Book Review: MeaningFULL by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer

I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I opened the pages of MeaningFULL by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer, but the fact that it contains life-changing stories of conquering dieting, weight, and body image issues…well…I was curious enough to want to read it.

If you’re relatively new here, let me just share that I have chalked up a wealth of experience in battling these issues myself. I was the fifth child of six in an alcoholic, dysfunctional family. The quiet kid. A people pleaser. When I was 9 years old, my dance teacher (and the most consistent male figure in my life) stood me in front of a mirror in the dance studio and pointed out all the parts of my body that were too fat. I learned to hide my feelings and be agreeable. When I was 15 years old, I was being stalked by a boy at my school and bullied by the popular girls who wanted to date him (he only had eyes for me…shudder). That same dance teacher pulled me aside to tell me that I should be grateful for the boy’s attention because I wasn’t skinny and I bit my nails, and had too much hair on my body. The fact that any boy wanted to be with me was amazing to him. It got worse from there, but suffice to say I grew up with a horrible self image, a lot of self hatred, and feeling like I was less than every other person on the planet.

MeaningFULL Voices

More often than not, I found a little bit of my own hot messness in the stories in these pages. The further I got into the book, the more I felt less like I was reading a book and more like I was sitting around the house talking to a bunch of old friends who understood exactly how I feel about my body and my choices relating to food and exercise.

I related to so many of the voices that lifted up from these pages: the dancer without the classic dancer’s lean, long body…the Jewish girl with the fuzzy hair, driven to cover every part of her body…Aaron, the dietician who heard the message loud and clear that it was only acceptable to be in a larger body if he was in the process of changing it to a smaller one. Reading their stories and getting a glimpse at the moments that helped them embrace change and let go led me to a few of my own…

My Totally AH-HAH and Holy Sh*t Moments

After reading MeaningFULL, I’m finally connecting with what the universe has been trying to tell me for awhile: the tools that have served me well in the past are not the tools that will get me through this next part of my journey. Like many, I grew up using the scale as a tool to measure my value as a person – but in the past six years, I’ve learned how not to do that. I’ve grown to a point where the scale truly is just a tool for me to learn how many pounds I weigh…and there is no other value attached to it. But I’ve still struggled lately, in this Covid world, and have found that the tools I’ve relied on to lose 132 pounds (so far) are not helping me much at present.

The stories in MeaningFULL are from a diverse group of people who had many different experiences, but there are some central themes too – and that’s helped me understand that I need to adjust my focus. Overall, the message of self-care, self-acceptance, and allowing one’s self to be open rang true for me. Reading about the AH-HAH moments of others has led me to realize it’s time for me to turn away from the scale, the mirror, and the tape measure and embrace the self care tools I’ve been inconsistent with up till now. That is what I need to work on.

As I read on, more of these moments floated easily to the surface for me, including:

Realizing that my dance teacher was not my only abuser. I am also my abuser. Oh. My. GAWD. I truly never thought of it that way, but…it’s true. There’s probably another blog post coming along about that. I need to dive deeper.

Understanding that the personality traits that help me to beat myself up about my weight are just my super powers being used for evil instead of good. I can flip those around and use them to my advantage.

When I dive into needlework, which is my safety net when I need mindfulness, I don’t need to feel guilty about it. I need to let myself enjoy it and understand that I’m practicing self-care.

What I Loved Most

After each person’s story, Alli pops in with her amazing therapist superpowers to help guide the reader through the helpful takeaways of every Storyteller’s experience. For me, that had huge value, especially when reading the stories of the people I felt less in tune with. There was always something there that I could learn from and her insights helped shine the light right where it needed to be.

Alli Spotts-De Lazzer
MeaningFULL by Alli Spotts-De LazzerMeaningFULL: 23 Life-Changing Stories of Conquering Dieting, Weight, & Body Image Issues by Alli Spotts-De Lazzer Publisher:  Unsolicited Press (January 26, 2021) Category: Self-help, Non-Fiction, psychology, memoir, health/wellness, inspirational, eating disorder recovery, weight loss, & body positivity Tour dates: March-April, 2021 ISBN: 978-1-950730-69-8 Available in Print and ebook, 282 pages  MeaningFULL

Every story is unique and has something to learn from. Here’s an excerpt directly from the book:

My Body Wasn’t the Enemy (Anonymous)

MY FATHER, AN Orthodox Rabbi and hands-on dad, made sure my siblings and I understood that “God loves you, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.” My mom had eight children within 12 years and worked full time. With practicality and a smile, she’d explain not getting her nails or hair done: “Your nails and hair are dead.”

