She Cray.

Yesterday one of my coworkers came into the office a few minutes late looking miserable. She has a pretty intense commute in every morning from New Jersey, so I assumed it was one of those mornings where traffic was crazy through the Lincoln Tunnel, or a stranger was rude to her on the subway on the way in. She sat at her desk across from me, and within a few minutes I heard a ping as she sent me a chat through our in-office AIM of sorts. “I’m dying,” it said. “Do you have any oils for nausea?”

My coworkers think I’m crazy. That’s neither a bad thing on either their part or mine, nor is it an exaggeration – but in the four months that I’ve been working here, they’ve come to know me as a yoga fanatic who does things like Whole30 and carries around a bag of essential oils that I claim can help with just about anything. At my last job, the dynamic between myself and my team members didn’t lend well to this part of my personality, and in an effort to fit in during my short stint there, I tried to hide the things that I was most proud of, like the yoga Instagram account and even the blog, and downplayed how I feel about healthy eating and natural living. It feels really raw sometimes, sharing those pieces of me with the people I work with, like it could be too personal or too much. I mean, the blog is frequently filled with mishaps related to excessive drinking. The Instagram account mostly features me in sports bras and healthy eating is important to me because I eat more food when I’m eating healthy, which is always something on my mind. I hesitated for a few days in adjusting to this job before slowly starting to tell more people about these pieces of me.

My life has undergone a radical shift in the past 18 months. The way I dress, the way I speak and act, the way I think and the way I treat myself and my body are so completely different now from who I was before 2014, and though there have been some major learning experiences and growing pains along the way, I can absolutely say with confidence I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Part of me wants to attribute this happiness to yoga-brain, to the foods I eat/don’t eat, maybe to the new job or to any other lifestyle changes I’ve made; but the more I think about it, I think it’s because I’m not trying so hard to hide the things in my life that make me happy. I spent a lot of my early 20s trying to make other people happy, between my job, my friends, my relationship at the time, but I never really had something for myself that made me happy. I didn’t really work out, I didn’t have any specific hobbies or ways to occupy my time. I was learning to navigate New York, and learning to navigate real life and relationships and money and oh god my head is spinning just remembering how hard it was to adjust to everything. I didn’t have time for a hobby or a passion until my entire life blew up in November 2013 and I was forced to focus on myself for the first time, maybe ever.

Having a passion in life is a scary and wonderful thing. I don’t mean having passion for things in life, like how I feel about Taylor Swift (QUEEN) or the serious importance of red wine after a long week at work. I mean A Passion, something that pushes you and makes you work harder, constantly working to excel, always understanding there is room for growth. It’s the thing that hones your ability to focus, that fuels your drive in all areas of life to do more and to do better; it doesn’t matter if it’s fashion or volunteer work or running or food, it could be all of those or none of those, but it’s just something that gives you that push. Yoga and healthy living has been that for me. Yoga gave my life a new direction and made it easy to set a plan for my life for the next few years; healthy living has given me focus and an appreciation for a body that I abused for too long. For a while I thought I had to hide these parts of me, keeping them sacred and close to home. Getting messages like the one above from my nauseated coworker reinforce just how much happier I’ve been since removing the wall around those parts of me so everyone around me can enjoy the new me too.

I gave my coworker some peppermint to dab behind her ears and ginger to rub on her stomach; she laughed and said she felt weird rubbing oils all over herself. I laughed with her and went back to my desk, and within a few minutes she sent me another chat that just said “holy shit that stuff works.” Another coworker has been one of the most supportive and wonderful followers on my Instagram page, asking me constantly to do some yoga with her in the office when we’re stressed, and wanting to take classes with me so she can grow her practice as well. I know they all think I’m this crazy, curly-haired hippie chick stereotype with her natural remedies and yoga exercises for stress, and frankly I think I’m pretty crazy as well. But I’m also crazy happy on a deeper level than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Turns out in the end, embracing the crazy Passionate side of me that I suppressed for years is the sanest thing I’ve ever done.

PLD Montage: Vol. 2.2 (Whole30 Edition)

30 days is not a long time, all things considered. Breaking it down, it’s four weeks at work and four weekends, it’s two paychecks, and maybe four trips to the grocery store. But when you’re on Whole30, those days break out a little differently. That’s 90 meals that need to be planned, prepped and consumed all on my own. That’s four weekends of no wine, four weeks of no chocolate, and two paychecks largely sacrificed to food-related purchases. It’s 30 days where you feel sick, and bloated, and depressed, and over it for a large portion of the time; it’s four weeks of your brain taunting you with all the things you “can’t” have and maybe a night or two where you dream about swimming in a pool filled with pinot noir.

