UN-Podcast 037: UNwound

Here we go. Starting today—and for the next few weeks—Apple is going to see a spike in productivity app downloads, the internet marketers are going to make a killing on cleanses, and it will become impossible to get a parking spot at the gym after 5 pm.

Over the next few weeks, we’re all going to resolve work a little harder, look a little better, and be much healthier people—and we’re going to base our resolutions on uncontrollable expectations: 6 pack abs, higher salaries, lower cholesterol numbers* (etc.). And these uncontrollable goals, my friends, are precisely why New Year’s resolutions suck.

What makes these goals “uncontrollable?” After all, aren’t these goals quantifiable? I can see my abs, I’ll know when I get a raise, and I can take a blood test to tell me what’s up with my health. I’d like to argue (and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me) that just because something can be quantified, doesn’t mean that it can be controlled.

When I first took on the Muscle and Fitness Hers 12-week transformation challenge that kicked off my third relapse with EDNOS (and finally earned me the classification of “anorectic”) in 2010, I had a (mostly) quantifiable end goal in mind: I was going to lose 10 pounds, have a six pack, and be muscular enough/at a low enough body fat to compete in an NPC body building competition. For 12 weeks, I ate clean, limited calories, lifted heavy, did extra cardio, and controlled and controlled and controlled** everything—from meal timing to supplementation—until I reached the end of the 12 weeks.

Yet, though I had lost a lot of weight, I wouldn’t have even gotten an honorable mention in a bodybuilding competition. Though I could quantify the variables to the best of my ability, my end goal was out of my control.

This is how we make resolutions: I have an end goal that I cannot control, but I want it badly enough that I will convince myself that I can control it. I can micromanage the variables, but the variables themselves are not my focus; I care only about whether or not I reach my goal. And if and when that goal doesn’t turn out the way I’d planned—because I have no way of controlling the outcome—I either punish myself by going further (as I did, which is how I ended up without a period) or swinging back in the opposite direction.

One of the most important things that Bikram yoga has taught me is how to set healthy, achievable goals. When I was bodybuilding the end goal—the unquantifiable possibility—was the focus, and I mindlessly went through the little every day steps (the journey) while focused on the uncontrollable outcome.

yoga-teacher-training

[image source]

In Bikram, I have uncontrollable goals too—I want to touch my head to my knee. I want to balance with both hands in namaskar while in toe stand. I want to touch my full spine to the ground in wind removing pose. I want to strive for full expression of each of the 26 postures—but they are merely the ideals I keep in the back of my mind while I focus on the little steps (the journey) as I take them each day in class.

For example, in one class, when I was struggling with balance, Mike Mayle, the owner of Balance Yoga Center in San Jose, CA, told me to focus on my big toe. Instead of worrying about how beautiful my standing bow looked (how high was my foot over my head? how level were my hips? how low could I bring my body down?) I just thought about my big toe. For the rest of the class, in all of the standing postures that required balance, I focused my energy on my big toe, and I stayed standing. And because I wasn’t focused on the big goal (full expression of the posture), but on the microstep it took to get there, I was actually able to go deeper into my practice.

I wanted to write about this today, of all days, because on Day 1 of the new year, we’re focused on the “full expression” of our resolutions—the uncontrollable possibilities (bikini bodies, higher salaries, better health, etc.) instead of the the little steps that it takes to get there (showing up every day and [metaphorically] focusing on the big toe).

As Mike has said before, “You never forget your first Bikram yoga class.”

And he’s right: I remember that first class and many many many of the classes in between, because each class was a milestone on the way to achieving a different goal.

On day one of my Bikram practice, my goal was just to stay in the room. On day two, it was to come back. On day three it was to start memorizing the sequence. Two years in, it was to complete a 30 day challenge. A few months ago it was to focus on my big toe.

There is no start date, there is no end date; every day is another chance to set a small goal and meet it.

So, instead of focusing on your “New Year’s resolution,” here’s instead to 365 days of learning how to focus on the big toe.

In today’s podcast, we talk with Mike about goal-setting, yoga, and finding your authentic self. I think you’re REALLY going to like this one:

Go Listen Now!

finding-our-hunger-podcast

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

*Not advocating this one, necessarily. See Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore for reasons why.

