becoming infinite

always learning. always growing. always lifting heavy things.


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we are here.

we are here to drink beer
laugh at the odds
and live our lives so well that
death will tremble to take us.

-charles bukowski

 

the past few weeks i have really, truly felt as if i am living well. i just finished up my last semester of doctoral coursework. i have two good, strong plans for what to do once i pass my quals in the fall. my transition from post-meet to a new, high-volume training cycle has made me feel awesome, physically and mentally.

i laugh a lot.

i go out for burgers and pizza with friends.

i do a little dance before i make a big lift because this sport is fun, darn it!

sometimes i look around and i’m amazed. all those years buried by an eating disorder, and all of the years of restrictive “healthy” eating and vigilant “healthy” exercise veiled as recovery…i can’t believe i was missing out on all of this. last saturday my friend stopped me after i got done training and said, “hey wanna go grab a burger?” and we went and sat at the bar and had burgers and fries and i laughed so hard that i lost my voice.

six years ago my greatest concern was maintaining my thigh gap and burning a minimum of 750 calories on the cardio machines every morning before class. now every day i wake up just wanting to be a better version of myself than i was the day before. i still work hard at the gym, but it’s a different focus, a different energy. i’m an athlete; i love that and i own it.

i’m turning 30 in two weeks and i finally feel like i am living life well, living it fully and the way it ought to be lived. i’m healthy and strong and i’ll always be a work in progress but dammit i am living.

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breaking up with keto.

i had a really easy transition into ketosis. like…weirdly easy. few to no cravings. no fatigue. no debilitating DOMS.

after two months, then, it would stand to reason that i should have been far, far out of the woods.

i had mentioned to my doctor that the past few weeks i hadn’t felt quite right. not necessarily in a physical sense; just really on edge, snappy, unfocused, tired all the time even though i’ve been really good about getting my usual amount of rest…nothing life-threatening but everything annoying.

she took one look at me on thursday and said simply, “cut it. it’s not worth it.”

now to be clear, the caveat with me going keto as a means of seizure control was that if it made me feel like shit, i was done. my seizures are not (as of right now) life threatening, or even really lifestyle threatening. they are just a pain in the ass, and one that won’t go away.

but a strange thing happened once i went on keto. the longer i was on it, the more anxious it made me. i didn’t like feeling like i “couldn’t” eat or drink certain things. i didn’t like feeling backed into a corner. and i fucking missed being able to eat bananas, dammit.

but in all seriousness – it was starting to wear me out, mentally and emotionally. i’m long into recovery from my eating disorder, but that doesn’t mean that certain things still don’t reek of the “old” jenn. and keto was one of them. not that i think it’s a bad lifestyle choice for anyone else; but for me, it wasn’t going to work. because, as i’m coming to learn through trial and error, any sort of restrictive diet is just not acceptable for me any more. as soon as i feel like i “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat something, the old crevice of my brain gets revved up.

keto forced me to start tracking macros again, watching little columns add up and turn green or red depending on if i was over or under my predicted intake. it was starting to drive me crazy.

my body is not a calculator, it is not a skin and muscle and bone abacus of nutrients. on any given day i am going to want or need or require different things, and i don’t feel comfortable in a lifestyle that tells me that, no, i can’t have some of those things.

so after eight weeks, keto and i have officially broken up. i feel the same physically, but the mental and emotional weight that has been lifted is astronomical. i feel much more at ease now. we’ll deal with the seizures if and as they come. i made a valiant attempt; it just wasn’t for me.

but after i ate some carbs yesterday i went ahead and squat 215# for three singles – so all has not been lost. : )


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NEDA Week 2014.

tomorrow is the first day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014. i’ve been thinking for almost the entire month about how i was going to approach it, if at all. and here’s what i’ve come to settle on:

this week is important, for sure. it’s important to raise awareness in the general public, not just about eating disorders and what they are, but also about their prevalence and the problems surrounding getting proper treatment for those in need. a while back i wrote about my feelings on recovery and why i have chosen to remain distant from the ED recovery community. that decision becomes especially apparent during this week. but since every now and again i get asked about how my recovery is going and how it “still works” after several years, here’s what i have to say:

recovery isn’t about this week. it’s not about going on as many NEDA Week Walks as you can find within driving distance. it’s not about buying the t-shirt with this year’s catchy slogan. it’s not about wearing your purple ribbon around fielding questions about what it stands for.

recovery isn’t about being a spokesperson, spouting information, or sharing your story. it’s not about NEDA symbol temporary tattoos or scale-smashing parties. all of those things might exist within your recovery, but they do not define or signify it.

i’ll tell you what recovery is. recovery is about being a fucking warrior. why? because it’s hard as hell. you’re going to have to fight every goddamn day, hour, minute to keep doing what you need to do to emerge from the rubble of a decimated self-concept.

