Destination: not stressed.

I have been absent. I have been going a little crazy. I’m here now…I think.

So, we’re getting married in about 9 months, yay! Needless to say, it’s made life a tiny bit crazy(er).

At first, our plans seemed so distant, and like we had so much time – we did, and still do – that it was all fun and daydreams. Well, now it’s time to start actually planning, and I’m filled with anxiety and stress over the decisions, and I don’t like it. We had originally planned to have an ‘elopement’, where just the 2 of us would go away and get married, then have a few parties here when we get back to celebrate with family and friends. Our families are very spread out, and large, and we just don’t have the budge for that, nor the mental bandwidth. I thought that because we weren’t planning a big shindig – yet – that it would be a piece of cake. All we have to do right now is pick a place to get married and have our honeymoon. No big deal, right? It certainly sounds like a dream come true. Yet, I’ve spent the last 2 months researching so many places to run off to and have our intimate 2 person dream trip that I’m going out of my mind with choices. It started off simple enough, we had our budget, and the Caribbean is so close, it seemed like a no-brainer. Who would have thought that the selection of where to go in the Caribbean could be so painfully overwhelming? Not this girl.

I expanded my search, looking at Central and South America, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, and any other place that seem dreamy. They all resulted in me realizing that flying for 12-20 hours was not the way we wanted to start our wedding trip. So I’ve narrowed it back down to the Caribbean, mostly. I’ve made lists, spreadsheets, figured out relative travel costs, pros and cons of each spot we like, attractions, language, distance, likelihood of hurricanes…and yet, here I sit. Lost. I thought about posting on here a month ago to ask for help, but figured since no one really had much to say about it on Facebook or Twitter (other than suggesting Jamaica, which I think is probably not where we want to go) when I asked, that no one else would either. But maybe that’s not true. Maybe someone in my network has magical answers to all of my questions! Maybe not, but maybe so!

I have taken breaks and come back, I’ve tried just following my heart, I’ve tried to use lists to force my brain to make a choice, and yet, I still have no clue. I’ve tried distracting myself with looking at dresses instead. I’ve enlisted the advice of travel agents. I’ve considered just going somewhere in the continental US for a week or two. This is not what we want, I realize, but it is a cheaper option if need be.

So right now I have lists. Michael is so supportive, and really just wants to make sure we can afford it, and we can go somewhere nice. Those are his only requirements. Sadly, I’m much more picky. It’s our wedding, it’s going to be amazing, and we’re going to have a great time. The only thing that matters is that we are together, and that we are getting married. I know these things. Yet, I still want to pick somewhere awesome because who knows when we’ll be able to do this again. I know that anywhere we go will be awesome, but I want the MOST awesome! I’m putting too much pressure on myself to pick the perfect place. There will be no perfect place. We will make any place perfect. Why can’t I just pick a place?!

What I really want is a spot that is more than just beaches, and where we are not stuck at a resort the whole time. There are lots of islands that offer so much more than just beach time, like volcanoes, rain forest, hiking, waterfalls, sailing, whale watching, scuba/snorkeling, and of course visiting the towns nearby. I am also concerned that we will blow our whole budget on our accommodations, and be stuck not doing things we want, or not able to eat while there. I want to have a ceremony for just us, with a nice dinner after, and some pictures to bring home. I thought that was no big deal, but most places want thousands and thousands of dollars to do this. If we go somewhere that is not a US territory, we’re going to get legally married here in town beforehand, then have a symbolic ceremony there. Which, in my mind, should be cheaper, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way.

So right now, our list looks like this:

Dominica – After all the research, this is now my personal dream trip. It might not be right for this trip, but it’s on my list of must see places. This beautifully underdeveloped island has volcanoes, rainforests, tons of whales, snorkeling, scuba, hiking, river trips, sea caves and not many people. It is a fairly natural island, so it would be like living at a gorgeous resort in the rainforest for a week. Downsides are that there aren’t great beaches (by Caribbean standards) and that because it’s off the beaten path, it’s expensive and time consuming to get there, it’s not set up for tourists, so it might be a little rougher than other islands. Would this be ‘roughing it’ too much for a honeymoon?? The whale watching (it’s the best in the Caribbean) is really the main draw for me.

St. Lucia – Seems fairly similar to Dominica in landscape. The attractions are about the same, whale watching might not be quite as good, but it’s still pretty great. They do have nicer beaches, but also a lot more tourism, and apparently crime. The flight cost and length is not much lower than Dominica. The bonus of going here would be more options for dining/accommodations, and better beaches.

St. John – USVI (Or St. Croix, St. Thomas) –  Absolutely gorgeous beaches, and forests. Most of this island is a park, so much of it remains untouched. There is not as much to do as the 2 previous destinations, but the location is great. It is a hop away from lots of other islands if we wanted to explore those. We could also get married here without a wait time, which is a plus. It also seems like it would be a little more pricey than the other 2 above.

Virgin Gorda – Also has absolutely stunning beaches, and is convenient to other Virgin Islands. The main drawback here is the expense, it is fairly high end. The plus is the sailing, which we could do in most places, but it’s pretty great here.

Puerto Rico – This US territory is a pretty easy choice. It’s close, and fairly low cost. It has a little bit of everything, but maybe not the ‘best’ of anything. Beaches, rain forest, culture, caves, close to other islands for day trips, wild horses, coral reefs, the bio-luminescent bay, lots of culture and good food. The drawback for me here is that I feel like it’s the safe choice. We could marry easily, but it seems like it might end up not being exactly what we want. I read a lot of people who say that the crime is high, and getting around is tough, and that the beaches aren’t great. Beaches aren’t the main attraction, so who knows if that will end up being a big deal to us when we get there.

