Me, myself, & my hamstring

I recently deleted Sitemeter from this website. A funny error related to it kept popping up, and I never check my stats any longer and don’t use this website to make loads of moula (but if anyone wants to send me a check to subsidize further sporadic, ridiculously long and meandering blog posts, go right ahead), so it just made sense. However, I decided to check one last time to see how people end up here, and it seems “Kate Wicker + hamstring” is a very popular search. It’s number one right now in fact, followed by searches like “Kate Wicker Catholic,” “Kate Wicker + nursing a toddler,” “Kate Wicker + body image + eating disorder,” “Kate Wicker + natural childbirth,” and “Kate Wicker loves eradicating hazardous waste from her home.”

I made the last one up.

Honestly, I’ve been trying to refrain from writing about my stupid hamstring and jalopy of a body for myriad reasons. First, I figured no one really cared to endure my whining and that anyone who isn’t a runner wouldn’t understand why on earth someone would be depressed about not being able to wake up at 5 am and run for miles and train for races that might lead to toenails falling off. Second, once upon a time this blog was simply about mothering, my faith (or lack thereof), and body image, so its target audience isn’t necessarily all that interested in a chronic running injury. Finally, I have a remarkable talent for ruminating endlessly about my hamstring and how frustrated I am, and it’s easy to get sucked into a black hole of negativity.

But here’s a the-glass-is-half-full kind of thought for you: Due to not running much at all this spring, my feet are looking prettier than ever, and I actually wasn’t embarrassed to get a pedicure a few weeks ago.

Pollyanna, eat your heart out!

On the other hand, now that I know that quite a few people are actually seeking me out to find out about my hammy, I’m all for prattling on about it and for pondering the bigger lessons that can be gleaned from a persistent injury.

High hamstring tendinopathy is a very stubborn injury, and there’s not a lot of research-backed treatment protocols. A lot of medical professionals aren’t really sure how to approach healing, or they have different theories as to why it happened and what will make it better. So a lot of sad, injured, and desperate runners seek out Dr. Google. I know I have done this more times than I’d like to admit.

{“Mommy, are you reading about your hamstring again?”

“Um, maybe.”

“You’re obsessed.”

No comment.}

In the online world of blogs, medical websites, running forums, etc. you’ll uncover some success stories but far more lamentations about how a runner has been trying to overcome this injury for years. Lest you think I am a pathetic freak of nature, complete hypochondriac, or just an obsessed weirdo as my 9-year-old seems to think, I stumbled across one blog that is about one topic and one topic only: an injured runner’s high hamstring tendinopathy. Yes, the blog is actually entitled “High Hamstring Tendinopathy: A Real B#$*@ [rhymes with witch], My Struggle to Recover and Maintain Sanity” (good news: She did eventually overcome the injury!).

If you’re anything like this blogger or me, in your desperation, you may even find yourself emailing and over-sharing to some stranger Dr. Google led you to who is running again and seems to have overcome high hamstring tendinopathy (yes, I did that, too), and the person kindly responds and offers her insight, but sadly you’ve tried most of the things she suggests.

Let’s see what exactly have I tried to get better? Here’s just a smattering (I’ve done a few other things as well):

  • Dry needling – AKA warmly accepting long-ish needles to be poked into my skin just below my butt cheeks multiple times. I also allowed said needles to be poked into my hip area and back and once in my Achilles’ tendon area. Usually, it produces only mild discomfort, but for some reason one particular treatment in the hamstring area caused me to break out in a sweat not because I was hot but because the pain was pretty darn intense.
  • Cold laser therapy – I only tried this once because it was not covered under customary physical therapy treatments, and I’ve already spent a small fortune on trying to beat this injury. Maybe this would have been my magical cure!
  • Acupuncture – Different than dry needling but also involves needles; not painful much at all, but it didn’t seem to help much either.
  • A cortisone patch on the injured area – no lasting relief
  • An anti-inflammatory cream applied to my hamstring and hip area four times a day – maybe helped my hip area a tiny, tiny bit but not the hamstring
  • Icing and heat – ice provides temporary relief; just numbs/masks the pain
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy – never really noticed significant improvement, but I never morphed into Frankenstein, so that’s good.
  • Active release therapy (ART) – a special kind of massage and by special I mean torturous. My wonderful ART therapist, who really was compassionate and seemed to care about my hammy and me, asked me at one point if I was sure I was okay. I told her yes. She then told me most men would be crying like a baby by now. Sorry, male readers, there’s a reason women give birth. Initially, I thought this was an answer to my prayer because I would feel significantly better after each treatment, but it wasn’t cheap and I had to pay out of pocket for each session, and the pain would always return in a few days post-treatment. The therapist was wonderful because she told me I needed to pursue other options because she wasn’t able to provide a more permanent relief to the pain.
  • Cupping – This is part of the practice of acupuncture and involves creating strong suction on the skin near the injured area with “cups” and is believed to encourage blood flow and promote healing. Note to self: Don’t try to get ART and cupping done on the same day right before you head to the beach. Your bum and thigh area will be polka-dotted with bruises. Lovely. I didn’t notice much improvement after this – maybe a little.
  • Scraping or Graston – From The Graston Technique website: Graston is an “innovative, patented form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilzation that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions.” A friend who had similar injuries as I did (although she never had an actual fraying of the high hamstring as I did) swore by Graston, so I decided to give it a try. I was warned that it would be very painful, but it really wasn’t too bad for me. I feel like it really helped at first, but the pain just took a few days to rear its ugly head again.
  • Loads of rehab exercises my physical therapist provided me with, including core, glute, and eccentric hamstring exercises.

I know. This is a little ridiculous. It’s not as if I’m pining for an Olympic medal. I just want to run again – and walk again! – without pain! It would be nice to be able to sit without a bum ache, too.

Now here’s what I haven’ tried yet: Cortisone injections to the site, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or prolotherapy injections, and obviously surgery. I am very interested in hearing from anyone who has suffered from a partial tear of the high hamstring and/or high hamstring tendiopathy and what has or hasn’t worked to facilitate healing. Every person and every body is different, but I am very proactive (or obsessed as my 9-year-old says!) about researching my options and exploring further treatment. This coming week is a big one for me. I am getting a wisdom tooth cut out that decided to pop out when I’m nearing 40 instead of when I was a teenager. I’d call myself a late bloomer except the oral surgeon commented on the fact that I had “significant” arthritis in my jaw for someone my age. He asked me if my jaw hurt. “Only my hamstring and iliac crest,” I replied.

Okay, so maybe I am a little obsessed.

After the wisdom tooth exits the premises, I have an appointment in the big city with a sports medicine doctor who specializes in overuse injuries and ultrasound-guided PRP injections. I am hopeful!

The bottom line (pun intended since it is my bottom that aches all of the time): I still hurt, especially when I sit for too long, which is yet another reason this blog (and my novel) have been sorely neglected. If I sit for more than 10 minutes, I start to ache and have to lift my left butt cheek to the side, and it starts to look like I am a fan of flagrantly emitting flatulence.

There have been several points when I’ve felt like I could run again and have attempted to slowly ease back into running, only to experience a return of pain. What’s worse, is one day I was out for a slow walk/run when, lo and behold, my left hamstring wasn’t hurting, but the area above my left iliac crest started to ache and then became so painful I could barely walk home. I went to a doctor for the pain, and x-rays showed no fracture, but they did reveal that the right side of my pelvis was significantly higher – something others have told me and I also suspected since my shorts always ride up on the right side, and I’ve felt a little lopsided for as long as I can remember. So I was referred to spine specialist who asked me if I’d ever been in an accident or taken a fall from a high place. That would be an affirmative. Before the risk part of my brain was developed, I found it exhilarating to hop on wild horses and see if and how long I could stay on. I took multiple falls when I was younger, and this physical therapist believes that these shifted my tail bone and pelvis so that it’s now pulling on the hamstring and other muscles and tendons of my left leg. Basically, he said I’ve been like a car logging miles with my wheels out of alignment. It doesn’t matter how strong I am or how few miles I run or how slowly I cover them, I am going to get injured. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I am hopeful that we are finally arriving at the root of the problem and that the new doctor I see next week will agree and will be able to offer further insight as to how to get me better and out running again.

And, truthfully, it’s not the running that has hobbled me! It’s not even the fact that I might have over-trained a bit, not properly fueled my body given the miles I was running last summer and fall, or am a weakling. It’s just that my muscles aren’t working properly because my pelvis is all out of whack. Running doesn’t injure people, but running the wrong way – whether it’s because of a crooked pelvis, over-training, or covering miles in the wrong shoes – most certainly does.

One sports medicine doctor suggested I might make a good triatholon athlete, so my dear husband bought me an amazing bike that I can’t ride now because my hip hurts. I’ve had a lot of medical professionals tell me I just need to take it easy and be patient. Well, I’m approaching the 9-month mark since my injury and have only ran a handful of miles at a ridiculously slow pace when I once was running 30 to 40 miles every week. Walking and sitting causes pain, so this is no longer about running, and resting is not the antidote to it either.

Thankfully, a doctor also gave me a vote of confidence and said, “We’re not ready to retire you to the pasture yet.”

Wow, you really know how to build a girl up.

I shouldn’t be snarky. I am so thankful for all those who have tried to figure out why I hurt and how I can get better, and I am also extremely grateful that I have the resources to obtain medical care. I know this a pitifully small cross to shoulder compared to what so many others have to deal with, but it hasn’t been easy and based on all those search engine entries involving my hammy it appears that there are others frustrated with high hamstring tendinopathy and hoping that maybe I’ve discovered a magical cure and am back running.

I haven’t (yet!), but I have learned a great deal through this experience. First off, I’m not in control. I can religiously perform my rehab exercises. I can keep seeking out medical professionals who will help me to get to the bottom of things. I can cry, rant, and pray for my pitiful hamstring. But I can’t make it all better. Nor can I get angry at professionals who can’t make it better. I can, however, will myself to be grateful for all the good in my life as well as to cling to the hope that I’ll overcome this. I asked my husband the other day if he thought I’d ever be able to run and let alone walk without pain. “I do,” he said.

“What about Boston? Do you think I’ll run Boston someday?”

“I do,” he said. “I really do.”

God love him.

I’ve also learned that body image issues aren’t just about how your body looks. Sometimes you start to hate your body because of how it performs and because it can’t do what you want it to do. I remember when I wrote the aging chapter for Weightless, I felt very unqualified to ponder things like wrinkles. I couldn’t imagine being upset about aging. I’d only be thankful that I was still around and among the living with my friends and family. I wrote the book about five years ago, and in five short years I have abruptly become aware of my mortality. My body is not working like it used to. My pelvis has been crooked for a long time, but it used to not bother me. I have noticed the lines forming on my expressive face. I pulled out my first gray hair right around my birthday this year. I am inching very close to my fourth decade.

I told my husband I desperately wanted to be pregnant again because at least I’m good at growing babies and delivering them into the world. My midwife once remarked, “My dear, you were made to have babies.” As if that’s something I can really take credit for, though. That’s just a blessing I have. My body happens to labor very well (pregnancy not so much). As if it’s my fault that my high hamstring won’t heal. Clearly, these thoughts are further evidence of my control and pride issues.

Currently, I am working to make peace with my body – not because I’m unhappy with what I see in the reflection in the mirror so much, although not being able to exercise for mind, body, and spirit as much as I’d like hasn’t been easy – but because I’ve had to accept my body and to love it for its natural design, its limitations, and to not be so focused on my current age – or the fact that it can’t perform like I think it should – but on the age to come.

