Body Dysmorphia and the Plus-Sized Revolution

Confession: Nothing in my closet fits me. My skinny jeans won’t zip and my boyfriend jeans fit like the skinnies used to.

Confession: I haven’t run more than three miles in a month.

Confession: Although there are six days in which it’s feasible to exercise my body, I have chosen to do other things the majority of the time.

Confession: I ate a gigantic spoonful of raw chocolate chip cookie dough from out of the garage refrigerator yesterday, not because I was craving cookie dough, but because I wanted the sugar high to get me through the afternoon.

With all of the back and forth I have going on in my head, in regard to food and exercise and health, it occurred to me more than once this week that in addition, I might be body dysmorphic.

How come?

Twice in the past few days, while feeling low about my size, I happened upon images of plus-sized women that I thought had bodies similar to mine. There is a plus-size revolution occurring and the women being held up as images to admire are nothing short of beautiful.

But, I’m … fat?

Since I’m currently squeezed out of my size 10s, I am furious with my body; angry at myself. Compared to the those plus size goddesses, my image of myself is not as kind.

Body dysmorphia, according to the Mayo Clinic, is described as, “imagined ugliness.” It turns out, upon further research that it is a real mental illness and people with dysmoraphobia often go to extreme lengths to manage their perceptions (plastic surgery, hiding from others, etc.).

While I’m not willing to diagnose myself with full-blown BD, I do think that my perceived flaws are skewed based on my expectations of self, and how I’ve once again slipped from, “I am healthy girl, hear me roar.”

I am stuck, then, between my own expectations of how I think I should look, the expectations of what the world views as acceptable, and the reality of what it’s like to live in my own body.

If I use the functioning part of my brain filled with endless information about health and well-being, I can dig myself, once again, out of this rut.

Solution # 1: I’ve ordered the Tracy Anderson mat series to do through the winter with the goal to firm up, confuse my muscles into performing as they should (again), and hopefully gather new information to write a helpful review, to boot.

Solution # 2: I will not buy any clothing, period, until I have become consistent again on the exercise front. If I then need to accept that I fit better in a bigger size, I will accept it, but not without a fight.

Solution # 3: I’ll try to eat more wisely, but am sticking to my belief that weighing myself is damaging to my psyche. Cutting out food groups will also be avoided, as anything completely off-limits will inevitably lead me to consume entire batches of cookie dough, just because I can.

To combine two of my favorite songs (as an homage to the place that I find myself today), here is a mashup (care of Madonna and Gene Sir Harlan) …

What it feels like for a girl … For a girl in this world.

But I’m doing the best that I can.”

M.

Do you ever think you suffer from body dysmorphia or any other body image related issues? How do you manage? How do you conquer?

Image 4 of ASOS CURVE Exclusive Belted Wrap Top
Asos Curve Plus-Size Belted Wrap Top.
Image from the Size Issue of V Magazine.
Crystal Renn is a size 12. Gorgeous, no?
An image from V's Size Issue
An image from V’s Size Issue. The depths of my love for this picture run deep, but I wouldn’t be caught dead allowing a picture of me like this to surface. Is it my modesty or insecurity? I’m not sure.

All Hail the Retinoids

Retinoids (or retinol), initially used to treat my teenage acne, are now a part of my weekly skin care regimen to halt wrinkles and lessen the appearance of sun damage. Made from retinoic acid, which is derived from vitamin A, it’s sold under many brand names from Retin-A to Tazorac, and for the more sensitive types, Differin (aka Adapalene).

Unfortunately, the side effects to human skin as a result of retinol use are peeling and flakiness, added sensitivity causing redness, and (if not careful) skin prone to sunburn. Having used retinol for as long as I, one would assume I’d figured out the appropriate routine for attaining perfect skin without said side effects.

But, this is not so and I continue to battle the peeliness; unsure if it can really be avoided.

