Hey it's a post from that ridiculous/amazing/this is the worst idea/this is the best idea Make-Your-Own Meme "blog every day of November" thing! Original post/list of topics. Feel free to add more: LJ | DW — anon and openID welcome!
thebaconfat: you've mentioned before trying to get fit and/or eating salads; is that something you still struggle with? (here)
This post needs a disclaimer because there is Serious Business within! I am okay, I swear. I have resources and if I need help I will seek it, so please do not worry ♥ I am happy to discuss any of the topics mentioned herein, though =D
So I am really happy to have this topic (thaaaank you, thebaconfat!) because I've been meaning to talk about it for a while, and what's better than a blatant excuse?
So ages and ages ago, I mentioned that I would start biking to work due to giving my car away. And then I barely said anything about it ever again except for that one time I got hit by a car. Haha.
But actually the biking (and the salads; I will get to the salads, I swear!) has spawned a whole lot of thinking, and, poor thebaconfat, you have officially triggered my long-overdue post about health. I'm sorry, but you asked for (approximately 1/7th of) it.
Let's start with some backstory! My family has always been really big into sports, and always pushed our kids into sports. My grandmother was an equestrian and possibly actually a jockey (I don't remember =( ); she pushed my mother at horseback riding, gymnastics, and figure skating (my mom's butt was just too bony for the latter, lol) before the one that stuck: waterskiing. True fact: my mother was the waterskiing champion of the Soviet Union.
And that? That is my family's standard for sports and what I was held to throughout my childhood. Okay? Okay. =d
My uncle is a downhill skiier, and my dad is more into team sports; he likes volleyball and actively plays soccer and indoor soccer. Both of my sisters (they're 12 and 16 years younger than me, fyi) have been doing gymnastics since they were toddlers, as well as some horseback riding.
Me? I did gymnastics too (idek; it's a Soviet influence thing — gymnastics was really big), but what actually hit it for me was rock climbing. Starting from I think 9 years old, I began my career as a competitive rock climber. That was training every day, in one form or another, for several hours at a time when it was a straight climbing session (as opposed to a stretching or running or strength training day or wev). There were competitions every other week or every third week or so. Please note that it in no way occurred to me that this might be excessive or even unusual for a kid my age. It's just what was expected, right?
I quickly joined a competitive national youth climbing league and that was basically my life for a few years: racking up points at competitions, until winning the regional competition (which I always did, I think?) got me an invite to nationals. I even competed in an international invitational once. I made the national team (top 4 climbers in each gender and age group) each year I competed, and I think I placed 4th at the international.
So yeah. My early calibration for what constitutes a reasonable amount of physical activity and success in one's health: probably a little fucked up.
In fact, I burned out by the time I was 13 or so. I, seriously, after years of getting up at ass-o'clock on saturday mornings, climbing into the back of the van, being driven 2-5 hours to wherever the competition was, crawling out of the car, stuffing a CLIF bar in my mouth, stretching, climbing, winning (or not) and going home to train for a few weeks and doing it over again? BIG SURPRISE. There is something seriously fucked up about burning out on something before you even hit high school. What.
After that, I played soccer, because NOT doing a sport was unacceptable in my household; it would make one lazy and unhealthy immediately. Trufax. In soccer, I played goalie, and midfield when I subbed out; but I was the primary goalie. This was in large part because of the upper body strength I still had from climbing. I was a WIRY bugger. Like a goddamn whippet.
That was middle school. In high school, I did a little track and field — only short-distance stuff: sprints, jumps, and throws.
And then I discovered martial arts. I did tae kwon do. I trained for 1.5-2 hours every weekday and 5-7 hours on saturdays. Honestly I lost friends over that shit. I did tae kwon do for a bit over half of high school, I think, and a little into college.
And then things started going wrong. My joints hurt. A lot.
Dear self: welcome to lifelong sports injury.
Basically: my tendons were predisposed to be fucked, and I fucked them good. The configuration of my shoulder joints was very loose (a little like being double-jointed — I basically have "loose" joints everywhere), which meant I SHOULD have been stopping all my kicks and punches and jerky motions earlier than everyone else to compensate. But I didn't know, of course, and in the end I managed to seriously muck up my shoulders, including an outright tear in my right shoulder (note: tendons don't heal tears).
But that took forever to diagnose. All I knew at the time was that suddenly, my favourite physical activity, a pillar of my life, hurt like hell to do and my doctor was telling me to stop it (first doctor: did not manage a correct diagnosis).
