Then and Now, Part 2

First off: an exercise.

Let's look at these photos side by side shall we:

2013

2013

And:

2014

2014

What differences do you see?

I'm wondering if you see what I see.  As you may have guessed, these are from 2013 & 2014 respectively.  This week, I dressed in the exact same outfit I did last year to see if my body dysmorphia and my perception that last year I was way thinner and prettier could be challenged by side-by-side photos.

Here's the differences as I see them:

  • My face looks a little rounder this year.  Though, that could be that I'm angled a little more to the side in the first photo (I learned this trick to make my jawline look more defined. I have a really round face, which is why you'll see me angle it in photos.)
  • My stomach isn't as flat.  Could be that I'm carrying more weight in my stomach this year, or that I'm leaning forward a little more in the second photo.
  • My arms look bigger.  That is definitely a thing.  My arms are way stronger this year.

What do you notice?

The biggest thing I noticed is that the differences aren't nearly as extreme as I thought.  I really did believe that they would be vast, that I would look totally different this year.  But I don't, not a ton.

Here's the breakdown of how my body has changed:
Weight: up 12.5 lbs
Inches: down 5.1 inches

So even though I weigh more, my overall size is down.  Mind-boggling, isn't it?

And what's even more funny is that certain parts of my body have shrunk while other parts have gotten bigger, and I don't care.  I like that my shoulders and arms are getting bigger.  My neck, hips, and calves have stayed the same, my waist has been on a downward trend, my bust and thighs seem to change with my cycle.  It's interesting to watch, but it doesn't have the sting it once did.  Measurement day for Precision Nutrition used to make me really anxious, but I've skipped the last couple altogether, because I am not a number.  I am more complex than that.

Don't even get me started on how inaccurate most measurements are anyway, given our cyclical lady changes and the subjective nature of human data collection.  I've given up on calipers and scales altogether.  I include my own measurements here to prove to myself with hard data that my flawed perception of my body ballooning up because I'm not rigorously exercising and restrictively eating  is false. 

My body has changed, certainly.  I can see that I'm not quite as angular as I was in 2013.  That's cool.  If I want to do another Whole30 and be strict Paleo again, I can.  If I want to do intense cardio and CrossFit 6x a week again, while restrictively eating, I can.  It's just - that's not my goal right now.  I don't want to dedicate my life to the temple of svelteness right now.  And that's a more than acceptable choice.

But I did this exercise to show myself that I am acceptable when not eating restrictively and goose stepping through my self-enforced boot camp.  In fact, I think I look pretty rad, especially for having been injured for 3 weeks, eating comfort food because of lady times, and being off my normal meditation and yoga practice.

What's more, this way of being feels like a breath of fresh air.  It feels sustainable.  I get to ask myself every day, "What will nourish me most?" and then do it.  It feels like spring, and sunshine, and a deep, full breath.  It feels badass.

Already Okay

I'm going to start off this blog with a post I wrote about the end of a journey.  I've been participating in the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating program since July 2013.  It's about to end, and I realized a few things when I reflected on its ending.

What if the point of Precision Nutrition was to convince me that I am already okay?  That I am already perfect just as I am?

Because you’d think after months of awareness brought to my eating habits, extensive checklists such as this one:

A chart I've been keeping every week, for nearly a year.

A chart I've been keeping every week, for nearly a year.

 

…. Routine workouts, a whole foods challenge, and all the rest of it, that I would have dropped a bunch of weight, right?

NOPE.  I’ve gained 10 lbs since I started.  And to be honest, I feel pretty great about that.  Is that weird?  Probably.  Do I care?  Nope.  

You see, the thing is guys, I know I can lose weight.  I did it last year with Whole30 and a couple of Whole14s.  I look at the pictures right after that and feel a little nostalgic.  I look a bit leaner than I do now.  My face and arms are more defined, my chin and arms look like daggers, and my stomach is nearly flat in the outfits I’m wearing.  And that’s cool.  I realized yesterday that instead of feeling wistful that I’m not quite as thin, I should look at that as an accomplishment—my goal back then was to lose weight, and I did it.  Go me!

