Back in Boston: Same But Different

I think yesterday was the best first day of school I’ve ever had.

And I think it’s because I felt the least anxious I’ve ever felt on a first day of school. There were still feelings of uncertainty and awkwardness in terms of the flow of my day, but there were also feelings of calm and peace. Praise God for that!

Our first day of classes here at Boston University was just one of many things that have been the same but different as I’ve settled back into my beloved Boston.

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Moving in was the same in that the ‘rents and I stopped by Super 88 for lunch after all my stuff was unloaded…

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I was so ready for my fave lemongrass chicken after driving three hours + carrying heavy things up the stairs

…but it was different in that I was moving into an apartment with kitchen things!!

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Also different — I’m not living with my fabulous roommate from the past two years, Jordan 😦 But I am with Megan, and I couldn’t be more grateful!! Rachel also lives down the street, which is a nice bonus 🙂

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I did NOT eat all that cilantro and basil in one go

I have the same bedding since freshman year, but my living space is quite different. There’s…well, space! In reality, I just didn’t overpack (for the first time ever), and I also forgot essential things like an umbrella.

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I’ve been overloaded with the same excitement that I always have when I reunite with old friends and meet new ones, but I also have a different sense of peace that I didn’t have at the start of my sophomore year. I’m not as concerned about impressing other people, and I think I have lessons in humility (← GREAT read) to thank for that.

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lunch at Panera with a friend

I am so thrilled to have FitRec again, where I can do some of the same moves and grooves I used to do last year (I ♥︎ bodyweight/luggage workouts, but equipment is fun too). At the same time though, I’m approaching FitRec with a different perspective now. I feel like I can be more creative with my workouts, since I lived without a gym for the past eight months, and I go into the gym with a “less is more” attitude. Like, I don’t need to squat, use the rower, and the BOSU ball in one workout just because they’re all there.

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Also different — Rachel convinced me to run with her. She’s training for a 10K and she’s still on her easy runs, so I can tolerate that.

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run 3 min, walk 2 min x3 // “If you can’t do that then you need to go to the doctor.” – Rachel

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Found this at FitRec on Wednesday. Peep the second line. Think I could pass for age 4?

I’m tempted to keep my same flakiness when it comes to committing to plans. “Maybe I’ll go,” said Alison always. JUST COMMIT. That is something different I want to work on. Like sleeping over at Rachel’s place on my first night here, even though I was falling asleep in my dinner beforehand.

Cooking at college is different, since I’ve always had a regular dorm and a meal plan, but that just means I can eat the same things I do at home now! It is different that I have to come to the apartment all the time now though. I almost never hung out in my room the past two years in college.

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leftover pho from Super 88 with all the herbs

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you know it 🙂

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the only plates I brought were these Rainforest Cafe ones, and I don’t know why

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my aunt’s homemade banana bread + pb

I want to attack this semester with the same diligence that got me through school up to this point, but I also want to look at my days differently. I don’t want to be busy just because everyone else is or because I want to feel like superwoman. I do want to be productive and live each day with purpose.

That may involve going on prayerful walks between classes, rather than stressing about printing the 13488705 pages of notes that everyone else already printed for gross anatomy (people went HAM, holy smokes). Also different — not freaking about what other people are doing for class.

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It’s okay if I have five or four or even three things on my to-do list. I hope to do those things well, take time to fill myself (prayer, exercise, proper meals, sleep), and take time opening my mind and heart to what others might need during their day.

I’ve always thought that I was being selfish, or at least indulgent, if I didn’t fill up my days with work, but like many a wise (wo)man has stated, we can take care of others and do a better job if we take care of ourselves. Thanks, Lyss and Jen for that reminder as well ♥︎ This doesn’t mean that we need to avoid hard, long days like they’re the plague, but allowing ourselves mental, physical and spiritual space is necessary to tackle both the good and bad days.

Lord, how can I best serve you today?

So tell me:

What are your thoughts on living each day well?

What is one thing you cooked this week?

Do you ever get overwhelmed at the gym? Or with seeing new people?

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The Last .01% of Recovery

Remember when I posted about 99.9% recovery?

I posted it in the summer of 2015, examining the question: “Is full recovery [from an eating disorder or any disordered eating] even possible?”

My answer at the time was:

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.

I believe that I was in a healthy place last year, mentally and physically, and I don’t think that there have been groundbreaking changes in my mindset since then. Yet somehow I feel that I’ve tasted that last .01% of recovery.

I say “tasted” because our mental state is transient— it is constantly shifting and wavering depending on our environment, experiences, and seasons of life. Maybe there’s something about being home that triggers more inner demons. Maybe there’s something about being abroad that has forced all those demons away.

