Kyira: "Thank you so much for coming Jaz! I am so glad you can be a part of this project. So the first piece I have been really capturing with people is what made this project something you wanted to be a part of?"
Jaz: "I think that I have a very different image in my mind of what I look like than what I see in pictures or even when I look in the mirror. And I think for me this is almost like getting myself to realize what I really do look like and being able to own that and be comfortable with that. I mean, I am only 28 but I have been single for over two years and my last relationship was really, really bad…I have always struggled with my weight. I got up to 300 lbs when I lived in the UK and managed to get down to a size 14 but when that relationship went away, that all got shot and…obviously I have gone back up so…um… in the last 2 1/2 years I haven’t really been able to get that back under control. And the thing is, there is a part of me that thinks like, who is to say it is or isn’t under control and why am I being dictated by that. You know?"
Kyira: "Yes, absolutely."
Jaz: "I mean, all of my health stats are completely healthy. I have no high BP, I have no diabetes…I mean I am not even borderline at risk of diabetes even though it runs in my family. And, I mean a lot of people look at me and because I am overweight, they assume I am really unhealthy but I am not. I can run, I can do all sorts of things…nothing stops me just because I am bigger. And it is just frustrating when, in society’s mind, that is the thing that is stopping me from being in a happy relationship, is that I am bigger. You know, I keep trying online dating and go back and forth with it because I am scared to put pictures up. I am afraid that the minute they see me they are going to be gone. And I mean, I have gotten stood up before. Just a few weeks ago I actually came down to a bar downtown…the guy was texting me for over 45 minutes before he was supposed to meet me and then he just disappeared. He never showed up. And I sat there for an hour…and man, that was great…" (sarcastic laugh) “...and it’s just…it’s hard. And it’s like, now I keep wondering if that is the reason. I mean people will talk to me and they think I am this fantastic, interesting person but then it feels like, in my mind, when they see a picture of me, it’s like they have this whole new perception or feeling about me. And its like…even in my own family…I went home this past weekend and my dad - who has never, ever struggled with a weight problem - gave me a very back handed compliment that just made me want to smack him so hard. And I think part of it is that he wasn’t ready to be a dad when he became a dad but he also, he doesn’t have a very good grasp on how to emote with people. And, I have one other sibling, a younger sister, who is much thinner than I am, as is my mom. And my dad has just never seemed to grasp how to address the fact that I am not skinny. All three of them are thin but I am not. And when I was last home, he was telling me this story about a woman he had an interaction with at a store and of course, he had to address her size…'You know, she was (gestures) this tall and as big around as that door and made you look absolutely tiny'. And it was like, I don’t even know where to go with that. I mean 'Awesome dad. Thanks for telling me.’"
Kyira: “Oh my God."
Jaz: "Yeah it was really horrible and I have been dealing with this for 28 years, you know, and my dad has no idea that that hurts. He has no clue. And…that one really stuck with me. I mean I know it is the most recent but it just really hit me that he really has been doing this my whole life and it hurts."
Kyira: "I think there is this piece of…so I very actively have to be working on my recovery with my eating disorder and a part of that is regularly seeing a therapist to manage any triggers that might come up. And when I started this project, I posted a photo on Facebook symbolizing the start of the project and talked about part of my own journey and apparently after I posted it, my whole family got together and started talking about. And subsequently, my grandma called me and told me everything they said. At one point, she directly pointed out to me how ugly I looked in the picture. And I was appalled. I put the phone on speaker phone so my partner could hear what was being said because I just couldn’t believe it was real and I wanted someone else to hear. She even went on to tell me about how I used to be pretty…my hair - which used to be long and dark - used to be pretty. She even said that the next time I came home she would simply look at pictures of me rather than the me in front of her because she wanted to remember me from before."
Jaz: "Whoa, your grandma said that? Wow!"
Kyira: "And the reason I think this is important is when I told this to my therapist, she reminded me that there is an empowering sense when you can find forgiveness for someone who does something so horrible. And it’s not that you have to absolve them of any wrong doing or that you have to maintain a close relationship with them or anything on that end. It is simply learning that there is something getting in their way of being able to connect with me on the level I need them to and likely on the level that they might want to. And it isn’t something we have to take on as our responsibility to fix nor does it make it any less wrong or hurtful to be treated that way. What it is, is simply a reminder that we might have to change the way we interact with people like that in our lives and that doesn’t make me a shitty person because I can’t have that relationship with them nor does it make them a shitty person because they said those things, it just makes it so we can’t have the relationship we might have thought we could. And I can, as I move towards forgiveness, be able to hold in my heart a hope that they are able to find peace in managing their own demons and sorrow."
