A New Path

Disclaimer: This post is in no way meant to offend or criticize anyone who is currently on a health and fitness endeavor. I have nothing but love for you, but this is my truth and I need to share it.

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I’ve gone back and forth on how to approach this blog post. It’s been brewing for several weeks now, but the feelings I’ve attached to the subject matter have been fluctuating and I just don’t know what the best tactic is for sharing about it all. I’ve written and rewritten, and even now that it’s done, there is still so much I want to add or clarify or justify, but I’m not going to. I can and will go into all of this much, much deeper in future posts, but for now I’m going to leave this as it is and hope that it makes sense.

A few months ago I was in the midst of another diet—one that wasn’t called a diet,  but more of a “way of living” or “nutrition program” or something to that effect—but at the end of the day, it was a diet. How do I know that it was something it didn’t claim to be? Because in my experience, diets all have some key features:

  • Rules
  • Restrictions
  • Plateaus
  • Inconsistent (and frequently unsustainable) results

I was feeling frustrated because even though I’d seen some initial weight loss, I was starting to gain a couple pounds back, and I was finding it harder and harder to stick to the program guidelines every single day. I tuned in to one of the videos featuring the program’s creator in hopes of finding some, well, HOPE, and at one point she asked, “How many of you are feeling frustrated, like you don’t want to put in the effort anymore, and find yourselves thinking, ‘I’ve learned enough, I can do it my way. I’ll just make better choices this time’?” I laughed because that was exactly what I’d been thinking, and then she continued on to say something to the effect of, “Stop. You’ve tried that before and it doesn’t work. I know this seems challenging sometimes, but putting in the work now is the only way you’re going to see results.”

Now, that might sound innocent enough to some of you, but to me it felt like a steel door slamming shut in my chest, and in that moment I felt so disgusted and turned off by her and her program that I just wanted to close my laptop and never open it again. I felt angry, and it took me a while to really figure out why. But since then I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, healing, and learning, and I think I’m finally starting to understand.

Those of you who have read some of my earlier posts know that I’m a chronic dieter with over a decade of experience bouncing around from method to method in search of the Holy Grail of Diets that will finally solve my “problems.” The trouble with that, though, is that it seems the diets have been the problem all along. I have fallen for dozens of marketing ploys over the years promising me happiness and peace and freedom that are only attainable by finally reaching my “goal weight,” or having abs, or having a thigh gap. I have convinced myself that being slim will make me happy, but I’ve been slim, I’ve started getting abs, I’ve hit my goal weights multiple times, and guess what? Still miserable. I have somehow simultaneously felt pride in my accomplishments and still dissatisfied with myself, and all of it has been backed by this consuming fear—fear that I would gain the weight back, fear that I would “fall off the wagon” and “fail” whatever diet I was on, fear that I still didn’t look how I thought I “should” look, even after all the hard work I put in.

I walked away from the diet. I decided to do things my way, as I’d done after every diet before, but something was different this time. My anxiety was high, I was obsessing about every bite of food that went in my mouth, mentally calculating nutrition facts, comparing it to what I’d had earlier in the day to determine whether I was “allowed” to eat it based on whether I’d had too much or not enough already that day, feeling intense guilt when I ate more than a bite of sugar (including fruit, because some diet or other taught me that fruit sugar was still sugar), making myself eat certain things post-workout so that I recovered correctly, stressing when I missed more than one workout in a row, worrying about why I was craving more breads than usual because, as I’m sure you’ve heard, bread is bad, and all the while I showed absolutely zero signs of distress on the exterior. My mind was engaged in an all-out war, my own little private Ground Zero, and no one around me was any the wiser.

I was exhausted. I was starting to get facial movement compulsions that have arisen at various times of high anxiety (similar to a nervous twitch, like when someone wrings their hands or bounces their leg). I had so many urges to scream out and dump all of this on my husband, but the last thing I wanted was a look of shock or pity, because I couldn’t stand the thought of being viewed as helpless. I’m a strong, independent woman, I can do this on my own. I don’t need you treating me like a bird with a broken wing, I can fly out of this damn place all by myself if I really wanted to. Can’t I?

Can I?

It was in the midst of this frazzled state that I turned to social media, because the semi-anonymity there makes me feel less intimidated. I’d been following a few body-positive people on Instagram for a while, and one in particular had mentioned a podcast called Food Psych which tackled a wide range of topics surrounding eating disorders, intuitive eating, body image, etc. Now, I’ve never considered myself someone with an eating disorder because the only disorders I know of are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating, so I didn’t really relate with that aspect of it, but I was desperate to learn about self-love and body love and I had heard bits and pieces about this intuitive eating thing and since I literally had no other ideas, I decided to give the show a listen.

