Uncategorized

Road to Recovery

Recovery comes in all different shapes and sizes, and this is mine.

Over the past year, I made friends who are top-notch lifters in the powerlifting world. Many have been doing it four, five, six+ years, and it shows. I cracked a joke once about how I couldn’t think of anything I had been that committed to for that kind of time.

But one thing did come to mind – my eating disorders.

Since I was 15 years old until this year – almost seven years of my life – I cultivated some incredibly destructive and damaging behaviors. To think back on it now is strange, because while that was me…it also wasn’t.

img_5574

Fall 2012 (early ED) vs. Fall 2016

How do I describe the mindset to someone who has never dealt with something like this? As my mom put it once, “I feel bad when I overeat, but I don’t hate myself.”

I think that gets to the heart of it: never, in all my years of disordered eating, was it about the food. Never.

The 900 calorie (or less) days, hours on the elliptical, being afraid to go out to dinner because I didn’t know what food was going to be there; the months of not exercising at all, eating anything and everything, hiding away in baggy clothes; and all the eating until I was sick, jamming fingers down my throat, abusing laxatives, avoiding my reflection in the mirror…

It was about control. It was about hurting myself, hating myself. It was about making myself look as bad as a felt, or feel as bad as I looked. No logic, just compulsion and misery on repeat.

fullsizerender

For anyone going through something similar – whatever it may be, this isn’t limited to body image and disordered eating – here is what I’d like to say.

You are not your illness. When you carry something that dark and heavy for so long, it feels like it is a part of your very identity. But just like asthma or the flu is not you, neither is this intangible illness. You must take responsibility for your actions, but the things you do because of your disorder are not the real you. I often pushed away my loved ones, because I didn’t feel like I deserved their kindness and support. But I have a big heart and a lot of love to give, and now that I am separate from it all, I know it was my disordered thoughts that wanted to isolate me.

You are not weak. You are here, struggling to improve your life because you know there’s something better out there, even when it feels like you’re drowning in anxiety or stress, and change is almost scarier than staying miserable. But when you choose to fight, even when all the odds are against you? You are strong. You are the strongest kind of person I know. But you have to keep struggling and growing, don’t you ever give up.

Seek help and be honest. You don’t need to have a mental breakdown or have your life fall apart to “qualify” for help. See a professional if you can, or online chat rooms and hotlines. Then be honest with them, and with yourself. I recognized times when I was not ok, but I waited until the moments my disorder actively impaired my life before seeking counseling, and even in my sessions, I would downplay the extent of my duress. You will get the help you need, but only if you’re honest about what you need.

Address the underlying problems. You and I both know it’s not about the food, or your love life, or the stress of work and school. Those might be triggers, but they are not what is causing you to self-sabotage and burn yourself to the ground. The way you think about your body and yourself is something you have internalized, and you will have to dig deep to find out what exactly is your struggle. It could also very well be a chemical/hormonal imbalance that requires medication. Whatever it is, confronting it will be difficult and painful, but you can’t ignore it; you must deal with it head on if you ever want to heal.

img_5890

Spring 2012 — Spring 2015 — Fall 2016

There are some things you have to do on your own. Recovery, in my experience, is one of those things. It is something you must choose and actively work at. Being around supportive people who try their best to love you through the dark moments, seeking professional help, confiding in and learning from others who understand your predicament – all of these can help, but no one except you can actually own your recovery and wellbeing.

You keep fighting and learning and struggling until one day, things actually do get better.

img_5927

Fall 2012 vs. Summer 2016

I’m not sure when the change happened for me exactly, but taking the leap into powerlifting was a factor.

It is something I wanted for a long time. But when I was barely eating and obsessed with becoming smaller, I didn’t have the energy to grow and lift heavy; likewise, when I did nothing but eat and sit around, I lost all strength and physically couldn’t train the way I wanted.

Committing to powerlifting was the point when I let go of a lot of fears and doubts about myself to finally chase a dream. But just as importantly, it was also the time when I had taken care of myself enough to have the physical capabilities as well.

I had a lot of drama when I first got into it. I got injured in a few minor ways. I was also on my own initially, and then after graduation again. I had to learn things on my own, find help by myself, and put in work with very little assistance and support. And yet, here I am.

img_3835

Texas Strength Classic, March 2016. Much love to my Rice boiz!!!!

Because here’s the thing: the weights I lift now are nothing compared to the weight of negativity that dragged me down all those years.

That’s why powerlifting, for me, is so empowering. It is the bright light after the darkest years of my life, and the final piece in solidifying my recovery. It is a physical manifestation and an almost daily reminder that I did it. I did it. I made it out, and if I can do that, I can do anything.

It is also an integral piece in maintaining my recovery (ya gotta eat well if you wanna lift well), and further strengthening my body and mind. I approach the sport a lot like I approached recovery – I want to get better and stronger, and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I haven’t missed a workout in months, I finally eat without guilt (!), I’m around amazing and motivating people, and it is truly a blessing to be in this community.

It challenges me to grow every day, in every sense of the word, and I look forward to my future in the sport…and my future in general.

img_4238

Meeting Ryan Doris & Ls McClain on the De Novo “Lift & Chill” Tour 🙂

At the end of the day, people don’t know your life. They don’t know your journey and your grind, your triumphs and your strengths, your goals and motivations. They don’t know what you’ve had to overcome, the demons you beat and maybe are still fighting. And a lot of people won’t care, even if they do know.

