The Truth About Binging (My Perspective)

Binging. Many experience it. Many wait until they’re all alone before they binge. Some do it out in the open. You just can’t stop eating. And eating. And eating. And even though you’re out of control, you actually feel very much in control. 

Food is a social experience; it is at the center of social gatherings, relationships and communication.

Many have suggested binging comes after following a restricted diet for so long; denying or looking at food as “unhealthy” and No I can’t eat that or that or that….

But I don’t think that’s the entire story. I believe that because we already have an established relationship with food, when we “go on a diet” it can feel like a loss and we experience grief.

And I believe once our relationship with food is questioned or altered, it becomes one of the major battles to confront.  It impairs us mentally and emotionally.

Why?

Because food is more than just food. It’s our way to connect and forge relationships with others. It’s our way to prevent feeling like a social pariah.

And a lot of memories and experiences culminate around food. Food can bring back a memory of a loved one who has passed on, and can make us feel more connected to them.

It’s a way for us to carry our relationship with us well after they are gone.

I remember, every Sunday, my father and stepmother would take that day off from work and we’d drive an hour or so away for a fun afternoon of jet-skiing and a picnic. I yearn for those days of eating together at an old rustic picnic table, flies swarming our food, my father cracking jokes, and my family and I just laughing and spending time together before hopping back on the jet-skis.

I remember my grandmother’s delicious hamburgers every Thursday afternoon. Even when I grew older, I could always visit grandma and she’d insist on making me a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and something to eat. We would sit in the kitchen, and I would talk her ear off for hours.

Moments like those made me feel connected. When you “diet” you essentially are denying yourself a relationship and disconnecting yourself from that relationship. And I wouldn’t change anything.

If only I could have those moments back.

Just this past Thanksgiving, I broke down and cried when I tried to make a recipe of hers and it all just fell apart.

A diet, while often necessary to achieve a desired result along with exercise, is not just a restriction of food to aid in weight loss, it’s not just a caloric deficit, or cutting out carbohydrates, fats, or gluten even, it’s a break up; a detachment from memories, old and new, past and present with family, friends, laughter, and comfort.

A diet becomes a grieving process; it’s not sustainable long term because you feel isolated from friends and family, so more than likely, for the sake of reestablishing those familiar feelings and memories, you binge to find those emotions again; to try to reconnect and feel somewhat kind of “normal” again.

Binging doesn’t have to be an option. It’s a hard habit to break. I know, I’ve been there. Over and over again.

But I also know that no matter how challenging it is, it’s also not impossible. I can still create new memories that still align me with my goals, while not giving up my memories entirely with flexible dieting.

Flexible dieting is an alternative to the old standard “diet”, it’s not the solution, but it’s a much better approach from a psychological point of view.  With flexible dieting you aren’t restricting yourself from any particular food groups and therefore, allowing yourself to have more freedom and control.

With “clean eating”, the idea behind it is to eliminate processed foods, eliminate sugar, eat small meals throughout the day, and you limit or don’t allow yourself to have “junk food”.

The idea behind Flexible dieting is to get you to count macros such as carbs, proteins, and fat. It focuses on getting a nutrient based diet from whole foods, but allows you to treat everyday if you want. It makes  “dieting ” a little bit more sane, however, it’s equally as challenging from the standpoint that you still have to make sacrifices. It’s still a diet, you’re still committing the act of restricting yourself, so it still fucks with you mentally because the mind will always want what it cannot have.

Keep in mind, this approach has its challenges as well. For example, it’s impossible to not develop or hone your OCD tendencies with either approach. Counting calories, macros, weighing food, it’s impossible to NOT develop a more direct, focused relationship with food; to be more cognizant of what you would like to eat vs what you’re actually able to “fit within your macros” for the day.

But the overall objective is to develop a positive relationship with food as well as with your body.

(Because of course, micromanaging your meals when you suffer from an extremely low body image is only going to make it that more mentally destructive and damaging.)

As I said, I’m a “recovering” binge eater, so I have recently started following a macro counting approach (Again) to combat my binging and to provide more structure and accountability. The benefits of a more structured plan, after taken into account past experiences definitely outweighs the risks; mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Trying to control my body from a healthy, physical aspect, is extremely challenging and takes just as many years if not more to undo the relationship that we previously had with food while we were growing up. But I realized, binging isn’t acceptable either. Not in this society. You’re either an addict or your not. And it’s a slippery slope that anyone can stumble onto if not careful. The relationship that we have with our physical being doesn’t always align with our mental being. Binging is only going to be self destructive and following a structured approach has more potential to guide you away from the beaten path.

While you may discover some OCD behaviors, structure is sometimes what is necessary to establish so that we don’t become a menace to ourselves in the long run.

I’d also like to note that I have an extremely addictive personality, and come from a family that has suffered from addictions as well (I’ve been there at a point in my life as well) so I need some kind of “rehab” if you will….

I need structure and accountability or else I’m going to just keep binging; I’m going to keep self- destructing. I want to keep my memories, but I also want to achieve my fitness goals as well.

And I aim to achieve that by striving to establish a positive relationship with food.

Admittedly, the feelings I have of beginning a macro counting “lifestyle” again, makes me crave things that I can’t have. So you see, there is some degree of restrictiveness there. Once I hit my macros, I’m done for the night. No more food. Regardless if my stomach is growling and my mind is trying to convince me to just have a midnight snack, or an afternoon snack. But I still have my sanity. I still have my memories. I still feel connected.

I feel cranky because I’m hungry and I can’t just eat. I want to binge, I want to raid the kitchen, but I’m staying strong and telling myself this is only temporary. It’s like a detox anyone with a drug addiction or really any type of addiction goes through.

