Learning and Growing

I’ve slacked on my blogging goal for 2016.

My other goals are going well, so I’m being lenient with myself about this one!

The past few weeks have been more of the same – going through the motions, biding time until we move home. I am to the point where I know it’s so close, but like a kid anxiously pushing through the last two months before summer break, I am finding it hard to be patient. I am taking life one day at a time, trying to enjoy the last little bits of the life we carved out for ourselves here.

That being said, when D came home two weeks ago with news that one of his co-workers I knew in the states would be visiting soon, I was super excited! I have only hung out with said co-worker a handful of times, I don’t know her very well, but it’s funny that the thought of a familiar face can be comforting when you are missing home.

I think I bugged D every day to make sure he finalized plans – I’m sure that wasn’t annoying at all! 🙂

On Saturday, we met his co-worker to show her around a city we live close to. It was such a fun day! We met up with her around 1, and I assumed we would spend a couple of hours, be home by 4-5, workout, and eat dinner. After a day’s worth of touring the city, we ended up at our favorite bar and stayed until well past 7 talking and enjoying each other’s company. Like I said, it was nice to see a familiar face!

Although I had a great time, it was in my reflection of the time that I realized just how special this day was in terms of recovery.

Before we moved, I had plenty of opportunities to hang out with D’s co-workers – not just this one, but many others – but I chose not to. Not because I didn’t like them, but because the thought of spending time with people I didn’t really know well scared me. These people weren’t by best friends who knew my nuances, habits, and routines. They didn’t know that eating dinner after 7 made me anxious. They didn’t know that simply eating dinner in front of them would make me anxious. They didn’t know that half of the time during a conversation, I had no idea what to say or do or think, that I was anxious and sweaty and wanted to cry.

At that point in my life, I wasn’t at a place where I could be comfortable spending time with people outside of my little circle. I had just recently invited my people into my comfort zone – I was just over that stage with the people I trusted – I wasn’t ready to step outside of my comfort zone and brave the world of time spent and conversations had with acquaintances.

But, as proven by Saturday (and a few other times before), I am ready for that now. I was able to have conversations with this person – not just responding to questions, but also starting conversations of my own. I talked to her when D was at the table, and when he was away. I felt comfortable being myself and I could feel that comfort zone behind me – I wasn’t inside of it anymore. It wasn’t holding me back.

I also enjoyed a meal, a snack, and a beer with D and his co-worker. I ordered what I wanted to order, and I ate as much as I wanted to eat. At one point, I did look over to her plate to see how much I had eaten in comparison. But, after I realized what I was doing, I consciously made myself stop. I know how much fuel my body needs, and I know how to eat accordingly. I don’t have to compare my food intake to anyone else’s. That was huge. As we were walking around the city, I spotted a stand for a delicious sweet treat that I wanted her to try – I split one with D, too. At our favorite bar, I had one beer, with no desire to have another, so I didn’t. Usually, when in an uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone situation, I would drink to feel comfortable, but I didn’t need to. I was able to relax and enjoy conversation and company without help.

Finally, as the night came to a close and we headed home, I began to panic a little about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner until after 8:30. A year ago, that, coupled with the fact that I missed a workout, would have sent me over the edge. Not this time. I had a conversation with C about how it was just one day, and in the grand scheme of things, had zero impact. I ate dinner and went to bed.

The past 14 months have been hard. Yes, I have had an amazing opportunity to travel Europe, live in another country, meet so many people, learn so many things. But, there were times when I hated my life. I was depressed, I let food control me, OCD has been tough, and I’m leaving here with more scars (mentally and physically) than I came with. Ultimately though, I have learned so much about myself and I have grown more than I ever imagined possible. Being here forced me to take sole responsibility for my recovery and for my life. It made me hold myself accountable. It showed me just how supportive an amazing group of “home team players” could be.

14 months ago, I would never have experienced Saturday the way it played out. I would have been anxious, quiet, and reserved. I would have eaten too little and probably drank a little too much. I would have told D we needed to leave at a specific time to be sure I worked out and ate dinner before 7. I wouldn’t have had fun, nor would I have been very much fun.

I needed Saturday. Yes, I needed a familiar face and familiar conversation. But, I also needed the opportunity to see just how far I’ve come.