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God has granted me the incredible opportunity to study abroad this semester, and these past 3.5 months on a different continent has helped me develop as a person in many ways, including my mental health. Being in a completely different country with an unfamiliar culture and new people has forced me to adapt in every way—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. I don’t have my familiar surroundings to fall back upon when I’m stressed or bored or whatever, which can be either disastrous or fruitful. I’m grateful to say that it has been the latter this semester.

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The main things I have noticed in this last .01% recovery are that:

1) I don’t remember everything I’ve eaten in the past week, and I don’t feel the need to share it all with everyone on the blog.

I’m definitely NOT saying that people who share what they eat at every meal are in a bad place (hello, I’ve been doing it for the past three years on this blog), but for ME, there was always safety in knowing pretty much everything I ate in a week as a subconscious “balance” check.

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Showing you these dates with peanut butter, because a lot of you recommended it. 10/10. 🙂

Now it’s more of a day-by-day, or even a meal-by-meal, evaluation. It’s a little more present and future-focused than past-focused.

Past-focused: “What did I eat earlier today/this week? What should I eat now, since I ate that before?”

vs.

Present-focused: “What will satisfy me right now?”

Future-focused: “What do I need to make me feel better later?”

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In other words, there is little to no room for regret or compensation these days.

2) I’m not afraid of meals that make me think of “something I would eat in my disordered eating days.”

This one sounds strange, but I used to be slightly afraid of eating a meal that was very light or extra “healthy” during recovery, because that would make me think that I’m heading backwards. I feared that I might fall into the mindset of cutting calories again.

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But I know that I have zero desire to cut calories consciously or to restrict myself. Zero. Therefore, I can trust myself to eat a small box of salad or a small breakfast and know that I’m not trying to restrict or compensate. When my body is ready, I will naturally eat more later. Does this make sense?

3) I’m not afraid to be lazy.

THIS ONE. This one was hard for the longest time. Detaching myself from calories and food restriction was the easy part, but detaching myself from a mindset of constant activity and fitness has been the most difficult part of recovery.

Move, groove, walk everywhere, yoga, don’t take the bus, have a constant desire to be active.

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Don’t get me wrong, I still love moving and grooving, walking, etc. a lot! But listen, at the end of the long day, I just don’t want to walk 1.5 hours home, even if I have the time. Sometimes I don’t want to get off three stops early just to get in more steps. Sometimes I don’t want to take an active 5 minute break every 25 minutes while I’m working at my desk.

In other words, I trust myself to be lazy. I’m not going to spiral into a pit of sedentariness forever and ever if I’m lazy every now and then. It is indeed possible to enjoy sitting on your butt and to also love fitness, and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I truly do exercise in ways that are enjoyable to me.


To answer the original question: Full recovery is possible. I think initial recovery can and should be pursued vigorously, but 100% recovery (in my eyes at least) is mostly reintroduced to us over time. 100% recovery finds YOU, but you have to be willing to be uncomfortable, whatever that entails for you. Over and over again.

For me:

  • sitting for very long periods of time without exercising beforehand
  • sitting for very long periods of time after eating a lot
  • eating salads that have more dressing than I would have wanted
  • going a whole day without a whole grain

Those are just some examples of discomfort for me. Does this mean I force myself to feel this discomfort every day? No, not at this stage (earlier in recovery, I did). But these discomforts must be welcomed and embraced, and honestly, just passed over with as little thought as possible, which you can only accomplish if you allow them to happen a few times. Only then might you find that they aren’t as uncomfortable anymore.

I have come to the conclusion that 100% recovery does not mean that we don’t care about my body image at all or that we disregard calories completely. It doesn’t mean we act oblivious to all those things, because that’s impossible. Instead, I think 100% recovery means that we have an abiding sense of peace in ourselves that cannot be budged by external factors (missed workout, more sweets than usual, someone else working out when you can’t, etc.) NOR internal factors (feeling tired, feeling extra hungry, etc.).

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be more like St. Francis

As always, I must remind you that I am not a professional by any means. I share all this from my own experience only. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please find help from a registered dietitian (you can reach out to RD bloggers like Robyn or Kylie even!). 

So tell me: 

Any thoughts! 

Have you learned anything more about what does good for your mental health recently? 

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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[source]

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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[source]

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! 

Dear Alison… {A Look Back at 2015}

The last three days of 2015 have been going out with a bang, I’d say!

Some good food for the body…

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Some good food for the soul…

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dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house

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banana peach green tea slush in a BOWL (they know what’s right)

Some more Christmas cheer…

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my lovely family caroling for senior citizens

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talented gingerbread house designers

Some “big kid” fun in blizzard weather…

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smiling through the pain of freezing rain blowing into our faces

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delicious chicken taco because I was hangry waiting for ramen

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“sakepolitan” (alcoholic cranberry lime juice, essentially)

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ramen that hit. the. spot.

And lots of baby cuddling…

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photo creds to my uncle!