Within five minutes of the first random episode I chose, everything changed. They hadn’t even gotten to the main subject yet, it was still in the part where they answer listener questions, and I heard the word “orthorexia.” Ortho-what? What the hell is that?

Orthorexia (noun)
an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy
— a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods in the belief that they are harmful

I found the definition first, and then website after website detailing this affliction and the various ways it manifests, and all of a sudden I wanted to cry. I knew my relationship with food was very, very broken. I knew that I had a laundry list of “rules” that diets had coded into my head over the years, but I didn’t know there was a name for it. I felt equal parts terrified and relieved—the former because holy crap there’s something wrong with me, but then also holy crap this means there’s a solution.

It’s amazing what having an answer can do for you. Once I knew the problem, I set to work finding a solution. I learned that registered dieticians (RDs) are key to helping with eating disorders (or, as I’ve learned to describe my situation, disordered eating—a distinction which I’ll elaborate on in a future post). I had trouble finding someone affordable at first, but through another chance Instagram connection, I was referred to a wonderful woman who runs her practice out of Hawaii who I now meet bi-weekly with via virtual chat, and she also suggested looking into a podcast called RD Real Talk, in which I could find an 11-episode series about intuitive eating, and she recommended the book Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. I also reached back out to the gal who I learned about the Food Psych podcast from and opened up to her because I knew she’d understand, and she responded so gently and lovingly and offered her support whenever I needed it.

I am learning an incredible amount about myself and about what ridiculous expectations I’ve been taught to set. I am at a strange crossroads where I want to be supportive of my friends who are on their various weight loss journeys, but it’s also a bit of a trigger for me and it brings up feelings of anger because I know some of them are only on those journeys because they feel like they’re supposed to look a certain way. I want to grab everyone I know and shake them and say, “I LOVE YOU AND YOU’RE PERFECT,” but I’m still having trouble believing that about myself so it feels hypocritical. And I’m so upset with how we got to where we are, a weight-obsessed perfection-crazed society that’s trying to live up to the ideals of a photoshopped magazine cover. And I’m so ashamed of the thoughts I have sometimes! I was looking at a very different before-and-after on Instagram the other day—the “before” was when this gal was super fit, had abs, and was working out and watching what she ate all the time, while the “after” was her now, plus sized and happy as hell, radiating confidence and self-love. I had never seen her “before” picture prior to this moment, but in all of her current pics I’d thought of how gorgeous she is and how I would love to have half her confidence. But you know what I thought when I saw the before and after?

“How could she give that up??”

Honestly, my first thought was how she could have walked away from abs and a great body. Because that’s what I’ve been taught to think of as success. And I *hated* that thought. I hated the realization that my brain is automatically perpetuating the ideals that have made so much of my own life so challenging. It made my stomach churn, because that’s not even how I truly feel about her. My instinctive thought didn’t factor in her happiness, freedom, self-worth, none of it—it literally only focused on how her body looked.

I saw a quote earlier today that said, “Your first thought is what you’ve been conditioned to think. The one that follows is how you truly feel.” I told my RD about my reaction to the before and after and she said, “It doesn’t matter that you thought that, what matters is how you feel about that thought—it obviously didn’t sit well with you, so that’s what you need to focus on. I want you to learn to look at those types of images with neutrality, that neither one is better or worse than the other, but that both are just different types of bodies and they are both perfectly okay.” What a concept, right?

Whew. This is a lot to write about.

I know this was a huge brain dump of an update, but I needed to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any. As I said in the beginning, this is in no way meant to confront or criticize any of my friends and family that are on various dieting or weight loss journeys, but if you relate to anything I’ve shared about, you are always more than welcome to comment or reach out.

In the coming months, I want to expand on the things I’m learning—self-love, judgement-free eating, diet culture, finding my intuitive voice with not just food but my entire life, dealing with the personal issues that surround my broken food and body relationships, and, of course, my thoughts on intuitive eating and what that looks like for me.

Wherever you are on whatever journey, much, much love to you. I’ll write again soon(ish) xoxo

Stuck

A lovely friend of mine recently asked, “What makes you feel stuck?” She asked it with the intention of sparking a public conversation about how we all get stuck at various points in our lives, and how we all likely have many different methods to getting unstuck. The feedback she receives will be turned into a series of illustrated blog posts, and because I have an abundance of experience with the topic, I decided to respond.

I knew going into it that she had asked a very poignant question. The second I read her prompt and questionnaire I thought, “Oh shit. This is me.” What I didn’t realize is that by responding I would open a floodgate of awareness and suddenly be confronting my demons head-on.

