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.

This is the heaviest I've ever been, and I love myself anyway.

I find myself today at probably my heaviest weight ever.  I don't know for sure, because I stopped weighing myself awhile ago.  It was making me crazy and upset, and it was kind of a worthless measurement for me at this time.  (It's probably a worthless measure all the time, actually.)  At any rate, I haven't been making a concerted effort to lose weight lately, and I'm okay with that.

I gained weight for good reasons -- a wanted pregnancy.  When I miscarried, weight loss wasn't something I chose to focus on for a couple of reasons. 

  1. Hormones.  They were still pretty messed up for a long time.  Cycles, feelings, cravings -- all off.
  2. I have a lot of injuries right now, beyond the miscarriage.  My shoulder, a right heel thing, recurring side calf shin splints (kind of a mystery: I get them on the outer sides of my shins, instead of on the front.  If you know what this is, holla atcha girl.)  In March, I went on a heavy exercise binge, and now I'm paying for it.
  3. I want to get pregnancy again, soon.  And extreme diets like Whole30 or anything with strict calorie restriction can put a dent in my conception efforts, because losing 10% or more of your body weight freaks your body out.
  4. I tried, and it didn't work anyway.  In April, I tried a Flexible Dieting/IIFYM deal, and the calorie/macros tracking was driving me back into disordered behavior.
  5. I think trying to get back your pre-pregnancy weight right after delivery is one way that the kyriarchy objectifies us all over again.  Rather than focusing on your baby and healing from the arduous journey of pregnancy and childbirth, the pressure is on to "get back" your attractive, fuckable body, as if nothing has happened to you.

In some ways, choosing not to focus on weight loss was one of the most revolutionary things I could do.  Focusing on healing myself instead of some arbitrary aesthetic goal imposed on me and all other post-partum women by society is a radical act.

And the good news is that I am healing.  I hit a PR on my 3 rep max back squat the other day.  I threw up (the lightest, but still!) wall balls in a metcon.  I can actually sleep comfortably for the most part, without waking up with shoulder pain.  I've been going to body positive yoga regularly.  And for the most part, I eat  healthful, varied, and interesting grub.

I also know that by developing healthy habits and maintaining them, I am doing the best thing for my health.  Short-term, extreme, restrictive diets might give me short-term results, but I don't think the sigh of relief, or feeling of accomplishment at those results would be nearly as satisfying as the hard-won contentment I've found.

My body is amazing.  It has been on a hard, long, learning journey this year.  And it has carried me through all of it willingly.  It shows up for me day after day.  My injuries are a warning.  They say to me, "Hey, don't overdo it.  We've been through a lot.  Spend this time nurturing yourself, bringing us back to full health and vitality.  You can lose weight any time, but now is not the right time.  Heal, rest, rejuvenate.  Then hit it hard, like you always do.  You are not less, you are not unworthy because you're not losing weight, or a smaller size.  You are doing your best, and that is enough."  If I ignore those signals, I don't deserve my body's adaptiveness, its flexibility, its strength.  I need to show up for my body like it has shown up for me.

It's a great body.  And I live it in it now, fully and completely.  I love it, and that is worth more than anything weight loss could ever give me.

And sometimes, I even pull off looking cute.  -

And sometimes, I even pull off looking cute.  -

Three Kinds of Competition

Originally posted over at the Four Elements Blog.

As someone who’s played a lot of sports, I have a lot of respect for competition. It’s a motivating factor in our training—we all want to get better as athletes, and have a healthy drive to surpass those we are competing against. In both team sports and individual competitions, the drive to succeed fuels us to achieve higher and loftier goals. This is an awesome thing.

The first kind of competition is the one we learn when we’re just starting out, and it’s the easiest to understand: competition between us and others. In order to beat the other team or win a tournament, you have to perform better than they do. This pushes us to really give it our all, and makes us stronger athletes. Often, there can be two layers to this kind of competition as well—competing against our own teammates to get a place on the all-star roster, and then the game against the other team or opponent as well. When approached in a healthy way, this kind of competition can be very motivating and even fun.

