Taking Ownership of My Chubby Belly

I’ve got some extra fat hanging around my midsection lately. Know whose fault it is?


I’ve been making excuses for quite some time.

  • “It was so hard to eat healthy with just a microwave and a hot plate.”
  • “It was so hard to work out in the hotel room and I couldn’t go to the gym.”
  • “I’ve been so stressed lately and really just focusing on my depression stuff.”
  • “I just took a shower; I can’t work out now.”
  • “I just ate; I’ll work out later.”
  • “I haven’t eaten yet; I’ll work out later.”
  • “I deserve these tortilla chips and cheese.”

These are all things I either said or thought at some point to help me feel better about my growing mother’s apron.

But the truth is, it’s not the fault of the hotel room, depression, shower or tortilla chips. It’s 100% on me (both the fat and the responsibility). I am blessed with a vast quantity of resources for clean eating and no-equipment-required workouts. I even did one or two of those workouts in the hotel room and loved how I felt afterward! Yet, I didn’t continue. Story of my (exercise) life.

I lack internal motivation. In England, I had an amazing HIIT (high intensity interval training) class that I went to 3 times a week. I started going because my good friend was the trainer and harassed me about coming. I fell in love with the workouts and became friends with several people in the class. I became so fit and felt so good about my body – it was strong, could do awesome things like handstand pushups and looked pretty good on the outside. Then, we moved. And my physical activity came to a screeching halt.

I’ve dabbled in exercise here or there (a few runs in Estacada, a handful of HIIT workouts, some active playing with Colt), but really the only thing I’ve worked out in the past few months is my lazy muscle. And so I’ve collected some extra jiggle in the front of my stomach.

Some of that protruding jiggle is due to bloat, which I could easily fix by locking down my eating habits.  I plan to do the 21 Day Sugar Detox once we get settled in Texas. I did one back in March and lost about 10lb and 1.5 inches off my waist (even though I sort of half-assed it). I’m waiting because it requires a lot of prepping and cooking; two things I won’t really be able to do on the road trip from Oregon to Texas. I don’t want to set myself up for failure.

Yesterday was one of the worst body-image days of my life. I just. Felt. Fat. All day. When I got home, I put on a pair of my husband’s sweats and one of his shirts because I couldn’t bear wearing any of my own form-fitting comfy clothes. I couldn’t handle fabric clinging to my little bit o’ chub. Then, the lowest of low: I contemplated starving myself for a few days. I know that isn’t healthy, and I know it doesn’t lead to permanent weight loss. Last summer, after my world crashed around me, I stopped eating due to the stress. I felt so skinny and kept up the feeling after I started eating again because I kept my food intake on lockdown. I found myself wanting to return to the worst feeling of my life, because it led to me feeling skinny.

Those thoughts were a wakeup call; my rock bottom, if you will. Starving myself would be another form of self-destruction and an easy way to avoid dealing with the root causes of my bad self-image. I chose the easy way out for most of my life; I am not returning to that.

So today, I am owning my chub. Madame Middlefat may be a guest who has overstayed her welcome, but I’m the one who invited her over. I made the decision to eat too many tortilla chips and to not work out. I’m going to take responsibility for the consequences of my decisions, without beating myself up about it. It happened, the pudge is there, but it’s a new day and I can always make different decisions.


Fantastic Mr. Fox Syndrome

Aprille at Beautiful In His Time recently wrote a post about how she saw a little Lightning McQueen in herself. It seems we can learn a lot from our children’s entertainment. A recent addition to Colt’s top 3 movies is Fantastic Mr. Fox, the 2009 stop-motion animated film based on the book by Roald Dahl. At first, the movie creeped me out. But after several viewings over the span of a day or two (thank you, toddler love of repetition), I started to enjoy it. Then, this quote suddenly stuck out to me:

“I think I have this thing where everybody has to think I’m the greatest, the quote unquote ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, and if they aren’t completely knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated by me, I don’t feel good about myself.”

I hear you, Mr. Fox. I think I have the same complex. Now, I haven’t been shot at or helped destroy an entire community in my pursuit of fantastic-ness, but I did make a pretty good mess of my life.

My name was fairly well-known in the mommy circles at my last base. I helped found a breastfeeding support group and was all over the Facebook group, answering questions. Later, I became the first dedicated lactation consultant at the base hospital. I guess I was pretty good at my job, because the breastfeeding rates spiked shortly after I started (I’m assuming I contributed somewhat to the increase).

