Sports and Faith

I thought I could consider myself an athlete.

Until I watched the Olympics.

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But then I saw the Ford (?) commercial about how “we are all athletes” and was like, well, fine, if you insist.

In all seriousness, check out Krista’s post about how you know you’re an athlete. Anyone can be an athlete. You don’t have to have 21 gold medals like someone.

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I watched the #PhelpsFace shenanigans live on TV, and it was the most appalling and hilarious thing I’ve seen all year.

Anyway, we all know that Olympic athletes are downright inspirational. I was a little girl who always strived to be athletic in her younger years but never had natural athletic ability. However, I have really taken off in a burst of confidence these past couple of years as I’ve grown to love fitness.

Although I don’t participate in organized sports right now, and I definitely don’t even train like a middle school athlete, I am proud of how far I’ve come just dabbling with new feats at home. In some of my harder workouts and accomplishments, I feel like I’ve finally gotten a minuscule taste of the drive of a great athlete.

I’m sure you agree that it would be SO COOL to be an Olympics athlete (p.s. my blog/fellow BU Terrier pal, Gemma, is running track for Ghana in Rio this year!!! check out her guest post WIAW from last year here). I have glimmers of hope inside me that I could at least be a competitive athlete again if I really wanted to.

But I don’t want to. There are many ways to achieve your purpose in life, and sports are probably not my way. If you asked me, “What is your purpose in life?” I’d say something about doing God’s will and bringing others to Him.

That being said, there are so many parallels in the journey of an elite athlete and the journey of finding your purpose in life, whatever that may be. In my case, I’ve found that I can draw major inspiration from athletes for my own faith journey.

1) It’s difficult to start.

It takes a very special breed to say as a beginner, “I can’t wait to do that workout that will set my lungs and muscles on fire.” Likewise, I never said, “I can’t wait to go to church!” until maybe a year ago (read: 15+ years into being taught about and teaching the Catholic faith).

It’s a choice to start doing what will make you better every day, whether you’re in training or you’re trying to grow closer to God.

2) You have good days and bad days.

Pretty self-explanatory. Athletes get tired, sore, probably hungover every now and then. They don’t break records every day and they don’t get better every single day. But they use those off days to get better overall, and that’s how it is with the faith.

There are days when I am welling up with enthusiasm for prayer and good works. And there are just as many days when I don’t want to think of God or I don’t feel like He’s there.

The only way to get through those bad days is…to get through those bad days, with a constant reminder of the end goal and a reflection of how you can learn from the trial.

3) It’s easier with a community.

CrossFit raves about the community of support all the time, which I think is why it is such a success as a sport and an industry.

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I’ve talked about how my faith has grown leaps and bounds thanks to the incredible community of men and women at BU’s Catholic Center.

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You push others, they push you, everyone falls over, and that’s the end.

This is where I say, “just kidding, you help each other back up and move forward.” 😉

4) It hurts.

There is so much we don’t see elite athletes experience “behind the scenes.” The sacrifice, the pain, the internal turbulence and pressure… But they know that those are necessary experiences in order to become a resilient and freaking amazing athlete.

There is so much we don’t see in people who are faithful, joyful, and unbelievably at peace. Maybe they did have a great life, but maybe they didn’t. There is sacrifice, pain, and internal turbulence behind the most peaceful and joyful people I know. Getting through those trials is what makes them resilient and freaking amazing human beings.

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^^^One of my favorite quotes ever.

5) It’s worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

Watch Aly Raisman’s documentary and see how difficult her training was before London 2012. Now look at this chick—3 Olympic gold medals (and counting?). Seems worth it.final-five-medal-ceremony_ap

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The end goal at the end of this journey called “life” is eternity with our Creator, which I think seems preeeeeeetty worth it. And He told us it would be hard. And it is hard, but…

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In all honesty, publishing this post is hard. I know my audience, and I know this doesn’t cater to everyone, but my slogan up top there is “pray. eat. move. groove.” Pray comes first. Faith comes first. God comes first. And I wouldn’t be sharing this if I didn’t believe in the depths of my heart that you could possibly feel the same about Him, some way, somehow.

