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.  -

I'm Eating Carbs Again

Let's talk about this smoothie.

It's a Pear Ginger Cinnamon Oat Smoothie and it's ridiculously good.  I've wanted to make this smoothie for a year and yesterday, I finally did it.  I'm having another one today.  Why did it take me a year to make something so delicious?  Because my head is stupid sometimes. 

You see, I've been under the assumption for the last, oh, 7 years or so, that carbs are the devil, that they will make me fat and give me all kinds of inflammation, and be total jerks to my body.  And because this very healthy smoothie had oats in it, I put it off forever.

But, because of some very nice friends and some nutritionally sound advice, I went for it.  And I have to say, I feel a lot more satiated and happy.  A little bit of carbs goes a long way for me.  I am normally quite hungry by 11 am, but yesterday I didn't eat lunch until 1 pm and it was fine.  I felt great.

I think quantity matters a lot more here than I'd previously thought.  For the longest time I believed if I just didn't eat ANY carbs at all, I was "safe".  But that's not so.  Over time, I'd build up potatoes and heirloom grains and fruit to such ridiculous levels of desire that I'd end up binge eating something else that was a lot less healthy, because I wanted the healthy stuff so much.  Weird?  Yes.  But I don't think it's uncommon.

I think a little bit of carbs (this smoothie has 3 tablespoons of oats, and 1 fresh pear) is great.  Quantities matter.  Carbs alone don't cause weight gain, but eating carbs mindlessly, in large quantities, can most certainly cause it.  Eating anything mindlessly can cause weight gain.  No surprise there.

So while it was easier, in a way, to rule out carbs altogether as a food group, I think mindfully eating small quantities of carbs will be better.  Harder, but better.  My hypothesis is that by eating the carbs I actually want - fruit, potatoes, minimally processed heirloom grains - in reasonable quantities, I won't be tempted to mindlessly eat/binge* later in the day.  It's a fun experiment, and I'm looking forward to seeing if my hypothesis is correct.



* For purposes of clarification, I define binge as any spate of mindless eating, where someone checks out and eats stuff, rather than making mindful choices.  It doesn't always look like eating a whole package of Oreos in one go.

Then and Now

Today I was getting a little frustrated with what I perceive as my "backsliding" this year.  This time last year, I'd completed a Whole30 and a Whole14, participated in the CrossFit Open, and felt pretty slim and fit.  Here's what I looked like then:

May, 2013

May, 2013

What you don't see in this picture is that I was totally stuck in the extreme mentality of feast vs. famine.  I'd do a Whole30/14, and then indulge afterwards.  I'd feel guilty I wasn't able to stick with such extreme restriction - if you are unfamiliar, the Whole30 only allows you to eat vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, and fats - and I'd go back on, only to repeat the cycle again.

What seems so obvious to me now is that what I was doing wasn't working.  It wasn't sustainable.  The cycle drove me crazy and made me feel bad about myself for not being able to be "perfect" all the time.

So then I decided to do the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program, to help me stop with the cyclical disorder eating.  And it sort of worked -- by having a longer window of time to look at these patterns, I realized a couple of things:

  1. Real, sustainable change comes over very long periods of time.  I always thought this was bullshit, but it's totally true.  When we are in the pain of low self-esteem and body dysmorphia, we want change to come right away.  We need to fix it. Right now.  But real change takes a long time to happen.  The weight I lost on Whole30?  It came back.  But the muscle I put on in the last 2 years of CrossFit hasn't gone away.  And my changed body composition has stuck around, even though I've been injured the last two weeks and not eating my best.
  2. Small habits have a better chance of being successful.  Truly.  If I only have to do one thing, I'm more likely to do it.  What became so overwhelming about PN was that you start with just one habit at a time, fine, and then add incrementally, and while that works pretty well for awhile, eventually I felt a bit suffocated by all the things I was expected to do each day.
  3. Diets are diets.  Even with PN.  There's this secret, which is that to effect real change -- like the dramatic kind you see on marketing brochures -- you have to thoroughly and dramatically change your life and habits.  To be a new person, you have to become one.  Sounds simplistic, but I didn't get it.  I kept looking for a happy medium, but I wasn't willing to accept that to get a really different body, I would have to commit to a kind of restriction and scrutiny that I'd never experienced before.  More on this later.

I've been defining success as who I was last year, but in thinking about it, that place wasn't so great.  Sure, I was probably a bit lighter and leaner, but I wasn't as strong.  I was hella injured with a shoulder impingement, and I could hardly lift a bare barbell in a strict press.  Just 33 lbs, and I was yelping in pain.  Whereas this year, I PRed my strict press at around ~60 lbs, I do believe.  And I can nearly do a full push-up with perfect form -- another goal that felt way out of my league last year.

I was also ill at least every other month in 2013.  Sounds crazy, but I had multiple colds, the flu, and a nasty bout of strep throat.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  I think crazy binge/restrict cycles can really tax the body and sap it of strength and immunity.  And remember too that I was going to CrossFit 2-3x per week, and playing competitive roller derby, so 2-3 skating practices a week.  I spent a lot of 2013 tired, sore, and sick.

So was I trimmer?  Yes.  But was I fitter?  Up for debate.

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?