Here is what I’ve been advised by my doctor; advise, which I have taken:

1. Choose a gentle face wash like Cetaphil for removing makeup at night.

2. Wait until face is completely dry (about fifteen minutes) before applying a thin layer, careful to avoid the skin around the eyes. In my experience I have (once or twice) applied my gel too closely to the sensitive eye area, resulting in a stinging sensation (to the eye balls!) the following day.

3. Apply at night, every third day at the start, every second night after a few weeks. Some people, not as sensitive, are able to apply it nightly. I’ve yet to meet a person who is able to do this, though.

4. Do not spot treat. It’s better to smooth a thin layer over the entire face and neck than spot treat, which leads to uneven flakiness.

5. Wear sunscreen, preferably with a higher SPF.

6. Moisturize with a non-comedogenic formulation for sensitive skin.

7. Take a break during the summer.

This is one rule that has been in dispute. Some doctors believe that using retinoids in the summer months is a better time to begin, and as long as proper sunscreen usage is adhered to, the “humidity is less likely to dry out the skin.

I am not a doctor, but as I user, I disagree. I am a regimented sunscreen user, and even still find that I am exposed to much more sun in the summer months, regardless of my best efforts to faithfully reapply my SPF.

No matter if you are a teenager with acne or a forty something mom looking for help with your skin, retinoids are a good place to start.

Just be advised, from a woman who yesterday prayed that no moms would talk to her at pre-school pickup due to my peeling mess of a face, there is a price to pay for the long-term benefits of clear, beautiful skin.

Do you use retinoids? Why or why not?

M.

I’ve heard that people worry about the expense of retinoid creams and gels. This small tube, however, has been in use for over a year (probably past the expiration date). The stuff lasts forever.

Mother Grammar

My mother and I have a little joke; a spin-off of the phrase, “If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.”

It goes like this:

“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!”

My mother and I tease that most of the things utterly wrong with me are the result of being raised by her; the mother God thought I should have (so technically it’s His fault?).

It wasn’t for her lack of trying to steer me straight; she did her absolute best. But I was born stubborn, and you can’t win when trying to challenge fate.

Luckily, there is one commonality (I’m unsure if it should be labeled a personality trait) that has connected daughter to mother; and vice versa.

Good grammar and proper punctuation is the place where we meet when all other places are raging with fire. I am being dramatic; another similarity that we share. We actually agree on quite a lot now that I am a grown woman, and we take pleasure in each others’ horror over the mistakes made by television newscasters and celebrities who care not for the rules of me versus I.

Even still, with my grown-up age to match my slightly, mellowing rebelliousness, we continue to have plenty of arguments of the grammatical sort.

Most recently, I insisted that the word “of” was not necessary after the words “a couple”. “A couple of” is the correct term, in case you were wondering. Just yesterday I finally admitted that she was right all along, to which she requested I repeat the phrase, “You were right, mother,” twice.

In preparation for my next CloudCrowd test, I’ve dusted off mom’s gifted copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and am taking copious notes.

Amazing writing (I’m really having to use my brain), and as predicted by the author, reading it has ignited my inner stickler.

I imagine future blog posts will revolve around the proper use of apostrophes’, and hyphens, and commas. I will try my best to make them as fascinating as I am re-discovering.

To wrap things up, I should mention that I do believe that mothers are responsible for many of our traits and quirks; our triumphs and our failures. In a way, the joke is not really that big of a ha-ha after all.

It is, in my opinion, the true definition of what it means to be a mother; to do your best, and hope for the same, knowing that the chips will fall where they may.

So, thank you, mom. I think you did just fine (I mean, considering what you were working with, and all).

M.

Fellow sticklers. Help me out. Early in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, I found the end marks outside of the quotation marks. I can’t figure out why in the world that could be? I tested it out in line 15, and it feels all wrong.

