Change

Change is a funny, funny business. We spend our lives in constant flux, endlessly trying to become that idealized and imaginary version of our Best Self.  We primp, and spend, and read up, and try. And then someone informs us that people can’t change. We are who we are and there’s no deviating.

A few months ago, someone very close to me told me that I hadn’t changed at all. That, despite the past two years, during which I lost 80 pounds, came to a general positive acceptance of my body, felt more confidence in myself than ever before, and was genuinely happy…despite all that I was still the same person I was before I started down this path.

Now, this was said during an argument and, I assume, meant to hurt me. So I took it with a grain of salt. But that comment did hurt. It sliced like a knife, straight through to my core. It devastated me. And it’s stuck with me throughout these past few months when I’ve struggled to retain who I thought was the “new and improved” version of me. The changed woman I thought I had become.

Every time I skip a workout, every time I binge, every time I get stuck in my head, feeling nearly worthless and doomed to repeat this disordered cycle of eating for the rest of my life…I think of that comment.

You haven’t changed at all.

Change is real. Change is possible. This much I know to be true. I can’t explain my life’s journey over the past few years without the concept of change.

I think that what I’ve learned while obsessing and analyzing and generally falling apart these past few months is that the opinions and thoughts of others shouldn’t influence me. I shouldn’t hesitate in what I’m doing simply because someone else can’t see or feel my progress. Easier said than done, I know, but this is what I need to remember in those darker moments. That I am changed. Who I was is not who I am. And I don’t have to explain or justify that to anyone.

Starting Over. Again.

I’ve been debating my return to this blog for awhile now. Since I stopped some nine months ago, life has changed rather dramatically: I have a new job that I’m passionate about, a beautiful new home, and I’m more content than ever with my social life. On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a family member’s health scare, removed a so-very-toxic relationship from my life, started and stopped therapy for an eating disorder, and, oh yeah, gained back about 50 pounds.

Fifty. Five-oh. 50 pounds. 

That’s been more than a little difficult to accept. But besides grimacing as my pants became harder and harder to pull on, or watching my face and stomach become rounder and rounder, I didn’t quite realize how this slide back into disease was destroying literally everything I’d built over the past few years. All my confidence, my happiness, my ability to feel comfortable in my own skin, moving through the world…gone. I’m back to Old Amanda: struggling to make eye-contact, obsessing about my looks, tired, frustrated, and worst of all, meek.

I don’t like this girl. I, in fact, despise her and wish her dead. And what kills me is that I thought I had destroyed her. I thought that, even though my weight loss was stagnant, that I was in treatment for an eating disorder, that I was so far from where I wanted to be…I thought she was gone.

I am left here to start over, feeling like the past three years have been a waste. And now I’m firmly in my 30’s and just as far from where I want to be as ever.

I guess the one saving grace in all of this, the one thing I remain proud of, is the fact that I’m not giving up. I know how strong I once was, how happy and completely in love with my life I was, and I know I can get there again. Because there is no other option and because I deeply, deeply miss it.

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“Remember why you started.” And now, let’s finish.

Ready

I’m going to blow past the fact that I haven’t posted here for over two months and just jump right into what’s been happening, okay? Okay.

I haven’t felt particularly inspired to post lately, and I haven’t really had the time. I’ve been too busy working, worrying, dating (!!), and more importantly, living. My weight has stayed steady. I’ve made healthful food choices, but I’ve also indulged. Probably more than I should. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga. Like, a lot. And getting back into running. I’ve been taking more time for myself and clocking more hours at work. Basically, what I’ve been doing, is working to find balance.
IMG_20140515_193007 IMG_20140518_190529 IMG_20140518_191626 IMG_20140520_175521 IMG_20140519_190456IMG_20140502_225241 IMG_20140523_085827IMG_20140530_205124 IMG_20140602_191342Earlier this week, I started services at The Emily Program. In my initial conversation with one of the therapists, we talked a lot about my preoccupation with losing weight, body image, exercise and food. She asked me, “How much of your day do you think you spend thinking about this stuff? Honestly?” I gave it some thought and, if I’m being completely honest, a good 90% of my thoughts revolve around:

  • How my hair/makeup/outfit/fat rolls look at any given moment.
  • What my next meal will be and when I will eat it.
  • When my next chance to workout is.
  • How to schedule unexpected social and work obligations around my meal/workout schedule.
  • If I’m having a particularly weak day, how soon I can leave work and binge and what foods that binge will consist of.

