Adventure: a statement and why I won’t be shaving my legs til August

The perfectionist in me is screaming not to post anything because I’m not sure what I want to say or how I want to say it and because I won’t have links and pictures and a pretty picture since I’m writing from my phone.

The common sense gal in me says to keep it simple: I’m going on my outward bound trip TODAY! It’s two weeks, it’s in the woods, and it’s going to be an adventure. We’re backpacking and rock climbing and as my lovely boyfriend likes to say, I’m going on this trip so I can “find myself.”

Since I like to argue at every opportunity that presents itself, I’m going to argue that this trip is quite the opposite of a “find yourself” theme and is actually about marking the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. I went on a similar trip the summer before university and with grad school quickly approaching (I am so excited!) I know that this is a timely adventure. While one of my complaints about this year off from school has been that I don’t like not having a routine, I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut and going through the same old same old over and over and am so glad that things are shaking up.

Ever since i was on that trip after high school i knew i wanted to go on more. Things got in the way–they’re expensive, etc.–but mostly I got in my way. I worried about not working out. About eating what other people picked out. And I let the stuff get in my way. So this trip is a bit of a statement of how far I’ve come. I was thinking about how it’s funny that my body looks about the same it did after high school. I weigh the same as the girl I was convinced was too fat when I started university. I am not the same, however, and while I get sad when I think about all the time and energy I spent gaining and losing and gaining and losing and gaining and losing the same weight over and over again, I know I am in the sanest and healthiest place I’ve ever been and that things can only get better from here. By going on this trip I am taking a stand for health. We work out so that we are in shape and can do the things we want to do–like go on adventure trips and club mountains. We eat so that we can live. This trip is a good reminder that eating right and exercising are part of our lives and are ways to make them better–not the point of our lives!

Now that I am into the rambling, I’m going to bring it in.

Ill be gone for two weeks.
I don’t plan on shaving my legs for those two weeks.
There’s no Internet or cell phones where I’m headed.
Ill miss you.
Make sure you miss me back!

what’s the best trip you’ve ever gone on?

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food for thought: 20 things

“food for thought” posts are my chance to share an opinion, an insight, or something to do with food–think nutrition, emotional eating, a recipe, you name it. 

After my post about body composition, I really got to thinking about where I’m at with my body and the way I look at it. From that process, I  decided to focus on the awesome parts of what gaining weight (muscle, fat, all of it–I’m not discriminating) has done for me. It’s easy to focus on the fact that those jeans don’t fit or that my thighs rub together when I run now, but that leaves me in a crappy place. Instead, here are 20 things I’m grateful for that came as an extension of the last year/last 20:

1. the ability to drink a beer or have an ice cream cone without needing to “earn” it first or to burn it off later

2. the ability to do pull-ups: depending on the day and the way I put my hands, I’ve gone from thinking pull-ups were pretty much impossible to being able to do 6 strict ones

3. a renewed desire to go to the gym, which I attribute to the shift in focus to creating, building, and improving instead of punishing, fixing, controlling, and slogging through the motions

4. enjoyment in biking and running and swimming–without my garmin–now that I don’t “have to” do them

5. a deep appreciation for what my body can do in terms of healing itself from years of being abused and put through so much

6. the ability to sleep in on a Sunday instead of rushing out of bed to do a long ______ (run, bike, swim, etc.) before allowing my day to begin

7. a butt…

you cannot see my butt because i do not have a butt

which butt

8. functioning hormones: this is the first time in over 5 years that I’ve had my period for 3 consecutive months #seriouslybigwin and the stuff that comes along with having a set of healthy hormones (not having to worry that I’m killing my bones, less migraines, better moods) is huge!