I grew up in a home with zero focus on dieting, the body, or weight loss. We ate in a balanced way—lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, starches, and also good amounts of ice cream and treats. So long as it was Kosher, any food was okay.

I was on the slimmer side and an adventurous, healthy eater. I had a good relationship with food. (I would say I had a good relationship with my body, too, but I was still a young girl who wasn’t aware of her body yet.)

Like many tweens in middle school, self-consciousness abounded. I looked different because of my hand-me-down clothes. I felt different, too. While most of my classmates lived in multi-million dollar brownstones and penthouses in the city, my family, all ten of us, lived in a basement apartment. I remember I cried on the subway ride home after my 8th-grade pictures. I thought I was ugly with my untrendy, uncontrollably frizzy hairstyle, faded blouse, and glasses.

Right before my freshman year of high school, my mom’s friend gave me a compliment that definitely woke me up to the fact that I had a body. We were saying our good-byes while getting ready to move for my father’s new job. She announced, “You look great! You’ve grown taller and lost weight, and you look fantastic. All that baby fat is gone!”

I filled with pride. I stood straighter. I beamed.

Why I was proud baffled me because I hadn’t actually done anything to earn such praise. It felt good, though.

A few weeks later, my family settled in, my father met his congregation, and I started my first year at an all-girls, ultra-conservative religious high school. It was much more right-wing than anything I had known. My new and stricter Modesty Code required that long sleeves and tights cover any flesh not concealed by my uniform. No more nail polish or flip-flops. Teachings about God went from loving and positive to “if you don’t do this, God’s going to punish you.”

None of this felt like “me,” but I had to do it. For the first time ever, I experienced strife and disconnection with my parents, my culture, and myself. I felt depressed.

That compliment from my mom’s friend rang in my ears. Although I wore a junior’s size five, I believed that if I could just lose a few more pounds, then that pride, that inner beaming would come again.

I didn’t know much about dieting, but I figured it couldn’t be that complicated. I understood very little about human physiology, except that the fewer calories I ate, the more weight I would lose. My grand plan was to go on a water diet for a couple of days.

I lasted half a day, and then I broke my water diet. I felt out of control. As soon as I arrived home from school, I raided the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. I scarfed down food to the point of feeling sick. That was my very first binge.

I had failed at dieting, but I would try the next day again.

And the next.

Let’s Get MeaningFULL : Win a Copy!

This book was helpful to me in ways I did not expect. I usually loan out books once I’m done, but I’m keeping this one close. If you’ve ever struggled with diet, weight, or body image issues I think you’ll find this book inspires you with hope and gratitude.

Want to win your own copy of this amazingly inspiring book? Here’s a direct link to enter a raffle for just that purpose.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alli Spotts-De Lazzer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and a “CEDS” Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, and a person on the other side of her own decades-long struggle with food battles and body dislike. She has presented educational workshops at international conferences, hospitals, and graduate schools and has published articles in trade magazines, academic journals, and online information hubs.

A believer in service and advocacy, Alli serves on multiple committees and created #ShakeIt for Self-Acceptance!—a movement embodying its message.

Answering an Important Question

In last week’s post, I shared some of the ways that this pandemic has changed my life…and a few of you have asked me whether I got (or plan to get) the Covid-19 vaccine. There’s a story behind my answer, so I felt like I should just answer it here.

Last December, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with Covid-19. She is younger than me and has no health issues other than being overweight (which is one of the risk factors that puts you into Phase 1B for the vaccine). For the first couple of days she was just feeling sick. Then Covid started to manhandle her. She texted me on her way to the emergency room. She’d had a 103 degree fever for a day or two and was unable to get it down. A chest xray revealed a spot of pneumonia in her lungs, and my normally feisty friend was admitted to the hospital.

We messaged each other every day and I kept close tabs on her. I sent her massive amounts of ridiculous cat photos and gave her updates from Finn the cat. She didn’t improve at first, but then they altered her meds and she was able to fight it. She shared with me that it scared her that she couldn’t get the fever to go down. After several days, she was released to go home…and she has fully recovered, thank God.

I am friends with several people who have either had Covid-19 or have family members who’ve had it, and all of their accounts are consistent: it is aggressive and it gets a firm hold on you. After seeing what my friend went through as a normally healthy, albeit overweight person, I realized that it would probably grab ahold of me easily if I were exposed.

