Have you checked?

“Have you checked your weight today?”

When you walk in the east entrance of Calhoun Square, you’re immediately confronted with two great promises. On the left, you have Famous Dave’s, which promises to show you what world-famous bbq is really all about (and the smells wafting outside almost make you want to give them that chance). And, on the right, you have GNC, promising you a perfect body and with it, everything you’ve ever wanted. The irony of the all-you-can-eat-buffet signs juxtaposed with supplements promising to make you lose a pound (or more!) a week is not lost on me.

“Have you checked your weight today?”

If the GNC signs of sculpted human specimens, diet supplements, and juice machines aren’t enough, there is a scale next to the store front. With its magical scale powers, it knows every time a person (or maybe just me?) walks by, and through its anthropomorphic skill says, “have you checked your weight today?”

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I know, it sounds as though this could be a metaphor for the way scales call out to us – “weigh in, weigh in!” But this situation holds no such poetry. This scale really talks.

BUT WHY?!

Is the scale genuinely curious if passersby checked their weight that day, a different version of asking “how was your morning?” Does the scale think this question will reveal something important and insightful about the life of a stranger, perhaps sparking a meaningful relationship? I think not. Quite simply, the scale serves as one small cog in the $61 billion weight loss industry in the U.S. (no, that number is not made up. yes, that number is per year).

GNC doesn’t care about making you healthier, they care about getting money from consumers, and they clearly think a talking scale is one effective way to so. If GNC did, in fact, care about the health of its customers (or people in general), I cannot imagine any reason why they would put a talking scale outside their storefront. Implicit within the question of, “have you checked the weight today,” is the suggestion that if you have not, you should. And if you have, maybe you should do it again for good measure. What is the point of weighing yourself? I’m pretty sure it’s not so you can decide you need another cheeseburger. It’s so that number (number: an arithmetic value expressed by a word, symbol, or figure) can somehow reflect your self-worth (self-worth: confidence in one’s own worth or abilities). It’s an inverse the relationship, or so the story goes. Number goes up, self-worth goes down. Lower the number (GNC supplement packs, anyone?), you’re queen of the world.

Problem is, the inverse relationship is one big lie. As you struggle on the treadmill and dutifully turn down birthday-party brownies and opt for salad at dinner (no olives, hold the cheese, dressing on the side), that number might drop, but what are you giving up?
Things that are not worth giving up for the weight of an eighth grader:

  • evenings with friends
  • unique food
  • sharing in celebration
  • enjoying the most basic of human pleasures: eating

The message that dropping the number on the scale will somehow lead to a happier, richer, or more fulfilling life is a lie. A very sad lie that does NOT make people healthier (in fact, it often leads to the opposite) and results in $61 billion in the pockets of weight loss companies each year. So the next time the scale – or anything else for that matter – gives you grief for weighing or not weighing, walk away. The time it takes to weigh yourself could be better spent eating a cheeseburger enjoying your life. 

Food is Food

When I was struggling with an eating disorder, everything was classified into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good
– fruits
– vegetables
– skinless chicken breast
– fat free plain yogurt

The Bad
– bread
– grains
– red meat
– starchy vegetables

The Ugly
– oil of any kind
– butter
– full fat dairy
– salad dressing
– desserts
– candy
– fried anything

See a pattern?

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Cutting back on these extra calories from fat was one of the first habits to develop with my eating disorder, and it was one of the last to leave. Even after getting away from the bulk of eating disorder symptoms, I stayed all-too-familiar with the non-stick spray can, and you would have been hard-pressed to find butter or added oils in any of my home cooking.

To totally ditch the fat phobia, I’ve had to learn that fats add more than flavor to foods. They are an essential part of overall health and body functioning. Here are few reasons why you need to eat fat (and plenty of it):

  • fat is the food that provides the body with the greatest level of satiety, so without it you will constantly feel hungry
  • without fat, the body can’t process and retain nutrients fully, and you will feel weak and fatigued
  • the brain is over 65% fat, so you need to consume fats for clear thinking and productivity
  • without eating fat, your body will have a much harder time keeping warm
  • fat keeps skin healthy, helps hair grow, increases immunity, and stabilizes blood sugar
  • fat protects your organs

Moral of the story:

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Overcoming my fat-phobia has made me feel healthier, stronger, more energetic. Oh, and my food is tastier. 🙂 Eating out is no longer an anxiety-ridden process (how much hidden butter/oil is in my dish?!) but is, instead, a fun opportunity to try new and delicious food.

