Healthy Living | Redefinition

Join the conversation about body image and my personal commitment to engaging in a health-based dialog about how we are all awesome-shaped.

Over a year ago, I posted about my struggles with eating disorders. This prompted the following behaviors from others.

Appreciation for sharing my story
Mostly private, but a few individuals expressed they were proud of me for opening up.

“Let’s pretend that didn’t happen”
The more common reaction: ignoring it. Even I was guilty of neglecting an ongoing conversation about my own health.

This conversation:
Anonymous: X told me you posted about having an eating disorder.
Me: Yeah, I posted that.
Anonymous: But you didn’t really have an eating disorder.
Me: Yeah, I did. I went through periods where I chose not to eat when I could get away with it and people wouldn’t notice.
Anonymous: But you didn’t have an eating disorder where you got really skinny.
Me: Sure, I didn’t go to “the extreme” – but that doesn’t mean I made healthy decisions or had an appropriate relationship with food.

What happened/happens next?
And then there are the rare few that want to know how my life has been and how I’m continuing to grow.

I will say that I feel healthier than I did a year ago. I continue to make better choices, and with more consistency. I exercise more, and Scott and I joined a nice gym nearby – such a difference! I still have a bit of a portion control problem, and I could do better with snacking at/after work.

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The biggest change hasn’t been physical. I’m shifting away from weight loss and focusing more on healthy living. I weigh myself, but I stopped defining myself by the number on the scale. More accurately, I stopped associating my weight with my value. My weight does not cause or even correlate to my worth. I’m more concerned about how I feel.

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I still want to exercise. I’ve reconnected with my love of swimming. I like to challenge myself, and I go to a core class. If I lose a few pounds or inches, great – but I’m happy taking time for me and doing something I love. I bike, and I row, and I attempt to run on a treadmill, though I usually end up doing a bit of a hike. I enjoy connecting with what I can do, and having some time away from a desk and computer and cubicle. It’s fun to challenge myself, to see how I can do better, instead of associating exercise with payment for food choices.

I attribute a lot of my progress to self-reflection, support, and Season 15 of The Biggest Loser.

The Biggest Loser? One of the most widely-criticized “health” shows on television? Yep, the very same.

I used to watch TBL on Hulu. I got a little obsessed with it for a while. I watched, I think, eight seasons? It was an escape for me – a dark fantasy where I could pretend that these stories were inspirational instead of opportunistic on NBC’s part. Look at them overcoming willpower with that candy temptation!

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I started watching Season 15, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t keep up with the show, and it kind of fell by the wayside. Until the finale, when season winner Rachel destroyed the competition by losing 155 pounds and clocking in at 105 pounds and (I believe) 5 feet, 4 inches.

Before the show aired, my goal weight was 105 pounds. And I am short – 5 feet, 2 inches.

People freaked out, and I saw my goal through others’ eyes and not my own dysmorphic lenses. 105 didn’t look like what I remembered. It didn’t look skinny or healthy. It looked skeletal. It looked dangerous.

It didn’t look like the me I wanted to be.

Sure, there were theories Rachel pushed herself to secure a victory, overdid it to rake in the dough – but I’m not a contestant competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars on national TV. I’m someone trying to be healthy, and maybe the first step in that process is redefining what healthy means in my life and my future.

I stopped looking for that 105-pound version of me. I stopped trying to find her buried under curves and cellulite. I discovered someone better: a woman who is happy striving to be the best version of herself, not the smallest size in the store.

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: This is My Story

So here it goes. The big “weight loss journey” post. The one I’ve been dreading because I don’t like talking about this. I like joking about it. I like poking fun of it. I don’t like taking it seriously, because to do that I have to face some…seriously serious seriousness.

Okay, I’ll stop. It is a big deal, and not in a Ron Burgundy kind of way.

I have been putting off this post for a long time. In fact, it was originally titled “Modify Monday | Live Healthy,” and while it certainly is this week’s Modify Monday post, I don’t want that to be the focus here. I discovered that this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and I feel it is important to vocalize these thoughts specifically under this banner.

Since I moved to Phoenix, I have been overweight. Actually, I think at some point during the first year I lived in Phoenix I was borderline obese for my size. I’ve since lost weight, but not enough. The past couple of years I’ve done my biometric screenings at work, I’ve been borderline overweight. I haven’t done mine yet this year (really got to get on that!), but I know I’ll see some different results because I’ve started down a healthier path. But before that…

I like food. I like food a lot. And there’s nothing wrong with liking food, in my opinion. It’s kind of problematic if you don’t like food. I’ve been there, too. My problem is with portion control. I never really learned how to eat healthy portions.

