Something Is Not Right

Today’s Happy Note: Catching up on most of my schoolwork.  Okay, so the actual act of doing the work isn’t “happy”, but having it done makes me happy.  So there.  I deem it worthy of a happy note. 🙂

Sorry to have disappeared on you friends!  I truly wish I could blog every night and it makes me sad that sometimes I have to hit the books instead. I have quite a lot of reading this semester, but not a lot of assignments.  This means that it is quite tempting to put off the reading, but then when the assignments come around, I would be screwed.

I know I have talked about priorities before (blah, can’t find the post), but I have been reorienting myself the past few days.  School already was a priority, but it needs to be even more of one.  I just kind of need to grit my teeth and get it done.  Meh.

Anyone else out there feeling mid-semester blues/overwhelmed?

I saw something fun on Angela’s Blog today!  Apparently, it is National Love Your Body day today.  I’ll get to that in a minute…

First, I have some training notes to catch you all up on!

1. Monday: I did an easy 25 minutes of weight lifting followed by my easy yoga class (it’s for school).  The instructor wears sweatpant booty shorts.  He is a man.  That is all.  My body was grateful for the easy day.

2. Tuesday: Was supposed to be nine miles of speedwork.  I really didn’t want to do it during the day and finally set out around six, planning to stay on the streets.  But it just didn’t feel right.  My body was moving in all the wrong ways — my lower legs seemed to be doing something completely different from my knees, which were doing something completely different from my quads.  You get the picture.  I listened to my body!  This is something that I have really struggled with in terms of exercising, so I was proud of myself.  I cut the run short and did four miles, with 5×100 strides in the last mile.

3. Wednesday: I figured I would just get in my nine miles today.  But.  Again, something wasn’t quite right.  Mostly, I was terribly tired.  I couldn’t seem to get out of bed in the morning or after my afternoon nap.  So I just did my easy yoga class. That was it.  Taking it this easy is hard for me!  I feel a lot of guilt.  But I know that taking the rest is a good idea.

I think there are three reasons why I struggle with guilt when I don’t workout hard everyday:

1. I tend to have an all-or-nothing mindset.  I feel like I’m either completely sedentary all day (in reality, this isn’t true) or insanely active.  I struggle to find an appropriate balance.

2. I overexercised at an unsustainable level for years — I think this is tied to the ways in which I was active as a child and adolescent.  From when I was four until I was fourteen, I was a gymnast.  The last few years of that, I would practice about 20 hours a week.  Then in high school, I did diving, track, and swimming (sometimes at the same time).  I would often be working out for hours a day — senior year, I swam for 3-5 hours a day during the fall season.  Thus, my expectations for physical activity were shaped unrealistically at a formative age, and thus it is truly difficult for me to understand that not working out that much is okay — normal people in the real world do not typically work out for more than two hours a day.  Even an hour is more than enough.  I think that, for me, mentally, moderate exercise is actually best.

3. I still feel the need to “make up for” everything I eat.  I probably eat slightly more than the average 20 year old female college student (although really I have no way of knowing this).  But I really am running a lot, and I also have a significant amount of muscle mass.  Regardless, I feel like if I don’t run 6+ miles a day, I am just another slovenly, greedy American who overeats and doesn’t move.

A few weeks ago, L pointed out to me that I would never say the things I say to myself (in my head) to another person. I would never, ever be that cruel to someone else.  So why do I do it to myself, over and over again? I don’t know.

I think this post is going in a slightly different direction that what I intended.  That’s okay though, since these are the things I need to talk about.  FYI: the rest of this post is about weight and related health concerns/body image issues. Please feel free to skip this part.

I typically weigh myself every 1-2 weeks.  Sometimes I go even longer, maybe every 3-4 weeks.  I am not obsessive about it and don’t record it or anything.

But.

I did weigh myself this Monday and a pattern clearly emerged. Or maybe the pattern has been there for a while but I just noticed it.  Whatever.  Thee point is simple: I have been gaining weight at a rate of almost exactly 1 pound per week since leaving the hospital.  It’s been just over three months, so approximately twelve weeks.  I have gained 12-14 pounds.  I was already a few pounds over my “happy weight”; I would estimate that I have about 17 pounds to lose at the moment.  This is very scary for me.  Very scary for me.

The reason it is so terrifying is that, as far as I can tell, it is something that is either largely or entirely out of my control. Something is wrong in my body.  I know my body and I know when something isn’t right.

Well, something isn’t right.  This weight doesn’t make sense.  I should not have gained 14 pounds since I left the hospital.  Not only have I been training for a marathon, but I have also been fairly careful to keep my eating in check.  I stopped taking birth control as soon as I was diagnosed with my pulmonary emboli. I am not a doctor (in fact, I pretty much suck at science in general), but to me, it seems like the birth control was doing something in my body that was good, and now that it has been taken away, something is going unchecked and rampant in me.

I saw the women’s health Nurse Practitioner at my school a few weeks ago (is it weird that there are a grand total of zero gynecologists for a college student/grad student population of like 30,000 students????).  I basically told her the same things I am telling you guys.  Something doesn’t make sense.  I want to know what is going on.  And, unlike many health conscious young people, I have no aversion whatsoever to medications.  I would happily take several medications, daily, if it would fix this.  I already take about four medications a day — I have several more types too.  I joke to people that I have my own pharmacy.  Taking pills really doesn’t bother me, nor do I feel like I’m somehow polluting my body. They’re pills. Scientists made them to help us, for the most part. It actually kind of bothers me when people get all purist and shit and say “oh, I don’t take pills, I don’t put chemicals in my body, I treat things naturally.”  Great — it’s really nice to know that you have never been burdened with serious medical conditions that require drugs.  I am so happy for you.

