Taking life seriously

3 May

Life is too important to be taken so seriously, I was thinking as I angrily ripped cilantro leaves from the stems so I could finish making this guacamole to eat with the plantain chips that just came out of the oven. That was the actual phrase running through my mind.

I was fuming about something that happened on a Facebook support group in which I was a member — until the thing happened and I promptly left that stupid group. Serves them right. See how they fare without me and my years of therapy-produced wisdom.

Cliff’s Notes version: In a group about Whole30 Reintroduction (where you begin to systematically add back into your diet foods that you had stopped eating during your Whole30) I posted a question about chocolate. My post was deleted because chocolate is a trigger for some people…who are learning to deal with their food-related issues and searching for the happy destiny known as “food freedom.”

What the ever-living you-know-what?

So I was in my kitchen, tearing cilantro with a bit more gusto than is required to remove the leaves from the stems, writing in my head the diatribe I wished to post on Facebook, and chuckling to myself about adding to the post a picture of a candy bar or a bag of kettle cooked potato chips. And of course the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

I keep going back to the quote I can’t find, the one that was maybe a Facebook post written by one of my friends and not an actual famous person. It was about what we choose to get angry about or the weight of the thing that brings us down and what that reveals about us.

I have a friend who is preparing for another round of chemo. I have another friend who is recovering from a surgery. On Saturday, a family I know will have a service of remembrance for their family member who died last weekend of suicide. And I was upset that my post about chocolate was deleted in a group (of strangers on a social media site) where I was asking for support.

I knew, the whole time this was happening today, that I was taking it all way too personally. Have you read don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements? Don’t take anything personally is one of the agreements. “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” he writes.

You guys, some days it takes so little to upset me, while on other days I fly through life without having to take my frustrations out on a cilantro plant.

I will be better tomorrow, and the guacamole will be better tomorrow, too. That’s how it is with guacamole.

Speaking plainly about suicide

2 May

Trigger warning: In the post, I am going to write about my personal experience with suicide and depression. I understand that this is a sensitive and painful topic. Please know that it is not my intention to hurt or offend anyone. I am writing because I believe this is an important issue that won’t get better if we refuse to speak about it.

***

Yesterday a young man in the town where my mother lives (pop. less than 3,000) died of suicide. I did not know him. I don’t know what happened or why, but I understand that his death was a shock to those close to him. No one saw it coming.

This news has hit me hard. These last few days I have been feeling down. Not very down, but especially blue. Particularly low. Depressingly…depressed. What is the modifier that explains I am not simply “sad” and about to feel a hundred percent better as soon as you tell me a good joke or hug me tight enough? I don’t know the best descriptor. I’ve been in the hole, and the news of this young person’s death is more meaningful to me today than it might be on any other day.

The other day, as I was turning into the parking lot behind my apartment building, I had the fleeting thought: Maybe the world would be better if I were dead. It came and went and I didn’t give it much weight, but a little piece of it lingered, waiting for today.

I have always thought of this thought as a symptom of an illness that I will probably have forever. It’s a chronic illness–sometimes I’m in remission for long periods of time, and then I have a flare-up. There is no warning. It doesn’t come on because someone made a mad face at me or because I don’t have a boyfriend or because it snowed. Before I realize what is happening, I’m in a black hole.

Depression is a sneaky, relentless bitch. It brings to the fore (in the middle of the night) every single mistake I have made in my lifetime and helps me imagine (in full detail) mistakes I have yet to make. It highlights all the people who dislike me and downplays the hundreds of people who love me. It points out my faults and weaknesses. It tells me that “someone is always listening” is complete bullshit, even though I know someone is, or will. It finds the one thing that will hurt me the most and says it over and over and over again. It convinces me that the world truly would be better if I had never been born.

