Getting Emotional About Chairs

The first thing I noticed when I walked into this doctor’s office were the chairs. It is not unusual for me to focus on chairs when I enter a room. A quick scan tells me where or how I will be waiting to see my doctor. What was unusual was the sense of relief that spread from my chest throughout my body as I realized that these chairs were different. They were wide. Not just one or two, every single chair in that waiting room was made for a large person to sit comfortably in. I could sit in any chair I wanted in that large waiting area without thinking about whether the chair arms were going to dig into my sides and hurt me. To realize this was freeing. It was like exhaling after holding in a breath I didn’t even know I was holding in. I couldn’t help but smile. I immediately felt welcome. The person who designed this space had the comfort of people like me in mind when they drew plans. This space was made for me. I felt validated and confident. I’m going to be real honest here and admit that there were tears in my eyes. Tears of joy.

Most spaces are not made for people like me to exist in or be comfortable in. I remembered all those times I had to endure pain trying to squeeze myself into a desk meant for a person much smaller than me, turning sideways when making my way down the aisle on the bus, being turned away after waiting in line because I couldn’t fit in roller coaster seats, enduring the stares and the discomfort of being seated on an airplane, not fitting into car seatbelts. Eventually I stopped trying. I stood up in auditoriums during presentations, and stopped going to amusement parks altogether. When people asked why I would just tell them I preferred standing. But in that doctor’s office, I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I could spread out and stretch my legs. I could take up as much space as I needed to without consequences for my body being bigger. It’s such a simple thing, being able to sit in comfort. It’s a shame that this simple thing is denied to people every day just because of their body size.

If at this point you are thinking, “Well, why don’t you just lose weight then?”, I’m going to need you to educate yourself before making a comment. I don’t have time to explain to you how complex a disease like obesity is and how mismanaged it is even by people who have medical degrees. Check your thin privilege.

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I’m not talking about how difficult it is to find fashionable and affordable plus size clothes or the fact that even the stores that do sell these items place them in the back of the store or only sell them online (I’m looking at you Old Navy). I’m not talking about the horrible things people have said to me or yelled at me from a moving car. I’m not even talking about how comedians make money by fat shaming themselves or how fat jokes on sitcoms are somehow still acceptable (that’s a whole other blog post). I’m talking about chairs, the essential items we need to work, relax, and function, many of which are not useable by a growing percentage of the population. I’m speaking mostly of chairs in public or business spaces. By not including people of larger body sizes when constructing and designing spaces, it sends the message that we are not important and not welcome. It makes us feel guilty for daring to exist in a space that is too small for us. People shouldn’t feel ashamed of who they are just because of their body shape or size. To be fair, there are a lot of people out there who find larger bodies disgusting and believe that we shouldn’t exist. I don’t have time for those people. I’m used to my presence as a plus size woman of color making people uncomfortable and I’m over it.

I’m here. I deserve to be in whatever space I want or need to occupy. If it costs me some pain and bruising, okay, but it would much nicer if it didn’t and I could #slay in comfort. #byefelicia

Beck

My Rogue One Obsession is Getting Out of Hand

I have never been a huge Star Wars fan. That was before Rogue One came out and I fell in love with all of the Star Wars things. I thought I would get over it after a few months, but here we are in July and I still cannot even with how good this movie is. Yes, this is my current desktop wallpaper and cell phone lock screen. Shut up.

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After watching Rouge One yet again (this time at an outdoor screening with the NC Museum of Art), I am still obsessed with how much Cassian is in love with Jyn. In every situation she is his focus. It starts early in the journey with his desire to save her and keep her safe in Jedha and Eadu. After Galen’s location is discovered, Jyn has no value for the Rebellion. He would have been perfectly justified in leaving her behind in Jedha or Eadu, but he insists on going back for her in both dire situations. Maybe he fooled himself into thinking it was some sort of code not to leave a soldier behind, but he clearly cares for her.