Okay, so that was completely tangential.  I’m a writer.  What can I say.  I like talking.

Getting back to the main storyline here.  The NP I saw referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist.  I called her office a week or two ago and she isn’t taking new patients until January.  I am not trying to wait that long, so I got a referral to someone else.  I will schedule the appointment tomorrow.  Hopefully, it will be in the next few weeks.  This is causing me a lot of anxiety, as you can tell.  I want to get to the bottom of it.  Fast.

Unfortunately, medicine doesn’t always work that way.  Our bodies don’t always work that way.  Sometimes they do not want to reveal their secrets, even when their secrets are hurting us.  I hate how medicine is simultaneously so scientific and so unpredictable.  Anyone else find this duality unsettling?

My guess is that, starting after the marathon, we are going to have to do some serious screwing around with my diet and medications.  Probably accompanied by some serious blood tests.  I may have a weird adrenal disorder.  I may have PCOS.  I may not have it.  I may have pre-diabetes.  I may have some bizarre hormonal problem.

So, things are complicated.  I know that’s a really lame conclusion, but it’s all I have for now.  And I need desperately to share my struggles.  Thank you for listening! 🙂

One other note: Any inquiry into/treatment of my hormonal/adrenal/endocrine problems is severely constrained by my history of PE and accompanying clotting disorder.  I cannot take any hormones.  I cannot take anything that might interfere with my Warfarin.  I cannot take anything that  might predispose me to further clotting.

I truly am sorry for unloading all of this on you guys.  But I just need to get it out there.  USB has been amazing about it all — I never would have thought a love interest would be interested in my bizarre medical problems.  Especially not when they make me fat.  But he listens to me and soothes me and tries to help me in whatever way he can.

So.  The Love Your Body post shall be saved for tomorrow, I think.

I’ll leave you with my latest purchase!  I’m going to be wearing these on marathon day!

Katie is giving away a massive amount of Artisana. I want it.  Bad.

Anyone out there, by any chance, happen to have a simultaneous history of PE and PCOS/unidentified endocrine disorder? I know it’s a long shot — I haven’t met anyone else with this combination of problems.  But if you have had similar experiences, I would be thrilled if you would let me know your story!

For everyone else, what is the most frustrating health experience you have had?

What are you grateful for about your health?

I’m grateful for my body’s tremendous ability to untangle its clots.  Seriously.  The clots are long gone by this point.

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The LSAT Monster

Today’s Happy Note: The LSAT is over. Over.  Over.  Over.  Well, for this time at least.  I am kind of freaking out because I know I really screwed up at least one section (read: I guessed on over half of the questions) so I might have to take it again.  It took 2 hours to get to the site, then there was 4 hours of testing interspersed with 3 hours of administrative BS then 2 hours to get back.  Yep, I left the dorm at 6:30 this morning and got back a little after 5.

Craziness.  It was one of the most intellectually/physically/emotionally draining things I have ever done.  I am *praying* I did ridiculously well on the sections that I thought went alright.  Feel free to join me in prayer.   We’re all constituents in this universe.  And I think that going to law school would make me a better constituent.  Therefore I need a good LSAT school.

Okay, that sounded really selfish.  Sorry.  You don’t really have to devote your prayers to my LSAT score.

I made a new friend while I was there though!  She is a super hot mom librarian.  Yeah, I know, random, but she was awesome — she even gave me a ride back to the train station afterwards so I didn’t have to take a cab.

I love when nice people come out of nowhere.  I needed it today. My LSAT story in pictures:

Studying on the elliptical last night.  Don’t worry, that wasn’t the first time I studied!

Taking the LSAT is pretty much an exercise in national security: you can only bring a limited amount of items into the test center, all in a one gallon plastic bag. Your water bottle must be less than 20 ounces with no label. You can only have an analog watch.  You get fingerprinted.  You bring your passport and should basically have your Social Security Number tattooed on your head.  It was super intense.

Moving on though!

First of all, thank you guys so much for your sweet comments Thursday!  It means a lot to me that people want to read about my therapy journey and that it proves valuable to some of you.  It certainly is valuable for me to write about it! 🙂

Fun fact: I have not taken a single picture of food in front of USB.  Not one.  And you know what?  I don’t want to.  I do take pictures of most of my food, both for personal record-keeping (I find that it helps me to keep track of what I have eaten, and to make sure I am getting plenty of variety), and to share in some posts, but not around USB.  It was something I thought about for a long time: I thought that I wasn’t being a true food/healthy living blogger if I didn’t photograph absolutely everything.  But, as my first nine months (!!!!) of blogging have shown me, blogging about health is about finding a balance.  Sometimes it is a very delicate balance, but I do believe in my heart that it exists for everyone.  For me, that balance has a couple of points relevant to this situation:

1.  So much of my health and well-being is tied to being social and having loving, caring people in my life.  USB is more important than any meal or any food picture.

2. Taking a brief break from thinking too much about food everyday helps clear my head; that way I don’t get obsessive about it.

By no means do these things hold true for all bloggers!  This is just what works for me.

