Criminal Minds’ Penelope Garcia is a Revolutionary Character We Need -by Selfish Mitch

All female bodies are not the same, nor should they be. AK and I are almost exactly the same age and the same height, for example, but her body is healthiest at a size 0-4, and my body is healthiest at a size 8-12, depending on the brand. I have a broader, more bulkily muscled frame than she does. Her frame and muscles are lean. We’re both beautiful in our own way, and we think all women are too. For us, the goal is to be as healthy as possible, and if we look great, that’s a bonus.

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Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia  (source http://criminalminds.wikia.com/wiki/Penelope_Garcia)

 

However, if you watch TV or movies, look in fashion magazines and on popular Instagram accounts, you’ll find that the vast majority of women are size 00-4. They might be tall and lean like Taylor Swift, Allison Janney, or Blake Lively, or they may be short and tiny like Ariana Grande and Jada Pinkett Smith, or somewhere in between like Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox. All of those ladies are beautiful, but Hollywood has a type.

I’m glad that in recent years we’ve seen more representation of different body types in the media. Plus size model Ashley Graham is a great representation of that. Still, have you noticed that in film and television, women who don’t fit in a sample size, like Melissa McCarthy and Chrissy Metz, tend to have story lines that are dependant on weight issues? McCarthy and Metz are both incredibly talented, but Hollywood doesn’t really seem to know what to do with them. Melissa McCarthy is a really talented comedian and seems to really enjoy physical comedy, which is great, but she’s rarely shown as the beautiful, strong, kick ass type. Instead, she’s often in an unflattering wig and clothes that don’t fit, and fat jokes abound. Rebel Wilson is another talented, plus sized actor, and she’s best know for her turns in the Pitch Perfect trilogy, in which she plays a character who goes by “Fat Amy.”

Here’s where Penelope Garcia, who has been played by Kirsten Vangsness on CBS’s Criminal Minds, is revolutionary. Vangsness and I have similar shapes, so when I discovered Criminal Minds earlier this year (I know it’s kicking off its 14th season, don’t @ me), I paid attention. I almost never see women my size represented on screen, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one as strong, powerful, and put together as this character. Vangsness is a size 12 according to a recent article I found, but she, like most women of my size and shape, can go up and down a bit, especially depending on the brand of clothing you’re buying. She’s not technically “plus sized,” but she’s certainly a body type we don’t see much in Hollywood. She discussed the topic in an interview with Pride.com.

“Stylists on the set of the CBS series have gotten a bit of Vangsness’s do-it-yourself spirit as well. “They kept saying, ‘Can you bring your own clothes? We don’t have anything in your size.’ Because in Hollywood they have size zero and size 22,” says Vangsness, who is a size 12. “But if you lie somewhere between the 12 to 16 range…they keep trying to put you into a size 4. It’s the strangest thing. What ends up happening is they buy four size 2 Marc Jacobs dresses and make one size 12. Then someone out in TV land watches it and is like, ‘I can get that dress.’ No, you can’t because you don’t have a seamstress that will alter exactly to your body. I feel for everybody.”

I feel you, girl. We’re also in that size range where straight sizes fit us strangely and most plus size stuff is too big.

The character of Penelope Garcia is a rich and layered one. She’s a brilliant former computer hacker who leaves the dark web to go to work for the good guys, profiling criminals. She’s strong, witty, and doesn’t apologize for the space her body takes up. She’s confident, a great friend and co-worker, and a solutionary. She’s also a bit of a weirdo, wearing bright clothing and usually a few more accessories than fashion dictates. She has romantic relationships with attractive men and a flirtmance with co-worker Derek Morgan, who is played by the ridiculously attractive Shemar Moore. Their platonic friendship is deep, layered with mutual love and respect, but they never cross the boundary into a romantic relationship. The sexy banter between them would be enough that most HR departments would write them up, but it’s sweet, funny, sexy, and a great break in the middle of serious storylines about psychotic serial killers.

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Shemar Moore and Kirstin Vangsness photo source

What Penelope Garcia doesn’t do is whine about her weight. She doesn’t come into the office bitching that she only eats carrot sticks and still will never be the size of her gorgeous, athletic, thin, co-worker and close friend, J.J. Nobody suggests Keto or Paleo or the Cabbage Soup diet to Garcia. I haven’t heard anyone say, “Oh, Penelope. You have such a pretty face. Have you tried Pilates?” They do invite her out for drinks, confide in her and love her, and she pays that all right back. She’s been on the show for 13 years, and I’ve never seen Penelope Garcia give a fuck about her weight. She’s healthy, she’s happy, and she loves herself. She doesn’t hide her figure in oversized black sweaters; she flaunts it in bright, sometimes crazy, but flattering patterns. Her hair color changes often, and her makeup is bright. This is a woman who isn’t trying to blend into the wallpaper, making self-deprecating jokes, and waiting to start her life when she hits a magical number on the scale. In a world where people call Beyonce fat and where Scarlett Johansson has been turned down for roles because she’s too curvy, Penelope Garcia living her best life is what we need more of, especially since Vangsness is entering her 14th year of playing this groundbreaking character and I don’t see other shows stepping up and showing other 3 dimensional average sized women. Think about this: Criminal Minds premiered just months after Friends Joey, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica took their final bow. I loved Friends, of course, but the Monica fat shaming was a bad trope. In fact, in the episode about what could have been in alternate futures, tiny Courteney Cox was in Monica’s fat suit, portrayed as an awkward 30 year old virgin who had never been in love and doesn’t seem to have any rich relationships in her life. We haven’t evolved enough since then.