Did you notice all of my semi-colons? I’m having trouble deciphering if many of them should be commas …

This amazing child refused to open her eyes for the picture. The stubbornness gene did not skip a generation. I have a feeling she’ll take issue with the Oxford comma as I do too.

Writing and Editing at CloudCrowd

In an effort to gain paid employment in the areas of writing and editing, I signed up with a company called CloudCrowd through their application on Facebook.

CloudCrowd’s premise is simple. In order to be hired, a worker must pass credential tests in areas such as writing, editing, research and data entry. The tests include tasks riddled full of expectations (as it should be) and should a test be rejected, the worker must wait fourteen days before testing again.

Once credentials are passed, paid work is plenty. Many of the contributors on the CloudCrowd forum have expressed happiness with the company and the opportunities for good work that supplements their income.

A few weeks ago I signed up and took my first test for English comprehension.

Passing it quickly and feeling unbeatable, I took the leap into the next testing arena; the credential exam in editing.

Within an hour I received my rejection.

With a fourteen day wait until I could re-take the test, my anxiousness to get this train on track led to the ill-fated and unprepared decision (yesterday) to try a different exam; working to earn the credential for writing.

This morning I received the rejection for that test too.

Upon review, my mistakes were avoidable.

In an effort to help struggling writers and editors like me, here is some advice to take before you find yourself in my shoes; too eager to attempt CloudCrowd’s tests, resulting in a bruised ego and a two-week wait for redemption.

1. Don’t attempt to take tests with children in the house, especially around lunchtime, as precious time is wasted making ham and cheese sandwiches.

2. Take time to study the CC Study Guide. Some of the expectations go against my natural writing style. For example, CloudCrowd requires the serial comma to always be used. It’s not comfortable for me as I have struggled to minimize my overuse of commas in my own writing. I will need to take extra time to go over my work before submission, especially in this area.

3. Each test is timed. It’s a good idea to break down the way you will use your time before the test begins. For yesterday’s writing test there were two components. I spent so much time writing and fixing the punctuation on the first component that I was left with less than one hour for the second. One hour isn’t enough to create a 200 word piece from scratch (about “my favorite dinosaur” no less) with appropriate grammar and punctuation and review. The fact that I was left with twelve minutes to come up with a summary line should have alerted me to can the whole thing and try again later. But my stubbornness and refusal to accept that the past 180 minutes of work were wasted prompted me to submit, resulting in the fail. You can skip the test if you feel that a rejection will be your result.

4. Use the two weeks between failed tests to study the worker resources. Instead of stressing about the next attempt, use the time to study up on the areas that need work.

5. Take tests from under the practice tab to get you used to testing expectations, questions, and time limits.

6. Don’t quit. Attitude is everything. Instead of being totally irritated by my rejections, I’m going to use my time more wisely and attempt the tests again when all of the components necessary for passing are aligned.

In the meantime, to all of my amazing readers, should you see an editing fail on my blog posts please consider it appreciated should you feel inclined to alert me to the problem.

Studying is fine, but fixing mistakes is the best way to learn.

Have you ever failed something more than once only to pass it later? Ever failed something and quit it for good? Tell me why!

M.

Popcorn, Kids and Magic

Yesterday I spent the morning in a small room with eight four-year olds where I’d signed up to be their substitute teacher. Many of the children I already knew by name as they’d been in other classes with my girls or had frequented our playground with their moms.

Before I was a mom, I was a teacher, so my comfort level there was familiar and easy.

We painted and read and worked on letters and as we got to know each other as teacher and students I was on the receiving end of the love that children give in spurts to thank you and let you know that you are trusted. If teaching was only about the children, going back full-time would be without question.

Toward the end of the day, Mrs. L (the assistant) pushed play on the old tape recorder set high on a shelf.

“The popcorn song,” she said, “Give yourself space.”

While the kids ran to find their place, a good distance between themselves and their friends, I sandwiched myself between the painting easel and the cubbies.

The music began; a shaking, beating, wiggling sound propelling bodies to move.

