Exercising Is About Loving Yourself, Not Punishing Yourself

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

“Ugh, I had too many cookies. I will have to go to the gym for hours later.”

“I ran three miles, so I can have this ice cream.”

“I worked out a lot this week, I can eat whatever I want.”

“I cheated on my diet yesterday. I have to go work it all off today.”

“I would love to have some of that dessert, but I didn’t work out today.”

Do any of those phrases sound familiar?

If one or more does, I am so sorry. I’ve been there. I know how horrible the constant guilt, work-out, repeat cycle truly is.

Exercise mindsets centered around food and dieting and working off what was eaten are unhealthy. They are dangerous and cyclic and a recipe for disaster.

But they are also the norm. They are promoted by society and normalized by peers.

You can find references to “magic” workouts on magazines. Exercise fads are almost as insidious as diet trends! They are discussed almost constantly.

Seriously, I dare you to go a day without hearing (or mentioning) working out, dieting, food or guilt around something you ate.

But, would you like to know a secret?

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise isn’t something you do because you think you had one too many cookies.

It isn’t something you do because you want to eat a certain way later.

It isn’t something that gives you permission to “let loose.”

Our society treats exercise like the end-all-be-all of what you can and cannot eat. It is the magic permission slip for dessert. It is the go-to for guilty thoughts and fixing that cheat meal.

(Oh, and those cheat meals… those are bullshit, too.)

Food is not good or bad or healthy or unhealthy. (It’s all about that moderation!)

Food is not something you earn.

Food is not something you compensate for with hours on hours of time at the gym.

Let me tell you something. I used to think that food was all of the above. I logged hundreds and hundreds of miles running. I worked out all the time.

I was miserable. I had an eating disorder that constantly told me food was bad. And I punished myself with exercise.

And now, years later, in recovery from my eating disorder and months and months away from compulsive exercise, I look around me and I see the same unhealthy relationship with exercise everywhere.

I hear it in conversations I pass on the street or floating around the air in cafes. I watch it in the monotonous strain of those who attend the college gym with a pained, dead look in their eyes.

It’s not healthy.

But, as I have started to add exercise back into my life, I have redefined my relationship with it.

Exercise. Is. Not. A. Punishment.

Exercise is something you do because you have lots of energy and you want to move.

Exercise is something you do to relieve stress…and not the stress that comes from feeling like you ate something you “shouldn’t have.” (Shouldn’t have really doesn’t exist, unless, for example, you are lactose intolerant and had a lot of ice cream…)

Exercise is something you do to appreciate all that your body is capable of achieving.

Exercise is something you do because you feel strong and powerful and fierce.

Exercise is something you do to enjoy the outdoors and the fresh air.

Exercise is something you do only when you can enjoy it.

Exercise is something you do because you enjoy it.

Let me say it again… Exercise. Is. Not. Punishment.

Trust me, I have used it as one. The other, enjoyable, self-fulfilling, side of the exercise spectrum is a lot more fun.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

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Stop Worrying About Your ‘Perfect Summer Body’ And Just Enjoy The Weather

*article originally posted on The Odyssey Online* 

As it warms up and winter clothing *finally* starts to withdraw into the back of the closet, discussions about body appearance move to the front hangers. ‘Tis the season for ads promoting how to get the body you want before summer and different diet trends to help you get rid of those last few pounds.

Feeds start to fill with alluring “body goals.” Promises re-emerge to take up that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym that you dropped on January 3. I sound sarcastic, but honestly, it’s OK to not go to the gym or drop those pounds!

And that’s the point.

Magazines, friends, commercials, etc. all say it’s time to get in shape before you hit the beach.

But, you don’t need to.

You don’t need to have abs and trim thighs and sculpted arms to be seen.

You don’t need to look like you work out every day to be worthy of space.

You don’t need to be a certain way to dress in shorts, skirts, a bathing suit, something that shows your legs or your form.

And anyone who says you do is wrong.

You can tell them I said that. Please do.

Society and (especially American) culture send messages basically saying to be worthy — of love, belonging, respect, space, time, empathy, etc. — you need to be a certain body type.

To be worthy, you need to look worthy.

But worth does not lie on the skin. As cliché as this is, “beauty is not skin deep.” (I honestly have no idea who said that, but they were/are correct and I give them mad props.)

Someone who looks different than you is just as worthy of love as you are.