When they first announced the vaccine was available, I balked. I didn’t want it. I was perfectly happy to wait for others to go first, waiting to see what the long term effects are. It worried me that this vaccine had been created in such a short period of time. I was afraid of making something worse by agreeing to put this thing in my body. Was I going to have damaging side effects from the vaccine? Would I be okay? I have the ability to stay home right now…do I really need it? I can just hole up my house and do grocery store pick up orders for the rest of my life. Why did I need the vaccine?

I decided to spend a little time learning about the vaccine and how it was created. How did it become available so quickly? Were shortcuts taken? What if I have allergies? Will the vaccine put dead Covid19 in my body? What is it made of?

These are all valid questions and I sought my own answers from reputable sources. I believe it is extremely important for each person to make up their own minds about the vaccine, so I will not share the information I found. I will encourage each of you to make a list of the concerns and questions you have regarding the Covid19 vaccine and seek out reputable sources of information to answer them.

For me, seeing my friend struggle with it…it scared me. I thought of Hot Mess Hubby. I thought of suddenly having to go in the hospital and not knowing if I was going to come back out. The quickness that this virus has taken people is disturbing. It was an easy “I’ll wait it out” for me until I saw people close to me struggling. Then it was more real. I’m not ready to leave Hot Mess Hubby or anyone in my family. So I made a list of my questions and started searching reputable sources for the answers.

After careful consideration of my personal circumstances and the information that I’d learned for myself, I decided to put myself on the list for the vaccine. I qualify as part of Phase 1B in the priority for vaccines. It took about 6 weeks to get my first dose. I am now waiting for my second dose, which should happen at the end of the month.

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth part of Texas and I’m proud to say that the Lone Star State is doing a great job vaccinating our people who want the vaccine. From the time I drove onto the lot to the time I was walking back to the car…30 minutes. Everyone was kind, everything was efficient.

My arm was just slightly sore from the shot, but otherwise I had no side effects whatsoever. This was reassuring to me, as the Shingles vaccine royally kicked my ass. I was expecting to have the same side effects (fever, chills, body aches). With only the first dose under my belt, I am now 80% protected from Covid-19.

I have many friends who got the vaccine before me, several of whom have just received their second dose…and, oh my goodness, the side effects! Most of them are reporting the typical flu-like symptoms for a day or two. Not scary, just not pleasant…and so I am expecting that the second shot will knock me right on my ass. I’ll keep you posted.

Everyone should make their own choices and this was mine. You should make your choices for you and your family. Please be sure to do your own research when making your decisions. I am only sharing what my experience has been because some of you have asked, and I am not endorsing this vaccine for anyone – I am simply sharing the decision that I’ve made for myself. Please do your own research and speak to your doctor or consult the CDC’s website if you have questions about the vaccine.

Above all else, please be careful out there. Wash your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask. Let’s get the world back to normal. 🙂

Learning the Lessons We Don’t Want to Learn

Facebook Memories is starting be a real pain in the ass. This time last year, I was living my normal life. I had a job I loved, I could travel where I wanted to, and I didn’t know a damn thing about toilet paper shortages and lockdown procedures. Those were the days.

One year later, and I don’t have a normal life…I no longer have that job I loved, I can’t travel where I want to, and I know way too much about Covid-19. I want my normal back…and I know that’s not possible right now.

Every time I look back at a time in my life when I didn’t get something I really wanted…it was because there was something else coming that led me down a better path. Whatever unpleasantness I experienced either put me on a better road or gave me skills that would make me a total badass later. So why doesn’t that make me embrace the changes that I perceive as negative when I know from experience that they’re preparing me for something better? I have no idea.

I recently when after something that I’d lost last year. Something that meant the world to me. Something I wanted desperately back in my life. Instead of success, I was met with roadblocks. The universe has sent me a memo that clearly states I can’t have the thing back right now. I must be patient. I must wait. Apparently, somewhere, there is something else for me to do. And so I have a choice: I can spend all my energy banging my fists against a door that will not open, or I can turn away…walk away…and have a look at what else I can do (until October 1st when the thing might be possible again).

For me, for this time in my life, that is needlework. I’m sure that’s incredibly awful for some of you to read…but that’s just how incredibly uncool I am. I am a social person. I’m a hugger. I’m a cheerleader. I am a passionate lifter-upper of people. You can imagine how difficult living in a pandemic world is for me. I can’t see people. I can’t travel. I can’t go hang out. I can’t spontaneously squeal and hug people. There is a huge part of me that has had to find another way to be…and it’s been extremely difficult.