recovery is about taking responsibility. before anyone starts throwing shade at me and calling me insensitive: the biggest turning point in me moving from sorta-kinda-in-recovery with a side of relapse to full-on recovery was taking responsibility for my actions and my reactions. people are going to say shitty things, do shitty things, shit is going to happen. just because something is upsetting or “triggering” does not mean you are bound by some invisible contract to react in a way that engages your eating disorder. begin exercising your human right to make your own choices and to rise above habit and reactionary decisions. which goes back to the idea of being a warrior – force yourself to rise above the situation and come out stronger.

and finally, at some wonderful amazing point in the process, recovery becomes about not needing your eating disorder as a definition of yourself. you no longer need to cling to your diagnosis like a security blanket, because in sloughing off the skin of your disorder you have uncovered three dozen things that are infinitely more important to your idea of self.

recovery is a 365-day-a-year engagement. this week might be a little booster for you, a nudge or a reigniting of the flame, but recovery doesn’t only come out of its shell during these seven days in february every year. enjoy this week and use it in the way that best furthers your endeavors, but go out and be a warrior every day from here on out.


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thoughts on my first keto carb-up.

a lot of people carb cycle with keto. my coach and i decided that, after i had been solidly in ketosis for a few weeks, i should probably do so as well.

i also decided that, after 3 weeks of livin’ the keto life, my first carb-up was going to be lenient in terms of “cleanliness”. because sometimes, a girl just needs some damn golden grahams.

here’s what i have to say about keto, participating in a weight-controlled sport, carb cycling, and everything in between: they test your commitment to recovery, 157%. if i wasn’t soundly and solidly sure of my place in recovery, i would have gone off the rails a long time ago. but that doesn’t mean that i don’t see the dangers inherent to this life.

and as i was cruising through the aisles at kroger on thursday – center aisles i hadn’t pushed a cart through in three weeks, since eating keto pretty much means you live on the outer edges of the grocery store – i suddenly remembered all of those times in college that i would go to the “grocery store” on campus and buy 40$ worth of junk food – food i never “allowed” myself to eat otherwise – and cart it back to my dorm, curl up in my desk chair, and inhale it all in under an hour, pausing only to slip to the bathroom to purge, make room, eat more, throw up again and again until my eyes were so swollen i could barely see and my low back would seize up and spasm continuously for the rest of the night.

this sent panicked warning bells off in my head. and it did make me pause, somewhere in the cereal aisle as i had second thoughts about the golden grahams in light of lucky charms, and think:

a big step in accepting this ketogenic diet as a diet, not a “diet,” has been reconciling the notion that it is not the same as disordered eating. and i know there are people out there who knew me when and are giving me side-eye through the computer screen, and that’s just fine; you just keep on side-eyeing. and i’ll just keep not having seizures.

the important part is that i would not be able to do this if my relationship with food was still fucked up. when i was sick, as soon as i mentally made a food “off-limits” that food would instantly rise to the top of my “to binge on and throw up” list. and rest assured, that was a LONG ASS LIST.

so how is this any different?

as i shuttled my cart around kroger, i didn’t feel any rising panic or intense anxiety. i knew what i wanted, and i knew that, for that 24-hour window, my muscles were going to have a damn field day filling up on glycogen they hadn’t seen in almost a month. i was looking forward to it, sure, but it was serving a purpose.

what it wasn’t was a tornado of frenzied bulimic shopping where i would quite literally grab anything i could get my hands on and throw money at the cashier, not even waiting for change, just so i could get the hell away from people so i could start eating right fucking now in the car on the walk back to my dorm in the bathroom stall at the mall.

and before i go i will say one last thing about my glorious carb-up that helped me squat 5×5 @ 155# on friday: when your body hasn’t had more than trace carbohydrates for three weeks…that initial carb bomb is gonna be a doozy. although coach was unimpressed by my 3.3kg gain, i thought it was pretty laudable. eat all the carbs; retain all the water!

this has been a long-ass post.

 


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how making weight reminded me that weight is bullshit

last weekend i competed in my first powerlifting meet (and tied a state record bench and broke the state deadlift record, but that’s another post or another time). for those of you who are unfamiliar with how the sport works, there are three lifts – squat, bench, and deadlift, in that order – and you get three attempts at each. there are technical standards you have to meet with each lift, and you can compete raw (as i do, which means the only “equipment” you may use is a belt, knee wraps to squat, and wrist wraps to bench) or equipped (bench shirt, various other fancy suit-like things).

you also compete in weight classes.

the idea with weight classes is that it is to your benefit to be at the very top of yours. ie, i compete as a 56kg lifter. so when it comes time to weigh in, i want to be 55.9kg, not 53.5. which means that a lot of times you train at a higher weight than the weight at which you compete – in the weeks leading up to a meet you just cut out the extra weight.

