I own a mirror, in my room, for the first time in years.
It happened kind of by accident, because I moved into a room with my partner last week that just so happens to be a master bedroom that is gigantic and has a big-ass mirror mounted right on the closet door. I was kind of surprised when I saw it, and honestly a little bit dismayed.
I see myself in work out gear in gym mirrors all the time, but I hadn’t seen myself naked in front of a mirror since 2010, when I moved to California from my mirror-containing apartment in Portland, Oregon. The last time there was a mirror in my room I checked it constantly, pinching fat around my waist and holding my arms over the outer edges of my thighs to imagine what I’d look like if there was no curve there.
Because I will always be a person in recovery, no matter how good I feel, I worried that my new mirror would make me feel weird. I did not have the desire to pick myself apart while staring myself in the eyes, and I had honest concern that the urge might sneak up and overtake me. That sort of thing simply waits in the wings for me, always ready to pounce when I feel weak or overly tired.
The suspicion I felt when I saw my mirror made me remember a journal entry I wrote in my LiveJournal (yes, LiveJournal!), dated April 16th, 2013. I had been doing Crossfit for just a little under a year when I wrote this post, and my body had changed drastically. The entry reads as follows:
“I am having some real body image crap come up lately. As I’ve said, Crossfit was the thing that stopped me from being bulimic, but sometimes I feel really confused about the results of that for my body. I stopped puking and I started lifting really heavy weights, and- shocker- I gained weight. My thighs are basically giant (This is seriously not like, me being body dysmorphic. They definitely got much bigger due to muscle from lifting and eating more). I am well aware that people find my body attractive when I am more curvy, but I really feel self conscious about it, especially as a high school teacher. I feel like when I have more curves I can’t help but be seen sexually, when in reality I don’t always want that to be my M.O. Adding insult to injury, my body image really keeps me from feeling excited about myself at all and I never EVER look in a mirror. I mean face mirror, yes. Full length, no fucking way. I am sure my body is fine, but it is kind of intense to have gained at least 40 lbs. in the past few years. I am just not used to taking up that much space.”
HOW SAD IS THAT?!
Since I moved into this room with the mirror I have thought a lot about my relationship to myself both in physical and emotional ways. My capacity to acknowledge that I am a good, positive person doing good, positive things in the world has grown exponentially since 2013. The fact that I approach my life with a baseline level of self-care and self-compassion has changed how I interact with the world around me. I no longer contend with hating myself on a daily basis. I have learned to navigate my body and it’s sexuality outside of other people’s perceptions, or even numbers for the most part. I do not assume I am flawed and, what do you know, that makes my life way more enjoyable.
I do believe that choosing to avoid the mirror for a spell of time was good for me while I was doing the work to get here. I had grown so accustomed to using a mirror as both a tool of torture and a tool of validation that I needed to step away, do my best to put on clean clothes and brush my teeth and hair, and hope that the way I looked was good enough without constant spot checking. But as I ran past this entry in my old journal, I knew it wasn’t right for me to avoid the mirror anymore. I wasn’t exactly afraid of what the mirror would show me any longer anyway, and there was no use hiding from something that was right across from my new bed day in and day out.
So, I did what I had done all those years ago, in the darkest days of my sickness. I got buck fucking naked, stood in front of the mirror, and took a peak. What stood before me was something kind of amazing.
It was the body of a woman that had changed her relationship with herself through serious years of hard and consistent work.
A body that had been many weights and sizes, and showed signs of such struggles.
It was the body of someone who worked hard. At her business, on her mind, at her ability to be a partner and a friend.
It was the body of a woman that was getting really damn good at olympic lifting.
The body of a woman that looked a lot like the body of some other women I deemed really seriously important. My grandmother. My mother. My sister. This body was not the same as theirs of course, but it was very, very similar.
I have the body of a well-nourished woman.
A body that I respect.
And most of all, I have the body of my friend.
Someone that I love, and someone that I trust.
And so, with that acknowledgment, I high fived the mirror, and put my clothes back on.
Good job, body.
Thanks for baring with the process.
A lot has changed in the past few weeks. Many good, good things are on the horizon, and I am in this weird space, kind of suspended in between different phases of life. I know very soon I will have whole new surroundings (more on that below) and I am really trying to go slow and soak up what’s in front of me while I’ve got it. Transition is a truly strange thing! Honestly, it always makes me very happy and very sad at the same time.
So here’s what has gone down in the past few weeks:
1) I got my ACE personal trainer certification. HOLY SHIT did studying for that test throw me for a loop. I have had my nutrition certification for quite some time now, and my growing focus on different kinds of fitness paired with my client’s requests that I train them lead me to the conclusion that it was only logical to be trained to kick people’s asses in a consensual and structured manner. My dudefriend bought me all the text books and test vouchers I could ask for, and I set to studying, thinking the suggested six months of prep time was dumb and for people not already engaged in fitness.
I was wrong.
ANATOMY, Y’ALL. Shit is real.
Basically, within a month I realized that I may not pass, and as a type-A personality’d human with a hunger for achievement, I didn’t really react to that thought very well. It kind of surprised me to see how poorly I reacted to something not coming easily, in fact. I studied. I practice tested. I cried. I poney’d up some cash for a tutor. and then I passed. I walked out of that test room feeling like a gigantic weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and then there was….emptiness.
