Fat Shopping

This post is a bit overdue seeing as I went shopping with Katie last Friday.  But I still want to share the experience because it is part of my transformation and I wanted to contrast it with a previous experience I had a few years ago.

So, this post isn’t about dancing but it seems like this blog is shaping up to be mostly about dancing but also about my process of changing and sometimes there are peripheral stories that are a part of that.

Katie and I met at Nordstroms at Fashion Square mall.  You have to understand that Katie is a professional at this.  She had called ahead and made an appointment with Karen in the women’s department to help me find the perfect outfit for Ivan’s Name Day party.  Karen was gorgeous and effervescent.  I liked her immediately – her lovely cocoa skin, her adorable feminine outfit, her toothpaste-worthy sized smile, and her enthusiasm.  We made our introductions and she began pulling clothes for me.

I have to say, it was the most painless shopping trip I have ever had.  I did little more than try clothes on in the dressing room and then show Katie if I thought they were a possibility.  Far from being overwhelming, it felt effortless.  And I’ll never forget the moment that I found the right outfit.  I stepped out of the dressing room and both Karen and Katie, open-mouthed like groupers, exclaimed, “Oh my God!”  Their reaction was priceless.

So, although some outfits didn’t work, I didn’t get discouraged nor go into my usual pattern of self-loathing.  I didn’t feel overwhelmed searching the racks of clothing for something that might look good on me.  This contrasts greatly with previous shopping trips I’ve made.  They have generally been so painful for me that I avoid shopping for clothes as much as possible, wearing items over and over even to the point of disintegration.

Here’s what it used to be like for me:

There’s nothing like a trip to the clothing store to knock a girl right out of her confidence.

I wake up this morning, and, unexpectedly, I am happy for no reason.  I head straight to my trainer at the gym and bang out thirty minutes of strength training.  I don’t have time to do cardio before I meet my mother-in-law for lunch, so I promise myself to return to the gym later and complete forty-five minutes.  I go have a lovely lunch, a delicious Cobb salad with dressing on the side, and keep my word to myself and make it back to the gym.  The endorphins are flowing, and I am feeling confident and pretty after a shower and applying some mascara.  So, I decide, in my infinite wisdom, to knock myself right out of this happy place. 

How, you ask?  Well, I decide to go get something cute to wear out to dinner on a date with my husband tonight.  I have it all planned out:  I’ll do my hair, apply thick black eye makeup, and gloss my lips the perfect shade.  I’ll look great.  I might even wear high heels.  The sparkly ones I got at Nordstrom’s pop into my head. 

The sick part is that I’m going to the store to find something cute.  I think I’m going to enhance my already high self-esteem today.  I’m going to find the cutest little top to accentuate my eyes, and step out on the town boldly, radiating confidence in my beauty.

The only trouble is I’m fat.  I know what you’re thinking…some twiggy chick complaining about two pounds of water weight during her cycle.  Well, think again.  I’m one-hundred pounds over a healthy weight, so it is a realistic issue.  I know, however, that I am not my weight.  I know that I am not even my body.  I know that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.  And that doesn’t stop me from identifying with my body, nor does it prevent the pain of feeling inadequate solely based on my body image. 

The interesting thing is that I have had the same experience with shopping all my life.  Even when I was more than one-hundred pounds lighter, I found all the parts of me to despise:  my too thick thighs, the cellulite, the wings under my arms, the double chin, the belly pooch.  I realize that I have always experienced shopping for clothes as a reinforcement of how truly ugly, unappealing, and unworthy I am.  It is a prime opportunity for self-loathing.  And even when I had a body I would kill for now, I had the same thought processes about it all.  I see all that is wrong, all that needs to be “fixed.”  I do not see me in the mirror.  I see the projection of all the love I withhold from myself simply because of my body size and shape, as if by somehow withholding that love and acceptance will motivate me to become acceptable or loveable by having a “better” body.  It is truly agonizing.

This time, I cried in the dressing room.  With each shirt, that was supposed to accentuate the positives and help me feel and look my best in this current state, I felt instead like a walrus.  I see a huge black mass with a pretty face staring back at me in the mirror.  It is too painful to see.  It is why I usually avoid shopping.  There is this bright shining face, with vibrant, beautiful eyes staring back at me from the mirror.  They are so expressive and yet they are shadowed by the meaty black bulk trailing behind them.  The large whale-like mass is distracting from the being inside who wants to be seen.

I remember that even as a child on the playground I would daydream about going to a body part store where I could exchange out my belly or my arm for a perfectly toned one.  It is a deep-seated weed that has roots entrenched inside my heart and one that continues to grow back even after I remove it’s leaves.  I don’t know how to finally expel it from my psyche. 

