Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Mixed Farewell to Raspberry Zingers

Health at Every Size (tm) is about making healthy choices for yourself, and loving your body as it is without judging it or yourself.  As those of you who read regularly are aware, I've been trying to make changes in my own life to reflect that way of thinking.  Sometimes they're very hard, and sometimes I manage them with little difficulty.  But there are always those unintended consequences that catch you off-guard.  Today, I found one of those consequences.

Before I discovered H@ES I honestly hated my body (and by extension, myself).  My body was something to be despised, and I could list a thousand negative adjectives to describe it.  I didn't care whether I moved or not, I didn't care what I put into it, there were even times when I didn't care about showering or washing my hair because why bother to take care of something that was so repulsive to me?  I managed the bare minimum of socially acceptable personal care when I had to go out in public, but when I was at home for any length of time, it just didn't matter.  If I ignored it, then maybe it would go away.

Of course, all that mindset did was to reinforce my already negative self-impression.  But when someone is in that mode of thinking, it is really hard to get through to them from the outside.  They really have to find it within themselves to care about their body.  That isn't easy to watch, and it isn't easy to do.

Anyway, consequences!

One of my favorite foods back when I didn't read labels or care about ingredients used to be Raspberry Zingers.  You know the ones!  They are that impossibly moist yellow cake with the white, creamy sweet stuff in the middle and a coating of Impossibly Pink Gooey Stuff on the outside that holds the sweetened coconut to the whole thing.  Normally they come in either a box of 8 or 10 (I honestly can't remember how many are in a box now) or in my favorite, the vending machine three-pack.

When these Impossibly Pink Coconut Covered Nuggets of Goodness would appear in the vending machine at work I would literally bounce with excitement and grab for my change stash.  I apparently wasn't the only addict in the office, because they would inevitably be the first thing to sell out (unless there were Chocolate Zingers in there, then the chocolate ones sold out first to be followed shortly by the raspberry) and I wanted to get MINE!

I would insert the coins, push the appropriate buttons, and watch anxiously as the corkscrew-shaped Goody Holder would turn, mentally sending every ounce of energy to make sure that my precious treasure wouldn't become a victim of The Snagged Treat Syndrome.  I would rejoice at the solid "thunk" that followed, reassured that I had avoided the horrible fate of staring helplessly through the glass as my Zingers swung there, stuck on the end of the Goody Holder.  I wouldn't become another office casualty, trapped under a fallen vending machine because I shook it too vigorously in the attempt to get my Zingers to let go.

My hand would reach through the swinging door at the bottom of the vending machine, extracting my prize and deftly avoiding having the flap close on them, making squished Zingers.  Once I had them in my hand I was off to my desk, huddling over them like Gollum held his Ring, holding off any attempts to intercept myself or my treat with a ferocious glare of possession.  And then, then I would be at my seat and I could finally safely open the package.

First, the scent.  That sweet, heavenly scent of faux raspberry and coconut, with just a hint of fake vanilla extract!  I would breathe deeply, savoring the anticipation of the first bite for just a moment longer until I couldn't hold myself back any more.  Mere minutes later the evidence would be on my desk in the form of a crumpled piece of plastic and a small, white rectangle of thin cardboard.  Maybe there would be a stray piece of pink-ended coconut here or there, or a smear of pink on the cardboard, but that would be all that remained of the three Zingers that had existed just moments before. 

I didn't take my time and enjoy them, I inhaled them.  And immediately I would feel a combination of over-sugared nausea and the desire for more.

And the shame.

I was ashamed because I got them to begin with.  I was ashamed because I ate them so quickly.  I was ashamed because they were "bad food" and society says that when we eat bad food we should punish ourselves.  I was ashamed because I was fat, and I was eating food that fat people shouldn't be eating.

So when we saw a display of Zingers, mini donuts and other treats by that company in the store yesterday priced at 10 for $10 I told my husband that if he wanted to take some for his desk at work he should grab a few.  As an afterthought I told him to grab me one package of Raspberry Zingers too, please.  I haven't actually had them for about three years or so, I would say, maybe longer now.

Today I decided to have them as a mid-afternoon snack.  I was worried in the back of my mind that they would trigger a craving to have more and more and more of them (part of why I only got one package), but I really wanted to taste that Raspberry Goodness again, so I decided that I was safe from going too nuts as I would have to go back to the store to get more and getting a craving THAT strong is rare for me.