When I’ve become really down and frustrated with my inability to heal and my new aches and pains or increasingly creased face, I tell myself to shift the focus off myself. That’s something I wrote about in the Weightless aging chapter and got right.

Hey, Katie, take care of that amazing husband of yours who could care less how fast you are or how wrinkly you become (you’re growing older together!). Cuddle with those children who think you have the strongest arms in the world. Think of how that sweet 2-year-old boy says almost daily, “Mommy, you’re pretty,” because to him you’re the most beautiful woman alive right now. Be grateful for all of your friends who love you for you, not because of any of your accomplishments or how fit you are. Think of your running pal who walks beside you now and would do anything for you and will be your true friend whether you ever run another mile again in your life. Imagine your mom with ice packs on her burning face, whose eyes feel like they might pop out of her face sometimes, who has a debilitating disease that is frequently referred to as the suicide disease because its intense and painful symptoms can usually only be managed and right now can’t be managed very well for your sweet mama but will never be cured. She is a suffering servant. She has been for several years now. She chooses to see the blessings in her life instead of wallowing in pity and cursing her body and her fate. She knows that she is more than her pain.

You’re more than your hamstring. You’re more than a runner.

These are some of the lessons you’ve had to learn and perhaps because of them someday someone will end up on this little corner of cyberspace because they searched for “Kate Wicker + thy will be done.”

If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isn’t for you

February is winding down, so that means that a whole bunch of people are either pumping their fists in triumph for making progress on their New Year’s Resolutions or slumping in despair. Now I’m well aware plenty of people make resolutions that don’t have anything to do with their weight or how healthy they’re eating, but I’m going to focus on all those people who set goals related to the scale or their diet.

Unfortunately, this chart is a fairly accurate representation of many individual’s gym habits:

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I went on a walk recently with a very fit friend who is in on the wellness committee at her place of work. The committee scheduled an Insanity sweat session during work hours, and she decided to pop in to squeeze in a workout as well as to show her support. Several women commented on how they were on day 20 or whatever of being insane (i.e., doing the Insanity workout) and were getting closer to completing the program. While this was admirable, my friend and I both wondered if “being insane” for a defined amount of time translated into making of real, lasting lifestyle changes. So many people decide to do a 30 Day Shred If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isnt for you or a three-day juice cleanse as a means to an end – the end being weight loss, improved fitness, and/or better nutrition. But what happens when the 30 days are over or when you’ve cleared your inner plumbing for three days and it’s time to return to eating solid food again? Have you really changed your relationship with food and/or your body? Or are you going to revert to your old ways because no one can sustain on juice day after day or do the same workout without growing bored or hitting a plateau.

I had a friend recently ask me if I’ve ever done a juice cleanse. She was feeling icky after the holiday binge fest and was just curious about my thoughts. I told her juice cleanses or any kind of detox program just wasn’t for me. I know people who benefit from them, but to me there’s an easier, healthier and not to mention less expensive way. Many cleanses cost close to 200 bucks for a three-day supply. If you’ve noshed on too many candy conversation hearts leading up to Valentine’s Day, then just eat more spinach or other fresh, healthy food for a week or so. If you want to get fit, find an exercise you love and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to mix things up either. Don’t do anything that will make you hangry (hunger-induced anger). Know that dieting or even extreme exercising has the potential to lower your metabolic rate and can lead to weight gain and an increased set point weight in the long run.

Eat healthy, but no need to become an obsessive organic or strict Paleo. Make exercise a part of your daily life – not just a month-long duty.

There’s no instant gratification when it comes to real, lasting weight loss or health changes. Quick fixes don’t last. If you feel like you’ve been “good” all week on your diet, it might be tempting to reward yourself with cookie. As long as you’re perpetually on a diet, you can always reward yourself, right? But how about rewarding yourself now by choosing to make healthy choices? Don’t think you should put the fork down because you’re getting full; just choose to do it because you know that this is not the last supper for you. You will eat again. If you’re reading this on a glowing rectangle, then the risk of famine is pretty slim.

Don’t fall in to the trap of bartering with yourself either. If I eat only salad today or if I successfully complete a juice cleanse, then I can bake cookies and eat spoonfuls of the gooey dough tomorrow. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with eating some junk now and then, especially if you eat healthy the majority of the time.

Your “reward” for eating a salad is a more balanced diet, hopefully better health, more energy, and even deliciousness, too. A salad can be tasty. I am in love with this dressing right now. I toss a salad of baby kale or spinach (or a blend of both), add some chickpeas for protein, and a little extra feta and then add the dressing. Yum!

So many of us fall into the trap of extreme deprivation because we want to meet goals that have more to do with being skinny than being healthy. I knew a lovely, young woman who worked very hard to be a fit bride. Well, the morning after her wedding, she filled her plate with cake for breakfast. “It feels so good to eat again!” she announced gleefully. Her father, a man who exercised and ate well all of the time, sighed and whispered to me that he wished that she would just take care of herself because that’s what she deserved. She was so beautiful at any size; it wasn’t about the cake. In fact, you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you’re a bride-to-be. It’s better to eat cake occasionally than swear it off completely for several months only to binge again when you meet some self-imposed goal (be thinner on your wedding day; look good at your reunion; drop the baby weight quickly; slim down before your beach vacation).

Why not start a weight training program or eat a few less sweets because you want to live a long, happy life with your beloved not because you just want to look good on your wedding day and then revert to unhealthy eating habits as soon as you say, “I do!”?

I hate to see so many people suffering right now, berating themselves for failing to meet their Holy Grail of weight loss goals yet another year. It’s only February, people. There’s plenty of time to make changes, but it will take time. It will take patience with yourself. It will take do-overs. Decide this very moment to take baby steps in the right direction toward health and wholeness – not because this will make you a better person or more lovable but because you love yourself enough to care for your body. There’s no need to go all hangry on me, to deny yourself of the pleasures of eating real, delicious food. I used to restrict my calories or make myself throw-up as a penance to make up for my unworthiness. My anorexia, bulimia, and obsession with food ultimately hinged upon a lack of self-love.

We need to make changes and goals of out of love, not out of fear. We can’t decide to diet because we think that if we stay at our miserable weight, no one will love us or we won’t be successful or a good person. Your weight does not make you good or bad. We can’t decide to exercise as way of atonement to make up for what we ate or who we are. Who we are is not what we do or how much we weigh or how we look.

Learn to eat as a non-dieter. Five carrot sticks for a snack is for a dieter. Ten carrot sticks dipped in a healthy serving of hummus is the snack of  a non-dieter. Exercise as someone who loves her body rather than someone who is just trying to change her shape. Your shape will change if you continue to exercise, but if you treat fitness like boot camp and just want to push through a few hard weeks of sweating and grunting, you won’t learn to love the way being active makes you feel.

I’ll stop my sermonizing now. I don’t have all the answers. I do have plenty of days where I still struggle to love my body and to eat the right foods and to not turn running into yet another way to see how I measure up against the world. But I’m working on it. Every day I am working on it and trying to remember that my past missteps do not rob me of the hope of future success, happiness, and peace.

We are all cracked temples. We’re desperately afraid of showing our brokenness. We turn to food, our appearance, and our weight and other things too like success or drugs and alcohol as scapegoats for all that we fear and despise about ourselves. Or we use them excuses to be miserable. I drink alcohol because my life sucks. I fill myself with food because I feel so empty. The worse we feel about ourselves or our lives, the more reason (we think) we have to despair and continue down a path of self-destruction.

We feel like failures when we don’t do very well with our resolutions. Alternatively, we feel like sovereign rulers when we do meet our goals. Our body image, our weight, and food become a black hole and suck the life out of us. But once we accept that we aren’t perfect and never will be and that our worth doesn’t hinge upon perfection, we can move forward. A juice cleanse isn’t a form of detox. You may sit on the toilet more than usual. You may drop a few pounds. But it’s not going to get rid of what’s really bothering you at your core. A 30-day workout plan isn’t going to transform you. It may give your more muscles and give you a temporary high, but it’s not going to reshape that aching heart of yours. Start on the inside first. Accept yourself and your brokenness because it’s only in those fractures that the light within us can be revealed.