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He disobeyed orders to assassinate Galen, not because he saw Galen being beaten by Director Krennic, but because of what Jyn told him. It was partly his consideration for her feelings that he disobeyed orders. He even called for the Rebel fleet to not attack the base because Jyn was on the platform. Again, not sure anyone at headquarters would have cared if she died there, but he did. As far as I know, he didn’t have orders to bring her back alive or even at all. He wanted to.

And OMG the fight they had in the stolen Imperial ship after Eadu was so full of tension. You can tell they had a lot more they wanted to say to each other. The whole scene reminded me of the first proposal scene from Pride and Prejudice. #dying

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Then when they finally got to Scarif, his whole mission was to support Jyn and her mission. Even when Jyn finally yanks the Death Star plans free of the storage facility and is thrown off balance he yells “You okay?!” He reaches for her, not the plans. She doesn’t respond. She doesn’t care about herself. She’s only focused on her mission.

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When Cassian is shot and falls, getting injured on the way down, Jyn hesitates and looks back at him. I believe she wanted to go to him but she remembers his words a few moments before: “Keep going!” A lot of people wondered at why she didn’t look more upset that he fell. They are saying that she didn’t love him because of this, but I think she was just focused on her mission. I think she knew Cassian would have wanted her to go on without him so she did. The fact that she’s in love with him is clear when he arrives on the platform and shoots Krennic. She transmits the plans and then basically falls into his arms. She doesn’t even notice Krennic until she realizes that Cassian’s gun is still pointed at him.

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Everything after that is basically porn because they are having eye sex the entire ride down that elevator and it’s awesome. What I love about Cassian the most is that even when he knows they will die together and they only have a few moments left, he chooses to affirm Jyn instead of talking about himself or his feelings. Honestly, I don’t think there was a more loving act he could have done in that moment. The look in her eyes is clearly more than gratitude. It is also respect, admiration, and love.

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People like to try and get a rise out of me by reminding me that Cassian and Jyn both die and don’t get a happy ending. They don’t live. They don’t get to really know each other in a Biblical sense or otherwise. But I don’t think it matters. Just because they don’t kiss or have babies doesn’t mean they were somehow unfulfilled or not a real couple. In the moment they held each other they loved each other perfectly. They were smiling and happy. That moment can never be erased. That moment in space and time will always be there, so in that sense their love will last forever. Who cares if it didn’t last long? It was real. For me that means they did get a happy ending.

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And don’t even get me started on the love between Chirrut and Baze or the adorable cinnamon roll that is Boodhi Rook or the perfect sassiness of K2-SO. Ugh. I caught all the feelings.
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Find a guy who looks at you the way Cassian looks at Jyn before a suicide mission.

Someone take the internet away from me before I lose interest in life.

Beck

Now Showing: Technical Difficulties

It is my unfortunate privilege to announce that tonight was the first time I have ever gone to the theatre and left without seeing a movie. There was entertainment to be sure, but no movie to be watched.

I’m visiting my Mom in Raleigh this weekend to help her get some decorating done in the house. We spent two hours at Ross (my favorite store), then a couple more hours rearranging decorative elephants on the mantelpiece and hanging (then rehanging) several pieces of wall art.

We thought we were treating ourselves to a well deserved dinner at Twisted Fork and a movie tonight. I was so excited to see Kong: Skull Island. Usually, I don’t go for those kind of movies, (you know, the weak storyline all violent action kind), but I was eager to see this film for two reasons. First, and it really should go without saying, Tom Hiddleston is H-O-T hawt and is an excellent actor. Second, I enjoyed the Kong: Skull Island thrill ride at Universal Studios when I was there over Christmas and was interested in how the film compared to what was seen in the ride. Sadly, my day was not made complete by seeing Hiddles all sweaty while running away from an impossibly large gorilla.

