Yes, I’ve Gained Weight

Yes, I’ve gained weight. In 3-years, I’ve gained 50-pounds and 30-lbs were gained over the last 4-months alone. And no, I’m not pregnant.

Believe it or not, I have a harder time looking at the picture on the left than the right. It was taken 3-months after my sister’s passing and I was already starting to feel a significant decline in all of the activities and pursuits that brought me joy. Let me tell you, that girl on the left was feeling an intense amount of guilt and regret. I had spent the prior year obsessively trying to perfect my body and my new vision of health. It required dedication that meant isolation, turning down opportunities to spend time with friends and family, which included my sister. I still question whether or not it was worth it, because I would give it all back in a heartbeat for just one last moment with my sister. As for the girl on the right, would you hire her to help you get into better shape? Would you trust her? I didn’t think so. You’re probably wondering what happened. As a fitness professional, I have the knowledge, the tools and the motivation. How did I gain that much weight so quickly? The answer is simple, yet complicated.

Sometimes we avoid talking about our reality because we feel vulnerable or shameful or we simply don’t want to focus on the negative energy. However, there is important work that needs to happen to overcome our struggles and it starts with awareness and acceptance. It’s starts with admitting that we are simply not happy. Being wounded is a universal event. Everyone is a little broken or damaged in this experience of life; some conceal it better than others. I’m a self-proclaimed master, but I can’t conceal the pain any longer.

Most people don’t realize that your relationship with your body affects your entire life. Why? Because if you’re fighting with your body, you‘re fighting with yourself. And if you’re fighting with yourself, you’re resisting what you truly desire in life at the cost of your personal happiness. I know all too well what it feels like to fight with your body; I’ve been doing it for the past 4-years and the worst battles have taken place over the last few months. And the more I fought with my body for gaining weight, the more weight I actually gained.

Life became a complete disaster this year. On top of being crushed under the weight of grief, I also found myself heart-broken, dealing with a break-up that left me feeling depressed, resentful and frustrated. In addition to teaching 7-days/week with no recovery for my body, I developed a terrible case of insomnia. On a good night, I managed to get 4-hours of sleep. This only led to the rapid deterioration of my health and further weight gain. I was burned out and all of my decision-making energy was used up. I had nothing left to take care of myself. You know the rest of the story — my weight started to increase, the muscles got a little flabby and eventually, my clothing didn’t fit. I hated to look at myself, but the view in the mirror was hardly the worst part; I was ashamed. How could I allow this to happen to me? And the worst part was hearing about it — around gyms, on social media. People can be so ignorant and cruel; I’ve spent more hours crying in the bathroom than I’d like to admit.

It’s no secret that a stressful environment is not conducive for anything positive, yet so many people live each day in a stressed out body, wondering why they can’t release their weight and feel lighter. Then to make matters worse, they obsess over their food and spend hours at the gym without even taking a moment to breathe. Less is more. Sometimes reducing stress, increasing recovery time or improving our physical environment can be just as important as nutrition and exercise. Unfortunately, most information the average person has learned about fitness/wellness is horribly incorrect. And here’s one truth that I know for sure, you cannot get well in the environment that made you sick. So, I’ve recently made some difficult choices to change my schedule; I’ve recommitted to my mental/emotional healing.

When you let yourself be in your body without needing to have a different one, you release the resistance and have the ability to move forward toward a life you truly desire. When you are desperately clinging to a different body with all your might, convinced that this is what will bring you all the happiness, contentment, and love in the world, you will find that an alternate physical appearance simply doesn’t create the internal feelings you are after.

So, this is where I am — on a new journey of self-acceptance, attempting to create the most peaceful environment for my body as possible. And in order for me to find acceptance for myself, I need to feel. I’ve gone so many years feeling completely numb to everything, which makes this a completely terrifying process. When we ignore what we feel, we think we can make it go away. But that logic never serves us; avoidance never serves us. I’m learning that when I can admit that I’m pissed off, frustrated and down right unhappy with my body, I can release the resistance, call off the fight and move toward an overall feeling of lightness. It’s going to be a long, arduous process and I can’t wait to share my story as it unfolds.


