Pardon my french toast.

Once the drugs are really working (the ones to make me immediately less of a lunatic have already slowed me down just enough to dislike being insane), ideally before, I will get my diet under control.

I will get my diet under control.

What’s a nicer way to say that? I will take my food medicine? Gag. I will embrace nutritional healing? Whatever.

I will quit eating crap that swells every part of my body, (it helps to imagine my brain swelling up like one of those sponge animals, soaking up my cerebral spinal fluid until my skull just pops right open). I will quit drinking to slow myself down. I will honor the cupcake and reserve it for it’s rightful occasion.

A note about mania: Mania is that person who comes to undo everything I have ever done, who intentionally pushes my buttons — eats food I don’t eat on principle, drinks beyond reason, makes me fat because HA HA! Mania likes to fuck with me. Mania asks, “What would really piss her off?” and then does that thing.

And yes. I am really pissed off. My belly is swollen — not with fat, but with constipation, gas, internal revolt against the poison I’ve dumped into it.

None of this helps with pain either. Or migraines. Cupcakes, Monte Cristo sandwiches (no matter how expensive or gluten free, freaking Steeping Room), baskets of chips and free flowing Mexican Martinis don’t just make me fat, they actually hurt me.

This episode has been the first time I’ve recognized manic bingeing as a form of self-harm. In the past I’ve viewed it as self medication or the “freedom” of mania. But this time I could almost hear the cackle, the maniacal laughter as I unwrapped my hundredth Hershey’s miniature. It is a step beyond “fuck it”. It is a deliberate “fuck you”.

That’s sad.
Let’s not do that.

Let’s make sauerkraut instead.

Old Rachel, old kitchen, old sauerkraut.  I miss them all.
Old Rachel making sauerkraut in the old kitchen. Makes me homesick.

From the journal.

The following was transcribed directly from my paper journal, July 3, 2013.  I was still brand new pregnant and starting to panic a bit.  I thought I’d share it with you because it’s a damn fine pep talk.

If you’re new here, brief history — I grew up morbidly obese, but have maintained a 100+lb loss for over a decade.  I gained (and lost) 60-70 pounds with each of my previous two pregnancies.  Before diving into this third pregnancy, I was a competitive powerlifter with a thriving health coaching and personal training practice.  Though I was never “underweight”, I carried significantly less body fat than I had in puberty which meant I was no longer ovulating, but I looked damn good.  Choosing our family over my body was not the easiest choice I’ve ever made.  But I made it.

***

When you focus so intensely on one thing, and that one thing does not change, not even one bit, then it feels like everything is stuck.

Maybe I am more than my body?  Maybe the sway in the scales in not because I’m not treating my body right, but because the rest of my self has needs and wants.

Progress I’ve made in life in the last three months not related to weight:

  • Successfully taken my daughters swimming almost every day since June 1.
  • Realized my husband’s true love for me and let go of the lie of not enough.
  • Re-established an authentic, loving relationship with my oldest friend.
  • Successfully increased all my lifts, including accessories.
  • Began piano lessons and practice 5 out of 7 days a week.  Progressing well.
  • Started Beatrice in piano lessons.  Progressing at lightning speed.
  • Made a summer schedule and sticking to it.

And I’m sure there’s more.  My life is moving forward.  I am growing.  And my goal is not just to be beyond reproach physically.  My goal is to be beautiful.

Am I beautiful?

The thoughts I’ve had lately most certainly are not. I’ve though more about the sacrifice than the worship.  I’ve mourned and moaned and even begun to desperately claw at my body and all the hopes and expectations of it slipping away. I’ve grieved more the loss of my body than I have celebrated the creation of a new one.

A new body.

My body for this body.

I am not the only one who changes.  My daughters change right before my eyes, transform from one being to the next.  Should they moan and shriek as their bodies change shape, as they put on fat and then height, as their hair changes, skin changes? They will grow into women who keep growing into mothers, then grandmothers, then great grandmothers.

