Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Healthy Life Mantra: I Don't Give a $*@&# !

I spent many, many, many years being a slave to what my peers thought of me.  I asked for a nose job for graduation, (spoiler alert: I didn't get one.), I gave way too much of the money I earned working as a bra salesgirl (yep) to Express and Abercrombie so I could look cool, and yet, those damn "popular" kids still found ways to make me feel like crap about myself.

In college, this trend continued.  Same for my first year out of college.  Til I made my first big decision all for myself: I was moving to Los Angeles.  Everyone had an opinion about this: my parents (don't go!), my sister (don't come back!), my main gay (girl, don't forget to write!), but for the first time in my life I made a decision for me and frankly, I didn't give a $*#@ what anyone else thought.  This turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I ever made.

If anyone tries to rain on your parade just give 'em a Nene.
Thus, the era of not giving a fuck was born.

Suddenly, I was making choices for ME and no one else.  And many of those choices have gotten me to where I am today which, I'm happy to report, is the happiest in my life I've ever been.  Now, before you get all excited that I'm giving you permission to not give a damn about anyone but yourself, bear in mind there are limits to this.  Let's explore.

Example A: "I don't have to workout because I don't give a $@%& if people think I'm fat."
Example B: "I don't have to do the new ballet barre class every twit in town tells me I have to try, I'd rather learn to box."

Now, which one do you think is the correct implementation of my foul languaged life mantra?  Duh, Example A.

I kid, I kid.  Obviously it's Example B.  The underlying sentiment of the whole thing is to make yourself happy and ignore anyone who tries to get in your way.  You don't have to go to spin class just because I love it.  Your goal in getting fit doesn't have to be so that you can look good in a bikini if you don't give a $*@^#( about swimming.  It doesn't matter what your motivations, habits, and patterns are as long as they are making you happy and successful.  Who cares if people think they're weird?  Not me.

The best part of this mantra is that it isn't limited to the superficial things.  For instance, some people find it strange that my boyfriend and I only see each other 2 or 3 times a week.  But guess what?  I don't give a $*@#!  I am stupidly happy with him, we trust each other, and we both like our space.  So this is what works for us.

My point?  Do what works for YOU even if it's not "normal."  Do what you like even if it's not "cool".  And if anyone chooses to judge you for it?  Just don't give a $@#*!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mom was wrong: peer pressure makes us better people!

One my mom's favorite phrases as a teenager was the oh so annoying, "If *friend I told her was cooler than me* jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"  Of course, at the time, my smart ass answer was "Yeah, if it looked like a good time!"  But fortunately I did not have a lot of friends that were in the habit of jumping off of bridges.

Oh I do so love a good pun!
However, according to according to this article , peer pressure is not always a bad thing.  The gist of it is this: the 5 people in your life you spend the most time with directly affect your level of success.  You are the "average" of their level of success.  So, want to be more successful?  Spend more time around more successful people!

I thought about this and realized this doesn't have to be limited to just your success at work, it's totally true for your health/fitness success as well.  In college, I lived with a roommate for 4 years who was a cross country runner in high school.  During that time, I ran my first half marathon.  Prior to that the most I had ever run was probably 4 miles.  But because of the time I spent with her, and the fact that we loved to obnoxiously challenge each other to see who was "tougher", I became a long distance runner.  (OK so our drinking contests were the negative version of this but hey, nobody's perfect.)

So if you want to increase your chances of fitness success, spend time with your friends who like to go hiking on a Sunday morning instead of doing sake bombs on a Saturday night.  Go out to lunch with your coworker who always has her fridge stocked with fruit instead of a candy jar on her desk.  Become BFF's with your trainer, make a skin coat out of them, and assume their identity.

OK just kidding about that last one.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Me and Charlize Theron

Who the hell am I comparing myself to a supermodel, you ask?  Well, according to a nifty little chart from the BBC, our BMI's are probably pretty similar.

What am I talking about? This, the global fat scale!  This is a fun and informative gadget where you enter your weight and height and it spits back a bunch of information at you like what your BMI is, where you rank on the national scale of your country (average, above average, etc.) and what country's people your BMI most resembles.  Mine is South Africa, hence the Charlize Theron connection.

Here's an interesting fact: I had a few of my friends do this and not one of them had a BMI similar to an American.  My friends are a pretty fit bunch so I wasn't too shocked, but it says a lot about the size (literally) of our country when people who are of a healthy weight are not the common denominator.

This is not ok.

