress, to keep people at arm’s length when it might prove too dangerous to let them any closer. So we burrow a little deeper away from folks, setting up our environment to keep us as comfy (and padded) as possible. We have all our favorite luxuries and all our chosen enablers, who help us keep what is often a hard life more comfortable.

You might be asking how Fat Town could be comfortable, given the residents are often reviled and hated, heaped with public shame and abuse as though they deserve it, simply because they weigh more than folks think they should.

Doesn’t this make us a target for negative attention?

Not as much as Thin Town might think, especially if you’re a woman. Everyone outside of Fat Town is perfectly content ignoring those of us who live in it, which is quite comforting for some of us who learned a long time ago if you’re targeted for how appealing you look, really bad things can happen.

Lately I’ve been thinking how my life would change if the barrier I put in between me and everyone else was gone. I’ve tried to use some visualizing techniques, since I’ve never been able to imagine myself “thin”. My brain simply won’t go there, and I think I’ve pinpointed the problem: stark terror. When I think about hugging someone I care about, someone who could hurt me because of how much I care, without that extra padding between us to absorb the blow, I feel like I could hyperventilate. Likewise, I start to feel uncomfortably vulnerable when I think about being in a crowd of strangers without my Fat Suit on to keep me oddly invisible to those who might cause me harm.

It just seems easier, and safer, to keep everyone, good or bad, at the border of Fat Town.

That terror is important to understand. I moved here initially because I was terrified of men, and men generally don’t favor girls who live in Fat Town. I probably didn’t do it consciously to start, but it has been a more or less conscious choice for about three decades now.

I was a pretty child, or so they tell me.

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Even when I was a baby, men would line up outside the church nursery just to hold me. It was one of my mother’s favorite stories.

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I was the star of my life up until I was four, when I was snatched from my front yard by a stranger who would forever alter how I looked at men. By no real surprise, I guess, this made damned sure I’d alter how men would look at me thereafter.

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Then…

2.2.2017

Now.

Suffice it to say, I found Food Town before I eventually moved to Fat Town. I was a four-year-old harboring a dark and dirty secret I felt I couldn’t share. I needed comfort for that. The only person who knew about that need and subsequently could meet it was me, at the time a four-year-old child. I decided to self-comfort with the only thing a child knows how to do. An extra cookie. Another piece of candy. A bowl of ice cream – anything to make the boo boo sting just a little less. Even today, if I’m feeling bad I reach for more. More of what? More of anything. Whatever you have that makes me feel good, load me up. Make it count. I wanna feel it. It’s instinctual. Primal. It all goes back to that four-year-old who had to self-comfort and had no clue how to do it. I had to use the limited tools I had at the time. And just like the baby doll I had way back then, I would feed this aching four-year-old when she cried.

Since she cried in private, because no one could know why she cried, likewise she ate in private, because no one could know why she ate – and she sure as shit wasn’t going to tell anyone.

I’ve written about this in a few of my books, taking a heroine who has been stained by sexual shame and how she self-comforts with binge eating as a result. Though I’ve written some very explicit intimate scenes, these were the ones that make me feel most exposed. At one point, I literally threw my laptop across the bed after I finished writing one. You know that dream of being naked in a crowd? That. Times, like, a gazillion.

The safest part of living in Fat Town is that most people will chalk it up to my laziness alone. I simply have no willpower. They don’t know the real reason, which for a lot of us would be the worst thing ever.

By the time I was ten, I was a secure resident in Fat Town. And of course there were kids who said what they were going to say, but I usually let it go in one ear and out the other. It probably helped to be bigger than the bullies, another silver lining of Fat Town. How do you frighten off a bear? Pretend to be bigger than the bear.

I simply chose not to pretend.

Being picked last for games didn’t matter much to me because I didn’t care to play those games anyway. That kind of physical activity didn’t allow for creativity, at least the kind I liked to indulge. I would play alongside my favorite TV shows quicker than I’d play kickball. I might have danced, the ultimate form of physical creative expression, but there were a lot of hang-ups there. In a strict religious upbringing, anything that even hints at sexual expression is forbidden, even more so if you’ve been chewed up like a  piece of gum and you can’t let the world know how tainted and corrupted you are and risked being loved or thought of any less.

Since being pretty was no longer my objective, I aspired to be the smartest person in class. I easily reigned over the playground with a ton of friends who would love the imaginative games we’d play.

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Then, like now, I was fun, I was just way more outgoing. I liked to have a good time. I attracted friends who loved to laugh, to play, to *live.* And why wouldn’t I believe I was awesome? I had all these great qualities and I knew with all certainty the only man I let close to me after 1974 would never, ever hurt me. My daddy gave me that confidence. He treated me like one in a billion, and that’s what I felt like.

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Then he hurt me in the most awful way possible. He left.

I was eleven when my dad died, and I felt like I had lost the only person in the world who treasured me for who I was. This was more than love. It was more than the value I got from others. I actually felt like a prize, like I, myself, was this precious gift to be exalted above all others.  Suddenly, like a splash of cold water in my face (more like a tsunami,) I realized that not everyone would love me as unconditionally, or treasure me as wholly.

In fact, I realized a little late (especially given my long residency at Fat Town) that not many people wanted to love me at all. Forget being treasured, I found myself fighting for basic human value. Being pudgy was cute when I was a kid, but the older I got, the more work I had to put into in order to earn that courtesy from other folks. I needed to change for most of them to even pay attention to me, much less value me or – God forbid – love me.

But the bad habits were already in place, second nature to me by that point.

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Through the 1980s I tried many times to leave Fat Town, if only to chase after everyone else in Pubertyville where all the boys I liked seemed to live, only to get hurt by someone’s unthinking actions. I’d poke my head out only to get bonked by some karmic anvil, then race right back to where I was comfortable (safe), bolting the doors and locking them tight so I couldn’t get hurt like that ever again.

I don’t know that it was conscious at this point either. I’d get hurt, I’d eat. I’d eat more. I’d eat a lot. I’d eat as much as it took to numb the pain, and as the pain grew more intense, that amount multiplied. It only exacerbated the problem and became this endless self-defeating cycle.

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What Fat Town looked like in 1982, when I was twelve…

 

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Fat Town circa 1985, when I was fifteen.

People who live outside of Fat Town see how illogical this is and tell us, time and again, that in order for things to change we must change some things. But change hurts and that’s how we deal with pain. Food is not only a comforter, it’s instant gratification. The further you get into Fat Town, the more appealing that is. I can eat that chocolate cake and get a boost of endorphins *right now*. I’m happier, *right now.* It’ll take weeks, months, even years to see the kind of change I need to truly escape Fat Town, to make me as “happy” as the world around me tells me I’ll be. You know, later. Eventually.

They want me to give up happiness now and pull the lever on a slot machine for a possible happier happy in the near future, in a future I really can’t even envision for myself. And for what? So I can live longer? So I can attract people who show me daily they don’t give a shit about me? Those aren’t necessarily the high stakes you think that they are.

By the time I was thirteen, I just kind of figured out my life was going to hurt. If things were going well, I could count on something big and bad happening to keep me from getting too full of myself, like God making sure I paid for such a healthy sense of esteem when I was little. I was raised to believe humility was a virtue, particularly for women, so there was a problem with someone feeling a little *too* special. The pounds packed on. Acne hit at thirteen like a machine gun. My teeth started to twist, and my mother certainly didn’t have money for orthodontics. It wasn’t like I was ever going to be some raving beauty.

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I couldn’t figure out why I, who had been denied so much in my young life, should give up the one thing that gave me true, unquestionable pleasure. Simply put: getting fatter didn’t matter. I had set up my place in Fat Town, where things were safely predictable, even if lonely.

I’d been behind the eight-ball for nearly ten years at that point, and nothing around me indicated it was going to get any better, at least for the long haul. Putting a diet on top of it often felt like insult to injury, considering the thin girls I knew weren’t any happier. They were every bit as scared, lonely and insecure as I was, they were just better at hiding it.

Only I carried around the physical manifestation of such things.

Despite my fluffier exterior, I still attracted people. I was still creative, smart and fun, plus I cared about people. A more devoted friend you couldn’t find. I knew if people loved me despite my permanent address in Fat Town, they deserved the best of me. And that’s what they always got. Still, to this day, that is what they get, maybe even more so.