Check out some of the items in my kitchen these days:

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The big breakthrough with all of this…fat doesn’t make you fat. It makes you healthy and happy. And I’m okay with that. 🙂

They say, You are what you eat! That’s funny. I don’t remember eating a sexy beast this morning. ecard[image source]

Look Up and Laugh

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Tough times will happen to everyone. Unless you’re…..no wait, couldn’t even think of any example to put there.

I have had a tough week, but I am a strong believer in taking perspective and looking at the positive. I may not have realized too much perfection, as Buddha says, but I’ve still managed to have some laughing at the sky. Reasons to look up and laugh:

1. Impulsive 15-mile bike ride on my way home from work

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Maybe I just wasn’t ready to go home, I needed to clear my head, and the weather was gorgeous. This did me good.

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2. T-Swift is my girl

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Taylor is my iPod’s best friend. Now. Always. Still. Did I mention one time I saw her in concert?! And by one time, I mean TWICE. She is a lyrical genius. (yes, Papa Bear, I know you’re smirking).

harry styles and taylor swift, harry styles, harry styles taylor swift breakup song, tim urban, tim urban haylor song[source]

3. Fresh laundry smells so good

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Sometimes a roll on the bed with a fresh load of laundry will do wonders for your health.

4. I feel recovered – no quotes

Something very interesting happened this week, and I feel like I passed a major milestone. I have been under a fair amount of stress, but – for weird reasons I am not quite sure about – I also feel like I am more powerful, thoughtful, balanced, and stronger than I have been at any other time. Like I said…weird.

It’s not a secret that even though I would say I’ve been ‘recovered’ from my eating disorder (quotes intentional) for several months, I will have serious struggles occasionally. See here for the most recent example. But, right now, for the first time, I really feel confident to say I feel RECOVERED. No quotes. 🙂

I feel as though I have managed a tough situation without any input, tips, or shoulder-whispering from ED. And the best part is – and the part that makes me feel so strong about all of this – I didn’t even fight it. It just wasn’t there. It’s like ED knew not to even bother since I was taking care of things myself.

I know this doesn’t necessarily mean that I will never have another struggle of this variety, but this felt like a major turning point for me. I have learned that I can really support myself after all, and having that realization allowed what was left of my self-doubts to fall away.

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So, I guess there was some perfection after all.

Sticks and Stones

Before I write another post about my Italy trip, I want to share something that happened while I was in Rome that wasn’t so spectacular. I’ve been talking a lot about the great food and sights, but when I first got to Italy, there was an incident that made me feel like the trip would be ruined.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Noah and I took a free walking tour around the city center right after I arrived and got settled.

The tour guide counted our group at the beginning to see how many we were. 11..12..13…and then pointing at me twice…14.

Me: “um, what?”
Tour Guide: “you’re pregnant?”
Me: “um, no.”

There may be people who would let something like this slide right off them, or laugh about it, or tell it as a funny story later that day. I am not one of those people. At least not right now. Maybe one day…hopefully. Because what I experienced in that moment felt truly horrible. On the outside, I was doing everything I could not to start crying right that moment. On the inside, my thoughts were something like this: you are fat. you are horrible. you are disgusting. your belly is so huge and fat that you look like you’re pregnant. everyone thinks you’re enormous. you need to lose weight. why do you eat so much? you used to be skinny, how did you let yourself go this far?

You get the idea. Needless to say, with this soundtrack running in my head I was completely miserable for the rest of tour and pretty much the rest of the entire first day.

eating disorder recovery, inspirational photography, quotes, nature photo, beach, Ocean, sea shore[source]

My emotions were…

mad. Why would the guide say that? Did she have any idea what her comment had done to me?

embarrassed. How many people heard that? Did they agree?

self destructive. How could I let myself look that way? I should be ashamed to be in my own body.