Turks and Caicos– It seems like if we wanted to sit on the beach the whole time, this would be our spot. We don’t, so I think it would end up being a waste of money.  A lot of money.

Mexico – Riviera Maya – It appears to be gorgeous here, but I don’t know what we would do other than stay at a resort, which would get old.

Costa Rica – It seems like Costa Rica is a natural choice, for the nature and the beaches, and the culture, and the SLOTHS. I love sloths. But I don’t know if this is where I really want to go, there’s just something telling me to skip it for this trip.

Hawaii – This is not really at the top of my list. But it’s not been eliminated from the possibilities. It’s far, and expensive, and touristy. Those are 3 things I do not want. It’s also gorgeous.

So I’m putting the magical internet feelers out there. If you have any thoughts about any of these places, or words of wisdom on how I need to just shut up and choose because it doesn’t really matter, please do share with me! If you want to chat about your favorite vacation, or your honeymoon, wedding, or life in general, please share that as well!

In other news, I am really excited about all of this, I just want to make a decision so I can start planning all of the good stuff. A dress and rings and the parties afterward, oh my!

I hope all is well with you and thanks for ANY and all input!


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My ‘effort’

It’s been a long few weeks since I’ve had anything to say. I have gone through cycles of feeling like I ‘should’ write something, but since I’m currently practicing quieting down any thoughts that start off with ‘I should…’, I’ve been waiting for inspiration to strike.

There has been lots going on in my life. I got a new job! I start next month, and it’s a slightly different niche than where I’m working now. I am really excited to get into it, it seems like a great opportunity. Yay!

Other than that, I’ve been outside a lot. We’ve been having almost daily bike rides (usually between 7 and 10 miles), and I’ve been running when I can (though with how hot/humid it’s been, this has been less often than I’d like). We have even ventured out on some longer rides on weekends, and a few weeks ago we rode about 50 miles over a few days. It was awesome. There’s just something about being outside, especially in the woods, near a stream, that really calms me down and brings me back to center. We’ve been watching all the local wildlife on our daily ride route as well. It’s been so fun watching all these little ducklings and goslings and baby bunnies scamper around. We get to stop and get close up views of these critters growing up, right in front of us. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day. I’ve been spending less time in the gym, which is typical for me. When it gets nice out, I’d rather be outside having fun than staring at a TV or doing group fitness classes. I still venture indoors for yoga though, because if I run and bike without it, I’ll be all bunched up, and it is necessary for my general mental and physical wellness also.

These little guys are just too cute. They are so fuzzy, and never go far from Mom. It’s just adorable. I can sit and watch them waddle, swim and play for hours.

So a few weeks ago, we were out on a ride one day, and a stranger felt the need to impart his thoughts upon me. Always appreciated. This kind young man felt so inclined as to slow down, while driving, and lean over out of his SUV window, and yell to me that he ‘appreciated my effort’. What. The. Hell. What does that even mean? I mean…what was he going for there? Was I supposed to feel honored that some dude appreciates my effort? What effort would that be? The effort to ride my bike for an hour a day – because I WANT to, not because I’m trying to burn calories – in the 100 degree heat while he drives through the park in his SUV, wasting money, wasting gas, polluting the air and sitting on his butt??

I just stared at him, making sure he was, in fact, talking to me. He actually had to lean OVER  his buddy in the passenger seat to tell me this. So, my first reaction – brief as it was -was that he and his friend were laughing at me on my bike, thinking whatever it is that they were thinking, and really feeling quite proud of themselves for coming up with that clever remark to throw at me. And you know what, I don’t know what he was thinking. I wasn’t in the car. Maybe in his mind, that was a compliment, maybe he really meant to tell me that he was impressed that I was out there, doing something he himself wasn’t willing to do. But of course, that is not the story that ran through my head at first. I just figured he was a jerk, and he meant to hurt my feelings, and he wanted to see the overweight girl on her bike cry at the park, just like the kids did when I was 10. Well, guess what? I didn’t cry, or try to insult him back. It stung for a second, but mostly I was just sorry for him. I let the words sit with me as we kept riding, and I think I said a few not so nice things about him, and his ‘effort’, but in the end, I was surprised at how much it did not make me feel bad about myself. He knows nothing, NOTHING, about me. He doesn’t know that I rode near 20 miles in that same heat the day before. He doesn’t know my fitness level, or anything about my health. All he knows is what he saw. An overweight female, riding a bike, through the park. Those are the facts, the rest is story, manufactured by my emotions. I was offended that he singled me out, and wasted his time to slow down and say anything AT ALL to me (other than ‘that is the coolest bike helmet I’ve ever seen!’, which would be acceptable, because it is awesome), and for only a slight second did I feel like I was the problem in this scenario. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. His motives, his words, his actions, none of them matter. Whether or not he wanted to hurt my feelings, or meant it in a harmless way, it’s all about how I reacted – that is the only part that affects me. People are going to say and do dumb and inconsiderate things. Previously, most of these stupid things would just set me off, and I wouldn’t let go for hours, maybe days. Not this time though, and it took me by surprise.