As you get further into training, the second kind of competition comes into play. This is competition against oneself. Can we improve our times, our skills, our mastery of the sport we love? How can we maximize our training to ensure that we’re continuing to achieve personal records, better times, and higher weights than our past selves? This kind of competition can be even more motivating, because you focus less on external factors outside your control, and more on your own growth and achievement as an athlete.

If you’re an athlete, this is all pretty familiar, right?

The third kind, if you can call it that, is where things start to get a little unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable. The third kind of competition is non-competition.

This sounds kinda nuts but bear with me here. It’s a paradox—how can a kind of competition be non-competitive?

Sometimes in our training, we need to take a step back and purposefully and intentionally opt-out of competition. Illness, injury, rehab, or exhaustion can all take us out of a place where competition is healthy and good for us. I’m working through a shoulder injury that’s putting me on the sidelines from all pushing movements—no overhead lifts, bench presses, or push-ups for me, for probably a considerable amount of time. As much as I want to compete with my fellow lifters, to put big numbers up on the whiteboard, and better times, it’s just not possible if I want to heal.

I also can’t compare myself with previous versions of me—past times, lifts, or performance. I’m not the same as I was 6, 12 or 24 months ago. And that’s frustrating, because I feel groundless. There’s no familiar guidepost, no benchmark, no direction to orient my progress, really.

But non-competitiveness serves a purpose: it allows you to really focus in on healing, without getting recurrent bouts of re-injury or sickness. Even if you’re not sick or injured, everyone needs downtime. All professional sports have an off season.
I think it’s a lot harder for those of us who are not professionals to take that time for ourselves. It’s harder to justify. “Well, I’m not working at the level that so-and-so is, so I don’t deserve to take a break.”

The problem with this kind of thinking is that the body never has time for adequate recovery. Sometimes you just need a few rest days, but sometimes you may need weeks or months off your sport. And that’s really hard. I know. I’m dealing with that right now. But it’s vital.

So what takes the place of competition? I’d venture to say that goals are an appropriate answer—just different kinds of goals. Instead of focusing on outcomes—a personal record, a better time, a higher ranking—choose to narrow in on behaviors instead. Make a recovery plan for yourself, and mark off how many times you do mobility exercises, or rehab, or conditioning, or even much needed rest. Feel good about that.

It’s hard to do, and I’m in the thick of it myself, but see how it goes for awhile. Test it out. The likelihood is that you’ll be able to return to your sport with increased awareness, motivation, and ability.

The Grace of Injury

So let's talk about my shoulder, shall we.  Ug. I really don't want to.  I have a lot of feelings about it. 

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below) Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via  Wikimedia Commons

"Gray326" by Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body (See "Book" section below) Gray's Anatomy, Plate 326. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I have another shoulder impingement, and some wear on my AC (acromioclavicular) joint.  Basically, roller derby + CrossFit wins again in the "meat tenderized + overuse = OUCH" category.  No dang fun.

A couple weeks ago, a fellow CrossFitter asked me if I was doing the Open this year and before I ROFL-ed, I said something to the effect of "Nope, I'm recovering from a sprained wrist."  To which she replied, "You're always getting over some injury or another."

Guh.  *gut punch*

This statement stuck in my craw, a little bitter pill of resentment.  "It's true! I get hurt way more than anyone else.  I'm weak!  I'm lazy!  I'm lame!  Why can't I be a super CrossFit biohuman badass and just DO STUFF and not be stuck on the bench!  This shit never happens to Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet!  WTF?!"

My emotional reaction to another injury was pretty intense, and it came on the heels of all the other crazy stuff that's been happening in my life.  The good news is that I'm getting pretty good at dealing with big challenges, and the tools I use are more readily available and top of mind because of it. 

I've been reading Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, which is a book of Buddhist writings on how to deal when your life hits the skids.  One passage stood out to me:

We think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
— Pema Chodron

Things fall apart, and they come back together.  That is the circle of things, the nature of life.  I might "always" be recovering from injury, but honestly, we are all recovering from something at any given time--heartbreak, disappointment, sickness, death, a bad season finale. 

