On Pleasure and Deprivation

It has come to my attention that I don’t (really) know what gives me pleasure — apart from food.

I was talking to my therapist about this yesterday, and most of the things I know give me pleasure aren’t super healthy:

  • I love to binge-read a novel or series of novels. If it’s good, I can literally read all day.
  • Same goes for TV shows. I once watched two seasons of Downton Abbey in a weekend while I was laid up with the stomach flu.
  • Shopping. (Not super sustainable. Also materialistic.)

So I started trying things. There are some things I’ve tried that I feel could (or possibly should?) make me happy, but don’t really:

  • flowers — I like them, but they don’t give me the same kind of JOLT unless they are from my hubby
  • candles — meh
  • exercise — It’s fine; I do it. But it’s never actively given me pleasure or made me happy.
  • massages — They’re fine, but not worth the time and money for me, at least not very often.
  • mani/pedis — same as massages

Here’s what I know for sure makes me happy and gives me pleasure — and is also pretty healthy:

  • long showers — OK, not great for the environment, but I do so love them
  • a clean house — I recently invested in a cleaning service that comes twice a month, and I am always giddy when they’re done
  • reading a good magazine I’m really interested in
  • reading a good book (not to binge status)
  • watching a good TV show (not to binge status)

That’s it. That’s all I’m sure of.


The Clothes Make the (Wo)man

I just bought an entire wardrobe of clothes in a size larger than I used to have, and I feel great about it.

Isn’t it funny how looking better helps us feel better?

A few weeks ago, I broke down and bought some new jeans. All of my existing jeans gave me a muffin top and were uncomfortable. I ended up buying jeans TWO sizes larger than the ones in my closet — though, I really should probably have only gone up one size. But that’s what belts are for.

In any case, I ended up telling my therapist how hard it is for me to buy bigger clothes. I feel like it’s a waste of money, somehow, that I should just wait until I lose the weight.

It also feels like admitting defeat.

We worked on these ideas, and when I told her how much I had wanted to book a session with  a stylist I met — but didn’t because I thought I’d wait until I lost 10 pounds or so — she told me that if I wanted to, I should book the stylist.

Do it. Don’t wait.

Numbers Game

Why are we so obsessed with numbers?

I don’t really even like numbers that much. I’ve never been good at math. And yet they seem to rule this part of my life.

Calories. Fat grams. Points. Pounds. Ounces. Cups. Tablespoons.

Losing weight is a numbers game.

Last week at my session, I told my therapist I was going to go buy some bigger pants, because squeezing into my current ones — fresh from the dryer, especially — was an exercise in self loathing.

So today I went jeans shopping.

I ended up with two pairs two sizes bigger than the ones I wore to the store.

And yet, they don’t fit that much differently than the ones I was wearing. Have the ones I have stretched out with wear, and that’s why they seem similar? The in-between ones (at least, the brands I picked up) seemed too small, but the ones two sizes up seemed… Strange. A little baggy?  A little less form fitting?

I realized I have no idea how jeans are supposed to fit. Especially skinny jeans.

And why is it that places say that a size 32 is the same as a size 12, yet I have NEVER in my life fit into a size 32 — even when I was a US size 8??

It’s all numbers. Some brands have vanity sizing to make you feel better about yourself.

Once, a couple of years ago, I read that Tyra Banks weighed 164 pounds. And I at the time, weighed 164 pounds! I WAS THE SAME AS TYRA BANKS!!!! (Let’s ignore the fact that she’s probably two feet taller than me.)

It made me feel good about myself. But why?

Just recently, my very trim — and very tall — friend lamented that she couldn’t shake her 5 pounds of winter weight, making her 175.

I weighed 175 at the time! And yet, it didn’t make me feel better, because she was talking about how fat she felt at that weight.

Let me just explain to you that she’d have to strap a pillow to her midsection to look fat.

And so realizing that she felt fat the way she looked made me wonder, “What must she think of me?!”

I didn’t ask.

Today I weighed 0.8 pounds more than the last time I stepped on the scale — despite going to the gym four times last week and exercising for an average of 40 minutes each time. I ate 1/2 of a Panera carrot cake cupcake today, which was 9 points, and two slices of pizza, which were 15.

But I earned 18 Weight Watchers activity points last week, when my weekly average is usually closer to 5. I only ate half of that cupcake, and I only ate two slices of pizza, when I usually can easily put away 4.

And I had the guts to not only try on, but buy pants that don’t feel like they’re going to squeeze me in half or give me a muffin top that makes me want to cry.

Two steps forward? One step back?

Who the hell knows.

One Step Forward On a Treadmill

This week I went to the gym twice.

This may not seem monumental, but as someone who loathes the gym, formal exercise, and getting sweaty, it was a pretty big step.

I tried to go on Monday afternoon, with my toddler in tow. I mistakenly assumed that the rec center had childcare all day and, well, they didn’t. We left, and I felt utterly dejected. I binged that afternoon.

But Tuesday morning, I got up at 5am, was at the rec center by 5:30 when it opened, and worked out for 40 minutes.

