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Category Archives: Confidence and Beauty

Finding You

**We’re gonna get a lil personal today, just a warning!**

I’m alive!! I know its been quite some time since I last wrote.  But quite a lot has happened since I last posted.  I am now living in Northern California!  I made my trip across the country which was amazing, I highly recommend that you do a self exploration trip like that at some point in your life.  Although I wish I had a bit more time so that I could have explored a bit more.  I had exactly a week to do my trip so that I could get to my orientation (with AmeriCorps) on time.

2011 has been a year which I have dedicated to taking a deeper look into my soul to find who I truly am, what I want out of life, and what makes me truly happy.  I have had quite some trial and error which is to be expected, and I have had some revelations.  All in all I am still in my process of figuring out who and what I’m all about.  And to be quite honest, I don’t think we ever really stop that exploration.   We are constantly evolving.

What I have figured out so far:

1) When I truly want something, and I get that thing stuck in my brain, I go for it with all my might until I get it!  A great example would be (as I shared in a post earlier this year) back in January of this year (2011) I decided that I wanted to move to California.  Here it is now September, and I am living here!  No its not the exact location I had wanted, but I am a hell of a lot closer then I was before!!

2) I need to have a job where I am not stuck at a desk and computer all day.  I am NOT happy at all doing that.  I need to be outdoors, doing hands on things, helping people achieve their fitness goals and being healthy!

3) I am happiest when I am working out daily, eating clean and busy busy!!  I do not do very well when I have nothing to do.

4) I love sleep.  Seriously, my body apparently needs like 8-10 hours of sleep or else I don’t function well.

5) I love being in the kitchen, creating healthy recipes!  But it’s hard for me to re-create them because I never measure anything.  I would love to learn how to create baking recipes though, that is something that requires science and chemistry! ugghh….

6) I come alive when I can take dance classes on a regular basis.  Before I left for the west coast I had found a hip hop class that I fell in love with, I was able to just let loose!! I will definitely be back taking it (I hope!) when I go home for Christmas.  Lets hope they are open!

7) I am way more outgoing then I realized.  When I finally stepped away from the area where I grew up, which had become a suffocating bubble, I totally blossomed so to speak.  I had a gut feeling that would happen too. When I arrived in town, where I am living now, I totally got myself out and about in the community and instantly made friends.  I remember this was a big part of my personality when I was younger.  I guess when we need to we can conjure up all kinds of things!

8.) I am quite innovative.  I have a ton of awesome ideas just waiting to burst out!  I just need to figure out how to put them into action.  Money would be the biggest hindrance right now.

9) I am my own person.  This may sound weird or odd, but it is one thing (out of a few particular ones) that I have had the hardest time with this year in figuring myself out.  As most of us do when growing up, we like to put ourselves into a category or try and fit the mold.  For me I always looked up to certain people who seemed to have it all “figured out”.  I, however, have not once done things the way they are “supposed” to be done.  Maybe it’s because of this that I have this strange desire to have a 9-5 type job, in a manner of speaking, but thats just not how I roll.  It never will be.  I like doing things my way, I like changing my look up to keep things interesting, I like cheesy disney shows and I like adventure, I love dancing like a total idiot in my room blasting pop songs or Baba O’Riley, I love running & yoga, I am a vegan, I love fashion and athletic clothing, I enjoy me time as long as I’m around people, I’m not perfect, I believe in fate.  I won’t change for anyone.  That’s just who I am, take it or leave it.

There is a lot more to figure out I’m sure, and I’m loving this whole “re-discovering myself” adventure I’m on.  It’s fun and refreshing!  And much needed after having spent almost a decade working on finishing up my degree and feeling stuck in a rut.

Here is to new beginnings!


My Story

So this entry has taken me a while to write.  It is a rather intimate and personal entry, but given the content of my blog and my need to both help myself and hopefully help others I want to share.  Also, since it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I feel that this is the right time to begin to share my story.

Over time I will break up my story into parts and share more about my struggles and my recovery, since I don’t want this blog post to be too long.  But for now I am going to tell you an abridged version of my story.