Jaz: "Yeah for sure. And its hard."
Kyira: "It just felt so empowering to me to realize that I had some control over how to move forward and I was able to let go of some of my anger towards her because I could see that she didn’t even know what she had done and the degree to which it hurt me because she has been so clouded with toxic negativity with her own demons. You know? It’s not making it okay but it’s realizing that she can’t even develop the insight right now into why this is a problem. And I am sure it is similar to your dad…I am sure he has no clue how much what he says and does hurts you."
Jaz: "No, he has no clue and I hear the way he has talked to my mom for so long too. And I can’t understand how she hasn’t just become a puddle in the corner of the room with all he has said to her over the years as well. And like I said, she is tiny and yet he does it to her too. And so does my sister…I mean I got so upset when my sister, who is 23, made my mom try on a pair of her shorts and they fit my mother perfectly and they are a size 6…and I am a 24. And, ugh, I just wanted to smack them both. Because my mom doesn’t understand she is thin. I know what my dad has said has made it hard to see but she is. And my dad looks borderline anorexic because he drinks his dinner. And while there are many many things with my dad I don’t understand, the weight issue alone is overwhelming. He has 2 daughters and a wife and can’t understand it. And he doesn’t seem to make any effort to try. And it’s just, things like this, I mean I don’t know any of you guys here tonight but I haven’t felt judged at all. I feel safe. And I have seen projects like this before and when this came my way, I was like, ahhhh yeah, I want to go. And I am so glad I did."
Kyira: "And I love being able to think about all of the people who maybe haven’t gotten to the point where they can get here yet but are going to keep finding courage in yours and everyone else’s bravery who comes forward and over time, the scale is going to tip and this will no longer be something that is bold and courageous but will be the norm."
Jaz: “Yeah I am glad I am able to stand here today and talk about this. I mean, it wasn’t until the last ten years or so I really was able to pick up on the ways what my family has done and said has really impacted me as a person…as an adult. So, I mean, you don’t think about it growing up and over time you just begin to think about these little snippets when someone says something or something happens. I mean because I was an overweight kid, I had boobs before everyone else…because it was fat and you know whatever…shit happens. And I remember one time we were going to the pool and I sure wasn’t going to be in a swimsuit - that just wasn’t going to happen - so I had actually just worn a t-shirt instead and like shorts or something like that. And I remember that while we were swimming my dad called me out in front of everyone and told me that the next time I needed to wear a bra. And now its like, that impacts me even today. I mean, when I am in my home I am hanging out in a tank top and shorts or whatever I feel is comfortable and don’t really think about it but when I am at my parents house I can’t be comfortable unless I have a full outfit on all of the time - like I need a bra, a t-shirt a pair of pants…and my mom, because of the way he has treated her, she can’t say anything. And so, it has really taken me until this point in my life to finally be able to tell people how to fuck off. And its hard because nobody should have to go through that to get there but here I am.
And I think it is really important when we think about the way that our parents impact us, where we have power is in deciding whether or not to follow suit. I see so many people who do follow in their parents footsteps with things and it is just, that is not what brings change or stops the cycle. So when someone can stand up and say no way Batman and end the cycle, that is where the opportunity comes to change the world and stop the cycle. Like for me, there are so many things I have in my head where I am like, no way, I am not going to do that. I am not going to put my kids, when I have them, or anyone else’s through the things I did or saw others go through. It’s just not going to be allowed and when I hear friends or other people doing it I want to be able to help stop it there too. I mean, my ex, the one I told you was really bad, had 3 daughters…2 baby mamas and the oldest daughter, who was 13 at the time was physically disabled so was really unaware of herself in the world at that time and her mom was not around so I was really it at the time. And I ended up being the one to take her to buy her first bra because her grandma would simply buy bras from the thrift store and ship them over. And it was like, no, those don’t even fit you and it’s nothing that you should be ashamed to want to go out and look at and buy yourself. And so we did and I made it a point to talk about it and not skirt around the fact that she had breasts and what that meant."
Kyira: "Yeah, that is such an important thing to be able to be direct and have those conversations. So as you think about your life now, what has been the hardest part about being able to see yourself as beautiful?"