But, Mitch, you say, there are other female fictional characters that appear on screen with more weight than we’re used to seeing. Surely, they can’t all have fat plotlines! I haven’t seen every movie or TV show ever made, so that might be true. I think we’re close with the amazing Aidy Bryant on Saturday Night Live. In fact, she did a Weekend Update segment as herself discussing how hard it is to get roles that don’t revolve around her size. She was once offered a part in a movie. The character didn’t have a name-it was just “Ugly Fat Friend.” Aidy is anything but ugly, and to keep up with SNL’s production schedule, guest starring in other TV shows, and doing stand up and other projects, she must be pretty damn healthy. The great thing about SNL, whether you’re a fan or not, is that the actors often do the sketch writing as well. They have more control over what they do and how they’re seen.

Click play to see Aidy owning this song along with her female castmates and guest star Saoirse Ronan.

We also have the hilarious Katy Mixon headlining her own show on ABC, called “American Housewife.” The show was originally entitled, “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport.” I have to admit, the character is super relatable to me. Katy’s character, Katie Otto, seems pretty happy with who she is, and she has a loving, supportive, thin, capable husband (which is something I’ll get into in a separate post.) The character and her family move to a super affluent area so their children can have the best education possible, but they’re a middle class family in an area like the Hamptons or Calabasas, and the other moms are tiny, mean, and judgemental. Katy keeps it real, and seems to be happy with herself, but it is hard for her to not fit in with the other moms, even if she really dislikes most of them.

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Mixon playing Katie Otto, who is not having any of this bullshit today. Image: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/television/2016/10/09/american-housewife-tackles-weighty-subject/HA5mA0bUWzPBrpT5q0LCOI/story.html

She actually creates extra trouble for herself by pushing back against the other parents. She thinks these people are all shallow and materialistic, and for the most part, they are. She’s concerned about her children’s values changing to reflect those of the new community, and she fights it pretty hard.  Still, there are several fat jokes in this show, and some of them are pretty cheap. Also, I think it’s important to note that Katie doesn’t make an effort to know most of the juice cleansing, work out clothes wearing, luxury SUV driving moms, so she’s also being judgemental based on looks. I still call it a bit of progress, just not badass Garcia progress. I do want to note that American Housewife has a different kind of progress-Katy’s best female friends are women of color, and one of them happens to be a lesbian. I love the real-life aspect of that. She has friends who don’t look just like her, who come from different backgrounds. She and her husband are very much in love and rarely put each other down, especially not to the extent we see in other sitcoms. They are portrayed as partners, which is good to see.

In today’s society, even though racists and homophobes, abelists and misogynists still run rampant, they’re being called out.  It seems like fat jokes are the last frontier for jokes about people. Hell, even Glee, the show that had a “very special episode” and set it’s social justice warrior mission to music every week, had unchecked fat jokes.

Still, it’s TV. It’s the movies; it’s not real life, right? In today’s society people are influenced by pop culture. TV shows, movies, reality stars, and even the President drop cruel words into our ears and onto our screens, and those words embolden people. We become a sum of our experiences, and if we are constantly taking in “jokes” about fatness, about people being different sized, that seeps into the general consciousness. When Trump calls Rosie O’Donnell a disgusting pig and says Heidi Klum is sadly, no longer a 10, it makes people think it’s OK to say those things as well. (Along with all of his other problematic opinions on “others”.) Sadly, I still hear people refer to people they care about as, “my fat friend? The one who you met at my party two years ago?” That’s the rub about being considered average or larger sized in our culture. You’re reduced to one characteristic; two if you’re lucky.

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I look different in these photos, but I have the same heart, mind, sense of humor, love, and ambition. Who I am doesn’t change with the way you see me. My self esteem no longer lives and dies by the scale. I’m stronger than that now, but many girls and women aren’t.

 

The fat funny girl. The fat girl with great hair. The fat girl who shouldn’t wear skirts that short. The fat bitch. The fat girl who’s got a great personality. The fat girl who is actually really pretty if you get to know her.

So, how do we react to this? How do we stop it? We can support movies made by female directors and screenwriters. Women, even women in Hollywood, have friends who are more than their weight, and that can come through in their storytelling. We can vote with our dollars for TV shows and movies who are doing it right.

In this world, we can use the internet to tell people exactly what we think of them. The comments any celebrity’s instagram will tell you that. So often people tell them they’re fat, they’re unworthy, unattractive. Don’t do that. If you know people who do that, call them out. Tweet at producers and studios that you want to be represented and respected on screen.

Most importantly, love yourself exactly as you are, exactly as you look right now. I’m working on losing weight put on by some medication right now, because the sudden weight increase has been hell on my joints. I’m working on becoming healthier, and for me that’s about 25 lbs of less fat and more muscle than where I am right now, but I’m not putting my life on hold until my favorite jeans fit again. I still love myself and know and respect myself and my journey.