I turned to needlework when I couldn’t hug, hang out, go to work like a normal human. Giving my hands something to do and my mind something to focus on has gotten me through it. It continues to get me through it. What’s funny is…I always thought I would turn to writing fiction when I had a lot of time on my hands, but that is not the way for me. I tried it. I had the whole “now I finally have time to write that book” moment, but writing makes me think…and then overthink…and then doubt myself…and it brings anxiety during a time that has already brought enough of it. The answer for me is not writing, it’s stitching.

You’re going to see a lot of needlework in my social media feed, peeps. A lot. And a lot of updates on my Couch to 5K training, since I’ve figured out the best way to get in shape for that fabulous trip to London the next time the borders are open is to train my legs to walk a lot. Those are my two projects right now. Stitch and walk. Stitch and walk. Stitch and walk.

How are you getting through the pandemic? Is anyone out there still hating this? Or has everyone snapped into the “new normal”? I really hate that term. I want MY normal back. I know I’ll feel normal again someday…but until then, I will stitch and walk…and stitch and walk…and learn the lessons I don’t want to learn. I have faith that they’re making me a better person.

Alright, that’s enough…

This year has been unlike any other year of our lives. I’m not sure how yours is going, but as far as I’m concerned 2020 can go straight to hell. Damn! Can we just bury this thing in the yard and move forward? Ugh.

When the pandemic hit, I was blindsided with having to say goodbye to a job I loved at the best company I’ve ever worked for…but, being the scrappy girl I am, I quickly set about making a plan for how I was going to make the most of my time. We all saw how that went. It all tanked. Why? Because I’ve never been through a pandemic before and, well, it turns out I don’t handle isolation and global panic very well. At all.

For the last several months, I’ve been sort of….yessing myself. Don’t want to get dressed today? It’s okay, Dianne. Pandemic happens. Only want to eat chips today? It’s okay, girl. Pandemic happens. Don’t feel like moving off the couch? Hey, it’s a pandemic. Get the picture?

My clothes don’t fit right anymore. The weird funky things that used to happen to me when I only ever ate junk food are coming back…like itchy shins at bed time. I have no idea why that’s a thing for me, but it is. And it’s back. And I just feel GROSS. I feel bigger and I feel gross. And now I’ve realized…in trying to be all “hey, it’s okay” and gentle with myself (I’ve been telling myself it’s self-care to be indulgent), I’ve gained 44.7 pounds back.

That is ridiculous, y’all. I did that. In the name of “self care”. I indulged myself into a weight gain that is anything BUT self care. I neglected myself and told myself it was okay because it’s self care. LOL. I mean…what kind of jacked up thought process is that? Lordy!

So here’s the thing: I don’t want to indulge myself anymore. Clearly, I need to redefine what “self care” means to me before I gain back all of the 132 pounds I lost. But I also know this: self care does not mean to go all boot campy on myself and beat myself into oblivion trying to get rid of the weight I brought back. And it doesn’t mean spending even one second on chiding myself for the decisions I’ve made during one of the shittiest years ever. So what does it mean?

Well, this morning I crawled out of bed and got on the scale to face the consequences of what I’ve been doing. That’s how I know about that magical 44.7 pounds. And I put myself on a 3 day “pouch reset” plan. For gastric sleeve patients, that’s basically going back on liquids. So today I’ll have 3 protein shakes that will give me all the nutrition I need…and I’ll allow myself an iced coffee. My iced coffees don’t have any sugar in them except for literally 1 tablespoon of creamer…so they’re pretty harmless.

Another casualty of this self indulgent lifestyle: my house. It’s a mess. Every room is a mess. So this morning the dishwasher has been running non stop and I’ve put quite a few steps on my Fitbit putting things away and just…behaving like a responsible adult who gives a shit about her home. There have been quite a few times this morning where I’ve had to resist the urge to feel guilty about the state I’ve let everything fall into. I’ve already decided that I’m not going to get super down on myself for all of this, though, because…pandemic. While I no longer believe that laying around and eating crap is okay for me to do, I still say getting negative about what I did is not helpful.

Now that I’ve taken a good look at where I am it’s time to get busy. Not perfect, just busy. I’m not eating one more bit of crap. This might get tricky because there are cookies in my house. Lots of cookies. Christmas cookies. Gingerbread cookies. Shortbread cookies. Yep. Hubby has self control. Me, not so much.

For now, they’ll stay in the house. If I start giving them the side eye then they’ll have to go. But for now they can stay because my resolve to actually take care of myself is much stronger than my desire for a cookie.