Honestly? It sucked pretty bad. I spent a lot of my freshman and sophomore years of college unable to lift my elbows higher than my nipples — elbows, I say, not arms. (Interactive activity: try it yourself! Lift your elbows to your nipples!) I often kept one arm (whichever hurt worse that day) in a sling — sometimes I kept both in a sling, taking out only when necessary.
And it felt like the biggest failure, this huge betrayal of my body. What was going on? I had gone from a LOT of physical activity to NONE. But wait, could I not do lower-body centered activities like running?
Your upper body and arms do a lot of compensatory movement in lower-body activities, too, like moving your arms when you run. And I couldn't even really do lighter-impact aerobics because also at this time I discovered that I had workout-induced asthma. Fun.
So I had this very considered and mature reaction: I threw an adult tantrum.
I basically sulked. For YEARS. After my first few months of attempting physical activity failed (and possibly what broke my heart was going home for break, trying to go back to my old dojang to train, and not being able to), I basically just quit sports. No, I didn't just quit sports. I quit physical activity. I quit my body. Screw you, body, I said.
Finally, about halfway through my junior year (that's three years after I started college, for those keeping track; I took a year of leave in the middle), I had apparently sulked enough, and started trying to pull the remnants of my health back together. I started doing tai chi, a nice, low-impact martial art. Then I started doing iaido (a Japanese sword art), which I loved and guess what I did that several hours every day, too. I am smart.
But I also found a competent doctor and physical therapist and started really working on getting my shoulders as well as they could be. For a while, I worked really hard on my health and I was in great shape.
And then, in summer of 2008, things started going... wrong... again. I can't really pinpoint an exact cause (and I'll say why in a moment), but I do remember that my summer training with iaido soured when my shoulders started going downhill again (had I fallen behind on my PT?). But I know what really did me in: by the end of that summer, I was having one of the worst depressive episodes of my life. Possibly my worst ever. (By the way, I have depression!) And that kind of thing, I always have such trouble remembering what starts it; everything just sinks into grey.
So I started my senior year horrifically depressed. I was crying every damn day and — hey, trigger warning for discussion of suicidal thoughts, highlight to see! — I very sincerely wished a bus would just run me over. For anyone worried, although I have very often wanted badly to die, I have never been able to actually attempt killing myself, because I know it would make people feel really bad and I can't handle the guilt. (Guilt complexes: also fun but in this case kind of backwards-wise beneficial?) But I still really really really wanted to die kind of a lot. So wishing for a swift accidental death seemed pretty ideal.
Anyway. Bad times. Realizing how badly I was doing, how badly I was worrying my partner, I knew I needed help. So I started seeing a therapist (again) and a psychiatrist (again) and finally, for the first time in my life, consented to be try antidepressant meds.
Meanwhile: spoons. I had none. I was in school, I was writing a goddamn thesis. I tried and tried to do more physical activity, to at least continue my lovely low-impact tai chi or at least my (very lackadaisical) yoga. But I just slipped and slipped.
Then my knees started hurting.
And I gained weight. A lot of weight. From a combination of antidepressants and sudden lack of physical activity. At the worst of it, I weighed one and a half times as much as I had before the whole mess had started. That's 150%.
For someone with such a physical past and with mental issues to deal with on top of it.... basically it sucked. It sucked hard.
My relationship with my body was officially screwed. At twenty three I felt like I was falling apart, unattractive, and hopeless.
And then I graduated and came home to my folks and they fat shamed me.
This was particularly hilarious to me because the weight gain was triggered by the antidepressants, which I needed for the depression that my family had a rather large hand in causing.
I eventually convinced myself that free rent was not worth constant harassment and got my own place again (I'd lived on my own (plus the partner and cats) for every year but freshman).
And I made sure that place was within biking distance of my work.
I was still too low on spoons -- and honestly just too unhealthy -- to bike, at first. But eventually I got to a place where I could, and then my family needed a car and finally, I was in a place where I should bike.
So I did. To be continued.
For now, we turn to SALADS.
So I have some long-standing issues with eating.
Let's start out with this: I was mildly anorexic when I was younger, and I still have body image issues.
[TW for some anorexia discussion] When I was a young teen though, I was convinced that I should weigh less than 100 pounds. Anything above that was obviously fat and terrible and we all know the drill. That tiny amount of fat on my stomach was obviously unacceptable. (Keep in mind, this is when I wasn't that temporally divorced from being a child athlete.) I often surreptitiously skipped meals.[/TW]
I did not realize at the time that these thoughts and eating habits (more on those in a sec) were, you know. Anorexia. This is actually a very recent discovery, in the past year or so (since I've been thinking a lot about health this year), where I thought back on this and went, holy shit. I was anorexic! Only mildly, but still. Holy shit!
