AOC Challenge Week 1: I Punched Some Things!

Hello! in 2018, I’ve decided to start my own personal writing challenge based on “Acts of Connection,” something I thought about while hiking the Camino de Santiago. You can find the whole story here. In a nutshell, the past year’s terrifying political climate has distanced me even more from my community, and I’m seeking 52 ways to reconnect with other humans and cultures. I hope it will be a helpful–albeit, wacky–guide for those feeling the same way now or in the future.

Week One: CKO Kickboxing class in Lyndhurst, NJ

“So what happens if you can’t keep up and need a break?” I asked Ben, panicked, “do you just lie down on the ground?”

“Like in the fetal position?!” he asked.

“That’s what you do in yoga class!”

I wish this was me, I dig her tattoos. But alas, it is an awesome stock photo by Matheus Ferroro.

It feels odd starting this challenge with a kickboxing class. But connection comes from unexpected experiences, and I’m a little tired of the traditional advice for feeling less alienated in today’s society. So I figured, let’s start out with a bang. Or a punch. Oh boy.

My husband Ben has been kickboxing for years. Though I took one trial class with him years ago, I never got the courage to get myself back in there. These classes are no joke. They put my hiking strength to shame. But they also supply something I didn’t even know I needed until it was available to me–the opportunity to safely hit something with all my might.

It’s important to note that I am not a violent person. I carry fruit flies outside in cups (they only get a month to live!). I’m still thinking about a spider I killed because it came at me in the shower a month ago. And yet, an hour of slamming my body into a heavy bag of sand made me realize how much I’d been missing out on. If anything, it will keep me–and probably many others–from ever getting angry enough to be violent in the first place. It also, much to my surprise, became a plausible act of connection perfect for this project.

Expectations vs. Reality

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Actor in the Back of the Coffee Shop

photo-1453128136016-b0c5c09ca9e8

“It’s just different from what I’m used to,” says the fussy lady in the coffee shop across from me, as she slams down the delicately crafted Matcha latte in front on the barista.  “If you had sweetened it the first time, I would have liked it.”  She wavers between a demanding tea connoisseur and someone who has never interacted with a food establishment before. Luckily, I know the people who work here, and will be able to share a glance of what a pain in the ass when she leaves.  Also luckily for me, she has no idea that I’m sitting here like the opposite of a secret shopper, writing about her unwarranted indignation about what is essentially a cup of hot sugar.

So yeah, not in a super-social mood lately.  Yesterday I told Ben that I would feel much more comfortable with a standard acting career acting if I could make one major change–to remain as introverted and secluded as an actor as I get to be as a writer. I know how to get my thoughts out, how to get to the point of what I want to say, when I sit in a public place with my laptop and write.  Here, I have the societal understanding that no one should mess with me because I’m clearly writing something super-duper important. This, paired with my intimidating resting face, usually assures my privacy.  Fussy tea lady is a reminder that I’m not exactly ready to dive into being a social butterfly to flaunt my acting career.  I used to have a thicker skin for people like this, or at least I thought I had to have one in order to stick with the types of jobs and interactions necessary for a public-facing career.

Continue reading

Diet Chronicles: Day 4. The Sarcasm Phase

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

Creative Commons via Haystaak Photography

If you haven’t had a chance to check out why I’m taking on this crazy food challenge, check out my most recent post here.

Healthy Lying

I have something to admit.  While all your very sweet support was pouring in two days ago, I was sitting in a friend’s house eating a homemade brownie covered in mascarpone whipped cream.  Because when your friend makes homemade brownies covered in mascarpone cheese, you take it.  Especially when there’s wine…and it’s snowing outside…and your football team is losing.  But I let go of the shame with the support of my other friends on the diet and we accepted that diets are not made to make you miserable.

Other than a little cheating last night, I am back in sugar detox-land.  It’s like I restarted the clock.  The exhaustion hasn’t turned up yet, but I feel like a bit of sarcastic shell of a human being.  Physically I feel fantastic,  I can stand up after eating without saying, “Uuuggh”….which probably should have been a red flag to begin with. But all in all, I eat a meal and that’s just that.  I don’t want to take a nap afterwards or sprint to our coffee maker in desperation.

Continue reading

Maybe There Will Be…Green Beans? Diet Chronicles: Day 2

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

Creative Commons by Sonja Langford

 

Hey team.  I’m in day two of sugar detoxing.  Things are a bit better than last night. I no longer feel like my stomach is trying to eat its other organ buddies and I don’t want to kick the cats as much.  I also went food shopping for some great options and don’t have to make it through the day on carrots and apples.  Let me back up a bit…

Why the heck am I dieting?