After re-reading my last post, I think this is borderline obsession is something I’ve sub-consciously been aware of, and frustrated by, for awhile. And it’s probably why I’ve been shying away from blogging. I don’t want a life all consumed by being A Person Trying To Lose Weight. It’s frustrating and it’s unsatisfying. I fully understand that it needs to be a major piece of my life, but there can, and absolutely needs to be, a measure of balance and flexibility as well.

Speaking of The Emily Program, at my appointment this week I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder. I mean, obviously it’s not a surprise, but still. I can’t help but feel that it’s yet another huge obstacle I have to overcome on this freaking never ending journey. But, on the flip side, I’m incredibly proud and grateful that I chose to formally address this issue and take steps to fix it.
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They  say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

That thought flooded my mind earlier this week at my intake assessment, as I filled out form after form, test after test, and shared very personal information during  an incredibly, horribly uncomfortable conversation with the intake therapist.

We were having a pleasant, happy conversation, going through my background (how’s your relationship with your family, what are your hobbies, what do you do for a living) and suddenly she comes at me with this gem:

What does a typical binge look like for you?

An eating disorder, like any other substance abuse problem, is something typically done in secret. I’ve become an expert at hiding my eating from friends and family. I’ve never shared my dirty little tricks, habits, or menus with anyone.

To sit down with someone and walk them through my eating rituals, step-by-step, bite-by-bite…well, it felt like I was confessing to heinous murder. I was waiting for the Law & Order detectives to walk through the door and arrest me.

My anxiety soared. But, like with most difficult things, the more I talked about the problem, the better I started to feel. The more in control I started to feel.

I have an appointment next week to discuss my treatment plan going forward. And I can’t wait to dig into all this new uncomfortable stuff 🙂
IMG_20140531_191120And finally, speaking of uncomfortable, I picked up my bridesmaid’s dress for the wedding I’m in this fall. Let’s just say, I’m not entirely comfortable in it. So, Operation Bridesmaid is now in full force. I’m going to do my damnedest to get back on a consistent workout schedule and mostly Whole 30-type eating plan. I have set some great balanced goals for the summer (which I’ll share in an upcoming post), so it’s time to get going.

I am ready.

The Struggle Is Real

We rise, we fall. And, hopefully, we’re strong enough to rise again. Over and over. This is life.

After 30-some successful days–really, my most successful healthy days ever–I now find myself fallen. Again. The struggle is very real, my friends.

The tip of the iceberg, this small piece of chocolate unleashed a torrent of self-doubt, self-hatred…all the usual suspects. And this time, loneliness. I absolutely do not say this to welcome pity, but lately I’ve been feeling very alone. Very stuck in this life that is all-consumed by rigid schedule: what you eat and when, how you workout and when, sleep, work. I’m tired of it, I’m frustrated by it, I want the life others seem to have so effortlessly.
IMG_20140401_175830And then, today, for whatever reason, it all seemed to click. A blogger whose journey to a healthy, balanced life I’ve been following for awhile now posted the following:

…I also know that for the rest of my life, healthiness will need to be a priority…Other people have to focus on their recovery every day for the rest of their life, whether it be drugs or alcohol. Other people have to focus the rest of their life on managing their diabetes or heart disease. For me, every day, I need to focus on my healthy.

My focus is not allowed to slip. When it slips, weeks like this happen. And then weeks turn into months, into years, into an entire lifetime. While I need to work on ways to incorporate balance into my focus, it cannot waver. I cannot relax or indulge. My focus must remain…focused.

To that end, I took a big step this afternoon: I asked for help.

The rise and the fall will always be part of my life. Every day I have to make the conscious choice to focus on the rise, face my addiction, choose healthfully. And though I’ve been afraid to admit it, I know deep down all of that will be more manageable if I have help. If I have the tools to be successful and the support to encourage.  

So, for now I will heed the advice of a friend to acknowledge the past few days for what they are and then let them go. I will get a good night’s sleep, and try to make better decisions, to be stronger, tomorrow. Fall, then rise.

Always rise.

Whole30 Update 6: The End Is Near…Or Is It?

Well, that’s that. My first Whole30 is technically in the books. Why technically?

Because as I’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate the recommended reintroduction phase, I’ve become more and more apprehensive about going back to old habits–habits or foods, really, that I know were not conducive to my health and, (at this point) more importantly, my weight loss.

I have had some huge Whole30 milestones. For example, in the past 30 days: 

  • I’ve lost 23 pounds. Day 1 I weighed 335, this morning I clocked in at 312.
  • The inches have been melting off and I’m seeing new muscle definition (I’m kicking myself for not taking measurements on Day 1!)
  • I usually have crazy high energy
  • Workouts are much stronger
  • My mood feels much more stable
  • My skin is clearing up (for the most part)
  • Best of all, I don’t feel the urge to binge. Like, at all. I had a frustrating day at work on Monday and it didn’t even occur to me that I should soothe my soul with a stop at the drive-through. My brain instinctively knew it needed to workout.

So, why would I give all that up now just to enjoy a few bites of non-compliant food? 

I did decide that I would follow a revised reintroduction plan, testing a handful of foods that I “miss” or that would make life more convenient/delicious. I posted about this a bit in a previous update, but here’s my official test list:
IMG_20140318_201406The way reintroduction works is you pick one of the four groupings (for me they are sugar, dairy, gluten-free grains, and legumes), and test each for a day, eating something from that group with each meal. Then you go back to strict Whole30 for two days to see how it affects you. I’m going to be testing each group, but if I don’t notice any odd reactions, I may only wait a day or not at all before testing the next group. I’m also not even entertaining the idea of bringing gluten back. That’s gone for good.

Day 31, today, I’m testing sugar and artificial sugars. My new version of junk food. I had sugar-free creamer in my coffee this morning, sugar-free syrup on my two-ingredient pancake (two eggs, a mashed banana, SO delicious!), and I’ll be eating sugar-free balsamic vinaigrette on my salad at lunch and turkey bacon with supper.
IMG_20140318_201309I tried the creamer in my coffee this morning–the recommended serving size of 1 tablespoon…and had to dump it out after maybe half a cup. It was so incredibly and artificially sweet. The taste is still in my mouth now, a few hours after the fact. Yuck. So, no, coffee creamer will not be going back in my diet.
IMG_20140319_102211The syrup on my pancake was also sweeter than I expected, so I think I’m going to ditch the fake stuff and “invest” in some genuine maple syrup. And I’m expecting similar results from the two remaining foods. I don’t know if any of these items will be going back into regular rotation. In fact, at this point, I highly doubt they will. Sugar is in everything, but I’m going to do my damnedest to avoid it.

Tomorrow or Friday I will be testing dairy: goat cheese and Greek yogurt, maybe some froyo. Probably not, but maybe. But again, if it doesn’t work for me, it won’t be coming back. I’m not about to sacrifice this progress, not when I’m seeing such amazing outcomes.

Everything finally feels like it’s clicking again. I feel in control, I feel strong. I feel like I’m once again Manda Kay, making it. 

Whole30 Update 5: Home Stretch

Today, day 22, marks my full last week of my very first Whole30. And I can’t decide how to feel about that…

I’ve been doing, looking, and, most importantly, feeling great. Tired, but great (I blame daylight savings). I cheated and weighed myself this weekend (20 pounds in 20 days!), clothes that were tight are lose, and while my workouts have been somewhat lacking, my food has been spot on. I went back to some familiar meals this week simply because of my busy schedule. I’ll be eating fish with homemade tartar sauce, eggs and smoothies for breakfast, sweet potato fries, vegetable soup, and the world’s most delicious pot roast.
20140309_11511520140309_144429All positive aspects aside, though, the anxiety of “what happens after the 30 days?” has slowly but surely begun creeping in. What does happen after day 30? What am I going to reintroduce to my diet? What will I test first? Will I gain weight back? What if I start to plateau again? These are the questions that have been clouding the sense of accomplishment I should be feeling for making it most of the way through this battle.

Anxieties aside, I do need to be smart about day 31, 32, 33, and on and on. I obviously want to continue this amazing success, so I need to figure out what it is about the Whole 30 that has been so helpful and positive, and build on that.

So! Starting Day 31, I will:

1. Remain gluten-free. As I’ve mentioned here before, a lot of popular opinion points to a connection between PCOS, consumption of gluten, and stalled weight loss. So, gluten-free I will be. Though, for my sanity, I will be occasionally incorporating gluten-free bread (slathered in peanut butter, obviously) and gluten-free flours into my life. Expensive, sure, but if it helps my weight loss…

2. Test dairy. I miss my Greek yogurt. And goat cheese. And freaking ice cream. So, I’m going to slowly test/reintroduce dairy to my diet. I’m giving up flavored yogurt for good (too much sugar), and I’m going to test plain Greek yogurt—mostly because I need breakfast options. More eggs = death. Also, while not technically dairy (or anything else, really) I will be bringing back my fakey fake coffee creamer on a trial basis.

3. Eat legumes! Legumes are, apparently, inflammatory. You know the saying, beans, beans, the musical fruit…legumes can cause bloating, gas, etc. but I love ‘em. So, in moderation, I’ll begin eating beans (only black beans) and peanut butter (natural, no sugar). If I notice any sort of adverse reaction after eating them…well, then…I don’t know what I’ll do. I just love peanut butter, you guys.

4. Drink in moderation. Being sober and being social are, frankly, the worst. On special occasions (Tuesdays? Arbor Day?), I will imbibe with a delicious gluten-free vodka soda with lime. Maybe a glass of red wine here and there. It’s going to happen and I’m 100% okay with it. Especially since I’m going to try and start dating very, very soon.

5. Explore new ideas. I recently discovered I love roasted carrots—who knew?! I want to continue to play with new recipes and foods, while continuing to eat as few processed goods as possible. Especially now that I’m going gluten and (mostly) dairy free, things could get real interesting in my little kitchen…
IMG_20140309_173224As of right now, that’s my plan of attack for my post-Whole 30 life. I’ve also got a doctor’s appointment scheduled to check-in and update some test results. All in all, I think I’m making progress. Let’s just keep fingers crossed that it continues!

Whole30 Update 1: No Judgment Needed

They say on Day 4 of Whole30 that you will want to kill all of the things. And while I haven’t really been experiencing that today, there were two moments where I felt a little less than my usual sunshiney self:

1. I wanted to punch colleagues in their faces for daring to eat a piece of whole wheat toast–with jam!–in my presence at breakfast this morning.

2. I desperately tried to hold back my impulse to scream when asked why I’m even trying this new horrible “diet”.

The anger…well, it comes and goes, friends.

But, irrational, carb-deprived brain or no, I do want to clear something up here: Whole30 is not a diet. This is not some quick fix. It is not a cleanse. I’m not doing it to lose weight or inches. I’m not paying giant sums of money to learn common sense “diet” knowledge (Eat right! Exercise!).

I am doing Whole30, like so many other people, to reset and realign my relationship with food. I have an eating disorder. A food addiction. I can’t just walk away from that bag of tortilla chips or stack of cookies. Given the chance, I will eat. All. The. Food. So, no, this is not a diet.

In doing this challenge for 30 days, I’m hoping my trigger-food cravings will diminish. I’ve been out of control for the past two months, so I’m viewing this as a way to reign in the healthy lifestyle I’ve worked so hard on for the past two years. A way for me to remember just how important this journey is to me. A way to remember how good I can be at living healthfully. But no, this is not a diet.

After the 30 days is up, will I add back the foods I’ve eliminated? Maybe. Will I ever have toast, a vodka tonic, or artificial creamer in my coffee again? Probably. It all depends on how I feel (not look) at the end of these 30 days. And while this has been an extremely difficult week, where all I think about is this damn challenge…and fried chicken…and ice cream…I feel fricking great. I don’t care if it’s some early-phase, purely psychological thing–I feel great.

30 days. No carbs, grains, alcohol, added sugars, dairy. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods. Try new recipes, new foods, new creations. Grab ahold of my life again.

So not a diet.

Whole30: Week 1

So, remember all those grandiose plans I had for this weekend–you know, to reboot my year? Well. Instead, my weekend consisted of what I think was a stomach flu bug and Netflix binging with the roommate. It sucked, but I did love the excuse to do nothing for 48 hours.

Thankfully, I did feel well enough Saturday afternoon to get my Whole30 stuff all ready to go: recipe research, meal plan, shopping list, shopping and all meal prep.
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I’ll definitely be sharing more of my favorite Whole30 resources as we go–I’m finding some great new recipes and really trying to push past my typical food comfort levels. Here’s a peek at what I prepped this week:
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Creamy tomato soup (with coconut milk!), ground turkey for “spaghetti” and taco salads, zucchini noodles (my loves), sauteed mushrooms and spinach, pot roast, and white balsamic salad dressing. Yum! I also be doing lots of eggs for breakfast, fruit for snacks…and I did splurge on some legit natural almond butter for those moments on weekends where I find myself tempted by the lure of the peanut butter jar.

I’m both anxious and excited for the next 30 days. I’ll definitely be faced with challenges, so I’m looking forward  to seeing just how well I handle them. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Twitter to get the daily blow-by-blow, and stay tuned right here–this could get very, very interesting, my friends…

Reboot

The first few weeks of 2014 have been…bumpy? Nothing’s really gone according to plan, but surprisingly, I haven’t been sucked into the usually funk I experience when things don’t go accordingly to masterfully designed plan. So that’s something, I guess. Workouts, proper eating, water intake, sleep—all have been sporadic at best. I blame moving, a busy schedule, increased expectations at work…and my own laziness, of course.

I was originally supposed to be out of town this weekend to engage in some bachelorette shenanigans, but I’ve made a conscious decision to tap the brakes a bit here and—for lack of a better way of phrasing this—get my shit together. I need to be the good kind of selfish and practice a little self-love this Valentine’s weekend. So here is my full-proof, two-day plan to Get Your Shit Back Together:

1. Sleep, Hydrate, Move
This seems pretty self-explanatory, but I’m going to spend some serious time sleeping in my oh-so-cozy, newly furnished bedroom, drinking my weight in water instead of alcohol, and finally enjoying this awful winter we’ve been having—I’ve got plans to go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing! And then, let’s be real, I’ll probably spend the rest of the weekend immobile, since I’ll be so sore from the wintery workouts.

2. Eat All The (Good) Food
A few days (or maybe weeks?) ago, I mentioned on my Instagram that I was going to attempt Whole30: 30 days of eating “whole” foods—veggies, certain fruits, lean proteins…and that’s really it. I’ll be sharing more about my experiences with the program, obviously, but this means none of my beloved peanut butter, no bread, no creamer in my coffee for a whole month. Sounds awful, right? I was originally putting it off until March, since I had the aforementioned bachelorette party this weekend and a wedding in early March. But it has become increasingly obvious that I need to reign in my eating ASAP—it’s becoming somewhat of a problem again (oh, hello eating disorder! Nice to see your ugly face again! Not! Hahaha). 

So Whole 30. Starting this weekend. Send spinach and pray for me. Or, rather, pray for my family, friends, and co-workers having to deal with me in this state for a whole month.

3. Loving Love
Earlier this week, my roommate and I stayed up way past our bed times (read: past 9:00pm!) discussing what we’re going to put in our online dating profiles when we join up. Boys like Disney movie marathons, discussions about the Universe, and dissecting Beyonce’s Instagram feed, right?

This is the weekend I bite the so-called bullet, though. I’m going to do it: I’m going to actively put myself out there and try to wipe the perma-bitch look from my face, and I’m signing up for online dating. Again, send spinach (what?!) and pray for me.

It’s time to settle in and get serious again. So, let’s regroup and hit restart on this year. It’s going to be a big one: earth-shattering, core-shaking, life-changing. I can feel it!

It’s The Journey

Here is what I know to be true: weight loss is mental journey, not a physical destination.

I have long desired a boyfriend. A partner, a significant other, my soulmate, the dude I would grow old and have babies with. But as much as I wanted that presence in my life, I never allowed myself to pursue it or even entertain the thought of its possibility.

I literally have not had any sort of confidence or self-esteem to speak of for years and years. I didn’t want to be noticeably and embarrassingly bigger than my man. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him touching me—the thought of someone wrapping their arms around me brought forth nothing but thoughts of how unattractive, unappealing, unsexy I perceived the action (and myself) to be. And the looks and whispers we would get from others? Plus, side note, the kind of man that found me attractive at my heavier weight was not someone I wanted to be associated with: I have impossibly high standards that I’m not willing to compromise, and, being totally honest, my experience at that weight with men boiled down to being wanted for one thing and one thing only. And let’s get this straight right now: I am no one’s guilty pleasure; I am no one’s secret.

Even now, though, as I receive more and more positive feedback, smiles, and compliments from men, as I’m coming into myself, holding my head high, and contemplating really putting myself out there to seriously pursue this love thing…it’s hard to shake that mindset. That idea that I’m not worthy, that I’m disgusting, that no one would want to touch me, hold me, be with me, love me. I’m still bigger than the great, great majority of people; I’m still, by society’s standards, unattractive and unacceptable.

But do you put off living your life, pursuing your greatest hopes and ambitions because you’re not yet at some magical number? Do you continue to wait for your life to begin while you toil away after some elusive number?

Or do you gather up all the bits and pieces of confidence, courage, boldness, and bravery you’ve slowly been collecting on this journey and take the damn leap anyway? Once you (mostly) stop caring about the opinions and judgments of others, once you (mostly) make peace with your body as is…shouldn’t that be enough?
The answer, as I’m slowly coming to find out after a long 29 years, is a resounding yes.

Everyone else be dammed, you’re here to live your life. You are worthy. You are attractive. And if someone else doesn’t see life that way, if they’re too wrapped up in the numbers, the goal weights, the physicality of it all…then screw them. Move on.

Life in general is a mental journey, not a physical destination.

And I know the purpose for this part of my journey. I’m here to live love. To risk and dare. To share my happy. To find my lifelong sidekick. And look damn good doing it all.