It’s Better on the Other Side

I can’t tell you how to get better. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, I can’t tell you how to overcome it. I can’t convince you to stop your unhealthy habits- that’s all is up to you. What I can tell you- is no matter how hopeless your situation seems or how much it just doesn’t seem worth the trouble to “get better”—it is better on the other side.

That being said her is a little recap of my past couple of years:

I am naturally thin but my weight has gone through a 25-pound yo-yo since I was 16. The lows and the high within that range were usually when I had some pretty unhealthy habits.

[October 2012] Almost two years ago, I hurt my knee and without running and other high-intensity cardio, I snapped. It was not just my inability to run though—it was that I felt lost. I had friends and a job and I have a great family. But I did not like who I was. I have always disliked little parts about myself (sometimes I disliked myself more than other times), but something in me just boiled over and everyday I began to loathe myself more and more.

I started to become obsessed with getting smaller. I began to crave the feeling of hunger, it was like some challenge that kept me engaged in my life and before I knew it I had dropped down to the size I was when I was 14/15 (I was 19 at the time).

I knew what I was doing was wrong, but part of me just didn’t care. Part of me was proud of how I could shut up my voice of reason for the sake of being skinnier.

People say that this kind of obsession is about being able to control something in your life, but I think its the opposite—its about surrendering control of your life to an evil little voice in your head. I think because I always felt like I had to be in control that I just wanted something else to “take the wheel” for a while.

I relinquished my emotions- I smiled, but I wasn’t happy. Bad things would happen, but I Wasn’t fully sad. I was kind of just numb.

[January 2013] I got to a point where it is not an even a debate of “should I eat this”, because that voice had already told me “no.”

I remember not wanting to gain control back over my health and happiness because it was so much easier being wrapped up in the sick numbers game of “how low can you go.”

[May 2013] But then there was the “bright light” in my life (here I get a bit cheesey)—my boyfriend. I had been dating him for few months and began to fall for him more and more. He made me feel like there was so reason to care. I didn’t want him to worry about me not eating enough or not being able to enjoy the little things like splitting a sundae.

I started to see that there was to life than being numb to the world. Did I really want to be so cold all the time? Did I really want to have inverted boobs? Was I really okay with letting my body waste away?

I wanted to be happy. I was with someone who actually made me forget about the little voice in my head and I was ready to take advantage of that.

[October 2013] Skip to last October, I had gained some of my weight back and was starting to get a little bit healthier physically and was starting to gain more control mentally. I found all these girls on instagram who had changed their life for the better by restoring their metabolism through reverse dieting. They all seemed so happy and I wanted to be like them. But I was scared. I did not lift weights, I ran. And Lord knows I was not comfortable with eating more than 1500 calories a day (still an enormous leap from my 600 calorie days). I tore three muscles in my right quad and decided that was a sign to turn to weight lifting and to begin my reverse diet.

[December 2013] The first couple months were a struggle, but around Christmas time it hit me—I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with memories of how I dreaded holidays because I had to avoid all the food and questions from my family. That is not how you make good memories. And starting that Christmas, I started to feel free.

[February 2014] I stopped counting macros in February. I made the conscious decision to focus on all the wonderful things in my life. Sometimes I would still stress about hitting my untracked macros and some days I would track again- but it slowly became less and less important to me.

[October 2014] In the last 8 months I have changed my workout routine more times than I can count. Sometimes I work out a lot and sometimes I workout a little.

I no longer fit in the same clothes I did when I was in high school, but I am okay with that because I am happier and healthier than ever.

I realized there are so many wonderful things in life and there is no way I am going to let a voice diminish all the wonderful experiences I will have.

I know I could never let a voice of negativity take over my life again and that is a feeling of happiness and a freedom that I wish anyone who feels trapped in an emotional, or otherwise negative, situation could feel.

If you feel you aren’t worth the change for the better- trust me you are.

If you think it isn’t worth the fight for your happiness- it is.

We all struggle through things, but it is through those struggles that we can appreciate the greatest happiness.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

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Setting Priorities and Enjoying Vacation

This will probably be a part 1 of 2 thing… BUT here it goes!