Conclusion: USB and I have gone to lots of nice restaurants that I might tell you about someday, but for now, I don’t really want to think about food when I’m around him. 🙂

Dried fruit and nuts is the best snack ever!  I had dried apple rings with honey sesame almonds for my snack during the break for the test and it was definite brain food.

Oatmeal reflections.

I just did an awesome 20 minute pilates video from yoga download.  I also walked a bit — I needed a really easy day, activity wise.  Last night I lifted weights for 30 minutes and ellipticized for 40 minutes.

Hopefully all the rest I took from running this week (which I reallllllly needed) will pay off on tomorrow’s 20-miler!

Time to go in quest of some dinner.  And back away from the LSAT percentile/score chart websites. Back away, Caronae.

Nighty night!

A Critique of Certain Responses to the Marie Claire Article

Today’s Happy Note: For the first time ever, this afternoon, a reader recognized me — in public!  It was so strange.  It made me happy — not because I care about how many people read my blog but because I like meeting new friends!  Hi Jen!

Marathon Training: I basically had back-to-back rest days yesterday and today, although both were active rest days.  Well, sort of.  I did not leave my floor until 10:00 PM last night.  I literally stayed on my bed or in the kitchen the entire day. Then I walked three miles because I was getting antsy.

Today I had yoga class and 20 minutes of weights. I would have done a bit more (I enjoy strength training) but had to rush off to the doctor’s.  I finally got referred to an endocrinologist so let’s keep our fingers crossed that my health issues get sorted out soon!

I’m sure you’re all up to speed on the big controversy that hit blogland this morning — there was a libelous article in Marie Claire magazine about “The Big 6” healthy living bloggers (no one uses that term — I’m pretty sure the author made it up).

If you, by chance, have not read the article, read it: The Hunger Diaries.

Here are each of the “Big 6” blogger’s responses:

Kath

Heather (part II here)

Meghann

Caitlin

Tina

Jenna — I have not seen a response from Jenna and, FYI, I do not (and never have) read her blog, so I won’t comment on her blog or her posts.

I know that many people have already responded to the article, primarily in two ways: first, there have been the “Big 6” themselves and their supporters (of whom I definitely count myself as one) and second, there have been those who support the “Big 6” but tenuously, acknowledging that the article raises some legitimate points.  If you want a good synopsis of this perspective, read the post entitled “Please Blog Responsibly” from Hollaback Health.

I would like to respond to the responders; in other words, I am taking a third path. In so doing, I intend to engage with the article in a new way.  I like to think that, given my blog’s unique combination of honest musings on physical and mental health, I am situated to talk about some of the issues raised by the article in a new and, hopefully interesting and relevant way.

I would like, however, to make two points, before beginning:

1. I am not an expert on anything besides my own life. I do what works for me. I eat what works for me, move the way that works for me, and most importantly, take care of my emotional health in a way that works for me.  I am not a dietitian, a doctor (although my parents are!), a psychologist, or any sort of professional.  I am, however, applying to law school!  Note: This has nothing whatsoever to do with my credentials as a healthy living blogger, I just wanted to say it.

2. I think that we can all agree that the article was downright mean, poor journalism (if we can call it that), and should never, ever have been written. It was cruel and wrenched my heart; I can’t imagine how those who were mentioned are feeling.  Not to mention the fact that it was just plain old wrong about 99% of the things mentioned; the degree to which quotes and posts were taken out of context astounds me.

Okay.  Onto my thoughts.

My main problem with both the article and the second group of responders (those who say that the article makes valid points) is that both of them presume some degree of stupidity among readers.  They assume that healthy living bloggers (with the ladies mentioned above being the paradigmatic examples) are some sort of breed of obsessive, blind, health addicts who have an inherent inability to be introspective.

This is wrong and an insult to my intelligence.  Here is the thing about blogging: I can guarantee that no one has ever held a gun to your head and said “you must read this blog or I will kill you”.  I guarantee it.  Yes, there have been moments in my own journey where I thought “wow, she is so much thinner than me and eats less — I must suck”.  But guess what: I got over it.  Real fast. And this is coming from someone who clearly has had a lot of mental health struggles, disordered eating patterns, and severe body image/self-acceptance issues.

If you are unconvinced, you can read about my mental health struggles on my Mental Health page and in this recent post about therapy.

I consider myself a painfully honest blogger.  It is simply the way that my blog has always operated.  If something is happening in my life, you all know about it, usually not too long after my family and my therapist (L).  That is the premise of this blog and it always will be.  With that said, I understand that not every blogger can (or wants to) share as many details as I do.

Let’s say a blogger posts pictures of all of his or her meals from a day, with interesting commentary and recipes, and talks about their morning run, in a post.  Does the fact that this is the contentpresented in the post make me think that that blogger has no issues with eating or body image or perfection?

No no no! Why?  Because I am an intelligent, cultured, educated, powerful young woman who makes her own damn decisions. While I recognize that not every reader is 3/4 of the way through an Ivy League degree and in the process of applying to elite law schools, I also understand that it would be naive and insulting to assume that a majority of bloggers and readers in this community cannot make their own decisions.  We are adults (if a 12 year old girl in the throes of anorexia is reading these blogs, I think that is a different issue; one that I will not get into).  We know our bodies and ourselves and our limits.

Guess what?  On Saturday I had at least five servings of peanut butter pretzels and three or four servings of chocolate covered ginger for dinner.  Followed by some cereal.

Do I hate myself for it or think I am a lesser blogger?  Absolutely not.  I think that Caitlin makes it especially clear on her blog that we each need to do what works for us.  She candidly eats salads for dinner sometimes and entire boxes of macaroni and cheese for dinner at other times.

Whether or not certain bloggers exhibit tendencies of disordered eating or “pseudo-anorexia” is simply not relevant: in a niche of the blogosphere where everyone goes out of their way to celebrate differences in lifestyle (including eating and workout patterns) , it’s time for us to recognize the fact that some women (and men — hey Evan!) need to eat differently than others.  As someone who has struggled with her weight being too high, I can sympathize with bloggers who eat less: it is my genuine belief that many of us need to eat more or less than others.  It is also my genuine belief  that, the vast majority of the time, the “Big 6” bloggers — and others — do not cross into disordered eating territory.  And if they do, I simply don’t read that blogger’s blog.  It’s that simple.  It’s painfully obvious.

Furthermore, the precise intricacies of a blogger’s body weight and menstrual cycle are nobody’s business but the blogger’s, her close friend’s/family’s, and her doctor’s.  If she chooses to share some of this information with readers, that does not give them free license to criticize. I can guarantee that she is doing it for one of two reasons: either to help or inform her readers in some way or to help herself in some way.

I am responding to the article and the responses to it because I believe, with all my heart, that the blogging community I consider myself a part of is about the little guys as much as it is about people like the “Big 6”. It’s about all of us — everyone from the celebrity bloggers to those getting 10 page views a day. Moment of honesty: I typically average 100-200 readers a day.  Not a lot.  By anyone’s standards.  I don’t have any ads.  I make no money through blogging.  I have, a few times, gotten free samples.  Probably totaling less than $20 worth in the last nine months of blogging.

I say all of this to illustrate the following point: blogging is meaningful to me — healthy living blogs are meaningful to me.  They have illustrated to me that I can eat normal, whole foods in normal portions and still eat healthfully — I can even eat dessert, every.  Single.  Day. (And I do).  They have given me the confidence to train for my first half-marathon and a marathon.  More importantly, I have become so much more accepting of my body exactly as it is, since starting to read healthy living blogs (and eventually starting my own).

That said, I recognize that this is not the case for every single reader.  And my response to that is simple: do the adult, mature thing and don’t read blogs that are upsetting or triggering for you.  Like Heather, I do believe that bloggers are responsible for their content, but I also believe that readers need to be more responsible.  I would never to tell you that your diet should consist of celery sticks and plain grilled chicken breasts.  I don’t know any bloggers who would.  BUT even if they did, I expect that it would be your responsibility to recognize that that was disordered and wrongheaded.

There, I said it: I expect educated readers. We are a smart, vibrant group of young people.  We are not stupid.  None of us is.  Those readers who are going through serious eating disorders and are seeking “thinspiration” on the web are going to find it somewhere, regardless of whether or not the “Big 6” blogs exist (or any other healthy living blogs that share daily eats).

I think it is careless to say that the article raised issues that needed to be raised — to say that it was “The Elephant in the Room”, as I have heard some bloggers refer to it. By no means do I think that we are perfect: but that is the entire point of healthy living blogging!  Acknowledging that we are not perfect — that every single one of us will eat differently, wokrout (or not workout) differently, and just generally take care of ourselves in different ways — is central to the healthy living blogosphere. I see bloggers who eat more than me and those who eat less than me.  Run more or run less. Some don’t run at all.  Some are way more in touch with the aspects of their spiritual health, and I really admire that.  

I would argue that non-perfection is the premise of the community, and saying that the article made a valid point by reminding us that we shouldn’t all be perfect and certain bloggers try to influence us to be perfect like them is like saying “(y=(x+10)/0)”.  Okay, so maybe all of us aren’t geeks like me.  If you didn’t know, that is an equation that does not exist.  It is impossible.  You cannot divide anything by zero.

It just doesn’t make sense.

The End.

Obviously, I would be thrilled if you shared your thoughts with me!  Agree or disagree, I don’t care — if you articulate yourself well and aren’t mean about it, I would be happy to listen to you!

It’s All Mental (And Physical!)

Today’s Happy Note: Sunbutter.  I know that sunflower seed butter is made from a kind of a modified sunflower seed and has some added sugar and oils.  But I. Don’t. Care.  It is my new favorite nut butter and I am in love.  Nut butter heaven.  If that is a real place, I am so going there.

Marathon Training: Yesterday was a day off running.  I did about 15 minutes of yoga then lifted my beloved weights for 45 minutes. I really do love weight-lifting.  It’s oddly relaxing.  Anyone with me on this?

Today was a speed workout day.  It may officially have been the longest speed workout of my life:

2 mile warm-up

4 x (2 mile @ Tempo pace, 1/2 mile easy)

2 mile cool-down

It ended up being a whopping 14 miles! That’s longer than my long run on Sunday.  It was a really good workout — I felt strong and fast, but not too fast; I think I paced myself pretty well.  I definitely needed a succesful workout, mentally.  I was super anxious to get started and have been feeling a bit down about running lately.  This brought my spirits back up! I estimated the distance for the fast portions using the street numberings on lamp posts in CP (a well-kept but amazing secret — the first two numbers on any lamp post correspond to the street cumber you are at, and there are 20 blocks to a mile).

