(Note: Since this interview I have had a huge spiritual shift in consciousness. I no longer feel this way about my own body and I accept myself the way I am. I am perfect and whole & so are you)
I can tell that we are going to be friends – The White Stripes
This first time I met my friend Karen we were both attending a birthday sleep over. After I totally impressed everyone with my sweet rhythm nation dance moves, Karen and I instantly made a connection. The rest, as they like to say, was history. Lots of history.
Karen has shared some very significant life moments with me, and tons of not so significant moments as well. From borrowing each other clothes, writing each other notes between classes (something we did before text messaging), to graduating high school together. We helped each other through adversity whenever it appeared, like when Karen shaved her head to support me after I had brain surgery, or when our mutual friend Carmel and I helped Karen overcome culture shock when she joined us to teach English in Korea. She held my hand when boys broke my heart, and she held it in the delivery room as we welcomed my son (her God-son) into the world.
I watched her go through amazing transformations as an educator, wife, and a mother, but nothing made me quite as proud as when I watched her most recent transformation over Facebook. Karen had decided to reclaim her health and commit to a lifestyle change, losing 67 pounds in one year.
It is so easy for mothers to put their needs last. Many of us struggle with our cravings, addictions, and our inability to love our bodies.
As someone who also struggles with body image , and with the desire to lose those ten pounds (now twenty), I wanted to discuss with Karen how she came to the decision to change her life and what motivates her to continue her new healthy lifestyle.
Karen tell me about the moment when you decided you were going to change your life.
I think I’ll start by saying that, I didn’t change my life, I got my life back. As a teenager and into my early adult years, I never had weight issues or body issues. I felt quite confident. My weight issues started after I had been pregnant five times in 44 months, which can be hard on the body. I am 5’2 and my baby was 2 years old and I was almost 200 pounds. I had zero confidence and I honestly felt like crap.
I looked at some pictures one day and really that was all it took. I said, “Enough is enough.” That’s the moment when I knew things had to change.
You mentioned that you had a thought about your children. You didn’t want your children to view you in a certain way. Can you talk to me about that?
The big motivation to make the change was my kids. I felt terrible, and this might sound vain, but I didn’t want my kids growing up and feeling ashamed to take their mother somewhere, or for me to drop them off somewhere. I didn’t want to be the fat mom.
(Karen & Family Looking and Being Beautiful)
It’s interesting isn’t it, that we get it in our heads that we have to look a certain way in or to be accepted.
It’s awful. Absolutely awful. Like I said before, I didn’t have issues when I was younger. I am very proud of my kids, but I put weight on and I couldn’t seem to lose it after my pregnancies. I had to lose 60 to 70 pounds to get back to a healthy weight and I thought, “Oh my God, this is friggin impossible.” I was giving up before I even decided to try.
What exactly did you do to lose the weight and how much did you lose?
As of today I lost 62 pounds and I am at a healthy weight. I feel awesome! Basically what happened was my sister-in-law called me one day and said, “Karen, I saw an ad in the newspaper. There is a guy in town named Matt MacDonald and he’s going to do Antigonish’s Biggest Loser, do you want to do it with me?”
I immediately thought, “Oh my God, no I don’t want to do it with you…but maybe this was my sign to make the change and get things started. Let’s just say Matt was one of the best additions to my life.
I did three rounds of Antigonishs Biggest Loser which consisted of eating healthy and being accountable for what I eat. I had to go to boot camp two nights a week and I also had to wear a pedometer. I had to get a minimum of 12000 steps a day. So I did that for 30 weeks in total and that’s how I lost the majority of the weight.
Do you still do this every day?
That’s the hardest part. My trainer moved to Abu Dabi and I thought my world was going to crash because I still had another 15 to 20 pounds to lose. I just told myself, “You know what? I thought 60-70 pounds was impossible and now I’m down 62 pounds and I only have 15 to 20 pounds left, I can do this! It truly is a lifestyle change. I have to get to the gym at least three to four times a week. If not I have to get out walking.
It’s not like when we were in our 20’s and we could eat whatever the hell we wanted. Now we eat a chocolate bar, have a couple drinks on the weekend, eat some chips and we see it on bodies by Monday.
When I was in my 20’s I remember being so young and naïve and thinking, “I’m just going to love myself forever,” and, “Everyone should just love their body.” I also remember putting on the freshman fifteen, but now I have the sophomore (or senior) 25. Haha.
When I was pregnant with Cole and I hit 175 pounds, I remember thinking, “Oh my God, Wow! I’m so heavy!” It was because my weight previously was 155 pounds when I lived in Australia. Then I hit 200 pounds just before giving birth to my son. Well now I am 190 pounds without a baby..haha! I just think it’s really challenging to learn to love the body you’re in when we put so much pressure on ourselves through subconscious beliefs and external pressures from society. My next question for you is, how do you think we learn to love our bodies as time goes on?
