Ahim-suh craving a hamburger

Last week I had my first general health physical in probably three years. I don’t have a great excuse for not going to the doctor for that long, aside from generally being healthy and disliking the facial responses to my wine and coffee consumption in a typical week. I’ve been dealing with a minor knee injury for a few months now that kicked into high gear over the previous weekend, though, so despite my dislike of doctors in general, I made the appointment to my tired body in for a check-up. I couldn’t say nicer things about the office or staff if I tried – they were all wonderful and I felt at ease in a situation I dislike – save for one moment. In the initial health assessment with my doctor, the topic of yoga came up (e.g. for the first time ever I had an answer to “Do you exercise?” that wasn’t “Do subway stairs count?”); he seemed impressed that I was a yoga instructor until we reached the next set of questions. “So what’s your typical diet? You’re vegan or vegetarian, I assume?” he asked. I laughed as I normally do to that query and told him no, I’m one of those yogis that eats meat. Rather than moving on he looked me up and down for a minute with what can be described as a smirk, turned back to his computer and said “You’re not a real yogi then, are you.”

The first of the eight limbs of yoga (because yes, it’s actually more than just cool poses) is called the yamas – basically five rules of how to treat others. One of those concepts, arguably the most well-known, is ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to non-harming, or non-violence, depending on who you talk to, and on a top surface level, it’s pretty simple: don’t harm. Many yogis choose to interpret this particular yama as “Don’t Kill,” which is why so many yogis are vegetarians or vegans. This post isn’t to bash those people at all. If you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for whatever reason, I commend you! I firmly believe that physical and mental health starts with what we put into our bodies, and if you feel best by abstaining from animal meat or other products, consider this my support and encouragement. This post is not meant to bash those lifestyle choices, just because that isn’t my own. This post isn’t even really about food choices, though on the surface that’s what triggered the conversation. This post is about respect.

So often people demand respect without knowing what they’re demanding or why. Frankly, if your methods for earning respect begin with demanding it, you’re already doing something wrong. I’m not demanding respect in writing all this down, just to clarify. Going back to the story above though, not only was the doctor judgmental to my life choices, he was disrespectful to how I choose to care for my body. I mean come on. I don’t eat dairy or grains, I eat enough vegetables to send Cookie Monster into a coma and my worst indulgences are a few pieces of dark chocolate at the office (*to be fair that is daily) and a glass or two of wine after work (*that’s not daily but let’s just say I wouldn’t be shocked if he’d told me to cut it back). I source my food responsibly and have no problem spending more money for grass-fed or local cuts of meats than cutting corners and supporting factory farms. I’m not asking him to praise my diet. I’m asking him to respect my choices for how to care for my body, and to respect that I know what’s best for my health and well-being.

Some yogis I talk to agree with my doctor. Doesn’t matter if they’re certified to teach or not, doesn’t matter if they practice daily or once every few weeks, there are some people that have felt compelled, especially on social media, to comment on my choice to keep meat and animal products in my diet.  They cite ahimsa, telling me there is “no possible way” you can understand ahimsa and follow a yogic lifestyle and think that it’s acceptable to contribute to animal “torture.” I respect that some people interpret ahimsa that way – truly, I see where they’re coming from. I just understand and live ahimsa differently. The last time I tried to go vegetarian I felt so tired and weak I could barely function. My yoga suffered, my moods suffered, anyone who had to deal with me suffered through my pinballing blood sugar and subsequent outbursts. I was doing more harm to myself by changing my diet that way. More HARM – and ahimsa is non-harming. If I can’t start with the basest level of the yama – don’t harm yourself – how am I living that value?

I’ll probably keep seeing that doctor. The office is right next to my own, their lobby has good music and cucumber water, and other than the moment that inspired this post, I really liked the doctor and his whole staff. But let it all above be a lesson in respect. Respect each other. Respect our choices. Unless you can see someone actually harming themselves or someone else, let them continue living their lives as you go about yours. I’m a yogi because I live and breathe and love yoga in everything that I do. I’m not a yogi because of the diet choices I make. Respect that I’m a yogi who eats meat, and I’ll respect your choices too.

