Tuesday, February 9, 2016

10 Honest Thoughts About Weight-Loss & a Healthier Me

1. Divvy bikes scare me...
I used to ride bikes when I was a kid, but it has been quite a while since I put my butt on any seat smaller than the 5 inches of bus seat I get when I come across some serious man-spreading. I watch people ride without effort and it looks...like fun. I fear not keeping up and the very public nature of riding a bike. When the snow melts and the weather is less than frigid, I will ride a bike again!  

2. Weight-loss = Identity loss 
Being plus-size has been part of my identity for longer than I can remember. Part of me is worried that if I lose the weight...I'll lose part of myself as well. This week I found out that I sized out of Lane Bryant, a store that has been an integral part of my wardrobe since I was in middle school. I left there considering my plus-size persona and I worry that I will be seen as a traitor to my plus-size sisters. 
I remember being with another plus-size friend and seeing a magazine cover of Jennifer Hudson after she lost a great deal of weight. My friend was upset at a plus-size icon crossing over to the "dark side". This friend has since then been working on her own healthy journey and is a great support to me as well. :) 
This journey has made me question, "who am I now?" and the truth is...I'm still me. I'm still Elyssa. That is never going to change, no matter what size I am. My size does not define my identity, I get to define it.  

After finding out that one of my staple stores did not sell my size because I was too small, I was thrilled and then I thought...ummm...where do I go now? I have been shopping at the same stores since I was 13, so where do I go now? I don't have to dive to the bottom of pile anymore or the back of the rack to find my XL or XXL. I bought two medium shirts this week...MEDIUM! I feel like I'm entering a new and strange world. I can guarantee that I will not feel comfortable for a while in some of the new stores that I will be entering. It will feel like enemy territory where only the hats and jewelry fit. But I will try it. I will learn to love new styles and new stores, but one thing won't change...I won't buy items full price.  

4. FOOD.
I love food. Seriously. I love food. It's a relationship that I'm not willing to give up. Food has always been there for me and sometimes I've relied on it too much. Food has been my comfort and my reward. I'm afraid to change this, but I think it is time for me to utilize healthier methods in response to my emotions. When my emotions would dip into sadness or joy, I would want to cope or celebrate with food. So I've decided to have a serious chat with food...

"Food, I'm not breaking up with you but I'm not letting you be the only answer to great joy or great sadness in my life. You will no longer be my best friend or crutch. Thank you for being there when I thought I needed you, but I will find something other than melted cheese or chocolate to quell my despair and when I celebrate...there may be no chair for you. I want to create a healthier relationship with you where I can have a few bits and not need to finish my plate because you are sitting there. I want you to help me on this journey as a friend who is there when I ask. I love being creative with you and I will continue to do so. Food, I'm not breaking up with you...I just want to have a less emotionally fueled relationship and I think we can do that."

5. But what if I Fail  
I am terrified of failure, but more than that I am scared of disappointing those closest to me. But I need to be honest with myself because the truth is that I'm going to fail sometimes. It is going to happen. I'm going to waver in my weight on the scale or not work out for a while. Last week I started using free weights and I felt like a huge failure. My form felt awkward and I kept thinking that the buff men around me were wondering what the fat girl was doing on this side of the gym. I was uncomfortable and I almost started crying. But I took a deep breath, got a pep talk from Derek, and persevered with the rest of my workout. I could have stopped right there and truth be told at moments like this in my life, I have stopped due to fear. But I am not going to let fear stop me anymore. I have been scared to start because I was afraid of failure. Not this time. 

6. My Future 
I think about a future that I want and it's filled with a big family. I don't want my weight to be a danger to a future pregnancy or lead to other health problems. I want to keep up with my kids, but more than that I want to be an example. You know, sometimes I feel like an old lady when I play canasta or go to bed before 9:30, but I want to actually be an old lady with lots of family surrounding me and nothing holding me back. 

7. Freddie...I don't want that pressure pushing down on me either
One of the reasons I've stayed away from weight loss is because I've worried about the pressure to succeed. I've lived with the pressure to achieve from a very young age and a lot of it has stemmed from...myself. I put pressure on myself to "be" something, be the best or be perfect. But what if I look in the mirror and instead of pressuring myself....I simply support myself?

