Mind Over Muscle

She is a woman. She has muscles. Well. She does. And she loves the way they feel; the independence, the control, and  the way her clothes fit in just about anything. But she compares herself to others because she just can’t help it. She tries to learn to appreciate and admire what another woman’s mind and body has enabled them to achieve. But she is a woman. Just like you.

 Sadly, and much too often, women get criticized for their muscular, athletic form just as much as they get criticized for being too skinny or overweight. And by other women.

 We want to be strong, we want to be equals, and achieve greater things; we want to empower and inspire, not feel overpowered and controlled, yet we fear the lines that appear in just the right light; the lines that trace the outside of a muscle. We scowl at the hardness that wraps itself around the female form, and we critique the roundness of a woman’s shoulders or the thickness of her back. And by doing so, we unknowingly are the first to give up on ourselves. Don’t you think? 

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Ever heard of mind- muscle connection? Well, behind those striations, lines, and muscle fullness, is a mind that has so powerfully exhibited such control and strength over many hours, days, months and even years, were spent connecting to and overpowering a resisting muscle; a force.

 And yet you still truly have no idea what’s behind that body; those muscles.

 That skin she’s in.

 You don’t know what’s behind the fullness of the light if it shines too brightly. You don’t know if at one time it was dimmed, or if it just blew out completely. And just like the pain you feel behind your skin, she may be feeling the same. She may have muscles and you may not like them, but guess what?

 You both have a blanket of skin wrapped around that body to allow you to endure challenges and obstacles that have, unwillingly, got in your way now or at one time.

 The broad, round shoulders, the muscular back with lines that run smoothly down to meet the small of her back, legs that may not be quite like yours; may not be what you want to achieve, but that body; that body and those muscles that are covered in a sheath of beautiful skin allows her to be actively independent for at least one more day. Maybe for a lifetime.

 With her children…

Her grandchildren

Her mind, and

Her family…

She really is just like you, her muscles, her body, her skin; they have all been stretched and pulled; hurt and scathed, but never gave up on her either. Instead, it has allowed her to evolve; to feel empowered, courageous, confident, more and more, every single day. But she still struggles with her reflection. She still struggles with that shadow cast on the wall in a dim lit room. She still picks and tears herself apart, looking and searching for approval; validation. Someone to tell her she’s beautiful.

 But what does she do?

 She opens herself up for the world to pry their hungry eyes in her direction. And she waits. She waits for her mind to completely evolve; to be able to completely align itself with the strength of her body. But until then? She keeps on lifting. She keeps on running. She just keeps going.

 Because she just does.

Think Outside the Mirror

I have to be honest here. I have to look back and tell you all the truth. I haven’t been feeling like fitness anything lately. I’ve been feeling depressed, sad, and discouraged. The main reason is because I struggle to become independent and free from anxiety medication and I feel like the glimpse of hope I’ve had left me floundering. You see, I thought I had it all figured out, I was going to try to get into a program designed to help me deal with the number one fear that has taken over my life little by little. I was so excited to think that I could be free from taking Xanax. Free from the withdrawals, free from the struggle of having to fight every night against taking them. Unfortunately though, the program wasn’t accepting anyone else. It was at that moment I felt hopeless; a flood of fear and helplessness flooded over me…

Was I going to be on this medication forever? Was I really trying to be free from it completely? Yes and No. I want to regain control. I  don’t want to feel like I  have to rely on it.

Yes, since I got into exercise and nutrition, I have found an outlet; a way to cope with it, a passion; if you will, to help me heal; help me feel better. Physically and emotionally. However, I still have panic attacks. Why? Because I’m not perfect. There are some days I don’t want to eat healthy; days where I want to live in the moment with the rest of the population, days where I want to give in to the loud obnoxious flashbacks that I have of me when I was still in my twenties having fun, living life carelessly and without all this dedication and medication.  In lieu of that, I find myself pushing the limits to see how far all of that hard work at the gym as well as  the time that I take to focus on nutrition could resist the copious amounts of not so healthy food.

Some days I don’t want to work out either. I want to curl into a ball and cry my heart and soul out until I become numb.  I am mad.  I am mad because my doctor wrote me a prescription two years ago and assured me that it would be temporary. I am mad because I feel like I gave in too quickly. And now? Now I’m still taking it and I can’t seem to find a way to escape it without withdrawals. And I worry, I worry that I’m going to be lying awake one night and I’m going to need more that just the normal maximum dosage because after awhile your brain gets lazy.  Over time, the Xanax is doing all the work and soon you need more to get that relaxed feeling or to suppress what I will refer to as withdrawals. 