I... probably still am? It's complicated.
So me and food, we didn't really start out on the right foot. And then there were three more problems: money, depression, and a surprise.
Money: it is hard to feed your family a healthful variety of food when you do not have much money. I am not kidding when I say about half my meals were pasta for an absurdly long time (until I met my partner, actually, haha). Even after my family did start getting more money, we retained a lot of the eating habits.
Depression: Eating takes spoons! (lols) Eating takes a surprising number of spoons for me. It's a chore. I wondered about that for a while, by the way. Why did eating take so much energy for me? I was always so overwhelmed by flavour. I would gravitate towards bland foods (pasta, anyone?) and grow weary of them very quickly and not enjoy eating — but when I tried to eat more exciting foods they just took so much mental energy to process. Wtf! and I did not have unlimited spoons. I had other shit to deal with. What the hell was the deal?
Surprise! I'm a supertaster! It turns out.
I didn't know that until this year either, but it explains so much.
So the end result of this cocktail was that I ate really poorly, especially when I was a teenager. I often skipped meals — either on purpose (cough) or because I really and honestly forgot. I had other things on my mind, and I felt so shitty a lot of the time, one way or another, that honestly the hunger didn't really register.
And after years and years of such abuse, I managed to fuck my metabolism and my appetite. I don't really sense hunger anymore. For several years, I would not know I was hungry until I got dizzy and started falling over. Either my stomach gave up on sending the signals, or I had learned to entirely block them. (I've since been slowly nurturing myself away from this and do actually feel genuine hunger sometimes now, but I still mostly can't tell until I get the shakes.)
So my eating habits, they were horrible.
Enter my partner.
Thank everything ever that he likes to cook.
This is not a hole I could have dug myself out of on my own. The sports/body/physical stuff, the depression stuff — maybe. I'm eternally grateful for his help and support on those, but I can envision myself having crawled out on my own, eventually. This one, I'm not so sure about.
My partner makes sure I'm fed, basically. I fail at feeding myself. Like seriously, I am an adult and I fail at feeding myself. Left to my own devices, I will forget to eat for days (I am not kidding) and then have like, a plate of pasta or something inbetween. FOREVER. He cooks for me, and we both try to make sure to have a relatively healthy diet. We're not all that great at it, but we're trying. And hey! at least I'm eating?
As a final note about the anorexia and whether or not I might still have something there: I really don't know. It's only recently occurred to me to even wonder, like I said. And I know I still have some serious body issues and that my relationship with food and eating is still not very healthy. I know I definitely, even now that I'm aware of it, have food right there that I could eat and I just... don't. Because I don't *really* need to, right? I'm not like starving or anything. So I can skip out on that lunch and maybe some of this damn antidepressant weight will go away, right? Maybe?
It doesn't happen much, but it's there. So I don't know.
And whatever's going on there, it definitely didn't help with the weight gain I had. That was not a fun relationship, between my latent anorexia and the sudden weight.
Eating well was very hard when both my partner and I were in school — and also, you know, I was dealing with some other bullshit, as outlined above — but once we were out and living on our own again, we really started working on the diet and nutrition. For me, I am terrible with vegetables, and so one of my goals became:
And now we are at the present! Let's review.
I have depression.
I have a history of disordered eating.
I have workout-induced asthma.
I have tendon issues in my shoulders.
I have less severe tendon issues in my knees.
At this point, I had done almost zero physical activity for about 1.5 years.
So this is when I started biking.
My area is very hilly, and the commute's about 5-6 miles, depending on route and if you're counting the up-and-down (I SURE DO). I use a hybrid/mountain bike, not a city/street bike, so it's not feather-light or anything.
The first day I biked in, it was about 95 degrees out and it took me almost two and a half hours and lots and lots of asthmatic wheezing (did I mention I'm stubborn?). That's like less than 2.5mph. That was. That was very sad.
But I made it to work. And then I even made it home at the end of the day.
And then very shortly after that I got sick, and stayed sick.
I picked up biking again late in the summer. After some small improvement pre-sick and the nice long "rest", my first time biking in again: I did it in one hour.
Now, about three months after that, I consistently do it in half an hour or even a little less. That's almost 11mph. That's somewhere between 4 and 5 times as fast as when I started, and absolutely no wheezing anymore.
