Cycling

There’s nothing worse than being unhappy: it drains your energy, makes you moody, and generally affects your home life. To avoid this situation, learn to be grateful for, and enjoy the things that surround you every day. Doing so will ensure that your life will be a happy one.

The above sentiment is beautiful, isn’t it. There is nothing worse than being unhappy, nothing worse than feeling like you hate everything and everyone and you can’t even define why sometimes; there is no feeling quite like stewing in anger and negativity, desperate to lift yourself out of it but staying firmly rooted in anger or anything else. When I read that for the first time, it really struck me, and I read it over and over until finally pasting it into a draft blog post, both because I wanted to remember those words on the days where they would come in handy, and because I could feel the slow bubble of inspiration forming, not because I knew what I was going to write about them quite yet, but because I knew someday that slow percolation of inspiration would eventually boil over into words I couldn’t wait to share.

So it will probably surprise you to know that the above sentiment is actually just my horoscope from a few weeks ago.

I read my horoscope every day. I don’t live and die by the words, and I don’t take them as fact, but I think they’re silly, and fun, and every once in a while mine will be scarily accurate. I think a common misconception about horoscopes is that they’re supposed to tell your future, like a daily fortune cookie, feeding into our constant desire to have someone else make the decisions, a disillusion with the random nature of reality. Things like horoscopes are meant to inspire your day, provide that little bit of motivation, yes I actually was feeling a little unhappy today and you know what, it is really taxing to feel that way. I’ve always been interested in astrology on a fun yet serious level, because shit really does get screwy when Mercury is in retrograde and I have found a sense of calm on the eve of a new moon, the signal that a new cycle in the random acts of life is about to begin. And for reasons that will become clear in November, I’ve been tracking the lunar phases lately to try and understand how the different phases play into the moving pieces of our lives.

This is the part where you tell me that astrology is bullshit and made-up, like a psychic hotline that promises to tell you when you’ll fine twue wuv for the simple price of $14.99 a minute. And I’d agree that anyone professing to see and know the future is probably out for quick cash. But step away from the hooey for a minute and there’s actually some logic to the argument that these planetary movements affect our lives. The moon controls the rise and fall of the tides; these timings can change when the sun rises and sets and in that, when we feel it’s time for bed. It pulls the earth along an axis that spins around in the same pattern, random and beautiful, just like the moving pieces of our lives. There’s a chaos in the order of the calm, steady nature of a cyclical change.

There’s not much to this post, no lesson learned, no life experience to compare to reading horoscopes and waiting for the next new moon, which conveniently happens right around the time that everything in my life might change completely or stay exactly the same. I suppose I could watch my horoscope to determine which way those winds may blow, live and die by the words by a skeptical psychic making money peddling moon signs to strangers. But no – instead I’ll keep watching for words like the ones above and save them for when I need a little burst of inspiration, keeping in mind that no matter what happens at the crux of the next full moon, to stay unhappy and to put your future in someone, or something, else’s hands, is the surest way to drive back to the unhappiness that started this whole stream of thought.

Update: I have no idea what’s going on with the font here……… 

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.

Sugar, Sugar

Back towards the end of February, I was casually stalking my own Instagram when I saw that I’d posted two pictures in Locust Pose within two weeks of each other. I had some time to kill, as I was waiting for feedback on something for work before heading home for the night, so I edited the photos next to each other and was really surprised to see a noticeable difference in my backbend – in just 11 days! I posted the picture, and then put my phone down, checking in a few hours later when a notification came up that my anchor G had left me a comment. She left me a really sweet note, one I’ve gone back to read a few times, asking questions like how long I practice every day, and closing with something I hear somewhat frequently after people find out I’m a yoga nerd: “Help me, I’m inflexible.” Knowing she’s usually game for a dare, I posed a challenge to G: starting on March 31, she completes the Erin Motz/Do You Yoga 30-day Challenge on YouTube that inspired my entire yoga practice, and I’ll finally complete my first round of Whole30.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the Whole30 program, it’s essentially a 30-day reset that’s intended to remove irritating foods from your diet and give your gut a chance to heal before re-introducing foods slowly to determine what and how different types of foods affect your body. It’s a simple premise: for 30 days, cut out dairy, legumes, grains, preservatives and sugar, and focus on eating whole foods: meats, fruits, vegetables and good fats. The point is to break the cycle of mindless eating and snacking, and focus on good things that complement your body chemistry instead of aggravating it. G was the first of my friends to discover the program and give it a shot, but admittedly (and sorry G!), my lovely friend M is the one who’s really pushing me to finally commit to a full round. M has completely transformed not just her diet, but her whole life through five rounds of Whole30 in the past year; it inspires her the same way that yoga inspires me. We’ve even piggybacked on each other’s new obsessions, with M joining me for yoga classes and challenges every week, and me slowly adapting the principles of whole foods into my everyday diet too.