See, the training part is the easy part. You clap yourself on the back when you are able to increase your strength, run a bit faster, your mind is there. Your mind is there cheering you on and your focused ready to tackle the weight, the run; you’re driven, you’re focused, but as soon as your mind drifts over to thinking about food and, “how many macros do I have left,” it wants to fail and shut you down. It wants to tell you to just eat, it wants to make you feel weak and vulnerable. And you’ll realize you can’t stop thinking about food. You’ll eat one meal and then anxiously await your next meal.
But in the gym, when your lifting weights, your mind is ready to take on a challenge because there are no limitations , the goal is to become stronger, faster, the goal is to do MORE….NOT LESS.

But then again, it’s possible to overdo it in the gym, and I know that there are times when I should lighten the load and/or take a rest, but I don’t want to because I just want to keep pushing.

The mind is constantly playing devil’s advocate.

If you can remember that, you will succeed.

And never do something that is going to bring you down. Find a way to fight back while still allowing you the opportunity to achieve your goals while maintaining a positive relationship with food and your body.

In memory of my grandmother and father….

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What Are You Willing to Sacrifice For Your Ideal Body?

You see the toned, sleek bodies glistening with sweat at the gym, and in a selfie posted to Instagram or Facebook you wonder why you can’t look like that….and you ask over and over, “how do I look like that”.

I haven’t written a post in awhile. I guess I have just been trying to find the right words to put all these feelings and thoughts I’ve been having into a somewhat legible post. I started with the above, but then I decided that it’s just not what I want this post to be about. But everytime I try to put it into the right words, I get scared. I get scared that someone will just point out that I’m trying to defend my stance on fitness competitions and will scream “hater” or “she didn’t make it, that’s why she’s saying all of this…” but then I can’t help but feel defensive. Maybe because I made the choice to give other people power by watching their videos and reading their posts on social media sites and allowing them to make me feel like my struggle with a competition prep was merely a matter of being too weak and I couldn’t help. It was getting to me. It was becoming toxic. As a matter of fact, it was beginning to feel like everything that was once discussed between us was being used to help them “seem more real”. And I hate fake people. Ah, there I go again, letting them have power over me….

All in all, it could just be me overanalyzing and being paranoid again. So I’ll leave it alone and try to formulate a somewhat comprehendible blog post….

There seems to be this thought process that contest prep for a fitness competition is a nightmare; you are going to suffer, and it’ll break you down and force you to back down and almost quit, and if you actually do throw in the towel, then you are not strong enough. Breathe Megan, Breathee That is….mentally.

Again, deep breath …

There’s the mentality that if just striving to be fit and healthy, that’s simply not good enough. It’s just not enough if you don’t compete. You must compete to be completely relevant. But a majority of this particular “fitness culture” has become an obsession. (It’s literally can swallow you whole and spit you back out)

We spend time taking selfies that we save on our phone, filter the shit out of them a majority of the time, post them to social media that there becomes a fine line between obsession or just plain vain or desperate for attention.

Or just as easily as “all of the above”.

Then there’s this word, “sacrifice” that keeps being thrown out. What are you willing to sacrifice to get the body you want? I’ve heard it, and I’ve seen the captions along with the posts. I believe in making sacrifices to keep you from falling on your face; to achieving what you need. But when that sacrifice is just that; for what you want rather than what you need, than you have to decide what’s more important; what you want or the sacrifice you have to make, be careful what you choose….

When deciding to endure competition prep, how you fit your cardio in so it doesn’t rob time with your kids, but means you only get 4 hours versus 6 hours of sleep doesn’t really come close to being much of a sacrifice. Once you made the decision to compete, you need to be prepared to sacrifice candid moments with your kids. Yes, because you can’t turn off competition prep ; even when you’re with your kids, you’re still thinking and breathing contest prep; thinking about food, wishing you can have a bite of your kids ice cream cone, or hell just a little more oatmeal, getting anxious about getting your gym time in, your workout in, spending hours upon hours at the gym running on the same cardio machine, complaining about how “hard” contest prep is and making that the sole focus of your posts and videos on social media sites just so you can say your “just being real”.

No. The sacrifice is, trading one disorder for another one in, or just simply adding to it. The sacrifice is, giving up candid moments, living in the moment because you are now on a “schedule” that revolves around your body. And by the way, anyone who says it’s for health, is full of shit.

Oh. And apparently peanut butter. You must sacrifice peanut butter. That’s your ultimate ticket into earning the right to even use the hashtag #fitness. That hashtag alone will generate more attention than Kim Kardashian’s latest wardrobe.

Sacrifices need to be made to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, time with our children, not to achieve this insane belief that if we want whatever is considered an ideal body for this decade or screw it- month, that we need to ask ourselves what we need to sacrifice in order to achieve it. Yea, because that’s important. A ripped set of abs, with a nice ass, always hold much more weight over my sanity, my family, me, my life any day. And I’m sure if I don’t make those sacrifices and I just keep walking into restaurants or cooking up recipes that grandmother’s used to make, making memories with my children by actually being in the here and now rather than a walking space er cardio er fitness competitor cadet, I can seriously start hashtagging “nof—clue”, “eatclean” “iifymgirls” because I’m confused as to what term is acceptable in the current fitness culture that has formed. Or worse the, “do you even lift” or “do you even flexible diet” Seriously. Because lifting and counting macros are much more superior to….look at me, projecting…Damn it…it looks like I take this shit too seriously.

But I did warn you, you could never ever go back. You can never turn it off. There is no fucking switch.

Look, bottom line is,

I love lifting heavy ass shit (weights) and maybe a kid or two if I have to, and no I won’t hesitate to pick my 17 year old daughter up like a baby), finding healthier options, eating healthy, I love fitness, I love spending hours upon hours researching it, but I couldn’t find a balance. Sorry. There was no such thing as balance in my future. I had-like many do- a distorted sense of what balance actually meant.