I had two commercials on the local Armed Forces Network channels:

This one’s all me: http://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=1994620313127

This one’s a voice over: http://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=488540477827683

A photo of me nursing my son was used to advertise the 2012 Big Latch On held at our base.

Image used in a magazine ad for the Big Latch On 2012
Image used in a magazine ad for the Big Latch On 2012

On the breastfeeding support group Facebook page, moms were constantly saying, “Go see Sara! She really helped me with xyz.”

I’m not going to lie – I loved the attention. I was a workaholic, so I thrived on workplace accolades. Every time I was mentioned, praised, thanked, I felt validated. I smugly thought of the doubters who didn’t think I could do the job and mentally gave them the finger while blowing a raspberry. I reassured myself that I was a good person because look at all the good I’m doing and how much people appreciate me.

Then all that came crashing down, as I’ve mentioned before. And I realized I didn’t need workplace fame to feel like a good person. Or so I thought.

I’m part of several breastfeeding Facebook groups associated with my soon-to-be-new home. I chime in from time to time, but I’ve kept a low profile since we’re not there yet. There are a couple private practice IBCLC’s in the area already, so I’m not really sure how much work I’ll be doing. I’ve been toying with opening my own private practice, but kind of want to wait and see what it’s like after I get there. With at least two other IBCLCs in the area, plus WIC, I’m wondering if the market is already oversaturated.

So really, I’m worried about my ego. I’m worried that I’ll hang my IBCLC shingle out and nobody will want to use me. I’m worried that I’ll take it personally and see it as a rejection. I’m scared of being just another breastfeeding advocate and not the local celebrity I used to be. I’m scared that the reason I want to hang out my shingle is because I want to be that local celebrity again. I feel a twinge of jealousy every time I see one of the other IBCLC’s name-checked in the local Facebook groups. I want to jump on there and start tooting my own horn about all the women I helped at my last base and how great everyone thought I was.

And that’s when I realize I’ve got a huge red flag waving in my face.
I’ve got Fantastic Mr. Fox Syndrome again.

CC image of fox courtesy of digitalprimate on Flickr
CC image of fox courtesy of digitalprimate on Flickr

I have to dazzle, to delight, to be amazing or I’m no good to anyone. This time it really snuck up on me. I thought I was doing a pretty good job appreciating me for me, without the need for external validation. This is a reminder that I am a work-in-progress. That I need to be mindful of the true motivation behind my thoughts and emotions. That my issues with compulsive thinking are always lurking in the shadows, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

This could be contributing to my recent depression flare. It sucks to know I’ll always be trying to stay one step ahead of my brain’s desire to revert to compulsive thinking. It’s exhausting. It’s sad because sometimes, I just want to be “normal.” I don’t want to have to constantly worry about whether what I’m doing is healthy or not. I don’t want to have to question my motives. I just want to live.

But, I’m different. I’ll always be different. And that’s ok.  I suppose I can find some comfort in another Fantastic Mr. Fox quote (look how nicely I’m wrapping this piece up. Go me). Towards the end of the movie, Felicity Fox refers to Mr. Fox when she says this to her son Ash:

We’re all different… Him, especially. But there’s something kind of fantastic about that, isn’t there?

Girly should not be an insult

Girly should not be an insult

The Stir recently published an article talking about the abuse being heaped on Rachel Zoe for keeping her toddler’s hair long. Their question was whether his hair was too girly. My question is, why the hell does this matter?

My almost 3 year old son has long hair. He is often mistaken for a girl, which actually amuses me more than it annoys me. He wears jeans, t-shirts and Vans everyday; the only thing that people would think is “girly” are his gorgeous blonde locks. His hair is silky, hangs a little past his ears and shows a bit of my curl when it’s humid. Combine this with his big blue eyes, dimpled smile and sunny nature, and he’s pretty much irresistible.

I dare you to resist this mug

People ask me when I’m going to get his hair cut. My dad teases me about giving him a buzz like Pop. I am in no hurry to cut it. For one thing, if you ask him if he wants it cut, he’ll give you an emphatic “No!” and run away. For another, his hair provides him comfort. He is a hair-twirler, just like his Daddy. He always played with my hair while nursing and a sure sign that he’s tired is when he starts twirling his own hair. We even have an ultrasound picture that looks like he’s twirling his hair. If I sheared his hair off, I’d deprive him of something important to him. Why the hell would I want to do that?