I’m sharing this for the people that do care. I lived so many years in a bad place, and though I am recovered from my eating disorders, I am still working tirelessly to heal and grow into a stronger and happier version of myself. I drew a lot of inspiration from the stories of others, and I feel a duty to share mine in the hopes that it can help someone else.

My road to recovery has been long and winding, but it was worth the fight! So worth it. I am proud and excited to confidently close this chapter of my life, and to continue on with this new, brighter future.

But ANYWAYS. This was longer and heavier than I thought it would be, but such is life! Thank you for reading, for supporting me through everything, and for just being a part of my life. I appreciate you, and as always – I am here if you need anything! Much love to ya.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let In The Light

Or, an alternative title – “Break the Pattern”.

I had this conversation with a lot of people lately, and myself in particular, so I thought it would be helpful to share it with you all. It goes something like this…

Change is hard.

Even if it is for the best, could make your life a hundred times happier, and is something you know you want to do – it is still hard. I think the reason it is so hard is because it is unfamiliar.

I look at my own life as an example.

A lot of days are still a battle for my body image and self-esteem. It would be easy for me to fall back into my old habits of restriction, over-exercising, and feeling like a stranger in my own skin. Even though I know I was miserable, I know I hated life, and I know it was unhealthy and dangerous – I could easily go back to that lifestyle, because I know exactly what it looks like and what it takes to do it.

It is much harder for me to actively change the thoughts in my head, and change the pattern that I perfected for years. It’s harder to heal my relationship with food and my body, because I don’t know what that kind of mentality looks like or how to get there. There’s a lot of trial-and-error, a lot of learning that happens, and just as many setbacks as there is progress.

But I want to heal. I want it so bad!! More than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. So I fight every. single. day. to love myself better. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and even though I lose some days…I’m having more good days, and that makes it worth it. I will fight to have this light in my life.

12677440_826989170740666_1693004597_n

Same thing goes for my romantic relationships, as well.

For months, I was still hurt about the guy from the summertime, and more generally – all the guys I had dated or been interested in throughout my life. I settled for a lot less than I deserved. Guys undervaluing me, stringing me along, using me, abusing my trust, being emotionally unavailable and selfish…that was the norm. The pattern was very clear, all it did was reinforce my negative self-image, and yet – that was the type that I kept attracting and kept getting involved with. I was used to it.

It’s really hard to demand better, and to stand up for myself. I don’t want to be alone forever, but a relationship that brings only negativity and pain is not worth it. There was a guy recently in my life that was quite nice but gave me really strange vibes, so I trusted my instincts for the first time ever and said no. I shut it down and left it as friends. Even more recently, I used what I had learned about myself from my past experiences, and was 1) actually my genuine self, not just an image I thought the guy wanted to see but also 2) stood up for myself and my beliefs…and because of that, I found someone that could appreciate that and appreciate me.

I know that I want a committed relationship with someone that values me as the catch that I am. I don’t know what that kind of relationship actually looks like, but I know I’m not going to find it if I keep compromising my values and going for boys who don’t treat me well. I want someone who brightens my life, and vice versa…and I’m going to keep breaking my pattern and attracting good people into my life until the timing is right and things work out. I can’t settle for anything less.be-who-you-are-and-say-what-you-feel-because-those-who-mind-dont-matter-and-those-who-matter-dont-mind-drThose are two really personal and specific examples, but the concept applies to a lot of things in life – unhappiness in your job, your academic subject, your friendships, your hobbies. To break the pattern you’ve established and find something that actually makes you happy, fills you with joy, and brightens your gosh darn existence…it is hard, but I promise you it will be worth it.

What really blows my mind is that when I finally decided to change and to start doing my own thing, my life was flooded with positives. Check it out:

  • I signed up for a powerlifting meet and announced it on instagram.
  • A local powerlifter saw it, got in touch, and I ended up meeting more powerlifter friends that fixed my technique and pushed me to break all sorts of PRs.
  • The fun I had with them and the confidence they gave me led me to reach out and connect with some other lifters in my campus gym, and suddenly I had a new group of supportive and passionate friends.
  • I also had three separate people reach out and tell me how proud they are of my accomplishments and positivity.
  • I finally let go of those negative feelings from the summer, I’m learning to trust in myself and in others again, and I’m recognizing that I am stronger than I thought.
  • And lastly – I freaking nailed it in a series of interviews and got a great job offer that I’ll probably be accepting quite soon.

tumblr_n322mmqevm1rumokyo1_250

I have so many people in my life care about and support me. I have so much light and love in my life, but I was always too scared to let it in. For the longest time, I thought I was damaged goods or something. I thought I attracted bad people into my life because I somehow deserved that negativity. Being in that dark place of my life was so painful, but it was all I knew.

It took all of my courage to step out of the darkness and into the light. But the light isn’t blinding, and it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It’s warm, it’s a breath of fresh air, a good change of pace, and I’m finally letting it in.

theres-a-crack-in-everything-quote-leonard-cohen

It might be hard to believe at first, and of course you will have times when the darkness creeps in again – but it doesn’t have to consume you. Break that pattern. Let in the light. Let the positive things happening to you happen, because you do deserve them.

Anyways, that was a ramble and I just needed to remind myself of these lessons I am continually learning. I hope it helps someone out there, and as always – feel free to reach out. I support you, I believe in you, and I can’t wait to see the light that comes into your life…and the light you bring to others.

Okay…I’m gonna go cry now from happiness and relief. Love you all very much!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do It For You

GUESS WHO’S BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER?

It’s ya girl, Ariel!! Officially stateside again after 3.5 months studying abroad in LONDON. What a great, amazing time. Totally refreshing, put a lot of things in perspective, and I can honestly say I loved it. (Ask me about it and I promise to talk your ear off!) But now that I’m home and settling in, I’m ready to start working hard on the goals I’ve set for the upcoming months, semester, and year.

And that’s what this post is about. It’s that time of the year when everyone has a moment to finally breathe after the holidays, center themselves, and dream up some big New Year’s Resolutions and goals. And that is so awesome! Seriously – MAKE THOSE GOALS. BELIEVE in them, and in yourself. But above all else, when getting ready to tackle those goals you currently have, or are making for 2016…make sure that whatever you’re doing, that you’re doing it for YOU.

I’ve been through a surprising amount this year. My dog died in January, I got a tattoo and turned 21, started some fitness goals, saw some real RESULTS, had a really fun but short-lived relationship, was the “other woman” in a cheating situation this summer with a guy from the local gym, had to deal with all of the repercussions that involved (anger, bitterness, contact with the girlfriend, rehashing it a million times, etc.), moved to and lived in LONDON for a few months…and that’s all in a single year. Lots of personal growth occurred, perhaps not always in ideal ways, but I have no regrets.

That being said, I can say that throughout everything that happened – all the ups and downs, plateaus and breakthroughs – the times I had the most trouble were when I lost sight of my personal goals. When my goals shifted focus to other people, they weren’t really mine anymore at all, and accomplishing them left me entirely unsatisfied.

Classic example – I committed to losing weight and getting back my fitness lifestyle in April 2015. I made the decision because I was dissatisfied with my body, unhappy in a lot of general ways, and really just missed being able to do active things or to lift weights.

IMG_0183

PROGRESS PICTURES: April 2015 to December 2015

But then I got a boyfriend, and my goals suddenly changed from wanting to get fit for me to wanting to get in shape so that he would find me more attractive. That thought in itself is crazy, because if he didn’t like me as I was, then he sure as heck wouldn’t have deserved me when I lost weight – but I digress. When we broke up, the motivation changed again, but this time the goal became to look amazing and show him what he gave up.

Sure, the anxiety to be attractive, and then the later anger and hurt were definitely motivating forces. It got me to the gym and had me working my butt off. But I wasn’t any happier, despite seeing results, because I wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It was about pleasing or hurting another person, not about improving myself or finding any sort of peace and balance.

I got back on track in the summer when I picked out a specific workout program I had always wanted to do but never finished (and I FINISHED it this time!!). But I lost sight of myself again, and things went downhill again when the attractive worker at the local gym started showing interest in me. It threw me off because suddenly, I wanted to look better because I felt like he was out of my league. And if I’m being entirely honest, part of me wanted to talk to him just to make my ex jealous. Two birds with one stone, you know.

But I lacked the inner love for myself and a goal about my wellbeing – so I let this guy treat me like hell, all the while still trying to get fit to impress him. When “things” hit the fan in regards to him cheating, and each time his girlfriend got in touch with me (or went through my social media) after the fact, whatever good things I had been doing for myself (starting Crush60, being less restrictive, having more confidence…etc.) – I threw them out the door and made my goals to be to sort of show them I didn’t care, or that I was better than their messed up relationship, or whatever– and guess what? Still not happy, still not satisfied.

I could pull examples like this from every era of my life. But fundamentally, it comes down to this – when you don’t love yourself, achieving goals is harder than usual, and when your goals aren’t for youyou won’t be satisfied even when you do achieve them.

IMG_3235-1.JPG

Excerpt from Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan.

The times I’ve been happiest were when I was committed to goals I wanted for me – like the F.I.T. Program, or Crush60, or moving past my eating disorder, or inspiring and encouraging others to pursue their goals, or embracing my quirks and appreciating what I have to offer as a person. It was when I finally put myself first that I felt happiest and strongest.

Of course I care about other people, but my goals can’t be for them. I couldn’t have gone to therapy and gotten anything out of it if I had just done it because my parents wanted me to; I had to want to get better. I couldn’t have enjoyed my study abroad experience if I only went out because my friends asked; I had to have the right mindset to learn and explore. And I can’t love myself or be successful in my life just because other people love me and believe in me; I have to make the choice to love myself every day and through everything that happens, so that I can believe in myself and my capabilities to be successful.

No one else can decide your goals or your life for you, and no one else can motivate you to really go for it. It’s all on you. It’s all about you. And you gotta do it for you.

4inf4hn

Shia and I believe in you.

You aren’t alone, though – you’ve got support all around you. Heck, if you can’t think of anyone that believes in you, know that I’m rooting for you and I know you can do it. So do it. But do it for you, because you deserve to be happy. Put yourself first – even if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it! – and watch how much more enjoyable life becomes.