We, and here I mean society as a whole, because, like it or not, we who disagree with thin ideals are part of society too, judge so much on how we look and what we wear that we forget the object of the judgment is a person too.

A person with feelings and dreams and desires who just wants to love and be loved.

Who cares if you have some shape to your stomach and you like to wear bikinis?

Who cares if you don’t have super thin thighs and you sport shorts in the warm weather?

Who cares if you have scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, acne, etc. and you don’t try to hide them?

If you answered “I care and it bothers me to see” to any of the above questions, it’s time to reevaluate your values because you just defined someone simply by their appearance.

What a petty thing to do.

In the spirit of full disclosure, when I read the questions I wrote above, I think: “I care if people think that about me.” But you know what, that’s OK and, honestly, to be expected.

Society conditioned me to care what people think.

Society conditioned me to think I have to hide my flaws.

Society conditioned me to think I have to work out and look a certain way in order to take up space. (When did exercise change from something we do to alleviate stress to something we do to punish our bodies for the way they look? But, that right there is a different article for another week.)

Society conditioned me to think if I don’t look like a model, I can’t love who I am.

As hard as it is (for me too), I challenge us both to let go of those fears — if only for five minutes — and wear the shorts, the bathing suit, the outfit that doesn’t hide every flaw.

I challenge us both to drop the ridiculous standard we hold ourselves and others to in the spirit of just enjoying the world.

I challenge us both to view our bodies not as the enemy or of something to be ashamed, but as a means of exploration of the places around us. Of the vehicles that allow us to laugh, smile, hug, play sports, lounge on the beach, swim in the water and soak in the light.

Because, in the end, whether we look a good in a bathing suit is not the memory to look back on when we are older.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

Dear young Lexi

A letter to the girl on the left, who looks happy, but is aching inside. From the girl on the right, who has learned how to laugh and smile and feel joy.

“Dear young Lexi,

I wish I could tell you that you will be okay. 
I wish I could give you a hug and tell you its okay to cry, be angry, feel.
I wish I could tell you it’s okay to ask for help.
I wish I could help you see that life will get better.
I wish I could take the emotions and the struggles you feel and put them into present day me. Because I know how to cope with them now, and you don’t.
I wish I could tell you that starving yourself doesn’t fix it.
I wish I could tell you that the numbers on the scale do not change your worth.
I wish I could list the things that are so much better than being skinny.
I wish I could explain to you that you don’t have to have it all together.
I wish I could tell you that control over food doesn’t mean the chaos in life goes away.
I wish I could make the lies go away.
I wish I could have stopped you from all the pain and hurt and tears and heartbreak.
I wish I could show you how to love yourself.

But you will learn.

You will learn to trust the process.
You will learn to feel the pain and accept it is part of life.
You will learn to ignore the voice.
You will learn to tell society’s standards to fuck off.
You will learn to work on accepting yourself.
You will learn how to live life again.

And those lessons, they are priceless.

From,
Present-day Lexi”

xoxo IMG_4747

*originally published on my instagram

Why I choose cruelty free products and how you can too

*trigger warning: difficult discussion of animal testing conditions*

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Charlie’s 1st Birthday Photoshoot!

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with my bunny, Charlie. Obsessed.

When I got Charlie and when I went vegetarian, I also started to research the make up industry and learn a bit more about animal testing. I went vegetarian for moral, ethicalreasons; I started buying cruelty free for the same reasons.

Animal testing is horrendous. Animals are subjected to experiments and treatments that often cause them intense pain. But, unlike us, they are helpless to do anything about it. Did you know that part of animal testing could be removing organs? Yep. You read that correctly.

Here are some other facts:

  • “We estimate that the top 10 animal testing countries in the world are the USA, Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil, in that order.” (Facts and Figures on Animal Testing)
  • Supplying animals for testing is a multi-million dollar industry (What is animal testing?)
  • There are different kinds of animal testing (Types of animal testing)
    • research questions looking at future medical answers
    • genetic modification
    • regulation testing
  • Estimate for animals used for testing yearly is AT LEAST 115 million (Facts and Figures on Animal Testing)
    • That is over 9 million a month, 2 million a week, and 340k A DAY.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… (If you are interested in learning more, you can visit Cruelty Free International, this do-something article about animal testing, and the Humane Society International page. And for a REALLY amazing and comprehensive article on animal testing, you can visit this. )

