In August of 2010, I was on an early-morning run. I was planning on a 13-miler before work (normal people do this, right?). It was dark, and the street full of fancy houses was barely lit. Did I mention I wasn’t wearing contacts? The little piece of ripped-up pavement was invisible until it was right under me, and I lunged to the nearby grass – gazelle-like, I’m sure – to dodge the road block. I totally ate it. Rolled ankle, grassy hands, rolling around in pain, tears mixing with the sweat on my cheeks, ate it. I hobbled back home, shooting death glares at every jogger who passed me. That’s how this journey began.
Okay, no, things really began on Valentine’s Day 2010 (cute, right?). I had just spent the weekend in New York with college girlfriends, our first annual girls’ trip. Over the winter, I had packed on some serious pounds – partially from dining out with a new boyfriend, partially from my lack of exercise, partially from the fact that our sorority house’s chef loved butter and the deep fryer almost as much as he loved Jesus (Mark, your cookies are still amazing, as are you).
When I got home, I distinctly remember telling myself that I would finally make a change. I was going to stop being unhappy about the way I looked, stop buying billowy tops and loose tanks (oh, how I loved a good loose tank!), get my ass in the gym, and do good things for myself. I wasn’t going to count every calorie and subsist on lean cuisines and hundred calorie packs (been there, done that, gained the weight back). I wasn’t going to mask my urge to overeat by purging every time I felt guilt for what was in my stomach (been there, done that. Hint: it doesn’t work, and it’s not fun). I was going to eat healthy foods. And I was going to work out. Those were my parameters.
In the months that followed, I made changes. I started actually using my gym membership. I developed a Trader Joe’s habit. My boyfriend introduced me to healthy living blogs. The change was gradual, but it was there. Eventually, I caught the running bug. Big time. I started eating cleaner, I figured out who Michael Pollan and Kath were, I started eating less meat, and I started focusing how food made me feel. I had always known that being active made me want to eat healthier, and I loved that feeling. Losing weight is hard, and this time was no different, but a little force inside of me kept pushing me forward. A little part of me knew that this time, I wasn’t changing how I looked in my clothes – I was changing my life.
Okay, back to crippled Marian walking down the street. Skinnier, healthier, stronger than before. Sobbing. Running, this thing that I equated with my success as a healthy/skinny/fit/happy person, was now in jeopardy. I went to urgent care that night, and they told me to stay off of it for a few days. No biggie! So, using my impeccable judgment (did I mention I had been running in the dark, without contacts in?), I laced up my sneakers three days later and ran a half marathon around Charlotte. Just. For. Fun. And then I went to a yoga class. And my ankle was the size of one of those gigantic sweet potatoes from Whole Foods that I always buy and it takes me 3 months to eat.
The next eight months were full of physical therapy and emotional breakdowns (Note: an injured runner is impossible to console. Don’t date one. Or birth one.) The only thing I could do to stay sane and convince myself that I would not, in fact, gain back 25 pounds from – gasp! – not running 40 miles a week, was power yoga. My morning runs were replaced with 6:30 AM classes in a hot, sweaty room. As a former dancer, I loved it. You can guess the rest – I fell in love with yoga, it changed my life, it changed my body and my brain and the way I saw the world. I became proud of what my body could do, rather than exasperated by its failures. I had a teacher who believed in me, and – despite my fears that “it was too soon” and “I was too young” – I enrolled in teacher training in January. I have loved every second of the process.
Through listening to my body, reading some blogs written by women who are effing amazing, and educating myself a teeny bit, I also phased out most animal products from my diet. At first it was “I don’t eat much red meat”. Then “I only eat seafood” (pescatarian is a fun word to say five times fast). Then “do you have a vegetarian option and also I don’t like to eat dairy pleaseandthankyou”. Recently I realized that I was only eating dairy to making eating out at restaurants easier, but I never really enjoyed it. So I’ve been eating vegan for the past few months, and I love it. I feel healthy. I eat food that tastes good and makes me feel good too. And I’ve maintained my weight loss for once in my life.
I pack breakfast and lunch every day for work, and I spend exorbitant amounts of time in the kitchen. There are still times that I overeat, or eat compulsively. Sometimes I make gross food. But I’m learning, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Memorial Day 2011 marked one year of never purging once. I’m proud. I’m also a work in progress. All I can say is that I’m working towards learning what fulfills me and makes me happy. I want to find a way to contribute to the world. And in order to do that, I think I need to first get in touch with my happiness and my identity. In teacher training, we have been practicing one of Deepak Chopra’s meditations. One part of this practice is to sit, quietly, and repeat the following questions:
Who am I?
What do I want?
What makes me happy?
What is my purpose?
The objective of this exercise is not to find the answer – rather, the objective is to live with the question. Isn’t that beautiful? Living with the question. Embracing uncertainty. (Almost) every day for the past few months, I have asked myself these questions. It’s amazing how impossible it can seem to understand ourselves. We spend so much time in our own skin but know nothing about it.
Sometimes I think that what I’m going through is a bit of a quarter life crisis. The cliché of your first big breakup, moving to a new place, learning what it’s like to work in a cubicle, figuring out that eating like you did in college is gross, teaching yourself to make your bed in the morning (sorry, Mom and Dad, now the Internet knows that you didn’t force us to make our beds). Going through this transition and reading so many inspiring blogs has always given me a desire to write my story. My thoughts on what health and happiness have to do with each other. My struggles and triumphs. So I guess that’s what this will be. Bear with me. I’m not sure what this will become. But I want to write – and hopefully, in doing so, find my voice so that I may share it with others.