To keep me honest, and just share piece of my dreams with you all, some of my personal goals for the year include:

  • completing various fitness programs/challenges: Nika’s Winter Challenge, Crush60 (round 2) with Booty Bootcamp (lol), and Mass Effect
  • increase my food intake and generally heal my relationship with food
  • hitting new PRs for my lifts: squat 15olbs, deadlift 150lbs, and benchpress 100lbs (or better!)
  • competing in a power-lifting competition, and later a figure competition
  • starting a job search, finding a job, graduating, and becoming an “adult” 🙂
  • expanding the scope of my blog, and the frequency of posts (I’M SORRY I NEVER POST REGULARLY)
  • and reading a new book (unrelated to class!) each month

I have more, but that’s a nice overview. So what are YOUR goals? What are YOU going to do for YOU this year? Start now. You CAN do this!!!

Won’t it be great to see what happens? 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Two days before moved to London for the semester, I found out the guy I liked this summer had cheated on his girlfriend…with me. Not only that, but I found out from said girlfriend.

I found out I was the “other woman” in someone’s relationship. Then I flew halfway across the world to London. I spent a week touring Europe with my dad, and the following week moving and settling into my new home. The week after that, classes started up and I had to prep.

In other words, had not processed anything. In fact, aforementioned boy called me the night before I left to “apologize”. And I accepted it – or I thought I did. I even went as far as THANKING him for the “good” parts of the summer, telling him we would be cool as soon as we got over it, and basically acting like the whole cheating situation hadn’t really happened.

Funny thing, though – it DID happen. And even if I pretended like it hadn’t hurt me too badly, it WAS a big deal and it was NOT okay like I said. Ask me how I know!

Last week, after my dad flew back to the US and I found myself on my own again, I immediately saw some scary habits creeping back. The scariest was the emotional eating, and all of the negative feelings that come along with it. That is to say, the guilt, the shame, the sadness…the horrible self-image, the hopelessness, the desire to purge…generally hating what I was doing, and hating myself, all at the same time.

I felt overwhelmed, and it all came crashing down on Saturday night. I finally, FINALLY broke down and just let myself process everything. I needed the chance to feel sad and betrayed and whatever else, instead of pushing it aside and ignoring the underlying emotions. But the worst part of even THIS was that, despite it all, what I mostly felt was disappointment – in him, in myself, in the situation, in general.

Feeling

My biggest issue was that I felt like I made great progress in my personal growth the last few months. Coming out of my last relationship, I felt I picked myself up quickly, channeled my energy into positive things like exercising and eating better, and worked so hard on treating myself right.

But this guy had NOT treated me right, and I let him. He played me for two months – strung me along, sent mixed signals, took advantage of my innocence and trusting nature, and used me to fill whatever void was in his life. Yet all I could think was that it was somehow my fault, that if I had only liked myself more then I wouldn’t have put up with his poor treatment, that I could have avoided this situation altogether.

HE was the manipulator, the cheater, the one who lied about everything from the very start – but I was putting the blame on MYSELF, and rapidly self-destructing. There are so many things wrong with that kind of logic, and it is such a dangerous line of thought. All it did was make me feel even worse than I already did, while simultaneously taking the blame away from where it should have been from the start – on HIM.

A few days ago, his girlfriend got in touch with me again. I told her my side of the story and we filled in some of the missing pieces of the timeline together. We’ve made our peace, which I genuinely appreciate. However, despite learning that he has STILL been lying all this time, even though she’s giving him a second chance that he does NOT deserve, she’s decided that she wants to stay with him.

It’s her life and her choice, I guess. But seeing another sweet, kind girl give in to someone like that pushed me over the edge. It is a month later, almost to the day, and I am FINALLY angry about it. Not annoyed, not sad, not in shock – truly and genuinely ANGRY! I haven’t felt like this in ages.

You see, I strive to be a good person. I want to be a positive piece in the lives of those around me. I try to not speak poorly of others (even if they hurt me), forgive quickly, and take the “high road”. But there’s this quote I saw, and it resonates deeply:

“Don’t light yourself on fire trying to brighten someone else’s existence.”

My goals of kindness, positivity, and forgiveness are noble aims, and they generally do help me keep focused and continually work on being a better person.

But my constant effort to let go, move on, and then welcome the damaging people and relationships back into my life were also attempts at fulfilling these goals. I thought I was showing that I was nice, healthy, and mature – and let me just say, that behavior is NONE of those things. In reality, I was hurting myself even MORE, just to make other people feel better.

Well guess what? I don’t owe those things to anyone, LEAST OF ALL the people who chip away at those better pieces of me. I am trying my best, but I am HUMAN. I am ALLOWED to feel hurt, and angry, and betrayed, and any other emotion on the spectrum that I experience. I am allowed to feel this way, to work through it on my own time and in my own way, and without obligation to anyone else.

Seriously, this guy was awful. He CHEATED on his girlfriend of a YEAR, put me in a position I would NEVER participate in knowingly, and painted me out to be some desperate little girl. He objectified me, sexualized me, DEHUMANIZED me. He made me question my self-worth, damaged my confidence, and set me back in my incredible goals and progress from the summer.

