Lacy's Book is Available for Pre-Order!

My rad pals Lacy and Kett made a book!  Ink in Water is the story of Lacy's struggle with and victory over anorexia and it's BEAUTIFUL.  Lacy and Kett have been working on it for 2 years, and I've been following along on Instagram and Facebook.  This is going to be an amazing book. 

Pre-orders matter for gauging interest in the book, so if you're inclined, please pre-order here.

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction

So I got three new kittens recently, and as a consequence I’ve been thinking about them a bunch and not about blogging.  But then my awesome friend Jess messaged me, and that spawned a whole great dialogue about bodies, health habits, and changing things up.

There’s been a really interesting conversation evolving lately about whether or not you can be body-positive and still have goals around your body. More specifically—can you love your body and still want to change it?

It’s a tough one, because I feel like a lot of the time, it can be a very gray slippery mucky area where people say they want to be healthy or stronger or whatever, and really, they just want to lose weight and be more socially acceptable.  And that’s kinda dumb.  If you wanna lose weight, just say you wanna lose weight.  It’s your body.  You can do what you want.  And as a feminist, I believe in bodily autonomy over anything else.

I do think that it’s important to consider WHY you want to lose weight.  In this conversation with Jess, I asked her to examine why she wanted to lose weight.  I’m not the arbiter of what is and isn’t appropriate motivation.  Girl, I get it.  We fight a lot of battles in our time on this planet and this shit is hard.  If you want to lose weight so that bullies stop harassing you, so that your doctor takes you seriously, so that you can land that fly job without interviewer bias, it’s cool.  I personally believe that other reasons can be more fulfilling and that one should take a good, solid look at themselves and learn to live and love what they see first.  Then you can decide what you want to change.  

Jess does that here, and I think her desire to add more muscle and change her body comp based on how she feels is totally sound.  (I’d still have helped her even if the reasons she listed weren’t ones near and dear to my own heart, because I’m not a dick, but it did help me shape what I recommended.)

Above all, I think healthy should be additive, not reductive.  You shouldn't ever feel shame or deprivation.  It's way more fun to ADD stuff to your routine and see what sticks.  So here’s our conversation, complete with my ideas for how one might increase their overall health by adding rad stuff to their routine and making it habitual.

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

Jess:  For the very first time in my life, I actually want to lose some weight. This is a new experience for me and I have no interest in engaging in Diet Culture, which I can't see past the marketing of, if nothing else. I love myself and my body enough to want to do so healthfully and mindfully, and as much as I am a mortal human who enjoys overnight results, would be fine with a slow-and-steady progress.  What would your recommendation BE to someone like me?

Kelly: So as a feminist, I totally believe it's possible to love your body and yet also have goals concerning it.  To start off with, let's ask the obvious: why do you want to lose weight?  Once we determine your motivation, that's where we'll start.

Jess: I want to feel less heavy-- I know this is something a lot of people experience, I can actually feel myself carrying this extra weight. I'm not too proud to say that there's some vanity in there. I also want to gain muscle in my core so that I have an easier time hauling my ass (of any size) around. Also, having been very, very thin for bad, injury related reasons, I know what my too-thin feels like and have no interest in being there again. I do not want to lose any more than 12 pounds from where I am right now, and I want to do so in a way that will replace some of the fluff lost with the muscle I never gained back after my injuries, because fuck, being 10lb under your HappyWeight makes you COLD ALL THE TIME.

And energy! This is what I mean about feeling heavy. I'm tired a lot and want to not expend as much effort as I feel like I do in day to day stuff. When the 10 minute walk to the subway feels like a million miles and you can't kick up the speed, something goes off in your head.

Kelly: Ok!  So: a lot of what ails you can be adjusted with switching up what kinds of activity you do, and making some small tweaks to what you eat.  Can you describe what your normal habits look like on both of those accounts?  

