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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Hole to Fill in the Desire for Perfect

There's so much to learn about the self with any new undertaking (particularly after it has become less-than-new), and lifting weights is no exception. (Note that I've not been working out for the last couple of weeks, though still do long walks regularly).
I've now seen,in the not-doing, some of the drivers behind my desire to weight train. First, of course, is the wonder of the physical and mental experience--lifting 200 pounds off the ground, repeatedly, and fully-focused in the moment.
But I'm learning that much of my satisfaction from lifting, losing fat, and being more fit is driven by my belief that I am less valuable and unattractive if I don't. Put simply, a big chunk of this is about my lack of self-acceptance, and a desire to control and erase that which isn't satisfactory to me. 
A frenzied fear swept over me the other day, when I realized I've likely gained 7 or 8 pounds recently. My first thought: I am falling behind schedule, I am going backwards. At the core, I realized, was this: I would be less likely to be loved.
What often follows is a desire to punish myself, to step into control, to whip myself into shape, to force myself, like a ruthless headmaster, and make working out a punishment, no longer the joy.
This time I've simply been sitting with the experience, letting the feelings flow through me. I haven't forced myself to go to the gym, or changed my food, or anything. And this has been challenging, and painful. 
There are a lot of stories about anorexia and other eating disorders among bodybuilders and those losing large amounts of weight. And that is understandable, given how our culture rewards the non-fat--even when it is deadly to the person being rewarded.
I wish I didn't have this low self-esteem, and the accompanying fear that, unless I somehow perfect my externals, others will find me wanting. One day I will be the person who loves herself as she is, for all of who she is. I am not that person, yet.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

...But Not Too Strong

I've had a curious strength-related challenge recently: men who believe I'm not physically strong enough to lift the weight that I do.
This isn't a problem in the gym, where I've received praise and encouragement to lift more weight, and more regularly. There, I deadlift 230-238 pounds for repetitions. No, this is taking place at a part-time job I'm doing to earn some extra money.
I work in a food factory--perhaps better known as a production bakery. Part of the job--I thought--was to empty yellow trash can-sized containers of spilled "product" into a larger container. I had no problem doing this--the yellow containers hold about 60-120 pounds of product; using appropriate lifting technique (tight core and bent knees), I'd empty them with no problem.
Well, it turns out--there was a problem: some men saw me do this a few times, became alarmed, and reported it to my boss. One day, out of the blue, he told me not to lift the containers, that he would take care of it. I protested, saying that I could easily lift them (and I can), but he was adamant.
I couldn't figure out why, however. It's part of the job--but not if you're a woman, it seems.
And the other day, I lifted several boxes (not all at once!) of packaged product, while helping out on the assembly line. They each weighed about 55-70 pounds, and I (again) lifted them with no problem. Well, a few minutes later, I heard some guys talking about it. The next thing I know, when people on the line asked for a box of product, these same men nearly knocked me out of the way to get to the boxes, preventing me from getting near them.
Is this about men feeling invalidated if a woman is strong? I have no idea, but it is frustrating, to say the least

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Healthy Hypocrite Ponders Meat

What do you do when your ethics and values conflict with your health needs? I began this blog four years ago to chronicle my transition to raw veganism. My goal and heartfelt desire was to eat in a way that supported my health yet caused as little environmental harm as possible.
After much experimentation, I now know that(today) my physical and mental health seem  best when I eat a lot of protein, particularly red meat. That is not who I want to be. It is, however, who I am now.
Raising beef--particularly cheap beef--has a massive environmental footprint. In the first year, as I ate my tofu, cheese, yogurt, almond butter, eggs, beans, quinoa, rice, and spinach, I'd look with smug disdain at people chomping on fast-food burgers, knowing that their meat was wreaking environmental havoc and decimating rain forests--and that I had made the more superior choice. 
As my stomach rebelled against grains, dairy, eggs, nuts, and soy, and my protein needs increased (because of the benefits of protein for folks with attention issues, along with strength-training and wanting to increase muscle mass), I began eating meat. I was, at the time, eating chicken, grass-fed beef and lamb, and line-caught salmon, so I could still put a big distance between my meat- and fish-eating and those of the environment-wrecking masses. 
Well, that line of demarcation has crumbled: my pocketbook can no longer afford my ethics (and my stomach stopped liking egg yolks and chicken). I go to Trader Joe's now and buy a pound of ground beef, wrapped in plastic, for about six bucks. The label tells me it contains meat from Brazil, Australia, and the U.S. It is certainly not grass-fed. The cheap lamb I
buy comes from Australia or Iceland, and is still cheaper (dollar-wise, but not on the environment) than lamb grown less than a few hundred miles from my apartment. I don't buy salmon much any more, but do buy sole and cans of tuna, even as I know the oceans are over fished. 
When you eat about 130 grams of protein a day, you can't (or at least, I can't) do it all on meat (as there's only about 7 grams of protein in each ounce). I do consume powdered egg whites and whey powder in protein shakes. 
Unfortunately, my stomach doesn't do well with dairy, fermented or otherwise. Although I consume whey isolate (with the least amount of lactose of the wheys) my stomach still has difficulty with it, and sometimes rebels against egg whites, too.  So I can't rely on either one for my primary source of protein. And that leads me back--to meat. 
Also, as I have handled more meat--and more meat that looks like meat (for example, lamb chops or shanks that resemble *my* body parts) I'm quite more aware that I'm eating another being, a dead being killed so I could eat it. I do give thanks to the animal, and have done that for a long time, but even that seems insufficient lately.
So the more meat I eat, the more I feel like a hypocrite--albeit a healthy one. I'm not sure what to do.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Fermentation: Sisters Are Doing It For Ourselves!