One thing is sure, I am not happy with how I am now.  I am not happy with how I am choosing to present myself to the world.  It is a struggle to continue to be engaged in life and risk when I feel this way.  I want to hide in my shame and embarrassment.  I want to disappear until I have transformed in my bat cave so that I can reappear to the world as a perfectly toned goddess.  It is tricky not to be knocked sideways out of the flow of life in this vehement torrent of self-pity. 

So, the choice before me is to choose something different.  If I want to change, then take action to change.  It is all up to me. 

And. 

And.

And, I find it very difficult to sustain the changed choices over a long period of time.  I find it difficult to based on my past experiences to maintain the program of exercise, eating on a strict diet, when my body changes at a barely perceptible rate.  I want instant gratification, damn it!  I want to see the results of working out today, today!  And every time I don’t see the results, I label it a failure.  Of course I can’t be skinny.  I can’t have that lean healthy body.  It just isn’t in my genetic makeup, or some other such excuse.  The hardest part is that I know I’m full of shit.  I know that saying “can’t” really means “won’t.”  I know that I’m making up excuses to stay stuck where I am at.  I know that I do have the power to change this, if I really want to. 

And I don’t change it. 

Or if I do change, it is half-hearted.  Really, how can someone work out with a trainer and ballroom dance for over three years and still be obese?  I don’t know exactly how, but I’m managing to do it!  So if I’m already doing all that, then I shouldn’t have to do more, right?  I just don’t have a body that responds to exercise like other bodies.  Plus, there are so many other more “important” things that must take precedence over my health like marriage, career, school, friends, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.   I know that if I want to make time for activities that move me in the direction toward a healthy weight, then I could make that time. 

There must be some inner conflict, some benefit that I am enjoying with being so big and fat that it is painful to go shopping.  Something that really is tied into my emotional survival instincts.  They say that being fat is simply an external, physical form of armor or protection of self.  What, oh what, dear God, am I protecting myself from?  What, oh what, God, is the benefit I am getting from being so big?  If I could answer these questions then I could address the underlying hurt behind them.  So far, I am just hurting.

So now I have a choice.  I’m sitting here crying in my office, writing this out in the hopes that it will be of some benefit to someone someday.  And, I have a date planned with my husband.  I want to honor myself and fully acknowledge my pain.  And, after doing so, after sitting in this really uncomfortable place, I am going to put on the shiny heels and black eye make up.  I am going to be the confident, sexy, beautiful girl that I am.  I am going to brave the world and continue living despite my huge frame.  I am going to find some love and compassion for this person who is hurting so deeply.  I am going to find the love for me. 

I don’t know how just yet, but I will.

It is hard to read this, even today.  But the good news is that little by little I am finding some love and compassion for myself.  I was able to have a different shopping experience this time because of the support of a friend.  I don’t think I’ll ever tackle this task alone again – it is just too easy to get caught up in all the negative self-talk.  But with the help of a friend, who loves me for me and wants me to feel good about myself as I am in this moment, I am able to stay more positive and even feel good about myself.

I’m not where I want to be, but at least I’m moving in the right direction.  And with the support and friendship of people like Katie, I just might get there.

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The Healing Power of…Shoes?

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Dance Starz studio (and later the mall)

Woman’s styling class with Marieta and power shopping with Katie

I have this plan, see.  I’m going to be this amazing, feminine, yet sexy, and strong, and powerful, graceful, and technically excellent ballroom dancer.  That’s how I show up in my head, in any case.  But the picture in my brain differs considerably from what I see in the mirror every day.

Even though this gap between reality and the vision I have for myself is as wide as the Grand Canyon, the only way to bridge the chasm is to begin to take steps in real life to bring this vision into becoming a reality.

The Stefanie in my mind’s eye is sassy, and confident.  She wears cute outfits on her fit body and looks “put together.”  She wears make up and takes the time to style her hair.  If she feels like it, she thinks nothing of wearing leopard skin prints unabashedly, paired with fuchsia high heels, that scream, “Look at me!”

The Stefanie in the mirror wears black (it’s slimming, right?).  She rarely wears make up.  He hair is frequently found pulled back in a ponytail.  She’s pudgy and shy.  She can’t look into her own eyes in  the mirror, much less those of any audience member.  She wears flat shoes, also black, because they are easy and comfortable, and don’t draw much attention.

But luckily for me, I have friends who support me in my vision.  My friend Katie, I’ve mentioned her before in previous posts, is a fashionista!  She saw my sad black shoes and knew that something needed to be done.

“We’re going shopping,” she tells me, “you need some SOS pumps.”