I opened the package and inhaled that remembered fragrance, but it wasn't quite the same to me this time.  The smell had a slight chemical tinge to it that I didn't remember from the past.  Then I took a bite.  Now, Dear Readers, I wish that I could say that I took one bite and stopped, throwing the rest away.  I don't want to say that because I think that is the reaction I should have had, but rather because it would make a really cool dramatic ending, and I AM a writer (amongst other things) after all!  But that's not how it happened.  I actually ate all three, but rather than gobbling them down and not tasting them, I ate them relatively slowly.  Each bite that I took was followed by a small hint of disappointment and the unspoken hope that the next bite would bring back the enjoyment that I remembered so fondly.

And then they were gone.  There was the crumpled plastic, the small white rectangle of cardboard, the stray piece of pink-ended coconut.  The evidence was in, and it took me a long moment to realize what the evidence was telling me.  Finally comprehension dawned:

I don't like Raspberry Zingers any more.

I found myself torn between exultation and sadness.  Raspberry Zingers had been a comfort food to me at a time when I needed comfort.  I had so little that I liked in my life then, and those little round-cornered rectangles of sweetness had given me something to enjoy, even for a moment.  But now that enjoyment was gone.  I have been eating real fruits and treats made with real ingredients for long enough that my taste buds were thrown into shock by having all of those chemicals assault them at once.  (I'm not sure they've forgiven me yet, but we'll see when I have dinner if they will let go of their indignation or not.)

I know that some are asking, "Why write an entire blog post about this, Lys?"

Quite simply, this episode has brought home several truths to me, and personal truths are really what blog posts are supposed to be about, right? 

It is a personal truth for me that my tastes HAVE changed in a way that I believe is for the better.  My body expects, no...it DEMANDS, that I give it quality, whole foods prepared in ways that are healthy and taste great.

It is a personal truth for me that you CAN change your tastes over time if you start small and make your changes one at a time. 

It is a personal truth for me that I am no longer the person I was then.  I have grown, I have changed, I have discovered ways to *gasp* love myself. 

It is a personal truth for me that I'm not totally there yet.  I still have very far to go on this path but while I have a distance to travel, I can look back at the path behind me and see that I have come so very far already and celebrate that distance.

It is a personal truth to me that this journey is worthwhile because I am worth it.

That's what it comes down to in the end.  We're worth it.  We're worth more than self-hatred.  We're worth more than shame.  We're worth more than thousands of negative adjectives.  We're all worth more than that.

I'm worth more than those things.

So are you.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It had to be done

My friend Matt posted a blog today about how people react in emergencies.  He discussed how some people think first in an emergency, trying to decide how to act, and how other people act first and do what needs to be done, then think about it later (and usually have a lovely breakdown when all of the "what ifs" hit them at once).  A phrase that has been in my mind since I read his post is "it had to be done".

This afternoon I was putting new elastic in the waistband of a pair of pants.  I could probably have done it in five minutes if I broke out the sewing machine, but I find hand-sewing to be very relaxing, so I settled onto the couch and turned on the television for background as I worked.  I happened to land on a showing of "Iron Man".  (Yeah, yeah, there's a point, I'm getting there! *grin*)  My attention was caught by the scene in which Tony Stark tries to stop Pepper Potts from walking out of his life by explaining just WHY he has to put himself in danger to help other people.  He discusses how he's reaped the rewards of violence and arms development without really thinking about how those items are used, and now that he has been through his experiences and had first-hand exposure to the havoc that his creations wreak, he knows that it is his responsibility to make up for some of the chaos that wouldn't have occurred if he hadn't come up with his ideas, if his company had been more responsible about who they were sold to and where they went.  He looks at Pepper with anguish and the hope that she'll understand and says, "I just have to."

The Universe isn't really known for its subtlety.  It has a tendency to smack people in the back of the head with Clue by Fours every now and again, and I suspect that this thematic recurrence is just another one of those CxF type instances.  But I find myself examining it and wondering just how it is supposed to apply in my own life.  I mean, I'm not a billionaire playboy philanthropist, so I can't really build an amazing suit of powered armor and leap into the fray.  I do tend to be one of those who act in a situation rather than sit and think about what I should do, but I don't think that it would be helpful for me to run around trying to find emergencies as here are many well-trained and qualified people out there doing that already (this is where you should pause a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to the many police, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, military members and so on who keep our butts relatively safe every day).

So what is it that The Universe is trying to get me to do?  As I ponder this question I come to realize that it isn't always the big things that need doing.  Pulling someone from a burning building is an amazing feat of courage and ability, but sometimes the little things can change people's lives nearly as much as the big ones.  When someone is on their last reserves it can be the small gesture of kindness that pulls them back from the precipice. 

I'm doing my best to grow as a person, to find ways to make the world a little better, a little kinder, a little nicer than I found it.  Some of the ways are bigger than others, but all of them are things that I just have to do.  I can't look at certain situations without jumping in and doing what I can to make them better.  What those situations specifically are don't really matter to anyone besides myself and the others (if any) involved, what matters is that I'm not sitting back and just thinking about what I should do, I'm going ahead and doing first, thinking later.