That should be it, right?  I look thinner, so that was clearly the most successful time of my life, and I should be upset that I’m 10 lbs heavier and a slob, right?  No.

What you don’t see in those pictures is that I had injured my shoulder by overuse and lack of care, and that I was in a really bad cycle of restriction followed by binging.  There was a stark difference between each “challenge” I was on, and whatever came after.  I didn’t know how to take care of myself, nourish my body, or what level of exercise was appropriate for me.  

I was constantly sore, sick, and self-doubting.  And the illness part is where I figured out something was wrong.  It’s not normal for me to be sick every month, but I was.  Every month.  With a cold, usually, but sometimes with strep throat (June) or some kind of wacky infection that took antibiotics and a round of Prednisone to finally heal (September).  That round of steroids had the added effect of putting my shoulder back online, which was rad, but also sad that it took steroids to get it to heal.  Sad/rad.

It wasn’t until this year, and my friendship with Lacy Davis of Super Strength Health, that I finally figured it out and turned it around.  I had a breaking point back in February where, for the first time ever in my life, I felt so low as to be nearly suicidal.  This sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t.  It was sad, and isolating, and scary, because those feelings are totally new for me.  I’m a doer—when shit hits the fan, I like to go out and fix it.  But I couldn’t fix my profound despair that despite my best intentions, I couldn’t lose weight.

Every time I’d try, a small little voice inside of me would say, “Stop it. I don’t want to diet anymore.  This is all just one big diet, and it’s not sustainable. I want to feel creative and free about food. I want to enjoy the process of eating. I am so tired of the mental gymnastics. I am angry that you are putting me through this feast and famine cycle again and again! Can you please just relax into this?  Take it more slowly? Take care of me?  Please! Please?”

And I was low enough and fed up enough and angry enough that I actually listened this time. 

I wrote an article about how diets are a fallacy.  I cried.  And then I ate some cinnamon raisin toast, and went to the gym, and started a weekly yoga practice, and cried some more, and meditated, and thought a lot about what I wanted my life to look like, and I realized that little voice was right.  It was me reaching out to myself, trying to care for me.  It was trying to get me to see that the opportunity to lose weight will always be there, but that it’s not my focus right now.  And that’s okay.

My focus right now is building a healthy, nourished, self-loving body.  It means going to happy hour once in awhile—not always saying no because I have to go to CrossFit.  I haven’t given up or anything.  I still go to CrossFit 3+ times a week, but I don’t feel crazy if I miss a session, or reschedule it for later to take a rest day, or even just some much needed social time with friends.

Because the fitness journey can’t be all there is.  At the end of this, we’ll all die.  A healthy body isn’t proof against death.  It can prolong your life, sure, but if you’re killing yourself to get there? You’ve missed the whole point.

My life now has really awesome, creative recipes, mostly made from this cookbook, and this one. It has a weekly brunch date with Lacy, after we hit the WOD hard, but also laugh and cheer our way through it.  It has a whole, healthy shoulder, recovered from injury, and lifting more weight than I ever have before.  It has a mat, and me balancing on my head, and taking lots of warrior poses, and meditating and chanting because I feel closest then to whatever great big energy is out there, even if I don’t know what it is. It has more flexibility, both physical and mental.  It has people who love and support me and think I am amazing and gorgeous as I am, right now, in this body.

I am embodied.  I’m not hiding from mirrors or windows or even conceptions and dreams of myself. I am aware of how my body feels and I listen to it, rather than listening to other people about it.  And that’s the biggest change: that I trust myself to know what’s right for me.

Maybe that’s what that illusive “maintenance” thing is really all about (even though the name is kind of unpleasant and makes me think of coveralls and paint).  I know how to keep my body healthy and safe and nourished and lovely, as is. And if that means an extra 10 lbs—well, I trust my body to tell me that’s the weight I should be at.