August—I don’t even know where the month went. You can clearly tell since it is almost the middle of September when you are receiving this review. I published this for the sake of consistency and because these reviews truly help me evaluate my success and failures.Read More
This piece is Part 8 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
I’ve been trying to write this post for about two months now, and I don’t know why it’s been so hard.
It might be that I still consider myself in the postpartum season even though I think the medical field refers to postpartum as the 6 weeks after delivery.
Yet, as any woman who has given birth will tell you, the after-effects of labor do not disappear after 6 weeks.Read More
I Am Not Defined By My Weight - Part VII Pregnancy
This piece is Part 7 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
My pregnancy did not meet all of my expectations. I had to stop running mid-way through my pregnancy due to pelvic pain, and I gained way more weight than I wanted (maybe 35-50 lbs.). Even still, I loved the journey I was on.
I am Not Defined By My Weight - Part VI Marriage
This piece is Part 6 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, and as I previously mentioned, mine was not the best. It was my mentality regarding weight that influenced my self-worth. I did not love who I was, and because I did not love myself, I could not accept my husbands love either (not in a real sense anyway). My negative self-worth created challenges in the beginning of my relationship and eventually reared it's ugly head after I had my daughter.
In the Beginning
My weight-loss journey started during my college years when I was required to lose weight to join/serve in the Air Force. When most people were gaining their freshman 15, I was losing it, plus more! I had about 25 – 30 lbs to lose to wear the uniform and it took me about a year to lose it.
Unfortunately, losing the weight did not solve the more significant issue at hand—emotional eating and food addiction. I rode the weight-loss train all throughout college, through my first duty assignment, up to current day (1.5 years postpartum).
In the beginning, I would do almost anything to lose the weight.
Severely restrict calories…
Sweat it out in the sauna for hours on end…
Spend hours on cardio machines…
I'd even binge and purge every once in a while...
The sauna and elliptical were not long-term solutions to my weight loss, and so, I would quickly gain back any weight I lost.
All it took was a stressful event, heartbreak, or a random craving that would send me over the edge into a binge fest of all foods unhealthy.
When He Becomes Your Motivation
When my husband and I first started dating, I finally found the motivation to lose the weight and keep it off (or at least I tried). My boyfriend was 30 lbs lighter than I was and I hated it! I started learning about clean eating, strength training, and how moderation was vital to keeping my weight in check. A year and a half into our relationship, we got engaged.
This put a deadline for when I needed to reach that magical weight.
I signed up for a myfitnesspal account and started tracking my weight and calories. For the next 14 months, my weight would decline with a few small increases here and there.
Then, on February 21, 2015, 12 days before our wedding, I weighed in at my lowest ever—168 lbs. I was only slightly heavier than my future hubby and figured it was adequate enough for us have a “happily-ever-after" kind of marriage.
During this time period, I believed his love for me was conditional. I thought the key to a happy (and sexy) marriage was to be similar in weight.
Then, six months into our marriage, I went through a really rough season at work. I was thrust into a toxic work environment in which I had very little time to take care of myself.
I started eating my emotions and gained 15 lbs in 3 months, damaging all progress I had made.
I felt unworthy of my husband's love and ashamed of my body.
How could I ever be intimate with him when I despised every single part of me?
Soon after, the Air Force gave my husband and me orders that would send us overseas to live as husband and wife, for the first time ever.
Finally Together as Husband and Wife
Up until this point, we hadn’t lived together, so I “controlled” what food was kept in my house, and what I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was a whole new ball game to take into consideration another person's food preferences when it came to preparing meals.
My husband loves carbs, processed foods, and sugar-laden breakfast items. I, also, enjoy all those things but have no form of self-control to keep myself from eating everything in sight.
In the first few years of our relationship, he didn't understand the addictive feeling I had when I would see a dozen donuts sitting on the counter, or a bag of Salt and Vinegar chips in the cupboard. It was easy for him to have a portion and put the rest away for later, whereas I could not stop eating once I started.
If we had donuts left in the house, all I could think about were those donuts. It was an obsession. As if those were the last donuts on the planet and I needed to have them right then and there. If there was an open bag of Salt and Vinegar chips, you can bet I would demolish them in one sitting.
So when we started living together, deciding what foods to keep in the house was a huge challenge.
Marriage is not a dictatorship. I did not have full authority to decide what foods we kept in the house and neither did my husband.
Should I stop buying the unhealthy foods and make my husband suffer? Or do I suck it up and force myself to have self-control?