I cannot be sure, but I imagine it is this way–and worse, yet–for others. Some of us live with this day after day until we can’t take it anymore. We don’t tell anyone because depression tells us that no one gives a good goddamn about us. We don’t want to bother anyone. We don’t want to make a big deal of it. We don’t want anyone (who hasn’t got a clue what this feels like) to offer advice. We just want it to go the fuck away.

Today was a hard day, but I am not in danger. I do not need to go to the hospital or call a hotline. I am remembering. I am mourning. I am worried. I am grateful. I am a little bit scared, but I will be ok.

I don’t want to say I am special because I know what it feels like to want to die and to try to die only to come out of it on the happy, shiny side, because that’s ridiculous. But for years, I have hoped that my ability to feel so deeply would one day become a gift, like a superpower that would allow me to literally feel another person’s pain and take it from them. Maybe it really is a gift. Maybe I already have that power.

I do want to say, “I am fucking listening.” Call me. Text me. Instant message me. Tell me exactly what you feel, the raw and real feelings, and I will not tell you to take a walk or a bath or a pill. I don’t know what I’ll say, but I just don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Sharing my (opinion about) food 

29 Apr

Last week someone attacked my food choices, and I gave him a piece of my mind.

I’m being dramatic, of course. I have a “friend” who has an anonymous profile on a dating site (because he’s married). Don’t worry, I’m never going to meet him. I don’t even know his name.

Anyway, I expressed to him that I was having a hard day. He said he was sorry and then asked if I had found anyone to date yet. I said, “I’m thinking about putting up a table at the Natural Grocers store advertising for a foodie runner boyfriend.” And he said, “Don’t even get me started about that whole natural food thing.”

I was already in a bad mood, so I picked a fight and said I didn’t feel like I should have to defend my nutritional choices. After we exchanged many more messages, he said, “Good day to you,” and I left it at that. Ever notice how “good day” sometimes sounds like “eff you”?

I apologized a few days later for overreacting.

Most of you know I did my first Whole30 in March. Because the Whole30 has some pretty strict rules, and because it also quite literally changes people’s lives and relationships with food, some followers have strong feelings about it. Want some proof? Just go on the Whole30 Support Facebook page and ask a question about eating non-compliant foods while doing a Whole30. It’s like lions attacking an old, wounded antelope.

Lately I’ve been exposed to strong beliefs about food, nutrition, and diets or programs. I guess I’ve put myself in the position to notice them more, so I’m also more aware of my own reactions when people comment about my choices. Like when someone turns up their nose at my “healthy” lunch or makes fun of the fact that I eat Brussels sprouts or kale almost every day — it chaps my hide a bit. Or when I overheard someone at the gym saying, “I could never do Whole30! You can’t eat whey protein!” and, though she was not talking to me and her comment was none of my damn business, I felt mildly peeved and admittedly scoffed at her. Sorry, Gym Lady.

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Brussels sprouts, blueberries, eggs, and bacon baby! Looks gross. Tastes good. 

As a personal trainer, I am often asked to share my opinion or give advice about food, diets, and nutritional programs. I have strong feelings about several of them — both good and bad feelings — but I have to be very careful about what I say because I am not a certified nutrionist. I really, really want to go on a rant about some of the ones that are supposed to be healthy and all-natural and supported by research, but I am not going to do that (unless you ask me in private, when I am not working as a trainer, and then gurrrrrl…).

My choices are mine. I have made them based on the evidence I have gathered and deemed to be trustworthy. I assume that you have done the same, and I respect that even if I don’t agree with your choices. Just don’t dig on my Brussels sprouts, bitches, or we gon’ have words!

 

Remembering bits and pieces

26 Apr

I’m trying to lose weight. Fifteen pounds (as of today) to be exact. Usually I weigh myself on Thursdays. I use the scale at my gym, and I go there in the morning after I’ve used the bathroom (TMI) and before I’ve eaten breakfast. Today is Wednesday. I needed to weigh today because I can’t do it tomorrow.

