on nachos and storytelling

This week, I was out with friends and something icky came up. A (lean) friend was eating nachos and in response to my (probably offside) comment about their all-star dietary choice for dinner, they responded that since they weighed ___ lbs (a low number), it was okay.

Of course, this innocent person didn’t mean to offend me, but I was put off by the comment because my immediate thought/reaction was to say something along the lines of “Good thing I had dinner, I don’t weigh ___.”

Looking back, I could blame the innocent here for saying that eating junk food is okay when you’re smaller. But it’s not their fault—that’s commonplace in our world, whether it’s true or not (my thought is that the idea that you can “get away with” things because you’re skinny is blind to the fact that you can be skinny and seriously unhealthy). Alternatively, since I don’t know exactly what anyone else eats or does behind closed doors or what’s going on in their minds or bodies, I can focus on what I can actually control: my own thoughts on the matter and my own actions.

blame

So back to the idea that if you’re skinny, eating something “indulgent” is okay, which suggests that if you’re not, it isn’t. That sounds a heck of a lot like the dieting mindset rearing it’s ugly head.

In the past, dieting has mostly left me angry. I spent the majority of my high school and university years obsessing about food and exercise and weight or thinking about how I shouldn’t be obsessing about those things—not exactly freedom or health, in my opinion. There’s irony in the fact that the weight I’ve gotten to that has made my body happy (i.e. to get my period back, mainly) is pretty much right where I was when I started down the road of my disordered habits.

So, on the outside, that weight might look the same. But when I think about all of the learning I’ve done—about myself, my self esteem, and not just my physical body or exercise and nutrition—I know I’m not at all the same.

For instance, one thing I learned is that, like with the nacho example, putting conditions on when you can or can’t eat something is a recipe for mixing up my relationship with food and myself (whether or not that holds true for other people, I don’t know). You weigh too much to eat nachos = you don’t deserve nachos = you don’t deserve things = a recipe for feeling like crap. In that mindset, I know that when I do eat something that I think I shouldn’t, I’m going to feel like crap about myself and that I’ll quite likely end up overeating. There’s also a big problem with that thought process given that no matter how small I’ve been, I still didn’t qualify myself as someone who should be allowed to eat junk food.

Slipping back into the weight loss mindset sets me up for failure: I don’t eat the food I really want when I really want it and then I end up overeating on my own; I work out two times in one day and then feel sore, spiteful, and hungrier than ever.

So if I’m frustrated about putting in effort/worrying about my weight but still weighing more than other people who I feel like worry less than I do, what really needs to change?

I think in the past I’d have argued that I’ll get over it when I get smaller, but that’s not proved successful. The real issue isn’t that I’m bigger than those people—my body is healthy and for the most part, I’m more accepting of it now than I ever was when I was smaller and fighting against it—it’s that I’m pouring so much energy into worrying about it. It’s the mindset and the behaviours that suck. It keeps coming down to this: It would be okay if I weighed this much and I was enjoying nachos without needing to write a blog post about them, or doing the workouts that I really like, or relaxing in this body.

I think I’ve got an answer, and it isn’t to change this body to one that I think will deserve those things—to a body that can go to yoga one day, run the next, and lift weights the following instead of worrying about which workouts will mean the most fat loss, or to the body that can share a piece of cake and not go off the rails and eat chocolate chips compulsively the minute she’s alone—it’s to do those things now and trust that my body will take care of itself.

If I can resist the idea that if we don’t blame and shame and control our bodies, we will be overweight slobs (I think believing this this is the main reason I spent so long buying into the diet industry), I can start trusting my body. If I give up the dieting mindset, I have a feeling, paradoxically enough, that I will eat better and move more—and in ways that I actually enjoy. I know what a healthy lifestyle looks like, and even though it’s hard to resist the messages that seem to bombard me that I should be concerned with my weight or that I need to pour tons of energy into controlling my body, I’ve always liked a challenge.

Heading into Christmas, I don’t want to resent thin people who eat what they want. I don’t want to tell myself I can’t have a cookie and then eat 12 standing over the sink when I get home.

During my recovery, I can remember being frustrated with my old habits and feeling stuck and having a dietitian say something that shook me out of it along the lines of, “That’s the way it’s been for you for a really long time. But that’s your old story and it doesn’t have to be your story any more.”

It’s time for a new one.

emvrace change

What’s your old story when it comes to dieting or your relationship with your body? What do you want your story to be?

 

Advertisements

comparison and joy

This morning, I shared this photo about comparison being the thief of joy on my personal facebook page.

comparison

And then I got to thinking…

If you’re in the habit of surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and challenge you to make yourself better, comparison comes with the territory. Even if you hang out with losers, with the internet, we can compare ourselves to just about anyone we’d like. It can be pretty darn defeating to compare yourself to anyone and everyone, especially given that we tend to compare our worst with everyone else’s best.

insecurity

But, comparing—and feeling “jealous” or “envious”—can be a good thing.