I mean come on, we post photos and caption them with “my favorite shirt” but with the most awkward pose in an obvious attempt to draw attention on your glutes followed by the hashtag, #squats. And we’ll caption a more provocative one with a deep quote stolen from another author or just some deep thought to say what really is going on (but no one will really outright admit it): I’ll sum it up…as a woman, we hate that we have to constantly struggle to look a certain way, that the ideal image is forever evolving and we will never, can never be happy just being in our own skin regardless of what Dove’s commercial or magazine article has to say. Mirrors and pictures on social media do not lie. We are women. We must compete with one another albeit secretly and at the same time, pretend that we are ecstatic when another woman gets more attention or you think looks better than you…and you actually hate her for it…or just simply hate yourself MORE for not being her. I should know..I’m guilty of that.

We all want to be the inspiration, yet we truly can’t even remember what exactly the real meaning of “inspiration is. We create posts that don’t let in on the pain we feel deep within, we can’t let on that it all sucks and really you just want to be able to go to the gym and remember what is was to just feel proud that you made it to the gym, and you didn’t feel at odds with food or your reflection all the time. That you can just go back to the time where you were able to actually feel yourself, feel a moment aside from what is going to make or break you on this journey to a stage designed to take what’s going on in social media, live and up close.

We pretend to be positive but it shows with all our obsessive posts of plates upon plates of food or a picture showing you taking a bite of something that you may not have thought twice about since you stumbled upon the hashtag #fitness. Subconsciously it’s our attempt to detail our struggle with food or our attempt to remind those who aren’t in the game or are thinking about walking away and hanging up the shoes and competition tan, that this is the norm and it requires a great deal of mental strength. And sadly, our own mental pain is what got us here in the first place and will also be what will walk us off the path completely or just down the wrong way continuously. I should know. I did all that.

We’ll post so much to show how strong we are, when we’re probably falling apart.

We’ll have said, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I give up” s or “what am I doing this for anyway” many times At this point, you don’t even see yourself as anything more than just developed muscles and attaining an aesthetic appearance. Your self worth can become extremely jaded.

It’ll cause anxiety or stress to just go longer than a few hours without tracking our caloric intake, or if we didn’t make it to the gym to get your workout in.

But we’ll have the “Whatever it takes” attitude because we are at least feeling something. I should know. I was that person. Kinda/Sorta still am. And while I hesitantly admit to that, I will not deny the steps I had to climb just to get to that point. Hey, just keepin’ it real (wink wink)

A competition does not define me. I said before that I’m not going to allow anything to define me, but I take that back. My role of being a mother, a wife, and a woman define who I am. We are so determined to achieve this supposed ideal image that some of us overlook the entire picture.

Deciding to compete in a fitness competition has the potential to destroy relationships. Once you start losing friends and break ups begin to follow suit, you start isolating yourself away from them. After all, no one, and I mean no one understands your new life, and everyone just wants to be unhealthy anyway…

All we think about is eating. When are we going to eat next, what are we going to eat. Even when we’re eating, we’re still thinking about the next time we have to eat. It turns into an obsession.

**Side note: I hear girls all the time as they’re putting in hours on the elliptical or treadmill complain and say things like, “I just can’t wait to go back to ‘normal’; I can’t wait to just eat ___” AND that’s all they talk about.

It becomes life. 24/7. Eat, breathe, sleep. You don’t remember anything else. Well, except for #transformationtuesdays or #Throwbackthursdays when we have to demonstrate how clueless, miserable and unhealthy we were “back then” even though we’re holding a beer, a big cheesy ass smile, and some friends…everybody needs friends…sigh..

We will say we’re “taking a break” or we’re in an “off season” because after the show, we’ll struggle even more with our body image. And no matter what, it never fails, when we finally made the conscious effort to not at least prep your meals, we’ll make a mental note that we don’t look so lean, and the lines and definition from all the extra food you choked down have faded, there will always be someone who is prepping for a show and regardless if we know that it’s not possible to stay that way all the time, we can’t help but compare ourselves to her and feel guilty that we no longer look as hard and lean as we once did. And alas, continues our love/hate relationship with food…and the scale.

From personal experience, I know this. And, yes, I know not everyone out there is like me. We’re all different and motivated by different factors, but one thing is for certain, stop right away if you find yourself becoming too obsessive.

It doesn’t make us weak person if you’re miserable doing it. If you set out to do a competition, you should love it. And love/passion and obsession is NOT the same thing.

That was me. And it could be you. Could be…(just saying)

If you have anxiety or panic attacks, this isn’t going to cure you. It’s not going to fix you or reverse an eating disorder. It’s not going to fix you mentally. It just won’t. It’ll give you control, but not power. If you’re looking for help, exercise will help to some extent, but not the obsessive kind. I should know, I tried it. Exercise will release endorphins that’ll give you a boost in mood, but if you exercise too much, it will impact you negatively.

Besides, it’s not so much mental strength, it’s our hormones that screw us up and our body’s way of telling us that something is imbalanced. But we’re supposed to ignore it and just keep going…fight through it. We might just become more mentally fit for it.

Bottom line: Listen to your body before you listen to your mind or some post on social media.

At least try to. I know I am.

Finding The Road Back To Fitness

It seems so long ago. But really, it was just within the past 14 weeks that I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I had an epiphany.

One might say that, I’ve come so far. But really it was just an awakening. Euphoric and I feel like I’m in a much better place. Finally.

Finally I can focus on me. The real me. No more denying who I am. Like I said in my previous post, I will not allow myself to be defined.