Our bodies are never static.  A year ago my body was at it’s most beautiful, in my estimation.  It was lean, muscular, impressive.  And I wanted to lock it in.  Even if that meant no more babies, even if it meant I was barren.

But if my God is who I think he is, that is not a value we share.  God does not value my “leanness” over my family, his people.  God does not value my weight over the people he longs to make.

This body, this sesame seed sized body in my belly at this moment, houses a person God loves and is determined to reveal himself through.  This tiny person has been planned purposefully, thoroughly, perfectly.

I have prayed to have my body spared the ravages of fertility and pregnancy — but my actions, my willful participation in the creation of this person reveals my heart’s true desire.

My actions reveal my heart.

I chose to restore my fertility.  I put on 20 pounds just so I could ovulate again.  I fastidiously tracked every sign, fed myself the perfect foods, quit my job, and then intentionally, prayerfully, expectantly made love to my husband with the full intention of becoming pregnant.  I ripped apart the trophy so hard won.

Yes, I have desperately wanted to look better in my spandex.  Yes, I have been anxious about what building another baby would do to my body.  But despite that fear, I have done it anyway.

Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is action in the presence of fear.

Dear baby of mine — if someday you read these pages I hope that’s what you see.  I hope you see that your mama was terrified mess who trusted God so she kept going.

 

Sermon.

“Wow!  Look at how much weight you’ve lost!  I am so jealous.”

In my head I am preaching.  I am pounding the pulpit.  I am red faced, sweating, shouting, “YOU ARE FREE.”  But my mouth, my hands, are silent.

I am not one to pass on an open pulpit.  I am a preacher, teacher, talk for two hours straight on any subject I know anything about kinda gal.  It’s how I’m made.  I don’t fight it.  EXCEPT…except when someone comments on my body.

It makes sense why.  I’ve spent the bulk of my life pretending my body didn’t exist.  Compliments on my hair, my eyes, my voice, my intellect, the way I have creatively draped my body in a interesting patterns and textures, those I can take.  But for the last few months, I can’t even go to the bathroom at church without someone from the next stall over comment on how much weight I’ve lost.  They stop me on the way back from communion, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?  I WANT TO DO THAT!”

Every single time, I just smile and do my best to disappear.  I did it again this week, when the woman who passed me the offering plate said those words that tore my heart up.  “I’m so jealous,” she whispered.  My eyes welled up and I said, “Thank you,” and pretended the nursery called so I could quickly excuse myself.

But I didn’t run away because I was embarrassed.  This time I was just angry.  Not at her, bless her very honest heart, but at the insidious lie that convinces people that women who lose weight, women who are healed, women who find victory — they are lucky.

They are not lucky.

There is no secret to weight loss, just like there’s no secret to making art, or getting a degree, or coding a website, or playing the cello, or deadlifting twice your bodyweight.  Each of these things has a set of instructions, a path to follow, a method that works.  People who are successful in these endeavors follow the instructions and do the work.  People who do not succeed have made the choice to not follow the instructions or not do the work.

This should encourage you!  This is FREEDOM.

Not one of us is cursed to stay right down in the bottom of the pit.  Not one of us is hopeless.  Not one of us is just plain unlucky.  Is there something you want to do?  Is there a dream you want to follow, a business you want to start, a portrait you want to paint, a house you want to own, a weight you want to pull, a life you want to live?  Find the instructions and choose the work.  Choose the blessed, glorious, one-step-at-a-time work.

 

Total domination.

On New Year’s Eve, I stepped on the scale and realized that I weighed 150 pounds less than I did on the same day in 2001. That’s weird. Ten more pounds and I am officially half my heaviest weight. Between the fat I carried around since childhood and the two children I’ve carried in my body since, my skin remains an adequate container for those 320 pounds. Someday, when I’m all done expanding and contracting, I might get it all cut off and see what my body would look like had I not spent the first two decades of my life eating frosted Donettes. In the meantime, I strap it down with spandex and avoid looking in the mirror when I jump rope.