And I got lucky with some great people. There was my bestie Jeff, who was the opposite of me in every physical way…

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Yet he loved me every bit as unconditionally as my Daddy did. Maybe even more so. He treasures me, and he has showed that to me every single day of our 37-year friendship. This is remarkable to me because he has seen it all, good, bad and ugly. Of anyone in my life, he knows me best. He knows all the dark secrets, all the bad choices, all the temptations I did and didn’t take. Even still, to this day, I confess my darkest desires, my most impossible dreams, and I know he won’t judge me or love me any less.

He was even the first person I told about what happened to me when I was four, when his unconditional love saved me from making the worst, most permanent “instant” fix of my life.

Other people got in too. I made all kinds of friends from all walks of life. Though some will sell you the sad sack fat girl meme, I still got hit on. I still GET hit on, and in fact got hit on this very week when I went to a club to see a friend play. No matter my zip code, I’m still me, so I still attract folks, even living squarely in the middle of Fat Town at my new address at the cross streets of Old Street and Obesity Boulevard.

They’re just fewer, and I’m kind of okay with that because along with good folks, there were also those who got a little too close who were not so good. Back-stabbing friends, people who would use me to get to other people, or girls who would use me to make themselves look better to guys by comparison. Not the least of which were a whole number of men who were not so noble. As I got older, and started filling out into a fuller figure, this mostly meant older men. In Pubertyville, everyone was every bit as insecure as I was, and they couldn’t risk having a girl like me on their arm for the whole world to see.

Older men didn’t care about that stuff, because usually I was never on their arm in public either. They made their visits to Fat Town in private, where they could savor womanly curves wrapped in youthful innocence and I was starving enough for attention that I’d let them.

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That’s the paradox of Fat Town. It can keep you safe from some, but if you’re used to hurting yourself, it makes it that much easier to accept when others hurt you as well. And I felt like I had control over it, because I didn’t get unwanted sexual attention like other poor girls did. I didn’t have to learn how to tell a guy to fuck off, that I wasn’t interested.

I simply took their interest away, and took my chances with those that remained.

I never wanted just anyone to want me, that shit was far too dangerous. But I still wanted to be the star to someone I loved, just like I used to be, without all the risk. Hence why I would always, always, always return to Fat Town, where the expectations are lower, fewer people gather, and no matter what happens I can self-medicate with my drug of choice (food) – to hell with the consequences. So what if fewer people loved me? Love hurt. So what if life was shortened? Life hurt.

Food comforted. It made the hurt hurt less.

Despite the alcohol I started drinking when I was fourteen, or the sex I started having around the same time, food became my vice of choice. Not only was it quick and easy and often cheap, it was socially acceptable across the board. The universal wisdom of the ages? Fix it with food. Have a bad day? Have some chocolate. Feeling a bit out of energy? Have a soda for a pick-me-up. It was socially ingrained into me that food was a fix-all, which was even validated by a doctor when I was eight years old. After I passed out at lunch one day in the third grade, the doctor diagnosed me with low blood sugar and recommended a candy bar and a soda if I got too lightheaded. My own mother wouldn’t let me have soda, but a doctor said it was okay?

Well, okay!

Food became my luxury of choice. We couldn’t afford skates, but I could get a dollar candy bar at the store and feel pretty darned good while I ate it, and after the sugar rush kicked in.

The greater the pain, the greater the fear, the greater the indulgence. If one is good, two must be better. When you feel like less, simply have more. This made sense to the four-year-old who was still comforting me.

All these years later, feeding a problem is still part of our cultural message, which makes changing these habits a battle I usually fight all alone.

And like any four-year-old, I’d rather have a Snickers bar than kale.

Growing up is hard.

Even more challenging, in and out of Fat Town are the feeders. It is our nature to comfort with food. It is our nature to celebrate with food. It is our nature to seek food. The poorest person on the planet will feel like a king as long as he has something to eat. It is our basic human luxury. So, when we care for others, food is where we start, from the time they put a newborn baby in our arms. Even those who criticize you for your Fat Town zip code will be the first to invite you to lunch, take you to dinner, buy you something delicious and tell you to indulge in a decadent dessert, just this once, because you deserve it.

The people we love deserve to be spoiled, right?

Spoiled. What an appropriate word.

Even my husband, whom I love and I know loves me, will pop off with, “It’s not like we do it every day.”

Confession: I do it every day. I think about, obsess over and rejoice in food every day. I indulge in one more bite every. single. day.

Unlike an alcoholic, who is encouraged to change their behavior by divorcing themselves from everything in their life that led to the problem, a food addict has to learn to manage their disorder when they are inundated with triggers every hour of every day. Whenever we eat, we have to make conscious choices about the food we place into our mouths. Back in 2003, when I first decided to get serious, it was like I was playing Russian Roulette every time I took a bite. Every. Single. Bite. Matters. And we have to question where that line is between healthy nourishment and unhealthy emotional eating.

That’s why everyone always jokes that they’ll start their diet on Monday. You can’t escape it. It’s all around you. Every day. Name me a major holiday that doesn’t revolve in some way around food. Name me a celebration that doesn’t have food at the heart of it. There’s always something looming in the future that makes “giving it up” inconvenient. Even at our offices, our coworkers show their love for us by buying donuts or the bosses spring for a pizza party.

At my office, there’s a constant supply of M&Ms because our CEO has decided to use the fun little candy as a way to teach our new business model.

Hell, even I keep a candy dish on my desk to give my coworkers who pass my desk a little something to perk up their day.

It’s cheap and it makes people feel good. What more could you ask?

So you make it work in Fat Town, which, even if you’re doing anything to ultimately move away from it, is your address for the next several months or years while you make these changes. And truth be told, it’s not so bad to live in Fat Town. Yeah, we have problems. We get shamed on the regular. We have to go to special stores to buy clothes. Sometimes we find ourselves suffering health consequences from our extra weight, and very little empathy riding shotgun since, after all, we’ve done this to ourselves. But I know who my friends are. I know that men who interact with me want no more than I’m willing to give. I have a built-in asshole detector the minute I meet someone new where I can tell whether or not they’re a decent human just by how they look at me. I’ve got decades of experience now reading people, and I know when they see the fat, and when they see me.

Sure, we don’t get promoted as often, overlooked as “lazy” because that’s the common stereotype. Sure, we don’t a dozen likes on our Instagram selfies by men, who reserve their kindnesses and their compliments for the women they want to bone.

I, personally, consider that a plus.

Sure, there are people who won’t read my romance novels because they think I’m talking right out of my ass, because what woman from Fat Town knows about real romance anyway?

I’ve been managing those things for years, and most of the time I come to the conclusion that my fat has actually *saved* me from the folks who couldn’t be bothered to care about me in the first place. I’ve made it more challenging to love me because I need people to get through the obstacle course to prove that they’re worthy, that they won’t hurt me, that they can be trusted with the treasure that is me.

I’ve locked it away in the ultimate safe. And only those really special people, who are brave enough to risk the stain of loving someone from Fat Town, have cracked the code and proven themselves worthy.

I guess I really AM Mjölnir.

So you see the confusion. You see my dilemma. Just like that small town girl who is intimated by the lights, noise and dangers of the big city that may call to her, I’m petrified to permanently say goodbye to Fat Town. Hence why this is where I’ve always returned.

It’s a battle, for sure. But one thing about me… true no matter where my address… I am a conqueror.

It’s time for me to hug that little four-year-old and tell her everything is going to be okay. She’s going to be all right. I’m going to keep her safe in ways I never knew how to do before, because I’m a lot stronger than I used to be. I’ve been through many battles, I wear many scars, but I’m still here. I’m still breathing. And that means I am stronger than what has happened to me. I don’t need to pretend I’m bigger than the bear. I AM the bear. So we can venture outside the fortress, we can live the life we are terrified to live, because no matter what, we’re going to be okay.

It’s time to move on now. It’s time to travel somewhere new. It’s time to get “unstuck.”

I’ve never said this before, and maybe the Universe needs to hear it: I can handle it now. No matter who I meet. No matter what I face. I’m ready.

Today I can only make a step, but I’m taking it. One step away from Fat Town and towards Gingerville.

Let’s go.

Limitations are not my favorite.

So yesterday was my weigh-in. I actually debated long and hard about doing a weekly or a monthly weigh-in, but weekly weigh-ins, though frustrating, keep me more on track than letting things go for a month. If a weigh-in looms, the Good Girl in me wants to make sure that the numbers go down instead of up, which helps me make better choices than I would if I could “put off” that scary marker of progress for another three weeks.

It keeps me accountable, and that’s what I need right now. I may need you all to talk me down from a ledge here and there when hormonal stuff and life in general don’t yield the results I want. As I already told you, if I’m aiming for two pounds, I really want it to be anything over that.