For anyone who is familiar with eating disorders and treatments, you know that dialogues with ED are a helpful and powerful tool. For those who are unfamiliar, ED stands for eating disorder, and those who struggle with disordered eating learn to think of ED as a separate entity that tries to influence how they think, behave, feel, etc. Creating dialogues with ED are incredibly powerful tools because they let the individual separate themselves from their eating disorder and allow backtalking to ED. Here’s an example of how an internal dialogue might go:

ED: You are fat. You shouldn’t wear that outfit because it makes you look fat.
Me: No it doesn’t. I like this outfit and I am not fat.
ED: Yes, you are. You should lose weight and then you would look better in your clothes.
Me: My clothes look fine, and you make me unhappy. Go away ED.

In that dialogue, I won. Basically, the point is to learn to stand up for yourself and realize how destructive ED is.

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And the good news is, I’ve been winning a lot lately. Pretty much all the time in fact, and I think I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have ED win. That’s why this ‘pregnancy incident’ felt so destructive. This time, the conversation went more like this:

ED: You are so fat you look pregnant.
Me: I can’t believe that happened.
ED: Remember all those times you talked back to me and said you weren’t fat? Well this proves that you were just deluding yourself and you are pregnant.
Me: Maybe she was confused? Maybe it was the way my clothes were falling at the moment?
ED: She wasn’t confused. Those clothes are on YOUR BODY. Which looks pregnant. If you weren’t fat, she wouldn’t have said that.
Me: You’re right.
ED: I can’t believe you let yourself become like this.
Me: I can’t believe I let myself become like this.
ED: You need to do something.
Me: You’re right.

At that point, I felt powerless to talk back and felt as though the entire trip would be ruined. How tragic that literally the first thing I did in Rome involved this incident?! It seemed almost laughable then that only a few hours ago I had been on the plane excited to enjoy lots of good Italian food without letting ED get in the way. haha

I made it through to that night without losing it, and then lose it I did. I felt like all the hard work I did had disappeared, and I told Noah that when the guide said that to me, it was as though something inside me felt completely destroyed.

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Then, Noah said something that really resonated with me. He said, “you don’t have to let her destroy you.” What a concept?! When I was in the thick of my recovery, ‘you always have a choice’ was a little bit of a mantra for me, but in my current state of distress (and feeling a bit rusty at combating ED), I had lost sight of that. So, it was back to basics:

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Once I mentally retook ownership of my fate from ED, I immediately started to feel better. I won’t lie, the comment continued to sneak into my mind over the next few days (and even now), but I have been able to combat it and remember:

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Yes, I was brought down and totally caught off guard by this incident. But I’m up and moving now.

I know that ED blew this incident out of proportion, and that my body is fine. More importantly, I know that I am loved and hopeful and blessed in so many ways.

Sometimes I really believe that 100%, and sometimes I feel like I am just talking back to ED. Either way,

How to fly quote mamavision[source]

So, on that note, to me and anyone else struggling…


and

🙂

Race Day!

Today was the big day of the half marathon! If you missed it, check out my earlier post about packet pick-up, and you can learn more about the Get in Gear race there. The race’s start time was 9:00am, so I set my alarm for 7:10, planning to leave the house between 8:00-8:10.

As soon as I woke up, I laid out the essentials:

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iPod arm band + headphones, garmin GPS watch, face sunscreen, and my beloved body glide. I also got out my ugly Christmas sweater:

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My former (and fabulous) roommate actually gave this to me second-hand to wear prior to running my first only marathon last June (I ran Grandma’s in Duluth). I wore it pre-race before checking my bag at Grandma’s, and it took on a sentimental value for me. It only seemed appropriate to wear it again today. 🙂

What to eat for breakfast was a little bit of a dilemma. I wasn’t that hungry when I first woke up, so I didn’t want anything too heavy. I decided to have the fig bars from the March Bestowed package along with some walnut butter and a banana:

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Another tough decision was what to wear for the run. The weather looked promising:

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So I settled on shorts and a t-shirt. Specifically, my Grandma’s finisher tee:

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I figured if I did a full, then I could do a half. That’s how it works, right?!

When I got to Minnehaha Park just after 8:30am, it was gorgeous weather and runners were streaming in from all directions:

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The area near the expo tents and bag check was crowded…

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…but not as crowded as the porta-potties!