If you looked at me, you wouldn’t know that I struggled with eating disorders most of my life. Okay, actually, I think if some people looked at me they would think I struggled with binge eating. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

The first time I flirted with anorexia was when I was ten. I didn’t eat during lunch for about two weeks. It actually wasn’t that hard, and nobody ever noticed. Also, I wasn’t always a big weekday breakfast advocate growing up – I usually feel a little nauseated in the morning, so I tend to wait about two hours between when I wake up and when I actually eat. That strategy has actually been helping a lot lately; I eat breakfast when I get to work.

Anyway, after that I learned that it was super easy to be anorexic. I can’t make myself throw up, which I learned one time after I binge ate an entire family size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in high school and tried to make myself sick. Bulimia wasn’t an option, so anorexia was my disorder of choice.

I’m not sure how many people knew I was anorexic. I’m not sure if anyone knew, actually. I don’t remember talking to anyone about it. I remember talking about other friends who had eating disorders, but never about me. I’m not even sure if some of my best friends know these things about me.

I can be pretty good at presenting what I want people to see. So my mom would still make me lunches, and I’d give them away to people. I didn’t eat breakfast most mornings, so when I came home and ate dinner with my parents, that was pretty much the only meal of the day. If it was something I really loved (basically: pasta), I might have another serving. Totally normal. No red flags there, parents. If I stayed up late to work on homework, I might take a snack up.

What about at school? Oh, I had that covered. Those 100 calorie packs were freaking lifesavers. I’d just snack on those throughout the day because I was “hungry” and then I would be too full to eat when lunch actually rolled around. Totally normal. No red flags there, friends.

I’d eat when we’d go out to restaurants. Going out to eat and not eating? People will know.

I got a job at a restaurant my senior year (after IB exams were done and it wouldn’t affect my studies, of course). That made it even easier, because then I didn’t have to eat dinner at all. I worked the dinner shifts, so I wasn’t at home for my parents to see me eat. I rarely opted to take dinner from the restaurant home. Sometimes if I got really hungry at the end of the day, I would stop and get a salad somewhere at the end of the night. I mean, I’d probably only eaten like, 400 calories prior and been on my feet for five hours as a hostess, so a salad was okay.

The thing that really made it work is that I would do this in cycles. I’d severely reduce my eating to one real meal a day (either observed by others as “proof” or eaten in secret because I was ashamed) for a month or so, and then I’d be okay for a bit. Then the cycle would repeat. I’d never get too skinny – just slim enough to be okay to look in a mirror and not hate myself.

When I started college, it was really easy at first. I get really…socially anxious. And I knew maybe a handful of people through the grapevine at NU. I lived off Luna Bars for a while because I didn’t want to go down to our dining hall alone. I would just eat a Luna Bar if I got hungry, and that was it.

Of course, I ended up gaining the freshman fifteen somehow. Because I like food, remember? So here’s where I went from rarely eating to overeating constantly. Once I made friends and had people to join me in the dining hall, I was fine. No more anorexic tendencies. Instead, the “I don’t know what a healthy portion of anything is” factor kicked in.

I just ate.

And ate.

And ate.

When I went home after freshman year, I lost twenty pounds just from eating better (I think I went on one run that lasted about ten minutes) and making dinner myself almost every night. I was vegetarian then, and in the dorms that translated to bagels, pizza, french fries, and unlimited frozen yogurt with toppings (I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth, but DAMN I could make a mean fro yo mix). At home, that was juice and a breakfast bar, soup and salad, and tons of fresh veggies in stir fry, wraps, or pasta.

Sophomore year was a little better. I was working out more consistently, but there were still issues. I had a pretty rough break-up and it took a huge toll. When we were discussing what was going to happen, I was a wreck. I mean, I thought we had this amazing connection and we’d broken up and gotten back together (uh…) and then suddenly “I don’t know if I want to be in a relationship anymore.” Well, I couldn’t eat anything but this one particular roasted tomato soup. That was all I wanted, and that was like 200 calories total. I just dropped weight. If you look at pictures from that time, it’s scary.

What was scarier was that I liked super skinny Justice. And when I noticed weight creeping back on, I knew I didn’t have the option of “not eating” anymore. It would be too obvious because I kept regular meals with people. I was also in a new relationship, and it would be pretty weird to go out to eat and not eat. I was never a fan of those people. I mean, I was one of those people, just not publicly. There was a difference, hello.

