The Joy of Tyson

The first thing I want to share may seem a little morose but bear with me.

Remember that interesting theology course I mentioned earlier?  For this class I am reading a book by Terry Tempest Williams called Refuge and there is something in particular that stood out to me.  The book is all about how the rising of the Great Salt Lake threatened the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge she loved, while at the same time her mother was dying of cancer, so there is a very strong theme of grief and hope for renewal.  At one point, as she was walking along the shore after a storm, she came across a dead swan that must have been taken by surprise and drowned.  Instead of just leaving it there she began to smooth out its feathers and spread out its wings.  She straightened out its long neck, washed the beak and feat and placed black stones over its eyes.

Then she laid on to the sand next to it.

“What I remember most is lying next to its body and imagining the great white bird in flight.

I imagined the great heart that propelled the bird forward day after day, night after night.  Imagined the deep breaths taken as it lifted from the arctic tundra, the camaraderie within the flock.  I imagined the stars seen and recognized on clear autumn nights as they navigated south.  Imagined their silhouettes passing in front of the full face of the harvest moon.  And I imagined the shimmering Great Salt Lake calling the swans down like a mother, the suddenness of the storm, the anguish of its separation.

And I tried to listen to the stillness of its body.”

Yes, I realize the swan is dead and it is very sad.  But I can’t help thinking how beautiful the idea of trying to connect with another creature like that is.  How wonderful it was that she tried to recreate the swans experiences.  I have trouble connecting with myself in such a way.  I think, if I ever had that connection, I lost it by trying to force my body to want certain foods and look a certain way.  I think it is that connection and comfort within my own skin, fueled by a profound love, that I am trying to create here.

And now allow me to introduce Tyson.

I may not be dieting but I still have a goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day with my trusty fitbit.  However, that isn’t always the easiest nor most pleasant thing to do.  Especially when it is cold, rainy and I have no place in particular to walk to.  Fortunately I have a kind neighbor who doesn’t mind letting me walk his young, energetic canine named Tyson.  And this dog is always ecstatic to walk out the door regardless of the weather.

Everything is so exciting to him!  The smells, the people, just being able to move and explore.  And the strength he has as he is trying to pull me this way and that.  Even when he spots another dog and sits still expectantly (I know he just doesn’t want me to pull him away) he still seems so incredibly energized.  That is the kind of joy I want to have whenever I get exercise.  The joy of not only having legs but using them and feeling the strength in my own muscles.

That is why Tyson is my fitness guru.  I find his joy much more meaningful and inspiring then a thin, angry woman yelling at me (though I still have a lot of respect for you, Jillian Michaels).  And just as Williams tried to listen to the swan, whenever I take out Tyson I try to feel his energy and be thankful to just be out and alive.

Of course, as much as I would like to, I can’t spend all of my 10,000 steps each day with Tyson.  Especially since I don’t want to wear out my welcome with my very generous neighbor.  And getting my own dog, which is a dream of mine now, is not really in the cards at this point in time.  So I have invested $8 on an ipod app called Zombies, Run!

Yes, $8 dollars is a bit much for an app but I have spent more on workout DVDs and none of them were this creative.  Basically it is an interactive game where you have to physically run to play.  The premise is that you are a resident of Abel Township after the zombie apocalypse.  The only way to gather supplies for the town is for runners to go out and get them so I am designated as the “lightning quick” runner 5.  There is also an audio component so characters will talk to me, zombies will occasionally moan in the background (very motivational for quickening my pace) and an actual story does unfold.  But I have to run to find out what happens next.  Also, the longer I run the more supplies I gather and the more supplies I gather the better Abel becomes.  So far I have leveled up my hospital and communications.

And the zombie moans really do add to the incentive of running.  My first time out, 25 minutes in I had had enough and wanted to go home.  But the previous runner 5 was on my tail and I ended up running past my house and going an extra 5 minutes till the mission was over.

