We Interrupt This Program…

…for a couple of random updates and thoughts:

- First and foremost, the surgical procedure was short and simple, and now my ankle has no choice but to heal. The doctor put me in a hard cast this time so that there would be less chance for reinfection. So now I’m once again hopping about on crutches, but hopefully for the last time.

cast, crutches, surgery

The doctor chose a white cast–don’t they know that white is taboo after labor day?

- The allergic reaction also appears to have calmed down. It still hurts to run my skin under hot water, but I ate grapes without dying, so I suppose that’s a good sign.

- Most importantly, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the response to my blog. It’s funny: when I started writing a few months ago, I was just planning to share this new way of eating and living that had helped start to free me from my ED, and it’s become so much more. As I started to explain why I first ate red meat after 13 years, I fell down the rabbit hole that was my introduction to ED, and in the process, was forced to face some of my hardest truths–truths from which I’d hidden for a very long time. And that inspired me to go out and seek help.

But nothing has helped so much as your support, and your willingness to share your own stories.

And I can only hope that, as I get through my story and start sharing solutions, that you will continue to share your stories with me. I can only hope that this blog becomes a place for recovery–not just for myself, but for all of you out there. I can only hope that we can, together, find a way to stop becoming a nation of starving girls, yo-yo dieters, fad dieters, overweight-and-hating-it, calorie-counters, over-exercisers, and people out of touch with our own bodies. I can only hope that we can all work together to find a solution.

Anyway, I promise to keep up my end of that as best I can, and I hope that you’ll stay with me–and invite others–along the journey.

Dog, Babysitter, Puppy Love

Home after surgery, with a dog on my shoulder!

Thanks for sharing the love, guys.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

-K.

P.S. Be sure to check out my spiritual bucket list below. Maybe it can be inspiration for one of your own?

A Spiritual Bucket List

I’m going in for a minor surgical procedure in a few hours (and let’s hope this is the last one), and I’m feeling reflective.

I’m scared to go back to the doctor, but I know that this is the last time I will have to deal with this. I’m looking at this whole year-plus long ankle debacle as a message from the universe:

I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting for control over my body, and I’m finally coming to realize that it’s not mine to control. I assumed that I had the right to do whatever I wanted to it, but it turns out that I’m lucky to have been given permission to use it as I have. And, like a rowdy, disrespectful hotel guest, I’m responsible for any damages that I leave behind.

Looking down at my mottled and swollen skin (by-products of the past week’s allergic reaction), my atrophied calf, my bruised and scarred ankle…I’m realizing that I have no choice but to accept the body that I’m living in and to use it only to make a better life for myself. I read an amazing quote in Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney Martin, one that I’m making my mantra: “I will meet my body where it is.”

In order to do that, though, I have to grow. I have to come to terms with the “me” who is not my body. It’s scary, uncharted grown up territory, but it’s time: I’m approaching 26, which always seemed like such a foreign, grown up land to the younger and more naive me, but here it is–and I’ve made it here without a map or stars to guide me. But I think it’s time to stop feeling my way through the dark and hoping I’ll end up somewhere comfortable.

I’ve realized that a lot of my “growing up”–my spiritual growth and my ability to relate to my mental and emotional needs–got stalled and stunted when I began my relationship with ED at the ripe old age of 13. But I’m ready to stop making excuses for myself and to double my spiritual age (from 13 to 26) in a much shorter amount of time than it took to keep it from growing.

So I’ve decided to make a “Spiritual Bucket List”. And I’m posting it here because I want to be accountable. I’m ready to take responsibility for myself. So, here goes:

- I will be honest–to myself and others–about my needs.

- I will articulate my needs.

- I will learn how to communicate without complaining.

- I will stop apologizing for my life.

- I will stand up for myself.

- I will set boundaries and communicate them effectively.

- I will establish a relationship with my higher power.

- I will stop making my higher power food and ritual.

- I will keep in touch with the people who enrich my life and let go of those who don’t.

- I will learn how to ask for help.

- I will seek friendship and fellowship–because the disease thrives on isolation.

- I will stop waiting for tomorrow and start living one day at a time.

- I will stop sweating the petty things (and I will never pet the sweaty things!–thanks Grammy :D)

- I will accept that I’m allowed to be happy.