**Or should I say “quantified, quantified, quantified?”

Cover Your Mouth!: Disordered Eating is a Communicatable Disease

Cover Your Mouth!: Disordered Eating is a Communicatable Disease The seasons are changing, and it’s that time of year when we have to start being extra-careful about our immunity. And I’m not just talking about the flu--I’m talking about body image issues. In case you weren’t aware, disordered eating is a communicable disease--or, perhaps I should say it’s a communicatable disease. It’s not the kind of disease that’s spread by hugging--on the contrary, hugs are an essential daily vitamin that can help you build your immunity. It’s the kind of disease that spreads from person to person through negative self-talk, marketing ploys, and cultural habits. Every year during this time our attention turns to America’s favorite past time: coming up with an excuse for eating and then coming up with an excuse for punishing ourselves for eating. And every year during this time, our TVs, radios, blog feeds, and social media networks turn into a giant discussion about how to binge, how to stop bingeing, and how to make up for bingeing once the season is over. This is the time of year when it seems like you can’t have a conversation about anything without bringing up who’s eating what, where, and when, and how you’ll be doing penance for it. It’s in the national media, and it’s also close to home. For example, just two days ago, during my 2 minute savasana at my yoga studio, one of the newer yoga teachers said in her soothing “savasana” voice (and I’m loosely quoting, because I wasn’t taking notes while lying in corpse pose), “The holidays are coming. And you’re going to eat a lot. But you will come back to yoga, and you will get back in shape.” [Insert sound of a record scratching here.] Um, what? How about, “The holidays are coming, and you’re going to spend lots of quality time with people you love. Food and exercise may be involved, but they’re not all that important in the grand scheme of things?” Or, “The holidays are coming, and if you do choose to fixate on food, know that you’re not alone, and that you don’t have to punish yourself with exercise to make up for it. Throw away your scale and do yoga because it feels good?” Or even, “The holidays are coming, and it can be difficult to be around food and family members and stressful situations. Keep coming back to yoga because it will give you the tools you need to stay mind-full and avoid stuffing yourself belly-full out of frustration or stress?” Look, I know that there’s little I can say in this one blog that’s going to get the Today Show to stop showing you segments about how to cook a 5000 calorie Thanksgiving and then burn off a 5000 calorie Thanksgiving, or TV commercials to stop glorifying disordered eating behaviors (like fixating on or sneaking food), or the inevitable “January 1 is coming so eat while you can but save your money for a gym membership” magazine ads. [source] That said, change has to start somewhere--and it can start with YOU. If you want to have a happy and healthy holiday season, then it’s up to YOU to start changing the way YOU talk about food with family and friends. No, you may not be able to get your yoga teacher to keep your savasana sacred, but when the ladies in the locker room are talking about how fat they already feel because they’re anticipating the holiday binge, you can choose not to participate--and, even better, change the subject by asking them who they’ll be celebrating with or where they’ll be traveling. As soon as food or exercise comes up as the topic of conversation, YOU have a choice to change the channel, leave the room, or redirect the conversation. And if you’re stuck on your yoga mat, you can choose not to listen--or, do what I did, and focus instead on the upcoming asanas (or yoga poses), which you want to try to work on. Whatever you do: Don’t feed the negativity about feeding! Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, if you’re a member of the western culture and even marginally exposed to our cultural practices around the fall/winter holiday season, then you have plenty of opportunities to be exposed to the communicatable disease that is disordered eating. Just as you can spread a cold when you forget to cover your mouth when you cough, so can you spread disordered eating and exercise behaviors when you choose to indulge in the negative body talk about indulging during the holidays. Build up your immunity now by practicing the following: Worried about bingeing on once-a-year foods? Cook a dish or two now, and enjoy it on a random week night so you can remember that Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whatever holiday you’re celebrating) is not the only time you’ll have access to that food. Make a list of non-food or gym-based activities that you’re looking forward to participating in from now through January. Use that list to redirect the conversation when friends or family (or you!) start fixating on food. Get a notebook or a piece of paper, and put a check mark every time you catch yourself saying something negative about your body in anticipation of the holiday season. About the chime in on that “I can eat less and exercise more” conversation with your girlfriends? Check it off. Mind racing with anxiety when a stuffing commercial comes on? Check it off. The benefits are two fold: over time, you’ll be able to start unconsciously making the catches, AND you’ll be able to mindfully redirect your thought process with positive self-talk. Be honest with friends and family: ask them not to make a big deal about food and exercise in conversation. You’re allowed to set healthy boundaries, and as long as you’re being respectful in how you ask (i.e. don’t attack them for bringing up the leftover situation), you can help condition those with whom you spend your time to notice when they’re engaging in triggering conversation as well. Remind yourself that a holiday feast is just another meal. Allow yourself to savor the foods you don’t normally eat, but remember to spend time savoring the company you’re in as well. You’ll spend less time gorging (or restricting but fixating) on the sweet potatoes if you’re having a great conversation with your family and friends. You don’t have to worry yourself sick over your food and exercise situation this holiday season. Change the way you communicate, and in turn, those around you might follow suit. And, just in case, make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin H* in the meantime. Stay hungry, @MissSkinnyGenes *Hugs, obviously.