Some weeks that just won’t happen.

This week was one of those weeks.

I lost 1.4lbs so I’m down to 295. I’m actually surprised it was anything at all. My workout regimen at the moment is walking during my two 10-minute breaks at work, and then on one weekend day, I walk at one of my favorite spots in the world, Mile Square Park. It is my place of zen, where I can walk 4-5 miles in a stretch and barely feel the pain.

To me, this was slow. Apparently it wasn’t slow enough.

Lately I’ve been feeling the pain. I start nothing easily. We’ve all heard “no pain, no gain,” and that’s how my brain was wired. I want to see drastic results so I feel like I need to make drastic changes, which is always, always, always how I start out.

Unfortunately, though I did start doing this about a month or so ago, I wasn’t able to keep up with that kind of workout regimen. About three weeks ago I hurt my knee. Not sure how, but it was pretty debilitating for about a week. So I took some days off and went right back to it. Not so surprisingly, the pain returned, adding back pain to the mix for all the compensating I was doing to go easy on my knee.

As some of you might well know, back pain has become my nemesis these last eleven years and will sideline me quicker than anything – especially since the only real thing that ever worked to control it was medicinal marijuana and I’m a respectable working woman these days. I’m not going to go to work “high,” just like I never wrote high.

My son Tim cautioned that I take it easy and give myself a chance to heal. I’m not one to relax and take it easy, and going slow is not in my playbook. For anything. Not being able to walk every break like I was doing, or going to my favorite park for a big weekend tally of about 4-5 miles, was difficult. It’s a glacial pace that feels like I’m not moving at all.

But what was more difficult was losing sleep because of the pain I’ve been in. Limping around my office because everything just hurt so bad, and still pretending I was operating at 100%, doing everything I normally do and jumping in to do more cuz, that’s just me. But it’s left me feeling even older than my 47 years, which is depressing as hell.

Limitations are not my favorite. I don’t like being told no, or that I can’t do something. Unless it’s something I don’t want to do and then whatever, but most of the time I want to power through and impress the bejeezus out of everyone – including me.

I’m hard as fuck to impress, at least when it comes to me. But we already went over that. I also don’t forgive myself easily, so this chatterbox has had a field day whispering in my ear that I was going to embarrass myself with a public weigh-in that didn’t show a loss, or worse. Showed a gain. I had to make peace despite the chaos that this week hasn’t been so much about losing weight as it is compromising with what I was willing to do in order to meet my goal. So I couldn’t walk? What else could I do?

My main goal this week was ditching Diet Coke. Has not been easy, but has not been as hard as I thought either. I didn’t have the normal raging headache withdrawal, thanks to drinking more water. And it’s not that I don’t like water. I don’t put anything in it, I just ice it up and go and usually I’m good.

It just doesn’t do a whole lot to turn me on. It’s kinda boring, especially when you have to drink so freaking much of it a day. Fortunately at work they gave us a pretty cool insulated cup for Administrative Professional’s Day, and it keeps water pretty cold, which works out well for a sipper like me. Because of this I’m drinking more, which means I’m less tempted to reach for a Diet Coke.

Extremely good news for Goal #1.

It helps that the vending machine at my office has been possessed by the spirit of Hal Sparks, who regards Diet Coke as “the devil’s ass sweat.” (He’s not far wrong.) Even if I put in my 85 cents in that dumb machine in a moment of weakness, whether I get my fix or not is like a pull on a slot machine. And, just like a slot machine, I wind up putting in more than I take out.

I also went back to ordering tea when I got lunch out. Since I broke my addiction to sweet tea in the 80s, it’s my go-to drink if I don’t want to drink water. A shout-out to all restaurants who provide a flavored tea that doesn’t include sugar. Y’all come through in a clutch, I’m just saying.

To ease myself off of sodas, I’ve been drinking Diet Ginger Ale instead. It’s a caffeine-free option that includes ginger, which they tell me is good for me, especially when it comes to controlling inflammation.

Either way I don’t care, give me some damn bubbles dammit.

For food, I’m doing the intermittent fasting – mostly. This means I typically eat between 1pm and 10pm, but life will occasionally throw a wrench in my plans. As long as I do it every other day, I feel like I’m getting some benefit out of it. (I do prefer to do it daily, though.) (Working on it.)

The next challenge will be watching my calories, which I’m kinda doing now, opting for foods that have a lower caloric value rather than the cheapest option. Anyone can tell you those are usually NOT one in the same.

One of the appeals of intermittent fasting is that I didn’t have to strictly police my  caloric intake to lose weight. I could eat bigger meals less frequently, but I was able to make it work for me a long time by eating whenever I was hungry and stopping whenever I was full, as long as it was in the time frame of the Eating Zone.

I need to read more about it to really get the most out of it, and now that I have finally finished the rewrite on my script yesterday (YAY) I should have some downtime at last to concentrate on all of these other goals.

I think that was part of my overall happy problem, I was hitting life full-throttle every day of every week for the past few months. Probably the five months, really. I haven’t had a whole lot of downtime to relax and recharge, and I kinda need that to avoid those deprivation triggers that whisper in my ear, “Go ahead. Do it. You deserve it.”

Creating more life/work balance is on the agenda for this reason. This has been very difficult to do balancing my writing career on top of a full-time job. Why? Because I don’t like limitations. If I have something I want to write, I don’t want to limit it to a few hours a week. I want to sit down and write till I’m done. So carving out an hour before work, then having to stop what I’m doing to do something else, will vex my muse like a MF, which will frustrate me to the point of uselessness.

Basically everything needs reevaluating. I’ve been weighing my needs against my desires and my (gack) current limitations, which hasn’t been fun-time for Ginger.

But the best news of the week is that I’ve been able to mostly keep the emotional eating under control, even with some not-so-nice stuff going on at the 9-5. Change is coming one way or the other and I’m kinda freaking out about it. I’m just so grateful every single day that I have such support from some incredible friends, who give me the courage to face scary changes head on. So even though there have been an occasional binge or two, and a happy hour where I probably indulged a little more than I needed to, I feel like I’m on the upswing of this particular cycle.

I’m not there yet. I’m climbing out of the fog, but new storms loom. I just have to figure out what I can do because even one step in the right direction is progress.

As someone once told me:

Chin up
Knockers out
Bitchface on
Fuck the Haters.

Even if that includes me.

A lil history, some goal planning, and sweaty-palmed, white-knuckled transparency.

Howdie, folks. Welcome to Day Two.

Except it isn’t Day Two, just like yesterday wasn’t really Day One.

Anyone who has nosed around this blog knows that the whole weight loss journey is one I have run up to and run away from enough times that even *I* roll my eyes when I pledge to start again. It just never feels like it’s going to happen, not for real, and not forever.

The only real success I’ve had transforming my health and my body was in 2003/2004, when my first husband’s sudden death from a massive heart attack scared me straight. I literally felt like I was playing Russian Roulette every single time I took a bite of food. It’s no secret that I was in much worse shape than he was, because I outweighed him probably by about a hundred pounds.

I usually outweigh everyone by about a hundred pounds.

I started that journey at over 330 pounds, which was around the size I was when I got married, which was twenty pounds less than when Steven and I met. By the time Dan died, I was a size-32. I felt enormous.

But, despite the obvious visual cues, I *wasn’t* as bad off as Dan was because his health problems weren’t quite so visible. And despite what people could “see,” those problems ended up killing him at the tender age of 43.

Still, I knew I was on a dangerous path. As the only surviving natural parent to two young boys (then 13 and 11,) I knew I had to get serious. So I did something drastic and terrifying. I decided to blog about it.

This was before the books and before the social media platforms that have cultivated my brand. This was back in the days of AOL, when they had jumped aboard the blogging train, and would feature interesting blogs on their front page to drive traffic to other areas of their site.

See, the thing you have to know about me is that I’m an overachieving teacher’s pet. I knew if I made this journey public, it would drive me to succeed because I would never risk such personal failure on such a public platform. I want to WOW people, remember? I don’t want pity. I want Atta Girls and pats on the back, just like everyone else. So when I committed to it, I committed to it 100%. I knew I had to be fully honest or it wouldn’t work. I had to display facts and figures, publicizing each weigh-in so I was forced to be “real” about half-assing anything.