In three days I leave for a cruise to Mexico. In order to prepare, I have admittedly been eating less processed foods and working out a bit more than I had been a month ago. I was just trying to peak on my confidence in a bikini. I wanted to be as “firm” as I could when I went on vacation. And this thought has me torn. Do I not think I look good enough in a bikini now? Is it some crime against humanity to have a little meat on my bones? Why did I instantly think “vacation- oh better slim up”?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with what I was doing physically (If you want to eat a little healthier to firm up a bit before a beach vacation then great- just don’t kill yourself doing it), it was more of the mental pressure I was putting on myself. I hit a breaking point when I went bathing suit shopping and all the bathing suits didn’t cover any of my butt and pinched at fat I didn’t want to believe I had (seriously though, why is the bathing suit trend to have 75% of your ass hanging out? I don’t get it…) and I started crying. In a target dressing room. Definitely not my proudest moment. 

So I called my boyfriend that night and let it all out. I said I hated that nothing fit and that I work so hard and my hard work just doesn’t show. I said I was dreading getting in the bikini and that I had initially wanted to get a “cute poolside bikini picture” but now that was out of the question. And here is what he told me: “Do you think Beyonce or J Lo fit in those itty bitty size bikinis?! Do you think they can get just any old pair of jeans or bathing suit bottoms? They are not the smallest women, yet they have some of the best bodies in the world! They have fat and muscle and look AMAZING! And so do you. Plus who says you have to be an extra small or a small to wear a bikini?! Just go up a size! You look incredible and you are healthy.” My rebuttal was that he was right, I just wished my size was more muscle and less fat. 

Less fat for this vacation. Looking firmer for a picture. Becoming “bikini ready”. And now I am sitting here thinking, “who the heck am I trying to impress?! Am I trying to get an effing swimwear modeling contract on this boat?!” Uh no…

So now I am re-evaluating and putting things in perspective. I have fat, but really nothing even close to excessive… just a healthy amount. I am also happier than I have ever been. I also am going on this vacation to have fun with my boyfriend, who thinks I look great in a bathing suit. And why did I want a poolside picture? To post on Facebook/ instagram- BUT WHO THE HELL AM I TRYING TO IMPRESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA?! Nobody. That’s who. I need to not focus on impressing others and just focus on having a great time.

The only reason I want pictures now is to remember this amazing weekend. And if I post them awesome! If I don’t who cares?! I am happy, in love, and going on a cruise with my favorite person… that’s a whole lot more important than having a poolside pic that shows off a six pack (that I most likely will never have-but I am cool with my tummy as is it because it isn’t half bad).

NOW WITH THAT BEING SAID, this is how I plan to enjoy my vacation:

Phone off and away

Working out ONLY if I want to

Eating what I feel like (without over-doing it- no tummy aches from over-eating!)

Enjoying poolside drinks

Dancing my heart out at night

Putting away school work 

Not giving a flying f*ck what anyone else thinks (except my boyfriend, but he loves and supports anything that makes me happy- so I don’t need to worry about that)

ROCKING THE HELL OUT OF THE BIKINI BECAUSE I SAY SO AND NOT BECAUSE I FIT SOMEONE ELSE’S STANDARDS

I gained my life back.

In the last year I have gained about 20 pounds and several pant sizes. And I am proud of it. When I tell people how much I have gained, they usually say something like, “Oh- but you are still skinny!” or “Don’t worry, you still look good!” What they don’t realize is I know I look good and I know I look and feel better!

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Here I was on April 29th, 2013, just a few pounds above my lowest weight and I was trying on a bathing suit at Target. I thought I looked fat. The bandaid on my arm is from donating blood a few days prior. They took my ½ the blood they normally would have because of how thin I looked. And even with them only taking half the blood, it took so much out of me that I nearly passed out and had to go to sleep at 7 that night because I felt so sick and tired. What else would you expect when eating significantly less than 1000 calories a day?

My rib cage stuck out without me sucking in. My lower tummy popped, not because of a food baby, but because of lack of nourishment. My skin clung to my shoulder blades and collarbones. There was no muscle, no color to my skin—I was wasting away. This is the most revealing picture I have of me near my low weight and I hate seeing it, but it also reminds me of everything outside of the number on the scale that I have gained.

