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The Fat Blog.

This blog is about four years in the making.  It’s been spinning around in my head forever… sentences and paragraphs have been written over and over in my head… so it feels kind of surreal to sit down and actually embark on writing this blog.  I only hope I can get my thoughts, feelings and perceptions out with satisfactory amounts of academic eloquence and appropriate amounts of humor.

So here it is, The Fat Blog.


I hate to admit it, but one of my biggest fears is being fat.

I know, I know… I’m not really allowed to say that.  All bodies are beautiful and wonderful and it’s incredibly vain and not politically correct for me to say that as my number one fear.  But there it is.

Fortunately, despite my genetic predisposition to low metabolism, unhealthy food choices and a sedimentary lifestyle, I’ve made it my (almost) thirty years without being ‘fat’.  At least not according to American standards.

I remember the first time the ‘fear’ of being fat crept into my mind.  I was around 8 years old and my mom was on a phone call with one of her cousins. I was supposed to be in my bed sound asleep, though instead, I was sitting on the floor by my bedroom door eavesdropping on the conversation, hoping to score some juicy family gossip.  Unfortunately, instead of hearing some drama about my great aunt’s live in boyfriend or my other cousin’s next money making scheme, I heard my mom say,

“Samara’s really starting to get fat.”

That’s it.  That one sentence.  Of course, my mom didn’t know I was listening… and probably still didn’t know I heard that until she read this blog.  But that one sentence entered my psyche and changed the way I viewed my little 8 year old body.

I don’t think I ever even thought about being fat before that.  I mean, yes, my family members were mostly plump people, but that never really mattered to me.. they were my world.  They were the coolest, funniest, most interesting people around me.  Sure, I knew they were fat, but what did that have to do with anything?  As far as I can remember, it was that one sentence.. that one sentence that I was never intended to hear, that turned ‘fat’ into fat. That turned being fat as something shameful, undesirable, ugly.

And at that point, I became ashamed.  I began to believe that I was fat and being fat was shameful.

This twisted body image stayed with my for the majority of my life.  I started dieting as early as I could and was always ashamed of the makeup of my Palestinian/Italian genes.

I have a distinct memory of weighing myself in the 8th grade and hitting 101 lbs for the first time.  I was in my soon-to-be stepdad’s apartment bathroom and I cried.

But, again, I was never actually overweight.  Looking back at pictures of myself from middle school and high school, I feel brokenhearted for that little girl, who was so petite, so perfectly beautiful and yet hated her body so much.

Freshman year of college, with it’s excessive drinking and drug use, pressures of school and social life and the death of my great grandma, ushered in the freshman 20.  You can imagine how I handled that…

not well.

Coming home for winter break my friends and family could tell I had put on that weight and without trying to be too obvious… made it clear that they could tell.  Soooo… when I went back for second semester I started a new diet. The slim fast shake and a nutrigrain bar a day diet and… successfully lost that twenty pounds.

My college friends praised me for how good I was looking as the weight came off and I vividly remember thinking that my friends were idiots because I was literally starving myself but all they noticed was how my jeans fit.

But hey… starving was better than being fat.. was it not?

Happily, I can say, that once I reached my goal weight I started eating in a more balanced way and have never drank another slim fast smoothie again. I was able to maintain a very normal, healthy weight throughout the rest of college.  (Though, I never stopped believing I was fat.)

Flash forward to the World Race.

In 2010 I embarked on the wonderful World Race experience.  The World Race, not to be confused with the Amazing Race, is an 11 month ‘missions trip’ around the world.  You spend about a month in 11 different countries doing various service projects with a random group of individuals just about as crazy as you.

One thing the World Race experts told us before we left was that if we’re not careful we will all gain weight (men excluded… the men, they said would lose all their weight… ).  They encouraged us to get in the habit of exercising and making our physical health a priority regardless of the country we were in or the circumstances we were living in.

Right.

Well, the experts were right and we ignored their advice.  The women on my squad, with very few exceptions, all gained at least 10 lbs over the year.  I came home a whopping 25 lbs heavier than I was before.

I attribute that weight gain to an unsteady diet of ever changing carbs, feeling entitled to ice cream or Western candy whenever it was available and then a bout of depression that only got harder to deal with every pound I put on.

