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.

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.

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 4: Halfway Point

As of today, I am officially at the halfway point of my first Whole30 journey…and I can’t wait to wrap up the second half. I am so over this. Don’t get me wrong: other than feeling so incredibly bloated today (thanks to a lovely combo of my lady friend and the astoundingly accurate Whole30 timeline), I am still loving the results I’m seeing and feeling. I feel in control of my eating and my cravings, and that’s (obviously) not something I’m usually good at. But I’ve grown tired of having to be so careful and restrictive. No worries–it’s only two more weeks. I can do this.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you a little story from this past weekend. On Saturday, where I danced soberly for the first time in my adult life (Change! Positive body image!), I went to a wedding where the following was placed in front of my face:
IMG_20140301_180716Now, I had come to the wedding prepared: I ate beforehand, brought a healthy snack for during the meal, and even, sadly, ate the salad sans dressing. I guzzled water all afternoon and for the rest of the night. But when this, and the subsequent cupcake, was placed in front of me on the table, I nearly lost it. I got anxious. My foot started tapping and I felt like I couldn’t sit still. I watched intently as my tablemates cut into the chicken and buttered their warm dinner rolls.

It was rough–rougher than rough–but I got through it. I also got through the following day with the temptation of my grandma’s cooking and the sinful breakfast my family devoured in front of me (how dare they!), and then I came home and meal prepped for the week.
20140302_16311220140302_16473220140302_163104Yes, I’m sick of restricting myself so intensely, but…I’m not finding it exceptionally difficult. That intense craving has finally passed. I’m not really craving the foods I “can’t” have…well, except peanut butter. I’d give up my first born for a tablespoon of peanut butter right now. But I digress. I’m feeling in control. I may have had a very vivid dream about binging on Friday night, but the fact of the matter is that I’m 15 days binge free. Huge.

I’m looking forward to seeing what battles and challenges the next 15 days help me overcome.

In little moments, day by day, change is possible. Strength is possible.

My Kind of Sunday

My perfect Sunday Funday does not, unlike most, include day drinking to excess. What my perfect Sunday Funday does include is coffee, shopping, cooking, and some good music/movies. All of that happened today.

I’ve written plenty here about meal prepping and how it sets me up for healthy success all week. It’s the only thing that works for me; it’s what keeps me out of my nearby Chipotle/Panera/Target candy aisle during the work week lunchtime hours. Being able to reach into my, albeit, crowded fridge and grab a few containers of ready made breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, keeps me on track with my goals. It’s definitely a time suck, but those three or four hours I spend in the kitchen, despite being helpful, are some of my favorite hours of the week.

With this Whole30 nonsense happening, I’ve had to get a bit creative with my meal prep. Last week I mostly made recipes I’ve had before: easily accessible comfort foods that were familiar. But I was hungry. Now that I’ve kind of settled into my Whole30 (Day 7, baby!), I decided to branch out a bit with my week 2 plans. Here’s what I’ve prepped for the week:
image_2imageimage_1image_3image_5IMG_20140223_194259IMG_20140223_173916IMG_20140223_194129image_4Mushrooms, spinach, and brussels sprouts, sauteed in coconut oil for omelets, a curried butternut squash soup with zucchini and coconut milk (of which I didn’t get an ‘after’ photo–oops!), roasted lemon garlic chicken for adding to my soup and topping giant bowls of leafy greens, several pans of sweet potato fries, and HOMEMADE MAYONNAISE, PEOPLE! Get out. So easy and delish. There’s also unsweetened crock-pot applesauce and kale chips for a treat. All of that, plus fish or shrimp for dinner, and raw cashews and fruit for snacks. A little work on Sunday makes for an easy, stress-free, successful week! 

Do you meal prep? What are you cooking? 

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.

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!

So Good

I’m frightened to admit this. I don’t want to jinx anything or be a Negative Nancy. But…

Life is really good right now.

I seem to be striking a rare balance in all aspects of my life—career, personal, wellness, financial, etc—and that rarely, if ever, happens. I just eel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, as history as shown always happens whenever I’m feeling this great. But for now, let’s focus on the positive in the hopes that putting good energy out will bring good energy back in. Shall we?

Home: Next month, I’ll be moving to a new home. I’m staying in my same city and literally moving about 500 feet from my current place, but I’m moving nonetheless! I’m picking out paint colors, brainstorming design ideas, and purging my useless stuff. My last day in my current place is December 31–which, if you think about it, is a neat sort of coincidence: starting a brand new year in a brand new home, closing the door on this five-year long chapter of my life that was full of destructive, unhealthy behavior…this move is going to be so, so good.

Work: My job is going super well—a huge accomplishment for me. While I still loathe the idea of actually having a 9 to 5 (I just want to be a stay at home mom, shop, cook, clean, and workout…or be Ina Garten), I love what I’m doing right now: I get to write, be creative, spend time thinking and planning, maintain a flexible schedule, and, best of all, once I leave work, it’s done. I don’t carry any of it home with me, physically or emotionally. It’s a beautiful existence.

Health: I’m fully recovered from my late summer slide. Mentally, I feel strong. Physically, I’m getting there. I’m back into my group classes at the gym, and in an effort to run more, I’ve started running a mile or so before each class as a warm-up. Not only does it help me get loose and ready for class, but, hey, guess what? Running is getting easier! I’m also back into my yoga practice, which makes my soul super happy. I’m going twice a week and looking at visiting a new studio for even more goodness.

