After being out in the public for the first time on a lunch date with my self proclaimed "Coco-Nuts," I have a few thoughts about my experience. I have spent most of my life hiding from the world. When I was overweight, I was near invisible to others. What I mean by that is no one seemed to matter if I came or went, if I was sick, no one asked me how I was feeling, when I had something to say, no one listened, at least that's how I felt at the time.
November 2013, I remember the night I landed back in Ireland and my business partners planned a get together with all these ladies who wanted to lose weight. They had built me up as this super star for having lost 9 1/2 stone (130 lbs) coming in from America to help them get healthy, so I would say it was a little rigged. When I entered the room where they were all gathered and began talking, the room go incredibly quiet. Uncomfortably quiet, I might add. I am the fourth child of a family of five and quite often felt unheard when I said anything, but that night, was a moment I will never forget.
I started talking and every woman in that room had their eyes glued on me, maybe because of my American accent, maybe because of what my business partners hyped them up to think I was but it was a moment where for the first time in my life I felt I had a voice. I can't say I was comfortable in that voice completely at that point but I felt people were paying attention and hanging onto every word I was saying. That began a journey of me leaning into becoming the woman I have always meant to be.
Fast forward to today, I have done radio shows, tv shows, podcasts and such but today was something even more odd as I had a reaction to the crown. Not good or bad and to be frank, I am very appreciative of this opportunity I am given to carry such a heavy responsibility that comes from a jewel filled crown and shiny sash.
My friends who I met many years ago on the beach, were so kind to want to take me to a nice restaurant called Roy's at the famous Turtle Bay resort just up the street from where I live. I warned them this would be my first time in public with the title of Ms. Hawaii so I was hoping they would understand the attention this would bring to us. My one friend loved it as he has been one of my biggest fans ever since we met so he seemed to quite enjoy the attention.
He dropped us off and immediately attention was to me. My mum said since I was a little girl, I have always been one that loved the limelight. To be honest with you, I still get nervous on occasion only because I don't see myself as anyone different than anyone else. As we sat there, of course people stared. I could literally feel the eye balls on me which resulted in part of the discussion we had during lunch. One of my friends said, "we better get all the attention from you now while you have time for us." My heart sunk when I heard that. Since I was young, my mother always said I didn't care what kind of status people had, I loved all people and as a matter of fact I think I cared more about loving on the underdogs. That's not to say I didn't have my own bouts of bulling others out of my own insecurities because I did. I hate to admit that however I have always felt deeply for those less fortunate and although I have had several people in my life say in so many words "remember when you make it big Becky" it saddens me that they think in anyway our relationship would change.
I just got a little dose of this today, this idea that because I hold a title, wear a crown and a sash that somehow in the public eye I am important. Every single one of us is important. I told my friends, this title doesn't make me anymore valuable or less valuable then any other person however our society puts so much credibility I can see how easily I could slip into this line of thinking that I am better than. That's never my desire. It reminds me of what happened when went from being overweight and invisible to thin, beautiful and confident. All of a sudden I had men running to open my doors for me. I found myself in a very similar situation as I am in now when I used to look at myself in the mirror and shake my head thinking, 'I am still the same person however I live in a different body so people treat me differently.' I would stare at myself in the mirror slap my face and tell myself, 'this is just a meat suit, it doesn't define me... it only DESCRIBES where I have been."
I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous to be on stage in front of 7 judges wearing a swimsuit but I am. My mind jumps back and forth from I need to be better to I am find just the way I am. It feels like I have two voices in my head fighting against each other. This is the kind of awareness I am grateful for. It's not a matter of judging how I am feeling rather it's just a matter of standing in a place of curiosity of my thoughts, feelings and how I am choosing to allow them to affect me. I want women to KNOW that our value doesn't come from what other's think of us, what the billboards show or what societies expectations are. The fact of the matter is, I am 50 today, my body is AMAZING to have survived and come through what I have put it through and to have recovered along the way. I love my imperfections, as I said earlier, my body doesn't define me it's REFINED ME.
I keep reminding myself I am using this opportunity to bring awareness to the fight against obesity and that there are viable solutions out there for people to recover from years of self destruction when it comes to unhealthy eating.
It just so happens to be my 50th birthday and the thought that comes to me is, what is the chance of all the stars aligning for me to experience this on such a moment-us birthday. I am not one to celebrate birthdays, as a matter of fact I have often been known to say, 'I just want to sleep through the day and wake up the next morning and keep going." That's only because I come from a family who isn't into celebrating much so I have had to stretch myself in honoring the value I bring to this world.
So I guess the take away today is, regardless of how other see you, SEE YOURSELF as important, valuable and beautiful. One of the things we study in our 12 step work is, 'What other's think of you is NONE of your business." Be the best person you can, serve as many people as you can and stay grounded and rooted in God or whoever it is that you call your higher power and who you rely on in building your identity but CLAIM YOUR CROWN because it's who you were made to BE!
And if I had a crown and a sash to give each and everyone of you, I would because you deserve to be recognized and acknowledged for all the hard work you have put into being human, going through the difficulties of life, and your tenacity to not give up on you and those you love.
So join me on this journey of you claiming your own crown and voice in a loving kind way.
The story behind the story
As a little girl, I never felt beautiful. As a matter of fact, I played more with cars than dolls. I remember one Christmas my mother buying me a barbie doll and within hours of opening up the gift I ruined her. Girly things just weren't my thing. I think it had something to do with the fact I started gaining weight at an early age. I came into this world with more energy than an ever ready bunny you could say and sometimes that was too much for people to handle.