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One thing I thought was pretty neat was a special area where people could lock up their bikes if they rode to the park:

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The race started promptly at 9am, and the 10k and half-marathon runners started together and ran the first 5 or so miles together. After that, the 10k runners split off to go back to the finish (which was also the start) while the half-marathoners continued. The run was primarily along West River Parkway next to the Mississippi River. One of my favorite parts of the race was when we crossed the river from Minneapolis to St Paul and got to look out on the Mississippi:

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Pretty much everything about the race went better than I expected. There were three main victories for me:

Victory 1) My goal was to finish within 2 hours. I ended well under!
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My official race time was 1:52:38! The timer above was about a minute over since I didn’t stop it until I got my medal and walked off the course. My average pace was 8:36, and I placed 14th in my age group (F20-24).

Victory 2) The second victory was a negative split! Negative splits are a hallmark of smart and successful races, but I can never seem to pull them off in anything besides short training runs (maybe I just get overly optimistic and run too hard at the start…). Anyway, this race marked my first significant negative split! I ran the first half of the race in about 57 minutes and the second half in about 55 – woohoo!

Victory 3) I’ve only run two official half-marathons. I’ve run that distance several times more as either just a long run or part of my marathon training plan, but this is only my second half-marathon race. The first time I ran a half-marathon was about 4 years ago, and it was at a time when my eating disorder was at a low point. I weighed about 20 pounds less than I do now, and I was running about 60-90 minutes every day. Since I was over-exercising so much, I didn’t even need to train for the half marathon and actually registered on a complete whim the day before. The memory of that half marathon is extremely tied up with symptomatic memories – binging the night before, not eating anything prior to the race, not fueling properly afterwards, binging the night afterwards, etc.

Despite knowing that I wasn’t fueling or running (or living!) in a healthy way at the time of my first half marathon, part of me was a little terrified that I would run a time a lot slower today. I felt that if I did run slower today than four years ago, then some negative thoughts would creep in, telling me that the slower time was due to weighing more. Lower weight equating faster speed is a common thought pattern in runners, and there’s an interesting Runner’s World article called ‘Running On Empty‘ precisely about how easy/common it is for runners to develop disordered eating habits in an effort to lose weight and run faster.

Which brings me to my third victory; I ran not one, not two, but THREE minutes faster in today’s half marathon than I did 4 years ago. I may have weighed 20 pounds less then, but today I am stronger and happier and healthier than I was, and seeing those facts reflect positively in my time was definitely the day’s greatest victory of all. 🙂

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Highland Grill

This morning I had eggs again for breakfast. Instead of making eggs plain though, I cooked them into some Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal. I got the idea from my roommate who made savory oats a couple weeks ago. For this breakfast, I cooked 1/4 cup of 10-grain cereal with slightly less than 1 cup of water. After cooking for a couple minutes, I added in one egg, one mini-babybel cheese wedge, a roasted tomato, and 1 tablespoon of pesto. I served it with a sliced banana.

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This breakfast was very good and I will definitely make again. The savory cereal was very satisfying, and the eggs really thickened the whole dish.

For lunch, I met a couple friends at the Highland Grill in St. Paul – which seems to be a favorite eats spot for almost everyone I know in St. Paul. Highland Grill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they have a nice combination of creative meals and comfort food dishes.

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The atmosphere inside is casual and comfy – as evidenced by the fact that all of their coffee mugs are unique and similar to something you might find in your own cupboard:

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Every day there are featured dishes. Today it included buckwheat pancakes, a fried chicken sandwich, cajun pork chop with risotto, and chili prawns:

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In addition to featured dishes, there is also a daily deal. Tuesday’s deal is half price on all bottles of wine. Obviously, too good a deal to pass up:

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After much deliberation (and by that I mean wondering if I should maybe order something ‘healthier’)*, I decided to order Peter’s burger. The burger came with sweet-mustard pickle relish, a fried egg, ketchup, grilled onions, and sourdough bread. I ordered it with sweet potato fries:
*see below for further explanation

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One of my lunch companions ordered the fried chicken sandwich special with a side salad:

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The other ordered buckwheat pancakes with a side of fruit:

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Everything was delicious! This is a great spot for any meal of the day.

Going back to my wondering if I should order a ‘healthier’ option…
Often when I go out to eat, I feel a slight sense of anxiety regarding the calories and fat in the meal. When I was struggling a lot with my eating disorder, I would often try to get out of eating meals I didn’t prepare for myself. Or, if I did eat out, I would try to stick with salads or things that didn’t include extra sauces or oils. I would stress out about butter or oil being added to bread or meat, and would try to alter my orders to make them as low-caloric as possible.

