Getting Rid of Your Scale… And other people’s perceptions.

all you need is loveTwo things happened in the past couple of days that have led to this blog. First, a friend of mine wrote to me, “I love how you carry yourself. The way you walk and dance and play, you move like you own your body. I think so many of us (women) are enslaved by our perceived abundances or lacks and we carry ourselves as if to hide those imagined imperfections. You seem to celebrate with your body.” I had to read it several times and then think on it for a while before responding. I hadn’t thought of it like that. I merely move through my life the way I want to move, I love who I love, and I do what I want to do. See, it took me almost 41 years to get to this point, and I’m not going to let other people’s ideas about what a fat woman should and should not do/wear/be/say dictate how I behave.

In a way, as I responded to that friend, being a big woman in this society is an act of defiance. I will not hide myself or shrink myself or try to conform myself to someone else’s standards of beauty.

On the opposite side of that is not letting people’s outspoken approval of my moves toward a more societally acceptable appearance turn my head either. The second thing that happened was this exchange at work:

Co-worker: Are you losing weight?

Me: Probably. Seems my pants go on a little easier these days.

Co-worker: How much have you lost?

Me: I don’t know.

Co-worker: Well, when do you weigh?

Me: I don’t. Or won’t.

Cow-worker: (Dumbfounded) Well, how will you know how much weight you lost?

Me: I won’t.

Co-worker: What will you tell people?

Me: What people?

Co-worker: The ones who want to know how much you lost.

Me: It’s none of their business.

Co-worker: I just don’t understand.

Me: You’re confusing a number on a scale with my worth as a person. I don’t.

We exchanged a few more words, but I could tell she walked away without any understanding. I was trying to explain to her that I do not own a scale. I got rid of it a couple of years ago and I will not set foot on one again. Here’s the thing. I am not defined by a number on a scale. I am a strong, creative, beautiful, sexy, funny woman, and some arbitrary number cannot define my self-worth. It took forever for me to realize this… that someone else’s opinion of the way I look matters not one bit to me. They can’t change who I am. They don’t get to define me.

Am I losing weight? Yes. I went vegan a few weeks ago, not out of a weight-loss plan, but to be a better citizen of this universe and for my own health; soul health, emotional health, physical health, and mental health. I have been exercising a little bit because I feel better when my lungs and heart are working well. I meditate daily because it brings me calm and helps to retain my joy. Does all of this contribute to weight loss? Probably. I am definitely heavier than I want to be for my OWN PERSONAL life goals. That is, I want to be able to run up the stairs, and walk five miles for fun, and hike up hills, and kayak, and swim, and play in the woods. But I do not need to be a certain societally prescribed number to do those things. If I lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy. If I don’t lose weight and get healthy and fit, I’ll be happy.beth at fest

Society has told us from the time that we were little girls that we should look a certain way. Women need to conform to a certain look that has been deemed attractive. It’s the media and our parents and our teachers. I remember my mother in a constant battle with her weight and that translated to all three of the girls in my family. I heard a family member saying about her maybe eight year old daughter, “She was so tiny when she was born. I don’t know what happened.” I hear a friend of mine constantly saying, “Some women should not wear things like that.”I have another friend who actually weighs herself five times a day. FIVE TIMES. And just try reading your Facebook or Twitter feed during things like the Oscars and seeing posts about how fat a certain celebrity looks in a dress. Seriously? Every time someone mocks a woman for the way she looks, she is sending a message to every one around her (and to herself) that no matter what other accomplishments that woman has achieved, she is not good enough unless she conforms to the prescribed way of looking. Is that pathetic?

It’s time to throw away the scale. Take whatever self-care you need to make you happy, and leave it at that. Shaming has never helped anyone get healthy. Shaming someone about their weight does not make them want to lose weight… it simply puts them into a lifelong battle with their weight that they will have to overcome if they ever want to be truly happy. So start right now with getting rid of the scale. Repeat the mantra to yourself, “An arbitrary number does not define me. Society’s *rules” do not define me.” Fat, skinny, old, young, white, black, tall, short, over abundant, under abundant, big breasts, small breasts, no breasts… whatever your appearance, take it back. Take it back and live your life as an act of defiance. Be who and how you want to be and if anyone has a problem with it, remember that it is indeed just that – THEIR problem. It is time to stop giving in to the culture that raised us to think we aren’t good enough. You know what? We ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Confidence is the ultimate reward. Understand that loving yourself is the ultimate act of rebellion. Flipping off the weight loss centers and the makeup industry and the billions of dollars spent to try to look the way we were told we should look is our choice. We have the power.