You see my friends, I’ve been struggling again (or maybe it’s still?), and it’s increasingly uncomfortable. I am discontent, and I’ve been wading through the ick trying to figure out what the hell the problem is—is it homesickness? adjustment to expat life? lack of fulfillment with motherhood? starting a new career path? hub’s longer hours and busy schedule? Sure, it’s touches of all of those. But it’s a lot more than that, too.

Several months ago I posted some pieces about my long history of body-shame, weight fluctuations, extreme dieting, and body dysmorphia. I’ve fought those demons for a solid 25 out of 32 years of life on this planet so far, and unfortunately they’ve returned. It started at the end of pregnancy when I suddenly went from very-round-but-still-beautiful to HOUSE BOAT in approximately two weeks (weeks 36-38, to be exact), and though there was a slight reprieve a few weeks later as some of the baby weight started to fall off, it picked right back up once I started working out again. It was that subtle, nagging voice that said,

“Look at your stomach in that shirt. Look at it.”
“Yep, those are size 16 shorts and you still have rolls when you sit down.”
“Ugh my arms squish out so much when I relax them.”
“My boobs are gonna be down to my knees by the time I’m done breastfeeding.”
“I can’t wear this. I look ridiculous. It doesn’t fit right, nothing fits right. Will anything ever fit right?”

And they haven’t stopped.

I might get a reprieve now and then, but they always come back, and sometimes they majorly catch me off guard. Today was a perfect example—I made a recent decision to pursue my ACE Personal Trainer Certification (something I’m very excited about and promise to touch on again soon), and today was the first day of my official study plan. I’ve already had some concerns about my current figure, wondering if people will want to work with a personal trainer who doesn’t have abs, but I’ve shoved them to the side because this is something I really want and truly believe I could be phenomenal at. But, my head apparently doesn’t give a rat’s ass what I believe I could be good at, because as I sat down and started reading, started seeing all the pictures in my book of fit, cut trainers working with people, I swear to god all I could think was, “I’m too fat to be a trainer.” And then every single part of my body suddenly felt dark and hollow and alone.

Those are just the thoughts that actually come through with words. There are still others that lurk in my subconscious, darkening my mood and stomping on my spirit day after day after day after day. I start to doubt myself more and more, and I don’t even realize it’s happening at first until one day it hits me, BAM! I hate my body again.

AGAIN.

AGAIN. AGAIN. AGAIN.

Do you know how many effing times I’ve gone through this?! WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK. WHY IS THIS STILL A PROBLEM?!

Am I eating wrong? Am I not working out enough? Would those things make me feel better? Am I just not capable of loving myself at a curvier weight? That can’t be the case, because I don’t know if I truly loved myself even at my tiniest weight.

It’s not that.

It’s none of that.

It’s perfectionism.

It’s obsessing over doing/looking/being/feeling “perfect.” It’s the insanely deep-rooted belief that I am not good enough, and that the only way I will ever be good enough is by following some exact specifications of how to live my life.

I have obsessed over food, clothes, workouts, diets, people, boyfriends, bathing suits, opinions, MOTHER-EFFING MEDIA, societal standards…all of it. My whole life. And I can’t pinpoint a single lasting feeling of being good enough. Where there some fleeting experiences with it? Sure, but they were heartbreakingly temporary. And what I’ve found over the years is that I never realize what I have in the moment—I’ve looked back at countless pictures and seen a strong, beautiful, badass little lady, but I know that in my mind in those pictures I was still tearing myself apart from the inside out. And that is so, so sad to me. I have been in constant pursuit of external solutions to an internal problem, always convincing myself that THIS THING can fix me, and THAT THING is finally the answer. But it never is.

And I’m exhausted.

I’m so sick of not feeling good enough.

I think about all the energy that’s been poured into this seemingly insurmountable issue and it’s mind-boggling. The amount of hours I’ve spent agonizing over what other people must think of me and wishing so hard that I could change it. I have wasted so much of myself over this, and it has become the single worst habit I think I could ever have, because it’s entirely in my head. You can’t take away a drink or a drug this time; you can’t take away certain foods to fix it; you can’t just stop thinking. So what do you do?

What do you do.