And it all started like this…

Before I just did a figure competition because I thought that would make me seem raw and a lot stronger. It would make me seem like I have this anxiety down to a science, that I was the one in control. But that was all just a lie. I thought if I competed, I would be perceived as courageous and demonstrating exemplary strength, unfortunately, behind the scenes, I was breaking. I was crumbling. I was allowing it to define me. Define my self worth. I was becoming obsessed and felt as if I didn’t do it; if I ate one thing that wasn’t on the diet I was a failure. If the scale didn’t read a certain number, I was a failure; that it would just prove that I was weak; that I was what I had felt all along…nothing. I was a failure. At that point, I would allow guilt to binge at my conscience, which by now had somehow turned into my own worst enemy. In turn, I would then sabotage myself by binging and sleeping long hours. Depressed. Anxious. Guilty. Defined. Lost and confused. I couldn’t sort out which one I felt the most and which one I hated the least. I would “check out”. I would lie in bed and imagine myself not here; somewhere else. Somewhere where it would all make sense; where it would all just seem “much easier than this” but that’s just it, I didn’t even have any idea of what “this” actually was. Everyone around me seemed to be doing a fitness competition, and I couldn’t help but feel hatred and resentment. Why couldn’t that be me? Stupid anxiety I would utter all the time. I would shut down and give up. The self- hatred grew so much that I could barely see my own achievements because they never seemed enough. I never seemed good enough.

And over and over again, I set out to put myself in the most uncomfortable place again; in contest prep. It was, at that moment, what I felt I had to do to feel a sense of purpose. But deep down I wasn’t looking at it is an experience, it was becoming my ENTIRE life.

Prepping for a fitness competition only made old wounds reappear, and new ones hastily emerge….

I would go through the prep, struggling, sacrificing, sinking lower and lower, telling myself that if I didn’t do it, I was basically nothing special. But for some reason, as I went through it, the deeper involved I’d get, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I couldn’t possibly imagine going back to not counting macros on a scale; weighing my food, myself and skipping the gym, even for just one workout…the mere thought of any of that scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t be a failure again. I couldn’t just quit. For some reason, the pain and struggle made me feel alive. Not normal, not really living, just alive. And all too real. I was starting to realize that I was trading one disorder for another; I was using all of these obsessive tendencies, these unhealthy behaviors I was adapting to and clinging to, to replace the anxiety that had me feel so out of control at times. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping, it was only nurturing those toxic weeds to grow more furious and wild inside of me until I couldn’t control it anymore, in fact, I didn’t have control at all. Ever.

I forgot how to enjoy and love fitness and health and instead trapped myself in a web of self-hatred, lack of self-worth and didn’t even know where I belonged anymore.

Comparing my life to others; my worth to others, only made the anger and bitterness deepen. I spent so much time trying to conjure up an image of who I thought I could be, and instead of being proud of who I’ve become; how far I’ve come, I lost focus, and I was throwing myself into hot burning coals before the fire even had a chance to ignite.

If someone gave me a compliment, I’d thank them for the compliment, but in my mind I’d rehearse all of the things that they don’t see. Like maybe the cellulite on the back of thighs. Or that tiny little bit of fat that makes you feel self conscious in a pair of short shorts. The list may go on; it’s different for everybody. I know I’m not alone. I even found myself considering breast implants because I didn’t think I was good enough just being me.

I kept trying to walk away, but once it gets a hold of you, it’s extremely difficult to walk away; it latches on and doesn’t let go…

It wasn’t until I realized that it’s no different that any other addictive behavior; you need time to heal and recover. You need time to get your shit together; your mind right, and that requires just as much strength, if not more, to fight the urge to be honest with yourself. To not let anyone or anything get inside your head and weigh you down.

Each time I was beginning competition prep, I was only unleashing a whole new beast; I felt as though if I didn’t compete, I just wasn’t strong enough; or put in the words of a fellow gym-goer, “it was too tough for me to handle.”

But they didn’t know me. Nobody really knows the true me. And how could anyone if I even lost sight of who I was? It wasn’t that it was too tough; it was the fact that my cortisol levels are already chronically elevated most of the time, and all of the dieting and cardio was exacerbating the issue. It went from being obsessive and getting anxiety at the mere thought of having to eat something that was processed to having anxiety about sodium levels, fiber, carbohydrates etc., anxiety about cardio, or just being able to get to the gym. It was all I could think about from the moment I opened my eyes to the moment I closed my eyes. The program I was on was designed so that I would have to weigh myself everyday, and depending on the number, my macros would decrease or increase. To avoid that, I wouldn’t drink or eat anything until it read what if felt it needed to say before sending anything to my coach. I didn’t want him to lower my calories, I could have easily just lied, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself doing that.

I still can’t help but weigh my food still or fixate on the scale.

Like I said, I felt like a failure. And yes, all of the time. Even though I was hitting my macros right in point and doing all the cardio prescribed to me if the scale even fluctuated by an ounce I’d still feel like a failure.  I still felt fat. I felt that I was never going to be good enough. That’s what I thought…constantly.

 I felt so much anxiety going to my mother in laws home five hours away because I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the gym since after all she was having a heart procedure. I had no energy, no life, no memory, anxiety, sleepless nights, I loved food but I also hated food. I hated the thought of not being able to see my abs. I’d pick everything wrong with my body; I even contemplated getting breast implants. I wanted to fit in so badly. But I was not even fitting in with my own family anymore. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I needed to make a decision. I struggled with it. The inner voice told me I was a failure, I wasn’t worth anything… who the hell am I without this? I felt depressed and even suicidal. I thought maybe that was my only way out of this mess.