This is huge for me. Huge. For me to not fall into old patterns of self hatred, feeling ashamed about my body, wanting to hide it and never ride my bike again, riding the whole way home in tears, while explaining to Michael that that frat boy in his SUV thinks he knows, but he doesn’t know!!! Instead, I just let it sit, and thought about how awesome my ‘effort’ really is. I thought about how much I love riding, getting fresh air, seeing the little animals, hanging out with best friend, and also getting a workout. This is a really big deal. I didn’t even have to think about it, I didn’t have to talk myself down off the ledge. I just never went there. This man’s words DID affect me. I did mope for a few minutes, wondering why he would say anything. But the difference was internal. It was shocking, really. To know that I know myself, my body, my health, my happiness, and that no one else’s words can take that away…that is a beautifully powerful thing.

So while this man have thought his words would cause me harm, or cause motivation, or some other intention that is not known to me, I’m sure he doesn’t realize just how much good he has done. If he hadn’t said anything, he wouldn’t have shown me that I’ve grown. I don’t think I would have noticed. Because in my own little world, where I make up the stories, nothing feels incredibly different. But when thrown into a real life situation where my guard is down, and I’m unsuspectingly thrown a curve ball, I didn’t fall. I flinched, but I kept going. I kept riding my bike, and have been riding ever since and that won’t stop. I’ve not let him deter me from my endeavors, and I’m pretty damn proud of that fact.

So, thank you kind sir, for showing me how awesome I am.

Here’s our friend the heron!

He (I am basing his gender on absolutely nothing at all, but in my mind, it’s a boy) was so beautiful and regal. We also got to see him (again, I am only assuming it was the same bird, for all I know, it was not) taking a bath this week. He’s completely calm, even though we are just standing there staring at him. Love it.

Hope you’re doing well, and enjoying this lovely early summer weather. Don’t let anyone knock you down off your pedestal of awesomeness.

Posted in Health, Self Acceptance, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Out with the old.

This past weekend, we decided it was time to clean out the closets at our house. This may not seem like a noteworthy event, but really, it was for me.

Each time I opened my closet door, it was a little more disheveled, a little more stressful. I was just piling things on top of unused things, on top of things that don’t fit. There were a few things in there that I actually do want to wear, so it was time to sort it all out, so that I could dress myself in the mornings. Since I’ve been practicing this radical self acceptance stuff, and loving my body JUST the way it is…I’ve realized that I might not need to hang on to some of those old clothes anymore. When I first started exercising, and eating a more satisfying diet, weight was just falling off of me. That was about 7 years ago now, and since that time, I’ve seen my body down about 50 pounds from where it is now, and I’ve seen it back up, and every where in between. Weight is something left to another post, but the point here is that I had clothes that fit all of these sizes. When I was over-exercising and eating about half as many calories as I need, I was down to my lowest weight as an adult. Of course I needed new clothes, these ones just didn’t fit anymore. Unfortunately, since that brief window of time was so fleeting – due to the fact that the lifestyle I was leading was completely not sustainable – I had a bunch of stuff that was way too small for my body.

When I lost weight initially, years ago, I immediately tossed all of my ‘fat clothes’. I thought it would motivate me to ‘stay thin’. It felt like quite an accomplishment, donating all of my bigger clothes, and buying lots of smaller ones. I felt like I ‘deserved’ nicer clothes than I previously wore, when I was a smaller person, I could shop at the really nice stores, so obviously thinner people deserve to have better things (sad, sad logic in my brain). I even got to a point where every time I went shopping, I’d just buy the next size down, because I kept shrinking. It was a way to reward myself as well. Once I got to a certain weight, I could buy myself whatever I wanted because I deserved it.  I figured if I no longer had clothes that would fit a bigger me, I would never ‘let myself’ become a bigger me. Boy, was that a horrible plan. My sense of self, health, and weight were all out of whack, and my size was my biggest concern. So, the minute I gained some weight, I tried to use my old motivational tool, my clothes. I had jeans that were too small for me, and I put them out, on display in my room, with a note to self “these will fit you some day”. At the time, I was proud of my willpower. Now when I think of this, I shudder. How much  ‘motivation’ is it to look at an impossible, and stringent standard you are setting for yourself? I did eventually lose enough weight to fit into those pants. I wore them one time, and after I had lunch, I thought they would rip apart at the seams. Yet, I held onto them. I had those pants for about 6 years. It was not until this past weekend that I felt ready to let them go. I had a closet full of those types of things. I had a dress I bought on sale about 5 years ago, and I’ve never been able to put it on. But I remember standing in my room, week after week, weigh-in after weigh-in, trying it on, not being able to zipper it, and feeling ashamed. Again, until this weekend, I was not ready to let it go. I was holding on to the big dream of finding a way to sustain a huge weight loss, one that my body has shown me time and time again, that it is not able or willing to sustain.

As I pulled all of these memories, these impossible standards, and wasted money out of my closet, I felt sad. I felt sad that I had to get rid of brand new clothes I hadn’t ever even worn, and I felt sad that I had forced myself to hang on to them this long. I also felt sad that I had donated all of my ‘fat’ clothes, because a lot of them would still fit me now. But most notably, I felt sad that I was making peace with the fact that I may never be that small again. The type-A, controlling and worrying part of me told me that I was using this as an excuse to slack off, to not push myself, and that if I really wanted to, I’d be able to wear those things again. I cried a lot while filling up those bags for Goodwill. I was donating them a large (read: more than half) portion of my wardrobe, but I was also donating them a part of me. And it’s a hard part to give up. It hurt. It hurt to say goodbye to the girl who got praised for losing weight every single time she went home. It hurt to reacquaint myself with the larger clothes in my wardrobe, it reeked of defeat. I felt a great cleansing, and a relief, but I also felt like a failure.