Round 2, Day 9

For anyone who is a recent reader of the Chronicle, you may not know that back in April, I completed my first Whole30 (read about it here, I’m not going into it). It was challenging and wonderful all at the same time, but at the end of the 30 days, as I went to bed, dreaming about the nice bottle of wine waiting for me when I got home from work the next day, I remember thinking that sure, I felt great and had energy and I’d even lost a few pounds – but I didn’t think I’d ever want to do another. In fact, I think those were my exact words, when I went into the office the next day and my coworkers all stopped by my desk to ask me what my final thoughts were: “Honestly, I feel amazing, but I don’t think I’d ever do it again.”

So why is the title of this post Round 2, Day 9?

I could list a million reasons why I wanted to do another Whole30 after saying very insistently that I never would – I miss the mental focus! I like having solid nights of sleep and a steady mood! I love how much I can eat without the mental restrictions I’d imposed for years as an anorexic! – but I don’t actually care to justify my reasons for doing another round. Truth be told, I’ve been met with a lot of side-eye over this, from friends and family alike, and it all comes back to one thing: “but can’t you just do a Whole30 and still drink?”

To be clear: wine is my favorite food group. If anyone ever told me to stop drinking wine forever, unless it was imperative to my staying alive, I would laugh in their face as I popped another cork. I love the social aspect of going out with friends for a quick drink, and there is no better feeling after a long week at work than changing into sweats on a Friday night and pouring a big glass of wine. But it started to become abundantly clear to me just after finishing my last Whole30 that excessive drinking and I don’t really get along all that well. In all the other changes I’ve made in the past two years, I’ve neglected to learn my limits with alcohol in public settings. Since just May 1 of this year, that’s led to such lovely half-memories as: falling asleep in the middle of M and N’s engagement party that I technically hosted, losing my wallet in a cab, losing my phone in an Uber after an embarrassing display at R and H’s rehearsal dinner, and most recently, loudly fighting with an Irishman outside of the bar at H’s birthday (though to be fair, that last one ended pretty alright for me).

And also since May 1 of this year, I’ve: watched two wonderful friends get married, turned 27, made a decision for next year that will change my entire life, watched my twin sister marry her soul mate, said goodbye to a beautiful creature that helped me through some of my darkest days, and permanently altered my right forearm. In the two months to come, my best friends say forever under the Spanish moss in Savannah and I tick off a second year on my own, before we go into 2016, the year of yoga training and saying YES to moving on. There is so much love coming our way in the next few months and years, and the last thing I want to remember when I look back at the end of 2015 is how I did something else fucking stupid and ended the night in a blackout shame spiral, not learning from the past, yet again.

Whole30 means something different to every person, and it means something different to people at each round. I went into this round not so concerned with the food aspect, but hoping to reset my mind in the excessive drinking part of things. I want to take 30 days off from numbing emotions I need to feel about all of these insane changes in the past few months, and feel them. I want to remember that girl at 22, 23, 24 with crazy anxiety that drank first to loosen up and then because she didn’t know how to stop; and I want to remember how much I’ve grown from that girl, so the next time I go out with my friends I’m not a complete disaster, something that’s felt too familiar since finishing Whole30 the first time. Maybe the biggest surprise I’ve noticed in just this past nine days is that I don’t really miss drinking the way I thought I would, even a little bit. I don’t miss the social aspect because I’ve been out twice now in the past week where I’m drinking seltzer and no one blinks an eye; when we got the sad news last week, my instinct was not to reach for a liquid escape, preferring instead to cry and look at old photos, reliving memories rather than suppressing them. This round has felt like the very small introduction step to a new life that I’m chasing going into 2016, and while I know that myriad challenges lie ahead, I also know I’m ready, willing and able to take them on.

But I tell you this: come Day 31 on November 25, the VERY first thing I’m doing when I leave the office is buying myself a nice bottle of wine and enjoying as much of it, or all of it, as I damn well please.

