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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fake It 'Til You Make It


I've spent my entire life as a forward thinking, liberal, artistic, anti-establishment, non-traditionalist…

So the word FAKE is a trigger for me. When I hear it uttered, it reverberates through the halls of “poseurville” for me; the land of the phony, the bogus, the counterfeit.

“Get out of here, with your snake oils and your smokescreens, you FRAUD!”

Why on earth, then, would I say that “faking it” is a tremendous step towards recovering from negative body image, building your self-esteem, and even battling anxiety and depression?

I AM saying it. Be a fake. Be a huge, bogus sham. Just this once. Here’s why:

Seven and a half years ago, I was at the heaviest weight I’d ever been in my life.

I’d just given birth to the light of my life—my son—and I’d started my pregnancy overweight.  Prior to pregnancy, my eating habits weren't so great, and to make matters worse, I rarely exercised. Most of my time was spent playing my guitar and performing, working, and socializing. Secretly (and sometimes, not so secretly), I hated my body; I was ashamed of my figure and suffered with an emotional eating disorder that had always kept me about 50 pounds overweight.  Still, no matter the numbers on the scale, I was unable to see the value in my body and so, therefore, I punished it by depriving it of quality foods in appropriate portions and healthy physical activity.

I’m careful to use the word “deprived” because, more often than not, people use deprivation when referring to “off limits” foods, pampering or other indulgences. Self-care and occasional indulgences are essential, so I’m certainly not attacking that mode of thinking. If you are a person, though, who has struggled with a less-than-healthy lifestyle, self-esteem issues or weight problems, it’s important to dig deeper in to your psyche, and consider that you might actually be depriving yourself of health (quality food, exercise, physical health) on purpose.  You might not feel WORTH those measures. Maybe you don’t lovingly prepare quality, healthy foods for yourself because you don’t feel that you are worth that fanciness. Perhaps you don’t take the time to try a running program or a yoga class because you literally can’t justify spending those moments focusing on your own self. Sometimes, it’s also about finances, and what you should afford yourself. Yet, we all know, great health and happiness are invaluable.

All of the above was true for me; I was a self-punisher, and my discipline of choice was overeating and lashing out at my body with hurtful words and negative self-talk.  How could I honor my earthly vessel if I hated it? I couldn’t.

I knew that I didn't want to live the rest of my life that way, but I also wanted to set an example of health and self-acceptance for my son. Yes, these desires had EVERYTHING to do with weight in the beginning, because my perception was that weight alone defined my self-worth. So wrong! I've come so far and trust me, that sort of rationale is like an old faded photograph to me—an important reminder of something that was once very real, but is no longer my reality. However, it was where I started.

I began to make small diet and exercise changes. These were, of course, steps in the right direction, and extra weight started to come off, which did, initially, make me feel better about myself. Yet, every time I gained back a pound or didn't get the results I expected from a certain diet or workout plan, I felt defeated. I still feel defeated sometimes (because I still consider myself to be on a weight loss journey)—and that’s normal. The difference is that I've separated that journey, the weight, and my “size” from my measures of self-worth.  

I’m here to tell you that I—this girl, right here, who is healthy and active and YES overweight—love myself.  And I love my body! But that took time. And it meant FAKING it.

One of the most important steps I took in “Faking it to make it” was through therapy: all kinds. I saw a therapist regularly and also worked with a wonderful dietitian who specializedin eating disorders and ideas surrounding body dysmorphia. I tried very hard to engage these new ideas in my mind regarding my physiological shape, but honestly, in the beginning I didn’t believe an ounce of it.

I kept FAKING it.

I threw away all of my Shape and Fitness magazines.  I forced myself to stop talking incessantly about my weight and how I was “transitional” to all of my friends. I refused to call myself fat in the mirror anymore or hang “goal pants” in my window (though my brain still screamed, “YOU’RE A FAKE! YOU’RE A FAT FAKE!”).

I started committing myself to running, though once again, I felt I was a sham. Though I worked up my mileage using the Couch to 5k program, I sometimes felt like a (chunky) fraud standing next to all of the other true “athletes” at the finish line.

Still…I kept “faking” it. I showed up with my running shoes on. I told myself I wouldn’t give up. Something mysterious happened; my desire and appetite for running began to separate itself from my ideas about weight loss. I spent hours running miles in the evening sun; I observed  my own shadow and began to understand who I REALLY was, all the while watching my own silhouette dance beside me. The quality, healthy meals I made for myself became more frequent and more superior as I began to value myself more and more. I allowed myself those things because I wanted the best for my body and I understood why its mere PERFORMANCE as a body was beautiful. (“Hey! Look! My legs carry me places! My brain works! I can sing, dance, and run! Everything is coming up Milhouse!”)

Though it sometimes felt strange and a little empty, I continued to look at myself in the mirror and express my own self-love. When I took pictures of myself for my blog, I told myself (half-heartedly) that liked what I saw. I started to talk to people about health, exercise, and body image as being an important part of my life, and suddenly….before I knew it…

I was making it.

I was making more than just a statement, I was making—creating—my own destiny.  I had genuinely forged self-care and love for myself out of initially “going through the motions”. Repeating to myself the goals, belief systems and values I WANTED so desperately to be true did, indeed, manifest them in my life. “Mommy, you love exercise and healthy food,” my son told me. And then, in the next breath, “I love myself, mom”.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled to comprehend the magnitude of what my apparent confidence and self-care had taught my son about his own worth. At that singular moment in time the entire journey was validated, and I knew I must share my story.

“Fake it til you make it” is so powerful that you can use it to generate any of your goals. It is especially helpful for those of us who are wounded by anxiety, depression or other psychological issues like negative self-image.  There is never a right time to begin a program, or regimen, or a positive thinking routine, and you won’t always feel inspired. This is why, sometimes, you have to go through the motions.

Going through the motions isn’t a sign of some sort of lackluster puppetry. When you have a real goal in mind that means something important to you, it’s simply an initial phase; a means to an end.

Yes, there WILL be apathetic, slipshod days when you feel like a fraud (those days have come frequently for me lately, as I’ve been battling some serious stress and related health issues from a hectic lifestyle). DON’T STOP! Continue to tell yourself that you love yourself, that you care for yourself, and that you are quality. If you are suffering emotional pain, continue to tell yourself that “this too, shall pass”. 

Don’t break your routines or allow negativity to wash you off the pier, like a callous, windy wave.

Keep faking it. YOU WILL MAKE IT.


Leave me a comment or question--I'd love to hear from you!

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