Progress Pic - September 2015

So NO. That is not fine, and not something I have to forgive. I will move on – clearly, I will not let someone break me, much less someone like THAT – but I think this time around, I will utilize this backbone of mine and not let this person back into my life.

Coming out of this terrible experience, I can genuinely say I learned a lot. More than anything, it opened my eyes to some of my subtler unhealthy habits – in all types of relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s okay to support people; it’s NOT okay to NEVER put myself first. And it also showed me that although I made AMAZING physical progress these past few months, I still need to focus on my emotional and mental growth. I am a much stronger person than I was before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to get stronger.

The reason I’m sharing this, and in a way that’s perhaps less upbeat and cheerful than my usual posts, is because I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. We are constantly taught that anger and sadness are negative emotions we should avoid at all costs. They’re not worth it, we should just get over it, we are in charge of our own happiness…and so on and so forth. And a lot of that might be true – I mean, I much prefer having fun and being happy! BUT IT IS OKAY TO HAVE THESE BAD TIMES, TOO.

Sometimes when I’m going through something, I sit here and think things like, “Well, logically, I know I shouldn’t feel XYZ” or “GOD Ariel, it’s all in your head”. I’m not wrong, but I’m also actively devaluing my emotions and my experience. Even if it IS illogical or in our heads, not addressing it and bringing ourselves down is not the way to go. You don’t have to beat yourself up even MORE for feeling the way you do, and you also don’t have to explain or justify it.

A caveat – there’s a fine line between letting yourself process something, and letting yourself dwell even more on something. The important thing is to let yourself feel whatever you need to, and once you’ve done that, then it’s time to start doing what you need to do to move forward.

All of the above writing? That’s me venting, listening to angry Fall Out Boy, and working through the last bit of these emotions. Then I’m finishing my homework, going to bed, and getting up early for my morning workout. That guy is, in the words of Jean-Ralphio – the wooooorst.

This post was for ME, and also for YOU. Because WE are what matters MOST!

I really hope this helps someone, and I say this (literally) in every blog, but PLEASE feel free to talk to me. I’m over-sharing on the internet to hundreds of people (ha…ha…NICE!); you can over-share to me in my email or Facebook or Tumblr or in person! Seriously – the support you all give me is amazing, and I am ALWAYS happy to return the favor in any way I can.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. Positive London adventures and life updates are to come soon, I promise! Until then, keep being you, kick butt, and stay awesome!! #cliche Much love to you all!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Makes You Happy?

Hello everybody! Today, I have just one question to ask: what makes you happy?

Hopefully a lot of things and people and events pop into your mind. That is AWESOME, and I am genuinely glad for you. It should be that way! But I have a confession: I’ve often struggled to come up with ANY answer to that question, and I’ll bet others have the same difficulty.

To give a little context that I will surely elaborate on soon: I recently experienced some of the greatest months ever, but the good times came to a halt when reality finally hit. In other words, I dated a really awesome person for a regrettably short time, and now that relationship has unfortunately ended. I went from being the happiest I’ve been in a long while, to being incredibly sad and dismayed.

IMG_1876

Now, there is a lot of research out there on happiness, and I am by no means an expert. I’m not even a novice, really. That being said, the approach I’m using to move towards happiness and towards becoming the better person that I truly want to be – it fit under advice given by researchers. Not too shabby, huh?

Important above all else is the intention to be happy. According to a variety of research, that alone is an important first step towards feeling and being happier. For me, even amidst all the self-generated angst and all the negative thoughts – I knew that I didn’t want to feel that way. I wanted to feel better; and I must say, that underlying desire has pulled me through some of the toughest times I’ve experienced.

In fact, intent and intentional actions seem to be the best way to find that happiness we’re constantly searching for. It’s waking up and telling yourself that today is great. It’s thinking about the things for which you are grateful. It’s getting excited about the plans you have. It’s scheduling in time with people and activities that energize you in positive ways. It’s taking a moment to enjoy the little everyday things that we experience.

Basically, it’s every good thought you have – and finding ways to fill your day with more positive thoughts like those than anything else.

If you’re anything like me, however, getting into that frame of mind is incredibly difficult, especially when you’re feeling like you’re at your lowest low. So, the pieces of advice I want to leave you with today are the following:

  1. Find the things that make you happy WHILE you’re feeling that way. Not only does this feed into the idea of gratitude and learning to enjoy the moment, but it also helps you when you hit another rough patch. One of the problems I encountered post-breakup was trying to distinguish what exactly made those times so wonderful. It was easy to latch on to the idea of “I was happy because I was with him” and harder to realize that the reason might actually be closer to “I was happy because I felt cared for and I made someone else feel happy, too.” I’d say write it down, because I’m a list person and having a “What Makes You Happy” list has become clutch in my life, but I know that for some people, words just aren’t their cup of tea. So, whether you write it down or not, just do something to acknowledge what you are feeling and WHY you feel that way.
  2. Find things that make you happy ANYWAYS. Like I said, I was already sad when I started trying to discern “how to be happy” again. Even though I took a super logical approach and didn’t feel all that enthusiastic about it, I sat down, busted out my trusty bullet journal (it’s so cool, I love it), and started doing what I do best – writing and making lists. I now have a What Makes You Happy page (petting dogs, talking to people I love, working out…), a Laughter List of things I know make me smile (Arrested Development, YouTube videos…), and even a list of Who You Gonna Call where I wrote down names of people I love and know I can talk to no matter what (my RAs, my roommates, close friends…). Any time I find myself laughing or doing something that makes me feel good, I go add to my lists. I can’t avoid every kind of sadness – because life is going to be filled with ups and downs no matter WHO you are – but I trust that having these on hand will help me feel better and happier much faster.

