I have SO much to say about how awesome Paleo f(x) was, but I feel like I need another day or two to digest all of the info, and I really really really want to get this out.
Body image, psychology of eating/cravings/stress, eating disorders, etc., came up so many times in so many panels. (And just a warning, this post is brutally honest, no holds barred.) It’s so easy to sit there and just think, well, ok, I may have problems with cravings, but I don’t have an eating disorder..nope, nothing even close. I mean maybe I have some things to work on, sure, but I’m fine. This is normal. Totally, totally normal. And who doesn’t have body image issues?
But after a few of the panels (Amy Kubal telling her story, “Moving Past the Mirror and the Scale” with Dr. Edward Tyson, Ellen Rozman, Kaila Prins, Amy Kubal, and Molly Galbraith, and the “Paleo and Addiction” panel), I thought…ok, some of this does sound familiar and maybe this is something I need to start talking about and sharing. Then this photo from one of the parties was on Facebook, and I remembered how much I hate how I look in photos, and decided now is the time to share.
(Prime example, this week!)
I can’t ever remember a time when I was even 90% happy with how I looked. I remember feeling fat and disgusting in high school – I wasn’t popular, had acne issues, and let’s face it, Catholic school uniform shorts and skirts are just not flattering on most girls (except for super tiny ones, or tall ones, but definitely not on me). I played tennis almost every day and started going to the gym to “tone” – but I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing, and didn’t really know anything about nutrition. Before proms/dances/etc., some girls would go on liquid fasts for a few days. I think I tried living off of just smoothies once, and thought wow, I look better, I guess? Do I? Maybe? Maybe I don’t? Did it make a difference? But, when I look back at high school photos now – I was definitely NOT fat. I mean, ok, I had really poor fashion sense and hated my bangs and the uniform, but I was probably even a little smaller than average. I’ve always, always, always, hated myself in photos. It’s rare that (1) I’m smiling in a photo and (2) I actually like how I look in the photo. If I do like a photo, it’s because I’m secretly thinking hey, look at how skinny I look! SO, I developed an amazing ability to somehow stay out of many, many pictures. Race photos are the worst for me right now – I never ever like how I look, but that’s partly because I look so miserable like a 5K was really 50K in 90 degree weather or something. (CrossFit photos, on the other hand…those are ok, sometimes, because I look strong. But only in some of them. Most I still don’t like.)
(During law school, in NYC but not looking happy and hating how I looked.)
(Actually felt like I looked good in this one.)
And then in college, I started drinking – I mean it’s college, that’s what you do, right? At some point freshman year, I realized that I could drink all weekend and eat crap, but then work out enough to be back to my “normal” weight by Friday (before going out and doing it all over again). I have no idea how this made sense to me, but I was so tied to the scale. I thought I was eating “healthy” too – Healthy Choice dinners (until I got super sick from one and couldn’t eat for 72 hours because I kept vomiting), really thinly sliced bread with lunchmeat, and lots of Balance Bars. (Protein bars are healthy, right? Obviously.) In the dining halls freshman year, I had so much cereal. I’m not really sure if I ever ate anything NOT processed – except when I went home, and maybe salads. But it didn’t matter what I ate because I could, no matter what, be back to that “normal” weight by Friday, just in time for the weekend. My working out, at first, consisted of lots of elliptical stuff, and some of the weight machines, but always at super light weights for sets of 10-12. I never felt strong, I never felt fast, and I never felt in shape – not even ONCE. I loved working out though. I remember after a break up, I went shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch, and I fit into size 4 shorts, and I was SO excited. I was thinking, size 4 is so small! This is awesome. I am a size 4…but I still felt fat.