I didn’t think it’s was fair to make him suffer because I couldn’t control myself, but it also wasn’t fair for him to keep my kryptonite around and force me to lean on my own strength.
Initially, I catered to his needs and forced myself to develop self-control, and that FAILED miserably.
You guys, at certain points, I started sneaking food while he wasn’t around because I didn’t want him to judge me. In reality, I was projecting my emotions onto him.
Did he want me to binge on all those bad foods—no! But he didn’t love me any less if I did.
I was the only one judging myself, but instead of admitting that, I convinced myself that he was the one I should be hiding from.
I started having breakdowns of feeling like such a failure. I would focus on the fact that I neededto lose 50+ lbs and the gravity of that number just wore me down.
I felt like I was drowning.
I started to believe I would never lose the weight.
I would never be smaller than my husband.
I would never be happy, and if I was never happy, couldmy marriage succeed?
My poor husband was dealing with a woman with polarized self-esteem (aka E^3). One minute, I was motivated to lose the weight and would make progress, and then the next minute, I would slip up and suddenly start sabotaging everything I had achieved.
And he couldn’t say a thing. If he opened his mouth, I would take it as a personal attack.
I wouldn’t let him be my cheerleader, because every time he tried to encourage me, all I could hear was the enemy telling me my husband did not think I was beautiful.
The enemy was out to get our marriage.
He wanted me to believe that our marriage was dependent on the number on the scale, and if that number were too high, my husband would leave me.
Love is Patient
My husband was/is exceptionally patient with me. He has seen me at my heaviest and at my lightest. He has learned how to bring me back to earth when I find myself in the pits of no hope. He has had to be open and honest about how my actions/self-worth affect our marriage and has had to deal with the unfortunate consequences of telling me the truth.
He has reminded me time and time again, that his love is not conditional. He loves me regardless of the number on the scale. He has also reminded me that he wants a healthy wife, a wife who, God-willing, is able to live a long and happy life.
Every day has been a struggle to learn how to love myself. Every day has been a reminder that I cannot do this alone. I am reminded that in my weakness I am strong and God uses these opportunities to mold me into the woman He wants me to become.
I have learned that my husband is not my savior, God is, and the only way I can ever hope to achieve a happy and healthy life/marriage is to lean on the one who created it.
Practical Ways to Help You Find Balance
>> Compromise – Find ways to compromise on what foods to allow in your house and what foods to not allow. I learned that I had self-control with specific items. Instead of telling my husband no chips in the house, I asked him to buy only the kinds I knew I was indifferent about. Instead of purchasing Salt and Vinegar chips every time, we would just buy it once every few months.
>> Out of sight, out of mind – Like I said earlier, my husband loves donuts. So now, the few times he buys them, I asked him to place them in the microwave. This way they arent in my face, forcing myself to practice self-control every time I walk into the kitchen.
>> Maintain open and honest communication – My husband tried to motivate me, but he didn't understand why I couldn't accept his advice. Any time he tried to help, it just made me more upset. Sometimes the only people we are open to receiving advice from are people who have walked in our shoes. It took me awhile to explain that to my husband, but when I finally let him know, he knew how to communicate with me.
>> Admit you are weak – the hardest part of this journey was admitting that I am weak and cannot do it alone. I needed accountability partners. I needed God. It is because of my weakness that I have seen God work in my life, so I rejoice in my struggles because here is where I have found my savior.
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part V Relationships/ROTC
This piece is Part 5 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
Recently, I decided to take the 5 Love Languages quiz to figure out my love language. The quiz determined my love language is “Words of Affirmation," meaning for me, actions do not speak louder than words. Unsolicited compliments, kind/encouraging words are genuinely life-giving, and the opposite can be earth-shattering.
Understanding this love language brought a lot of things into perspective.
From growing up obsessed with physical appearance, to listening to immature boys call me fat, I started to believe the lies that I am what I weigh. Strangers repeated these words often enough, it consumed me and crushed my spirit. All throughout college, I unknowingly battled these misperceptions, trying to discover who I was and what my purpose was in life. When I joined ROTC, it exacerbated the belief that I wasn't enough.
Firstly, please realize I am not faulting the Air Force, Ohio State or ROTC for any of my self-esteem problems. I had fantastic cadre members (the officers/enlisted members in charge) and peers that encouraged and motivated me. My story is more than the four years in ROTC.My struggle is a culmination of my culture, my perceptions, and my individual experiences.