I went to a new drug of choice. Yes, an actual drug: diet pills. Lots of them. I hid the ones I needed on a daily basis in my desk so I could access them quickly when my roommate stepped out. The extra boxes I kept in my suitcase.

Diet pills are scary things. Diet pills are especially scary things when you’re taking multiple different kinds to really kill off that fat. I remember one night I had a little tiff with my roommate and I actually responded by just downing diet pills when she went to brush her teeth. I chased it with an entire can of Diet Coke and then I just left. I went and drove around and I was basically manic because I was pumped full of caffeine.

There was one time when I was found out. I came home and my mom saw the diet pills in my suitcase and was worried. The frightening thing was I crazy thin and I wasn’t even taking them. I was binge eating like no one’s business because I wasn’t gaining weight. I would eat meals of at least 3000 calories in one sitting (alone) and nothing would happen. As it turns out, when I’m experiencing a personal tragedy (there was a death in the family, and it hit me very hard – I was at home for the funeral) my body just shreds calories. I told my mom they were from a while ago and I wasn’t using them and that was that.

I would go back, though. It would be too obvious to go back to my anorexic tendencies. I still couldn’t be bulimic (every so often I would try and discover I still couldn’t make myself throw up). If I needed to lose a ton of weight, I would just try diet pills. However, I couldn’t go back to that manic night from sophomore year. It was too scary. I would limit myself to only two different kinds of diet pills at once. Of course, since it wasn’t a caffeine cocktail I wouldn’t see the same results as I had before.

When senior year rolled around, I was a hot mess. I had binge eating tendencies and I worked out periodically, so the weight gain was gradual. When I basically stopped working out and let my eating habits take over, it was bad. I had to buy new clothes for graduation during senior week because the dresses I had bought a few months ago were nowhere close to fitting, not even with the Spanx I’d purchased earlier in the spring. Oh, and since it was senior week I was pretty much eating out (a ton) for every meal, plus drinking to celebrate graduation. When my parents came for graduation weekend, we went out to insane dinners with crazy rich food. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out I topped tens of thousands of calories for graduation dinners alone.

And did I mention I was trying the diet pills again? Since I had the added bonus of alcohol in my system, it was making me crazy sick.

Now, what happens when you move to a new city and suddenly find yourself borderline obese but definitely overweight and you’re also pretty socially anxious and you think people are probably definitely judging you because now you’re the “fat girl” and you used to be better at this whole “keeping it together on the outside” thing?

It’s been a rough few years, personally. And I would often turn to food for comfort. It was so good. Man, when I first moved out to Phoenix I could eat an entire large pizza and some cheesesticks and still be hungry. I could get two meals from the Asian place or the Thai place and eat both in one night. I could order sushi for me and find four pairs of chopsticks in the takeout bag – you know, because normally that kind of meal would be split amongst FOUR PEOPLE.

And chips and salsa? Come at me, bro. I could eat you under the table.

(Actually, I could probably still eat you under the table with chips and salsa if I wanted to do so. Chips and salsa is my stress snack, but I am slowly learning how to make this a healthy relationship.)

For me, a healthy lunch was a footlong veggie sub from Subway, plus chips and a massive Diet Coke. Also: crunchy salads. I used to buy those bagged salads and eat the entire thing (there are multiple servings; you are not supposed to eat the whole thing) on a huge dinner plate. Sometimes I would have a “cup” (read: bowl) of soup as well. I’d try to make healthy decisions, but that gosh darn portion control would get me.

And working out? Yeah, I’d be okay and maybe exercise a few days – then nothing for months. I’d even try yoga or fitness classes and then just stop going because I would get stressed or overwhelmed or just decide I didn’t like it. Inevitably, it’d be one class that would do me in – the one class where I was the “fat one.” I couldn’t keep up with the routine. I couldn’t do the poses.

Find your breath? Find the door.

Make it work? Make excuses.

I just so badly did not want to go back to that unhealthy lifestyle before, and I traded one eating disorder for another. I knew that how I had been living in high school and college was not okay, and I didn’t want to repeat that ever again. It got to the point where if I was too busy at work to eat lunch and I missed a meal, I would end up crying on my way home from work because it was the first event in a cycle that would be so easy to repeat.

I’d buy supplements that were essentially diet pills without the label, take them for a day or so and then just throw them in the trash.