Perfect, then…

Last week on Thursday, I kept smiling. Despite having worked a full twelve hours, I’d texted my lovely friend M on the way out of the office to complain a little, and it turned out she was around the corner, so we met for some much-needed margaritas and maybe a tequila shot (or three) as well. The weekend ahead promised so many wonderful things: a yoga workshop in Central Park with M and my cousin, who I’d convinced to come in from Connecticut for the afternoon, followed by dinner at a different cousin’s restaurant in Nyack, and ending with a pit stop in FiDi to say hi to the rest of the group, as my partner-in-crime R, her Scot H, my fashionista C and N planned to spend the afternoon and evening on rooftops, drinking in summertime alongside Oyster Bay. I’d also promised D&D that I’d watch their dogs this weekend, so in between all of those wonderful things, I’d get to come home and snuggle with my favorite pug and pitbull, So as I took the last tequila shot on Thursday night and started the long trek back to Washington Heights much later than usual, I had this overwhelming feeling that life couldn’t get any better.

Last week on Friday, as I prepared to leave the office on the earlier side, I kept smiling. It had been a productive but simple day at the office, and I was just on my way out to meet my sorority big for a short walk along the High Line and then a long and leisurely dinner/happy hour at Montmartre, a cozy French bistro in Chelsea. The Supreme Court announcement led to a giddy elation that permeated the neighborhood streets, rainbow flags and songs about love every which way you looked, people gearing up for a pride weekend that celebrated so much more than they’d originally planned. As my big and I moved into our third hour of sitting in the backyard patio, munching on pickled vegetables and sharing a cool bottle of rosé, I had this overwhelming feeling that life couldn’t get any better.

On Saturday, I woke up early and met up with M to head to the Upper East Side, her to babysit for a few hours before our yoga class, and me to drop my things off at D&D’s and hang out with the pups for a few hours before it was yoga time. We rode the bus and chatted excitedly about dinner later that night in Nyack, and bounced in our seats at the chance to train with Superhuman Yogi. I felt my phone buzz twice, the rapid cadence of an incoming text, and checked my phone, assuming it was my cousin with travel plans or brother reminding me to take home the toy he and D had picked up for little miss a few weeks back.  Instead I saw a number that I didn’t recognize but I immediately knew who it was. Before I’d looked at the text, before I looked up the area code to confirm, I knew in the bottom of my heart that The Child had just sent me a text. After thinking all weekend that life couldn’t get any better, he had some fucking nerve sending me anything, especially seeing as today is exactly a year since he told me “I can’t.”

You can see why we call him "The Child" after that final response.

You can see why we call him “The Child” after that final response.

That’s our conversation. M and I debated hotly about what to say in response – should I take the opportunity to be a bitch and tell him to fuck off? Ignore it completely? Play dumb and just say “who is this?” In the end, I realized I just don’t care anymore. Maybe he thought about me for a split second this past weekend but I take that train every day, and I stopped thinking about him months ago. And as I crafted the perfect response to acknowledge I read the text, know who sent it and now want nothing to do with it ever again, I felt an eerie sense of calm. This text three months ago, six months ago, would have put me in an emotional tailspin. And all it did this weekend was make me angry for six minutes and then I didn’t think about it again until the next day, when I was scrolling through texts and noticed I’d forgotten to delete it. What a different place to be in from this time last year; what a different way to approach hearing from someone who used to hold a piece of my heart. What a great way to start a new week, a new month and a new season: surrounded by so much happiness and people I love, no longer preoccupied with the things that caused me so much pain in the past.

PLD Montage Vol. 2.3: Surprise Edition

I love surprises. There’s something so fun about planning a surprise for a friend or family member, surprise visit, surprise party, surprise gift. I’m not great at secret-keeping necessarily, given my tendency to talk too much and too often, especially to fill an awkward silence, but when it comes to important things like first dates and surprise parties, I work really hard to keep details on the DL until it’s finally time to share. After the fantastic surprise party to celebrate the engagement of my lovely friend M and her N last month, most people would have toned down party-planning mode, but in fact, my fashionista C and I had another party in the works at the same time, which came to fruition this weekend, when we surprised our partner-in-crime R with a bachelorette drag brunch and a bridal shower on C’s roof. There were so many wonderful moments this past Sunday that I’ve been trying to chronicle in a succinct story, but the more I wrote, the more I realized there was only one way to memorialize the day.