What's causing me emotional pain is my attachment to things having to always be happy and healthy and well.  The physical pain of my injury is difficult, yes.  But I'm increasing my suffering by believing that when I am in pain, it's the worst thing ever.  If I make room for my feelings, for the injury--if I have patience with myself and decide to just be with whatever comes up, I make room to honor whatever that experience is.

I tried doing this this morning in my daily 10 minute meditation practice.  I just let things come up and made space to hold them.  It was sucky.  I have a lot of feelings, and many of them are hard.  But afterwards I felt better, because I wasn't trying to run from my pain anymore, or shove it down into a dark corner of my psyche.  It was just there, just being.  And that took the sting out of it a little.

My intention is to make room for the good and the bad in equal measure, because in the overall scheme of things, the bad stuff allows us to learn.  It takes us out of our routines and patterns, shakes us up so we can understand more about ourselves and the spiritual, physical, and emotional work we need to do.  This experience of injury has been an opportunity to rest, to recover, to evaluate and reflect on what I want my life to be now, having been through the fire of the last few months.

So the next time someone says to me, "You're always getting over some injury or another."  I will say, "Naw girl, I'm always healing."

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.


Step 1: Compassion

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about negative body image triggers.  Now I'd like to talk about how to deal with them.  No one wants to be stuck in the negative feeling shame spiral for long.  It feels terrible - like running in place while having a seizure and hot flashes at the same time.  I hate that business.

In the awesome Beauty Redefined article I posted before, they say that the first step is compassion.

Self-compassion is all about acknowledging that suffering, failure, and inadequacies are part of the human condition, and that all people—yourself included—are worthy of compassion (Neff, 2003). There are three basic components of this strategy that have GOT to be cultivated in the midst of our objectifying culture and self-objectifying tendencies: 1. Self-Kindness: Extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism; 2. Common Humanity: Seeing one’s experiences as part of the larger female experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating; and 3. Mindfulness: Holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than letting them define or overwhelm you.

Yesterday, I had another body image trigger: my engagement ring wouldn't fit.  There are a number of reasons why this could be - weight gain, hormone fluctuation, the fact that it's a lot more humid than usual, water retention, the fact that I am mostly doing pull-up practice these days, so my fingers might be swollen, etc.

The point is: it doesn't matter, my ring doesn't fit.  My brain immediately flew into the "if I hadn't gained all that weight this year, they would still fit!  I've undone all that good work!  I'm a failure, and fat, and ugly, and this is ALL MY FAULT."

Immediately, I reached out for help, both to a Facebook group about ED recovery that I belong to, and to my two best healthy body image friends, Lacy and Julie.  Everyone said the same thing - that who I was a year ago was actually worse than who I am now.  As denoted here, last year I may have been thinner, but this year I am stronger.  And per my new credo, I want to be BETTER, not smaller

But even knowing all that, I have to overcome YEARS of negative body conditioning.  As much as I may know all this stuff, I have yet to really internalize it, because I've been groomed to believe that thinner is always better.  If I don't have the constant struggle to be thin, who am I?

It occurs to me now, that as part of self kindness, the first step of compassion, that I need to accept where I am Right Now.  It isn't self-loving to believe that there's something wrong with me.  I really need to excise the belief that in order to be acceptable, I need to be thin.  It's not true, not helpful, and it causes a lot of hurtful behavior. 

I'm also not alone in this struggle.  Belonging to that Facebook group and connecting with a lot of you here shows me that.  This struggle is a part of our shared common humanity, and no one is exempt.  We are all struggling. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Jen Dary, wrote a post about accepting the continuum of growth:

Big and small. Mature and immature. Rookie and pro. Stumble and sprint. These are not starting and end points; these are two points on continuums that we bounce along our whole lives. We grow for 18 years and then we're designated adults, but this means almost nothing.
The point, it seems to me, is to get better at forgiving yourself for sliding back and forth. No one has it nailed. We're all growing. Every single day, every single year, every single chapter in our memoirs reduces the growth but it's there behind everything.
So keep moving.

