Cutting Isn’t Coping

Cutting isn’t coping. Neither is restricting, binging, purging, scratching, burning, or any other behavior that harms your body and isn’t constructive.

I had this wake up call again this week.

Moving has been a huge adjustment. I don’t always feel in control. And sometimes, I can feel the pressure building inside. It always starts slowly – not really that noticeable. Almost like a nagging urge that something isn’t quite right. I usually try to ignore the nagging, distract myself, go about my day like normal. But, over the next few days, the nagging grows. It becomes persistent, irritating, and uncomfortable. The small twinge of “something is wrong” turns into full on pressure buildup that causes enormous anxiety and stress. It makes breathing difficult. It makes thinking clearly impossible. I need to get it out. So, instead of turning to my healthy, positive coping skills, I slip into my comforting old habits.

And just as quickly as it built up, suddenly it dissipates. I am calm. I can breathe. I can think.

Damnit.

I promised myself I wouldn’t slip again. I promised my friends, the people who care about me I wouldn’t slip again. And I did. Then comes the guilt. Frustration over my lack of strength. Guilt because I know I’ve hurt the people who care about me. Anger. Sadness.

But, I know I can’t stay like this. I reach out. I confide in my friends, my husband, my mentor. I hold myself accountable that when I slip up, I will reach out so they can hold me accountable when I can’t. And out of all of the guilt, frustration, and anger – finally I feel hope. Hope that next time I choose to call my best friend when the feelings start. Hope that next time I can text my husband and let him know I’m having a bad day. Hope that next time I can choose a healthy, positive coping skill and leave the negative, harmful habits in the past.

“Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, “I have fallen, but I will get up.” – Maya Angelou

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 22-28. National Eating Disorder Awareness week.

A week where people come together and spread awareness about eating disorders by trying to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the subject.

I have looked forward to this week all month. I have looked forward to posting my picture of the NEDA symbol with a little blurb about eating disorder awareness on Instagram as my way of spreading the word and showing I’m not ashamed, while still keeping my own struggle hidden away. #everybodyknowssomebody – little do most of them know that somebody is me.

Why is it that almost 8 years later, I am still afraid of my story getting out there? Why am I terrified that one day my sisters or my parents might stumble upon my blog and find out my secrets? Those are the only people I worry about finding out. My husband, friends, in-laws are all aware of my journey. But the possibility of those 4 people finding out leaves me paralyzed with fear and leaves my Instagram post vague and generic.

I found myself shaking as I tried to find the words to get my point across, while also not raising any red flags. I checked my phone every couple of minutes waiting for an accusatory comment or text message. Why do they still control me? Or are the boundaries I put up to keep them out only keeping me in? Life gets messy when relationships are built on secrets and lack of trust.

So, I’ll say what I really wanted to say here.

The theme this year for NEDA week is, “I Had No Idea.” Eating disorders are highly misunderstood. They don’t discriminate – women, men, children, teens, older adults – anyone can suffer. Eating disorders aren’t a cry for attention, an attempt at vanity, or a phase someone goes through. They are real, deadly diseases – having the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders. Too many people suffer in silence because of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and fear, and enough is enough. There is hope. There is a future past all of the pain. Recovery is possible. But, you can’t do it alone. Eating disorders thrive on secrecy, lies, and silence. In order to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to reach out. Reach out to someone you trust, reach out to a parent, a friend, a teacher. Just reach out. If you reach out and your attempt fails, try to reach out to someone else. Sometimes people aren’t in a place to help. Sometimes they believe the misconceptions that NEDA week is trying to eliminate. Sometimes they are just assholes. That doesn’t mean every person will be.

Reaching out to my husband, my best friend, my other close friends, my personal trainer – all of that saved my life. In the past year I have seen that recovery is truly possible. It is work, it is a process, but it is possible.

So, spread the word this week. Help break down those misconceptions about eating disorders. Reach out if you are struggling. And, always know that you are not alone.

IIFYM

IIFYM – 5 letters that changed my outlook on food forever.

These 5 letters stand for 5 beautiful words that when strung together equal a freedom with food that I hadn’t experienced since being a carefree child (we’re talking like 6 years old).

If It Fits Your Macros.

Throughout my recovery, I tried many different ideas in relation to food. I meticulously counted calories, used MyFitnessPal to track calories, counted exchanges, tried not to count anything at all, and finally stumbled upon macros. Macros was the best of both worlds. The control I sought through counting something and the freedom I sought through eating whatever I wanted. I set my macros (with guidance from my personal training textbook), I tracked my macros (not using an app), and I updated my macros based on my workouts, my body, my strength, and my goals.

