You better believe it

I want to elaborate on something that I’ve been spending a shit ton lot of time reflecting on lately.

This week, Dr. K wrote a blog post talking about how he is bettering himself: he’s hanging out with a mentor and a role model and noticing where he needs to make changes to get to where he wants to be. He identifies a pretty important step in making any kind of change in our lives: changing our beliefs.

Before I get into it, a “belief” to me is something we take to be true. It’s a thought we’ve thunk so many times that we take it to be true. Beliefs are not necessarily true, and it’s the false ones and the limiting ones that really drag us down.

Like I said, a belief is just a thought that’s become our default. It’s like a one line summary of what we think about something–ourselves, our mothers, our bodies, bacon, the world (anything!). It’s tempting, when looking at our problems or issues, to say “That’s just the way I am.”

Tempting, but not productive. If you want to be on your own side, you’ve got to question those things you hold to be true and the thoughts they lead you to think.

simple belief

So let’s say that you have a belief that you know is holding you back.

Let’s say that the belief is that you’ll always be overweight (you can sub in “broke” or “single” or whatever it is that you no longer want to be).

This is certainly one of the beliefs that I have held for far too long. It comes from a circumstance that I absolutely can’t change: I was chubby growing up. So why’s it matter that I’m thinking this?

When I think, “I’ll always be fat,” it starts a sort of cascade of feelings, behaviours, and then results that leave me stuck in that headspace. I’m drawing on a little model that Brooke Castillo uses in her coaching:

So with the circumstance, which I can’t change, is that I was a chubby kid, let’s dive into this example a bit.

When I think that I’ll always be fat, I feel pretty worthless and pretty hopeless (feelings).

When I feel worthless and hopeless, my actions are things like restricting and bingeing and not taking care of myself.

When I restrict and binge and neglect to take care of myself, I end up weighing more than I’m supposed to and generally feeling like crap.

That’s devastating because it confirms that shit-tastic belief that my body wants to weigh more than it should, that “I’m supposed to be fat.”

If you’re a Happy is the New Healthy junkie, you might remember a little post I wrote not too long ago about always being in choice. If not, the summary is this: every thing that we do and every thought that we think is a choice that we make. We are entirely responsible for ourselves, we are always in choice, and we can choose something different.

Our beliefs might drive our actions because we’re not consciously thinking them through, but if we wake up and bring some awareness into the mix, we have ourselves a game changer: beliefs can change. They might not change overnight, but they change. And just because you think that thinking the alternative to a limiting belief isn’t possible doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means you don’t see it as an option–yet. I encourage you to start. Just like you used to think Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy all hung out, you can used to think that you were supposed to be fat, broke, or single.

So how?

How do we change something we default to?

We do it by thinking a certain way and feeding new thoughts on purpose, that’s how!

flowers or weeds

I had the pleasure of being coached by Christie Inge earlier this week. While we were on the topic of beliefs and changing them, she offered me a pretty powerful example that I can’t help but share:

She asked me if I’d ever driven to work or school or wherever without really thinking about it, arrived there, and wondered how I’d gotten there.

“Yes ma’am.”

Then she asked what would happen if I wanted to take a different route.

“I’d have to think about it.”

Get it?

Just like driving a different route would mean you’d have to figure it out, think it through, turn at new intersections, drive down new roads, and focus on what you’re doing, changing a belief takes focusing on a new thought, growing new feelings, taking new actions, and generating different results. Those different results will feed back and confirm that new thought. Over and over and over again.

What happens when you think something over and over and over again?

You have a belief.

Lemme stop rambling and recap with my example:

icky belief’s thought: I’m supposed to be fat.

icky feeling: hopeless, worthless

icky behaviors: restricting/bingeing, not taking care of myself

icky results: overweight, unhealthy, dissatisfied with my body (confirms that I’m supposed to be that way)

OR

awesome alternative belief’s thought: I’m meant to be healthy.

awesome alternative feeling:  trusting, calm

awesome alternative behaviours: eating right, exercising, taking care of myself

awesome alternative results: my body finds its peacefeul, happy weight (confirms that I’m supposed to be that way)

Choosing to keep thinking a belief is just that: a choice.

You are always in choice.

