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Posted on Jan 22, 2014 in Dear Diary | 17 comments

Body Love vs. The Desire to be Thin

Howdy, folks! Happy Wednesday! I don’t know about you folks located outside of the Eastern seaboard, but here in Northern VA we got hit with a ridonkulous amount of snow yesterday!

Everything you read on your friends’ Facebook feeds is true. My car is currently buried under half a foot of fluffy white stuff and it literally comes up to my dogs’ bellies when they go outside. It’s kinda nuts, especially when you consider it was almost 60 degrees on Monday!

But speaking of fluffy white things and my pups, yesterday was also Daxter’s birthday!

Can you believe he’s FOUR years old? *sniff* They grow up so fast! I still remember him when he was thiiiiiiiis big:

Anywho, now that we’ve gotten all that adorable feel goodery out of the way, I wanted to dive into something a little deeper. I’m not sure how I got to it, but I recently came across The Militant Baker‘s amazing blog and, specifically, her post about the Smash the Scale Revolution. And, as it will likely do for you, it got my brain cogs movin’. And since this blog is pretty much the place I go to air out all my weird thoughts on the rare occasions that I get them, well… here we are!

So, the Smash the Scale project is pretty much exactly the awesome thing you probably think it is: a movement to try and get women (and men!) to stop focusing on making their bodies culturally and societally appropriate. In The Militant Baker’s words: “It’s about making a conscious decision to detach your worth from that number on your scale. Smashing the Scale isn’t about being unhealthy. It’s about deciding what your definition of beauty is and knowing that it is enough.”

See, I can wax poetic for ages about how I want to get healthy and be strong and how I’m not at my best when I’m being lazy and unmotivated — and all of that is true. But what I don’t say very often, what I don’t even really admit to myself, is that underneath all of those good intentions and righteous reasons for doing, well, this, is still that pervasive, seemingly unavoidable desire to just be thin.

I’ve never been thin. Not really. I mean, I think maybe I was a lanky child between the ages of 5 and 7 1/2, but other than that, I’ve always — always — existed more as a Mindy Lahiri type:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I mean, all those times in high school when I thought I was fat? I would KILL to still think THAT’s me, fat. I mean, not really, obviously what I really wish is that I *didn’t* think that being 5’9″ and weighing 160 pounds is fat, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never really known what it’s like to be THIN. Like, I dunno, wears clothing with an “S” on the label, able to pull off stomach-baring shirts thin. And logically, I think that I know that my body type is not and was never meant to be skinny in the conventional sense. I’m tall, I’ve got wide hips, big bones, big other things that start with “B”, yada yada. But “knowing” that and KNOWING that are two very different things, and the fact of the matter is that even now, even after all the growing I’ve done — or at least thought I’ve done — there is very little I wouldn’t do if it meant I’d magically wake up tomorrow as a size 4.

So, clearly, despite all my best intentions, I still very much buy into the societally-pressured, glossy magazine idea of conventional beauty. Which is why it’s so hard not to hate myself for re-gaining the weight that I worked so hard to lose, because somewhere inside, underneath, below, there’s a part of me that basically equates me being fat with me being ugly. Which is RIDICULOUS. And I know that it is. But, hey, given what the kind of messages blasted at us from every direction, can you really blame me?

I try to focus on the good, the parts of myself that I know that I love. And I try to gain objective perspective about the parts that, while I don’t necessarily consider beautiful, are not exactly grotesque either. But it’s hard to always focus on the positive, to always accept yourself the way that you are. Which is why I so commend things like the Body Love movement and the Smash the Scale Revolution. Because we really need all the support and inspiration we can get when it comes to this. And because it is never as simple as you think.

I really don’t believe in the pressures and demands that society and culture puts on women (and men!) to look a certain way in order to be considered beautiful. But I still succumb to them. I don’t believe that being thin automatically equals being beautiful, or vice versa, but I still want to be both. And as a weight loss blogger, as someone who is actively working to lose weight — yes, to be healthy and strong but also to, well, lose weight (duh!) — am I simply perpetuating the cycle? Broadcasting my specific attempts to lose weight, and thus to become at least slightly thinner, is not exactly me screaming to the world that I am part of the Body Love movement.

In a perfect world, I would be able to love my body as it is AND still be okay with changing myself. It wouldn’t be about rebelling against society and showing the world that Big is Beautiful, and it also wouldn’t be about trying to “fix” the way I look. It would be about being okay with whatever I WANT to do — whether I want to lose weight or I want to stay the way I am. And if I wanted to lose weight, it really would be because I wanted to be fit, not because I wanted to fit in. And if I wanted to stay the way I am, it would be because I really did think that I am beautiful as-is, no changes needed (and because, as we know, fat does not automatically mean unhealthy anyway!).