9. the ability to deadlift 300lbs (305 actually, as of yesterday)

deadlift

10. the ability to move my furniture myself should the urge to feng shui arise — thank you, strongman sunday

11. a break from teaching fitness that came without all the guilt of making it mean that I’m not fit enough, skinny enough, or otherwise good enough to do it

12. the confidence to go on a backpacking/rockclimbing trip for two weeks this summer without needing to obsess over the fact that I won’t be near a bike or a pool or a barbell for two weeks

ob

13. the ability to eat out without making sure I’ve checked the website and the nutritional info out beforehand

14. the balls to sign up for and play soccer instead of thinking that it’s a half assed workout where I might get hurt and not be able to work out

15. the insight into what actually feels good in terms of exercise, food, and taking care of myself –i.e. no matter how much I want cookies to make my body happy, they don’t. Ice cream, however, works. #stillwinning

16. a super strong back that I am pretty proud of

backback

17. a realization that guys will like you even if you don’t look like a fitness model

18. the ability to go away for a weekend without freaking out about having to eat out and be away from the gym (I did this five times while I got my coaching certificate and was amazed at how much easier it got with practice)

19. the appreciation that my healthiest weight is by definition the weight I am when I am doing the healthiest things for myself, not when I match up with an “ideal” number on someone else’s chart

20. the real lesson that my worth is not related to my weight

To anyone who assumes that when I say I’ve gained weight that I’m complaining, there. It’s more than weight I’ve gained, and I’m ready for a shift in what we make it mean to hear about gaining weight (as a girl) to happen.

have you gained weight and “come to terms” with it?
when you think about gaining weight, what comes up for you? 

on the right foot: shit storms and silver linings

a life lesson, a coaching gem, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?

Today, I’m going to share a coaching tool that I picked up that’s been helping me in my personal life a whole lot lately as well as a big insight that’s come up for me recently.

In coaching, we call upon clients to access their “Appreciator”:

“The Appreciator is your inner authority that appreciates everything, the dark and the light, the wins and the losses, and the failures and successes, all without judgment. Everyone has access to their personal Appreciator, but accessing it is a choice.”

If it sounds like a cute way to remind people to look for silver linings, you’re right. Drawing out and calling upon the appreciator is a conscious choice to take an empowering perspective on whatever situation you’re in and can thus be powerful stuff.

silver lining 1

Last week was a bit of a shit storm for me. With lots going on (packing up and making the trek to my cousin’s wedding over the weekend, getting my things together for my trip to North Carolina tomorrow, and trying to keep up all the training and writing and normal things I do plus my coaching, working at GFC, and finishing my article for Canadian Cycling Magazine), a couple of poopy things happened that were kind of the icing on a knock me on my arse cake. I won’t go into details (you can guess how personal they must be if I’m not willing to put them out there) but from having a bag filled with almost $200 of brand new gear for my trip go missing (stolen?) within an hour of buying it to some family stuff, my week was filled with things that stressed me out.

Luckily, in the midst of the shit storm that was last week, I found myself drawing on my appreciator. Doing so started out as a “how can I make this less shitty?” attempt (which led to jokes and a bit of ease) and then led to a pretty big realization.

As much as I wanted to beat myself up for buying ice cream or for wanting to eat all the chocolate in my apartment (and I will admit that I did turn to food a bit for comfort), I recognized in the process that I was entirely capable of taking care of myself—even in a really overwhelming situation. I was choosing to use food as comfort just like I could choose to use my journal, talking to a friend, or blogging—things that I then started opting for instead.

When I was journaling, I wrote down, “The world is conspiring against me.” I made jokes about how if I had a kitten, it would probably die. Not funny and certainly not empowering.

Bringing in more of my appreciator, something big dawned on me. Rather than thinking that the world was out to get me, I could choose a positive perspective. What if the world is “conspiring” in a different way?

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Sure, conspiring typically connotes a bad outcome. But that it’s “typical” suggests that there’s an another alternative, albeit a weird option! What came into my mind was the notion that the world could just as easily be conspiring to serve me in a big way. I changed “The world is conspiring against me,” to “The world is conspiring to serve my greatest good,” and got on with things.

I looked at the beauty in being slammed with a bunch of stressful things all at once and not crumbling.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on beliefs about success being scary. The number of ways I’ve held back and haven’t let myself be as wildly successful as I know I’m capable of in an attempt to keep myself safe makes me sad. Realizing, though, that it was this idea that being at the top is scary and my fear of getting there and falling that was holding me back—not self-sabotage or my lack of ability—gave me hope. All I needed to do was shift those beliefs, right?

barrier

When it comes to changing our beliefs, it’s safe to say that it can be easier said than done. But what I had on my hands last week was an opportunity.

