Body Update!

My body has been doing a lot of different things lately, and while I don’t have anything that I would call coherent to say about them, this seems like as good a time as any to take stock.

Nutrition

Not eating gluten continues to treat me well. However, it seems like I’m getting increasingly sensitive to dairy. I had a cheeseburger today and got a dairy stomachache fairly soon thereafter; the amount of cheese on a burger used to be pretty benign for me. (I mean, hell, up until pretty recently milk was benign for me.) In order to figure out some of the vagaries of how dairy affects my body, I’m planning to do a one-month dairy elimination, and then start adding it back in. The interesting thing about doing dairy eliminations is that there are a lot of different parts to dairy, and you can do a whole lot of interesting experimentation with only adding back in parts of it. For instance, I’ll probably start by adding fat (butter) back in, then protein (whey), then carbs (lactose).

I’m hoping that having butter in my diet is not a big deal for me, not because butter is hugely important to me, but because it is really, really difficult to avoid butter in food that I don’t make myself. But we’ll see; the idea here is to figure out whether giving up the various dairy bits are worthwhile to my well being. 

Also, it’s pretty clear that sugar is not great for my well-being, but it continues to be delicious. Interestingly, when I get adjusted to not eating it, I don’t miss it that much, but especially when travelling, it tends to creep back in.

Injuries

Remember how I said that being gluten-free was good for me? Seriously. 8 months ago, I was wearing orthopedic shoes at all times, it was too painful to walk the dog, climbing was kind of awful for my feet, and my doctor suggested that I take a month off of exercise in order to help my plantar fasciitis improve. This week, I did yoga (barefoot) and went climbing on Sunday, rode my bike to work on Monday and Tuesday, lifted weights Monday and Today, and walked the dog this afternoon. I’m back at a level of activity that I feel really happy with, and my foot is not mad at me about it.

My knee started out better than my foot but has been slower to improve; it’s also the first thing to flare up if I eat gluten, and it really needs consistent exercise to stay happy. I wasn’t doing much with it during the last month due to all the travel I’ve been doing, and it’s a bit pissy with me right now. Still, I’ve got it back to where doing body-weight squats is ok again, so I should be able to start in on weighted squats again next week. Plus, I mean, I can ride my bike and climb stairs on it, so I don’t have much to complain about, except the occasional climbing move that my left knee just can’t hack.

Strength, Flexibility, etc.

I am mighty!

But seriously; I am not kidding you. These days I am doing the following weights for sets of 5: deadlifting 225 pounds, bench pressing 155, and squatting…175? Probably? (I’d be more familiar with that number if my knee hadn’t decided to get fussy with me. See above.) My trainer wants to set a goal for me to deadlift 300, squat 250, and bench press 200. Whee! Also I’ve climbed my first 5.10c, and I’m really close to being able to do a pullup. Strength wise, I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, with the possible exception of knee-intensive exercises.

I’ve also been focusing on flexibility, because I’ve discovered that in general my body is happier with me if I keep it limber. I’ve been particularly focusing on hip & shoulder flexibility, which, if you are a desk job type, are always tricky. That’s been going well, and I’m also pleased as several of the new yoga poses I can do. (I can do wheel pose! And crow pose! And bow pose!)

This is all fucking fantastic, and is contributing a lot to my current feelings of body happiness. It turns out that being strong is a really good thing for my self-image; I look in the mirror and, as much as my physical appearance, I see someone who can climb walls and pick up heavy things because it’s fun.

Mass

I continue to slowly lose mass. This continues to confuse me in a lot of ways. For instance, my inner 14-year-old anorexic really mad at me because I’m losing weight without really trying (read: suffering) and that is cheating. From a fat acceptance perspective, I feel weird about it, but also strangely vindicated about all the folks who ever told me ‘calories in calories out blah blah blah’. The parts of me that have been socially conditioned along with the rest of the culture are happy to be thinner. *shrugs* I still have a lot of feelings about it, but I’m getting used to that, I guess.

Another interesting effect is that I’m now more or less back at the weight I think of as my stable adult weight. (It was, in fact, my stable adult weight until right around the same time I started doing endurance biking and then eating lots and lots of wheat-based carbs to recoup the calories. Remember the gluten intolerant thing? Yah.) This is interesting in a couple of ways.

First, I’m starting to look at my body and not experience body dysmorphia quite so much, because it’s a body shape and size I’ve internalized. So I guess that’s one way to deal with dysmorphia. Also, a lot of clothes that haven’t fit me for a while are fitting me well again. It’s nice to have more shorts to wear, since it’s warm. On the flip side, a lot of clothes I’ve bought more recently are now too big on me; for instance, I need new bras, and I’ll need new jeans when it gets to be colder again. (I know culture tells me that I should be celebrating to be shrinking out of clothes, but in reality, it just means more not-fun shopping. Also, fuck that part of culture.) I’m also at a size where it’s easier to walk into a generic Store For Clothing and buy Clothes That Fit. Not jeans, obviously, because buying jeans should always be a trial for women, amirite? But it’s easier to buy shirts and dresses and stuff.

And independent of what size I am, it’s nice to be feeling at home in my body. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on how my machine is currently operating. When I dress my body nicely, and people compliment me on how I look, I don’t feel the urge to check whether they’re crossing their fingers behind their backs. There’s a ton of baggage behind that one, I know, but independent of the baggage, it’s nice not to be dealing with it. (Ah, yes, here’s some of my privilege; I’ve missed it. Sigh.)

But seriously; body dysmorphia sucked; it’s nice to not have that one for a little while.

So! That was a lot of thoughts about my body! But, given how much it does for me, I think it deserves a fair amount of thought. Seriously, bodies are kind of incredible, if also very weird. 

What about you? What’s your body up to? Or not up to? I want to know!

Meta Feelings

I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot possibly feel neutral about losing weight.

On the one hand, I feel good about being smaller, and sometimes I think “why can’t I just feel uncomplicatedly good about that?” But then I settle in to look into whether I can, in fact, simply feel good about the fact that I’m losing weight, and the truth is I can’t. It’s too fraught. I’ve never managed to win the battle against feeling like I’d be a better, hotter person at a smaller size, but I’ve held my own, and deciding to just feel good about losing weight feels like a betrayal of the work I’ve done.

And on the other hand, I can’t just stop feeling good about losing weight, any more than I could just stop feeling like I would be more attractive if I were smaller. I’d really like to be all “oh, I really don’t care at all about what size I am, it’s all the same to me!” but I really can’t say that with complete honesty. If I had made diet changes and had gained weight I would definitely feel differently.

I feel guilty that I’m enjoying losing weight. I’ve put a lot of energy into being a reasonable role model for fat acceptance, and again, it feels like a betrayal of the work I’ve done. But I wouldn’t want to feel bad about losing weight. My body is no less valuable now, and it’s important to respect the work I’ve done in changing how I eat to something that works better for my body.

So maybe feeling good about weight loss and feeling guilty about feeling good balance out. I think it’s as close as I can get to feeling good about my body now without vilifying my body before. It’s not my first choice, but if Health at Every Size has taught me anything, it’s to meet myself where I’m at. I guess that’ll have to do.

Intentional Diet Changes, Unintentional Weight Loss

Ok, we’re going to get into some territory that is kind of rough for me here, so I’m going to state up front what the rules of this post are:

1) Do not congratulate me on weight loss. Ever. But particularly not today.

2) Seriously, if you do that I will delete your comment.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on. As you may know if you know me or follow my blog, I have recently been making diet changes to ease joint issues. First I cut out gluten to see if there was an inflammatory issue, and then with gluten out of the picture, dairy was more obviously bad for me. So I cut out dairy as well. This has a couple of effects: first of all, I’m eating more healthfully than I ever have before, and with a lower level of simple carbs. Second, I’m eating almost no dessert, because it turns out that 99% of dessert is made of either flour or dairy or both. Add that to the fact that I’m no longer eating food that my body (apparently) hates, and I bet you can take a guess as to what the results have been.