Note to Self, Age 18

Dear One,

Happy 18th Birthday!

There is nothing I can say to prepare you for where life will take you in the next 20-years. You‘re going to have experiences you never imagined possible or plausible that will take you to both the greatest heights and the darkest depths of your heart. I know you have an amazing plan for the future, but that plan will change at least a hundred times. Because within a few years, your greatest fears will become reality and you will forever be changed by them.

You’ll feel like a hot mess, completely lost and broken in a way that seems impossible to remedy. There will be multiple occasions where you will feel like you can’t go on. Trust that you will survive, knowing that part of the process demands giving yourself permission to breakdown. You are strong, stronger than you know and stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for.

I really want to tell you specifics, if only to prepare you and spare some of your tears. I want to tell you where you should try harder, hold on longer and not give up. I want to tell where you should cut your losses and just let go. I want to tell you when to be less stubborn and how to take care of yourself when the unspeakable happens. But I can’t do that; it wouldn’t be fair. You need to experience these things, the heartaches and the devastating blows. These are the hard knocks that will forge your resiliency; each one is a beautiful gift. I know you’re in a tremendous amount of pain and feel so alone right now, but this pain will become your purpose in life. Eventually, your broken heart will help others find healing. For that, I am extremely proud.

I know you’ve always struggled with the idea that people actually want you in their lives. And here’s the truth, love doesn’t have to feel difficult or like a fight. It‘s easy for you to love, and when you love, you love hard. This isn’t a negative thing; it’s an endearing quality you have always possessed. Embrace it, but know that accepting love is just as important as giving it. At the moment, you’re a natural at the latter and terrible at the former. Guess what? I still am. When someone gives you a compliment or tells you how amazing they think you are, thank them. Believe them. Let that belief sink into your soul and wrap your inner critic with loving kindness and an unwavering belief in yourself. Because you are worthy. You are enough. And you are always surrounded by unconditional love.

Honestly, I could continue to write for days. I could write page after page about all that you have to offer the world, about how many lives you will impact. Stop forgetting so easily. Get messy and make mistakes. Be present and find the joy in every moment. Smile often. Love harder. And trust, just trust.

Love Always,

Me


Burnout, 2018

Being sick and rendered completely incapacitated for over a week has been a blessing. I’ve had the opportunity to do some serious soul-searching, to dig way down deep and own the truth of this breakdown.

Determination to find external validation over the past 3-years has led me to say yes to many things that didn’t serve me, such as working 7-days/week with no time-off, stepping in to cover classes at the last minute, cancelling plans with friends to accommodate work, taking on projects that were outside of my responsibilities, doing volumes of unpaid work and answering calls/texts in the middle of the night. In spite of the mountain of stress I was carrying, I kept taking on more and more because I wanted to make myself indispensable. This is how I processed my grief. This is how I avoided my grief.

Proud of my stamina and ability to go above and beyond, I disregarded all signs of burnout. Instead, I learned to endure. I felt a sharp shot of adrenaline whenever I worked harder, longer or more. There was no pause button; I couldn’t relax because I had to prove myself. I needed to prove my worth, my value and my right to exist in this space. My perfectionism kicked into overdrive; I micro-checked every single detail, I became frantic over things that were beyond my control and I felt like an extreme failure if I couldn’t deliver what I believed was an impeccable product. Being good wasn’t good enough and mistakes were intolerable. I created an illusion of super-functionality, but inside, I was suffocating.

What if I gave myself the permission to soften? To let my self-imposed push to shift softly back to 90%. Perhaps, that would leave some space for the contribution of the extra 10% to come from the forces of nature, to come from friends and colleagues that are eager to help. This doesn’t mean that I need to stop striving or lower my standards, just open myself up to trusting the notion that I’ll be okay no matter what. Trusting that it’s okay to process my grief, to go through it and feel every single emotion, no matter how painful.