Patrick Stump Love

Again, I’m no expert here. But I can tell you that I want to lead a happy and healthy life, and to do that will take constant effort. Until we can internalize the positive behaviors and make optimism a natural state, it will be a tough road. And even if and when we get to that point, life is not always going to be easy.

Regardless, I 100% believe you can find happiness in yourself and in those around you! Whether it’s a fleeting moment, or you’re having the best months of your life – take a minute to acknowledge that joy, be thankful for it, and remember why you felt the way you did.

That way, next time someone asks you what makes you happy – you’ll have plenty of answers to give. 🙂

I’m linking below to some fantastic articles that explain in more depth and clarity the ways in which you can actively engage in choosing your own happiness. Sending good vibes your way!!

Scientifically Train Your Mind to Be Happy

The 8 Things The Happiest People Do Every Day

How to Increase Happiness & Meaning in Life

Practice Happiness (former blog post!)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Journal Journeys

At the start of the new year, I went out and bought this little bugger:

IMG_1768I’m a sucker for cutesy things, dogs, and inspiring quotes – and this has all three. Seriously, look at how cute the dog is!

IMG_1769

But I digress. The main reason for buying this cute and cost-effective journal, and the focus of this post, is journaling.

There are a lot of reasons to start journaling, and a lot of different types of journals you can create. Maybe in the future I’ll pursue one of those, but right now, the current goal is consistency.

For some context, I attempted journaling in the past. I started this blog as essentially a public journal, and I also wrote a lot of shorter personal journal entries when I was volunteering in Peru, as well as when I started experiencing irregular anxiety over the summer.

Those are all good reasons, and perfectly fine behaviors. They were helpful at the time, and I especially like going back to read about my more positive experiences. But I am here to talk about casual and consistent journaling, because in the short few months I’ve been doing it, it has been a great experience.

WHAT & WHY

This article was my main blueprint, and I highly recommend it. It provides some good details on different reasons for journaling, as well as different platforms – notebook, blog, phone apps, etc. For my purposes, I went with the traditional physical notebook, and I don’t have any regrets.

What I like best about this journal so far is that I can actually trace my emotions, and better understand my experiences. For example, my very first entry was about two weeks after my dog died. I was still missing him a lot, so I sat down, pulled out this journal, and finally wrote about everything.

After that, more entries ensued about normal life things. What exercises I was doing, homework due dates, stuff I did with my friends. And then, randomly one week, I suddenly felt overwhelmed between class and friends and body image, and all sorts of things really. So I sat and wrote about my thoughts, and I realized I had looped back to a lot of the underlying sadness about my dog that I still hadn’t addressed.

The thing about writing solely in times of crises, from what I’ve gathered, is that it is a lot harder to trace your actions and behaviors in a broader context. Having a journal of only your struggles and severely negative times makes it harder to see the ways you overcame it all. The action of writing your thoughts and feelings is pretty cathartic and can help you get a handle and a better perspective of what is going on in your life, but it also makes the focus on these struggles – versus all the good things that happen in between. Keeping a regular journal helps see the bigger picture.

WHEN & HOW

Now, I am definitely not proposing writing in a journal every night for an extended period of time (though that would be quite a cool thing to look back on)! Life is busy, regardless of your circumstances, and journaling can quickly become a chore – and that isn’t the point of it at all.

A lot of my reluctance to starting this was because I didn’t want to get bogged down in staying up late to spend a bunch of time reflecting on my day. Then I realized that it is my journal, for my own personal use and development, and I could do whatever I wanted. So I started writing two or three times a week for about 20 minutes – enough to do at least a page – right before I went to bed. It was an easy way to take a moment for myself and relax, for starters, something I’m definitely working on.

Chill

It was also fun, and I didn’t have that usual “ALL OR NOTHING” mentality about it, or the super perfectionist tendencies about writing in it. If I had to leave one major take-away, it would be this: do whatever you want with it, whenever you want with it – but just do something.

While I’m here trying to convince you to write about your life, if that isn’t your style – please just find a way to give yourself some “me time” to reflect. People, school, and life in general throw a lot at us everyday, and it’s easy to let those external forces rule our thoughts and behaviors. Taking a little time to get centered is not a bad thing.

Until next time…!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Waking Up

It’s been over a month since O-Week, and I’m still kicking. It was amazing and intense, and if you haven’t heard me talk about it yet – trust me, you will. But the reflection on that event (and how I feel like a totally different person coming out of it!!) is for another today.

However, it will suffice to say that summer was a busy time overall, and the weeks leading up to the actual event were particularly crunched for time. I had already been struggling to get into some type of routine in terms of exercise and eating, but during those last few weeks I felt like my attitude took a straight nosedive.