After ten years of resolving to lose weight, this year I’m more focused on the weight I can pick up off the floor than the weight I want to work off my body. I have my eyes set on a 255 pound squat and deadlift (1.5x my bodyweight) , and at least one unassisted pull-up. And a handstand. And complete mastery of the jump rope.

And all of that needs to be accomplished before I give my body over to another baby. If they’re all going to be 2.5 years apart, I’ve got until June. I can do all of that in six months. Right?

Other things I plan to dominate this year:

My fear of being ordinary. Blame it on the Aim-High program, or my parents, or Sesame Street, but I’ve always had a deep, deep belief that if I am ordinary in any way, I am worthless. Every part of me must be exceptional, special, perfect. As a mother in the age of information, the internet made it abundantly clear that I am not a unique snowflake. I am just a flower in the field. In the past, this truth silenced me. Dumb. This year I’ll just write whatever I want about whatever I care about and not spend a single second worrying about whether it’s been said before. You know why? Cause it’s been said before.

My fear of friends. Strangers don’t scare me. Strangers don’t have pictures of me from ten years ago or old letters I wrote when I was out of my mind. Strangers don’t remember that I’m supposed to be a published poet, Master Gardener, televangelist with four advanced degrees. But friends do. And friends think it’s damn funny that my permanent outfit nowadays is black spandex and Vibram Five Fingers.

My fear of my kids. I’m totally going to screw them up, but probably not in the ways I think. I need to relax and just let them be the bizarre, terrifying combinations of two bizarre and terrifying people, plus all that stuff that makes them their own weird people. If I’m going to make another one, I’ve gotta let go of the fear of ruining the ones I already have. My kids are healthy, safe, and their stories are written by a hand greater than mine.

So, that’s my list. Pick up heavy stuff, be normal, be nice, be a mom. What’s on your list?

Just can’t fight this feeling anymore.

There are two stories I am clearly avoiding:

  1. The part when my father left.
  2. My obsession with powerlifting.

I’m sure these topics have lots in common, but the most relevant thread is this blog.  I started this whole deal because I was interested in figuring out my story, looking at all the pieces, putting them in order, polishing up my testimony.  I thought the hardest parts were going to be the ones about being a very fat kid, a very crazy teenager, a very fat and very crazy young adult.  Turns out, those pieces came fast and easy.

I just don’t want to talk about my dad.  But that’s what’s supposed to happen next.

I do want to talk about powerlifting.  But that’s weird.

Dilemma.

Here are my options:

  1. Quit writing altogether.
  2. Keep writing stupid filler posts about why I don’t write and what I’m not writing about until I get brave enough to look at the part about my dad and write that.
  3. Write about powerlifting.

Well then.  I guess it’s decided.

Happy New Year from my Jesus loving, formerly obese, bipolar, Paleo, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, homeschooling, POWERLIFTING, mommy blog!

And my guns.

 

Just a note.

I really dislike being congratulated on my weight loss.  “You’ve always had a pretty face.”  Or, “Well, I’ve always thought you were beautiful, BUT…”  Or, “Isn’t it fun to shop for clothes now?”  Or how about, “I bet Bryan is loving it!”

Those words are not encouragement.  Those words are not telling me I look wonderful.  Those words are saying, “YOU WERE SO DISGUSTINGLY FAT.”

A thousand words on fat and crazy.

When I started this blog, in a fit of bravery, I was convinced that the story was just going to flow right out of me. It turns out that writing about being fat and crazy is kind of hard. Of all the things to write about — homeschooling, gardening, poodles, grain-free grass-fed meatballs — I choose childhood obesity and mental illness. Good thing fat and crazy is such a fundamental part of my story.

I got fat at age eight. I just woke up one morning transformed from the pretty little second grader with golden ringlets to the biggest kid in the whole third grade. My hair turned course and thick, my eyebrows grew together, my cheeks puffed up around my eyes, my belly rounded out over the top of my stirrup pants. I assumed the change was temporary and invisible. I assumed the strawberry SlimFast my mother packed as my lunch was going to fix the problem.