We're all on one big continuum.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes we master it, sometimes we don't.  The point is to be aware of it, to do your best, and to let the rest go.  And most of all: to be kind to yourself about being a gorgeous, strong, creative, and perfect-on-your-own-terms human being. 

Lastly, Josey asked me yesterday to try to be mindful of all of these feelings without ascribing a narrative to them, to feel them without trying to figure them out or put a story to them, to let them wash over me and let them go.  I may just give that a try in my daily meditation practice.  Watching those feelings in awareness gives me a little separation from them, allows them some space.  Then I don't get as stuck, and I don't have to believe bad stuff about myself.  I'm going to give that a try.

And in the meantime, I've started wearing my engagement ring around my neck with a necklace from our wedding.  There might be a time where it fits around my finger again, or not, but I'm wearing it, and that's what counts.


Creativity & Food

One of the things I hated about restrictive eating (a.k.a. dieting, leaning out, etc.) was that it sapped my creative impulse with food.  I love food.  I love choosing it, cooking it, and eating it.  Cooking is a ritual that calms and centers me, and feeding my family, friends, and most of all, myself, is deeply gratifying.

Restrictive eating robbed me of that.  It made it so that I was questioning if I could have this or that thing, frequently adapting recipes to include "good" foods and exclude "bad" ones, and constantly saying no.

I said no to baking.  I said no to happy hour.  I said no to most Mexican and Italian food.  I said no to toasting.  I said no to trying anything with any trace of sweetener ever.

And it was lame.

It was frustrating, isolating, anxiety-provoking, and most of all?  It was boring.

I didn't feel happy or challenged or curious.  Those are all things I love to feel, and their absence was like a big weight on my brain and chest. 

Now that I'm coming out the other side of restrictive eating the biggest blessing in my life is free, unfettered choice.  I had thought that I might go off the deep end - that once the restrictions came off I might go full throttle at the Wheat Thins, mac 'n cheese, and ice cream (my "vices" of choice), but I didn't.  As it turns out, indulgence isn't such a big deal when you're conscious of it.  When you can revel in the decadence of something you've chosen to eat, when you can take your time with it, not scarf it down in secret, afraid someone will find out your sin, you really enjoy it.  You cherish it.  And it's no longer loaded.

I'm sure you've heard this before.  But I assure you, it's not bullshit.  Yesterday, after eating a big salad from Whole Foods for dinner, I then put down the portion of mac 'n cheese I'd gotten from their hot bar, because I was full.  I'd had all I wanted.  And there was definitely a part of me that was like, "Eat this now, even though you're full, because you'll never have Mac 'n Cheese again!"  But these days, I can quietly tell that scared, scarcity-mentality voice that it's okay.  I can have mac whenever I want, because I'm a grown-up lady who gets to decide what she eats.  And that truth was delicious.

So here's an idea of what I eat now.  This was breakfast for the last couple mornings: a pear, banana, spinach, kale, and almond milk smoothie, with turkey breakfast sausage.

Looks like algae, tastes like winning.

Looks like algae, tastes like winning.

And here's what I'm eating for lunch: a kale, quinoa, ricotta salata, and cherry salad, with scallion cilantro chicken nuggets.  All of these recipes were winners, by the way.  I recommend.

Who knew raw kale salads could be so decadent?  Live & learn.

Who knew raw kale salads could be so decadent?  Live & learn.

Not pictured: me licking the juice from a fresh peach from my wrist, as it was a little too salacious for this blog.

But you get my point - not so crazy, right?  When I allowed myself anything, I naturally found out what I wanted.  It looks something like this: a foundation of whole foods - fresh vegetables and fruit that is as local and organic as I can afford, along with nuts, seeds, ethical meat, some dairy, and the occasional sweet. 

