Wow. In a few days I go to London. Then this summer, I have no idea where I’ll be. Depending on my internship, I could be in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Knoxville, New York, or even Dublin.
A bit sexier than Waldo, at least
Finally I see it as an adventure again. As you may recall, it was kind of a shitty semester. Not including some great moments with friends, of course . But I spread myself too thin between school and work. I had a few housing conundrums. My lack of confidence had opened doors to all sorts of emotional hijinks.
Most of all, I’ve felt directionless. My classes bored me. I had no idea what I was pushing for and the only way I could respond is to push harder in hopes I find meaning somewhere down the line. Deep down I was probably lonely, with no desire to push myself more than I perceive I already do, to meet more people and live more.
Kind of like Kiba...and if you get this reference, you rock
As I’ve mentioned before, this semester I’ve also fought with emotional eating. It’s a nasty habit and I have not been entirely successful in breaking it. Nor have I been exercising as much, mostly from fatigue and somewhat from a crazy schedule that has included everything from dental operations to treks to the ghetto for school assignments.
Abscesses: they do not make you want to do curtsy lunges or French presses
The former left me burnt out and empty of mojo. The latter has left me with a spare tire. The skinny jeans do not lie. I’ve put on pudge, and there’s no pretending it’s just sexy muscle. Still, I was sinking back into habits and head games.
Then I realized I was dangeroualy close to letting a Linkin Park CD sneak onto my iPod. So I stopped being an emo kid and did something that does not come easily to me. I asked for help.
I ask for opinions all the time. I’m indecisive. But in reality, I hate asking for help. Not out of pride, but from that neverending fury at ever being thought of as incapable or weak. No lie–I failed 7th grade English one quarter because of it.
Change X to "subjunctive clause" and you have my quarter
The person who I asked? Someone I respect, admire, and more than anything, trust. Leigh Peele, the awesome personal trainer who I’ve gushed about.
Leigh Peele is more than just a personal trainer. She understands the splits between thought and action, the bridge between psychological and physical, as well as the importance of an individual’s likes, dislikes, fears, and confidence. She also shoots down dogmas with silver bullets of science and research.
Basically, people go to Leigh and have their minds blown by truth. The reason you haven’t heard of her is because she doesn’t pimp her ebooks across the internet or stand behind random supplements.
For that reason, I interviwed her as an expert source for my Houston Chronicle article on getting kids active during the summer.
But more than that, Leigh is unbelievably down to earth, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and deliciously snarky. And she really, really knows how to read people.
We had originally planned to talk 30 minutes. We wound up talking way longer. We talked a lot about the physical. Then we talked a helluva lot about the psychological.
As I explained more about my emo kid reveries, she asked a simple question.
“Why did you want to lose weight in the first place?”
Sledghammer. To. Wall.
You see, no one’s ever really asked me that. Slews of people have asked how I lost weight (my favorite answer now is a mix of goat sacrifices and a plane crash in the Peruvian wilderness). Others have asked what made me lose weight, as if one day lightening struck me from my horse à la St. Paul and I flung myself onto an elliptical.
Perhaps a wee bit too dramatic...
But why? Again, sledgehammer. Smash one of those suckers into a wall and it’s rare it comes down all at once. But hit it hard enough and you get fissures. Those fissures widen on their own, and it only takes a few more knocks before the whole thing crumbles.
This will sound absurdly middle-school melodramatic, but for a moment I wasn’t on my couch, I was back at my home, packing my lunch for my first day of my first internship, the summer after my senior year of high school. My lunch was very strange to me: almond butter, on whole-wheat bread. Cantaloupe. Carrots. Yogurt and berries for later. I’d just gotten a Mr. Bento, so I was rocking it.
Take THIS, portion control!
I was also furious. Furious I was working the whole summer at an unpaid internship, just so I could put something on my resume. Furious because I’d been rejected from my dream school, and even pissier that it was all because I farted around all through high school.
I drove to work, a distance that now I would have had no problem walking, but at the time would’ve left me exhausted the rest of the day.
To wander even farther from my couch, I was back in San Sebastian the summer before my junior year of high school. I was gasping and about to keel over because I had to hike up a steep hill. I was also swearing under my breath at my vibrant friends who wanted to go even higher, but were kind enough to stop halfway because I was so miserable.
Even before that, on my first trip to California, I remember storming out of shops on Rodeo Drive, pissed and embarrassed that my father had offered to buy me one really nice garment, but that I couldn’t find any that would fit.