Jess: Oh, I am fully aware that my habits are awful! Some of it is because I am so tired so frequently (and for a really long time I have been attributing it almost entirely to job stress and dissatisfaction-- and it did play a part!) I have never loved fruits and vegetables and essentially trick myself into eating them about 90% of the time I do. I can easily go a day without eating a single one, I am working towards fixing that. I am also what a friend of mine has heard referred to as "skinnyfat", where my eating habits can't be described as bad either. I don't eat a lot of sweets, snack food, or fast food. I have, in the last year, eaten a fair amount of convenience food, cans and boxes and the like, and am trying to change that a bit. Kyle and I in general need to be better about actually cooking and getting fresh food in the house, which is hard when you're really busy. But hopefully things are evening out for us a little bit. A lot of it is things I know I should do, but don't.

Activity, not nearly as much as I would like. Because I'm always running around to 10 different things, and tired when I stop, I don't set aside much regular time for focused exercising. I was trying for a while but not very successful. I get around an hour of walking/stairs just commuting every day.  Other stuff, but nothing regular.

My plan in the coming weeks is that when (boyfriend) starts band rehearsals again I'll go to a Pilates class I have taken and enjoyed that meets at the same time. I won't have any distractions, it’s after work, I got it cheap via Groupon, and if I schedule it in advance and am prepaid for it, I won't slack and not go. Raising stakes!  Making myself responsible for it.
For my back I currently do light stretching and foam roller stuff when it hurts. Also trying to do something for that every. single. day. because ow.

Kelly: Hey! No judgment!  We all approach life differently.  I love fruits and vegetables, and I'm totally overweight.  Whatever.  Genetics and proclivities are genetics and proclivities. That said: in order to actually change your body, you must actually change your habits.  I know it sounds reductive, but it's true.  

I feel you on being busy.  It can be hard to do a lot of things, but the truth to life is you have to prioritize what's really important to you.  Hate your job?  Looks like you're setting about fixing it.  Feeling a lot of discomfort, heaviness, ick?  Now's the best time to start making changes that will help you feel a ton better overall.  I promise.

Let's go from "easiest to implement" to "a little harder".  I promise I won't give you anything ridiculous.  You can integrate things as you go along.  All you have to do is promise yourself to keep going.

Movement/Exercise:  So stuff you're already doing: the Pilates class is good.  That should help with some of your pain/discomfort for sure.  Having a strong core helps with everything else.  It's also good to have day-to-day movement built in.  Keep that up.

The biggest change with the highest dividends you can make to your exercise routine will be to add some weight lifting.  I know that may sound a little intimidating, but there's really no other way to add muscle quickly and efficiently.  Also, it doesn't have to be bad or hard.  You may end up loving it.

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

You don't have to join a gym, or buy anything for now.  I'd suggest starting with 10-15 minutes of body weight exercises 2-3x per week.  Do it while you're waiting for (boyfriend) to cook dinner, or when you've gotten home before you kick off your shoes and relax.  The thing about setting a healthy habit is that you have to get to it before inertia kicks in.  For me, that means doing it before I go home from work - that may or may not make sense for you.

Intro to Strength Training: Nerd Fitness (Focus on the bodyweight section.  Links to movements inside the article)
Why strength training is good for you: Nerd Fitness

I love Nerd Fitness.  They're legit, and low on the moralizing.

Nutrition:  For nutrition, I'd start small and get better over time.  Get a habit tracking app on your phone, and start tracking habits.  I'd keep it simple—examples:
- Eat 3 servings of vegetables today (sneak them into a smoothie, try them with dips, eat vegetarian for a week and challenge yourself to find recipes you like)
- Eat a fruit
- Have one meal you make yourself
- Drink 48 oz of water

Some core eating habits I try to live by: eat when you’re hungry, eat 3-4 meals per day (no grazing), eat until you’re full then stop, and try to eat mostly whole foods.  

Also, eMeals saved my relationship.  It's an app for tablet or smartphone with EASY recipes and not too many ingredients.  You can make some stuff on the weekend if you have time, and save it/freeze it for easy reheating later.  And they give you a shopping list that you can take to the store. So simple.

