Thoughts On: Running and Digging Yourself Up

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Running sucks.

*Running can suck—a universal fact for runners of all abilities. If you’re taking on your first block or your 100th marathon, we can all agree that our sport doesn’t always love us back. The thing is, hard runs are some of the most beneficial.

When the going gets tough, every step can dredge up the things you push down, thoughts you might not have if your mind is chock-full of every day life. Sometimes, lacing up and heading out carries the runner closer to a bigger truth about themselves.

It’s dramatic to say, but sometimes… running feels a little bit like destiny. I can feel the changes this half marathon training is raising in me. I’m finding facets of myself I’ve never seen before—grit, drive, a sense of my place. When I move forward with purpose, sometimes it feels like the steps themselves are my purpose.

Most of us won’t break records or claim gold on the world’s stage for our hobbies, but running gives—and we take—our victories. We unearth these deeper, buried parts of ourselves, every time we do something we once believed soul-deep impossible. We hold up these truths and the accomplishments that come with them as our gold and silver and bronze.

So, reminder: your willpower is precious and your work has value. You are more than your surface. Digging down isn’t easy,  but every step you surge forward, and every run you leave behind doesn’t make you stronger—it just shows you a strength you had buried all along.

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Whole-y Grail or Wholly Crap?

This month, I’m taking on the Whole30 Challenge with my friend and fellow blogger, McMaymie (check her out, she’s dope)!

This is out of my wheelhouse.  I generally think plans or diets that eliminate healthy staples like legumes or whole grains are less likely to be effective in the long term. However, in addition to the above, the Whole30 also slashes the usual suspects when it comes to better health: alcohol, added sugar, soy, and dairy.

My boss, who is in the middle of the program with her husband, calls it the “zero happiness” diet.

So, why would anyone in hell do this?

#1. I’M COMPETITIVE. Everyone calls it extreme. At first I thought that was funny and ridiculous, and then I wanted to experience it for myself.

#2.  I’M CURIOUS.  It’s an experiment to see how I fare, physically and mentally, in a kitchen full of restrictions. During my two-week vegan experiment in April, I noticed I eat a lot of breads with a lot of additives. I’m curious how my body feels without them. Many of the things the plan eliminates (lactose, gluten, soy) are irritants that cause inflammation to the system.

#3. PEOPLE ARE LOVING IT. So… I wanna know why. Can it really give me more energy? Balance my digestion? Find me a unicorn?

#3. I KIND OF HATE IT. At the very least I hate the voice they use on their website, and that resentment is fueling me to attempt to succeed for the full. 30. days.  Here’s an example of their slightly passive aggressive, humble-braggery: if you slip up, they say you should start the entire thing over again.

“If you want to do the Whole30, then do it, and either start after the special occasion or figure out how to enjoy your life without mojitos and cheese. We recommend the latter, because we haven’t had a mojito or cheese in ages, and we’re still happy and fun.”

Really? Because you sound smug and condescending. This isn’t making me like you any more. And sure, you don’t CARE that I like you, but if I’m following someone into the trenches and I don’t get to bring my cheese pizza as a shield, you had better find a BETTER way to lead me. So… let’s try this again. If there’s a slip SHOULD I start over again?

Answer #5: Do whatever you want, because you’re a grown-up.”

…Okay, you’re trying to shame me, and it’s not working. As an adult, any choice I make is an adult decision.

I’ve read lots of articles FOR and AGAINST this eating plan, and in the first week, it’s too early to judge which side I’ll fall on. Some of the rules of this regimen make sense to me. Some of them make me roll my eyes.

An episode of Food 52’s podcast Burnt Toast titled “Fat Is Not Bad, Stupid Is Bad” pinpointed something that usually irks me about these fad diets. The guest on the episode said a key part of eating nutritiously is “think for yourself.” With meal plans like this, many follow the rules to the letter. Sure, that’s the point, to go all in, to put in your faith and effort…. But I really think a healthy lifestyle cannot be one-size-fits-all, and the rules should be modified.

Here are some of the rules I’ll be bending/challenging/scoffing loudly at:

1. “No Sex With Pants On.” I think this rule, for certain people, is more damaging than it is useful. It’s when you make something that would be “off limits,” using ingredients that are technically approved by the plan—think coconut flour pancakes or zucchini pasta.  The Whole30 is fond of ‘nos.’ I think playing within ingredient constraints turns those negatives into positives.

“I can’t have this food,” turns into “I CAN cook with all of these other ones!” if you just loosen your grip a little. I’m not going to make meat bagels,  or even pancakes, but I refuse to strictly adhere to anything which doesn’t allow room for culinary play. It just ain’t gonna happen.  If you’re frustrated and bored with your food, you’ll be frustrated, and the plan won’t stick.

2. “No snacking.” L-O-L. It’s almost like this plan was made generically for a bunch of people without any flexibility as to their current state or their histories! (They do make exceptions for pre- or post-workout snacks.) I spent a long time as a binge eater. I’m still in recovery from that, and I remember the days when the feeling of hunger was an exciting novelty to be embraced and nurtured. When I am hungry, I am going to eat a rule-abiding snack. If my body is talking, I will be listening.