Whatever your creed is, I like to believe that people have goodness in their hearts to want to help others and spread joy in their lives, which is never easy. So here’s to using athletes as inspiration!!

(pretty terrible flow of paragraphs at the end there, but guatever, I need to go to sleep.)

So tell me:

How do great athletes to inspire you (if they do)?

What would you say is your purpose in life? Have I asked this before?

How I Deal With Anxious Feelings

I don’t know about youuu, but I’m feeling twenty-twoooo….

…mosquito bites.

I counted twenty-two mosquito bites on my legs thanks to an evening session of frisbee golf on Saturday (worth it). I used to never get bitten (mostly in my ED phase, perhaps because I had low blood sugar?).

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looking slightly diseased

Since I was unaccustomed to so many bites, I Google searched what to do with the itchiness and found some good suggestions: aloe, rubbing alcohol, and oatmeal. I also found some questionable “cures”, like Scotch taping your mosquito bites at night to prevent subconscious scratching. I mean, I get the idea, but I think I would subconsciously rage over the fact that there were little pieces of tape all over me.

Anyway, yesterday was a MONDAY kind of Monday, especially coming home late from a few days of vacation in St. Louis. A long list of errands needed to be completed on minimal sleep, although a couple mini naps happened in order to tame the beast that is Alison Sans Sleep.

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It’s no surprise that I have a greater tendency to feel anxious and stressed when I’m very sleepy; I think most people can vouch for that. The anxious feelings* and stress escalate when I know I have a bunch of time-sensitive tasks on my to-do list.

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After dealing with insomnia* during my senior year of high school— perhaps the most stressful time of my life— I’ve learned how to reign in the anxious feelings and deal with stress in a more mature, effective manner (i.e. not bawling my eyes out in a panic at night).

So today, I’m sharing with you how I deal with some of those anxious feelings that threaten to interrupt my daily flow, productivity, and joy.

*I use the term “anxious feelings” rather than “anxiety” because I have not been diagnosed with clinical anxiety. I’ve also never been diagnosed with insomnia. All I know is that I couldn’t sleep for an extended period of time, which impacted my daily life for a while. Since I have no clinical diagnoses and since God blessed everyone with different brains, I understand that these tips may not be helpful for everyone or even anyone.

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1. Tell myself that it’s okay to feel anxious.

Nine times out of ten, my anxious feelings perpetuate because I am nervous to feel anxious or tired. My brain tends to create catastrophes out of small trials or signs of negative health.

“I NEED to get a lot of sleep. I’m not going to live as long if I don’t. My performance will plummet if I don’t fall asleep now. This isn’t okay.” 

“Stress will kill me. I need to stop being so stressed. Why am I feeling so stressed? I’m trying really hard to reduce my stress.”

Answer: It happens. This too shall pass.

2. Make a to-do list of many little things.

Write every little detail down in your to-do list. This may seem counter-intuitive, since your to-do list will look longer, but being able to check off several little tasks is a big morale booster for me.

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Always.

For example: Rather than writing “clean bathroom” on your list, you could break that down into “clean toilet, clean bathtub, clean sinks, clean floors.” That way, each item on your list is a small and doable task. This strategy can make a monster project seem less daunting.

3. Make humorous commentary about what’s happening.

(Edited to add this one!) 

Whenever it seems that more stressors are arising, sometimes I just need to laugh at myself and just make lighthearted commentary about all the things that are stressing me out. It’s the same idea as making humorous commentary when watching a scary movie to decrease the fear factor. 🙂

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4. Move (and groove).

It doesn’t have to be a grand workout or anything.

I didn’t include a solo dance party in my day in the life vlog just for comedic effect. I truly do love blasting tunes and dancing to keep me smiling. Some quick yoga or inversions to get the blood flowing in all sorts of directions helps to clear the head as well.

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5. Talk to someone.

The power of a listening ear is such a blessing. And if no one is available, I talk out loud to myself or to God. Hearing myself sort out my anxious feelings can help me understand them better.