So, how can I tell if something is cruelty free? Well, here is the tricky part… There are a lot of different messages about animal testing on labels and they aren’t all the same. Some companies say “not tested on animals” or “cruelty free,” but no one monitors this claim. Basically, it’s an honour code type thing (seriously, think back to college take home tests and how they tell you not to use the book but it’s really up to you if you abide by the honour code and listen to that… that is the same thing here). You can dig into this further and go online to the brand website for more information. There is the PETA cruelty free symbol, which means that PETA monitors these standards. And there is the Leaping Bunny symbol, which is arguably the one you want to look out for on products! Leaping bunny is the highest standards of cruelty free, making it the safest bet for cruelty free products.

Picture comes from Cruelty Free Kitty.

 

Here is another tricky thing… some parent companies are not cruelty free, but some of their branches are. For example, bareMinerals is cruelty free, but Shiseido, which is not. I will occasionally still by these brands (I love the matte lipstick from bareMinerals. I had tried it before I went cruelty free in my purchases), but I try to stick to totally cruelty free companies.

Where can you find cruelty free items? Actually, they are everywhere. You just have to know a few brands you like that are cruelty free. And there are a LOT of resources out there to help with that.

My personal favourite source of cruelty free information is Cruelty Free Kitty.  I absolutely adore this site. On it you can find guides to cruelty free products at Ulta, Sephora, Drugstores, Amazon, etc. I totally recommend taking a look around! These guides will also tell you if a parent company is not cruelty free, which is SUPER helpful.

As for me…what are my favourite cruelty free products? As a college student, I have to be a bit frugal with my spending, especially on make-up (which can get REALLY

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All of this make-up… it’s cruelty free!

expensive! Looking at you non-cruelty free Lancome and L’Oreal!). So I tend to go for the lower cost make-up. I mostly use Essence, which is a cruelty free brand you can find at Ulta. I love the brand. It’s not expensive and it feels pretty light!

I use method cleaning products at home, when I can! I am still making a transition to cruelty free in the home area! I throw out as I finish and then replace it with a cruelty free or homemade version! Cruelty Free Kitty has a list of cleaning brands if you are interested!

Why  should I switch to cruelty free? Honestly, I can’t tell you this. It’s your decision to switch and to know why you want to! For me, I would think about animal testing and immediately imagine my Charlie being the bunny in there. I couldn’t handle that thought. And I can’t save the animals who are still being put through these horrific tests, but if I can avoid buying things that support the practice (just like I don’t eat meat or fish for the same reason), I will ABSOLUTELY do that.

xoxo

IMG_4747

 

Mephistophelian weariness of chronic

This week, in therapy, I talked a lot about being tired.

Not sleepy, didn’t-go-to-bed-early-enough tired.

IMG_4701
me thinking about that recovery life

Tired of the energy it takes to do recovery. Tired of the time I have to spend thinking about what I ought to do to fight the eating disorder, what I need to do to keep myself fueled…

…when what I want to do is hit the “fuck it” button and just stop.

There is a dichotomy between chronic and chosen. With chosen–like a goal or a desire–you can stop if you opt to. You can, for example, decide you want non-decaf coffee today even if your goal was to limit caffeine.

But with chronic, you cannot decide. Your choice is void because it was never your decision to begin with. 

When you decide to recover, you waive any possible “fuck it” option. You contend with the idea of never-ending mental energy.

Most of the time, the benefits of recovery vastly supersede the annoyance of your waiver.

But occasionally, the Mephistophelian truth of your decision comes out: you don’t have a choice. 

I sound negative. I recognize this. But I also acknowledge that recovery is not universally positive.

A multitude of recovery, the little undiscussed bits and pieces, can fluctuate between the poles of experience: positive, negative, neutral.

Just like the comprehensive trajectory of recovery, the energy consumption annoyance goes up and down. Remember: “recovery isn’t linear.” Turns out, the stamina it takes to consistently pick recovery isn’t linear, either.

However, there is a silver lining (er, gold lacquer… just a little kintsukuroi reference there 😉 ).

In my experience, opting for the endurance it takes to be in recovery is much more preferable to the pertinacity  it takes to be symptomatic in an eating disorder. Eating disorders are WORK, mental energy wise. You think about calories and food and exercise and guilt and your body and etc. and etc.

If you are already putting in the energy, why not have it be directed in the direction of the path giving you back vitality… towards recovery.