Then, one day, I went for a run. I hated running for a while – we had to do different sprint drills during tennis practices and I was always, always, one of the slowest ones in anything involving running. (This probably helped with my feelings of “I’m not in shape” and “I’m so slow” and other degrading self talk.) But this time, I just wanted to run and run. So I kept running. I don’t remember how far I ran on that first “long” run, but soon I was running for 2 hours every few days. TWO HOURS OF RUNNING. I wasn’t training for anything – I wasn’t planning to run a marathon (I thought, ok, 12 miles/2 hours is one thing, but those marathon people? Those people are nuts. I’m not that nuts, I just want to run 12 miles for fun.) So I started running more often. I felt good – I mean, I didn’t feel “in shape” but I thought, I must be kind of in shape if I can just run for 12 hours without stopping, right? Sometimes I would even mix it up a little – throw in some incline every other mile, speed up a little, slow down a little, but still get in those 12 miles. Every few days, I’d also do the weight machine “routine” that was set up. And, confession, sometimes, even after both of those, I would also do an hour or more on the elliptical. BUT I could always get back to that “normal” weight. I thought I loved running.
(Hated this photo even though I love it because Melissa was one of my best friends.)
This continued during law school – except I wasn’t as focused on the scale, more the fit of clothes and how I felt. Except, during law school, the drinking increased. So I was eating what I thought was “healthy” (frozen dinners, lots of pasta the night before every “long run”) and then greasy, drunk food after nights of drinking. But then the drunken binge eating turned into sober binge eating too – not always horrible greasy stuff, just…anything. Running turned into more of a kind of therapy, I guess – instead of studying and stressing about stuff, I would run. I would run even when I was exhausted. I ran almost every other day, unless I was sick or had something else going on. I remember one time, a friend was going through a really rough time and so I was worried and not sleeping and barely eating – so I went for one of my 12-13 mile runs (on the treadmill), when I had slept maybe 2 hours and hadn’t eaten anything in more than 24 hours. It felt awesome.
(Hated this costume. Over 21 and I’m wearing a half shirt? What?)
I heard about CrossFit and started to “do it on my own” (not very successfully) – but at least I was starting to realize the importance of actual weight training instead of just trying to “tone.” I still wasn’t eating right, and I was working out (and obviously running) way too much. But I thought more is better – I wasn’t in shape because I wasn’t working out enough. Then, I stopped working out and started eating SO horribly, while I took care of someone who was sick and really needed help. I ate crap. Processed stuff. Ice cream all the time. Junk. Binge eating from all the stress happened a lot. This was the one time I could actually say, I got fat. (I mean actually really unhealthy and overweight, not just feeling fat.) I didn’t even notice when it was happening because I was so focused on helping and fixing (just not myself). Then during a regular doctor appointment, the doctor (not my regular doctor), said something like “Oh, this isn’t the weight you were at last time. I’d like to see you get back to that weight. You will see some good results with calorie restriction. Try limiting to maybe 1200 calories a day, and see how it works.” She didn’t ask ANYTHING about what was going on at “home” or if there were any stressful situations happening, OR EVEN IF I WORKED OUT. The answer was just eat less. This pissed me off. I started working out again, actually going to a CrossFit gym, and going paleo. But, to this day, that conversation still pisses me off and I still want to call the doctor and say hey, you gave me horrible advice and I hope you don’t give that advice to all of your patients, because you’re WRONG. Anyway. I’ve struggled with body image issues for a long time, and that didn’t help.
(I don’t like how I look in this photo, and I’m drenched in color!)
During all of this time, I was obsessed with the mirror more than I cared about the scale. Confession: even today, before writing this post, I stood in front of the mirror to look at my body. (How “fat” do I look compared to a week or two ago? Do I look ok? Maybe it’s all of the nuts and snacks I have been eating? I’m just bloated, that’s it.) At some points, I couldn’t walk by a mirror without looking at myself and judging my appearance. Sometimes I would stand there, turn to the left, turn to the right, until I was satisfied I looked “ok” – or I just gave up. But I needed to look at myself, judge myself, before going anywhere, before going to sleep, before eating, after eating…
And the body image issues spilled over into other areas. If a boy didn’t like me, I’d think, well, if only I was a little bit skinnier, or if I was just a little bit taller. If I didn’t get a job, or if someone was rude, I’d think, if I was just a little bit prettier, or if I could just lose 20 pounds, things would have gone differently. The focus was always on getting skinnier, losing weight, getting smaller. After break ups, I would always focus on getting “into shape” – I mean, that’s probably pretty common, but it would be my sole focus – not hanging out with friends, not learning new skills, just becoming thinner.
