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 - superbalancedlife.com

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction - superbalancedlife.com


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 - superbalancedlife.com

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction - superbalancedlife.com


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 - superbalancedlife.com

Habitual Health: Addition, Not Subtraction - superbalancedlife.com


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?

When It's Okay to Quit

I've been thinking a lot lately about discipline, willpower, and failure. 

Recovery from OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) hasn't taken the path I thought it would.  I'm finding myself getting triggered by stuff not fitting, or fitting differently, pretty much daily.  When I got weighed at the doctor this week, the number was a little upsetting.  All of these triggers were making me feel emotionally beat up, and added up to a lot of fatigue and frustration over the past few weeks.

Simply put: my process wasn't working for me.  If you don't feel good consistently, your process isn't working for you.

That doesn't mean it isn't a good process overall.  In fact, many of the things I list below might work for other people.  But they aren't working for me, and as hard as it is, I need to let go of what doesn't serve me.

So here are the things not working for me:

Refeeding

In a conversation with some of my body-pos besties on Facebook this morning, I remarked that refeeding had more or less failed for me.  Refeeding is a process in ED recovery where you introduce previously off-limit foods as a way of trying to neutralize the extreme evaluation of "good" or "bad" foods, and reestablish good nutrition.

For me, it didn't really work.  Or at least, it hasn't worked yet.  How do I know?  Because for the last month, I've been writing down what I eat in this handy notebook.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

Tracking food behaviors.  When It's Okay to Quit - Super Balanced Life.

I used to get huge emo hives at the thought of recording my food, but I did it so I could assess my eating patterns.  What I found out is that with no structure, I fall to pieces.  I end up eating way more than I need or even want to.  I swung way into restriction in 2013, and in 2014 I pendulum-ed my way into the other extreme: a place with no guiding principles at all.  Neither extreme is good for me.

Not Being Mindful

Tuning out rather than tuning in has really worked against me, in that it resulted in some crazy avoidant behavior.  I look back at this blog and there's a lot of progress, but there's also a bit of denial about how my eating behavior was affecting me.  I was pretty resistant to following any eating guidelines, I wasn't paying attention to what or how much I was eating, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that in order to make meaningful changes in your life, you really have to show up, pay attention, and do the work over and over again.  Regrettably, I was also jealous of other people who were doing their work and affecting change in their own lives.

Sometimes you really just gotta show up and do the work, whatever the work is.  There's just no avoiding it.

My work is accepting that I can't ever tune out anymore (well, without consequences).  I need to be mindful about my health, how I eat and exercise and sleep, for the rest of my life.  That's especially true now with the high cholesterol diagnosis.  Instead of tuning out, I need to tune in.

And it kind of speaks to a trend about me, if you really know me - projects vs. daily tasks.  I approach most things in my life as projects -- a piece of work with a finite start and end point.  This is great, in that I get a lot of stuff done, but it's bad in one major way: health is not a project.  There is no end to it.

Which leads me to the next, and last thing that wasn't working for me...

Not Goal Setting

I am a person who thrives on having defined goals and tasks and projects.  Accomplishment makes my brain light up.  For the past few months, I've been trying having no goals (didn't work), and having just performance goals (worked, sorta, but my big one -- doing a strict pull-up -- is far enough off that it's not motivating enough near-term).  Thing is, making weight loss or at least weight maintenance not a goal ignored a fundamental need I had: to not feel so damn triggered every day.

As lovely as it would be to be totally fine with my weight going up and finding a profound equanimity about the whole process, I'm just not there yet.  I have an upper limit on what I consider comfortable for my body, and I'm getting damn close to it.  It's worth it to me to not get there.  No one wants to feel uncomfortable or sad in their body all the time.

But then of course there's the push and pull of body acceptance vs. attempted change, right?  So how do I find my way between the two?

The answer I think is in a couple things:

  • I have one big health goal: Make Being a Fit, Well Person Effortless.  This unifies all the tasks I've created to get to that goal and keeps things simple.  If I ever get paralyzed by indecision at crucial moments, I ask myself, "Does this contribute to or take away from my goal of being a fit, well person?"
  • I've set trackable, daily tasks that reinforce the healthy habits needed to make being a fit, well person effortless.  I track them in Habit RPG, which is just nerdy enough to make me happy.
  • I allow myself to do projects only after I have taken care of myself with my healthy daily habits.  The projects are my reward.  This means my priorities are in the right place and I'm not neglecting my health to get a bunch of things done.
  • By turning these fitness tasks into habits, I'm removing a lot of decision fatigue, and that's how the whole thing becomes effortless. 

