[source] If I’ve learned nothing else in the past year and a half of this journey to health, I’ve at least learned this: You cannot change the world by yourself. You cannot change yourself by yourself. For 13 years, I … Continue reading
One of the most important things I think we can do in order to break free from addictions, end disordered eating and exercise, and transform our bodies and our health is to stop following our “high-fact” and “low-fact” diets. Today’s … Continue reading
[source] When I was working at the Fruit Stand, I had an incredible mentor, who not only helped me become a better salesperson, trainer, and facilitator, but also inadvertently helped me through some of my depression and anxiety during the … Continue reading
Well, here we are on the brink of 2013.
I thought about making resolutions, but I realized that I just…shouldn’t. Why? Because making resolutions is dangerous; I am too goal-driven.
I know–being goal-driven sounds like a good problem to have, at least displayed prominently on my LinkedIn profile; however, goals and resolutions can be negative when placed into the hands of a self-flagellating perfectionist.
Such as myself.
If you go back through my blog, you’ll see many of my relapses with ED and exercise addiction coinciding with “challenges.” 30-Day Bikram challenge, Fruit Stand Wellness (running) challenge, Muscle and Fitness Hers Transformation challenge…etc.
And a resolution, in many ways, is another challenge. It’s another arbitrary start-and-end point with parameters that define “messing up.” It’s an opportunity to punish myself for not achieving, a chance to let ED and associated thinking creep in when I don’t–or can’t–live up to the goals and time frames I’ve set for myself.
So this year, I’m not making resolutions. Instead, I have just one goal:
I will continue to find ways to stay in touch with, learn about, and accept my hunger, and I will help others find their hunger when I can.
That’s it. That’s all I want out of 2013.
2012 has been an amazing year. It’s been one of struggle and pain, to be sure–but I am grateful for every second of it. I have emerged a much stronger, healthier person. I am not perfect and I am not healed, but I’m learning to be okay with good enough and coping with the wounds that haven’t closed and the scars that haven’t faded.
Even better, I’ve figured out how to turn one of my passions into a viable career. I’ve gotten in touch with my diet and exercise, and I’m healthier–mentally and physically for it. I’ve allowed people into my life–incredible people all over the world, old friends and new–who have enriched the last few months, and I know will continue to enrich the year to come.
Thank you all for following me on this crazy journey for the last five months. I’m looking forward to all of the wonderful things the future has in store for us next year.
Stay hungry & have a happy new year,
P.S. I read a great post on Mother Fitness about why we shouldn’t make resolutions. I thought it was worth sharing: Stop Setting Goals
P.P.P.S. I love that WordPress has put together such a beautiful “year in review” feature. Check out the amazing things that have been happening on the Skinny Genes blog since July!
Here’s an excerpt:
4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 31,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals
Gosh, it feels weird to blog again!
It’s not as though I haven’t been writing…I just haven’t been writing anything for myself. I suppose it’s both a blessing and a curse to have so many exciting freelance projects up in the air all at once.
Before I finish my calories in/calories out series, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experience in the last few weeks in dealing with rehab, stress, sickness, and change, since it’s part of my story, and, well, why not?
So, as many of you who know me in the real world know by now, I’ve been back at the retail store for a week and a half. I’m only working part time hours because of my ankle, but in those part time hours, I only get one break and spend the rest of the time in shoes and on my feet. I’ve done surprisingly well, although there have been moments (read: hours) during which I’ve done semi-barefoot.
The funny thing is, there’s nothing structurally wrong with my ankle anymore, but for the fact that it’s weak as hell and has severely limited functional range of motion. The pain persists in two forms: the same dull ache that drove me to the operating room in the first place, and acute electric shocks resulting from even the slightest touch to the skin (a condition called allodynia, where pain occurs from an otherwise non-painful stimulus.)
It’s the allodynia that makes me feel a little insane…for example, I’m performing in Les Mis in a few short weeks, and we performed “One Day More” at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday night. Due to some parking issues (because that’s so unlike California, right?), I and the woman with whom I’d car pooled, had only five minutes to make it from the parking garage on the other side of the complex, through the massive, packed, standing-room-only crowd, and to the tree. I had no problem ducking, weaving, and speed walking (when it was possible) through the crowd, but the fact that I was wearing boots that touched the side of my leg while I stood to sing made me want to cry.
