Two women. One story.

IMG_7017Sometimes I get very angry that anorexia and excessive/compulsive exercising stole almost a decade of my life and that daunting negative thoughts still slip into my days surrounding the simple act of eating, taking care of myself and acknowledging my own worth.

Then I have moments of clarity and hope that shine through the darkness and fill me with motivation and strength, such as Monday night with survivor, warrior and my  amazingly resilient and driven friend, Meggie Sexton. 

I’m pretty sure our paths would not have crossed if we both hadn’t struggled with this demon. And for that I’m thankful for the struggles we’ve had.

We had an incredible opportunity to share our stories and our fights for recovery and life with 300 students at the University of Dayton for NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association Awareness Week 2016.

We feel our message might have touched some lives… Some who were on the verge of the slippery slope; some who had been living the horrific battle already; some who were searching for a solution as they watched their best friends, girl friends, roommates shrink to skeletons.

We were scared to get up on stage and I was scared to be so exposed. But we realized our disorders no longer have control over us and can’t stop us from sharing our battle and our strength to others.

We are winning, we are stronger, more determined. We have a job to do.

In the end… I’m thankful for this fight for my life. It has taught me resiliency and priorities, it’s taught me how much more capable I am than ever thought and it’s introduced me to some of the toughest people I’ve ever met…. Myself included.

TRUE Strength

Mean girls

My drill sergeant (aka my disorder) often acts like the mean girl in school… the one who, for whatever reason has all the attention and still treats everyone like shit.

The mean girl in my life is my disorder, sitting on my shoulder, telling me I’m not as good looking, not in good shape, don’t deserve to eat this or need to do another workout to feel good. This mean girl used to get ALL my attention.

As with most mean girls, as the attention starts to fade the voice gets louder, trying to regain power and control. Often it is hard to hear above the noise and after constant digs, sometimes the knocks starts to feel like truths. When you’re constantly bombarded with these cut downs it is hard to hear anything else.

Mean-Girls-HD

The movie Mean Girls came out in 2004  

Mean girls are only as powerful as the power you give them. The drill sergeant and this disorder are powerful – sometimes crushing – because I give it power.

Lately I’ve had brief moments or flits of a kinder, gentler voice saying… you’re doing great – keep it up. Often the mean girl bats that away quickly but the fact that this voice is poking through is encouraging.

Do you have these competing voices and influences?  Real or just swirling in your mind – they are valid and real to you. Who would you rather choose to spend time with… the mean girl group… who usually peak in high school or the friend who lifts you up?

It is not as easy as simply kicking the meal girl to the curb but it has helped me realize I no longer have to continue to give the mean girl all my attention and power. Slowly but surely she’ll peak and and go away… now I’m just actively helping move that along!

Stay strong, be kind to yourself, and honor your TRUE Strength.

Read this over and over and over again

Please read this over and over and over again. This great article was originally posted on October 28 by Dr. John Rusin.  The full article link is below.

THE DANGERS OF TODAY’S FEMALE FITNESS INDUSTRY

No, the fitness industry isn’t perfect. But there are some downright shameful and disgraceful aspects of fitness based marketing that needs to be brought to the forefront. Nothing may be more dangerous than the popularization of female fitness based marketing that largely preys on the insecurities and the mis-information this population has been getting force fed in the main stream media for close to a decade.

It’s one thing to be ignorant to scientific facts of exercise and training, but it’s an entirely different story when false and societally detrimental ideas are starting to overtake the sound principles that should be guiding our industry. Here’s how we stop the BS in the female fitness industry and create a foundation for women, young to old, when aspiring to achieve health and wellness from coach Meghan Callaway.


HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW…

1. The new age of self-proclaimed female fitness experts lack overall credibility, yet continue to spew out misleading, insulting, and often dangerous information to the masses, most of which is geared towards taking advantage of misinformed women.

2. Lets quit treating female clients like delicate little flowers that are only capable of executing sets of 100 with pink dumbbells as toning resistance. This notion is incredibly insulting. Women are strong and have unlimited physical potential that deserves to be tapped into. Toning is for printers, not strength training.

3. Don’t be ignorant to the use of photoshop and professional full body makeup art. The idea of comparing yourself on an even playing field to a Women’s Health cover is dangerous. There are truly no natural images of females out there anymore. So take this for what it is, a false marketing ploy at best.

