Exercise Addiction

Choosing Life

In a year long quest to be more open, honest, authentic, real, and other words of the like; I’m sharing something that I haven’t really discussed or care to talk about. Quite often I get asked why I’m not dancing professionally or why did I not follow up on those goals I set for myself after I graduated college. It’s a difficult question. One I loathe because it has taken me years to come to grip with the reasons and the direction my life took instead. For years I dealt with jealousy when I saw friends live out my dreams and do what I always wanted. I had thoughts of “I am more talented, yet here I am not dancing and they are getting all the attention” or “everyone thought I’d be the one dancing in a company not them”. There were also some other darker thoughts but I don’t feel like going down that road…

 

There are a few answers to this question of why I am not dancing professionally. It’s definitely not for a lack of trying. Honestly, I tried too hard. I gave my heart and soul to dance. It was all I wanted (that and to be skinnier and the most fit dancer in my college company). These are my most used answers-all valid and true:

 

*I suffered performance anxiety in every audition. Every time I auditioned I crumbled. I could not handle the pressure.
*I met my soon to be husband. I fell in love and sometimes when you love someone you change your own path. I wanted him to be successful and followed him encouraging him along the way.
*God’s plan for me changed.

 

artassignment_mkn-3

Pic by Katie Norrell

 

Then there is the answer that I don’t answer with very often. I don’t use this answer unless I am completely comfortable with someone or like now. I do feel embarrassed and ashamed of this answer. I feel that people won’t really understand or grasp it. Do you want to know the true answer to why I’m not dancing in a company?

 

I’d be dead.

 

That is not an over exaggeration. If I would have been one of the few to make it in a company I know I couldn’t handle the stress of the grueling schedule, accompanying lifestyle, and standing up to my own perfectionistic tendencies let alone the standards of a company. My dream, along with my addictions and eating disorders, would have killed me.

 

26814546_10210794564609285_8390560329881104469_n

Performing with the Moonlight Minx Parade Jan 2018. Photo by RAW Tulsa

 

I took me years to come to grips with that final reason and to be OK with choosing recovery. I know that sounds cliche, but to those who don’t know what it’s like, sometimes you think your pre-recovered life is better. It’s screwed up thinking but addicts are not known for their logic. I would try and hide this. Then I’d be dancing or performing in other endeavors and people would constantly ask my why I’m not doing more. I wasn’t comfortable telling people I chose life over my dream. I still live in the past knowing that I could’ve been more. I still sometimes see myself as that young dancer who was on top of the world–who had people loving her when she danced, who wanted to create pieces on her. That young dancer who would’ve been happily dancing in the corps because dance is life and my dream would have come true.

 

However in the deepest parts of me I know that to be dancing and performing to that high caliber you need more than talent. You need to be mentally healthy and physically en pointe. At the time I didn’t have healthy coping mechanisms. I had the passion, the drive, the ambition, the talent–but abusing laxatives, compulsive exercising, and restricting caloric intake negates any of the former. I was coping with the fact that I felt inadequate about my technique/talent. In a world where there is always someone better than you, it can be difficult to stay confident. I was coping with loneliness and the isolation. I was suppressing my anger and emotions from an abusive relationship.  Pretty much I was a hot freakin’ mess.

 

While I may not have danced in a company I did dance professionally for a few years. I became a dance teacher. I was a cabaret dancer/burlesque performer. I performed in local companies on occasion. Now I just take class when I can while pursuing my passion of teaching yoga, wellness, and trying to bring dance conditioning to OKC (my way of contributing to the dance world). I am also happily married with the best furbaby on the planet. I’m living in a big(ger) city. I have some fantastic friends. Things I would have missed out on if my life was what my college self wanted. So am I sad that one part of my life is “over”? Yes. But I am happy that I chose life.

 

13607036_10206653697730201_7089241070178651100_n

Photo by Matias Cortez

Advertisements

To Those With Invisible Illnesses

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about invisibility. I’m not talking about the super power, I’m talking about things that can’t be seen. Like invisible illnesses. If you have followed me for some time or know me you are aware of my invisible illnesses: eating disorders, anxiety, un-diagnosed GI issues. But there are also more invisible illnesses: depression, other mental disorders, addiction, autoimmune diseases (fibro, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc…)With 1 in 5 adults experiencing or diagnosed with mental illness, and approx 50 million people living with an autoimmune disorder , chances are you have known someone who is suffering without you being aware of it it.