It’s awesome that there are so many body love/body acceptance/size acceptance movements happening, because obviously the current “ideal” absolutely needs to change. But pressure comes in a lot of different forms, and Hollywood isn’t the only one with opinions on how people should look or act or think. If I’m being honest, sometimes it feels like my only options as a large-and-in-charge lady are to either A) want to lose weight and hate my body or B) stay fat and love my body. Like, if I were a true proponent of body acceptance, I shouldn’t want to change. But I want to be able to both love my body as it is AND still want to change it. And I want it to be okay to want both things.

The fact is, some days, I do hate my body. I tear up thinking about the stretch marks that I will have forever. Some days, I hate the fact that I’m not naturally blonde and I hate that I have arm hair and I hate that the fingernail on my right middle finger is weirdly smaller than the one on my left. Maybe it’s because I caught a glimpse of my pooch in the mirror as I bent down to pick something up. Or maybe it’s because even though I’m a size XX at Old Navy, when I try on the same size at J.Crew, it doesn’t fit. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a Tuesday and that’s how I woke up feeling.

But some days, I love my body. And I don’t just mean when I’m focusing in on my eyes or the cupid’s bow dip of my upper lip or sticking my chin out so you can kind-of-sort-of see my collarbones. I mean sometimes I look at the rolls on my stomach or the fleshy part of my upper arm and I am really, honestly, truly, just like, “Huh. Cool.” It might not be as often as the days when the reason I love how I look is because of my eyes or my cupid’s bow, but it has indeed been known to happen.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how I’m going to feel about myself or my body at any given time, because I’m fickle and I’m emotional and I’m constantly changing and I’m HUMAN. But I would certainly like the scales to tip in favor of loving everything about myself — even if I still want to change some things.

While I won’t be literally smashing my scale any time soon (I still intend to weigh myself as a way to chart my progress, of course), I am really grateful to the Smash the Scale Revolution for opening my eyes and making me really think about my motivations for why I’m doing what I’m doing here. Because in the end, just wanting to be thin is clearly not enough of a reason to make weight loss stick. I’ve found that out the hard way! And maybe if I learn to really love myself at 233.2 pounds, then when I get to 220 pounds or 190 pounds or 160 pounds or wherever I end up, I won’t have to worry about anything other than just being me.

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Posted on Jan 12, 2014 in Dear Diary, Weigh Ins, Weight Loss | 43 comments

Yelp’s Biggest Loser & New Beginnings

Wellps, Happy 2014, friendos!

I hope that your new years are starting off with a bang. Mine has already gotten off to a pretty stellar start, with a few minor (read: not really minor) exceptions. I’ll spare you the photo details for 2014’s first traumatic event, but it entailed my little pup Daxter getting into a dog fight with a much, much bigger dog and having to go to the emergency vet (for, yes, the 5th time in his not-even-4-year-old life). Thankfully, he’s okay, but since those of you who have been around for a while now know how much I looooove my dogs, you can imagine that it was not really a fun time for anybody involved.

The second big happening of the new year is a totally different kind of traumatic, but it does come with photos, so there’s that. See, you wise readers probably haven’t been ignorant of the fact that I’ve basically been ignoring the topic of my weight for the past, oh, I don’t know, year. Which, granted, is pretty sucky of me because this blog is LITERALLY about weight loss. (Okay, sure, it’s also about food and life and dogs and photos and stuff, but the title of the blog has the word “shrunk” in it, so let’s just face facts.)

I’ve been skirting the issue for the better part of a year, so I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I have re-gained a lot of the weight I had formerly lost. Almost all of it, in fact. And, honestly, finally admitting that out loud makes me want to crawl into a hole forever and ever and ever. I mean, sure, chalk it up to the new job, or being in a happy relationship, or just the fact that, despite all I’ve done to try and change my mindset, I still just love food too damn much — whatever the reasons, here I am again. And, whether it was because I was in denial, or I was too busy, or I just plain didn’t care, I haven’t done a thing about it. Until now.

happy relationship gut

I used to say that there was no “Aha!” moment that motivated me for my weight loss the first time around. There was no snide comment, no bad photo, nothing specific that finally pushed me into being able to turn my super unhealthy life around, things just finally got to be too much. Well, that’s not really how it happened this time. No, this time, it was more like the entire universe was screaming at me to get going again… while I was sticking my fingers in my ears and going “Lalalalalalalala,” hoping that it would all just go away.

