Don’t Let The Mirror Steal Your Joy

Real talk tiiiiiiime.

Last week, I completed a fun workout outside. I think it was this one:

5 rounds
  • run the cul-de-sac (~200m)
  • 60 sec squat jump with knee up twist (15#)
  • 60 sec v-ups
  • 60 sec down dog spiderman pushups
  • 60 sec reverse lunge with kick (30#)
  • 30 sec side plank right
  • 30 sec side plank left

It involved running, so you know I felt extra accomplished when I finished. I was hot and tired, but I also felt energized and strong.

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But then I looked in the mirror, and all of a sudden I didn’t feel as satisfied with my workout anymore. I honestly think I’d been watching too many Crossfit videos that weekend, so all I had been looking at were bodies like Stacie Tovar’s:

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I’m obviously not as fit as a Crossfit Games athlete (or almost any Crossfitter, for that matter), but when I looked in the mirror, I subconsciously compared my body to fitter, leaner bodies.

And that stole my joy.

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We’ve talked about the comparison trap 1000000 times on this blog, but it never seems to fade away (for me at least). Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that I am in a healthier place than ever, mentally. But it’s still important to realize that aspiring for thinness OR fitness can be dangerous (← great article from Spoon University).

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In other words, aspiring for another person’s body (seeing someone else’s body as #goals) is denying yourself the opportunity to realize the amazing things about your body and what you can do.

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If I let myself define my workouts by how I look afterwards, I will end up miserable, and working out will become merely a means to an “end”— to have a certain physique (which is actually not an end because physical aesthetic alone is never fulfilling IMHO).

This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t set goals, but I think there’s a difference between setting goals to be like someone else and setting goals to be the best version of yourself at this stage in your life.

Even with that perspective though, how can you tell what “your best” is? Am I not doing “my best” right now just because I’m not pushing myself to lift the heaviest weights possible, to run more, or to eat less sugar? Maybe. But I’m going to say that I am doing my best, because I have other priorities ahead of fitness (that is, fitness that goes above and beyond basic fitness for health) towards which I devote my time and energy as well.

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Since I’ve been working out when I feel like it and in a way that feels right for my body on each day, I’ve truly come to love working out. When I started this blog almost three years ago, I probably said that I loved working out, but I don’t think I truly did. I was still forcing myself to work out when I didn’t want to and to do workouts that were way too intense for what I needed that day.

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throwback to when I went to New York Sports Club in high school

This also doesn’t mean that you should never work out if just because you don’t feel like it. However, if there is one Pinterest quote I am willing to share over and over again, it’s this one:

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So cheers to moving and grooving…

…whether that’s running or walking…push-ups on your knees or clapping push-ups…air squats or heavy squats.

…whether you have a cut six-pack or a “muffin top” with those spandex capris…a perky butt or a cellulite-dimpled butt…biceps or no biceps (I happen to have the latter on all three of these)…

Don’t let the mirror steal your joy. Let exercise itself be your jam, not just “the body” (whatever that is to you).

So tell me:

Have you ever let the mirror steal your joy after a workout?

Other thoughts! 

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99.9% Recovery

I don’t think I quite intended Daily Moves and Grooves to be a blog focused on eating disorder recovery.

I wanted this blog to be about healthy food, fitness, faith, and my life in general. However, given the fact that my past eating disorder is what ultimately gave way to the whole “healthy living blog” world, that part of my life almost necessarily made its way into the theme of my blog.

It’s not always easy sharing my eating disorder stories and struggles here, but it’s been a humbling and motivational journey (all thanks to YOU) blogging about recovery— the good days and the bad days.

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one of the first meals I ever posted on my blog

A few weeks ago, a reader emailed me about how she feels that there are very few truly recovered/recovering people. She {reasonably} wondered: Is full recovery even possible?

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real ice cream and gelato // no protein, no stevia // all fat and sugar, all goodness

I thought this particular reader brought up a great point. It seems that many recovering people restore a great relationship with food, only to turn their obsession towards exercise or “getting big”. You may or may not have drawn this conclusion yourself if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, but I can tell you that I’ve struggled with that myself.