So without further ado: PLD Montage, Vol 2.3: Surprise Edition

  • As mentioned above, C and I were planning the parties for R at the same time we were planning the party for M. We had group texts going with both of the girls talking about two different parties which were the primary forms of communicating details among ourselves.
    Lesson learned: ALWAYS, always, ALWAYS confirm you’re sending the correct group text when simultaneously planning surprise parties. Literally, always.
  • We’d decided that C would handle most of the decorations etc. for the bridal shower, while I’d handle plans/decorations for the bachelorette brunch. Losing my wallet on Memorial Day continued to enhance my life by completely screwing my budget, which meant I couldn’t actually order anything for brunch until five days before the big event. Not wanting to deal with the inevitable screw-up of the Washington Heights post office, I decided to have the decorations shipped to my office, where they thankfully arrived just in time on Friday for me to spill the beans to my coworkers about the plans for the weekend, and have them insist to see the decorations that I’d ordered.
    Lesson learned: Maybe don’t take out penis-shaped memorabilia during office hours.
  • The day before the party, C, M and I met at C’s place to bake the treats for the bridal shower, including R’s favorite banana pudding and a paleo cupcake recipe because we’re all a little crazy. M and I had a *few* drinks at happy hour the night before and had spent the morning eating and relaxing at her apartment, trying to balance our blood sugar after too much wine. Though we spent literally the whole morning eating, upon arriving to the Financial District to bake, we decided we needed a smoothie to chase all of the hangover food just before getting to C’s place. Oh, and then we brought chips and salsa to C’s place as an accompanying baking snack. And also ate some of the Nilla wafers while making the pudding. Also sampled a cupcake. Oh, and some of the frosting.
    Lesson learned: Eating everything in sight does not make your hangover feel better and actually might leave you on the couch at home on a Saturday night with stomach cramps that make it impossible to move.
  • The plan for the day was simple: M, C, R and I would meet for drag brunch at noon, which was actually R’s surprise bachelorette party, and then head to C’s rooftop where more friends would be waiting for a surprise bridal shower. When party day finally arrived, M and I went down to the restaurant early so we could decorate the table with the aforementioned silly bachelorette decorations, like a chair ribbon and uber-classy penis centerpiece. After setting everything up, we went to the bar to wait for R and C to arrive, bouncing with a nervous excitement. And then another bachelorette party came in and the poor girl got really excited when she saw a decorated table.
    Lesson learned: There’s no better way to put a damper on someone else’s bachelorette party than running to the table where she’s trying to sit down screaming “THAT IS NOT FOR YOU.”
  • Brunch was wonderful and just as drunk as brunch should be, and there is even a video of R lip-syncing on “stage” to a song that she hates (which I am not allowed to share but FYI it’s amazing). We got in a cab on the way home and took awkward photos together, trying to distract R from the slowly-rebuilding nervous energy, as the rest of us knew that the surprises for the day weren’t over yet. We confirmed everyone had finally arrived to the surprise party and I distracted R in her apartment for a few minutes before we walked to C’s rooftop; I tried to keep it cool but I was a little too tipsy and kept bouncing around while we walked to the roof. We made it to the roof and I let R lead the way, looking for M and C, until she stopped and said “Are. You. Serious.” while smiling, as she saw the pink tablecloth and a big group waiting with surprise smiles. The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying perfect weather on the rooftop, drinking champagne and eating treats, watching R open presents and ending with big hugs all around, since the next time we’ll all be together in the not-so-distant future is at the wedding.
    Lesson learned: Maybe it’s difficult and stressful to plan two surprises on one day for your best friend, but watching R surrounded by love and friends (and presents, of course) was worth every freaking second of it.

It’s bittersweet sometimes, looking towards the end of the summer when my one-time single partner-in-crime will become someone else’s other half. I don’t think I could have survived the first few months as Single LB in the city if it weren’t for her pushing me out of my comfort zone and into a lot of vodka. And yet I’m looking forward to that wedding, probably not quite as much as she is but definitely a lot. She brought H the Scot into my life, our lives, and in his crazy, Scottish way, he makes the group feel complete. It’s definitely been a wild year of surprises as they’ve fallen in love and planned a wedding, and I have memories (and sort-of memories) that will last me (mostly) forever. Throwing her a day of surprises leading into the next few months was the least I could do to pay her back for all of the memories, lessons and love she’s brought into my life in the past year.