I am going to stop giving energy to the things I’ve always treated as solutions, the things I’ve taught myself require obsessive perfectionism, which are fitness and food. I’ve fallen into the trap recently of clicking on every single “body transformation” workout post I’ve seen, be it within the Beachbody world or BBG or TIU or whatever the hell else is out there, and I alwaythink, “There it is, that’s my solution! If I just work hard for 12 weeks then I’ll have the body of my dreams and I’ll be so happy!” And while that may be the case for a lot of people, my experience is always that I set extreme expectations, and when they aren’t met I feel like a failure. I do not do well with anything that causes me to have expectations of my physical results. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, so the only solution I can think of is to not have a plan at all. I know that sounds crazy to some people, especially some of my fitness friends, but the more detailed my plan is, the worse I feel when something falls out of place. The plan with the least details is no plan at all, so I’m going to keep working out but only commit 30-45 minutes a day to it (unless I feel like doing more that day), and I’ll just do whatever sounds fun and freeing.

I’m not going to limit my food in any way, though I will still be making a more concentrated effort to cook and savor healthy meals on a regular basis because that makes me genuinely happy. I’ve been keeping a food journal, and while I originally thought to nix that, it’s actually been helping because I’ve been able to see that I’m not as “bad” as I think I am (I struggle hard with constantly feeling like I’m failing in the food department). I’m not tracking calories or macros or anything like that, just noting the time and the item (like “12pm – string cheese”). If that ever starts causing me stress, it goes out the window.

The most crucial change I could possibly make though is that I am going to be dedicating as much time as I can possibly spare to personal development and confronting these demons that have been overpowering me my whole life. In my searches for helpful tools so far, I’ve had to come to terms with the real names of my afflictions, self hate being the most powerful one. I would never think of or judge someone the way I think of and judge myself if there wasn’t hatred involved, so let’s call a spade a spade and quit sugar-coating it with terms like “low self-esteem.” No. I judge myself to the point of tears and heartache. That’s hate.

One of the hardest things for me to comprehend about all of this is that I am damn proud of many of the things I’ve accomplished in life—sobriety, college, starting my own business, motherhood (sometimes)—and I know that I’ve made a really big impact in a lot of ways and have some wonderful talents that I am so grateful to be able to use on a regular basis and even share with others. I also do love some things about myself, like my face—birthmark and all—and my hourglass shape (I just judge the life out of the components of that shape). I know, on some level, that I have an abundance of good about me, but that is not what keeps me up at night. That is not the recurring theme of my life. The good never outshines this, and if I don’t take steps to right myself, that may never change.

I don’t say any of this for pity or prayers or whatever else people generally throw at things. I don’t say it for attention. I don’t even really say it to be heard by the general population. I say it because it’s my truth, and because it needed to be said somewhere. It needed to be called out by name and given residence somewhere other than just the fatigued confines of my brain.

I also say it because I know I’m not alone.

For the girl who’s hit her “goal weight” and still hates the way she looks in fitted clothes…
I see you.

For the girl who is loathing herself because she just ate another row of Oreos…
I see you.

For the girl who is trying her fourth brand of diet pills because she’s sure this quick-fix will work…
I see you.

For the girl who’s hoping she’s invisible when she steps out in a bikini…
I see you.

For the girl who can’t look at anything below her face in the mirror for longer than a passing glance…
I see you.

I see all of you, and so many more. I am you. We are in this together, but I will be damned if I’m going to live the rest of my life like this. I have beautiful baby girl and I don’t want to raise her with the right words; I want her to see confidence, self-esteem, and ferocious, unstoppable self-love. I want her to know that she is the most incredible, worthy, empowered woman on the planet. But before I can do that, I have to find it in myself.

Stay tuned xo


If you would like to participate in the conversation about going from Stuck→Unstuck, head on over to J Clement Wall’s blog and follow the links.

Hiatus Be Gone

OKAY. No more dilly-dallying, no more excuses, no more hiatus. I’m baaaaaack! However, I have decided not to hold myself to any kind of schedule for right now. I don’t want another month-long absence, but I think telling myself I had to post once a week was making me avoid it, especially in weeks of high stress or when I just didn’t know what to say. I actually did draft a post on Halloween, but it’s rambling and pointless and I think served more of the purpose of decluttering mah brains rather than produce actual publishable content. Either way, I’m here now, so, that’s cool.

October flew by, meaning hubs has now been gone a month and I got to dress M up as Wonder Woman while we hung out at home and ate the candy one of our awesome neighbors left for me. The month also brought me more thoroughly back into running. I’ve been trying to go twice a week, and I’ve had some big accomplishments, like running five strollerless miles nonstop, and running my fastest stroller 5k yet at 36m 40s. I have further managed to add a new injury to my ever-healing body—de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, aka “Mommy Thumb”—which is preventing the overuse of my right wrist (no heavy dumbbells, no pushups, etc), and speaking of Mommy things, my own Momma Bear came to visit and it was so good to see her and hug her and watch her play with baby girl and just have grown-up company again.

There were also two milestones of 10.