But you can’t fight the universe, bro.

And so when my wonderful Yelp coworker Kimberly informed me that she would be participating in the 2014 Yelp’s Biggest Loser challenge, AND I got asked to participate in an upcoming Cupid 5K run, AND after leafing through all the photos of myself from recent Yelp events, I couldn’t find a single one that didn’t make me want to cry, I finally pulled my fingers out of my ears and my head out of my ass.

hohohorrible before photo

(Sidenote: I don’t really consider it a benefit of the job that I am professionally photographed at least once a month — NOBODY is attractive when they are caught mid-sentence whilst giving a speech. I just want to put that out there.)

Bottom line: Yes, I regained a lot of weight. Yes, it blows. But it’s a brand new year, right? And with the Biggest Loser challenge, the upcoming 5K, my new gym membership (thanks mom & dad!), and the support that I know I can count on from you on… I mean, hey, if I can do it once…

then and then

So, in the end, this long, wordy, loooong overdue post is basically here to say:

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride. Again.

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Posted on Oct 6, 2011 in Dear Diary, Weight Loss | 158 comments

Fat Acceptance

Hold onto your hats folks, it’s about to get real deep up in here. You know, because we haven’t already had enough heavy this week, hahaha. Let’s just call today… Thoughtful Thursday, shall we? After all, we already know how much I love alliteration.

Yesterday I came across a Facebook post that a few of my friends had shared. You can click through to see the original image included in the post, but since it’s potentially NSFW, I won’t re-post it here. It’s a picture of plus-sized model Tara Lynn, nude (though with all her ladybits covered, of course), and the text below was this:

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on CDs. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I?!”

I found myself in a bit of an internal debate after reading through all of that. As someone who has been overweight for the entirety of her adult life, I can sympathize with the thought that you shouldn’t have to be pressured into losing weight solely for the sake of being “thin.” After all, it’s that exact motivator that drove me into disordered eating and depression, and contributed to my obesity far more than it helped. There are so many pressures out there, inadvertent or not, that point us to the conclusion that success is marked by being model-sized: actresses, advertisements, and, of course, actual models. We all feel the pressure to be thin.

Naturally, out of any sort of oppression, even the emotional kind, rebellion is born. Enter the fat acceptance movement. It’s an effort to stop discrimination against and increase acceptance of, well, “fat people.” I am obviously, 100% in favor of stopping any kind of discriminatory practices that occur simply because of one’s pants size (which can include anything from bullying to actual job discrimination), but I find myself torn overall. I may get a lot of hate for even bringing this topic up, but I have to admit that I worry about the potential for people to use terms like “fat power” as a means of justifying an unhealthy lifestyle. I know that there are legitimate activists fighting for equality, which is awesome. But there will always be someone looking for a way to tie it into their own agenda, too.

Even within this movement, it seems there is dissension as to what is really being fought for. Some people really do honestly just seem to be fighting against discrimination. Some people are trying to find a way to see past the “versus” mentality of body size (fat vs. skinny, big vs. large, etc.) and both of those goals are fantastic. But some people use the excuse of “fat liberation” as a platform for supporting their poor habits. They make it seem mutually exclusive: if you accept yourself as the “whale” you are, you’ll be happy but you have to stay that way! Strive to be a “mermaid” and you’ll be miserable (and smell like fish! Hahaha.)

You don’t need to sacrifice a high quality of life in order to lose weight. I think that I’m living proof of that! No one should be able to use their life (“I have kids!” “I have a job!” “I volunteer!” “I commute 2 hours!”) as an excuse to stay, well, fat. Theodora and Katy have recently written posts that touch on that very point, in fact.

There’s not much of a debate anymore over the fact that obesity does put you at a higher risk for health complications. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule: skinny people can get diabetes just like non-smokers can get lung cancer and people with a BMI over 30 can live to be 100. But them’s the facts. And while I can accept arguments questioning the validity of things like the BMI system as a way to determine whether someone is at an “appropriate” weight, I’ve been on the larger side of the spectrum and I simply can’t accept the idea that if you’re truly obese, you can still be healthy. Happy, maybe (I wasn’t), but not healthy.