Michael was working on his closet at the same time, and he watched me get upset, and listened to me explain how hard this process was for me. He has seen me at my skinniest, and he still loves me now, just as I am. But there is a part of me that still fears that he wishes I was that thin girl. The girl who worked herself so hard that she got to be as small as she was 12 years ago, who refused to eat her favorite foods, and spent 3 hours a day doing intense exercise. I don’t want him to wake up one day and be disappointed. This is me talking though, not him. He has never said that his love was conditional on my appearance, that’s just my own demons talking. There are just memories of all the compliments and encouragement that I got when I was losing weight, so I guess in  my mind that means he found me more attractive then. But I’m so much happier now, and I’m accepting my body, and loving it fully, and still eating great, and working out a lot. I’m just this size, not that size. I’d like to think that despite size, my attitude and happiness would be more attractive now than the completely taken over with obsession, calorie counting, exercisaholic?

So I packed up the bags. The clothes I spent all my hard earned money on, and I took a look at what remained. Options remained. There are things for me to wear, and there aren’t actually any less things than before. I was holding on to so much stuff that I didn’t need, and I let it go. So all that remains is what I need. Just like in life, my closet is now refreshed, and I can choose from things that suit me, and that fit me. I don’t have any reminders of body hatred, shame, or desperation in the form of silk dresses staring back at me. It’s freeing, but still somewhat sad. I know that I need to continue to fill my closet with options for my person now. Not the way I thought I wanted to look, or the weight I wanted to lose. That’s just telling myself that I’m not okay right now, just the way I am. If I lose weight, or if I gain weight, I can buy clothes to suit me then. But for now, I’m this size, and my body wants clothes that fit it. I will be taking the rest to Goodwill this week. I’ve watched myself evolve over the last 7 years, from thinner to heavier, from sadder to happier, from ashamed to accepting…and it’s been a good ride. I’m happy with where I am now, and it feels really good to not have daily reminders of what I can’t wear in my closet. I have options.

I choose the option to surround myself with choices that make me feel good and pretty. I also choose the option to allow myself to live my life freely, openly, and happily. I am excited about these new options, and also, about getting a few new things to fill up my closet, and the good stuff too. Not the ‘someday when I lose weight, I can wear this!…’ stuff.

Posted in Health, Mental Health, Self Acceptance | 4 Comments

Hooping fun!

My first home made hoop, a little tattered, but works like a charm!

As I’ve mentioned before, I aim for incorporating fun exercise into my life as much as possible. If I enjoy doing something, I’m much more likely to keep doing it, both for fun, and for my health. This has lead my workout schedule to veer further away from time logged in the gym to more time outside, riding bikes, running, and more time doing yoga. It also includes more hula hooping! A few weeks ago, I dragged my old hula hoop out of storage, and took it for a spin. It brought back so many memories that I haven’t stopped thinking about hooping since.

My history with hooping started about 4 years ago. A good friend of mine told me that she had picked up the activity recently, and that she was planning on making her own hoops. I was intrigued, I didn’t know anyone over the age of 7 actually did this….and I certainly wasn’t sure it was something that interested me. Soon after, we went out one night and she brought her hoops…which she made me try…outside…in front of strangers. At the time, I was highly annoyed, because I felt like an idiot, but as the hoop just kept falling to the ground, I became more and more determined to make it work. About a week later, she gave me my very own hula hoop that she had made. I set to decorating it, making it my own, and teaching myself how to master this skill. It certainly looked so fluid and natural for her to do, so I kept at it, and eventually, the hoop started falling to the ground less often. And you know what? It was fun! So fun. I completely loved it. We would stay outside for hours at a time, listening to music, and just hooping the summer away. We learned some tricks, and caught the attention of plenty of onlookers. She started an online group for hooping and we began having weekly practice sessions, and even held a workshop at one point. It was a great little community, lots of support and fun. I even got up the guts to try spinning the fire hoop of hers a few times, what an adrenaline rush!!

Unfortunately, when I moved into the city, there weren’t any spots at our house where I felt like I could hoop. Near our house, there is our parking lot, but that’s it. The only thing preventing that from working is that I’d rather be in grass, because the tape gets all scratched up if you continually drop it on pavement. Also, a slight concern about all of our neighbors staring at me…but that’s my own problem to get over. We also have a park reasonably close, and I could easily go there, but for some reason (even more anxiety about strangers watching me, a lot more strangers?) I don’t ever feel up to doing that. So the wonderful hoop went into our storage unit and sat sad, lonely, and not fulfilling it’s twirling destiny. Until now! I felt inspired to pick it up last time we were there, and as soon as I used it, it all came rushing back. Feelings of fun, freedom and summer. There are some sad feelings as well, as that friend of mine has since passed away, but it feels good to remember her in this way. I think a big part of me misses my partner in crime, and would love to have someone to hang out with at the park, to practice with and make a fool of myself with.