And so that is where I am at.  I still want my thighs slimmer, but I want to achieve that by eating what I love and doing exercise I genuinely enjoy.  And I’m getting there.  I still have a ways to go before I hit the 10,000 step mark consistently but between Tyson, zombies, DDR with Matt on our own heavy-duty metal pad and the absolutely gorgeous city I live in which makes the walk home from school a joy, I feel I’m getting there.

And you know, the earth and trees do smell fantastic on rainy days.


And they lived happily ever after

I ran from zombies the other day.  That and why I have chosen Tyson as my fitness guru were going to be the topics of this post but I think I will save them for the next one.  Something else has caught my attention.

I stumbled across something written by John Berger in 1972.  He and some others put together essays about looking at art in a book called Ways of Seeing.  I haven’t actually read the book so I can’t put the quote into context of the essay.  I don’t know what painting he is discussing or if he is talking about a certain painting at all.  But when I saw a picture of the page with this quote highlighted, on my college’s website of all places, I knew I had to share it.  (Please don’t take it personally Tyson)

“Men look at women.  Women watch themselves being looked at.  This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.  The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female.  Thus she turns herself into an object.  And most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”

I’ve been thinking about why I view myself the way I do.  Why I have always felt this pressure to change.  It didn’t come out of no where.  Sure I was influenced by T.V. and magazines.  And of course I compared myself to my gorgeous mother and aunt who, despite being beautiful and models at one point in each of their lives, still seemed to struggle with their own insecurities.  I always thought, if they weren’t happy with the way they are, what chance did I have?  I still remember a friend of mine, while I was in high school, standing in my kitchen and saying, “Thea!  The women in your family are so beautiful!  Maybe you just need to grow into it.”

My Aunt Tanya helped me move into my dorm freshmen year of college and with her youthful slimness, big smile and perfectly matched outfit and accessories, everyone thought she was the college student.  She’s only 13 years older but still… my roommate was very relieved it was just me she was going to live with.

She’s even thinner now.

Last time I was at her house, I sat in her kitchen and cried as I ate the cheesecake she gave me for dessert.  I knew I was never going to look like her, or my mother for that matter.  And I am so tired of being ugly.

She has never talked to me about that.

Anyway, despite all that, I think that what really cemented it in was Disney.  Or perhaps I should say fairy tales in general.  The ones where the prince fell in love with her from across the room because of her astounding beauty.  Her long shiny hair, slim figure and startling blue eyes instantly made her worth loving.  And that is how a woman earns her happy ending.  Whether it’s in a song, a movie or a book, the best thing to be is beautiful.  And a requirement for being beautiful is being a small thing that he can whisk away.

It’s painful being the one beside the beautiful girl, watching all the guys look at her and ignore you.

I guess it’s kind of funny since I have my love.  But there is still a part of me that questions if I am worthy of that love, if I have truly earned my happy ending.  How can I expect Matt to always love me when I am having such a hard time loving myself?

I think that’s as far as I can go today.

What I should of done, what I stopped doing and what I am doing

I could kick myself.  Recently (I’m pretty sure it was April 10th) there was a Bodylove photo session on my campus where girls were encouraged to come down, say what they loved about their bodies and pose for pictures.  And I’ve known about it for weeks.

Here is what went through my head every time I saw the flyer.

“Oh!  How cool!  And that is exactly the type of thing I am trying to do for myself.  Too bad there isn’t anything I like about my body yet or else I would go.  Not to mention I generally hate pictures of myself.  Oh well.  Maybe they’ll do it again at a time I’m confident enough to participate.”

I should have gone anyway!  I could have said anything!  My ankles, my belly button, my hips for dancing “Little grass shack” the way my mother taught me.  My hands that allow me to write, paint, knit stuff for people I care about and wear the beautiful ring my love gave me.

I could have even faked it.  Just because I don’t care for the shape of them doesn’t mean I can’t love my arms for allowing me to hug my little brothers and sisters or my legs that allow me to walk Tyson from next door (who happens to be the cutest dog in the world) and play DDR.  It doesn’t matter!  I just should have been there.  I should have met the other girls, talked to them and faced one of my greatest fears alongside them.  I should have been there.

It is very possible I will regret this somewhat later on but… I think I have to swear here and know that I will never, ever let such an opportunity pass me by again.  No matter how I feel about myself I should go.  I should even tell friends to come with me so that they can make sure I don’t chicken out.  Future me probably won’t be too ecstatic but I’m sure future future me will be very happy and proud I went through with it.  Fingers crossed.

Moving on.  Last  time I asked whether or not counting calories was a diet or a lifestyle change and I am sure it all depends on how it is used.  For some people, it is a wonderful way to get a sense of true portion sizes and how much food they really need.  For others, it can become a very restrictive form of dieting.  And since, despite my best intentions, I seem to be gravitating more towards the latter category, it is something I need to stop doing.  You know.  Cuz’ of the whole “diets don’t work” thing.

But that is hard to do.  This past Christmas I received a pedometer called the Fitbit, a.k.a. the best step tracker I have ever come across.  I can  wear it on my bra so I have it on 24/7 and it can even tell when I go up stairs.  It’s basically technology magic packed into this little black device about the size of my thumb that monitors how active I am all of the time.  And of course there is a corresponding Fitbit website with colorful graphs and charts and a food tracker that changes its calorie expectations based on how many calories you burn.  All in all, it’s pretty nifty.

I really wanted to use the the calorie tracker so that (A) I could get the most out of my Fitbit and (2) so that I could eat a wider range of foods without guilt.  I figured as long as I was tracking the calories then sugar, white flour and even fast food would not have to be off limits.  I wasn’t always consistent (another red flag I was heading into dieting territory) but I did it as often as I could and, when I did eat healthier food, I was really proud to enter them in.  Every entry was accompanied with a profound sense of accomplishment as did every day my intake fell at or below my goal.  And that is why I need to stop.

The majority of the time on days I tracked I usually ended up under the goal… sometimes well under the goal.  Though I swear I only got 870 calories one day on accident.  I was really busy that day!  But it still shows I have taken calorie counting to the “very restrictive dieting” end of the spectrum and, if I am serious about not dieting, I shouldn’t do it anymore.  It’s difficult because I am still trying to eat the same range of foods, even those typically on “bad” or “avoid” lists, and it makes me anxious not having the protective blanket that is calorie counting.  I am through the looking glass with no diet to hide behind.  I know it should be very freeing but I can’t help feeling vulnerable.

But I still won’t give up on my Fitbit all together because it really does motivate me to walk more which has to be a good thing.  In fact, I promised myself I would never use the elevator at school this semester and I have stuck to it.  I can’t really report any miraculous weight-loss result but I can show what my increased activity has done to my roller bag.  The circle of rubber hanging piteously to the side is how large the wheel used to be before I destroyed it.  And quite frankly I have never been more proud to ruin something I own.

So I guess for now I’ll just keep walking and figure everything else out as I go.

To buy or not to buy… a bathroom scale

I do not have a bathroom scale.  I did have one but my old roommate accidentally took it in the last move.  So now I have no way of measuring the number I seem to base all of my hopes and dreams on.  Dr. Oz, as well as other random sources on the oh-so-trustworthy internet, say that weighing yourself is an excellent way to keep up motivation and be more successful at dieting and losing weight.  And I have to admit, watching that number steadily go down, with wedding photos on the horizon, seems very attractive.  Assuming, of course, I can get that number to go down.

Unfortunately, as I have been trying to get into a healthier mental state regarding how I view my body, I have been reading books by Geneen Roth.  And in her newest one called Women, Food and God she brought to my attention a study done by UCLA in 2007.  This study concluded that 83% of people who go on diets gain all the weight back and more and as a result, are even worse off then people who never went on diets in the first place.  I looked up the study to read it for myself and they say quite bluntly “diets don’t work.”