I know I am not the only one that feels fucking weird when a life accomplishment happens, when the subject of my focus naturally ends. After the test, there was a gigantic space where studying (and worrying) used to reside and the dip in “productivity” both confused me and threatened my sense of self. (Just like thinking I might not pass the test did. Huh. Imagine that.)
The part of my personality that needs constant achievement stimulation is something I’ll probably always have to work on, because I do not really enjoy the stress of it. What do I do when there’s nothing to do? Who am I when I am relaxing? How do I react when there is more space than busy work in my life? Existential questions for existential times, my dudes.
In the wake of all this space, I made a life decision- big change number 2)- that did not come easily and that I don’t take lightly.
Come mid-September I am leaving all that I love in Oakland, packing up my bags, and driving my life up to Portland, OR.
I am saying goodbye to my gym, which means a lot more to me than just the place where I do my fitness. I am saying goodbye to the community at PlantFit, where I’ve been training my own clients. I am saying goodbye to year round abundant local produce and farmer’s markets, my friends, my little shack, my vegan coffeeshop. It feels big and kind of heavy, but also just intriguing enough to make me move forward with the idea. I am a creature of habit, and there has never once in my life felt a perfect time to make big changes. Sometimes I just have to leap and know that the world will catch me.
Very little will change for Super Strength Health, and that’s one constant I am super grateful for. Most of my clients live remotely, so we can continue seeing one another no matter where I am, really, and I am already very excited about the people who’ve contacted me to train them in person once I arrive to the land of rain and wonderful coffee. My business will still be what it is now (maybe even better!) and I will have the added bonus of a centrally located two bedroom apartment that I can afford with just my dude (him and I have never once lived just the two of us in all our time together). Most of my best friends will be waiting for me when I arrive. I can’t micromanage every aspect of my new life (even though I want to)- but I can know that things will probably work out okay. I’m putting my best effort forward, and let’s face it- I chose a pretty cushy place to be a vegan woman who lifts.
With planning the move, my wedding (August 15th!) and my honeymoon (KAUAIIIIIIII) there is a ton of movement in my life these days. But for now? I’m just trying to be still. Let slowness overtake me. Take deep breaths of California air. Because I have often let future plans take me out of my present life, and even with cool, interesting, scary things on the horizon, right now has a ton of shit going on that I don’t want to miss.
So, that’s what’s new with me. What’s new with you?
A thought for public consideration:
The words “eat clean” don’t actually mean anything.
Like, really, nothing.
I have heard the following foods described as both dirty and clean: dairy, poultry, whole grains, fruits, nuts, nut butters, whole wheat pasta noodles, beans, smoothies, certain oils. It is annoyingly confusing for the general public to have conflicting theories on these foods- that’s just a given- but my real issue is that I actually believe that the whole idea of food cleanliness pushes people to strive for further and further food purity, which can end in a litany of pointless, boring, functionless restrictions.
Let me tell you about my 20’s. My experience was this:
I started out vegan and gluten-free because that’s what works for me both ethics wise and digestion wise. No regrets about either of those decisions.
I begin to cut back on snacking, as I had heard it prevented proper digestion.
Obviously processed and packaged foods went next, because I was trying to be healthy and I didn’t believe those were a part of a healthful diet.
I heard that soy was actually very dangerous, and I began to steer clear of it.
I started to believe that blending fruits turned nature’s bounty into candy, and that it was akin to mainlining sugar. Smoothies were out.
Whole grains became anti-nutrient rich vitamin absorption blockers.
Beans started to be considered poison.
Nuts had too many Omega 6’s, not enough Omega 3’s.
Kale caused hypothyroidism.
and- holy shit- suddenly I couldn’t eat anything. Funny how that works out.
As a person who was generally interested in nutrition, these theories flooded me, via blog posts (without citation), hash tagged pictures (#eatcleanorgohome, amiright?), magazine articles, billboards, TV commercials. There is a low hum of nutrition advice that permeates our entire culture, and if one is susceptible to suggestion or intrigue around different theories it can become very very confusing to navigate the simple act of putting some nourishing shit in our mouths.
This is not okay with me.
“Eat clean” implies judgement. It implies that other people who don’t eat this same way are doing it wrong, are ruining their health, are making poor decisions. How rude is that!?
Something else for consideration:
Many, many people are in recovery from eating disorders.
For me, at the height of my anorexia, the “nutrient” I was most deficient in was calories. I was doing the best I could to recover, but was simultaneously obsessed with eating clean, and guess what? It was really difficult to restore weight.
The smartest thing I could have done at that time was eat a damn cookie. That is literally the choice that would have been for my highest good, but what happened for me when I tried? A negative thought loop. An echo of “that cookie is ruining your health” splashing around in my brain. Guilt. Shame.
I believe that we all have a responsibility to one another to try to get rid of the culture of guilt and shame around food. Telling the phrase “eat clean” to fuck right off is a huge part of that.
Yes, I still try to eat in a way that my experience and my actual education (like not internet articles) has taught me is healthful. I get down with some vegetables. But I also get down with a processed snack now and again, because for me, the worst thing I can do for my general health is be so obsessed with eating that I cannot enjoy an indulgence.
We can all give ourselves a lot more credit and individual consideration than just going by the guidelines “eat clean”. We’re smarter than that!
Please join me in hashtagging #cleanisforunderwearnotfood on your delicious food pics, because holy shit. I think we can agree that dirty drawers are no fun, but eating is about health, lifestyle and, every once in awhile, pleasure!
No shame or guilt about it.