Plus, I don’t feel like I need to buy into society’s definition of boy or girl. On his own, he gravitates toward motorcycles, helicopters and construction stuff – stereotypical boy fare. But, he loves cooking and playing with toy kitchens and Mulan is one of his favorite movies – things more likely to be associated with little girls. I would be happy whether he played with all “boy” stuff or all “girl” stuff. You know why? Because he’s a toddler and he’s just starting to explore the world. I don’t want to limit his experiences to only what society thinks he is “supposed” to do because he is male. I want to expose him to as much as possible so he can figure out what his passion is, not hat someone else thinks it should be.

The article in The Stir wonders why we have such attachment to so-called boys’ haircuts for boys and girls’ haircuts for girls. Great, they’re supportive of what they call “gender-bending” haircuts. But then it goes and ends with the question, “What do you think about little boys with ‘girly’ haircuts?” WTF. Don’t sit there and wonder why we feel the need to label haircuts for little kids and then go and do some labeling yourself!! Long hair is not girly. Repeat. Long hair is not girly. It is simply LONG. Just like we shouldn’t call little girls with short hair “boyish,” we shouldn’t call little boys with long hair “girly.” Call them what they are – beautiful children.

Or at least stop trying to make it into an insult. That’s the heart of it. Our society has decided that men should feel insulted when they are told they are like the opposite sex. Girly man, throw like a girl, and pussy are all insults piled on men that are actually more denigrating to women. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being like a girl; maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me when people mistake my son for a girl.

girly not an insult

My husband is in the Air Force and is required to keep his hair short. I’m sure there will come a time when Colt wants hair like Daddy’s. When that day comes, I will make it happen for him. Until then, I get to enjoy his beautiful, long, some-consider-girly-but-that’s-ok-with-me hair.

The view from inside

The view from inside

My chest aches. I imagine it as a big ball of grayness – sadness and nothingness all at once – right in the center of my chest. I’m exhausted. I have unexplained headaches.

I’m irritable as all get out. When my son says, Mommy, mommy, mama! I fight back the urge to scream. Why do you need me so much? I need a Mommy, mommy, mama. I want someone to take care of me and cater to my every whim. I just want to be left alone.

Except when I am left alone, I’m still not happy. I get restless. I can’t focus on anything and nothing is enjoyable. So I find myself mindlessly playing stupid computer games, waiting for my son to wake up or my husband to come home to relieve me of my boredom with life.

Except when they are with me, I’m irritable as all get out. And just want to be left alone. But then I am left alone and I’m still not happy…


This is what depression feels like for me. This is what I feel like today. These are the things I usually try to hide from the world.


I get so frustrated when I realize depression has popped up again. I pride myself on being so vigilant and proactive about staying on top of how I feel. The truth is, I have a chronic disease. And sometimes, despite all the self-care and preventative measures I take, it still flares up. Which fucking sucks.

Did you know that depression is often a side effect of other chronic diseases? It’s because living with something you can’t cure or get rid of is frustrating, rage-inducing and sad. So imagine knowing that you’ll never fully get rid of these random sad times. That no matter what you do, or where you are, or who you’re with, there’s always the chance of turning into that person you hate.

Then I snap at my son for asking me to make breakfast two seconds after I told him I would.  He starts crying and I realize what an asshole I am.

When I’m in a flare, the pity party starts. Why can’t I be super fit like those women at the CrossFit Games? Why can’t I write those clever, witty and insightful posts like all those mommy bloggers I follow? I start comparing myself to everyone around me and always fall short. Logic has no home in depression. I can tell myself, you can be super fit too; you’ve done it before! I can point out, you’ve written some great posts! But it doesn’t matter. I can’t see past successes in a current flare.

One of the hardest things about depression is that it’s mental. Nobody would know I was in a flare unless I told them. My husband can tell (poor man puts up with so much from me) but to the outside world, I might just seem a little quieter. Or like nothing’s wrong – I’m pretty good at putting up a good front to the general public. Even if I want help, I generally won’t ask for it. I’ll just sit there and hope someone cares enough to ask how I’m doing, and then hope that I’ll have the balls to admit the truth (my friend Julie wrote an amazing post about what depression won’t let her say several months ago and yes, I do think her writing is better than what I’ve got down here).