This was important to me because I have an eating disorder where I binge if things get too intense. It was a coping mechanism I picked up as a child, after the incident when I was four years old. Like I said yesterday, I immediately hid everything so that I could be “normal,” but the trauma was still there. I became my own comforter at four, so the only thing I knew to make myself feel better was to “feed” the hurt. You can see the changes almost immediately. Here’s a photo from the house we lived in when I was abducted:

lubbockgin

Here’s a photo from kindergarten, a year later:

gingerKindergarden

First grade, a year later than that:

ginger1stgrade

And second grade, a year later than that…

ginger2ndgrade

As the years wore on, I had to eat more to feel more comforted. I’d eat at school, then come home and eat whatever my parents had left over from lunch. By the 1980s, when I became a latch-key kid, when I had to prepare my own dinners and feed myself when I was only eleven, I could kill a box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. I’d stop eating because I ran out, not because I ever felt there was “enough.” To be completely honest with you, I don’t recall ever feeling “full.” When people tell me they’re “stuffed” and can’t eat another bite, I don’t get that. I’ve felt like I couldn’t eat another bite, but if there was still food left, I kept going. It was Clean Plate Syndrome to the Nth degree. Mentally I’ve never felt satiated, because what I was eating for was never physical hunger. It was to numb and emotional void. Food brings pleasure, so I needed that pleasure to make the Not Okay okay. (Later I would add sex and spending and gambling and a host of other vices.) Whatever felt good, I needed to have more. It was the only way to even things out against the staggering mountain of CRAP my life tended to be.

Imagine my delight when I realized in 1985 that I could eat Nutri-System, supplemented with nightly nachos that were off the plan (but helped me feel “fuller”), and still lose 36 pounds in three months. If that program hadn’t sent my mother and me into the poor house at $90 a week, I might have actually got down to a “normal” weight.

These have been the patterns of my life. The more chaotic the circumstances, the more I binge to deal with them. This is why diets never work for me long haul, especially since I already told you yesterday, most of my life has been spent in the Not Okay.

In 2003/2004, I *started* my weight loss journey in the Really Not Okay, right after we lost Dan. He died in September, and I finally got around to doing something about me in November of that year. Things were going along mostly well until February, when I got the emotional rug pulled out from under me again, when Steven was seriously tempted outside the marriage.

This was very tough for me to handle at that time because Steven was one of the few men on the planet I truly believed could love/desire me even as heavy as I was. This was the woman he fell in love with:

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That the woman who tempted him wasn’t overweight really threw a major wrench in my progress, making me feel everything before that was a lie. I was sent into an emotional tailspin. The only reason it didn’t derail me completely was mostly because I was doing a public blog, where I had 100% transparency. When he messed up, the whole world knew it – just like they knew it when I messed up.

I didn’t have four-year-old Ginger feeding me. I had dozens of strangers, sisters on the same path, who could hold me up and keep me focused.

But, all things being the Internet, it was not a journey for the faint-hearted. Doing anything publicly invites criticism. When AOL featured my blog on their main page in February of 2004, ironically just before the whole thing blew up with Steven, I got plenty of complaints and criticisms too, and so did AOL. “Why would you feature her weight-loss blog? She looks like she weighs 300 pounds!”

Again, I had to have an “after” photo to validate the “before” photo. I had to be “okay” or else no one would listen to me.

But I wasn’t okay. Hence why I needed the blog.

You don’t need a weight-loss blog if you’re thin, do you? This was a part of the journey, and ultimately it was successful. This was me at the beginning, in November 2003:

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And this was me in September of 2004, wearing the same shirt:

sept04hsept04i

This was me when I married Steven, at a size 34:

4

And this was me in 2004, ten sizes smaller:

june04g

What do I know about losing weight? About as much as I know about gaining it. And what I know for certain is that the only thing that has ever worked for me long-term was if I stopped hiding from it.

I write Rubenesque romance because I don’t agree with the narrative you have to be thin and beautiful and perfect to deserve love. I’ve never been “thin”, “beautiful” or “perfect,” and I have found love, been married, the whole nine.

Yet I still hide the numbers because there’s a deep shame that I’m not okay. Even within the books, I write “smaller” larger women because I’m easing people into the novel idea you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Sadly it’s necessary, because I’ve had my share of criticism about the heroines I write and the romances I write not being “realistic.” One recent critique was for a size-16 heroine who was top-heavy and the (female) critic pondered if I was even a woman because my heroine’s measurements were YUUUGGGEEE.

In reality, I’m larger than my heroine – so that was really nice to hear. Not. But that’s part of the cognitive dissonance that makes sizes and measurements and actual numbers on the scale scarier and more negative than what they are. It’s all relative, and each body is different.

At my size hiding the numbers is stupid really, because it’s not like I can hide the reality. You look at me, you know that I’m overweight. The medical diagnosis, morbid obesity, is pretty obvious to any layman who passes me on the street. And believe me, they’re not shy about diagnosing it.

Yet I am still ashamed of the number. I still hide it. I still yearn to be okay.

As we established yesterday, I’m not okay. And that’s going to have to be okay.

So in order to make this work, I gotta get real about it. There’s gotta be some transparency because without transparency there’s no accountability. If I want to meet my lofty, lofty goal, there has to be some accountability.

And let’s talk about goals for a second. Like I said before, I’m an overachiever. I always push myself. I’m incredibly ambitious and completely self-driven. Bosses normally love me because I go above and beyond. I need little supervision or really little guidance. At my current 9-5, I have no one who looks over my work at the end of the day to make sure goals are being met. But they’re being met, by God. In fact, the goals I set for myself are just a fingertip out of my reach most days, because of how hard I drive myself to succeed. I plan my day without a second to spare, working all the way up to the minute I clock out. I take the standard they give me and push it into overdrive.

For example, the job I do is in medical records. A primary function of that job is taking a paper record and converting it into a digital file so we can file it into our Electronic Medical Records, or EMR. When I took over that position in July of last year, the company standard was to have those files converted and into the system within a week of obtaining them.

I made sure they went up within 24-48 hours. I figured why wait? It takes about fifteen minutes for me to do a file, so why not get each one into the system as soon as we get it? And it doesn’t matter if we have one or twelve to do in a day, I make damned sure that the minute it gets to my desk, it is on the fast track to get into the EMR so everyone who needs the information has access to it, rather than hounding me to fax this or upload that. I’m on top of my job so that they can be on top of their job, which is both time-efficient for the employees and cost-efficient for the company.

As someone who has run her own business before, as well as helped others start-up businesses, that’s just how my brain is trained to look at processes and procedures. I work smarter, not harder, aiming for excellence rather than accepting the status quo.

So now THAT is the standard in my department. And I’m pretty freaking proud of that, really. I took something and made it better. I impressed people. I changed things.

Mama likes.

I like my goals lofty. It’s why I can write a book as fast as I can, or produce a quality screenplay in weeks rather than years. I don’t sit on ANYTHING. I figure out a way to get it done and I get it the fuck done, because I’m OCD to the NTH and I need shit checked off my list.

But being done isn’t the only objective: I push myself with a deeply rooted drive to be excellent.

The weight loss is really no different, even though my lofty goals have, more often than not, derailed my progress more than anything else.

They will tell you that losing 1-2 pounds a week is the best way to ensure that you have long-term sustainable weight-loss. So of course, me being me, I won’t be happy unless it’s 3-5. And those weeks I don’t make it, because I won’t, because no matter what you do sometimes the scale just does NOT move, for whatever reason, or there are gains even when you do everything right, because that’s the painful irony long-term weight loss, fucking bum me out hard-core. If you watch This is Us, you’ve seen this unfortunate dynamic work with one of the main characters, Kate. It’s almost too painful to watch sometimes. The episode where she does everything right and doesn’t lose, and finds out her binge-eating boyfriend loses more, devastated her. And me. Been there. That shit sucks.

And I know, intellectually, it isn’t a formula. Every body is different, and the road to physical excellence isn’t always X+Y=Z. Some weigh-ins come whenever you didn’t get a full night’s sleep, or you’re on your period, or it’s holiday season and no matter how many extra miles you walk on the treadmill, that chocolate and cookie and turkey and pie will derail your progress. There are dreaded plateaus and, unfortunately for me, emotional ups and downs which put me face to face with my ED.

A mathematical formula leaves no room for life, especially a not-okay life that will  punch you around a bit and knock you off your footing. I still have triggers and a real disorder that I battle, sometimes on the daily. There are days that I will fall short, no matter how high I am.

For that reason alone, I’m aiming higher. If I’m working for outstanding, maybe, just maybe, I’ll land in the exceptional anyway. I never want to idle at average. In anything. Ever.