To me SOS means help, and for certain I need an assist in this arena.  However, according to Katie, SOS really means, “Sex on a stick.”  ( Can I even write about this in a blog…I’m blushing as I write this!)

Um, yeah.  SO OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE!

But that vision in my head of what I could be won’t shut up.  I take a deep breath and think, yes, I’m going to do this.  I don’t know when, but we will.

Yesterday was the day.  I got an email forwarded from Katie about a shoe sale at a local store.  I look at the pictures of exotic pumps and text her back, “Holy Hell.”

We made an appointment for the very same evening.

But first its a group Latin styling class aimed at women taught by Marieta.  I swear, I get an education just by watching this woman move.  She is gorgeous.

First she warms us up, feet, ankles, legs, hips, rib cage, arms.  We are ready to go.  She teaches a little Latin Rumba combination, explaining we are to be feminine and move as though we were swimming under water, fluidly, like seaweed waving under the sea.

Next it is Cha Cha.  She explains that each dance has a different dynamic and characteristic.  We need to move in a way that will create a distinction in our movements, avoiding a monochromatic performance.  Cha Cha has pop, pizzaz, drama, and sharpness.  We do a similar combination as the one for Rumba, and surprisingly, dancing beside this beautiful dancer, I’m creating similar pictures with my body.  I pat myself on the back.  Forget the fact that prior to coming to the lesson I was having a “skinny day.”  There’s nothing like standing next to a professional ballroom dancer to shatter a “skinny day,” but hey, I’m moving, and with each shake and shimmy, I’m one calorie closer to being in shape.

Class ends and Katie is there ready to go.  We speed off toward the mall.  It is 8:05 and the mall closes at 9pm.  But we are on a mission and I intend on accomplishing it.  We park and walk across the mall to the shoe store Katie has in mind.

Remember that scene from “Pretty Woman,” where Julia Roberts in full-on hooker garb walks into the ritzy upscale boutique and the saleswomen won’t give her the time of day.  Well, it was kind of like that.  The sales girls eye me sceptically.  First off, I’m in my black dance pants and black sweater top and those sad black flat shoes.  I wear none of the make up that adorns their pretty faces.  I’m twice the size of their normal customer.  My hair is pulled back in the famous pony tail.

Katie, however, wastes no time.  She asks for Lisa, whom she spoke with earlier today requesting her to set aside a few shoe models.  Lisa hasn’t complied, but oh well.  Katie begins grabbing pumps from here and there and I begin trying them on.

I have to admit, I am so glad I had back up.  If I had attempted to go into this store by myself, I would have chickened out.  I don’t have any confidence in this arena and especially with the way the sales women were interacting with me I would have felt very out of place, very uncomfortable.  Why do I give my power away like that?  I’m not entirely sure.  But with a true friend at my side, we created our own “bubble” of fun and exploration.  We had a blast.  I’m so proud of us – we got some SOS pumps in 23 minutes flat!  Talk about the power of intention and committment.

As I was trying on one pair, walking, just walking in them mind you, I wobbled.  Katie bust out laughing.

“You can do the Cha-Cha in 2.5 inch heels but you can’t walk!  You showed me the Rumba walks, now let me show you how to do the runway walk.”

She demonstrates how to walk on the tippy toes.

The sceptical sales girl suggests that perhaps I should try a lower heel first.  Clearly she doesn’t approve of my choice of SOS heels.  But you know what?  Screw that.  This isn’t about her and what she might be thinking.  It is about me.  And I’m not going to settle for less than what we came here for.  I’m committed.

I decide on the pair I want and tell the sales girl to ring me up.  In a flash, I am almost overcome with emotion.  For one split-second, I see the vision of Stefanie completely unfolded, the Stefanie who wears shoes like this.  I see that really, I am this girl, who fears not to wear bright fire-engine-red too-high-to-be-practical heels.

Yes, I really, really am.

It may be starting with my feet, but the feet have stepped through the partition from my inner mind’s eye to real life.

One foot represents me now, the other represents what I am stepping into becoming

Who knew that buying a pair of shoes could be so healing?  I certainly didn’t!

These are the ones I finally decided upon.

Now, what the heck am I going to wear with these!?

Again, Katie to the rescue.  We are set to find an outfit on Thursday.  I think I’ve been possessed by a “body snatches pod person.”  Then again, maybe not.  Maybe the real Stefanie, the one who’s been hiding all her life, finally feels like it is safe to come out.  She needs the support of her friends and a lot of love and compassion, but little by little, I detect her flower blossoming.  And all because of the support of a friend  who helped me find the courage to go and buy some silly, red shoes.  (I mean, awesome, sexy shoes).

I just need to learn how to walk in them….