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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.


Last Updated on May 13, 2020

Dorothy Kern

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  1. I loved both of your weight posts! i have been on the crazy roller coaster called “self hatred” with my body ever since i was 9 years old. I was anorexic for 2 years, stopped, gained weight (normal weight gain!) and thought that i was worthless. Followed by that, i entered into these events called “fitness competitions”. These are competitions judged off of women (and men) working for months with weight training, diet, and cardio. Through this process, i’ve logged foods, taken progress pictures, but nothing compares to being able to say to yourself “Hey..YOU did it! imagine if you had quit when you thought your butt looked huge, or you thought your face was too fat. You wouldnt be here.” We all pick our bodies apart and verbally abuse ourselves. It’s terrible, yet we do it. Finding a balance will be a struggle for me, but like you, i’m very determined to shut up that doubting voice inside my head! 🙂

    1. Thank you Becka for sharing your story! Finding a balance is so very hard and it changes every day depending on mood, hormones, life… We CAN do this! ((hugs))

  2. Dorothy, thank you so much for your courage in sharing your story with the world – I have so much respect for your honestly and transparency in writing about your relationship with your body, food and your weight <3 To be honest, your post almost brought me to tears because I can relate to it in so many ways. Last year, I went on a "weight-loss journey", joined weight watchers, and lost over 60 pounds through changing the way I think about food and exercise. My body image, my relationship with food and my internal self talk is still a journey that I struggle with everyday [some days are much easier than others]. I love when you wrote "I AM strong. I can say that now. I can believe it. I can do things I never thought I could do." because whenever I am feeling a negative thought coming along about my body or my relationship with food I internalize those similar words about how far I have come along since the day I decided to change into a healthier lifestyle altogether and work on feeling better about myself. Until this point, even though I have technically reached my "goal weight" my journey with my body image and food is definitively just beginning. There are so many more things I could say but I will leave it at: you are an inspiration and thank you again for sharing your story! Sending lots of love and positivity your way. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ceara, and thank you for sharing your story! Congratulations on coming this far! And we can make it the rest of the way. 🙂 ((hugs))

  3. I love this post! Thank you for sharing your personal journey, fears, anxieties, and victories. It inspires me! I’m battling the same type of mentality so in a way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in this craziness. I’m 7-1/2 months pregnant with my fourth child, so I’m not focusing too much on food and the weight and everything (Well I am, but am trying not to). But, after this kid is born I want to change things. I want to get back to the healthy me that feels good and strong inside. I’ve used Weight Watchers in the past with great success (after my first child was born). But then tried it again after my last two kids. But, it just wasn’t a good fit for me then. I honestly love myfitnesspal! It’s free, so simple to use, and so easy to see what I’ve eaten for the day, how much I’ve had to drink, how many more calories I have left for the day, my exercise, and the progress I’ve made. I really do love it and plan to use it again in a few months. Thanks again for letting us all know you’re a real person with struggles like the rest of us!

    1. Thank you Suzanne, for sharing your story! I need to check out that app, so many good things about it! The drinking is one of the hardest parts, I do not get enough water! Thank you again!

  4. So I’ve been thinking about this post a lot since I’ve read it. You are so strong Dorothy! I am so proud of you! I remember reading your last post and wanting to give you a hug because I was so worried that you were being so hard on yourself, as a person battling weight issues, as a mom . . . etc. But now I just want to CHEER with you! You have jumped some really serious hurdles in the last six months!!

    Since you asked . . . I struggle with weight too, but feel lucky that when I really put my mind to it, I can drop weight without battling all the voices in my head. The two biggest things that help me (when I’m not pregnant) are counting calories (I use My Fitness Pal on my phone, and LOVE it!!) and I drink TONS of water. Being pregnant, I for sure can’t count calories without feeling like a psycho horrible mom. But I am still struggling with the gaining of the weight! Hello, getting weighed every four weeks and having that number analyzed is pretty much awful. So I’ve been working really hard like you to limit my desserts. It’s okay to have one treat, I probably shouldn’t have eight. And I’ve been trying to drink 60 oz of water a day. I keep a 12 oz glass next to the sink and just pound a glass of water at a time and keep track in my day planner. That has helped the most, and honestly I feel so much better when I’m super hydrated.

    Okay, super long winded comment. Love you Dorothy. You are so strong and I have no doubt that you will jump this hurdle with as much grace and strength as you jumped the last major one!