Our bodies are always trying to tell us when things are not quite right. It may bubble up as feelings of anxiety or in other physical manifestations. When we go at 100%, we leave no room to breathe, for growth, for recovery, for space. Time to make some important changes — to make the decision to say no more often and to put myself first, for the very first time.


Spring Awakening

On this Easter Sunday, I am contemplating rebirth and renewal. For most of my life, I have tried to simply forget and move on, without actually letting go. But I have slowly learned that part of letting go is embracing, honoring and holding onto the memory’s wisdom.

I will always be removing layers; the death of an identity is like the shedding of armor, which exposes the vulnerable spaces and opens the heart in ways I couldn’t have imagined without the loss. This process of losing an identity is always excruciatingly painful, but eventually leads to more peace, clarity and magic than I knew was possible. It is clear to me then, that there is an emotional and spiritual rebirth that takes place when we consciously let go. This rebirth is essentially becoming who we are meant to be; this is the uncovering of our essence.

Any transition means the loss of one thing in order to move into what is next. That loss must be grieved, felt and experienced in order to let go of it and be fully heart-open to embrace what’s next. Moving through the waves of change develops a faith and trust that everything will be okay, that the Universe will support and guide us. And yet when we are at our lowest of lows, trusting can be the hardest thing we will do. We want to feel better now. We search for a quick fix to feel better. We crave some way to not feel the gnawing fear. We resist losing control.

But my experience has been that losing control is exactly what I needed to do — to allow myself to be enveloped in uncertainty, to melt down into nothingness for a new version of me to emerge. If I fight and resist the pain of the loss, then I will get stuck there and I won’t allow the light of my soul to write the story of my destiny. If I keep holding on to what my ego fears that it won’t be or have anymore, I will be holding back the magic that is trying to be birthed. If I allow my heart to open, I can fall in love with myself and the limitless possibilities in front of me. By letting go, I am allowing myself to be launched into a new experience of life with opportunities I could never have imagined. Opportunities that I wouldn’t have seen because my eyes weren’t focused. Because letting go is putting all of your eggs in one basket; it’s the greatest risk for the greatest reward.

Today, my heart is over-flowing with gratitude. As I mourn the losses and celebrate rebirth, I acknowledge who I am today. I am who I am because of those previous versions of myself, masks and all. I have not lost them; they remain within me as the many facets of my love.


Getting Back on Track

For over 25-years, I suffered in silence from health complications related to severe autoimmune disease. Over 5-years ago, I completely removed gluten, dairy and soy from my diet; I also made the discovery that I had Celiac Disease. In 2014, I took my nutritional journey a step further and removed the other major allergens (sugar, grains, legumes, corn, eggs, caffeine and alcohol) and monitored my intake of nightshades and goitrogens for 10-months. I felt incredible and managed to run two of my fastest half-marathons while eating this way. After my last race of the season and the passing of my sister that October, life started to fall apart and I found myself completely lost.

Coping with grief gave me very little bandwidth and self-care, including decisions about how to fuel my body, became a difficult struggle. I decided to let go of the control and live by the 80/20-rule, creating what I thought was a sustainable balance in my approach to nutrition. As life became more and more stressful last year, my health rapidly deteriorated. My immune system was completely compromised and I gained over 25-pounds within a very short period of time. On most days, my body felt completely worn out and I developed spontaneous muscle spasms and debilitating nerve pain that caused several accidents and falls. It was a very scary 6-month period and I went through it alone, hiding my pain and discomfort from friends and colleagues. In all honesty, I don’t know how I was able to continue teaching through it all.

Unfortunately, having autoimmune disease makes me an exception to the rule. And because I’m stubborn, I learned the hard way that there is no space for the 80/20-rule in my world; I need to be at 100% to perform optimally and feel my best. Right now, I’m 100% focused on giving my body what it needs through proper nourishment. And that means fully accepting the fact that the 80/20-rule doesn’t apply to someone with my background and health history. With that said, I’m back to my “normal” way of eating — a moderately flexible paleo-diet, no sugar (including fruit), no caffeine and no alcohol; monitoring intake of nightshades and goitrogenic foods; being mindful of sourcing and eating locally.