Something has been off in my body and spirit for a week or so. I’ve had tummy troubles, and this morning I woke up with a terrible headache. Not that there are good headaches. Funny that I always feel the need to qualify my headaches so you know they are bad.

Anyway, headache. Didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t feel hungry or even want coffee, which is a sure sign that I’m in bad shape. Been feeling so, so, so very sad, and I don’t know why. Nothing has changed in my diet or my routine. I am not experiencing more stress. Yes, the weather has been rainy and cold and windy, but I live in North Dakota and it’s March.

So I was running late and I went to the gym, stripped off my coat and shoes, and stepped on the scale. I gained more than a pound this week. Last week I stayed exactly the same as the week before. Previously, I had been losing close to one pound per week.

I threw my coat and shoes back on and got in my car to drive to work, and I cried. Lip quivering tears with little whimpering sounds like kittens make. Over a weight gain. Really there has to be something more going on, because I’ve fallen into a funk and I can’t get out.

When I got to work and stepped out of my car, I was thinking, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t eat anything today.

Since I started feeling so low, I’ve had bits and pieces of a quote I believe I once read floating around in my head. It has to do with what gets us down — like you can tell a lot about a person by the things that get them down, or make them upset. I have been Googling the bits and pieces and can’t find it.

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This isn’t the one, but it’s good. And Einstein.

The quote itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I start crying about gaining (or not losing) weight and start thinking maybe I shouldn’t eat, it really makes me say, Geez, Wendi. Is that all it takes to get you down? Aren’t there more important matters in the world?

There are more important matters, and I have a lot to be grateful for, but at this very moment I know something is going on that needs my attention. There is a dis-ease in my body or spirit. Yesterday I thought about suicide — not making plans but just the thought that flies into and out of your head. It happens sometimes, and I know it’s important.

Instead of not eating, which I honestly don’t think I could EVER do, I decided to let go of two things today: the scale and tracking my food. It will be hard for me to do that, but ultimately I think it will help.

Thank you for reading this far. Please understand that I don’t want any advice about weight loss or mental health. I would, however, appreciate your support and understanding. Like, “I understand this feeling, Wendi. Is there anything I can do to help? Would you like a latte or a million dollars?” Like that.

 

Feeling a bit off

20 Apr

Here’s a confession of ignorance, or perhaps just some good old fashioned foolish optimism: When I was mid-way through Whole30, I really thought it would solve all of my problems. Well, all of my food-related and health problems.

It’s not that I had a lot of “problems” to begin with. I had been mostly grain- and dairy-free for a while before I started. Once a week I would treat myself to a sugary coffee drink as a reward after my long training run, and occasionally I would use the same sugary coffee drinks to cope with a bad day or celebrate a great day. I really didn’t need a reason, which is why I needed to get away from that addiction. 

As far as my health, I was in decent shape. I was about 15 pounds overweight, but I was active (low-intensity running and cycling 5-6 days a week). I didn’t have high blood pressure, wasn’t pre-diabetic, and don’t believe I was dealing with many of the issues associated with inflammation — as far as I know. I did get the mid-afternoon slump a lot, and that was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to kick the sugar habit.

Most of all, I wanted to feel good about the food choices I was making and feel physically well, and Whole30 has certainly helped me accomplish that. For the last few days, however, I have been feeling overall yucky. I have an upset stomach, a low-grade headache, and very low energy. Generally I think gut issues are a sign that something is off in your system, but nothing has changed in my diet, environment, training/activity, or life. I just feel gross.

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this is not my tummy

I also feel disappointed because I thought my days of feeling like crap would be over once I started eating whole, real, unprocessed, delicious food all the time! I mean, I didn’t think I would never get sick, but I thought that putting good foods into my body would mean I would feel well. All the time. Is that dumb? 

I don’t know what is wrong, but I am sure it will pass. Right now though, even my Brussels sprouts and blueberries with eggs on top aren’t helping, and usually that dish completely makes my day.