Yeah, I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month. (Please see the aforementioned rules.)

I have a lot of feelings about this. A LOT. And if you’re interested in what they are, you’re in luck, because I’m going enumerate them for you!

  1. Holy shit, I’m losing weight! Hooray! I am finally going to be a perfect, thin, pretty pretty princess!
  2. Oh my god, SHUT UP, brain, you are so annoying right now I cannot even. BEING THIN IS NOT THE POINT.
  3. But all my skinny jeans that got too small for me 6 months ago fit me now. So that’s nice.
  4. But WHERE WILL IT END!? Will I end up skinny? Will I lose 20 pounds and stall out? Will I gain it all back and more? It’s a mystery, and I’m a control freak and HATE BODY MYSTERIES.
  5. Rock climbing and training to do a pull-up are totally going to be easier if I lose some weight.
  6. In fact everything will be easier if I stop being disgusting and fat. EVERYTHING. I should weigh myself every day and try to eat less.
  7. No, seriously, being thin is not the point. I have worked for YEARS to be comfortable in my body. GO AWAY.
  8. Right, but seriously, this is not unexpected. I’m going to have to figure out how to deal with it.
  9. Dealing with it means talking about it because I’m an extrovert. Oh, shit. How am I going to talk about this? I refuse to be just another white lady talking about her special diet and how it fixed everything. God.
  10. And everyone is going to compliment me on the weight loss, and then I’m going to have to explain to them that praising my weight loss makes an implicit statement that my body was inferior before I lost weight, and GOD that’s going to be a pain in the ass.
  11. And people will be especially obnoxious if I talk about losing weight and then just gain the weight back. Which is a non-trivial possibility.
  12. Well, the way to prevent that is to simply weigh myself every day and obsess over food.
  13. OH MY GOD SHUT UP.

So it’s been a bit noisy in my head recently.

If there’s a takeaway from this, other than the fact that I am a crazy person, it’s not to make assumptions about other people’s bodies and intentions. Ever. Cases in point:

  • I changed my diet and am losing weight; it probably looks to some people like I’m trying to lose weight. I’m not.
  • People are likely to assume that I’m losing weight to get hot. Bitches, I am hot already. Also, I’m not trying to lose weight. But my diet change was health-oriented, not hotness-oriented. My life does not revolve around hotness.
  • If I continue losing weight, people are going to start noticing and complimenting me on it, assuming that I want the compliments. I don’t. (I mean, my god, I’m getting reinforcement implicitly from so many places, including inside my head, that thin=good and fat=bad, please don’t contribute to that.)
  • People are going to assume that my life is entirely getting better as I lose weight. In many ways, that will be true, because my god, our culture is awful to fat people. But what if I was losing weight because I was terribly sick? Don’t assume.

Having a body, especially a female body, is really complicated in this culture. You don’t know what someone else’s intentions or history or headspace is like unless you ask. So please, please, don’t assume.

And don’t compliment me on losing weight.

Intentional Diet Changes for the Post-Anorexic

TRIGGER WARNING: Frank discussion of anorexia.

 

I have a bad history with diets. I was anorexic when I was 14. For about 7 years after that, every diet I tried to embark on ended quickly and in a vague feeling of shame and inadequacy, except for a longish stint with obsessive calorie counting again after college. It turns out that, if I’m really motivated, I can impose my will on my body for about 6 months, but nothing good really comes of it.

After that, I got into fat acceptance* and intuitive eating, and it’s been working reasonably well for me. However, I haven’t had a huge amount of luck making changes to my diet. I’ve seen some slow, organic changes in a healthy direction, but when I’ve tried making intentional changes, I freak out. I generally find restriction very triggering, and I find the mindset of ‘eat this not that’ to be toxic.