One Week of Oil Pulling. (Did I just say oil pulling?)

This is what Wikipedia has to say about coconut oil:

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant torancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling

ImageWell, I guess I’m slow to the game because apparently, everybody I know has been using coconut oil for everything from natural moisturizer to lubricant to wrinkle cream to deep hair conditioning. Well, I’m not going to speak on the lubricant usage, however, I will address the rest of the alleged benefits. I picked up some cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil a couple of months ago on the advice of a friend who suggested it would make a good moisturizer. In those weeks, I have used it on my lips, where it has gotten rid of all of the chapped lip crap of winter. I put it on my nose, thus alleviating that big ugly patch of dry skin that comes from blowing it all of the time. I rub it on my face, neck, and chest at night and have seen an incredible improvement in the quality of my skin, which has gotten softer, smoother, and more radiant. I even slather it on my hair sometimes about twenty minutes before a shower to deep condition and it works beautifully. So, I was already a fan of coconut oil when my sister posted a link about “Oil pulling.”

Apparently, oil pulling involves putting a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and squishing it around for twenty minutes before spitting it out.

NOTE: DO NOT SPIT IT INTO THE SINK. (Says the voice of experience.)

Apparently the health benefits range from curing migraines to regulating blood sugar to whitening teeth to preventing yeast infections. (I think there’s more, but the curing migraines thing is what stopped me in my tracks.)

You know, I hate taking pills and I am a big opponent of big Pharm and I’ll try just about anything I read on the internet that doesn’t involve anal insertion, so I thought, why not? I’ll give it seven days and see what happens.

The first thing to note is that coconut oil isn’t in a particularly oily state… it’s pretty solid. So it Imagefeels a little strange when I first put it in my mouth. It’s almost kind of gummy… but I just started kind of moving around in my mouth and after a minute or so, it started to melt. When it melts, it doesn’t feel slimy, like I expected oil to feel. It feels just kind of thicker water, I guess, and it doesn’t have much of a taste at all.

The first day I made it about thirteen minutes before my mouth got too tired and I had to spit it out. (In the sink…. Again, DO NOT DO THIS!) My sister told me that it will resolidify and clog the drain, so I had to run some boiling water through and hope it all washed down. (It did.) I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary, except that my mouth felt really clean. I brushed as usual with my non-fluoride Tom’s toothpaste and went about my day.

The second day, I noticed that a couple of pimples I had around the side of my mouth from being menstrual were almost completely gone overnight.

Day three, I realized that the small sores that I sometimes have in the back of my mouth because I have a tooth back there that is pointy and rubs against the inside of my gum were all gone. My mouth felt fantastic, very healthy.

Day four, I woke up with one of those headaches that have the potential to turn into a migraine. I usually try to stop these by eating a small breakfast, taking a couple of Tylenol, and drinking a cup of coffee. Of course, if it DOES turn into a migraine, all of that will come back up, so it’s not the best plan in the world. At any rate, on that day, I did my oil pulling and by the end of the fifteen minutes, my headache was gone. It stayed gone for the rest of the day, even at work where the glare of the fluorescent lights on the computer sometimes activates a headache in me.

Today was day seven and I can say that I feel the experiment has been a success. I haven’t had any headaches and my mouth feels healthy and clean. I can’t really say whether or not it is making my teeth whiter, but since that wasn’t one of the things that I cared about in the first place, it doesn’t really matter. My experiment did get my sister doing it, too, and she is very prone to migraines and stomach issues. She is not only oil pulling, but putting a small spoonful in her hot tea every night. She has had no stomach issues or headaches since she started.

As a side note, I sometimes get anxiety, and I have noticed that my fifteen minutes of pulling in the morning is kind of a meditation. I try not to do anything else during this time. I just sit back in my chair, put my feet up, sometimes pet the dog, and swish my oil. It has kind of a zen effect of me.

So, I guess the conclusion of the week is that I will keep going with the oil pulling as long as it still feels good and healthy to me… that is, until someone comes out with a study that shows I’ve been giving myself brain cancer with it or something.

My Personal Year in Review

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on Facebook that offer to show me my “2012 year in review.” Well, I have to admit that I tend to keep the Facebook world pretty well-informed as to what is going on in my life, so there’s probably a pretty thorough accounting there of my 2012. Yet, I have hesitated to click on the link.

The question is whether or not I really want to go back over everything that has happened this year. My grandmother died. My long-term relationship ended. I finished writing my novel. I found deep wells of strength and love within myself. I worked on throwing all of the truly negative people out of my world and embracing the positive and loving ones. I made the Dean’s list in school every semester. I self-published my book as a ebook. I got a job, then quit it a few months later when my novel’s royalties started coming in. I got a publisher and now, a printed book.

I went to an amazing womyn’s music festival. (There is another blog about that on this page.) After many years with a partner who didn’t like people, I was pretty used to being solitary. I was definitely anxious about spending a week in the woods with thousands of womyn. But it was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. The consequences of that festival are still guiding me every day. I went deeper into my own spiritual quest. I met several womyn who helped me to solidify what I was really searching for in my life. I started questioning God and managed to reconcile my own beliefs about spirituality with my own previous misconceptions about the term. I went to church. I wrote a blog about Christianity and Homosexuality that went viral and was actually read aloud in at least two different churches.

I absolutely embraced being single. I made a loud and very public announcement to all of my friends and family that I was not even going to consider dating until I had at least finished my degree. (Another couple of years.) Two months later, I realized that I had fallen in love. That figures. My love is a woman whose spiritual journey is a lot like mine in a lot of ways and very different in many ways. But we converge in several key areas and we are able to respectfully and lovingly disagree in others.

I drove with my friend Kim to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I drove by myself to visit a friend in Michigan. I drove by myself to visit (visit? It was a six week stay) my love in Iowa. I drove back to Ohio in the snow. Oh, and snow! After ten years in Phoenix and seven in the Virgin Islands, I got to relearn about snow. Driving back to Ohio from Iowa in a small snow storm, I called my sister and said, “I just slid when I was changing lanes.” She said, “The rule of lane changing in the snow is to take your foot off of the gas and casually drift over. And at no time should you put your foot on the brake during the maneuver.” It’s important to note here that before this, I had always had driving anxiety. Or at least, I think I have had driving anxiety for the past several years. But I haven’t had a moment of anxiety behind the wheel this year, not even during that snow storm.

Is there more? There is so much more. I lost 45 pounds between May 29th and the present. I found several pairs of jeans in a drawer at my mom’s house that had been shoved away because I couldn’t fit into them. They now all fit and some of them are too big. I became a vegetarian, then started eating meat again and now I am going back to the veggie lifestyle again.

I started taking yoga while living in/visiting Iowa. I found the library. I quickly discovered which stores I preferred. I made some friends. I learned that six weeks is either way too long or way too short of a visit. I started building a life there and I miss it. Now I have been home for three weeks and I am rebuilding my life here again. In a few days, I am going back to Iowa. And I will miss Ohio again when I leave. I’m learning that it is okay to miss people and that I still carry their love when we are far away.

I learned that everything is within me. Everything. Success, failure, fear, love, sadness, happiness, disappointment. Everything that I feel is my choice. Everything that I do is my choice. I knew this, but I think I had suppressed it. I relearned that I can only do something because it is what I must do, not because other people expect it of me. I’ve embraced my own power. I’ve moved more into myself. Self-knowing. Not that I am perfect at it… at any of it. I just know its importance and I am mindful of it almost all of the time.

Is there more? Yes. I reveled in the joy of being around some of my biological family again. It was extremely expensive and very difficult to get back to Ohio from St. Croix, so I didn’t get to see them very often. I expressed my joy and gratitude for their presence often and unreservedly. I thanked the universe for the chance to live with my mother again as a grown up and realize how very much I love her. (And how much alike we are.)

What else? I entered a couple of short story contests and lost. (But at least I entered, which I had never done before.) I won a big LGBT literary award for my novel. Actually, I won two… and got an honorable mention in another. I went through the whole editing process.I made it to number 8 on the Amazon list of bestsellers in lesbian fiction. I went to speak to a transgendered support group about my book and they loved me!  I made the terrible realization *after* the novel had gone to print that the “about the author” was completely wrong. At the time that we were gathering the information, I was on my way to California… my epic road trip. So, the about the author has me living in California. However, stopping in Iowa became more than a stopover and other things converged that suddenly made the California trip seem better postponed. Of course, I didn’t think to change the “about the author page.” But that’s all right. I figure it will make an interesting topic of conversation when I go on Ellen.

Is there more? Yes.

But I’m done now. It was an amazing year of joy, love, self-discovery, and peace. There was some turmoil, but I found I recovered quickly. I do believe that we choose our own attitudes and I choose to be happy as often as possible.

And what’s next? I don’t really want to make New Year’s resolutions. I believe I should be striving for betterment throughout the year. But here is what is on my plate for 2013.