Now here I am today:

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I have gained 20 pounds, but I have also gained confidence, a butt, boobs, my health, my happiness, my life back. I no longer walk around looking like a ghost. I no longer look in the mirror and see nothing but flaws. In fact, I am starting to really like what I see! Despite the areas that have more fat or when I have a food baby (which I proudly rocked this morning after all my post-graduation burgers and Sprinkles cupcakes)—I know I can flex and feel strong. I really am proud of who I have become. I feel like I am myself again. It has been years since I felt this happy. And it all happened because I decided I was no longer going to teeter between healthy and skinny. I fully dedicated myself to being positive and eating enough to fully sustain and nourish my body. I have never looked back. My progress over the last year has taught me I can never give up. Anything is possible with the right mindset! Love yourself and believe in all the things you can achieve and great things will happen.

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Building Foundations

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

I posted about the importance of healthy foundations on my instagram a few days ago, but I feel the need to expand and emphasize exactly how important it has been for me to create a solid foundation on which to live your life.

Our foundations will all be created in different ways, but our foundations are what can stabilize us in the most critical conditions. The stronger you build your foundations, the more you can withstand. Never neglect your foundations, when times are good focus on strengthening yourself (body and mind alike) because that will contribute to those foundations.

Last year, I neglected all the positive things in my life and focused on all that was negative and as a result I let my foundations kind of crumble down, so when additional challenges were added to my schedule I sort of fell through the cracks (more so than I ever had before). Climbing out from that mindset was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My mentality caused me physical pain and suffering because I classified everything in the wrong way (for my post on how I try to reclassify my struggles click here).

The past three months have been a full dedication to being truly happy and healthy and focusing on all the blessings in my life. The combination of eating a healthy amount, working out to get stronger (not to get skinnier), smiling more (and meaning it), and taking time to look around and be thankful for all the positivity that I am surrounded by (everything from people to weather, my puppies to my education) have resulted in the strongest foundation I have ever built.

Exactly what does this mean for me? It means that when I spent all of my spring break working then got the news that I was missing two classes I needed to graduate this May—I didn’t panic (well not for long). I did everything I could to remain calm and find a solution. Did I handle it perfectly? No. But did I let it break me? Definitely not!

Now I am: enrolled in 21 credit hours (including one Master’s level course), completing my thesis, organizing a student leadership day for junior high student, working 5 days a week (I take two days off because I am at school from 7:30-5:35 on those days), and dealing with the never ending stream of tests, case studies, and miscellaneous other responsibilities. I am lucky to workout three times in a week.  But- I am still eating over 2000 (mostly very healthy) calories a day. I am still staying positive. My body is hardly changing. And I know that when my schedule opens up, I will get to go back to my beloved workout routine.

Until then, I am resting easy on my strong foundations.

 

 

Reclassifying

“If you see the world and yourself through a lens smudged by negativity then you’ll find much misery. If you look outwards and inwards through lens brightened by positivity you’ll find much to be happy and appreciative about.”

I haven’t written in a while and I regret that, but life caught up with me and sadly I didn’t have time to post anything.

A few little updates before I reveal my revelation. I started intuitive eating on February 1st and have found it remarkably freeing. It causes me anxiety often and I do keep a slight mental count of what I am consuming, but all in all it is nice not having to record everything. It feels like I am sort of feeling “normal” again.

I have also gotten so busy with school, work, and the organization I volunteer with that time to workout has all but disappeared. I still plank for at least 5 minutes a day with a 5 minute bridge hold, but instead of having the goal to workout for at least 90 minutes 6 times a week, my goal is to workout for 60 minutes 4 times a week.

Through all of my chaos I have had a revelation (REVELATION TIME!!):

I (and this goes for you all as well) am in control of me. I have thought this before, but I don’t think I really understood or practiced that control to its full extent.

I still freak out sometimes about silly things. For instance, I nearly had a panic attack because I ate an entire banana with my Greek yogurt after my weight workout and I didn’t go for my run. A voice in my head told me I didn’t deserve the banana because I didn’t run. How silly does that sound?! I mean it’s a little banana for goodness sakes! Its good for me!

I vocalized why I had gotten so anxious (and was crying) all of a sudden to my boyfriend and before he could even say anything—I started laughing. I was essentially crying over a banana. And I know that the reason I was able to get so upset over a banana goes so much further than the fruit itself, but in that moment, all of the mean thoughts that have plagued me for so long just seemed so menial—laughable really.

I am not saying that those issues with food and body image are a joke, but I am saying that we can reclassify the negatives. We do not have to give in to an irrational voice that wants nothing more than to harm us.

Rather than letting those negative thoughts control us, laugh at them, fight and force them out with positivity.

There was a time when that banana would’ve ruined my day, but after giving it a good laugh, I had a near-perfect evening. So I challenge you to reclassify the rough stuff:

Why see going out to eat as something scary? Reclassify it as an opportunity to enjoy time with the ones you love (or if you are like me, as a time to catch up with a good read).

Why dread working out? Reclassify it as something to make you feel your best and become a stronger person.

Why stress over school or work? Reclassify is a chance to learn and better yourself through hard work.

I know these types of things are easier said than done, but positivity is always worth a try and you may just realize how much more you enjoy life when you turn the negatives into positives. After my first round of tests this semester, I realized exactly how real the power of positivity was. I didn’t let myself get overly stressed out and I lived in the moment of my studying rather than let myself become overcome with anxiety. I was more productive and far happier. 

I love feeling like, though I can’t control the stressors in my life, I can control the stress I feel. I handle things as they come and know that the only things that define me and my happiness are the thing I let control me and my happiness. So take a deep breath and trying looking at the world through a positive lens.

“Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a takeoff. Don’t just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won’t happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you’ll love it up here.”

Because you deserve it.

To my girls:

You are more beautiful than you know.

I know most days you wake up and see an ugly person, a fat person, a disappointing person. You want to be thinner, have more muscle tone, weigh less, have better abs, a bigger butt, smaller thighs. You feel that your progress isn’t worth it, that it is tedious, that it will destroy all you “worked” for. You think to yourself “I should eat less.” You finish with the gym and think “I could’ve done more.” You hear success stories, but you think, “but I am different. That wouldn’t work for me.” You want to stay positive, but you are filled with self-hate. You want to be happy, but you can’t feel anything but hopelessly sad.

I despise that you feel that way. Every time I feel like giving up on my progress, I think of you. I think of all those horrible feelings you are filled with and have to deal with everyday. I remember when those were the only things I felt. Now I have so much hope and happiness. I want that for you. You are worth so much more than how you treat yourself. I refuse to give up because I want you to know it is possible to move on. I want you to see that it can get better. I want you to love yourself. I want you to have bright future. I want your to care more about the things you love and are passionate about—things that bring you happiness and internal freedom—and less about whether you gain a few pounds.

I have spent the last 5 years in a horrible little bubble, where every other thought was centered on how low that number on a stupid square of plastic, metal, and rubber could go. Literally basing my happiness on how much I could minimize my force of gravity.

Well if that number means so much to you, do this little test. Weigh yourself. Drink a few glasses of water. Weigh yourself again. If your scale is accurate—you should weigh more. Did that water just make you fat? No.

If a friend came to you upset because she was working out all the time and gained a pound or two, would you say “I think you should eat less.” Or would you say : “You are still beautiful. It is muscle.“ “A couple pound really aren’t a big deal, you still look fabulous and healthy.”? You would give them encouragement, because you know those few pounds really don’t matter. Until they happen to you. Take your own advice.

Beyond that, there is size. I am a bigger size now than I was. I no longer wear the same size I wore when I was 14. Which is supposed to happen. Your body prepares itself to bear children. You may develop hips, boobs, and a butt. It’s natural and healthy. You may start to see some fat getting stored on your stomach, legs, and hips. And that is fine! It’s not what you may want initially, but it’s all about perspective. If you don’t shake off that desire to be as skinny as possible, then you will always see yourself as “fat.”

Let it go. I plead you to go and look in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful. Look at all those “flaws” that you have always been self conscious about and smile at them. They are part of the details that make you the wonderful person that you are.

You are priceless. You deserve unlimited happiness. You are an individual and I want you to see just how incredible that is.

Love yourself and treat yourself right— you deserve that much.

Much love,

Tracy

Post Script: I wrote this because of a few wonderful women I have talked to recently, but I wrote this for everyone who forgets their true value.

 

 “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis