Knowing Your Naked Body (and Naked Face)

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Selfies with the 7x magnifying mirror

I recently had the opportunity to experience that most rare and exotic of situations: solitude.

Not the kind of alone time you get when your toddler is napping and you finally collapse on the couch and look at your emails, and not the kind of alone time you get when you’re driving between errands or managed a solo trip to Target to pick up diapers. No, this was real solitude, or at least the winter 2014 version of it (It was more ‘fireplace suite for one’ than Thoreau’s ‘Into the Woods’).

I drove four hours one way to visit my mom last Sunday. My husband and I agreed I would go alone since I was going to do the return trip the same day, and our two-year old wouldn’t enjoy over eight hours in the car. I knew a snow storm was coming, but I still decided to give in to temptation and make an IKEA run…and late that night, while I was still 175 miles from home, I grew incredibly sleepy and started driving over ice patches. I decided to be sensible, and I checked into a roadside motel in a tiny town off the interstate.

I woke up the next morning to nearly a foot of snow. The entire hotel was abuzz at breakfast, talking about how no one was going anywhere that day. I dug my car out and took a test drive to the grocery store. I had to help a lady push her car out of a snow bank which had formed while she was shopping.

I quickly returned to the hotel after stocking up on food and checked in for another night while the storm raged outside. For the first time, it hit me. I was totally alone with nothing to do. No errands to run. No people to talk to. I sprawled out in the bed and ate Cheetos (bad, I know). I went down to the pool and sat in the hot tub in my pajama shorts and a tank top, hoping no one would tell me off. I went back up to my room and showered and as I hung my pajamas in front of the fire I realized I had nothing clean to wear. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just be naked for now.

This hotel room had a lot of mirrors all of a sudden. A LOT.  There was even 7x magnifying mirror above the sink.  I realized I was audibly going ‘Ahh!’ when I caught sight of myself.

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The endless, makeup-less face. The 7x magnifying mirror strikes again.

I hadn’t looked at my body in a long, long time. I loved my body while pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth I felt uncomfortable with it. So much of my shape had changed. My stomach had a new, looser jiggle, and my midriff harbored stretch marks over what used to be smooth, youthful skin. I’d read all of the memes about being a tiger who earned my stripes- but I still didn’t want to look at them.

I breastfed for 11 months and my breasts became something else to me. Beautiful, but in a different way. They were functional. That was it. I only saw them in the context of feeding, or pumping, or trying to fit into new bras, unsuccessfully.

And maybe that’s how I came to see my post- baby body. Different, functional.

Ignored.

My husband says I wander around naked, but that’s just because I can never find  clothes I’m happy with to cover  this new body of mine. When I find them, I cover up and certainly don’t do what I used to do- preen, change outfits, compare how my butt looks in certain jeans.

All of a sudden, in this hotel room, I was faced with something I’d been avoiding: what I really looked like naked.

I didn’t stand around naked all day– that 7x magnifying facial mirror was my next project. Whoa!  The pores. The unplucked eyebrows. The nose hair. I could see it all, so so clearly.

I took the above photos in the magnifying mirror as this blog post took shape in my mind. I was getting to know my body, my face.  And why hadn’t I done it earlier?

I love my son. He is absolutely worth every mark, scar, tear, stretch, and hormonal shift. He is my world.

But my body is mine alone. My face is unique to me; it tells my story.

I feel we need to honor ourselves more, inside and out. My body deserves more than the shameful covering I’ve been quick to toss on while never acknowledging  what’s under those clothes. My face deserves a closer look.

I need to learn to love my body again- to nourish it, to know it, to treat it how it deserves.

Day Nine: Number Crunching

The official 'before' picture, captured over the weekend at the pumpkin patch.
The official ‘before’ picture, captured over the weekend at the pumpkin patch.

When dealing with health, you deal with a lot of numbers. I don’t like numbers and I don’t care much for precision. I deal in feelings, in words, in spirituality, in the variables of humanity. Just put a flower wreath on my head and call me Sunshine.

But I met with a doctor yesterday and I received the results of some blood tests. Numbers assigned to my chart, to gauge where I am and where I should be. Ranges.

I debated over posting this information, since it’s personal and not exactly flattering. But I decided as part of my journey the tradition of transparency must continue.