8. You're so Vain
I have a fear that I will become incredibly vain and instead of recognizing what I am doing...I will simply think that it's not enough. I'm afraid that my vanity will rear it's ugly head and humility will feel like a mile away. Vanity is part of this and I will not deny that. My health is #1 in this life change, but I like fitting into my clothes in a new way. I like the way I look...no I love the way I look. 

9. Zombies...it could happen
I do not want to be collateral damage. I want to be able to run away...quickly. 

10. Integrity 
Throughout this whole process I want to remain true to who I am and why I am doing this. 
I am changing my lifestyle to create a space for my health to take priority. This is what I am trying to do with this challenge. I am #runningwithoutmyglasses because I don't really know where I'm going. I can see enough so I don't run in to a tree, but I don't know what the details look like because I've never been here before. I don't know what this challenge will bring, but I'm so happy to be starting it in the first place.

I'm #runningwithoutmyglasses and I'm ready for the next mile. 

If you want to read and see more pictures from this journey #runningwihtoutmyglasses, follow me on Instagram at esalinas13

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Running Without My Glasses

Ever since I was a little girl I knew that I was bigger than the other kids. I was taller (for a brief time) than most of the kids in my grade, heavier than my close girlfriends, and my boobs popped up overnight in the form of a B cup. There wasn't a lot of bullying or shame, but it was something I knew nonetheless. I also knew that I couldn't (and still can't) run a mile and stairs make me winded. My emotional crutch has been food and for years I thought my true love was cheese. About a year and a half ago I was 1lb from my scary weight that I never wanted to reach. It took me a year, a career change, a move, and one big breakdown last summer to realize that I wanted something to change. ME. 

So here I am 26 and I have finally decided to take steps to becoming healthier. I joined a gym in May...but it took until August to go without my gym buddy (my now fiance). I've been learning how to cook alongside tracking what I put in my body. I'm currently at my lowest weight since I was 16 and at this point I'm ready to share this with you. 

When I started this journey I didn't talk about it much because I didn't want anyone to know if I failed. I had thought about being healthier for years and I would dip my toe in different fads, but nothing that I would actually stick to. Finally I found a support system and the confidence to reach a goal of being healthier. 

This is not the decision to go on a diet or do some fast-track weight-loss. This is not about doing something trendy or starting then stopping. This is about a life style change that I will be able to sustain and loving myself enough to try. 

Here I will share challenges and triumphs throughout this process. I will cultivate tools to sustain my health in the future. At this moment I am focusing on weight-loss, but I also believe that being healthy is about each and every aspect of my life, which is also why I am committing to write about this journey. My writing has been on hiatus and my creativity has been hungry, so there will be more blogs to come...and maybe even some poetry. :) 

This month my challenge is to learn how to run and I am calling it "Running Without My Glasses". Alongside a weekly blog post I will also be doing a daily Instagram post with the hashtag #runningwithoutmyglasses that will provide a chronicle of my daily choices. I do not want to train for a race, but to simply learn how to run for 30 minutes without stopping. Here is my schedule:

I started last night and I felt invigorated. My Spice Girls Pandora was on point and afterwards I did a set of lunges with my ab routine.       
 This was me coming home last night:

Stairs were rough...but I'm glad that I started. Today is a writing day and rest day from the schedule.

 Well...my coffee is just about done and so am I for this morning. Until next week, I'll keep running without my glasses. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Need a Little Help Making the Coffee

Dear Friends,

There is a new project that I am working on and I need YOUR help. I am beginning to craft my first book of poetry! The words of poetry have been part of my life since before I can remember. My first memory of poetry is actually spoken word by none other than the supreme Maya Angelou. I was seven years old and for my birthday that year, my grandma took me to see her live. We sat in the front row with my feet dangling from the chair in awesome wonder of this incredible poet. Thinking back to that moment, I can't remember what she said, but I do know that I went home and wrote my first poem. It was about a puddle.