From day one in ROTC, I was aware I did not meet standards and would have to lose weight to wear the uniform. I also could not pass a PT test (physical training test) to save my life—another requirement to serve in the Air Force.
Knowing this, I continued on.
I went to mandatory PT twice a week, and watched, as every single person was faster, skinnier, and stronger than me. I was also one of a few cadets who did not meet standards, thus was required to march around campus in civilian clothes.
You can say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Because of this, I regularly had people asking me why I wasn't in uniform and what did I mean by "not meeting standards."
Talk about awkward.
I had to explain to people I was too fat to wear the uniform. I would feel sick to my stomach.
To make matters worse, we would have PT tests once a quarter where we would get weighed in, tape measured, and then tested on pushups, sit-ups and a mile and a half run.
If I didn't make weight, it was an automatic failure and no more uniform for me. So instead of fueling my body appropriately to do well on those PT tests, I would starve myself the weak prior and spend hours in the sauna wearing a sweat suit to make sure I could make weight.
You can probably guess my performance during those tests were subpar.
It was a lose-lose situation.
In hindsight, I wish I had reached out for help on how to lose weight the right way. I knew there were standards I needed to uphold, yet every Friday after weigh-ins I would binge on Taco Bell as a reward for surviving another week. When I would go out with friends, I would enjoy massive amounts of food and then force myself to puke it up. Not only would the calories not count, but it also prevented hangovers. Pretty distorted, am I right?
Thankfully, that season is behind me, but there is still more to the story.
Self-worth and Relationships
“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” – Robert Holden
Even after I had finally achieved the Air Force's goal weight, I still struggled with self-worth. I was finally wearing the uniform, but I was the slowest person on the track. It wasn't enough to make weight, nor pass the PT test. The next expectation was to get 100 points on the PT test, and I was rarely hitting 90.
I felt like a failure, a big fat failure.
It was during this time I started developing feelings for one of the guys in ROTC, except I tried my hardest to fight those feelings.
See, this guy was white, skinny, and came from the suburbs of Ohio.
I, on the other hand, was Puerto Rican, chubby, and from inner-city Cleveland.
What the heck would people think if they saw a big Hispanic girl with a skinny white boy?
What would my family say?
I was not going to allow myself to be embarrassed like that. Plus, why would a thin person want to be with a fat person? I genuinely believed I was too big to be loved. That I needed to find someone bigger than me or else it would never work.
I fixated on these beliefs so much, I pushed this guy away from me, into the arms of another girl.
It wasn’t until I realized the other girl was not interested in him that I decided I could not suppress my feelings any longer.
I had to tell him how I felt, despite feeling unworthy of him or his love.
♥ Determine your long-term goals and ensure your short-term goals help you achieve your objective. I solely focused on making sure the scale moved down, I practiced unhealthy habits that hindered long-term weight loss.
♥ Progress is progress. Celebrate all of your small achievements. Every little achievement adds up to big success.
♥ Ask for help. Don’t allow your pride to get in the way of achieving your goal. I relied heavily on my own strength that it took me longer than it should have to reach my target.
♥ Don’t compare yourself to other people. No one has walked in your shoes. You were uniquely created, and no one in the world matches you. Comparing yourself to other people steals your joy.
♥ Love is not dependent on weight. I was so afraid to date someone because I thought I weighed too much, I almost missed out on the best relationship of my life.
Happily Ever After . . .
Thankfully, I learned how to stifle the negative opinions I had for myself long enough to enter into the best relationship of my life—my marriage. I wish I could tell you that I learned how to love myself before we said our vows, but that would not be true.
I entered my marriage thinking; finally, I would be happy since I had someone who loved me for me.
But that was just not the case.
Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have, and my relationship with myself was not the best.
It was in marriage and motherhood where I learned how to “love” myself.
If you would like to read more, feel free to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or email. Next week I will explore the beginning of my relationship and marriage, and how I learned that I needed to love myself before I could truly accept my husbands love.
It’s almost been a year and a half since I had my first child and I have yet to achieve and maintain my pre-pregnancy weight. I hit that pre-pregnancy weight once and then, life got in the way and I gained a few pounds back.
I didn’t really think about it while I was pregnant because I loved being pregnant. For one, I no longer had to suck in my stomach for pictures. Instead, I highlighted the big belly. My boobs were bigger and I just felt amazing, beautiful and powerful. Yes, I was at my biggest, but there is something special, something different about carrying life inside of you.