All the New Year’s resolution headlines seem to revolve around making a better you. Maybe you could benefit from eating more produce and less fried food. Maybe life would be better if you had more energy because you started exercising and sleeping more. But you don’t need to be better. You’re fine just the way you are and until you start believing it, it’s going to be very tough to make long-lasting, real changes.

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On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating

I’ve been running two very slow miles on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill during my weekly physical therapy sessions, but the hamstring is still nagging me. The medical experts stress that I need to be patient because of the stubbornness of this injury. I’m not a particularly patient person. And honestly, I have had my ups and downs. One day I’ll feel hopeful. The next I’ll feel the sharp twinge in my bum and will be tempted to start wailing.

My little man can relate.

 

photo221 copy 1024x1024 On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating

Feeling sad about a running injury when so many others (like most of the world’s population) have so many bigger problems makes me feel sheepish and guilty, but someone recently helped to make me feel better. She said what I’ve suspected but felt silly saying aloud. “You have suffered a profound sense of loss, and it has changed your life.”

It has, and it seems to be more challenging not having this part of me as I enter this lovely but busy season.

I gave a speech this past Sunday that partly dealt with not allowing the Advent season to leave you frazzled and burnt out. I reminded the audience that God doesn’t need perfection from you or the decorations in your home or a calendar brimming with potlucks, parties, and planned events to be adored. Baby Jesus – the Light of the World – was born in a dirty, smelly stable, which goes to show you beautiful things can come out of imperfect situations.

Well, not only did I wake up the morning of the speech with my left eye almost completely swollen-shut from some weird allergic reaction (thankfully, taking Benadryll before the speaking engagement reduced the swelling and redness), but I walked in to the hallway of the bank where the event was being held and then opened a glass door in front of me, which promptly set off the alarm. Fabulous.

Actually, this all made for a great intro to my speech, and I left feeling encouraged not frazzled. But just as I’d warned the audience, the feelings of peacefulness might not last.

This week has been a doozy, and I feel more stressed than ever. And, frankly, a lot of my heightened stress has to do with the fact that my primary outlet – running or at least more rigorous cardio – has been taken away from me. I just can’t get my heart rate up enough to get those endorphins flowing without feeling pain in the high hamstring area.

I have a friend who is a runner who just found out she has a stress fracture and is now in a boot. She said to me that this is the worst possible time to not be able to run. We joked about how we’ll be gorging on holiday goodies without burning off any of the excess. As someone who encourages people to not fret over occasional (even small, daily!) indulgences or to ever fear getting fat, I hate to admit that I am approaching this holiday season and the binge-fest that often comes right along with it with some trepidation.

If I were a better body image expert, I’d tell you that I never ran to give me an excuse to eat more, but how about if I be an imperfect but honest “expert.” I loved to run, but I also love to eat. If I know in advance I get to eat out at a restaurant, you’d better believe I’ll check out the menu and decide what sounds the most delicious.

When I was regularly running fairly high mileage, I routinely burned around 3,000 calories a week according to my Garmin watch, which is fairly accurate (and that was only counting running, not my other daily physical activities). I could basically eat whatever I wanted and not gain an ounce. Of course, me being constantly “rungry” could explain why I never lost much weight either (I never have shed the seven extra pounds from Thomas, or I don’t think I have. I don’t weigh myself anymore). I remember back in early October popping another handful of candy corn and peanuts in my mouth and then later wondering why my skinny jeans weren’t loose yet. (Note to self: Skinny jeans are supposed to fit to your body and not be baggy.) All the running in the world won’t make up for mass candy corn consumption.