Another thing I love about hooping is that it’s a great core workout, but it does not feel like it, at all, because it’s so much fun. I’ve heard many people tell me how many calories it burns, and blah blah blah, but I let all that go. It’s really just about having fun. It’s powerful too, in a quiet way, like a moving meditation. I have seen several local yoga studios holding hooping workshops recently, and it’s so exciting, to be able to share in this awesome thing with a community that I’m already a part of! These two things really go quite well together. A lot of awareness that is built through yoga is transferable to tuning into and twirling an energetic circle around your person.

Since dusting the old gal off, I went and bought my own hoop supplies. I made them all, with help from some assistants, and was even able to share them with friends of ours. We spent a lovely day, testing them out, and sitting in the shade decorating them. I have a few left, undecorated, and I ordered some really fantastic tapes from Identi-tape. I can’t wait to see what I can do with them. I plan on keeping a couple, and maybe trying to sell the last few. If I end up finding a way to sell a couple and it makes sense, I’ll keep going, and selling more.

When I used to tell people about hooping, they would laugh it off and make jokes about the circus, but it has become much more popular lately. “Fitness hoops” are being sold all over the place, and performers are using them more and more as well. It doesn’t even phase me anymore to see people at concerts, festivals, or on TV using their hoops. My next challenges are to get over it, and just use my beat up hoop in our parking lot, neighbors judgment be damned; try to sell a few;  get Michael to join me in the hooping revolution. Get it? Revolution?! HA!

Have you tried hula hooping since you were a kid? Do you love it?? If not, I highly recommend that you go try it, post-haste. And not the little kid kind, they are way too light and small for an adult, you need the big kid kind, which you can find all over the internet, at some sporting goods stores or you can make your own [maybe I’ll even take some pictures of the whole process next time I do it, but I’m sure you can find those online as well, already!]. You can come hoop with me at the park, it will be worlds of fun. Worlds.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

From overweight to overwhelmed.

Not the health predicting machine.

I am a subscriber to an awesome blog called zen habits. More often than not, there are topics discussed that really interest me and are relevant to my life, hence my subscription. As is to be expected, occasionally there are posts that don’t really hit home with me, and I just take them in stride. There was a new post on Friday, which was entitled: “Get Started: From Overweight to Healthy”. This was the first time that I saw a post that not only didn’t really mesh with my personal beliefs, but also upset me a bit.

I saw the title and closed the e-mail. I sat quietly, and felt frustrated. I examined why it bothered me:

  • Normally, this blog resonates with a lot of things that are important to me: minimalist living, healthy eating, working out in innovative ways, traveling, doing less, enjoying life more, non-consumerism. All good stuff. But to me, this post was against what I am working hard to share with people. Maybe I felt like it was somehow an attack against me and my beliefs (I know it is not, but first reaction comes across that way sometimes).
  • It’s presumptuous. It assumes that overweight people are unhealthy, just because they are overweight. This is not true, and usually zen habits is a very open minded blog, so this caught me off guard. Leo has described before his personal struggles with health, and smoking, and a sedentary/junk food filled lifestyle. But to me, this is going far beyond that and making assumptions about others that are not anyone’s to make.
  • That blog has hundreds of thousands of followers, where as I have like, 3. His reach extends far beyond mine, and the message he is spreading is going to reach tons of people, where as mine might reach a handful. This makes me feel frustrated that those of us trying to talk about health at every size are being far outnumbered by those spreading around this stuff.

Basically, I feel like a crap load of people are going to get smacked upside the inbox with yet another reminder that they are perceived as unhealthy, when in reality they might be perfectly fine. I can totally appreciate the sentiment behind what he was going for here. Help people see small ways in which they can improve their health. Great idea! There are probably a lot of ‘unhealthy’ people who could benefit from this post. BUT: I think it was a gross oversight to go at it from this stand point. There are TONS of overweight people (most of the ones I know) that perceive themselves as unhealthy even if they are not. This perception is based solely on the fact that they are overweight. Unfortunately, we beat this so far into people’s whole being that they don’t know that weight and health are not the same thing. I am overweight. I am healthy. A real  brain teaser, I know.

So, after I sat with this topic for a bit, I actually went back and opened the e-mail. I hoped that it would not be as condescending and presumptuous as the title implied it to be. Unfortunately, it was. Again, I felt so sad upon reading the whole thing because I LOVE Zen Habits. I am sure the best intentions went into this post, but I just think that it’s damaging. I always like to assume the best, and I’m sure he meant nothing harmful here. Based on numbers alone, even if only a small percentage of the people who read it believe that what he is implying (that weight = health), then it’s dangerous. Our culture already has a really tough time differentiating between the two, and the more things like this that go out to unassuming people, the further we will imply that this myth is a reality.

There ARE overweight people who are unhealthy. BUT, there are also normal weight and underweight people who are also unhealthy. In the same light, there are people of all sizes who are in fact healthy. It has nothing to do with how much you weigh. I can argue this until I’m blue in the face, but there will always be people who don’t understand this so I am letting it go for now. I can speak from personal experience though. I have been the person who is a normal weight, and I was nowhere near as healthy as I am now. I have been the person who was overweight and unhealthy. My eating, drinking, and workout habits have all changed, and my health has improved while my weight stays about the same.

So, to just take a tiny glimpse into the offerings of this post, without re-hashing the whole thing here (you can click the link and read it if you’d like), here are some of the parts that stand out to me that I would change to make it more accessible to anyone who is interested in improving their health.

First, I’d change the title to “Get Started: From Unhealthy to Healthy” or maybe something less awkward, but similar train of thought.