I think if I could just sit on my couch all day, staring into space, I would. Basically accomplish nothing except breathing. But I can’t. I have to be a mommy. I have to get us ready to fly home in 2 days. I have to get off my selfish, self-pitying ass and get stuff done. Which in the end might be my saving grace – fake it ‘til you make it. If I force myself to get up and interact with the world, maybe it will make the flare subside. Or maybe I’ll just be miserable while trying desperately not to be mean to my son.

Either way, life must go on.

Infant formula is not poison

Infant formula is not poison

I haven’t written about breastfeeding in quite some time. It hasn’t been a big factor in my life recently, as we weaned in December and I quit my job as lactation consultant in January. I’ve kept a small presence in the online portion of a breastfeeding support group I helped found (just can’t quite let go) and when someone recently equated formula to poison, it ruffled my feathers.

Wait, a lactation consultant who doesn’t think formula is the devil?  (Trust me, we’re out there).

The short answer is no. I do think that formula-feeding moms deserve a product with better ingredients (lose the GMO’s, guys, or at least label that you use them so parents can make informed decisions about what they feed their babies!!). However, infant formula is not a substance that, when introduced into or absorbed by a living organism, causes death or injury, esp. one that kills by rapid action. Nor is it an American butt rock band that gave us such classics as “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.”

Well, why would it bother me if someone else bad-mouths formula?

Because I used to be one of those judgmental assholes and I feel ashamed of my past.

When I was pregnant, I was determined to breastfeed. I knew it was the best option for my baby and I couldn’t believe that everyone else didn’t think the same as me! I railed on and on to my friend who was pregnant at the same time about how I couldn’t imagine mothers not wanting to breastfeed, what’s wrong with them, how could they harm their babies that way. My friend admitted that she might have to formula feed because of a previous breast reduction surgery, and I pitied her. I embodied the stereotype of the militant lactivist.

Then, I had my baby and got to experience the reality of breastfeeding. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s downright hellish. I started to see why some moms not want to do it, or might not be able to do it, and my rock-solid belief of “breast is best” started to crack a little (along with my nipples). I began to realize I may have been wrong to be so judgmental.

My friend had her baby and told me that she had never planned to breastfeed; she just used the excuse of her breast reduction surgery to placate me. She told me that she felt uncomfortable with so much attention on her breasts and didn’t want to do it, but was worried how I would judge her if she admitted that. I felt like a world class scumbag. Back then, she was one of my best friends. During a time that was so special to both of us (how many people are lucky enough to experience their first pregnancies alongside their best friend?), I ruined some of the excitement with my narrow-minded views. This took those small cracks in my “breast is best” belief and shattered it.

What little pieces of my judgmental self remained were obliterated when I started working as a lactation consultant. I worked in a hospital with around 500 births a year. In the beginning, I know there were a few moms I upset with my reaction to them using formula. This was in part due to the pressure being put on me to produce higher breastfeeding rates, and every mom that used formula cut into that. Thankfully, I quickly realized that numbers were not as important as the moms and babies who represented them. I also realized that it was not my job to shame a mom into breastfeeding, and being disappointed in a mom for using formula was extremely arrogant and inappropriate. To those moms, I apologize.

Though I did help our hospital achieve amazing breastfeeding rates, I feel my most important job was building up moms – especially those for whom breastfeeding was not working out. Moms would show up in my office, exhausted and worn out from a constant merry-go-round of feeding, pumping, supplementing and tearfully admit that they couldn’t do it anymore. They would then break down and sob, proclaiming themselves failures for not being able to breastfeed and for having to use formula. This is usually the part where my heart broke, and I’d often tear up with them. I looked those moms straight in the eye and told them they were good mothers. I told them that the bond between mom and baby was more important than how baby was fed. I told them their babies were going to thrive and be happy, no matter how baby was fed. I told them they were amazing, strong mamas for loving their babies so much. They would look at me in disbelief, with tears in their eyes, and I would keep repeating it until I saw a glimmer of acceptance. I believed it was my job to be one of the lone breastfeeding supporters who could also (gasp!) support moms who didn’t breastfeed.

It’s because of those moms that I bristle when I see someone call formula poison or insinuate that formula-feeding moms are somehow less than breastfeeding moms. Seeing crap like that only rubs salt in those mothers’ wounds. They beat themselves up enough as it is; they don’t need random people spewing garbage like that. I wish I could go back in time and smack my judgmental self on the forehead. If I could, I would then tell her this:

breast or bottle