'Raise the rest of your life to meet you'

Being a twenty-something in today's world has its perks just as it has its pitfalls. We are technology-oriented, pushing boundaries and glass ceilings, making creative decisions and solutions. But there is only so much we can do before life pushes back. Being a twenty-something means we are mostly just starting "adulting" - paying bills, finding a job we can tolerate, dating and maybe getting married.... but what happens when nothing seems to work out? You hate your job, money is tight, you're just plain unhappy.  Well, Peter Dinklage - now a world-famous actor in Game of Thrones, no less - put our fears and dreams into one of the most motivating and beautiful messages I have heard yet. His speech at the Bennington College graduation in 2012 is heartwarming, inspiring and exactly what every twenty-something needs to hear. Click here to listen to the speech, click here to read the full transcript or read the partial transcript below:

 

"When I was 29, I told myself the next acting job I get no matter what it pays, I will from now on, for better or worse, be a working actor. So I quit my position at the Professional Examination Services. My friends really weren’t happy about that, because it was so easy to find me when I worked there. Work – that was the only place I had the internet. This was at the beginning of the Internet.

And now I didn’t have either the internet or a cell phone or a job. But something good happened.

I got a little pink theater job in a play called Imperfect Love. Which led to a film called 13 Moons with the same writer. Which led to other roles. Which led to other roles. And I’ve worked as an actor ever since.

But I didn’t know that would happen. At 29, walking away from data processing, I was terrified.

Ten years in a place without heat. Six years at a job, I felt stuck in. Maybe I was afraid of change. Are you?

My parents didn’t have much money. But they struggled to send me to the best schools. And one of the most important things they did for me — and graduates, maybe you don’t want to hear this – is that once I graduated, I was on my own. Financially, it was my turn.

Parents are applauding, graduates are not. But this made me very hungry. Literally. I couldn’t be lazy. Now I’m totally lazy but back then, I couldn’t be.

And so at 29, in a very long last, I was in the company of the actors and writers and directors I’d start out that first year, that first day after school. I was. I am by their sides.

Raise the rest of your life to meet you. Don’t search for defining moments because they will never come. Well, the birth of your children, OK, of course, forget about it, that’s just six months. My life is forever changed, that’s most defining moment ever. But I’m talking about in the rest of your life and most importantly in your work. The moments that define you have already happened. And they will already happen again. And it passes so quickly.

So please bring each other along with you. Everyone you need is in this room. These are the shiny more important people.

Sorry, it sucks after graduation. It really does. I mean, I don’t know. At least it did for me. But that’s the only thing I know.

You just get a bit derailed. But soon something starts to happen. Trust me. A rhythm sets in. Just like it did after your first few days here. Just try not to wait until like me, you’re 29 before you find it. And if you are, that’s fine too. Some of us never find it. But you will, I promise you. You are already here. That’s such an enormous step all its own. You’ll find your rhythm, or continue the one you have already found.

Now I tell the story, because the world might say you are not allowed to yet. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. Please, don’t even bother asking, don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it.

What did Beckett say? “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Bennington Class of 2012, the world is yours. Treat everyone kindly and light up the night.

 

TEARS. Am I right? Now I hope you take his words to heart - treat everyone kindly and LIGHT UP THE NIGHT.

A confession, part 1

Hi, I’m Elie, and I have disordered eating habits.


I never thought I would ever say that, but I truly believe MOST women have some sort of bad relationship with food, especially in the fitness industry. Seems counter-intuitive, I know.
I specifically say, “disordered eating habits” rather than “eating disorder” because I’m not anorexic nor am I bulimic. I do, however, binge. And I do eat less calories than anyone should. Its cyclical, like most disorders are. Usually, I binge Monday through Friday. Then I eat nothing over the weekend to make up for it. I wasn’t doing in on purpose, initially. I have always struggled with emotional eating and when I was bored, sad or excited, the answer was (is) food. I used to measure time by when I would eat, even if I wasn’t hungry. Sometimes I still do, which turns into binging days. 