For the past 4 years, I have severed relationships, missed a lot of awesome moments, and restricted not just my diet but also my life. I have 3 kids, 11, 13, and 17, and if they weren’t my kids they’d probably choose to walk away from me. I was angry, moody and obsessed all the time. I just became so intolerable of everything; and isolated myself as well as neglected anything that might have been important. If it didn’t fit around a way for me to think, talk, or breathe fitness, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t enjoy functions because I didn’t want to be around other people laughing and enjoying themselves without eyeing a plate of food trying to calculate the macros or calories it had before actually eating it. Each time I saw that, I would either feel envious or just felt the need to inform them of the physical change they could undergo if they were just to make “better choices”.

I longed for the days where I could just have control. I missed the passion; the spark I had found in fitness and nutrition. I missed the way it helped me find my way out of the darkness and thrusted me into this new dimension of life…this whole other territory that made me feel alive, more normal than anything I’ve ever encountered. I wanted that back….

This process that I’ve been on has really been quite the experience. Each and every single time. Even the two times I actually managed to make it to the stage. But this time, this time it has been way more than just a physical change. It has forced me to ask questions that I pushed away before. It has forced me to seek answers to those questions and many other questions that I had allowed myself to drown in and play dead. I was forced to seek answers that maybe I wasn’t even really ready for or had even expected to discover. And this time, well, this time I know what I really want. I want to be happy. In my own skin, my own body; I want to be happy. I think back to a time when I was the happiest and the most confident, and it wasn’t how others saw me. It wasn’t about finding myself where I didn’t really want to be. It wasn’t about living someone else’s story line to make me feel important or give me a sense of purpose. I don’t need to compete in fitness competitions to validate me; it’s just not the direction where I want to go. It may seem crazy to some how something that is so capable of strengthening the body can have the exact opposite effect on the mind. It may seem like I’m not “tough enough” because I choose not to compete, but I really don’t need a competition or validation from anyone or anything to undergo a testament of my true self. I’m not just a wanderer, I’m becoming free; free from the walls in which my mind has placed the key.

To some people, competing gives them validation for all the hard work that they put themselves through. And the number of people, whether or not they belong on stage or not, is growing immensely. I only wish more people could realize that it doesn’t take a competition, or even contest prep, to solidify the accomplishment of getting into shape. I wish more people would recognize that fitness can be a lifestyle without all of the sacrifice; without driving yourself into the ground, sacrificing relationships, missing out on events or memories that can never be relived.

Bottom line is this: there’s nothing wrong with competing, but if you’re going to do it, do it for you. Do it because you want to. Not because you want to spend hours on the elliptical dreaming of the day you can, “go back to being normal”. The process is a real mind fuck, and it has somewhat of a permanent residual effect, which requires time to heal and recover, especially to get back to a good place mentally; to unravel all of the obsessive tendencies and unhealthy habits that develop, which are pretty much inevitable. And when you’re not even competing, you’re still competing. You’re still thinking about food; thinking about what that number on the scale really means. Still studying yourself in the mirror, still taking selfies, still pointing out flaws, still getting plastic surgery, still trying to “feel better” or “waiting for normal to happen again”. It can be an unhealthy transition from contest shape to coming to terms that you can’t walk around depleted, on a low calorie deficit, doing massive amounts of cardio. You just can’t. And that’s a real head twister too. Even the slightest amount of water weight can make you feel all twisted inside; make you feel “fat”.

I want to be in control for once, so instead of giving in, or exerting all of my energy to combat the anxiety, I’m going to say that I’m no longer going to even waste my energy on it. It’s not helping towards my goals so why mess with it. I want to enjoy being fit and healthy. I don’t want to place myself in a box where I’m cornered in and have no say. Simply put, I don’t want to be controlled by fitness, I want to control it. For me, that just works best for my anxious mind. That makes me happy. And what’s better than to do it on my own terms?

When I feel anxious, I want to get annoyed and get pissed off. Like what the fuck are you even doing here? When I’m on the treadmill running my heart out, beads of sweat dripping, my heart pounding, and my adrenaline surging and a panic attack happens, I want to take control and ask it, “what the hell, can’t you see I’m running here?” And I want to run harder to keep pushing it away, burning it so that it drips like sweat from my pores. And if I feel like I’m drifting, like I’m losing the fight, I want to be able to say, “ okay fine you win” without feeling defeated. Yes, I want to be able to have those painful thoughts just so I can remember that I’m being tested; each and every time, I’m being tried and tested. And I’m growing. And I want to feel that pain; feel that growth burning in my lungs, burning throughout my veins. Right there on that treadmill, right there with the weights right above my head; I want to feel like I’m growing and fighting back. And for that, I will be thankful.

 Thankful for my arrival to a place where everything around me will feel different; still scary, yet, new and inviting…

True value and worth have both come to mean something entirely different now. As I stated in my last post, I will not allow anything or anyone to define me. And a fitness competition defines me. It controls me and steers me away from what truly matters, family, faith and overall fitness, health and my wellbeing. Those are what is most important to me.

I’ve said it in previous posts, but I’ll say it again, I’m never going to be fully healed; it’s a battle every single day. Every single time something arises; a new situation, a new journey, I’m always going to be presented with change and uncertainty. I’m always going to have to face this anxiety head on. Yes, even when I’m not looking. This massacre of feelings that keeps me constantly on edge, teaches me something every day. Something new I’ve realized is that I feel anxiety because I long for purpose, or anything really that will allow me to experience fulfillment and value. I need to stop fighting and just ride the wave. The more I resist, the more I doubt myself, the larger the wave becomes. I’m not sinking, but I am almost always close to obscurity from even my own eyes. I need to just take action and quiet that frail and fragile, broken voice from within; to restore and redefine not so much myself, but the importance and purpose of my own life.

And I’m going to do it for me.

 “You are my armor and my sword, my faith and my treasure; everything I’m fighting for.”