now if you’ve been following along my little blogosphere, you may recall that i don’t own a scale. and i have not, in fact, owned one for several years. to be honest, one of the best parts about recovery was ditching the scale completely.

then my weight became something to be aware of, conscious of. i bought a scale, set it to kilos. i had to weigh 56kg or less on the day of my weigh-in in order to compete in the weight class we were aiming for.

the tuesday before weigh-in i weighed 58.5kg. i was panicking, texting my coach in a flurry. he kept telling me it would be fine. i was drinking tons of water (and peeing every ten minutes) to saturate my body with fluid; we readjusted my macros for the week so i was pushing tons of protein and keeping my carbs low. i watched my weight inch down. into the 57s i went. then on thursday night, i stopped drinking completely.

friday morning i woke up and was 56.1kg. i peed two more times that morning, drove to the venue after i taught my sophomores, and weighed in at 55.3kg.

the point of this isn’t to wow you with my ability to excrete fluid. it’s to make everybody step back and look at this objectively. i lost 3kg – that’s nearly 7lbs – in three days. i was eating six-egg omelets and what seemed like entire chickens every day. i was teaching and going to class and doing homework. i didn’t lose body fat – i lost fluid. that number – the number so many of us at one time or another get tied to, chained to – was nothing more than a gauge of how much i peed.

so yea, i lost about 5% of my body weight in less than half a week, and you know what? it doesn’t mean shit. i went home after i weighed in, drank a liter of pedialyte and some gatorade, ate waffles and eggs for lunch and had a whitefish sandwich for dinner, and weighed 58.5 kg the next morning as i got ready for the meet.

i’ll say it again: weight. is. bullshit.

the entire week was almost like passing through the looking glass to that mythological place where weight really is just a number. for the past few years it hasn’t even been that for me – if somebody were to ask me my weight, i would have given them a ballpark 15-pound range. i was that divorced from my weight. and that served me beautifully. but for that week leading up to the meet, i found myself at the center of an odd little experiment. my coach knew exactly what was going to happen, how the fluid would affect me, but i was in awe of the whole thing.

there was no attachment – this number didn’t mean anything. how could it, if it was so fickle as to be swayed so drastically simply by drinking a lot of water and cutting out pop-tarts for a few days?

i was the same person, the same athlete, the same perpetually awkward panda on friday, at 55.3kg, as i was 18 hours later on saturday morning at 58.5kg. the number didn’t change anything. because, as i’ve made clear, that number means nada.

i’m up to my eyeballs in a sport that i love. a sport that suits me, that is challenging and scary and exhilarating. a sport that celebrates strength and size, where somebody telling you that you have huge quads (which happened to me yesterday) is a day-making compliment.

i also happen to be competing in a sport with weight classes. and my first experience with “making weight” finally taught me what three dozen doctors and therapists spent a decade trying to get through my head: weight. is. bullshit.


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when you don’t want to pay it forward.

i mentioned this briefly in a post a few weeks ago, but it’s worth discussing again and more intently.

i have been largely (say…97%) eating disorder behavior free for a little over three years. i still think about body image and how i feel about and respond to my physical self, but as far as actual restricting and/or purging, that has been almost completely eradicated from my life. which is, to say the least, awesome.

yet something i’ve noticed in the general eating disorder community is this notion that if you come out on the other side, it’s practically expected that you will turn around and share your experience with others. that you’ll tell everyone how you did it, and act as some big inspirational figurehead of the Great and Elusive Recovery.

the thing is…i don’t want to. simple as that. the further removed i become from my eating disordered self, the less i want to be a part of the community as a whole.

reading that over, i sound like an asshole. but i’ll try and explain myself.

when i first got out of my renfrew/columbia double bill, i was all about recovery. i followed my meal plan perfectly, i followed my exercise plan perfectly, i religiously attended appointments with my therapist and my nutritionist and my GP. i journaled daily and started scrapbooking and doing jigsaw puzzles to keep my hands and mind busy. and i became obsessed with the idea of helping other people recover.

i called ANAD and had them send me a starter packet for setting up a local support group. i got involved in NEDA Week at my community college. i spoke on panels about body image and women in the media.

and all the while, i was only about 22% actually well myself.

i was using “recovery” as i assumed it to be – perfectly-planned and executed meals and workouts, vocal advocacy and the naive belief that i had any business giving advice – as a substitute for the disorder itself. it was my way of keeping a toe in that world, while also leaning the rest of my body vehemently the other way, proclaiming that i was “totally better” (Skins UK reference? anyone?) and just being an impassioned advocate.

needless to say, i came a hair’s breadth away from landing back in treatment not once but twice in the five years that followed. i played The Game – “i’ll only get as well as i absolutely have to be. that’s recovery enough.”

