Weight and running

I am conflicted about running. I want to run faster than my current ten-minute pace, and I blame my body (and the weight I gained while injured) for my current slowness.

Focusing on weight loss, however, invites the possibility of relapse into food restriction. Through mindful eating and a lot of therapy, I have learned over the past year to eat when I am hungry without regard to how much I have exercised on any given day. I no longer run to the restroom to complete emergency sets of squats and jumping jacks to combat the effects of oily foods, or to punish myself for indulging in dessert. I do not enforce long runs on the days after a large meal, nor do I only eat without hesitation when I have completed a certain number of miles.

This comfort with food, however, combined with the lowered activity levels of an injury, has left me fifteen pounds heavier than I was before my first sacral stress fracture two years ago. I do not mind the size so much as I mind not fitting into my clothes and not running as fast as I used to.

Running slower does have benefits: patience, for example, because even a short distance takes much longer to complete; gratitude that I can run at all after my injuries; enjoyment because I am no longer running out of habit, but because I make a conscious decision each morning to run (or not).

But still, running at this reduced pace is frustrating. I have not been this slow since middle school, when I was first learning how to run. And even then, my gains came quickly and I did not stay slow for long.

I feel disconnected from my former running self. I am not content to run slowly, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that this pace is okay. I happy after each run, but also a bit sad at the thought that I may never qualify for the Boston Marathon again, or run a twenty-minute 5K.

I want to regain the level of fitness I had before this two-year cycle of injury. My easy pace then was eight minutes per mile, sometimes faster; this was the pace I fell into by instinct, without effort. Today I ran an eight minute mile as part of a speed workout, and was glad when I had reached my mark and could slow again. The pace felt familiar, but it was not effortless anymore.

I do not know if it is possible to become faster without losing some weight. And I don’t know how to lose weight without opening the door to disordered eating. I worry that if I reach the benchmarks of an eight minute mile or a Boston qualifying time, I will not be satisfied but will set new, difficult-to-attain standards for myself, constantly grasping at a perfection that is always just out of reach.

I know that I am strong and that my self-worth is not defined by the size of my skirt or my shirt or my dress; nor by the time in which I can run a mile or a marathon.

But knowing and embodying are two different things.

I am not ready to accept that I will have to constantly struggle to balance fitness and self-compassion.




My muse demands patience

Okay okay I’ll begin. I don’t really feel like writing, and haven’t for the past few days. I was doing so well last week, and the week before, writing for two or more hours at a time, multiple days in a row. I suspect this sudden increase in writing has caused my sudden malaise. 

I thought I was being measured in the amount of time I was spending at my desk, but it is possible that I let my excitement at writing on a regular basis cause me to take on too much too soon. I have struggled with creating a regular writing practice since I graduated college with a vague idea of becoming an architecture critic. Other than assignments for classes and a sporadic relationship with my journal, I did not write regularly for myself while in school. In the structureless real world, I could not find the motivation to write. 

I had a funny idea that writing for pleasure and for work would be easy. That I would be greeted each morning by a magnanimous muse, who would know to meet me wherever I was (which was never at my desk) and that words would flow from my fingertips. When the muse refused to show up on time, or at all, I diagnosed myself with writer’s block and moved on with my day. When this happened for weeks and months at a stretch, I assumed my case was very bad but I remained optimistic that if I thought about writing enough and fantasized about how great it would be to be a writer, the block would clear, and the muse would come, and my dreams would be realized without effort. 

Ha. Dreams, I know now, are never realized without effort and muses don’t show up without an invitation. If I am not planted in front of my computer or notebook, ready and starting to write, ideas do not come. 
Also, writer’s block probably only comes to people who are actively engaged in the act of writing; for me it was an excuse so I didn’t have to risk finding out that my writing isn’t perfect. 

Often, my muse is late, not showing up until I am tired and ready to stop for the day; in fact, arriving after I’ve spent thirty or forty or ninety or more minutes banging away, changing postures, doing dances, crying, swearing, sweating is my muse’s most beloved pastime. She wants me to learn patience.

I am a slow student, though, so sometimes I give up before she has time to wake up and prod me along. I am learning, though, to amuse myself with writing nonsense until she comes.

Learning, too, to trust myself to create away from her inspired gaze. 

It is hard work, writing, but I enjoy the process and I enjoy seeing my voice become stronger on the page. I am ready, now, to do the hard work I avoided for so many years. Ready to write with consistency, even if it means writing less each day. My goal, for now, is to spend forty-five minutes five mornings a week at my desk. Even if I write nothing but complaints about how difficult writing is, it will help build the habit. 

I can do hard work. I can write. I can learn to make space for my muse. 

Weekend Diversions 5.6.2016

I know my weekend posts can focus on some fairly heavy political things (mental health, the state of our food system, housing) and I have a feeling that might be exhausting to read. I know I definitely have days when I just can’t fathom even listening to the news or reading news articles. I want, instead, to consume information that is compelling but does not leave me feeling frustrated and powerless. This week, I am definitely in need of some easy, unplugged reading. As I mentioned earlier this week, I led my first SMART Recovery meeting on Tuesday and that was a fulfilling experience, it also took a lot of emotional energy. I have been trying to be kind to myself and reenergize through running, yoga, writing, and reading. 