I also didn’t focus too much on the scale. The only time I really thought about it was right before a doctor’s appointment.
Then, after Natalie was born, everything was different.
My postpartum body was different.
My feelings towards that same body that carried life were now different.
First, I could no longer hold my pee for very long. Once I had to go, I HAD TO GO. And try doing jumping jacks…. yea, not happening.
I could no longer suck in my stomach either... You know, when you stand in front of the mirror sucking it in to see how skinny you can get?
And that dag on lower belly pouch!
What once brought awe and admiration now brought disgust and shame.
I started to believe that in order to have a joyful and happy life, I needed to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight… my pre-pregnancy body.
But that was all a lie.
We Need Grace
In truth, I don’t need to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight to find joy. Instead, I need to give myself grace.
God designed every aspect of our body. He designed the hair on our head, the color of our eyes, even the size of our boobs! Trust me – as a child, I prayed for bigger boobs and that obviously was not in Gods plan.
Just as He designed our individual gifts, He knew what our specific trials would be. Instead of allowing the suffering to be in vain, He used it for His glory and His purpose. There is hope in those trials. There is hope in our suffering. There is hope when we look at our bodies and see how imperfect they are.
He knows our struggles, even the struggles we have yet to encounter. He knows how we will react and despite everything, He promises to be there with us.
He is not the one who put the stipulation to only gain 15 lbs in pregnancy. He is not the one who said anything greater than a size 12 is too big. He is not the one who said my body is not enough.
God has just asked us to glorify him through the caring of our body.
Have you ever thought about some of the reasons why we hate ourselves?
Is it the evidence of humanity? The evidence that we are not God? That’s exactly why we hate our bodies because we see how imperfect they are. And it kills us.
But He gives us grace. He loves us no matter what. He’s called us to love him, and in doing so, to love his creation - which includes us.
So when you look down and see that lower belly that won’t go away. Know that God still loves you. He’s still there in the midst of your self-loath. He wants you to run to him so he can comfort you. He knows that it’s hard here on earth and he has a present for us when we join him.
When we step on the scale and see that atrocious number. Know that it’s just a number. It does not define who we are.
God defines us.
He knew you would struggle to lose weight. He knew that you were going to hate that scale. But he hasn’t left. He calls us to him every time. We alone are not enough, but He is. He is in the midst of this trial. He is using this time to mold you like a lump of clay that has yet to be formed. Every opportunity is another opportunity for him to create the beautiful masterpiece he has envisioned.
Even Paul struggled with some of his physical imperfections.
He was given a thorn in his flesh, a tool Satan used to torment him. God could have healed that ailment, but instead, he offered grace. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.
Momma, don’t lose heart. Don’t focus on how imperfect or ungodly you are. Don’t allow Satan to use your postpartum body as a tool to pull you away from your heavenly father. Instead, run to Him.
Yes, God could have prevented you from gaining 50+ lbs. Yes, He could have ensured your skin was elastic enough to not be permanently scarred. Yes, he could have created your baby to have a smaller head to prevent 2nd or 3rd degree tears. But He didn’t. Instead, He is calling you to return back to Him during this season, to comfort you and show you that you are made perfect through Him.
God is here to love us despite our humanity.
I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part II Childhood
This piece is Part 2 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
If you have read my intro to the series, then you already know I have struggled with weight my entire life. I can trace it back to my childhood when I remember not wanting to get undressed for the doctors. I didn’t want them to see me unclothed. I also hated wearing bathing suits that showed off my stomach or thighs and absolutely HATED taking any kind of pictures.
I don't remember expressing these feelings vocally, but I do remember the dreaded belief that I was the fattest kid in the birthday photo.
Now, I look back at most of my childhood photos and I realize how delusional I was.
I don't remember the exact origins of these feelings, but growing up in a Puerto Rican family surely didn't help. Puerto Ricans, actually most Hispanics, focus a lot on physical descriptions. That's why you will hear nicknames like "La Gorda”, “La Flaquita”, “Blanquita”, “Negra", "Gringa” etc… Can you imagine your family calling you “the fat one”, “the skinny one”, “the white girl”, “the dark girl”, etc...?
That sticks with you.
To top it off, it wasn’t unusual to go to a family function and have relatives comment on your weight/appearance.
This story isn't uniquely mine. If you talk to enough people, you will probably learn that it's pretty normal. By no means am I blaming my culture nor am I saying I had a horrible family. I love my family and know that no family is perfect. It's just that this constant discussion of weight and appearance created this obsession with being a perfect size, the perfect color, and just perfect in general.