Act accordingly.

unlearn

thoughts about thoughts and world

If none of this made sense, at least listen to this song so you get something out of this post.

Friday Fun!

A couple things caught my eye this week–and I don’t mean just cute boys or half price candy (love is in the air)…

1. My sister sent me this photo. It took me two goes to notice what I was looking for. I’m not alone, apparently!

2. A phenomenal (in my mind) post from Elizabeth Akinwhale about CrossFit and bodies and so much more. I have been writing and re-writing a post I have bottled up about this kind of thing but it’s just not where I want it to be…yet. In the meantime, read her take instead. One point I loved?

“You are responsible for your own health and happiness. How your body transforms is secondary to the discipline you’re displaying and the sense of accomplishment you earn in your daily workouts and progress towards your goals.”

3. This week I had a lovely surprise in my inbox…I’m going to TedxWaterloo next month! Crystal, a friend I met through GFC, had the wonderful idea to apply and I’m so glad I did! The countdown is on–I’m looking forward to a road trip, the event itself, and hanging out with Crystal! 🙂

Screen Shot 2013-02-14 at 1.52.04 PM

4. Valentine’s fun:

  • This lovely treat from my sister:
  • A last minute invite to an Eric Church concert with a friend
  • flowers and Valentines from some of the cutest kiddos I know
  • quality time with friends and “family” I love

5. Andddd a hefty dose of inspiration for your cheesy pleasure…

ask

possibility adventure

don't shrink your dreams dyer weird

 

Happy weekend to you!

Get Happy

Eating disorders are awful. Being happy is much better.

If you’re struggling, even a little, you deserve to get better. And if you’re willing to make the commitment to yourself to leave your eating disorder in the dust, you will make it.  There will be stumbles along the way, no doubt, but so long as your end goal is full recovery, there’s no stopping you.

If you’re interested in my background with ED, you can check out a page I dedicated to the topic on my old blog. If you’re interested in what I did to get better, I’m going to share some of the most important steps I took and resources I relied on right here, just for you.

1. Bury your nose in a book.  

Before I was ready to reach out for help from people in my life, I started on the path to recovery in a small way. The first step was buying a few books that ended up being lifechanging for me. On the top of this list is Jenni Schaefer’s Life Without Edwhich I read in a day. Jenni’s words spoke to me and reading the book made me realize I deserved recovery—as do you.

Along the way, I read a lot of really helpful books—which I listed in a post during Eating Disorders Awareness Week—and have acquired a whole resource library. Dog-earing pages, posting passages I typed out around my apartment, and re-reading things when recovery got tough all helped me get to where I am today.

2. Read all about it.

When you’ve had enough of reading books, or maybe if you’re not ready to go out and buy one just yet, there are plenty of motivating, healthy websites out there. Please avoid pro-ED websites—it’s common sense advice but they’re out there and they’re blatant. Whether you need personal stories, research papers, or poems to help you move forward in your recovery, the information is out there. 

Three favourites of mine are Something Fishy, the Eating Disorders section of PsychCentral, and Eating Disorder Hope. These are by no means the only ones out there and reading on one site will often lead you to another filled with information to help you. Knowledge is power!

3. Embrace blogs.

For me, starting a blog was a huge step forward in recovery. I met friends who I could relate to and whose support, even if it was from the other side of the continent, means the world to me! My blogging buddies became part of my support system and I can still draw on them for help when I need it.

Outside of the blogging buddies I have, I also come back to Eating Disorders Blogs (full of different experts’ blogs), Drop It and Eat: Drop the Diet, Manage Your Weight (a dietitian’s take on ending the obsession), and Tina’s Best Body Fitness posts on Binge Eating, and the blogs at Healthy Girl: Helping Each Other Stay Sane About Food. As with the short list of websites I included, these are just a couple of suggestions that were really helpful for me.

4. Talk to a professional.

Many of the tips on this list came as suggestions from professionals. During my recovery, I saw a counselors, therapists, and dietitians. I was open about my struggles with my doctors and when everyone was on the same page, progress really took off for me.