After waiting through the trailers, a quirky jazz theme began to play. The screen faded slowly into Michael Caine walking into a bank. Wait a minute. There’s no way a Kong movie starts with an old man going to the bank. Moviegoers began to leave the theatre as I realized that this is not another trailer. We have just started watching Going in Style. My Mom, bless her soul, had no idea this was not Kong. She was happily watching Michael Caine get caught up in a bank heist while whispering to me, “He’s a legend.”

I left the theatre and joined a throng of people in the hall. A teenager nearby told me someone had already gone to tell staff about the mishap. I went back inside to wait for the theatre to correct their mistake.

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me. A while ago, my friend and I went to a rescreening of The Lord of the Rings in theaters in preparation for The Hobbit movie, which was soon to be released (RIP Hobbit book), when they started the movie 15 minutes into The Two Towers. It was weird, but they fixed their mistake right away and we all had a good laugh.

Ten minutes after our screen going blank, a staff member came in to tell us that if we wanted to watch the movie, we’d have to move to another theatre room. At that point, it was almost an hour after our original show time and my Mom and I were annoyed and tired. But, we took the trip to the other side of the building to a new theatre room where we were promised no additional commercials or trailers.

Finally, the movie started. Many people  had given up and gone home or chosen another film. We were determined. We were the faithful. I was going to see Tom Hiddleston if I had to stay up past midnight (a true sacrifice) in this terribly old, broken down cinema. Five minutes into the film with no Tom in sight, my Mom turned to me and said she’s already seen this movie and wants to go home. She forgot she already saw it with Rachel when she visited her in Boston recently…

So, I wasted an hour of my life, but at least I got a few free movie passes from the whole thing. #mylifeisbeck

I still haven’t seen Kong: Skull Island. Wait for me, Tom.

Beck

 

That One Time I Passed Out

I have never passed out before yesterday. The only time I ever got close to passing out was when I stabbed my left palm last summer while cutting an avocado with an unreasonably sharp knife. At the sight of so much blood, I got dizzy and lightheaded. I started sweating and hyperventilating. I sat in a chair with my head between my legs while putting pressure on my hand to stop the bleeding. But I willed myself to not pass out and I didn’t. I did end up having to get two stitches and couldn’t use my hand properly for a week or so. It was awful.

Fast forward to yesterday, I am at the lab giving blood shortly after 8am. I had just eaten breakfast and was feeling fine. The process took longer than usual because the nurse decided to use a butterfly needle.  Apparently, my veins require special treatment. I started feeling nauseated as I watched the blood fill the little tubes. My face became sweaty and my mind was swimming. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing. It felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. The nurse said she needed to go ask the doctor something, and I decided to lean back in the uncomfortable adult high chair.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the midst of what I thought was a dream. I opened my eyes expecting to see my bedroom, but I saw a kitschy painting of a dog in a red hat hanging on the wall. My vision was blurry and I was so confused and scared. I had slumped down in the chair and was still hyperventilating. A moment later, the nurse walked back in and started talking to me. Then I did what any normal 25 year old would do after their first involuntary loss of consciousness – I started crying. The nurse asked me repeatedly what had happened while I summoned the strength and the breath to tell her I passed out. She called for another nurse to bring water and crackers. Then it happened. I looked down and saw a small puddle on the floor. The second nurse walked in and said, “I think she urinated herself.” The first replied saying, “Why does today feel like a Monday?”

Yup. That happened. Because why wouldn’t it happen to me?

The nurses were really helpful. They gave me water and led me into another room to rest. I left a message for my boss and then tried to process what had just happened. I think I was too overwhelmed to feel ashamed about the wetting myself part. No one chooses to be incontinent. After a few minutes, I went to the bathroom to wipe off the mascara that had made a lovely trail down my cheek. They let me leave through the back door. Luckily, I had a towel I could sit on during the short drive home. I showered, did laundry, ate a banana and slept for two hours.