I’ve written a bit about my several years of poor life choices and near-life-wreckage, but what I haven’t mentioned specifically is that all of the chaos ended with formal sobriety on October 22, 2007, and I’ve maintained it ever since. So, on October 22 this year, I celebrated a decade of sobriety. I have a beautiful life today, and even though I don’t attend 12-step meetings or do what a lot of my sober friends still do, I am very successful at not drinking or using any substances, and I try very hard to not be a havoc-wreaking mess of a girl these day.

The second milestone? TWO sacks of potatoes! That’s right my friends, 10 whole pounds lost. **It was 10.6 at the time of this first draft, but now it’s actually 11.8!** In the featured image above, the top row was from Aug 2, and the bottom is Nov 12. I’m now 180.2, I’ve worked long and hard to get here, and now that I’m 0.3 lbs away from being in a new number bracket (is there a better word for that? tax brackets are for income ranges, so…weight bracket? for weight ranges?), I’m more motivated than ever.

So now that you’re caught up on last month, let’s talk about what’s going on now. For one, I recently learned about something called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Apparently it’s every November, and writers from the newest amateur to the most experienced novelist decide to dedicate 30 days to writing a first draft of a 50,000-word novel (or 1,667 words per day). For some godforsaken reason, I thought it might be fun to try, and while I have already failed miserably because new mom and sore wrist and time change that made me feel like I was dying a horrible fatigue-ridden death, I have started what might end up being an actual book someday.

Ya see, there was a movement that went around recently that many of you may have seen—#metoo. It was a way for women to identify themselves as having experienced sexual harassment or assault, and my newsfeed was flooded, as were those of pretty much everyone I know. I even posted my own #metoo, not with any details, but simply expressing my inclusion. That movement plus NaNoWriMo, combined with the things that cross my mind when I look at my baby girl, got me thinking about all the experiences I’ve had in my life that have molded me into who I am today. I’m not just talking about the bad ones, but the good stuff too, like watching my nanny play these two certain songs on the piano over and over and over again, stopping and restarting every time she made a mistake, and how that led to me taking lessons for eight years, which later led to me composing music and entering a songwriting contest just a few years ago. And of course there are shitty memories, like my #metoo moments and being mercilessly teased for my weight all through elementary school, but there are also negatives that led to really positive outlooks. For example, the day I realized that my inner thighs that I hated so much have touched every single day of my entire life—literally—so I’ve spent many long, painful years trying to change something that will quite likely never change, and that all the self-judgement I weighed myself down with was because of what I thought I “should” look like, instead of who I am. I know I’m kinda running away with this right now, but I mean think about your own lives—are there not a hundred little memories that you think about all the time? Are there not defining moments that, whether you realized it at the time or not, were ones that would forever change your shape, even if only a little? My mind is filled with those moments, and I think—I hope—that by laying them all out in some kind of rough chronological order, they might provide some insight, some relatability, some point of identification for other women out there who have been molded too. And of course, I know the mens out there have had their own defining experiences, but as I have no penis, I will be sticking with the ladies on this one.

I’m gonna keep working on the book a little at a time, as my life permits, and I hope I can stay motivated enough to see it through to the end. It’s kind of a huge undertaking, but if I get the first draft done and stop my inner editor from trying to perfect everything the first go-round, I think I’ll be good to go. In the meantime I will also be continuing to run and keep up with my new home kickboxing workouts, and I get to experience my first attempt at air travel with the child later this week, so pray for us. Florida for a few days and then a quick turnaround to see hubs for Turkey Day (which should be extra fun now that minion is eating big girl foods)—gobble, gobble!

Have a lovely start of November, my fellow humans. I’ll be back in a couple weeks!

C is for C-Section

Warning: There are some candid details about c-sections and postpartum recovery in this post. If you don’t want to read that, then you should probably stop here.

This past week, my friend Megan shared an article about a mother who was being shamed for “opting” to have a c-section, with the criticizer saying it wasn’t a “real” birth.
She shared it out of hurt, because she is a c-section momma, and so am I. Continue reading “C is for C-Section”

Weighing In

When I first started working on this post, it carried a different tone. I was feeling irritated by a recent injury and I forgot what I know to be true—I am strong, determined (aka stubborn), and capable of damn near anything I put my mind to, even if the universe isn’t moving at rapid speed when I want. Let me explain…

Prior to getting knocked up, one of my biggest pregnancy fears was gaining a ton of weight and not being able to lose it. I’m just shy of 5’7″ (5’6 3/4″ to be exact, and you better believe that’s what I tell doctors), and twice in my life I’ve been single digits away from 200 lbs. Continue reading “Weighing In”