Those weeks encompassed very little exercise and a diet that makes me cringe just thinking about it – but I wrote it off as unavoidable, said I’d reset once everything finished, or more often than not I didn’t even think about it.

Ignoring the problem won’t help us fix it.

I essentially became passive in my choices of fitness and food. This “unaware” lifestyle carried on through O-Week and weeks after. The times I finally did stop and think about what I had eaten, was eating, was about to eat…I would get upset and feel even less empowered than I already did.

So the cycle intensified, until I was eating dessert three times a day, spending extra money on fast food lunches, and not exercising at all.

Personally, that stuff doesn’t feel good to me. Looking in the mirror and feeling “bleh” doesn’t feel good to me. Feeling sad and lazy and unfocused doesn’t feel good to me. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything.

cute-animals-tired-dog-puppy-sleeping-flat-out-picsPerpetual sighing.

After sharing these concerns with my counselor – in particular, my disappointment in what felt like out of control eating – she suggested a simple idea: before eating something, ask yourself, “Do I want this?”

Since that session, about two weeks ago, I’ve been pausing to ask myself “Do I want this?” before I eat certain foods or meals. I’m not doing it obsessively or excessively, which are behaviors I am prone to when it comes to body image issues. Rather, I do it to give myself the opportunity to decide.

The answer isn’t always “no” and it isn’t always “yes” – but in the end, it’s my decision. Having that sort of control in something so basic as food preference is crucial part of life that I sometimes forget about. Food doesn’t control us!

I’ve also started asking myself “WHY do I want this?” in addition to the yes/no question. It often helps put my behavior into context.

Case in point:

I reach for the cake in the kitchen. “Do I want this piece of cake?”

“…yes.”

“Why do I want it?”

“Well, I already had pie at dinner, and then I watched TV for two hours…”

“Okay. Do I really want this?”

“I guess…no, not really.”

Sleeping-Cat-on-FoodThe struggle.

Sometimes I’ll take a small bite instead of an entire slice, or I’ll just get out of the kitchen and go back to my homework or cleaning or whatever it was I was doing before. Other times, if I do decide to indulge, I don’t let that decision influence my decisions later on down the line. The cake I ate last week does not mean I’m a failure and have to eat badly today. It means I ate a piece of cake. (This concept is still difficult for me, but I am trying my best to keep my mind positive!)

My conscious eating (each and every attempt at it) makes me want to be more “conscious” in other aspects of my life. For example, it has helped me cut down on my Netflix time during the week – before I put on a show, I ask why I want to watch TV (usually it’s to avoid homework). I also do it when I’m on tumblr or Facebook for too long (again, I’m usually avoiding something like exercise, work, or other responsibilities).

It’s been a low-key, easier way to adjust to healthier habits. Progress is slow, but I feel like this is something sustainable. It sounds simple, but it’s decidedly useful! When we aren’t thinking at all about our choices or actions, it’s easy to go through the motions of life without living it. It’s been helping me change my perspective and my behavior already, and I hope it can be a tool for you too!

I don’t know…it just feels good to be awake. 🙂

tumblr_mi1ll8otpM1qcnwyso1_500Happy/excited/energetic puppy = my current spirit animal.

If you’re interested in some articles on conscious eating, I found these helpful and inspiring:

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Eating

Love Yourself Through Mindful Eating

10 Tips for Conscious Eating

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drop the Double Standard

Hey friends!

Today’s topic: the double standards we set for ourselves. (Get ready for some Courage the Cowardly Dog references.)

A few days ago, I went to a concert for my most favorite band ever (Fall Out Boy… shameless plug). Even though I was pumped for the show, I also felt slightly nervous because I went solo. It was also one of my first concerts, and the venue was also somewhere I had never been. So all in all, I already felt pretty awkward.

And then some random frat boys drove by, rolled down their window, and shouted: “Damn girl, yo ass is ugly!”

Completely random, rude, and uncalled for – no matter how you spin it. Whether someone is “ugly” or “pretty” or whatever you may think, that type of behavior is not acceptable.

At least, that’s what I would tell any other person who had this sort of experience.

But because it was me, I let one rude comment get under my skin and into my head. It almost ruined my night and the concert I had looked forward to for months.

Here’s the reason why: I have a harsh double standard for myself.

In my own head, I have this unrealistic image of how I think others view and judge me. If I’m the “health” or “fitness” person (both self-titled), and I skip a workout or eat a bowl of ice cream – suddenly the world falls apart. But if it were any of my other friends doing the same thing, I wouldn’t think twice.

This thinking stretches beyond the realm of body image, and into the space of overall self-image and confidence. If I have to study for hours to barely grasp an economics concept for my class, that means I’m not smart and don’t belong at Rice; however, if a fellow student struggles with writing a paper, that’s just because the assignment is hard and they aren’t used to the subject. If I need to take a moment for myself to recharge or just be alone, I’m antisocial and no wonder people don’t know me; if my roommate stays in to study or sleep, she’s just relaxing and taking the night off.

Do you see a pattern here?

But here’s the worst part – I don’t think I am alone in setting these double standards for myself. If I had to wager a guess, I would say a lot of us experience this. While it is one thing to have high ambitions and try to hold ourselves accountable to our actions, it is something else altogether when we constantly berate ourselves until we are our own worst critics.