Each little person bounced and shook and wiggled, practically choreographed,each transition perfectly timed. The corners of my mouth pointed upward at the sight of each child’s deeply rooted personal and electric rhythm.

Like the moment when the space shuttle is about to take off or the pulsing of a bass drum, the swirling liquid inside a bottle of Mountain Dew just before the cap twists off or the sound of OM in a room full of yogis, the children created a force.

They were small, their imprint took up little space, but their force was huge.

Huge and magical.

Happy magic emanating from small energetic packages.

I forget sometimes that kids have such power. I forget a a lot, actually, especially with mine who whine a lot and boss me around a lot and hit each other a lot and need something from me all the live long day.

At the end of class I asked the children to tell me their favorite part of the morning.

“You want to know mine?” I asked.

“The popcorn song.”

“Yep,” said the lot, “Mine too!”

Ever have a moment that leaves you spell-bound and happy?

M.

Pop pop pop pop music.

Finding Gratefulness on the Mat

On Saturday morning the stars aligned and for the first time in much too long I was present on my mat.

Sometimes it’s tough to know what it means to be present when our lives and our minds are so busy with me, me, me.

But for an hour on Saturday I was able to find presence and defy judgement through breath and flow; freedom while working limbs and trunk into shapes not usually made in the span of a normal day.

When you find that elevated place of spiritual liftedness it’s a a lot like the illusive runner’s high. Not until you meet it do you recognize it’s been there all along, but you have been the thing standing in its way.

Toward the end of class we worked into Bird of Paradise.

I stood on my right leg with my shoulder tucked under my left knee, arm wrapped underneath my left calf, hand  holding the outer edge of my foot. To make the bind, I needed to wrap my right arm around my back to meet the left hand, while pressing through the right foot to find leverage; to stand up, lifting the knee, while pretzel wrapped around myself.

I worked to the point where my loose right arm met its resistance (so far from where it would have liked to have gone), but instead of feeling any negativity toward myself or the pose, my spirit was set free in the act of the trying. I laughed, and standing in mountain with hands in prayer, smiled under thumbs at the site of my fellow yogis “going for it.” Twisted and bound and strong and upright, many of them even straightened the lifted leg.

Like breathing flesh and bone statues, working their bodies into the shapes of birds, I felt profound pride.

The moment had nothing to do with what I could not achieve or never have been able to or how I felt about my differences from others or how I stood alone.

And there it was….

Gratefulness in a moment, in an experience far beyond the boundaries of my own vida loca.

Have you ever had an experience like this on or off the mat? Do you lose gratefulness sometimes and have difficulty locating it again?

M.

Source. Steps 1 and 2 involve a bound lunge. I don’t know what it is about the way I am shaped. I can never get my arms to wrap around enough to be able to grasp my hands into a bind (step 3). Even in revolved triangle, getting my hand into the hip crease is tough. Maybe my arms aren’t long enough?

What’s in a Name?

In Cheryl Strayed’s amazing memoir Wild she wrote about the moment she signed her divorce papers with the new last name that would finally match her true self.

No longer the person who carried her last name as a child, she was embarking on something new and was certain that her ex-husband’s surname didn’t fit, either.

What’s in a name?

For Cheryl, she ended up finding the perfect moniker in the dictionary. Once signed on the dotted line it became her new identity. Read the book and you see it makes perfect sense.

I’ve decided that I no longer want my domain name to be Running in Mommyland. It doesn’t suit me anymore. I’m not sure it ever really did.

In pursuit of a new name (a pen name so to speak) I configured many an idea into the WordPress domain search box.

The task proved difficult as sharing a name with the Queen of all media and PBS’s talking dog means that all obvious domain choices are taken.

I’ve had a few last names in my life. My birth mother’s name is Osmundson. My father’s name is Feldman. My married name is Merrill. None of them seem to fit so much anymore.

So who am I and what will I be?