- I will not engage in negative self-talk.

- I will not play the victim because I have the power to be a hero.

- I will actively work on figuring out what I want from life–and I will go out and get it.

- I will take responsibility for my life.

- I will stop blaming and living in the past.

- I will stop being afraid of success.

- I will take risks and stop being afraid of mistakes–they’re meant to be learned from.

- I will use my talents to help others whenever possible.

- I will stop being afraid to love and be loved.

- I will meet my body where it is, every day.

That’s all for now, although I’m sure the list will grow as I do.

-K.

A Brief Update

For those of you who were concerned and/or wondering why I fell off the planet for two days, I wanted to give you a brief update:

You know how doctors always ask you if you are allergic to any medications? Well, I’ve never had the occasion to answer in the affirmative. Until now.

The problem with medical allergies is that you usually don’t find out you’re allergic until you end up in the hospital.

So, I was supposed to have a brief procedure on my right ankle due to a post-op infection on Thursday (tomorrow). I’ve been on antibiotics for a similar infection twice in the last year, so instead of going with the recommended Keflex antibiotic, the doc prescribed Bactrim (since there’s a chance of the bacteria having built up a resistance to the Keflex).

Bactrim is a sulfa drug. And, apparently, I am allergic to sulfa drugs. Here’s how I found out:

I had been taking Bactrim for 5 of the prescribed 10 days when I noticed a couple of hives on my leg. I saw the doctor the next day for a regularly scheduled checkup, but the hives had already gone away. The doc said not to worry about it. So I didn’t.

On day 10 (now 4 days ago), I woke up at 6:30 in the morning with what looked like maybe a spider bite on my right elbow. Within an hour, we determined that said spider bite was the first of many hives that would crawl up my right (and soon left) arm.

The hives got progressively worse through Sunday, spreading to my legs and feet. By Monday, About 1/3 of my skin was covered. I had (what I later realized was) sulfite-containing* dried coconut in my coffee, and in 15 minutes the hives got worse. I had an emergency appt. with the doc, so they told me to just go back on Keflex and stop the Bactrim. I couldn’t take a steroid to stop the inflammation due to the impending surgery.

That night, I went to the emergency room. Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec…even massive doses did not bring the inflammation down. They sent me home around 1 am, and I tried to sleep.

By the time I went back to the emergency room yesterday, at least 2/3 of my body was covered in hives (including my lips, cheeks, and hairline), and I could barely walk due to the swelling in my feet.

After some blood work ruled out most of the worst-case scenarios (besides elevated liver enzymes), they gave me the steroid.

I’m in a holding pattern with my stupid ankle now, waiting to hear if it’s still advisable/possible to have the surgery/procedure tomorrow.

I’ll keep you all updated, and I apologize in advance if the blog posts are a little light for the rest of the week….

Wish me luck!

-K.

*While sulfites and sulfa drugs are two different things, they are still related. So while I was having a reaction to the built up Bactrim, even small amounts of the preservative sulfites (which are found in basically everything manmade and somethings that aren’t) intensified the reaction. I can’t even eat grapes until this drug is out of my system!

New Challenges

Despite the heat of the dog days, August ushered in a much more tolerable end to an intolerable summer. Although my ankle was still sore, my relationship with my body was still impaired, and I had not yet gotten a promotion, the stars started to align for healing in all of these areas. Or so it seemed, anyway.

In August I was asked to co-facilitate my first new hire training seminar. I had, in the past, been invited to mentor new hires, but I had never been able to directly influence their learning (and their induction to the kool-aid culture) as I would facilitating. It was a huge honor–made grander by the fact that I was asked to facilitate by my mentor. If he had the confidence in me to handle such a huge responsibility, then I knew I could muster the confidence in myself. I was beside myself with excitement, especially because I really do love that company, and I was getting paid to spend three days doing nothing but sharing that love with others. It was pretty much a win-win.

The seminar itself was a smashing success. No, I wasn’t perfect–and yes, I still had a lot to learn as a facilitator. However: what I did learn–about facilitation, about myself, about learning styles, and the like–was hugely important to me, and I was happy to use my mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

My torn sports bra was an unsettling reminder that I was still heavier than I wanted to be.

