Tag Archives: Health

The Body Post

May 22, 2015

Body Post

I am 14-years-old, 5’8, and 185 pounds. The only pants that fit over my thighs are outdated and torn. I’ve been an awkward kid my whole life, but now I am a teenager with braces, butterfly clips and obesity. It is hard. I try my best to ignore the fact that I don’t look like everyone else, but still pray every night for a better body so that I might have a boyfriend other than “Chad,” my fictional lover “from the city.”

Then one day my wish comes true. I don’t know if it’s hormones or a bona fide miracle from Jesus, but between my Junior and Senior years of high school, I lose a whole 45 pounds. That’s like one Justin Bieber.

The first thing I do is buy a normal sized jean jacket. It is thrilling and strange. Gone are the days of “Well, at least you have a nice smile!”, and for the first time in my life–boys notice me. All of a sudden I am popular, pretty, and picked first in gym class despite being a truly terrible athlete. All the balls are literally in my court, staring at my miniskirt and making awkward conversation about my “different look.”

The rest is predictable. I get drunk on the power and obsessed with being thin. It’s all I think about day and night, resulting in some really creative diets including the “The Sleep Diet,” “The Saltine Diet,” and perhaps most repelling, “The Refried Beans Diet.”  By the end of college, I have dabbled in all the dark eating arts; bulimia, anorexia, dipping cotton balls in orange juice and calling it “lunch.” I am a jack of all trades.

Most notable is my long relationship with laxatives. For years I pop these pills into my digestive system to “cleanse” all the calories after meals. The problem is that they are A) habit forming and B) will ruin your body and cause you to shit your pants in the school cafeteria. They also do not work. My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo due to false hope over these tiny pills. When I finally quit cold turkey, I have a weakened metabolism and lasting damage to my bowels.

Enter the children. The first thing I do when I get pregnant is promise myself I’ll stop abusing my body. The months before my wedding I had been eating less than 500 calories a day, barely enough to walk up a flight of stairs without passing out. I couldn’t do that while caring for a baby. And so I look down at my stomach, say Honey, it’s just not worth it, and promptly gain 75 pounds.

I’ve been sporting a pear shape ever since.

A few weeks ago I was asked to write about body image and how it’s changed over the years. Despite spending the past three decades being too big or too small, here are some things I know for sure:

1) Eating too little will make you feel like shit.

2) Eating too much will make you feel like shit.

3) It doesn’t matter how much therapy, exercise, or humor you pour into yourself–body issues do not disappear. They are with you for life. Amy Poehler calls it “the demon.”

Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.

The demon is annoying but I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be everything. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to life than thigh gap. Also, spending thirty years in a woman’s body has taught me a few things. For example, how to buy appropriate sized clothing. Pro tip: squeezing into a smaller size out of vanity could result in a situation that requires scissors or your uncle’s butcher knife. Similarly, how to avoid fad diets. Take it from an expert dieter, juice cleanses and 30 day fixes do nothing more than give you temporary weight loss and diarrhea. Doctors, science, and years of research are actually telling the truth. Healthy eating and exercise are the only ways to truly lose weight. I know it’s the worst.

There is no way to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that binge eating colace will cause her 30-year-old self to shit her pants at the grocery store. All I can do now is laugh and maybe become a motivational speaker for teenage youths who think Angelina’s arms are normal. I can think of no better way to dissuade someone from laxative abuse than describing the particulars of throwing out your underwear in the Costco bathroom. The details are truly horrifying.

The image we have of ourselves is always shifting. May we continue to grow into our bodies, forgive our arms, and celebrate our working bones.

We are always a work in progress.

***

For The Feelers

March 18, 2015

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For a long time I pretended not to be a feeler. The cool girl image of myself did not include a lot of crying or sensitivity. “Sometimes I tear up at weddings,” I’d say casually. “But most things don’t really bother me.”

When my first baby was born, I let go of this fake version of myself out of pure necessity. Not only could I not stop the inevitable swell of emotion over my son, I couldn’t stop feeling everything. Every news story bothered me, every random act of kindness excited me, every single, stupid diaper commercial made me weep. I thought: This is it. I’m officially crazy.

It was honestly a relief.

Women have been called crazy since the beginning of time. Ever since Eve tried the apple and Adam shrugged and said, “She’s cray,” womenfolk have been named the weaker species. The emotional species. The binge-eating-ice-cream-out-of-the-carton-because-we-can’t-handle-our-periods species. It’s so boring and unflattering. After all, WE ARE ALL THE SAME SPECIES.

It’s also a teeny, tiny, little bit true.

