I am in a great mood. Why? Because social health, that’s why. My friends are great and I love when I see them.
This week was my good friend Brian’s birthday. His awesome partner pulled together a little surprise party for him and asked me to make him a vegan, gluten free, healthy-ish cake. “SURE!” I said. “Of course!”
As I have mentioned in other forms of social media (Facebook, Instagram), Brian has been working with Super Strength Health for awhile now and he has been positively CRUSHING it with his results. A year ago he regularly drank almost a fifth of whiskey in a night, smoked at least a pack a day, and didn’t care what he ate. Now he runs a 6 minute mile, is aware of what he puts in his body, and is seeing his abs come in. He is working out most days, eating green smoothies and salads and his attitude is significantly more stoked. He credits Super Strength Health with this, which is about the biggest honor I could ask for.
I wanted to mark these stellar accomplishments with the most awesome cake I could think of. Then I found this:
This recipe was positively fantastic. It was on the healthier side (beets! avocados! hand milled flours! No refined sugar!) and was moist, fudgey and decadent. A lot of the time I make things that I think taste A-mazing, and others find them to be more health flavored, but that was not the case with this cake. It was 100% party approved!
After filling my belly with both a huge slice of this cake and a giant vat of salad, I joined in on a party wide-game of basketball. I was BAD people, very bad. And it was so, so fun. I found myself saying “Night time hangouts! So fun! I’d like to do this more often!” We shall see if that proclamation comes true. Like I said in my links list last week, it takes a damn special thing to get me out of the house post 7:00PM.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRIANNNNN!
Yeah, I am including in interview with myself on my Sunday Links List, because YOLO, you know? I am a total Fit and Feminist fangirl, and I love that Caitlin took time out of her busy schedule to interview me. This interview discusses health coaching, my eating disorder recovery, veganism, weight lifting, etc. (You know-the usual!) Check it out!
When I was 13 years old I asked my mom for 75 cents to take the bus and she called me a “never ending money vacuum”. This is one of my most prominent memories of adolescence, and is a perfect metaphor for my entire relationship with money, which is to say I don’t actually want very much in the scheme of things, but I have a deep rooted belief that it is too much to ask for. HELLO! That’s a vulnerable thing to admit in a light and funny Sunday links list.
So, I have been doing some affirmation work around money (I am worth what I ask for, I am worth what I ask for) and also trying to let money flow in and out a little more freely. (My car’s breaks have squeaked for oh, I dunno, three years or so. This morning I woke up and decided I am going to pay to fix them). I have been letting those who are close to me know about the work I am doing around money and my friend Kelly sent me this article in response. DAMN, money stuff is intense. Just reading this made me tear up, made me afraid, gave me hope. Definitely worth checking out.
In case you didn’t know, when you are vegan anyone and everyone suddenly wants to know where you get your protein. It’s a part of the diet I have learned to live with (A flippant answer like “I get it from all the dirt I eat!” always works) but this article is actually an excellent, articulate, sources-sited piece that comprehensively explains why vegans are not dying from lack of Protein. An excellent resource!
This mix included some old favorite artists, some stuff I have never heard, and about 1000% fist pumping excitement. Listen and smile.
I have never been what you might call a graceful person.
I love running, cycling, dancing, and yoga, but it takes some amount of effort for me to not fall on my ass when doing these things. (Also, there seems to be a direct correlation between how much I run and how often I’m injured. Anyone want to help me with that? SURE YOU DO.)
Despite spending years exercising until there wasn’t a single ounce of joy left in my workouts, I chronically hated my body. Some days, I donned my 24 Hour Fitness steed and thought “Am I going to have to do this every day for the rest of my life?” and the thought made me bawl. My body wasn’t “improving” the way I wanted it to, and I wasn’t getting that excited mental rush either. It seemed to me that I was the one person immune to the effects of exercise.
Luckily, my friend Ramsey started talking about CrossFit and I started Googling strength training. Before I ever lifted a barbell, I had something I hadn’t had in a long time: hope.
Strength training was the key to unlocking a lot for me. It unlocked a tangible way to measure my improvement as an athlete. (No matter how much I ran, I never really got any faster, so the mile PR was more of a mockery than a goal in my case.) It unlocked a new way to think about food and how it fueled me. It unlocked my body’s potential, both physically and aesthetically, and it unlocked something I had never had with other forms of exercise: natural talent. My big booty is built to lift.
A year into my weight training journey my body had drastically changed, and not in a way that I enjoyed. It grew and grew and grew and grew until I barely recognized myself anymore and it both startled and embarrassed me. I wanted to quit because I hated what seemed to be happening to my body as a result of weight training, but for whatever reason I decided I would wait another year. “If two years into doing this I still hate my CrossFit body, I’ll quit” I told myself, and then I kept lifting.