I am proud. I am thankful. I am happy.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly…”– English Proverb

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Just Show Up

For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with Glennon Doyle Melton. A few months ago, I went down a long rabbit hole of TED Talk YouTube videos and happened to stumble across hers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHHPNMIK-fY 

Since then, I’ve explored her website/blog, followed her on Instagram, and ordered her book (it’s next in my lineup of books I need to read). She’s just so damn inspirational – her story, her journey, her authenticity – it’s incredible.

Not only does her journey give hope to the messy people of the world (I consider myself a very messy person), but she is a living example that you really can come out of the other side of whatever situation you may be facing. Her story gives so many the “permission” to be vulnerable, to own up to the imperfections in life, and to admit that recovery (from any and everything) is an ongoing process.

Two important phrases that have stuck with me through reading Glennon’s blog are:

  1. Do The Next Right Thing
  2. Just Show Up

The first – Do The Next Right Thing – is one I’ve been using for a while in my own recovery. I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it has been crucial throughout my journey. I have found that for most people, taking recovery life day by day feels impossible. Many times, even hour by hour can seem out of reach. But, if you can focus on doing the next right thing, life becomes a little less complicated.

Let me explain. Throughout recovery, whenever I “slipped up,” I immediately labeled that day as a failure. If I skipped lunch, the day was shot, might as well skip dinner too. And while I’m at it, I should probably run a couple extra miles. And why not weigh myself? Then the next day, I could get back on track…until I slipped up again. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of. I wasn’t giving myself any room to improve “bad” days or any room to be human and make a mistake on “good” days.

Insert “Do The Next Right Thing.” All of the sudden, it didn’t matter if I skipped lunch. The day wasn’t ruined because I had the power to recognize my slip up as a mistake and do the next right thing. The next right thing could have been reaching out for support, canceling my workout, or eating a snack. Whatever it was, it was positive and put me back on the right track.

By choosing to do the next right thing, I didn’t have to feel guilty or overwhelmed or shameful. I could stay in the moment and be proud of myself for making a positive and healthy decision. And, if a day is comprised of a bunch of next right things, it gives a lot less time for wrong things.

The second – Just Show Up – is a new one for me. This is one I wish I had heard early on in recovery! There are probably many ways to interpret “Just Show Up,” but for me it’s all about letting go of fear and perfection and putting myself out there.

In college, I was a part of an on campus ED recovery group. Not only was I TERRIFIED that my friends might find out, I was also in a constant battle with myself over if I actually NEEDED to be a part of this group or not. I saw everyone in the group as “sicker” than myself. They were skinnier, they ate less, they exercised more. Was this true? I honestly have no idea. But at the time, it’s what I perceived.

I spent each week worrying about going to this group. Would I pass anyone I knew on the way? What would I say? Could I get by with not saying anything? Then, I spent each group meeting worrying about what I would say next or what I already said or most importantly, trying to keep my stomach from growling by drinking tons of water. Needless to say, I was not mentally present very often.

Looking back, things could have been so much different if I would have JUST SHOWN UP. Yes, I was there physically, but I needed to show up mentally. I needed to be aware of what was going on around me, aware of what others were saying, and less aware of perfecting what I was going to say. I needed to just be there, in the moment, taking part in something that could have had an even bigger impact on my life than it did (thankfully, I did make a great friend through this group).

I see this constantly play out in my life. From dinner dates with friends to conversations with coworkers or students – how many times have I been so overwhelmed with anxiety and NOT shown up? How could these moments be different if I decided to JUST SHOW UP?

This is something I plan to really work on in my life. I don’t want to miss opportunities because I am anxious and worried it might not work out. I want to be someone who SHOWS UP no matter what.

For now, that means calling a volunteer organization that I’ve been trying to reach by email because phone conversations cause a lot of anxiety.

It also means putting myself out there for an outdoor fitness boot camp business that I want to start when we move back to Virginia.

Both of these are way out of my comfort zone. And both require me to JUST SHOW UP!

I realize now that doing the next right thing and just showing up go hand in hand. The thing you show up for might just be your next right thing. So, be brave. Be strong. Believe in yourself. Do your next right thing and just show up!

Also, a big thanks to Glennon Doyle Melton for being the amazing human being that she is. 🙂

“Life is brutal. But it’s also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can’t be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty. So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Momastery.com  

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

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