So that's a ton of info, but let me tell you what's in it for you: less pain, a better looking and feeling body, the energy to get through your day.  Weight lifting in particular made the biggest body comp change to my body that I've ever seen in my entire life.  Seriously, it was life-changing.  I had a really tight butt, great arms, a smaller waist -- all of it.  It WILL NOT make you bulky.  I promise.  It never has, unless the lady took steroids.  For real.  When I started making these changes, I stopped feeling sluggish, could carry my shit all day, and all my aches and pains got better.  That was reward enough for me.  
So: how does all that sound?

Jess:  It sounds great! What you said in this last paragraph is pretty much everything I want in a more-concise than I said it nutshell. Specific thoughts following!

Movement: I actually LOVE weightlifting, I just never do it successfully outside of a gym, and I just dumped my gym membership so I could afford these Pilates classes. My chiropractor actually specifically recommended them, and as habits go they will be easier for me to incorporate than a gym since they have a set date and time. There's a very, very light free-weight fly the chiropractor gave me too that I just need to make habit. I actually would NOT mind bulking up on top so you don't need to talk me down from that! Will definitely check out that link.

Nutrition: Your first set of bullet points are definitely a thing I am trying to work toward. I started having a smoothie every day for lunch, but the pineapple in it was hurting my mouth and I would come home hungry and cranky (even though I felt fullwhen I was finished with the smoothie). I'm glad the weather is cooling off because that'll make the very act of cooking, and perhaps meal prep, much, much easier. Also, it'll let me sneak my veg in soup (I just got some for lunch now!). As for core eating habits, I am already mostly successful at these things-- 3 meals, when I'm hungry and usually not before. Stopping when I'm full.  Been working very hard to not eat while bored.  I need a book or something. When we cook, it’s often whole, but not as often as it could be. Frankly I need to learn to cook better in general. I have a food-tracking app I have used before. It’s pretty focused on raw calories, which I don’t super mind, because knowing I will have to type my food in makes me pause before I eat it and go "do I want to do this".

We just successfully have been making cold brew coffee to save money, so I am optimistic that I could do a weekday breakfast prep thing. I really want to make those omelet muffin tin things I've been seeing around, because I love a good spinach omelet and spinach can come frozen and organic and be just as healthy for me as fresh without wilting.

Kelly: My favorite smoothie recipe:
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup mango chunks (fresh or frozen)
1 banana
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup baby spinach leaves

It's SUPER GOOD.  You don't taste the spinach at all.  Nothing in it should hurt you.  It's very tropical and keeps you full because of the coconut milk.

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction -

I make these egg muffins a ton: Egg Muffin Recipe

Cooking spray prevents them from sticking, and then you just reheat.  My fave combo right now is baby spinach, feta, and roasted red pepper (from a jar, cut up).  So good.

So it seems like the answer now is to do the Pilates + the lightweight fly, and start with that.  Those are your exercise habits for the next month.  Then, whenever those classes are up or you feel done and can afford it, hit the gym for more robust weight lifting.  I am SO GLAD that you have none of those concerns.  I love weightlifting and I wish more women would do it, to preserve their skeletal muscle later on.

For food, I'm super glad to hear you have mostly healthy habits.  Not eating while bored is totally a thing.  One of my friends says it's helping her to have something to do with her hands.  Another friend says that drinking a glass of water when she's snacky helps her see if she's hungry or not.

I spend Sunday afternoon doing 3 hours of meal prep.  I make egg muffins, get smoothie ingredients together, and make my bagged lunch for the week.

Jess: Update! I had a very happy weekend, kicked off by our conversation, and while I didn’t watch my eating, I was very active, and have a habit tracker app and feel like I can do it. I'm going to try to drink an amount of water, eat one fruit and one veg serving per day, do my chiro-prescribed exercises every single day, and take vitamins including probiotic and fiber. Trying to set myself up for success! And I know from experience that taking a multivitamin with iron prevents PMS weight gain (which is insignificantin the long run but very, very annoying.)

Kelly: That all sounds great Jess!

Jess: Day 2 and I am on my way to meeting those goals again. Thank you for realizing that sometimes you have to just be a nerd who loves checking off to do lists before being a "health conscious person" whatever that means or, honestly, deciding what not to eat. I'm already feeling more positive because I have A Plan.

Kelly: Totally. That's the WHOLE THING.  Like, all of it.  If you can get that down, the results will come.