Coming home after the World Race was no walk in the park for me.  I could and probably should devote a blog to telling that story, but that is for a different time.  Coming home from the World Race, I was fat.  Beginning at 8 years old, I had always felt fat, but in 2011, for the first time, my BMI actually told me that I was ‘obese’.

Fortunately I had a distaste for slim fast and therefore, instead of going back to my tried and true starvation diet, I turned to something much healthier to try to get the weight off. I miraculously trained for and ran my first half marathon.  and I lost not. a. single. pound.

Then I moved to Thailand.


I recently wrote a sort of ‘tongue and cheek’ blog about adapting to Thai culture.  The things I mentioned were all very surface level, superficial cultural things that make for easy reading and light chuckles.  The reality of cultural adaptation is a lot less funny.

Cultural adaptation is a bitch. (sorry).

While I have done, in my opinion, an extraordinary job adjusting to the new society that has become my home, there are certain things that I have yet to understand or be okay with.

One being the ‘news, weather, sports’ type talk about people’s appearances–to their face. Upon greeting a Thai person, you should expect to receive some sort of comment about your physical appearance.  Apparently these comments, regardless to how we, Americans, understand them, are completely matter of fact and are in no way personal.

That being said, a couple of the first words I learned in Thai were: อ้วน (fat) and ก้นไหญ่ (big butt).  I learned these words so quickly due to how often I was greeted with them.

Samara: Hello

Thai Person: Hi.  You are fat.

Samara: :(:(:( dies a little inside.

I also learned very early on that here, in the Land of Smiles, I am not สวย (beautiful), but rather น่ารัก (cute) because the word for beautiful is reserved for people who are not fat like me.

Welcome to Thailand.

Let’s just say that wasn’t easy for me.  A person with an already corrupted since of self worth and body image being called ‘fat’ to her face on a regular basis does not a merry person make.

By God’s good grace (and I mean that so sincerely) I realized that as much as I hated people talking to me in this way… I could not change the culture.  And if I didn’t stop being hurt every time someone called me fat or let me know about my big butt, I would quite literally die. I decided that I had to be the one who changed.

At first, I thought that I had to be the one who changed in the more physical light.

I needed to loose weight.

So I became much more active than I had ever been previously in my life.  I don’t know how many times I have completed Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred or how many of stupid Shawn T’s Insanity videos I’ve done… and I trained for an ran another half marathon…

Though try as I might, I could barely get the scale to move.  (I lost about 6 lbs amid all of this.)

No, loosing weight to appease Thai beauty standards was not the kind of change that needed to take place. I needed to, once and for all, get over my fear of being fat.  I needed, for the first time in my conscious life to be okay with my body.  I needed to be able to be called fat (everyday, to my face) and not be affected by it.

Well, how the hell does one do that? (sorry again).

I wish I had a straight forward answer to give you.  But, the reality is, that for the first time in my life I got really honest with God about my skewed body image.  I got honest about the hatred I felt towards my body and I asked Him for help.  I wrote down all my perverted belief systems about beauty standards and bodily ideals and asked God to show me what He thought. I asked Him to change my mind.

Within this process, I realized that I had corrupted the word ‘fat’ in my mind.  I changed the definition of ‘fat’ making it mean: ugly, worthless, unloveable, gross, lazy, pitiful, shameful.

I had to ask God to redefine this word that was constantly being used to describe me.

It was not a quick or painless process.  I cried. A lot.  I had to continuously take the words from my peers and give them to God.  I had to continuously pray to be washed from people’s comments about my appearance.  I had to continuously forgive and ask for help forgiving.

Eventually, though, through the combination of my new and active lifestyle and lots of vulnerability with the Lord, I began to accept myself.  I began to believe that not only was I not fat, even if I were, ‘fat’ does not mean I am those ugly words I used to associate with it. I slowly began to love my overweight self.


Despite about three years of trying to tell my Thai friends to not comment on my physical appearance, the comments have not stopped.

While I was still at my highest ever weight, I would try all sorts of tactics to explain how hurtful their comments were to me.  I would use vulnerability, sarcasm, humor and/or straight up bluntness… but the comments never subsided.  However, the pain that used to accompany the comments disappeared and I was able to just be annoyed with the culture that I didn’t understand rather than allow the comment to chip away at my self worth.