 

chronicllill

 

Those of us who live with these various illnesses become masters of masking our pain with smile and concealing it better than the best make up concealer in the world. Sometimes we are too good at covering it up that people don’t believe us.  Invisible illnesses are also hard to explain when on the outside you look happy and healthy but internally your body is waging war. It seems that unless we bear our souls, post a billion IG videos documenting our lives, send up prayer requests in small groups, act sick all the time, become hermits; then do people only sorta begin to understand or have a bit of sympathy.

I can’t tell you how many times people don’t believe me when I say I have an illness. When I first began to seek help for my eating disorder I constantly heard, “you don’t look like you have one”, “you aren’t emaciated, just thin, only emaciated people have eating disorders”, “but you eat. how can you have anorexia when you I see you eat all the time?”,  “you can’t be addicted to exercise, exercise is healthy!”. Now with my mysterious GI issues I hear, “you are too young to have this problem”, “are you sure you have a problem?”, “it’s just IBS”. Do this sound familiar? “You’re just tired, “all you need is a nap”, “you’re being over dramatic”, “do more yoga”, “try this essential oil”…the list goes on and on.

 

foodallergymeme2

 

I have blogged about this before and keep discussing it in therapy, how difficult it is for me to work on cultivating a positive body image when my body hates me. Who else has been there? Between people not believing us, the doctors appointments, the episodes, bland diets, and tears we forget that we aren’t our illness.  It is so easy to get caught up in the physical that we wear ourselves down even more. The disconnect continues to grow and fester till it’s unbearable. But is it truly unbearable?

How can it be bearable? By coming together and lifting each other up. Reminding one another that we are beautiful beings who are capable of so much more; that there is more to life and even on our worst day it’s a miracle that we are even here. We can also see each other–and I don’t mean physically look. I mean really see. Recognize others who are like us and show support. Educate others on these invisible illnesses and teaching them how to show support for people like us. For my yogis out there, really practice Namaste.   Lastly, take time to remind yourself that you aren’t your body by reading this meditation. Then reach out to someone who needs to be seen, fully loved, and fully heard.

 

grumpycat

 

So next time you are all alone in our bedroom wrapped up in our favorite blanket cuddling with our doggy waiting for our episode to be over, that we aren’t alone. There is someone else out there wrapped up in their favorite blanket, cuddling with their animal, waiting for their episode to be over.

 

comfortED

I’m baaaaccck….again. I know I keep  saying I’ll be consistent and keep writing but yet here I am three months (ish) since my last post. So where have I been? I’ve been teaching lots and lots yoga. I’ve been doing chores, lots and lots of chores. I’ve also been trying to stay one step ahead of Melvin, and dealing with the loneliness that has surfaced. With each passing day I say to myself, “I need to write”, “this would be a great post”, “you could be writing right now since you aren’t doing anything but watching Netflix “,or “I’m too emotionally spent to do anything but watch Netflix”. Lately though I have felt compelled to come back. There have been too many self discoveries, perfect post ideas, and recently I’ve been encouraging others in their recovery journey. So here I am, watching Netflix (think a British version of House Hunters) and writing my first post in three months. Here we go…

This past Sunday in Small Groups we were asked a question, “What is your favorite comfort food?”. All of us had to answer as a way to promote class bonding and get prepared for the lesson (how God is the ultimate comforter and through his comfort we can be of comfort for others-awesome right?!). We go around and everyone answers. People talk about their mom’s macaroni and cheese, their grandmother’s chicken spaghetti, ice cream, cupcakes from this cupcakery in Wilco, Texas, chocolate chip cookies with coffee,  and pad thai and other Asian noodle dishes (my husbands answer). I was last and it was my turn! All eyes were on me. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t think of anything. I eat avocado brownies-not comforting. I eat lentils-I have a favorite recipe but it isn’t what I’d call comfort food. I drink protein shakes with collagen-not comforting. I have sweet treats that I binge on (dairy free ice cream of the chocolate chip cookie dough persuasion to name a handful) but those indulgences don’t comfort me–they have the opposite effect. Luckily the leader’s wife helped me out. She made a really witty joke about how my food allergies keep me from having any comfort food. She has a point, I mean I can’t eat my mom’s macaroni and cheese anymore.