It didn't take long for me to start feeling that who I was, wasn't acceptable and so I turned to the only thing I knew that would never reject me which is food. Food was my friend. I learned how to steel, hide and keep from getting caught at all costs. After all, food didn't talk back, it comforted me and it brought me a lot of happiness. I remember a time when I stole a $20 dollar bill from a safe my mother had kept money in, hoping she would blame my father if she found it missing. I walked down to the local ampm store and bought up $20 of .25 cent candy bars. The teller asked me what I was buying them for and I told him I was having a party, the only problem I failed to tell him I was having a party with myself and I wasn't planning on inviting anyone to it. I was hoping that if I got myself sick on candy that maybe I would out grow my strong desire for it and never want to eat it again.
All through high school I felt different, struggled with school and at one point wanted to drop out, I ran away from home and even considered suicide. I figured if I was out of the picture, my family would be happier. I come from a family, that is very accomplished, popular and talented, and then there was me, the one just barely making the grades to stay in school and all my best friends were boys.
I grew up at a summer adventure camp that my family ran and one summer my parents even considered having me go to a "Fat Camp." I would lose some weight due to the activities we did at camp during the summer and then when I would return home, gain it all back so this began the rollercoaster of my battle with the bulge. I was the only in my family that never went to any prom.
I would try just about anything I could get my hands on to lose the weight and would be successful or a period of time and then there would come a time I just lost the motivation and slide back to the old habits.
To those who knew me during my teenage years, they didn't suspect I was suffering as much as I was internally, however I couldn't figure out why I felt so different than everyone else around me. I struggled with relationships with people, I often felt misunderstood and that in order for me to get anything I wanted, I had to manipulate people.
I'm not able to remember a time when I didn't think about food, my weight and what it would take for me to be accepted by others.
As a result of the internal struggle I had, I attracted men into my life that didn't treat me well. After all, they were a mirror of how I felt about myself. Of course I didn't realize it at that time, I was just grasping at anyone that would give me attention even if that attention hurt me often. Men not wanting anyone to know we were together and hiding our relationship, to men who loved talking to me but said they weren't attracted to me, to men who told me that if a women gained weight after getting married to them that would give them reason to file for divorce. During my dating years, I tried to mold myself into what they wanted and in turn lost all perspective on what was important to me.
After years of failed relationships and an incredible amount of rejection, a man finds me that isn't fazed one bit with me being overweight. He chased me, wanted to date me and made sure he was always available for me to call when I needed a listening ear. After a year and a half of pursuing me and me telling him repetitively I was not interested, I gave in. Figuring this was the best I was going to get at 29 years old. He had asked me to marry him on several occasions even though we hadn't even dated. Still to this day, I am not able to explain how we went from not dating, to engaged and then married 2 1/2 months later. Within a week of getting married, the abuse began. In the state of mind that I was towards him, we were like water and oil. It was a long 7 1/2 year marriage, which included 3 miscarriages our first year to multiple attempts to meet with fertility doctors and numerous abusive outburst which resulted in me gaining weight and hitting my highest weight at 266 lbs.
In February 2009, a dear friend of mine and I were walking early in the morning at the mall as we would do regularly. She mentioned to me she had just eaten four cookies and she needed a detox. I immediately thought, "Four cookies and you need a detox? It's more like 2 bags of cookies and then I might think about a detox." Remember food was my friend. I was a binge eater and I love my large quantities of sugary things. She then asked if I would go with her to a 12 step conference happening that weekend in Vegas. I gave her the excuse that I had to work and she said, "You're the boss. Call it off." I didn't think much of it til we were walking the next morning, This time she turned to me and said, "So, are you going with me?" In that split second, I made a decision to be spontaneous, call off work and make the 5 hour drive to Vegas as a way of supporting her.
It wasn't til we got down there, walked in the room where I realized the significance of that one decision I made that day would have on my life. We arrived an hour late and we were signing in when my attention was drawn to the front of the room where a women was telling MY STORY. She was sharing with the audience that when she was a teenager, when she was babysitting, she cared more about the food in the house than the kids she was tending. THAT WAS ME. I had never had anyone ever say that out loud, let alone think anyone else thought like that.
It was in that moment my entire life changed. My ears were glued to ever word people were saying, Story after story after story of people who had lost a huge amount of weight and KEPT IT OFF. I had been able to lose weight in my past however I couldn't keep it off. This was different and I caught myself looking around the room and thinking to myself, 'who are these crazy people and what is this program they are doing?' All I knew was they had been able to do something that I had never been able to do up to that point. It didn't take long for me to turn to my friend who I came with and tell her that I had no clue what all this was about but I wanted to get started. I remember her turning to me as though to pacify my excitement and saying, '"Oh Becky, you'll know when you're ready." I was ready right then and I knew enough about myself to know that I need to strike when the iron is HOT and I was RED HOT READY at that moment. As a matter of fact by the end of the night, I had found myself a sponsor. Of course it had to be the one lady in the room that had lost over 200 lbs because I knew I needed the best. She was kind enough to take me on but only after she reminded me that this program wasn't about will powering it through, it was about learning how to love and accept myself. 'What does that mean?' is what I thought to myself. Up to this point in my life, I am not sure I really understood how that was possible to love myself thin so then began my beautiful journey of self discovery, love and acceptance and leaning into relying on the power of God to prevail.