I was understandably tired for the remainder of the day, which consisted of me taking my service club members who I advise to the Cheesecake Factory and bowling for our End of the Year Celebration. It was actually not a bad day, and I can’t help but laugh now when I think about it.

Sorry for turning your Friday into a Monday, LabCorp nurses, but #mylifeisbeck. It’s kind of what I do.

Beck

A New Direction for Weight Loss

I’ve been pursuing bariatric surgery as a solution to my chronic obesity for a few months now. I just have a couple more appointments left before I can schedule a date with my surgeon. I’m hopeful I can have the surgery before the end of June.

This is something that I have been thinking about in one way or another since 2012 when I first started talking with friends and relatives about it. The tipping point for me was going to Harry Potter World last Christmas and not being able to fit in any of the seats for the rides. (I just want to Escape from Gringotts with Harry!) Besides this, my aunt has had the surgery and she has seen excellent weight loss results. I decided that I would not let another year go by without taking serious action for my future health. I am 25 years old; I should not be worrying about chronic co-morbidities that accompany obesity. I should be traveling the world, climbing mountains, and meeting my soulmate (my earthly one anyway). When I was a child, I could reasonably expect other people to be responsible for me. Now, 7 years into my adult life and finally having a salary job and benefits, there’s really no excuse for me not to take ownership of my health and my body.

My family, after an initial period of concern, and friends have been overwhelmingly supportive and are happy for me. I am incredibly optimistic (as usual). I believe in my ability to follow the pre and post-op rules (like being on a liquid diet for 4 weeks). Whole 30 has prepared me for some of the eating and lifestyle changes that will occur. In fact, I’m doing my fourth Whole 30 right now. #day24

What really concerns me is the emotional aspect of all of this. The trauma I experienced throughout my childhood has had a serious effect on my relationship with food. While I am capable of not acting on those impulses, the temptation will always be there as long as I have these underlying issues. I worry that addressing my body and eating habits alone will not be enough for long-term weight loss success. I need mental and spiritual healing as well. Besides the fact that for the first six months at least I will only be able to eat a quarter cup of food or liquid at a time, the social and emotional aspects of food and eating remain. Bariatric surgery is not a brain surgery.

To this end, I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly since March who has helped me reprocess some of my trauma through a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). It’s evidence based and it works, for me at least. We started with my earliest traumatic memories and well, it’s the end of April and we’re still working on elementary school memories if that’s any indication how much work I still have to do. Even if we eventually address those traumatic memories associated with emotional eating, weight gain, and everything that goes along with it like low self-esteem and emotional eating, I will most likely struggle with for this for the rest of my life.

Anyone who thinks that bariatric surgery is the easy option for weight loss should educate themselves on the process. The preparation has been extensive and comprehensive. I’ve had to make multiple appointments with nutritionists, behavioral therapists, surgeons, primary care doctors, and hospitals. I’ve attended seminars, support groups, and read books and research about outcomes and various other factors related to weight loss. I’ve spent hours on the phone with my insurance company and the hospitals gathering information about the cost of surgery and my ability to pay. It has been a sacrifice of time and money and has taken mental and physical tolls. All of this happens before surgery. The real work begins after surgery with a 6 week recovery.

It’s a 100% lifestyle change. It is not easy, but it is worth it. And I am ready because:

  • Bariatric surgery is the single most effective treatment for morbid obesity available today.
  • Diet and exercise alone is more likely to fail than to work. The success rate of long-term weight loss maintenance with lifestyle changes ranges from 2-20% (Wing & Phelan, 2005). This failure rate increases to 95%-98% as the starting weight increases for morbidly obese people (whose BMI is over 40).
  • Bariatric surgery, especially the one I’m getting, has a 95% success rate. Success is defined as keeping off at least 50% of excess weight. According to a recent report, five years after surgery patients had maintained a weight loss of 60% of their excess weight.