-Alice Hoffman

I Cannot Be Defined

I spent the last 4 years in an anxiety-panic driven mind. It’s been hell. Slowly, I’m seeing the light. I’m seeing possibilities. I’m seeking to stretch the limits, push past boundaries from which I’ve enslaved myself in for so long. I’m finding out how to emerge as a more confident and strong woman who has no toes nearing her down. It’s time to swim. And swim hard. No more treading water or fear of sinking. For so long I’ve allowed myself to watch others achieve what I’ve always wanted. I became bitter and resentful but it was my own fault my own entrapment. I hated the world and I hated myself. I looked in the mirror and saw an image. Just an image. Expressionless. Hopeless and fragile. But it was nothing that could actually be broken . I’m fact, to be fixed, it needed to be broken. I needed to feel the damage that had long held me hostage. I needed to break if I wanted to stand tall. If I wanted to be put back together. I didn’t think I could do it. I lived two separate lives. I lived the life where I said don’t allow your anxiety to define you, you are not your anxiety. But then I lived through the guilt, the pain, and sat back and let it suffocate me and take the life out of me and give it to others to have control over. I was angry and felt like dying. I felt like I wasn’t worth anything; I didn’t deserve anything. I was fragile and breakable. I didn’t want to see myself as anything but. I carried around my shackles that were invisible to everyone else but me. I was my own darkness and I made sure to keep my eternal flame from burning too bright. I would always say, “here you win”, and it became something I would say much too often; more than I should have.
I’m not fully healed. But I’m no longer breakable. These feelings of inadequacy will never truly fade, but all I can do is chip away and hope for the day they just completely shatter. So, that’s what I’m doing. Finding myself. Finding out what in the hell I’m so afraid of. Why am I so afraid of it. Searching for a light that isn’t dimmer than me and one day burning brighter than even I can see.
I’ve now just realized that this journey is a redirect away from using the words, anxiety, panic disorder, weak, guilt, and pain; words that I’ve allowed to define me and to consume me. No. I am done. I am a woman who cannot be defined. A woman who is unstoppable and freely taking each breath, each moment and really truly experiencing it all for the first time.

Let’s Get Off Our Ass and Let’s Be Honest With Ourselves.

 

I resist change. I can’t help it. I’m pretty sure that you’re all aware that I’m human by now. I swear the older that I get, the more structure I need. I guess now I understand why my grandmother started eating dinner at 2 in the afternoon and staying in the kitchen with her cup of tea before retreating to the living room to watch tv until it was time for bed. Yep. Like clockwork. Every single day.

I’ve realized that I spend too much time or a lack thereof, thinking about how I can make things that seem challenging much more simple. I think about how I can take the fear away and just overcome the challenge…and then once I find the way, I keep doing it over and over again, but unfortunately, since the challenge is no longer in the way and fear no longer exists, anything new that comes along to change what I now have deemed comfortable, causes me anxiety and irrational behavior. But I went into this with determination and the will to want a stronger body and stronger mind, and I know that in order to continue to change this body that I’ve been given; to change this mind that I’ve been given, I need to erase the fear and see any challenge as an opportunity to grow and to allow myself to exceed my original belief of what I considered was my potential. To continue to ignore the fact that in order to grow; in order to make progress, I need to seek change rather than to sit and wait for someone or something to change me is only to continue to be dishonest with myself and to live in fear and a state of unhappiness. I need to be honest with myself and figure out what I could do to become better than I was yesterday. Better than I was a year ago; in body and in mind. And no one is going to do it for me.

So this week, I promised myself to approach my workouts at the gym differently. You see, the fear I have is that if I make a change in my diet or workout plan, even if it’s not drastic, I am going to lose what I have spent time building since the beginning. And even though I have the knowledge, it’s often hard to be objective with myself. It just is. And hey, if you have that power or ability, kudos to you, but I fear that I will end up looking like that skinny girl who people came up to and asked, “Are you okay, you’re so skinny…” I get upset if I wake up in the morning and don’t look as full as I did the day before. I think “shit, my muscles are smaller” when I know the truth from competing in fitness competitions; from experience, mine and others. I knew the why; I just didn’t want to give it any merit or attention. We are, after all talking about my own reflection; what it is that I see in the mirror. I’ve been on a “bulk” for ages now. Every time I would look in the mirror, I didn’t like what I saw, I would pull back from my diet and binge just so I could maintain the fullness in the muscle. I knew that I couldn’t lose muscle that quickly, but for some reason, I couldn’t convince my own mind.

I was obviously still living in my early thirties, where my metabolism was a lot faster than it is at the ripe age of 36! Haha. So I was training and eating like I was when I first started, ignoring the fact that I didn’t even have the body that I did when I first started training. So, I took Sunday off and thought about how I can get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself further; step out of my box and face some more fears. (even though changing things up was challenge enough); I promised myself that I was going to let go of any fears and anxiety that I may have and just do it. Change something. My workout. It’ll just be for the week, I reminded myself, just for one week. I’m used to doing legs, shoulders, etc, a 6 day split with a little bit of cardio mixed in. This week, however, I wanted to focus on strength and the workouts this week have been focusing on NOT overloading the same muscle group all in one day. Well, it’s killing me. I mean, killlllinnnggg me. Like I said, it’s like a whole separate battle to fight. But, I know I need a change if I want to get stronger and better; to see the results I want; to progress further. It’s hard work, mentally and physically, and requires a lot of patience and faith, but I know that with challenge comes change.

I guess we all get in a routine because we all become too afraid to deviate from a program that we have become comfortable with, and any workout is better than none at all, right? I guess we all need someone to walk around to slap us to remind us that we need to change what we’re doing in order to progress and continue to make changes. But we’re creatures of habit; we crave direction and a routine, and yes, oddly enough, even if that means staying in one place.

