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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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

 

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

IMG_0656

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.

Coming to “Enough”

I searched Pinterest for a while looking for topics on which to write. But I didn’t find any. I couldn’t seem to get my mind around any of them. I wanted to write some post about something deep and whatever, but you know what… I don’t need to and I am not going to.

Life is kind of a whirlwind. Recovery is more of a tornado. I often feel like I’m being whipped around in circles from one thing to another and then back again. But, interestingly enough, I’ve come to like it a bit. It’s a lot more interesting and satisfying than the perpetual depression of my eating disorder. I don’t mean to say it’s all good things in the tornado. Occasionally, I whirl by the Wicked Witch of the West and have a moment of fear and anxiety. But then I somehow land in Oz among the flowers and there’s a period of calm again–or as calm as it really can be in recovery.

It’s interesting though, because there is a lot of freedom in fear. It sucks, of course. But if you do whatever you fear, and then you do it again, and again, and again, and you keep going, the fear leaves and you just have freedom. It’s a process and it takes a LONG time. But each time you do the thing you fear and you make it to the other side, you get a little bit more space from the fright. You get a little bit more free.

Yesterday night, as I was preparing for bed, I pulled of my shirt and I stood in front of the mirror in my sports bra and I brushed my teeth. I looked at myself straight-on in the mirror and let my eyes wash over my body. I let them run over the shape of my stomach body imageand my arms and my chest and let the feelings come. I noticed the thoughts that usually come with looking at my exposed body–the judgements and criticisms and slight sense of discomfort.

But I smiled instead of covering up again and just kept looking. I did it because I needed to and because I physically couldn’t put a shirt back on with a toothbrush in my mouth… but mostly because I needed to do it. Because it kind of doesn’t matter what thoughts come to me. They are only thoughts. They do not mean that I am any less of a person. And I may not believe that entirely just yet, but I stood through the discomfort anyway and embraced it.

It sucked a little bit. It sucked to not like everything I saw. But I only dislike it because of a standard I have in my head that is absolutely ridiculous. I will never fit the standard that society holds for me and that, therefore, I have in my mind is correct.

But it isn’t correct. It is warped and unachievable and unhealthy (at least for me). And that’s the way it is–like it or not.

I keep thinking about a poem I read the other day. It’s entitled “Enough” and it reads:

Enough. These few words are enough.

If not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life

we have refused

again and again

until now.

Until now.

-David Whyte

I think it spoke to me because I am so ready for it all to be “enough.” But what I like so much about this poem is that it finds enough in the simple. Breathing is enough. Sitting is enough. Being is enough.

Stop refusing life. Stop refusing to open yourself up to the world. Let just being be enough. Let being YOU be enough.

So standing in front of that mirror yesterday night, or putting on clothes this morning that didn’t hide my curves, or eating a before breakfast snack because my body was hungry, or looking down and seeing my stomach and my thighs and my body, I remember that I am enough. I might not completely believe it yet, but I tell myself it anyway. I’m not lying. I may feel like I am sometimes; I may not agree with the statement; I may try to refute and disprove it, but it is true none-the-less.

I am enough. You are enough. And I’ve had enough of “refusing life.”

 

 

why do numbers have power?

Today I almost saw my weight.

After 4 years of not weighing myself and being SOOO careful not to see it, I almost did on a discharge sheet from my visit to an urgent care last week.

I bet some of you are like what…why is that a problem? But it’s actually horrible. It’s terrifying and mind-controlling, and preoccupying, and just miserable.

Because numbers still have power.

I bet you are also wondering how I almost saw my weight. You know how you can do the thing where you blur your eyes a bit? I did that. And then my brain started to wonder what I saw. It started to try to compare numbers in their most basic of shapes. Like when you look at something from far away and it is blurry and a 3 could be a 5 and the 1 could be a 7. That’s what my brain did.

Because ONE of those digit options was okay. The other one DEFINITELY wasn’t.

Why was the other one so taboo? Why did x number of pounds in the up direction make a difference? Here’s what my ED brain thinks:

  • having that x amount of pounds makes me heavier than other people in my friend group and I already don’t fit in because I can’t run and they can and I can’t just enjoy food whenever and they can
  • if I am x then I definitely look the f-word (fat)
  • if it really is x does that mean I am now unhealthy in the opposite direction???
  • that’s too high. period.
  • obvi you are out of control. Don’t follow that meal plan.
  • yup, you’re the f-word

Why do numbers have that amount of power? Enough power that I actually question my BODY DYSMORPHIA and wonder if it is telling me I am thinner than I actually am…. wow, what a turn to the opposite.

Why does a number have enough power to make me think I will automatically not fit in with my friends? How could it do that?

Why does a number make me think that all these professionals have it out for me and don’t care if I get the f-word?

It shouldn’t. But it does.

I partly blame society for putting so much emphasis on weight and numbers in general. But I also know that I can eventually be strong enough not to care… I am just not quite there yet.

So why do numbers NOT matter….. let’s see:

  • Numbers (your weight) cannot tell you who you are on the inside
  • Numbers do not show your personality and your love for life
  • Numbers do not define your self-worth or your worthiness.
  • Numbers cannot make or break a friendship or relationship.
  • Numbers cannot show love and comfort you.
  • Numbers are simply a mental construct that we made in order to explain natural phenomena and life.
  • I am not a number.
  • You cannot know what my weight is by looking at me.
  • Weight does not determine my worth.
  • I will never be happy with the number I see, and I don’t need to know it because it is just a fact, and not one that will help me.
  • Numbers are simply digits on a page. I am a soul.

I might have almost seen my weight…. but there is so much more to life than whatever number was on that page. And it’s going to take a bit to stop worrying about it, but I will give myself the grace and time I need to process and become stronger from my almost viewing of an unhelpful, meaningless number.

society’s claim

i don’t mean to leave you;

don’t intend to be untrue.

but often my brain conceives

that i do indeed do.

i lied, i do.

for what am i to tell you

all the world says is reality

when it’s never new

always filled with some brutality

it’s true.

stigma, dogma, and the like

offered up unsolicited

all of which you dislike

but still allow in your head.

you can’t resist.

what are words to hold you back

in one side and out the other

you’ll try to cease

the wounding of the attack

you’ll fail.

who did you think you were

to resist the societal pull

the urges and the whispered slurs

of those who wish you null

you can’t.

give up on your strength

give in to the voices

for you have no right to assume

that you can make your own choices.