And it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I need to be here, in front of you all, to get where I need to go, when I want to get there. And my reasons for it are not merely cosmetic anymore. Which raises the stakes even more.

Last July I had my first real weight-related health scare. I had just taken over a new position at my 9-5, and it came with certain growing pains that had me anxious and overwhelmed. When you have an anxiety disorder this can feel like hell, and it did for a long, long while. One morning I had a pretty intense anxiety attack at work. They’re not that uncommon for me, though when you’re having them it pretty much makes your brain go haywire. Instead of dismissing it as the same kinds of attacks I’ve had in the past, where everything is okay, it feels like The End. That wretched voice in my head whispers, “What if this IS a heart attack, and not just your anxiety?”

That particular morning I decided that, since I work in a medical environment and I’m around nurses and medical professionals, I’d just have it looked at. So I went into one of the nurse’s offices and explained my symptoms. She took my blood pressure and it was, for the first time ever, off the charts. I’ve only had minor increases in my blood pressure before, tapping out at maybe 130/80. This time it was 150/90.

Needless to say, it tripped me the fuck out. For once, that anxiety attack I was feeling was a legitimate medical alarm. I left early that day, buying a blood pressure monitoring machine before I even reached the house. From that moment on, I was determined to make some changes.

I got rid of Diet Coke, which is one of my bigger addictions, and, at the suggestion of a friend, started intermittent fasting (which we will talk about later.) I started exercising again. I ditched all processed foods and watched my sodium intake. My blood pressure evened out, usually maxing out around 125/80, but on the whole staying under 120/80, enough where I wasn’t monitoring it every day. Within months, I started shedding weight again. Everyone around me was telling me how great I looked.

I lost about twenty pounds over three months. I went from a size 28 to a size 24. I could buy new clothes in smaller sizes that would actually fit.

Then… November happened. We’ll talk about that later as well, because it really is another blog in and of itself. Suffice it to say, four-year-old Ginger started feeding a very emotionally traumatized forty-seven year old Ginger all the comfort foods that made things feel okay when they weren’t okay. Emotional eating/binging came back hard, undoing all of my progress to that point.

I’ve tried to restart it several times but hiding myself from the Not Okay has meant that I haven’t had one iota of accountability to conquer these particular demons.

Hence, the blog.

So THIS is my new starting point, even though technically speaking, it’s not.

I’m going to include all my social media in this new endeavor, although some to a lesser degree than others. I’ll post progress pics on Instagram. I’ll post workout progress on Snapchat. I’ll post all the nitty gritty about weigh-ins, measurements, food and workouts and the like on my Sparkpeople profile as I add them into the plan, which – again – we’ll talk about later.

And here is where I’ll do the emotional workouts for my journey where I’ll just be real about the numbers and how much it terrifies me to do so.

Gonna feel the fear and do it anyway – which is how I do anything successful in my life. And aim high… because even if I shoot for the moon and miss, I’ll land among the stars.

That being said, my goal is get under 200 lbs for my son’s wedding next March. The last time I was under 200 pounds was in 1989.

thingin

That’s nearly 100lbs in ten months, or 10 pounds a month, making eight pounds a month the baseline (2lbs per week). This  would still put me around 210, which is where I spent the majority of my teen years:

ginger1986cropped

Anything less than eight pounds a month will require reexamination and modification. This is a journey, not a formula. I may try a lot of different things just to keep my body from settling into any routines, which seems to be the death knell for my progress.

And that, really, is what I’m aiming for the most. I may not reach Excellence in ten months, but ten months from now I won’t still be linger in the Not Okay.

It’s time to make things okay.

Starting weight:

May 2017 – 296.8

Starting measurements:

49/45/57, Size 26/28 (depending on where you shop – again, a topic for another blog…)

So that’s it. No shame. No fear. No hiding. Just a starting point.

Let’s do this.

 

Fat-Shaming: Shame on me? Shame on YOU.

Recently in Wisconsin, a viewer took it upon himself to address the “weighty matters” of news anchor Jennifer Livingston’s “irresponsibility” to her community by carrying extra weight. She laid an eloquent and classy smack-down to said viewer, addressing instead his need to bully someone he did not know, had never met and even admitted in his letter he did not watch.

Funny that despite this disconnection, he still felt compelled to write her a critical letter with one main objective: to shame her into losing weight.

Because Jennifer didn’t “fit” into this narrow paper-doll mold the rest of media anchorwomen find themselves in, she needed to be “reminded” of her community responsibility to teach young girls everywhere that fat is bad, fat makes you a lesser person despite all the other qualities you may have. He framed it with the BS “health” argument, saying that she had a responsibility to show young kids, “particularly girls,” that the obese lifestyle is bad for you. In order to do this effectively, in this guy’s mind, one must ONLY see thin newswomen.

Here’s a newsflash for ya. Most newswomen are thin and, by most standards, “attractive.” So are our actresses. Our models now weigh 23% less than the average American woman – this is what the media serves up to “young girls” everywhere. And you know what’s happened? Obesity has skyrocketed. This is good news for the diet industry, which has profit margins that climb steadily along with America’s collective waistline.

Not so good news for those “young, impressionable” girls – who end up fighting off eating disorders like anorexia and binge-eating in a cruel, pointless endeavor to be as perfect as those photo-shopped beauties they see on magazines.

This reinforces to girls and women everywhere that they are only as valuable as their appearance, and that is the most irresponsible message we could ever send them. A more effective and productive message would be that a girl/woman has value based on her individual qualities and merit, rather than her dress size.

But people who would shame a fat person see themselves as superior to fat people, and well within their rights to judge someone harshly based on one simple but obvious aspect of their lives. As if any of us are ever judged solely on one trait anyway.

But to guys like this one, it doesn’t matter that Jennifer is articulate or intelligent or in any other way qualified to do the job of news anchor, because of her *appearance* she has failed not only herself but the community she serves.

This is fat-shaming at its worst, this idea that if fat people are “made aware” of their condition by the criticism of others they’ll do what they need to do to lose the weight.

Um, thanks? I had no idea I was morbidly obese until this very moment. I just woke up one day and BOOM… I was fat. Whew, I’m so relieved I had a conscientious stranger to point it out! I’ll be sure to tell my doctor, because I’m sure she missed it too since she OBVIOUSLY never addressed it with me. Husband, kids, family, friends… yet NO one has bothered to tell me in all this time how irresponsible and unhealthy I am. Clearly because I carry all this extra weight, I must eat at McDonald’s every day and Pizza Hut every night, right? I must have skyrocketing blood pressure and diabetes because I wake each day to a dozen donuts and wash it all down with a Big Gulp. I was just one hot mess waiting for that ONE stranger to whip my butt into gear by shaming me into making better choices.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, something that our media seems blissfully unaware. Fat-shaming doesn’t work, and actually makes the problem worse. I’ll give you two examples:

When I started my sophomore year, I entered – for the first time – a co-ed P.E. class overseen by a former football coach. The standard uniform for our class was a T-shirt and a pair of shorts. At the time I was what you would now consider a size 16/18, so the largest shorts I could find in 1985 still fit me like a cigar band around an overstuffed sausage. Walking out into the gym and up the bleachers around other 15-year-olds, particularly the males who relished tormenting me, was like entering one of the nine circles of high school hell.

Little did I know it was about to get much worse.

Though I carried 40-50 extra pounds my other classmates didn’t, the coach made it an imperative to judge all of us based on my ability (or inability) to do the exercises he directed. He sent us all out to run a mile. I’ve never run a mile in my life and as such I fizzled out about halfway through. (Maybe a quarter, I’ve blocked much of this memory.)

My coach decided he’d make an example of “my laziness” by essentially throwing me to the wolves. The entire class ended up penalized by my inability to perform a task that I was physically unprepared to master. It was one thing to be the outcast because I didn’t fit in and it was a jolly good time to make fun of me. For this coach, this wasn’t good enough. He wanted me emotionally ostracized; hated because I was “different.”

I tried to appeal to his sense of decency but, as it turned out, he didn’t have one. He berated me further. “Don’t you WANT to lose weight?” In his mind the fact the other kids hated me had everything to do with me and my choices, instead of his using it against me to shame me. He had no empathy, and, in fact, set the example for his entire class to bully someone based on their limitations. Yes, I wanted to lose weight. Yes, I wanted to run a mile without stopping. Yes, I wanted other kids to stop teasing me. But what I wanted most, what I needed most, was GUIDANCE… not shame… to get me there.

I was an adolescent girl with a shit-ton of problems, not a willing volunteer for boot camp.