My physical therapist is getting aggressive with the treatment, since I won’t be able to see him after November 30th. (Details on why in a moment.) He’s been trying to help me desensitize the area…we started by just lightly brushing it with a tissue, but by the end of my last session, he had some scary, silver, ridged tool out and was basically digging it into my scar for a good 10 minutes. Apparently the fascia is ridiculously tight, and that may be causing some of the pulling on the scar, which causes the nerve pain. I sat there and took it, but there may or may not have been tears.
All that to say: we’re not there yet, but we’ll get there. I just have to be more aggressive with my own treatment. I even kept my shoes on through my whole shift on Friday…(Although I’ve been paying for it with random shooting pains in my foot and ankle all weekend…)
SICKNESS & STRESS
Besides the physical stress, I’ve been dealing with the kind of emotional and work-related stress that I haven’t seen since I went on disability over five months ago. (Hard to believe it’s been that long…)
I have been incredibly fortunate to take on several freelance writing projects–from public relations, to marketing, to social media and brand management, to copywriting/editing an ebook. I’ve even written a 120-question reading and writing drill for a test prep company. (I now have a new-found respect for the good people who write the SAT. If you think it’s easy to write those boring reading comprehension passages, I can assure you, from firsthand experience, it most assuredly is not. It’s a seriously intense undertaking.)
Unfortunately, however, I haven’t just been sitting at my adorable little neighborhood Starbucks and lounging about all day while writing, as I had been able to do while blogging all summer. Not only am I back at work for four hours each day, but I’m also in rehearsal for four hours each night and six hours on the weekends. Moreover, I’ve actually been more social than usual (and more about that in a later post as well).
In other words: my sleep has been a little limited. Most days, I’m up by six or six-thirty, at Starbucks to write by seven-thirty, at work by nine-fifteen, and in physical therapy or back at Starbucks until rehearsal at six. I get out at ten, and then if I go out afterward, I’m usually up until one, before I repeat the process again. It’s a little stressful, both mentally and physically, to say the least. Especially since I’m used to going to bed by eight, and not having anywhere important to go or anything important to do.
Between the lack of sleep and the stress of writing deadlines, my poor little immune system has been compromised. And so, after five months of perfect health, I went back to work in the petri dish retail store and immediately got sick.
I’ve been congested and coughing all week, so that hasn’t helped my ability to function much. I’ve avoided the gym, because I know that I just need to rest my body instead of adding another extra stress, but that does add a little bit of mental stress (once a chronic exercise addict, always a chronic exercise addict–I’m still learning how to handle the cravings to work out…). I just want to get better, but I know that it’s going to be difficult until I can cut some of the extra stress out of my life.
But that being said, I’m kind of grateful for having gotten sick. I know that sounds crazy, but let me explain:
I have always just allowed stress to happen. I’ve always said “yes” when asked to do a project. I’ve always taken on immense guilt for saying “no” to friends who want to go out when I’m exhausted. I’ve always overextended myself, because I hate to be bored, because I hate to feel unproductive, because I hate to feel like I’m missing something.
And this was, in some ways, very instructive for me. I got the chance to see how much I could handle before my body and my brain just had to tell me “no.” This awful sinus thing is my reminder that I can’t be Super Woman. It’s my reminder that wanting to do everything and being able to do everything are two entirely different things.
While I’m continuing to freelance, I’m only working on one (and a half) project(s) right now. While I’m continuing to work at the retail store, I’m only doing so part time, and not stressing about my job while I’m home (a first for me!). While I’m continuing to do the musical, I think this will be my last one for a while. I’ve made my peace, and I’m ready to have some down time.
But that being said…I do have a big announcement. A very, very big announcement. A very, very big, life-changing announcement:
I’ve put in my two weeks notice at the retail store.
I have gotten a job at a startup in San Francisco. It’s my dream job: In-house Journalist/Copywriter/Copy Editor. I’m in charge of all of the written content and reporting to the VP of Marketing.
My life is about to change in so many ways. And now I’m going to be better prepared to handle it. Because I know my limitations, and I know my strengths. I’m scared to death, but I’m excited as hell.
This is definitely a good week for giving thanks–because I have so much to be thankful for.
So…here goes nothing…
Happy Sunday, y’all.
So, in the coming weeks, I’m going to be posting about strategies for getting outside of the fitness/nutrition insanity, but until then, read this awesome and sane post by Nia Shanks: Rid Your Life of Fitness and Nutrition Insanity.