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I like to think that I am 100% recovered, but in reality, I am closer to 99.9% recovered. I feel like this is where a lot of people in recovery stay for a long time, if not, for the rest of their lives.

The truth is that we do remember calorie counts for many foods. We do care about what our bodies look like. We do want to have control over something.

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that extremely proud moment when I ordered an entree of gnocchi (aka pure carbs) at an Italian restaurant // I still sometimes have trouble ordering JUST pasta these days

Don’t get me wrong— caring about what goes into your body, exercising, and being mindful are all good things. There is balance, and I know many people who live truly balanced lives— not merely in their actions that everyone else can see, but in their minds as well. It’s certainly not easy to reach this point for anyone, so I think that it will always be especially difficult for people with history of an eating disorder.

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Now, you might be thinking: Isn’t occasionally worrying about food and exercise what people are supposed to do to be truly balanced anyway? Why should that be classified as 99.9% recovered?

Well, you’re right. Normal people should be mindful of nutrition and exercise. It’s called health. But they don’t really worry about it. In MY case at least, food and exercise choices are sometimes driven by judgements on my own body image or old habits that resurface.

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More often than not, I don’t care about calories, I eat what I want, and I can skip a workout without any problem. However, there are days when eating more or skipping workouts doesn’t come easily or without thought.

Maybe you can reach 100% recovery, or maybe you have! I am so genuinely happy for those who do. This post is just my two cents based on my experiences, and I have concluded that I might be at 99.9% for a while.

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That being said, I believe that it is okay to live 99.9% recovered. As with any temptation in life, even though we feel like eating more/cutting down on exercise/etc. is difficult at times, that does not mean that we lack the strength to make the right decisions for our bodies.

It’s a cross that we bear, but it’s a part of who we have become.

Again, I want to thank you all for being so supportive and loving, even in my times of weakness. In 100% honesty, I couldn’t get through to this point of even 99.9% recovered without you. I thank God for your love every day.

So tell me:

If you’ve struggled with disordered eating, do you feel like you are 99.9% recovered?

Do you think people can truly reach 100% recovery? Or have you?

Any thoughts at all!

Reflecting on My Exercise…Again

Deep breath. This post is important.

I’ll start by saying this: I genuinely enjoy exercise. I have learned this past semester especially (through my anatomy course and just through lack of time to work out) that I truly love exercising because it is a blessing to be able to move, sweat, produce endorphins, and do something good for my body. I no longer see it (primarily) as a way to burn calories or “look good.”

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While my relationship with exercise has improved during my freshman year of college though, one thing has not. My period. (Sorry, TMI for the fellas.) This is straight-face talk, and it’s very similar to my talk on this blog about a year and a half ago. I haven’t had my cycle in nine months, and I’m sure that my amenorrhea (absence of menstruation for an unusually long period of time) is due to a combination of school stress and— unfortunately—exercise stress. My history with an eating disorder very likely contributes as well.

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Another big reason why I think exercise is causing my amenorrhea is because I got my cycle last summer after only walking and doing yoga and eating more for a couple months. However, I have a hunch that I jumped back into intense exercise way too quickly, and although I had this hunch all year during school, I was in denial.

Finally, after reading Emily’s post about amenorrhea and Julia’s post about how she gave up exercise, I realized that I’m definitely putting too much stress on my body. Those two ladies are incredible— humble, honest, and inspiring. Ashley, Sam, and Courtney also have experience with hypothalamic amenorrhea, and they have been amazing resources.

(If you’re wondering why I don’t just check with my doctors, it’s because I did that last year for this same reason. All of them say my bone density is fine, my thyroid is fine, my weight is fine. They say exercise is fine, but I know in the depths of my being that my current exercise regime is not fine. See this article for more information.)

Even though I view exercise in a healthy way currently, I’m eating plenty, and I feel 100% healthy, I’m not actually quite where I need to be. Honesty is the best policy here on Moves and Grooves, and honestly, there has been pride involved in all of this too. All my friends see me as a healthy and active person, so if I stop exercising intensely, I feel as though I will lose this “image” that they all have of me.