I want to learn to meditate. Confession: It makes me nervous when my heart rate starts changing while meditating. I want to learn to stop worrying about that and find a way into my own soul. I want to continue my yoga classes. I want to branch out into other yoga classes. I love the gentle yoga that I take, but I am ready to take a class that challenges me. My yoga teacher teaches other, more difficult classes, so I am going to check out one of those. I want to finish my second novel so I can move onto the third one that is consuming my brain. I want to collaborate with my friend Jenny on our idea of a book that reconciles and merges her God and my Creator. (We aren’t as far apart as you would think.) I want to continue with my weight loss journey. I want to complete P90X again. I want to take a zumba class. I want to get back to being fully vegetarian. I want to be a kind and mindful person as often as possible. I want to be a friend my friends can count on. I want to be a loving and respectful partner to my girlfriend. I want to continue to be the world’s most awesome dog mom.

I want to work at, or continue to work at, being healthy in my body, my mind, and my soul. I want to fuel my body with vitamin rich, natural foods. I want to fuel my mind with learning new things. I want to fuel my soul with love and empowerment and gratitude.

I want to learn sign language. I would like to learn to speak Italian. I want to become better at playing my banjo and when I have gotten more proficient at that, I want to learn to play the guitar.

I want to (and I will) go back to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. In my heart, I believe that it is one of the best ways in the world to reaffirm my desire to keep moving toward who I want to be. It is possible to find like minded womyn there, no matter which aspect of myself I am hoping to share. Banjo players, sure. Spiritual questers? Absolutely. Writers…. you know it. Fest is what you make of it, and what I made of it last year was a desire to meet soul sisters. I did. Next year, I want to do more workshops, meet more incredible womyn. I’ll do it.

I want to go to Arizona. I want to go to California. I want to go to Asheville, NC. I want to tour bookstores and sign books. I want to sign your book.

Is there more? Yes. But that’s enough for now. It seems ambitious. But it all boils down to one resolution after all. I want to live my life truly alive.

Or as Mr. Thoreau once said:   I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.

This year, I want to suck out all of the marrow of life.

Been a Bit Busy

Sorry I haven’t been blogging. I’m still a vegetarian. I’m still fighting to be fully vegan. But between work, school, and life lately, it seems I haven’t a spare moment. This may be because I have been absolutely obsessed lately with my novel, “Man Enough” by Beth Burnett. Yes, I wrote a novel. And I published it and it is available on Amazon for Kindle, Kindle for smartphones, or Kindle for the PC. I intend to have it up and running on Nook pretty soon. Wow.

So this has been taking over a large part of my mind… Between harassing my friends to buy it, emailing everyone I know, and trying to figure out where to market it, I have been busy. It is a good novel. It’s “Sweet and Endearing” as one reviewer called it. Yes, I read the review, yes, I grinned like a fiend over it, and yes, I read it out loud to my mother. Yeah, I’m a nerd.

Still, there it is. One more thing on my long list of things I want to do. Next up, stand up paddle boarding! 🙂

Going Vegan – Some simple tips

I really don’t like to cook. I mean, I really have no interest in gourmet meals. Spending hours chopping vegetables and sauteing stuff is not fun for me. I have far better things to do with my life. Part of the appeal of the PRE-vegan life is that if I wanted something to eat, I could just grab something and eat it. Never mind that it wasn’t healthy, or whatever, the fact remains that it was extremely easy to open the fridge and grab a piece of cheese or a slice of turkey, slap it on some bread and call it a sandwich.

I don’t have that option anymore. The closest I can come to is slicing an apple and eating it with some almond butter.

To keep things kind of simple, I like to go to the salad bar at work and just get a container full of pre-cut fruits. That way, if I have cereal with almond milk for breakfast, I can throw a handful of different fruits on it. Instant healthy breakfast. I usually try to make a huge salad and eat off it for a few days. Soups are my friend. Start with a good low-sodium veggie broth and then add whatever vegetables are left in the kitchen. Today, I have squash, cabbage, a tomato, and some cut up portabello mushroom. I always put in a bit of brown rice and some kind of bean, as well…. make sure you cook it long enough that your beans and rice get soft. Some combinations work well, others… not so much. But I have found that you really can’t go far wrong with veggie broth and vegetables, regardless of the veggie.

The recipe for black bean burgers in the Engine 2 Diet makes several… enough to last me through a bunch of meals. I can eat them on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, onion, etc or put one on top of some brown rice. They are good just eaten alone, as well.