Source: 1, 2

It’s a hard line to tow. Of course I want society to continue working on embracing the concept that beauty is not one-size-fits-all (and especially not a size 2!) and I think that models like Crystal Renn, and actresses like Christina Hendricks are helping dispel that myth (obviously, neither of these women are what I would consider “fat” in the slightest, but they aren’t stick figures either and that’s my point.) Magazines like Glamour have started featuring full-figured models on a more regular basis (though infrequently enough that they’re still somewhat of a novelty at this point in time) and shows like Drop Dead Diva and Mike & Molly even have plus-sized stars. But for me, having “seen the light” in terms of my overall health and happiness now versus when I was obese myself, I also don’t want people to become complacent just because they have an excuse to. I absolutely believe that everyone should accept themselves and love their body no matter what they weigh. But that being said, I don’t want anyone to think that self-acceptance means having to stay unhealthy. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you can’t still want to better yourself.

The passage I quoted above bothers me because it glorifies being overweight. I know that at this point it probably seems like I’m waffling, and it’s true. I do keep going back and forth. I don’t want people to disregard their health in the name of “self-acceptance”, but I don’t want anyone to feel the infinite self-loathing that I did just because of how they look or how much they weigh. For being “fat”. We can call it any number of things — curvy, voluptuous, zaftig, rubenesque — but after a certain point, it’s tiring to come up with new synonyms. I’m starting to finally make peace with the word: fat. I was fat. And then I took steps to try to change that, not for the sole sake of being thin, but to embrace health. And I’ve also made peace with the fact that “healthy” for me will probably never include being a size 4. But that doesn’t mean that it has to include being a size 20, either.

I know that fat acceptance and fat glorification really are two different things. But not everyone is always going to think of them differently. For some people, the lines will blur. And it’s at the point when we think there is justification for our actions that we stop trying to change.

I don’t ever want to stop trying.

What are your thoughts on the ideas of fat acceptance and (versus?) fat glorification?

Please do let me know, by the way, if any of the thoughts I put forth in this post are worded in a way that is either offensive or unclear. If it’s the former, know that is absolutely not my intention, and if it’s the latter, well, it is ME after all. We can only expect so much. 😉

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Posted on Sep 16, 2011 in Dear Diary | 40 comments

My name is Gretchen, and I Used to be Fat.

Since starting my new job roughly 6 weeks ago (JEEBUS, has it really been that long already?), I’ve found myself in an interesting “predicament” (I use that term very loosely here.)

See, to my new coworkers, I look like this:


Or sometimes this:

There may or may not have been a robot dancing through the cubes the other day…

But either way, I am (usually) dressed appropriately for work, haha. Actually, I suppose that technically I now look like this:

And while I may not be “skinny” by anyone’s definition, I’m, you know, normal. Most decidedly NOT obese. Soft, cuddly, with a little bit of extra fluff, but nothing to gawk at and certainly nothing to pity (at least not for my weight, hahaha.) So when I started working here, my coworkers had absolutely no idea that I used to look like this:

Or this:

Please excuse the nerd factor of forcing my brother to take a portrait of me with my dogs.

And while some of them have since been turned onto this little ol’ blog (hi guys!) and have probably figured it out by now, most of the people I meet have no idea that I’m a former fatty. And yes, just typing out those words brings a whole mess of self-esteem-bashing thoughts to mind (“Well, I really shouldn’t be saying I’m NOT fat, since I still need to lose more weight…”) but I’m going to try to drown those out with more incessant babbling… starting now.


See, for over, hmm, at least 13 of my 23 years (I’m ancient, I know), I have struggled with my weight. I wasn’t a chubby child, but I was a pudgy pre-teen, a thickset teenager, and an ample adult, topping off at (to my knowledge) 246 pounds. And while I am aware that my figure will always stray to the zaftig side, there is absolutely no question that I was unhealthy AND unhappy at that weight. No bueno.

But I’ve come a long way in the past year! I’ve lost almost 60 pounds so far, revamped my look (many times over, haha) and my life, and couldn’t be happier for it. I’m obviously still Gretchen, still the same person that I’ve always been, but in some ways I’m not. I’ve changed, I’ve grown, and I’ve evolved. So why is it that I constantly feel the need to tell people about the fact that I, you know, used to be fat?


It feels like, whether intentional or not, one of the first conversations I have with a new person somehow involves my weight loss. Why do I feel the need to let them make them know this? Let’s be honest, it’s a pretty awkward thing to bring up to someone you don’t really know. Do I really need the validation that much? For them to know this one big accomplishment of my life so far? People don’t go walking around and starting off conversations with “Hi, my name is Dr. Blah Blah and I won the Nobel Prize.” or “Hey there, I’m Yada Yada and I make $350,000 a year.” (I mean, okay, perhaps speed-dating participants might do that, but let’s just say they’re the exception, haha.)