Oh my God, that’s such a tough question and I don’t know if I should be answering it. For me, when I was close to 200 pounds there was no way I was going to love that body. There was NO WAY! I knew damn well that it was my fault my body was like that. I wasn’t born heavier and I never had those issues before, so I knew the body I was experiencing was a direct result of me mistreating it. I wasn’t going to be satisfied and I was not going to love it that way it was!
Now that I am down to a healthy weight and feel awesome, I’m confident again, I feel good in my clothes but, you know what? I can’t say that I 100% love my body. I can tell you that I love me. I love who I am, I’m proud of myself and I’m happy. I’m a good mom, a good friend, I could go on and on, but I don’t know if I will ever be 100% happy with my body. I will always want to better myself and better my body.
That leads me to the next question. How do you think media plays a part in our relationships to our bodies?
Oh God, does it ever! Look, here I am, 37 years old, I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m educated and I know damn well to, “Not Let” those media images, commercials, and all those messages out there influence how I feel. I put on a great face and say, “Hey, it doesn’t affect me!” That’s a bunch of bull! It totally affects me. You see these commercials and they are advertising these beautiful clothes, but guess what? Those clothes aren’t made for a size 16. It just makes you feel like you are never quite, “good enough.”
It’s so true. I remember this one time, a couple years ago when I was working on a project with youth about Hypersexualization in media. During my research I found an unphotoshopped image of Madonna next to a photoshopped version of her. Seeing the unaltered version made me feel so good! I thought, “Oh my God, Madonna actually looks her age, she doesn’t look like she’s 20.”
I really took a moment and stopped to hear my thoughts and bear witness to my feelings. If I felt that great from being exposed to one truthful image, how awful was my subconscious feeling when bombarded by images of deception around beauty?
I hear you! There was an image going around of a celebrity that was a raw picture of herself that she wanted to put out there to the world. She was in a swimsuit and you could see cellulite, you could see stretch marks and I was like, “Wow, that is beautiful!’ I felt normal. I am not the only one who doesn’t have skin that is tight and a waist that is thin. It really does make you feel better when you see really beauty as opposed to created beauty that is not real.
It makes me think of real beauty advocate, Ben Barry and his work with the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. For the first time we were exposed to images and models celebrating diverse bodies, ages, cultures, etc. In his very first fashion show with The Bay, while using these diverse models (who at the time weren’t even considered models), I’m pretty sure almost every store that took part in the fashion show ended up selling out of the outfits on display. It’s as if the women who were witness to this event related, “If that fits her it’s probably going to fit me!” I wish more businesses would continue to cater to diverse groups.
I have boys and every day I think, “Thank God, because I look at my friends who have girls. They are 7 & 8 years old and they are already being drawn into the media’s message. My boys don’t really care about that message right now. Eventually I’m sure they will care about their clothes and that kind of thing, but it makes me so sad when I hear ten year old girls not wanting to wear something because they think they look fat. I want to reach out and scream, “NOOO!”
I know it’s very difficult to see and hard to hear as well. I guess I am just concerned with how we can change it? How can we change the message?
I don’t know but I think it starts at home. It starts small. I think we need to feel good about ourselves because we can’t preach anything to others, to youth, if we don’t believe it ourselves first, right? Even if you have to fake it till you make it. I don’t mean fake it your entire life but you just need to start telling yourself, “Hey, you know what? I do look good and I feel good!” Eventually you will know it’s true and hopefully they will follow in your footsteps.
I notice many people in their 30s give in and give up. Why do you think this happens so frequently?
Because it’s easier to give up! Honestly, it’s easier to say, “Yeah, I’m too old and I can’t do it.” There are too many fears, and so many unknowns when you are taking a big risk. You are not as resilient as you are when you are 20 years old. So, it’s easier to give up than to say, “You know what? I’m going to brave this. There will be challenges and there may be unpleasant things that I’m going to see or do, but I’m going to do it because I can.
Would you say that your journey was similar to this way of thinking?
Yes! Oh my God, yes! So many times I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do this, I’m going to lose the weight.” Then I would sigh and say, “Ugh, it’s too hard! 70 pounds is too much!” Then I would put it off by thinking, “I’ll do it Monday,” or, “Just one more glass of pop isn’t going to affect me.” Like I said before, it is so much easier to give up.
If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about making a change in their life, when it goes to living healthier better quality of life, what kind of advice would you give them?
Little steps is my first and foremost piece of advice. Like I said, I looked at the big picture and I just kept thinking, “I can’t do it!” Believe in yourself, know you can do it.
Another thing is you need to have support from those around you. I know for myself, for quite a while, I felt guilty. I told myself, “I can’t take two nights a week to go to a boot camp.” I would have to get a sitter, or leave the boys with my husband who would have to give them their nightly baths. I felt guilty and asked, “Why should I take time for myself?” Then, like a slap in the face I realized. I deserve it! Why am I not worth it when everyone else is worth it?
So tell yourself, “You’re worth it!” My kids have one mother, it’s my responsibility to take care of myself as well as them. Baby steps, take time for yourself, know you can do it and never give up!
( Karen you are beautiful at any size or shape. You are amazing and I am so glad you are in my life.)