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graphic "i am not a number or a dress size I am me"

About six months ago I wrote a really long post about my issues with weight and body image. That post was so cathartic to write, and it really opened my eyes to what I was going through. The response was overwhelming – literally. So many women commented that I’d just written about their lives, shared their stories of guilt and hatred and eating disorders. I knew other women felt like I did…but I really didn’t know just how much.

To me, writing that post really was so that I could become more conscious of what I was doing to myself and, indirectly, doing to my daughter. The self-destructive internal dialogue I was using was not healthy and it is not something I want to teach her. I think that post was to give me accountability to myself. I put it out there, now could I change it?

I feel like, in the past few months, there has been a small shift in my thinking. And that’s why I figured I should write an update. I want to get my words down and out there again. To keep me accountable. To keep me working towards my eventual goal: a life without the voice. A life where I can just…live. Be me. No matter my weight!

In my post, I talked about triggers. Thinking about food, weighing myself, and actively dieting were high on that list; so was personal training. Last spring when I joined my current gym, I got a deal on training sessions. I signed up and did 11. They were horrible. I mean, they were good. He was a good trainer, but I felt so bad after those were over. I hated going. They made me want to quit going to the gym – period. I felt like he focused on food and what I ate and I left there every day more upset at myself than ever.

Over the summer, my husband started working with a different trainer. From the stories my husband told, the guy sounded great. So when it came time for Online BlogCon and the crush of work I knew would make me forget my gym routine, I decided to sign up with Mel’s trainer to keep me going to the gym (if I was paying extra – I’d go). I was really, really nervous. I didn’t want to feel triggered again, but I had a feeling it would be different – and it has been.

I said awhile ago that finding the right trainer is like finding the right therapist – you won’t always find it the first time around. From day one I told B, the trainer, that I didn’t want to talk about food. Or weight. I just wanted to work out. And he totally respected that. I’ve been working with him now for almost five months and the only time food discussions have come up are when I bring them up.

That’s the mark of a good trainer: they listen. And they hear.

B is a coach as well as a trainer, so that’s how he trains. When you’re working with him he makes you feel like a rockstar – like you can do anything. And you know what? After awhile I began to believe it. I was strong. I AM strong. I can say that now. I can believe it. I can do things I never thought I could do.

Never in my life have I ever been able to say it…and believe it at the same time.

Finding the right trainer and changing up my workouts and learning how to work out has changed me. I’ve learned that cardio is great, but strength training is better. I can do exercises I was always afraid to try on my own. I can finally believe I’m strong, and that, even though I didn’t lose a pound, I feel better about myself.

I feel better about myself. That’s something I haven’t been able to say in years.

When I started this journey of self-improvement and discovery last summer, I realized there would be different areas I needed to focus on. The first was that I needed to not worry about the food; I needed to realize that I’m a strong person good enough without worrying about a number. I feel like I’ve overcome that one pretty well. Recently, I’ve hit a plateau in my healing. Believing strength can only take you so far before the doubt creeps back in.

Even though I can now say (and believe) I’m strong, I need to work on seeing it. Even though I haven’t lost much weight at all, my body has changed. I see it in my face, and I see it in my ankles. (I’ve always thought my calves and ankles were my best feature, so it follows that I notice changes there.) The other day B told me to do my triceps work looking in the mirror so I could see all the definition I now have. I laughed at him and faced the wall.

I don’t look in the mirror at the gym. I don’t like looking in the mirror, period.

Mel says that I look different…but I don’t see really see it.  Whenever I look in the mirror and notice my butt looks good, it’s quickly followed with but my stomach is so big. Or I notice definition in my arms when I’m putting my hair in a pony tail, but then when I relax them all I see is tricep fat.

I need to work on looking in the mirror and seeing the changes and nothing else. I need to get to the point where I can say, “yeah my ass looks good in these pants!” and not chase it with “but I have a muffin top.”

When I read Almost Anorexia last summer, one of the things that really struck me was when it said that when people look at me, the first thing they see is not my fat. It’s not my belly rolls, or my flabby arms or my hips. They see my eyes or my smile, and they probably don’t notice anything else.

That was an eye opener for me…and a head scratcher. Like, really? They don’t see all my flaws when they look at me? How is that possible? It’s all I see about myself. So that’s something else I need to work on…seeing myself in the mirror. Really seeing myself, paying attention to detail and looking past everything else.

I’m trying to taking it one step at a time. When I put on a pair of pants I haven’t felt comfortable wearing in a long time, I’m trying to congratulate myself, instead of saying “well, this won’t last long, you ate cookies for lunch.”

Which leads me to my next, and biggest challenge I need to work on: food. I need to improve my relationship with food.

I can’t workout hard forever. I have to be okay with skipping the gym sometimes. My main issue with not working out is the mentality “I ate X so now I have to do Y.” If I don’t change the way I eat, nothing will matter in the long run, because I will gain weight. The voice will come back in full force.

I need to start looking at food as “to sustain my life” instead of just something I do without thinking.

I need to stop worrying that I’m ruining all my hard work because I take two tastes of a recipe.

Over the past three months I wrote a cookbook. It was about 8 straight weeks of 6+ hour days baking dessert. Tasting dessert. Remaking dessert. Because of all the working out, I managed to get through it all without gaining much (I don’t weigh myself often, but my clothes feel the same or a little better). That, in itself, I consider to be a small miracle. But now I’m in a much worse habit of dessert tasting. I want it all the time! Eight weeks of constant sugar will do that to you.

Right now, I feel like I’m standing in front of a wall. Beyond the wall is a long obstacle course, called food. In order to move on with my healing, I know I need to break through the wall (my insecurities about food) and go through the path ahead. The wall is my fear and anxiety about the road. Tracking what I eat, counting calories, limiting food without limiting too much, and ignoring the voice that will call me out when I “fail”.

Here’s the thing: I know I’m going to “fail” sometimes when I start watching what I eat. I’m a dessert blogger: there are days I have to taste dessert. It’s in the job description. There are going to be days I have to taste dessert three or four times.

There are going to be days I just want a cookie. And I’m going to eat one. Or, I’ll eat three.

My fear comes from the fact that when that does happen, the voice in my head will get mean.

It’ll call me F-A-T.

It’ll call me a pig.

It’ll tell me over and over and over again that I shouldn’t have eaten what I just did, and it’ll make me feel worthless and hopeless.

So I’m scared. I’m scared of breaking through the wall and going through the next challenge. Rationally, I know it’s silly to worry about it: I know there will be good days and bad days. But the fear, the anxiety, is still there.

I know I have to stop being afraid. I was afraid before I started working with B, and seriously, that’s changed my life – for the better. So this will too. Eventually.

I started writing down what I eat. I tracked what I ate for two days and the world didn’t implode. Then I forgot to track and just…stopped. I need to start focusing on it so it can become a habit, so I can keep track and remind myself: I ate dessert after lunch. I don’t need it after dinner too. Or maybe I do want it after dinner too, but that shouldn’t be a big deal once in awhile. (But it is, in my head, anyway.)

How do you deal with changing how you eat? Do you follow a special meal plan? Do you track points or keep a diary? Use any good apps? I’d love to know.

Anyway, I think I’m on the right path. Even though it’s a hard one, filled with potholes and obstacles. I feel like the rational side of me is getting stronger. Hopefully I can start listening to it more. 🙂

I think if there is one things I’ve learned over the past 5 months, it’s that I can change my body without focusing on food. I thought that I would never feel good in skinny jeans unless I stopped eating. I’d never feel sexy or think I looked pretty unless I gave up dessert.

Sure, would it be healthier to eat more healthy foods and less dessert? Yes. Would I notice more change in some of the annoying problem areas? Yes. But I’m coming to realize that food is not the defining force in changing me. I am the force. I’m working really hard at exercise, and I see results…when I allow myself to see them. I can still eat a cookie or two and change the way my body feels. I think that realization is a huge one, because I never realized that before. For me, weight has always been tied to a number. Body shape and size has always been tied to what I eat. I think that, for me to change my relationship with food, I needed to be able to see that I could affect the way I looked without thinking about food. Does that make sense?

Now I know that weight can mean strength. I have not lost more than a few pounds, but I’ve gained a lot of muscle. The number on the scale would, in the past, put me over the edge, because it meant I was F-A-T. Now, I think it makes me strong.

Food should not be what defines how I feel. I should define that.

And I think I might be starting to believe that…for today anyway.

Now that I know that food and weight/self-worth/image are not the same thing, I hope I am able to break through that wall and conquer the actual eating part.

At least…in theory, anyway. We’ll see how it’s going tomorrow. 🙂

Thank you all again for your outpouring after my last post, and for reading this one. I still go back and read the old one sometimes, to remind myself of what I was feeling to get me to this place. Where I am now is so much better than where I was then, so I know that some day, the place where I will be will be the best yet.

Eventually, I’ll get there. And if you’re battling these demons, you can do it too. We can do it together.

Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate every single one of you.


Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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  1. Dear Dorothy , thank you for being brave enough to share your journey, I suffered with weight issues since I was 11 and my mum took me to her fat club , in 2000 I was diagnosed with binge eating disorder and recurring depression .what helped me most was CBT therapy you can access it for free on the internet .it helps because it helps you examine your beliefs about food and yourself ,body image etc and then assess if they are true if not they help you reformulate them. Also the other thing is eating mindfully there is currently a really good work book for free on kindle unlimited on Amazon , as a passionate cook being mindful of what I was eating allowed me to reconnect with all the tastes smell and texture that drew me in the first place and not just stuff food in without appreciating it. Hope this helps ,please message me if you want more information ,

  2. Hi Dorothy! I was just talking to Amy (Amy’s Healthy Baking) and we were talking about this very thing! She mentioned you had blogged about this so I had to come back and read your posts! I, too, struggle with the mental part…always talking down to myself. This past year I have finally started to make progress to retraining my mind and mouth to celebrate my body instead of constantly criticizing it. I applaud you for using this online space to share this struggle. I think we need more stories like this in the media to help change the way our society has trained women to hate their bodies.

    Anyways, Amy also mentioned you will also be at BlogHer this July. Looking forward to seeing you again there! Thank you for your words!

    1. I love the way you said you’re retraining your mind and mouth. That’s such a good way of saying it!! Thank you so much for reading, and let’s totally hang out in July!!

  3. I’m sorry it took me so long to read this, but I just wanted to say that you should definitely be proud of yourself. It’s never easy to share our fears, but it’s so important. I really admire your resolve when it comes to working out. It’s so good that you found a way to be happy with it. Why do we do things that make us miserable? Beauty is happiness. Everything else falls away. Go eat a cookie! 🙂

  4. Dorothy,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’ve always been full of admiration for your work. But because of this post, I admire you as a person.
    Last year, the book Almost Anorexic saved me at a time when I felt hopeless. I think a lot of us struggle with these issues, and you were so brave to come out and write about your own experiences so honestly. I have daughters too, and I constantly think about how to make sure they grow up healthy with positive body images.
    It’s a struggle, but women are strong. Let’s keep fighting the good fight, tap into our creativity, and cherish what we have. And thank you again for writing this post. It meant a lot to me.

    1. Thank you Mir! That book was amazing, and it totally caused me to flip a switch in my head. Thank you so much for reading, for sharing, and for your kind words! ((hugs))

  5. Thank you so much for being so candid. I admire you so much for posting your struggles and being so honest. Your story is so inspiring and will help so many people. I am so glad you found a new trainer you like, he sounds really amazing! I love your blog and I will be pulling for you and sending you lots of good thoughts and positive vibes. Keep staying strong and you are truly amazing for sharing your story Dorothy!