An awesome mid-week workout, although 14 miles is kind of a time-suck.

All-Around Health

I want to talk a little bit about the intersections between mental and physical health today.  I think that it’s easy to become too focused on the physical aspect of health: mainstream media frequently portrays a narrow, singular conception of health which is framed largely around the exclusion of non-physical elements.  For example, you see advertisements at drug stores with people working out at a gym and eating salads and taking supplements.  Or there are segments on news shows telling us “how to get healthy” by doing this new exercise or eating this new superfood. One of the reasons I think that Caitlin’s book, Operation Beautiful, is wonderful (and has been so successful) is because it addresses a legitimate need for emotional health information and empowerment, both amongst individuals who already consider themselves to be relatively healthy(e.g., bloggers) and amongst those who don’t know where to start, physically or emotionally. I try to deal with things holistically, although I am not always successful.  But the fun part is the journey, not perfection.

In the last two years, I have had a physical health crisis and a mental health crisis.  My experiences with each were very different, but both were powerfully formative for my conception of myself — I learned so much about my unique strengths and talents from each.  I began to understand my way of seeing the world; where I fit into things.  I think these crises helped me to figure out love — how to love myself and others.  I am not saying that you need to have a crisis in order to take care of yourself though!  There are simple things that we can all do, everyday, to make our lives the best they can be.  After all, I think that’s what health is about: living our happiest, most vibrant lives.

If my years in college have taught me anything, thus far, it is that I need to take the time to be healthy.  Taking time for myself has saved my life.

Before talking about the spaces between emotional and bodily health, I want to share some research/articles on the matter.  Some of these are more scientific than others, but I think that they all involve a good overview on the relationship or specific facets of the relationship.

How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

Psychoendoneuroimmunology — relationship between stress and mental coping skills and somatic illness

Meditation Can Boost The Immune System

Exercise As an Antidepressant

Finding Thinner Peace II — eating right for our mind and body

Exercise, Mental Health, and Mental Ability

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health — great roundup of articles

Improving Emotional Health — a more general but still useful overview of emotional wellbeing and its intersections with physical indicators

Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health — this has almost nothing to do with bodily health, but is a comprehensive overview of mental health (including disorders)

Most of these articles focus on the relationship between mental health and exercise.  I think this is certainly important, but it would be shallow to consider it the only significant aspect of the way our emotional and bodily health intersect.

For me, physical health means a constellation of things: regular exercise/movement (running, yoga, and weights), a good diet full of lots of plants, protein, and healthy fats, regular communication with my doctors, management of my clotting problem and my hormonal/endocrine disorders, and generally taking care of my body — proper rest, attention to appearance, stretching, etc.

Mental health also means a variety of things, for me: managing my depression/anxiety/mood, actively seeking happiness and contentment, healthy social relationships and connections, a sense of calm/inner peace/spirituality, and a general awareness of my place in the world.

By no means do I think that people conceive of physical and mental health in the same ways.  Even a more generic inquiry into “health” would yield vastly different responses from similar individuals.  My point here is to notice and acknowledge what being physically and emotionally healthy means, for me, and to think about how these definitions relate and overlap and inform one another.

There is a certain calmness that washes over me on occasion.  It happens when I feel best about my body and content with my life.  It represents my ultimate healthy state. In it I feel alert, safe, and well.  I notice what my body is thinking and wanting and what my mind is thinking and wanting.  Sometimes these things are different, and that’s okay.  I accept myself for where I am at in that moment.  I am exquisitely attentive yet also tuned out from the rest of the world.  My body has moved sufficiently and been well-fed, and my intellect has been active and my emotions have been even-keeled.  This is, I suppose, my ideal intersection point.

Of course, this is not my everyday reality.  No one who knows me well would ever think to describe me as a calm or collected person.  I can be hysterical or just plain crazy.  On a regular basis.

My thought patterns have a huge effect on how I feel, physically.  When I notice that I am harshly judging myself and hating my body, I tense up — I can feel the pit of my stomach clenching and my shoulders hovering up by my ears.  Or, for another example, when I hear from my doctor that my INR is too low (for the third time in two weeks, as was the case today), I start panicking.  My thoughts race, I can’t do school work, I am suddenly unhappy.

I wish I had a graph or something scientific whereby I could chart the precise overlap of my mental and physical health over a given period of time.  For now, vague descriptions like this will have to do.  All I know, in conclusion, is that there is a connection between my body and mind beyond my spinal cord: yes, my spine runs into my brain stem which opens up into the cerebrum.  But something more is happening here.  I have a sudden change in mood after a quick, sweaty run.  I feel different sensations in my chest and lungs and stomach when I have more fulfilling interactions with those around me.

I think the conclusion is that I don’t know precisely what is going on.  Rather, I am attuned to the patterns and the existence of the connection.  And I think that the details of this connection are probably different for different people.

And that’s okay.

How do mental and physical health intersect for you?  Or you more appreciative of one over the other?  How do you balance the varied roles that they play in your life?  What would you change, if you could?

Super Spectacular Really Good Yummy Pancakes

Today’s Happy Note: Spending time with my wonderful cousin before she moves to San Francisco.

