My fitness journey started with a little Beyonce.

Wow, it’s Thursday already. On Monday I thought to myself, “Hmmm feels like this week is going to be kinda long.” Wrong.

Moves.

Tuesday – 100 burpees throughout the day + upper body workout

*10 burpees between each exercise

Wednesday – active recovery day

  • some walking
  • Blogilates’ extreme abs 3 (done virtually with my friend Dom!)
  • stretching and foam rolling
  • some dancing
some tulips from my walk

Beyonce and the start of my fitness journey. I started gaining interest in fitness as a sophomore in high school. My cardiovascular health was never really great, so I had very humble beginnings that started with 15 minutes on our basement elliptical. Running a mile was a sTrUgGLe for me at this time as well.

As I was still just starting out my training, if I was feeling spicy, I would do a few rounds of Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” music video dance (which is really fun btw) to get my heart rate up. Yesterday I wanted to do it just for fun on my active recovery day, and I just remembered how I used to be winded at the end of it when I was in high school.

Not that I’m super fit (especially cardiovascularly, which is still a weak point for me), but this is all to say that you should never be ashamed of where you are in your fitness journey. You are not pathetic if you can’t run a mile without stopping, do a pushup, do a squat, whatever. You are not pathetic if you get winded with 15 minutes of elliptical like I did in high school. There are benefits to increasing cardiovascular endurance, but start and build up safely and consistently from where you are. That’s perfect.

Johnnyswim. Do you guys know this artist? It’s a husband and wife who make sorta folksy-pop music that is really beautiful. Their new quarantine project is called “Songs with Strangers,” where they select a person on their Instagram Live each week. In ONE DAY, they write, produce, mix and release a new song with the help of that person (usually the person just contributes their story, which becomes the basis of the song lyrics), who ends up getting half of the rights to the song. And let me tell you, these songs are wonderful. Here’s one of my favorites:

It’s also awesome that they’ve been posting the full 7-8 hour Instagram live videos of the entire process. Musicians are amazing.

So tell me:

What do you like to do on rest days / active recovery days? (Sometimes I don’t walk or really do anything. Yesterday was still pretty active!)

Do you remember some things you found difficult at the beginning of your fitness journey?

Do you like Johnnyswim? Are there any cool celebrity quarantine projects that you fancy?

If you are struggling with disordered eating at this time…

Being pent up within four walls for weeks on end is not the most fun for a lot of people.

But if you are someone who experiences any sort of mental health issue to any degree, you might understand that an overhaul of routine and a severance of social gathering can be devastating.

To be completely transparent, my quarantine life has not been devastating, but I remember a time when this severity of change would have been so.

During Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (I think that was the disaster, but perhaps it was just a bad winter storm that I’m thinking of… but that’s not critical to the rest of this), my family and I were trying to keep warm and fed in our house with no electricity for several days. I didn’t exercise because it would be too cold and dark to do anything except sit by the fire, all while still trying to do some school work. Food involved things that were out of the ordinary — slices of bread toasted on a pan atop our gas stove (#lifesaver), canned soup warmed up in the same way. Not the usual salads and Greek yogurt bowls.

I didn’t have control of anything, and I was not really okay with it. Our priorities were really to survive (and we were doing a-okay, by the way; things could have been worse) at that point, but the desire to maintain my eating and exercise routines had become just as severe of a “need” in my mind.

I remember sitting in front of the fire one of those nights, and my dad said that eating a bit more would help us to stay warm (i.e., thermic effect of food). However, I suggested that maybe we should be eating less because we weren’t moving as much (i.e., burning as many calories as usual). It was a small sign of how deeply uncomfortable I was with the whole situation, even though it probably lasted less than a week.

It is now 2020, and we all meet a similar yet different situation.

Maybe you are frustrated that you can’t lift as heavy or take your favorite intense workout classes. Maybe you’re sitting for much longer periods of time and getting thousands fewer steps than usual (holla). Maybe your favorite produce or preferred types of foods are constantly off the shelves.

The extra time on social media (in efforts to gain a semblance of human contact) might bring an onslaught of advertisements for home workout programs and meal plans to “keep you on track.” There might be fewer distractions to keep you from falling into the rabbit hole that is the fitness industry, something you were great at avoiding for so long.

Maybe the shift in control of your life in and of itself throws you into a tizzy and causes you to more intensely cling to the things you can control.

“If I can’t do ______, ________, and ________, at least I can still count my calories and go on super long runs/walks. I can still have my six pack abs.” This is just an example.

I understand that there are people who can do this without compromising their mental health. In fact, there are people are taking control of their physical health to benefit their mental health during this time. But you — YOU — might need something different, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And YOU are not alone in that.

