What my friends see in this photo:
“It captures the adventure in you.” “You look strong.”
What I see: “I look so big.” “I can’t believe how much weight I’ve gained.” “THIS must be why I’m still single. I’m too big.”
I’m very confident when it comes to taking risks, knowing what I want etc. But self image is a different story. Most people have similar internal dialogues of negative self talk. I do pretty well putting it out of my mind - unless I see a photo of myself. I dread having my photo taken. I’m a pro at keeping away from cameras. It isn’t that hard because I do so much of my travels solo. But as the blog becomes more well known, its been harder to keep to myself. I’m so proud of myself for so many things. But its all overshadowed. I’m tired of the power this is having over me. Two things need to happen: First, I need to be kinder to myself, and see the beauty of the person inside this vessel. And second, I need to meet this physical challenge head on and come up with a plan for myself.
My weight has fluctuated over the years, as is the case with most people. Now that I’m getting "older" (I’m 36), things that used to work don’t work anymore - my diet hasn’t changed, but my body has. The weight has crept on, and I am at my heaviest. While I don’t obsess over a number on the scale, I do care about being healthy, which I know I am not. I also care about honoring my body - I love my body, it works hard, it enables me to do so much. By not caring for it I am impeding it from functioning properly, and from bringing me even more places than it already does. Imagine if my physical strength and endurance matched my internal drive!
I wish I could say that what other people think or say doesn't impact me. But despite my best efforts at drowning the world out, I can't always. Once I met a man for a date and his first comment was “well you’re taller then I usually prefer.” (I'm 5'8"). Another man I dated called me “quite big”. At University a friend's Mom put her arm around my waist, pinched my hip and said "oh, living the good life huh?" (And I was thin then!) Much to my disappointment (because I hoped I was stronger) these things have latched onto my sub conscious and continue to feed the quiet lie that I'm not enough, that I'm undesirable, that THIS is why I'm single blah blah blah. It's a good lesson of the impact of a passing comment, and has helped me focus on being mindful of my interactions with others.
Some will say “oh please, if you think you’re overweight you must think I’m huge!” But that kind of comparison isn't constructive. We all know what our healthiest is - just because one person has a smaller number on the scale, that doesn't mean their journey to being healthy is less valid. We all have our reasons for struggling - mine is largely down to the nomadic lifestyle. I struggle with forming healthy eating and exercise habits because my situation is constantly in flux. I'm often on the road, where snacks and fast food are easy to come by. I'm often hosted by lovely generous people who want to fix me yummy meals and give me tasty treats and make sure I'm served seconds. I spend long sedentary hours on my computer keeping up with my various projects. If I don't have refrigerator access I'm stocking up on packaged foods. And when I’m not off on an adventure, food is an emotional crutch for me - it breaks up the day, gives me something to look forward to etc. I have no interest in extremes - as my Mom always said "everything in moderation." But a change is needed.
It sounds like a contradiction but I have found that there is actually strength in vulnerability. I’ve had a lifetime of practice - I was sexually abused by my birthfather as a little girl and spent 3 years with my brother in foster care. I have never hidden from this - as far back as I can remember my thought process was that if I could help even one other person find strength who was struggling, than it was worth it to be open. If we find the courage to expose our fears, our weaknesses, our demons, two things happen. First, we feel relief. Because it's no longer festering inside, becoming a monster that when exposed to the light, is often much smaller than we thought. And second, we find support. People rally around those who can expose their raw, human selves. In a world that is more connected than ever, we are somehow still losing the sense of community. And on the flip side, if someone has opened up to you, be kind, be constructive, be a good listener. Its an opportunity to help someone turn their weakness into strength. I challenge you to be vulnerable. And I’ll accept that challenge by hitting “post” on this photo and my feelings that go along with it. If you have any helpful tips for me in my goal of becoming a healthier nomad, feel free to comment. And if you need to be vulnerable about something and seek help on a topic, please comment that too, so someone can rally around you
Thank you Lesley for capturing the essence of me, and for being such a good friend!