Let me back up and explain macros. Macros are the building blocks of a diet (diet in this sense being your nutritional intake each day). Basically, the essential nutrients – protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Sometimes fiber is thrown into the mix.

For me, counting macros started when I started lifting. I wanted to gain strength, I was lifting heavier than I was used to, and I knew my body needed protein. Once I started counting protein, I realized that you can’t just grow muscle off of protein alone – you also need carbs and fats. Contrary to popular belief, carbs and fats are NOT the enemy. They can and should be included in a diet in appropriate amounts.

Thus began my experience with macros. I used many different sources to calculate my macros, found an average of each of the calculations, and used it as a starting point.

Each week, I monitored how I felt in the gym and throughout the rest of the day. Was I tired? Did I feel strong? Was I sore for an extended period of time after a workout? Was I losing, gaining, or maintaining weight (only weighing once a week)? I used this assessment of myself, along with the guidance of my personal trainer, to update my macros.

I ended up finding a set number of calories that I could eat each day. This amount of calories left me satisfied at the end of the day. I didn’t feel tired anymore. I felt strong. And most importantly, I wasn’t losing weight. Once I found that caloric level, I was able to adjust the macros to fit within that number.

For me, that meant adjusting my macros to 47% carbs, 23% protein, and 30% fat. Many calculations later, I set my macros for 270 grams of carbs, 130 grams of protein, and 77 grams of fat per day. This seemed intimidating at first, but once I got started, it became a puzzle to solve each day.

Each morning, I would pack breakfast, lunch, and snacks to take to work. When I had a break at work, I would calculate the macros of everything I packed and plan dinner. After the main meals were set, the rest of the day was focused on eating when I was hungry and meeting the rest of my macros! I ate whatever I wanted – I just made it fit my macros!

At the end of the day, I was never perfect. I don’t think there was one day that I hit all of my macros. My first goal each day was to hit the amount of calories I set for myself – I finally realized that I had deprived my body for long enough and that wasn’t going to happen anymore. If I went over calories, that was okay! But, I didn’t want to be under. My second goal was to hit protein. I was in the gym between 4-6 days a week. I knew that in order to build muscle, I needed to provide my muscles with adequate fuel to repair themselves. After that, carbs and fat fell into place. Sometimes my carbs were lower and fat was higher. Sometimes it was the opposite. But, as long as I hit my calories, got close to hitting protein, and went to bed feeling satisfied, not deprived, I counted it as a success!

For me, macros were about taking back control. Food became fuel and my body was the tank. I knew how much fuel my body needed and macros helped me provide that fuel.

After a while, I stopped counting macros. I had counted for long enough to know about how much my body needed each day. I began relying on my body to tell me if it needed the macros adjusted and I complied. I proved to myself that I can eat intuitively without counting something, and that was yet another success.

But, life isn’t always picture perfect. There are times stress sets in, doubts form, you may get sick, you may not have access to a gym or your normal foods. All of these changes can bring about a change to your eating habits. In my case, D and I moved to another country. In the transition period (still currently in it), we didn’t have a gym, we didn’t have access to the foods we were used to, and it was difficult. So after realizing I started restricting in order to cope, I began counting macros again. Doing so allowed me a little bit of control in a new environment where I don’t have much control. It allowed me to reign in my thoughts and refocus on being healthy.

I think that’s how life will go for me. There will be times where I feel confident enough to eat without counting anything. There will be times where I need to count to make sure I am providing my body with adequate fuel. Both are okay. Both are me choosing recovery.

If you are struggling with food, I encourage you to look into macros. Do some research, see if it’s for you! And as always, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about macros, lifting, or anything in between!

“It’s not about perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs.” – Jillian Michaels

What fuels you?

The first topic I want to hit on is fitness, lifting in particular. Fitness has always been a big part of my life. From basketball in middle and high school to running and tennis in college, I have always been relatively active. If you read my journey, you know that my mindset around fitness wasn’t always the healthiest – I tend to take things too far. Basketball practice turned into a way to burn extra calories; running turned into obsessively overtraining for races. It wasn’t until I was forced to take a step back from whatever exercise I was doing that I realized I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. This was most evident in running.