I am just now approaching that two-year mark and God, am I glad I waited. I love my body these days, like 96% of the time, and for a person that literally wanted to die at the thought of weight gain five years ago, I would say that is a tremendous and miraculous change. I know that this is from the result of a perspective shift (this work to reclaim a positive body image and raise my self esteem has been relentless and it has paid off) but also there’s science there. Let me explain.
I came to weight training from a background of exercise, but I actually had very little muscle (except in my calves, which have always been tremendously ripped for no apparent reason) and a fair amount of body fat. Once I started putting on muscle mass, I kind of just grew, without seeing any more definition for quite some time.
When I started lifting I was also in a process of repairing a deeply damaged relationship with food. I had consistently under eaten for many years, and when I started lifting that didn’t feel like an option any more. Once I was eating a reasonable amount for a person of my height and activity level, my body clung to calories like my life depended on it- probably because it did.
After about sixteen months of eating the food and lifting the weights things began to shift for me physically. My body seemed to trust that I would give it enough food and stopped holding onto weight in the same clingy way. (For a freaked-out former anorexic, let’s just say it was a really difficult 16 months). My metabolism started to run more efficiently, and the constant digestive troubles that I had experienced began to fade.
They say that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns on a regular basis. My experience is that this is true, but that it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Initially, I was building muscle without necessarily diminishing body fat. As I ate consistently and continued to lift heavy my metabolic engine revved and I started to burn more body fat throughout the day. Now, when I look in the mirror, I can see that. It feels great.
Weight training has taught me a lot about patience and a lot about trust.
I no longer feel like exercise doesn’t work for my body, and I no longer believe that my body is trying to betray me in some way. I have learned that I cannot lift heavier until I get my form correct. I have learned that I need to work hard, but that I don’t need to feel like I am going to die after every workout.
I learned that exercise should be about using my body for joy. I don’t do anything because I “have” to anymore. I do it because I want to, and that’s a gift to my body. The natural motivation that springs from that is my body’s gift to me.
When I started writing this article I wanted it to be a guide to strength training for beginners. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that my journey was very specific, with trainers that I trust 100% and who I go to for advice time and time and time again, even after two years. I think it’s a great idea to have a coach, or at least someone to check your form now and again (a trainer, a friend who also lifts, etc.) BUT! I understand that is not everyone’s style or within the realm of everyone’s financial scope. In the absence of trainers I highly recommend that beginners check out Nia Shanks’ website. She has workout plans, instructional videos, and LOTS of advice for people who want to start weight training. She is body positive, and super thorough. Beyond that, my trainers suggest Starting Strength by Mark Rippletoe, Stronglifts, and for Olympic lifting help (my favorite!) Catalyst Athletics has some good resources online. Get to it and good luck!
I am excited to tell you about this day of food, mostly because of my brunch. I have an ongoing, ever-present brunch date with one of my closest friends on Sundays, and I managed to document it this week for the first time ever.
But first, my smoothie: This baby is made of romaine lettuce, avocado, banana, cucumber, and raspberry. It is topped with Tasty Makes granola, because texture- it rules. A sprinkle of granola makes me feel a litttttttle less like I eat baby food on a daily basis. COOL.
After this I went to the gym and busted out five heavy sets of five back squats and a quick Tabata sprint. Do you do Tabatas? I absolutely love them, and I love the way doing them has changed the way I work out and my body. I used to run for probably an hour a day and never felt like I was looking any more toned or lean. Lifting heavy + four of the worst minutes of cardio possible changed everything.
Post Workout I had an almond milk and Vega Sport shake followed by this food at Grease Box (An All-gluten free diner!) This meal was green juice, avocado toast, salad, sauteed collard greens with gratuitous amounts of coffee and hot sauce. YUM.
Can we talk about the importance of social health? I live with my partner and also with some super tight homies, but beyond that, I work so much that my social health is often the first thing to go. If you’re having an event past 7PM, pretty much no matter how much I want to go to it, I am going to be too tired. HOW SAD IS THAT? Also, how often does that keep me from seeing my friends? Answer: a lot. And that is some bullshit, because my friends happen to be some of the most real, reflective and cool people I know. Things like this Sunday brunch date help keep me in check. Both my friend and I have super busy lives, so each week we skip the small talk and dive right in to the real deep down stuff that is happening in our lives. Basically, when I’m done I feel like I’ve had a therapy session, and that’s just about the free-est coolest and most fun way to do it. BRUNCH DATES FOR LIFE.
Dinner was tacos with kale and Beyond Meat Meatless Crumbles, plus home made heirloom tomato salsa, corn chips, and a bunch of carrots and peanut butter. This is no different from most days of life, because I’m on a taco kick lately, and I don’t expect it to go anywhere anytime soon.
Tell me about your life, your food, and your favorite taco recipe!