I went for so many “easy” solutions because I was stressed out or didn’t have time (or both). What I don’t need or want anymore is the “easy” path. I don’t want to be some skinny bitch whose body image is based off of withholding or secrecy. I want to have a healthy lifestyle. I want my relationship with food to be positive, symbiotic. I want to work out and be active – I actually enjoy select forms of exercise, though by no means would I describe myself as a fitness addict.

And I want to keep talking about this.

Granted, talking about this hasn’t always gone well in the past. I was told “Sometimes you just have to accept your natural body shape,” when I shared my concerns about starting a healthy lifestyle by exercising and not binge eating. And yes, I can be a pretty awkward person sometimes; if you just walk up to me and start talking about my eating disorder with no precursor, then I will be weird. You’ve been warned.

But…I will keep talking about eating disorders. It might be hard at first, but it needs to happen.

One of my oldest friends, Ashley, posts regularly at A Recipe for Sanity about all kinds of awesome things: progress on her counseling degree, a happy and healthy relationship, delicious-looking recipes…and the recovery process.

Ashley has a name for that voice inside her head:

Edie bugs me over and over again, like a child who keeps asking “But why?” after every single sentence you utter. And there have been times, many, many times, where I eat something I don’t even want just so I don’t have to listen to Edie anymore. But then of course, Edie’s not a fan of that, either…

Without Ashley’s posts, I never would have considered talking about my own experiences. So thank you, Ashley, for putting it all out there.

Thank you for writing about your struggles and your successes.

Thank you for documenting the good days and the bad ones.

Thank you for writing this:

…if you’re out there and you have an Ed or an Edie of your own, I just want to tell you that you’re not alone. To some extent, I think we’ve all heard this type of voice. And if you hear it as often as I do (read: all the time), I want to encourage you to fight back. Every time you hear that voice telling you that you’re fat or ugly or worthless, speak over that voice. Yell at it. Scream at it. Curse at it. Tell it how wrong it is. Your worth is unconditional, and you are beautiful. I promise.

We all need to keep talking about this. We all need to silence those voices of self-doubt.

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Pin It to Win It | Gettin Crafty with Fitness

Introducing, Pin It to Win It (PITWI)! I say “in it to win it” frequently (or in “Justice’s after work hours” speak that makes the fella roll his eyes, “on the regular”), and I’ve totally fallen in love with Pinterest lately. I’m going to attempt to recreate some of my pins – sometimes very faithfully and by the book, sometimes as more of a loose inspiration. This will definitely be a regular feature, but I can’t say how regular – as frequently as I PITWI, I suppose!

(Obligatory plug: follow me!)

For my first PITWI feature (say PITWI out loud – you will smile or giggle or both!), I was pinspired by this bad boy – a fun take on a workout routine.

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Here’s the gist: write a move and reps on a popsicle stick. Make as many as you like. Put them all in a “daily workout” cup. Pick one, do the exercise, and move it to the “done” cup. Easy as pie (an easy pie; not like, lemon meringue – that is difficult).

So, uh, I decided to take this a step further. And because I’ve been obsessed with neon lately – to the point that I label myself a “neon enthusiast” proudly – I decided to integrate neon.

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Oh, what? Are those…neon-topped popsicle sticks? Yeah, they totally are.

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I’m not going to lie, when I make or purchase something that looks good in every Instagram filter, I know I have a winner on my hands. Scarves, popsicle projects, makeup (that happened once)…

I wanted something that was fun to look at and use. Basically, I took the project another step further: this is a daily workout that can spread across multiple days.

Say what?

I looked at my “fitspiration” board on Pinterest and noticed I have a ton of different workouts for arms, core, lower body, etc. I like a lot of variety and since I used to kind of know my way around a gym (I ran track for a few years and I actually took conditioning – the weight room class – as an elective in middle school), I know the importance of preventing muscle fatigue. You do the same exercise day after day, you don’t get results after a bit and you’re not challenging yourself.

My idea was to categorize the workouts and then determine how many of each color to pull for my daily workout. So, my categories were:

  • Blue: Lower body – Pull 4
  • Pink: Upper body – Pull 4
  • Yellow: Core – Pull 4
  • Green: Plank (these kill me, but I love them – they are such a challenge so the reward is totally worth it) – Pull 2
  • Red: All-body – Pull 3
  • Orange: Fun time! These aren’t exercises, but just things to do to stay active and get in some easy exercise (play with Huckleberry, walk with a coworker, yard work, etc)

Blue – Red do each move all the way through, and repeat the cycle three times. Orange is once a day.