clear mason jar with metal lid. Inside are shredded, bright orange carrots in a little bit of clear liquid. The jar is sitting atop a light brown bamboo chopping board, and is standing in front of a window. Outsie are branches of the tree in front of my apartment, on a clear spring day.
First batch: fermenting carrots
I've been eating fermented foods (primarily raw sauerkraut) for most of the last year of my food journey. It's (generally) a cheap and good source of beneficial bacteria for gut healing and overall digestive health.
For me, fermented foods deliver several rewards: (1) they must reduce inflammation because I get less puffy and smaller when I eat them; (2) my food desires are much clearer, so I don't graze the fridge as I try to find the nutrient my body  hungers for; and (3) I seem to digest my food much more thoroughly, and (likely as a result) have a lot less hunger.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, creator of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) food/nutrition plan, has been a major cheerleader for the benefits of fermented foods for mind and body health. Whether or not you subscribe to all of her assertions, research is showing us that poor gut health and inflammation are not only linked to one another, but also to numerous chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes mellitus, depression, anxiety, arthritis, and heart disease).
I'm the first to admit, however, that sauerkraut doesn't top the favorite foods list for most people (including me). A fellow writer introduced me to fermented ginger carrots, and they are definitely the exception to the nasty food rule: crunchy and chewy, sweet yet tart. Last week I bought some, but at $8 for a small jar of the stuff, I didn't think I'd be eating it often. When I looked at the ingredients, however--carrots, water, and ginger--I decided to embark on my first foray into the world of fermentation.
I found a simple recipe at 6512andgrowing, and tried it out. It will take about three days for the fermenting to finish. Although I do have some concern about the jar exploding and/or me getting botulism or some other food-jockey illness,  I'm hoping for the best.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Learning to See the Avoided Fat Body

Me now.
In the last few months, I’ve been staring at myself in the mirror. That’s an old behavior. What is new is that I now look at all of my body, instead of the few inches of which I’m not ashamed.
I don’t remember when I stopped looking at my body, or if I ever even started. Like many women—especially fat women (or those afraid of being fat)—I’ve long judged and avoided my body, and considered it (and myself) ugly. I long ago learned to look selectively. Even as a skinny kid, I would only look at my face (and just the parts of it, like my eyes and cheekbones, which I considered less ugly) and avoid the rest. I lived from the neck up long before I’d ever heard that phrase.
Being a survivor of sexual abuse was a part of it, certainly; I rejected my body because it had not protected me in my time of need (and had betrayed me, too. Long deprived, I always hungered for any kind of physical contact). A therapist once assigned me the task of looking at seven-year-old girls, the age of the first sexual abuse I remember. “You’ll see how small little girls are,” she said, “and so helpless.” She was right, of course. (Even years afterwards, I’d still turn away and cry whenever I’d just glance at one of those small faces atop a set of tiny limbs.)
For decades—the skinny ones and the fat—I didn’t know what my body looked like because I didn’t look; I was afraid to look, and I was ashamed to look. I wore poorly-fitting and shapeless clothes to camouflage what I did not want to see. I ordered clothes by mail for convenience and to avoid the visibility (and potential shame) of shopping in public. The idea that I could wear clothes to highlight or accentuate my body was an unknown concept. Of course I preferred to make love in the dark, and struggled to accept the slow caress, the lingering, tender gaze.
Exhibit A: Shapeless clothes (2010)
For the last several months, however, I’ve been using mirrors, cameras, and a tape measure to learn myself, a kind of training in seeing. It is as if I am seeing myself for the first time, seeing what I actually look like, compared to the image I carry around in my head. I also now know that I've spent years seeing myself from outside, as one viewed. I am learning how to see myself and my world from behind my own eyes.
One of the benefits of this training is that I can now tell when I’m doing a “perfect parts” self-gaze, versus simply seeing my body. Also, I no longer measure my appearance based on others’ attention because I now have my own base of knowledge. I know, too, that there is a difference between how my body feels to me and how it looks. Because of my increased muscle tone, for example, I feel (and am) sleeker. I am still carrying excess fat, however, so am still bulgy around my stomach, upper thighs, and butt. 
I can’t (yet) say that I love my body, but I am becoming familiar with it, have learned to see it, and do so with diminishing shame.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Seeing My Mother in the Mirror

When I was young, I idolized my mother, as many young girls do. I thought she was beautiful (and she was), charming, and vivacious; I was none of those. In fact, I never thought I resembled her in any way. I was quite surprised when my younger sister told me (not long after our mother died) that I looked more like my mother than either of my sisters.
And now that I am getting smaller and less fat, I see the resemblance--and am surprised that I never noticed it before. I've come to believe that I couldn't imagine any similarities between my mother and me, and so couldn't see them.
My mother, Mary E. Ursery
As well, I certainly could never imagine competing with my mother or my older sister in anything--perhaps out of fear, or maybe except in areas (such as school achievement, writing, and mechanical ability) in which they'd shown no interest. I also feared self[-assertion, attractiveness, and sensuality (as is common among those who are sexually abused at an early age). In my mind, however, those were attributes that rightly belonged to other women (especially my mother and older sister) but not me. I think, too, that I somehow believed that the only way I could be attractive would be if I became her--with all of her trauma and danger and pain.
These days, I no longer reject my mother, or our many similarities. I see her when I look at myself in the mirror. I fall into her gait while walking down the street. As she did, I take pleasure in a well-turned phrase and a well-cut garment. I have finally chosen to be myself, including the self I share with her.