The seasons are changing, and it’s that time of year when we have to start being extra-careful about our immunity. And I’m not just talking about the flu–I’m talking about body image issues. In case you weren’t aware, disordered eating … Continue reading

UN-Podcast 030: UNbalanced (Dietitian Cassie)

balance

[source] BALANCE: noun An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. (stability of one’s mind or feelings.) A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. verb Keep or put … Continue reading

New Challenges

Despite the heat of the dog days, August ushered in a much more tolerable end to an intolerable summer. Although my ankle was still sore, my relationship with my body was still impaired, and I had not yet gotten a promotion, the stars started to align for healing in all of these areas. Or so it seemed, anyway.

In August I was asked to co-facilitate my first new hire training seminar. I had, in the past, been invited to mentor new hires, but I had never been able to directly influence their learning (and their induction to the kool-aid culture) as I would facilitating. It was a huge honor–made grander by the fact that I was asked to facilitate by my mentor. If he had the confidence in me to handle such a huge responsibility, then I knew I could muster the confidence in myself. I was beside myself with excitement, especially because I really do love that company, and I was getting paid to spend three days doing nothing but sharing that love with others. It was pretty much a win-win.

The seminar itself was a smashing success. No, I wasn’t perfect–and yes, I still had a lot to learn as a facilitator. However: what I did learn–about facilitation, about myself, about learning styles, and the like–was hugely important to me, and I was happy to use my mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

My torn sports bra was an unsettling reminder that I was still heavier than I wanted to be.

I was ready to grow. I needed to grow. The summer had been, if anything, a chance for me to start seeing how the seeds of ED had been sown among the seeds of my success, and I was ready to start pulling the weeds. Or so I thought, anyway.

At the seminar, my mentor (who knew I was a fan of yoga*) suggested that I try a 30-day challenge at our Bikram yoga center. For the uninitiated, Bikram yoga is a style of Hatha yoga as created by Bikram Choudhury.  Unlike your typical gym yoga class, which might rotate sequences of postures, all Bikram classes consist of the same 26 postures performed for the same amount of time every single class. Also unlike your typical gym yoga class, Bikram yoga is performed in 105 degree heat, with 40% humidity. It’s a little nutty, sure, but it’s an amazing experience if you can convince yourself to just stay in the room through your first class.

A 30-day challenge consists of 30 days of consistent practice. That means doing one yoga class every single day (although some studios make allowances for, you know, reality, and let you do doubles to make up the classes). I knew that it would be a little bit difficult to fit in 30 consistent days of yoga with my crazy retail schedule, but I decided to give it a try.

30-Day Challenge Sign Up

I also decided that it was time to make a change in my diet. I was still consuming my mostly-protein-powder calorie-restricted pseudo-figure-competitor diet, and I, to put it eloquently, felt like crap. I figured that yoga might help some of my physiological issues, but I wanted to feel better inside and out. That meant drastically changing my diet.

One of the MT’s good friends (who had become one of my favorite people left on earth) worked at Whole Foods and had blogged as she did the Engine 2 Diet. Engine 2 was created by a vegan firefighter (who converted his entire unit to plant-based living), and it advocates a 100% plant-based diet. After I read Engine 2 and did some research, I stumbled upon Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, which takes the plant-based living to the extreme: raw, vegan, and lots of juice.

Green Juice

So, because I can’t ever do anything halfway, I bought a juicer, threw away my whey protein powder, and invested in hemp, kale, and broccoli.

A few days after I began my vegan-and-yogi experiment, I got my promotion.

Everything seemed to be falling into place. Or so I believed, anyway.

– K.

*I’m going to do a separate post dedicated specifically to my romance with Bikram yoga, which is why I haven’t really written about it yet.