Over the last nine months the extra weight I had been carrying since the World Race has disappeared and I’m back to the weight and body shape that I had been before.

The funny thing is, the extra weight didn’t go away until it no longer matter to me if it did.  I finally became okay with my new shape and just accepted myself as I was.

Now that I’m back to what was my previous ‘normal’ I wish I could say that the comments about my body have stopped.

Unfortunately they have not.  They have just taken on a new form.  Instead of ‘you’re fat’ I am told, ‘wow, you are so much more beautiful now that you’ve lost weight’ or ‘you look hungry’ or, my personal favorite, ‘if you loose anymore weight, you won’t be beautiful anymore.’

Basically… I just can’t win.

I try to not get too annoyed when I hear these comments.  I typically reply with something corny along the lines of ‘thanks, but beauty has nothing to do with my weight’ or ‘thanks but I was always beautiful’ or ‘beauty is in the heart’.  Honestly, it’s almost become a game to me.


I am not able to change Thai culture.  Thank you Jesus, that that is not my responsibility. That’s a daunting task.  But… perhaps, just maybe, I am able to help people change the way they see themselves.

The reality is that we will never live up to the world’s beauty standards.  As soon as we achieve one standard, there is a new one that needs to be met.  As soon as your weight is acceptable your eyebrows won’t be… and if your eyebrows are fine… you better focus on your frizzy hair… it’s an endless cycle.

Being honest, I’m really happy to be back to my normal weight.  I like dressing up and putting on makeup, I like doing things that make me feel beautiful, but at the end of the day, as cheesy and corny and trite as it is, my beauty has absolutely nothing to do with any of that. The scale does not measure my self worth. (and if it did… shouldn’t it be the heavier you are the more worth you have?!?!?)

I am beautiful because God made me so. I was made in his image–big butt, thick calves, frizzy hair and all.

I’m not a mommy, but I am a teacher and a big sister.  I want to live in such a way that my fight to love myself may cover the young people in my life.  I want them to be able to glean from my victory.  I want them to see me love myself amid my imperfections and an ‘non-ideal’ figure. I want them to carry every ounce of self worth and self respect that I have had to battle for.

No, I can’t change Thai culture, but I can set an example for the young women and heck, even the young men, in my life and perhaps their battle won’t be as long or as hard.

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Toes Update. Week 2.

A quick update:

I’m doing really well!  Two weeks after the toes were broken I am walking everywhere without my crutches and just a slight limp.  I still can not put all my weight on my foot nor, can I walk at the speed of my peers, but I am doing incredibly well.

 

As for the swelling–it has gone way, way down.  I still get swollen after a day of being on my feet and lots of walking, (today–I had to put a lot of weight on my foot while driving the motorbike…that wasn’t pleasant…and I’m very swollen right now….) but for the most part, the problem that once was, is no longer.

 

I’m doing incredibly well.

And I’m claiming a miracle.

Aaaaand, the fear that I once had of driving my motorbike has completely subsided.  Which is another miracle in and of itself.  [Who knew it would take me breaking my toes in order to get on that that.  Unfortunately, I do have this habit of dropping the bike once I’m parked.  But, I’m practicing not doing that.]

In other news, we are in a season of major transition.   May marks the end of hot season and the beginning of rainy season.  With the rain comes the beginning of the school year and the return of Mark and Mai.  AND!  May also brings my quick journey back to America!

I feel like each of those topics is a blog in and of itself, but they are blogs for a different day.

In the meantime thank you for your continued prayer.  I’m asking Papa God for complete, 100% healing before I teach, which would be this coming Wednesday.

Thank you for your prayers and love.

 

Oh, and I’m putting my haircut to a vote.  This is the picture I would show the hairstylist:

(oh Amelie. you are so lovely.)

(oh Amelie. you are so lovely.)

I keep flip-flopping.  I make a certain decision and then change my mind.

The haircut would happen after my trip to America at the end of this month and I am going to let my class vote on it as well……your vote counts!

What do you think?

 

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The Toes. Week 1 Update.

Yesterday I went to the hospital to take x-rays and determine how well my toes are (or are not) healing.

