I’ve been busy getting ready for my daughter, Cara’s Sweet 16 on May 19. After church on Sunday afternoon, we planned to go shopping for decorations and then hit the Palisades Mall to catch up on many of the things that we needed to get for the party.
From Having so Much Fun…
I was incredibly jazzed to float through the aisles in Michael’s® and play around with all the beautiful silk flowers, and feathers, making different arrangements combining the two elements. Then after paying for our purchases, I was drawn like a magnet to leaf through the pages of a cookbook for homemade bake pops. Seeing how excited I got flipping the pages, Cara offered to buy the book for me as a thank you gift. That was so much fun.
To Not so Much
But the part of the day that wasn’t so great was shopping for shapers. In fact, I’d have to say it damn near sucked. It’s been years since I’ve worn a shaper. As a thinner woman back in my Weight Watching days, I wore girdles all the time, but now having learned and lived a big lesson about the importance of self-acceptance, I’m so much more comfortable embracing my curvy hips. So I’ve happily put shapers on the shelf and haven’t looked back since. But I felt certain that for the party I wanted to wear a shaper. As we first entered the lingerie department of Macy’s, I went through the racks of the various shapers, bras and corsets, and pulled out several and begrudgingly headed to the fitting room.
Starting to Crumble Under the Shaper
Cara and I chose a room big enough for both of us and we began the process of trying everything on. My first pick was a shaper that was a size 2X. I looked at it and for the first time noticed how incredibly small it was. Then I started thinking about girdles and what they’re supposed to do. And I equated putting one on with trying to stuff a sausage into a casing.
As it lay in my hand, it looked about the size of a large onesie for a toddler. As I undressed and stood looking at myself in the mirror, I could almost taste the old familiar feelings of insecurity starting to gain a grip on me. I fought the tendency to slide into the abyss.
When I dressed for church that morning, I felt great and was really comfortable with my curvy shape, but I could feel that that same Love my body certainty was beginning to crumble under the weight of my inner critic. The old voices started shouting, gaining momentum. “You fat ass.” “You look disgusting.” “You better lose some weight.” “Time to go back to dieting now.” “Look how damned fat you look in that dress.” “Who the hell do you think you are?”
Slowing Down and Being an Observer
Annoyed with myself for letting this even get to me, I continued to watch myself and pay attention to my thoughts as an observer.
Since I had twisted my right ankle a couple weeks ago and it was still sore, I started to slowly slide the shaper over my left foot first. Then upon realizing this shaper couldn’t even get up past my calf, I knew it wasn’t going to sliiiiiiiiide over any part of me, I finally got an in-the-bones understanding that this was a truly fruitless task.
I sat on the bench in the fitting room and I could feel myself getting angry. I told Cara, “This is f***** ridiculous. I’m so sick and tired of trying to squeeze into clothes that don’t fit me. I just have no tolerance for it. I refuse to let this damned stupid shaper make me feel fat.
But despite my very vocal protests, I could feel my heart sinking and feelings of helplessness and sadness overtook me. For the next 10 minutes or so, I decided to just calm myself down, do some tapping on the side of my hand and under my eyes to relax my nerves and let my feelings roll over me.
As Cara continued to try on other garments, I told her that I needed to take some time for myself to clear my thoughts. As I tapped gently on my face and hands, I thought about all the nasty criticisms that were springing to mind. I focused on why I was feeling so fat and out of place, what that reminded me of, and how I wanted to feel instead. I knew that the tapping was working because I kept on yawning during the whole process. I could feel my energy coming back into balance.
It was as though I had hit a pause button and I was able to slow down and look at my thoughts without judgment. My breathing slowed and I was less agitated about the shaper. The sadness and insecurity that I had been feeling just melted away.
As I looked at myself in the mirror sitting topless with my left foot still in the shaper leg, I laughed at the comedy of it all. I re-engaged with Cara as I continued to search for a new meaning for what I was experiencing.
The sadness was gone. And I didn’t feel the need to feel sorry for myself anymore. Now I was angry. But unlike the many other times before when I fought the frustration in fitting rooms to give up and go eat, I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t want to take out the frustrations that I felt on myself. I knew that I didn’t deserve that. It was the damned shaper and the manufacturer that makes shapers labelled size 2X just big enough to fit a toddler. That’s what I was angry about. Not my body.
After I sat and calmed myself down, I reached for another 2X shaper. As I pulled it over me, I promised myself that if it didn’t fit, then I was willing to go and get the next size up. I sure as hell wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself because the shaper didn’t fit me. I wasn’t too fat. I just needed a bigger size shaper. I was bound and determined to win this war. As I slipped the dress over the shaper, I could see that it wasn’t doing me any favors and it didn’t make the dress look any better.
Cara suggested that I take off the shaper and try on the dress again. I did that. Then when I looked in the mirror a second time, I could definitely see that I looked better in the dress without the shaper. Then Cara suggested that I wear the dress to the party without the shaper. But to be honest, the jury is still out on this one, and I haven’t yet made a decision. Maybe I’ll get one. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just have to do a bit more tapping to get to the place of feeling totally comfortable without the shaper.
What I Know For Damned Sure
But I have realized that I am absolutely unwilling to ever spend another minute feeling bound up and uncomfortable for any length of time to pretend that I’m something that I’m not. I am a plus size woman, and I’m damned proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished.
Back in the day when I was a dieter, I swore that my problems rested on the size of my thighs. Now I know that my problem was just feeling like I didn’t have a right to be the size I was. I thought I had to change myself, and get thinner in order for the world to give me permission to think of myself as okay. To hell with that! I’ve been through too many years and cried too many tears trying to fit in, trying to be liked, and loved by others. Now I’m more happy with myself standing out. Like me or not. That’s just who I am. Despite the fact that I’m fat, my body is the smallest part of me. You see, I’m so much more than just a collection of body parts. And so are you.
A Bigger Lesson Learned
Yesterday on Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour: Oprah was speaking with Deepak Chopra. In discussing the impermanence of our bodies, Deepak said, we are spiritual beings living in a physical body.” He suggests that we can connect with our spirit and gain insight into our lives by asking meaningful questions such as: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose in this life? What are my unique skills and talents? What do I expect in a meaningful relationship? This definitely got me thinking past the silly shaper situation.
Spreading the Love and Some Hope
Today in a conversation with my mom she mentioned that she went shopping and she was upset because the sweater she bought was tight on her. She went on and on and talked about how she had to lose weight and stop eating so much, and be more disciplined. Blah, blah, blah. I interrupted her and said, “Mom, this is a really uncomfortable conversation for me to have. I don’t agree with you about dieting and I don’t think getting thinner or fitting into a smaller size is going to guarantee you happiness. I get so sad thinking about all the years I’ve wasted wishing my body were different. I’m just so tired of trying to be something I’m not. I know that I’m in this body for a reason and I just want to spend the rest of my time learning how to love it. Please no more talk of dieting. On this, we agreed to disagree.
How ‘bout you? When you go out and buy a shaper or try on clothes that are too small, or step on a scale, are you also falling into the body hating trap, wishing things were different? It’s not easy. It can happen to anyone. I thought I was becoming immune to it, but sometimes the insecurities still creep in. When that happens just remember that you are so much more than a body. You are a spiritual being inhabiting a physical body. Now think for a moment about what you have learned living in your body. I know for sure if I didn’t have this body, I wouldn’t have acquired all the gifts that have made me who I am. I love my curves. How ’bout you?