However, I’ve been having some joint problems recently, and at the behest of several friends, decided to try going gluten-free for a month. It seems to be an all-around good change for me, but what I found most interesting is that I didn’t have much trouble at all with it. There was, of course, a voice in the back of my head saying “great, this is the magic button that will make you thin!” I told it to hush as gently and thoroughly as possible; that wasn’t the point of the exercise. However, I didn’t find the restriction triggering, I didn’t find myself wanting to binge on forbidden foods, and I even started craving sweets less. Why wasn’t I seeing the same set of reactions this time that I usually do?

When I finally figured out the difference, it was blindingly obvious. Embarrassingly simple. This time I wasn’t imposing my will on my body. I was making a change to my diet so that my body would feel better.

Instead of trying to convince myself that my body was lying to me about hunger and cravings, I was paying attention to my body’s reactions and needs. When I needed to modify my diet to keep my body full and functioning happily, I did so. Instead of being resentful about my body having needs, I simply accepted it as part of the expected course of removing a major part of my diet. Of course removing wheat would mean needing to replace it with other things.

In other words: I was working with my body, not against it.

I’m not sure how I can properly explain what a big deal this is to someone who has not had an eating disorder. Being anorexic meant that my body betrayed me at every step. It was hungry – constantly – when my entire goal was to eat as little was possible. I taught myself to like being hungry as a kind of body hack – if my body was going to betray me by telling me it needed food, I would turn around and be proud and happy to be denying it. Take that, body! Whenever I was in a situation where I couldn’t avoid being around food, I would gorge myself. I didn’t understand why. My body, with its silly hunger, must be to blame. I would punish myself – my body – for days.

I tried to teach myself to throw up. It’s probably for the best that I couldn’t figure it out.

When you are anorexic, you and your body are not just enemies. Your body is your nemesis. Your body is the only thing you cannot quite conquer.**

To be working with my body, to finally know what that really feels like? It’s astounding. It’s a revelation.

That journey isn’t over. I’ve come to believe that, like some injuries, anorexia never really goes away. It sits there, waiting, and you always have to deal with it, step around it, move it gently out of your way. I am not an ex-anorexic; I am not healed. I am post-anorexic. I will always have this quirk, and I will continue to work to deal with it with as much grace and grit as I can muster.

Who knows, perhaps someday I’ll believe otherwise. It’s a nice dream.

But this week, this month, this year, I am stronger than I was, because I have re-forged another of the bonds between myself and my body. It was a bond so long broken that I didn’t know what the wholeness felt like.

Body, it’s nice to be on your side again. Thanks for waiting for me.

 

* Re: Fat Acceptance, if you comment to say that fat is unhealthy/bad/ugly, I will remove your comment. If you comment to say that I should not call myself fat, I will disagree with you. Fat is not a perjorative, it is a descriptor, and if I claim it, it cannot be used against me. This has been your Fat Acceptance 101 for this blog post.

**And the worst thing is that the rhetoric around weight loss reinforces this without question. Your body is lying to you about how much food you need. Your just need to recalibrate your body. You need to trick your body into feeling full. Being a fat woman with a history of anorexia is incredibly triggery.

Nail Tutorial: Masking & Dots

Here’s another tutorial! This weekend I was trying out my final new Zoya color, ‘Daul’. I LOVE this color. It’s a little lighter than I usually wear, but between the fact that it’s a duochrome and a glitter, and that the underlying color is fuchsia, I really enjoyed it. (Also, I finally figured out how to make Zoyas dry – use a couple of coats of Sally Hansen Insta Dry. I wouldn’t want to have to do it on all my polishes, but if it makes the Zoyas work then I’m happy.)

Here’s 3 coats of the base color:

This is a duochrome, I promise. You just can't see it here.

This is a duochrome, I promise. You just can’t see it here.

Next, because I am easily bored, and also because I don’t much like colors that light by themselves, I decided to add something at the base – in this case, dark triangles. Now, you can do these with scotch tape (just angle two pieces of tape in the correct overlapping configuration) but I am LAZY and also the magic of tip guides is known to me. Tip guides are just pieces of not-super-sticky papery tape, so you can mask off bits of nail without pulling off the nail polish you already have on your nail. And they come pre-cut both in your standard rounded tip, and in some other fun shapes, as you can see in the picture below. (If you are interested in the ones I have, they can be had on Amazon.)