Those were my fieriest emotions when I first started losing weight. A furious desire to stop being lazy, to actually do something worthwhile with myself. But just because something’s ablaze doesn’t mean it’s strong. Rickety old houses catch fire all the time.
While these moments make for some decent cinema, they miss the whole picture. I wanted to lose weight because I wanted a different lifestyle. I wanted to be energetic and healthy. And yes, I wanted to cut a good figure.
Physical bearing affects perception. Having a fit appearance goes way beyond looking hot. It’s impressive because it takes work. You can’t buy it. You can’t pay someone to do it for you–even if a personal trainer or nutritionist can write up a plan or bark orders or listen to tragic childhood drama, it’s you that has to feel the burn in your bum as you complete a set of weighted lunges.
I love adventure, stories, and exploring the world. And I want to do it as damn long as I can. That means, if I’m down in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls, I want to know I can scramble onto a rooftop if things get crazy.
And things get damn crazy
And call me even crazier, but I want to look and feel damn good as I do it. I love clothes, even if I’m way too much of a wuss to enter the fashion industry. I love the culture and style they represent, and all the stories about you they can tell. It’s a way I love to express myself.
What's your story?
But to finally come full-circle, back to my sofa, my cell-phone in hand, I realized that when I originally lost weight, those dreams and goals died. They slipped away as I became more obsessed with the means than the ends. I stared too long into the abyss– an abyss of conflicting research, false gurus, and a lot of bullshit. And that abyss stared right back.
Sometimes, Freddy has a point
By the end of my freshman year of college, when I’d lost almost half my body weight, I could have cared less about vacation, fashion, film, or life. Even if I could’ve stepped into any designer boutique and worn anything I wanted, I’d rather stay in workout clothes. I still clung to my love of writing, because that’s something so deep that I’d have to have totally swan-dived into Nietzsche’s abyss to lose. I also clung to my freelance because it paid, and one of my deepest, darkest fears is being incapable of supporting myself.
My point is that when you lose sight of your goals, everything falls apart. There is something to be said for a task where the journey becomes as important as the end…but some journeys don’t need to be dwelt upon. Sometimes, if you lose sight of your goals, you become desperate for anything to have some meaning, and that leaves you a sitting duck for dogma, fads, and wasted mind and money.
There were certainly far more factors that contributed to my disordered thoughts and dumbass behavior. I was clinically depressed; there was a lot of family drama; I knew my new internship that summer was probably going to suck…I could go on, but I believe a huge factor was how much I lost sight of what mattered in my future.
It’s taken a couple of years, but I’ve finally found those things again. They are a bit more mature, more refined, but more or less the same. And with them, more certainty. It’s caused me to apply to a lot more internships than I was originally planning to, because if I’m sure of one thing, it’s that I need to see more of the world. As much as I want to get an internship with Disney, I would also love an internship with the Food Network because it would take me to New York.
The world is the one oyster I'm not allergic to
I’m really glad for my little sledgehammer to the face, because it also battered through a lot of my emotional hijinks. Did it magically fix everything? No sillies, it was just a phone call. But it smashed a pretty big fissure.
Unfortuneatly, nothing can turn back time, and I stand here as a big ball of “sheesh, someone let herself go.” I’d already bagged the healthy weight gain I needed, quite a while back. This goes above and beyond the call of duty. Mix that with all the stress of finals, the ensuing stress of emotional eating, loads of cortisol, tired adrenals, and a piss-poor workout schedule, and I have a belly that looks like it plays hostess to Samuel Adams and thighs that have rediscovered their undying love for each another.
I don't even like alcohol!
This is far from “EWWW, dirty cow!” Just an observation. It’s not a delusion either. I was getting teary over it with mein mutter. She happened to be doing my eye makeup at the time, which was most inconvenient. As some of you may remember, my mom was a phone call away from staging an intervention and getting me dragged to a hospital when I came home from my freshman year scarily thin.
This time, my mom hugged me, told me I was still beautiful…and sighed that most American women usually need to lose a few pounds anyway. And that all the walking in London would be good for me, but that I should just remember to lay off the biscuits. Yes, it’s my mom’s strange blessing. We are weird Texas folk.
Later we took a walk to the natural health food store down the road (this is the suburbs so “down the road” equals about a mile). It was such a relief to laugh over holiday overindulgence, to talk about the future, and for me not to feel like having a big salad for lunch is crazy talk. As I said before, we’re finally seeing eye to eye again.