Jess: Word. I am ready. I ate both fruit and vegetables 2 days in a row before I was even done with work. One thing I run into that I think lots of people have trouble with is like wtf is a serving of these things. I ate a wrap that had cucumbers and carrot in it. No idea how much because I didn’t make it myself. Easier to check yes or no, at least at this stage, than to worry about a measure.

Kelly: Yes, totally.

Jess:  Keeping the habits up, finding fruit harder than veg. Really glad today was soup weather! Hale and Hearty cream of tomato with orzo and chicken is super delicious and filling and the only eh factor is salt.

Peeing constantly because lots of water. Takes some getting used to. But definitely feeling a bit more energetic and less beat at the end of the day. Hope its not placebo! haha.

Kelly: It’s totally not, and even if it is, who cares!  Enjoy that feeling, girl.

Anyone else want to weigh in on additive health habits they've implemented?  What's been successful for you?  And even more interesting, what hasn't?

A Conversation

I was chatting with my good friend Michelle about bodies and weight loss and self-acceptance and love the other day.  I'd sent her Nourishing Wisdom a couple weeks ago, a follow-up to an evolving conversation we've been having since she came to visit me in February.  With her permission, I'm sharing parts of our conversation here, because it's a good one.

Love who you are. -

Love who you are. -

Michelle: Getting down to my lowest weight did not magically take away any of my self hate. It just meant I was very small, which frankly looked weird, and I was cold ALL the time.

It's just difficult when you're a very goal-oriented person not to think of yourself in that way. How do we balance a healthy desire to achieve goals with self-love and acceptance?

Kelly: I think the first step is to make the goal loving yourself.  So the goal becomes 1. Read this book about self-acceptance,  2. Make an art journal, 3. Listen to this CD series about self-love,  4. Go to yoga x times per week, etc.  You slowly move the goals to be more self-loving things, and you focus on behaviors, not outcomes.

When you do these practices enough, it becomes easier to think of your body in a different way. It's the attachment to it "having to be this way" that's causing you pain.

I've noticed it a lot with clothes, like, "I want to wear these pants again." And that's totally fine. However, it's my attachment to that idea that's causing drama. It's fine to want to wear them. But it's not okay when I base my happiness on being able to wear them or not.

There are other pants. There are other vintage dresses. There are many ways to be, all worthy of love and acceptance.

Michelle: It's like a kind of refocusing . . . every time I feel myself becoming anxious over the competing priorities in my life, I remind myself to think of loving myself first. What does it mean to choose the loving option? Frequently, it means backing the eff off of the absurd expectation that I can fit it all in without causing harm, and choose the path that will bring the most peace. Today, that means not going to the gym in order to focus all my time on my paper tonight.

And clothes are so tough. I feel like we define ourselves by them in so many ways.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. It helps when you realize that today is only one point on a long journey. My body has changed so much because of derby, CrossFit, hormones, pregnancy, non-pregnancy... I just can't hate on it anymore. It's so nice to me. It carries my soul across long-distances. It stretches and bends to accommodate whatever I need. It doesn't complain overmuch, given what I ask it to do all the time.

And when it DOES complain, I need to listen. Last week I was super not feeling CrossFit or eating any particular way, because I was just so emotionally and physically tired. And this time, I listened. I took the week off in a sense. I did what I felt would serve me and my body best. I went to the chiropractor, I got a massage. And I did end up doing one day of lifting, because I felt good that day.

And as it turns out, giving myself the room to do what I needed and wanted meant that this week, I am feeling much more like killing my workouts and eating salads out of mason jars. Now, everyone's mileage may vary. But that's how it was for me.

All this was made possible though, honestly, by a moment where I just threw up my hands and thought "I'm done. I cannot walk another step in self-improvement fueled by disappointment in my body any fucking longer. I surrender. Even if it means that I'll be chubby the rest of my life."

It was that surrender, that total acceptance - even at rock bottom - of myself that's made everything work.

Michelle: I love this: I cannot walk another step in self-improvement fueled by disappointment in my body any fucking longer.