Today felt both really busy and really lazy, at the same time.  Do you ever have days like that?  Sort of an odd feeling, I guess, but also kind of pleasant, because I wind up feeling both energized and relaxed.  I spent the morning making (and consuming) awesome pancakes,  the afternoon teaching a band of very sweet high schoolers, late afternoon with my cousin and her husband and then LSAT studying (mostly the dreaded logic games), and the evening working out.  I squeezed some grocery store shopping and tv watching in there and that was my day!

I like to procrastinate my schoolwork until Sundays. 🙂

Let’s start with the pancakes!

I made these up on the spot and they turned out splendiferous.  They were soft on the inside (that “ohmygoshthisissopillowy soft” not that “thisissosoftitmustberaw soft”) but crisp on the outside.  Thick, with plenty of volume.  And made with totally wholesome ingredients, and not a lot of added sugar at all.  Basically, these are love, in protein pancake form (I am only calling them “protein pancakes” because the “base” is mostly protein-y and not carby — they are not some weird health food or anything, I promise!)

I was stupid and didn’t measure things out precisely or write the measurements down but this is roughly what it was:

1/4 C peanut flour (yes, I know this is a blog “fad” but it is an awesome fad that I actually like)

2 Tbsp oats

1 scoop vanilla hemp/whey protein powder (half serving)

1/2 Tsp baking powder

1/2 Tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp flax meal

1 whole egg

1/4 C pumpkin

Water (as needed) to thin out

Earth Balance or butter, to coat the pan with

Combine all dry ingredients, then add in wet ingredients until pancake-consistency is achieved (I know, I am really scientific).  Heat the butter in the pan (you don’t need more than a teaspoon, at most) and when it starts to pop, dollop on your batter.  I made three generous ‘cakes.

Top with more butter, real maple syrup, and fruit or nuts of choice.  I used sesame almonds!

Don’t let this up close picture fool you.  These pancakes are generous.  Also, far more nuts than that were involved. 🙂

This morning meal made my day.  Bonus: it kept me full for five hours of teaching bleary-eyed high school seniors. I needed a meal with some serious stamina and this was it!  I have not made a “real” weekend breakfast in a long time. I forgot how much fun it is.  It’s nice not to have oats or yogurt or a smoothie for once!  Mmmmm.  Now I just need some bacon and we’ll be all set…

I got home from my afternoon shenanigans around 6:00.  I was technically supposed to run 8-10 miles, since I had skipped out on yesterday’s run, and tomorrow’s run isn’t going to be very long (10-12 miles).  But I just was not feeling it.  I don’t think it was a matter of laziness, either.  It was a matter of “I need to have some oatmeal with nut butter and lie on my bed and read blogs and snuggle up in my fleece blanket right now“, in all actuality.  And so that’s exactly what I did.

I find it sort of odd that oats with nut butter and melted dark chocolate and maple syrup are my comfort food.  But hey, there are worse things.  These are all whole foods.  Delicious whole foods.

What’s your idea of comfort food?

BUT after a few hours of winding down, which my brain/body needed, I felt ready for a workout.  Normally, I am an all-or-nothing girl and I either feel like I have to “waste” my day by eating poorly and not working out or have a hardcore workout and eating perfectly.  Silly, right?  By this point, I genuinely wanted to run, but was feeling anxious about it, because of said all-or-nothing mindset. I felt like, “how can I go run now if I have been lazy all evening?  Aren’t the two mutually exclusive???”  Um, no.  Duh, Caronae.

I ended up having a lovely workout!  I lifted (arms and abs) for about 30 minutes then ran a slow, easy five miles, which was exactly what my body needed.  Sometimes I just need my brain to shut-up so that I can listen to my body. 🙂

All in all, a lovely Saturday.

And I’m looking forward to making tomorrow a lovely Sunday.  And then having a lovely week.

Thanks for your support yesterday about my “busyness” — for lack of a better word.  I truly don’t think I could do it without you all as friends. 🙂

On the schedule for Run Write Therapy Life this week:

~Long run (tomorrow)/Long run eats

~Easy college student dinners

~Mental/Physical Health Intersections

~A fun announcement about the site

Should be a fun week!  Stay tuned, friends.  Goodnight for now!

Awesome Speed Workout/Awesome Food

Today’s Happy Note: finding pomegranate tea again!  Haven’t had any in so very long, and it is one of my favorite herbal teas.  It was accompanied by lovely conversation, more importantly!

I have to be a speed blogger tonight (haha, NOT my forte — I like talking, in case you haven’t noticed) because USB is coming to visit.  It is going to be such a nice night for a walk!

Marathon Training: I really wanted to do my speed workout and weights today, for some reason.  I knew there was no way both were going to happen before work, since I didn’t go to bad until after 2 (bad Caronae!).  I start work at 11 on Fridays.  This is sad, I know.

I tend to become more of a morning person as the semester wears on, oddly enough.  Anyways, I dragged myself out of bed at 10 and headed to the gym for a half hour of arm weights. Sometimes a half an hour is all you need to get your muscles nice and sore!

I followed that up with a delicious, steamy, spicy chai tea latte (made with soy — I was not feeling the dairy today) and an apple with honey PB:

A delicious bite of cinnamon roll from the guys at the mail room was also had 🙂

I am fully aware that the icing on my hands in this picture does NOT look like icing.  It is, I swear.

I had a late afternoon lunch-snack of a chocolate chip muffin, in honor of Cookie Friday.  Sometimes I think muffins are better than cookies.  I think they *might* be my favorite baked good!  Shhh, don’t tell the cookies that I told you that.