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But I must remember that ultimately, fitness is not about lifting myself up— it’s about taking care of my body in order to lift up glory to God. Fitness is not what makes a person beautiful, and I firmly believe that. I have to believe that about myself too.

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So what am I going to do?

  1. Eat more. Like, EEEEEAAAAAATTTTT.
  2. Decrease exercise and intensity. Only walking, yoga, low impact bodyweight strengthening (barre/pilates). No burpees.
  3. Gain weight (fat, not just muscle).
  4. Pray.

Yes, I’m bummed. Yes, I question whether this is even worth it. What woman wants a period anyway? But alas, it’s important, and I don’t want my lack of menstruation to have future repercussions on my health/fertility. I am beyond thankful that I still have the sheer ability to move.

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For a while, I was disappointed that I would lose my fitness progress that I had worked so hard for in the past couple years. I’ll be losing some stamina, endurance, and strength. However, I realized that I have come to love the journey of reaching fitness goals, not just the result. I have learned to appreciate and celebrate progress. So wherever my body is when I start increasing my exercise again, I will hopefully be less frustrated with my slow start.

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Thank YOU for your support, encouragement, inspiration, and prayers. If you ever need a friend to talk to about this issue, email me at dailymovesandgrooves@gmail.com.

Hope you all have an awesome day!

So tell me: Whatever you’d like. 🙂

Beauty.

I think it’s that time of year when I need to start carrying around an emergency frisbee, because hallelujah, the weather is gorgeous.

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Seriously— God is SO good! We are in the season of Easter and finally the season of beautiful spring weather! I’ve literally been bouncing around like a spring lamb because I’m so freaking happy that the sun is out and warm.

I am currently typing this outside in shorts and a T-shirt, overlooking the Charles River. Although, I should probably leave soon because I haven’t gotten used to putting on sunscreen yet. #sunscreensafetyfirst

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promise I’m not trying to be inspirational with the chapter title

Besides the beauty of the sunshine and warmth, I have encountered a heck of a lot of beauty these past few days. Some not-as-serious things to start…

Dancing.

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{courtesy of my girl Alejandra<— must say it with flare or else you’re not saying it right}

Here you see my friends and I off to a funk dance party, hence Albert’s fro. If a funk dance party doesn’t scream MOVES AND GROOVESI have no idea what does. Some of my moves and grooves may not have been beautiful, but dancing with some of my favorite people under disco lights on a Friday night was definitely beautiful in my opinion.

Seeing my brother and dad.

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My dad came up for my brother’s induction into a civil engineering honor society on Sunday, so we got to spend the morning together at the ceremony, Mass, and lunch! Much love to these men in my life.

Eating with friends.

Rachel and I adore our frozen bananas.

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I also adore this Teddie peanut butter ($3.99 at Whole Foods!!), which is evidenced by the fact that only half the jar is left. I bought it on Friday. Judge me, I’m used to it.

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Also (I wish I took a picture of it), when I was having dinner with my friends Albert, PJ, and Rachel in the dining hall, they asked me to “make a salad for the table.” IN THE DINING HALL. So I filled a bowl to the brim with veggies, got chicken from another station, cut up the chicken, shook everything together with the two-bowl method, and voila— a salad for the table. I should get minimum wage.

Morning outdoor workouts.

So many people are out movin’ and groovin’, which makes me elated! Jesus has risen from the grave and humans have risen from hibernation.

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Inspiring women who show me what beauty is.

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{courtesy of Sarah!}

The women of the Catholic Center met for a group talk about body image and the media on Sunday night (as we chowed down on pizza and cookies, heck yeah). Having struggled with negative body image and disordered eating myself, this group talk really struck a chord in me.

Some major takeaways from the evening about beauty:

  • In order to instill the fact in our society that truly everyone is beautiful, we need community, support, and solidarity.
  • Our words about our own bodies can have such a large impact on how others perceive their own bodies as well.
  • It often takes more humility to accept a compliment (just saying “thank you”) than to turn the compliment against yourself (“oh, but look at how bad my arms look”).
  • You are beautiful in the fact that you are a living, breathing human being. (<— Distinctly remember my friend Christina saying this!)

Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is what you are and that is fact. End o’ story.

Go on and have a beautiful Tuesday. Put on your sunscreen and make sure you have an emergency frisbee.

So tell me:

Two beautiful things about your weekend.

Favorite thing to do outside when the weather is nice?

How many days will it take me to finish that jar of peanut butter?

My Eating Disorder: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Hello, dear friends 🙂

After a long and busy couple of weeks, I have finally found the time to type this post for both you and me. Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and this is near to my heart because not long ago, I myself struggled with an eating disorder.

I mentioned last week that I shared my eating disorder story with a small group of people for the Boston University Nutrition Club’s NEDA week event. I had seen that the club put NEDA week as an event on their calendar, so I reached out and offered to share any sort of support or personal account. Thus, the club officers invited me to speak about my story following a discussion about eating disorders led by Jennifer Culbert, MS, RD, LD.

And now, here I am to share some bits and pieces of my story with all of you. Since I told a lot of my story for NEDA week last year, I am going to focus on some aspects of my eating disorder that I did not cover in that post. In retrospect, I’ve learned just how deep my obsessions ran and how profoundly (and negatively) those affected my life. As the theme of NEDA week states, when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I had no idea.

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P.S. Grab a seat and some coffee or tea. This is a long one. 🙂

My obsession with body image started when I was only 7 years old. I did not even realize this until recently. The more I tell people that I used to figure skate when I was younger, the more I remember how I used to compare myself to other girls. No one ever pressured me to have a certain physique when I figure skated or danced, but I think the performance aspect of both sports comes with a hyper-awareness of aesthetics.

I distinctly remember wanting to have nicer legs and a six pack. At seven years old. I skated with one girl who had muscular quads and hamstrings, and I wondered why my legs didn’t look like hers. I was a fit young’n who trained several hours per week, supplemented with Pilates and ballet, but why didn’t my body look as toned or fit? My negative self-image made me believe I was weaker.

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My insecurities went haywire when I gained a little weight. The natural perfectionist in me freaked out when I saw in photos and dance audition videos that my hips were wider and my legs were bigger. Rather than embracing my womanly curves, I wanted to run far away from them.

I would “pull” at my fat constantly and make negative comments about myself. I know I’m not the only one who was (and occasionally still is) guilty of the fat-grabbing. I’m not saying that this kind of self-awareness is intrinsically bad, but when we pass the line of self-awareness into the territory of self-hatred, that’s when we need to make a conscious effort to change our mindset.

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I turned to healthy living blogs for my first source of advice, but I took the information completely out of context. Now, we all know that Jenn’s fantastic What I Ate Wednesday linkup is NOT about comparison, restriction, or judgement, but as a girl whose self-esteem was diminishing and desire to lose weight was augmenting, I didn’t take those rules to heart. I read blogs for a year or so before starting Daily Moves and Grooves, and when I first started reading, it was to find weight loss advice.

“She only had 1300 calories in a day, so that means I need to have 1250.”

“No more than exactly one tablespoon of nut butter at breakfast. That’s the standard.”

“She only ate one afternoon snack. I should limit myself to one as well.”

All I can say now is, what in the flippin’ heck!? I wish I could take younger Alison by the shoulders, give her a nudge on the forehead, and tell her, “YOU’RE NOT THAT PERSON. You’re an active, growing person. Your future self needs you to EAT.”

This was my dinner on a regular basis in the midst of my eating disorder. Lettuce leaves, fruit, a smidgen of cheese, and a drizzle of dressing to end a day of school, activities, dance, and studying.

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Had a major salad for dinner! 🍴

A post shared by Alison (@alison_grooves) on

Calorie counting escalated my obsessions very quickly. Calorie counting works for some people, and that’s great! But it absolutely did not and still does not work well for me in terms of my mental health. Where there are numbers, there is critical analysis for me.