In coaching, the basic question you’re often asking or being asked is some jazzed up version of “What do you want?” Most people don’t have coaches. The ones who do—myself included—are caught off guard the first time they’re asked these kinds of questions. Many of us know what we don’t want—and talk about it at any opportunity (i.e. I don’t want: these 10lbs, this homework assignment, to be unemployed, to be single anymore, etc. etc.). In the absence of someone to ask us what we do want and to shift the focus back to what we want to create in our lives, realizing that we’re jealous of what someone else has can serve the same function.

There’s a few girls I train with (in the same building with, I should say) who can do amazing things. Whether it’s squatting a ridiculously awesome amount or doing endless pull-ups or some other feat of athleticism, I have quite a few girl crushes.  It would be easy for me to get down on myself—why can’t you do that, Cheryl?—and I’ve been there, done that. A reminder from an oh so wise and handsome fellow in my life help me put things into perspective: How hard have they worked to get there? How long have they been doing this stuff for?

Without using the life coach lingo, my boyfriend hit on the question I needed to bring me back to perspective: Where are they in their journey? Taking a step back and realizing that someone’s process might be further along than yours can shift everything. Rather than thinking that the girl doing all the pull-ups is strong and so you must be weak, you can appreciate that she isn’t “better” than you even if she is further along than you.

In other areas, we don’t even need a real person to measure ourselves up against. In lieu of someone to compare ourselves to, we can get sucked into the “should” comparison trap. I know I’m guilty of pitting myself up against my ideas of where I think I “should” be right now. When I was younger, I assumed I’d be married and thinking about babies by the time I was 25. Realizing that I’m not there can alert me to two things: 1) Maybe my expectations were off; or, 2) Maybe I need to adjust my actions to get me closer to my vision for myself.

In any comparison scenario, there’s no point in beating ourselves up. If we’re expecting too much of ourselves, it’s an invitation to take some of the pressure off ourselves. If we didn’t realize we wanted something until we felt jealous of someone who had it, we can look at comparison as an awakening of our desires. If we haven’t been working hard enough and we really do what to be somewhere else, comparison can serve as a check-in to get us back on track.

Avoiding comparison can be a cop out. If you’re not willing to compare yourself, what are you trying to save yourself from? Like I said, there’s no harm in comparison as long as you remember that not measuring up doesn’t make you any less of a worthy, whole individual–it just gives you feedback about where you’re at in relation to where you’d rather be.

So, yes, I shared that cutesy photo about comparison being the thief of joy. And yes, I think we should be careful with what we do with our comparisons. But, comparison might lead us to getting clearer about what we want for ourselves. It might give us an indication of when we should be impressed by–and inspired by–other people. It might get at what’s missing in our lives that would make us happier and more fulfilled and end up being a doorway to joy.

Who do you compare yourself with?
Do you avoid comparison? What do you think this does for you?
What do you think of jealousy/envy?

think about it: should I want those thighs?

Today’s post was inspired by a video I ran into on the Today Show website called “Look like an Olympian: Get thighs like Gretchen Bleiler.”

 

My first reaction was: Holy crap, now I need the thighs of someone who performs at the highest level of elite sport? 

It seems like a tall order, no?

The piece just gave me one thing to do, though. Simple, right? I guess, after watching the video, if I dedicate my time and do some “single leg hamstring holds” (are the boots with the heel required?) I will have Olympian-esque thighs.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 8.55.59 AM

Besides being ridiculous–I don’t think all the single leg hamstring holds in the world will give you the thighs of someone who spends hours upon hours on a snowboard and in the gym–I’m more troubled by the fact that this was part of a series on Today’s website called “Look Like An Olympian”. One week it’s the thighs of so and so, another it’s the legs of a different athlete or the abs of someone else. Since one athlete’s body isn’t good enough, we should pick and choose the best of each to come up with an ideal we can all strive for.

That sounds reasonable…not.

This series makes me uncomfortable for a few reasons. We get what’s supposed to give us a taste of these Olympians’ workout routine or what gives them the perfect body (part) but this all comes without mention of the part of it all where they train for an Olympic sport. As their job.

While I’m all for setting big goals (“Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!), I don’t think looking like an Olympian is the best use of our collective athletic ambition. If you want to be like an Olympian, I’d be more impressed if you were focused on performing at a high level. I have a feeling you’d giggle at the prospect of expecting yourself to be as good at snowboarding as Gretchen Bleiler, but it’s normal—largely thanks to series and media like this, I’d argue—to think it’s reasonable to expect yourself to look like her or to have her thighs. To me, that’s a lot of (unnecessary) pressure.