Lately, I’ve had a really bad relationship with food, to the point where I don’t want to eat anything. These days it seems to coincide with weekends or, I have just realized, days where I lack routine and structure. Eating disorders are closely linked to mental illnesses and are usually biological in nature - they can be inherited. Since I also struggle with some sort of depressions and anxiety, it is a natural progression to develop disordered eating habits if physically self-coerced into practicing such habits (via poor body image, stress, etc). 


I have had a bit of time to think about why I have such a relationship with food and I have a few distinct thoughts on my situation as well as why it is such a widespread problem in modernized countries. 


I know I binge on weekdays because that is when I experience the most emotion – usually through work. Drama, deadlines, critical feedback and new projects bring on binging out of emotional discomfort and now, habit. But the guilt is still there. And that is a heavy emotion to deal with. I use it to fuel workouts and diet plans after a binge, and to be fair, I get GREAT workouts after a binge – so much energy! But the diet part never goes through. 


Enter weekends: I lose that workday routine and feel so much calmer and realized that I just plain forget to eat. It will be 2pm before I even think about eating something and I’ll maybe eat 500-700 calories Saturday and Sunday. I think in my mind, I subconsciously do it to make up for eating in a surplus throughout the week – and this may be why my weight maintains so well. But it’s also why I can’t lose any extra fat or gain any substantial muscle.  


So, why do I do this? If I know my triggers and realize when and how I binge and “starve,” why don’t I just fix it? Well, any person who struggles with disordered eating knows you can’t just stop. Like any addiction or mental illness, it’s NOT easy. It takes time, perseverance and usually outside help. I’ve researched and reached out to people who have struggled like me and I know I’m not alone – in fact, there’s probably more of us than we realize.


One major factor is body image – whether brought on by outside influences or my own sick mind games, I am never good enough in my own eyes. This is perpetuated by my perfectionist nature, which many people with eating disorders can attest too. I am extremely blessed to have a husband, a partner in life, who thinks I am beautiful regardless. His affirmation is enough to keep me from going over the edge. But I know I must fix my own thoughts to truly believe it myself.


Another major factor is the standards and *perceived* beauty ideals found on social media. There is a lot of self-love and body positivity on Instagram these days, which is so wonderful. But there’s also a lot of crap. And it hurts to see it! Social media can be so encouraging and inspiring but there are days I want to delete all my accounts and profiles because of the images I see and how my mind twists the truth, consciously and unconsciously. The sad thing is I bet 90% of all social media users would agree with me on this too. So why do we do it to ourselves, this self loathing and lust after a body we don’t have and can’t have? I don’t really know. 


Also, side rant here, some girls will post images and captions about how they want to be relatable and that they know 99% of their images are unattainable looks. But why post them in the first place?! If you know that level of leanness isn’t healthy or sustainable, why is your entire profile on Instagram #tbt shots to your leanest self? It sucks, because people like myself think that’s the norm, when it really isn’t. That being said, social media is what you make it. We must guard ourselves against things that poison our hearts and minds and I have truly slacked in that regard. HOWEVER, please, post those pictures of your HARD WORK and PROGRESS. I'm not discounting anyone who celebrates their victories, because they are worth celebrating. But those who have gained a following through dishonest depictions of themselves is just a hard pill for me to swallow these days.


And so, between an already-poor body image and the repeated (self-induced – I seek out these accounts) social media blasting of super lean, fit images, I have developed disordered eating habits.
 


If you've made it to the bottom, thanks for taking the time to read this raw post! It's unorganized and unedited, because its real life. I don't really know where I go from here, but I do plan on researching some nutritionists and coaches to help with my diet so that I can have healthy mind and healthy body. As I said on Instagram last week, I want to pursue structured eating and workouts and really build my body, but I already knew I needed a coach - I just didn't have the words to say everything I said above. Eating a pescetarian diet is still important to me because I have felt my best on it thus far. I think part 2 will be the things I know, but don't do. More thoughts to come soon <3

xoxo

The wolf you feed

The wolf you feed is the wolf that wins
— adaptation of Cherokee parable

When I first read this quote it sent shivers down my spine. It comes from a longer parable that describes two wolves, one good and the other evil. In the parable, a boy asks his grandfather which one will win. The grandfather simply states, "the one you feed".