I know there are quite a few blogs out there which are based around the same concepts as mine; health, body image etc…  And I know for me when I stumbled across a particular blog back in January (2010) it honestly had a HUGE impact on me.  It was almost like an “ah-ha” moment.  Reading someones own personal story which was just like mine made me feel not quiet so alone.  It gave me comfort to know that its ok to still have these struggles from time to time, that there is no such thing as being “perfectly recovered.”   I guess that’s also part of the whole mindset that goes along with having an Eating Disorder, the constant need for own self perfection and control.   There is only so much one can do, but whats more is how you deal with the struggles.  I can choose to sulk and think I’m doomed for life with this disease or I can choose to accept who I am and use that pain to motivate me to work that much harder and use my own experience as an educational tool to help others.

Ironically my Eating Disorder manifested itself right after I decided to quit dance.  I grew up dancing, starting at the age of 3 with ballet, then I moved over to Jazz, then Modern and stuck with that through my first year of college.  After my first year of college I decided to quit dance.  My life long dream was to dance in New York.  I finally made it to New York for a summer dance intensive in 2002.   Finally! the dream I had, had throughout all my years of dance, there I was! But I was still unhappy.  I began to notice that I was quite different from everyone else there, meaning that everyone else had this drive and passion for dance.  Whereas I did not.  Don’t get me wrong I love dance, but there was a major difference between my love for it and everyone else’s.  I didn’t want to fight my way to the top, I just wanted to dance, perform, and have fun.  So I quit.  Now after years away from that world I can now finally appreciate it and go back and take classes and be in love with it in a whole new way which makes me happy.

After I stepped away from that world I moved onto a few other trial and errors as a major.  I tried photography, that was just too much work and I was way behind where everyone else was with all the art classes, I felt so lost!!  A few months into this new semester at college I grew into a deep depression and decided the best thing for me to do at that time was to move home and take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  So I moved home and back into my moms house.  I got a job at a gym as well as a serving position at a coffee bar/cafe at night.  Over that next year I spiraled downward very quickly.  I got sucked into the party scene that comes with working at bar/restaurants.  I had no idea who I really was at the time so of course I followed what everyone else was doing just for the need to feel accepted.   Even though I had lots of so called “friends” I ultimately felt very alone, and the further I went into my disease.  It’s difficult to truly explain just how isolated one can get while deep into the disease.  But like any other addiction, the deeper and lower one gets with the depression and obsessive acts the bigger the blinders become.  You stop caring or noticing the people around you, and the more you become focused on “getting your next fix” or “perfecting yourself”.  I say “perfecting yourself” in quotes because often the major misconception of eating disorders is that it is all about vanity.  It soooo is not.  Granted yes part of it is, but that is not the overall driving force that gets you to the disease part.  It ultimately has to do with control.  It all begins when something in your life is out of balance and the person feels like they have no control over their life, or that something isn’t good enough.  Or if they have suffered from physical, sexual or verbal abuse as a child making them feel as though they are not good enough or that they are worthless.  This ends up making the person feel that the only way for them to regain any control is by what they put in or don’t put into their own body.  You have the control with what you do or do not eat.  The same can go with any addiction.  All of this has now grown to my major fascination with psychology and addiction (another passion of mine along with nutrition).

Moving onto the present time.  Stemming from all of this has of course led to me having to re-learn how to love myself and the body I was born with.  I have been recovered now from the depths of my eating disorder for quite some time thankfully.  But the “evil thoughts” aka negative self image bashing that goes on in my head, are still around.   For the most part I am able to keep them quiet, but I am only capable of so much and every so often, like when I am tired, or had a bad day or something to that effect they creep up on me and they can be oh so relentless.

That’s the thing with the disease of an eating disorder.  With all other addictions, you can step away from the thing that harms you; alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping etc…. but an eating disorder you can’t really abstain from food…. you need food to live!! So that makes it just that much harder to fully recover.  The thoughts and obsession will forever be there.  It’s needing to get to that point of learning how to accept yourself and how to manage your thoughts about how you view food.  For me, as I stated before, I still struggle.  I consider myself midway recovered.  For a while I thought I was fully recovered, but realized I was more in denial.  I slipped back a bit about a year ago when I had a rude awakening about where I really truly was in my recovery.  So for the past year I have been doing a really deep internal look into myself and have been trying new healing methods to get myself to a point of full acceptance.

It is really brutal work, but in order to get to where I want to be, which is happy with myself, like really TRULY happy.  I know that I need to do some hard work before I can get to that point and STAY at the point.