One of the only things I miss about super restrictive eating was that it didn't cause me a lot of emotional aggro -- things were just off limits, and I didn't second-guess myself all the time.  My new plan allows me to have more flexibility, but cuts back on the emotional see-saw of indecision.  The behavior in question either contributes to my health, or it doesn't -- and I get to decide in that moment if the thing I'm considering is worth the splurge or not. 

It took a lot of thought and courage to get to this place and admit that hey, maybe I do want to lose weight -- just on my terms, in small increments, and slowly.  But I think it's the right choice for me right now. 

I worry what a lot of you might think.  I hope you don't feel betrayed.  I promise that this will not become a weight loss or restrictive eating blog.  You can still come here for total acceptance of your body, as I am a firm believer that you can be healthy at any size.  I just need to do what's right and comfortable for me. 

Much body-positive love to you, wherever you are in your journey.  <3

Honoring the Journey

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, more than I probably ever have, with body image.  My teachers have told me in the past that this is probably a good sign—when we are close to transformation is often when we struggle the most.

It’s funny: I know the most about body dysmorphia and weight gain/loss, and body composition, and the rest of it, than I ever have, and yet my negative self-messages are at an all-time high.  Usually, even when I’m not liking my body, I can find something, one thing, I love about myself.  My hair is a good one; I have great, thick, healthy hair.  But even my hair isn’t doing it for me lately.  That, combined with a bunch of changes due to hormones (going off the pill is a bear) is making me feel like the careful equilibrium I’ve maintained over the years is slipping, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Lacy said to me in an email a few weeks ago, “You may just have to accept that you’ve gained weight.”  When I first read that, I felt like I’d been punched.  What?  Accept that I’ve gained weight?  No way!  That careful web of denial and telling myself “it’s not that bad” have been working for me.  It’s comfortable.  And furthermore, admitting that would be accepting defeat!  But she was on to something, I think, and I’m going to expand on it.

It is only when we can accept where we are right now, and honor our body’s journey, that true change can become possible.

We say this stuff a lot, right?  But I think there’s a little holdout voice in everyone that thinks, Oh, yeah, I know, but if I could just do X, if I could just lose X, if I could insert-your-own-adventure-here, I could accept myself.

No.  Now.  

I have to accept that I’ve gained some weight, but more than that, I need to honor the journey that my body has been through.  You know what?  We don’t always have control over our bodies.  I certainly have no control over these hormones coursing through me.  If I have a baby, I most definitely will have very little control over my body’s transformation.  As we all get older, we have no damn say in what happens.  This weight gain?  It’s practice.

It’s practice for letting go.  Ultimately, it’s not up to me, what my body becomes.  I certainly have some say—I can choose to feed it whole foods, move it in a way that brings me joy, get enough rest to replenish it, and nourish its spirit by honoring it and turning in, rather than tuning out.  But—nature has a part to play in this too.

I might have these grandiose ideas about being a size 6, but it may just not be in the cards.  It may be more important for me to work not on a perception about who I should be, but on being my best self in any given moment.  And that person might be someone whose arms are so ripped from pull-up practice that they hardly fit in her damn blazer.  But is that really so important, that blazer?  It’s just a thing.  What’s important is the journey, the holistic view of a person.  My arms, out of context, would bother me.  My lame inner voice would default to assuming that I’m a lazy, self-indulgent fatass, who has ever-expanding upper extremities.  But I know that I’m an athlete recovering from a Plantaris injury who worked solidly on upper-body strength for 6 weeks, and thus, have biceps that make boys cry.

It’s all about context.  We are mothers, weightlifters, single ladies, partnered ladies, yoginis, aerial enthusiasts, roller derby players, older gals, ladies with muscles, and scars, and rolls, and freckles, and all kinds of other rad body parts, that all come together to form strong, awesome, complicated women.  (And men.  Do men read my blog?  Hey dudes, you’ve got bitchin’ bods too.)

So yeah, there may be stuff I wish I could change, but that’s not all there is.  I’m not just a walking bunch of goals.  I’m a complex, strong, whole person, who’s traveled far to be where she is.  And I’m not going to count myself a failure just because my blazer is a little tight today.  I’m too smart for that now.