Also, Stefani Ruper has another wonderful Food & Love Hack at Paleo for Women: Be Your Own Buddy. (If you’re an isolater, like me, don’t take this as permission to hide though! Spend some time with friends or loved ones this weekend and practice being in the moment and enjoying every second as it comes instead of worrying about when it will be over. I’m going on the record promising to practice that today myself–and you can hold me accountable if I don’t!)
Happy weekend, y’all!
After a week of crazy hospital visits and surgical interruptions, I’m sure you have quite forgotten where we were with our story. And so, a brief recap: August hit, my ankle remained a mess but life started to come back together. I became a vegan and started doing Bikram yoga. And so:
Why, you must be asking, would anyone in his or her right mind do Bikram yoga?
Why, I must ask you, do you assume that anyone who does Bikram yoga is in his or her right mind?+
I got caught up in Bikram by accident. In December of 2009, while I was home deciding whether or not to finish my MFA, I ran into a major conflict with my ED: ED wanted me to work out, and I couldn’t, because I had injured my back at the gym (something I did often) and needed to rest and recuperate.
Resting and recuperating were not a part of ED’s bodybuilding dreams, but I was afraid to go back to the gym and injure myself further. ED insisted, however: days off were not an option. Days off are days when fat turns on.*
So I turned to the internet for help. (Rarely a good idea, although Google actually came through for me on this one.)
In my area, there were about four or five different yoga studios, all specializing in different practices. Hatha. Iyengar, Ashtanga. Bikram. I made my choice not based on style or benefits but on proximity to my house. (And, you know, estimated calories burned.)
Bikram it was.
I called ahead, and was instructed to bring two towels (one large, one small) and a yoga mat, to eat very little or nothing beforehand, and to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
The studio smelled overwhelmingly of wet feet**, and I could see both men and women in various stages of undress already sweltering near humidifiers on the floor.
The first class was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. I walked out of the studio looking as though I had been thrown in a swimming pool, but I felt so clean and light on the inside that I thought I might float away.
That night, I ate an extra tablespoon of peanut butter for dinner and ED didn’t even say a word.
I started doing Bikram every other day, and my back pain quickly cleared up. I returned to the gym in the mornings (doing my hour-and-a-half-long lifting and cardio routines) and then went to Bikram at night. I felt euphoric, light, and even hopeful. It was strange. I even felt less anxiety after doing yoga, so I started going every day.
The peace and clarity of mind I felt when practicing Bikram was a large factor in my decision to return to New York to finish my degree. In the city, I found an amazing little studio on 145th street, and I incorporated Bikram into my already crazy gym-and-school schedule.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Bikram was not a complete panacea for my problems. If it were, I would not be writing this particular blog right now. But Bikram was an invitation to begin healing. It was a way to soften the rough edges of my depression and to calm the chronic anxiety I felt. It was a way to connect, if only for 90 minutes, with the inner voice that ED had long suppressed. It was a way to appease ED by taking some time for myself, because I was still burning a massive number of calories through each session.
Due to the issues of time, money, and general reality, however, constant Bikram sessions were not in my cards for the long term. First and foremost, I was overdoing it, as is generally my M.O. I pulled my hamstrings on more than one occasion, and threw out my back whenever I combined too much yoga with my ever more intense gym sessions. As the months dragged on, I went to yoga less and less frequently. By the time I reached my summer transformation challenge, I was pretty much yoga-free. (And, not unexpectedly, stewing in a pot of my own anxiety and depression.)
When I returned to Bikram for the 30-day challenge in August 2011, I was not a different person. I was still a mental prisoner of ED. I was still prone to extreme behaviors surrounding my exercise and calorie restriction. I was also injured.
The good news is that, at least for the month of my challenge, many of the symptoms in my ankle started to clear up. While I was still weak, I felt less pain. If I missed a day of yoga, I would dissolve into anxiety attacks until I was able to make up the transgression on a double day. (I even started doing preemptive doubles, just in case.)
Combined with my raw, vegan, mostly-juice diet, Bikram made me feel lighter than air. I threw myself into the practice, and the practice rewarded me with health and wellbeing.
With Bikram, I saw myself on a path to healing, and maybe even finally escaping from the clutches of ED.
*I know now that this is a lie that ED told me. Days off are days in which muscles repair themselves and grow stronger. Please make sure you’re getting sufficient rest in whatever fitness program you’re following!!!
**Every Bikram studio smells of wet feet. You get used to it.