We have to remind ourselves that we went into this seeking a change with sheer determination and a fight that existed in us so deep that we were willing to do what it took to make our fitness goals happen? Remember how it felt when you saw that first small change? Remember how great you felt, how alive you felt and how you craved more? Well, when did we just stop craving more? What happened? What the hell happened? I mean, why should we just come to a complete stop when everyone and everything else is still moving along? Come on, we’re more than that, we deserve more, much more than just a ticket on a one stop train. I know we just can’t help ourselves; once we’re in it, it’s hard to see what we might be neglecting or in need of because we think we have it all, and as long as we’re happy with our current state, that’s all that matters. I know because I live it. We always find a way to compare ourselves to others and we ask the same questions over and over again, expecting the answer to be, “keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing.” But that’s not the truth and deep down we know that, but are afraid to leap and take a chance.

For the week coming up, I ask you to reflect on what you’ve been doing and really ask yourself what you could work on and make that your goal. I promise that you can go back to what you were doing before, but you probably won’t want to. I’d like to hear what you’re going to do to challenge yourself this week. Let me know in the comments section!

Post from my Instagram account @meglifts

Post from my Instagram account @meglifts

 

 

 

 

 

How to Eat Better; the Affordable Way.

With so little time on our hands these days, it’s hard to be the exact epitome of health. With so much going on, and so little downtime, we’re often overtired, overstressed, and just plain overwhelmed to even consider the thought of carefully selecting healthier options by reading labels more carefully. No instead, we’re usually just waiting for the microwave or oven timer to beep to deliver a prepackaged meal or waiting in the drive thru frantically checking the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if on most days you spend learning (and struggling) with the new common core curriculum that’s eased its way into schools around the country. Or you probably just have to rush right out the door as soon as your child gets home from school, have them complete their homework later, and try to make it to sports practice or dance rehearsals or maybe even just a school function.

Long gone are the days of having cookies and milk after school was considered the only processed food you might have had, which in that case, wasn’t so bad. But even as we’re forced to acknowledge the ever growing rate of obesity in this nation, more and more meals are rolling out of the microwave and into our mouths.

People think they can’t afford “healthy” and why shouldn’t they?  They feel overwhelmed when they walk into a grocery store and are quickly discouraged when the have filled up their grocery carts with what looks to be enough for only a couple meals, but for an entire family, only to find out the total comes to well over their budget. Then they realize that they actually have less for the same budget they had before they made the choice to “eat healthy”, which results in people doing what they can afford; eating less calories, skipping meals, or just not doing it at all. Ever notice that it’s easier to find a coupon for a processed dinner such as “Weight Watchers” or “Healthy Choice”, rather than any other staple that would be more than likely a far better choice.  People do want to lose weight, they do want to look better, feel better, live better, but they’re stuck not with lack of information but with limited resources to make that change.

So I’m going to dispel a few of what I consider “myths” and just society being, well, self-absorbed and what is often said, “Keeping up with the Jones”.

You may have heard all the hype circling in health and fitness communities about Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but that’s what it is; Hype. Don’t walk away from getting fit and healthy because you can’t even afford to just lurk around at those grocery stores without feeling like you need a guest pass.

A membership to BJ’s or other wholesale club is extremely helpful. Or if you don’t have one close to you, Wal-Mart is just as good as any to find healthy, inexpensive food. BJ’s even offers coupons for healthier options. I have a membership at BJ’s and I have literally knocked $400-$500 off of my grocery bill each month. They normally offer coupons for top brands such as Eggland’s Best Egg Whites, Greek Yogurt, Chicken, Fish etc.

Healthy doesn’t only equate to organic foods. No, it’s doing the best you can, with what you know and more importantly, what you can afford. It also doesn’t equate to bland and boring meals either. I’m not going to claim I’m Martha Stewart in the kitchen or that I deserve my own cooking show, no, that’ll go to my husband, but I know there’s a lot of you who know how to work the kitchen. In fact, you may even discover or rediscover the passion of cooking and creating meals. You never know.

But for me, I don’t enjoy cooking. I just want to eat. I love to eat. So, spices are my friend. And you can find spices at the Dollar Store. And at BJ’s or Wal-mart.Okay so look I know that fresh vegetables and fruit are what some consider to be the best choices, but buying them are expensive enough, so to buy them, bring them home and have them spoil too soon can be frustrating. Makes me want to scream actually… Especially if you’re struggling to pay bills and eat healthy, the last thing you want to do is see your hard earned money go in the garbage.  I know various nutritional sources will inform you that frozen and canned may lack the same nutritional value, but there are also some that will tell you the opposite, so I go with what I can afford for my entire family. (Besides, according to those same sources, if you purchase fresh vegetables and boil as opposed to steam them, you lose the nutrients anyway.)

As for fruit, I do buy fresh bananas, but only what I know will be consumed. I usually purchase frozen fruit such as blueberries and other kinds of berries. (They just last longer that way.)  And if you’re wondering what to do with frozen fruit? Try heating them up and putting them in your oatmeal or cereal, or you can even add the frozen fruit to plain Greek yogurt, freeze it, and enjoy as a frozen dessert!

For water and the environment, I take advantage of Primo, the water cooler system. I buy the 5 gallon water jug and once it runs out, I just recycle and get a new one! I have a couple of those shaker bottles as well as flip-top water bottles to carry around with me. Believe me, drinking bottled water can become very expensive!

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I’m the World’s Healthiest Mom and that I deserve an award for feeding my kids all organic, all natural foods. Please! I still buy my kids snacks, but I try to choose snacks that are only minimally processed, and don’t have 10 different ingredients that sound more like a science experiment gone bad. I do try to stick to just buying chicken, fish in bulk, but for the kids, I will keep pizza rolls, hot dogs, and frozen pierogies in the freezer to have once in awhile. It is okay, to still live after all.