 

xoxo

IMG_4747

on fashion, clothes, and body neutrality

In my opinion, navigating the world of fashion has some potholes.

Maybe a lot of potholes.

Fashion, at least as we know it in contemporary society, is rife with body ideals and

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unattainable beauty standards. Models are such a small percentage of the population, body type wise. Actually, the ideal body type we see in the media and on fashion magazines is nearly equivalent to that of a prepubertal girl. Seriously, I am not kidding.

As someone who really loves fashion and clothes and expressing myself in this way,figuring out how to appreciate fashion without bombarding myself with image upon image of edited, manipulated, unattainable bodies has been challenging.

Here’s how I do it: I don’t.

I simple don’t look at fashion media. Occasionally, I search Pinterest for inspiration. But mostly, I figure out how to appreciate fashion through my own body and appearance.

Fashion, therefore, serves as a means of appreciation for my body. It is a neutral ground of body acceptance.

B9A48871-3FA4-4FCC-89C0-D1BC7003A76CThrough clothes, I work to acknowledge my body. I don’t necessarily LIKE my body, even if I like my outfit, but I can appreciate my body as a part of the art of fashion. Body neutrality.

Part of my recovery, past and current, is figuring out who I am both in what I like and how I present. Throughout my recovery, I experimented a lot with clothing styles. I went from dark and gothic, to dark vintage, to somewhat alternative, to a strange mix of all of the above.

Fashion style is personal. It doesn’t have to fit into a box with a label and a color and sit on a shelf that is labeled “me.” It can change and flow and be fluid. Much like us, fashion  is not static.

Embracing the fluidity of my personal expression, though it means I have gone through IMG_4212lots of clothes, has allowed me to experiment with my comfort zones and boundaries. And, boy, have I learned how to thrift shop! (You have to, if your style keeps changing!)

Even now I look in my closet and wonder what in the world I was thinking when I bought this or that article of clothing, much like I look back at my past and wonder why I did something or why I picked what I picked or cringe because an experience was just really embarrassing and I didn’t realize it.

And, that’s okay. People change. Trends change. Clothes change. We change.

It’s all part of life.

xoxo

IMG_4747

NEDA Week

“Recovery isn’t linear,” I tell myself for the umpteenth time…“Ups and downs. You are going to struggle…” a constant reminder for me.

When I first began treatment 617 days ago, I didn’t believe in anything beyond my eating disorder. There was no “life without anorexia.” Although I don’t necessarily think there is a recoverED—a point I struggled with for a long time—I believe wholeheartedly in recoverING: the ability to live a life free of disordered thoughts, actions, restrictions; one where I make the decisions and enjoy the turbulence of living. A constant, everlasting work-in-progress type of life. Part of my personal recovery was denying the dichotomy of healing, and learning to embrace a “third space.” It was learning to be okay with imperfections in all spheres: body, recovery, intelligence, actions, feelings.

617 days ago I got my life back. Granted, it didn’t feel like it. I was living in a different state at a place where you had to ask to do just about anything. I tried to quit recovery more times than I can count. I wanted to recover, but “not like this.” I wanted to be MOSTLY better, but hold onto a bit of my eating disorder because it was safe, known, and it made me feel in control. Turns out, you can’t do that. Surprising, right?

For me, recovery meant letting go, going against everything the eating disorder “supposedly” gave me—what I thought was control—to become autonomous. It sounds so easy, when I write it out and look at it… but if you ask anyone who is in recovery or treatment, I can almost guarantee they will tell you the process of freeing yourself is no where near simple. (I want to make sure I note, here, eating disorders do NOT discriminate by gender, race, social class, age, etc. You don’t have to look like you have an eating disorder. Eating disorders come in a variety of forms.q They are ALL illnesses. They are ALL real.)

“Recovery isn’t linear.” Recovery will never be linear. Healing isn’t linear. And, although sometimes I wish it was, ultimately, these twists and turns supply more than a straight line ever would. Sometimes I still struggle with accepting my ups and downs; I probably always will. That’s okay. “It’s okay to not be okay.” And it’s okay to ask for help, take time for yourself, and give yourself the love you deserve.

 

XOXO

LexiIMG_4125.JPG

*This post was originally published on my personal Instagram

pleaser vs. rebel

Sometimes you have to do hard things you don’t want to do to get to the outcome you desire. Sometimes you do them without a second thought, either because you don’t want to face the dissatisfaction or because you simply don’t think about the task at all. Sometimes, however, you think about it a lot (maybe too much) and it pisses you off.