If you have someone in your life that you see as overweight or fat and that’s part of your description of them, even if it’s only in your internal dialogue, stop that shit now. That person is aware of their weight. You don’t need to tell them. They know about diets and exercise, and if they want to work on losing weight or being healthier for themselves, that’s their journey. It’s not yours. It’s fairly likely they are their own worst critic, so you don’t need to tell them that something is tight or doesn’t look good on them. No, not even if you’re “just worried about their health.” Their health is their own damn business. I have friends who eat like shit, don’t exercise, and binge drink regularly. They almost never have people tell them to change because they’re damaging their health. I polled my friends. Unless they’re over size 10 or they’re size 00 or 0, nobody remarks on their “health”. In fact, I have one friend who drinks daily and smokes like a chimney. Nobody said a word to her about her health until she gained a bit of weight. So fuck that.

Everyone’s body is different. I look thin, strong, and healthy at 155-165 lbs if I’ve been working out. AK, who is my height and age, would look completely different at that weight. That’s my peak healthy weight, but for her, I’m not sure if she hit that weight when she was pregnant and felt huge. I have very thin friends with health problems and a friend who is a size 4X whose doctor constantly remarks on how healthy she is overall. Low blood pressure, great cholesterol numbers, etc. She’s working on losing weight, but she’s doing it her way. You don’t get an opinion or comment.

I’m hoping AK will write a post soon about her experience with people telling her she’s too thin. We hit opposite ends of that spectrum, and that’s not OK either. Sorry this is long, but I have words.

-Love, light, health, and the incredible badassery of Kirstin Vangsness AND Penelope Garcia,

Selfish Mitch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Avoid Me For The Next Two Weeks. I Might Be a Monster

I might be a sugar monster, that is.

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I’m starting my second Whole 30 tomorrow. My plans were to do a prep week this week, gradually decreasing the amount of inflammatory foods I was putting into my body so the next 7-14 days would be mildly annoying as opposed to straight up hell. Wellllp, that didn’t happen. I got busy and I’ve been feeling like crap still. Plus, something about having a start date in mind made me really want to squeeze in those treats I love before they were forbidden for at least 45 days.

Yep, you read that right, 45 days. The Whole 30 book tells us that for people with autoimmune disorders, it may take our bodies longer to work all of the inflammation out so we should plan on at least 45 days. One thing I hate about diseases and side effects of medications to treat them is that they’re never good. You never hear, “Yeah, Lupus sucks, but it seriously improves your singing voice!” or “This medication might make you gain 30 pounds but it increases your coordination so you’ll become a talented dancer and high jumper.” it’s ALWAYS shitty. So, 45 days of what, exactly? What am I committing to?

Basically, I’m going cold turkey from foods that are known to be inflammatory to the human body. I know you’re going to read through this list and say, “Nah. I eat X or Y all the time and I feel fine.” You might be right, or you might have been feeling the effects of inflammatory foods for so long that you have a new “normal”. Some people, however, can eat legit garbage all the time and function at a really high level. Everyone’s body is different, and foods affect us differently.

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These betches never eat vegetables.

The Ferguson Twins from the Bachelor franchise come to mind. (I like garbage television as much as I like garbage food. I usually have it on in the background while I’m doing other things. I don’t think I’m capable of simply watching TV without reading a book, checking email, cleaning my house, etc, at the same time). These young ladies despise vegetables and live off of frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and french fries. They have tons of energy for appearing on reality TV shows, shilling products on Instagram, drinking wine on Instagram, and they say they do lots of outdoor sports for fun. They’re also hilariously inappropriate, so I can’t hate them even though they eat total crap all the time and still look bangin’ in bikinis. They just seem to be far more resistant to inflammation than I am.

The fact is, part of learning to be happy and live a fulfilled life for me, particularly, means letting go of being angry that life isn’t fair. Guess what? Nobody’s life is perfect. We ALL have our strengths and weaknesses. We ALL have our share of personal triumphs and deep tragedies. The difference in how these things affect our lives is simply how we respond to everything. That’s it.

So, back to the Whole 30. I did my first Whole 30 beginning January 1, 2017. I started last year at 236 lbs. I was wearing size 18 and those pants were tight. I had no energy, and I was in pain all the time from 2 failed back surgeries in the span of about 14 months. I’d had two different doctors, specialists, tell me that I should consider going on disability. I have a dumpster fire for a spine, Lupus, RA, and mental health conditions that could all qualify me on their own. I had decided to go a different route by going back into real estate. It’s a career that is a lot more work than people realize, but I do have flexibility with my schedule, and I have an incredible team to back me up. If I need to be hospitalized or run off to Australia with a Hemsworth brother, the team will make sure my clients don’t miss a beat.

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Liam, Chris, and Luke Hemsworth. Did you know there were THREE?

Sorry, I got off topic again. A facebook friend had been promoting her upcoming Whole 30 free group, and I felt pulled towards it. A lot of people I know had done really well with the Paleo diet and staying in ketosis, but I have decades of experience trying really strict fad diets and know they don’t work for me in the long term. I have no desire to have to permanently remove carbs from my diet, including healthy ones like potatoes and fruits. I also have no desire to regularly pee on a strip to make sure that my body is in ketosis. Hard pass from me.

The Whole 30 is different. For 30 days, or 45 in my case, you remove all known foods that can be inflammatory triggers. Here’s a list.

  1. Added Sugar-including honey, maple syrup, stevia, and other sugar substitutes
  2. Gluten
  3. Legumes (think beans and peanuts)
  4. Dairy. The only exception here is Ghee, which is a clarified butter.
  5. Soy
  6. Alcohol
  7. Grains including: rice, corn, quinoa, millet, wheat, bulgur, buckwheat, etc.
  8. MSG, Carrageens, Sulfites, Nitrates
  9. Junk foods and processed foods

What CAN you eat on the Whole 30? Plenty of good stuff to keep you full and fuled.