So here’s to the next chapter for my partner-in-crime and her Scot! I foresee a follow-up to this post after their wedding, where I’ve already had to swear “no vodka” and am only mostly positive my bridesmaid’s dress won’t lead to everyone’s favorite game of “If you see something, say something” with my boobs. But until then, the above lessons in love, surprises and PLDs should keep us grounded for the busy summer ahead.

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.

Slide forward, jump back

I’ve come to learn I shouldn’t be left to my own devices in other people’s apartments. I don’t mean that I steal things, or that I look for embarrassing things under the beds and in the medicine cabinets. Those things don’t really interest me (though a certain Chanel purse had me rethinking the “don’t steal” thing), and between the Nickname Posse I would be SHOCKED if we had any secrets that would lurk under the bed or in the medicine cabinet; or at least any secrets that we don’t all already know/text/talk about in detail. But when left alone this weekend in my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment to watch their pup while they went off somewhere beautiful and relaxing, I did *perhaps* go a little wild… on the wealth of non-Whole30 approved food in their cabinets and fridge.

Actually, even before arriving to their place down in the Financial District, the end of last week turned into a mini free-for-all for my diet, starting with indulging in free pizza for lunch at the office and ending with me ordering from my favorite Dominican restaurant in the Heights for dinner; I told myself it was because I had barely any groceries in the apartment to make a decent meal, but in reality I’d had a glass or two of wine and tipsy me figured “well, I already ate grains and dairy today so SCREW IT!” After settling in with the pup early Saturday afternoon, I went looking for a cup for water (because despite having watched the dog multiple times and having spent countless days and nights in this apartment, I still forget where everything is), and happened first upon a cabinet that contained, among other things, a jar of Nutella and something called “Cookie Chips.” I’d brought some leftover groceries with me and could have stuck closer to my normal diet if I wanted, but for Friday and Saturday I’d decided not to, which led to an interesting revelation on Sunday.

Sunday morning I woke up with what can only be described as a food hangover. My head hurt from all the sugar from a Nutella binge and an impulsive cupcake purchase, my skin was starting to break out from the dairy, and I was experiencing some gnarly stomach cramps due to I’m not even sure what. I wandered out of the guest room (aka my bedroom) in search of an essential oil or antacid or something to help, and found myself in R/H’s bathroom staring at a scale. Now, given my sordid history with anorexia, I do not own a scale and never will – but more often than not, I will still weigh myself if I see one. I know the number doesn’t matter. I know that. But Sunday morning after a delicious night of treats from R and H’s cabinets, their scale said that I was up 10 pounds from the end of Whole30, and seeing that number put me in a mental tailspin. Truly, I haven’t indulged in the Eating Disorder part of my brain in probably a year, but for whatever reason, this time, I did.

Life after an eating disorder is an endless struggle to think a certain way, constantly fighting to remember no, you’re not fat, and food is not scary. Before Whole30 I was really good at disassociating which voice was the eating disorder and which voice was rational thought, because okay, maybe I didn’t need to eat six KitKats from the work candy drawer that day but I won’t feel bad that I indulged in chocolate. During Whole30 I was really conscious about which voice could have been the eating disorder versus which was my body adapting to new meal patterns and eating schedules and the lack of sugar. It’s post-Whole30 where things have blurred; there’s this pull now to stay as close to that diet as possible because it makes a tangible difference in everything from my sleep, to my anxiety, to my work and to yoga, but once I’ve had something non-compliant for the day it turns into an awful cycle of “MIGHT AS WELL EAT EVERYTHING” followed by crippling anxiety about whether that will be the meal that finally makes me fat. Sunday night I sat on the couch for a while staring at a photo I’d put on Instagram earlier, a post-Bikram yoga sweaty shot where I’m in a sports bra, mentally bouncing between Rational Thought and Eating Disorder, and as I felt the panic start to rise, I immediately shut down Instagram and texted my soul sister E, the only person who could calm me down when anorexia rears its ugly head.