 

udon-2234446_640

 

All during class I couldn’t shake the fact that food doesn’t comfort me. Here I am six years later and I still have a hard time with food. I cannot use food for comfort because it will trigger a binge; which will lead to a purge session either on the treadmill or weightlifting bench.If it doesn’t lead to a binge it will lead to self loathing. There are times I really do enjoy food (like the vegan ramen from Goru Ramen in the Plaza District, Ridgewood BBQ back home, anytime I eat pizza, Holey Rollers donuts) but food is still a form of survival. I eat because I have to. I eat because I get hangry if I don’t. I eat because I have fitness goals. I eat because starving sucks. I eat so I can keep Melvin at bay. I eat because that’s what humans do.

Taking this a step further and using our Small Group lesson about comfort I started thinking about how ED’s are used as a comfort. Those of us who live with an eating disorder or lived with one, found comfort in it at one point in our lives. Instead of God, family, music, faith, food, yoga–counting calories, lifting sessions, and laxatives became our comfort. When our friends weren’t there our ED was. When our family didn’t understand us, our ED did. When God forsook us, our ED showed us the way. When we were alone and misunderstood, our ED “got us”. Everything was cold, hard, and dreary, except for our disorder.

We believe our ED is a comfort instead of what it really is-a discomfort. We can’t see the discomfort that our disorder is causing us because we have been so manipulated by its words and the false sense of purpose it gives us. We believe with every calorie it will replace the friends we are losing.  We believe that every minute on the treadmill will warm us up like a flannel blanket. We believe that every meal we skip will save us from the torment that is our life. When in fact its the opposite. Those skipped meals aren’t warm flannel blankets. Those perfect calorie counts and hours on the treadmill don’t comfort us like our friends and faith will. The only comfort we have is knowing that there is something bigger and better than our disease. The only comfort, even though it can be just as discomforting, is recovery and placing faith in a higher power. That is the warm flannel blanket. That is what warms our hearts. That is our comfort food.

 

warm-and-cozy-1975215_640

 

Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?

One thing I haven’t written about in the two-ish years I’ve had this blog has been how my food allergies has affected my eating disorder and recovery. I will admit having food allergies can make relapse easier and recovery harder. Especially when you are diagnosed right as you begin recovery. Food allergies are no joke as well as eating disorders. Every aspect of you life is affected by them.  You feel as if your food allergies are an eating disorder. You feel as you can’t recover. That it is easier to just give in to your disorder and feel sorry for yourself. But with time, it does get a tad easier…I said a tad not 100 percent.

I played around with the concept of recovery late summer of 2011, before I went to Bates Dance Festival and my last major injury. During this pre-contemplation phase, I was still restricting food and doing the usual ED things, but I was very very sick. I had constant battles with throwing up and constipation, tummy gurgling, and most of all 3 hour migraines every day with extreme fatigue, the migraines got worse when I exercised. For the most part my family and I thought it was seasonal allergies because if you live in East TN you have seasonal allergies, and just IBS from my dad’s genetics. I also didn’t give it much thought because when you don’t eat, abuse laxatives, and other means of self torture you just blame everything on your ED. This went on for a few months while I was in early counseling, mainly just talking to someone about my anxiety of being injured before a major summer workshop. While I was at Bates my throat began to tingle and feel off. I called my Mom and she said I need to go to an allergist.

While waiting to get into the allergist I had a session with my first successful counselor. We had a talk about what could be the worst thing about recovery or learning to eat more “bad” food. I remember saying, my biggest fear is having food allergies because food allergies with my eating disorder will be the death of me. Well, I guess my mind had the right idea because just a few days later I was diagnosed with food allergies; and not just one or two. But a slew of them: gluten, oats, dairy, shellfish, most nuts, apples, cantaloupe, melons,  and plums. That meant no more PB sandwiches. No more apples. No more oatmeal. Pretty much my safe foods turned out not to be safe!

I have my list of can and cannot’s and I feel as if I am back into Melvin’s grasp. He has me. There is no way I can make a full recovery with my recommended/must list of can and cannot’s. I already had a list and I didn’t want another one. I cannot go back and eat foods that I hadn’t eaten in five, seven, or ten years. I will never know what it is like to enjoy those foods I wrote off. Why? Because they are filled with gluten, oats, dairy, butter, peanuts, almonds, and everything that is delicious. Especially good Southern cooking—shrimp with cheese grits anyone?