I would hide my phone whenever I was counting calories at the table. Day by day, I would cut back just a few more calories, and if I went over my “daily allowance,” I needed to compensate by restricting even more the next day and exercising ASAP.

did have an idea that what I was doing was unhealthy. There were a lot of signs pointing to the fact that my behavior was unhealthy. I mean, I knew to hide my calorie-counting. My dance teachers called home. My hair fell out excessively. I was always cold. A priest told me I was getting skinny. I wasn’t completely naive, but my behaviors became ingrained habits, and they continued to snowball.

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I felt a false sense of discipline and pride in the fact that I allowed myself to starve. All the signs that I just mentioned meant that I was getting skinnier, and that’s all that mattered to me anymore. “What was health if I wasn’t skinny? I feel like I’m about to faint? Good. I have self-discipline.”

I had to see that someone else was hurting due to my actions in order to change. My big turning point occurred when my dad confronted me with tears in his eyes and slight anger in his voice. He told me once and for all that I what I was doing to myself was unhealthy and that I had an obligation as his daughter and God’s daughter to stop my habits.

I realize today that eating disorders do not only hurt the victim himself/herself; they hurt the victims’ loved ones too. The more I meet people, especially close friends, who struggle with eating disorders, the more I realize how painful it is to watch them seemingly trapped in an unhealthy, self-loathing mindset. I also remember being cranky, stubborn, and hostile to others who changed my eating habits/schedule, even if they did not intend to.

Healthy living blogs have taken a new and improved role in my life. Both blogging and reading blogs have been a huge part of my support system during recovery. Whereas my focus was on calories and comparison when reading blogs before, my focus now is on overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. I cannot express how much I thank all of you for your support, whether you blog or not, comment or not. You all keep me going.

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The way I look at food will never be the same. And that’s not a bad thing. I feel as though once you’ve experienced an eating disorder, food never really has the same role in your life as it once did before you ever fell into an eating disorder.

When I was younger, food was fun, delicious, and often just a necessity.

During my eating disorder, food was something I so desperately wanted, but I made it the enemy.

Today, food is again fun, delicious, and a necessity, but I appreciate 100x more how important it is in keeping our incredibly created bodies in motion every day. I still know the number of calories in many foods, and there are the rare occasions when I feel guilty about eating something. But overall, my mindset has made a complete 180.

I’ve learned when I need to eat, even if I’m not hungry. I’ve learned that dessert in moderation (and sometimes not-so-in-moderation) is a good thing. I’ve learned that healthy food makes me feel good, junk food makes me feel meh, but there’s a place for both in my life/stomach, because they’re both delicious.

I am stronger, both physically and mentally now. Besides gaining a lot more physical strength now that I’m feeding myself properly, I’ve gained more mental and emotional strength than ever before thanks to recovery.

Just a few months ago, one of my close and beloved family members expressed that he thinks my legs are fat. If I had heard this at any point before last year, I probably would have spiraled into depression because my legs used to be the body part of mine which I despised the most.

But when I heard this comment a few months ago, I honestly just laughed it off. Yes, I was slightly hurt, but I know myself. I know my legs are naturally chunkier, but hey, more power to them. They carry me through an insane amount of activity throughout the day, not even including my workouts. If my legs’ abilities and strength have to be compromised in order for them to look skinny, then to hell with that. That being said, if they never look like a CrossFitter’s legs, that’s fine too.

If you have naturally skinny legs, embrace them. If you have naturally thicker legs, embrace them. If they’re somewhere in between, embrace them. They do a lot for you.

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If we can find beauty in others, then it is indeed possible to find beauty within ourselves. <— This right here is paraphrasing what my friend Lauren said during a Bible study last semester. We tell our friends how beautiful they are and how great they look all the time, and I like to believe that we’re genuine in saying these comments. So why not genuinely believe that we ourselves are beautiful too? Not just our bodies, but our personalities, our spirits, our smiles.

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The human body is an amazing instrument, which is why we want to treat it well. Treating the body well does not equate to attaining a certain shape or size. Rather, treating the body well equates to energizing, moving, resting, and loving it. And I believe that the body is just one element of God’s crowning creation of the whole human person. Energize, move, rest, and love your soul too. ♥

Holy moly.

The End.

Love you.

So tell me:

Anything about everything on this topic.