What I am doing now, is lots of honest journaling, this blog, changing my diet (which is HARD!!!) by eating whole foods which nourish my body and provide it with lots of amazing nutrients that do wonderful things for every single part of me – especially the brain!.  I also do a lot of positive self talk.   And the hardest thing of all, is getting myself to take these steps S-L-O-W-L-Y.  I had gotten myself so accustomed to jumping head first into things and thinking I had to do them all at full blast and perfectly (that would be the competitive part of the disease) that I’d totally brainwashed myself.  In order to get something to really stick and become a habit, I need to take it slow.  So while I love to exercise and I know it’s good for me and keeps me level, I am making myself do things one step at a time.  Right now I am focusing on my diet, because ultimately, that is the key that is going to keep my body and mind strong.  The rest will just fall into place after that.

I recently had an epiphany – in order to achieve happiness with myself I have to treat it right.  It’s like being in a relationship, if you want a positive outcome with your partner you have to put into it what you want out of it.  Meaning, if you treat your partner like crap or skimp on loving them then the relationship will soon fall apart.  The same goes for you and you.  If you want yourself to be happy and strong you need to feed it right and treat it right, otherwise you will get sick, become unhappy and fall apart.

So that is my story in a nutshell.  Thank you for reading and allowing me to share with you some very personal intimate stuff.  I truly hope that with my story, and future stories, that I can help some other people out there who may be struggling themselves.   There is hope out there, and you CAN do it.

If anyone is in need of talking please do not hesitate to contact me and share your own struggles, story or concerns.  Elw.brown@gmail.com or if you need professional help please contact the National Eating Disorders Association for hotlines or information.

Tattoo on my left foot of the National Eating Disorders Association recovery symbol. Surrounded by butterfly's to symbolize "stomping out my eating disorder and being set free"


Body Image Part I – Unbearable Lightness

“Once you engage your own inner wisdom, you can change or improve your habits of thought, your emotions, and your behaviors… and create a more positive and joyful life experience right away,” “This process, when engaged in regularly, heals both your present and your future. It also enables you to live a life full of joy, meaning, and purpose—right here, right now.” Dr. Christiane Northrup

Body image and loving oneself is something which many women today struggle with on a daily basis.  Whether it is a mild dissatisfaction with ones own body shape/size or if it is a full-blown body distortion/eating disorder, the fact is, ones view of what a real woman’s body shape looks like is totally and completely distorted.  We have lost all sense of what “normal” really looks like.

I have had my own struggles with this, which I am slowly working on writing up into a series of entries of “my story” coming soon.  I have thankfully recovered from the physical part of the disease, but as most of you out there, who may still be struggling with or who have previously dealt with an ED, well know the most difficult part of recovery is the mental part of it.  Quite frankly I find that mental aspect of it all by far the most difficult.  You simply cannot detach your brain or turn it off.  If we could then we wouldn’t have such issues as Eating Disorders or other mental diseases now would we?!

I recently finished, quite quickly I might add, Portia de Rossi’s new book “Unbearable Lightness” which is a memoir of her own battles with an ED.  It was quite a brutally honest reflection of her battle as she chose to write it from the perspective of person who is actively going through the battle.  From the diseased view point.  I found this to be both disturbing but at the same time refreshing.  On one hand I felt that “this could be really bad for those girls who are stuck in their disease, they could get ideas!!” but on the other hand it also brings to light just how INSANE one can get while in it.  It brought back some really awful memories for me, a lot of those insane things I did when I was stuck deep in the disease.  It reminded me of just how crazy I got and just how badly I DO NOT want to EVER go back to that point.  It scared me again, which I think can sometimes be a good thing in terms of being “scared straight” or a wake up call, if you will, to remind you of where you are now, were you used to be, and where you don’t ever want to be again.

In any case, I have written below a couple of excerpts which really stood out to me and have stuck with me, because it is exactly how I feel now.  It was like reading my own thoughts on paper, but written by someone else.