The beginning starts off by saying that all you have to do to start is make a tiny change, and that being overweight doesn’t feel good. I’d like to think that what he really means to say is that if you’re eating junk and not moving your body, sometimes that doesn’t feel good. Being overweight doesn’t automatically make you feel gross or unhealthy. If you are eating what your body needs, and you are getting some movement that you love, you probably feel pretty good.

The next 2 paragraphs are what really made me sad. He goes on to say that it’s usually a situation of denial. People think they are healthier than they are, when in reality, being overweight is making them hate themselves and their lives.  He explains that he’s for positive self image and disregarding the media’s portrayal of beauty, EXCEPT in this case, because being overweight is actually putting you at health risks. Except that it’s not really. Being overweight alone is not putting you at any health risks. Being unhealthy and having risk factors in your health history/lifestyle may put you in that category, but not being overweight.

This strikes me as really close minded: “But how do you start getting healthier and fitter? How do you change a whole slew of habits, from eating too much to eating fried and sweet and fatty foods to drinking sodas and sweet coffee drinks to being sedentary?” Again, this makes the assumption that because you are overweight you lazy, and eating and drinking crap. So frustrating! I don’t eat too much, I don’t eat a diet solely of fried/sweet/fatty foods and soda. I am also far from sedentary.

From here, he offers his gentle guidance on how to take some small steps toward health. I appreciate where he’s coming from. He offers some easy changes, ones we’ve all heard before, but changes that we can each implement. No big deal.

The thing is, I already do all of these things, and more. And so do plenty of other overweight people. Guess what? We’re perfectly healthy. Here are summaries of the changes he recommends (and my thoughts on each):

1. Eat more veggies. – Yup, definitely eat plenty of veggies, ate plenty when I was a vegetarian, ate plenty when I was a vegan, and eat plenty now. My weight has not changed and my health hasn’t actually changed much either dependent on my veggie intake. What has changed is how I feel in my body, but that is all. Not health, not weight. I think eating veggies is great, if you like them. If you don’t, eat what you like. Your body knows what it needs, and the more you ignore your body, the further you are from true health.

2. Walk.  – Mmmhmmm. I definitely do a lot of walking. And running, and biking, and yoga, and weight training, and hula hooping, and anything else that I enjoy. I cannot advocate exercise enough, as it keeps me sane and helps me sleep at night, as well as fighting off depression and anxiety. If you don’t get any exercise, definitely try walking. The fresh air alone is great. Maybe that’s not for you though. If you can find some sort of movement that makes you feel good, or helps you blow off some steam, I’d stick with that. I have definitely been down the road of exercising my butt off for 3 hours a day, every day, no exercise at all, and everything in between. When I don’t work out, I don’t feel good physically or mentally. When I work out too much, I don’t feel good physically or mentally. When I get about 45-120 minutes per day of exercise, I feel pretty good.

3. Drink water. – I definitely drink my share of water. I carry my water bottle with me everywhere, and typically drink 64-128 oz. a day. Your body needs water, and you will get sick if you don’t drink it. You have systems inside that require it for breaking down food, and for staying alive. The more activity I partake in, the more water my body craves.

4. Get rid of the junk. – Of course. I should give up my candy bar and potato chip diet. That’s the secret! The junkiest food we have in our house right now is probably a thing of chocolate syrup in the fridge. But when I crave something, I eat it. I’ve lived in a world where I deprived myself of foods I liked, and it was not pleasant. I may have been a couple of pounds lighter, but living in deprivation is not worth it. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. There are foods I personally avoid, because I don’t like the way they are made or make me feel, but on occasion, I still crave them, and I eat them. Again, listen to your body. It knows what it needs. If you aren’t used to this, at first it can look like “pizza brownies burgers ice cream candy pizza chips chocolate pasta cookies…” or even weight gain. But it evens out. Your body will eventually start to feel and perform in a not so optimal way, and you will crave some fruit or veggies or whatever your body thinks will help clear out the system. But you have to listen to it, really, listen.

His post finishes with:
“You’re on the road to healthy.”

I’m already a resident of healthy-town. I’ve lived here for a while now, and I feel sad when I see people wandering off the trail towards deprivation forest, or misleading valley. I am standing on top of the hill, waving a ‘welcome’ sign, but people keep getting lost. I know that there are lots of people who already are healthy, and are letting themselves feel like they aren’t, just because they don’t fit within some ridiculous height/weight body mass index scale.

If you’re unhealthy, and you want to find your way to healthy, those tips are a great starting point. If you are already healthy but are over or under weight, learning to love yourself, and see that body weight is not an indicator of health is a great starting point.

I didn’t write this post to make myself feel right, or to make people who believe that weight = health feel inferior or wrong. I didn’t even write it to vent (though it may come across that way), I wrote it as an alternative to that whole philosophy. To show some people that there is another way to go about this. You can live a measured and managed life, and put all of your energy into losing a little bit of weight, so you feel like you are becoming healthier. Or, you can live your life, enjoy it while you can, feed your body what it wants/needs, and do fun things for exercise without obsessing over a number. It doesn’t have to be a chore. When you don’t look at it as a to-do list, and you just incorporate things into your life that you like, you can actually enjoy your time on earth. That is my main goal. To make it to the end of my life, whenever it may be, and really smile, knowing that I had a great time. Not to look back and think about how proud I am of my dedication to fit into a smaller size of clothing. For lots of people that is a priority, but feeling good and being happy is my priority. I invite you to join me!