    1. Thank you Lisa! You’re so sweet. I totally am so thankful I have you in my life!!!!

      60oz? You’re my hero. I need to drink more. I’m trying, especially this week. I guess drinking egg whites for protein can mess with you’re, um, er, system if you don’t drink enough water. !!! I’m still not getting enough, it’s so hard! 🙂

      You totally rock my friend. xoxo

  5. Dorothy I comment on your last post, about your weight, and you were kind enough to reply. As were lots of your lovely followers. I told you about my eating disorder and daily struggles. You were so kind and so caring. Yet again you have shared your feelings, honesty, and thoughts: you are so brave, so inpirational and such a lovely, strong lady. You deserve nothing but happiness xxx

  6. Naturally Thin by Bethenny Frankel is an absolute must-read for anyone struggling with these issues. I don’t hesitate to say it Changed my life and the way I will forever relate to food. Right now you might feel like you’ll never be free from the endless cycle of being both terrified of and obsessed with food but it is possible to get free and live life and be healthy and love yourself and eat cupcakes and not feel one single ounce of guilt. Thanks for your post! You can do this.

  7. Dorothy– I’m scrolling through all of these wonderful narratives of comments which I know are all encouraging and I love it. I love the fact that you are bold enough to share with so many of us your ups and downs. But as I’m reading this post, the ups really do preside over everything else. I know that you’re still in a time of transition and battle, but you have the strength to overcome it. You know what needs to be done to break through that wall, and you know how far you have come/how awesome you are. The hardest part is over. Now, it’s just a matter of time and a little bit of work before you defeat that voice. And guess what? You are a million times stronger than it.

    I just really wanted to share this video with you because it’s one of the most inspiring videos I’ve ever seen, and I honestly believe it can (and has) changed women’s lives everywhere. It’s not on weight loss, but really hits at the core of self acceptance, which I know is the center of all the challenges we face.


  8. A very inspirational post Dorothy. I so admire your fortitude in speaking up about the issues that we really all face as women but don’t often like to confront. After having three kids I struggled with my own weight issues and also began seeing a trainer 2 years ago. I made so much progress and then decided to take a break from the program for a few months, which of course coincided with me starting a food blog. Big mistake!! In the past four months I’ve had my blog, I’ve gained about 10 pounds!! So I am completely impressed that you managed to write an entire cookbook without gaining a pound! You should pat yourself on the back girl! 🙂

  9. Dorothy – I am so proud of your strength and your bravery. It takes a lot of courage to begin sharing such personal stories and journeys like you have, but over time, as you begin to see all the people you are touching, inspiring, and helping, it starts becoming something you enjoy doing! I hope you continue to share your journey with your readers. I can see as I read through the comments that you are really helping so many people.
    Isn’t that so difficult to really just look at our bodies, think a specific body part looks good and just focus on that rather than move on to something else you’re not quite happy with? I do that so often, and I don’t think I realized I did that until just now reading your post. I have MUCH better body love than I ever have before, but I still sometimes think that I have to be 100% satisfied with my ENTIRE body in order to be completely happy. It’s like I can’t just pick and choose my arms and stomach. They have to look good, plus my legs and butt… and THEN i’ll be good. It is always a work in progress, and I feel that as long as we are working towards a better relationship with our body, food, weight, and working out, we are on the right track.
    You are absolutely rocking it, and I am excited to continue to watch your journey unfold. You are very inspiring to me, and I gain so much strength just from reading your posts!
    xo Holly

    1. Thank you Holly. YOU are an inspiration to me. I thank you so much for helping me have the courage to write these posts. xoxo

  10. Oh! I do that! Instead of enjoying my lovely legs, I obsesses about my tummy and how NOT flat it is. Or instead of loving my tight butt, I wish my torso was longer. We’re so ridiculous. GAH. I’ve run my whole life, but I have absolutely plateaued and the fact is, I’m not willing to give up the sugar. I’m am unbearable to live with if I don’t have my sugar… and now, at 44 (EEP!), my metabolism is in the shitter. Sooooo, I really need to strength train. You finding a great trainer is like me finding a hair stylist or understands curly hair. Life changing!

    1. LOL, I love that comparison Amy! And ugh. Metabolism. #dontgetmestarted Also? Life without dessert is just not a happy life. Spoken like a true dessert blogger!! xo