I came home after work and lazed around.  I just did not want to start my run at all.  I was feeling very grey, I suppose.  I finally had a Luna Bar and got my butt out the door around 6:00, only because I knew that if I waited any longer it would be dark by the time I finished and I didn’t want to get mugged in the northern end of CP (which is a wee bit isolated/quiet at night).

The run ended up being wonderful! I felt really fast and strong and smooth.  Some runs you just get into a rhythm and other runs…well, you don’t.  I definitely found my groove today, which was nice after Wednesday’s sucky run.

2 Miles warm-up (10:00-10:30 min/mile pace)

4 x (1 mile “Cruise” Pace, 1/4 mile easy)

2 Miles cool down, easy

I don’t know what the difference is, necessarily, between “fast” and “cruise” and “tempo” and “speed.”  And to be honest, I don’t particularly care.  I have a few paces: 8:30, 9:00, 10:00, and slower than 10:00.  I go based on how I feel.  I think that the important thing for me is just practicing speeding up, learning how to move my legs faster.  I definitely accomplished that today — I would say I was maybe running 8:45s?  Hard to tell, but I worked hard and felt fast on the miles, so I was happy! 🙂 Nine miles in total.

Dinner later on was the giant burrito that I wanted yesterday but didn’t let myself have!

What, you don’t have your giant burrito with a side of steamed broccoli and roasted carrots/okra doused in TJS spicy peanut vinaigrette?

Inside the burrito: green peppers/onions, pinto beans, barbacoa meat (beef), corn salsa, a little cheese, lots of lettuce.  It needed some spicier salsa, but other than that it was divine!  If you ask really nicely at Chipotle, they’ll let you have the peppers/onions (which are normally for the vegetarian burritos) instead of rice.  Rice+burrito+beans would be way too many carbohydrates for me to handle at once.

I love having the options of multiple fats at Chipotle: cheese, sour cream, or guacamole.  Do not fear the fats ladies!

I had a few squares of plain TJs dark chocolate after dinner (which I learned form Averie’s post today might be Scharffen Berger????), followed by about five gallons of water — I can always tell when I haven’t had enough to drink throughout the day based on how thirsty I am in the evenings!

Now onto a little activity inspired by the lovely Janetha G.! A few days ago she did a list of her favorite food for each letter of the alphabet.  I got really bored in Harlem Renaissance Literature the other day and started my own. 🙂

This is a really fun and oddly soothing thing to do.  I might just have to go back and expand the list one day so that I can include all my favorite foods.  For example, I feel like “avocados” and “almond butter” got left out on A.  I don’t want to exclude anybody!

A: apples

B: bananas

C: cupcakes

D: dark chocolate

E: eggs

F: fish

G: gaz (a Persian candy made with rosewater and pistachio and AMAZINGNESS)

H: hummus

I: Indian

J: jumbo shrimp

K: kiwi

L: linguine

M: muffins

N: nuts

O: oats

P: peanut butter (duh)

Q: quinoa (blended, preferably)

R: raspberries

S: spinach

T: tofu

U: upside down cake (it’s a tradition in my dad’d family — a tasty, tasty tradition)

V: vanilla

W: whey protein

X: xantham gum

Y: yogurt (especially2% plain Greek)

Z: zucchini bread

Thanks for the idea Janetha!

What is your favorite baked good?

How do you know when a run (or workout) is good?

Therapy Thoughts: Body Hatred

Today’s Happy Note: Had a wonderful little “me” day.  I did what I wanted — lifted weights, tried some new recipes,  had an amazing, teary, breakthrough therapy sesh, baked, napped, and read.  I took care of me in a way that I haven’t done in a while.

Marathon Training: I made it through 8 hilly miles yesterday.  My legs felt very tight for some reason, and no amount of stretching breaks seemed to help.  Meh.  At least it got done.  The general arc of my training plan is the same from week to week:

Sunday: long run

Monday: rest (weights/cross train/yoga)

Tuesday: speed work

Wednesday: short, easy run with 100 meter strides (3-5 miles)

Thursday: medium long run with hills

Friday: rest (weights/cross train/yoga)

Saturday: short, easy run (4-6 miles)

Pretty straightforward, no?  It has been working for me quite well, minus the nagging pain in the back left hip.  I have been making sure to rest and stretch.  I suppose I could ice as well (the guys at one of the delis near me have been giving me small bags of ice that fit in my freezer for a dollar!!!!!).  In the next one or two weeks, I plan on adding a sixth day of running in, probably on Fridays, just 3-6 easy miles.  I will hit 41 miles this week, and would like to inch up to 50-55 over the next month, until mid-October when I “peak”, then taper.  I have done a great job of increasing mileage slowly — I started around 25.  I just think it is going to be very hard to get to 50-55 miles per week on 5 days of running.  As long as the hip isn’t bothering me too much, I think I will take it up to six.

Thoughts?  Anyone trained on six days a week before?  What has been your peak mileage, if you’re a runner?

I know I have hit 55 before, maybe even 58-60.   I am definitely capable of it.  I went ahead and took the rest day today.  I lifted weights for an hour or so, which felt great.

I came home and had my first-ever blended hot cereal creation a la Katie!