Maybe it’s that I’m just not ready to let go of the person I used to be. I keep reminding you with pictures and stories and reiterations of the same facts, because I want to remind myself. I used to think that once I lost weight, I would never want to look back on myself as an obese person. I would want to forget the past and start anew — as a new person entirely. I guess that just isn’t the case. I don’t want to forget because hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t want to lose the part of me that literally transformed. I don’t want to forget because I don’t want to get back to that place, ever.

I know that this is kind of heavy for a Friday, but it’s just another one of those self-reflection things that seems to hit from time to time. It’s just confusing. Am I supposed to let go of the past so I don’t get down on myself for letting me get that way? So I can move forward? Or am I supposed to keep it constant and present in my life so I don’t ever forget? I know these are not mutually-exclusive things, but it’s just something to think about before announcing my weight to the next stranger I meet, haha.

Do you ever find yourself in a similar predicament? Torn between wanting to forget yourself as the fat/unhealthy/depressed/whatever person, but also wanting to hold onto it?

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Posted on Sep 10, 2010 in Dear Diary, Working Out | 4 comments

Mental Block

Totally meant to blog it up last night, but I got a little distracted due to this amazingness:

Oh, Vampire Diaries. So beautiful. So suspenseful. So vampirey. Ian Somerholder (Boone from Lost, and the hottie on the right) is so good I just want to have his tiny vampire babies. And though I lovelovelove Nina Dobrev, the main actress (in the middle), she’s just so beautiful it makes you hate her a little, haha. The season 2 premiere was last night, and let me just tell you, it did not disappoint. <3

Anyway, I wanted to blog about my day yesterday. In an attempt to make up for the super greasy caloric fries that I had at the ballpark the day before, I tried to be extra good yesterday. But I actually think that trying to be so good brought me in waaaay below my calorie goals, which left me feeling pretty rotten by the end of the day. I don’t know if it was the fact that my body was finally processing the fries, or if it was the low-calorie foods all day, but my tummy was not a happy camper.

It still isn’t too good now, really, although that might have something to do with the black coffee I downed once I got to work. I was really struggling this morning to get up, and kind of started falling asleep at my desk. First time drinking coffee black! It is super bitter and gross, but it did the job. I didn’t intend to drink it black, but for once I actually looked at the ingredient list on the fat-free creamer stuff in the fridge that I would normally use (hazelnut, mmm…) and saw partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Sigh. So I poured it sans-creamer into my already unsettled stomach because I didn’t want to consume the trans fats that we all know comes with anything “partially hydrogenated.” (“Eat This, Not That!” taught me is that foods are allowed to say things like “No Trans Fats!” on them as long as they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats. THAT IS NOT NONE!!! Tricksy, tricksy food industry…)

I am also super bloaty and just generally gross feeling, and especially felt that way yesterday. Again, maybe I was just retaining water because of the salt and oil in the foods from the ballgame, but I did not feel pretty. I went to Jazzercise with my Mommy after work (my mom said that I inspired her to finally start exercising too!)

But while I’m glad I went, I just felt sluggish and heavy the whole time. And this was the Jazzercise Lite class, too! Oh well, everyone has off days, I suppose. And at least I WENT to Jazzercise, right? And I even ended up getting my sweat on:

I just have to always be able to push through and keep my spirits up, even if I’m not feeling particularly great, or into it. I think that was one of my big downfalls in all previous attempts to lose weight – giving up when the going got tough, or even just a little bit less than perfect. I mean, everybody has “thin days” vs. “fat days”, and while arguably right now all of my days are fat days, there are definitely still times when I feel better about my body than others. It’s always an internal struggle for me either way though, because when I’m having a “fat” day, I feel discouraged and want to give up because the goal seems unattainable. But when I’m having a “thin” day, I still can’t let myself be happy with how I feel about myself. Call it women’s logic (i.e. craziness) but mentally it’s like I feel like if I’m ever happy with my body, as long as I’m still fat, I won’t have the motivation to keep going. So I can’t let myself get complacent, and I can’t let myself be happy with myself overweight, but on the other hand, I’m trying to be healthy in all senses of the word. And it’s definitely not a healthy mentality if you can’t love yourself the way you are now. Dilemmas, dilemmas.

Anyway, that’s enough heavy for right now. I hope everyone is excited for the weekend! I actually have a lot going on, so there should hopefully be some exciting posts to come (as long as I can make myself actually, you know, post them!) TGIF, everyone!

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