  1. Vegetables. You can eat ANY vegetable with the exception of corn, which the body processes more like a grain, and legumes like chickpeas, soybeans, and lentils.
  2. Meat. You can eat any and all unprocessed meat. You need to be careful with lunchmeats and bacon, as they’re generally laden with sulfates, nitrates, and preservatives. There ARE W30 approved lunchmeats and sausage, but you need to know what to look for. That’s why you buy the book and don’t just rely on my blog.
  3. Fruit in moderation. Fruit saved my ass the first time I did the Whole 30. Apples with almond butter began to taste like a decadent dessert.
  4. Fish and Shellfish
  5. Eggs are perfectly OK with Whole 30! I like to make a fritatta with eggs, sweet potatoes, and other veggies I have on hand so I have an easy breakfast or snack when I’m hungry and don’t have a lot of time to prepare food. I freeze individual portions that can be quickly reheated.
  6. Tea. Soda is out, of course, because it has sugar or sugar substitutes, and almost every rational person knows that pop isn’t good for you. I imagine you can have seltzer or club soda, as long as it’s sulfate free. You can have coffee, too, but I’m not a coffee gal. People who are coffee addicts need to exercise caution, because if you’re used to coffee with cream and sugar every morning, straight black coffee might make you sad and tempt you to cheat.
  7. Nuts, excluding peanuts, which are legumes, and seeds, like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. You need to read the labels to ensure that your nuts aren’t toasted in vegetable oil or a stew of chemicals you can’t pronounce or both.
  8. Oils and healthy fats! Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, and Coconut Oil are featured in a lot of W30 recipes. Just say no to “vegetable oil” because it’s made from corn and it’s terrible for you. Margarine is and always was hot garbage, so just say no to that as well.
  9. “Cheats” that replicate your favorite treats. This includes things like making “pancakes” from bananas and eggs or “pizza crust” out of cauliflower. The goal of Whole 30 is obviously to clear your body of inflammation, but there’s a psychological aspect of it that is meant to nudge you towards “food freedom.” It’s really easy to get addicted to sugar and crap that is bad for you. Americans in particular are conditioned to go on fad diets that are not sustainable. We get cravings for pizza, or cupcakes, or whatever your “thing” is, break the diet and binge, and then feel terrible about our self control. The goal of the Whole 30 is to make you realize that you feel better mentally and physically when you avoid food that is bad for you, and that it’s OK to treat yourself in moderation after the W30 is over. You learn to eat healthy food and like it, and you learn that eating a piece of birthday cake (after you’ve completed your W30) is perfectly fine. You just get right back on track afterwards. You realize that you have control over your food, and not vice versa. Eating protein-powder cake substitutes during your W30 can backfire because it doesn’t program your brain to stop seeing treats are rewards.

I’m really, really excited to be the person I’ll become 14 days ago. I just loathe the thought of the next two weeks. I will add, “I CAN DO HARD THINGS” to my daily affirmations, because this will be hard for me. I’ve been taking a new medication that tends to make my stomach upset, and popsicles seem to be the best way to calm it down. Popsicles have sugar, so they’re off the list. I suspect that simply eating fruit will have the same effects, so here’s hoping, but I have a lot of sugar to detox from this body. There have been a lot of recent studies where scientists have found that sugar can be as addictive as nicotine and cocaine, but it’s a lot harder to avoid. Think about it. If you quit smoking and overcome your addiction to nicotine, you don’t run the risk of accidentally drinking a glass of iced tea that happens to be infused with nicotine. You might, however, order a tea at Starbucks that seems like a fruit infused herbal tea, but you take a huge sip and realize it was sweetened with a few pumps of sugary syrup. Sugar is EVERYWHERE, but you can avoid it if you focus on it. However, popsicle faced Mitch is probably going to go through some mild withdrawals near the end of this week, but I can handle it. I remember days 6-8 as the absolute worst last time. Those days are known as the pure exhaustion phase, where you sleep 11 hours a night. Your body is used to relying on carbs and sugar for quick energy, and day 6-7 is when it revolts against you for taking that away. Your body needs to re-learn to operate as it’s designed to. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep 11 hours a night. I slept maybe 2 hours a night, for a few nights straight. I’m seriously hoping that I have better luck this time and can sleep. I’m not the nicest human in general, but no-sleep Mitch is not a creature you want to encounter. I should probably go buy my husband a suit of armor or get him a room at a nice resort so he can avoid me.

I’m going to blog here during my Whole 30 to share my experience with you, and honestly, as a type of therapy to get me through what I’m doing. If you’re interested in joining me on the journey, leave me a comment on my personal instagram @mvdiz, on this post, or through our contact page. I’m always happy to answer questions as well! Wish me luck and health! I can’t WAIT to start feeling the WHOLE 30 Tiger’s Blood! I also have about 20 more pounds or so to go until I hit my goal, and 45 days of W30 should get me really close.

Love, light, and popsicle sticks,

-Selfish Mitch

 

 

 

 

 

Want Better Relationships? Start With Yourself!