First, the doctor’s numbers:

My TSH was 1.4

Good! The Synthroid I am taking for an underactive thyroid is working.

My fasting glucose was 96.

Not-so-good! Anything over 100 is pre-diabetes and anything over 125 would indicate diabetes.

My free insulin was 40.

Bad! This is double the high end of normal. Twice as much insulin is being pumped through my body as should be. As suspected, I am insulin resistant. This is just the proof. The doctor wants to put me on metformin, but I have an international trip coming up so I’m not going to think about that until I return. In the meantime, I need to learn more about what insulin resistance actually means for my dieting choices. Any advice is welcome!

After getting those results, I figured it couldn’t get any worse, so I went out and bought a scale to replace my broken one. I purchased a model which measures weight, body fat, water, muscle and bone. This seemed like a lot of information for $19.99 but I went for it.

Here were my results this morning:

Weight: 217 lbs
Body Fat percentage: 48
Water percentage: 38 water
Pounds of muscle: 106
Pounds of bone: 6
BMI: 36

I’m not sure if I think this body fat percentage is correct. I do think my size G breasts may skew the results. But alas, I looked up my BMI and found this:

“f you have a BMI of 35-39.99 your risk of weight-related health problems and even death, is severe.” (Source: BMI Calculator.net)

I know the BMI is controversial so I won’t take my severe risk of death based on this one calculation too literally.

However. although this is day nine of my blog, I’m going to reset and deem this day one of my journey. Because now I’m adding accountability into it. I will ‘weigh in’ next Thursday and see what results I have.

My plan for the coming week is:

-Eat 1500 calories a day and chart on My Fitness Pal
-Go to Zumba and yoga at least one time each, and find other ways to exercise at least 2 more times
-Drink 100 oz of water a day
-Get at least 7 hours of straight sleep a night

And who knows. Maybe at some point in my journey I will learn to love numbers! Or at least the ones pertaining to me.

Day Four: Boobs

My boobs were bigger than my son's entire head. And this is when they were 'smaller.'
My boobs were bigger than my son’s entire head. And this is when they were ‘smaller.’

Note: This post is about breasts.

America. Land of the free and the home of the uniboob.  And double boob. And under boob. And side boob. And back rolls caused by ill-fitting bra straps.

Because American bra-makers (if there is such a thing- it’s probably more like American bra-decision makers) seem to think A through D cup is enough. And if that’s not working for you, just go up in inches. Spilling out of a 36D? You’re probably just a 38D in disguise!

These bra-decision makers sit in their ivory towers,  and most of them are probably men. The women who ARE there have worked hard, so they probably don’t have time to eat and are resting comfortably on their thrones in teeny tiny sexy lacey bras; sensible B cups.

But down here in the real world, boobs don’t stop at D. And for some of us, not even DDD.

Not me.

I’m picking on America for a reason. I worked at a lingerie chain in Scotland as a holiday temp one year, and I fitted many women’s bras. It was very common for a woman to be a 34E or a 36F. This main stream lingerie brand, known to every Britain I’m sure, didn’t hide their higher cups on a shelf of shame.  The Es, the Fs, the Gs…they were all right there, with the cute bras!  In every single size!

And every single Scottish co-worker said to me, “Americans are terrible with their bra sizes! They’re all in the wrong size!”

I quickly learned this was true.

So what’s a girl to do? There’s a lovely shop in Edinburgh which carries bras AND clothes for the large busted woman. It’s amazing. But now I’m wandering like a lost sheep through bra sections in American shops and I’m coming up empty handed.

Just this week I went to a store which should specialize in selling to larger chested women. The highest size I found was DDD, so I tried on a ton of styles hoping one would fit. No luck.

Finally the saleswoman pointed me to the little shelf in the corner which sold F-H cups. I was running late at that point, so I grabbed two in a cup size F and went home.

They’re still too small!

I may truly just be a freak of nature. I’ve always had super large breasts. But now not even an ‘F’ fits me and I have to imagine if I lost weight my cup size may go down as well.

I(nterestingly, the smallest my boobs have ever been is the year I was breastfeeding. I loved it! They were so…manageable. To me. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.  But I prayed to be one of those women whose boobs changed forever after childbirth.

Well, they certainly aren’t as perky, so that change remained.

But as soon as I stopped nursing, they got bigger again! I asked my doctor, who just shrugged and said ‘Yep.’

