Posts Tagged ‘body image’

“Body Hate, Part 1” by Cindy

(Side note, I have no current plan for Part 2, but I felt certain that this post would be Part 1, so I just went with it. In other words, don’t hold your breath for Part 2 – it might be a while)

As much as I hate to use the word hate (see what I did there?), it had to be done.

My body and I have never been on the best of terms. I’ve never been particularly happy with any part of it, always finding fault with this lumpiness or that lopsidedness. This kind of discomfort, though, rather unfortunately, seems to be the norm for women of my age and culture, so right or wrong, I kind of accepted it.

From early teenagehood, I learned to see only my faults when I looked in a mirror, and quite illogically, I yearned to look sleek and polished like the women in the magazines (this was especially illogical because I never put much effort into actually trying to look like them – I occasionally did some exercise, rarely dieted, and hardly wore make-up). I never thought I looked particularly bad, just never particularly good.

I also quickly recognized that I am about the least photogenic person I know. At least I hope I am, because especially lately, the person I see in pictures does not look much like the person I see in the mirror, and I am often horrified to see just how large my ass is in pictures, when the mirror told me that I looked OK in those jeans. The mirror also seems to be kinder to my double chin… the camera, not so much. Like honest children, that crafty bastard finds it and several friends every damn time. (I have a sort of fond memory of my niece at a young age sitting on my lap patting my neck. When I asked her what she was doing, she sweetly said, “playing with your double-chin”. Awwww. I have some stories for her wedding when the time comes…)

I knew a woman in university who jumped in front of the mirror in my dorm room and exclaimed, “I love my body”. I had never heard a woman say that before, and I was amazed. I have often thought of her and wondered how she came to that place of self-acceptance. She was not model-thin or athletic or any kind of body type that is easy to describe, but she loved her body and I have always admired her for it.

These days, I have two reasons to really dislike my body. Not only does it not conform to societally accepted norms of beauty, but it stubbornly refuses to perform its biological imperative and reproduce. So, I have some anger issues to work out with my body.

Last year, before we decided to do IVF, I decided that as a “fuck-you” to my body, I would make 2013 the year of the “hot-bod” and I would work out and diet until I looked so fabulous all my mom friends would be jealous. I shamefully admit that was part of my motivation. I thought if I couldn’t join the mom club, maybe I could at least be the fit friend they wished they looked like. All my shrinking clothes will tell you how well that worked out… (Also, all my mom friends are hot, so I was never going to meet that spiteful goal, no matter how well I did).

See, I neglected to take into account a couple of important factors. Namely, my personality and Cheetos.

My conflicted personality wants to look hot, but doesn’t want to want to look hot. This is a problem. Philosophically, my brain rebels against trying to conform to outrageous expectations of beauty. Shouldn’t I be able to just be happy with how I look? After all, everyone knows that sexy is a feeling, not a look, right? Except, how can I feel sexy when I think I don’t look sexy? It’s a conundrum.

I mean, I could probably do a lot with make-up and style, but am I ever lazy when it comes to that. Have you seen the videos and pictures of the difference make-up makes? Wow. I suppose I could learn to do that, but then, my idealistic side says, wouldn’t I be projecting a false image to the world and kowtowing to those unrealistic views of beauty? And what is a realistic budget for cosmetics? Do you know how many bags of Cheetos you can get for one MAC product?

And style! Oh my goodness do I have a problematic relationship with style. It all goes back to grade 5 when I went on my first “style” shopping trip with my Mom, and my much more stylish best friend and her mom. It was the first time I was really allowed to pick out my wardrobe and try to be stylish. Yikes – style is not my friend. Even now, I am too embarrassed to dig up a picture for proof.

I have a really hard time choosing style over comfort (and yes, I know, lots of you ladies are able to do both, and do it within a budget, and blah blah blah, I hate you, shut up). I love the look of heels and hate wearing them. My best friend wants to confiscate and burn my favourite shoes because they are so ugly, but they are so comfortable that I can’t bear to part with them, and I hate shoe shopping. Does anyone really notice shoes anyway? And why should I care if they do? And yet, the little voice inside says, I do want to look hot…

In addition to my ideals raging against my societal conditioning, I just don’t like being told what to do. Call it my rebellious side, but even when it’s me telling me what to do, part of me says, “You’re not the boss of me, and I don’t want to!” So, every time I think, “I should go for a run”, my brain says, “But I don’t want to. Look – a “Pretty Little Liars” we haven’t seen yet! We should get some Cheetos!”

I realized a while ago that I don’t really like doing exercise for exercise’s sake. It was freeing, in a way, to realize that, because then I could stop trying to make myself do things I didn’t enjoy doing and start thinking about the kinds of things I do enjoy doing.

I enjoy playing tennis, for example. It’s the one cardio activity that I will do and enjoy until I am panting and sweating (please note that this does not mean I am any good at tennis – quite the opposite in fact). The problem is finding people and time to play (winter was a bit of a problem, but I think we may have a couple of months of tennis possibilities now). John is my only reliable tennis partner because the other people who are interested in playing don’t actually have time to play because, you guessed it, they have kids. And John just doesn’t seem to like tennis as much as I do, perhaps because he so easily beats me every time we play.