Or… if you are like me… you do the last thing every time. You think, dwell, simmer, get angry, and then come to terms with it (hopefully). You realize, ultimately, what you don’t want to do is simply a means to an end.

I do all of these and more. I am, as some tend to describe me, a “mix of wanting to please people and rebel.” Which, frankly, is a shitty combination because it means I have an internal dialogue with very different, opposing voices.

“You need to do the thing because it is what will make others the most happy.” 

“Rebel. Definitely rebel. Don’t let them control you.” 

Every. Damn. Time.

There, in my mind, is a fine line between being controlled and being asked to carry out something. I often struggle to find the divide and tread lightly down the middle. I have a very strong sense of individuality and tightly held beliefs surrounding personal rights and expression. It is, in some ways, what helps to make me “me.”

My thoughts are not often political–though personal expression and cultural norms seem to be becoming more and more prominent in some areas of politics anyway. Frankly, I don’t know what ideology I hold in the politics realm… I am still trying to find out and I probably will be developing and then re-developing those beliefs for a long time to come.

What I do know, however, is that I despise how one’s appearance can limit, influence, or determine what jobs you get, how well you are paid, and the way one is perceived in the workforce and society.

I am not shy about my piercings. I have a lot. I think they are done tactfully, and I find them to be a wonderful means of personal expression. I dye my hair. I love to change it up (though by change it up, I mean different shades of red because I LOVE RED HAIR). I wear black. It’s my color of choice and in what I feel most confident. I do not dress “feminine” and that shouldn’t matter–regardless of my heterosexuality. Sexual identities can be fluid and diverse and whether or not someone “looks the part” is simply a societal standard stuck in the past. I say this because I am aware that I am an individual with privileges not afforded to some and I, in no way, want to downplay others’ struggles.*

But in a landscape rife with people wanting you to “fit in,” personal expression makes it hard to comply… and I don’t want to abide by their rules anyway.

In my new job, as a server, I see a lot of different people. Some might be a bit alternatively dressed–in a way similar to me when I am not in my uniform–while others would disagree or look down on my choices of expression. In this industry, to make money (tips) you have to conform to the majority–whether you want to or not. I don’t want to. And here is where the “pleaser vs. rebel” personality of mine comes in again… fit the mold and make more money… or be yourself (at least piercing wise) and potentially get less for it. Ultimately, because we work be a shared tip system, I decided to “fit” a bit more. Whatever the hell that means.

It was a hard time coming to that decision. I dealt with some personal doubts surrounding my expression after someone implicitly called me a whore for the way I looked and scolded my choice to wear more earrings that I “should” as well as have a nose ring instead of a stud. (For the record, “more” meant less than half of what I COULD be sporting and very conservative jewelry).

Hearing that I am “whore-ish” was not pleasant and it made me doubt a lot of my choices. It made me look in the mirror and wonder if all of these piercings suit me or I just tricked myself into thinking they look good on me. It made me self-conscious and insecure and quiet because I, all of a sudden, doubted most of my being. I am not surprised I had this response for a bit, considering my past (and current) struggles with body image and self-worth.

But consider that a comment such as the above could create that much of a response… it’s plain sad.

I put too much worth in what others say to me. It is the pleaser part of my brain. But the rebel will then hop in with a “fuck that” and I tend to move on… after a while.

My choices should have absolutely NO effect on whether I am worthy of pay for my work or a higher position. But they do. Because in a society like ours, people believe that everything should be there to please THEM. Of course, not everyone is like this, but I am speaking in a general sense for the ease of this discussion. Just like my sex can limit me (looking at you lower pay for women in the same position as a male counterpart… that is STILL a problem), my appearance can.

But guess what… neither SHOULD.

This is not a small issue to fix. It is not something that CAN be fixed in days… months… maybe even years. It is society wide. It is ingrained in beliefs. It is insidious.

I don’t support it. I never, ever will. And I will, ALWAYS, be the rebel when it comes to fighting these inherent judgements. The pleaser part of me gets shut the fuck up.

 

 

 

*I want to make it clear that I do not and cannot say I understand all the struggles of not conforming to what others (and the greater society) think you should look like or be. I do, however, understand a select amount.