We also did yoga and bouldering yesterday! I felt like I was in Boulder, CO with all their fit, hip, and healthy citizens. It was a fun day!


Since today is the last day of 2015, I feel obliged to reflect on 2015 with my second annual letter-to-self. So without further ado, here are month-by-month letters to Alison (myself), highlighting the moments that made this year a beautiful and transformative one.
dear alison

Dear January Alison,

Well weren’t you just living it up in Florida!? Disney World, air boat rides, that time you almost ran into an alligator in the wild, your first spa day… What a way to kick off your year!

I forgot that you tried starting a budget spreadsheet. Haha. I also forgot that you posted a couple workouts and you did lots of burpees. You were a maniac with burpees.

You started your second semester of freshman year, but winter storm Juno shaved off what felt like half of your class time. Not that you were complaining.

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Dear February Alison,

Second semester kicked your bootay, despite the snow days you had every Monday. I’m proud of you for getting through anatomy, organic chemistry, linguistics, and a tedious writing class all in one go.

You also became a certified tour guide for Boston University, woohoo! I know you were stressed about remembering all the information, but you pulled through.

Lent started and you gave up music. THAT WAS HARD. But spring retreat with the Catholic Center totally recharged you and made you remember what truly matters.

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Dear March Alison,

You posted about your eating disorder struggles for NEDA week. That was heavy, but it was good for you to reflect on your progress and hopefully good for others who have similar struggles.

Spring break was a BLAST! You hung out with your BFF, Daliza, and I think this is when you realized that you have a college BFF too (Rachel!). Of course, y’all bonded over food. BIG TIME.

You joined intramural softball even though you hate baseball/softball. You weren’t good at softball and you’re still not good, but I hope you learned to try new things anyway.

You cried for the first time over schoolwork, but are you really in college if that doesn’t happen?

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Dear April Alison,

Wait whoa, this is your last month of freshman year already. You celebrated your first Easter away from home with some beautiful people.

First Boston Marathon experience! Watching it at least. Get pumped for another year of screaming your lungs out and getting inspired by the participants.

You learned even further that there’s more to life than food and fitness. I’m glad you expressed this.

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Dear May Alison,

Finished with freshman year, what whaaaat.

You went to Colorado (hiking was beautiful, but work on that lung capacity, eh?) and Blend Retreat, which was like a dream to you. Wasn’t it so cool to meet bloggers like Emily, Amanda, and Tina!? *starstruck*

Back at home, you started your physical therapy internship, which turned out to be an amazing experience.

Last but not least, you made one of the best decisions of the year in May— to take it easy with exercise and up the calorie intake.

Oh, you turned 19, which means you’re legal drinking age in Canada 🙂

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Dear June Alison,

Look atchu with your new short hair! I dig it, even if other people don’t.

Vlogs with Daliza are always a fun idea.

Don’t forget that stretching, mobility and progressions are crucial in terms of physical fitness. Be a good physical therapist.

You met Arman AND you FaceTimed Julia. Still recovering from the fan-girling.

You also met up with college friends in the city! So cute, cool, and college.

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Dear July Alison,

Fourth of July in Boston was the best weekend ever. Tori Kelly live in concert is even better than recorded. How?

You talked about 99.9% recovery and the idea that 100% recovery might never be attainable, but to be honest, I think you’re gonna have to do a followup on that post…

Oh yeah! You had jury duty! That was a good experience. But it’s nice that you don’t get called back for another few years.

The barefoot walk for sex trafficking awareness is something you should do every year.

Keep working on becoming a better grownup, but hey, keep being extraordinarily ordinary.

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Dear August Alison,

Rachel visited New York again! Fun times. Except when Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian ignored you. At least he retweeted you.

You made a lot of quick trips this month. First, you spent under 24 hours in Kansas City after a whole day of traveling there. The things we do for Midwestern hospitality. 😉 But seriously, St. Louis was lovely, especially since your baby cousin got baptized!

You and Pop also made a “quick” drive up to Canada for a few days, and you did cool things like bouldering and knife throwing.

Portland and Seattle are cool places. I think you need to go back there soon.

Two year blog anniversary, high five! Keep it up. I think you like this whole blogging thing.

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Dear September Alison,

You’re back at BU and loving it. So good to see your best friends again! Sophomore year, baby.

Also, don’t forget to own it. Yeah, you look stupid sometimes, but that’s what makes people/life not boring.

Kicking off a food bucket list with Rachel, I see. Typical you.

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Dear October Alison, 

Oof, you’re getting busy. But with really good things, like fall retreat.

Apple picking is still one of your favorite fall activities!

Also, first couples Halloween costume…with Rachel, haha! PB&J because you guys are so freaking predictable.

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Dear November Alison,

You finally asked Rachel to do a vlog with you! You guys also finished a whole tray of brussels sprouts. Please calm down.