The big question I get from people when they find out I’m doing this starting next week is why. “You’re already thin!” (Because no one looking to improve their well-being ever did so from motivation that wasn’t weight loss), “Are you still allowed to have wine?” (Did you just ask me if alcohol was involved in a body detox?) and the big one: “But if you already don’t eat most of those, why bother?” It’s a valid question, and for the most part, it’s true – I won’t necessarily be changing my regular diet that drastically. But despite all the other changes in my diet and my life, there’s one little thing I just can’t seem to give up on my own: sugar. Sugar, you delicious, delicious devil. It’s not even that I eat sugar or sugary things all the time – I drink coffee and tea black and I’m not really a dessert person. But I have two massive downfalls in the sugar spiral: I can’t say no to the chocolate drawer at work, and god dammit I love my wine.

I mean, let’s just take a minute to appreciate a few things quickly. THERE IS A FULL DRAWER IN MY OFFICE FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE. Mini Snickers and Take 5s, Halloween-sized Hershey’s and sometimes if we’re good there’s a stash of Twix. Perhaps people exist who can enjoy a single piece of indulgence from that black hole of cocoa goodness, but I promise you I’m not one of them. On a normal day I’ll work through at least six to eight pieces of candy, and on a bad day, I stop counting when it hits double digits. Getting to the kitchen and the bathroom requires passing the magical chocolate drawer and I swear there’s a silent siren song every time you’re in it’s wake for “just one more piece.” And that’s not even the bad one. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITHOUT MY WINE. Stupid alcohol sadly breaks down into sugar in the body, which means no wine, no whiskey, and no poor life… well okay, I make stupid decisions when I’m not drunk too. I mean look, I’m not saying I’m a booze hound who can’t go a month without getting plastered, but there is nothing quite like winding down at the end of a long day of work with a glass of red wine and something on Netflix. 30 days sounds like a lot of time to have to face life’s pressures with a clear head, instead of talking to Mr. Goodbar and some pinot noir about them.

So why bother? Because beyond the promise to G, I’m actually really looking forward to this. First, my body needs a reset, badly. The insanity that has been March at work meant most of my meals this month were delivered, and while we obviously could have made healthy take-out choices, we decidedly did not make those choices, especially not during Hell Week last week. Beyond work, the last time I went out-out, I blacked out like a college freshman and apparently, according to the grapevine because memory serves nothing, made out with a friend’s friend’s sort-of ex (oops). And on top of everything else, working 16 hours per day plus weekends has cut into my normal yoga practice, leaving me tight-muscled and cranky – a reset in all things will do wonders, I think. It goes beyond clearing the gunk out of my body that’s accumulated in the past month though. I think part of me has been pushing doing a full Whole30 because I was worried for a long time that it may stir up some long-dormant feelings from my eating disorder, like I would start with good intentions and end by taking everything too seriously. It’s that reason, more than the others, that I feel like I owe it to myself to give the 30 days a shot. After all, what better way to face the dragon head-on than with 30 days by someone else’s food rules.

The people who “created’ Whole30 have a saying to help put the program into perspective: “Giving birth is hard. Beating a heroin addition is hard. Drinking your coffee black for 30 days is. not. hard.” It’s a great way to put the program into perspective for a lot of people, but honestly, it doesn’t really apply to me. I’ve never given birth or fought a drug addiction, and I’ve always loved my coffee black. So from March 31 through April 29, instead of holding on to their words when I’m desperate for a glass of pinot and a piece of chocolate, I will remind myself of three things: (1); If M can do this five times in a year, I can do this once. (2): If G can suffer through 30 days of yoga, I can suffer with seltzer for 30 days. And (3): Beating anorexia is hard. Leaving the person you thought was the love of your life is hard. Laying off the wine and sugar for 30 days is. not. hard. And plus, if I’ve learned anything from the hard stuff I’ve lived through in the past few years, it’s so much sunnier on the other side.