SelfI know. It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Don’t we all have that friend or family member (or maybe it’s you) who is always there, giving selflessly of her time and talents? I mean, everyone loves that woman, so don’t you want to be that woman, or just like her? Don’t you imagine that she has a ton of friends who love her right back and will drop everything to help her right back if necessary?  (I suppose this person could be a man, but yeah, not so often.) Often times, though, this friend is drained and not feeling great about her friends not reciprocating. She might just think that’s how things work, that friends just take advantage, and you either deal with it or have no friends. Does she think she doesn’t deserve friends who love her right back? Damn, I hope not.

Rlationships function best when there’s give and take. In most relationships I’ve witnessed, there’s an imbalance there. There’s generally one person who is the giver; the caretaker; the one who has it all handled. If the balance is pretty close, and both partners give almost as much as they take, the relationship is usually a good one. For example, if you like cleaning and your husband loves cooking, you care for one another that way. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you cook, clean, organize, work full time, do the majority of the child care tasks, and your partner works, comes home, throws his socks on the coffee table, and falls asleep with the remote in his hand, I hate to say it, you have an imbalance, and you shouldn’t take it.

I recently heard a quote that made more sense to me than just about anything I’ve ever heard or read. Ready? “You date at the level of your self esteem.” It’s so simple, but I look back at my life and see that it’s completely accurate. When I met my first husband, my self esteem was at an all time low. I was 20, and I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was drinking WAY too much and that’s not good for anyone, but it was the only thing that didn’t make me feel empty. It gave me the social courage to meet new people. The problem is, when you make friends and the bond you share is binge drinking, those are not healthy relationships. I’d gotten out of a serious relationship with someone I thought was going to be “the one” about a year and a half prior to meeting my ex husband, and I dated some real losers in the meantime. Unfortunately, these losers and users seem to have a sixth sense for women who are down on themselves. They can somehow sense that you don’t think you deserve much. When your self esteem is at its lowest, you’re a magnet for the biggest turds on the market. My ex started out charming and kind, and slowly turned into a jealous ass who slowly isolated me from my friends. These men find ways to get you away from people who know and love you and have your best interest at heart. He has reasons, and while you’re being gaslit, his reasons *kind of* make sense. One friend smoked a lot of weed, and I was really, really not into that, so she wasn’t “good for me.” Another drank a lot and slept around, so I shouldn’t be around that, should I? Plus, he had a good group of friends. They were almost all really good people who had absolutely no idea what kind of an emotionally abusive ass he was in private. Still, I really couldn’t sack up and convince myself that I really, truly, deserved better than that.

Of course, looking back, would I change anything? I mean, he’s my son’s father. I’d never trade my kid for anything. Still, if everything happens for a reason, usually the reason is that you make bad decisions. I think if I’d had more self esteem, more belief that I had power, I could have changed that relationship for the better. It ultimately wouldn’t have worked out, but it might not have been the lonely, isolated, living hell it was, especially at the end. I’m actually glad it got so bad, because that lead to me GETTING OUT.

Look at your beautiful, talented, hilarious friend. She’s this strong, amazing woman and she’s dating one of these toxic turds. Why? She may not really grasp it, but she probably thinks Todd the Terrible Turd is the best she can do and she’s lucky to have him. She’s not dumb. She knows he’s not a very good dude, but when a woman has a low self esteem, sometimes being with Larry Loser seems better than being alone. She equates being alone with being lonely. I can tell you from experience that when you feel like shit about yourself, the last thing you want is time alone to think about it, so you stay with Alexander the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dude and make excuses for him.

STOP THAT SHIT RIGHT NOW.

So wait, what am I saying here? If your husband is a lazy ass that fully takes advantage of you, should you just up and leave him, or kick his ass out? Probably not. If he’s a good man and he’s not an emotional, financial or physical abuser and your relationship is pretty good, besides your constant resentment brewing, take charge.

Find what makes YOU happy. Find what makes YOU feel good. I see a lot of this when I’m working on my fitness coaching business. I talk to women who are super disappointed with the their weight and their lack of energy. They want to be healthier, look better, and be able to chase after and play with their young children. Do you know the reason I hear most often? These are women who are sometimes in tears when they decide not to join my 30 day challenge groups. They want to do it really badly, but they say they DON’T. HAVE.TIME.

OK, single working mamas to little ones. I was one of you, and I KNOW that sometimes your days are packed from dawn til dusk and beyond and you’re probably not getting much sleep. I get that. If there’s a way that you can trade childcare even 1-3 times a week with another single or married parent, or if you have a friend who would be happy to spend a little time in kid-land, take that time. Fill your cup.

The majority of these women, though, are married to the fathers of their children. They tell me that they have no idea when they’d find 30 minutes, 4-6 times a week, to work out and work towards their goal. Even with all they’ve told me about their fitness goals, they don’t think that they can leave the kids with the husband for 30 minutes to work out in a different room of her home. I just wonder. Does Mr You have time to tinker on an old car that hasn’t run for 9 years? Does he golf or bowl or play hoops with his buddies? Does he run? Does he sit in a chair and watch TV for three hours a night?

Now think about this. Do you deserve 30 minutes to yourself, to work on yourself? Even if you’re not using it to work out, do you need that time to center yourself? To meditate? To go have a drink with your girlfriends?