The subject matter of my poetry has moved beyond the weather, but it hasn't changed from what I observe each day. My poetry has shifted and changed, as I have discovered who I am as a woman and a poet. I want to continue to challenge myself with my writing and so I have decided to tackle my first book of poetry. This book will couple my love for biblical stories and spotlighting the voices of women! This book will have poems where I imagine the voices of biblical women in telling their own stories. I will base these pieces on research from the Bible, commentary from biblical scholars, and my own imagination.

I need help from YOU in choosing the women that I will spotlight in this book. Think about biblical stories of women that move you, stories that made you think, made you feel and write your top three biblical women in the comments below. I cannot promise that every woman will get into the book, but I would truly appreciate your help in compiling the voices of this book. Below I have added the two poems that sparked this idea. Thank you so much for your help!

As a slave no one asks you anything
I don’t remember the last time I was asked a question.

No asks if your feet burn
Running across blazing sand
To fetch water at the hottest part of the day,

No one is curious about how your back aches
As you rearrange skins on the tent floor,

No one wonders if your arms tire
After beating out stains from
Everyone’s clothes but your own.

And no one would ever consider to ask you
If you wanted to be taken to an old man’s tent
The smell of stale wine assaulting your senses,

No one asked if it was alright for him
To lay you on your back
Pull up your skirts &
Plunge himself into the last place that was yours

No one wondered whether a mistress should beat a pregnant woman
Assaulting the body she put in her husband’s bed
Marking a swelling belly with bruises.

No one asks if you want to get off your feet
After you can’t even seen them
Because there is a body you never asked for inside of you.

No one is curious about your comfort
When it is not your child that you drive out
Into the arms of a midwife that does not know your name.

And no one asks you if you want to hold the child
Still attached to you by a thick cord
When your mistress is there to cut it.

No one is curious if you are happy with a child
You didn’t ask for…
But for the first time it doesn’t matter
Because he has your strong hands.

But it shouldn’t come as a surprise
That in the midst of a smile
While your mistress’ belly grows

A man you met once in a tent
Would never ask you if you wanted to leave
He wouldn’t ask you if you wanted time to prepare,
There would simply be a hand pointed away &
A trudge to take with a boy who was getting to heavy to carry.

No one wonders if you make it
With a boy who is too hot and hungry
For something you don’t have.

No one is curious if it is difficult to watch
As the strong hands that grew inside of you
Become weaker
While the screams get stronger.

And no one asks if a miracle of water
Changes the past or
Makes the nightmares go away.

As a slave no one asks you anything,
But God, You asked me one question
A long time ago
And to tell the truth
That makes a difference to me.

Written by: Elyssa J. Salinas
March 21, 2015

My brothers never talk to me & sometimes I wonder if my father knows my name.
But one man knew my name.                                                                  
He asked me for a walk &
Asked me to his bed.

All night he repeated Dinah &
With my name still dripping off his palate,
I kissed his lips that tasted like curiosity.

I am a voiceless void in my family
Where my abomination lies in my body
And the only salvation has been taken from me,

By brothers who never talk to me
Afraid that I would produce impurity
Without their watchful eyes.

When my father told them,
About the man who wanted my hand
I wonder if he could even remember my name.

My body is accustomed to being in the hands of men.
But holding a dying man in my arms
Made me see my own death;

My womb will lay barren
Because of zealous brothers &
A cowardly father.

My arms will never hold a child
Looking to her face &
Seeing my own.

My lips will never call out
A name that I chose
A name that I would never forget.

Well my name is Dinah, father
And I have something to say, dear brothers

You should have killed me too,
Because I am already dead.

Written by: Elyssa J. Salinas 
March 22, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This Coffeepot Stays

Fear is a lot stronger than I ever expected. Fear is what has kept me from writing. Fear has kept me from living. And it is fear that keeps coming back for me. I wrote over a year ago how I have been afraid, but I felt that with a lot less hair, I was able to beat fear. I was wrong.

I'm sitting at my desk with a box of tissues because I'm afraid of being honest. I'm afraid that the guy across the courtyard will seeing me crying as he waters his plants. I'm afraid of going to bed tonight and not saying a word about how much I cried today. I cried today because I'm afraid. I cried and I feel absolutely ridiculous. Because I'm so afraid of staying put.