I suspect that if you look around yourself, you'll find things that you can do, things that just have to be done.  Little things, big things, little things that are big things to the recipients, there are all sorts of opportunities out there if we just pause and look around and then look inside ourselves.  Once we find them we can move forward into acting, not just throw theories around about how to make things better.

Take a moment and pull your head out of your own life, take a look at the world around you.  Seize that moment, do that thing and that stuff for those people.  When you're all done, stop and think about it, why you did it, what worked and what you could have done better, even possibly break down for a moment because it is a little overwhelming.  And when you've done all of that, take another moment, a deep breath, then smile and say to yourself, "It had to be done."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Changing Focus

When I first created this blog, it was done with the thought of having somewhere to put my political and social commentary.  You see, I have another online journal that acts more like...well...a journal, but I wanted somewhere that I could express thoughts in a more public forum.  These would be thinky type thoughts rather than general updates on my life or other things that are probably of interest only to myself and maybe some friends.  So I kept this blog for generally political and social expressions.

Then I realized a couple of things:

1.  I don't tend to post a lot of political type posts, because I find myself getting so wound up about politics as it is in modern America that I can't really put down what I want to say in a coherent, non-asshole-ish way.

2.  Most of my social commentary tends to focus on My Life As A Fat Person, and that is generally covered in my "Confessions of a Fat Superhero" blog.

3.  There's more to life than political and social commentary.

So I decided to re-purpose this blog and make it a bit more general.  But don't worry, it isn't going to become my journal, because I still have that online journal and can use that to bore my friends with the mundane details of life.  This blog is going to still contain what political and social commentary I want to cover, but will expand its focus to include random ideas and thoughts as well.

I have no idea how that will go, but I figure that since I enjoy writing, it behooves me to get regular practice at it in a place where people can give feedback on what I say.  Between "Fat Superhero" and this blog, that should be feedback enough for anyone!

It's kind of funny, though, because as I think about it I realize that we are constantly changing our focus in life, so it is rather appropriate that I change the focus of my blog too.  I mean, when we're children our focus is rather small and contained within the area of our family, friends, and school.  We get up, we go to school, we do homework, we play, and we go back to bed.  Sure there are chores and family time and things in there too, but life has a reassuring monotony to it at that age.  We know our routine, we know what is expected of us, and we don't have to worry about the bigger picture.

Then we get older, and our focus widens.  We start working or go to college (or both!) and our vision grows to include the bigger world around us.  Society infringes on our secure sphere of existence.  It pushes into our lives in little ways like dealing with traffic during rush hour every day, and makes itself known in larger ways like catastrophes, elections (sometimes the same thing as the previous item), terrorism, the economy, and so on.  A lot of those intrusions are negative, which can wear us down over time, make us tired, and make us want to pull back into ourselves and our safe little spheres.  We know that it is an illusion when we're hiding amongst the fragile walls of our routine.  It becomes all too clear that we can't go back to not being aware of the outside world.  That doesn't stop us from trying to keep making our worlds smaller sometimes, though. 

But let's face it, we need that larger world.  We need to be aware of everything that is happening around us because if we aren't aware of it then we can't have any effect on it.  It is our responsibility as world residents to have an effect on things, to try and make things better for ourselves and for future generations.  When we stop trying to have that positive effect, when we settle for not doing anything or when we decide that the only way out is to make things so bad that no one will want a future any more, then we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

So I guess that changing my blog's focus is one way that I can widen my view and start looking for ways to become part of the solution.  They won't be big ways, because despite my childhood dreams of riches and fame, I'm just me.  I'm a Fat Superhero who lives an everyday life and is just trying to pay the bills and enjoy what time I have on this world.  However, now I know that part of the enjoyment for me is to do something that will make the world that I eventually leave behind a better place for someone, or hopefully a lot of someones.  It may mean doing a lot of small things rather than one or two big things, but I'm hoping that I can find those small things and get them done.  If enough of us do the small things, they'll add up to some pretty powerful changes in the end.

That's my hope anyway.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I can do this...

Life is full of moments, and most of those moments pass by and eventually blur into that "nothing special" that is every day.  But now and then we are given the gift of A Moment, and those moments are the ones that we remember and that can influence our lives beyond what we ever expected.  I look back at my Moments, and a large number of them are negative, which is sad in more ways than I can say.  I can see a landscape of time littered with choices that I made that caused me to end up giving up on goals and dreams, and those choices were totally mine, which not only makes me sad but it makes me wince and want to look away.  But really, isn't part of growing as a person making yourself look at those moments and learn from them?  And so I've been working on that with myself over the past couple of years, and recently I had another Moment, but this one was a good one, and one that would have turned out completely different ten years ago.