I think the key to becoming vegan is to just jump in and do it. I researched vegetarianism for a long time before I decided to do it, and even then, if someone asked me what vegans eat, I would have been hard pressed to come up with a lot of options. But hunger is a strong motivator and as soon as I decided that from this point on, I no longer consume animal products, I started getting pretty creative in crafting meals for myself. And I find that I don’t miss meat or butter or mayonaise at all.

I have to admit, though, that I do miss the ease of picking up a Heinen’s cheese pizza after my shift at the grocery store.

Going Vegan – This will help.

So I went to the library the other day and got several books on veganism and vegan cooking. My favorite to date is not even a cookbook. It’s Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B Esselstyn, Jr. He gives a lot of great reasons to go vegan, and outlines the health benefits and the patients of his who have reversed their heart disease, including large blockages simply by switching to his plan. (Which, incidentally is the one I am following… no meat or animal products, no sugar, no white flour, no oil.) I have already done a ton of research, including reading Caldwell’s son Rip Esselstyn’s book (which I linked in another blog) and Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, so I pretty much skimmed through the first half of the book. If you aren’t yet convinced about becoming vegan, or going completely plant based, read the first half and get the medical facts.

In the meantime, I found myself in the section written by Esselstyn’s wife and this was where I stuck gold. It was very matter of fact and very simple. She outlined a lot of ways to put together quick and easy healthy meals without getting all crazy about it or buying a million different kinds of weird foods from health stores. She listed tons of simple, easy ways to eat plant based without spending hours at a time in the kitchen. I liked her ideas about black beans over brown rice, with bowls of various cut up veggies to put on top. Add some salsa, and you are set. She stressed repeatedly how important it is to read the labels. For example, I am eating what is labelled “sprouted grain” bread, from a health food company, expensive, etc… well, I had skimmed the label when I bought it, but somehow I missed that it has yogurt in it. So, that bread is going to the squirrels and I got a new bread that is oil and animal product free.

My trip to the grocery store this morning took a lot longer than last week, but I stocked up on veggies and then read the labels for everything else. Did you know that some vegetable broths have oil in them? Neither did I… got a Heinen’s brand organic for a good price. (I love my grocery store.) Got some beans, some balsamic vinegar and a couple of cans of artichoke hearts. (The jars tend to be marinated in oil.) So, after getting home from the grocery store, I made myself some 100 percent whole wheat pasta (read the ingredients here, too… not all whole wheat pastas are only whole wheat.) For a sauce, I am simmering some Brussels sprouts, artichoke hearts, and black bean and corn salsa with a little veggie broth. After the sauce is done, I will throw some green onions on top. I could also nuke a potato and use a little salsa, green onion, finely diced peppers. etc.

It has been just over a week since I went fully vegan, and only a couple of days since I decided to go oil free as well, but I feel better today than I have in a long, long time. I am not getting dizzy anymore, I have a ton of energy, and the usual menstrual pimples that I get once a month didn’t show up this month. (Surprise bonus!) Also, I restarted P90X at the beginning of this week and have had plenty of energy for that, as well.

Going Vegan – Navigating the holidays.

People want to help. I mean, in general, unless your friends and family are really unsupportive assholes, people do applaud your actions when it comes to trying to be healthier in life. They may not agree with what you are doing, but if they are cool people, they will support it. Case in point, my stepmother’s barbecue yesterday. When she sent out the email saying that there was going to be a party there, I agreed to go, while secretly thinking I would just stick to whatever side dishes and figure it out on my own. I didn’t want to be a problem, you know?

Well, my sister Dolly sent an email back telling Robbie that I am a vegetarian now. (I hadn’t yet gone full vegan then.) She obviously took it to heart, because she not only made several vegetarian side dishes, but got portabello mushrooms to grill, so I could have a “burger” when everyone else had one. How cool is that?

The thing is, nobody made any comments about what I was eating, nobody acted like it was a big pain to make something different… after all, they were grilling several kinds of meats, why not throw a couple of mushrooms in the mix?

The only bad part of the day is that I really over-indulged way more than I should have. I ate until I was stuffed, then went to the movies and ate popcorn *with* butter. (And yeah, I can kid myself that movie butter isn’t real butter, but whatever it is, it is definitely not the non-processed, plant based, whole food diet that I am trying to follow here.)

Still, all in all, it was a good holiday for a newbie. I didn’t crave any of the burgers or brats. And I started fresh this morning with a healthy breakfast, nice salad for lunch and another new soup. Small steps, right?