I was ready to grow. I needed to grow. The summer had been, if anything, a chance for me to start seeing how the seeds of ED had been sown among the seeds of my success, and I was ready to start pulling the weeds. Or so I thought, anyway.

At the seminar, my mentor (who knew I was a fan of yoga*) suggested that I try a 30-day challenge at our Bikram yoga center. For the uninitiated, Bikram yoga is a style of Hatha yoga as created by Bikram Choudhury.  Unlike your typical gym yoga class, which might rotate sequences of postures, all Bikram classes consist of the same 26 postures performed for the same amount of time every single class. Also unlike your typical gym yoga class, Bikram yoga is performed in 105 degree heat, with 40% humidity. It’s a little nutty, sure, but it’s an amazing experience if you can convince yourself to just stay in the room through your first class.

A 30-day challenge consists of 30 days of consistent practice. That means doing one yoga class every single day (although some studios make allowances for, you know, reality, and let you do doubles to make up the classes). I knew that it would be a little bit difficult to fit in 30 consistent days of yoga with my crazy retail schedule, but I decided to give it a try.

30-Day Challenge Sign Up

I also decided that it was time to make a change in my diet. I was still consuming my mostly-protein-powder calorie-restricted pseudo-figure-competitor diet, and I, to put it eloquently, felt like crap. I figured that yoga might help some of my physiological issues, but I wanted to feel better inside and out. That meant drastically changing my diet.

One of the MT’s good friends (who had become one of my favorite people left on earth) worked at Whole Foods and had blogged as she did the Engine 2 Diet. Engine 2 was created by a vegan firefighter (who converted his entire unit to plant-based living), and it advocates a 100% plant-based diet. After I read Engine 2 and did some research, I stumbled upon Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, which takes the plant-based living to the extreme: raw, vegan, and lots of juice.

Green Juice

So, because I can’t ever do anything halfway, I bought a juicer, threw away my whey protein powder, and invested in hemp, kale, and broccoli.

A few days after I began my vegan-and-yogi experiment, I got my promotion.

Everything seemed to be falling into place. Or so I believed, anyway.

- K.

*I’m going to do a separate post dedicated specifically to my romance with Bikram yoga, which is why I haven’t really written about it yet.

And now for your daily dose of media-inspired insanity:

There is a study making the internet-interpreted rounds, which states that Pro-Ana websites (websites that are ACTIVELY PROMOTING & CELEBRATING ANOREXIA) are actually good for people who are trying to recover from eating disorders.

Um…

WHAT?

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the B.S. about “[belonging] to a safe community of individuals with similar experiences.” And while I’ll concede that this “community” may at least give these girls the desire to stay alive longer than if they were suffering alone, that doesn’t change the fact that anorexia is still one of the most deadly psychiatric diseases–or the fact that staying alive and in the disease is about as useful as being dead from it.

Look, I went through my period of “recovery,” where I still read orthorexic health blogs–you know the ones: women posting pictures of their daily food plans along with their macros*, celebrating their “days off” with “active recovery”**, and posting progress pictures to keep themselves accountable. And during that period, I didn’t get better. I thought I had figured out my relationship to ED, but really I was just seeking a community of women in the same frame of mind who would justify that relationship. I imagine this is what it’s like to be stuck in a codependent and abusive relationship only to have your friends tell you that all is well and good because their boyfriends beat them too.

I’m glad that these girls are seeking something outside of their ED-constructed towers to help them cope, but until there’s a way to make them understand that there are coping mechanisms outside of the disease, they will never heal. And pro-ana (and pro-mia and thinspo/fitspo) are just more ways for ED to keep us from escaping through the window.

Please, if you’ve ever gone online to seek solace (or justification, or tips, or self-medication) through pro-ana (whether you’ve been diagnosed with a disorder or just have disordered eating/body image), please, please, please seek help. Even if it’s as simple as calling a friend or reading a good book whenever you have an impulse to feed the disease, as simple as finding a funny website that isn’t food related or following some inspirational quote-er on Twitter. Whatever it takes, get out of the disease.

And shame on those who seek to justify pro-ana as anything other than a harmful drug. Maybe we can’t regulate it, but that is no excuse to try to justify its use.

…end rant. (For now. And for more on fitspo, check out my earlier post today.)