Life is about celebration, curiosity, love.  If I can't have those things, what's the point of choosing to live?  When we eat, we are making the choice to live, because to not eat is to move towards non-living.  So let's choose to live a life that nourishes us completely, with more than just macro-nutrients, restrictive eating, and the constant worry and self-flagellation of deprivation.  Be curious about what works for your individual body.  Seek to nourish it with more than just food.  And most of all, love it.  Because you can make that choice.  I did.

Body Dysmorphia

This is a hard post to start.  Since puberty, I've struggled with body dysmorphia.  I don't think I'm uncommon -- many of my female friends have a horse in this exhausting race.  But to keep things focused, I'm going to talk about my own struggle.

The emotions I most closely associate with body dysmorphia are fear, hypersensitivity, and fatigue.  I'm constantly nervous about being "outed" as a fat lady, and every curve, roll, wrinkle, or scar becomes a huge trigger, and I fixate on it to the exclusion of nearly anything else until something distracts me, or I get so tired, I have to let it go.

It feels horrible.

looking down

I'm certain that hormones have a big role to play.  I notice that around ovulation, the anxiety and preoccupation dissipates, but then right after, there's a big hormonal dip, and it starts to weasel its way back in.

I've also noticed that it's worse if I'm off my game -- if I haven't slept enough, or ate well, or exercised enough.  If those things are off, all my feelings about my body flare up.

It's also, really, all about me.  Most other people can't see what I fixate on, unless they're stuck in their own cave of insecurity and want to bring me down to make themselves feel better.  But the people around me mostly tell me I'm crazy and that I'm strong, and lovely, and smart.  It's nice to have that affirming feedback, but sometimes it has the opposite effect -- it makes me distrust them, because it feels like it should be so obvious that I'm fat, short, and dumpy, and their unwillingness to feed my disease and help me fix it using some really restrictive diet or exercise plan is a betrayal.

And that's sad.  And unproductive.  And pretty damn shitty for them, when they're being so nice to me.

So, I've decided to try to address the core issue: my body dysmorphia and low self-esteem.  If I could accept that my baseline body is just fine, my general happiness would be more stable. Further, I could make greater gains at the gym and with my body, because positive reinforcement for making life changes works better than negative reinforcement.  I think the dieting industry proves that.  Self-flagellation only works in the beginning.  Accepting my inherent wholeness and ability to change seems like it would get me further than the exhausting cycle of feast vs. famine, indulgence and punishment, I've been engaging in for years.

Today, I downloaded Gala Darling's Pep Talk for Dark Days. I'm hoping it will get me through today's funk.  I also signed up for her Radical Self Love Bible School.  It's a 3-month course where she sends you journal prompts to create an art journal that serves as a personal guide book to self-love.  Since I've made mixed media art journals for years, this seems right up my alley.  We'll see if it helps.

I'm also reading Nourishing Wisdom, by Marc David.  From a review:

One of the traps which many of us fall into when we become aware of the relationship between nutrition and health is that we establish a set of dietary rules according to which we label foods as either "good" or "bad." Once a certain food has been assigned to the "bad" category, we might even become critical of ourselves and others for desiring or eating that food. The more zealous we are in our conviction that we have found the one right way of eating, the more limited we become in our understanding of food and our interaction with it.
This title sets out to dispel the myth that there could ever be a standard dietary system guaranteed to meet everyone's nutritional requirements. The author, a nutritional psychologist, approaches his mission from a truly holistic perspective. Rather than proposing yet another ideal diet based on the perfect composition of specific nutrients, he explores the multidimensional dynamics of nourishment, reaching far beyond the purely scientific and chemical aspects of nutrition.

I'm hoping it will help me break out of the "good" vs. "bad" food mentality I return to when I'm triggered, and allow me to understand my food choices from a holistic perspective, as part of a much larger picture of a full life.

So that's what I'm starting with.  If you're on a similar journey, won't you share with us what you're working with to help you shed negative self-esteem and adopt a more kickass attitude?