The candy corn is gone. (I didn’t eat it all. I swear.) But there are cookies, candy canes, and rushed schedules that make wholesome eating a little more challenging, so I’m afraid of gaining weight. I still have not stepped on the scale since I decided to put an end to my recurring scale sickness. As I wrote in that post, I am more than a number. I believe this and know it intellectually, but I have to admit I’m afraid of all those Christmas cookies and all the opportunities to eat more than I normally would coupled with the fact that I’m not a calorie-burning inferno any longer.

There. I said it. Yes, I have some fears about gaining weight now that I am sidelined from running. No, I didn’t run or exercise to be thin but to be healthy and strong, but now that I can’t, I do admit to worrying about the repercussions. As a proponent of making peace with food and your body, it pains me to say that, but not admitting it wouldn’t be authentic. And if this blog has ever been anything at all more than a rambling mess, it’s been authentic.

I had a kind reader who is working to overcome an eating disorder write me recently and ask for advice about this season. She’s afraid she’s going to eat too much and start hating her body. If she had asked me this last year, I would have probably been more eloquent and wise. Maybe I would have told her she’s more than a clothing size, and that the reflection in the mirror only gives us a snapshot of whom we are – and it’s frequently a distorted one at that. I may have told her there is no shame in eating a few Christmas cookies or swigging some eggnog, and doing so does not make us “weak” or “bad.” I might have told her to pray the Serenity Prayer. I may have asked her what she’s really afraid of because chances are, she isn’t really afraid just about gaining weight. She’s afraid of something deeper. Eating disorders, fear of weight gain, body image angst – these are all symptoms of a greater illness. Take me, for example. I still struggle sometimes with not feeling good enough. I had a dear friend ask me not too long ago what it would take to get to that good enough place. I am working on it. There are some internal scripts that were pieced together in my past that I still need to edit – or just burn. When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I was more afraid of losing control and than I was of gaining weight. It was very revealing to me when I finally realized that I was trying to make myself thinner because I felt like I could not make myself more lovable. The healing truly began when I realized I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to do anything to have worth or to earn anyone’s love.

More recently, what I’ve really been mourning more than not running is a sense of identity loss. It’s not just that I’m no longer a runner; that never defined me. I was a person who ran. Truth is, I feel very hidden lately. The invisible mama and all. So I’m not really afraid of gaining weight and taking up more space. I’m afraid of not being noticed at all, of my kids growing up too quickly and me being left in an empty house with nothing but a heap of regrets. And, yeah, I’m afraid I’m going to be one of those people I read about on a woe-is-me forum that never really rebounds from a high hamstring injury. Those are the real fears. My weight is the scapegoat.

Today I felt down, and I chose to not fuel my body with the best food. That made things worse, and I had to take a deep breath and not let it all go downhill from there. I tend to globalize my behaviors and emotions. I lose my patience with my kids. Ergo I am a bad mother. I screwed up and ate two chocolate chip banana muffins instead of just one. Ergo I might as well have a third because I am a pathetic, horrid creature with no will power.

I’m getting better at not allowing my thoughts to implode and leave me feeling crushed and defeated. Something that has helped me achieve this is to not just tell myself take it one day at a time, but to break it in to even smaller increments. One moment at a time. (Go on and pray the Serenity Prayer. It’s a beaut.) Yup. The Feast of Saint Nicholas started with fighting children and me hollering over the clatter that I hate Christmas! What I really hate, of course, is all the noise, noise, noise. I can relate to the Grinch more than the joyful Whos sometimes, I’m afraid. But things got better. I explained to the kids that I didn’t hate Christmas, but that I was having a hard time with all the fighting and hoopla and what I really hated is that the true meaning can get lost in the candy cane highs and gimme, gimme, gimmes. I’m also having a hard time with the Advent/Christmas decorations. I went to sit in our library (my favorite place to reclaim peace and to get cozy with kids and books), and our entire Fontanini Nativity set On loss, fear of gaining weight, & mindful eating had mysteriously migrated to the couch. It feels like there’s just more to clean up. I know I should be glad my 2 and 4-year-old are getting up close and personal with Mary and Joseph (Baby Jesus stays hidden until Christmas), but it’s no fun to sit on a Wise Man.