I enjoy climbing, which is a great joint activity for us, and if he would only go a few weeks without getting injured, then we could get back into it… (that’s not entirely fair, we have jointly found it difficult to get motivated to go climbing when we are both exhausted in the evenings, but it’s not entirely inaccurate either).

I enjoy riding a bike, but not for exercise, which means that John and I are not great cycling partners. He wants to go fast, and I want to leisurely enjoy the ride. A spin class sounds like a complete nightmare to me. A bunch of sweaty people in a small room cycling really hard for no good reason? No, thank-you.

I tried a couple of Zumba classes, but it was more aerobics than dance, and I didn’t really love it. I liked going with friends, but I wouldn’t go for fun on my own, so that’s out.

Swimming is nice, and then I get to hot tub after, but I feel I have to shave my legs for that, and this winter, I really felt I needed the extra warmth… (or got lazy, whatever).

All that to say the only regular exercise I have been getting is walking to and from work (20 min downhill to work and 25 min uphill home), walking the dog, and doing the occasional yoga DVD. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great.

To be fair, there were a couple of other factors that hindered my fitness plan. It is not really recommended to do high-impact exercise during the 2-week wait, and since there was a 2-week wait every month, it was pretty hard to get into any kind of routine.

So, the exercise plan part of the year of the hot-bod never quite got off the ground. I did successfully calorie-count using MyFitnessPal (which a couple of friends have had great success with), for about two weeks. Then, I lost interest. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I suspect that Cheetos played a role. There are only so many times you want to admit to that little app that you have gone 1000 calories over your goal before you just decide to stop telling it.

And here’s the thing – it’s pretty hard not to comfort eat when you are going through major disappointment every month. I was telling a friend that I was concerned about gaining weight, and she looked at me and firmly said, “you can’t be worrying about that right now,” and I realized she was right. Stressing about my weight was not helping, and I deserved those Cheetos. So the year of the hot-bod died a quiet heavy death.

And then there was IVF. Sure, I gained a few pounds with Clomid, but nothing like what I put on with that one round of IVF. I never thought I would see my scale hit the numbers it hit, and I almost declared it broken and threw it out the window. When my loving husband reminded me that the scale had actually underweighed him according to the doctor’s scale, he was lucky to leave the room unharmed (or more truthfully, he was lucky I was able to do anything other than sob for the rest of that day).

I tried calorie-counting a couple of months ago for a few days, felt awful, and kept gaining weight. I decided to wait until the hormones had faded to even start trying to lose the IVF weight. Then, last week, I was starting to feel hopeful and more emotionally strong, so I thought it might be time. I was wrong.

After 2 days of calorie-counting, I was becoming grumpier and sadder and I couldn’t figure out why. On the third day, I looked at John and told him that I didn’t think I was ready to diet, yet. He agreed, I ate an enormous lunch, and I felt immediately better. For now, I said, I will just try to include more healthy foods, add in some exercise, and still eat those Cheetos when I feel the need (side note – please don’t send me Cheetos – if I see them, I will eat them).

So in addition to forgiving my body for letting me down in the reproductive department (I think that’s going to take some time), I know I need to come to terms with my body image somehow, because I have a sense that no diet or exercise regime will work until I do. I just don’t quite know how to do that.

There is a video (the Embrace Project) going around Facebook of a woman who bucked the norm and publicized a picture of herself as a body-builder (the “before” picture) and then as a new mother (the “after” picture). She says that even when she was in tip-top shape, it didn’t help her love her body. She then says that after a year of hard work, she learned to love her body as it was. What she doesn’t say is how she did it. What kind of hard work leads to this self-love? (If it involves being naked a lot, I really need to move to a warmer climate. Actually, maybe that’s the way to talk John into moving South…)

So I guess that’s why I instinctively titled this post “Part 1”. For this kind of post I would like to be more solution-focused, and I just don’t have any of those yet, so it feels unfinished. Maybe “Part 2” will arise with progress. I hope so, because when I look at all my beautiful nieces, the last thing I want is for them to hate their bodies as most of their mothers and aunts do. So perhaps this is something we all need to figure out together so we can break this destructive cycle. Who’s with me?

And who knows how to start?




“Commit to the Poke” by Cindy

After two weeks of nasal spray to put my ovaries to sleep, I went in for a blood test and ultrasound yesterday to see if I was ready for the next step.  Everything looked OK, so I was given the go-ahead to start injections.  Yay.

The pharmacist who sat down with me to teach me how to do it was great – she went through everything step by step and had me practice on a block.  It seemed simple enough, and she assured me that the needle is only 1 cm long, even though it seems longer.

So I dashed home after work and asked John to help me document the process, partially as a distraction from what I was preparing to do.


photo 1First step – lay everything out and wash hands.   There is a lot of stuff. (as an aside, the flash makes our walls look like puke green.  I swear that they are really a nice bamboo green.)

