Category Archives: Yoga

Day 1, also known as “why I’m not postponing my life changes ’til ‘tomorrow'”

When was the last time you decided to make a life change with diet and/or exercise but you said “I’ll start tomorrow”? And how many times did tomorrow never come? Maybe you have a stronger willpower than I, but I can honestly say that my “tomorrow” life changes have numbered in the thousands so far and I’ve only been on this planet for 23 years. Especially where diet is concerned, we usually arrive at the conclusion that we need to change after scarfing down something greasy or fatty or chocolately, but by that time we’re too far gone–so we postpone ’til tomorrow, because that seems like the reasonable thing to do. We want to start with a clean slate. It’s logical, right?

Something interesting happened yesterday. Let me preface this by saying that I never weigh myself. I know it’s just a number and what matters more is overall health and happiness. If you change your diet for the better and your clothes start to fit looser, that means you’re succeeding in weight loss. Why fret about that number? It will inevitably jump up a pound or two or jump down a pound or two depending on the day. It’s nothing to obsess over. But we do–and I decided to stop obsessing over it. When I moved back to my parents’ after college, I brought my scale with me but it sat on the bathroom floor collecting dust. When I moved out, I left it there. Aside from my most recent doctor visit last year (which taught me enough about the fact that I was starting to pack pounds back on after my 25-pound weight loss), I haven’t weighed myself once. I haven’t even had the urge to.

In my yoga + book club, we talked about scales. My instructor urged us to put the scale away for the week. I thought, this is an easy challenge for me considering I don’t even own a scale! But then, just like telling a child they can’t have candy, I wanted it. I wanted my scale back. I wanted to assign a number to myself. And to be quite honest, I was a little curious! It’s been over a month since I changed over to a vegan diet and I did think maybe my clothes felt a little looser, so I wanted to know–is my number less than it was a year ago?

So when I was at my parents’ this weekend, I picked up my trusty old scale, brought it home with me, and prepared to see “the number.” What happened was this: I have a number in my mind of when I was my heaviest, the number that prompted me to go on Weight Watchers and lose 25 pounds. That number is gross. That number embarrasses me. And yesterday, when I weighed myself, not only was I at that number…I was at that number +8.

A month ago, this would have been devastating. I might have cried. I might have ordered a pizza and binged because what does it matter anymore? But weirdly, I was unfazed. It is not a healthy number by any means. I know that I am overweight. I know that my BMI is higher than the normal range. I know that I need to change. But instead of worrying, or crying, or screaming, or turning to the comfort food in the kitchen, I very calmly stepped off the scale and said, okay! Time to change.

I was so proud of my calm demeanor that I went to yoga and bragged about it to my classmates. We’re reading Women Food and God and we’re all battling with food in our different ways. I sabotage myself with food. I eat when I’m not hungry. I feel guilty all the time. For me, a person who has those feelings laying dormant at all times, to feel comfortable with the number I saw and not have the urge to either a) binge or b) crash diet, is a huge deal. A classmate even said so to me. I’m content.

I had one of the best yoga practices thus far last night. I was completely at peace, the practice was challenging, my body was slightly sore this morning. And then I resolved to do something else I’ve been meaning to but never do: go to the freakin’ gym! One of the perks of my workplace is free membership to the gym downstairs. This was a selling point to me when I was interviewing for the job. A year ago, during my interview process, I thought damn! I’ll have no excuse! I can work out every day for FREE! And I did, for about a month. And then I fell off that wagon just like every time before.

So last night, I carefully packed my gym bag and psyched myself up. I haven’t exercised in nearly a year. That’s not to say that I haven’t gone for walks here and there, but my lifestyle has been largely sedentary. That needs to change. I packed my gym bag and set it by the door so I would see it and not forget it on my way out. I told myself that I am not allowed ANY excuses (because let me tell you, I am the queen of excuses). When I woke up this morning, the excuses were already formulating in my head. From I’m too tired to something as ridiculous as having to carry my purse, coffee AND gym bag down my apartment stairs and to the car in heels is too much of a pain. Yes, I was hearing myself. That is one of the absolute worst excuses I’ve ever heard in my life! I blame my half-awake mind for that one. The important thing is, I did grab the gym bag. I made it down the stairs. I dragged it into the office with me. And after work, I headed to the gym. My church.

I used to love working out, to be honest. I hate to run but I do love the repetitive routine of (other) cardio. It’s a time to listen to music, to be with yourself, to focus on your breathing. The fact that I haven’t made an effort to get my ass to the FREE gym for the past year is embarrassing. There is no excuse for it. No amount of “I’m too tired”s or “I don’t have time”s is acceptable. It takes 30 minutes. I’m actually angry at myself for that fact taking so long to sink into my stubborn little brain.