I know 11mph is really not much as far as biking goes, but it means a lot to me.
I've learned a lot in the past year, about myself, my body, my relationship with my body, my health. About health in general! Both mental and physical. I've spent a lot of time lurking in social justice circles this past year, and that's included skulking around disability activism and fat acceptance. I've watched (and infrequently participated in) some very interesting conversations there.
I still have thin privilege, but the fat acceptance movement helped me a lot. Which I'm very grateful for. It was probably all the reading I did there that helped me identify that, shit, I had some pretty disordered eating in my past. I learned about Health At Every Size. I tried to foster a better relationship with food. And I tried really really hard to accept that the weight I had gained as a result of my meds was okay. It did not mean I was terrible. I tried...
I tried to accept my body. Which is where we hit snag. (Note: I've been talking about the fat acceptance movement in particular, rather than the general body acceptance that it's part of, on purpose.)
Something hadn't been sitting quite right with me, with all the feminist and body-acceptance messages I had been hearing about loving my body and "health" at every size. I'd been meaning to blog about it for a while, because the ideas had slowly coalesced. Things like:
- I am permanently injured. I can't do many things I used to enjoy as big parts of my life. I don't want to love this.
- I have depression. It steals my spoons. Is this health? What IS health?
- My physical therapist AND my therapist both recommend light exercise.
I look at my PT and think: I am so depressed. How will I be able to get up and do this?
I look at my therapist and think: my physical injuries make this so hard.
And I don't say anything
- I'm not cisgender. (Have I mentioned that? Haha.) My body is, on a fundamental level, not quite right for me. I have a hard time loving that I inhabit it.
There were just so many intersections where it wasn't working for me.
And then I read this: Conversations About Body Image: A Place at the Table for Me?. And I think it really helped coalesce a lot of my thinking. I recommend it to anyone interested in these issues, just as something to get some thoughts moving. Then there was a follow-up post: Further Conversations On Body Image: Examining Health at Every Size (HAES). This in turn led me to the Fat Nutritionist (whose posts I'd run into before) and this post, linked in the aforementioned follow-up: The obligation to be healthy at every size. I recommend this post SUPER HARD: it's a quick read but everything in it needs saying and hearing, and it contains some great links. I REALLY love that post, and recommend Fat Nutritionist all around, as awareness of social issues like poverty is part of her outlook on nutrition, and I love it. I want to quote two parts from it, once already quoted by s.e. smith, and one that struck me personally.
It is sad that this even needs to be said, but given the fact that we essentially live in a health meritocracy, let me be the first to announce:
You are under no obligation to be healthy.
And, as an addendum: even if you were, eating “well” and exercising wouldn’t guarantee your success. There. I’ve said it. And as much as this might chap the ass of every health promoter out there, I feel that personal agency and a basic sense of privacy are sorely missing from most conversations of health promotion, and from conversations of Health at Every Size.
This, despite the fact that the definition of health itself has not even been definitively pinned down, that it has evolved through numerous variations through the years, and will likely continue to evolve. Despite that nutrient requirements are different for each person. As are genetic profiles, family histories, and every single one of the social determinants of health.
The factors that determine health are different for everyone — which means it is up to you to decide what to do. No one can do it for you.
I don't have any answers yet, really. I just find myself at the intersection of a lot of things, and fumbling around, trying to find what works best for me.
So about those salads!
I have kind of failed at the salads. But I'm working on it. I think I've come a long way, and I... I really want to be proud of myself for that. I'm slowly restoring myself to a reasonable level of physical activity. And honestly, I still cry (did I mentioned I used to cry about this a lot) sometimes when I think that I will probably never be able to seriously take up tae kwon do or iaido again. But I might still be able to do tai chi. And I might, maybe, one day, get back into rock climbing. Maybe I could even play soccer again. Maybe I could do something new, and try to swim, to help with my lungfail.
And I'm not... I'm not really okay with the fact that my body will never ever be back to the way it used to be. Not really. But I still think I've come a long way. I still have bad, self-destructive thoughts, but I'm trying. I try to eat; my partner tries to make sure I eat. I buy clothes in my new size. I try to tell myself that my new body, my changed body, my injured body, my body that's irrevocably different after such big sudden weight gain and almost equally large loss — I try to tell myself that it's still mine, for all that I feel kind of disassociated from it on the gender front. It's the only one I have, and while I doubt I will ever have an entirely good relationship with my body, I can at least stop trying to punish it for being mine.
... and try to eat more damn salads.
So that's biking and salads. And a little extra >.>