I’d “fallen” and survived. I wasn’t crushed.

If I can fail without considering myself without considering myself a failure, if I can stumble without stopping, and if I am entirely capable of picking myself and getting on with things after getting knocked down, the prospect of success (and the risk it carries) is less terrifying.

That was a lot of words to sum this up:

  1.  Shit storms happen. Finding our appreciators and consciously choosing to focus on the silver lining can open up all kinds of power.
  2.  The evidence that we need to shift our beliefs can show up on it’s own if we choose to recognize it as such.
  3.  I found me some balls to go after success a little more boldly from here on out.

What’s a silver lining your appreciator’s found lately?
Can you think of any beliefs you’ve successfully switched? What was it like?
What are your beliefs/thoughts around success? How are they informing your life?

friday find: july 12

My intention with these posts is to share something–a blog, an article, a video, a song, a person, a book, whatever–that I’ve found inspiring or informative on a weekly basis and to share my take-aways.

Yesterday I was listening to podcasts (I listen to a lot) and came to the latest episode of “New Books In Sociology” (yupp, confirmed, I’m a huge nerd).  The podcast interviews an author and this week’s was featuring Gary Greenberg and The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry. Given all the talk lately about the DSM and about diagnostic criteria in general, I was pretty into the episode.

The question the book begs is whether or not mental disorders are concrete illnesses. The podcast talked a lot about how the DSM came to be and then explored how defining mental disorders by coming up with these criteria and legitimizing them as conditions plays out.

I particularly enjoyed the portion of the podcast where they talked about what being diagnosed does in terms of self identification. The discussion goes to Asperger Syndrome and how when it was constructed as a diagnosable condition, people saw it as a positive thing. That’s very different than being diagnosed with major depression, for instance.

The talk about taking on the identity of sick—and how this takes the focus to the individual and not to the things in the world that can be controlled (either personally or on a broader, systematic level)—was bang on with what was going through my head when I wrote my post in regards to how this all relates to eating disorders. Not only does identifying yourself as “sick” with an eating disorder have a pretty big effect on how you carry yourself, it also entirely individualizes the “condition” so that it’s your responsibility to deal with it. I’m all for personal responsibility and for choosing health but I am also all for looking critically at the things in the world that contribute to eating disorders and to address them.

Take-aways:

  • Mental diseases/disorders/conditions are constructs. As the description for the episode says: “Allowing the DSM to dictate reality as if it were a scientifically grounded book is a mistake, and we should be more aware of the haphazard way in which it was assembled.”
  • The DSM serves a purpose—but that purpose isn’t necessarily the best for you.
  • Whether you’re “sick” or not based on criteria, you know if you’re happy and if you’re healthy.
  • We have power and responsibility to change our health and the world around us.

What podcasts have you been listening to lately?
Have you been diagnosed with something in the DSM before? What was the experience like?

think about it: what i’d like to do to barbie

This week, I’ve got a bit of a rant  that comes from reading “‘Normal’ Barbie By Nikolay Lamm Shows Us What Mattel Dolls Might Look Like if Based on Actual Women,” an article on huffington post that shows a bunch of pictures of what a Barbie modelled after the average american woman might look like and suggests that this might help the women of the world live a saner existence.

Here’s one of the photos…

barbie compare 2

Firstly, I don’t think this Barbie looks like the average 19 year old, as the post suggests. I followed the link in the article, which lists these averages:

Height (inches):   63.8
Weight (pounds):  166.2
Waist circumference (inches):   37.5

I’ve heard other averages listed before–5’5, 135lbs seems to come up in my memory–and I’m always a bit baffled. We often label “average” as “normal” without stopping to think about the fact that this woman might not actually exist (remember how averages are calculated?).

Should we promote this “normal” body as a better alternative to a different ideal? I don’t think so. Especially if you’re convinced that the health of the population is in the shitter (which I won’t argue with on many levels) or that there is an obesity epidemic (language I don’t like to use, if you caught last week’s post you’ll remember), I think you can see why replacing Barbie with this new doll isn’t such a great idea.