Now I have heard this phrase before.  The first time was over 11-12 years ago as I was watching a video that came with Suzanne Somers’ Somersizing kit.  Dressed as a private detective, she explained to her mystery client that the reason he could never keep the weight off was because dieting doesn’t work.  Then she went on to highlight all the ins and outs of the somersizing “eating plan.”  For some reason, the idea of “diets are bad” didn’t really sink in.

Back to my bathroom scale conundrum, should I buy a mechanism that will motivate me to partake in a practice that is 83% likely to be futile and most likely harm me both physically and mentally?  No, probably not.  I still want to but the logical part of my brain is telling me I should avoid the weight-loss corner of Walgreens for a while, say… forever.

But I am still confused.  What is the difference between a diet and an “eating plan”?  I suppose one is supposed to last forever and the other does not (eating plan = lifestyle change).  But how does that translate into action?

“Eat more veggies”  But they’re expensive and don’t last long.

“Everything in moderation”  This one drives me crazy.  What does moderation even mean!?  A dietitian once told me that it isn’t good to eat nothing but chocolate cake for dinner, but it isn’t good to eat nothing but broccoli either.  OK…  awesome, thanks.  And the perfect meal is somewhere between those two extremes?  Where?  I mean, she made an excellent point but in between broccoli and chocolate cake there are a lot of foods, and quantities of said foods, and things get hazy again. (I only met with her once.  She is the dietitian who told me I was a big girl and had to learn to live with it.  I never went back.)

“calories in vs. calories out”  Alright, somewhat true.  But where those calories come from does make a difference.  Everyone needs fat and protein, vitamins and minerals.  Not every calorie is processed the same or provide the same nutritional benefits.  And is counting calories considered a diet or is it a lifestyle change I’ll have to do for the rest of my life?

It is so overwhelming.  Over a year ago my doctor did tell me she would like to see me lose some weight and I’m pretty sure, even without a scale, that I have gone up a couple of pounds since then.  But what changes can I implement without going into that dark place that is dieting and self-loathing?  Matt and I were at the grocery store last night trying to find something for dinner that was fast, healthy and reasonably priced.  And for the life of me I did not know what to do.  I literally wandered the aisles in a fog, my gaze drifting over colors and words, packages and marketing ploys.  And I kept thinking, what should I eat?  If only I didn’t have to eat anything, this would be so much easier.  Of all the diets I’ve tried and food knowledge I’ve accumulated… why don’t I know what to do?

And then I realized what I wanted.  I wanted to put something beautiful into my body.  Something with vibrant, natural color and tastiness that made me feel good just thinking about eating it.  Ruby jeweled pomegranate seeds, deep green and purple lettuce leaves, impossibly small, delicate couscous granules and flaky, pink salmon.  Something gorgeous that made me feel gorgeous.

I didn’t find it last night.  I ended up eating leftover pizza, though I did track what I ate on the fitbit website (I’m not sure if I should be or not but I have been keeping track of my food occasionally).  And I savored that slice of pizza and I followed it with Chobani strawberry greek yogurt.

Even though I didn’t find what I was looking for, I think I am a step closer to figuring out what changes I want to make.  Changes that will make me happy and appreciative of who I am, where I am and what I eat.  And letting my happiness factor into my lifestyle choices is definitely a new approach for me.

Thank you for the words Elizabeth Johnson

OK, I am not the most religious person in the world for various reasons.  However, I am taking a very interesting theology course and a handout I was given the other day contains a quote I would like to share.  My thanks to Elizabeth Johnson who wrote these beautiful words in her book Quest for the Living God.

“The point is this: people who courageously accept themselves, who accept their own life with all its quirks and beauty and agony, in point of fact accept holy mystery, who abides within them addressing them as self-offering love…”



An attempt at bragging

Step 1 challenge to myself: write one paragraph about my looks without saying anything negative… and post it so everyone can see.

My heart flutters just thinking about it.  I am so accustomed to talking bad about myself to people so this, unfortunately, is out of my comfort zone.  Why do we girls do that anyway?  Talk bad about ourselves to people so that they feel more comfortable around us.  I guess because if they are more comfortable then we are more comfortable.  And we don’t want to come across as self-important or stuck up.