You all know that I am a physical therapist to be, not a psychologist or eating disorder specialist. I can only give advice and counsel from my own experience. So I will offer four things for you today:

  1. Continue to seek help if you need it. For less pervasive and just pesky thoughts of disordered eating, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. For what you think might be a relapse, please reach out to your therapist or eating disorder specialist (or a new one), and I am confident that they will either provide or refer you to online services. I have heard of great success with online counseling.
  2. Find creative outlet. Draw, dance, sing, write poetry, knit, crochet, sidewalk chalk, blow huge bubbles (far away from other people), play an instrument, blog, journal. Use that awesome brain and body of yours to do some really cool and impressive things that are not fitness.
  3. Catch up with friends who care about you as a whole person. This might not be the ideal time to reach out to the friend who can primarily bonds with you over running or CrossFit. Talk with people who know other things about your life and who are likely to ask you about / listen to how your heart is doing at this time.
  4. Be gentle but very honest with yourself. No one is going to tell you to just be sedentary, eat dessert, and deal with your disordered eating that way. At least, no one should give that kind of ultimatum, even if that is what you need. Let yourself move, and eat well. But be very, very honest with yourself in how much the thoughts of fitness and food are pervading your mind. If it’s on your mind and making you feel anxious for most of the day and distracting you from other things, consider #1.

Be not afraid! We will get through this.

Both Mental and Physical Healing

Moves. Some random single leg burpees with no rhyme or reason right before dinner in my apartment room.

Less mobility and the mind. This period of limited mobility has been difficult, because besides the high impact workouts, I can’t just pick up and even go on a nice brisk walk (one of my favorite things to do). Stairs are a hassle and taking the elevator to the second floor is more of a norm. People drive me places (so grateful!). Such is the nature of healing an injury in your leg.

But I’ve reflected a bit on how my mind has actually healed a lot in these past few years. When I was a freshman in college, I would likely be in a BIG tizzy if I were in my situation today. When I came to college, I did 50 squats every day while brushing my teeth. I only took the stairs. I could count on one hand the number of times I took the bus / train. My step count would be well over 10,000 every single day. I would do burpees as a study break. And this was not even including my formal workout. I fueled myself well, but I knew that I was moving so often.

Let me tell you, I’ve been moving a LOT less these days. I do what I can, and I stay active, but my body hasn’t experienced a “formal” workout in forever it seems. Bummed? Of course! But I have so much to explore in terms of what I can do with 3 of 4 limbs. I can put a lot of my mental effort into thinking about my…plank and pushup form. My left hip hinging motion in a pistol squat. Breathing when swimming.

I have so many resources available to me, so there is no real reason for me to complain. I can also be grateful to say that it’s temporary; not everyone can say that. And I can still eat to my satisfaction. Might be less than usual since I’m just not expending as much energy, but sometimes it’s the same amount of food as before my injury, and that’s okay. It helps me get out of the mindset of “workout = must eat more food, no workout = must eat less.”

“Why does Janice’s face look like yours?” Real quote from one of our (*cough* Asian) students in dance class last night. Like, what!? Boy, in that case, my face looks like yours too! It was comical and I’m not actually mad at this 5 year old boy, but Janice and I have definitely received a lot of comments and questions about our ethnicity and/or relation to each other, especially in St. Louis this past summer (I love STL but it truly has a different demographic and… disposition). Diversity (and general manners? even in adults, lemme tell ya) is a work in progress.

Halloween. I do not have a costume, but one of my favorite embarrassing costumes from the past is a flamingo one year. Oh, and a toucan the next year. Costco apparently stocked up on exotic bird costumes back in the day.

So tell me:

Do you ever have mental struggles when required to back off from exercise / movement?

Do you ever face comments of ignorance re: ethnicity / religion?

Are you dressing up for halloween this year? What are you!?

 

Ya Ever Wanna Crush Things With Your Bare Hands?

Moves. 45 minutes on the assault bike (a fitting name for it). I basically did my own spin-class-style workout to my “werk” playlist on Spotify, doing a variety of sprint intervals, recovery songs, and endurance/tempo songs.

I ended with songs from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, and I felt like I was INVINCIBLE. My favorite songs are “Memories” (a slower, moody, lyrical hip-hop type of vibe) and “What’s Up Danger,” which I have expressed to my friends is a song that makes me “wanna break things and throw boulders while wearing a Mulan-in-armor-esque type of costume.”

…Which explains the title of this post. Side note: Highly recommend the movie if you have not watched it yet — a very well-done cartoon!

Femur felt fine after the workout, but I still need to make a doc appointment to get it checked out for real.

Spontaneous conversation. My friend asked me if I wanted to hang out / study with her on campus yesterday. When I got there, we initially had our laptops open to do some work, but she asked me how I was doing and asked specific questions about my life, opening up a lovely, spontaneous conversation about deeper things than I was expecting for a rather normal Tuesday afternoon. She showed genuine interest in me, which was so touching. I forgot how much even a brief heart-to-heart can refresh my being. Thanks, Lauren ♥︎

Punctuality. I was late to ^^^said meet-up with Lauren, about which I NEED TO BE BETTER. I am punctual for class, work, and meetings with professors/bosses, but when it comes to casual meet-ups with friends, it’s like my brain cannot get my body to move and think fast enough to be on time. I always leave too late and overestimate my ability to get done what I want to get done. But I do not want to keep taking advantage of my friends’ / family’s time, because that ain’t right.