Though enlisting support from a professional can be scary—it means you have to admit that you want help—scary can be good. Hiring a professional (or professionals) can also be costly, but this is a time where you have to remember that you are worth every penny. Use support groups, which often cost less than one on one work, too—they’re often facilitated by professionals but cost significantly less or may even be free. I know I personally wouldn’t have been able to move through recovery at the rate I did without the support of the professionals I enlisted as part of my support team.

5. Build a team.

While my dietitian and counselor were integral parts of my recovery team, so were my friends, family, and the people I work with. Eventually, blogging friends became a huge network of support. Having  people to reach out to, even if they have no idea what you’re going through but are just willing to lend an ear, give a hug, or distract you for a bit, are essential. Having a friend to text when you’re standing at the fridge on the verge of a binge can be a lifesaver. I know a few of my friends and my sister, who I consider all-stars on Cheryl’s Recovery Team, saved me from a lot of turmoil.

You don’t have to be up front with everyone on your team if you’re not ready to share. I found that eventually I opened up to most of the people in my life, largely because I realized keeping my struggles a secret gave ED power. Still, that might not be right for you, but coming up with a group of people you can think of as allies in your recovery is huge!

6. Write it out.

While I know writing isn’t everybody’s thing, blogging and journaling were a key in my recovery process. I used diaries to help sort out my thoughts and found support via blogging.

Sitting down and just writing can be scary. Some of the most therapeutic writing I did came from doing just that, but other times I found prompts like the ones I listed in my post on this topic, to be extremely helpful.

7. Make lists.

Things like writing down a list of ED alternatives and post it where you need it (on the fridge, in the bathroom, in your day planner, etc.) seem basic enough—“but I know all those alternatives”—but are actually really powerful when written down. Seeing the alternatives makes them real, viable options. Trust me on this one.

My writing suggestions post included a few lists, but you can go further. You might list your feelings, your worries, your hopes, your dreams. List anything and everything. If writing intimidates you, the list form is a bit less scary.

8. Listen up.

Music can really help you calm down. I have playlists on my iPod for when I’m feeling worked up, one of which I shared in a post because it really helps me get to a happier headspace whenever I’m feeling off.

Making an inspirational playlist that you can come back to whenever you need it is fun, easy, and worth your time.  Don’t feel like you have to stick to relaxing songs—maybe what you need when you’re feeling stressed is a good pump-up song, something upbeat and catchy, or a mix of all kinds of stuff. Make your playlist your own.

9. Manage your stress.

It would be nice if we could live stress-free existences and never have to deal with temptation to use Ed as a coping mechanism. But a stress-free life is not only unrealistic, it would also be boring. Instead, realizing that stress is part of life and that it can be used positively (i.e. stress over wanting to do well, to a point, drives you to actually try and to get your work done) and trying to stay at the optimal level is what’s important.

When your stress levels do get too high, be ready for it. There are certain things in my own life like assignments, going home for the holidays, and going on vacation that place me in an anxious spot. Without realizing it, I often find myself biting my nails, thinking about overeating, or even slipping into old habits. As time has gone on in recovery, I’ve become better at proactively realizing that these times are coming and setting up an action plan: What can I do to manage my stress that isn’t self destructive? What if I slip up and binge? Being prepared puts you back in control and will minimize the risk.

10. Long term.

I bet you’ve heard the quote, “You must have long term goals to keep you from being frustrated by short term failures,” but I doubt you realized it makes a great motto for recovery. That’s because there will be short term “failures” like relapses, slips, temptations, and so on—but they don’t matter if they’re part of forward motion towards a place of recovered bliss.

It’s easy to beat yourself up if you assume that a slip wipes out all the hard work you’ve done. But beating yourself up is what Ed wants you to do and is the exact opposite of what you should do when you make a boo boo. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, to reassess, and to reaffirm your dedication to recovering. Consider recovery a series of rolling hills (with highs and lows) that gets progressively higher and higher until you get to the top and recovered, and remember that two steps forward and one step back still puts you ahead.  Keep on keeping on.

Please, please, please give yourself the gift of recovery. Though the journey isn’t smooth and I cannot lie and say that getting better is a breeze—I label my own recovery as the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do—I do know that the most rewarding things, the things we need to do the most, are often the most challenging. Getting to a place of recovery gives you your life back. Go get it!

What are you living for?