And then, even crazier, I got up and did it again on Wednesday.

I know.

(I didn’t do it again today because we were busy having a snow-pocalypse, and the school district declared a snow day, so I figured it was best to stay off the roads at 5am.)

My therapist was elated. She said I freaked out on Monday afternoon, because it was once again someone telling me I couldn’t be successful at exercise — even if that wasn’t truly what was happening at all. But she was extremely pleased with my progress.

The gym, something once anathema to me, didn’t feel that bad at all. I was able to just walk on the treadmill without a lot of voices in my head telling me how I should do more, or that everyone was judging me for walking, or comparing me to the crazies running on the stair climbers. Mostly.

And I didn’t beat myself up when I didn’t go today. Granted, I shoveled the driveway, which was plenty of a workout for me today.

My assignment for this week is to do a short breathing meditation before breakfast and lunch each day.  Just three minutes.  Or one minute if I have to.

I am also supposed to NOT start counting calories yet, even though it felt like maybe I was ready. Instead, I’m going to refocus on mindful eating.

One step forward…

Some Stats

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 20 million American women and 10 million American men grapple with “a clinically significant” eating disorder at some time in their lives. The number of new cases of eating disorders has increased every year since 1950, and anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

“These illnesses do not discriminate,” Claire Mysko, NEDA’s director of programs, tells Mashable. “We’re talking about people of all ages, of all ethnicities. We’re talking about men and women. We’re talking about people of all sizes.”

Youth are especially impressionable. NEDA states that 40-60% of elementary school girls (between the ages of six and 12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, and females with anorexia nervosa between the ages of 15 and 24 have a mortality rate 12 times higher than that all other causes of death.

Snow and Pho

It’s a very snowy day here. Woke up to 11 inches (when we were expecting 2–3) and the weather people promise more throughout the weekend.

So I made pho for breakfast.

I have a health coach as one of my clients, and she eats and recommends a Paleo-inspired diet to help her and her clients overcome thyroid, autoimmunity, and inflammation problems. And she eats pho for breakfast every day.

Which really isn’t that strange or unique; millions of Vietnamese do the same thing.

I have found lately that I struggle with breakfast. I don’t know what to eat. I’m usually not very hungry, and the things I have been taught to crave aren’t that good for me. Toast with butter. Waffles with peanut butter. Eggs and potatoes. Each of those things on its own isn’t that bad, but every morning, day after day… Probably not good.

So I tried pho this snowy day. I made cheater’s pho with pre-seasoned pho “base” (carton of broth) and rice noodles. I didn’t have bean sprouts or herbs. I’ll roast a chicken today and have some meat to add to my pho tomorrow.

And it was good.  Different, but good.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got.

So different is good.

Raw Vegan Militants Need Not Apply

I’m frankly a little afraid of hiring a nutritionist.

I think I know what she is going to say, and that’s pretty much what scares me.

See, I’m not dumb. I actually know quite a lot about nutrition. I’ve read a lot (A LOT) of books on the subject of diet and weight loss. I know my fats from my carbohydrates. I understand macronutrients and micronutrients. And I definitely logically understand the laws of thermodynamics — calories in versus calories out.

That doesn’t mean I apply any of that to myself, though.

I understand. I just don’t seem to be able to make it stick.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you keep getting what you always got.

I asked online for recommendations for nutritionists, because my therapist couldn’t find any around here that she liked. Note to self: ask what her criteria were.

In any case, I got a handful of recommendations and started visiting their websites.

I immediately crossed off the list the one who is a raw vegan with a shaved head. That just ain’t gonna fly.

Several people mentioned that I really need to connect with the practitioner, that that is the most important thing. I specified that I wanted someone with experience dealing with binge eating disorder and who relies on whole foods.

(Are there nutritionists out there who would tell me to drink protein shakes and eat packaged snacks? Maybe not… I don’t know.)

Several of the other options looked OK.  One is having a free webinar next week, so I signed up for that, because I figured it would give me a good idea of what she’s like.

Most of them are from Canada. Not sure what that’s about.

Also not sure why I’m feeling so resistant to this. I feel like it’s going to be a waste of money, like a nutritionist can’t help me. I feel like I already know this shit, and am already not applying it — so how is paying someone $350 to tell me what I already know (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) going to help me?

I know what to do. I just can’t seem to get myself to do it.

This is my issue, not the nutritionists’. But I don’t know how to bust through this block.

F*ck You, Ms. Peavey

I cried in yoga class today.

This is not a first. It’s not even new. In fact, since starting yoga and therapy simultaneously, I’ve cried at least every other time I’ve gone.

Feelings hide in our bones, our muscles, in our tissues and sinew.

You think just because you were able to swallow that pride, blink back your tears, bite back your anger that it just went away? Nope. It becomes a part of you.

Until you let it out.

So, I was in a bridge, and my instructor came around and adjusted me, and suddenly the bridge was a lot harder.  And I felt angry tears welling up.

You suck at this. You can’t do this. Your body isn’t right for this. You should just give up and stop. 