I love fitness. I love nutrition. But I don’t love Xanax. I don’t love medication. I want to be free. I want to live without pain and tension and stress. The truth is, the reason I’ve been away for so long, is because I was beginning to doubt the power of nutrition and exercise. I mean, here I am eating all of the right things, exercising, but when that’s all over, I still feel afraid. I still feel dependent. I feel like I’m being stifled from living my life and sharing my passion due to the medication that I feel has imprisoned me in my own mind; my own skin.

Exercise and diet is only a counterpart towards healing any ailment or disease; once you give into medicine, you have to learn to deal with the side effects. You have to learn to cope with them and they can make you more miserable, depressed and bring a sense of helplessness.

Sitting across from a doctor who is providing  you with a checklist over and over again of things that you could do to manage anxiety or any other ailment you may suffer from, makes you want to yell at the doctor and tell them that they have no idea what they are talking about. You doubt them because you have tried all of those things, and nothing seems to work. But then they’ll probably just write you another prescription….

You find yourself hovering over the computer all hours of the day; all hours of the night. Why? Because you have a huge vacancy; a huge question mark.

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 Like I said, I even started to question nutrition and exercise.  I asked myself if it was really all just a bunch of bullshit? But sitting here, with time to think, fully carb loaded, muscles still sore from my daily workouts and the tension that inflames my body,  I was given a brief moment to open my eyes and reveal a little bit of clarity. Even I still felt a tad shaken. But I could truly understand that yes, yes, diet and exercise are beneficial.  It is just the side effects of the medication that I am at war with. I am at war with medicine and doctors who don’t believe in anything but treating you with medicine.

I recently discovered the oath a doctor has to swear to, and it is to do everything you can to help the person without putting them at further risk for disease….I suffer from panic attacks, I had my first one in 2009 and didn’t get into fitness and nutrition until I was well under way to being treated with Xanax. Sure, no one put a gun to my head, and I did seek out additional services to learn how to cope,  but Xanax is a powerful drug.  I’d have a panic attack and I would try to do all the breathing techniques, the relaxation techniques,  but it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing it right; I just couldn’t find a way to relax completely.  

I was once told that I need to think of it as taking medication for diabetes. Without it, I’d be “unhealthy.” But all I heard was the doctor telling me that I needed to succumb to this mental war that was going on inside my head and shut it up with medication.  

Eventually, I told my doctor that  I didn’t want to take it anymore, so she had me wean off of it as slowly as possible. However, regardless of the fact that  I was on such a small dosage to begin with (1.5 mg max per day), the withdrawals were still way too intense, and by the end of the night, I felt like I could have unzipped my own skin and took off.  I seriously felt like a real life character in a movie who was a heroin addict. More defeat. More hope was lost. I started to think what was the point of me being so hardcore into fitness and nutrition, if I am a prisoner in my own mind and body?  

So that’s the truth, now here’s reality:  

Balance isn’t just about how to find a way to make fitness and nutrition fit into your life, it’s about finding inner peace within yourself; psychologically you can’t be at odds with yourself or your physical self will still suffer. I’ve had to take a step back, just a small step, and realize that I need to get right with my psychological self so that I can be continue to reach for the unknown.  

I’ve had to realize that regardless of how much you sweat physically, or how many healthy choices you make, you cant disregard the inner self. You can be physically fit, but if you’re not mentally/psychologically fit, then you haven’t become any closer to the happiness that you deserve.  And that’s just it. I feel like I allowed myself to surrender to medical science and let it slowly stifle my inner self; my soul, my mind. I was only focused on the outside; thinking that’s what made me strong and in control, but I  continued to ignore the other counterpart that was a crucial element to this process of healing. I ignored the pain in my eyes because I only felt the ache in my heart, the ache in my lungs, and the soreness of a worked muscle.  I forgot that your outside appearance doesn’t always reveal the true self; your authentic self. And the night I wrote this, and the tear scratched out the ink on the paper that I had originally wrote this on, I sensed a glimpse of clarity.

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I believed that I had to become more aware and respect that my mind needs to be trained just like I trained my body. They were one unit, working as a whole, and  I had to learn to sweat emotionally not just physically.  After all, I know that I can’t beat myself up for giving into medicine, I was in a desperate moment and thought that medication was the best, but for now, I have been doing a lot of research about the correlation between anxiety/moods/energy levels and nutrition. As a result, I have been focusing on eliminating grains from my diet (which I will discuss in a later blog post).  