Blazer


Confession

I've thought a lot about this post. Even so, it may come out like a grab bag of thoughts. And there's some pretty serious stuff in here, just be forewarned.  We gonna get real.  Real real.

For the past few weeks, I've been really angry at my body.  I know it hasn't seemed like it.  There have been victories in there too, and moments where I've been very happy with it.  But this body journey?  It's complicated, difficult, and life-long.  You don't ever get to a place where you're done.  You can't mark it off a list.

And I am very much struggling with that.  It's been especially hard lately, because of my injury, because I've been gaining weight, and because, without disclosing too much here, I'm on a fertility journey that isn't going so well.

I realized yesterday that I feel like my body has betrayed me, and I am so angry about that.  It got itself injured, it's failed to get pregnant, and it's been slowly gaining weight over the last 6 months.  And that all feels bad.

The injury is healing, and the pregnancy stuff takes time and is a whole separate thing, so let's focus on the weight gain for a moment.  Despite my best intentions to deal with it, and a little denial that it was happening, it's now a thing.  My ring and some of my clothes aren't fitting properly, and that's triggering to me nearly every day now.  And even though I feel like I shouldn't let that bother me, and that letting it get to me is a betrayal of the body positive community, it really does get under my skin. 

Feeling the tightness of your clothes is uncomfortable.  I feel too big to be contained by them.  I have some pretty damn cute clothes, which is making it all worse.  I don't want to buy new clothes - I want to fit into the clothes I could wear six months ago. 

Wanting to lose weight is a really loaded thing.  I feel like I should clarify what I want, because what I want (weight loss) is going to be either evaluated as a superficial concern, considered a backlash against all the body positive work I've done over the past few months, or dismissed as less valuable than a getting stronger goal.

But sometimes, when a lot of your clothes are tight, and you feel heavy and stuck, and you realize you've been (okay, confession time) binging a bit because you are just so angry about it all, an answer gets teased out of the mire.  And that answer is complicated, and goes against what you thought you wanted.

My big epiphany yesterday was that what I am most angry and sad about is the realization that I will have to be mindful about food for the rest of my life.

I can't just eat thoughtlessly anymore like I did when I was 21.  For one thing, it makes me feel shitty and over-full, and for two, that's how I gain weight - by looking the other way, because I am bored and tired of thinking about it.  For the rest of my life, I'm going to have to be aware of what I eat.

And that felt like a big loss, somehow; the loss of innocence, maybe.  And the withdrawal of some level of relaxation/pleasure/ease, etc. - basically, the loss of my binging coping mechanism to deal with discomfort.  It's easier to check out.  It's more fun, it feels good, and you get to be someone that everyone likes, someone who is very easy to please because they eat everything.  I miss being able to be that person.

But I also know that the cost of being that person, the mood swings, the weight gain, the frustration over the weight gain, the tight clothes, the feeling of being undone and having no control - that's not worth it.

So what now?

Well, that's the interesting part.  I'm working on some kind of plan to get me back into my pants.  I do know that it won't be ridiculously restrictive, because we all know how badly that goes for me.  I know that I need to grieve the loss of my coping mechanism of eating mindlessly (a.k.a. binging).  My therapist says I need to find something I can actually live with. 

My plan is to do that - to find a workable, long-term plan - and then espouse it forever, to identify with it readily, and use it to make choices easily.  Because I do think it works better to be able to say, "No, I'm choosing not to eat that" vs. "No, I can't have that."  In the former case, I am empowered to choose what to eat based on my principles, values, and desires.  In the latter, I am following a system someone else has designed.  I want to be empowered and embodied, not be a sheep, mindlessly following rules other people have set.  Damn the Man.

I'll keep you posted.

And P.S. my new plan will still include one of these from time to time, because consistent, infrequent indulgence is really important.

Pebbles Donuts. My favorite is the Salted Caramel.

Pebbles Donuts. My favorite is the Salted Caramel.

The Measure of Our Greatness

I am totally having a rough morning today.  Ill-advisedly, I stepped on the scale, and the number wasn't great.  But for the first time ever, I stopped the negative thoughts before they could really ramp up, picked up that scale, and gave it to my partner and told him to hide it in our basement.

Fuck the scale.  I don't want to get triggered every day by what my weight is doing.  Weight is an inexact measurement anyway - it can fluctuate rapidly over the course of a day.

I know my weight is up for a couple of reasons:
1. I spent a week in South Carolina eating less-than-nutritious food, because I had very few options, would offend my relatives who had made some of the food, and because I just couldn't bring myself to get overly fussy when the point of the trip was to have a family reunion for my mother in law who has lung cancer.  In the face of lung cancer, weight gain doesn't seem that damn important.
2. My partner made homemade sushi this weekend, which was totally fun and absolutely delicious.  Not eating the handmade sushi your partner offers you?  That makes you an asshole.
3. We also went out on an amazing date to Nopa last night, where I didn't overeat, but I did give myself the space to choose whatever I wanted.  And last night, that was ratatouille with duck egg as a shared starter with my dude, their amazing, delicious burger, which is seriously one of the best burgers I've ever had, and dessert.  Because I am a grownup lady who really loves food as art and nourishment, and that is how I wanted to nourish my body.
4. Ladytimes

Knowing all that made it a little easier to dismiss the lame internal voices in my head and get rid of the scale.  Maybe someday I'll sledgehammer that jerk, but for now, baby steps, you know?

What really got me to do it though was that I read this AMAZING ARTICLE by Ladybud this weekend.  No really, it's literally the best thing I've read all year: Fuck Diets

Read it.  Be incredulous.  Laugh at all the cussing.  Then seriously, ask yourself the hard questions.  Why do we want to be smaller?  Isn't that literally the dumbest thing ever?

Thinking about it this morning, I made this illustration for y'all:

Self explanatory.

Self explanatory.

"...that’s the rub, right there. Exactly why do we want to be smaller? What exactly is the appeal of being smaller? How does it benefit us? Does it make us better mothers? Better students? Better lovers? Better artists? Scientists? Friends? Does it make us more badass badasses?
No, no, no, no, no. You must see that it doesn’t. It doesn’t do anything but make us smaller.
Babies and puppies are small.  So are dimes and Skittles.  You’re a fucking woman.  A woman! You are entitled to occupy as much fucking space as you like with your awesomeness, and you better be suspicious as fuck of anybody who tells you differently."

Couldn't have said it better.  I mean, seriously, why do I want to be smaller?  I'm already a not-big person.  I'm not even technically plus size.  I'm at the upper end of normative sizes, and I have a bottom that stops traffic and decries gravity, as well as ripped arms that refuse to fit in skinny lady arm blazers, but so what?  Maybe clothing makers should actually create clothes that fit badass, CrossFittin' ladies like me.  Maybe it's the INDUSTRY that's the problem, not my body.  And perhaps it's time I stopped giving in to the idea that I must change, and instead starting fighting the activist fight of getting the industry to change.

"That’s a valid message for women and girls: grow, expand, branch out, open up, get bigger, wider, faster, stronger, better, smarter. Go up not down. Get strong, not skinny.
Language affects our thinking whether we like it or not. Every time we tell ourselves, “I’ve gotta get down to a size whatever,” or “I’ve got to get rid of this gut,” we discount who we are RIGHT NOW. And fuck that shit. Who we are right now is okay. Instead of encouraging ourselves and other women to get smaller, we ought to be focusing on what will make us better. Better. Not smaller.
You are not here to get smaller. You are not here to have a thin waist and thighs. You are not here to disappear. You’re here to change the world! Change the fucking world, then! Forget about “losing a few pounds.” Think about what you could be gaining instead.
Think about the possibilities, we could be so much greater, so much more powerful if we refocused our energies. So stop your fucking nonsense with the Slim Fast shakes and the diet pills or whatever the fuck. CUT THAT FUCKING NONSENSE OUT. Get out there and learn and grow and be amazing. Accomplish something real, right now. Don’t wait until you reach your super-whack “goal weight” which no longer has any bearing on real life probably. Your gratification, your happiness and your unconditional acceptance of yourself will do something for you that dieting never will: it will set you free and unlock your true potential."

That's the rallying cry right there fellow badasses.  I am done with my scale and trying to be smaller for the sake of being smaller.  I want to be better.  Stronger, smarter, kinder, more engaged and creative and in-tune with what's going on, just better.

So whaddya say?  Are you in?  Let's do this thing!

The Upper Echelon

The other day, before I ended Precision Nutrition, I got really triggered by an email they sent out about their finalists for the women's Lean Eating program.  You can see the content here: Women's Lean Eating Finalists

What I found so triggering about this email was the Before and After pictures.  I felt profoundly disappointed that I hadn't achieved such radical transformation during my own PN journey.  I felt like I'd failed.

Even though we all know Before and After pictures are bullshit, and even though I know my goals ended up changing during the challenge, I still felt like I "should" have lost a bunch of weight, gotten super toned and tan, and had amazing After shots.

The "shoulds" really plague me you guys.  Not just about this PN thing, but in a lot of other stuff.  Lately, it's been coming up around CrossFit and not being part of "the upper echelon". 

Photo courtesy of Kris Bates at Grassroots CrossFit

Photo courtesy of Kris Bates at Grassroots CrossFit

In my box, we have a wide range of ability, from those just starting CrossFit with no athletic background, to athletes looking for more crosstraining, to intermediate CrossFitters, and then those who are looking to compete in CrossFit competitions.  When I started CrossFit, the gaps weren't so wide.  We had folks across the spectrum in the everyday classes, and I got to know some of them pretty well and enjoyed working out with them.  Now, because of Team Training, there's more of a divide, and I realized the other day that I'd been feeling envious of what the upper level athletes could do, and left behind, sad that I couldn't keep up.

But here's the thing: I was never at that level to begin with.  And even those who started at my level and worked really hard to get better are different than I am, because we are are fundamentally different from one another.  What works for those bodies may not work for my body, and vice versa.

My friend Lacy often tells me, "You have to realize that healthy comes in many different types of bodies."  And she's right. 

I'm doing what's right for me.  I know myself well enough to know that I try really hard.  It may not be obvious to everyone around me, and if the "proof" of health is killer 6-pack abs, then my fitness is probably not obvious to anyone.  But so what?  I know how exhausted I am at the end of a CrossFit WOD.  I know that I've been crushing my upper body and core workout 2x/week, plus a bunch of recovery work as I heal from my injury

I could be one of the upper echelon at CrossFit if I worked out 5-6 days a week (maybe even multiple times a day), ate a totally clean diet, and pushed myself constantly to get to competition level. 

I could be one of the Precision Nutrition finalists if:

  1. I'd made it my only goal for the year
  2. I was willing to sacrifice my relationships and mental health in the pursuit of weight loss, and
  3. if I'd had worse health to start out with

Because here's the thing about amazing Before and After photos: you have to look pretty out of shape in the Before picture to have a dramatic After photo.  True fact.  And I was in pretty damn decent shape before Precision Nutrition, so my After photo wasn't going to be off-the-hook incredible anyway.

But the truth of the matter is that I am doing everything I am willing to do to have a fit body, and I am healthier for it.

Juli Bauer, one of my favorite bloggers, writes in PaleOMG about how she's changed her perspective on how to train because of a similar realization:

My body is different than every single other person in this world. Completely different. I could workout the exact same, eat the same, sleep the same and do everything the same as one of my jacked competitive CrossFit friends, and I would look nothing like her. That’s because my body is different. And my goals are now different than they were. Before, I wanted to compete. That’s it. I did that and then I changed my mind so I could live a happier lifestyle. I didn’t think I would ever stop training and stop competing, but I did. Have you ever thought you wanted something and changed your mind along the way? If you haven’t, you’re boring.

I eat a healthy, whole foods-based diet, I work out multiple times a week at CrossFit, I go to yoga when I can, and I exercise sometimes for the sheer joy of moving my body.  I meditate every day.  I make time for my friends and loved ones, and I try not to stress too much about moderate indulgences from time to time.

That's what health looks like to me.  And I've determined that as much as I envy the upper echelon sometimes, it's not really worth the sacrifices I'd have to make - the strained relationships with friends and partners when they want to go out and I don't because I'm afraid of lack of restrictive eating choices, the scheduling everything around my gym time, the mental gymnastics of when to eat and how much and how to structure training. 

I'm sure people that are really committed to competition love figuring out all that.  To them, it must seem like a really awesome puzzle to work out.  And as a Type A overachiever with an analytical, problem-solving side, I kinda get that.  But I tried doing it for a year and it didn't work for me. 

I'm someone who loves creativity and spontaneity, and ultimately, balance.  I'm not willing to make training and/or weight loss my life.  So I'm focusing on what's real and achievable for me.  And the nice thing about that?  I don't resent the upper echelon any more.  They're doing them, and I'm doing me.  And that feels pretty damn great.