I’ll keep updating as I lose the 44.7. We all know I know how to do it. LOL. I’ve done it a few times now, haven’t I? Funny how I thought self care was essentially packing on a bunch of weight so I’d have to work hard all over again. 🙂 That wasn’t self care. Thank God I had the realization before it got worse.

All of this has given me one other idea as well. Usually this time of year has me reviewing how I did with my New Years resolutions. I typically set 5 or 6 for myself and I enjoy checking in and seeing how I did by the end of the year. When I started trying to think of fresh ones for next year, I decided almost instantly that I will set only one resolution for 2021. Only one…and it’s a big one that I didn’t hit this year:

Hit 225 on the scale. That number means something to me. It’s not my goal weight, but it means something. And that will be my sole resolution for 2021.

Wellness Wednesday…What?

Hey, y’all!

So I missed last Wednesday because, in true Hot Mess fashion, I started writing my blog post…then I got an idea…and then I spent the rest of the day overthinking about it. I know some of you can relate.

Today’s update is more of a “Hey, I’m alive and a bit sidetracked…” post.

I’m about a week and a half into weening myself off of sleep meds. It was a bit of a mental fight to get going on this one, to be honest. I don’t know why. I can say that when it came time to cut the first dose in half, I could feel myself beginning to panic at the mere thought of not being able to sleep. I really tried to bargain with myself about how this is just not the right time to do this. 2020 is awful. Covid. Quarantine. Stress. Not a great time. The fact that I was so emotionally resistant to trying this now made me want to push forward and handle it, not back away. So here I am after a week a half of a half of a dose…and I’m really rather proud of myself.

As for the rest, well…it’s been interesting. After taking some time off for myself, I attempted to tackle my joblessness like I handle assignments at work: attack them with organization, logic, and my larger than life can-do attitude. It turns out, though, that I am not reacting well to that tried and true method. In fact, my emotional side is just outright rebelling.

I decided to put it all on hold again and I retreated back into my pillow fort for a bit. I’m not giving up on any of it, but it became obvious to me fairly quickly that I wasn’t going to get through this the way I handle projects at work. I have a lot of emotion going on right now, most of it over the fact that I don’t have my job anymore…and my absolute worry and fear for the state of our world right now. It’s clear that I need to take a gentler path, and so that’s what I’m working on now.

To add injury to the insult of not being able to just barrel through this, I am back in a fracture boot again. I was really starting to enjoy my morning walks, but I didn’t take into account all of the barefoot walking I was doing around the house. While some of that is good, it’s not a great idea to walk around with no support for your feet when you’re still 100 pounds overweight. TOING!!! Something got tugged in my foot and I’m back in the boot for a few weeks. No more morning walks for now.

Finally…a reality check and an ah-hah moment.

I started off my wellness plans with a lot of focus on food. There was also some focus on moving more, but the main focus was getting my eating back on track. I’m not sure that’s the way I should go with this. When it comes down to it, I’ve already lost more than 130 pounds from nutritional changes. I’ve got that shit down. My real challenges come because I do everything in my power to avoid exercise – and so that is where I feel I should place my focus. Dig? I bet you do. Right now I have to let my foot heal, but when I come back from that I will focus more on moving more…and less on what I’m eating. That’s my reality check.

The ah-hah moment came just the other day when I was spending time in the rabbit hole that is Tik Tok. I’m swiping through videos and I land on one that had me all…WHOA! Basically, this therapist said that if you have some kind of negative behavior that you’re trying to work on you should picture it like a monster and give it a name. For example, I think this one person said her negative habit is called Brad…and he wears pastel shorts and is quite douchy. She made him a man because she would NEVER let a man tell her what to do, so this helps her. LOL.

I found it interesting because I do tend to regard my issues with overeating and exercise avoidance as some kind of personal defect that makes me less of a good person. I know that’s not correct, but I can’t help how I feel. So the idea that I treat these thoughts and behaviors as a monster that just happens to live with me helps me feel like I’m much more able to put this bitch in her place when she acts up. I don’t need to spend time blaming myself or asking why…I just step into protective mode and shove the monster away from me. I love this idea, but I have to think about it more and really take some time to explore it. And probably overthink about it, let’s be honest.

So that’s where I am with all of this…and I knew if I didn’t stop and give an update I’d be waiting another week to check in. I’m learning things about myself every day…and I hope you do too. Now please…if you’re out in the world, stay safe…keep your distance from others and wash your hands. Be kind to everyone – starting with yourself.

See you next week!