6. Nap.

Naps are magical if time permits. Even if time doesn’t seem to permit, sometimes I allow myself a quick one anyway, because it will help me be more productive and less crabby for the sake of others.

If I can’t sleep, lying horizontally with my eyes closed for ten minutes can still bring me some sanity.

7. Make a mental gratitude list.

“Be grateful for what you have, and you’ll end up having more.” (<— from this amazing blog post via Marc and Angel)

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Gratitude helps eliminate any of the “woe is me” thoughts.

8. Remember Him.

The #1 thing that gets me through anxious feelings (or any negative feelings, for that matter) is remembering that my life belongs to God. He will provide, and He will not give us trials that we cannot overcome with His help.

There is nothing that I’m feeling that our Lord Jesus Christ has not felt.

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With that, I hope you all have a day free from anxious feelings! Stay tuned for a cool blog switcheroo tomorrow with Actively Gemma!

So tell me:

Do you deal with anxiety or anxious feelings often? How do you deal?

Do you know any good mosquito bite treatments?

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! 🍴

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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.

Fascinating Friday Links #41 + Giveaway Winner

Hi there!

I feel like I have so many things to tell you guys before I leave for Boston, but I just don’t know where to start. I rarely plan my posts, but that’s what I’ve done for the coming week. I might even throw in a couple more posts than usual, but I’ll do my very best to keep them short and sweet (something I can’t always do).

In the meantime, hopefully you all have some time to wind down and catch up on rest and family time this weekend. Here are some Fascinating Friday Links for your reading pleasure!

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Health and Fitness

[Great info on portions] Portion Control and Sizes via The Fitnessista + What Does 100 Calories Look Like? via Kath Eats Real Food and Live…Don’t Diet

[For overall health] 5 Simple Diet Changes via The Lean Green Bean

[I didn’t know what free radicals were until this post!] Foods That Fight Oxidative Stress and Aid in Recovery via Cotter Crunch

[Healthy, delicious and quick] 15 Lunch Ideas for Busy Professionals via The Almond Eater

[Move and groove] 12 Minute Lower Body Interval Workout via Purely Twins + Weight Plate Workout via Run Pretty + Bodyweight HIIT Workout via Your Trainer Paige

Food for Thought

[Your past should not define you] I Am NOT My Past via Story of a Girl

[We’re all guilty of many of these] 12 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away From You via Marc and Angel Hack Life

[Women are not objects] These Are The Things Men Say To Women On the Street via Huffington Post

[Two powerful words] The Secret to a Strong Marriage After Kids via A Healthy Slice of Life

Food for Belly

[She just knows] Cookies and Cream Banana Soft Serve via The Healthy Maven

[Totally what I want] Cookie Dough Banana Pudding Breakfast Parfaits via Yeah…Imma Eat That

[Fresh flavors] Pesto Squash Noodles and Spaghetti via Cookie and Kate

[Sunday morning…] Baked Whole Wheat Peach Pancake via Cookin’ Canuck

[I like saucy rice] Unstuffed Bell Peppers via Budget Bytes

Miscellaneous Fun

[I’m mostly Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Iyengar!] Quiz: What Style of Yoga Is Best For You? via Greatist

[So awesome] Automated Thanking Machine Video via San Francisco Globe

[Interesting to know the less glamorous aspects] The Cons of Blogging via The Healthy Maven

[Definitely me] Any Other Fake Adults Out There? via The Lunchbox Diaries

[I’ll need these soon enough] 8 Tips for Navigating Grad School via Better With Sprinkles

Giveaway Winner

Thank you to all of you who commented on the Beauty in Christ book giveaway post! The winner [picked randomly] is:

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Congratulations, Natalie! Email me at dailymovesandgrooves [at] gmail [dot] com so I can get your info to send the book to ya!

{P.S. I used to never know why bloggers typed out their emails like that, but apparently it prevents spam!}

 Hope you all have a wonderful Friday! Happy Feast of the Assumption, fellow Catholics!

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” — Revelations 12:1