So as I grew up, I always focused on it. If I had gained weight, I had to prepare myself in advance for any family functions knowing that someone would make a comment about me gaining weight. Or if I lost weight, someone would make a comment that I wasn’t eating enough and getting too skinny (blasphemy for a Puerto Rican).
You could not escape someone pinpointing that you gained a few pounds since the last time they saw you. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that they meant any harm by it, it was just how my family operated.
Culture vs. Media
It’s important to note that at no point in my life have I ever been too skinny, at least according to US standards for BMI, in which I have always been considered “overweight” or “obese”. Yet, there were minor occasions when some family members thought I was getting too skinny. I was living in a world where the media glorified a size 0 with an hour-glass figure, but my community glorified a well endowed and curvy woman.
Talk about confusion!
I look back at my pictures and wish I saw then what I see now. Sure, I had some extra fluff, but not to the point that doctors needed to be concerned. I look back at those pictures and I pray that my baby girl wont go through the same issues I went through. I know that she will go through her stages, but I hope that I can help her see the beauty in her that I couldn't see in myself.
What the devil used for destruction, God used for a purpose.
Every stage of my life has had a unique impact on my self-worth. There isn't an exact moment that helped me love or hate my body, instead it was a journey through years of believing lies rather than truth. I hope that through my story, you can identify your own lies and start believing the truth that you are not defined by your weight.
3 Things I Learned
Character qualities far exceed physical qualities, yet the compliments that come out of my mouth almost always center around physicality. Instead, intentionally praise your children for their confidence, intelligence, curiousty, courage, and kindness.
Strong is beautiful. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, encourage children to be active (and lead by example). Strength is more important than what number is shown on the scale. Weight loss is the unintended outcome when a healthy lifestyle is the goal.
- Despite the pain caused from my sufferings, God used all those opportunities to mold me. Teach your children to embrace the trials and know that God has a purpose for their life. Easier said than done, I know. But the effort will not be in vain. As we pour into our children, God will cultivate it in their heart.
"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4
This is Part 1 of a 9 Part Series "I Am Not Defined By My Weight" inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".
Part I - Intro
Just recently, I finished reading Rachel Hollis’s new book “Girl, Wash Your Face” and I loved every freaking word in it. I loved it so much, it prompted me to write about my experiences with some of the chapters.
The premise of the book is for women to stop believing the lies about who they are, so they can become who they were meant to be. Rachel goes through 20 lies that women believe and one big important truth—"You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are"(pg. xi).
I loved the book so much, I dedicated an entire post for why you MUST read it, but for now, I want to tell you how deeply moved I was with lie #17 - "I am Defined by My Weight".
In this fitness series titled "I am Not Defined by My Weight", I will tell you my journey with weight-loss, weight-gain, and self-worth.
The first post will focus on my childhood years. These were the years where growing up in a hispanic household truly molded the way I saw physical appearance, breeding an obsession with the perfect weight and body.
Then, I'll take you through the dreaded high school years and eventually, college years where I promise it gets a little more juicy. I actually cringe writing about most of these stories, feeling the embarrassment come right back. In spite of that, I have to tell you my story. Because all of those individual moments slowly molded and shaped the woman I am today.
I will continue on and take you through the struggles in ROTC where I had to constantly tell people I was too fat to wear my uniform (and yes, it was tramatic).
Thankfully, I persevered through those challenging years, but the struggle did not end there. I eventually got married and had to learn how to grocery shop for two people with competing food/fitness goals (and an ice cream addict...ahem David).
Do you make your spouse suffer so you aren't tempted to eat an entire bag of Salt N Vinegar chips?
Do you buy them donuts for breakfast even though you know you will OBSESS over them until the entire box is gone?
I had to learn and am still learning what that looks like.
As if my self-worth wasn't already in shambles, I became pregnant at the heaviest weight I had ever been. Any momma reading this will understand the struggle of postpartum body image and self-worth. I will open my heart to you so you can hopefully understand the woman behind these words.
Spoiler alert—I will not end it by telling you I have figured out the success to loving your body. I will not end it by telling you I have it all figured out. I don’t even know how I will end the series to be completely honest. But I will be open, honest and vulnerable with anyone who wants to listen/read. These stories might not seem like a big deal when you read them, but to me, they had a huge impact on the mother, wife and woman I have become.
My only hope is that I can encourage women to know they are not alone in the struggle and maybe in writing, I can find healing.