If you have any thoughts on the subject, this is a completely open space to share them and start a discussion.

[As I said, I did not write this to pick apart other people, just to break down that barrier of beliefs, and show another way. I appreciate receiving that same in return. Thanks!]

Posted in Health, Self Acceptance | 5 Comments

Baby Talk.

I’m NOT having any yet, but this is a really, really prominent theme in my life lately…

Gah! Even looking at this is killing me! Damn biological clock.

I never expected to be the ‘grow up and settle down with a family’ type. Even when I had serious boyfriends, if the topic of our future ever came up, I never really knew what to think. I never really felt like that time would actually arrive. The future and adulthood were things that were very abstract concepts to me until just about now. I somehow woke up one day amidst bills, a job, responsibilities, debt, and people questioning me about my plans. Where did I take this turn? Is it too late to go back to having my largest concern be how I’m going to get a project done for art class when I have to work tonight? Things were much easier then…but of course, that didn’t last. Fresh out of college, I still didn’t truly want marriage or children. I wanted a relationship, and on some level, there was an urge to settle down, but I didn’t know what that would look like.

After moving hundreds of miles away from home, there was a new start. Eventually, I met Michael. We became friends quickly, and it evolved into a serious relationship without hesitation. Suddenly, I found myself engulfed in wonder about our future, about marriage, babies, houses, diapers, feedings, honeymoons and our happiness. How did this happen?! I felt this uncontrollable urge to start popping out babies left and right, and it came out of nowhere (you’re welcome for the visual). I knew on some level that it was my biology, telling me it’s time to get to reproducing, before it’s not an option. We’re built to make more of us, it’s evolution at it’s finest. I know this. Yet, every single time I see a baby, my heart swells to ten times it’s size, and I start to tear up, wondering when my turn will be. When will I hold a tiny precious form of life made in my image, looking innocently up to me as it’s guide in this world? Is it only evolution, or do I actually want to settle down now that I’m all grown up?

I never really pictured myself with kids. Maybe it was because I didn’t think I’d be good at it, or because I wanted to be selfish and just enjoy my own life, without taking care of anyone else. Maybe I never even loved myself enough to imagine that someone else would love me and want a family with me. I’m not sure. But now, I’m with Michael. We’re engaged, we’re getting married, and I’m 30. In theory, there could be 20 years left of baby making ability in my body; there could also only be 5 or none at all. Who’s to know? I don’t think it’s something I want to put off figuring out though. Even if we adopt, I don’t want to wait forever. How is this decision made? I think that being surrounded by friends who are all seemingly having babies, that they always knew they wanted, right now is influencing me greatly. Tiny little hands and feet, and stories of how wonderful and glowing motherhood is.  Along with stories of insomnia, non-stop crying, and general stress. When I’m around children who are sweet and lovely and polite, I’m so quick to want that. When we are around strangers and their kids are a tornado of chaos and screaming, I retract my quick decision, and wonder what I actually want. I know plenty of people who have opted out of having kids, and are happy with this choice. I also know plenty of people who did not have kids and are not happy with this, but have learned to deal with it. Similarly, lots of people I know with kids are not happy, and seem like it’s a constant unwanted burden. However, most of them are delighted, and kids have completely changed their lives for the better.

My mother had me when she was 20. TWENTY! I cannot grasp that at all, but I certainly wasn’t a planned event on my mother’s map. I always felt like my mom had me too early, and wasn’t ready. I spent a seriously large chunk of my childhood with my grandparents. They were wonderful, and I’m so thankful I had them all around and that they were willing to take care of me. My mom married my step-father when I was 10. When I was 12 and then 16, I finally got some brothers. Being an only child wasn’t awful…but it was lonely. When the older of my 2 brothers came along, it completely changed my life. Being 12, I was old enough to handle some of the responsibility that comes with a baby (lucky for my mom). I watched him sleep, I held him close, and I looked after him as if he was my own child. I remember being completely enamored with every single thing he did. I am sure that if I had my own children, it would be the same way. I also remember clearly the stress of a toddler, ruining things, crying, throwing tantrums, not listening, and being a kid. While this is to be expected, it is a lot. I was there as he got older, went to school, made friends, became way too cool and is now graduating high school. It’s really been hard for me to watch him grow up, and I wonder if I can handle the sadness of my own children doing the same thing. I remember my parents not spending any time together alone for years after this…that’s a long time, and a huge sacrifice. There are separate issues there, but really, it seems like most people give up a huge chunk of their lives in order to have kids. The last few years I thought that I was really ready and willing to do that, but as the time comes closer, I can’t say that with certainty.

Then I start to worry about practical things. Would I be able to have a home birth? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t breastfeed, or if I have PPD? What if I accidentally pass on some lingering bits of self-hate, or body obsession? What if I pass on some of my crazy to my baby? What if something goes wrong and I have a child that is not healthy? What if we have a child, and it’s just so stressful that it breaks me, or breaks us apart? What if it’s amazing, and so heart-achingly beautiful that it changes my life in such a profound way that I truly find bliss? What if having a family completes me in a way I never thought possible? What if I fail at being a mother?