The whole ugly affair actually led to my dropping out of high school. I couldn’t see it getting any better. I didn’t have the support of the administrators, who could have changed my classes and found a better fit for me to meet the P.E. criteria. Looking back, though, I don’t know if it would have helped. At the time I was so effectively shamed I’d never fit in the high school scene I no longer cared to try. I dropped out and waited until my 18th birthday, when I could take my G.E.D. and get a diploma without losing my soul to the hell that was high school.

Here’s a visual aid to put things in perspective. This was me in 1986:

What I wouldn’t give to be “that fat” again.

Fast forward a year or so and I’d meet the man I would eventually marry. Dan was the son of a marine, who understood well the macho “motivational” tool of shame. He wasn’t crazy about my extra weight and made sure that he’d say whatever it took to get my ass in gear to lose those 40-50 extra pounds. But here’s the dirty little secret about shame as a weight loss motivator: the more you are shamed, the more you hate your body. The more you hate your body, the less likely you are to do what needs to be done on the long journey towards fitness.

Those 40 pounds became 60, then 70, then 100… until finally I was 185lbs over the “ideal” of 165.

Before:

After:

Fat-shaming does not work. The target audience either won’t care because they are perfectly happy being fat OR they will further bury themselves with food as their self-destruction of choice. So it will ping off their happiness shields OR it’ll penetrate like a sword – but not with the results you intended. If someone is fat because of self-loathing, then your shame will only compound the problem and MAKE THEM FATTER.

Many times an overweight person isn’t just fat because they eat too much, generally they are using food as a coping mechanism for something that is wrong somewhere. Making them feel shame only exacerbates the problem.

When I married my second husband, he signed on the dotted line knowing I came “as is.” And a funny thing happened over the last 13 years. He gave me acceptance and support and that 185lbs excess went down to 170, then 150, then 120. The trend of accepting the world’s shame and punishing myself for it has reversed. Instead I find value in myself and as such, I make better choices and am healthier for it, both physically and emotionally.

Before:

After:

I’m not losing the weight overnight but that’s not how it works anyway. I’m in for the long haul, much more so than some idiot that passes me on the street and makes their condescending remarks. You have the luxury of holding off giving me value till I reach a goal weight, but I don’t. I have to value myself every step of the way or else I’ll never make it where I want to go. Weight loss is a process… a long, grueling, back-breaking process. The more “obese” someone is, the longer the journey, and quite simply it cannot be cannot be diagnosed and treated by outer appearance alone, especially by laymen who have never walked in our shoes. Therefore, shame (i.e. unsolicited criticism) is a unnecessary and ineffective roadblock that ultimately serves your needs and not mine.

So see, you can’t claim some sort of moral superiority when you shame us. It’s a bullying tactic, not a motivational tool. You’re positioning yourself as the superior, judging someone based on one key element while dismissing everything else that makes that person the beautiful, flawed, unique individual he or she might be.

There is more to the story than some before/after photos. You can’t possibly know the struggles of another person upon first sight. I have had guys shout to me, “Go on a diet!” while I rode a bike. It didn’t matter that I was TRYING to lose weight, just that I wasn’t there yet. Why be so results-focused on someone who may be making the incremental changes they need to in order to be healthy, especially if you’re going to use “health” as your platform to shame someone?

I’ll tell you why. You don’t care about our health. We are an EASY TARGET and you’re a LAZY BULLY. Whenever you see a fat person, you don’t have to work as hard to figure them out. They come with some handy-dandy labels and built-in comedic value that helps you dismiss their value as a human being. Best of all our society supports you entirely as you do so. But here’s the thing…assessing a fat person as lazy or stupid or unhealthy or inferior is just as bigoted (i.e. wrong) as saying all black people are X, all white people are Y, all women are Z.

It’s condescending, and, frankly, rude.

The only difference between a fat person and a thin person is they wear their perceived “flaw” on the outside. Imagine one of your flaws, and we all know you have some, being the unmistakable body suit you have to wear every day. Imagine it as a label you had to proclaim no matter where you went, that would make you an object of scorn, that you couldn’t hide. Would *you* willingly give up your value over that one trait and accept the shame of strangers? Would you suddenly shift focus and change so people you didn’t know would be more comfortable with your existence?

A fat person is merely fat; it doesn’t make them inherently bad or lesser than anyone else. Their choices are their own responsibility, and you can’t possibly know what those choices are just by the fat they carry. Frankly you don’t care to know dick about why they do what they do. You just sneer down your nose at them, hoist all your condemnation on their already-burdened shoulders and then toodle on your merry way with zero accountability you may be part of the problem.

You want to talk about irresponsibility to your community, that’s it.

You can hate me because of my weight, you can even make your snide judgment calls on how I may adversely affect the world around me, but frankly your bullying shame tactics say more about your character defects than any of mine.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s not my baggage. You can keep it.

Freakouts, Setbacks and Other Anomolies

Today was my first weigh in over the course of six weeks that wasn’t successful. In fact, it was the opposite of successful, I actually saw a weight *gain.* Though I managed my food intake and avoid emotional overeating, my exercise was right out the window.

The surface excuse was that I didn’t feel well. In effort to ward off what felt like the onset of some kind of cold/flu, I decided not to go for my walks and put off my at-home exercise.

But if we dig a little deeper there was a bigger freakout going on just under the surface.

At the beginning of last week I was presented with the opportunity to do something I normally love to do. It gave me X amount of days to work on my income and work on my fitness regimen with a short term goal in sight. It was completely easy and doable at this time last week. But I promptly shut down to make it that much harder to do something that normally makes me happy.

Since I acknowledged this shameful secret to my best friend on Saturday, I’ve been trying to figure out why on earth I would do this to myself.

I still can’t tell you why – but I think I’m circling the runway.

It was so much safer to know that being a dramatic success was so far into the future, with manageable little steps in between. I’ve got a long way to go and I’ve settled into this comfortable routine that, in all honesty, doesn’t push me as hard as I probably could go.

I think deep down I still think I’m incapable of it – and I’ve created this environment where if it happens, it’ll be a happy surprise.

Taking a day at a time when you have months and months to go is a lot easier to swallow.

Knowing I wanted to really lose X amount of pounds by a much shorter time frame overwhelmed me, especially the idea that I just couldn’t pull it off like I truly wanted to.

Essentially if I see people I don’t normally see on a regular basis, I want to make sure the changes I’m making are not only noticeable but *noticed.* And I knew with all this extra weight, a 20 pound weight loss was nothing more than a sneeze into the wind.

I wasn’t ready to give myself credit for the progress I’ve made, I didn’t expect anyone else to do it either.

The general feeling of malaise was more from depression than anything else, and sparked almost immediately after this so-called good news. Immediately I spiraled into a backsliding pattern that hits every once and a while when I’m doing very well.

Give me the opportunity to succeed and I freak the f*ck out. Dunno why.

I self-destructed over this past week even if I didn’t set out to. That’s the bad news.

The good news is I didn’t punish myself with food. I kept to my calorie goals and even met my fitness goals of burning over 1200 calories last week. Not only that but I was able to recognize it fairly quickly before I could do more damage to my long term goals. With my one pound weight gain I have now put myself at my 2.5 pound a week goal over the course of these past 6 weeks. My projected weight loss and my actual weight loss has finally aligned at 15 pounds. Which means I’m still on track to meet my goal of hitting 1-derland (getting out of the 200s) by October, but I have no more wiggle room.

That’s the consequences of me giving over to the self-destructive side of me that feels I’m not worth reaching that goal, and not push myself as much as I know I need to be pushed. (“If I can’t lose X amount of weight by X time, then I’m just never going to lose anything ever ever ever ever,”… then I proceed to make sure I don’t lose X amount of weight. Why? I’m still figuring it out… at this point I think maybe I’m afraid of what it means if I don’t have the weight as a barrier between me and some of the people I know. Being the “fat girl” can be a safe thing sometimes.)

But despite all this I still have success to show for my journey – not only have I lost 15 pounds but I’ve lost 5 inches in the month of February. Those are the physical successes. That I can recognize almost immediately what kind of damage I’m doing so I can put on the brakes before I go completely off the rails is a much bigger and more important victory.

There’s no shame in stumbling, or even falling, as long as I can get back up.

So that’s what I’m doing by acknowledging the misstep and taking the steps necessary to get back on track.

This week I promised my Unstoppable Facebook Group that I would join a gym to amp up the calories burned per week. Right now I’m working toward my first fitness milestone of burning 3500 calories per week – which equals about one pound of weight. I’ll need a gym to do this, though I’m a little apprehensive about committing financially to any kind of program.