It’s time for me to share another game changer. This one dawned on me out of the blue the other day after I had a gal pal compliment me on how I looked “strong” in a photo from CrossFit.

pull!

For the first time in my life, I’m training for something.

Let me elaborate…I spent the majority of my fitness-crazed years exercising to avoid one thing or another: cellulite, getting fat, being lazy. Since drinking the CrossFit koolaid—specifically the kind served up at West London CrossFit—last fall, I’ve made a big ol’ switch to how I approach exercise.

Rather than running away from fat thighs or love handles on a treadmill, I’m chasing after PRs and heavier bars. For the first time, I’m working out for strength, for power, for speed, for fitness. Rather than trying to avoid being fat, being slow, or being unhealthy, I’m trying to create fitness and health and strength and power and all things good that come from working out.

That’s pretty freaking awesome.

The same paradigm shift has happened with my eating. For a really long time, I focused far more on what I wasn’t eating—the “bad” things like calories, fat, or junk food—than on what I was eating. My goal was to avoid gaining weight. Today, to borrow the term that the Balanced Bites gals I love so much use, I’m a nutrient seeker. I’m eating for nutrition, for fuel, and for me. I’m eating to create health.

Again, pretty freaking awesome.

It doesn’t stop there, though, and it wouldn’t be a game changer if it didn’t really shake things up.

Instead of avoiding emotions I think will wreck me—things like pain, loneliness, anxiety—I’m going after the ones I know will sustain me—love, connection, confidence. At the very least, I’m realizing that rather than avoiding pain, I can try to create resilience. Rather than worrying about loneliness, I can focus on being okay with being alone. Instead of trying to run from worry, I can get used to responding positively to it: what’s up in my life that it might be trying to tell me about?

How else, you ask, have I started to focus on living for something instead of trying to avoid what I don’t want?

What about in my career? I can think of several instances where I chose what I thought was my next step—a second degree in dietetics, accepting the offer from Columbia for Journalism school—based on trying to avoid being unengaged or unemployed. The security in a conventional career or in going to grad school are ways to avoid putting myself out there. Now, I’m living for something that makes me spring out of bed in the morning. I’m creating a dream job—one that doesn’t necessarily exist yet—instead of settling for something solely to avoid being without.

The same idea applies to health, to relationships, to finances. Are you guilty of living against in these situations? Do you do things to keep you from getting sick? Or do you do things for the sake of creating health? Do you stay with a not so special someone for the sake of not being single? Or do you go after someone who abso-freaking-lutely rocks your socks?

When it comes down to it, deciding to live for is the most empowering decision you can make for yourself. It’s also one of the scariest. With the decision comes the risk of failure.

But also the promise of possibility.

Living against is fine. You’ll be okay. You won’t get fat, you won’t get sick, you won’t be unemployed or single…but are “fine” and “okay” words you want people to use when they’re talking about your life? What about extraordinary and awesome, super and amazing, or wonderful and great?

My message ought to be clear by now: don’t settle for a life living against things when you deserve a life spent living for the things your desire. Spend your energy on manifesting what you do want—not on avoiding what you don’t. Embrace the good things instead of fighting the bad. Rather than worrying about what brings you down, nurture what lifts you up. Instead of running away, why not start chasing things? 

too many of us are not living our dreams

Five Friday Finds

1. My latest article in Canadian Cycling Magazine came out. It’s about dabbling in paleo eating as a cyclist. I’m darn proud of this article! Shameless self promotion here, there, and everywhere. Lucky for you you can read it online. Or buy a copy and have me sign it so you can say you knew me when! ha.

2. Mark Sisson’s newest book. I’m loving what I’ve read so far of The Primal Connection. In my future, I want to have one day a week dedicated purely to reading. In my underwear.

3. Jillian Michaels’ latest podcast. She talks about how she uses compulsive shopping to soothe herself/meet her unmet needs, similar to how people use other things (food, drugs, alcohol, facebook, whatever) for the same purpose. She’s got this right. #girlcrush

4. This video, which less makes me want to buy clothing and more makes me want to go on an adventure. What are we here for if it’s not to have a little fun?!