Just being aware of this behavior does help start to combat it, though. I’m working through it, and I know it won’t change overnight (I wish!). But here are some of the ways I have tried to start shifting my mindset to something more positive:

  1. Acknowledge the emotions and thoughts. Personally, I go throughout the whole day essentially ignoring my feelings. Then I have a moment of downtime and everything overwhelms me at once, which can set the tone for the rest of the night, week, or even longer. I am now taking the time to work through the emotions I have as I feel them, and then move on.
  2. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. We are allowed to make mistakes. None of us are perfect, and the occasional “slip-up” is to be expected. It’s when we let these slip-ups become downward spirals that the problems start.
  3. Be your own best friend. Before you pass judgment on yourself, think of how you would treat a friend in the same situation. Would you be so critical? Would you even notice what they were doing? Now treat yourself the way you would treat your friend.

This is definitely not easy, but I know that for me – this is crucial. I want to be in a place where I can embrace the good parts of myself, accept and believe compliments, and not let the curve-balls life throws bring me completely down.

I deserve to see myself the way others see me, and so do you. We are all pretty amazing, even when we’re so different – and if you asked me, I don’t doubt that I would have many good things to say about you. So say them to yourself!

You know what? You kicked butt on that workout – I don’t care how anyone else looks in the gym, because you worked out hard and that’s what matters. You did well on that test – nope, doesn’t matter if someone got a better grade or learned it quicker, because that doesn’t change how awesome you are. You’re a great person, because you are you. It is as simple as that.

So let’s drop those double standards for ourselves and just live life.

Sending lots of love to you all! Let me know if you want to talk, or share your experience. I’m always here!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Take What You Need

Hi everyone! I apologize in advance if this post is a little heavy, but it’s something important. It’s about you, and getting help whenever you need it.

take-need--large-msg-134791136135

But let me backtrack a moment. First, I’ve seriously had some of the most amazing few weeks lately. I learned that I’m going to Peru on a service trip in May – to teach workshops on nutrition, no less! I’ve started class on how to be a Rice Health Advisor (RHA). And I’m a coordinator for Rice’s O-Week, on a team with two amazing co-coordinators and a campus-wide team of actually WONDERFUL people!! I can’t even begin to express how blessed I am. Yet, I still feel like part of me is struggling.

Unfortunately, when I start feeling down, some harmful behaviors start to surface that only make me feel worse:

  • Eating makes me anxious. I feel this especially in public, where I feel pressure to both eat what I want but also to eat what is considered “healthy” in my mind. In private, the feeling gets worse.
  • Exercise is a punishment. Rather than exercising for personal fitness reasons, it becomes a way to justify binges.
  • I obsess over food. It dominates my thoughts before, during, and after meals, when I plan what to eat for the next day, when I try to count calories, and even when I consider exercise plans. It’s a constant presence.
  • My self-perception turns negative. I think of every bad or negative aspect of my body, personality, or situation, and I start to spiral into a general sadness and discontent..

There are others, but the overall feeling I get is a sense of overwhelming suffocation. It is a feeling that keeps me from enjoying my life to the fullest, and I know I want to take steps to make myself happy.

We are all on a journey, and that means that there will be many ups and downs and twists and turns that we weren’t expecting and aren’t prepared for. But life doesn’t put itself on pause for us, and we need to consciously make choices that help our happiness and our well-being.

 One of those choices is asking for help.

I think it is incredibly difficult to admit we need help, much less seek it out. This is applicable to eating disorders, but also to all general well-being obstacles. I’m going to speak to my own difficulties, but know that no matter what hardships you face — you are not alone.

Hugs-l

Endless love and hugs.

The absolute best advice I can give is to reach out and talk to someone. Some people include:

  • friends
  • roommates/suitemates
  • family
  • RAs or other college leadership teams
  • counselors
  • doctors

There are a plethora of people that care about you and your health. Please talk to them! Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. I don’t know why such a stigma exists for mental and physical health issues, but trust me when I say that there is nothing embarrassing about getting the support you need.

In the past when I started feeling this sense of sadness and anxiety, I called our university’s counseling center. I know that I cope better with outside opinions, and so individual counseling sessions are what I needed. After different rounds of counseling, I got better at reading my emotional signs and being able to preemptively mitigate my harmful behaviors. Last time I felt this upset and stressed, I reached out to our general wellbeing advisors (essentially a milder form of counseling) and they helped talk me through a plan to work through my struggles. At this point in time, I feel able to turn to my friends and family for support and advice, and I can see more clearly than had I never reached out at all in the past.

Think about your personal needs and what would help you best, and then go for it!

You are beautiful, inside and out. You deserve to feel that way. It’s scary to open up and take that leap of faith, but you can do it. Someone will catch you. Someone will help you. But you have to take that first step.

As always, I am here if you need anything, even if it’s just someone to talk to. Please feel free to leave a comment on my blog, send me an email at headedhealthy@gmail.com, or track me down on Facebook! I am here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Much love, my friends!

Some Rice-Specific Resources:

Wellbeing Center: (713) 348-3311 or wellbeing@rice.edu

Rice Counseling Center: (713) 348-4867, 24/7 hotline available for emergencies

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.