Screen Shot 2013-05-04 at 11.32.23 AM

my toes got some loving from back home. two packages on the same day!

I was very much looking forward to this appointment for a couple of reasons.

  1. Dim, my Thai ‘grandma’ was taking me.  She has yet to encounter Jesus, though she has been asking a lot of questions.  I thought that this would be the PERFECT time for a healing miracle.  We’d get the x-rays, the fracture would be supernaturally healed in a week and I would get to share the goodness of Jesus!
  2. As a result of the fracture (and perhaps the heat) my body –the entire thing– has been swollen.  constantly.  like every minute of life. and so I wanted to ask some questions about that….
  3. When I’m at the hospital I get the pleasure of being pushed around in a wheel chair by strapping, young Thai men.

After all was said and done the hospital visit was much different than my imagination had played it out…

My time with the Doctor was very short.   He showed me the three x-rays and told me that he couldn’t see the fracture due to how swollen my foot was.  He told me that that my body is soooo swollen because the medicine he gave me last week was high in sodium, so I was retaining a lot of water. He also told me that there was nothing that he could do for me and I just need to take care of myself and probably STOP using my crutches as regularly (?).  He then made me an appointment for a month later and sent me on my way.

 

At first, I was pretty discouraged.

What?  No CRAZY change in the x-ray that led to revival in the hospital?  No HUGE change in my situation…  Whhhaaaaat?

 

and I may have had a bit of an attitude for a couple of hours.  (not going to lie, this stupid situation has been very trying on me and has forced me to exercise James 1:2-4*, even when I really, really don’t want to.)

 

But then I started thinking differently.

After praying for new eyes…situations started to take on a new light…

  • the Doctor couldn’t see a fracture on my x-ray and my foot was no more swollen than it was when I first came in.
  • as I have stopped taking the medicine he gave me last week, the swelling has almost 100% subsided.
  • since my doctor encouraged me to not use my crutches as regularly, I have been walking (though very hobbly) much more often with very little pain.
  • today, for the first time since the injury, I did a ‘chair workout’ which involved a lot of picking up of my legs and finished it still not swollen.  granted, it wasn’t the type of workouts I was doing before the injury, but I was able to exercise one week post breaking my toes!
  • if everything would have happened as according to my imagination–I wouldn’t have had as much time being pushed around in the wheel chair.

Pretty sure God healed my fracture…

There may be a couple days of relearning how to properly use my foot, and it may take some time for the bruising to go down and there may be a few more days of resting and elevating and icing ahead of me, but my foot is healed.

 

While I was still working through attitude issues and bouts of depression on my ride home from the hospital I was able to talk to Dim about Jesus.  Dim was worried that due to my foot injury I wouldn’t be able to go to the States at the end of May [shout out to Julie!]; I explained that God is healing me and that I will be perfectly fine.  Dim did not understand how I have money to pay for the hospital bills because the School of Promise isn’t paying me a salary; I was able to explain that I chose to move to Thailand to tell people about God and my friends and family back home believe in this mission and therefore help me live here by sending me money [shout out to my supporters!!].  Dim doesn’t understand why the Lorensen’s and I choose to take care of Mark and Mai, I got to explain that God loves all of His children and has given us the opportunity to take care of them and that it’s our pleasure.

Upon reflection, I was sharing the Gospel with Dim all day…even though there wasn’t the CRAZY MIRACLE I was hoping for.  I was sharing the Gospel  through explaining day-to-day things in my life like prayer, missions and loving the least of these.

 

Perhaps this silly situation with my foot has really been a blessing.  It’s been a lesson in contentment, in joy, in having Kingdom eyes, in facing fears (I am no longer afraid of the motorbike, as I have been successfully driving it to school with my crutches and broken toes…) and in sharing the Gospel.

Perhaps God is working miracles everyday, all around us and as we get over our bouts of self-pity and judgement our vision is made clearer and we are able to see glimpses of what He’s doing.

All that said–Thank You Jesus for your kindness, your patience and your faithfulness to us who though we’re clumsy in our relationship with You, You break through, into our world, as soon as we tilt our focus back to You!  Thank You for being faithful and trustworthy and so ready to heal!

xo

 

 

 **Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

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