Have you ever thought you found a magic cure and then discovered, much to your dismay, that there are no magic cures?

Loving and losing

16 Apr

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my weight loss. A lot of friends and family did exactly what I asked — they told me “Yay!” — and helped me celebrate my accomplishment.

But one friend made a comment that caused me to ponder the reasons people lose or gain weight, and the reasons people decide to make those changes to their bodies. We can lose or gain for many reasons, positive and negative, and several factors might motivate us to make changes.

Later in the day, as I was writing and rewriting this post in my head, a friend said on Facebook that his wife had started a diet. A friend of theirs commented, “Tell your wife she is perfect just the way she is.”

And that set me off!

I want to propose the idea that it is possible to truly, deeply love yourself and your life, to be very happy and content, and still want to lose (or gain) weight. That decision need not come from self-loathing, a desire to conform to any real or perceived standards, or any other unhealthy attitudes toward one’s own body or food.

At times in my life, I have certainly hated my body and wished it would magically become smaller without me having to make any lifestyle changes, even though I knew that wish was ridiculous. It’s the dream of every person who has an addiction — to do whatever you want and not face any negative consequences.

Since I became an athlete and a personal trainer, I have had to confront and refine my ideas about body image, weight, health, and wellness. I know that weight loss is not always a reason for congratulations. I also have become very passionate about the fact that we feel comfortable saying, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” to friends and family, but when we notice someone has gained weight (and don’t lie, you notice) you don’t ask or wonder if that person is physically, spiritually, or emotionally well. We think loss is “good” and gain is “bad,” but both are usually more complex.

This time, I am working toward weight loss as part of a focus on overall wellness, but I also have a very specific and perhaps lofty goal: I want to take about 20-30 minutes off my marathon finish time. In case math isn’t your thing, that means I would need to run at least one minute per mile faster than I did at my best. A goal like mine requires attention to nutrition, sleep, stress, weight/mass, attitude, meditation (which I don’t do!), strength training, AND running. I’m 45 years old and I’ve only been running for only six years, so I have a lot of work to do!

hearthandsFor me, this weight loss is an act of self-care. I’m eating whole, real, delicious food that helps support my goals and activities. I feel strong and beautiful and capable. And I’m in love with my life, which is exactly why I believe I’m seeing improvements in my body and my training.

I believe you can love yourself and still want to change. Do you? I’d like to know.

Noticing changes 

14 Apr

You know those Facebook friends or the people you follow on Instagram who are all fit and constantly posting pictures of their exposed abs and tight buttocks? I usually unfollow those people because (let’s be honest) I’m jealous.

Because of the way I feel about those people, I have pretty strict rules about posting comments about my own weight loss or pictures of my (emerging) abs or (not-so-bad) buttocks. I mean, nobody wants to see that anyway. Well, if they do, they’ll ask.


Despite the fact that it generally bothers me, I think I understand why people who have nice bodies, or people who are going through body changes like weight loss or muscle development, post pictures — they want others to tell them “Yay!” In my family, we say “Tell me yay!” when we do something good. My nephew made it up.


Here’s the point (finally!) of my post: I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two months, and no one has noticed.


To be fair, I haven’t really told anyone that I have been working on losing weight. I started Weight Watchers online in February, and in March I did my first Whole30 with a friend. Changing my eating pattern, continuing to run and bike, and adding strength training has changed my body in ways that are very noticeable to me. I’ve been working really hard, and I feel great (super sexy) and I have a lot more energy than I have in a long time.


So either it’s not noticeable to others, or nobody wants to comment. I have also been growing out my hair and it’s pretty crazy compared to my old pixie cut. Maybe that is why no one has noticed. 



I’m conflicted about posting this because, like I said, I am somewhat contemptuous of unfollow people who show off their bodies. But honestly, I really just want someone to tell me “Yay!


That’s not so bad, is it? Please don’t unfollow me.