Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Food & feeling good.

"I'm trying to eat better. And, I do feel wise after drinking tea.
After eating vegetables, I just feel hungry."
-Carrie Latet

I started doing CrossFit at the end of March and know exactly why—I wanted to feel strong. As I dived deeper into my childhood and teen journals to create content for my memoir, a subconscious part of me realized that this would require quite a bit of mental and emotional fortitude. So, similar to the Chinese Medicine philosophy that you can either treat a disease from the inside out or from the outside in, I decided that if I could feel physically mighty, then the process of bringing the past back to life would not be so unbearable.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I spent a LOT of time at the gym. This was partly due to my eating disordered thinking and the other part was because I simply love movement. It's still fascinating to me what the human body can do. And, more and more so, as I'm taking anatomy and physiology courses to deepen my understanding of how everything interplays for optimal health, which I can then impart to students.

Having focused most of my adult life now on yoga, surfing and climbing, I loved the feeling at CrossFit of immediately seeing what you can do. Rather than the slower learning curve associated with my normal passions, when you are able to dead lift 175 pounds in repetitive cycles, you see right then and there what you've accomplished and are capable of. 

"It's funny," my CrossFit personal trainer told me. "You can see who's new to CrossFit, because when they're lifting weights, they put them down so gently and don't want to make any noise. I kept telling you to drop your weights on the ground, but you wouldn't do it!" Now, I drop and clang with the best of them, while grunting, too. After class, I always feel so incredibly good from simply marveling at what my body and mind are capable of. And, after a little yoga to balance everything out, I am on Cloud 9... until the soreness settles in, of course.

This isn't my first foray into CrossFit. I used to spend a lot of my time with a great group of guys who were devoted to both the physical exercise and the lifestyle choices that accompany it. Most notably, the Paleo diet

When I was in my eating disorder therapy program, "diet" became a four letter word. Anything that was vaguely attributed to restricting became taboo and a means to set myself up for failure. I've done everything from starving myself to the cabbage food diet to the lemonade cleanse to juice fasts to weighing and measuring my food to Atkins to veganism and vegetarianism. Basically, when it comes to eating right, I hardly knew which way was up, and which ways would simply plummet me further into the depths of darkness.

Now, things have shifted where the associations I have with food are transforming into being able to truly see that it is fuel for my body and meant for enjoyment, but not repeated over-indulgence. Moderation is hard for someone who thrived on an all-or-nothing mentality; limits and boundaries are tough for someone who yearns to break all the rules for fear of confinement; and growing up and approaching things with a more mature perspective? Well, I feel like that's hard for almost anyone.

In 12-Step programs, you learn that you'll always have a disease to reckon with for the rest of your life. I don't agree with that — never have and hopefully never will. I participated in the 12-Step group for Overeaters Anonymous, Eating Disorders Anonymous, and when I was working with girls at an in-patient recovery home, I would also take them to Alcoholics Anonymous, so I've had experience firsthand. While I absolutely believe this program has much merit, like everything else in life, you have to find what works for you. (They say this in the 12-step programs, too.) 

So, that model did not work for me. And that's okay. I did not want to spend the rest of my days believing that I would always have a cloud hanging over my head that I needed to be vigilant of, and when I looked around the room, I felt there was such a desperation to reconnect with that pure place within us, before it was tainted by all of life's challenges. I both saw and experienced a lot of suffering, a lot of bowing down to this beast within us and very little ability to let the spirit be happy and free.

I believe that everyone can find that space within that we were all born with, an untouched and beautiful wellspring of happiness, freedom and genuine love. And when we find it, then true healing begins. That's why Hawk and Lily was born.

Less than half a year ago, I saw a healer who told me that I should actively purge. In the morning, she encouraged me to drink a tea that would cause me to throw up. I looked at her and said, "You do realize that I used to have an eating disorder, where I specifically could not stop myself from throwing up?" She looked at me and said, "Yes." It was as though all of the weight and shame I had attached to my bulimia meant nothing. And I was staggered. Could I really detach myself from the identity that I had created  around my eating disorder? 

The things in our lives that we devote attention to, those are the things that grow. Be it a garden we're cultivating, a relationship we're invested in, or our addictions and destructive behaviors. Whatever holds center court in our minds takes so much space in our hearts that sometimes we don't even realize the extent of it. All of my life, from the time that I was 17 (I'm 33 now) has revolved around this disease that permeated everything. The choices I made, the relationships I had, the type of work I went into. It's almost as though the eating disorder became an invisibly gaseous substance that infiltrated my entire atmosphere, so that everywhere I went, I was always in this space whether I knew it or not. There was no escaping it.

And now, I'm surprised at how my perspective is shifting. I can take food at face value without all the countless implications and associations I made with it for so long. "If I eat this, then it means this..." has become "What does my body need right now? What will help my body thrive and feel good for a long time to come?" I believe in indulgence, I believe in food being a connecting force for family and friends — this is the culture I grew up in. But I also now believe in food for food's sake. 

So, in the past couple of weeks, I started living a little bit Paleo style, and luckily, my beau is on board with me. I'm taking away the things that don't serve me and creating space for the things that do, just like I teach in class. 

I see now that eating after 8pm gives me bad dreams (and they're usually dreams about my beau, where I wake up and get mad at him for being a jerk to me in my unconscious mind!). We laugh about it in the morning and he apologizes for he's not sure what. I also see that removing refined substances from my diet has me feeling lighter and more limber, not just in body, but also in heart. It's a good feeling. And it's one I'd like to keep nourishing. I see that I'm making healthier selections at the store or at restaurants, not because I feel like I have to, but because I feel like I want to.

This isn't an overnight shift and it's one I'm sure will involve a lot of ebbing and flowing through old habits and new ones. But, this is where I am today. This is the space in which I am living where I feel I am thriving and fully alive! I am consciously making choices that support my feeling good about myself... because I'm worthy of every great thing in life, just like you, and you, and you.

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, "Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are." Right now, I'm drinking sparkling water, because I like how bubbly and refreshing it feels. So maybe that means that I am sparkly. 

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What's your relationship with food like? How have you redefined your perspective on things that may have been previously extremely challenging for you? 

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