And just in case you’re wondering…

I am trying really, really hard to stave off the withdrawals from the xanax, and I look forward to one day being able to say that I am free from the side effects, free to really just reap the benefits of what I have come to believe in over the past few years; and that of course are my two sidekicks, nutrition and exercise. And I also vow to never, ever doubt the power of nutrition and exercise. Ever again.

And I will continue to look for ways to achieve balance within myself. Mind, body, and soul. 

I will always remember that there is always room for change; if you think you’re doing everything you can to fight, you’re not. Change something. 

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Goodnight xoxo

  

It Could Just Be A Salad’s Wet Dream

I’m not a big fan of vegetables.

It’s not because I don’t like the taste of them, it’s just that they’re annoying to prepare. I try to have veggies in the refrigerator already cooked for the week, and I buy the spinach leaves that are in a plastic container (the ones in the bag wilt fasterSalad is probably the easiest thing to whip up; however, when I think of salad, my rabbit teeth normally don’t come out as quickly as I’d like them to because I was raised to believe that everything had to have some kind of condiment, and salad dressing was no exception. Go to any restaurant and they’ll usually be able to rattle off a long list of salad dressings to choose from; maybe you even have your own collection of salad dressing loitering on the door of your fridge, either way, I usually skip the salad because my option would have to be the oil and vinegar, or just vinegar if I’m watching my fat intake, and that just does not sound very salad worthy. However, irony beckons when I catch myself grabbing spinach leaves by the handful (yes, I just wrote handful) and shoving them in my mouth like they were cookies.

One salad dressing that can get me in the right mood for a nice salad is Balsamic Vinaigrette.
You could make your own with some brown sugar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and a few other ingredients; there are a few variations to use. However, if you’re watching calories, sugar or fat, or sodium intake, this could actually be a major buzz kill to not your salad, but to your body.

I always say that if I’m going to consume sugar, fat, carbs, or sodium, it better be in the form of an actual meal not just something to decorate it with, and for those who prefer to go au natural and aren’t too worried about calories, by all means, go for it.

So what balsamic vinaigrette do I use when on the rare occasion I want to actually sit down and eat a salad?

Well, I have made my own, or my husband will make a salad dressing without sugar or mustard using spices like, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, basil, oregano, cayenne pepper, and a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but if I’m in the mood for something that mimics the thickness of a balsamic vinaigrette, I use, Maple Grove Farms of Vermont Sugar Free Balsamic

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[I do, however, limit the use of this product because of the sucralose <> fake sugar in it.] Can’t have it all, can we?

Walden Farms also has a Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing in their line of products as well.

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Let me start out by stating, that I love Walden Farms. No calories, No sugar, No fat, it’s like a salad’s wet dream…you know, all very exciting and stimulating until you wake up. So it has sucralose in it too. That’s not quite the problem. It’s about being smart here; the right to choose which companies you want to allow to manipulate you. And I choose Maple Grove Farms in this case damn it!!!

Quick breakdown for you:

Compared to Maple Grove it has 170 mg more sodium for the same serving size!!! (total 290 mg of sodium). And, sadly, for Walden Farms to get the product that “glammed” up for the shelves, surely that must have took a lot more planning and manufacturing than Maple Grove Farms took to get their product ready for the party. Not to mention, while Maple Farms has 10 calories in their product, that seems less complicated than something that claims to have 0 in it. You see, 10 calories will most likely be burned before I even get done chewing the lettuce that it’s wrapped itself around, but that 290 mg of sodium plus the sucralose, I might as well unbutton my pants.

It’s Not Chocolate, But….

There are so many brands that have “dressed up” their almonds by adding some flavor to them, but so far, I have failed to find one brand that doesn’t sneak in some added sugar, preservatives etc., until today. Literally, when I saw these at the store, my heart felt like it was going to jump right out onto the floor. I was going to walk away; turn my back on these suckers, but they peaked my interest. Not to mention, I could already feel my taste buds dancing on my tongue, and part of me just wanted to scoop them up, not worry about the ingredients, pay for them and scurry out of the store as though I was holding a delicious bag of assorted candies with denial leading the way… you know, be somewhat “normal” for a change? I just wanted to eat them, I mean, I’m sure I could come up with a few rationalizations… I was so excited to see that this brand actually lived up to it’s packaging label that I bought two different flavors. There were two other flavors, lemon and orange ginger, but those aren’t my thing so they got left behind in my dust.

"Tear here for more happiness and joy..." Source: packaging label

“Tear here for more happiness and joy…” Source: packaging label