I know I will continue to parent and blog and run and try to eat healthily and continue my quest for a happy and healthy life.

I will continue to share Merrill with my kids.

I will always be a mixed bag of emotions and trials and errors.

I will never have all the answers.

But I will find a way to write for a living.

I am willing to do what it takes to make this thing happen; to ensure a good life for my kids and me.

Martha wills it to happen.

Martha Wills?

Decide quick…the domain name is available!

What do you think? Any other ideas?

M.

From an aesthetics perspective, I like how the M in Martha mirrors the W in Wills. And please forgive the sloppy penmanship. There’s a reason my name isn’t Martha Pretty Handwriting.

A Fashion Fight

I kept the girls home from picture day yesterday. The drama that ensued over what to wear became much too much; screaming and crying and clothes tossing and hysterics over matching tights to dresses to shoes.

While all of their friends were having their photos taken, my daughters sat in their room with their lunch boxes while I huffed and puffed; would have blown this place down had I been able to find the lung power.

I’d love to say that it was all them, but it wasn’t. I did my share of screaming and clothes tossing, too. I, their mother, was the ringleader of the madness; the curator of the crazy.

I feel badly about it today.

Did it matter if Soph wore the brown/green/orange polka dot tights with her navy dress? Would it have been so terrible if Grace had worn her red and white Christmas dress with the “they’re comfortable” salt water faded Keen boat shoes?

I am an easy-going mom. I let my kids have an awful lot of choices about what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to do.

I’m not a “You WILL wear this!” kind of mom.

But yesterday I wanted pretty pictures of my girls in the Liberty print Petit Bateau dresses I’ve been waiting for them to fit into. I bought those dresses with images of my sweet daughters looking tres French. Lovely sophisticated little girls. The fairy tale image of what I always imagined my daughters would be…

They hate the dresses. They hate the print, despite my lessons on the history of Liberty of London. They hate the weight of the fabric and the style of the sleeves. Grace especially hates the front button placket.

I sent them off to school this morning in outfits of their choosing.

It’s a gorgeous day here, the sun shining bright for the first time in a week, and I chose not to fight the what to wear battle.

Do I need to start picking more battles for control?

Probably a good idea to create more limits.

What’s a mother to do when you realize that your parenting style has created a personality trait in your children (in my case stubborn minded fashion forward not at all French little monsters) that could potentially become a bigger problem? Fix it, right? And fast…

XOM

I have a nostalgia thing for Petit Bateau and Liberty of London, since I wore them myself as a little girl. I know that this is not bright pink and covered in ruffles, but would it have killed them to wear it for one day? Apparently, yes.

Why Blog?

If you are not a blogger you might not be aware of some of the fun things that your “publishing platform” can monitor for you.

In my case (on WordPress) I am able to see how many hits my site has had for the day, the month and the year. I also have access to cool information like the top posts for the day, which can be surprising if and old post gets a ton of hits from out of the blue.

One of my favorite sections is the search engine list which lets me in on the searches that have led readers to my site.

Today I have been located through searches for, “Sgetti honey boo boo,” “Emmy tits,” and “Miami 2013.” Yesterday  I gained a reader through the search phrase “make millet chips,” which I’ve never actually made, but all my talk about kale chips and millet and such makes it easy to understand Google’s minor confusion.

There have been endless interesting search phrases that have led readers to Mommyland and for each I am grateful.

Even the person who yesterday typed, “gorgeously dressed ladies with bare breasts,” is my reader….

Many people have asked why I still blog. My marathon has long ended; the main reason I started it to begin with.

There are a bunch of reasons that I continue.

But today, when the sun never shone and my kids spent way too much time in Crazyland (not to mention my own brain freeze caused by the paperwork pile of divorce affidavits), the smile that crossed my face upon the discovery of a curious reader’s search has proven to be reason enough.

Gorgeously dressed ladies with bare breasts.