Yet with certainty comes the work. I do want to lose some weight. Not a large amount, especially compared to my kamikaze approach a few years back, but a little.
Trust me, there’s no “going Paleo,” “going raw,” breaking out the kitchen scale, or trips to Borders to look for new reading literature. Leigh mentioned something important…when did I feel my best, physically?
It was near the end of my sophomore year. I was developing some nice muscle (given I had to start from scratch not too long before), but I’d also gained enough weight so that I’d lost that bony look. More importantly, I felt great. I loved the toned look to my arms. I liked squatting my bodyweight. I’d gotten into some light yoga, and even that little bit really loosened me up and made my inflexibility slightly less embarrassing.
My eats also had me feeling great. I was rocking the legumes and nut patés. I ate meat and animal products, but not at every meal. I had a fridge drawer full of good cheeses and shelves packed with veggies. I had a fruit bowl full of fruit, garlic, and sweet potatoes. Most of my sweet treats came from dinners with my boyfriend or lunches with friends, and a few “healthiesh” ones I stashed in my freezer, along with my Ezekiel wraps and bread.
Blessed be boyfriends who have cars, as I was finally starting to explore more restaurants and being treated to some lovely evenings out.
It’s sad, to think I had things in my grasp and chose to drop them so carelessly. But no use sighing for what could have been. It’s time to Humpy-Dumpty this mess. I see where I was happiest with myself, and that’s what I’m going for.
But things happen better in steps, at least more me. First, I have three immediate goals.
- Stop overeating.
- Knock the sugar cravings.
- Get back into an exercise routine.
There’s a huge difference between eating too much at Christmas dinner and my little hijinks. Right now, it’s out of habit. The habitual jerk-reaction to dive like a frightened deer into the freezer if I start to feel anxious, or the “Wooo, it’s the holidays” or “God forbid I don’t have a snack to get me through this freelance assignment.” What makes this worse is that I’m not exactly noshing on grapes, which leads me to my second minigoal.
"To the freezer Bambi! Behind the Ben & Jerry's!"
I am Mimi and I am a sugar addict. Too much of the stuff turns me into a slavering wolf. Combine that with the holiday’s open encouragement of seasonal treats, and I’m virtually rabid. I’m not saying sugar is the devil. It tastes good and it can even have hormonal benefits, if used properly. But it’s my Achilles heel. I never overdo it on really dark chocolate or nuts and nut butter. Sugaries though…watch out.
I believe curbing my sugar cravings and breaking the over-eating habit will serve each other. Maybe I should sum it up as Operation Think About if You Really Want That Cookie. For the Bigger Picture peeps out there, Leigh once said something in a podcast that really can snap me out of a blind grab for that third brownie: “Bad things need food too.”
She’d be the first to tell you there’s no direct scientific study to prove it, but it is worth noting that the countries with higher obesity correlate with higher rates of cancer.
For my end of it, I’m just focusing on well-balanced meals that make me feel good, instead of ephemerally blissful bites that will make me feel heart-racey a few minutes later.
But as they say, old habits die hard. It’s damn true. And it’s hard because I no longer think bread/gravy/cake have any magical ability (beyond caloric surplus) to make me fat. Yet I’ve tackled tougher trials. Friendly support is lovely, but when that fails, lady-balls of steel can work too.
My other big goal is to return to a fitness routine. As I’ll be in a deficit (not a crazy one, but a deficit nonetheless), I don’t want to do any ultra-badass powerlifting or off-the-wall crossfit. That stuff, in my opinion, is better for when you’re at a surplus or maintanence. I hope to keep in weightlifting when I get to London, but what I’m super psyched to try is my TRX. I’ve gained a lot more appreciation for suspension, bodyweight, and mobility work in the past few months. I also want to do more yoga.
Though fun times are ahead if my roommate barges in...
Leigh and I spoke about this too, as she is kind of a hyper-certified personal trainer. I know that conditioning and suspension work will serve me well, and I’m really excited to shake things up.
Perhaps the biggest shakeup in my life since I discovered German musical theatre
I know some people may blanch at this post. Girlies with a history of disordered eating who want to lose weight again tend to raise eyebrows. But I’ve arrived at a much better –and much more knowledgeable– place. Feel free to keep tabs on me, as y’all are about to see plenty of me scampering about London as I flaunt my study abroad adventures.
If you start seeing Shirataki noodles, go ahead and call my mom.
But I don't think they sell these ghastly things in London. The Brits are civilized people.