From “Unbearable Lightness”

“I finally understood that by being on a perpetual diet, I had practiced a ‘disordered’ form of eating my whole life.  I restricted when I was hungry and in need of nutrition and binged when I was so grotesquely full I couldn’t be comfortable in any position but lying down.  Diets that tell people what to eat or when to eat are the practices in between.  And dieting, I discovered, was another form of disordered eating, just as anorexia and bulimia similarly disrupt the natural order of eating.  “Ordered” eating is the practice of eating when you are hungry and ceasing to eat when your brain sends the signal that your stomach is full.  “Ordered” eating is about eating for enjoyment, for health, and to sustain life.  “Ordered” eating is not restricting certain kinds of foods because they are ‘bad’.  Obsessing about what and when to eat is not normal, natural, and orderly.  Thinking about food to the point of obsession and ignoring your body’s signals is a disorder.” Pg. 295

Also:

” ….because I knew I could eat pasta and ice cream again the very next day if I wanted to, I stopped wanting it in excess.  If it were going to be available to me anytime, why eat like it was the very last time I’d ever taste it?  The fact that I stopped labeling food as “good” and “bad” made me just see it all as food.  Like Carolyn had told me, there was no bad food.  There were just bad practices.” Pg. 305

I find comfort in reading other peoples own stories about their journey through the disease because it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I’m not totally crazy.  That many many other women are out there who struggle or have struggled with this.  And that reason alone is why I wanted to start writing this blog.  To hopefully help others, the way that previous books/stories have helped me.

“True nobility isn’t about being better than anyone else; it’s about being better than you used to be.” – Wayne Dyer

Inspiration Boards

Anyone else love arts and crafts time as much as I do??  I’m going to assume that there is a unanimous rise of hands, I mean why wouldn’t you love arts and crafts?!

Something I love to do when I am feeling out of sorts is to get out all of my arts stuff and make some art.  Whether it be painting furniture, making collages,  making new cool clothing out of old t-shirts etc… etc…    Well a few weeks ago I was feeling particularly out of sorts and decided to do some fall cleaning and organizing (another thing that makes me feel good, I know total nerd alert) with all of my magazines that I had.  I like to keep magazines that have all kinds of nutrition info or new and different fitness exercises.   Anyway, so I decided I wanted to go through them all and cut out all sorts of positive messages throughout them all and make a collage of them to hang in my room.  This way when I wake up every morning I see all these positive messages and it will give me motivation to keep going.

I made it body image and fitness oriented.  Words that help me to accept and love the body that I have been given and to be strong and fuel my body properly so that I can reach my fitness goals of running my first half marathon in a few months.

So this is what it looks like:

I also made this one:

I had a blast making them, as I do with most artsy projects.  I could spend hours doing them!!

I think it is so important to do things that you love doing that isn’t your main job.  To keep that kid inside you.  Things I love to do in my free time, which I have A LOT of these days,  are dancing, artsy things, organizing, baking, reading up on nutrition related things and anything health related and watching movies!

I love being creative, although lately I feel like its more of a nuisance… meaning, my head won’t stop coming up with awesome ideas for what I want to do in life and how I can combine all of my passions into a job.  You’re probably thinking “that’s awesome how can that be a bad thing?”  Well when you don’t have the capital to start up your own business, or the experience it starts becoming depressing.  Eventually, say ten years from now, I plan to open my own business, but until then I’ll just keep planning, patience is not something I do very well… *sigh*

Do you have any special or fun things you like to do to draw inspiration or motivation for yourself? If so what?

And if you have your own inspiration boards share them with me, I’d love to see how you create yours!


The Art of Consistency in Maintaining a Healthy Diet

Ahhh…. how we all struggle with this.  I know I do! and if you even begin to say you don’t then you’re either lying or you are just one of those few and far between freaks of nature.  I mean that with all the love in the world, really I do.

  So, maintaining consistency in a healthy diet is something that still today everyone is searching for that magical…. unicorn of sorts… answer.  Many famous dietitians, fitness celebrities and every other form thereof have spouted their words of wisdom about this, however, like many things, no one answer applies to everyone.  So then here we are again at square one… how do we find that true consistency? how do we maintain our healthy streak for the long term so that we don’t end up breaking it, then going on an all out buffet trip down junk food way for a week or so, promising to ourselves and god and whoever else may be listening “It’s all good, I’ll just start over again on Monday.”  I’m sure you have read and heard time and time again how bad it is for our bodies to crash diet, then gorge yourself, then crash diet again… and so on and so forth.
  Ok, so what am I getting at here?? here’s the deal, there is no magic pill, there is no secret cave with the hidden answer to all diet questions.  But, there are a few things you can do to give yourself that nudge or reminder that may stop you mid package of cookies or pint of ice cream and say “hey… what are ya doin there?? goin for worlds best midnight snacker??”