I go to therapy. I go to the store. I go everywhere with my list. With my head full of confusion and Melvin cackling like a witch in my head.  Questions such as, “Can I eat this? Can I eat that? No I can’t eat this? Ugh, this bread is not bread, it is concrete! But I must eat it because it was eight dollars. What can I eat? I hate broccoli. All I can eat is vegan yogurt. I guess I will make tuna salad (back when I ate seafood) with veganase again…” I ate so much of that dairy free tuna salad that I have to leave the room if I smell tuna and I can still taste that tuna salad. I made a damn good tuna salad though.

Eventually one of my recovery warriors and good friend who was gluten free and dairy free stepped in and helped me navigate this new life. This new world of food. How I could eat well and eat to a healthier recovery. How to make bread that doesn’t taste like concrete. How to overcome the voice of Melvin when I am at the store when I get discouraged about not finding food. How to properly prepare food and plan for food success, and not relapse.

I still struggle with this aspect everyday. For four years it is a battle of Melvin wanting to manipulate my food allergies. It is an everyday battle of Melvin telling me to eat allergy filled foods so I can throw it all up and lose weight; but I say no because I hate throwing up. It is also a battle of not bingeing because Melvin will tell me that I can eat as much my sweet treat I want because it is gluten free, vegan, sugar free, Paleo…but if I do that then I will be full of guilt while being full of food. It is an everyday battle of Melvin using my restricted food list to restrict even more food.  On the other hand, I am learning how to enjoy free food. How to make healthy and indulgent coconut whipped cream. How to make flourless and vegan black bean brownies, that even the hubby liked.  I even made a gluten free, dairy free tiramisu for my birthday and enjoyed every bit of it.

Do you have food allergies and an ED?  Or maybe you developed an ED because of your food allergies? Let me know. I wanna hear from you!

 

 

 

 

InstaED

I have recently became a part of the Instagram world. At first I joined reluctantly, I am not a big social media fan. I am content with a Facebook (sometimes) and an email. When I made the decision to become a “big girl” and more business oriented I made an Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. I actually enjoy Instagram. Who would have thought? It is nice to just post pictures. No drama, no political opinions, just people posting pictures of their dogs, dancing, yoga, and other oddities of their/your daily life. Fantastic! I got down with that. It then occurred to me that as a yoga professional, while not a rule but it seems to be understated, “yoga selfies” are to be part of your account….really? I thought I was doing good just to post fun yoga philosophy and positivity quotes with my kombucha.

The whole “yoga selfie” movement is one I struggle with daily. I look over my Insta feed and I see all these amazing poses. These thin, toned, beautiful yogini’s-wearing next to nothing- or strong, muscular, yogi’s doing insane arm balances (hello eight-angle pose, and pincha on your elbows, and other poses that make me scratch my head). I begin to feel inadequate. I can’t do some of those poses. I don’t practice certain poses (if it feels bad I don’t do it). I don’t wear the fancy expensive yoga clothes, and I definitely don’t pose half clothed. On the flip side, I also follow lots of bigger yogini’s and I am amazed at what they do too. They can do postures I can’t do. Most of them are so confident with their bodies they don’t wear much clothing either. And again here I am just stuck in the middle like WTF?

I see the thin girls and feel bad about myself. I see the bigger women and feel bad about myself. The thin toned girls make me not want to eat. They make me want to work out more, maybe even push myself into those crazy poses that hurt me. The bigger women make me think “why can’t I feel that good about myself? They wear bathing suits why can’t I?”. Or I am little and I have no place because being naturally petite lumps me into the thin privilege realm. I CAN’T WIN. Can we also talk about how ALL their selfies look amazing. Perfectly timed, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, hair in all the right places, perfect angles. They even have the perfect yoga space in their house.