That being said, I don’t think this Barbie looks like the average woman. What’s 166 or 135lbs on one woman is clearly not the same as what it is on another. This doll’s thighs don’t touch, something that I think is kind of rare in the world.

thigh gap

I know I sound critical (because I am). That being said, I am all for self acceptance. But I am not for replacing one model with another and calling it a win for little girls. A win would be fostering self love and acceptance in kidlets so that there’s not an “ideal” and inevitably the majority of the population not matching up. This blonde, white Barbie might no longer be ridiculously unattainable, but she’s still a pretty far reach for most of us “normal” girls. We can redefine what ideal looks like over and over and over again but until we get away from the notion that we should fit into what someone else decides is the prettiest, healthiest, best, whatever, we’re stuck in the same game–and setting ourselves up to lose.

Side note: I don’t think we’d see Ken dolls going through this same thing. Do little boys not get to be saved from the tyranny of measuring up to an unrealistic ideal?

To deliver on the title…

What do you think about this “normal” Barbie?
How do you feel about the call for a different Barbie? 

food for thought: another reason body bashing blows

“food for thought” posts are my chance to share an opinion, an insight, or something to do with food–think nutrition, emotional eating, eating disorders, a recipe, you name it.

Last week, I had a particularly “rough” day.

It started out with me freaking out about an article I’m struggling with working on, an epic list of things to do before I go on my much anticipated Outward Bound trip to North Carolina, and receiving a list of some of the courses I’ll be taking in the fall. I was feeling overwhelmed with the busy-ness that’s already in my life and with everything that’s coming my way. The tipping point where I went from comfortably stressed to a crybaby was when something went “wrong” at the bank.

I found myself crying in my car, texting a friend about how fat I was feeling for eating such and such (yogurt, of all things) and complaining about how fat I felt when I went to get dressed. My mind was thinking of the workout I would do after the workout I was on my way to that day, how I would just have a smoothie for lunch, and how everything would be okay.

Since I’ve been reading “Almost Anorexic,” I caught myself thinking these thoughts and then realized that I wasn’t thinking about my body and food and exercise in a healthy way.  With the voices of my itty bitty shitty committee screaming loud and clear at me, I started to doubt my “Recovered.” status.

But then something shifted in me and the part of me that knows I am strong, healthy, and awesome (I call this inner cheerleader my warrior) shouted loud and clear: hating my body is an insult to the woman I am. Entertaining disordered ideas and using my body as a scapegoat is like spitting on all the hard work I did to get to “Recovered.”

My inner leader is Xena, cheesy as it might be!

That morning, my thoughts and focus went all too easily from tangible things in my life (not having a plan for my freelance article, not feeling ready for my trip, not knowing what this fall will look like, etc.) to hating on my body. I took the frustration and stress around everything in my world and displaced it on my body.

That’s a cop out.

I can control, to a point, the things that are actually on my plate. What I can’t do is magically make my body look different. Transferring my frustrations and stress onto the way my body looks is a way of letting myself off the hook when it comes to dealing with what’s actually going on in my life.

What’s sad is that I can actually do something about that article, my trip, and going back to school—and doing so will be better for me than losing 10lbs again ever would. By taking care of the challenges we face and by processing our emotions, we build self esteem and confidence and actually make ourselves better people—not just better looking.

I realized too, though, that whatever was holding me back from acting on the real life things that I can actually change in favour of crying over my body must be pretty scary. To choose a shitty place like hating on your own body, there has to be something in it as a reward.

So I did a little digging. What I know about myself Is that when I don’t have a plan or know exactly what’s coming, I get stressed. I’m also a perfectionist. Instead of considering what it would mean to write an imperfect article, I could worry about my thighs touching. Instead of thinking about how I’m going to balance my time once I go back to school, I could think about how I wish my stomach was flatter. When I took a look at what was in it for me in terms of good things that come from worrying about my body instead of dealing with my life, things started to make more sense. Hating my body sucks but feeling scared, not good enough, and uncertain aren’t really that great either.