The New York Times ran a great op-ed piece last week on medicating women’s feelings. Julie Holland writes,

Women are moody. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. This is basic to our survival and that of our offspring. Some research suggests that women are often better at articulating their feelings than men because as the female brain develops, more capacity is reserved for language, memory, hearing and observing emotions in others. […] It doesn’t mean we’re weak or out of control. Change comes from the discomfort and awareness that something is wrong; we know what’s right only when we feel it. If medicated means complacent, it helps no one.

As it turns out, we can blame some things on biology. I suppose it was our suspicion all along. Hormones, periods, eggs falling all over our uteruses— what a spectacular mess. I know a special version of myself surfaces monthly. I call her Nancy. Nancy’s main problem is that she believes everyone is thinking about her in the shower, and not in the good way. She also really enjoys Mexican food, but that is neither here nor there.

This part of womanhood can be hard to dissect intellectually. We want to have control over our reactions to weddings, births, not getting a text back from a friend, a little boy abused on the news, the jar of jelly falling off the counter and into a million pieces. But as experience has taught us, being alive can be a bit overwhelming.

Of course it isn’t just women who are feelers. So many of our greatest men are prone to feel deeply. I almost married a few until I realized that two feelers in one relationship can lead to the kind of drama better left to reality TV.

It is a blessing and a curse to sit in the world this way. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. Every neglected child is your child, every homeless 50-year-man is your dad. When life is horrifying for others, it is hard not to bear some of the weight too.  Empathy is good, but fear is its very close sister.

It can also make some of us a bit delusional. A bit Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction if you know what I mean.

The upside is that this is where poetry is born. Beethovens, Picassos, and Kingsolvers, too. It also helps reveal our own identities. There is so much truth behind our emotion. When we’re allowed to feel our feelings all the way, a rawness is exposed. The inside parts of our fleshy bodies. It does not make us weaker, just fuller. As a friend once put it, “Feeling deeply is just being more alive.”

What a gift, to feel.

***

Is My Robot Arm Birth Control Giving Me A Brain Tumor? (And other questions)

January 21, 2015

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A long time ago a few of us talked about birth control. I was looking for something after our second baby was born and asked if anyone had found anything wonderful. There were a lot of helpful comments on that post, along with agreed frustration over the few options out there that are satisfying for everyone.

After a lot of research and “WILL THIS HURT???”, I decided to get the Nexplanon inserted in my arm after Eva was born. And now, a little over a year later, I’m getting it out.

If you’re new here, let me welcome you to a brief history of my uterus! If I had visual aids, I would first show you a picture of a flat-chested young woman in the 8th grade who still did not have her period. Then I would tell you about the day that flat-chested young woman finally did get her period, after faking it several times and almost dying on a water slide. Then I would tell you about sleeping around in college, waiting for my honeymoon, and then trying really, really hard to get pregnant.

Lucky for me, I had two kids after many drugs and carbs, and am now in the place many parents find themselves: not wanting any more kids right now, but not ready for the big V.

Initially the Nexplanon was a dream come true. A painless insertion followed by minimal spotting, no periods, and hassle free sex for three years. Then a few months ago I started getting bad headaches, followed by depressive episodes and an anxiety I’ve never experienced before. Truthfully there were a few days before Christmas I would not have been able to take care of my kids if Austin wouldn’t have been home.

To be clear, there’s a good chance all of these symptoms could have nothing to do with the birth control. There’s also a chance I’ll never have those symptoms again. But if removing these hormones from the equation could prevent that heaviness from happening again, I am more than willing to try. As soon as I made the appointment, I felt relief. Taking the first step is often half the cure (especially when the only other step you’re taking is googling brain tumor symptoms).

Of course the downside to all of this is that someone is going to cut a 4 inch piece of plastic out of my arm this morning while I nervously make small talk about the weather. A few years ago, a lab technician was drawing blood samples and in a nauseated frenzy I asked if he “enjoyed being outside.” He paused before replying, “You mean, like outside this hospital?”

I have never been great with blood.

Birth control is so complicated. The female body is so complicated. Every symptom is a symptom of something else. If I had a nickle for every wasted pregnancy test or googled illness, I could fund my own personal cheesecake factory–and I don’t even like cheesecake that much.

A prayer for the unsuspecting nurse midwife who will inevitably wonder why the pale 29-year-old is sweating and talking about storm patterns.

Another chapter for this uterus.

***

Let’s Talk About Vasectomies!

October 21, 2014

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Do you want to know what guys love talking about? Vasectomies. Cosmo may think it has something to do with lace underwear, but no. Guys definitely love talking about testicular surgery.