- K.

*Macros are the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate, and fat, which make up all of the foods we eat (with the exception of alcohol). When people say they are concerned with “macros”, it means that they are concerned with the ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in relation to the ratio of each macronutrient they strive to eat each day. It’s taking calorie counting to the next level, because not only do you have to worry about restricting the total number of calories you put in your mouth, but also making them fit into perfect ratios to support whatever goal it is you think X amount of fat and Y amount of carbohydrates will achieve.

**Only a two hour bike ride up a mountain instead of going to the gym and doing fasted cardio followed by weights!

The Skinny on “Strong”

Today, I just wanted to say a few words on the “strong is the new skinny” phenomenon, since it seems to have popped up in my life multiple times over the last few days.

And I know that the following is out of context if you don’t know the rest of the ankle-and-ED story, but bear with me, since it’s what I’m dealing with right now:

Right now, I am not strong. Right now, I can barely stand on my own two feet. Right now, I literally have no balance.

The infection in my ankle, the synovial inflammation, the atrophy of the muscles, the months of poor, compensating movement patterns–all of these things have kept me from pursuing my “strength” and “health” goals.

I am not fat, but I am not muscular. I am not large, but I no longer wear my “skinny jeans.” I am not unhealthy, but I am not fit.

HOWEVER: I am deconditioned, but not decommissioned. 

I am no longer able to do what I used to do, but I have been given a new agency: the power of acceptance. I have let my ankle be an excuse for why I couldn’t achieve the aesthetic goals I thought were so important, but in the end, it became an excuse for me to tell ED “no.” I can’t do hours of cardio. I can’t even go swimming. There is no outlet for my obsession, and so I have had to learn instead how to cope.

And in learning how to cope, I opened my eyes to the Monster in the Mirror who was terrorizing me with images of fitness models and unrealistic goals. I opened my eyes and looked at some of the women who are competing and realized how thin and sickly they look. They are “strong” and they are “skinny,” but I know all too well that somewhere, gestating inside of them, are the seeds of malnutrition, adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance, and mental/emotional disorders such as BDD and ED.

I know, because even though I never had the chance to compete, I was there with them. I have all of those problems because I allowed myself to believe that I had to fit an ideal–not of the waif-like skinny models of the 90s, but of the 0% body fat fitness models of the millennium.

Yes, strong is important. But strength has nothing to do with an aesthetic ideal. Strength–and health–can happen even without fasted cardio and tupperwares full of boiled chicken and steamed broccoli. And, yes, I still think muscles are sexy; however at this point, I’ve been forced to accept that it’s not about body fat levels or lack of cellulite, it’s about nourishing my body enough to survive until tomorrow, and as many tomorrows as I can after that one.

I also opened my eyes to the “regular” women (and men) I know, who post and tweet and talk about eating less and exercising more and how fat they think they look. All of the negative self-talk, all of the unnecessary worrying…wouldn’t life be so much better if they could learn to appreciate, nourish, and augment the strength they are already capable of?

Yes, being strong is an admirable goal, but what is strength without balance?* What is weight loss/gain without confidence? What is life without happiness? Where is the strength in a world dedicated to ED?**

I spoke to a woman the other day who couldn’t understand why I was against the fitspo images of “strong is the new skinny.” She is strong, and she is proud of her muscles. And she has every right to be. But for her, muscles are a means to improving athletic performance, not augmenting the clothes she wears. She is concerned with how many pounds she can lift in so much time, not by how much her triceps “pop” in a sleeveless shirt. She uses her abs instead of looking at them. Every person should be so lucky to have that kind of relationship with his or her body. “Strong is the new skinny” makes us want to get fit because we want to look a certain way; the athletic/muscular performance is considered only a side effect.*** But right now, “strong is the new skinny” is something I am not and cannot be–and I am not alone in this.

Letting go of the look and striving for the be is the only cure. And that means letting go of the have to and the should. It means investing in a strength other than the one that ED offers–call it a spiritual strength, call it an emotional strength, but call it anything but “strong is the new skinny.”

With my injury, I have lost the ability to train the way I used to. Even the basics are less available to me as I try to keep the inflammation in my body down (and let the antibiotics do their work). It has been a long time since I have been able to devote hours to the gym, but I have made do. And I am still strong.