I had a guy friend who would call me “tiny” and I loved him for it (not actually loved, in case he reads this, but you get the point, thank you for calling me “tiny” even though it was probably only meaning in height). That felt awesome – to be called tiny. But then we kind of stopped talking (since we didn’t actually date) and I’d think, well, I should probably be a little smaller…if I was smaller, that would have made a difference. Everything always went back to that – if I was just skinnier…
I’ll talk later about going paleo (and my love for restrictions), but the point of this post is really: I can’t think of one time where I have actually liked my body. With CrossFit, I’ve liked it a little bit more – instead of focusing on being skinny, my focus was on being stronger, and I’d think well, I’m not skinny enough BUT I can deadlift this much and squat this much and that’s badass, and better than being skinny. (But then I’d think no, actually, I’d rather be skinnier, I think? Probably.) But the bottom line is – I still have body image issues, I have things I need to work on, and maybe sharing this will help someone else out there.
I didn’t recognize myself during the 14.5 photos I posted before (and this is one of the “good” ones, there are some that I really dislike because I don’t like how I look, even though they’re proof that I finished a really tough workout)
So, during the panels (I’ll give more info on them in another post), there was talk about getting kind of obsessed with the restrictions (like not going out with friends because of a fear of eating something not paleo, bringing separate meals to family gatherings to stay paleo instead of taking that chance, becoming “paleo police” kind of and refusing to eat anything with even one non-paleo ingredient), obsessing about exercise (what’s a rest day? I need to work out! I can’t not work out!), and…I guess it just kept clicking that hey, yeah, probably it would be good to actually like my body more. One of the quotes from the panel was: “You can’t fix a body you hate.”
Molly Galbraith mentioned her 28 day #LoveYourBodyChallenge during her panels – and I’ll admit, at first, I was thinking ok, whatever, sure, that’s for people who hate their bodies, not me. I’m ok with mine, I just used to like working out a lot, and not eating a lot, and judging myself in the mirror, and…oh, crap, maybe I should do this challenge. Maybe when I have time. Maybe when I get back in shape (after eating so many paleo-friendly treats…and not working out). Then I just said, nope, maybe NOW. Now’s good.
Molly shared this quote in one panel, and I really loved it:
I’m asking for your help. Join me, if you want to. 🙂 Or help keep me accountable. I’m posting here, even though it’s tough to spill everything and talk about everything. Post to the comments if you’re joining and we can discuss how things go!
To start the challenge, Molly asks you to answer the following questions (to be compared to your answers at the end):
1. How do you feel when you think about how your body looks?
(1 = absolutely terrible, 10 = freaking awesome) 6 – a year ago, this would have been more like a 2. I’m not unhappy, just…could use some work.
2. How often do you think about things you’d like to change on your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never) 3-4
3. How often do you look in the mirror and think, “I look really awesome!”
(1 = never, 10 = always) 3 – it’s rare, but it happens
4. How confident do you feel when you’re in a swimsuit?
(1 = not confident at all, 10 = extremely confident) 3 – I cover up. A lot. It makes for awkward tan lines.
5. How confident do you feel about your body during intimate moments?
(1 = not confident at all, 10 = extremely confident) 4, unless I’m drunk (then it’s like an 8).
6. How often do you catch yourself saying/thinking negative things about your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never) 5 – not constantly, but not super infrequently either…
7. How often do you catch yourself saying negative things about your body to other people?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never) 9 – I’m pretty good about not talking shit about myself to anyone else, just to myself.
8. How well do you receive compliments from others?
(1 = not well, 10 = really well) 2 – I do not really take compliments well, I kind of just laugh them off.
9. How often do you have feelings of shame in regards to your body?
(1 = constantly, 10 = never) 5 – I wouldn’t say shame is the right word.
10. If I told you that you could drastically change your perception of your body in 28 days, would you believe me?
(1 = absolutely not, 10 = no doubt about it) 5 – undecided