“Oh, I feel so fat.  What?  You feel fat too?  OMG, we have so much in common!”

Hooray for the common ground that is feeling bad about how we look.  It brings people together.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, my positive paragraph.  I was in the bathroom this morning and as I was looking in the mirror I noticed some nice things about myself.  So, I am going to write those things down.  Here.  Without sprinkling in any negatives to protect myself from the scrutiny of others and/ or inspire them to tell me it’s not that bad and I’m really beautiful.

So here we go.

*deep breath* *clears throat*

My skin looks really nice today.  My old roommate, when she saw me doing my makeup, would tell me I had skin like a china doll and today I think I can see what she meant.  The sea buckthorn oil I have been taking and my new Chartreuse acne cleanser have been working very well and I am happy.  I have very pretty hair.  It is thick and shiny and goes down almost to the small of my back.  This is the longest I think my hair has ever been.  I dye my hair a dark red (the box calls it “crushed garnet”) and it really brings out the greens in my eyes and the rose tones in my skin.  My eyes are pretty and are a stormy blue-green color.

And done.  Not bad.  I still gave credit to products I use but one step at a time.

Now I just have to end this post without saying anything negative.

Yup.  I can stop typing now.  It’s over.

I noticed a double chin when I looked down at my ipod and saw my reflection

Ah, damn.

Backwards and forwards

I have a lot of homework to do.  And I mean a lot.  And as I have often done in the past I am sitting on a couch wondering what to do next.  And the result?  In the last hour or so I have once again downloaded a weight tracker onto my iPod and I have read about the ideal waist measurements for men and women.  My waist is 7.5 inches too large.  My love’s is 17 – 21 inches over the ideal.  We both have a greater chance of developing diabetes, heart issues and other scary stuff.

And I am still unsure what to do.

I wonder why, when I am avoiding homework and other such responsibilities, I often end up researching diets, workouts, beauty treatments and other such “miracles.”  I guess when I am anxious over school I am most susceptible to my desire for perfection.  Every health-oriented article, website or book holds so much promise.  So much possibility.  I could be the thin girl who has it all together rather than what I am now… whatever that may be.

In January I requested an early birthday present from my mother.  $200 to hire a professional organizer for 3 hours to help me figure out how to put a house together.  I simply had no idea what to do or where to get started and professional direction seemed like a fantastic solution, which it was.  I learned a lot and I am much happier in my current environment.  And the biggest thing she taught me was that you have to stage all of your stuff before you can find a place for it.  You have to take inventory before you can actually find places for it all and as a result, things would get worse before it got better.  So that’s what I did.  The dining room was covered in boxes and piles, all with their specific categories.

I had always thought that I had to know where things went before I unpacked and/ or organized them but that was completely backwards from what actually worked.  Perhaps I am doing the same thing in other situations.  I have been tired for a very long time and I always assumed that if I had the perfect diet plan, the perfect workout and the perfect supplements I wouldn’t be tired anymore.  Then I could get my homework done and I would be thin and I would get everything I had ever wanted.

Just one problem.  When you are exhausted, cooking and exercising is even harder than usual.  And when you are exhausted and stressed and you have been putting off a paper because you have been putting together diet plans… well, ice cream suddenly becomes the best tasting thing I have ever had in my life.

I wonder how many empty pints of Ben and Jerry’s I have hidden from roommates over the years.

Perhaps it was trying to do everything at once that was one of the reasons I was so tired.

So I have decided on my step two of… whatever it is I am doing here.  I am still going to try to change but I am going to a.) take it slow b.) get my homework done first and c.) do it all with love.  Everything I do I want to have saturated with absolute and unconditional love.  I want to take care of myself because I love myself, not because I hate who I am.  So I am going to take African Mango extract everyday (I’ll explain why in another post), I’ll take my omega 3s and walk more.  And I am going to get my lab report done.

I think that’s plenty for today.



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