Ultimately, I do not want to just loose weight, I want healing in every way – physical, mental and spiritual. Bariatric surgery is not an easy solution or a cop out for lifestyle changes, it is a tool that I am using to help me in my journey towards healing.

 All of this is happening at the same time that I am quitting my job at CPCC, planning a move to Raleigh, starting a new job, and starting graduate school at NC State (yes, I finally got in!). It’s all a lot to think about, to plan for, and to be excited about. There’a also a lot of uncertainty and change coming. I feel bittersweet about moving away and quitting my job and overwhelmed with the coming changes, but I can do it. I know I can because I want this so much. Those are real results and I’m coming to get mine.

Beck

City Year Blog Post

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog! I haven’t forgotten about you, readers. I’ve actually thought about writing many many times since I accepted this Americorps job last August. City Year has actually taken over my life. I work ten hours a day (and then some) and barely have time to shower and eat dinner before collapsing in bed every night. I promise I will post some past reflections and bring you up to date on my life soon! In the meantime, I wrote a blog post for the City Year blog so you can get a taste for what I’m doing with my life this year.

What’s the Goal — Students First

Enjoy!

Beck

 

I Sing More Than I Talk

and I talk a lot.

I received a message from a friend earlier today encouraging me to record a video of me singing and upload it on YouTube. I love singing, but I’ve never found an outlet that allowed me to perform what I’d like in public. I’ve sung a few times at various churches, and now I’ve joined the worship team at my church, but this limits me to worship music. I want to sing all kinds of songs including jazz, r&b, folk, and whatever else I get stuck in my head.

So why not start posting videos on YouTube? Who cares if they are not professional quality? In my experience, even artists that create for themselves are not fulfilled unless they’re sharing their work and receiving feedback. Art is a soul cry that desires to be heard and recognized by others. YouTube is a great way to be heard. Now every time I wish I could perform, I’ll channel that energy into a new video and post it here.

Hopefully, I won’t get blocked due to copyright infringement…

Beck

Duke TIP 2015

Lido Beach

Lido Beach

After the horror of last summer working with Duke Summer Session, (Duke Sucky Session more like), I was more than a little apprehensive about my position as Program Assistant for Duke TIP Field Studies in Florida. After a few flights, and having to navigate through the Atlanta International Airport, I finally landed in Sarasota. I tried not to have high expectations in terms of how enjoyable this experience would be. I told myself I could have an overbearing supervisor, gossiping coworkers, and terribly behaved students. “You’re here to work, not make friends. Do your job.” I told myself for the first few days. Fortunately, I didn’t have anything to worry about. My supervisor and coworkers turned out to be genuinely nice people, each with their own strengths and interests that served the program well. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be a part of a functioning, albeit sometimes chaotically functioning, team who didn’t place blame on others, but worked together to solve problems. After the first week, I stopped bracing myself against the potential negative job politics and really started to make friends and figure out what on earth my position was.

Our dance theme was something about sand and beaches obviously.

My position was new and very flexible; we were basically making it up as we went along. I was used to being an administrator, making decisions, and doing everything myself. It was difficult at first to transition to being an assistant. A lot of what I did as the assistant assigned to residence life was programming and supplies runs. Even though I didn’t have a set list of tasks every day, there was always something I could do or help with. I got to go on a few really great field trips to aquariums and museums. We spotted wild dolphins and manatees and counted turtle nests. We even went for a boat ride on the Sarastota Bay and caught (then released) some puffer fish. It was amazing and I actually learned a lot. Also, DISNEY WORLD EPCOT!

I had fun captioning Renaissance art at the Ringling Museum.

at EPCOT with some staff! Man, that was a long day; my feet are still aching.

I really enjoyed attending and running programs as well. We had field day complete with an epic water balloon fight, a dance, and a kickball tournament. One of the first programs I helped with was painting, which was really fun because so many of our students are very talented artists. One student painted the Waffle House sign because “it inspired him”. I called him “waffle house” for the duration of the program. I still don’t know what his real name was. I also did some henna tattoos for students and staff, which was really fun and a great opportunity to get some practice.