I have always been a little judgmental toward diet-fads, mainly because everyone’s body chemistry is so unique that lumping yourself into a specific food detox doesn’t seem healthy to me.  However, The Whole Life Challenge (and no, they aren’t paying me) is an 8- week challenge/game that several of my friends in the area have been playing on and off for the past year. You sign up, choose a “level” that is right for you, and tally your score each day.  This one appealed to me for several reasons:

  1. It’s well-rounded: In addition to diet, you are also encouraged to record your sleep, water intake, lifestyle habits (such as journaling) and exercise.
  2. There’s no body-shaming.  As well-intentioned as many of the programs out there may be, I can’t get behind a diet change that is motivated by fitting into a socially-imposed body standard.  I’d rather diet to fight the Man, opposed to looking “good” for one.
  3. It’s community-focused: Part of the app is about checking in with your fellow teammates each night.  Would I continue along the path without someone keeping track?  Maybe?  Or I may fall into a corner of the house with a container of peppermint patties and a handle of whiskey by week two.  Didn’t want to take my chances.
  4. And above all: it makes me give up all added sugar.  Judging by the fact that I have a blog titled after the emotional dependency on baked goods, I knew this would be hard for me.  I have always managed to remain relatively slim, but you wouldn’t know it from my diet and exercise habits.  It wasn’t until I started reading about the new research on belly-fat and sugar’s effects on the body that I started to reconsider my dependancy.  So above all, this isn’t about telling other people to change their ways, and no diets should be, but more about testing if I can actually give up something that I’m clearly addicted to in order to change my life-long health.

Sugar Detox…a little bit like the flu

They weren’t kidding friends.  Sugar detox is no joke.  I tried to ease into the sacrifice by slowly cutting it out last week but I usually gave in when it came to all the gluten-related products that I would eventually have to give up on the 16th.  This diet cuts out (among other things) added sugar, dairy, gluten, white potatoes, white rice, and all but one alcoholic drink a week.  A friend of mine on our team purchased a Das Boot for his one drink a week, which is amazing.

Anyway, the first thing I’ve discovered about processed sugar is that it’s in everything.  More specifically, everything I love.  So although yesterday was a struggle, since I didn’t prepare, shopping today was pretty awesome.  Here’s are some pros and cons so far of my sugar break up:

Pros:

  1. My grocery bill was less.  I didn’t grab the cookies I’m emotionally dependent on or the bags and bags and pasta I default to each evening I don’t feel like cooking a complicated dinner.  Also, no bread or cereal!
  2. I made a killer omelette.  I’ve been discovering combinations of food I would have normally covered up with mad amounts of cheese.  Oh yeah, this diet cuts out cheese.
  3. Since I partially started the sugar detox last week, I’m beginning to feel the benefits I’ve read about, such as craving healthy foods.  Also, things are starting to generally taste better- without covering them in syrup.
  4. I’m saving money all around.  No drinking means that I sit at the bar and have an iced tea.  I just assume bartenders around here think I’m pregnant.

Cons:

  1. I’m exhausted half the time.  I’m told this will pass in two days.  But sometimes people say things to me and it takes a few more seconds to process anything has been said.  So obviously, I’m super cool to be around.
  2. I kinda want to punch a wall.  I asked my husband yesterday if he ever just felt “dusty.”  He thought I was a little nuts. Generally, I feel antsy and uncomfortable.
  3. I’m always a little hungry.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have basically been eating non-stop since I started this.  I can’t seem to stop, and again, apparently this is normal.  Sugar activates your brain’s reward system, assuring you that everything is okay.  So as each meal goes by without this sweetness to fill the void, my brain things something is wrong.  Great.
  4. Last night, the nausea was no joke.  I’ve read that sugar withdrawal is comparable to some drug withdrawal, though I can assume I’m doing better than that, seeing that I can generally go about my day (even if I want to punch something).  But around 8pm I thought I was actually sick.  I finally calmed it down by eating several beets.  Just beets, like a crazy person.

At the end of the day, I’ve always been a huge supporter of listening to your body.  But if my body is telling me to fall back on chemically engineered foods that are sending me into an unhealthy spiral, then I think it’s a good day to tell my body that it needs to see other people (or in this case, food).

Will keep you posted on my occasionally discoveries or inevitable demise into eating Ben and Jerry’s on the floor of our local CVS.  Either way, it helps me to write and hold myself accountable during this crazy project.

Thanks for reading, everyone!

The War Against Office Snacks

edbadge_Featured

A few days ago, my boss purchased a fun little candy dispenser from Costco.  We’ve been trying to make our office more welcoming for teachers to come work. So when she came across this awesome little candy machine, she went for it.  We filled it to the brim with Peanut M&M’s and mini Hershey bars and placed it by our door.