Yeah.  I said it.

I know you have heard me preach about body acceptance day after day, but there is a big difference between acceptance and denial.  We are a country that's in denial.  And because we see so many people around us who are also in denial, this has become the new normal.  I repeat: this is not ok.

When I was in throes of my ED, running to the bathroom to throw up my food post meal was my "normal".  Is that an ok health behavior to you, dear reader?  No?  If you saw me doing this would you try to tell me to stop?  Well then why should I stand by and watch you eat yourself into an early death?  Someone needs to grab us by our collective shoulders and shake us into waking the hell up.

Yes, losing weight is hard.  Yes, it can be un-fun.  And yes, even once you lose the weight you have to maintain healthy habits, which isn't as easy as downing 4 beers on a Friday night.   But what IS fun is being able to go hiking with your friends, to be there for your kids into your old age, to be able to move a table you bought off craig'slist into your apartment (Did it this week, thankyouverymuch!).

The only way we can improve our standing in the international health rankings is by each making a commitment to our own health.  I'm not asking you to be responsible for the American population's average BMI, just yours.  So check out your chart, and if you don't have a healthy BMI, let's get moving! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Parents just don't understand.

I recently came across another article in that favorite tabloid of mine, The Daily Mail.  This one was written by a mother who was a former bulimic and how she approaches weight issues with her children. You can read it here.  Basically, the woman's 10 year old son complained that he had a belly and mom agreed with him.  While I think it is important for parents to be realistic with their children, I also think that there are ways to talk to kids that emphasize health and not weight.  This is not one of those ways.

Will Smith, circa 1988, made a good point.
My own parents were great examples for me to grow up with; I cannot recall one time during my childhood that I ever heard my mom express any dissatisfaction with her body, and my dad was a super athlete who worked out every day.  However when I "came out" about my eating disorder they made some of their own cringe-worthy comments that sometimes surprised me. Fortunately I was at a point in my recovery that I was able to see the comments for what they were: confusion about how to deal with this a situation they were unprepared for.

But the aforementioned article & my own parents reminded me of an important lesson that we often forget:  parents are not perfect.

Yes, I can judge this woman for what she says to her son, but I also understand that she is coming from a place of love, even if I feel that the execution is wrong.  As much as therapists want us to blame our parents, I think that if you can remove yourself from a conversation in which your parents made a misstep, you can (usually) find that the comment is coming from a good place.

BUT, just because it's coming from a place of love doesn't make it ok.  If your mom or dad is consistently making comments that bother you, don't just assume that if you roll your eyes or indulge them with a "ha ha" that they'll understand the effect their words are having on you.  Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns and say "Hey, that really hurts my feelings."  9 times out of 10 your next of kin will probably be shocked to hear this and will instantly knock it off.  But you must remember that family (and friends) are not mind readers.  From time to time you will have to help them help you feel good about yourself.

I think it's important for us as adults to make this distinction and stand up for ourselves.  We are no longer the defenseless kids who would be grounded for talking back to our parents.  If someone makes a joke about you going back for a second slice of cake/being single/laying around in your PJ's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade instead of going for run, it's important for your own self awareness and acceptance to let them know if it makes you feel bad.

In the words of Jerry Maguire, help them help you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How I starved myself & gained 30 pounds.

One summer in the midst of my eating disorder I decided I could no longer handle the bingeing and purging and was going to starve myself.  I had always beaten myself up about what a "lousy" anorexic I was but I was at a point in my illness where I didn't feel I had any other choice.

This was me around any food, not just cupcakes.
So I did.  I ate minimal calories, worked out maximum hours, and led a completely miserable existence.  I got dizzy every time I stood up, was winded by the effort it took to blow dry my hair, and twitched more than a crackhead every time I was around the day old Panera sandwiches they were serving at the executive luncheons.  I was tired, I was hungry, but I lost some weight so ultimately the end justified the means, right?


Eating excessively small amounts of calories over an extended period is not a "lifestyle choice."  It sets you up for bigger binges and at the same time slows down your metabolism.  This is a recipe for weight gain, not weight loss.  Plus, once you start eating like a normal person again your metabolism does not catch up quite so quick.  It can take years to get your body back to it's maximum calorie burning potential.  (It took me about 2 years and a nutritionist to fix the damage I'd done to myself.)

So, yeah, I lost 15 pounds.  And I was a completely raging bitch while I was doing it. I finally couldn't take it anymore and just wanted to eat reasonably.  So I did.  And I gained back the 15 pounds I'd lost PLUS an additional 15 thanks to my metabolism that had been part of a hit and run against my own body.