Button flair is a must on your blue Duke TIP lanyard. These are painted by our very own "TIPsters"

Button flair is a must on your blue Duke TIP lanyard. These are painted by our very own “TIPsters”

fun henna tattoos!

fun henna tattoos!

I had a couple days off and had the chance to go to Siesta Key beach, which is the number one beach in the USA. It was super crowded, but the water was perfect and we had frozen daiquiris! #treatyoself2015 Such a great day.

at Siesta Key!

at Siesta Key!

On the last night after the students left, most of the staff went down to Lido Beach and had a few beers. It was so much fun hanging out and talking without any program responsibilities left. Well, I think I had one too many beers because I had the brilliant idea of skinny dipping in the ocean after it got dark. I didn’t think to bring my swimsuit, so I ran into the waves with my shorts and bra on. It was so ridiculously fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat. When I got back on shore, and finally found my shirt, I reached into the back pocket of my soaked denim jeans and found my brand new iPhone 6 chillin’ in its “life proof” case. Yeah, it has never recovered, even after two days in rice. So now I’m using my four year old iPhone 4 that has a stylish cracked screen and a whopping 8GB of zero space until I get paid later this month. #mylifeisbeck Did I mention my debt card AND my license was also lost at sea? I was seriously off the grid for a few days. I didn’t know how I was going to get on my flights back home the next day without my ID. It felt like the start of a really good urban adventure novel. If it wasn’t for my new friends asking questions and letting me borrow their phones, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get home safely.

Duke TIP family!

Duke TIP family!

I’m still waiting for my duplicate license, so I’ve been stuck at home all week and just returned to my day job at Starbucks today. Lucky for me, I have this handsome feline to keep me company all day.

Seriously, how can you not fall in love with Gigi?

How can you not fall in love with Gigi?

I’m definitely applying for Duke TIP next year.

Beck

THE WHOLE 30

Friends, I completed my first Whole30 (W30) mid-March. If you don’t know what W30 is, visit their website. Basically, the only things you’re allowed to eat are high quality protein, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats…that’s it. No sugar, bread, beans, dairy or processed foods for 30 days. It’s meant to act as an introduction to healthy eating and the paleo diet as well as promote a healthy digestive tract, immune system and psychological relationship with food.

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I certainly learned a lot about my body and my relationship with food during my 30 days. The first week was awful; my digestive tract was “recovering”, I had a consistent sugar headache, and I was really emotional. It was actually really similar to PMS (TMI? Don’t care). My first “test” to stick to W30 came when I was at NC State’s Recruitment Weekend and had to go back to my room and get some W30 food I had brought with me. They were serving sandwiches, chips, and cookies for lunch, none of which was W30. It was really difficult to watch everyone else eating “regular” food and have to eat something else, especially since it singled me out. Food is social too, y’all. I really hated that I couldn’t eat my normal foods because nothing was satisfying. I was over the “newness” of the program by the end of that weekend.

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Throughout my weeks, I noticed very clear patterns in my eating habits. When I was stressed, especially if I was lacking sleep, I had more intense cravings more frequently. I really missed Cookout, which was my go-to food for a stressful mood. At one point, I was smelling it even though there was no food around me. #phantomcookout By day 9, I was waking up hungry, which is a sign that hormone levels are normal, and was beginning to forget the late-night hunger/impulses to eat. Yay! I had a couple emotional days when I was very tired, dehydrated, and HUNGRY all the time. I think my body hadn’t figured out yet that I was giving it real food. It definitely still missed the sugar and bread.