I quickly learned to edit my life around my body. When I noticed that the weight listed on my “All About Me” poster was 50 pounds heavier than my fellow 4th graders, I convinced my teacher to correct my mistake with permanent marker. I made a point to be as helpful as possible to all teachers, especially PE teachers in an attempt to go on as many administrative errands during PE as possible. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the exercise, it was just that physical activity drew attention to my body, and my body was not like the others’. As long as I was still or talking, no one could see how out of place I was.

Being a straight A student who could talk her way out of anything eased my way. I discovered that as long as I was more exceptional for my talent than I was for my weight, it almost didn’t matter. Almost.

By the fifth grade, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be normal again. I mastered the art of “the fat friend.” I was the best friend and trusted confidante of the prettiest, most popular girls in school. I would walk with them to the “secret spot” behind the portable where 10 year olds practice kissing in front of their peers, then walk alone to the 7-11 for a chili cheese Big Bite, frosted Donettes, and a Super Big Gulp.

No adult ever talked to me about my weight. No one ever acknowledged that I was a little girl with a big problem. No one helped. In an attempt to guard my self-esteem, the adults in my life allowed me to become obese at ten years old.

While my weight was never discussed, my constant headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, and refusal to go to school earned me a trip to the pediatrician and the eye doctor. The eye doctor got me nothing but a stern lecture about crying wolf, the pediatrician got me a diagnosis of hypoglycemia and a free pass to the library with a bag of peanuts and some grape juice. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was missing months of school at a time, trapped by hallucinations of giant black ravens hovering over my bed, pinning my head to the pillow with their beaks.

Doctors started looking for brain tumors. I fantasized about the new identity I would have if they had to shave my head to cut them out. I was disappointed when they didn’t find any.

Meanwhile, I just got fatter. I remember stepping on my mother’s bathroom scale one fall morning to discover I weighed 208 pounds. My best friend, the cheerleader, weighed 108 pounds, and somehow those numbers seemed so close. I would pray every day that God would make me thin overnight and I would lay in bed deciding which outfit of hers I would borrow to wear to school the next morning.

Despite my absence from school, I managed to do well academically. Instead of daily assignments, my teachers allowed me to write papers and do research projects based on my interest. My interest as a suicidal12 year old was the Holocaust, and I wrote many papers about Josef Mengele. Looking back, that can’t have been the best idea. My standardized test scores tagged me as a candidate for the high school liberal arts magnet program, so I climbed aboard a bus that carried me 21 miles east every day.

I loved my high school. The radical difference between my home life and school life helped me feel that I had finally escaped myself. I was rewarded for my eccentricity, challenged academically, and I had a vibrant community of friends. But still, the year I got my driver license, I couldn’t pass a telephone pole without wondering who would show up at my funeral if I just drove straight into it.

By then I had been on anti-depressants and making promises not to harm myself or others to a psychologist once a week for over a year. The talking was nice, but the drugs didn’t work. I found food to be far more powerful than drugs. My diet throughout junior high and high school was Dr. Pepper, chinese take out, Taco Bell, and school cafeteria. Both of my parents worked full time and travelled frequently, so any home cooked meal came from a box or the freezer.

When I felt sad, I ate. When I felt happy, I ate. When I felt lonely, I ate. When I felt bored, I ate. When I felt too much, I ate. When I felt too little, I ate. I managed my mental illness by manipulating my blood sugar. This approach, coupled with the side-effects of medication, helped me tip the scales at 298 pounds by the time I left for college.

By the end of my first semester, I was put on suicide watch. I sat in the counselor’s office and fantasized about how I could kill myself with the can of sharpened pencils on his desk. A week later, I was home, slicing my wrists with a safety razor. I didn’t do much physical damage, but I spent a week in intensive care at the psychiatric hospital, trying to figure out how I could get into one of the padded rooms, concerned that they might not have a straight jacket to fit me.