I wonder if that searcher found what they were looking for? I wonder if they’ll be back?

Why do you blog? If you don’t have a blog have you ever thought about starting one? What would it be about?

XOM

Search number 4 on Google!

Stress and Injury

I wrote this a week ago and sent it out for submission. Having not heard back I’m chalking it up to Written Rejection and am moving on, choosing to post it here instead.

I should be heading out for six miles tomorrow morning according to my marathon training plan. But since writing this piece, I’ve pinched a nerve in my left scapula, which kept me from Saturday yoga, woke this morning with a pulled muscle in my neck and have a faint, but still there, soreness in my quad.

I am, in physical terms, a big old mess!

Maybe it’s time to hang up the hopes for a January marathon. Maybe running to meet a time and distance goals should not be my focus right now. Maybe at this phase of my life I should run for pleasure and freedom and stress relief.

No decisions must be made today.

Acknowledging the thoughts……

XOM

Stress and Injury

Being plagued by a tremendous amount of stress recently I woke up ready to go for a run, but had momentarily forgotten about the right quadracept injury that had forced me to put my marathon training on hold. If that wasn’t irritating enough, as I stepped down from my bed I felt a muscular pull up the backside of my right calf; curious as I haven’t done any running or worn new and different shoes since I’d allowed myself this little break to heal from the nagging pain in my thigh.

As I hobbled down the stairs I wondered if the mental stress I’ve been under lately is causing my body to react in a way that is purely physical; both slowing me down and creating pains in places where there shouldn’t be any. It isn’t just common sense that stress can cause illness and injury, in April 2012 a Scientific study at Carnegie Mellon University found proof that mental stress can cause harm on a cellular level; real and actual inflammation can (and does) form in the face of stress.

Two weeks ago I was on a running/yogic/healthy lifestyle roll. Marathon training was in its first week, my consistency in yoga attendance was helping me gain strength and focus, and my food struggles seemed a thing of the past (quitting sugar helped). I was pushing my limits much as I had a year ago at this time, but my circumstances are currently quite different.

Forget that my divorce mediation is nearing closer by the day, the fact that my mother is a week out from surgery from a skin cancer or that my daughters have been acting out to the point that I’ve called a child psychologist for help. Forget that I’m still living with my soon to be ex, that as a stay at home mom I am at the mercy of my husband’s financial choices or that I haven’t worked in six years, since before my twins were born. I have no idea how I’ll support myself after the divorce.

On Tuesday, when a life threatening illness of a loved one rang in my phone, it dawned on me the enormous amounts of life stressers that have plagued what I am coming closer to christening, “Terrible 2012.”

I have a list of things I want to do. I want to run my second marathon in Miami (in January). I want to find meaningful work that will monetarily add to the lives of myself and my children. I want to eat right and attend yoga and fit in my closet full of clothes all presently too tight. I want to feel happy about the chores that keep my house running. I want my family to be healthy. I want to spend time with friends and hear about the wonderful things happening in their lives. I want. I want. I want.

But now may not be the time for the things that I want.

Now might be the time to step back and allow the universe to deliver to me what it thinks I need.

Am I ready to hang up the dream of Miami? Not yet.

Am I going to beat myself up for eating more than my share of the pumpkin pie? Nope.

Will I attend yoga tomorrow morning as I have been for the past few weeks? Yes, because I know it is good for me (my intention, however, will be to remain mindful and without pressure to perform).

What I am not going to do is allow the stress to creep up and cause me pain and frustration and worry.

Sometimes a person needs to be able to choose between what they need and what they want on a minute by minute basis. Knowing when not to do the thing(s) that they want becomes the only decision; the grown up decision to say, “I can’t right now,” knowing that they’ve saved themselves from a stressed out illness or unfortunate injury.

Have you ever pushed through stress and injury for a race? How did you do?

XOM

It’s not funny how badly I want another one of these and the experience to go along with it.