Again, you can recreate this pretty easily with scotch tape, but getting the angles right is somewhat annoying, and if you do try that, remember to stick the tape to your hand once or twice so that it isn’t as sticky; you’re likely to pull up the base coat if you use full-strength tape. Also, do not be fooled by the name masking, masking tape is not the tool for this job. It will leave residue on your nails and you will be sad. See? Tape is SRS BSNS.

Ahem.

Another thing to note about masking your nails is that you need to be careful about when you pull off the masking. In my experience, the trick is to pull it off while it is still wet, so that you don’t peel up the new coat, but not while it is still runny, especially if you’ve put on a thick coat, or more than one coat. (I used two coats for my manicure.) If you pull it up too early, you risk glopping the wet polish everywhere, or having an uneven line. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it after you try a few, but it is a bit tricky.

Masking is magic.

Masking is magic. Somewhat fiddly magic.

Here are the results of the masking: pretty nice, no?

Nice and simple.

Contrast is a wonderful thing.

And then I decided to add dots. Who doesn’t love dots? I don’t not love dots, anyway. Um. Moving on.

The first thing to know about dots is that you need a dotting tool. You can buy one for money, which, like a sucker, I did, or you can DIY it, which I found out about recently. Basically you grab a pencil with an eraser in it, and then you pop something sharp into the eraser – a pin, a nail, whatever. The beauty is that you can get different sized tools this way – pins with differently sized heads, etc. Brilliant.

Dots are still kind of tricky for me, but I feel reasonably comfortable with them these days. The basic theory is that you get a bit of nail polish on the end of whatever tool you are using, then touch it to your nails. Depending on the size of your tool, (hur hur) you’ll get different sized dots. You can also swirl the tool around a bit to get a bigger dot than you’d get naturally, or just touch really lightly to get a small dot, or what have you. I recommend trying this on a piece of tape before trying it on a manicure you care about; it takes a bit of practice.

All finished!

Dots are tricky, but they look cool.

In retrospect, I think it would have been neater to do a purple dot on the sparkle and a sparkle dot on the purple, but whatever. This is nice too.

There you have it! Overly complex, if cool-looking, nails. Yay!

Being An Intentional Femme

I spent a lot of time being femme by default. I think that a lot of people do; there’s a cultural assumption that there’s a correct way to look like a woman, and it involves makeup, a thin, shapely body, and coquettishly batted eyelashes. I spent most of high school aspiring to this standard, and in some ways, I was surprisingly successful. Especially as a teenager, I was fairly high on the conventional attractiveness scale. I have nice bone structure, good skin, and at the time, I was thin. Sometimes very, very thin, but that’s a story for another day. But the truth is that even with all of those advantages, the deck was always stacked against me.

First off, I had very, very curly hair. White girl magazines like the ones I read didn’t even acknowledge that hair like mine existed, much less include it in the various ‘Tips and Tricks’ sections. Mind you, I love my hair, but it’s not Magazine Femme hair, and it was my first real clue that I was never going to be able to hit the target of glorious conformity that I’d set for myself.

Another flaw in my plan was that I was smart. Really smart. Magazine Femmes, as best I understood it, did not alienate their classmates by knowing all the answers to the teacher’s questions, or break the curve with their test grades. Sure, they were supposed to intimidate others with how cool they were, a queen bee inspiring others to follow, but somehow when I aced a test that everyone else had failed it didn’t seem to cause anyone to like me better. It’s hard to get away from the fact that pop culture femininity doesn’t have any room in it for smart girls.

I also discovered early on that having a football player boyfriend didn’t suit me particularly well, and that being more interested in books than boy bands makes it hard to achieve Cool Girl status. I gained weight throughout high school and college. All in all, I was eventually forced to conclude that my aspirations were a bit of an overreach. I didn’t stop being femme, exactly, but I left the full-on Magazine Femme hopes and dreams by the wayside.