On day 13, my sister arrived from Seattle with a list of restaurants she wanted to visit while in town. I was really afraid of going off-plan because eating out on W30 is challenging. You have to ask your server a number of questions like “What oil do you use to cook your veggies?” and “Is there added sugar in the marinated chicken breast?” It doesn’t sound like trouble, but we were sending servers to the kitchen three and four times before we ordered. It took the fun out of eating out and people got really tired of hearing about our diet at every meal. Not to mention, it was a real test of discipline not to order old favorites like pasta and bread.

In the third week of W30 is really when I started seeing some great results, clearer skin, less cravings, better sleep (hallelujah), and a smoother digestive system. I noticed that some things like fruit juice and dried fruit were too sweet for me, and I could drink coffee black without cringing. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, which I think affected my results. But aside from the tiredness, I was feeling great. On day 23, I fell in love with mustard because it’s one of the only condiments you can have on W30. My taste buds were like, “Woah, did it used to taste like this? Cause damn.” I put that junk on everything. Delicious. I hit food boredom around day 25, but it quickly went away and I noticed my energy levels were high, like crazy high. I was SUPER excited to be grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning and laundry and everything was awesome…

And then it was Day 31, and I added sugar to my coffee. One of the things I kept saying during my W30 was, “It’s a slippery slope”, and boy did I slip all the way down that hill. I did pretty well at first, following the “reintroduction” protocol. After my sister’s friends visited one weekend and we had sushi and cheesecake and wine, so much wine, it was over. “It” being reintroduction and all the healthy eating habits I learned on W30.  Since then I haven’t been able to be W30 for more than a day. I tried starting another W30, but I didn’t plan well, so I ended up ordering a pizza after a very very stressful day. Sarah and I have decided to create a more sustainable W30 –style eating plan rather than complete another W30, you know, cause ice cream. I saw great weight loss results with W30, and I’d like to keep that going so I think I’ll stick pretty close to the guidelines.

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You should try Whole 30 and tell me how it goes! Really, it is amazing and changes how you interact with food. But, don’t expect to fix a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits in just 30 days; it’s going to be an ongoing process.

Beck

I am single, and that’s OK.

I am single, and that’s OK.

This is a new sentence that I’m writing to myself, something I try to remember when I feel lonely. It’s new to me because no one has ever told me this before. Since I was born, everyone and everything around me told me that I would really start living when I found “my special someone”, “my soulmate”. Only when I was in love and married would I truly be fulfilled in life. “There’s no good that can come out of singleness. A woman can’t find self-worth unless it comes from the admiration of a man.” These are the messages that I have heard all my life, and they have damaged me.

For a while, I believed them. I waited for guys to start taking notice of me. I waited for my first date, my first kiss, and my first boyfriend in high school. When that didn’t happen, they told me it would definitely for sure happen in college. Well, here I am four years later, still never been kissed, still single, and yeah I’ll say it, somewhat bitter.

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But I’m tired of waiting to be happy and fulfilled through a romantic relationship. I’m tired of feeling like I’m missing out on something. I could either use my single years to grow personally and enjoy my independence, or be miserable and bitter. That doesn’t mean I don’t still get lonely sometimes, it just means I don’t waste time regretting something I don’t have. I wish I could really be as strong as my words make me seem. I wish I didn’t feel pain when I see my sister and her finance kiss for the thousandth time from the corner of my eye. I wish I didn’t wonder if I just met my future husband every time I meet an eligible or attractive guy my age. I wish I could focus on my relationship with Christ, one that really would fulfill me, rather than my absence of a romantic relationship. But this is a learning process, and my feelings are still catching up with my new ideas about singleness.

My mother frequently tells me that she can’t die in peace until she sees me “married and happy”. That’s usually followed by a variation of, “If you lose weight, men will pursue you.” Is it any wonder that I have struggled with low self-esteem and poor body image all my life? It took a long time for me to re-educate myself so I wouldn’t believe in her harmful message; that my body was to blame for my singleness. I don’t resent my mother for saying these things; she truly does believe it and only wants to see me happy. I do wish that she had taught me to love myself and value my body at a younger age. Nowadays, I correct these statements as best I can by telling her that I am happy even though I’m not married, and that I don’t want a husband who desires only my body, but all of me, and I’m willing to wait for that.