Life is terrifying when things are going wrong and you're hoping for something to stop you from running. Then finally you stop running. You start to get your feet on the ground for more than a moment. Life is slowing down and you are walking at your own pace, toward the life you hoped for all along. One foot is placed in front of the other; one step at a time. Then before you know it, life allows you to stop. Stop and catch an acceptance letter, a partner who falls in love with you, a scholarship, a job, an apartment, and opportunity. Life is happening and this morning I woke up waiting to pack and run again. I've been waking up, waiting for something to be wrong and some reason to move again.

I've spent all of my, (albeit short) adult life in constant transition. There are moving boxes that I haven't throw away for seven years because they are already labeled for my next move. My boxes are ready for the next place I have to call home. Home sweet home...out of necessity. There are some treasures that I have not unpacked since high school because I didn't have the room, or I couldn't bear glancing at them before putting them back in a box. Now I'm sitting at a desk where my permanent change of address form is sitting next to me. It's there with mail sent to this address, because this is where I live now. This is where I live and I get to stay here more than nine months. I live in an apartment without a set move out date that I know the moment I walk in. I've unpacked...everything. I have taken everything out of tissue paper and there have been lots of broken-down cardboard in the recycling bin out back. I've unpacked, but I've had a feeling that I was holding something and not taking it out of the box. There is something I've kept wrapped up and it is my truth. And truth is...that I don't really know how to unpack.

Some people have wanderlust and there bags are packed because it fuels them. It's not wandering for them, but adventure. I am not that person, but I've grown accustomed to living in temporary spaces that I never truly own. My movements have been decided by a paycheck or a grade report. Along the way, I've met some of my best friends and I never want to change that; they helped me discover adventure every step of the way. But now, I have a new adventure and it requires me to stay put.

I have plants now. Herb plants that sit on the windowsill. I water them everyday. I haven't had plants in years because I knew that I couldn't keep them. I knew that I would be moving before too long. Now I get to have them because I'm not going anywhere. Is this what putting down roots feels like? Plants on a windowsill? It's so simple and so important. I get to see my Dad on Father's Day and I'm going to get to give my Mom her birthday present in person. Because I'm home. I live here. I'm not going anywhere. And that is scarier than I thought.

Transition has been my routine. I would never get too comfortable and never put pictures in frames because they take up too much room in a box. I'm transitioning to a life with stability, a life I've been wanting and I'm scared. Again. I'm afraid to get comfortable. I'm afraid to unpack everything. I'm afraid of throwing away the box for my dishes that sits above the refrigerator because it's the perfect size to fit them all in. It's perfect for a move, but I'm not going anywhere.

I make coffee every morning and pour two cups. I keep the coffee grounds in a mason jar with a 2 tablespoon to scoop into the grinder. I do it the same way every morning. It's a real routine that I don't have to think about changing because I'm staying put. Is that unpacking? I don't know if it is, but for now I'll keep my routine. I'll keep making coffee in the morning. I'll keep unpacking...because I'm finally learning how to settle in. I'm finally home.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coffee to Go, Please

When someone asks where I'm from I always have to consider where I am first...

In Chicago I never say that I'm from Chicago, because then I would get twenty questions asking about which neighborhood I live in when the truth is that I do not live within city limits and would therefore be yelled at for the grave Chicago-sin I have committed.
In Philadelphia I say I'm from Chicago and I get big eyes asking why I moved and why I didn't stay at home to continue seminary where it would be convenient?
In California I say I'm from Chicago, but then someone asks about my flight and I tell them that I flew from Philadelphia because I go to school there...to which I get more big eyes, some more confusion and a "wow" reaction which I still don't know how to respond to.

Traveling has always been a dream of mine and not only visiting places, but living in them and learning about the reality of life in new places I would never dream of going. This has actually been my life for the past five years. I decided for a summer job to forego working somewhere close to home and decided to fly halfway across the country to work at a camp nestled in the Redwoods. Then for seminary I decided that I wanted to try out the East Coast and try my next adventure in Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Devotion.