Of course, that’s the thing about ideals of femininity: almost no one is actually allowed into that club. The magazine models don’t actually look like the glossy ad copy – they’re photoshopped to impossible perfection. Celebrities are either not thin enough or too thin; either boring or too wild. And that’s not even mentioning the issue that only white people are really granted admission. The truth is, the only way to win is not to play.

This left me with a bit of a quandary, because truthfully, I’ve identified as femme for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t know what to do with a gender identity that didn’t have any room for me. For years, I existed in a strange in-between state where I mostly didn’t worry overly much about appearance – I had other things to worry about, like school and extracurriculars – but I felt guilty about it. Shouldn’t I be trying harder? After all, it was obvious that our culture valued women based on appearance. And when I did femme myself up, for a dance or a show or in a rare fit of wearing-a-dress-to-school, I felt vaguely guilty about that, too. I was a smart, enlightened, feminist! I shouldn’t be acting like some girly stereotype, taking ages to get ready and worrying about smudging my nail polish.

Gradually, I’ve come to a place where I feel like I can reclaim femme. I can approach appearance not from a place of obligation or desire to conform to some standard, but from the same well of absurd enthusiasm that makes up the rest of my geekery. I love books and video games and building things and crafts and rock climbing. I also happen to love makeup and nail polish. The realization that my femmeness wasn’t separate from my geekness but in fact just another component was a revelation, one that it took me a while to really accept.

Today, I’ve come to a balance I’m happy with. I do nail art in the evenings after the baby is asleep, and I play video games between coats. I do makeup on my coffee breaks at work, laying out my kit on the bathroom sink and proceeding to walk around for the rest of the day with more makeup on than anyone else in the office. When people comment, I smile and tell them that makeup is my playtime. I have a rule that my femme process should never prevent me from doing awesome things, so I go barefaced until after I’ve visited the gym and I go rock climbing even if I’ve just painted my nails.

Being femme on purpose, as something that is a part of my whole personality rather than something at conflict with the rest of me, has been a long, weird journey. I’m still not sure that I’m at the end of it. But today I can feel proud, if occasionally just a little defensive, when I call myself a femme. There’s no one right way to be a woman, but after a decade and a half, I finally feel comfortable with mine.

Today’s Manicure: Diagonal Freehand

Another new Zoya polish makes and appearance today! This one is ‘Evvie’, a cream gray-green. It looks more gray in the bottle and more green on my fingers. This is two coats, it’s got nice color and lovely coverage:

evvie

(It does seem to have that slow dry time thing again, though. I’m going to have to try without a base coat and figure out whether it’s inherent or some kind of reaction with my base coat.)

However, I’m far too easily bored to go around with just one color of nail polish on my fingers. So I enhanced it with two diagonal coats of Opi’s ‘Anniversary’, from approximately 1 million years ago. (This is one of my favorite sheer shimmers. It has enough color that you can build it into a color of its own, and is sheer enough that you can just use it to add some oomph to another color.)

anniversary

I did this freehand, but it’s just as easy to use scotch tape to mask & paint if you aren’t feeling steady-handed. You do need to wait quite a while for the base coat to dry, though. I usually give the base coat a day to dry before I do any masking.

I liked the addition, but it didn’t have as much contrast as I wanted, so I put in a dividing line in white with a detail brush:

grayscale

Again, I did this freehand. I suppose theoretically you could mask off both sides leaving just a thin strip, but frankly with the detail brushes I find straight lines to be pretty doable.

Manicures like this are super easy to set up if you’re comfortable with free-handing diagonal lines, and they look very gorgeous and polished. Hopefully I don’t manage to chip this tomorrow morning or something silly like that!

 

As a bonus, here’s a picture of the embellishment I added to my last manicure – the color & accent glitter weren’t quite enough for me, so I added silver glitter at the base of the nail with a detail brush. It wasn’t the best freehanding job I’ve ever done, but I think it turned out pretty well:

silver_base

 

That’s it for tonight. What have your nails been up to recently?