Here are a two pieces I found especially interesting and fun to get through! 

How to treat prediabetes with diet: Type two diabetes is a lifestyle disease, caused by inadequate nutrition. The medical establishment often doesn’t take the time to educate patients on the implications of dietary choices and the simplicity with which certain diseases can be prevented or reversed. Doctors themselves often don’t have the knowledge to treat their patients with anything other than medicine (a much more expensive and harmful alternative to dietary modification). Dr. Gregor gives a good overview in this article for ways in which prediabetes can be cured with basic lifestyle modifications such as the inclusion of more whole grains in the diet. He also links to myriad additional articles and resources for non-pharmaceutical treatments. I can lose a lot of time going through all of his videos and articles; so much good information!

Making an informed transition to veganism: I like Gena Hamshaw, nutritionist and soon-to-be Registered Dietician, because of her measured approach to nutrition and a vegan lifestyle. She promotes a balanced (vegan) diet, and does not demonize fat as do some other nutrition experts. She also writes openly about her former eating disorder, which I appreciate, and her style is non-restrictive. As someone who has struggled with eating, I find her approach freeing. Reading her blog over the past few years has made my own transition to veganism easier, and her words are a constant reminder to keep balance in my diet. 

I especially enjoyed this post of hers because it highlights an often-overlooked aspect of veganism: the possibility of nutrient deficiency without a mindful approach to eating. 

 Like the woman Gena writes about, I suffered a debilitating vitamin D deficiency that was discovered approximately one year after I became vegan.  I have since learned that many Americans (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore) have low levels of this nutrient because it is not found naturally in food and sunscreen, clothing, and indoor-centric lifestyles mean we don’t always have the opportunity to synthesize it from the sun. 

It is possible (and probable) to thrive on a vegan diet but the change in eating won’t work if animal products are simply cut out and new plant-based foods are not incorporated. As with any healthful approach to eating, veganism takes some thought and planning. When done right, it forms the foundation for an energetic life. 

Have a lovely weekend! 

Sometimes I can do hard things

Yesterday, after weeks of dragging my feet and slowly making plans and hoping that I wouldn’t have to follow through on any of them, I hosted my first SMART Recovery* meeting.

I was nervous (but also eager) as I waited for people to arrive. My head was a fuzzy bowl of anxiety, and if I hadn’t been familiar with the feeling after a lifetime battling through it to find my thoughts in times of stress, I would have worried about passing out in the cozy, calm room at the hypnosis center where my meeting was held. Fainting, in this moment, would have actually felt preferable to sitting with my feelings and facing the people brave enough to trust part of their recovery to me in my first meeting. 

I didn’t pass out. I never can muster the nerve. Instead I had to sit there, and think. 

In the days leading up to this meeting, I hadn’t wanted anyone to show up. I was hoping that I could sit in the room alone for thirty of forty minutes and then call it a day (and maybe, in this fantasy, call the entire facilitator experiment). But as I scribbled my fears into my journal I realized I had gone too far outside my comfort zone to fail. If I was going to put in effort of making phone calls to people I did not know, writing emails to people I only vaguely know and with whom I haven’t kept in very good touch, asking for help, choosing a day and a time and a space -all logistical things that, for reasons beyond the scope of this post, make me want to hide in a hole.

(Even writing about the process of setting up my meeting has caused my mind to go off on a memory-tangent about high school, of all things, and how I always felt totally uncool because, unlike my peers, I was unable to make friends with teachers or administrators. I guess the two (meeting logistics and high school uncoolness) points to the feeling of connection and purpose that I have struggled with for years.)

I began then to worry that no one would come, that whoever doles out wishes didn’t hear that my mind had changed. I worried my old wish would come instead of my new, more willing-to-be-held-accountable one. I worried that I had failed. 

But, guess what? I didn’t fail, because I had done the hard work and I had shown up at this meeting as I had at dozens of others over the past year or so. And my boyfriend came, and my friend from another meeting came and this friend brought a new friend who had never been to a SMART meeting. And for ninety minutes we talked and shared and learned. 

It was small, and I made mistakes during the course of the meeting and probably didn’t explain things well enough and there were lots of silent gaps in conversation. But I was there and they were there and for now I will call that good. 

SMART Recovery is a science-based mutual support group designed to help people manage sobriety from substances and behaviors. I started attending SMART meetings in 2014 in support of my boyfriend who was learning how to abstain from alcohol. I continued going for myself, to manage anxiety and the urges to self harm that still exist years after I stopped this destructive practice. SMART focuses on giving individuals control over their lives and sobriety and provides a variety of tools to mitigate urges and deal with triggers. I have found it enormously helpful in my own life and I have seen the good it has done for other participants. Because of what I have learned in SMART, I no longer live my life in a constant state of wanting to hurt myself; my internal life has reached a level of calm that I had thought was impossible. Becoming a facilitator is my way to give back and say thank you. I urge you readers to look at their website and pass on the information to anyone you know in need.