The big gift here is, like I said earlier, when we deal with what’s really going on in our world, we prove to ourselves that we can do it. We build self esteem. Articles get written. To do lists get demolished. Plans are made. Our lives get better.

In conclusion, it’s tempting to give away our power to hating our bodies, to an eating disorder, or to whatever it is that we turn to when things get rough. I spent too much of my life spending my energy fixing my body and focusing on how I look, what I eat, and how I exercise. All of that got me to a miserable, deprived, skinny, sick place with all of the same fears and uncertainties and the same shitty self esteem as when I started on the quest for bodily perfection.  A much better use of my energy is to pour it into the things that are driving my feelings in the first place. In short, focusing on what’s really going on might be more of a challenge right now, but you’re up to it–and your thighs will thank me. 

focus

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an article to finish and a bag to pack.

What do you give your power away to?
Do you struggle with avoidance?
How do you get yourself back on track?

on the right foot: what’re you here for?

it’s monday, which means it’s time for a little question and some insight. 

Question: What’s your life purpose?

Finding, naming, and owning a life purpose is seriously powerful stuff. It’s also seriously confusing and I know as I was coached towards mine, there were certain things that made the process of figuring out what on Earth I’m here to do easier.

Here are a few questions that helped me tease mine out:

  1. What do people thank you for? One of my coaches preferred a term about original medicine and what your gift to the world that no one else can give is.
  2. What do you stand for? What gets you going and do you get on a soapbox about? What we’re passionate about is often an element in our purpose.
  3. What will you be remembered for? It’s kind of morbid, but think about your funeral. Robin Sharma asks people in his leader without a title coaching to write their own eulogies. Thinking about what people will say about you when you’re gone can be extremely insightful.

If you’re stressing out and worrying that you don’t have a perfect sentence to sum up your purpose, please stop. Trust: You [already are] your life purpose. This isn’t about choosing one or making one up for the sake of having it and then to trying to live up to it. You’re already doing whatever “it” is. Naming it and recognizing it just opens up the door for you to step into it and to embody it even more, consciously and intentionally and thereby more powerfully.

live your life on purpose

any ideas on what your purpose might be?
have you done any work on naming your life purpose? what’s happened as a result for you?

 

friday find: july 5

It’s a good thing this was a short week because I was beyond excited to share this week’s find with you.

One of the first books I read when I started on my eating disorder recovery journey was Jenni Schaefer’s “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me,” followed by “Life After Ed.” Her books were absolutely inspiring and I have bought them over and over again to share with people. A few years ago, she came to London and gave a talk that inspired me to step from “in recovery” to “Recovered.” and to really move forward and further away from my eating disorder–gently.

Now that you probably want to read her older books, what I was so eager to share with you was her newest book, “Almost Anorexic,” which she co-wrote with Jennifer Thomas, a doctor who specializes in eating disorders. The idea of the book is that just because many people don’t fit the diagnostic criteria to have a full-blown eating disorder doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem.

The truth is that the majority of people with eating disorders do not fit anorexia nervosa’s diagnostic requirements, nor do the countless others who loathe their bodies and struggle to eat normally. We know from clinical and personal experience that the gray area between normal eating and anorexia nervosa is home to a great deal of pain and suffering for many people. Their lives can be just as out of control, unmanageable, miserable–if not more so–than those with anorexia.”

“Diagnostic criteria are just guidelines, and people whose symptoms don’t quite fit those parameters can still suffer. Forget about the key symptoms of anorexia for a minute, and just consider this: to what extent is a preoccupation with eating, shape, and weight impairing your life?”

Amen to that!

I am only a few chapters in (but I’m in!) and already I’m highlighting lots of gems (and getting plenty of ideas for blog posts):

  • “People of all shapes and sizes struggle with disordered eating attitudes and behaviours…Disordered eating exists at every number on the scale.”
  • “Disordered eating can have serious health consequences–at whatever number on the scale.”
  • In regards to what weight loss television can do…”Reality TV shows like [The Biggest Loser, etc.] dangerously, not to mention falsely, suggest that people who are larger do not have to worry about developing almost anorexia or other officially recognized eating disorders.”
  • Of the “I feel fat” sentiment that so many people express…”The next time you are feeling fat, ask yourself…”What am I really feeling right now, and why?” Chances are good that you won’t be able to change that feeling by simply going on a diet. Life is a lot more complicated than that.”