IMG_1400

Now overall, this office has been a million more times open minded than anywhere I’ve worked.  I genuinely enjoy the company of everyone who comes by my office, and I am always impressed by how healthy the environment this.  However.  A trend is forming that I’ve seen almost everywhere, from the most corporate hedge funds down to the most liberal middle school.  We’re terrified of snacks.  We think that if we don’t hide them in secret drawers behind the receptionist, that they will force themselves into our stomachs, making a b-line for our thighs!

Ever since we put out these candy dispensers, I’ve had a range of comments:

“You’re evil!”

“That’s so dangerous!”

“No!!  Terrible!  I can’t even be NEAR chocolate.”

“I saw that, did you see that?  Where did it come from?”

Back, snacks, back!

Back, snacks, back!

Yes, I know these are playful comments, I’m not trying to be uptight here.  But let’s back it up a bit.  When I worked at a similar school in the city, the tension between my coworkers and sweets became an outright war.  Someone would buy cupcakes for someone’s birthday and with each bite the room would scream, “Oh I shouldn’t!  Oh this is awful!  Why am I do this?!”  For Christ’s sake eat the cupcake.  Now on top of the processed sugar, that yes, it not excellent when eaten in giant quantities, you are stressed.  So now your body is not only working to break down the sugar, but also releasing all sorts of angry stress chemicals.  All over a birthday cupcake.  If you have chosen to cut back on sweets, or simply don’t like them, that is totally fine.  A simple “No, thank you” will suffice.

The Skinny Myth

high school

At a theatre competition in 2004

Ever since I was in middle school, I’ve gotten passive aggressive comments about being thin.  I didn’t break 110 pounds until I was about 18.  I got a lot of, “Oh be quiet, you can eat whatever you want.”  But did being thin make me healthy?  I think I drank 2 glasses of coke with each meal until high school.  I went through my teenage years making an ice cream sundae a night.  No, I do not have some super-human ability to expel all that sugar from my body, it just didn’t hang around as fat yet.  But that doesn’t mean it didn’t negatively affect my body.  Strangely enough, it wasn’t until I became more in touch with my actual hunger and started eating better that I reached a healthy weight (by gaining some).

But I am literally sitting here eating a brownie as I write this, and happily.  I will not spend the whole day guzzling soda or beer and will not have five more brownies after this.  I am just enjoying the damn brownie.  The problem about these casual comments is the dread and body shaming that lie underneath them.

Awareness vs. Body shaming

The sweets in an office are “dangerous” because eating them (apparently against our own control) will lead to something “terrible”, like weight gain. Heavens forbid!  My “beach body” will  apparently not be up to par with those only drinking milk shakes this month.  Our relationship with food often seems like a direct relationship with our physical awareness.  If we took the energy we put into fighting back the evils of chocolate and the need to complete a certain amount of squats in a day, and used it instead to figure out what our body actually needs and how it works, then we may be able to stop fearing everything we consume.  We may even figure out why we eat and what we truly want to eat.

If there is one main theme I have learned from studying Alexander Technique, it’s that our body knows how to take care of itself if we get out of its way.  Once you do, you will know when you need cardio, or to eat some protein, or to stretch.  Forcing a regimen on yourself that is perfect for someone else is like buying a size 10 shoe when you’re a size 7, just because you liked how that specific shoe looked on someone else.  It doesn’t work.

sailing

How I felt when I stopped worrying about my “beach body”

So I will say now, with complete respect to my Beach Body friend representatives, please stop sending me Beach Body invitations.  Without realizing it, you are inferring that I need to alter my body to go to the beach.  And frankly, I am doing plenty to try and get in touch with my best diet and exercise patterns, but I am not going to do them in the name of a bathing suit.  I am not going to go for a run and check my calves when I get home.   I am not going to chart out my calories every time I take a bite.  I am going to continue educating myself on how my specific body responds to sugars and chemicals, and I will continue to find the best way to keep my energy high and fabulous through whatever exercise I damn well please.  But that is up to me, and it is a timely process to find the balance.  So please cool it.

SO!  Snacks!

Let’s begin by cutting back the snack shaming.  Saying that something is “dangerous” infers that no one else around you should eat it either.  And that isn’t your business.  The snacks can exist in your presence, and if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat them.  So until you find that happy place and know what your body needs to feel good, cut down on the accusations.  That poor plate of brownies did nothing wrong, and neither did you by eating one of them.

Feelin' good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.

Feelin’ good about my recent ability to run a full mile AND drinking that glass of wine.