For whatever reason, my thoughts go to young girls who might see this kind of thing. When looking at someone as badass as an Olympic snowboarder, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if girls were encouraged to be that awesome instead of looking that awesome. The same goes for women’s fitness magazines that talk about toning and firming up our bodies and feature pictures of women posing or showing off a hot body in a bikini rather than talking about lifting more weight or running faster alongside images of women actually working out or doing something physical. I think that the more we can put the emphasis on the actual performance and take the focus off of aesthetics, the healthier our collective body image will be.

What do you think about series like this?
Do you ever look up how celebrities or athletes “get” their bodies? Ever tried their routine?
Do you think an aesthetics obsessed culture affects collective body image?

 

 

 

food for thought: tongue patches and habits

On days I go to the library, you can be pretty sure I’ll be blogging.

Whoops.

Today, I wanted to talk about another crazy diet that I’m struggling to wrap my head around (akin to the tapeworm diet I blogged about last month): the tongue patch diet. I read about the diet, which involves having a patch implanted on your tongue for 30 days that makes it painful to eat solid food, in this article from ABC.

tongue patch

The idea is that for the month you’re wearing the patch, you drink your calories (only 800 of them) in the form of low calorie beverages and shakes. When it’s removed, you go on a plant-based “bootcamp diet” before learning how to eat for maintenance.

Rawr.

The women in the article I linked to talk about their motivations for undergoing the procedure. One woman wanted to start dating and the other was planning a beach vacation to Hawaii. I have a novel idea: start dating now. Go to Hawaii as you are. In my humble (but experienced) opinion, the whole not thinking you’re “ready” or “good enough” to do what you want to do is indicative of a self esteem and self worth problem, not a weight issue. It’s these same issues that often have to do with having a weight issue.

beach body

While the patch is promoted as a way to address and change bad habits, I’m not sold.

First, what habits are you addressing? I doubt there’s much consideration given to the issues that might be driving or perpetuating a weight issue. I have a feeling that putting a patch on things isn’t going to change the underlying reasons that someone might be overweight (whether those are poor eating habits or emotional eating habits or self esteem issues that lead to emotional eating or whatever).

Second, what habits are you cultivating? Is the new habit bingeing? Both of the women talk about eating things that they suggest they shouldn’t following having the patch removed.

I pass no judgment there.

If I was in their shoes, I’d probably be miserable for the time the patch was on and then go proceed with the same response that seems to follow just about every “diet” or period of deprivation I’ve put myself through – bingeing. I’m not convinced that the “plant based diet” that follows the patch removal would be satisfying following a month of starvation. Even if you decided to get off the crazy train and proceed to eat normally when the patch was off, I have a feeling you’d end up gaining weight. I think of how quickly I gained weight when I started to eat (a seemingly normal amount of) food again in my recovery. I say this not to scare people away from eating more in recovery–I needed the food, the nutrients, and the weight that came along with it–but to deter people from depriving and starving themselves in the first place.

Eating (or drinking) 800 calories a day is starvation. For perspective, you’d be almost to your limit if you downed a delicious Starbucks holiday drink.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 3.41.32 PM

To maintain health, I’d think those 800 calories would have to be the most nutrient dense calories out there. But I doubt that these people are blending up kale smoothies or drinking bone broth, so I worry about what would happen in your body during the month you’re wearing the patch. I know for sure that it wouldn’t be a happy situation for your metabolism, which would make any rebound (over)eating you do all the more likely to contribute to weight gain (yoyo, anyone?).

The women in the story did lose weight. But. Weight loss isn’t inherently good. You can lose weight without improving your body composition. Is muscle wasting because you’re not eating enough a good thing? If you were 50% body fat before and you lose 20lbs, you could still be 50% body fat, albeit in a smaller body. Weight loss is not the same as fat loss, but in a culture where there’s so much emphasis on weight loss and where so many people assume that weight loss is necessarily a good thing, this kind of insanity can happen. In a culture that values and glorifies “weight loss” without differentiating between what’s good weight to lose and what’s bad weight to lose, things can get crazy.

Conclusion: The tongue patch diet is an example of the kind of crazy that can happen when people get sucked into the weight loss world and want a band-aid to “fix” things.

Questions I’d like to consider:

  • What’s really going on with someone who is struggling with their weight? Are there psychological or emotional components that need to be addressed? Is there something simple in their nutrition that needs to be addressed?
  • How can weight loss be approached in a way that doesn’t compromise health?
  • What does assuming that weight lost = health gained leave out of the picture?
  • What companies and industries win when people assume that weight loss is what they need?
  • How can we reframe the focus to improving health? Body composition? Relationships with food?

What are your thoughts?