Social: My social calendar is packed through the end of the year with tons of fun stuff (Weddings! Family time! Concerts! Holiday parties!), so basically, you guys, I’m firing on all cylinders. And it feels amazing. And I don’t want it to end. I’m just going to continue working hard, expressing gratitude to the Universe and any other forces at work in my life right now, and smiling.

Always smiling. Lots of smiles 🙂

Another Day, Another 5K

I’ve been putting off the writing of this post for way too long. Why? Well, I haven’t felt like writing. At all. And I never want this blog to feel forced–this precious little piece of the Interwebs is only meant for me. And you. But mostly for me. I want this space to be nothing but pure honesty for both you and me. Ok?

That’s why it’s been so difficult to write this post about another 5K that I’m going into half-assedly. I’ll spare you all the whiny over-analyzing (I’ve been doing plenty of that over on the Twitter and the Insta, and I’m sorry) and just tell you this:

  1. I don’t want to run this race. Not one bit.
  2. I’m so tired of wasting money and energy on these races that I still can’t complete properly.
  3. Along with this (warranted) awful funk I’ve been in lately, numbers 1 and 2 above have me all jumbled up in the head, completely de-motivating me and turning me into a ball of mush that wants to do nothing but cozy up in bed.

But come Sunday morning, despite the potential wintery mix and freezing temperatures we’re expected to receive, I’ll be in Wisconsin participating in the Biggest Loser Run/Walk! Like with any other race, I’m nervous. We all know I’ve not been progressing my attempt to force this 300+ lb. body to run. But given that it’s a Biggest Loser race, I know I won’t be the slowest, most out of shape person there (something I’m selfishly always terrified of), and I’m betting that the atmosphere will be pretty darn inspiring and motivating. I’m kinda looking forward to the race just for that.

Plus, two of my aunts and cousins are actually going to make the trek over there with me and do the race, too, and Mama Ruthie’s going to make an appearance at some point. Pretty awesome, right?
biggest-loser-logo

And that’s what I’m clinging to right now: I have the support of so many amazing people. I can’t let them down. I can’t let me down. And I have no intention of doing other. But it’s time to get my ish back together, suck it up, and start making everyone (myself included) proud once again. And that starts with this race, with every step I take.

See y’all on the other side! Looking forward to sharing the race experience with you…and really looking forward to things getting back to normal around these parts very, very soon!

Full disclosure: The fine folks of the Biggest Loser Run/Walk provided me with a free entry into the Eau Claire race this weekend, in exchange for posting about my experience.

Lessons Learned

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m back on track. I’m making good choices, three days binge-free, working out everyday and making water, sleep, and me-time a priority.

I’ve always been someone who over-analyzes everything, so it should come as no surprise, then, that the last three, small days have taught me three huge lessons. For example…

1. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. I stopped exercising for maybe a month and I feel like I’m back at square one. Sure, I’ve run two 5K’s in that month, but wow. I’m out of shape! I went for a bike ride tonight and eight miles felt like 80. I don’t know how I did 26 miles easily just a few months ago. However, I did bike up a hill near my house that I’ve never made it up before. So, that’s something 🙂 No matter how small, add some form of movement to your day, every day. Don’t stop.
20131007_1739582. Sometimes a workout is your best form of therapy. I’ve been easing back into workouts this week, focusing not on going faster or pushing harder, but on simply appreciating the movement–appreciating the moment and my body’s ability. We’re in the middle of a streak of beautiful, warm fall days, so Monday I went for a five mile hike. Tonight, I went for a leisurely bike ride, with plenty of pit stops to consciously and purposely acknowledge the sunshine, the warm breeze, the quickly changing leaves.
IMG_20131007_21023520131007_171843IMG_20131007_205606Tuesday I got back to my beloved yoga practice. It was incredibly uncomfortable (especially since my new boyfriend, Mr. Hot and Ripped Yogi, plopped his mat down right  next to me in the mostly empty gym). But I went, and my newly re-inflated chest got in the way, and I noticed the struggle I felt in every pose, and I silently sobbed on my mat during shavasana…but I honored myself by going. And that felt awesome.

By the way, I’ve noticed that I yoga is highly emotional for me–I cry more on that pink rubber mat than I do at any other time in my waking life. Exercise is therapeutic, friends. Try it.

IMG_20131009_0709363. When you pay attention, even amongst the bleakest of circumstances, you’ll see love and beauty all around. My mom doesn’t usually call me…mostly because I call her so frequently that she doesn’t need to 🙂 But amidst her own hectic life, she’s made the effort to call me everyday this week to check-in because she knows I’ve been in a rough spot lately. It’s pretty awesome to know you’re loved like that.

Also awesome? Minnesota. I firmly believe that I live in one of the most beautiful states (and cities, for that matter), anywhere. Minnesota in the fall? You really can’t beat it. To have this sort of natural wonder right outside my door, and to get to enjoy it with all my inspiring, active Minny neighbors? Awesome.

IMG_20131007_20595320131009_18030920131007_170801Onward and upward, one day at a time, don’t stop ’til you get enough, keep on keeping on…all that good stuff. I got this.