  Here are a few things which I have implemented into my daily life, which seem to be helping me reach my goal of self acceptance and more importantly CONSISTENCY in my healthy eating.

1) Put up some pictures of someone you idolize – however!! I do not mean put up pictures of Victoria Secret models, because those are definitely freaks of nature, those are NOT REAL women.  What I mean here is, put up pictures of a woman or women whom you idolize for who they are as a person, and not for their superficial aesthetics.  But instead because they are confident in who they are, they have said things that make you feel good about yourself etc.. For example; for me I have a picture of Kate Winslet up next to my mirror.  It’s a picture of her from quite a few years ago in one of those People Magazine editions of “the 100 most beautiful people” or something like that.  She has a few statements on the page about what she thinks is beautiful.   Which for me, every time I read it, it makes me stop and think and it makes me want to be more like her, and quite honestly, because of how she thinks (and how she looks) I think she is far more beautiful than any other totally toned celeb out there.  I mean honestly, she is a REAL woman and is beautiful both outside AND inside.

As you can see here, she is just awesome.  Feel free to use this for yourself.

2) Post positive notes to yourself around your house.  If you have roommates and you think they may find it odd, then post them around your room in areas that you look often (example the mirror) in your closet etc..
  a few examples:  – “you are beautiful just the way you are”  or “smile, sweat and say at least one positive thing about yourself, everyday.”  “plant an expectation, reap a disappointment”  just a few to get ya started.  (At some point I will post all of my various quotations, still trying to get in the swing of this whole blog thingy.)

3)  Put up a wipe board next to your door, and list weekly goals for yourself.  And I don’t mean goals like “lose 5 pounds”, that’s total crap.  What I mean are goals that lean towards creating a positive thought process going on up there in your cranium.  Believe me, I know how hard this is, I’m not gonna lie here and say I am totally a positive happy go lucky thinker.  I still struggle with this, but it is getting better and that my friends is the ultimate goal.  The more you integrate positive thoughts, the more your on your way towards self acceptance.  Back to the goals, I mean goals such as:  Smile at least 5 times a day (smile to yourself in the mirror, to a stranger, to your neighbor etc.) or stand in front of the mirror naked and list at least 3 things about yourself that you like, drink more water…….. you get my point.

4) This one may be a bit hard… but, STOP READING THOSE COOKIE CUTTER MAGAZINES!!! Let’s face it, they area all the same, every single issue has the same crap in it!! I’d say the only semi good one’s out there are Runners world (it has more functional training information) and……… perhaps Health magazine.  Women’s health magazine is o…k…. but it is becoming more and more like Shape, Self and all those other magazines which claim to be women power magazines, but all of them talk about loving your shape blah blah blah… meanwhile the pictures of they have throughout all the pages are of women who are thin and all with sculpted muscles.

5) Make sure you always start your day off right, by having a well balanced breakfast which includes lots of fiber and fruit.  This will ensure that you are energized as well as keep you full through lunch.  By beginning your day right it will also make sure to keep you on better track throughout the day.  I know for me, whenever I eat fresh fruit and vegetables, it just overall makes me feel better, and therefore automatically makes me make smarter food choices and I don’t tend to crave junk food very much.

   So those are my top 5 words of wisdom…. or paragraphs of advice.  I hope they shed any if at all new light on the topic.  Or at the very least maybe it gave you one new idea to try out and see if it works for you.
  Just remember, every single one of us unique and beautiful women are different.  Different in how we look, function, work and think.  Therefore not every diet, workout plan, philosophy works for everyone. So if you’re trying something out and beating yourself up about it because it doesn’t seem to be working like it says it should, then it very well may be that your body and its chemical makeup just isn’t responding physically to it.  So, try tweaking it a bit until you find that right equation that does in fact work for you.
   
           Oh! and one more thing, in terms of time of day for working out…. chose a time of day in which you truly have the most genuine energy.  If you are dragging yourself out of bed at 5am and are still tired by the end of your workout, then you are not getting your best work out.  You might as well just not work out (that would be the equivalent to working out while still exhausted and tired.)  Chose a time of day in which a) you have the time b) you are most  awake or c.) split up your work out into 2 workouts.  For example, cardio in the am and weights or yoga or resistance workout in the evening, or vice versa.

   I’m slowly getting the hang of this blog writing thing, as I have mentioned before…. so I hope to be updating more frequently now.

   Ciao Bella’s!!