So. If there’s one thing I’m really looking forward to with losing weight, it’s being able to fit nicely into a bra. It’s being able to wear shirts that don’t automatically show cleavage,  even when they aren’t designed to. It will be the luxury of being able to bend over without worrying about who is seeing what.

Not that it should really matter.  Breasts are wonderful. And for now the only solution is to start wearing turtlenecks, and I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.

Day One: History of a married chocolate fiend

The background is telling of an age...
The background is telling of an age…

One thing should be clear from day one of my blog: I am not a proponent of the ‘fat acceptance’ movement. I’m a proponent of a healthy body image movement, and I’m against fat shaming. But I am not a Confident Fat Woman. I won’t buy and post a picture of myself in a fat-kini. I believe we should love ourselves no matter our size, but I don’t think it’s healthy to accept and embrace obesity.

I chose the above photo of myself as a representation of the weight I strive to be. I think of it as my ‘skinny’ self, but really, I’m still curvy in this photo. I like being curvy. I didn’t like being told I had ‘child-bearing hips’ by boys when I was in middle school. I hate bra shopping since the smallest my boobs have ever been is a DD. But being curvy is good.

Being obese is not.

I was a skinny child. The gangly type, all arms and long hair and no coordination. When puberty hit, and it came early for me, I was faced with ill-fitting clothes and general wonderment at the flow of my new figure. I discovered the Juniors section and make-up and from that point on I became pretty, well, vain (it was a phase). The story my best friend and I like to rehash is how ridiculous our grooming rituals were- up at 5:30 to make sure we curled our hair and did full-makeup. Half a bottle of Victoria’s Secret body spray before entering the school halls and a reapplication of lip-gloss at every opportunity. Lunch meant a make-up touch-up and a hair check, and some extra body spray.

I would sit in the bath and hunch over and make sure I didn’t have a ‘roll.’  I could handle my wide hips and my muscular calves. As long as I didn’t have a dreaded stomach roll!

I got married when I was twenty. The photo above is a year into married life – the giddy, super sexy phase where no one gains a pound. But since I have been married for ten years, the phases of marriage have crept into my diet and exercise plan- you know, the I-don’t-give-crap-right-now-because-you’re-a-jerk phase. The he-loves-me-whatever phase. The I-have-no-one-to-impress-right-now phase. The lets-sit-around-and-binge-watch-TV-and-binge-eat-too phase.

I’m not blaming my husband. I’m not blaming marriage. I’m saying it’s made me look in the mirror less and made me lounge around more.

As I mentioned before, I have no will-power. I am good at justifying anything from deserving a piece of cheesecake to deserving a night off from the gym. I’m also good at procrastinating.

There are three other more serious aspects to my weight gain. I’ll keep them brief.

1- Pregnancy and childbirth. Gestational diabetes and my tendency towards meticulousness while pregnant meant I followed my diet to a T. I hardly gained any weight while pregnant. But once I gave birth, I ordered cheesecake right away. The diabetes was gone! I was freeeeeee! And then I was so busy breastfeeding and eating and working to keep up my supply – in addition to sleeping for only 2 or 3 hour stretches- that the last time I stepped on a scale post- partum I weighed 165 and things were looking good. In the three years since I stepped on that scale post-partum, I’ve gained FIFTY POUNDS. It’s not pregnancy’s fault, it’s just a host of factors related to the post-partum period which meant I lost complete control of what I was doing and what my body was doing. I had no idea.

2-Stress. I have quite a stressful life. My OBGYN has said it’s likely stress hormones have contributed to my weight gain.

and on a related note

3. Insulin Resistance. Last time a doctor took a good look at my bloods and scans, I was told I don’t have PCOS, since my bloodwork wasn’t consistent with it, but it was possible I was PCOS-ish (they are very noncommittal about this). But since then I have discovered I am probably insulin resistant. My OBGYN, just last week, said it’s like I have to do twice as much work to lose weight for half the result of a ‘normal’ person. I already knew I had the metabolism of a reptile, but this put it in perspective for me. Hormones are not on my side.

But I shall not be deterred. Day One of my weight loss journey is over and I went to Body Jam today. I drank a protein smoothie but I also had a bowl of ice cream and some Halloween candy. Tomorrow is a new day.