sorry, charlie. you either do this shit 150% or you don’t make it. go big or go home, so to speak. it took until the spring of 2010 – a full five years after i got out of columbia – to get that through my thick skull.

and now that i have – now that i finally am on my way to “getting it,” to realizing that recovery isn’t perfectly planned and organized like the light blue meal plan sheets my nutritionist used to send me home with each week, that it’s more like a hot mess disaster of estimation and panic and realizing that no, you don’t get to know every ingredient in every food you ever eat and that some days you’ll oversleep and miss the gym or you’ll be sick or maybe you’ll just be fucking tired or maybe even busy doing something like going out with your friends…now that i’m there, i have zero interest in going back. in any capacity.

but if somebody were to ask me “how i did it,” my response would be this: i just did. i stopped blaming other people, stopped blaming society and the media and genetics and my inborn personality traits. i stopped waiting for it to be easy. and i stopped fucking around being half-assed about it. there was no “oh, i’ll just restrict today because i have an audition tomorrow,” or “purging just this one time won’t matter – i’m just really full.” there is a fine line between allowing yourself room to make mistakes – relapse is a part of my story, for sure – and for using the fact that recovery is balls to the wall hard as an excuse to only do it halfway.

and honestly, nobody wants to hear that.

the best way i can show my recovery is by living my life and living it well. i train because i enjoy lifting heavy things and getting stronger; i don’t do it to burn calories or to look a certain way. i eat however i damn well please, knowing that i choose to eat in a way that will support me physically and emotionally (aka will eating a piece of apple pie plus my aunt’s amazing chocolate chip cookies on thanksgiving day help me lift better? probably not. but damn they make me feel good, so i’m going to freaking eat them).

some people thrive in support groups and 12-step programs, and that’s awesome for them. however, i know myself and i know i would not. it wouldn’t be good for me, and i wouldn’t be good for the other people there. so instead, i stick to myself. i celebrate my little victories, and when it’s all said and done, i know i have done recovery – finally – on my own terms.


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diminishing returns.

i’ve been thinking lately – this blog would probably be a lot more “popular” so to speak if i chose one theme and stuck to it. it could be a running blog; a blog about overcoming the grief of loss of a loved one; a lifting/strength blog; a recovery blog. any of these topics would, if i stuck to them for more than three minutes, garner me a niche in the blogosphere and followers looking for that specific thing.

however, (a) i do what i want, (b) i’m fickle, and (c) i don’t like the idea of having to try and “be” something that maybe, in that particular moment, i’m not. because, as (b) states, i’m fickle.

i have noticed, however, that whenever i write a recovery-oriented post, i gain a handful of new followers. which is awesome – i’m always glad to have people reading – but then i feel like a huge let-down when, after three weeks, i haven’t uttered another word about recovery or body image or beauty standards.

you see…the longer i truck along this path of Recovery, with its ambiguous and almost mythological final destination, the less inclined i am to talk about it. for starters, it’s not very interesting. i no longer have those “in your face” struggles. my recovery consists of…continuing to do the same thing i’ve done for the past 3+ years. i don’t count calories or macros (save for protein, and that’s just because i lift heavy and keep a gentle watch on getting enough protein to sustain that), i don’t give a hoot about how many calories i may or may not burn at the gym, and i almost threw myself a party when i realized that my compression shorts finally had a booty to compress.

giraffe-butt

and while this may be impressive considering the years (and years) i struggled to be kind to myself, to tolerate and then like and then maybe even love my body (even though we all know how i feel about that phrase), and to appreciate my health and athleticism…it makes for a damn boring blog.

and as far as “real life” is concerned, i find it less and less appealing to let people know my past. mainly because it’s irrelevant to any relationships, professional or otherwise, i currently hold here. and also because, the few times i have told people, it becomes this little nugget of information they can’t seem to dislodge from their brains. and all of a sudden, all they want to talk about with me is their diet and exercisewhich are both topics that i have no desire to discuss with anyone beyond a doctor or a coach.

it took me a long time to realize and believe that i am more than my eating disorder. to believe that people will still care about me even if they’re not worrying that i might drop dead in front of their eyes – that i’m worthy of love just by being me, and that i don’t have to be sick for people to care.

and now that i’m there, i’m terribly uninterested in ever going back.

so if you’re reading this and struggling or working on your own recovery…i’m sorry to say that well-thought-out posts like these are few and far between here. mostly i ramble about training and my mom and how pop-tarts are 2$ a box all summer. recovery is funny in that the more of it you have, the less conspicuous it becomes. until all of a sudden you stop in the middle of your day, while you’re out enjoying lunch with your friends or going for a walk just to enjoy the sun and not to burn off calories, and you think: “this…this is awesome.”

and i promise you – it is.