Jaz: "There was a guy I dated at work for like a month and in that time, I was starting to look at going to a gym because, you know, I know I can afford to lose the weight. And this is something that, like every once in awhile I will say something bad about myself, which I know you shouldn't do but I am human and sometimes I slip, and people respond by telling me that I have lost the weight before so I can obviously do it again. And it’s like…it’s not this easy this time around. Like I have a million things I want to be doing all of the time. I mean I am a very arty person, I work a full time office job, and I work in the theater and I paint and I have animals and…I have a billion things I am always doing or want to be doing. Like I got criticized the other day for not watching the TV while I was watching TV. Like I was expected to just drop everything and stare at the TV and its like no, I want to do my puzzle and I want to do this and I want to do that, while I am watching TV. And it’s like, don’t criticize me for how I enjoy to spend my time. But at the same time, this guy I was dating helped me to be more motivated. And I was like, you know, the Princeton Club is right by my house and I know it costs more than Planet Fitness but they have all of these things - they have group classes, and the pools, and da da da, and yeah, you know what, I am going to do like an orientation and see what they have. And before I even got the chance to schedule the orientation and even look into it, this guy shot it down. He was like, ‘Why are you going to pay for something you could just do on your own or sod outside? Why?'…and so I never went. And it’s like, how…I mean he sits there and talks about how much weight he needs to lose and it’s like, then go with me. But no, he would rather sit at home and play MineCraft on his stupid computer and I mean…how is that…"
Kyira: “It sound like he put his own stuff on you like if you were to go then what did that say about him?"
Jaz: "Yeah but that’s what I always run into and that is probably the hardest part. I need to find someone who can be there for me when I decide to do something and help build me up when my motivation falls short. Like money is always what people bring up. You could use your money for this or that or whatever and it’s just…"
Kyira: “Yeah but if it makes you happy the money is never at the forefront of the decision."
Jaz: "And so like, right now, I mean painting and drawing and coloring and doing all of the stuff I do at home…while I watch TV of course…” (laughter) "…is what makes me happy. I mean I have this very creative outlet I need to activate all of the time and if I don’t have that then I start to feel useless almost and like I feel like I need something to show for my time like a painting or something versus a walk that I come home and maybe eat an ice cream bar and then it was pointless. But, you know and I know too that if I really want to commit to dropping all of the weight, that is all I can do for a year outside of work. I mean that’d everything…it will consume my entire being until I am done. But then, it’s not even done."
Kyira: "Yeah, especially when you are doing something that really is about the lifeline journey and more than just a destination. But like for Jenny, she described getting the gym membership because it makes her happy and she has a family there that she has built up. This is what she is searching for. This is what she wants And for you, it sounds like painting, drawing, coloring makes you happy. There are other things that, too, can bring you the same type of joy and happiness and maybe part of it is having someone willing to explore that with you and help you find something that fits for you rather than forcing you to fit into some predetermined box for a healthy lifestyle."
Jaz: "Yeah for sure."
Kyira: "And I feel like the weight piece is always what society puts at the forefront but it is so separate from that. I was listening to this podcast recently that talks about this notion of feeling like we need to lose weight and do all of these things that are ultimately extrinsically motivated. She talked about how so much of it comes from using the word ‘overweight' because overweight implies there is a right weight to get to and that we are supposed to be at. And there is not such thing as a perfect or right weight to get to. So I think it has more to do with what will bring you joy and happiness every day and how you see exercise playing a role in that and take the physical ‘gain’ or ‘motivation’ out of it so you don’t put all of that on yourself. I mean, because right now, as you said this idea of ‘my whole next year”…and thinking about everything that seems tied to that...I mean, I too, would not be willing or able to take that on. But i can totally empathize with that position. I spent so much time trying to get it ‘right’ and managing every detail of diet and exercise that I lost track of how my body felt and what I needed and getting that back took a lot of time. So now its like ‘do I want the cake? yes, today I want the cake’ and I am willing to accept that I am going to feel like shit the next day because that type of food is harder for me to digest. But over time, I have been putting those feelings first - making choices based on how it makes my body feel or knowing when I do make choices that don’t align with my body, what is going to happen to understand how I can take care of and work to nourish my body, at least most of the time. And it was always scary to me - I used to manage a gym - to see people who went on these weight loss journeys over time who did it based on all of the extrinsic motivation or believed in getting to a certain size or weight to whatever it was rather than paying attention to the journey they could go on in terms of learning about their body. And I can’t even begin to tell you how many of them ended up developing eating disorders and body image issues because it was so driven by these standards that all they could do was keep pushing to the next level or their anxiety would get so high if they didn’t know every fact about the food they wouldn’t eat it. And all of that is driven by these false beliefs on the supposed tos and have tos. And for you, if you lost weight or not, that isn’t necessarily what makes a difference if you are healthy or not. Your body already knows what it needs and tells you every day so it is more about how you approach your body and listen to it rather than let it get caught in this game."
Jaz: “Yeah I agree and I think its more about me keeping that in mind even when others try to make me believe something else - something less helpful."
Kyira: “Does that get in the way a lot?"