3. “No weighing yourself.” I get this one. I really do. As someone who has occasional scale struggle, I understand. And I could, when I break it down, go without a scale for a full month. But I don’t have to, and I don’t want to. Apparently it’s because if you’re in the middle of the plan and you don’t get results you want, you’ll feel discouraged. I have zero expectations of results. I want some gosh darn data during an experiment. Will I be cutting down on the frequency of my weigh ins? Absolutely.

So that’s it, my brief summary of my reasons for foraying into the cult-like eating experience that is sure to be the Whole30…

More to come unless I die very soon from the lack of cheddar in my system.

 

Plus-sized Microaggressions

I work for a company that offers some pretty awesome benefits, and one of them is a free membership to a small gym about two minutes away from work. I hate going to the gym—trapped in four walls, every rep or minute on a treadmill reminds me of a time I could be outside or at home.

Recently though, I decided I might incorporate more weights into my routine, shoving down my hatred with podcasts and music, so I went to activate my free membership—that’s when I ran right into a wall.

Maybe it was the way I thought the door was stuck on my way in, and the guy at the front desk pulled it open for me. Maybe it was my large wool coat and the hoodie underneath making me look bigger than my already larger size. Maybe the guy was more French than English  and didn’t know what he was saying (which sometimes happens on Montreal) but in any case, giving me the preamble, the man at the front desk asked:

“have you exercised before?”

I think I laughed.

I knew what he really meant. He really meant, “have you been to a gym?” and “are you familiar with the equipment?” But that’s not what he said, and it got me to thinking. There is always a chance he would have asked a thin person the same question, just probably in a different way… or there’s a chance he might not have asked them at all. In any case, it had happened to me. I wasn’t even mad, I just made small talk as I filled out my form, told him I was looking to supplement my outdoor running with a weight routine—like I somehow had to back up my claim about having tried exercise EVER in my WHOLE LIFE.

Yes I move my body on a regular basis. No, I didn’t roll in here on a segue with a bucket of 7-11 slurpee just to look at the bros in the muscle zoo. 

When I was finished with my form, I went to check out the weight room upstairs. It was small, pretty standard—and yes, there were a few torture devices I had no clue about, but for the most part, gym standard. I left the place feeling off without understanding why, and texted some of my friends about it to get some feedback and opinion on it—they were more offended than I was.

Here’s what’s eating at me: this is something fat people have to deal with ALL THE TIME— whether it’s getting the stink eye for eating a Big Mac in public, or judged for wearing certain items of clothing we aren’t “supposed to” or assuming we got ever-so-lost and wandered into the gym by accident. People just like to judge us; it’s always open season on fat people. By being plus-sized, we’re visible in a way that others are not. The worst part about being this particular kind of visible in a gym, about the kind of microaggression I experienced, is that it can be discouraging.

It can make the surroundings feel unsafe or unwelcoming, make the person who experiences it feel like they have no place there. In a lot of ways, it can prevent us from breaking the cycle—if that’s something we want to do. (Yes there are people who are happy being plus sized! It’s a Thing. It’s none of your business!)

On the way home I wrestled with two extremes: ditch the gym idea and find new ways to work out in the safety of my bedroom, or stick it out and show him that I ain’t a slouch.

I chose neither, because I’m sure as hell not letting someone who doesn’t know me attempt to shove me into a box  or guide my decisions. I’ll go back there.  If I’m going to the gym, it’s going to be for me, and because I want to. I’m not here to impress anyone else.

I also thought of a great reply on the commute home: “have you exercised before?”

Yeah, dude—check my Instagram. 

 

Sorry For Talking About Poop

I know that I’ve achieved a true friendship with someone when we can talk about poop on the regs. My sister Kacy and I have frequent text exchanges about out digestive struggles (#shittalk), and for good reason:

Poop is EVERYTHING. 

If reading that made you squirm, you can click away now, but I hope you won’t. You probably need to hear this.

For the past few weeks I’ve had a plateau of weight loss. Slightly frustrating, but since I’ve been focusing on healthy routine over numerical results, I just kept moving forward, getting my runs and strength in, shovelling (mostly) healthy food into my face.

Today the change finally came. Not only did I have a great weigh in this morning, finally crushing back the weight loss barrier, but right after, I had a great poo. A poo I had been waiting for for WEEKS. LIFE AFFIRMING POO. There’s potential that tomorrow, I could step on the scale and see a new low, kind of poo. It was award-winning. basically. Congratulations to me and my butt.

The long story short of this is that sometimes you have to forget about numbers and focus on taking care of yourself: take care of your mental health, mind your digestive health, and keep moving. The results will all come and fall in line!

Also, here have some bonus, my sister @saccharine.lemon‘s tips for keeping things moving smooooothly:

#1. Add a tablespoon of ground flax to a glass of water 10 minutes before meals
#2. Dried prunes/dates/figs are your friend, try for a few a day
#3. If you’re struggling, try limiting dairy
#4. Try food pairing (look this up, I have no time to explain the ins and outs)
#5. Try probiotics (kefir is a good option!)
#6. Try for variety! Your body likes to keep things fresh!