It was perseverance and utter stubbornness that helped me to not lose sight of what truly matters — rebuilding my attitude toward a healthy lifestyle and forming new habits from scratch. At times, it felt impossible. But overcoming these obstacles was the key factor in challenging my perception and embracing this new lifestyle.

And guess what? After 21-days of following autoimmune protocols, inflammation is down and I’ve already released 9-pounds! My sleep quality has greatly improved and my energy levels are stable. Physically, I feel amazing and I’ve only had one flare-up of nerve pain in 3-weeks. If I feel this good after 21-days, I can’t wait to see how I feel in a few months.


Today, I Choose Brave

Everything is going to be alright; maybe not today, but eventually. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. And you might feel like you will be stuck in that rut forever, but you won’t. Everything is as it should be.

It’s crazy how you always end up where you’re meant to be — how even the most tragic and stressful situations eventually teach you important lessons that you never dreamed you were going to learn. And sometimes you learn that the disappointments in life are truly blessings in disguise. Having nothing will allow you to appreciate everything. It’s failing miserably over and over again that will allow you to succeed. Failing is one of the greatest things in the world, as it reminds us how imperfect we are. It reminds us how much we need to learn in order to become the people we truly wish to be. Because sometimes the life you’re leading is so far from the life you are meant to be living that losing everything is the only way you can make it out on top.

The moment you realize that not even loss itself can stop you, that sadness, despair, anger and fear cannot hold you back, is the moment you become perfect. Perfectly flawed, but perfect nonetheless. I acknowledge that the biggest failures in my life have become some of my greatest assets. After experiencing a major disappointment last night, I immediately turned my heart towards gratitude and found my strength again.

I am a strong and independent person — to a terrible fault. In the pursuit of self-sufficiency and survival, I build walls around what I really need and want. But I’m quickly learning that there is strength in softness. Finding the courage to keep my heart open and ask for what I need is an on-going challenge, but I’m always pleasantly surprised by the results. I need to honor my sensitivity. I need community, friendship, companionship and love. I need understanding, affection and touch. I need passion, desire and spontaneity. I need to feel cherished and supported. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to ask for these things and I always have the choice to walk away from relationships when those needs are not being met.

So in the end, I choose brave. Because we always have the choice between courage and comfort; we can’t choose both.


Let It Be Easy

Recently, circumstances of my life have unfolded in such a way that I can no longer remain in the known and things can no longer go according to a plan. It’s not until you’re standing naked and vulnerable with all that you thought you knew stripped away, that you really are forced to practice, live and breathe that profound level of trust.

I have struggled with faith my entire life. Trusting the unknown. Trusting family, friends and significant others. Trusting myself. Trusting that if I let go of control and the white-knuckled grip, I will be safe and my needs will be met. I’ve made substantial progress on this particular journey over the past few years. But the strengthening in my faith has not come from trying to attain it or by working to become more trusting. Rather, it has naturally arisen as a result of coming to know myself in a greater, deeper and much more profound way.

Because when you walk with faith, you walk with feeling. You make decisions based on your delicate inner whispers, the energy that tugs at your heart and calls you towards what you love. What others say becomes irrelevant; nothing sways you. To live with faith is to know who you truly are. And there is a fine line between letting energy flow and grasping too tightly to intention. There’s an ease and grace with allowing; there’s no need to force an outcome. It’s hard to remember this at the beginning of the year when everything is go, go, go — resolutions, goals, change this, change that, new year, new you. It’s a forced, frenetic energy. What if it was all easy? Why do we choose to make things so complicated?

Today, I release the need to know, control or to see any further ahead than this very moment, right now. It will be easy and I will enjoy the ride.