Wow. I know that refrain. I didn’t explore it too deeply because, hey, I’m still working on this whole feeling my feelings business and didn’t particularly feel like feeling them in front of the whole yoga class.

But when I got to the car, I let it all go.  And it kept going…

…the whole drive home…

…while I took off my shoes and got ready to shower…

…and into the shower.

And as I was trying to let myself feel it, I finally landed on an image of why I was feeling what I was feeling: Elementary school PE class.

Spoiler alert: I hated PE class.

Twice a week for six years of my life, I went to Ms. Peavey’s gym to see what fresh hell awaited me. Group games and sports weren’t too bad.  I didn’t hate dodgeball or deck tennis, but I didn’t love them. Anything that called for me to do something in front of the class? Major anxiety inducer.

But the worst were the physical fitness tests.  Looking back on it, Ms. Peavey could have handled these things a lot better. I get that they were state (or possibly federal?) mandated tests, and I get that there were certain ranges we were supposed to fall into to pass.

But did we have to do the tests in front of the whole class? Did she have to weigh us and measure our body fat with the cruel, pinching caliper in front of two dozen scrutinizing peers?

What exactly was the point of the pull-up test when we never ever practiced pull-ups, or even regularly did any sort of arm-strengthening exercises? Just to test our natural arm strength? News flash: I have none.

And what — dear God someone please tell me — was the value in having us run the mile and then line up in order of our times?

I was dead last.  For six years.

Forget the fact that I had asthma. Forget the fact that I was not naturally an athletic kid, and therefore did not participate in any sort of extracurricular sports.

I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought there was something wrong with my body that it didn’t perform up to the President’s standards. (It was called the Presidential Fitness Test.) I thought there was something wrong with me that all my classmates could pass the tests, but I couldn’t.

And for a smart girl, it was doubly jarring to not be good at something in school.

But here’s the real kicker: No one ever told me differently.

I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that I could practice these things and get stronger, and do better on the tests if I wanted to. I don’t remember anyone ever encouraging me. I remember thinking that was it; if I couldn’t do a pull-up, I would never be able to do a pull-up.

I remember thinking Ms. Peavey hated me. That she wanted me to fail. That she singled me out to shame me into doing better somehow.  I remember, in fifth or sixth grade, deciding to walk the entire mile, not even jogging, and say screw it.

If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail on my terms.

Fourth through sixth grade, I was in the gifted and talented program, and every Thursday, they bussed us to a different school for special programming.  I remember every single year hoping and praying that my class would have PE on Thursdays so I could miss out on at least one torture session a week.

Nope.  I missed art (which we only got once a week) for three years straight. I wonder if they figured we were getting enough creative expression in the G&T program.

It baffles me that I am still angry about all of this 25 years later.

And yet it doesn’t.

The extra weight around my middle is anger.  It’s anger and sadness and shame that I’ve tried to stuff down with food for 25 years. It’s the physical manifestation of being taught to believe my body was somehow not up to par, that I didn’t live up to what someone else thought I should be.

Well, fuck you, Ms. Peavey, wherever you are. Fuck you, Presidential Fitness Test. Fuck you, classmates who laughed and pointed fingers.

I am not broken. There is nothing wrong with my body. I am perfect and whole and almost miraculously capable.

And it only took me 25 years (and counting) to figure that out.


33 Ways to Spoil Yourself Silly


33 Ways to Spoil Yourself Silly

1. Take yourself out to lunch.

2. Do something you loved as a kid.

3. Buy yourself that item you’ve been coveting.

4. Spend an hour diving into the story of a fictional book.

5. Take-off for a weekend solo retreat.

6. Enjoy a restorative yoga class.

7. Explore your city, or a new city, or a shop in your ‘hood—anywhere will do as long as it feels new and exciting.

8. Try a bold new lipstick colour.

9. Take a hot shower until the water runs out.

10. Grab a watercolour paint palette and paper and paint something your three year old self would adore.

11. Hire a personal shopper.

12. Light a beeswax candle and meditate.

13. Make crafts (with or without instructions).

14. Go for high tea with your easiest-to-be-with friend.

15. Bake a cake from scratch and eat the first slice.

16. Make plans for everyone you live with so you can hang out at home by yourself.

17. Buy a bunch of flowers and do nothing but breathe their sweet smell and contemplate their natural beauty.

18. Laugh.

19. Use your finest something.

20. Take the train somewhere and watch the world glide by.

21. Go outside, look up at the sky, close your eyes and bask in the light of the sun (or moon).

22. Dance without a care in the world to music that inspires your movement.

23. Make yourself breakfast and eat it in bed.

24. Try floating.

25. Find an inspiring notebook and a pen you adore and start writing every thought that’s in your head.

26. Treat yourself to an expensive bottle of wine.

27. Do absolutely nothing for ten minutes.

28. Go for a walk in the woods.

29. Hire a chef to cook dinner at your house for you and a group of friends who make you laugh (see above).

30. Try eyelash extensions.

31. Indulge in a day at a Scandinavian spa.

32. Take a nap.

33. Dust off your photo albums and take a trip down memory lane.