Why did I spend the first two decades of my life obsessed with love?

Our culture is obsessed with love, both physical and emotional. We’ve been fed romance and love songs since we were in diapers (Disney, anyone?). We saw sex at an early age, most likely introduced in a negative way, and continued seeing it everywhere; movies, music, ads, clothes, books, news. We saw it so much that we’ve become desensitized to it. It no longer surprises us to see a woman exploiting her body to advertise a product or company; in fact, it makes perfect sense to us. Hardee’s commercials are a great and disgusting example of this. What does fast-food have to do with a beautiful/sexy woman? Absolutely nothing; but by creating a connection between a desirable woman and the desirableness of food, Hardee’s sells more burgers. It’s simple, sex sells.

Hardee’s ads are so good at what they do that they work on a deeper level. That’s what scares me, it’s subliminal. Our waking minds may not notice overt sexuality plastered over the walls of our media, we’ve learned to “ignore” it. But our inner minds and bodies absorb those messages and internalize them.

America’s Real Favorite Pastime

Traditionally, baseball is considered America’s favorite pastime, but I think most people would consider football an even greater American sport. The National Football League certainly makes more than Major League Baseball every year, bringing in about $9 billion dollars annually (Source). Would it surprise you to learn that the pornography industry is a more than $13 billion dollar industry (Source)? If where we spend our money is any indication of how we spend our time, well, you see what I’m getting at here. The pursuit of sexual experiences consumes us; it’s our favorite pastime.

What does this mean? It means that our society and the messages it is sending us about physical and emotional love are finding a home in our minds and bodies (and our browser histories). We’re taught at a young age to lust after things, celebrities, food, and wealth. We’re told we need these things to be happy and fulfilled. We’re told that our self-worth is tied to attaining these things; that we’re lesser-than if we cannot achieve these things. We’re hyper- sexualizing ourselves and then wonder why there’s a growing rape culture and a strong sexual trafficking infrastructure in our neighborhoods.

I’m not saying the sexual act or expressing one’s sexuality is bad, in fact, I believe quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that we need to evaluate how these messages are affecting us on a deeper level. Maybe sex/porn addiction is not just an individual’s lack of willpower or lack of a better hobby; maybe it’s a manifestation of those lustful messages we’re constantly bombarded with from birth. Maybe it’s a symptom of a larger societal problem. I am not suggesting that those with an unhealthy relationship with sex blame society for their problems. Rather, I am suggesting a deeper look at the root of those problems to better understand them with the goal of overcoming them. We all have natural tendencies, but our society is nurturing us to act in a certain way, and just because you may not watch pornography doesn’t mean you’re immune.

You may wonder why I am addressing my acceptance of singleness as a healthy state and larger societal messages about sex and love in one blog post. I believe these two topics are interconnected in complex ways. My previous ideas about singleness as “bad” or abnormal have their origin in the idea that women and their bodies are for men (a patriarchal idea), so by not being in a relationship, I was not living life to its fullest potential. I wasn’t “fulfilled” because I wasn’t doing what society was telling me to do in the majority of its advertisements and media, fall in love have sex with men. I also wasn’t “happy” because a man had never shown me attention or told me that I was beautiful, talented, sexy, or intelligent (all of which I am, by the way). The same societal ideas of love and sex that contributed to my frustration about being single are the same ideas that encourage self-destructive tendencies in women and men (i.e. eating disorders, sexual addiction, rape, even suicide). Since I have declared my selfhood by saying it is OK to be single, I have come to not only appreciate my freedom, but love myself and my body more. I’m not counting down the days until I meet my husband and live happily ever after. My story doesn’t begin with me meeting “a guy” and end in marriage, my story began years ago and my happily ever after is now.

Beck