Calories and the Lies They Tell

Last year at this time I was obsessively tracking every calorie I ate, weighing my food, and tracking my calories burned. It was all recorded in a spreadsheet where I totaled how many pounds I would lose, gain, or maintain each week. I calculated minutes exercised and I calculated just how many calories those minutes would allow me to add to my week splurge(s.) I was terrified and riddled with anxiety about gaining weight. 

“Tracking” was controlling my life. It was also just one manifestation of my relationship with body image and worth through my cycle of disordered eating. These cycles started when I was five years old. 

When I finally sought help in January I knew I would be dealing with a mixture of mood disorder and eating disorder. I couldn’t imagine a day of not tracking and calculating. Of not worrying about doing enough of a workout. Of knowing and accepting gaining 60+ pounds. Of learning to accept my body and learning that by trying to control it instead of appreciating it (and giving it nourishment, movement, and rest) was a fruitless path. 

So, here I am. I’m fat, but I’m actually living and feeling again. Achieving and making plans. I’m exercising for joy and accomplishment — and bonus, it’s also a social activity where I get to girl talk the entire time. 

I have a pulse again and I’m letting it set the pace each day. 

A Space Princess Walks Into My Head

Part of finding wholehearted wellness is devoting time to things that align with my values, goals and overall life desires. I want to be a published writer. It is the only vision I’ve ever clearly seen for myself when people ask what I would do if I could do anything. I’d write and people would pay to read my writing. And there would be a home office with a wooden desk overlooking lush, old trees.

When I was in high school and college I found a talent for writing personal essays, a skill that translated well to the adaptations of the internet and blogging. I get to write micro-essays. However, I have a heart for fiction. People may consider me patient while I contentedly wait in lines or traffic, but all the while I’m making up stories in my head. Sometimes they are about me — around Oscars time they tend to involve me winning an Oscar and hob-nobbing with my new celeb besties (they are just like everyone else!) and sometimes they are about the people around me.

My problem with fiction, other than sitting down and just writing, has always been plot development. I just don’t know what to do with people sometimes, though I seem to be good at figuring out movie and book plots. Go figure. I decided to work on this challenge by not working on it. Instead, I’m going to focus on writing regularly and creating characters. I figure if I birth interesting people, a story might create itself.

So, good luck to me. I’m starting with a character profile of me. Or maybe a space princess. I guess we’ll see who wants to come alive.

Giving a Damn About Life During Treatment

One of the cool things about getting my mood balanced again is that I’m interested in my surroundings. Specifically, my home. I spent Memorial Day weekend working on some cleaning and organizing projects on the first level of my house. In the last year or so the only things I felt about my house were “can I dump it and start over?” It’s too far from the urban core. It’s too much of a family area. The commute is grating.

Gradually, it just started to become an overwhelming place where I noticed all of the chaos and clutter. “Hmm, has that stuff always been there?” or “Hey, maybe it’s kind of weird that there are random receipts and coupons on the floor.” Depressed me sort of blocked it all out. Depressed me cared about the following things: my couch hidey-hole, was the internet working so I could use my Roku, did I have sufficient body covering blankets on the couch, did my bed exist, did my plumbing work, was the refrigerator working? That’s it. Survival and hiding.

Coming out of the blind survival and waking into awareness of my envirmonent was really uncomfortable. I suddenly knew there were things I felt I should be doing, but I didn’t yet have the energy or the desire. I was flooded with anxiety.

Anxiety is sort of this two-headed alien with tentacles that infests your body. It plops its first head inside your brain, squashing the cells that manage rational thoughts. It waggles its butt into a comfortable position, puts on its glasses and then realizes it left something out of arms reach so it has to get back up again. Repeat waggling.

Head two, or what I think of as the “hairy head,” hangs out in the core of your body and entwines it’s lustrous hair around your organs. The hair sort of tangles around your organs while it tries to flow around like a shampoo commercial — only, there’s stuff like your stomach, intestines and bladder in the way.

Tentacles are attached to a stalk that affixes to your spine. The stalk connects the two heads. Tentacles specialize in cheesey pick-up lines and their prime targets are your muscles. They just find the muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back to be so sexy. Only, the muscles are revolted by the advances of the tentacles so they try to get as far away as possible — which isn’t far — so everything is very tense.

The anxiety alien also doesn’t need much sleep. It’s really itching to rave on and orders glow sticks in bulk. Only, the longer it goes without sleep, the more active it can become.

Now that you understand the beast, you can understand why it would be a challenge to give a damn about pieces of paper on the floor when you are playing host to all night alien trance dancing. Taming anxiety and getting it to take an extended nap immensely improves your ablity to rationalize thought and regulate your own rest and recovery.

