2015 is coming to a close and I am kind of amazed. It has been a BIG, tremendous year for me personally, and also for both of my businesses. (This blog and my health and wellness coaching practice, of course- but also my podcast and personal training business, Rise and Resist). 2015 has easily been the best year of my life, and as it draws to a close I am feeling loved, full, satisfied, and, well…tired. Very very tired! This wonderful and tremendous ride has not come without effort.
I am thinking a lot about my public responsibility as a blogger, a writer, a coach, and a positive body image advocate. Super Strength Health and Rise and Resist have both been cathartic for me, in the way that they have offered me platforms to engage in honest dialogues around my life, my food and exercise choices, my eating disorder recovery, and my politics. In working with Super Strength Health and Rise and Resist, I have gained communication with those who say my recovery has inspired them to go after theirs. I have gained relationships with people I would not otherwise know. I have gained self-confidence from watching the direct impact my words have had on others.
Most of all, through these platforms I have gained a slew of people that I feel deeply accountable to. Of course I never wish to engage in any of the destructive eating disorder behaviors that I held so dear in the past again, but I would be lying if I said that I never had body image days. That negative thoughts don’t creep into my head and that sometimes giving into diet culture doesn’t look easier than fighting to both love my body AND nourish my mind. Once you have an eating disorder, it is very easy to fall back into negative thought patterns, actions, and habits. Scarily easy, really, because the longer ED bullshit sticks around, the more embedded it is as something almost comfortable to return to. The communities I have built by blogging and podcasting have given me an army of others to aid in telling those ED urges to fuck right off. I believe I have gleaned more out of writing this blog than any single person could gain from reading it. This little community here is a gift and I don’t take it for granted. Not for one single day.
All this said, I am also thinking about boundaries.
I have shared everything on this blog, and that has invited a whole slew of who-knows-who into my inner workings. I am actually fairly comfortable with this (I always liked diary style books as a kid and dreamed of having people give enough of a shit about my thoughts to want to read my journals, too). What I am less comfortable with, is the weight of expectation I have for myself in regards to my output.
You may have noticed things are a little quieter here than they used to be. When I started Super Strength Health I was DILIGENT about blogging three times a week (personal post on Monday, recipe on Tuesday, link round up on Fridays!) and I held myself to a high standard of keeping in touch because a lot of the time my blog was the little light that kept me going. I was working a job that I hated full time and commuting about 15 hours a week. I was deeply entrenched in starting up crossfit and loving to lift but HATING the way my body was changing as a result. I was dealing with anxiety and depression and writing and hoping and dreaming and building Super Strength Health was what kept me feeling sane, connected, and productive when there was little else I looked forward to.
As I said, 2015 was like a domino effect of awesome. In January, I got engaged to Kett, who just so happens to be my best friend in the whole world. In February I fell in love with olympic lifting and learned to check my ego at the door. (It is pretty hard to insist on heavy lifts every time you enter the gym when you’re working with something so technical that it is absolutely necessary to start out light.) As a result of less working myself into the ground day in and day out, my body changed. It started to look how I’d always wanted it to look, and I started to change my perception of what exercise means to me. I took more rest days and my body thrived.
In March Kett and I started re-tooling a book proposal we’d had in the works in 2013, with a little more direction and a little more aim. In April I passed my personal trainer certification and started Rise and Resist Podcast with Holly, who I’d known forever and always wanted to be friends with. Not only was our podcast well received, I gained an amazing new friend and confidant in Holly, someone I have learned to trust completely in and out of the gym.
In May, I spoke at Vida Vegan Con, and met so many people I idolized that it actually made my head spin. During my talk I felt strong and confidant and happy. Like speaking about my experience could be liberating and not nerve wracking.
In August, Kett and I got married and went to Kauai for two glorious weeks of beauty and wonder. There are no words for Kauai and the impact that it had on my life. For the first time in years, I didn’t work every single day of the week. In fact, I worked NOT AT ALL. Not on Super Strength Health, not on Rise and Resist, not on our book or anything else. Instead I spent the weeks hiking, swimming, making out with my forever dude, and thinking about lifetime commitments.