Today, I also tracked my calories. Not in a crazy-diet way, but just in a curious way. I should be paying attention to my caloric intake and I should be making sure I’m getting enough protein, fruits, veggies. Veganism can be precarious. You have to take responsibility for your diet. After tracking my diet for the day, I’m seeing something else interesting: I am completely full on 1,000 calories. I actually forced down a snack of peanut butter toast and almond milk because, as much as I want to lose weight, I know that 1,000 calories a day won’t be sustainable. I’ll drop weight fast and gain it all back, story of my life. When veganism is done properly, you almost have to fight to meet your body’s caloric needs. Veggies and fruits are so low in calories. You have to make an effort some days to get what your body needs. For instance, today I only had 3 servings of grains. Aren’t you supposed to have 6-12? You have to think about these things!

The point of all of this, I suppose, is teaching yourself to respect your body. When you see a number on the scale, don’t panic. Just resolve to make changes that will make you healthier and happier. I don’t have a number in mind that I want to be–I just know that I want to feel better and have more energy. Eating right and working out is the foundation of that. I am now going to focus on nourishing my body. It needs it!

As an addendum: I can tell already that I’m going to be sore tomorrow. I’m glad I have volunteering after work so I can give my muscles a day to relax before hitting the gym again Wednesday. 🙂 Consider this an “aha!” moment. I’ve never felt more content with the idea of change and I’ve never been so okay with a life in flux. I’m going to get healthy because I need to. Goodbye, sweet Theo bars. (but not completely, of course–deprivation is an evil in its own right!)

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a life in wait.

When I moved out of my parents’ house, I knew the going would be tough. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, and despite everybody’s advice to move into a two-bedroom and split bills with a roommate, I felt that I really needed my own space. I crunched numbers and saved as much as I could for as long as I could and after three months of exhaustive apartment hunting, I found The Place. I really love my apartment but in terms of a location close to work, it’s not. One of the perks of moving out was supposed to be a closer commute, but I ended up staying 10 minutes east of my parents’. This helps me cut the cost of laundry because I take my clothes to their house instead of feeding the coin laundry in the basement and buying detergent, but still. It wasn’t exactly the best choice. The money I save with doing my laundry at their place does not cancel out the money I could save with a roommate or with living closer to work. The other not-financially-savvy aspect is that I live in a 100-year-old building with lots of windows and shitty insulation. It’s a plus in the summer because if I open all the windows, it’s a freaking wind tunnel and I barely need to use the a/c. The winter is another story–my gas bill has been killer.

While I make almost double I was making at my last job, it’s still a very, very modest living. With the cost of commuting (Illinois toll hikes doubling, gas prices constantly fluctuating, the mere hours I spend in the car each day that make me exhausted by the time I arrive home) and a few other financial set-backs (my employer’s medical premium tripled in 2012, my car crapped out on the highway and I needed a new tire, the amount of money I’ve been spending on food as of late for my new vegan diet, the increase in my cable bill as of March when the promo period ends), things have not been easy. I was really looking forward to a big tax refund in order to pay off all my credit card debt and free up the extra $300/month I throw at them.

Last night I sat down to compute my tax refund and while it is a pretty lump sum, it’s about $400 less than I was anticipating. This lead to a 20-something financial breakdown. My boyfriend and I sat down to configure my budget and we found that continuing onward at this rate will only leave me $56 of “entertainment” money per month after rent, bills, credit cards, tolls, gas, dry cleaning, and throwing $100/month into longterm savings, etc., etc. This leaves me a) no room for a social life to speak of, b) no room to do the things I love (yoga), c) no peace of mind. I constantly feel like I am in wait. I am constantly waiting for the next big thing to propel me out of this and I am not living mindfully in the moment, ever. I am constantly looking forward to an eventual promotion, to be thin, to be happy. It’s like completing the equation I think I need will magically transform me into somebody entirely new. What sorcery!

This all corresponds nicely with the reading for this week’s yoga + book club in Women Food and God. Geneen Roth writes:

…[this] is called the ‘ When I Get Thin (Change Jobs, Move, Find a Relationship, Leave this Relationship, Have Money) Blues.’ It’s called the ‘If Only’ refrain. It’s called postponing your life and your ability to be happy to a future date when then, oh then, you will finally get what you want and life will be good.

This is toxic. I am living my life in wait of these things. One day, when I get what I think I want, things are supposed to magically change. Just like I am lulled to sleep nightly imagining an alternate reality where things are different: I am thin, I am pretty, I am interesting, I have a higher degree, I have a better-paying and more-fulfilling job, I am a better friend, I am a better girlfriend. But living this way, we miss all the meat of the in-between.

This is where yoga fits in. Yoga’s purpose is to teach us mindfulness. Yes, it can be a great workout too, but what I glean from it is more on the meditation-side. The peace. The inner, happy solitude. It allows me to come home on Sunday night and feel hopeful, even if it’s only fleeting. I wake up Monday morning tired and unprepared to face the day, the work week, my life. But at least for a minute the night before, I felt entirely at peace with myself. Cutting yoga out because of my $56/month “entertainment” budget is entirely impossible to me at this stage of my life. I have to find a way to fit it in. And I also have to find a way to fit a social life in. My boyfriend and I have been spending our weekends at home watching Netflix (holy shit, United States of Tara is a good show!) and haven’t had actual social time with our friends in weeks, possibly months. We’re not islands. We all have to free up our schedules, finances, and our inclinations to bolt in order to do what’s good for us: we are social animals, we cannot subside entirely on isolation from others.