For me, that manifests as DIY projects and once again thinking about things like painting the trim in my house, painting my kitchen cabinets, putting up a divider curtain between my kitchen and living room, organizing my second bedroom, and well, you get the point. The next part is taking action. I started last weekend. I plan to work on another space this weekend, and research options for painting.

These more frequent periods of peace are refreshing. It’s hard to have energy for anything else when you are constantly cleaning up after a massive alien kegger in your body.

Being Fat and Female in a Gym

When I walked into the gym yesterday morning it was delightfully empty save a few guys and one gal. I was there to lift some weights and then meet up with one of the girls from my small training group to do the stepmill. I don’t know what is about deadlifts that I like, but man, I like them and I was excited to play. The stepmill, well, it makes me feel accomplished.

It didn’t take me too long to notice one of the gym’s trainers working out*. He noticed me too. After my workout, he approached me and introduced himself. Nothing wrong with that. “If you ever want help with exercises or nutrition, I’m a trainer here. Feel free to ask to me any questions. Are you just trying to lose some weight or tone up? You really don’t want to do a lot of that (pointing to the stepmill and meaning cardio.” He was nice and non-aggressive in his tone, but he immediately assumed I was trying to lose weight. Being fat and female in a gym must automatically mean you’re there to lose weight. Or fat. Sure, I wouldn’t be upset to lose some fat, but that’s not my focus anymore. Part of rejecting the fat phobia and diet culture is realizing that there is nothing wrong with being fat. Yeah, guys. That’s right. It’s okay to be fat. It’s okay to love a fat body. What’s not okay is wasting your life hating yourself and your body, not living in some pursuit of the cultural expectation of the ideal woman. (Men of the world, I know you are not excluded from this, but I am a woman so I am writing about women.)

What was really exciting about this encounter, is that I didn’t immediately retreat to a place of shame and self-loathing and “gee, I really do need to lose weight” or “I must have looked dumb working out.” Nope. I say it again. NOPE. I was able to evaluate the situation and take it without emotion. Hey, this guy is still in the mainstream diet world. The world where everyone desires to be thin and thin equals happy and you can’t have happy without thin. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He was trying to help (and maybe get a new client.) I told him honestly, I was working out to feel good. That’s what exercise is about. It’s a reward for your body. It’s fun. It brings out a primal drive. It makes other parts of day to day life better because it makes your body, heart, and soul happy. And it just feels good.


*I work at this gym, though I’m currently taking a summer sabbatical while working on recovery. My gym is pretty great. I’ve met this trainer once or twice while I was working, but it was long enough ago that I probably look different. Also, I wasn’t dressed in my gym uniform (which is seriously the best work uniform ever. It’s a black logo t-shirt with whatever pants I want to wear – yep, yoga pants.) Since I’m talking about my gym, I would be remiss not mention that there are great trainers there. I’ve been lucky to work with one of the best in KC. Yesterday, I even caught myself correcting my wrist position on a lift.

Here are a couple of great blog posts that deal with a similar theme.

Prescribed To Fat People, Diagnosed In Thin People

Tess Holliday, Promoting Obesity, and Fat Role Models

Pharmacology, Tattoos, and a Clean Kitchen

Dear Blank Page,

I can’t wait to tell you what I’ve been up to lately. Aside from dropping in to experience the shopping event known as Lilly for Target — just for kicks — I’ve been working on cleaning and organizing bits of my house. No pressure, just small bits. Well, I started with a biggish bit; tackling some bothersome issues like dirty toilets, litter boxes and my kitchen sink (which by-the-way looks brand new again now that I scrubbed it.)

I guess this sounds pretty ordinary and maybe not any bit impressive to most people. That’s okay. When I’m depressed and bathed in anxiety I have no will to care about most things. I drop out of life, lose focus, and hunker down in some deep part of my brain. The mere fact that I not only care, but that I’m acting, well…that’s a really good thing.

I’m not entirely open with people about how deeply affected I am by mental illness. I share articles on Facebook, but I never say, “I loved someone who suffered. I am someone who suffered. It’s been around me my entire life.” I told you that I’m getting help. Finally. Really aggressively, seriously trying to recover. My mental illness and shame has manifested in several ways. One way was drinking. I no longer drink. I’ve also struggled with disordered eating and an eating disorder since I was a young girl. Those behaviors are proving challenging to change. But, the progress I’m making with my depression and anxiety is helping and giving me hope that I can recover. I am working with a counselor, an MD, and a registered dietitian. They are good people and I feel safe with them.

I tell you, I was so resistant to medication for so long. It frightened me. Dependency, bottles on bottles on bottles, false hope. I tried medication after medication when I was in high school. It was terrible. I watched my mom try medication after medication. It was terrible. But I decided to try again at 33 and 11/12ths. I was getting worse. I could see the cycle happening. And the thing is, it’s working. It’s helping. But it’s not just the medication. It’s the help too. Anyway, I’m feeling good.