5. This song, which I put on repeat this week. 🙂

Direction: Three years and counting

When it comes to writing blogs, insomnia seems to be my friend. This morning, I was up and at ‘em before the sunrise. Luckily, I had an early morning on tap because today was the annual fundraiser breakfast for Hope’s Garden, the eating disorders support/resource centre in London. Hope’s was a huge factor in my recovery and today’s breakie was my third.

I had a holy shit moment there: it’s been over three years since I got busy recovering from my eating disorder. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what my turning point was. People have asked me to talk about my story and I find it difficult knowing where to start, mostly because things were far from linear.

Not too long ago, I shared a video of a Ted talk where the speaker talked about progress and used the process of climbing Everest—and it’s a process where you go up, down, up and down, up, down, up and back down—as a metaphor for progress in life.

A while back, I remember hearing Jenni Schaefer, whose books were immensely helpful, speak about her own journey to “recovered” and what it looked like for her. Hint: hers wasn’t linear either. During her presentation, she even drew a graph with a curve going up and down and up and down over and over again from Ed to RecoverEd. I think about that a lot–and take comfort in it. Just like the Everest video, looking at a given moment in a transformation can give you a skewed idea of where you’re at. One step back, two steps forward…that kind of thing.

Trying to label my lowest point as a way to start my story gets tricky. Was it the first low point? Does that count if I fell down along the way? With recovery, pinpointing a moment where I decided to turn the tables isn’t happening.

To be honest, I’m dizzy from turning points. Every day, I make choice after choice after choice. And then I make some more choices.

When I was moving last month, I had a little bit of a breakdown. I was buried in things (five years is a long time and lots of things piled up in my old place) and was absolutely overwhelmed with the prospect of moving. Similarly, a few years ago, I was buried in my eating disorder. The thought of making the jump from where I was to recovered? Overwhelming.

During that moving breakdown, I had a stellar friend come to the rescue. She brought a tape gun, boxes, and a question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

If you’re still with me, you’ll see what I’m getting at here. Just like packing your entire life up in one go is too much to fathom, even the idea of letting go of my eating disorder in one go was paralyzing.

Instead, recovery was a process: step by step.

(Please tell me someone else born in the 80s totally loved that reference?)

Recovery was–and is–a decision that I make day after day after day.

The beauty in this?

With one choice, you can change your direction. If you make the wrong choice, it could still be forward progress (scroll up and go watch the Ted Talk I linked if you don’t believe me). On top of a lesson, rest assured you’re going to get another shot at things pretty soon.

I say that you have to make choice after choice after choice after choice not to be discouraging. Think about it: every day is filled with opportunities to choose. Whether you have an eating disorder or not, that’s an awesome thing. On a regular basis, you’re presented with opportunities to choose YOU. If you’re off track, you have unlimited opportunities to get back to what you know is right. To fill your life with things that fill you up, to do things that fulfill you and bring you happiness, and to create an amazing life. All you have to do is make a choice. Take a step. And then another. And then another.

More? Not for this girl!

Stress is real. There are bills to pay, things to do, and only so many hours in the day.

But it’s how you orient yourself to what you “have to do” that really matters. January for me was about redefining, resetting, and reorganizing. I didn’t expect things to go so deep as they did, but I had what I’m fairly certain is moving towards game changer status for me…

More is not more.

In the same way that I used to use eating and exercising in compulsive, unhealthy ways, I noticed myself using busy-ness to try to fill a need that it never could.  Just like calorie counting and dieting temporarily gave me a sense of control and bingeing and purging a sense of relief, making myself elaborate to do lists and taking on more and more and more all the time were attempts at proving that I’m enough.

There’s something to be said for being busy, productive, and successful, but doing “more” will never be enough. When we can always fit more into our days, if we measure ourselves based on how many things we can get done, we’ll just end up feeling like we should have done more—and robbing ourselves of the time we need to rest, play, love, and live.

The typical pattern for me: go, go, go, go some more, crash. I’d end up resenting things that I used to love doing simply because I was so tired going into them that it was hard to find enthusiasm. I’d catch myself saying “I have to do (a), then I need to do (b). I’ll make sure I squeeze in (c) before I have to be at (d) but I really should get (e) done.” Sure, busy is glorified so often this was rewarded with a “Wow! I don’t know how you do it all!” but at the end of the day, I would be so tired that I’d get mad at my phone if a friend texted or called me because all I wanted was a break from everything.