This is a really easy project if you want to make it yourself! Also, I imagine that if you have kids at a certain, you could get some help with some parts of it (taping and painting).

Supplies:

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Paint
  • Sharpie
  • Tape (clean lines – a must for those of us a little more OCD)
  • Paint brushes (I used foam instead – much easier)
  • A styrofoam board (drying rack!)
  • Ruler (if you want your tops to be the same length)
  • Tarp/dropcloth (I used two garbage bags over the kitchen table – it was easy to mark the length for my colored top right on the surface, which definitely saved time)
  • Scissors
  • Vase or some kind of cool display

Instructions:

  1. Determine the length for the color top – I measured out 1 1/2 inches and marked it on my dropcloth surface.
  2. Tape off the popsicle stick at your pre-measured spot. Make sure the tape wraps around the whole stick and there’s a little excess – this will make it easier to cut off after you’ve painted.
  3. Write your exercise and number of moves on the bottom half of the stick. I wrote mine on both sides.
  4. Separate out your sticks into your different piles.
  5. Paint your color on the top you’ve taped off. Make sure the paint layer isn’t too thick or it will drip (I wanted clean lines; if you want something a little funkier, skip everything involving tape and do it to it!).
  6. Use the styrofoam board as a drying rack to prop up your popsicle sticks while they dry.
  7. Once the first layer is dry, you may decide you want a second layer (the neon needed it). If so, repeat steps 5 and 6.
  8. Cut off your tape layer slowly. The paint may peel if you take a Band-Aid approach and just rip it off.
  9. Arrange in a vase or whatever display you choose (it looks crazy cool in a plain glass vase).
  10. What are you waiting for? Work out!

Take it to the next level:

  • Go crazy with colors – ombre, patterns, whatever
  • Use decorative scissors for a cool border pattern like scallops or zig zag
  • Use higher-quality wood and sandpaper for a really smooth, even surface
  • Use a stain for a light, all-over complementary (or contrasting!) base color
  • Write only the exercise move and file one end into a point. Refab a dartboard to include different numbers. Play darts to determine your workout.

No matter what, have fun!

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What’s Next? | 2013 5K/Running Events

According to FitSugar (one of my favorite fitness websites), if you’re planning on running any kind of race n 2013 you should register now. Part of the reasoning behind that is a definite race day will help you stick to your goals and design a long-term training plan that will prepare you for success. I ran a 5K in college and I walked a 5K last year with a coworker. I’d like to try and do more this year. Here are a few that sound like fun:

February 16th: Glow Rush
Basically a combination of a 5K Run/Walk with an urban scavenger hunt, with the added bonus of lots of glowing things and an after party. It’s a little early to be ready for a super serious 5K, but this sounds less like a race than a mobile rave (a lame rave).

February 24th: Petco 5k9
DOGS!!!!!11!!!!1! That is really all you need to know. Again, a little early for serious competish, but if I go it will be with Huckleberry and she is not a running-friendly dog. She thinks it’s a game to see how fast she can nip my ankles and then look totally adorable. I’m on to you, Hound.

March 9th: Run to Fight Cancer
This will be the third time GCU puts on this 5K event – it was actually so successful the first time around they did a second run less than six months later. Now it seems to be a 5K staple for the Phoenix area. I kind of like the idea of my first legit 5K attempt in 2013 being the one put on by my employer (obligatory: Go ‘Lopes!).

March 23rd: The Neon Run
I’ve been obsessed with neon lately and this definitely isn’t helping. It’s another night run, but there’s a big emphasis on having fun and just socializing with other neon enthusiasts.

April 13th: Firefly Run
Oh yeah. Another evening run! Although in Phoenix, you really don’t have many options starting mid-March. It begins to heat up during the day and you’re pretty miserable. Anyway, night running! This one also seems geared to a more casual environment.

May 11th: The Night Run
Actually marketed as such and not just a label I’ve smacked on it. The biggest difference? This one isn’t a 5K – it’s 8! There is a 3 mile event, but I would love to train for the 8K. I have just under four months – why not?

May 18th: Run Drenched
It’s always important to stay hydrated…especially in the dry heat!

November 2nd: Run for Your Lives
It’s a zombie-theme obstacle race. YOU GUYS!!! This is AWESOME.

So, who’s in the Phoenix area and is in?