But it’s only 30 days. And in those 30 days, there are a lot of things you can learn. SO without further ado, I give you:

PLD Montage: Whole30 Edition:

  • After some back-and-forth on the exact start date, my lovely friend M, who was joining me in this round, and I decided we’d start on Monday, March 30. The way I saw it at the time, I had two big “tests” during the month – dinner with a client, and my grandmother’s 90th birthday party – and the rest of the time would be smooth sailing. Work was supposed to calm down after the insanity of March (March Madness, if you will), I had zero plans on the weekends aside from the aforementioned birthday party… what could possibly go wrong, right?
    Lesson learned: Always expect the unexpected.
  • In preparation for the 30 days ahead, I spent a lot of time reading about what to expect throughout the process. I read the Whole30 timeline, read people’s reviews online, asked M and G more about their experiences, and generally thought that I’d done a bang-up job preparing for the month ahead. The more I prepped, admittedly the more I thought I’d “probably just skip” some of the early unpleasantness, like carb flu and any gastrointestinal weirdness. I mean, my diet was pretty aligned to the lifestyle anyway. Was I really eating that much sugar, in the form of work chocolate and wine, to affect me in any noticeable way?
    Lesson learned: You are not the exception to the rule, snowflake. Also CARB FLU IS A REAL AND TERRIBLE THING.
  • On Day 13, I just felt crappy. I’d been dealing with the stress of my grandmother in the hospital/nursing center and trying to help my mother through that time, plus a stressful time at work. I hadn’t seen a single improvement in 13 days of eating foods that were starting to bore me – my skin didn’t look better, my energy was steady but not great, I was still sleeping poorly and if anything, I felt like my yoga performance was getting worse, not better. I was in Connecticut at the time, surrounded by my parent’s incredible wine collection and take-out pizza from my favorite place in the world, and all I had to eat were chicken sausages, sweet potatoes and kale. If there was a single moment this month where I wanted to quit, dear god, it was that one.
    Lesson learned: Putting seltzer in a wine glass and going to the wine cellar to stare at all the bottles actually helped get me through that moment. I swear one of the bottles of Three Sticks was telling me “it’s only two more weeks…”
  • On Day 30, I woke up at 5:45 with a ton of energy, checked Instagram (duh) and hopped out of bed. I made myself a delicious breakfast, packed a big lunch, and checked the fridge to confirm I had enough leftovers from Sunday for dinner. I practiced a little yoga, opening up my shoulders and back for the long day ahead at a desk, and then went into a forearm stand, a pose that I’ve been working on for months, and one I set as a goal to master during Whole30. I smiled as I eased out of the pose, got dressed and quickly checked my schedule to confirm when I’d be able to pop out to Chelsea Market for a bottle of wine to open in celebration tomorrow night.
    Lesson learned: It’s about the journey, for sure, but the destination is pretty sweet too.

It’s been a whirlwind experience, to say the least, and it’s crazy to think it’s just because I tweaked my eating habits for 30 days. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this Whole30, in ways I never expected. I’ve learned that I can and should eat a lot more food than I was eating before, because even doubling my portions hasn’t caused any weight gain that I can tell. I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I’d imagined, passing on my favorite foods free in the office kitchen, passing up the best bottles of wine from my parent’s cellar, and passing the candy drawer at work multiple times daily. I pushed myself to try new things and found so much happiness in the little victories, like falling under the spell of Bikram yoga after managing not to pass out in the standing postures, and buying unusual produce to challenge myself, like golden beets and funny-colored squash. I learned that I love foods like olives and beef bone marrow, and most of all, I learned that I can cope with some heavy things on my own, not buoyed by the comfort of a drink or a brownie.

People keep asking me now that the Whole30 is over whether I’d ever do another one. That answer changed daily throughout the past month, one day a resounding “DUH I FEEL LIKE SUPERWOMAN” and the next a loud “HELL to the no.” The answer today is “Definitely, but not for a while.” Because the most important lesson I learned? I could live without dairy, grains, legumes and sugar for the rest of my life. But god dammit, I love a good glass of wine.