Jaz: “Yeah I mean it happens enough that it definitely does. I even had a doctor about 6 months ago just bring me to absolute tears just reading his face and seeing the judgment he had for me about my size. So, I have gallbladder spasms, or at least that is as far as what we can figure out is happening and they are the worst. And I had some a few years ago and ended up going to a naturopath after recommendations from a bunch of coworkers and such who ended up putting me on this supplement that had me feeling better after about a month - which was awesome. But then, 2 years go by and it started creeping up again. And one day it was so bad I couldn’t sit down, lay down, sit up…nothing…it hurt so bad. So I finally took myself to urgent care and I got this male doctor who was maybe a couple of years older than me and you could tell he was annoyed being there - he didn’t want to talk to me, didn’t care about what was going on and all I thought was ‘oh boy, this is going to be great’ (thumbs up). And all he did, even though I told him all about what happened two years ago, was just….he didn’t even touch me, didn’t do anything…just sat in his chair across the room and said 'well, you need to watch what you eat' and I am like, yes, you hearing only about what happened two years ago and looking at my weight you must know exactly what my diet habits are and that is the only possible solution. Yes? You mean you know that I eat a wrap for lunch every day? You know I eat a yogurt for breakfast with fruit and granola almost every morning? No, you think that because of my size and my concerns that all I eat is McDonald’s. Thanks…I mean he didn’t even examine me. He just said that I needed to check what I was eating because of the curve in my intestines that was ‘probably getting blocked with all of the crappy food’…And it was like…’Okay thank you for the anatomy lesson and screw you very, very much’…(laughter)…"
Kyira: (laughter) “My God that is so appalling."
Jaz: "And I mean I left in tears. I was so upset. And after I left he called me and I was so angry I screamed at him and was like ‘You know that is not how you talk to a human being. I was in pain and scared and all you did was assume because I am fat that all I do is eat McDonalds and it couldn’t be anything but that’…I mean who knows…it could have been my appendix or something else with my intestines or maybe even my gallbladder again…I don’t know, there is a lot in there and he didn’t even bother examining me to make me feel less scared or like we might know what was going on."
Kyira: “And what a horrible experience for someone to just assume what you eat or what your lifestyle is like based on your appearance. I think this is something people do too often - I too have found myself guilty both of thinking things about people and even judging myself asking what I think people will think of me if I do [X]"
Jaz: “Yeah and like I eat pretty healthy. McDonald’s isn’t even a part of my daily lifestyle…or even weekly or monthly. It has become my road trip food. I will only get it when I am on my way out of town and I haven’t had time to eat before I left. And even then, it is just 1 McDouble and some fries…that is it. You know? Because I can’t eat any more than that. I mean, have you ever watched the show 'My Extreme Makeover' or something like that on TV?"
Kyira: "Is it the show about the homes or something different?"
Jaz: “No, its people…it might be called ‘My Extreme Weight Loss Journey' or something else. But it is this trainer that selects you to be a part of this show and then you get sent away for a week or something and he completely takes over your house and turns it into like a personal gym and when you come back, he lives with you for three months."
Kyira: "This sounds not fun." (laughter)
Jaz: "And I watched part of this one episode where this girl he was training was just throwing up all of the time and he finally figured out that her body was detoxing from all of this crap she had continued to put into her body for years. And so he said, alright I am going to prove to you that the things you are eating are making you sick and he challenged her for a full 24 hours to switch diets and so like for breakfast, she got a yogurt and some almonds and like a band or something like that and she went out and got him 2 McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches and has browns and a giant soda. To say the least, he wasn’t feeling so great after breakfast. Then snack time came around and she got him two donuts and he was just like, uhhhhh no. And this is like a pretty fit guy. And then lunch came and he got more McDonalds and he didn’t even make it through the first sandwich before he threw up in the bag and was just like out of commission for the next two days."
Kyira: "How did she feel afterwards?"
Jaz: "Fine. You know, I mean just like looking at what happens to people who eat healthy and then to see what happens after just two meals…it’s scary. And then you think about that movie Supersize Me where dude ate nothing but McDonalds for like a month and…"
Kyira: "I think he vomited a few times throughout that as well."
Jaz: "And so that’s why I am like one sandwich and some fries and I am out man. But I mean, I am fat so that must be all I eat right…” (laughter)
Jaz: "This is what I run into all of the time, and ugh, it sucks."
Kyira: “I can’t even imagine. So I know I have to be mindful of time and you have to get upstairs so one final question, what is one thing you do to nurture your beauty?"
Jaz: “I think its about me getting to know and love the true me and see who I am as already enough."
Kyira: “Thank you so much ro your time tonight, Jaz. You are such an amazing woman and I am grateful to have met you."