I want to tell you that Austin and I don’t talk about having a third baby every week, but that would be a lie because we talk about it every day. No one wants to talk about it, but out it comes in various forms having to do with things like vacations and private school and most importantly how will we ever have time.

Practically we know it doesn’t really matter. If we have zero or three more kids, we will be fine and happy and make it work. But when two firstborn children marry each other, it is very hard for everyone to just relax.

The conversation often centers around the desire to be more than parents. We find ourselves routinely frustrated over not being able to pursue hobbies because the kids are constantly asking for refills of orange juice. Austin loves babies, but worries the stage of diapers and tantrums will seem unending if we keep the ball rolling. I know how he feels. There are many moments every day when I stop and think, this is all I can sanely handle. This is absolutely it. 

On the other hand, children are heart growers, birth is beautiful, and what about all those instagrams of newborns in sleepsacks?

Pros and cons, pros and cons.

Our plan has always been to wait until Evie is three years old and make a decision from there, but it is hard to push it from my mind. I want to know for sure if these are my last infant years. Will I really only have two little faces in the rear view mirror? Should I be keeping my baby bathtub? What if my robot arm birth control is giving me a disease? IS MY WOMB EMPTY FOREVER.

I have talked about the last baby before. From the beginning I have treasured our daughter like she is the last time I’ll ever kiss a soft baby belly, and yet I can’t help but dream about a Braverman-like crowd at future holiday dinners. I love my kids so much, why wouldn’t I want more? Won’t Waylon and Eva want more siblings? What other kind of humans could we grow!

Of course there are many opinions. Last week I read an article on the top ten reasons why you definitely should have a third child. A few days later, I read another post on why you definitely should not. Both used the word “selfish” and both made it seem like I was only one round of Clomid away from the best or worst decision of my life. It was confusing.

It is human nature to be curious about the what-ifs. I will pray for peace and Xanax. Best case scenario is that I will become more enlightened, or at the very least, more relaxed. We have time. We have two mostly nice kids. Hormonal birth control (probably) won’t kill me. What will be will be.

In the meantime, keep making babies and let me know how it goes.

***

What’s Your Birth Control?

August 27, 2013

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Birth control is complicated. Not only is it a hot topic in regards to who gets it, but even when you have the choice–it can be difficult to decide what kind you’re putting where.

Today’s post isn’t a political one, although if you want my two cents–if we focus more on empowering, educating, and making birth control available to young women–we wouldn’t have to spend so much time killing each other over abortion. It’s a no brainer to me, but this is not that blog. If you want to fight about it, check facebook. I think there are probably some people waiting over there.

Anyways. Talking about birth control options can be awkward outside a group of girlfriends, but I’m getting over it because I need to know. Austin and I aren’t ready to make any permanent alterations (vasectomy high five!) for a few more years, but we’re also not ready for more babies right away after number two arrives. It almost seems silly to go on birth control after needing help to get pregnant in the first place, but for us–it’s not worth the risk. I know my limits. I know residency will look a lot like only seeing Austin every other weekend. I know two will be enough for the next few years.

Austin is on his OB/GYN rotation right now, which means he often comes home to poke and prod my abdomen, tell me horrifying birth stories, and give speeches on the various birth control options he’s learning about. Right now he’s really jazzed about the IUD, which I swore I’d never use–but he’s made a pretty convincing case.

Upside: No hassle! No hormones! I can leave it in for a few years!

Downside: They have to install that contraption while I’m awake. I have a sensitive cervix (nausea, fainting), she doesn’t like to be touched. Also: WHAT IF IT GETS LOST INSIDE OF ME.

He’s also mentioned this crazy device you have stuck inside your arm. I feel better about someone poking me there, but again–what if it gets lost inside my body and travels up into my brain and changes my personality to Amanda Bynes? I’ve been reassured this is impossible, but I have my doubts.

I do know I don’t want to take the pill ever again. I started taking it in 9th grade to manage polycystic ovaries and I’m just over it. Condoms are also out (Gross! Expensive! Sex with a plastic bag!) and I’m not a fan of the Nuva Ring. Too many horror stories. Too much hassle.

I have a few months to decide, which is why I’m talking about it now. I need input. I need advice. I need to make a plan. Plans make me feel safe. Plans reassure me that I’ll get there on time or have what I’ll need or not get pregnant and have three kids under three during the most stressful year of my life.

Hopefully you know something I don’t. Hopefully you have a great birth control story that includes no hassle, no pain, and no terrible side effects! Again, I have my doubts–but I’m all ears.

***

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