Now, I realize that eating out should be something enjoyable. Yes, a meal at a restaurant will almost always have more calories and fat than one that I prepare for myself at home, but I will also have the added enjoyment of dining with friends, testing out a new restaurant, and trying a meal that I would not ordinarily eat or prepare for myself.

When selecting what to order at a restaurant now, my primary goal is not to determine what will be the ‘healthiest’ but, rather, what sounds the best to me and what will be unique. I know that if I choose the ‘healthiest’ item for its calorie count and lack of added fats, I am not truly being healthy but am instead letting unhealthy rules and restrictions make decisions for me. When I was in recovery from my eating disorder, one of the most important things I learned was that health is about lifestyle – not about one meal or one day or one workout. Real health is understanding that it’s okay to have sweet potato fries and a burger once in a while, and it’s okay to enjoy that meal while dining with great friends and not feel guilty afterwards. Hallelujah, amen. 🙂

Stair Stepper and Magazines

Until about 6 months ago, I had never stepped foot on one of these guys:

stair stepper[source]

I tried one for the first time last spring since I was taking some time off of running due to injury, and I read in a magazine that stair steppers were the best gym machine – after the treadmill – to get you working really hard. The first time I tried it, I was struggling just to get to 10 minutes. Isn’t it crazy how different types of exercise work your body in such different ways? I could run a marathon but was dying after 10 minutes on a stair stepper – why is that?!

Given my competitive personality, a new challenge was born! The stair stepper has now become one of my favorite gym machines. We are definitely in <3. How do I love thee, stair stepper? Let me count the ways:

1. You make me super sweaty.
2. You make my heart race.
3. You make my legs feel strong.
4. You let me read when we’re together.

This is what I read on the stair stepper today:

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Yes, I am reading intellectual magazines at the gym. #NerdyGirlOnStairStepper

Actually, there’s something of more substance to this…I used to always read magazines in the vein of Fitness, Shape, and Women’s Health while crosstraining. As I came towards the end of my eating disorder recovery, I began to notice some disturbing attributes about these types of magazines. Examples of said disturbing attributes: focus on weight loss, idealizing of ‘thin’ rather than healthy, constant talk about counting calories, implying that women who are thinner are automatically happier, more desirable, and better. I decided that reading these magazines was only encouraging the pattern of restrictive eating and heavy exercising that I was trying to overcome. Although I will still read these types of publications once in a while (let’s face it, shallow literature is fun every once in a while), I intentionally don’t subscribe or buy them myself.

For anyone struggling with body image, dieting, or over-exercising issues, I would recommend stepping back from the weight loss magazines. They are not doing you any favors, trust me. Plus, you don’t have to give up fun monthly reading! Here are the magazines I am currently subscribed to:

  • Runner’s World: This magazine is full of great running and fitness tips – without the focus on weight loss. The articles are well written and, often, inspiring. I’ve also learned lots of useful injury-prevention exercises.
  • Women’s Day: This magazine allows me to continue reading about women’s issues, beauty products, cooking, and exercise, but without an obsessive focus on weight and appearance. I think this is an extremely empowering and healthy magazine for women to read. Bonus: there’s always an article about some awesome pet saving their owner. I find these stories simultaneously hilarious and incredible.
  • Time: I’ve got to get my news somehow! Since I don’t listen to the radio much and only download my news podcasts sporadically (at best), Time tells me most of what I know about the world. Don’t judge me. I like the variety of substance and the fact that most articles are short enough to read fairly quickly. Joel Stein‘s comedic column at the end of each issue is always a highlight.

Anyway…back to the stair stepper from my magazine tangent! I’ve improved to the point where I can do 25 minutes and still feel really good. I suspect I could increase my time, but more than 25 mins seems a bit long to be on the machine – I would rather switch to something else for variety. Tonight I was short on time, so I could only squeeze in 20 minutes before heading to basketball.

Before all this exercise, I had some dinner:

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That’s a kidney bean patty on an english muffin with dijon mustard and spinach – veggies on the side. This was YUMMY! After I got back from basketball, I had some homemade hot-cocoa-for-one, cinnamon style.

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In other news, my roommate is currently in the monster pit at the Lady Gaga concert. Just wanted to throw that out there. 🙂