Granted, the timing was perfect when I first read it, given my circumstances. This quote succinctly sums up the decisions I have made these last few weeks, which I feel like I should share - because maybe it will help make a difficult decision a bit easier to swallow for someone else.

The scene

If anyone followed my old blog last year, you may remember my excited announcement about going back to school. While it was definitely one of my more rash decisions, it felt right and everything fell into place for me at the time. Before I enrolled at American University last fall for a Masters in Public Administration and Policy, my husband and I had a serious talk about he boundaries we would set between school, work and our marriage. It was going to be a test of our wills, the next two years, but it would be worth it in the end.

The school work was difficult, but I had encouraging classmates and tons of support from my family. My husband and I worked out cleaning and cooking schedules, trying to figure out how everything would be taken care of when both of us were undergoing major life changes.

In December, my husband took a new job that meant less stress and more downtime, which was wonderful for him. I tend to take on other people's emotions, so his stress-free job in turn helped me feel a little more at ease. But his job began sending him on business trips several times a month, for up to a week at a time, which had us scrambling at the last minute each time trying to prepare each other for the time apart. Being alone isn't so much a problem for me as is carrying the burden of a combined life on one pair of shoulders. As a result, I started questioning why I went back to school - after all, life would be much easier to manage if I wasn't writing a grad-level paper every week. But then life really happened.

Here it comes...

My husband began experiencing strange pains and symptoms that we couldn't quite pinpoint. The travel seemed to make it worse, which in turn sent me into stress mode each time he want out of town. His eventual diagnosis led to lots of medication and a few minor procedures that will occur next month. 

Around the same time, our sweet little dog began to limp. Turns out he has the equivalent of a torn ACL and will require surgery, also next month, in order to walk on that leg properly again. (Side note, how in the world are we supposed to make a terrier stay on bed rest for 6 weeks after his surgery?! Suggestions are very much welcomed.)

And, oh yeah, my day job - as I began writing more for my day job, bigger assignments and projects came rolling in, taking up mental energy that I couldn't replenish in time for my school work deadlines. My grades began dropping, I started questioning my life choices again, and - the deciding factor in my ultimate decision - I received little to no help from my professors in attempting to regain my standing within the program.

Among all of this, the BIGGEST concern was the strength of my marriage. Before I started the program, my husband and I agreed that our marriage would come first. By the start of summer, it wasn't even on our lists anymore. What started as late nights, messy kitchens, and multiple deadlines led to fights, tears, resentment, and questions. Sure, life can get overwhelming and things happen that you can't control - health issues, for one. As much as I hate seeing Ben go through doctor visits and bottles upon bottles of pain medicine, all I can really do about it is support him, love him, care for him and care for our marriage. 

The Decision

And so, midway through my managerial budget course - the fifth of 12 in total - I decided to withdraw and take a leave of absence. Unbeknownst to my program, yet, I am almost certain my temporary leave will be extended indefinitely. 

Why? Because my marriage is more important. Our health is more important. No degree or salary in the world could ever entice me to stop making my marriage a priority. 

Maybe I'll go back to school eventually, but for now I'm making sure I feed the wolf I want to win - my marriage. 

You may be thinking, okay, no big deal, school will always be there and you can always go back. And you know what? You are so right! There is no reason I cannot put off my degree until another time. What paralyzed me is the stigma of being a grad school dropout - a failure - especially as a woman who loves school and has often thought about getting a PhD. HOWEVER, there are no hard and fast rules on when and how I get my degree. Maybe it will take me 5 years. Maybe I transfer to a different program. However it happens, it will happen in a way that honors and respects the life I want to build - and not how society thinks I should build it.

Takeaways

What tough decisions are you facing right now? Is there something you've said yes to that is more hurtful than helpful? Some things we can't change, but in order to make it through tough times, there are things we can say no to in order to focus our energies to the areas that need it most. This requires a bit of mindfulness in order to pinpoint what it is that you are struggling with, as well as determining what you can eliminate from your life to be happier and healthier.

As a result of my decision, I will have more time to do the things I love without fear or doubt hanging over my head. My fitness goals are revitalized, our to-do and to-see list is growing and we are free to explore our creative side (like Ben's photography!).