Okay, so I freely admit that it does not look like the most appetizing thing you have ever seen.  But holy amazing. This was easily the best way I have ever eaten my breakfast grains! I made a big batch of quinoa last night.  This morning I used about 1.5 servings — I simply dumped it in the blender, added about another 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup water, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, and a scoop of vanilla protein powder.  Then I blended and tossed in a sprinkle of xantham gum.  When it was thoroughly blended, I poured it into a bowl and heated, then topped with sunbutter.

I thought I loved grains before.  I think I might be in love with them now.  This just took it to the next level.  Hello creaminess, volume, and gloriousness.  You must try this, if you are a breakfast grain eater (and who isn’t???).

Thank you Chocolate-Covered Katie! You’re my whole-grain hero.

Other food endeavors today involved Angela’s salt-kissed chunky PB chocolate chip cookies.  I didn’t end up kissing them with salt though, as I am not a huge salt fan.  I also subbed AB for the PB and used an egg instead of the canola oil, which worked fine.  I didn’t mean to de-veganize it, but I had no canola oil and thought EVOO would taste weird.

The verdict?  I loved them!  These cookies managed to do something few cookies can do: they tasted healthy and earthy and not overly-sweet, but were also indulgent and satisfying. Cookie perfection, pretty much.

Bonus: they’re super easy — those two bowls contained all the ingredients (minus the chocolate chips).  I’m pretty sure a 12 year old boy could do this.

The dough was really fun to shape into balls.  I added about a billion extra chocolate chips. 🙂

I enjoyed one warm and fresh with vanilla almond milk.  This was one of the best Cookie Friday’s ever!

Lots of delicious food today — my mind and body feel nourished!

Onto heavier things…(FYI: this post is heavily focused on weight and body image — if these things are upsetting to you or not helpful in your recovery, please please please skip this section).

Therapy Thoughts

Today was a wonderful, amazing, painful breakthrough day.  It hurt very, very much.  It might have been the most pain I have ever felt during the moment of therapy, but afterwards, I felt like this giant burden was gone from me. Like a little bird had carried it away, across a mountain, never to return again.  Today was sort of like a raging river, with no bridge across it: I had to go through it to get to the other side.  There was no alternate route, no detour.  The river was big and scary and it hurt.  I felt like I was going to drown.  But L was there with me.  It was sort of like I knew I couldn’t drown with her there, but I came as close to drowning as one can — I could feel the water welling up against all the sides of me.

That was dramatic.  But today was a dramatic day, obviously.  One that I need very much to write about and share with you all.

Today was the day that I finally completely and totally opened up to L (and myself, in a way) about my body-hatred and my struggles with my weight and my eating.  I have always been open with you guys, but never to this extent.  In fact, there are some things about this journey that I have not and probably will not tell you all.   Forgive me.  The body is the most personal space.

The anguish I feel over my weight (which is approximately 10-15 pounds above what I would ideally like it to be right now, and a few pounds above the uppermost limit of the “healthy” BMI) is greater than any other anguish I feel (0r have felt) in my life.  There is nothing that makes me want to die as much as the shape and size of my body does.

I feel tremendous guilt over this; it’s ridiculous.  I am an educated, smart, creative, lovely young person with many many talents and all I can think about is my body, sometimes.  For God’s sake, I study human rights: I know all about the real horrors that are happening in this world (genocide, gang rape, starvation) and my weight is not one of them.

As I spoke with L — sobbed to her is more accurate, actually — she was simultaneously gentle and compassionate and firm and serious.  It was a miraculous combination.  Somehow, in some way, her responses made it clear to me the ways in which I am judging myself.  And it isn’t very nice.  I would never, ever even think these things about another person.  So why is it that my 15 extra pounds incapacitate me?  Why do I feel morally reprehesnible and irresponsible and disgusting?

Well, of course, I don’t know exactly why I have come to feel this way — why this is the only way I have understood my body, since early adolescence.  Maybe it is related to the face that I am not (and never will be) naturally thin.  That is simply not the way I am built.  I have spent the last five years trying to change that.  Recovering from the pulmonary embolism has showed me that life isn’t fair.  My body isn’t fair.  I eat well.  Sometimes I overeat.  But I can run ultramarathons.  I can run 50 miles a week and lift weights and do yoga.  I love vegetables.  So why me?  I think “why me” is the wrong question and “when can I start loving myself regardless of the shape of my body” is the right question.

I have never actually been suicidal, but I have wanted to die.  Because of my body.  What is this world coming to that someone as talented and smart as I am wants to die because of the way she looks?  More importantly, what is happening in my world that makes me want to die because of my looks?

Between the now-uncontrolled PCOS (I can not take hormones now or ever again because of the PE), the sudden ending of the birth control pills, the stress, the physical recovery, and a few other things, my body is out of whack right now.  There are, quite simply, things beyond my control.  As I was sitting on the couch, rocking back and forth,. holding my face in my hands, so distraught that I couldn’t speak — I realized, clearly and distinctly, that I have to change the way I think about my body.  Certainly there are moments when I like myself, physically.  But there are many more moments where I despise my thighs or my breasts or my neck or the space just above my elbow.

And these moments are only hurting me more.  Now that I say it out loud, it sounds obvious.  But hating myself only sucks out more energy and makes me feel worse.  These 15 pounds do not represent my life.  I am so much more than 15 fucking pounds.

FYI: I am NOT suicidal, by any means, at this moment.  If you think you need help, please get help — you deserve to live. I have a list of resources on my Mental Health page, here. Although I am NOT a health professional, you are always welcome to email me as well.

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