Stuffed cabbage rolls. I made these babies for the first time ever, which was super random; I’ve literally never eaten a cabbage roll in my life, but I had beef… I had cabbage (#cheapestveggieindaclub)… Cabbage rolls! My Ukranian roommate saw me cooking them and said, “I have never seen anyone in America make these.” I enjoyed them! Baby meatloaves in a blanket!

Quote. I pray every day, but it has been a long time, it seems, since I smiled during prayer from the depths of my soul. But yesterday, I could not help but (soft) smile, and this quote was part of the reason:

Prayer is nothing more than a friendly conversation with the One whom I know Loves me. — St. Teresa of Avila

Hump day already, baby! Let’s get it.

So tell me:

Do you ever feel like you could crush things with your bare hands because of a super intense workout song?

When was the last time you had a refreshing spontaneous conversation?

Punctuality — great at it or struggle with it?

Have you ever eaten stuffed cabbage rolls? 

The Food and Fitness Relationship is Like Any Other

…for me, at least.

And I’m sure many others. Hence the existence of blogs / Instagram accounts similar to mine that were created for the purpose of she struggles of striking what is called “healthy balance.”

The food and fitness relationship is like any other inherently good relationship — lifelong, important, often fun, sometimes frustrating, at times hurtful, evolving, dependent on other factors in life, but always able to be healed / improved.

I would consider myself fully recovered from my eating disorder. But thoughts like these still pop into my head: Belly is fluffy today. What if I just ate half of what I normally do for dinner? What if I cut my daily calorie intake but a couple hundred? Maybe I’ll do burpees when I’m digested from dinner. I’m definitely not as shredded as her. I bet I’m heavier than that guy over there. 

To be clear, these can all be thoughts that are associated with disordered eating, hands down. However, it is the result of these thoughts that matters; what is it that you do when you have thoughts like these? Do these thoughts manifest as behaviors?

Thanks be to God, although these thoughts exist every dang day, I don’t think they ever manifest in behaviors that are harmful. But I’d be lying if there is not a little bit of a fight against impulsive restrictions or even just preoccupation with the layer of fat over my belly some days.

A photo of myself in a bathing suit from approximately 6-7 years ago (wow) came up on one of those Facebook “memories” (the best and worst thing there ever was on my facebook feed), and my jaw nearly dropped. I was like, “HECK, I had a dang 6 pack!” I was approximately 40 lbs. lighter then than I am now.

This is where you might be expecting me to say, “But I’m soooo much happier now!” THAT IS VERY TRUE, 1000%. But I am also at a point where I could afford to lose a couple pounds, and I would still be healthy and strong. I haven’t been able to do pull-ups in a while due to lack of practice but also a change in my body proportions so them lower limbs are hefty little fellas. So what do I do?

Option A: Intentionally cut some calories and lose some weight, because I’d likely be just as healthy as I am now. Who knows? I might even get those pull-ups more easily.

Option B: Do nothing about it.

Option C: Honestly evaluate my overall eating habits. Rather than saying, “I wanna cut X number of calories from my daily intake,” I could try asking myself: In which circumstances do I know I tend to stuff myself more than I’d like? Which emotions make me want to eat even though I’m not hungry? Am I sleeping enough? In which situations do I feel like I want to restrict? In which circumstances is the social/celebratory aspect of eating more important to me than my hunger/fullness cues?  And then, without judgement(!), I can address those instances where my relationship with food and fitness is a little rocky. Because any relationship needs consistent and constant evaluation. Some people’s relationship with food and fitness requires a little more effort and bickering back and forth than others’ and that is o k a y.

I’ll choose option C and see where it takes me.

MOLDIV-001-3

the usual suspects like oats and avocado egg toast are in there because I ♥︎ them, but you bet your bottom dollar we ate a boat load of sushi and several sweets on my birthday and we continue to explore new treats every weekend *drool*

Fitness has been pretty steady and level-headed. I don’t really count rest vs. workout days, and I’m varying workouts and still getting stronger / faster (besides the fact that I sprained my ankle last week while running).

Food always seems to be the kicker. Oh how I wish I could eat to my intuition with little to no thought in the world. Sometimes that happens! But not always, and that’s what this post is aiming to iterate; no matter where you are in your relationship with food and fitness — whether you are still recovering from an eating disorder, you are kinda sorta distressed about it sometimes, or whether you face unhelpful thoughts every day like I do — it’s okay to be fighting the good fight for a long time.

It’s not okay to be consumed by an eating disorder, and that fight truly requires the help of others who are qualified to help (i.e. a registered dietitian or a counselor/psychologist who specializes in EDs). But like any other relationship, it is okay to not have a perfect relationship with food and fitness.

So tell me: Thoughts?