So today I am looking at life with new lenses. I am appreciating the small, modest bits that I do have. And however much of a financial drain it is to live alone, I love my apartment. It’s so me. I feel like the person I want to be when I’m here. It contains all my worldy possessions–my books, my records, my photographs. My essence. My being.

If you lived here, you’d be home now.

(even if the floors are sloping and creaky.)

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yoga night

Yoga was great last night but I was not. I’ll start with the physical aspect: I f’ed up my shoulder really bad. I slept on it weird on Saturday night and it was a little bit sore all day yesterday. I thought yoga would help heal whatever the issue was but instead it exacerbated it. By 10 pm last night I could barely move my right arm without wincing. I actually asked my boyfriend (in a tired stupor of which I remember nothing) to sleep on the couch because I couldn’t get comfortable with him in the bed. Ugh. I woke up at 5 cold, alone, and sore. I went to get him for the next 45 minutes of glorious sleep and asked why he was out there and he informed me that I had asked him to sleep there. How sad.

Other than that, I enjoy the class a lot but I’m also disappointed in myself for being…me. This class meets for two hours once a week for 7 weeks. We’ll be reading Women Food and God and the first 45 minutes will be for discussion, the next 75 minutes will be for yoga practice. There are six women (including myself) in the class and I am the youngest. I’m used to being the youngest. Besides me, the two youngest are each 30, and then it goes up from there. We went around the room to introduce ourselves, to talk about yoga and what brought us to this class, and I learned so much. There is a breast cancer survivor. There is a first grade teacher. There is a fourth grade teacher. There is a fellow vegetarian who farms for a living. There are people who have had rough years and are trying to start this next year off right. My teacher is fantastic. She also teaches a “plus-size” yoga class and a lot of the women found their way to this class through her. This means that I’m the second thinnest in the class. 1) It’s so rare for me to feel “thin.” 2) Why am I taking inventory of the other women’s bodies? I’m not there to judge them.

So that was disappointment number 1. I was mad at myself for thinking that way.

Disappointment number 2 was how absolutely stupid I sounded when we introduced ourselves. I’m not good in public settings and while there may have only been 7 non-threatening women in the room, I just completely froze up. I anticipated this and that is why I drove around for 10 extra minutes practicing what I would say about myself. It sounded so great when I articulated it in the space of my car. In the space of the studio, I mumbled, I was awkward, I said something about how I might be transitioning to a vegan diet and how I put on a lot of weight in college that I’m trying to lose and I made mention of having “food issues,” which I left open-ended. I felt stupid. I felt like I could have opened up more. And I don’t want the other women to think I’m in this class to lose weight. I am not going to lose weight in this class. This is a gentle hatha yoga, I didn’t even break a sweat. I am there for peace of mind. I am there to read this book and discuss my deep-seated issues with food, with self-esteem, with body image. I don’t want them to look at me and see a 23-year-old who vaguely resembles some dippy teeny-bopper. I want to be taken seriously, but I did not present myself in a way to be taken seriously!

I left yoga feeling like this is the whole problem in my life. I think I’m not good enough, then I act in a way that presents myself like I’m not good enough, and then I get nowhere. All I can do with this is acknowledge it and try harder next time. I’m trying harder every day. I’m trying to not feel extreme sadness or extreme anger, I’m trying not to flirt with disaster, I am trying to be stable and rational and steady. Rock steady. I’m trying to be more open, I’m trying to be more social. If we want to take anything positive away, at least I spoke of my vegan plans aloud, in real life, in the company of others. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone yet besides my boyfriend. Considering the fact that my coworker mentioned this morning that she forgot the red velvet cupcakes she was planning on bringing in, which was a narrowly-avoided social minefield, I suppose I should start “coming out” if I’m serious about this.

My yoga teacher exudes such confidence and joy, like she is completely at peace with herself. I envy her that. I keep meeting these kinds of people that feel like their switch is always on. Do you know how much effort it is for me to act that upbeat and perky for just one hour? Imagine how difficult it would be to live an entire life that way, and having cynical bitter bitches like me mouthing off to their friends “what does SHE have to be so happy about?” Happiness is a coveted treasure—we all want it, but somehow, when we don’t have it, we are sickened by those that do. I wish I could be that happy, upbeat person but the effort it takes is so…sizeable. I don’t know if I have what it takes to always be “on.” But I’m going to try a little bit with each passing day.

I think yoga can help with this. I think it all starts with living mindfully. And I need to learn to stop beating myself up—that’s something people keep saying to me. I guess I should start listening.

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