The second step, which involved a process of sucking up liquid in one vial to mix with medicine in another was not documented due to some confusion over which parts of what were attached to what (apparently I didn’t absorb that information very well).  We got there though.


photo 3That’s me doing the classic, “remove the large air bubble” trick.

One injection ready, it was time to prepare the other, less complicated “dial-a-dose” injector.

photo 4photo 5

Then, it was time to prepare the skin.  I should mention that my hands were shaking the whole time I was doing this, and I hoped that I would miraculously calm down enough to not do too much damage.

photo 1 (2)After some swabbing, I was ready.

photo 2 (2)Yeah – see how ready I look?  I realized I had better sit down.

photo 3 (2)And success!  I took a deep breath and slid the needle right in without fainting.  I think I was supposed to exhale at some point, but I held my breath the entire time I pushed the plunger and counted to three.  The shaky hands became most problematic during the exit stage – I definitely scratched myself by not pulling the needle straight out, but it wasn’t a disaster, just a bit more blood than necessary.

Then, I took another deep breath and did the second injection.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t exhale for this one either.

photo 4 (2)And then I was done!photo 5 (2)You can kind of see the puncture and the liquid under the skin there.  You can also see how infrequently my belly sees the sun.  I am one pasty lady.

All in all, it wasn’t too bad, and I have nothing to complain about.  I’m really glad I was able to do the first one at home with my supportive husband because today I have to do it at work. Now that I know I can do it with super shaky hands, I ought to be able to do it more steadily.  I feel very fortunate that I only have to do this for 2 weeks, and not the rest of my life.  I have always been awed by how calmly my friends with diabetes approach their injections, so I feel guilty feeling as nervous as I did, knowing that it is temporary for me.

So, my current drug regime includes, 3 nasal sprays (Suprefact – to keep me from ovulating too soon), 1 Aspirin (to thin the blood), 1 injection of Gonal-F (to stimulate follicles), 1 injection of Luveris (helper drug to encourage eggs to mature), and antibiotics (doxycycline) – which John also has to take – to ensure no infections are present on day of transfer.

I go for another blood test on Thursday and then probably an ultrasound on the weekend and they will adjust my drug dosages based on what they see.   Next week could involve a trip to the clinic every other day (or every day) to check on progress, and then we will find out when they will retrieve my eggs.

It’s exciting because it feels like it is happening so quickly, but it is also kind of crazy.  I am having trouble focusing at work, and it’s hard not to think that everything I experience is a side effect.  I get headaches (not too bad), am still tired and dreaming too much, and I have had some hot flashes.  They are strange because it feels like my torso is a furnace, but my feet can still be cold.  I had kind of hoped that hot flashes would at least warm my feet, but that appears not to be the case (at least for me). I don’t really mind feeling warm for a little while (especially with the winter we are having!), but I suspect my hot flashes are not severe.  I have seen women turn beet red from these, and mine really seem to be limited to the torso.  I don’t know how these new drugs will affect me yet, but the doctor assured me yesterday that these drugs are generally more well-tolerated than the clomid I took last year, so I’m feeling pretty positive.

I think the biggest side effect of the whole process for me is that I have gained some weight.  I can’t even blame the drugs for this one.  I’ve gained because exerting my will-power to keep from eating bucketloads of chocolate, cheese, and comforting potato chips has become a very low priority for me (especially over Christmas).  On a logical side, I have told myself that the last thing I need to worry about is my weight right now, but decades of socialization to value appearance means that I am not very happy with my body right now, and that, coupled with my disappointment in its inability to conceive naturally, contributes to a bit of a downward spiral of comfort eating and then feeling bad about myself for diving into the calories.  It’s a bit of a head vs body thing, and I’m not sure what to do about it yet.  I walk to work everyday, which, with walking the dog, means that I am walking for an hour each day, so at least I am getting some exercise. I even occasionally manage to convince myself to do some yoga, but exercise for exercise’s sake is another thing I struggle to motivate myself to do. Especially in the winter.

I have often thought that the best thing for my body image issues would be to take up belly-dancing or burlesque (which is huge in Calgary, by the way), but when you are trying to conceive, there are two weeks every month when it is not good to engage in high-impact activities, so I have put those on the back-burner.  I did a few Zumba classes this year, which were kind of fun, but way too high impact for the two-week-wait.

And yes, I know that on some level I am making excuses, but I still think it is a bit complicated, and part of me really wants to reject our current society’s image of beauty.  Botticelli would have loved me.  I found this article, “What if Botticelli had Photoshop” super interesting because I found some of the modernized figures more attractive and some of the classical figures more attractive.  It’s an interesting exercise in perspective and really thinking about how much the media impacts our perceptions of beauty. Of course, we inform the media of what we want by what we pay attention to, so we are not without blame.  It’s all about judgment, I think.  If we see a muffin-top as a sign that a person is not taking care of themselves (judgment), then we think it is unattractive.   If we take the judgment out, I think we can accept people as they are and see the beauty in anything.

Apparently I’ve slipped into a bit of stream-of-consciousness here, so I will sign off and get my day moving.  Just like that – as abruptly as one of my dad’s emails.