I surprise even myself sometimes with the stuff that goes on in my head. I’m considered an expert in health and fitness, respected my peers, have a few friends that think I’m awesome (T I’m talking to you!) and I’ve got an adorable, loving husband that thinks I’m beautiful…..but once again I felt too fat, too out of shape, too this, too this, too that, to answer a resounding “YES!!” when the call came in to be on TV. Seems not that long ago, I was a new grad and a very new New Yorker who was feeling optimistic that living here in the Big Apple would one day present big opportunities such as the coveted TV spot. Had the phone rang 6 years ago I’m sure I would’ve been wetting my pants with excitement…but feeling insecure nonetheless. Years later, how was I feeling? Still insecure. Was I ready? Was I looking the part? Would anyone want to hear what I had to say if I don’t look like Jillian Michaels? What truly makes me sad that in many ways, despite all I’ve accomplished professionally and all the work I continue to do on myself, that when the voice on the other end of the phone asked me to be a guest on their show, all those same questions ran through my mind. My initial response was, “Crap! No, I haven’t lost all the baby weight yet! I’m not in perfect shape and my breast feeding boobs are huge…ugh! Does anything I could wear on TV even fit over these ladies? I’ll look chubby, ridiculous and no one will want to hear what the fat girl is saying.” Geesh Brooke……how about trying that again without the drama and self loathing… Over the course of 2 weeks I was asked to be on 4 different segments for Veria TV and to film something for Prevention Magazine. When it media rained, it media poured! Each time I was asked to film something, my fears wanted to scream, “No!” Or at least, “No thank you, I’m just swamped with the baby and my practice. Please call again, I promise to be in better shape.” But instead I said, “Yes.” And I said, “Shut up!” to the negative banter in my head. (I had to say it a few times though.) That was new for me: to hear that voice, acknowledge it and not fall to pieces about it. I realized I still have a lot of work to do in the body image –they are gonna think I’m not good enough – find me out for a fraud – if I only looked better – area, but I was able to not give in to it this time. Joe, my hubby, was stunned. He told me after I taped my first segment that he had been bracing for the worst week ever and he didn’t want to jinx it by saying how great I was doing! He’s been down this road with me before – it’s not just an irrational fear for me. I’ve actually been called too fat to know about fat loss by a reviewer on Amazon. ..so the fear of being “called out” is not just in my head.
Granted I took that review in stride, but it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever been through and it definitely wasn’t the easiest thing Joe had been through with me! What typically happens for me is this: panic about how I’m looking for this big event (getting ready for my book launch or yikes, getting ready to be on TV!), swear off all carbs and any trace of sugar, workout twice per day, drink 3 liters of water per day and not a drop less, don’t even look at a glass of wine, avoid salt at all costs, lose hours upon hours of sleep, and completely stress to the detriment of everyone around me. Not balanced….not healthy. I had all the same “I’m too fat fears”, but the difference was that this time, I didn’t let it stop me. Instead losing my s#^*! that week, pulling double workouts, no carbs and no sleep, I tamed the voices in my head – for perhaps the first time ever. So why was it different (thankfully) this time? What have I learned about me? I’ve learned that this negative self talk in my head is a real thing. I can’t pretend it’s not there, I have to deal with it. I can’t just feel stupid that I still do this. I’ve also learned that just because it’s the first thing I think, and have been saying it since I can remember, doesn’t make it true. That even on my worst days, I look better than the insecure girl in my head thinks I do. I can choose to work on myself and my body because I want to, not because the voice in my head is telling me I have to cuz I’m just too chubby.
And one final reason……I do not want to demonstrate this body image neurosis on a daily basis to my baby daughter. I’m thankful that I’ve struggled with it so I can help my patients and readers, but I don’t want to be flipping out, feeling inadequate and letting fear of how I look stop me from living my life – and doing my job. I want to be her champion in a body image obsessed world, which means I have to not be my own worst enemy….and dare I say, love myself even if I never lose another pound. Given all that….why did I still want to say, “No!” when the phone rang? Why did I start to spin and let all those nasty thoughts almost cause me to miss an opportunity? Why do we cling so tightly to what doesn’t work for us? We’re comfortable. Change is never comfortable – but nothing great comes from staying comfy. Comfy is fine, but stretching past comfy is where great happens, where we can grow. About 6 years ago I was beyond comfortable living in Seattle. I’d just graduated from Bastyr University and lived in the Pacific Northwest where naturopathic medicine abounded. I had a group of fabulous girlfriends who, like me, had all just graduated from graduate or doctoral programs and met the men of our dreams (within months we went from singles in the city to serious couples – we all married those boys by the way!). I had the perfect apartment, the coffee shop where they all knew my name, my gym I’d been sweating at for 7 years…..life was very comfortable. On not more than a whim, my brand new boyfriend and I decided to move to New York City together. It was nuts…and it was entirely uncomfortable. We had no money, no connections (save
Aunt Sally whose couch we crashed on), people thought I was some sort of hypnotherapist or witch doctor at worst and a nutritionist at best, but no one knew what an ND was and I don’t have a license in NY state to be a primary care provider (aka a “real doctor) as I had in Seattle. And I had no idea where I was when I surfaced from the subway station. But what’s happened here has been amazing – and more days were uncomfortable than not. None of the amazing things that have happened could have happened so quickly if I’d stayed in my comfort zone. This is true of facing my body image issues as well. Without living in NYC, publishing a book and getting on to a much bigger stage, I could have stayed small, stayed safe. We are meant to stretch. It challenges us to be BETTER. Pick one thing today that mixes it up for you. Do one thing you’re nervous to do. Be a bit different than you were yesterday. Say YES! to the thing that scares you (even if it’s as simple as trying a pull-up or giving up diet soda). You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of. For me, today I choose to not be stopped by those negative voices in my head. It is totally uncomfortable and not my norm to not worry about how I look, but when I look at Lola I am reminded of the little girl in me who’s always felt insecure about her body. It makes me very sad. I look back at my childhood, high school, and good heavens college, and I was perpetually feeling bad about my body for this or that. I don’t want to look back one more day, miss one more opportunity, be preoccupied with one more flaw, or miss one moment with my perfect little family because I’m stressed about my big butt. It’s exhausting…and it’s a waste of my time. And it keeps me playing small, and hiding. What I do want is to continue to workout daily in a way that fits my new lifestyle as doctor, business owner, author, wife and mommy. I’m working out at home with a few pieces of equipment and a flight of steep stairs – not the perfect gym workout I want, but it’s what’s working now and I do it everyday. I do want to eat as clean as I can as often as I can – it feels good and it’s simple. And I want to continue to strive for my best self and my best body without all the drama, all the berating myself and without saying “no” to TV appearances as they pop up….and without saying “no” to my life. Remember, not hating ourselves as we are doesn’t not preclude us from wanting and having something BETTER for ourselves. Get to work on your goals, find ways to be consistent in your efforts, skip the stress, skip the crash diets, skip the berating. As fate would have it, my first TV segment ever in my life was about body image and eating disorders. Life is funny that way.