And I could alter it for myself by substituting disappointment in with “fear of”...and hopefully the surrender part will just happen. I'm only just understanding what a traumatic couple of years it has been, for me and for so many of my friends. Things are hard enough already without piling self hate on top. It helps no one.

Kelly: It really doesn't. And honestly, when you told me "I'm happier in a smaller body", I took it at face value. But a small part of me asked, "Yes, okay, but what are you doing to get there? What is the cost of it?" Because I look at pictures where I was my thinnest, and I know that that girl was "happier", but only to the extent that happier meant "more free of the crushing weight of my fear of being a larger person in this world".

I was more free of it, because I was smaller. But my own self-acceptance and okayness with being a plus-size (well sort of - I'm an inbetweenie) woman is a harder-won, better, and harder victory.

My point is: being fully in your body, accepting its wrinkles, curves, dimples, freckles, age spots, bunions, stretch marks, rolls, whatever ... it's really hard. But it feels fucking awesome when you get there. Because you can go out to dinner and really ask yourself: what do I really *want*? What does my body feel like it *needs*?

And it tells you. When I get home from the South I crave piles of vegetables. I like having a lot of vegetables every day because I grow them in my garden, and that relationship with the earth and soil, combined with creative cooking, has changed my relationship with plants.  Now, I like them. But I also like ice cream. And either choice is fine. I just have to listen to what’s best for me in that moment.

But when you accept your body as okay, those choices become about you. Not about what all the other external voices have to say. The body has a wisdom to it, a deep intuitiveness. And we can tune in, or we can tune out. But the choice becomes less fraught when we know we are okay.

Encouragement Pinata

A couple of months ago, I was having what is commonly known as "a very hard time."  Without going into too much detail, it felt like my life was failing on multiple fronts - work, family, body stuff... and it was really intense, and sad.

Worst of all, my normal internal self-cheering mechanisms weren't working.  Our resilience gets tested when we experience stress and sadness on multiple fronts, and it becomes harder and harder to bounce back.  I'd lost my bounce.

So I did something that's quite difficult for me to do - I asked for help.

If I couldn't cheer myself up, I reasoned, maybe my friends could.  Maybe they could see things about my situation that had hope.  Maybe they could see super powers in me that they knew would activate with the right boost.

So I put this note on Facebook:

Friends, I have been having a really tough time lately with medical news. I need some help cheering up, and I had an idea: an encouraging pinata!

The idea is this: you send me an encouraging note, weird Japanese candy, janky wind-up toy or whatever, I put in a pinata, and then I smash it! This combines lots of good thoughts and juju with the benefit of a HULK SMASH. If you’re down, PM me and I’ll send you an address of a friend who will be assembling stuff. I’m just going to make the pinata, but they’re going to fill it, so I won’t see anything until SMASH TIME.

I know this may sound a little self-serving, and I’m sorry. But I need something bright to save me from despair, so if you feel like participating, shout. Much love to all, and also, should you need an encouraging pinata in the future, I will make you one. ♥

To my surprise, more than just my 3 best friends were down.  I got messages from many folks that day, asking to participate.  One of my friends commented that the pinata was a great idea because a lot of the time when someone we love is struggling, we don't have anything concrete to offer.  By giving my friends something they could do for me, I helped them to help me. 

I waited a little over a month, and then bought this guy.

Encouragement Pinata.  Basically the best idea I've ever had.

Encouragement Pinata.  Basically the best idea I've ever had.

I figured there was some kind of poetic symbolism in smashing my dragons/dinosaurs.  It might feel more satisfying and less morally dubious than hitting Hello Kitty in the face repeatedly.  Or maybe not.  But anyway, this is the pinata I chose.

To my surprise, over 20 people contributed to my pinata.  I had a friend collect the packages, so it would all be a secret. 

On the day of, I borrowed a big wooden sword, had that same friend stuff the pinata, including some stuff I'd gotten for it: my favorite flavor of Jolly rancher, red Raspberry, and some vintage stickers.  I got them because I wanted to be a friend to myself. 

And then it was time for the smash:

Encouragement Pinata SMASH!

Encouragement Pinata SMASH!

You know, this was truly one of the most fun and surprising and affirming experiences of my life. 