These decisions have changed my life and I would definitely do them over again. I would never give up these places and these people. I had a professor once give me some advice in college when I was considering the job in California and she told me that she believes every Midwestern girl should really live on both of the coasts. It is vital to get out and see what the rest of the country has in store...and I did. Yet there is one part of this that no one told me about...heartbreak.

As I move from place to place and continue on my journey I meet incredible people. I have met people who have changed my life forever. Due to my travels I have people in my life that I don't know how I ever lived without. Yet the problem is that at some point I always have to say goodbye. No one warns you with traveling like this there is heartbreak because you never know when or if you will see someone again. There is always an expiration date on spending time together and then you are gone.

There is always a countdown to leaving which I never get used to. Getting excited about a new place is a double edged sword because sometimes getting excited can seem like I am happy to leave, which is not the case. I cherish the time I spend in each one of my homes and I try my best to live where I am and be present with the people around me while keeping in touch with those in other places.

Winnie the Pooh tells Christopher Robin, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” (A.A. Milne) The truth is that hard goodbyes, as heartbreaking as they are and as difficult as they feel are truly some of the biggest blessings that we have. Difficult goodbyes happen because there was something or someone who touched our lives and have forever changed us. Maybe the heartbreak from this type of traveling is felt because the heart must grow to reach those faraway places...or maybe a piece of heart stays as our feet move on. 

I hope as my life continues and my journey moves forward that pieces of my heart are scattered throughout the world and that my heart becomes a patchwork of those incredible people who have forever touched my life. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shave Off the Foam

Fear is a place that I know too well. I am afraid all the time of reality, my future, deep water and so much more. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day when we as Christians remember that we are sinners and death is a reality for each of us. It is a time of coming together as a community in knowledge that we are frail human beings.

I have been afraid for so long, I didn't think that I knew anything else. I didn't realize until yesterday that so much of my fear was tied up in my hair...so I shaved it.

When my hair changed from straight to curly at puberty I found that I didn't understand how to deal with this strange new hair. I spent years finding products, asking questions and looking frizzy. Yet what also came with the curly hair was for me, a physical distinction that I was Mexican. My mother's family didn't have curly hair, so this was definitely from my father's side. In my mind, that was what made me Mexican...my hair. This identity piece was crucial because when I didn't want to be seen as Mexican I would straighten it. I would straighten the frizzy curls that I didn't want to embrace and I was envious of my friends who had beautifully straight hair. Then when I was finally living into my heritage I put the straighten down and turned off the blow dryer and my curls were a statement. Curly hair was a liberation and a statement of freedom; freedom from a long relationship, freedom from fitting in and the freedom to be naturally me. I have poems that I wrote about my hair, in one line or another. My identity was completely caught up in my curls.

Another aspect of my fear is in the fact that for a long time now my hair has been thinning. No longer was my hair thick, but now I had to deal with being in my twenties with visibly thinning hair. I had no one to go to who had gone through this and it was so terrifying that I barely talked about it myself. When one of my family members would say something I would stop them and even start crying. It was as if my hair was rebelling against me and I didn't know why or how to stop it. (Since then I have been to a doctor to see what is happening with my thinning hair.)

I have visibly thinning hair at the age of 24. As I began to really acknowledge this about myself, more fear was creeping into my mind. I was afraid that no man would want to be with me because my hair was thinning and that I should just accept a life alone. I was afraid that I would no longer feel beautiful or be beautiful. I was afraid of bright light in pictures because it was easier to see. I was afraid of certain angles that would show my lack of hair. I was so afraid that my femininity would be questioned. I was so afraid that I would no longer be E.

When I was considering how to deal with this (cosmetically) I began to consider options like locks, short hair, hats and then I began to think about shaving my hair.