In September, Kett and I were handed our very first book deal and moved from my beloved Oakland to a less beloved, but still well-liked Portland, OR. I struggled with anxiety, and depression, and feeling adrift in Oregon. I didn’t know where to work out and I didn’t know which of the new people I’d met were going to be my friends. I wanted to use blogging to fight this depression as I had in the past, but I was struck with a new guilty thought: I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say. I wasn’t struggling in eating-disorder-low-self-esteem ways, I was struggling with homesickness and listlessness, and that was nothing I thought to be harrowing or even interesting. The sadness I felt was compounded by the guilt I felt for the emptyness of my blog space.
In November this article was published in Portland Monthly, and my business exploded in literally the best way possible. Just one little write up supplied me with the kind of clients I’d always wanted to work with. Fun people. Vegan people. Queer people. Body positive people. Those who’d struggled with eating disorders in the past, and those who’d always wanted to try fitness but were too afraid. Between this and actually working on my book, something shifted in me and I grew to have moments of love for my new city. It isn’t always perfect, and it’ll never be my love for the bay, but its getting more solid each day. Portland has some great people that really do a lot to combat the cold and the rain and the grey.
So back to boundaries.
Ever since the beginning of the year when my actual life picked up speed, I have consistently had a lot of feels about my lack of complete devotion to the blog. I felt an immense gratitude and responsibility to this space, and I felt like my readers deserved regular, well thought-out, specific content. And I also felt that due to my investment in my coaching clients, my book, and my podcast, I couldn’t give it all the love it deserved. Every time I came to this conclusion, two very distinct feelings came up: guilt and shame.
Guilt and shame have been driving forces in my life in the past. Some might say that guilt and shame inspired, propagated, and prolonged my eating disorder. It has certainly instigated a shit load of depression.
Super Strength Health started out as a space to help me become a person that doesn’t live according to their guilts and their shames. I am starting to cross my own personal boundaries when it becomes a tool that puts me back in the shame space, and so, just in time for the New Year, I am starting to let go.
This space will likely always have life. For reals, this is NOT a so long or a farewell! You don’t have to worry about that.
In 2015, I spent much of my time cultivating my drive to achieve. In 2016, my primary goals are around intuition, mindfulness, and ease. That will go into effect here by way of some less frequent posting, with hopefully more inspired content. I am liberating Super Strength Health from the shackles of “shoulds”, and because my readers are cool AF, I know its gonna be okay.
Sometimes, health can be more about loosening the reigns than tightening them! I know that will always be my eternal struggle, so shifting my expectations right here right now seems like a great place to start.
So! That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. What are your 2016 goals?
In the past few weeks, I have hardcore learned that I need to spend some time cultivating my confidence. I need to go at it with a little tenacity, and I need to do it on a daily basis.
Let me explain:
Every single time I move cities, I have an adjustment period that honestly usually ends in some amount of depression. Even in the best of circumstances, starting a new life throws me for a loop, and maybe because I have grown up in a tight knit punk rock scene, a lot of my identity and happiness can be dictated by the people that I am around and what we’re all doing together. Adjustment from a place isn’t exactly my strong suit as it is, but when you add in the social aspect of moving, it becomes a whole ‘nother beast.
I had grown very confident in Oakland because I had an ironclad routine that supported the feeling of being seen and appreciated in my daily life. In the bay, I got up early and went to Grassroots Crossfit to work out with the four to five women that I saw every Monday, Wednesday and Friday without fail. When I was done I grabbed an iced coffee from Subrosa, spoke with clients, did a little work at PlantFit, pulled a second coffee shop shift to write at Timeless, then went to the Whole Foods a mile from my house. I ate at the same sushi place after hitting up the same farmer’s market every single Saturday. On Tuesdays I ran Lake Merritt. On Sundays I prepped my food for the week while listening to This American Life .
I love routine and I often support my clients in figuring out what routines might enrich their lives. But I am also aware that my emotional reliance on seeing the same people and doing the same shit day in and day out felt like a supportive blessing right up until the moment when I realized that I had no confidence without the safety of the habit. I used these routines to keep me feeling focused, stoked, on-track, and appreciated. The people I saw day in and day out learned to rely on my presence, and somehow, that made me feel like a good and productive person.