I’m in the process of letting this behaviour go. It’s getting easier and easier and I think I’m going to stumble onto some free time soon. I’m flexing my “no” muscle. I wrote last week about cutting back on some of the things I’ve put on myself and I’m trying to make to-do lists with my priorities in mind based on what’s important and timely—not for the sake of making a list or having things to cross off.

Something Brooke Castillo and Andrea Owen were talking about on a recording that rocked my socks (in a timely manner) was how powerful the idea that we are “always in choice” can be. Brooke shared her experience: she was at a park with her kidlets, totally resenting being there. It dawned on her that she could leave. She didn’t. By choice, she stayed.

You could leave.

You can not go to work. You can not call your difficult family members. You can not go to the gym. You can not wear makeup. You can not pay your taxes, shave your legs, go to that meeting, shower today, write that paper, etc.

You can not do anything that you don’t want to. Some of the “not” suggestions I made—wearing makeup, for instance—felt liberating for me. Some of them felt stupid: of course I want to go the gym and of course I want to shower! Truth: we can choose not to do anything, we just have to face the consequences. If Brooke had left her kids at the park, the outcome would have been unfortunate. If I don’t pay my taxes, I’m going to have a hard time with my finances. If I don’t call my difficult family, things will never get less difficult with them. We own our choices, but with that comes the responsibility of owning the results.

I like to remind myself of this when I feel like I am running around like a mad woman, making a novel of a to-do list, or feeling obligated. Two things happen: I reassess what I really want to do and not do and I start doing those things with enthusiasm. When we choose to do something, we leave behind the sense and the sort of resentment that goes along with being forced to do something against our own will. If we are always in choice, we are always acting in our own favour.

To do less, we have to believe that we’re already enough. That’s the game changer here. Regardless of what I do in a day, I’m good. Busy is a nice way to try to appear productive and successful. I want to be productive and successful, which means giving up the masquerade and doing what really matters. Less is more when less includes the things that actually matter rather than stuff for the sake of stuff. In a roundabout way, the attempts to feel like I am enough and to get a sense of fulfilment from doing more and more and more are actually calling out for doing what really matters to me and for having the confidence and the self esteem to do less and still feel like a good, complete person.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with this: Where are you running around trying to impress yourself or others? Where are you using “busy” as a way to fill a void?

And this:

 

Happy Saturday!

Friday Finds – February?!

Somehow, February is here. Luckily, so is Friday! This weekend, besides working, I have plans to get together with a lovely bunch of ladies for a brunch, maybe to watch the Superbowl, and to sleep. I’m cool like that.

This week, I couldn’t wait to share! Enjoy…

1. A summary of a book on social entrepreneurship on Actionable Books. It’s less random when I add that a friend of mine wrote this, let me have a sneak peek in return for a bit of editing, and when you realize how cool the site itself is: The site lists short summaries and takeaways from all kinds of books, written by contributors who apply to write for the site for a year and to provide a monthly contribution. It’s sort of like a book club that connects people from all over the place, the resource you wished you had when you were doing book reports in high school, and a great way to get sucked into something besides your work (read: procrastinate) all in one!

2. The viral kid president video everyone’s sharing (with good reason). I. Love. This.

3. The latest Life By Design podcast. They talked about integrity and how it applies to everything we do in our lives. Word.

4. I registered for the CrossFit Open this week. It’s 20$. Anyone can do it. It’s in March. Everyone should do it. They post workouts: you do them. I anticipate that this year will be humbling, but I also think it’s a nice way to see where I’m at and to gauge it from this year to next. Who’s with me?

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5. This cheese:6. This card from Curly Girl. Me wants in framed form, ASAP.

dreams

7. This post from Stephenie Zamora’s website on training as it applies to going after what you want. One of my favourite things about her posts are that they are badass, but also that she sums them up in these cute little photo tidbits (this one’s about living on purpose, to me!):

8. I’m back on the Jillian train. She’s got a new book and as much as I don’t really care about being “slim” for life, I’m obviously going to check it out. If I want to one up her, I’ve got to know what she’s doing!

10. This reminder. More loveeeeeee.

 

Happy weekend!

Anything worth sharing this week? Send ‘er on down!