Melvin ( my ED for the new readers), speaks to me all the time. Even subconsciously. It all starts with the long gaze and intense study of the pictures. Then the thoughts come. Then comes his greatest tool, self-pity and self-loathing. His words of “you aren’t worthy”, “you are not gonna inspire anyone”, “how can you teach yoga when you don’t look like that?”, “you can’t do that posture or look good on Instagram and that is why no one comes to your studio” etc…I begin to believe. I begin to contemplate not eating. I begin to contemplate over exercising. My depression and anxiety kick in. The out of control feeling begins sets in like when I am doing Pilates Roll-Overs on the Reformer. So what do I do? I continue with my yoga selfies because that is what I am suppose to do as a yoga professional…

My pictures and videos are all wonky. You can definitely tell I can take my own pictures and that I try really hard to get in the frame. Most of the time I make a fun yoga quip about the horrendousness that is my yoga selfie. I have said on more than one occasion, “taking yoga selfies is just like yoga practice, you got to practice it”. I try to present myself as real as possible. My videos always have my dog, I wear gym shorts, I am open about how I practice and what I don’t practice. I am known to use props (which I LOVE them, #propitup), that I don’t do much asana, and I spend more time on the other seven limbs. My flows aren’t perfect. I stumble. I am me. As much as I try to make them perfect, I always present them imperfectly. Why? Because it goes against Melvin. I think about those people who want imperfection, a yoga teacher who is like them. A teacher who doesn’t wear $100 yoga pants and parade around half naked (Even though I am overtly critical about what I look like *cough do I look thin enough cough*). A teacher who openly shares her yoga struggle because yoga reveals her pain and anger. A teacher who isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” or recommend another teacher.  A teacher who doesn’t do hot yoga (even though all my classes are hot because you are in it), and loves teaching beginners. A teacher who lets you talk in class and makes jokes. A teacher who lets you be you because she is learning how to be herself.

*if you do want to follow me on Instagram and see not only my yoga selfie fails, but my incredibly cute puppy, #dogiwinston, follow me @downtownyogaknox. *

 

 

 

 

Exercise

There once was a time that I was addicted to exercise. Even though I was dancing five days a week, teaching group fitness classes five days a week, I ran plenty, and did Olympic lifting, I couldn’t get enough. I was working out, or moving my body, seven days a week. There was no such thing as a rest day. To me a rest day was for the weak. Resting meant that I would get fat, lazy, and lose all my gains. Even though-and here is the BIG part-I knew I was wrong.

In college I spent my time battling an ED, exercise addiction, all while studying Exercise and Sport Science. I knew everything about training and exercise. I knew that I had to take a day off because it makes you stronger…but try and tell my disordered self that. Also, spending time in a major that puts emphasis on exercise, weight lifting (Olympic style) it is hard to not to want to do more. Part of our major was to get in the gym and work out, all while building our own periodized training program.

I remember every time I was forced to take days off, be it due to injury or I had other things to do. I literally remember twitching, having anxiety, and all withdrawal symptoms. When I was injured and couldn’t work out I thought I was gonna die, or get fat. Then my anorexic mind would take over and I would eat nothing but fruit and soup. After all this I never thought that I was addicted. Until I took a sport psychology class and we studied exercise addiction. BAM! It was as if they were writing about me. I had all those symptoms. I scheduled life around my workout. I had the withdrawal symptoms. I exercised for more than just health reasons. I would do extra sets of squats or other exercises before I would put on certain clothes.

While I had all this, I never thought about changing it till I went into recovery. In recovery I had to use my knowledge of exercise and learn to use it properly. I had to make a program and stick with it. I had to do a program with set exercises on certain days. I scheduled in rest days, or active recovery days. People had to hold me accountable. It was tough. It has taken me quite some time to get use to it. It probably wasn’t till a year ago that I become fully ok with taking days off. And taking off more than one day in a row (but I never go more than two, I will at least walk). And now I workout for health sake not just to look good and burn calories (though sometimes that is great motivation to get through a tough workout).  But I don’t beat myself up for missing a day or quitting a workout early because my body tells me too. I don’t crave exercise anymore. I crave being injury free. I LOVE not being over trained. I can actually sleep at night! 

All of this is was inspired by a post I saw on the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) Facebook page. It was about exercise addiction. It is great to see exercise addiction being written about and taking seriously as an addiction. The link below is a really honest and true statement. Now, there were things we did differently, but like any recovery, we are all different. I do suggest that if this is you  or someone you know PLEASE get help.

 

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14650/12-signs-youre-exercising-too-much.html

Peace and Namaste.