“It never really goes away, does it” I told E after we’d talked me down from my Nutella-induced food panic. “No,” she agreed. We talked a little more about how annoying it can be dealing with life post-ED, how one day I’m totally fine letting myself enjoy that third slice of pizza or a KitKat from the candy drawer, and then a week later I’m fighting back tears over a number on a scale. I hadn’t had a food-driven breakdown like this in months, maybe even over a year, and I’m lucky that E was available to help me step back and realize that everything is fine. I’m actually kind of grateful that I went a little crazy on R/H’s cabinets (*with full intentions to replace the Nutella I PROMISE), because I think I was starting to give in to the old rigid food rules that precede a relapse, hiding the anxieties connected to “bad foods” behind Whole30, instead of realizing what was happening and nipping it in the bud.

I’m not going to change my diet or lifestyle following this revelation – I still feel immensely better physically when I’m not eating things like grains and dairy, and frankly I prefer salads and smoothies to pretty much all foods – but this week my goal is to indulge in something every day, and to let myself enjoy it. Maybe it’s more Nutella on a spoon, a soy latte, or a warm croissant from the bakery in Chelsea Market; maybe it’s just an extra piece of fruit in the afternoon and a bigger portion for lunch. If I’ve learned anything else from yoga, aside from how to really shut down the anorexia part of my brain in such a way that dealing with this felt foreign, it’s that everything in life takes constant practice. Growth, after all, only comes after you slide back, fall down hard and still pick yourself up, always working so hard to move forward.

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.

Quick Thoughts: Day 29

Today I woke up like every morning, rolling around for a few minutes before managing to roll myself out of bed, eyes heavily lidded with an interrupted dream and a fervent desire for five more minutes under the thick comforter. Once my feet hit the floor though, I was as awake as I am now, four hours later, working my way through emails before the day really gets going. Like every morning, I made my way to the kitchen where I cleaned a few straggling dishes from food prep all afternoon yesterday and made breakfast, a three-egg blueberry fritatta, half a cucumber sliced and a sweet potato, all while packing a salad with chicken sausage, roasted mushrooms, kale, cucumbers, guacamole and homemade dressing for lunch. I scanned the fridge quickly and decided I’d cook a turkey burger with leftover beet greens and butternut squash for dinner later, something that should only take me 20 minutes since most of the prep is done. After breakfast it was time for a little yoga, then rummaging through my closet to get ready for work, allowing myself a few extra minutes to savor the cool spring breeze drifting through the open windows in the apartment, hinting ever-so-slightly at the warm weather to come, calling memories of picnics in Fort Tryon with a cool glass of wine in a sweating plastic cup.

Today is Day 29 of my very first Whole30. I’ve made it through all the uncomfortable physical milestones, like carb flu and food boredom. I’ve pushed through some personal hurdles, like non-stop working hours and a family emergency. I have prepped every single meal that has gone into my body for 29 days, aside from one client dinner and one lunch at Hu Kitchen with my lovely friend M. I’ve pushed past thoughts like “you shouldn’t eat that much” and “it’s not working for you,” pushed through moments where all I needed was the comfort of a little bit of sugar or just a sip of wine. I haven’t radically altered things in my diet, but even so I’ve learned so much about myself in the past 29 days, and picked up habits I’ll carry with me as long as I can.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and everything will be exactly the same, except by the time I go to sleep, I’ll have accomplished something I never thought I could. It’s kind of crazy, that it’s already been 30 days, and kind of wild to think that this is the longest I’ve gone without sugar and alcohol since who even knows how long. Probably at least ten years. Maybe even more. It’s just 30 days in the grand scheme of things, but through all my planning and research, all my mental preparation, all the difficult times in the past month and all the difficult times I’m facing with a new perspective moving forward, there are things I hated and things I loved, and one huge lesson that I’ve learned: this program can change your life. It’s changed my lovely friend M’s. It’s changed my anchor G’s. And now I can say with absolutely certainty, it’s also changed mine.

Stay tuned for a round-up of lessons learned later this week. In the meantime, starting on Wednesday, I have some wine to drink.

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.

Charmed, I’m sure

A few months back, I was rifling through an old jewelry box while at my parents’ in Connecticut one weekend, and found an old charm bracelet that my parents bought me in middle school. The bracelet itself is flooded with memories, the afternoon my family went down to New York City to shop in the jewelry district and stop at our favorite deli for lunch; how I felt so mature with a real gold bracelet on my wrist, the charms chiming softly as my wrist swayed during the brisk walks along the busy New York Streets. Since I never remember to pack jewelry when I travel, I put it on that afternoon before meeting an old friend for a drink, and eventually made my way back to the city with it dangling on my wrist. It’s worked its way into my everyday accessories slowly, I started wearing it once a week, then a few times, and I’ve noticed now I reach for it almost every day; it’s as integral to my daily routine as grabbing my watch and its now conspicuous in its absence on the days I don’t fasten it. I know the three little charms like the back of my hand – a silver apple, an elephant, and a guardian angel – but it wasn’t until this morning that I remembered why I’d chosen those charms nearly 15 years ago.

Our tastes in everything change constantly, from fashion to food to the people we date. Sometimes I’ll notice I’m in a pink phase, pink hair, pink shoes, pink necklace, and then just a week later looking at pink makes me cringe. For years I couldn’t stand the taste of olives, always trying one when offered but decidedly disliking everything about them until about a year ago, when all of a sudden they became one of my favorite snacks. It certainly applies to the dating pool as well. Now that I’m a few months into a year where I’ve sworn off dating, I’ve had a lot of time to figure out what I might want if I ever decide to date, and it’s almost funny the things that are important to me now that weren’t even on my radar a year ago, like “Must do yoga” and “Must be comfortable with multiple cats.” It’s normal and wonderful to have tastes change, evolve, go somewhere new, and it makes looking back on things, like a tiny elephant I had to have on my bracelet so long ago, really fun.

There’s something nice about the changing tide of likes, dislikes, wants, needs. It’s a part of growth and learning, adapting to new circumstances and all that good stuff. But then again, I’m a creature of habit in many areas, and change is a scary thing. It’s not to say I’m terrified because I’m a fan of olives now, but sometimes, when confronted with so many changes in a period of time, it’s almost difficult to recognize yourself. Last year at this point, I was in a still-new job, things had just faded with The Banker and I had noticed that a cute subway stranger seemed to be on the same train every morning. I didn’t know my ass from my asana, I was rocking some bright blonde hair and I was doing everything I could to wear short sleeves in early spring so I could show off my third tattoo, the newest in my collection. I had totally different ambitions for my life; I had a totally different perspective on what would make me happy, which at the time I thought was “someone else” and “more wine.” It can be panic inducing to realize things evolve without you noticing, and it can be scary to think what it could be like if you ever run into someone who knew what is now the “old” you, how they might react or what they might think.

As my five-year college reunion rapidly approaches, these are the thoughts running through my mind: good change, bad change, so many changes, so many things the same. Next month I’ll see people who I cried with and hugged at graduation and then haven’t seen since, people who don’t know anything aside from what pops up on Facebook. I was running around this morning, trying frantically to do yoga, pack for the weekend, make breakfast, prep lunch/dinner and check email in under an hour, when I stopped and looked at my bracelet quickly. The silver apple hit the light at the perfect angle to spark through my memory and remind me why on earth I thought an apple charm was something special enough to include on my grown-up bracelet. It’s because all those years ago, I shyly told our friend in the Jewelry District that when I grew up, I wanted to live in New York City. He gave me a big smile at this and handed me the charm. “Here’s something to remind you of the Big Apple,” he said, gently putting the bracelet on my wrist. “Now you’ll always remember where you want to be.”

I smiled this morning as I watched the charm dangle on the subway ride, a reminder of how many things change and yet how everything stays the same. I’ve been so looking forward to Reunion next month, a chance to show off all the new tattoos, the red hair, the yoga muscles I’ve worked so hard for this year; a chance to show off how much I’ve changed since the 21 year old who left campus in tears on a sunny Monday in May. Or maybe they’ll look at me and see the exact same person, the loud girl who talks too fast and smiles all the time (usually). Either way, I know for sure, they’ll see a girl with a little charm bracelet, the same bracelet that went from Connecticut in 2001, through Virginia till 2010, and is now back to where it came from in NYC.