4. Food and exercise are meant to be enjoyed. Focusing on food and cardio as a form of punishment can create a slippery slope of health sociology.  If your diet or training program isn’t sustainable for the long run, then your priorities need to be reevaluated.  Less treadmill death marches and more social and emotional engagement.

5. Being viewed as a popular and successful female athlete has become largely dependent on how well females do at selling themselves as sex symbols.  With less correlation to on-field performance, and more towards half naked Instagram shots, our future population of female athletes are being negatively influenced at younger and younger ages.

I encourage you to read the full article HERE

Read and repeat – take it in. – TRUE Strength

H.A.L.T.

SSA_HaltIt happened again…

Mid, very strenuous workout I had to shake off the tears.

It was a mix of thinking of my mom and a mix of the message the workout instructor was screaming at us.  Let me explain… she was screaming over the pounding music in a spin class – encouraging us to push harder, let go and even “get pissed” at times. Her music sound track was planned out to give us a killer workout AND a message.  She weaved her message into our class which boiled down to letting go of regrets, sadness, and self doubt and negative talk. It does us no good she kept saying.

As she encouraged us to let go of baggage I felt my legs peddling faster, my mind focusing and letting go of the constant dialog… the constant “to-do” list, constant disorded battles, the constant second guessing.  Just as I felt my legs flying I also felt the tears welling.  I was thinking of my mom, I was feeling the release of the disorder’s control (even though temporarily), I just felt a release.

Shaking off the tears I focused, pedaled faster.  I realized some of excessive exercise is simply me running away from feeling.  Even though I was pedaling faster, I was focused on feeling the emotions and release… not just running away.

As she encouraged us to leave the baggage behind and to treat ourselves with kindness and care she said… never be too H.A.L.T. 

Never be too:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

She said… a little H.A.L.T. is good… keeps your fire burning – but if you’re too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired you can’t function to the best of your ability and you can’t be the person you’ve been destined to be.  For me – if I’m too H.A.L.T. I can’t be the wife, mother, professional, woman, role model or citizen I need … I strive to be.

This can be a very literal thing… don’t let yourself function in a constant state of hunger, don’t hold on to anger, don’t let yourself wallow in loneliness, and don’t try to get through barely rested.  In the abstract… have a hunger for life – don’t starve yourself from adventure and life; anger can keep you motivated but too much can crush you; you don’t need someone necessarily next to you every minute to not be lonely – instead find comfort and camaraderie in yourself and with others who lift you up; and if you’re tired of what you’re doing… change it!

As I type this I know I am often functioning too H.A.L.T. but I can change and I can continue to dedicate myself to getting healthier.

Join me – TRUE Strength 

Be present

Something I continually try to remember is to be present.  imgres-1

Be where you are and be engaged.

All too often I find myself thinking two miles down the road… what do I have to get done, what is stressing me, what do I need to accomplish.  OR I’m left thinking in the past… did I exercise enough, eat too much, say the right thing.

What happens when you’re always living in the past or future… you miss the gift of the present.  <— Too corny?  Yes, maybe, but it is true.  Each moment is a gift that can be taken away so quickly.

My personal eating disorder thrives on “fortune telling” it’s the what ifs and the very unrealistic cause and effect thinking.  An example… if I can’t workout today and didn’t workout yesterday and actually eat everything on my meal plan I’m going to gain weight… This type of thinking takes me away from the present and causes me to miss the great gifts all around me.

Recently I was instructed to just breath.  The instructor said… the beauty about breathing is that you cannot breath in the past or in the future – you can only breath in the present.  It reminds me of a comment my mom once made to me in the middle of a very stressful situation.  She said… “Take three deeps breaths, splash water on your face three times, and then keep breathing.” Much later I asked – why three times…she laughed and said she had no clue why it just came out. The point is it brought me back to the present. I could handle the situation if I was in the present but only then.

I am learning, I can battle the disorder, be a better wife and a better mom and a better professional if I’m in the present… but only if I am.  

Take a few deep breaths and BE PRESENT.

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TRUE Strength

Practicing non-violence against yourself

Yesterday I took my first real yoga class.  I’ve done a class here or there in the past but never with the intention of really trying yoga.  It was more because the instructor was a friend and it sounded nice to do for a class.