I barely talked about my fear with my hair and so when I would open up my mouth about it, I would either cry or try to laugh about it. In both instances I would say "I could just shave it off" and it was either seen as a joke or part of a fit of hysterics. Yet part of me wanted to be serious about shaving my hair off. Then yesterday a friend of mind came into chapel with a Mohawk and said she was going to shave the rest of her head later because she didn't like it. When I saw her I said, "maybe I should shave mine." It was a statement I had in my heart and head for a long time, but saying it aloud without laughing or crying was to terrifying. I was supported by friends and took the day to consider it. I called my mother and found that after the shock passed I would be supported by my family and getting rid of my hair would not change how much I am loved.

Now I sit here in the morning light with a shaved head and I couldn't be happier. I finally decided to shave my hair off because I wanted freedom from my fear. I am in a place where I know my Mexican identity does not reside in my hair, it is who I am in my heart and in my blood. I decided that I didn't want to live in fear of thinning hair, so instead of being afraid I decided to claim that fear. Embrace the fear and free myself from it. In shaving my hair I have embraced my fear and been liberated from it! I was reminded in chapel yesterday when the ashes were touched to my forehead that I am a beloved child of God and that no matter what I fear Christ holds me in his crucified hands and says, "You are mine."

I am still afraid of many things, what my future holds, open water, the dark and of disappointing those who I love the most. Some of this fear has been lifted from my shoulders with my hair because no matter what I remember that I am loved by Christ and I am shown that love in the faces of my friends and family who support me, stand next to me and even take the clippers in their hands as they help me shave my way to a new freedom.

This post is dedicated to them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Half & Half or Skim for your Coffee?

I'm having one of those...days. Those days that I don't like to talk about, those days that I like to pretend don't exist. 
A fat day. 
The type of day that every pair of pants I put on feels tight and I hate how huge my butt looks in them when only yesterday I wore red pants, feeling proud of what follows behind me. Every shirt I put on shows off rolls and even my cleavage doesn't look good. I imagine other outfits that I could hide in and wear like armor to shield me from my own eyes in the mirror. 
Usually on days like this I try on other outfits and spend time in the mirror criticizing myself, hearing the names that I haven't heard in years, but names that I hear in my own voice now...on days like today. I hear my voice saying the messages I find in magazines, movies, music and plastered all over my world. The messages that tell me that being plus size requires not only special stores, but special people who will look past my body and see me for who I really am. 
What does that mean? 
I've always wondered why I have been told that I will need to find someone who will have to come to terms with my body or if I get lucky I could find a "chubby chaser". There is a category of men that I have been given, a specific set that I have to find and put myself in their line of vision. Moving past romantic relationships, I also have to find certain friends that will accept my body. Either other friends who look like me, who understand what it means to be a plus size girl. Or acknowledging (as the media reminds me) that if I am will friends who are smaller than me, I will not be the pretty girl in the group. I will will be the funny fat girl in the group. Also when moving in for those facebook pictures, making sure it is only of our faces so the differences in body types won't be so pronounced. When a free drink comes to the table automatically assuming it is not for me. 
I have been told with and without words that my body is only suitable for those specific stores, fashion trends that have been altered for my size, comedic relief or a sassy attitude for tv and only relationships where my partner has to be "special". It is this train of thought that gives me days like today, where I stop having to hear or see the negative messages outside of my room and it becomes so embedded that I can say it to myself without batting an eye. 
I look in the mirror and don't see me, only the fat girl who shouldn't wear that color because it attracts attention, who shouldn't wear those pants because they show what her legs look like, who shouldn't believe her boyfriend who calls her gorgeous and who definitely shouldn't call herself beautiful. 
I am writing this post today because I have decided to confront my "fat days." Today I did not allow myself to try on any new outfits and end up in a hoodie and baggy pants. Today I did not spend time in the mirror criticizing myself, I left the mirror after the word "fat" escaped my lips. Today I did not quietly let this day happen to me without anyone knowing as I shame my own body. 
Today I say it out loud: I feel fat today. 
The truth is I am never going to feel beautiful everyday. I will have days like today, but the difference now is that they won't quietly happen to me. From today I will fight back. I will not allow my own voice to shame my body without trying to remind myself that I am not fat. 
That I am worthy of love. 
That I am a size 16. 
That I am more than a nice personality. 
That I will wear tight pants. 
That I will wear bright colors. 
That I do not have to change. 

That I am beautiful.