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Five Card Draw

Writing a blog about size acceptance, size diversity, and struggling with feelings about food, weight, and body image is like leaving your house to mail a letter and finding yourself taking unexpected detours along the way. Eventually the letter gets mailed but what could have been a five minute walk around the block frequently turns in to one of those geocaching expeditions.

For those of you who have never experienced geocaching it is really a blast. There is a whole world of people out there organizing and going on geocaching adventures. You go to a geocaching site, choose one that fits your physical and cognitive abilities, grab your mobile G.P.S. device and go from clue to clue until you find the cache. Some of the rambles are rockier or steeper than others, some more complicated in terms of the way the clues are worded. Some are inter-generationally designed for kids and parents to do together, others are for peers to engage in without the grown-ups along side.

Sometimes you lose the trail, and have to reverse and start all over. Sometimes you’re half way through and have to stop because clues have been removed or the terrain was too difficult to traverse due to fallen trees that were not updated in the description of the geocache.

AND Sometimes you just have a “nudgy” kid and the clues are too hard and you decide to go have lunch instead.

The cache is never anything grand materialistically…it is the pleasure of the process and in knowing you are part of a secret kind of community that is the real prize.

Writing this blog is a bit like geocaching…I usually know where I am starting and have a sense of where I will end up but no idea what the clues will be and what route they will take me on.

That being said, (as they say in New Yawk) I know I want to talk about the “card game” of self acceptance…it just may take me a while to get there!

Often, when working with people who hate their bodies or are struggling with eating, it is my belief that the journey of changing those attitudes, beliefs and behaviors STARTS with self-acceptance. But in reality, so much work needs to be done before getting to the starting point that it is more like self-acceptance is the cache or prize at the end of the first quest and becomes the beginning of the next expedition.

It’s an endeavor not for the faint of heart. Along the way the terrain winds, steepens, levels out and then sometimes plummets before another uphill climb. The ups and downs of the journey towards self/size acceptance are among the reasons we subtitled our theater piece, “the Ups and Downs of a Compulsive Eater.”

Sometimes the process of waging peace with our bodies and our selves leads us into places that we would rather forget about or requires close examination of our hopes, dreams, and attachments that we associate with how we look and how much we weigh.

These are not easy to give up and there is no magical transformation. But one thing I know from my clinical and personal experiences with this “geocaching trek,” is that it’s an easier road if you are traveling with others and incorporating humor, flexibility, and forgiveness along the way.

Forgiveness is vital.

When we are born we are dealt some cards. One card is our genetic make-up. No choice there…not our fault…it is what it is.

The second card is our immediate environment. NO choice there either. Parents, guardians, home…all dealt to us.

The third card is our community. It will be years, if ever, before we are able to choose what neighborhood we are living in.

And the fourth card is the society, cultural, and generational group we belong to; also, not a choice card. When my son first discovered the Beatles, Woodstock and Motown, he would look at me enviously and say, “You are so lucky to have grown up in the sixties Mom.”

All of these cards are dealt to us. This is no game of Go Fish where we get to draw a card and toss it out if we don’t like it. Until we are old enough to choose to move away from our immediate environment or community we are playing with those cards. And those cards play a huge part in how we feel about our bodies, how we feel about our weight, and how we establish our relationships with food.

For example, my genetics predispose me to being short, my family surrounded me with messages that the worst thing you could ever be was fat, my larger community was filled with billboards for weight loss programs and fast food restaurants, and my generation worships a very narrow ideal of beauty while simultaneously placing a strong emphasis on the importance of beauty.

It would have taken a miracle for me NOT to grow up hating my body and confused about my body image and self worth. There was no miracle. I did and I was.

But there is a fifth card. It is the wild card. It is the choice card. It is the free space on the bingo card. It is the cache at the end of the geocache. This is the card where we get to make some decisions about how to navigate through our lives with the hand we were dealt. It is the card that allows us to make decisions about how we are going to feel about ourselves and our bodies despite what our genes, family, community or cultural media messages are telling us.

That is where the forgiveness comes in. If you had no choice in the elements that brought you to this place of discontent with who you are, then you are being hard on yourself to blame yourself or to feel like a failure for being in this place.

Playing this fifth card takes courage. Most of us are hearing our inner voices and people around us telling us to “hold” and not up the ante by playing our choice card. After all, it’s easier if we just play along with the cards we were dealt than to gamble on forging a new direction or attitude. But the risk is worth it. At least it was for me.

The leveling out of the ups and downs that came at the end of a long challenging road of searching for the cache of accepting me for who I am has paid off with a jackpot of peace of mind and a healthier happier sense of self that is NOT intrinsically connected to a number on a scale.