The only thing that can create sustainable, long lasting weight loss AND encourage your friends to still speak to you is by eating right and exercising.  I know that you've heard this a million times & that you've probably had a stomach flu or two that left you feeling a little lighter on your feet once you were able to stand upright again.  I wanted to share my experience so that you can hear a real life example of someone who tried it & was momentarily successful with it, and then had to learn the hard way that the inevitable failure is ten times (or pounds) worse than the original five pounds you were unhappy with.

This is one time where you shouldn't follow my example.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning Motivation: Eat it right, get it tight.

This is not a good look.
What you eat can really make or break you in the fitness department.  Eat a bunch of gummy bears pre-pilates?  You're going to cramp up AND negate any of the calorie burn you get during your session. (Not that I'm speaking from of course not!)  Do this on a consistent basis and next thing you know your snake/twist is for shit and your Lululemon is cutting off your circulation.  Not cute.

This week, let's put all of the crappy 4th of July holiday eating behind us and face forward.  (Bonus: you can't see the effects of said eating on your ass when you're facing this way!)  Yes, junk food is addicting and can be hard to give up so let's take the challenge of cleaning up our eating in my favorite way: baby steps.

Your challenge this week: craving junk food?  OK, fine.  You can have it if, and ONLY IF, you complete these 2 steps before inhaling those Oreos:

  1. Eat a healthy snack that includes some kind of protein first. (apples and peanut butter, string cheese, hummus & carrots, you get the idea.)
  2. Distract yourself for 15 minutes post snack.  I don't care what you do as long as you aren't cruising the Funfetti website.  The idea is to distract your mind from the craving & that distraction paired with a steady blood sugar will kick the junk food's ass to the curb.
Let me know how it goes!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Preach on, Kelly Clarkson

A friend of a friend of mine recently made the very difficult decision to go to rehab for help with a problem he's been having.  Though all of my eating disorder treatment was outpatient, I know how hard this decision is to make and I admire and applaud him for his strength.  Talking to my friend about it has caused me to reflect on my own treatment experience and how true the old adage, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," really is AND how helpful that phrase can be when you really USE it to help you get through a challenge, be that a fitness one or life in general.

See?  There's always a bright side.
Though it sucked, my experience with my ED is probably one of the best experiences I've ever been through.  Yes, I said that an illness that was causing me to make myself throw up 6 times a day, go to the gym for 4 hours at a time, and skip friends birthday parties because I was "afraid" I'd have to eat is one of the BEST experiences I've gone through.  I learned more about myself from it than any other single event I've gone through in life, and it has made me into the relatively self aware person that I am today.  I mean, hell, my boyfriend told me (with a straight face) this weekend that one of his favorite things about me is how rational I am.  I know that this is largely because of how all of my treatment throughout the ED taught me how to think.

When you're going through something that is so overwhelming you want to crawl into bed for a week, it's very easy to do just that.  What isn't easy is looking at the situation and going, "Wow.  This is HARD.  How do I get through this hardness?"  Sure, you can stay focused on the crappy events at hand and wallow in your misery, but what does that accomplish?  The most valuable thing that my treatment ever taught me, the thing that literally defines the aforementioned cliche is to look at a shitty situation and ask, "What can I learn from this?"

If I related every lesson that the ED taught me I'd be here for a week, but asking that question may be what saved my life.  It allowed me both to acknowledge all the bad feelings I was having (something that the ED never did since instead of feeling the feelings I would just stuff myself full of food and throw it up instead) AND forced me to say to myself, "Ok self, you're going through this and it sucks, but what can you learn from it to make it slightly more bearable?"  That latter option is what really made me turn the corner in recovery.
Sing it, sister.

Whether you're dealing with a workout slump or a boyfriend who cheated on you, finding the silver lining will make it that much easier to get through the rain.  Haven't been to the gym in a month?  Maybe your brain is trying to tell you you're bored with your routine and need to shake it up.  Boyfriend slept with some floozy?  That gut feeling you've been ignoring about him is probably right and in the future you should trust yourself more.  See what I mean?  Suddenly the situation isn't so overwhelming and is downright interesting!

Ok, so it may take some time to get to feeling THAT positive about hard situations, but I promise, much like your muscles, if you continue to train your brain to think this way it will become stronger & more fit just like your body does after regular time in the gym.  Give it a try!