Besides, I’m not going to preach to you about restriction, I’m going to tell you that if you want to reach a goal, or just feel better; improve your health, you can do it. There are plenty of fad diets most are willing to follow for a pretty hefty price, mostly because there is so much misinformation about what you have to do to look and feel better.

Choose you. All day, every day; for a life time. Always.

How to Get the Body You Love

How does a nice dish of plain chicken breast and a side of green veggies sound?

 Fried, greasy foods, sugary sweets and salty foods is the good shit.  Surround yourself with a few good friends or family and it tastes that much better. Being happy is what counts; after all, life is short.

 I love going out to eat. And who doesn’t? In fact, there was a time when all I did was go out to dinner. I supported restaurant and fast food joints like it was nobody’s business. After working all day long, the last thing I wanted to do was stand in the kitchen pressing buttons on a microwave or cooking a meal. But when you see the changes in your body after cutting down on the amount of time spent going out to eat or microwaving a processed meal from your grocer’s freezer section, you’ll definitely see what all the excitement of eating right and exercising is all about. It’s only when you don’t see results that you begin to dismiss any small changes that you’ve made and settle for just remaining the same.

 How do you prevent that from happening? I used to believe in finding a balance, but when I realized that I wasn’t even practicing it, I started to question if there is even such a thing. Honestly, for me, to find balance in life is just something that you can find at a playground; two people on a teeter totter, one person on the other end jumps off without notice, and the other gets catapulted into the air. Basically, you’re screwed. And to me, that’s what life is. One big gigantic teeter totter and you’re always the last one on it unless you happen to make sure you’re the first one off. That, or the other person just isn’t an asshole.

 I’ve come to recognize that a majority of things in life we tackle with an all or nothing approach; it’s either, “you’re in or you’re out”. We all to often thrive off of perfection and try to make our best even better because our best never seems to be good enough.  

When we set our sights on a goal and prepare to embark on a new endeavor that has the potential to change us from the inside out, we find out everything there is to know and go balls to the wall. We fight through any resistance there may be and if there is an obstacle in the way, we work harder. However, when it comes to a new diet, a new exercise program, we tend to just give up and walk away if we don’t see results fast enough or if the results have stagnated. It’s like something in us breaks and leaves us feeling helpless and feeling guilty to the point where we find ourselves trying to rationalize why we gave up, “I work too hard” “I don’t have time” “I’m too tired,”. It is only in this aspect in our life can we manage to utter the words, “I don’t care, I’m not perfect,” in other areas of our life, we’ll exhaust ourselves to the point where we start to use our body as a sacrifice to reap the reward from things that provide us instant gratification. Yep, when it comes time to take care of ourselves, we just simply walk away.

 We walk away because sometimes it feels like our best is never good enough; the image of what we should look like is something that many of us struggle with, and it’s far from a clean cut, straight and narrow path. Diet and exercise lacks the instant gratification that we yearn for; lacks the appreciation, gratitude, love, admiration, and respect from others and doesn’t come with a price tag.  It’s complicated and it’s a challenge. It requires all of those (minus the instant gratification and price tag) from within; it requires being strong when you just want to be weak, forgiving yourself rather than quitting if you’re not at your best for the day or even the week. Loving yourself even when you don’t like what you see looking back at you in the mirror.  

 Other people are extremely forgiving when you stop or stray from a diet or an exercise program.  Be those other people.

People also become more uncomfortable when you change the way you eat or look.  Be uncomfortable.

 And don’t eat for what you don’t have the “time” to burn off.

 ***As long as you fuel your body with the right amount of food and nutrients that suits the type of body type that you are trying to achieve, then it’s okay to have a snack or stray a little off the beaten path. It’s okay to not be so strict and count calories, weigh your food, or become extremely anal about it. Besides, let’s face it, no one wants to live a miserable life…

 So…

Get off that fad diet you’re on (the results are only temporary AND it’ll make you miserable)

Keep a journal or a blog of your fitness journey through Instagram or other social media site of your choice.

Keep track of changes with pictures (selfies). Note: Make sure to use the same lighting and camera each time.

Measure yourself rather than weigh yourself; it’s a lot more accurate and less deceiving. Do this every two – four weeks.  Don’t compare yourself to others. I’ve struggled with this a lot (still do). Remember that you’re trying to create a better version of yourself not of someone that you can never be. Not to mention, with all of the apps to distort or change a picture, you don’t know what is really happening on the other side of the picture before it was posted.

 ***And if you’re not losing weight or you struggle with problem areas, chances are you:

 **May have a food allergy (dairy, wheat etc) and not know it

**Suffer from too much stress, which increases cortisol, and as a result increases the risk   of fat storage in your trouble areas. (For women, it’s usually their butt and thighs. For men, it’s usually their stomach)

**Eating too much “crap”

**Not eating enough food (which can also lead to your body storing body fat in unwanted places)

**Water retention (Seriously, I’ve gotten down to 9-10% body fat and still looked like I had fat under my butt)

**Antidepressants can also make it harder for you to achieve your ideal body

 **It’s harder to lose fat and tighten up your butt, upper thighs, inner/outer, back of your thighs, due to low blood flow in those areas. (low blood flow=poor mobilization of fat)

 Ultimately, you want to drink more water, eat less crap, find time to relax and make sure that it’s calorie free! (most of the time).  But most importantly, above all, learn to love and accept your body; flaws and all, take care of yourself, make life full of memories, make goals that aren’t fast and hard, but slow and steady, and that makes you happy.

After all, the reflection in the mirror isn’t truly who you are; it’s merely an image of what your eyes see.