There were a lot of emotions happening, especially with the terrorist attacks surfacing to the news. They really brought you back down to earth.

Thanksgiving was relaxing and wonderful in every way. Please always be this grateful.

Also, run. Even if you’re slow, just run if you feel like it, because you don’t hate it. I repeat: You don’t hate it.

OMG you also got something really exciting!!! Praise God.

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Dear December Alison,

Apparently, you have a “look of wellbeing.” I can tell you that it’s largely because of the people around you.

And just like that, half of sophomore year is done and gone.

Which brings me to this moment. Alison, never take what you have for granted and always trust in the Lord. Have no fear, because He has a good plan. I think this is the overarching theme of everything you’ve learned this year. Take this invaluable lesson and grow in it in 2016.

Keep on swimming.

-Alison on December 31, 2015


 

So tell me:

What would you tell yourself as you reflect on 2015?

Do you have any specific goals for 2016? Nothing specific for me. I’m not really a big New Year’s resolution person. I kinda just try to be better every day… #lame.

What are you doing for New Year’s? Hanging out with family here at my cousin’s house!

 

It’s Okay to Crave Healthy Food Too

I SLEPT IN PAST NOON.

What am I? A growing teenager?? (Please say yes, Lord.) I guess a long of day of traveling + a three hour time loss made me a little tired…

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I won’t be here for long though. I’m moving back up to Boston in T minus two days!

Mom, Dad and I traveled all day yesterday due to two connecting flights. It started at 2:30AM Pacific Time and ended at 7PM Eastern Time, but we made it back safely. Home sweet home.

In case you missed what was happening these past five days, you can check out our Portland and Seattle adventures from yesterday’s post.

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If you read it yesterday, you probably noticed some a lot of typos and mysterious floating fragments. I was rushing to publish it from my phone right before the plane took off, so I took the leap of faith and hit publish without editing it a single bit. It kinda looked like tipsy typing at some spots.

You also may have noticed a lot of heavier, more indulgent foods than usual. Actually, that has been a trend throughout the past three weeks, since I’ve been traveling to every corner of the continent (not really) for fun family functions.

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The beauty of traveling and being with loved ones is that it’s harder to worry about food and exercise. You eat out at a restaurant you normally wouldn’t choose, you eat two desserts instead of one, you go longer without eating a snack, but then you eat a huge meal later….

It’s liberating and nourishing to be able to eat foods with lots of sugar, grease, and salt without feeling stressed. It adds enjoyment and adventure to the travel experience.

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It’s wonderful to know that I can eat out with family and friends on more than one occasion without worrying about how the food will make me look in the minutes, hours, or days afterwards.

However, just as I crave something sugary, salty, or greasy after eating lots of salads, plain grains, and lean meats, I also crave something fresh and healthy after eating lots of heavier foods.

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Not too long ago, I would be afraid that craving healthy foods meant I was reverting back to disordered eating, because all I would eat during my ED was salad, plain grains, and lean meats.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely had my days when I said I was craving a light and fresh meal, but I was honestly craving a more meat-and-potatoes meal. This year though, I have continued learning to trust my body, and I’m finally at a point where I’m not mad at myself for eating foods that make me feel kinda crappy afterwards. Throughout basically three weeks of vacationing and eating foods that I’m not used to eating, my body has felt a little more “bleh.”

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I developed three huge zits on my forehead, a canker sore, and an irritated palate. I could go cry under my blanket, feeling guilty about all the salt and oil that made this happen; I certainly would have in the past. But God has slowly shaped me to be so at peace with myself that I just acknowledge these facts and move on.

Just after two days of eating a little less fried food and a little more fresh vegetables, my zits have almost all cleared up, and the roof of my mouth isn’t burning every time I eat something crunchy. I still had my share of sweets and grease in those couple of days, but I let my body gravitate towards, quote on quote, “cleaner” foods to make my face feel better.

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last night’s dinner with whatever we had in the freezer/fridge

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this morning’s breakfast afternoon’s lunch of cookie dough cereal + more unpictured chicken and spaghetti squash shortly after

I’ve said in the past that I’ve “finally found balance,” and I truly believe that I did back then. Nevertheless, God is constantly improving me {in all aspects of life}, so I think I can say that I’ve learned even more about balance.

I can go a little bit past the point of “indulgence” but not feel horrible about it. Instead, I can bring myself back to healthy eating without swinging into the “compensation” mindset. It’s not about calories, it’s solely about quality.

Sometimes I want peanut butter cookie a la mode. Sometimes I want peanut butter, banana, and milk.

So tell me:

What is the latest you’ve slept in until (that you remember)?

Do you notice that eating greasy, salty, sugary foods frequently makes you feel “bleh”?

What is your favorite greasy/salty/sugary food? And what is your favorite “healthy” food?