Feeling like I was reliable gave me a purpose, which, I think, gave me confidence.
But then I moved, and- dun dun dunnnn- I didn’t have a schedule.
Now what? I asked myself. Who am I when I am not doing my routine?
This was a great question, one that I didn’t have an answer for immediately. I found that arriving in Portland, I was shy. I wore pants for the first time in eight months, I didn’t drink my coffee iced, and I was kind of terrified of the many social events and cool people that I knew awaited for me. I was just getting my footing and somehow, I felt embarrassed not to have it all completely figured out the day I arrived.
I have a thing about being a regular. A regular gym goer, a regular coffee shop patron, a regular in someone’s grocery line. Of course, I wanted to find Portland versions of those activities, but more than anything I realized I needed to find ways to be confidant without those crutches.
So here’s what I did instead:
1) I fucking meditated.
If there’s one thing that kills me, it’s how mediation is kind of always the answer and never the thing that I want to do. One thing I know about confidence is that it is about deeply knowing yourself. Not deeply knowing what you DO, but deeply knowing who you ARE. I tend to pile on as much work as possible for myself. I used to think this was about scarcity issues having to do with growing up without huge amounts of cash and being self employed in uncertain times. The more I sit still, though, the more I realize that a big part of why I take on so much and go so fast is that I feel pretty uncomfortable simply sitting in silence and space. What is there to run away from? I’ve been asking as I sit. Why not spend a little time with myself?
2) I lovingly detached from the chaotic hellhole that is the Internet.
Okay. I love the Internet, and I bet you probably do too, or you wouldn’t be reading a blog. The Internet has helped me to meet a ridiculous amount of wonderful people, research all kinds of cool topics, and connect some of my ideas to action. ALL HAIL QUEEN INTERNET. That is, until queen Internet makes you feel like everything from your business to your breakfast is straight up, 100% not good enough.
With the uncertainty of a new environment, I begin to attach a lot of meaning to the fact that I identified as a writer and a blogger, and OHMYGOD I HAVEN’T BEEN BLOGGING. Holy shit did that take the creativity out of the process for me. Instead of watching what other people on social media were doing well, I decided to focus on what I thought I was crushing it at. Just a few years ago, negative body image, compulsive exercise, and fear of food was destroying my ability to have fun. Travel was out of the question, I was too exhausted to be creative, my relationships were strained and I hated myself. In the past few months I have been able to get married, enjoy myself at a ton of parties and events with food in the foreground, travel to kauai for two whole weeks without micromanaging every bite, and enjoy time in my body in a multitude of ways that didn’t have shit to do with how it looked. Being on the Internet less helped my confidence, and taking a good old fashioned selfie break helped me to value experiences I was having more than how I looked while having them.
3) I used a daily gratitude list to learn to focus on what I’m actually really stoked on.
Cultivating gratitude is like the parent to cultivating confidence. I found it very difficult to waste time feeling insecure about my lack of routine in Portland when I was really noticing the leaves start to change, how good the air felt on my runs, how awesome the meal I made tasted. Gratitude leads to all sorts of awesome new feelings popping up in my life and although I easily forget to focus on it, I love that the old habit always waits in the wings when I remember to pick it up.
4) I took some risks
Let’s be real, at this point I have been supporting myself with Super Strength Health and Rise and Resist long enough that although it IS still risky, I am quite comfortable doing it. The real risks I take in my life are honestly way more related to socializing.
Despite being somewhat extroverted I get extremely nervous in group situations and a lot of the time in Oakland that lead to me just not going out. Here in Portland I have challenged myself to very regularly go out and meet new people and holy crap has it paid off. So many vegans! So many lifters! So many feminists! (SO MANY VEGAN LIFTING FEMINISTS!!!) Forcing myself to leave my humble abode really did do wonders for my confidence, and upped the amount of people to get inspired by ten-fold. This was perhaps the hardest step I took to cultivate a little Pacific Northwestern confidence, and was also the one that was the most immediately beneficial.
So, I am hitting day fourteen of my new life up North and feeling markedly better than day 2. I would love to hear how you’ve cultivated confidence in times of transition, and how you get yourself to disconnect from the internet, meditate, leave the damn house, and go meet a friend. Love to you all!
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?