I’ve been searching for something… something different… something maybe kinder on my body…. something.

I’ve also been talking a lot with my counselor that I’m seeing that I’m healthier and stronger but I don’t feel comfortable feeling so thick.  **NOW remember – this is a disordered perception but the question came out… well maybe it’s time to change something.

Ever heard this?  “The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Well… yes – time for a change.  

I’ve been doing CrossFit for over six years now.  As my story on TRUE Strength has shared – I’ve been a competitive athlete and no just focus on having fun and working hard. I don’t think I have a desire to stop CrossFitting but I do have a desire to challenge myself in different ways and try new things.

This was a hot power yoga.  I enjoyed the sweat and the challenge of a brand new routine, method and flow.  I was physically challenged and mentally challenged. I am not very good at quieting my mind but can see how in yoga it’s not just an aspect of the practice but is a principle of the practice. The importance of feeling the breath and whatever is released within when you do the moves is a challenge.  As I’ve shared, a large part of my disorder is an ability to NOT feel and block out feelings, needs, or desires.  Yoga may just help open that guarded door.

I enjoyed that I wasn’t competing with anyone else… which was surprising because I like the competition side of CrossFit.

But above all of this, the thing that stuck with me was a comment the instructor made.

She said…

“Yoga is about the practice of non-violence against yourself.”  

WOW.  

What is my disorder if not violence against myself? 

The instructor encouraged us to try different poses and binds but said… if it doesn’t feel right … don’t do it. “In yoga… pain NO gain.”  Coming from a workout like CrossFit where you train yourself to not feel pain and to just push through this was so refreshing AND uncomfortable!

At the end of class I’m learning that it is typical to have several minutes just being still on the floor.  Someone more experienced in yoga could tell you the name for what we did but I can tell you that afterwards I found it almost sad that it took someone else telling me and leaving me with no other option than to lay down and be still to actually do this.  It wasn’t like I could get up and fold laundry… I had to just BE.  My body felt heavy with satisfaction and almost as if I blended with the floor.

As I lay there all of a sudden my eyes welled up and I cried.  I was thinking of my mom.  Thinking about how she wasn’t very kind to herself until much later in life. She always ran herself ragged, she did everything for everyone else… and herself was left folding laundry.

Let’s all try to practice non-violence against ourselves.  No matter our struggles or if we are battling a disorder or not… non-violence… be kind to ourselves. 

TRUE Strength

An open letter of frustration

Dear XXX, url

I don’t feel like this “treatment” is working.  

Have I gained weight?  Yes… great

But at this moment I don’t feel any better… in fact… I feel worse.   

I still feel obsessed with the thought of food.  During an early session I was asked how much time I spend looking up recipes (that then I rarely actually make – especially for myself), how much of my day is taken up with the thought of my next meal, how much I just ate, or how long I can wait until I need to eat again (how long can I push it).  Sadly, when asked during that first session I had to realize and admit it was the vast majority of waking thoughts.  HOW SAD IS THAT?  I was amazed that other people DON’T think about this stuff on a constant basis.

Just think how much more energy I’d have if I wasn’t always “double thinking.”  

(Double thinking is my term for having this constant dialog while also conducting everyday life as a driven, type A, mom, professional, friend, and woman.)

So, again, I ask myself… how far have I progressed?  I feel uncomfortable in my own skin… I can tell my backside has rounded out some, which is better than skin and bones, but it doesn’t always make me feel better.  I still feel like my brain is in overdrive and I still don’t feel enjoyment out of eating.  I still eat the same things over and over.  Rules have been loosened, but are certainly still there.

Something I’ve been told during this long road is that while you get better the “voice” and doubt gets louder… it’s like it’s seeing your really starting to turn things around and it’s trying to fight against you.  How manipulative!  I continue to find amazing is how your own brain can fight against you.

What I still find amazing is how within one mind, one body, logic and the disorder can tell you two different things.  I logically know what I’m doing is positive and I can look back and see the progress I’ve made. BUT at the same time, I can feel uncomfortable and almost give up…

Working hard to ride on logic for a bit more while I hopefully continue to get strong enough to “outweigh” the disorder…

Stay strong – TRUE Strength