A more specific takeaway I want you to think about though is whether your marriage (or any relationship) is threatened by something you CAN change- because the longer you feed the anger, hurt, resentment, fear, lust, etc, the higher the chance that evil wolf will win. Choose instead to love, honor, respect, help, trust and give. That wolf is by far the worthy one to feed.

#riseabovethe50percent

Reducetarian?

This isn't a post about what you should and shouldn't eat, nor will I lecture anyone about what a vegetarian is or why it is or isn't better than vegan, meat-eaters, paleo, etc. 

I have dabbled in many diets - some I will definitely label "fad diets" - but one thing I can say with certainty is that there is nothing "fad" about eating whole foods. Nothing can replace real, fresh, wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, and meat and whole grains if you are not vegetarian or paleo. But the one thing I truly believe is that "diet" is a word we should throw out the window.  "Diets" have a negative connotation and are commonly thought of as temporary and usually harmful. Food is fuel and is as an integral and necessary part to feeling our best. So I prefer to talk about food as what it is: food.

There are many reasons why people choose to not eat meat, or not eat grains - some have allergy reasons while others have ethical concerns. Choosing what you should and shouldn't eat should be based on how you feel when you eat those foods. Many people will tell you that they stopped eating meat because it literally hurt their stomach to eat it. Other people find that chicken and beef are difficult for their bodies to handle, but fish is more easily digested. Grains are the same way. 

Personally, I believe the genetic experimentation and chemicals put in our food have affected our bodies for the worse. There are times I can't afford to buy organic or non-GMO foods, but when my budget allows it, I try to buy the freshest, least-processed food possible.

After struggling for years with digestive issues, I tried different diets to see if one would help ease the bloating, weight gain, breakouts and headaches. The first to go was sugar. The next to go was all heavily processed foods. Then I had to eliminate dairy and that was the biggest help for my body at that point in time.

Then I tried gluten-free and meatless. I can now say with certainty that my body can digest meat and gluten with no issues. Its the processed food that my body hates. However, I enjoy putting more emphasis on plant-based foods and focusing on colorful meals. I still indulge in a bowl of pasta and a grilled steak, but with less frequency. 

Getting enough protein is my biggest concern when going meatless - particularly because I cannot digest dairy or soy very well. Relying only on vegan protein powder and legumes isn't enough for my strength goals, so I am currently what many call a "reducetarian". I don't label myself that, but it is what I practice with my eating habits. Instead of eating meat three times a day, like I was doing a few years ago, I eat it only once a day. Without getting too deep into macros and splits and such, here is what my current meal plan typically looks like:

  • Breakfast: 2-3 eggs (2 egg whites + 1 whole, or some variation of that); 1/2 cup oats with almond milk, 1/2 scoop vegan protein powder, pb fit and chia seeds
  • Snack: vegan protein shake with almond milk, 1/2 frozen banana, ice, cocoa power and pb fit. 
  • Lunch: veggies and carbs, usually in the form of a burrito bowl or Asian stirfry
  • Dinner: veggies and carbs and meat, usually something similar to lunch with 4oz of meat added (chicken, fish or turkey)
  • If I'm still hungry I'll have a "nice-cream" which is just frozen bananas and a splash of almond milk with various toppings (peanut butter, fudge, chocolate chips, etc).

With this plan, I still get more carbs than protein and fat, however, I have been feeling pretty good and I can maintain my current weight. The important thing is to eat what makes you feel good and gives you enough energy to smash your goals! There are days I'll eat half an avocado, or a bowl of cereal, or more chocolate than I care to admit, but it's all about finding a balance for your mind and body. But remember, no matter what you eat, make sure you drink allllll the WATER! I strive for a gallon a day (yes, I also live in the bathroom) - I have a large jug that I fill up twice a day to get in a gallon. I can definitely tell a difference when I get in a full gallon and when I don't (hint, I feel better when I drink it all!).

The biggest, and hardest, lesson I learned is that it is all about trial and error. I kept a food log for two years before I figured out what I could and couldn't eat. I was also stubborn and didn't want to give up certain foods, but luckily, there's a food replacement for almost anything (coconut ice cream FTW!) - and, very few things can beat feeling your best thanks to the right food fuel :)