I thoroughly enjoyed running – I experienced the runner’s high, I loved the feeling of finishing a race, but eventually all of that didn’t matter anymore. Once I pushed myself too far, once I overtrained, it took the fun out of running. Running became a chore – I ran so that I could eat, and I ate so that I could run. If I couldn’t run, I didn’t eat, or I had a bad day. Eventually, I trained so much that I developed shin splints. I still wasn’t at a point where I could listen to my body, so I continued training until I developed a stress fracture. I couldn’t run anymore. At least not for a while. During that time, I found other ways to move, exercise, and have fun. I didn’t enjoy not being able to run, I was not happy with my treatment team at all, but I dealt with it. Once I was given clearance to run again, I realized that it wasn’t something I enjoyed anymore. I’ve tried to pick up running again – there are races I want to participate in, but generally, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore!

Last year, I started lifting. First, I started in a BodyPump class at my gym. I wasn’t lifting very heavy, but I was lifting many reps, and my body responded. I enjoyed lifting. I enjoyed pushing my body in ways I hadn’t before. I enjoyed feeling sore the day after. I enjoyed not feeling like I needed to lift everyday in order to maintain a certain level of fitness. After months of participating in BodyPump, and doing some things on my own, I decided to purchase some personal training sessions. I started lifting heavier weights, I started seeing my body change in response, I loved it!

This time, I was determined not to ruin another enjoyable form of exercise for myself. I listened to my personal trainer about how often to train and how much fuel (food) my body needed. This was incredibly hard because I know this stuff! I can give friends and family tons of advice when it comes to eating “right” and exercising. But, when I tried to give the same advice to myself, I never trusted it. I am grateful that I had a trainer I trusted. Someone who knew my journey and could tell me to “get out of my head” and follow her advice.

Lifting became my hobby, my sport, my motivation to keep trudging through recovery. My squat max became more important than the number I saw on the scale. My deadlift max was fueled by an increase to the most calories I had ever eaten in a day. Everyday was and is still a fight, but I have something to fight for.

Lifting showed me that my body is a badass machine, capable of so much more than I ever thought possible. I starved, beat up, made fun of, destroyed my body for years, but instead of holding onto all of that negativity, it happily accepts the fuel I provide it, carries me through life each day, and powers through my workouts.

Lifting gave me hope. Lifting makes me feel strong, even on days where I feel weak. Lifting provided me with an outlet for frustration, a realization that food is indeed fuel, and the courage to try new things, including eating more without constantly worrying. Lifting has been my lifesaver.

I am going to start posting some of my favorite workouts. But in order to do so, I first need to provide a disclaimer:

This blog provides general information about health, fitness, and other related subjects. The content provided in this blog is the opinion of the author and is not a replacement for medical advice. If the reader has a medical concern, he or she should consult with a licensed physician or healthcare worker.

Please consult with a medical physician before beginning any type of lifestyle change including, but not limited to changes in diet, workout/exercise programs, and/or recovery practices. The author claims no responsibility for any injury that may occur from use of provided workouts. Content from this blog should not be considered a substitute for medical advice.

I will end on this quote by Jim Rohn – “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to life.”

A Life Without Limits

I’ve been trying to start this blog for a while now!

Different things keep holding me back. Fear of my story being out there. Worry of what others might think. Apprehension that I won’t always have the right words to say. Regardless, today is the day.

After years of struggling with self-confidence, body image, anxiety, and an eating disorder, I feel like it’s time to step up and share what I have learned along my journey. I am hopeful that through sharing my experience, maybe I can help someone along the way.

Through this blog, I want to provide information, updates – both successes and struggles, and guidance in each of the areas I have struggled with – fitness, food, and recovery. In my journey, I found both strength and a desire to recover through lifting and fitness. This direction provided me the opportunity to redirect my thoughts and feelings towards food to something more healthy. The two combined, along with many recovery tools, helped bring me to the place I am today.

Fitness. Food. Recovery. A life without limits.

I am still learning, still growing. Each day is a choice, an opportunity to choose health over restriction and hating my body. But, I am also a lot more knowledgeable, prepared, and strong than I was years ago. That I what I will try to pass on to you! Knowledge of food and fitness – recipes, workouts, and more! Preparation for times of struggle – coping tools that I have found useful! And, strength – strength in knowing how to take care of your body, both mentally and physically; strength in having the tools you need to choose recovery; strength in knowing that you are not alone.

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” – Oprah Winfrey