Here’s another thing. If you see yourself in what I’m writing, and you can hear that man snoring on the couch while you read this a few paragraphs at a time in between loads of laundry and dishes, I have a hard truth for you. This man, this sleeping man who lives in your house, probably has NO FUCKING IDEA that you feel this way. I mean, he’s aware that you’re pissed that your jeans don’t fit, but he really, truly, doesn’t know how you’re feeling and what you need unless you TELL HIM. Turn off the distractions. Ask to talk to him for a minute when the kids are in bed or elsewhere. If you do all of the cleaning and all of the cooking and all of the other bullshit on autopilot, all but the very best of men who are vying for sainthood will LET YOU. You bet your ass they’re going to keep that status quo. After all, it works for him. If he’s a good man, he wants to know. He wants a happy wife, but homeboy has no freaking clue how to make that happen.

Decide. It’s up to you. Decide that you’re worth it. Decide that your kids don’t need Pinterest lives every day. Your Elf on a Shelf doesn’t need an elaborate set up every day. If that brings you joy, then great. But if these things are draining you, take back your power! Tell that man that you’re feeling tired and down, and that you need time for YOURSELF every day. For some reason, over the course of your life, you’ve decided that you don’t deserve it. You don’t deserve self care? I think you do. I think we all do. For me, that means I MUST have time home alone, just me and the dogs, for several hours at least twice a week. I need to move my body. The JOY that pumps through my bloodstream with that release of endorphins can’t be replaced by organizing someone else’s underwear drawer or vacuuming under the feet of a grown ass man. The clarity of mind I have when I’m eating clean, healthy foods 90% of the time can’t be replaced by hate-eating leftover macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets my kid didn’t finish.

So this is my purpose; my manifesto.

I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.

I DESERVE TO TAKE TIME FOR MYSELF.

I DESERVE A PARTNER WHO GIVES AS MUCH AS HE TAKES.

I DESERVE TO FEEL AMAZING.

I DESERVE TO FEEL STRONG.

I DESERVE TO BE HEALTHY.

I DESERVE SELF CARE.

I LOVE MYSELF.

I DESERVE JOY.

I DESERVE STRONG, CARING FRIENDSHIPS.

I DESERVE ABUNDANCE.

I DESERVE TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF SO I CAN TAKE CARE OF MY FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND CLIENTS AT THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE LEVEL.

CALL ME SELFISH. I’LL WEAR THAT BADGE WITH PRIDE.

And guess what? YOU DESERVE ALL OF THAT TOO. Not when your kids are grown. Not when your career is established. Not at some arbitrary point in the future. There will always be demands on your time, on your energy, on your body. There’s never a magical time when your world stops and you can do all the things you always wanted to do. Do it now. Take back your self esteem and power and realize YOU DESERVE THIS.

I can’t decide what that thing is for you that builds you up, recharges your battery, and makes you feel amazing about yourself and your life, but whatever it is, don’t delay. When you’re a happier human, you’re a happier mom, a joyful wife, a  caring friend, an energetic employer or  employee.

Love, power, and light,

-Selfish Mitch

 

 

 

Work Sick

I have a few chronic illnesses. I have Lupus, RA, and degenerative disc disease. Due to a few failed back surgeries, I have been diagnosed with “failed back syndrome.” I also have ADHD, and most of these diagnoses happened prior to my 40th birthday. In fact, I spent #39 in post op from the spinal fusion surgery that ultimately failed to fuse, leaving me in more pain than before. The surgeon said that if he went in to try to fix it or remove the hardware, or to try to fuse it again, I’d have a 50% chance of some pain relief and a 50% chance that it would get worse or stay the same. I sure don’t like those odds. I later had a spinal fusion surgery, but that, too, failed to work. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, at first, I considered filing for disability, as a couple of doctors recommended. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around simply giving up at such a young age. I know that people younger than me have had to file for disability, and their reasons are sound. I’m not judging anyone for that choice, but I just KNEW it wasn’t for me.

I’ve always worked really hard and had big goals. I started babysitting at eight. That sounds ridiculous in today’s world, but I guess in small town Montana in 1983, when people knew my teacher parents (and the parents of the kids) were less than a mile away at all times, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I lied about my age on a job application to get a job waitressing at the age of 14. I worked 1 or 2 jobs at a time while going to college full time, which might be the reason I never finished a degree. I have about 170 credits that don’t form a degree, though, so that’s something. (ADHD was real in the 90s, even if we didn’t really know what it was or how to treat it, especially in adults.)

When I started in real estate in 2005, I knew I’d found IT. My career path, what I was supposed to do. It was all so clear. I’d start as a buyer’s agent on a team at Keller Williams to learn all I could. From there, I’d try to move up to the listing agent on a team, and then go out on my own, and then I’d build my own team. The path laid in front of me was so clear, that about a year into my career, I had my team name and logo designed in my head, and I was certain that nothing could stop me. Hahaha. Doesn’t life always have other plans?

First, the market crashed, and it crashed HARD. Luckily, I’d been recruited over to another, larger team that allowed agents to handle buyers and sellers, and continuously found ways to be successful, even with the median price of homes dropping about $200,000 over a couple of years. However, there was stress all around at that time in my life. My husband’s job changed, making him unhappy. It seemed like we were working harder and harder and making less money. I think just about everyone felt that way during that time, but as a married couple who both worked on commission, it was a BAD TIME.

I started feeling terrible. I have had issues with my shoulders ever since I worked my ass off in restaurants and bars, but this was all over my body. The exhaustion was horrible. The foggy mind and the unpredictable symptoms made working a serious hell on earth. It made LIVING a serious hell on earth. All along, I looked fine. That’s what everyone told me. My weight ballooned due to medications for what they diagnosed as fibromyalgia, and from the emotional eating I reverted to when I had no other way to cope with what was happening to me. I’d never learned healthy coping skills. It was food or booze for me, and at that time, I turned to both.