Not saying I can’t do this at home but I think a trainer is a good idea at this point, to teach me how to modify my workouts to my specific health problems and strive harder for my ultimate goals. This is the part that really scares me. I’d been holding back, afraid of health setbacks that would really sideline the goals – but Steven rightfully called BS on that. Sure I have to take my back into consideration, but that I was able to walk three miles yesterday within in hour shows me I’m ready to push myself a little harder than I have been. I’m thinking it’s a good time to get someone else to help pull that inner warrior out of me, who won’t pat me on the head or allow me to wallow in my own endless excuses.

Ironically, today I really do feel ill and I’m still going to have to soldier on and just make it all happen anyway.

The self-destructive side of me got one week. I’m not giving the bastard any more. It doesn’t matter if anyone else notices the metamorphosis I’m undergoing – *I* know I’m on the right path. And I’m the only one I’m doing this for anyway.

So I’m going to hold my head up. I may not have the success story I want right now, but I’m writing it word by word every single day.

My food journal courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

Trading Old Habits for New.

It should be painfully obvious that I have some pretty self-destructive coping skills. If something comes along to set me off, I generally react in a specific way. This generally equates to: I feel discomfort, I eat to feel good again.

And of course I eat a ton of carbs because they raise the seratonin in the brain and work very much like a drug to me. I can numb myself from every unpleasant feeling under a load of sugar or starches and presto-bingo… I feel better again.

At least physically.

Until the effects of the extra weight start to affect my health.

Then I feel bad.

So I eat again.

Vicious, vicious cycle.

The last couple of days I’ve had some run-ins with people, strangers really, from the Internet. The first one was someone on Facebook who wanted to know when Obama would just admit he was in over his head. Her Fox News watching followers all chimed in to say that without Fox News, no media outlet would “tell the truth”, and she demanded to know just one thing he had promised to do that he had done.

I considered not answering the question, given I kinda already knew from past history that these types of discussions rarely go well. If she’s that far gone into her own biases not to see facts as they exist, my contribution wouldn’t help much. Especially since she had already bit the head off of another contributor – it was evident she was spoiling for a fight.

But… I decided to throw a link up there anyway – which she immediately challenged in a verbose, long-winded diatribe that made even ME tired to read it. I told her it was a ridiculous argument to suggest just because he hadn’t done some of the things he promised he hadn’t done ANYTHING he promised and the “yeah, but” argument just meant she’d never be happy with anything he did do.

I did conclude with a snarky comment that because I don’t listen to Fox News I guess I was a “stupid liberal who didn’t know anything.” The comment was not directed toward her, it was more the general assessment of people who think Fox News spouts the gospel and everyone else is flat out lying mentality that was already prevalent in the thread from her other contributors.

I threw another link up there to give her some more stuff our lazy good for nothing president hasn’t been doing since he got into office and she immediately challenged the source – or rather, put me down while she challenged the source. (“Who owns Politifact? Do you even know?”) Then she chewed my ass up for being so “presumptuous” and how dare I challenge her about Fox News being her only source when I didn’t know anything about her. Whereupon she proceeded to tell me I probably was happy with the president because I had job security, one of the lucky few who still had a home and just liked to sit back and ignore everything that was going on in the world to make myself feel better.

Faithful readers of this blog can all now enjoy a chuckle.

(Her comments in essence proved my snarky assessment true, even though it pissed her off that I would “presume” such a thing about her in the first place, because apparently she was above such things.)

Rather than defend myself against her I just pointed out how interesting it was she claimed a point could be made without an attack, then attacking me gleefully when I didn’t agree with her. I promptly then unfriended her and got out of the conversation.

For those who know me, you know that this is a HUGE change in my MO. I don’t unfriend people… people unfriend me. And I’m always really hurt when they do.

This time… not so much.

I realize that trying to build my brand as a writer I, in a lot of ways, will have fans I must cultivate relationships with through respect and tolerance that every now and then I’m going to let them down because I won’t do or say or write something that they will like or agree with.

And I knew I was behind the eight ball when I jumped into the discussion.

BUT…

I’m not going to muzzle myself or change my natural instincts for confrontation when I know I’m in the right. I believe everything unchallenged stands as fact, and if I can interject a little sanity and truth, or just a different point of view, into the matter I’m going to do so.

If people then want to treat me like a dog because I did so, then they don’t deserve my friendship – OR my attention.

That’s not going to change just because I want to sell a few books. In fact, anyone who has been following my blog for any length of time already knows I’ve built my own personal brand around NOT sitting back and shutting up when I felt my own personal beliefs had been challenged.

Now I just get to pick and choose which I’m going to allow to stick around after they show their true colors.

Not one for letting my new conviction stand unchallenged, God threw another stone in my path yesterday on Twitter. Someone spouted something disrespectful about Jesus, which is another hot button with me. Have your problems with religion, that’s fine. I have plenty of my own too. But the minute you start mocking a god-head, you’re going to hurt the feelings of people who have personalized a relationship with him (or her) and it’s just tacky and classless.

To be blunt, it’s just a cheap shot that has no real purpose other than to be mean.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my beliefs, and generally I keep them to myself and just let them guide me as a person to bring me joy and comfort and peace. I don’t have to answer to anyone for my beliefs, although for a while now I have definitely been challenged for having them, even within my own family.

BUT… I do expect people to treat my having that belief with respect. I don’t go around to other religions trying to tell them they’re wrong, nor go try to convert non-believers into believers. I think that everyone should be allowed to come to these decisions on their own and – if they’re not using these beliefs to harm or control anyone – should be left alone.

(Religion has been an excuse to incite a lot of violence, yes… but it’s been used to do a lot of good too. If we assume all Christianity is bad based on the Crusades, then we’re no different than those who want to blame 9/11 on Islam.)

I knew before I addressed it that it would end badly, much like the conversation before. And I thought momentarily about not answering the tweet that was posed to say, “If Jesus did exist and he knew what would happen in his name, he’d pick up his hammer and STFU.”

This essentially boiled down to, “If you knew that someone would twist your words for their own gain, you should shut up and never try to do anything of any importance.”

I found this offensive on two levels. The Jesus part for one, of course, but the second as a writer. I do use my books to explore these themes that will hopefully crack a dent in some outdated ideas. I want to make people think and challenge them to see things from another point of view. That’s how we create change for the better – by allowing people to walk in the shoes of another.

I use books to do that.

Jesus used parables.

So I took a deep breath and I said, “If you knew something you’d say for the good would get changed to bad by a select few, would you not say it?”

And she said in this particular context, yes. (Which means, No, but I’m still trying to prove my point.)

This went around and around for a while and I even challenged that by a certain point she was just arguing to argue. My entire point was just because the message gets perverted it doesn’t mean the message is bad, nor should one stop trying to influence for the good. Any message/influence can be used to manipulate others.

But she was dogged in trying to whip me into submission I guess and wouldn’t let go of the fight. I, however, stepped out of the fray the minute she tried to point out how stupid Jesus was for not knowing how to craft his message.

It was just nastiness for the sake of nastiness. Add that to a closed mind and I was really quite done. I stopped following her halfway through the argument, but that little comment got her blocked.

Mocking Jesus to someone who is openly Christian – not cool. That goes beyond disbelief in a “sky fairy” to disrespect of the person whom you’re addressing. People pounce on that little button like it’s a freaking trampoline in Hal’s chat room, there was NO WAY I was going to tolerate it on my own Twitter feed.

These are not people I want to be friends with. It’s not because they’re not Democrats or Christian, it’s because they have such a nasty attitude. If you can’t hold your debate respectfully with me, then we are not going to debate.

A. There’s just no point. B. Mean people suck.

I was so fed up by this point that I decided to take Winston and go for a walk at the park. I had toyed with the idea of not going at all yesterday because of my back and all the grief it’s given me these last few days I’ve tried to get active. But I just wanted to do something pro-active that made me feel better… and my first instinct was NOT to go grab food.

This is HUGER than HUGE.

Instead of swallowing disrespectful treatment (and a ton of food to make it go down), I was able to stand up for myself, my beliefs and actually felt bolder having done so. If I, the Queen of People Pleasing, could put my foot down on how OTHER people treat me, I could certain demand better treatment from myself.

There are new rules of engagement, and I’m finally feeling confident enough to enforce them.

1. Treat with me with respect.
2. Treat my beliefs with respect, even if we disagree.

My books are just going to have to speak for themselves. I’m not going to conform to everyone else just to sell a few copies. I’ve been doing that with my own self esteem for years and look where it got me.