Also, on Saturday I went for a consultation for the tattoo I talked about a couple years ago. It’s going to be a little bit different than what I described that day, but I’m finally taking action. I’m exited but also kind of scared and anxious. I’m supposed to go on May 7th to get it inked on my right forearm. I’ll show you when it’s done.

So, I guess that’s it for now. I just wanted to say hi, see how you’re doing and let you know what’s new.

Take care!



Things That Make Me Tingle

I watched two Brené Brown TED talks last night. My body tingled; my legs went cold though covered in a blanket and my heart starting thunking loudly. After a spirited conversation with myself, I got off the couch, put on my flip flops and went for a walk. (And my feet now have blisters because I no longer have flip flop calluses.)

Two geese flew over my head while I flip flopped down the sidewalk. I was transfixed by deer across the street and so busy mindfully breathing the air that I didn’t notice the geese until their butts swooshed over me. Thank goodness they didn’t poop on me! So aware in some ways and so oblivious in others.

Here are the two TED talks I watched — I highly recommend watching them. They were over before I knew it and I wanted more.
Brene’ Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Brene’ Brown: Listening to Shame

Wrap Me Up in Sheets of Paper

I have a habit of buying notebooks. I don’t know what it is, but I love a new notebook – all those blank pages ready for thoughts, scribbles, lists, dreams, drawings and plots. Tonight, I opened one of the several that was sitting on my desk at home. My plan was to draw out ideas for my wrist/arm tattoo on the blank pages. The tattoo is meant to remind me of a few things: my mom, my spirit of hope and fire in my soul, my connection to nature, the connection between body, spirit, thought, and emotion. It’s a lot to for a few lines of ink on skin. But I know I can do it.

Anyway, I grabbed a green composition book with a pen clipped to a page with a mundane note about a wireless key. As I walked back downstairs I scanned the pages and noticed pages and pages of words I’d written about myself while doing exercises from “What Color is Your Parachute.” This was a notebook from the end of 2011. This was from a transformational period where I was job hunting after leaving my job of 6 years. This was a notebook from the last few months my mom was still alive. (A side effect of my mom’s passing is that I tend to measure time in “when Mom was alive” and “after Mom died.”)

The words are quite different from what appears in my current journal. There’s a page with values. Those are the same. There are lists of goals. Boy, I have a tendency to expect a lot of myself. There is a list of commandments I wrote after rereading “The Happiness Project.” Still relevant.

I have deep ruts created by the repetition of negative thinking and habits born from shame and unmet needs. In January, I reached out for help. While I’ve written privately, finding out how to share more publicly has challenged me. Embarrassment, shame, and fear have kept me from being open about my life over the last couple of years. I’ve known for a long time that something about how I feel isn’t quite “right.” Though, right and wrong isn’t really a good way to view feelings. I’ve worried that people will treat me differently. I’ve worried that people will worry. I’ve worried that I will feel worse. I’ve worried that it will impact my work, though my anxiety and depression already have. These are only the beginning of the worries.

The truth is, I’ve lived with anxiety and depression, self-harming behaviors and thoughts for a long time. Cycles and patterns, I could make a quilt.

I am still me. That has not changed. I still cherish animals, adore my nephew, believe in kindness and truth, compassion and love. I still love jokes, smiles, and laughter. These other voices inside of me are tricky and persuasive. They offer comfort in their harm. But I am finding the other voices. The voice that wrote the values. The voice that wrote my talents. The voice that’s warm as sunshine (trite, but work with me here), and playful.

Impish, spritely, gentle, and strong. Silly, caring, serious, and funny. Inquisitive, thoughtful, spiritual.

I’m working on a new internal infrastructure to fill the ruts and build new roads. (Do NOT insert overused Robert Frost quote here.)

I am still me.



[Did anyone read this and think I was about to come out as a lesbian? Because when I proofed it I could totally see that. But, I’m not; just plain old mixed mood disorder, terrible body image and disordered eating- though girls smell better and have nice hair and shoes.]

Goal, Intention, Resolution Things for 2015

This year, 2014, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish. It included trying CrossFit (I did it! Loved it until I overdid it and hurt my back [my fault, not CrossFit’s] — more on that later maybe someday.) Here’s my shameless plug for CrossFit 816 in Kansas City.

So for this the next year here are a few things I would like to do:

  • Try a ballet class at the KC Ballet
  • Do more pilates (without creeping out the instructor)
  • Finish studying for my personal training certification and take the test
  • Run another marathon — I have my eye on Chicago or New York
  • Bonus: Run a race every month (Let me know if you want to run one with me!)

That’s the list for now.