All the feels

I love the moments where I can put my phone aside and just enjoy the freedom of not being immediately accessible. Whether it’s the 75 minute yoga class where the phone is on airplane mode, or yoga in my apartment where the phone is on silent, the moments with friends where I leave my phone in another room on purpose or the times in my apartment I lose my phone by accident and don’t feel like searching for it, there is nothing like knowing you’re disconnected, if only for a brief period of time. Inevitably, after an hour or so away from the phone, I’ll have the same anxiety: much as it’s lovely to be off the grid, what if this is the moment that someone actually needs to reach me, and I’m too busy relaxing to text back? Not that this has ever happened to me, of course. And actually, up until Saturday, I’d never been on either end of that scenario: the person taking a technology break for a short period of time, or the one who knows the person isn’t with their phone but desperately, desperately needs to get in touch with them, and fast. Up until Saturday, I would have been happy not to be either of those people, ever. Sadly, my Saturday morning at home with my Twinster and her fiance turned very quickly from a lazy morning preparing for outlet shopping into the two of us frantically calling Mama B over, and over, and over, knowing she was on a walk with a friend and cursing that her one hour of relaxation fell on just barely the wrong side of an unexpected turn in the day’s events.

My default when I’m stressed out or dealing with an excess level of emotions is to grab a glass of wine or something sweet. It’s the emotional comfort of a chance to numb the scary emotions and soothe a running mind for a minute; there’s nothing nourishing mentally or physically about immediately turning to alcohol and sugar for support, but we all have psychological connections to food and drink that rule our emotions, I need a cupcake since I’m happy, I need a drink since I’m overwhelmed. In the few moments after finally getting Mama B on the phone and waiting for her to rush home so we could figure out the rest of the day, my immediate thought was “I am going to need a big glass of…. Oh.” Because I couldn’t turn to any of my coping mechanisms this weekend since I’m still on Whole30. There was no immediate relief in a piece of chocolate; I couldn’t hold on to the promise of a tall glass of California pinot from my parent’s collection later that night after the hospital visit to help numb the image of someone I love covered in tubes and in terrible pain. All of a sudden the weekend went from a series of happy occasions with family to a series of frantic phone calls and shuffling of plans, picking up a birthday cake I couldn’t eat anyway but now no one would enjoy in the way it was meant to be enjoyed, moving a wrapped present lest it make my mother start to cry.

I thought back this weekend a lot about how I’ve handled the many stressful and scary situations in the past few years: break-up #1, new job #1, break-up #2, my own health scare and new job #2. It’s crazy, looking back, to realize that in every single one of these situations, I numbed the emotions on the outset with a glass (or two) (… or fine bottle) of wine. It’s not to say that I can’t handle stress, or that I’m a raging alcoholic – but think back to the times in the past year that you’ve been really sad, really scared, really stressed or all three at once: didn’t a whiskey on the rocks or a fat glass of cabernet help you calm down a little bit? Did you maybe turn to a cold beer in the summer or a spiked hot chocolate in the winter? It’s part of our culture, practically: the first thing people tell you after you’re done complaining is to take a deep breath and pour a drink. We’re constantly living in these limbo-states where emotions exist but are dulled, a Stepford-level reality that leaves us in the emotional state of a frustrated toddler once you’re forced to deal with the real issue causing your emotions to percolate slowly, slowly and then spill over the edge. Hell, up until this weekend, I didn’t think I knew how to properly process anything without the thin veil of something to take the edge off.

I planned for a lot of things before this Whole30. I planned to bring my own food for Easter dinner and prepared to pass on the champagne toast and birthday cake for my grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration on Saturday night. I was prepared for my brother to tease me mercilessly about my “diet,” throwing Tate’s cookies in my face under the guise that “they’re all natural, right?” I was even prepared to pass on the wine that flows freely in the weekends we’re all home, bringing my own seltzer in the event plain water started to get boring. But I didn’t plan to learn how to cope when you’re forced to feel everything in a scary situation: I was scared, I was upset, I was emotional and I was relieved. And as much as it felt foreign, I survived. I survived sitting with my own thoughts, and I survived coping with a scary situation calmly, rationally (*mostly) and without numbing the emotions coursing through me like wildfire. Aside from improving energy and breaking my chocolate addiction at the office, I was pretty ambiguous about what I was hoping to get out of the Whole30: I don’t need to lose weight, I’m pretty cut thanks to yoga and aside from extra planning, it’s pretty close to my normal diet. And while my energy has been good, I’ve felt on the upside of “healthy” and I’m looking forward to the “turnaround” that everyone tells me to expect in the next few days, I’m really, really happy already for what the program has done for me. Because it may be foreign, having dealt with all of the feelings in such a short period of time, but it was empowering to know that I can handle them on my own: scary, stressful, and everything in between.