I had to remind myself of my puffy eye, me setting off a bank alarm, and reminding the audience that it’s up to us find peace in our lives even in the midst of the chaos. Take a deep breath. Eat a cookie. No, don’t. You’re not really hungry for a cookie. You’re hungry for peace!

Tonight I broke a sweat doing safe upper body weight training and core work, and I also reminded myself that I choose to exercise and eat healthfully not as a form of punishment but because I want to feel my best physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I don’t want exercise to morph into a purgative measure. I want it to be for me and done out of a genuine love for myself and what I have to offer to others. The same is true with eating. It’s very difficult to lose weight – and keep it off – if you don’t love yourself. If you approach eating as a way to deny yourself of something, then at some level you’re saying you’re not worthy. You’re not lovable the way you are. That’s rubbish. How about choosing to exercise and eat healthy because you do care about yourself? How about saying “I choose to move my body and eat more wholesome food” rather than telling yourself you should do those things?

Besides, no one likes a “hangry” person. (Hunger = anger)

In some ways, I feel like I’m having to relearn some of the principles I had to embrace when I was recovering from my eating disorder, so perhaps that email from the woman struggling was timely. Besides what I wrote above, I’d encourage her to practice mindful eating. This is one of the most powerful ways to free yourself from fearing food or obsessively counting calories, something I admit I was tempted to start doing when running was taken away from me. This phrase is thrown around a lot, but it’s rarely practiced. I was reading the most recent issue of Cooking Light, and it had an article devoted to the practice. Kate Meyers, the article’s author, explained mindful eating well. “The concept of mindful eating,” she writes, “centers around the emotional and spiritual value of food – how it makes us feel, and how it helps us not just to live but to thrive. It says that the way to eat is less is to pay attention more. This happens when you teach your brain and palate to deeply enjoy the experience of eating in the present moment.”

See, eating is supposed to be pleasurable, not a source of angst. Pay attention more, and you’ll almost always eat less.

The article went on to interview Geneen Roth, a body image and mindful eating expert. She offers some rules to follow if you’re trying to eat more mindfully. These are worth noting during this busy time of year when it’s easy to mindlessly nosh on tasty treats at myriad social gatherings. She encourages you to eat when you are hungry and to eat sitting down in a calm environment without distractions (eating in the car doesn’t count). Here’s what’s really crazy: She urges you to eat what you want. That’s right. If you don’t really feel like the kale quinoa salad today, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to eat something else, and then eat it until you are satisfied, but do it in full view of others. No secret stashes or binges. You should not feel guilty about eating. And above all, eat with gusto! Eating is an act that must be savored. If you eat with intention, if you listen to your body’s cues and share meals with others, if you eat what you want when you want it, then eventually you will teach your body to tell you what you need. You will have your fill, and you won’t be afraid of the pending famine that used to always come after you felt like you had eaten too much or decided to start another diet.

I’ve had to learn to trust my body and what it tells me. Too many times I don’t pay attention to its cues – whether it’s been pushing myself too hard through an injury or eating too much or too little. I’m going to love myself and trust myself more this holiday season and in to 2014. My body will tell me what it needs, and sometimes that’s a glass of wine and scone studded with chocolate chips. Sometimes it’s a green smoothie jam-packed with spinach and chia seeds.

I have suffered a loss, but I’m not going to fill it unnecessarily with food. However, I am going to enjoy what I eat. I am going to be grateful that while I can’t run for stress relief, I can hold a plank for two minutes and sit now without too much pain. I’m going to eat when I’m hungry and eat what I want in the company of good friends and loved ones.

I’m going to remember that this season is a season of hope and set my eyes on what’s to come.

How’s that for a digressive tangent for you?

 

 

 

 

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