No, I can’t do a pull up, but I am still strong enough to chin. No, I can’t run a mile, but I can hold a plank for 2 minutes. I will celebrate whatever strength my body will let me have while I heal, and I will be gentle with myself until I can get my ankle strong again.

That’s the kind of strength I can believe in–and skinny be damned.

Happiness, Choice

Happiness is a choice, and today I choose to be happy.

-K.

*And I’m not just talking about being able to do an overhead press while standing on a bosu ball…

**Even if you don’t have a clinically diagnosed ED, by continuing, spreading, and promoting the negative self-talk, the abnormal and unattainable body ideals, and transmutation of health and wellness into aesthetic goals, you’re helping keep ED alive–even in your own life.

***I’m sure if personal trainers+ had a dollar for every client who came to them seeking to look better and then complained about having to work out, training would be a much better paid profession. If you go to the gym because you want to look a certain way but hate every second of it, there’s something wrong. Find a way to be active that makes you happy, and the aesthetics will follow.

+To clarify, I’m talking about general population trainers, not specialized trainers like strength coaches, athletic coaches, physical therapists, etc.

Friday Inspiration

Not feeling particularly inspired to write this morning, but I did want to share a little Friday inspiration with you anyway:

Bravery, Courage, Life

I found this over at Happy is the New Healthy, along with a really great post about why “strong is the new skinny” may not be the best way to shift the paradigm (in other words: it’s thinspo in disguise).

So, head bravely into the weekend, and I’ll see you on the other side!

- K.

 

Pain Is Weakness [Entering] the Body

To the squeamish or the faint of heart, I apologize for following (especially since I count myself among your numbers):

Cellulitis is a really serious skin infection that, left untreated, can cause blood poisoning and death.

And I had cellulitis. For the second time in a matter of months.*

Cellulitis, infection, knee

Day one

My immediate concern was to get my fever down, get the swelling down, and get my knee back to working order. I had to explain to ED that, while I couldn’t work out, I was at least benefitting from my bed rest because I wasn’t in the mood to eat. It was lose-win, but ED would have to deal with it.

Now, I know it comes as a surprise, but I didn’t die. The antibiotics did their job, and I was back on my feet…foot…in a few weeks.

Cellulitis, Infection, Knee

The worst of it

My ankle still felt weak, but I figured that weakness was just a signal that I needed to start getting it back into shape. (All of those fitspo pictures telling me that “pain is weakness leaving the body” couldn’t be wrong…right?) So I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, since traditional footwear had failed me, and I got myself back into the gym and back on the road.

Vibram, Five Fingers, Running, Barefoot

Monkey shoes

I will say that I really love those shoes. There is something magical that happens when you can actually feel the road under your feet, and when you can include the earth as an ally. You feel balanced. You feel reactive. You feel powerful.

Unfortunately, I took that feeling as a green light for pushing harder. My runs increased again in time and duration, and I started going back to the gym. On days when I wasn’t lifting weights, I was performing plyometric exercises like burpees and box jumps until my ankle literally gave out.

I was unhappy at home, I was unhappy at work, I was unhappy in my body, but I had the earth under my feet and so I had hope.

And hope is a beautiful thing–except when the higher power in which you’ve placed it is an utterly controlling disorder that’s seeking to do nothing but ruin your life. And my hope, no matter how I tried to explain my way around it, lay directly in ED’s hands.

I consigned myself to getting fat. I had, after all, a chance at getting that promotion at work. My roommates were still talking to me. I had a pair of really cool shoes.

Maybe ED would let this one slide.

Foam rolling

Foam rolling my unhappy muscles

- K.

*I have the world’s driest hands, which, when confined to the frigid, tundra-like environment of the air-conditioned mall for 9+ hours a day, crack with even the slightest movement. And I work with these dry, cracked hands all day in a very public environment, where I am forced to shake hands and share various pieces of technology with hundreds of people a day. If ever there were a case for wearing gloves to work, this would be it: I ended up with a cellulitis in my right middle finger in the early spring due to circumstances unknown but pretty much easily inferred. The good news was that I could practice a little covert passive-aggression by keeping my middle finger raised throughout the day.+

+I’m kidding. ++

++Sort of.