There’s a new sheriff in town.

And she says enough is enough.

My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.

Entering a Shame Free Zone.

In this week’s episode of “Heavy,” the A&E show about people who are tackling their eating disorders to combat morbid obesity, one of the participants spoke of how her teenage daughter was ashamed of her size to the point she didn’t want to introduce her to her boyfriend.

It both broke my heart and made me mad that this child would be so thoughtless and uncaring to her mother. As a parent you never want to be a source of embarrassment to your child. You want them to be proud of you in the same way you’re so often proud of them – just because they’re yours. I can imagine this mother’s heartbreak as I would have been devastated if my children ever expressed as openly to me their disgust about my size as these girls had to their mother.

But of course, my kids never would. My kids were raised with a healthy respect for me as their mother and care too much about me and how I feel to ever be so hurtful. My sons rarely saw me cry because of their behavior, and if they did it crushed their spirit and broke their hearts.

Shame should never be used as a motivator for weight loss. People who overeat to the point of morbid obesity obviously don’t have any real self esteem. We eat in a destructive way that is to the detriment of our health… nothing you could say is worse than anything than the things we’re already saying to ourselves.

In fact, if anything shame has been the deciding factor for my weight *gain.* No one does shame like fundamentalist religious folks who make you feel like a low-down dirty dog sinner just for having some posters on your wall. In my book Dirty Little Secrets I go into great detail about how the shame spiral in this type of environment leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior as the leading cause of addiction.

Shame, I’ve done. As you can tell by the numbers on my scale, it ain’t workin’.

If you could hear what goes on inside my brain, what has been recorded for a lifetime over my never-ending chatterbox, it might surprise you to find it more hateful and more vitriolic than anything you could ever even DREAM to say. And believe me, I’ve heard it all… even from those who were supposed to be my friend.

People don’t even really try to hide fat biases. Not really. They cloak it under the umbrella of a “joke,” but there’s an underlying malice there that suggests we should be ashamed of ourselves for letting ourselves go so badly.

In other words, we need to be ashamed because we’ve caused YOU to feel disgust or discomfort.

It’s like the gym teacher in the 10th grade who couldn’t figure out why I would “want” to be fat so badly I wouldn’t push on and try to do things I didn’t think I could do. Because of this he used things like humiliation to motivate me, thinking that the peer pressure from the others he punished for my decisions would stir a fire under me.

It drove me right from the class and the school itself.

Even with Dan, who was raised by a militant father and had a very black and white view of the world couldn’t understand why I would ever want to be heavy.

Not so ironically I would end up gaining enough weight to be just like those women he used to disdain, and make me swear I wouldn’t be like.

Shame leads to low self-esteem, which leads to overeating, which leads to a bigger size… which leads to more shame.

It’s a cycle that doesn’t work. At least not for me.

I was reading earlier about director Kevin Smith, who lost 65 pounds after his humiliating walk of shame off of a Southwest airplane last year because he was deemed “too fat to fly.” Maybe for men it works out a little differently, maybe they don’t see being overweight as the inherent moral failure like we women are supposed to. Maybe they need a little shock to the system in the form of humiliation to get them moving.

For me? I would have just gotten fatter and never tried to fly again.

Shame doesn’t work for me because I’ve internalized my own brand of shame since I was four years old. That shame has re-wired my brain to believe I’m not good enough to belong to the world of beautiful, successful people. If you try to use shame in order to get me to change, all it’s going to do is feed the beast within.

Literally.

So having said that, I thought it was important to establish that I’m not losing weight because someone made me feel ashamed for how I look. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to surround myself with an enormous support group who make me feel empowered AS IS, many of whom have made me feel beautiful and sexy and all those things “the world” probably would be shocked to learn someone like me can feel.

These are folks who will love and accept me through all my changes, who make me feel better about who I am and by doing so encourage the positive changes toward my own personal success no matter what that happens to be. They’ll love me the same at 165 pounds as they do 284.

They see something that is beyond the scale… so they’ve inspired me to look deeper within and find it too.

Success for me isn’t about being thin and more socially accepted by the world at large. It isn’t about fitting into a certain size. The reason I’ve decided to lose weight isn’t because it’s a moral failure to a world that can concern itself with how much a celebrity weighs as a headline.

The reason I’ve decided to deal with my weight is because I have something to prove to MYSELF… not to anyone else. Quite frankly, I owe nothing to the world around me that seeks to compartmentalize me by something as superficial as how I look.

If you’ve rejected me because of my size, you aren’t worth me at ANY size.

But I owe myself better than what I’ve done with my body thus far. I owe my husband and my kids the ten or so more years I’m robbing them of by being so self-destructive and – frankly – selfish and self-centered.

I am stronger than what I’ve allowed myself to be thus far. I owe my dreams 100% of my effort and my focus, not some lazy lip service that says I can have a dream but I’m not worth any real goals.

So by fixing this one thing that I always felt was beyond me, I can become the force of nature my husband believes me to be, the one I know I can be… where nothing and no one can stop me from living the life I know is carved out especially for me.

I don’t need to be thin to do that. I don’t need to be “socially acceptable” to do that.

But I DO need to be empowered to do that.

And the way I know I empower myself best is to fight this lifelong battle and finally win. I’m stronger than my problems. I am stronger than my addictions. Everything that has attempted to bury me through my life I can rise above.

I have everything I need to overcome my obstacles, as proven by the fact I’m still standing after all the things I’ve been through.

For all the shame the world has tried to give me, I have a much better gift to give myself. One of self-esteem and empowerment that says I can do anything I set my mind on… and I deserve so much better than what I’ve settled for all my life.

And that’s why I’m losing this weight.

There will be those who still want to impart shame on me during this long journey because of their own discomfort. But ultimately I get to choose whether or not I need to internalize it. Personally I think it speaks more to their moral failures as people than to my own failure to ‘be thin’.

Anyone can lose weight.

But no one can be as perfectly me as I can be, as I was born to be…

And frankly… that’s entirely too kick ass to feel ANY shame.

My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.

Little Victories.

Yesterday was a toughy. I woke up with a migraine, and as most migraine sufferers can tell you waking up with one in full force will eff up your entire day. Migraines are best avoided rather than cured, and for the most part of the morning yesterday I was basically useless while I tried my level best not to cave into the temptation of eating to make myself feel better.

It was the hardest challenge I’ve had yet.

Part of me was ready to just cave and call it a day. To just eat what I wanted when I wanted and just get back on program the following day. But I’d already had a “free” day this week, and if I want to see results come Weigh In Day I can’t just keep going off the rails.

Instead I compromised, had an early lunch and let the pain pills kick in for a much needed nap. By the time I woke up I was pain free and much more in control of things.

But it was hairy there for a little while. The impulse to eat was very nearly too strong to fend off. Something is hard-wired in my brain that when I feel bad or sick or hurt I *need* to eat. And after I had my early lunch (before 11am) I *did* feel better and started to get a handle on the migraine.

My body is fully aware if I do eat, I’ll feel better. And it will stop at nothing to feel better.

Oddly enough the same isn’t true for exercise, even though the results are similar. There’s no “payoff” during the exercise process like there is during the eating process. I have to wait till the exercise is over to feel the rush of endorphins that will give me that same rush.

In short… my body has to grow up. It can’t have what it wants when it wants it. It has to be challenged and pushed past its limits to grow – to be *alive*.

This morning I decided I was done waiting for my back to feel better. I have several workout DVDs, and the most fun one – the 15 minute dance routine – was calling my name from the time I got up this morning after an amazing 7 hour stretch of sleep.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it through the whole thing. I only managed about 10 minutes before I had to stop thanks to a low blood sugar crash. But it’s 10 minutes more than I have been doing, which is a 140 calorie kickoff to adding fitness to my unstoppable journey.

Tomorrow I’ll do the entire 210 calorie workout, I’ll just know to eat some protein before I get started.

Plus, with 70 degree days coming up this weekend and beyond, I think it’s time to get Mr. Winston Q Pooter back to the P-A-R-K. I think some exercise in the sunshine is just what the doctor ordered to help re-frame my mood as of late.

I’ve had some low points in the last few days that have flipped some of my panic triggers. The chatterbox keeps trying to engage, and I blame the lack of proper sleep and exercise for it entirely.

I’m just as strong as I ever was – perhaps even stronger. I can do this.

I just need to celebrate each little victory as it comes.

I may not be where I want to be, but I’m no where near where I was.

My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.