I've always struggled with what I wanted to be when I grow up.  I could tell you a host of things that I DON'T want to be or be doing, but pinning down that elusive feeling of "Yes!  This is IT!" has never come easily to me.  I thought that I had it a few times, but it turned out that it was still easier for me to make the choices that led to losing those dreams.  I don't blame the dreams themselves, they were good dreams, and if I'd been stronger I believe now that I would have been very successful at any one of them.  But I wasn't emotionally ready for them, and so I chose...poorly, and ended up saying goodbye to things that were important to me.

I know, you're probably saying, "But Lys, what does this have to do with being Fat?  Because isn't this blog about being Fat?  I'm confused!'  Just bear with me, and the connection will happen, I promise.

Unless you've been fat, you don't realize the toll that it takes on you every moment of every day.  You are constantly being told that you are less worthy than other people simply because of how you look.  Your time is less valuable, your skills are worth less, and your abilities are discounted simply because of how you look.  Even if you start out believing in yourself and saying that others are wrong, this kind of  repeated bludgeoning wears at you, pounding against the walls until they start to weaken and crumble, then That Little Voice creeps in through the cracks.  You know the one, That Little Voice that whispers in the back of your mind, "Maybe they're right.  Maybe you shouldn't expect so much of yourself because Fat People just aren't successful.  Look around and tell me how many fat role models there actually are.  None, because Fat People are less worthy, less able, and JUST....CAN'T...SUCCEED!"

Too many of us end up listening to That Little Voice and give up on ourselves.  I was one of them.  I stopped singing because there aren't Fat Singers.  I didn't finish my teaching degree because I didn't want to be at the front of the class while my students mocked me for my weight.  I let my Fear of Fat determine my life's path in so many ways.  But now...now I've finally reached the point where that isn't happening any more.  I had A Moment.  It was a wonderful Moment.  I keep that moment in a velvet-lined box in my mind, and I take it out now and then to cherish it and to remind myself about how much I've changed.

When I got laid off, I had choices.  I could apply for jobs, take the first thing that came along, and just keep puttering through life with the assumption that I am going to end up being one of the Faceless Masses who live through history.  After all, there are more everyday people than there are famous ones, right?  The vast majority of humanity ends up as the Faceless Masses, but they're still mostly happy and live their lives without that being a problem. 

My second choice was to do something that I've wanted to do for a long time and always talked myself out of based on a lack of funds, or that it just wasn't the right time, or who was I kidding because Fat People don't do things like that.

I decided to try the second choice, but judiciously and with planning.  I decided to start my own business making jams and jellies.  I always knew I wanted my own business, but was never sure what it would be, and then I found out that I LOVE making jams and jellies, and watching people's faces when they bite into whatever the fruity goodness was resting upon.  I love that moment when their tastebuds start firing messages to their brains, and their eyes get that glazed, "OhmygodthistastessoGOOD!" look.

I took my idea to the local Small Business Development office and discussed my proposed plan of action with them, and my advisor there agreed with how I wanted to proceed.  She made a point of telling me that she felt strongly that I not only had the skills but the personality to do well at this.  And that was without even tasting anything!  (Later I took samples and the office tried them and unanimously enjoyed every bite!)

I walked out of that office and I had my Moment.  I pushed the door open, stepped out into the parking lot, walked toward my truck, and in my mind That Little Voice became a Big Voice, and it shouted to the world, "I CAN DO THIS!!!"

If you have never had to deal with being your own worst critic, I'm not sure that you can understand just what having that kind of moment, and that Big Voice shouting in your head means.  I lost all doubt, I brushed away any remnants of Fat People Can't Succeed, and for that shining moment I held the world in my hands.  It was wonderful, brilliant, and full of joy!  And it was mine.

 Fat doesn't matter.  Other people's prejudices don't matter.  That Little Voice doesn't matter.  What matters is that we all should have this kind of Moment in our lives.  It shouldn't be reserved for those who are considered more socially acceptable for whatever reason, it is a gift that each and every person should be allowed to experience.  So if you're struggling, and hearing That Little Voice over and over, please look for a way to silence it.  And if you're discouraged because you've been looking and you've been trying, just keep going.  Keep looking, take those chances, tell That Little Voice just where it can go because Fat People CAN succeed!  I know that we can!  And when I'm there, and my company is thriving at just the level where I want it, I would love to look over and see you, Dear Reader, thriving right next to me.  I want you to have that Moment, and many others like it.  Because you deserve the right to earn them, no matter what the fashion magazines, or the obesidemic people say.  YOU deserve the right to earn them, YOU matter.  YOU can do this.