In 2012, my husband got a great job out of state and we moved. I didn’t work for a while and I focused on my health. I worked out as much as I could, ate well, and got my weight down from 230 something to 184, and I felt better.  Still, mystery symptoms reared their head. Finally, finally, I got a diagnosis. It’s autoimmune disease. It’s here forever, but it can be managed. My doctor gave me an antidepressant for pain, even though I was not depressed at the time. Turns out, my brain processes antidepressants as depressants. I was sunk into depression, anxiety, and misery like I’d never felt, but was assured that it was the result of a scary diagnosis and the realization my life would never be the same. I tried working part time from 2012-2015 but, honestly, that depression and the wacky medications made it nearly impossible. Steroids, low does chemo, biologics, etc. I felt like a chemical shitstorm and felt worse. We moved back to Arizona, which greatly helped my joint pain, but I was still depressed, and still taking Effexor. If I missed a dose by about 3 hours, Effexor withdrawal happened. It was like nothing I’d ever felt. It’s like you have electric shocks from your brains to your limbs. Still, I didn’t connect my depresseion with Effexor until I had what was basically a manic breakdown and started researching.

happy

 

I weaned myself off of it, so a lot of the cloud of misery disappeared, but it left my life in chaos anyway. I was back up to over 240 lbs at that point, and in a great deal of pain still. What in the hell was I going to do? Plus, I needed to contribute to my family, and as someone who has ALWAYS worked, except for a dismal failure of a stint as a housewife when my husband and I got together, and I needed the mental stimulation.

Then came the back surgeries and the recoveries, and an office job that I really liked, but was constantly taking time off from for doctor’s appointments and pain. It really didn’t pay enough to make a huge difference in our finances either. So. What now?

 

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

Love and Health

-Mitch

Selfish Mitch of the House of Disparity, First of Her Name

“Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”

As I was watching Game of Thrones when it (finally) returned to my TV screen this summer, I was thinking how cool it woulddragon be to have a bunch of titles and someone to walk in front of me to introduce me like the badass I am, like Dany. If I could somehow get her costume budget too, that would be aces.

But as the thought lingered and finally took hold, I realized that I have a LOT of titles. Most women do, if you think of it. I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother of one human and two dogs, a friend, a Realtor, a fashion lover, a selfie aficionado, an inappropriate joke teller, a person with several chronic illnesses, and an online health and fitness coach.

OK, hold up. If you don’t know me, those last two probably struck you as odd. Chronic illness patient and fitness coach? Yep. Stick with me here.

In 2008, I started feeling terrible. I was exhausted, I had major stress, I had severe pain in several areas of my body. I was super stressed out and had no idea how to manage it. I’d recently married my current husband, who was SUCH an upgrade from the last one, made a great career move to the real estate company I work at today, my son was thriving, and I had great friends. Luckily, a sweet benefit of my marriage was health insurance, so I started using it to go see doctors to find out what the fuck was happening with my body. I had so many tests done, and nothing was conclusive. I felt like I just continued to deteriorate, and I was certain the doctors didn’t believe me; that they thought this was all in my head. Finally, I had a doctor diagnose me with fibromyalgia, which I’ve come to discover is often just a long word for, “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with you, but we do believe something is up.” I even got a referral to a Rheumatologist who said, “OK, your bloodwork is low positive for autoimmune disease, but you don’t check enough boxes to be diagnosed with one of them, so we need to wait and see what symptoms develop, and here’s some pills called Lyrica so I hope that works.”

If you’re a doctor who happens to be reading this, DO NOT TELL A PERSON SHE’S GOING TO GET ONE OF 16 TERRIBLE FUCKING DISEASES AND SEND HER TO WEB MD. Also? All of them sound terrible, because they all can be.

So, here I was, just 33 years old with a 9 year old kid, in pain, exhausted, miserable, with what looked like a pretty shitty life sentence. I went back to my old standby, emotional eating. When you combine emotional eating with a drug like Lyrica and a less than ideal genetic predisposition to gaining weight, it’s a perfect recipe for gaining 25 pounds in three weeks. Super. The doctor who prescribed the pills kind of shrugged when I told him they added to the size of my ass and didn’t help any of my pain, but told me to keep taking them and try to lose the weight. He said, “Eat less and move more.” I stopped taking Lyrica, because the side effects were worse than the problem they were supposed to treat. I’m glad I did, since recent research shows that it can kill new brain synapses.

Desperate, I started seeing other doctors. At one point, I saw a chiropractor who is also a naturopath. He’s amazing and put me on a 30 day elimination diet and ran a bunch of tests to see which foods were inflammatory and caused leaky gut syndrome, which he knew irritated every autoimmune and thyroid disorder, plus some other diseases as well. It was HARD. I was a vegetarian at the time, working diligently towards becoming a vegan, having done my own research on food as medicine. Plus, I’ve never liked meat. Dr Kan’s diet consisted of vegetables, fruits, and meat, mostly red meat, preferably organ meat, and lots and lots of supplements. I made a deal that I’d add seafood into my diet, but not meat. He wasn’t happy with me, probably because he knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for the long term. He was right. I did the diet, and his testing showed that I was VERY sensitive to gluten and should avoid it at all costs, and I should limit dairy and soy. Great. I’m a pizza and beer girl at heart, but I stuck to it for a while. Eventually, I’d let myself slip. It didn’t take long for a slip to become an avalanche, and I was able to sort of rationalize it to myself. None of the other doctors told me what to eat! Maybe this guy is a quack. (Spoiler alert: he is not.)