When I first got the idea to do an Encouragement Pinata, I thought I was being kinda selfish.  Like, who am I to ask for people to send me notes and presents?  But I did it anyway because I really needed it.  I've been sad and discouraged, and it's been really dang heavy.

In the midst of so much cloudiness, I needed some light.  And I got it.

It's not weak to ask for help.  It doesn't make you selfish or bad or grabby to reach out and ask for what you need.  And what's so great is that everyone really came through for me.  I feel loved and buoyed up by the care the donors have shown me.  Every time I need to be brave or strong or move forward, I will think of them.

And since I am not Amanda Palmer or Lena Dunham, I decided to send everyone a little something back.  I'm making surprise balls for the 20 people that sent me something.  Doesn't matter if it was just a post-it note, or a book, or a whole jar of hand-folded origami stars, or even 10 individually-wrapped mini chocolate bars (all of which appeared in the pinata), they're getting a treat.  Because I like surprising people.  And because no one was more surprised than me at how generous, lovely, and yes, encouraging, all of my friends are.

Being There, Being Here

The shitty thing about eating disorders is that they are the ultimate self-absorption.  You become so convinced that your body is unacceptable that you have to create a whole narrative framework to make yourself okay.  And you become so attached to that framework that anything that doesn't reinforce it feels like a threat.  You lose sight of people you like, people you care about, in the process of feathering that odious nest, of building walls around yourself brick by brick.

It came to my attention today that I'd been a schmuck to one of my friends.  Rather than building a fortress of fragile self-righteousness to protect myself from the pain of being wrong, I've decided to examine where I went off the rails and open myself up to that discomfort.  

I was dismissive and judgmental of this friend because what she wanted to do in her own fitness journey contrasted strongly with mine and I perceived that as a threat.  

Not competition, as I think would be easy to assume.  I know other people are thinner and prettier than I am - after all, there's always someone better looking and more fit than you, isn't there?  But more because it felt like if she went that direction, she would no longer be one of us, part of Team Finish. And that felt sad and scary.  I felt a little abandoned, concerned that the support network I'd tried so hard to build would crumble.

I also felt a bit lost, because the tack she was taking was something she'd warned me off in the past.  It took me awhile to remember that just because one path is right for one woman, it may not be right for another, and that that is always okay.

You may not know what it's like for someone in recovery from an Eating Disorder to be exposed to someone else's restrictive eating plan, no matter how awesome or well-intentioned it may be.  This article from Choosing Raw really helped me get some clarity about what I was feeling.  

When I hear about these regimes, I feel two things. The rational, mature half of me feels a sense of sympathy, because I know that flirting with deprivation is almost always bound to backfire. There’s also an irrational, petulant, and stubborn part of me that hears these things and feels an instinctual urge to compete. To interject with my own nutrition expertise, or (much worse) to prove that I’m no less capable of incredible feats of self-discipline. I don’t act on the impulse, which is good, but the whole thing leaves me unnerved and insecure.

You can have a great relationship with food, a restored relationship with your own body, and many years of recovery behind you and still feel triggered by what I call “food noise”: that great nimbus of conversation that includes, but is not limited to, detoxes, weight loss initiatives, slim downs, tone ups, dietary reboots, and/or lessons in why a particular food is the devil, or why a bite of some other suspect ingredient is sure to make you fat, sick, and nearly dead. And if you’re anything like me, the fact that these moments make you feel anxious becomes yet another source of grief, because there’s nothing more frustrating than realizing that you’re just a little more tender and vulnerable than you thought you were.
— Choosing Raw

Ultimately, I want to be the best friend I can be.  That is hard, sometimes, as I grapple with my own insecurity about my recovering body.  It can be hard to figure out what is right for me, independent of everyone else, especially if that person is someone I look up to.  

It also just goes to show that you're always at the bottom of one mountain, even if you've just scaled another.  I'm always learning.  This is still new to me, and that's okay.  

I feel badly that I hurt my friend's feelings by being unsupportive.  I've apologized, and I hope she accepts.  After all, we all need a little support when things are hard.  I think I'm ready to be there for her now, even as I honor where I am right now.