Reasons I’m loving this and suggesting that you read it–now:

1. Jenni is someone who has been through recovery and uses her story as part of what she does in the world — and what she does is powerful and deserves props.

2. The “almost effect” series is cool — like I talked about in some of my thursday posts, the idea of waiting until you meet a certain set of criteria to think that a health situation is dire enough to do something about is really misguided. I am glad this is being talked about!

3. Like I mentioned earlier this week, the whole not feeling like you look the part of an eating disorder can put you in a pretty crappy place. This book stresses that regardless of whether you meet all the criteria or are at a certain weight where you’re considered officially anorexic, if food is running your world and if your habits are disordered, you should get help!

amen!

what do you think about the almost effect?
have you heard of or read any of jenni’s books?

think about it: another disease

it’s thursday, which means it’s time to share something that really made me think..and to really go into what i think about it. 

Another today show clip, but this one’s all over. Have you heard? Obesity is a disease.

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My thoughts:

When you name obesity as a disease, it does the same things as I mentioned with the caffeine examples from last week. People think about “having” diseases, not being them and thereby externalize the “disease” as something outside of their control. In some ways, releasing the shame around being obese (fat shaming is a serious concern) might be a good thing, but when there’s such a need for personal responsibility, I think doing so does more harm than good. At the end of the day, taking our health into our own hands is never going to hurt us and is the route to health.

I have a problem with the use of BMI as an indicator. While weight and health and thus BMI and health have some correlation, I know that there are people at the same BMI as me who carry more fat than I do (and those who carry more muscle). What gets me is that a difference of 1lb would take you from overweight (fine?) to obese (diseased!)–regardless of what your lifestyle and actual health is like.

I'm overweight but not diseased, apparently. What does that make me?

I’m overweight but not diseased, apparently. What does that make me?

The clip I linked to mentions that classifying obesity like this would add it into the ranks of things like high blood pressure. What I take from that is that it’s destined for obesity to become one that we manage with primarily band-aids–drugs–and attribute largely to genetics. So many people assume that their high blood pressure is something that they can just manage with drugs and don’t take the steps to actually address what causes it in the first place. The clip also mentioned that it would be a “pro” of the disease designation that insurance might cover costs associated with obesity. In Canada, does that mean that our health care dollars would go towards things like weight loss drugs, bypass surgeries, etc.? And are we okay with that?

There are of course bigger issues at play. A systematic change would be nice and while I’d like to think that the fact that 1/3 of the population is now sick with a disease would launch that kind of change, I am not that hopelessly optimistic. Will the government rethink their food guide recommendations? Will we take a good hard look at our food system? Something tells me that the opposite will happen: when obesity is labelled a disease, it individualizes the issue and makes it about each and every fat person. We don’t look at those bigger issues because we’re too busy tackling the problem one person at a time. Isn’t it sad that we focus on the person yet remove the personal responsibility at the same time? Talk about a double whammy.

Unfortunately, an individual with a disease requires a cure and for that we love to throw on a band-aid instead of addressing the cause. If obesity is a disease, prevention becomes the paradigm. If we’re caught up in prevention and fixing, we aren’t caught up in creating health and focusing on what we can do to actually let our bodies be the awesome healthy beings that they are naturally meant to be. The more we medicalize this as a disease, the worse off we are. The more we focus on what’s wrong, the less we focus on health.

To me, that’s sadder than the fact that 1/3 of the population is sick. It’s sadder than the repercussions of people suddenly thinking of themselves as diseased. People deserve to be healthy–and to know that their bodies are meant to be that way–and this news is sadly contributing to an environment and a culture where just the opposite is normalized.

What do you think about obesity being considered a disease?

bonus: Mark Sisson had a really insightful take on this topic last week.