Years went by, and I was diagnosed with Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease. The medications I was on for Lupus and RA, particularly, were nasty. I gained 40 lbs in 6 months on Prednisone. I mean, it’s pretty cool that it kept me alive, but being 80 lbs overweight, as I was at that point, wasn’t great for my joints or my back. All of my doctors said I should lose weight, but nobody recommended a nutritionist, natural or otherwise. I was talked into a spinal fusion surgery that failed and caused more pain than I was in to start with. Then they recommended a spinal cord stimulator that also didn’t help and caused more problems. I’d been on and off of so many medications that my side effects had side effects. Try running a career and a life with all of that going on. It. Sucks. It’s honestly not possible. I even gave up on vegetarianism because it clearly wasn’t working either.

In December of 2016 I had a surgery to revise the spinal cord stimulator. It didn’t “fix” me, but it took my pain levels back to where I was at the time of the failed fusion. I now have the diagnosis of “failed back syndrome.” For several months, a friend of a friend of mine who was an online coach had asking me to join a challenge group. I’m not even sure why I stayed Facebook friends with this tall, thin, pretty, positive human. Honestly, with where I was mentally and physically, the workouts she posted sometimes made me sad that I’d never be able to get fit like that. I turned her down politely many times, but she started promoting a free Whole 30 group beginning in January of 2017. I remembered that Dr. Kan’s elimination diet did, in fact work for me, even though I talked myself out of believing it. This group Katie was running was free. It was just the diet, no burpees or cross jacks. I could do that, right? I had to try.

The first two weeks of eating veggies, lean meats, fruits and nuts were hell. My body did NOT enjoy all that detoxing. Once I got through the hell though, I was pretty amazed and how GOOD I felt. The book said that people with autoimmune issues could take longer to get the full benefit, because of leaky gut syndrome, which IS A THING, so I stayed on it for an additional 60 days. I’d lost over 20 lbs at that point. I was at a stage in my life that I’d hit rock bottom so low with my terrible relationship with food and with myself that I was open and ready for change. Katie had believed in me that I could do this Whole 30, so when she told me that I could buy a 30 Day Challenge Pack from her and join her accountability group full time, staying on track with my eating and doing the low impact exercise routines at home, I chose to believe her. Money back guarantee and all, right? I would be stupid not to try. I started with a country line dancing program for 45 days or so. I’m super uncoordinated but I started getting hooked on those endorphins and how great I felt when I avoided my inflammation trigger foods and took care of my body.

To date, I’ve lost over 60 lbs this year. I became a coach in early summer because I KNOW there are women out there right now who are in a similar mental/or physical health decline. They’re where I was last year. It’s an ugly, lonely, and horrible place, and if I have a way to help someone help themselves out of it, I will. I’ve stumbled a bit emotionally and physically after a Lupus flare knocked me on my ass in September. I’d been busy as hell at work and had some pretty severe stress, which lead to a lack of sleep and me giving myself excuses that I didn’t have time to meal prep, so I started eating more sugar and splurging on gluten too often. It resulted in the Lupus flare. Amazing how it all happened almost like clockwork.

I will tell you that I am PISSED still. I’m so angry that I had to experience almost a decade of straight hell because the traditional doctors and specialists I trusted gave me pills to deal with everything. Obviously I was desperate for ANY kind of relief, so I took them. I took the steroids, the low dose chemo, the pain pills, the $2600a month biologic shots that insurance covered until they didn’t and the antidepressants (even though I wasn’t depressed and nobody bothered to check to see what kind of havoc they could wreak on my brain, that apparently had an underlying chronic illness of its own that came raging on in full force because antidepressants are a trigger). I went through HELL for so long, and it almost cost me everything I care about, and not one of those doctors said, “Hey, why don’t you try eating whole foods, and whole foods only. Eat lean meat that’s grilled or baked, and nothing out of a deep fryer. No processed shit, no grains, no sugar. Just food that grows out of the earth except for grains and legumes. Give that a shot for like a month or so, and then add back in those other foods we all like so much one at a time and see how you feel.

Why don’t they do that? It’s fucking magical when you find the right foods to fill your body and learn which ones make you miserable. Do they not know? One would think that spending 13 years or so in post-secondary training and schooling would somehow cover it. Either the way medical schools, teaching hospitals or clinics, or however specialists like rheumatologists are trained are sorely lacking on information and evidence on how the common American diet keeps us fat, sick and nearly dead, or they’re giant fans of the kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies when they give me drugs that destroy my life. Fun stuff, America. If you’ve never had to see a specialist on a long term basis, consider yourself lucky and take what I’m saying as information from someone who has been through it. I’ve sat for two hours in a waiting room in a great deal of pain while I watch the pharma girls bring in catered lunches for the staff, balancing bags of gluten and fat (lots of bagels in the mornings, Applebees and other garbage in the afternoon) on their stiletto heels that look great with the pencil skirts on their 25 year old perfectly healthy bodies. It happens everywhere.

SO this is why I coach. This is why I care. This is why everything I do seems really incongruent.  Someone has to do it, and why not me?

Gentle Hugs, Selfish Mitch