These are really hard questions, and I honestly don’t know how to answer them. Michael thinks that we’ll be okay either way. If we have kids, great. If we don’t, that’s great too. No matter what, we had decided early on, kids weren’t in the cards until 2013…but that is becoming much more real now, even though I’m still reminded ‘it’s not time’ when I bring it up.  I am notoriously bad at decisions. If I have to choose between dinners at a restaurant, it’s a 20 minute ordeal of stress. How in the world can I make a decision like this one? It seems like either choice I make has great chance for happiness, with some regret. I guess I have to follow my heart, and figure out which one comes with more of chance of happiness, and less regret; also I should learn how to tell my heart from my uterus. Perhaps a basic body diagram could help me here.I always thought I’d ‘just know’. But I don’t. I don’t know, and when I think about it, I feel anxious, and nervous, and weepy. Maybe I’m just destined to have lots of cats.

How do you know? Really, how does anyone figure this stuff out, I really want to hear from people about why they chose to/not to have kids.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Sadness for my country.

Is this what freedom looks like? Headstones?

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, Michael exclaimed “Osama Bin Laden is dead!” (not in an excited way, just surprised). I was not sure how to process this information. I sat awake for a few minutes, while feelings of sadness, relief, loss, grief, and worry washed over me. The last thing I remember thinking was “Oh my. I bet everyone is celebrating and flaunting this, and that terrifies me.”.

When I got to work this morning, the information was still swimming around in my head. No one said anything about the situation, so I went about my morning. As I eventually got around to glancing at my Facebook and Twitter feeds, my stomach started to tighten. Not surprisingly, people were celebrating. Everyone was jumping up and down with joy, proclaiming pride in their country, waving flags, and telling the world how we’re #1. And I felt like I was going to vomit.

I know that the attacks on our country almost 10 years ago were devastating. I am very well aware of the impact that they had on us as a nation, and as human beings, and I will never forget that morning, where I was, and how overwhelmed I felt. I know so many people’s lives were completely shattered that day. I am also aware of the militaristic viewpoint that Osama Bin Laden ‘needed’ to be killed, and that he has been hiding from this fate for years now. So, we found the man, we killed him. “Mission accomplished”. Regardless of what actions he may have or may not have taken against our country, this man is another man. WE are all the SAME. For those of you who are religious or believe in a higher power, isn’t it “God” who is the one that does the sorting out, the judging, the deciding of who gets to live and/or make it into heaven? We have all be placed on this planet together, and it is my understanding that it wasn’t so that we could kill each other. We are involved in so many wars, and fights, and violent battles with so many other people right now…how does it make sense to celebrate more blood shed? We do it anyway, I know. Everyone wants power, everyone wants to feel like they have control. Human beings are ego driven, and we all want to rule the world. It is not ours to rule.

All I could muster the thoughts to say this morning was “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. If we kill them for killing us, why would they not just turn around and kill us some more? And so on and so on. I am terrified, to my very core, that by seeing our celebrations of this event, that they will be as taken aback as we were when we saw them cheering in the streets after 9/11. What will happen then? Will they just take it in stride, chalking it up to America being the superior country, or will they do what we did, and spend the next 10 years seeking revenge? I am afraid to find out. I am afraid to bring children into this world, and to have them find out.

We are all struggling right now. Our planet is changing, the weather is changing, human beings are changing. Violence does not seem to be changing, and yet we think it’s the answer. Has violence and killing gotten us all to a happier place this far? Maybe we should try something new? So we killed one man who is responsible for some really bad things. Does that make history re-write itself? Does that make the bad things go away? Does it in ANY way prevent this from happening again? The circumstances that brought about the hatred, the attacks, the anger and the willingness to kill are all still in tact. We did not destroy the hatred. We did not go back and give these people their lives back. We did not heal the suffering, the grieving, or the pain that everyone in this country felt when we were attacked. All we did was inflict that upon another country. Best case, we managed to give some Americans closure, and we sure helped our current political office look like heroes. Worst case, we poked the angry bear, and we can only sit back and wait to see what happens next.

Our military did their job, and I don’t blame them in any way. Our President did his job, and I don’t blame him either. I don’t blame anyone, but I do feel a great sense of loss, and sadness. To watch everyone talk about how proud they are of their country for killing a man, who has a lot of children that very well might grow up to come back at us full force, that just baffles me.

The other night we watched a TED talk on security. I thought of it almost instantly this morning, and how relevant I feel it is to what is going on. In the video, Bruce Schneier talks about perceived security versus actual security. In my opinion, the act of killing Bin Laden is a way to make us feel secure, when in reality, we are no more secure. The things that actually would make us more secure would not make us feel more secure, so they go unreported. I highly encourage everyone to watch this video, it’s a good one.

We are ALL human beings, and until we can step back, and get some damn perspective on that, then we are screwed. If we keep seeing the other countries and other people as “them”, and thinking they are our enemies, this will never end. There is enough room, and power, and resources for all of us to get along. Hell, think of just how many of those precious resources we could be saving if we were working together instead of being at war. We are all the same. Those people were raised differently than we were, but we’re all still people. Together, on this planet, fighting the same fight, never giving up on killing each other.

What if, just what if, we used all that energy/money/effort/planning to figure out a way to make the planet better, healthier and more sustainable for our children? That sounds like something I could get behind, and be cheering about. Why is this so impossible? Why are we so hell bent on destruction? I am in no way saying what they did, or what we did was wrong. It is not my place to judge. I just wish we could get some perspective, and think about what we are doing, what we are teaching, and what we are leaving for our children.

[I’m sure many of my friends and family are disgusted with me and my lack of “patriotism”, but I honestly don’t care. I think that someone needs to talk about this stuff, and if it costs me friends, then they aren’t good friends anyway.]

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments