The Breast Part

Fair warning: This is a post about my boobs.  If you are a relative or coworker or anyone who doesn’t want to hear me talk about this most wonderful body part, you have been warned.

One of the single biggest influences on my body image, whether positive or negative, is my breasts.

It might sound silly, but it is very, very true.  I don’t know if all women are especially conscious of their breasts, but I always have been.  For the longest time, they were too small (or so I thought).  Granted, I was about 14 years old when I thought this, but still, I was hyper-aware.  It is sort of awkward, conceptually, when you think about it: women have these weird mound-like protrusions from their chest.  Obviously, they serve a very important purpose (i.e., breastfeeding). But for the vast majority of our lives, we aren’t breastfeeding.  During these non-nursing times, breasts become something sort of different: sexual objects.  But I think that a lot of the way we see our breasts isn’t determined by men or sex, but by other women.

When I started high school, I remember thinking that I must be the flattest-chested girl in the entire school.  This wasn’t true at all, but my image of breasts did not fit with how I thought they should be.  This says a lot about how girls are primed, even from a young age — I was thirteen years old.  Over high school, my breasts grew at what was probably a painfully normal rate.  I felt happy with their size when I started college at 17.  I was maybe a small C cup at that point.  Since then, they’ve grown about two more sizes.  This is not what I wanted to happen, at all.  I feel like women are constantly made to understand that their bodies can be perfectly controlled, in terms of size and shape.  Breasts are a perfect example of why this is not true.

In the last four years, I have been on and off various hormones.  About two years ago, I finally settled on a birth control pill that worked well (I was only using it to control my period, headaches, acne, etc.).  After having pulmonary emboli, however, hormones are out of my life permanently.  At first I thought this would be nice and cleansing; more authentic to how my body should be.  But after a solid six months hormone-free, I have to say that I am hating it.  I have terrible acne for half the month, awful cramps and headaches, and my moods are not only terrible but unpredictable.  I cannot believe that women lived like this for thousands of years before the invention of the pill.

Whatever.  My point is that the lack of birth control hormones in my system has had another unpleasant side effect: my boobs have been growing like rabid animals.  Ugh.

It’s frustrating to feel like I reached a point where I was satisfied with my breast size and now they’re growing beyond my control.  I despise not being in control.  But that’s just the thing: I have been made to believe, all my life, that my body can be shaped and contorted and dominated like a bonsai tree. This is not the case, and it never will be; there are a million factors that play a role in determining the size and shape of all our various body parts.

So why do I let my boobs affect my self-esteem so much?  I’m constantly aware of their size; I feel like they’re awkward and too big all the time.  My younger high school self thought they were too small, making me somehow un-womanly.   There are, of course, some practical reasons for my current self-consciousness about them: plain and simple, they get in the way.  It would be so much easier to run with smaller boobs.  There are certain yoga poses where I feel like I’m being strangled by a small human sitting on my chest, until I realize that it’s really just my own breasts.

Other times, I feel like I’m being stared at by men.  I don’t think I’m imagining it.  It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing; men ogle.  And I am so tired of it.  I am much more than whatever sexuality my breasts represent.  I think I have a nice face, too.  Is it somehow less important?

It’s a funny conundrum: my breasts are sometimes wonderful, sexual objects and are other times obnoxious, uncomfortable objects.  Depending on which side of this equation they fall on on any given day, my self-esteem is either high or low.  By no means are breasts the only determinant of my (or any other woman’s) self-esteem.  But they are a pretty big factor.  Sometimes I wish they would just go away entirely.

I am going to try to be nicer to my breasts.  After all, they do have an important purpose.  Many women would probably be thrilled to have my boobs.  I guess we want what we can’t have.  And short of a breast reduction, which I don’t think I would really want anyway, my boobs are not going to be changing much.  L (my therapist) is always trying to get me to accept things the way they are, at least in moments like this.  I think that my self-consciousness about my breasts is a moment where I need to just accept myself: that means accepting the good and the bad.  Sometimes it’s nice to get a little attention.  Other times it’s downright obnoxious.  Sometimes they make me feel very womanly.  Other times they feel big and horrible.  Overall, they are a wonderful, albeit confusing, body part over which I don’t really have control.

So be it.

Your feelings on your boobs?  How do they affect your self-esteem?

Thoughts On Yoga

Today’s Happy Note: Best. Yoga. Class. Ever.

I know that not everybody is into yoga, and that’s fine, but it really has been life-changing/saving for me.  I can enter class seething, panicked, distraught, weepy, or in pain.  And leave relaxed, smiling, calm, joyful, spiritual.  Today we did a lot of inversions, balances, and twisting, including one pose I have never done before that I could not find any name for or picture of online.  It is basically what the top person is doing in this photo, only upright, with back foot and hand on the ground:

Hangle Dangle

Source

Anyone have any ideas?

What I loved most about class today was that my emotions started coming up, uncontrollably.  As my body physically opened up I could feel the things in my heart pouring out as well. I have heard Averie (who is giving away some awesome hemp products here) and other yogis talk about this before but have never felt it.  Well, I have news for you: this is not one of those crazy newfangled yoga things.  It really happened — I was alternately smiling and crying during class.  It was wonderful and soothing to let things out of my body like that.

I think yoga has made me more spiritual and more comfortable in my own body.  It calms me down and lifts me up at the same time.  It helps me realize that I do indeed know God, in some guise or other, and that I have this wonderful, amazing body that I need to treat well.  I run because it makes me feel clean and strong, in heart and body and mind, but yoga adds an element of spirit, I think.

Have you tried yoga?  It seems like most healthy living bloggers either love it or hate it.  I am definitely in the loving it camp.  I do recommend trying a few different classes, styles, studios, gyms, or videos before giving up; each experience is different and you really need to find what works for you.  Polly’s videos are always a good place to start!

My absolute favorite studio in NYC is Yoga Vida. Highly recommended, and relatively inexpensive.

The eats:

Diet snapple iced tea and plain oats with soymilk and PB.

Tuna made with plain yogurt and hummus, giant pile of steamed veggies.  I know everyone thinks they’re boring, but sometimes I lover plain and simple lightly steamed veggies.

Two afternoon snacks is the way to go.  PB and chocolate chip Larabar and a basically empty AB jar with plain 2% Fage (I’m in love  — the fats are pretty much miraculous), frozen blueberries, and Justin’s chocolate PB (didn’t really go with it, taste-wise).

I realized that recently I have been falling into the blogger-comparison trap.  I think, “healthy living bloggers should have one afternoon snack, dinner, then a small dessert, or two afternoon snacks and no desserts — I must be overeating!”  BUT this is what works for me.  And I never eat (or want a morning) snack, and I keep main meals a bit smaller.  So there.  I can have two afternoon snacks and a dessert if that’s what my body wants.

Random WF bowl.  It had arugula, walnut/grape chicken salad (my favorite kind), a few bites of potato, black bean udon noodles, shredded zucchini/summer squash, and marinated kale salad.  I am NOT a kale girl, but I really liked this one.  It had shredded carrots, cabbage, and lots of balsamic.

Blurry raspberry protein shake: vanilla soy milk, half a banana, handful frozen raspberries, lots of ice, half scoop of vanilla whey/soy protein, and a few spoonfuls of coconut sorbet.  Topped with dark chocolate and chocolate PB.

A good day of eats — lots of variety, lots of nutrients, good portions that kept me full but not too full.  My belly is a happy belly right about now!

Some days I feel like all my meals/snacks involve nuts or nut butter.  I really truly believe that, if it came down to it, I would say PB is my favorite food.  Oats, Greek yogurt, apples, and carrots are all tied for second place. 🙂

What’s your favorite food?

Thoughts on yoga?

BoysEatingTherapyWorkouts

Today’s Happy Note: Flirting with a British guy at the grocery store…

Boys

I don’t know if my Happy Note has ever involved a boy.  But male specimens have been flying around in my life like crazy lately!  I don’t know where they’re coming from.  Well, I do: the library, the gym, the specialty market.  I suppose they have always been there.  But now I’m noticing them.  And they’re noticing me.  And this is all so strange and new and, well, a little bit wonderful, for me.  It’s sort of a little self-confidence feedback loop: as I have become more and more confident in my abilities, my personality, and my body, I think other people notice that confidence. Feeling loved and sought out then reinforces the confidence, etc., etc.

I will NEVER base my self-worth off of men.  I am my own woman, my own beauty, my own happiness.  But having others involved in my life is a beautiful, fulfilling thing.  Relationships — of all varieties — are a component of happiness and self-fulfillment.

I am not sure if all this flirtation (interaction? fun?) means anything or will lead to anything.  But I honestly regret not introducing myself to the man at the store.  He truly seemed wonderful, and it couldn’t have hurt to say my name.  I rarely get that sensation in my gut like “I should have done something differently.”  I did this evening.  But I can’t go back and talk to him now, can I?  I’m pretty sure he’s gone by now. 🙂

Eating

I definitely was emotionally snacking this evening.  I sort of got onto a weird eating schedule today and ended up being hungry at 10:00.  Once I have one snack in the evening, I can never have just one.  Does anyone else have this issue?  I am still in the process of observing my eating habits, emotions, rhythms, and associations. I am not getting angry at myself at this point.  More and more, I am beginning to realize that I deserve the best: I deserve to feel happy in my mind and body and to treat myself with love and care and kindness and respect.  I know this sounds all soft and new age-y, but it is what I am thinking about a lot lately.  In the past few months, I have felt like I have actually begun thinking about and repairing my relationship with food.  The funny thing is that I’m probably at my highest weight ever right now.

A big realization in this process has been that hunger is not a character flaw. Food is not the enemy.  Wanting to eat does not indicate some horrific problem in my body or in my heart.  I haven’t had a chance to talk about this with L much, but do plan to soon.  We have talked ever so slightly about my body image and general eating concerns, but that just isn’t an area we have explored yet.  I am anxious to do so.  Our weekly hour-long sessions never seem long enough!

I think this is a good segue into some vague therapy thoughts…

Therapy

As I said last week, my relationship with L and my thoughts about the process of therapy are changing.  This is okay.  Thanks for all your sweet thoughts on this — I was a little nervous that people wouldn’t want to read if I changed the content of my therapy posts.  But I need to do what I am comfortable with and what is right for my mental health at the moment.  I still struggle with depression and anxiety, daily.

So I am not entirely sure of the direction my therapy posts will go on at the moment.  I still write detailed thoughts in my journal.  I might share all or some of those thoughts on the blog, or some days, none.  I might just talk about the process, or something tangential, or simply verbalize some questions.

All I know is that my relationship with L has undergone a subtle but powerful, sudden shift over the summer.  It is now painfully intimate.  Lovely, raw, tender, delicate.  Different.

It’s funny how sometimes my biggest revelations in therapy aren’t necessarily related directly to what we talk about. Sometimes the breakthroughs come from connecting things in new ways, or from writing about it afterwards.  This week we talked a lot about stressors and money and the little things that tend to build up and make me crazy.  Not in a structured way at all — our sessions are terribly unstructured, and I like it that way.  I like that she never says things like “tell me a list of things that stress you out, and how those things make you feel.”  It is so much more organic than that.  That’s part of the beauty of it.  It is simply, on one level, a deep conversation between two people — an open wound.

The revelation this week was that I am capable of relating to and empathizing with people. And, therefore, I am capable of growing and sustaining satisfying friendships, relationships, etc.  I need not judge others — or myself — on their feelings.  I can be calm and gentle with others.  I can open up to them (even if it takes some time).  This ties back to what I said about food earlier; I deserve love, caring, affection.  From myself and those around me.  In fact, I deserve it so much that I can (and should) be an active participant in the development of relationships in my life.  In the last year, as I have come to understand myself better,  I have also begun understanding others.  And the ways in which we relate.

Sometimes, my relationships with other people hurt.  And other times they are very, very soothing and right.

I loved how our dialog went back and forth this week.  I love learning new things about L; it is important for me in terms of my ability to open up to her.  She told me a lot about her career trajectory, especially in her 20s, yesterday.  This was helpful to me both in terms of figuring out how the next few years of my own life might look and in terms of understanding and relating to her better.  She got married when she was 22 and divorced at 40.  I can’t imagine being married so young.  I almost didn’t believe her.  I don’t think that uncovering bits and pieces of her life is unproductive to my therapy at all.  Many psychotherapists and mental health professionals thing it is.  But I don’t.  It might be hard for her to sustain several of these intimate relationships, but, first of all, I know that not every patient is as interested in knowing her and, secondly, I get so much more out of it when I have this verbal, emotional dance with her.

Random but important thoughts.  That’s all for this week, I think.

Workouts

Yesterday I did four miles easy, with 5×100 meter strides thrown in, and 45 minutes full body strength training.  Today I did seven miles with hills.  Marathon training=hungry Caronae.  I will admit, I have a lot of anxiety about losing weight while training.  I might need to come up with some more specific goals and plans.  We shall see.

Goodnight friends!  Have I ever mentioned how wonderful you all are?  Seriously, every comment warms my heart.  Blogging has led me to such wonderful friends.  Even if you just stop by to read for a few minutes, I know you’re there, and it makes me feel so happy and connected.

Happy Friday!

Caronae’s “Lasagna” Make This.

Today’s Happy Note: I was feeling really unproductive in the morning, but all the sudden I realized “it’s never too late to turn the day around” and ended up getting lots of things done. 🙂

Good evening friends! Yesterday was just one of those days where my energy was zero (yet somehow I felt the need to consume massive amounts of cereal), my output was zero, and well, it was just icky.  I couldn’t seem to do anything.  I went to a performance in the evening with friends and a (boring) academic conference in the morning, so I guess I did some things.  But if I don’t work out, eat healthfully, and get school work done, I feel terribly unproductive.  And a part of me still translates this lack of productivity into worthlessness.  And then another part of me hates that part of me.  And then I feel like I’m at war with myself and I try to solve it by eating cereal (I never really “solve” my problems with other foods, oddly enough).

Lesson? It’s okay to have days where you do nothing.  Productivity is not measured in how much I exercise, precisely how many vegetables I have consumed, or whether or not I spent six hours at the library.  Sometimes it’s valuable to take a nap or rest day or spend an hour lounging in bed with my journal and hot chocolate.  I feel like I keep coming back to this lesson again and again.  I think it’s just something I need to keep telling myself, albeit gently, until I get it.

Somehow that feeling from yesterday began creeping into today, but I turned it around!  I was so proud of myself for this.  Geeky, I know, but when I’m in a bad mood or just a general funk, I tend to consciously keep myself in that place and make myself miserable.  Not today!  I didn’t get everything on the to-do list done, but I covered a lot of ground: I ran, did all readings for one class and am starting a paper for another, called my grandparents, washed clothes, cleaned room, prepped veggies for rest of week, cooked an awesome dinner, chatted with two friends, picked up my class shirt, and blogged.  Sounds like I have actually gotten quite a lot done.

Conclusion: Dear Caronae, please stop being so hard on yourself.  You are enough.  You are beautiful and capable and strong.  Smart and productive and friendly.  Smile!

I may go to the second most stressful college in the country (proven fact), but I don’t need to be stressed all the time!  Although with that said, this week is going to be mighty busy.  My goal is to take that stress and find healthy outlets — not hating on myself, eating emotionally, or moping around!  Here’s what has to get done this week (I’m only talking about schoolwork here):

-outline, research, and write 15 page paper on Arabian Nights

-outline and research 15 page paper on Amartya Sen vs. basic needs

-write prose poem

-read Virginia Woolf book and Foucault book

-read history textbooks

Okay, time to stop boring you all, seeing as this is not a homework blog or a stress blog!  Onto the fun stuff!

Exercise: I did the same workout I did earlier this week — a six mile run with 25 minutes of abs/yoga sandwiched in the middle.  This workout is actually really fun!  It’s nice to have a break in the middle, and I used a bench by the Hudson River to do the abs and yoga, so it was quite scenic.  I got to stare into the water and the coast and the various wooden docks; it seemed to help my focus for the yoga, and made the ab work more enjoyable.

I am looking for more “fun” stuff to do in terms of workouts for the next month or two (or possibly more).  I have no upcoming races or events to train for and I definitely want to cut back on the running a bit.  I have been doing strength and HIIT twice a week which is nice.  I want a class or a new form of exercise though.  I’m getting bored.  Anyone have any ideas or favorite classes or recommendations for stuff in NY (inexpensive)?

Eats: I consumed many delicious things today, as usual, but I will only be sharing one thing with you now.  Why is that?  Because it is the most delicious, fanciest, awesomest dish I have ever cooked and probably in the top five I have ever consumed.  That is why.  And it all started off as an experiment!

Caronae’s “lasagna” (serves one; cannot be easily doubled or tripled because it would probably fall apart) :

Ingredients…

about 10 large stalks of asparagus

about 1.5 C baby bella mushrooms

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

basil (dried or fresh)

spinach

1 egg

1/2 ounce very finely diced or shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and dry the mushrooms and asparagus.  Cut asparagus spears (horizontally, not lengthwise) into two even pieces.  Thinly slice the mushrooms.  Toss the asparagus and mushrooms with the EVOO and salt.  Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, measure out the rest of your ingredients.  When asparagus and mushrooms are finished, removed from oven.  Using a glass baking dish, make a little “raft” of asparagus — I used about eight half-spears for each layer of the raft.  Top this first layer with mushrooms and then half of the ricotta.  Sprinkle on a bit of basil.  Repeat the process again.  Top the upper layer of ricotta with a few more pieces of asparagus, if desired.  (Sidenote: I realize I should have taken pictures of this process, but it’s pretty much the exact same thing you would do when making a real lasagna). You may have extra veggies, if so, set aside for another day.  Cook this stack for 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile, crack egg into a bowl and heat in microwave for about 30 seconds.  Remove the egg and, using a spatula or other utensil, carefully work your way underneath the egg so that it is separated from the bowl.  Try not to break the yolk.  Lightly wash the spinach using a damp paper towel.  Do NOT submerge or soak; you need it to become dry and crispy.  When the “stack” is done, remove.  Top with the spinach (it should be pretty thoroughly covered; don’t worry because the spinach shrinks down and dries up), the egg, and the dices/shredded cheddar.  Cook for five more minutes.  Remove and eat.

I can’t really say anything about this dish — you just have to try it.  I don’t know if it was the richness of the ricotta and the EVOO or the combination of the smooth mushrooms with that distinct asparagus flavor.  Or the tiny bits of cheddar melting into the crisped up spinach.  I don’t think any individual component of this dish made it what it is; everything worked together.  That’s why the “stack”/”lasagna” format works so well for these ingredients; they can easily be consumed all in one bite.  I rarely post the recipes for my “experiments”, but this experiment was one serious winner.

Your plate should look like this afterwards (I actually licked mine)…

It’s actually fairly healthy too, probably because it’s made with a vegetable base.  Lots of healthy fats, yummy protein, and plant matter.  Totally fresh.  I might be gushing about this little creation for several days.  You have been forewarned.

This dinner was probably my weekend highlight.  What was yours?

Food and Feelings

I’ve been feeling really lazy in terms of exercise this week.  Lots of walking and a little bit of yoga; maybe I’ll do a little shredding after this post.  I do plan on getting out for a nice long-ish run early tomorrow morning.  I think it’s fine to be resting a lot after an intense training cycle and race, I suppose.  I feel like I need some exercise-adventure in my life.  Just something new and exciting, like surfing or rock climbing or mountain hiking or coral reef snorkeling.  Unfortunately, those things aren’t really options right now.  Anyone have any ideas for fun but still intense exercise options in NYC?

They were planting flowers all over campus today!  Mostly pansies and daffodils, but the colors were quite lovely — lots of periwinkle and lavendar shades.  This kind of thing makes me super happy.

Okay, no pictures today because I was pretty lazy, but also because I felt like I wasn’t eating healthfully enough or was eating too much.  A lot of times I feel negatively towards my relationship with food regardless of what fuel I use, but today I really did feel like I wasn’t giving my body what it needed.  I’m going to take pictures of everything for (at least) the next two weeks so I have a visual record at the end of each week.  I’ll only post highlights though so as not to bore you 🙂

Food, Love, Emotion:

I’ll be honest with you guys (and myself): in the past few weeks, I have been struggling with managing my emotions without turning to food.  Because of my activity level, this typically isn’t a major problem: if I have eaten several hundred extra calories, I’ll probably just burn them off on my next twelve miler.  But this isn’t the issue. The issue is that sometimes I eat when I am already full and sometimes I eat when I am feeling intense emotions, instead of turning to healthier outlets.  With that said, I am proud that I have been surviving (and even beginning to thrive) despite my mental illness.  It is not always easy to function through serious depression, but I have taken ownership over my disease in so many ways.  I see a therapist, I have lots of hobbies and passions that I can turn to, I have supportive friends and family members.  I acknowledge these triumphs and take pride in my improvements and newfound ability to love myself.  I think, however, that this might be the point at which I’m finally ready to begin moving away from using food as an emotional assistant.

These are the things that food can do for me:  fuel me through long days and workouts, help my brain and heart and organs to do their jobs, help me connect with those around me through social situations, and serve as a source of pleasure through cooking/experimenting/eating.  These are the things food can do for me.  Notice what I did not include in the list: food cannot solve my problems and it cannot be a friend.

For me, I think it is helpful to sketch out the reasons, emotions, and situations that cause me to turn to food:

1. Frustration: earlier tonight my computer was alternately not working or running really really slow (like Stone Age slow).  I reocgnized intellectually how frustrated and helpless this made me feel.  And then I proceeded to eat chocolate and granola.

2. Anxiety: when I feel tense or confused, food often seems like an easy remedy; it helps me ignore the situation rather than actually dealing with it.

3. Loneliness: this is the big one.  I have friends, acquaintances, family members, coworkers, peers, teachers, mentors.  I have a huge human support network who I can turn to when I feel sad or scared.  Learning how to do this will be integral, I think.

So this is where I am, emotionally, at this point.  I am a smart, educated woman.  I have begun the process of growing self-esteem over the last year, and I believe that this knowledge can translate to improved self-awareness regarding my eating patterns.  I think I’ll probably talk about these issues more in upcoming posts.  I apologize if that’s really not what you want to hear, but I think it’s something I need for my personal development.

Do you struggle with confusing food and feeling?  Do you have ideas or tips or thoughts about it?

See you tomorrow!

Caronae