Today, I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror of Barnes and Noble for an embarrassingly long amount of time. Three minutes. Five. Ten. Why? Yesterday I finally “caved” – I went to the thrift store and bought a whole new set of pants, having barely managed to squeeze myself into my last pair of “fat” pants no longer.
I needed to up my size. I learned in the dressing room the need was even more drastic than I thought.
This was a bit of a shock – to go from a zero to a six – (holy I’ve been squeezing Batman) and so I found myself poking and prodding for days afterward.
How different do I now look?
Honestly I have no idea.
And am I any more or less attractive than I was before?
Well. That’s subjective, but I am feeling damn adamant that it’s about the same.
To assert in the title of this post that you lack objectivity is, I know, offensive. I apologize. Nonetheless I am certain the statement is true – it is literally impossible for me to see myself (and for you to see yourself) outside of my own current situation and time. As human beings, just as it is impossible to see ourselves without judging ourselves relative to other people, it is impossible to see ourselves without judging ourselves relative to a way we have been in the past or how we anticipate we might be in the future.
We have no objective standards. It is beyond important for us to realize this fact.
To help demonstrate to you just how powerful this phenomenon can be, I have compiled a wide variety of comparisons of different photos of myself taken at various points in time. Below are two photos posted with comments on them: one set from the context in which the photo was taken — the then – (so if the photo was taken in 2011, I share my thoughts from 2011), and then one set from today, the now.
Today I look back on photos in which I had thought I was egregiously overweight, bloated, jiggly, or poorly shaped and I think either ‘healthy wow’ or ”skinny wow” – two sets of thoughts that were completely beyond my my current, unobjective, fearful mind.
Will I do the same thing in the future with my current self? Will I, over time, come to view the body I am in in this moment in 2014 as even more worthy of admiration and love and beauty than I do now? Will I look back and think all of my “bad” days were so unbelievably uncalled for?
I am not objective.
I do not pretend to be.
First up are photos from my pre-weight loss days.
Fall of 2009, right before I shed thirty pounds in three months, so I weighed approximately 135-7 pounds. Here, I am participating in a (unorthodox) wilderness evacuation group, having the time of my life, and in extraordinarily good health and fitness, as I lifted heavy things and climbed mountains all day every day:
Spring of 2008:
Fall of 2007: Hiking the Great Wall – after a whole summer of living and doing trailwork in the Colorado wilderness.
In retrospect, I looked good, and happy, and healthy.
Then come the post-weight loss double-zero, lean years, in which I maintain my attitude of being hyper critical and fearful:
This photo is from the Spring of 2011, from my go-go dancing days:
The fall of 2010:
This photo is from the winter of 2011, in which I thought I was having a “fat month” intermission during the lean years:
Spring of 2011 on a beach in Taiwan:
Okay, the fact that I was worried about being “fat” in these photos is scary.
Also the spring of 2011 on a beach in Taiwan:
This photo is from the summer of 2013, right before my recent complete fertility and regular menstruation-gaining weight gain:
Then are the photos I have taken of myself since the weight gain. Since they are so recent I do not have “then” and “now” selections, but I do have “bad brain” and “good brain.”
From the thrift store when I was trying on new pants – checking in on how far apart my feet now need to be for the gap:
This photo is from last weekend, taken at 4am in the hallway of a Latin dance conference in Chicago, at which, of course, I was so happy:
So there you have it. What are some takeaways?
-You probably saw a woman much healthier and lovelier than I ever did/do – then, now, good brain, bad brain. Though I think I’m getting the hang of it now.
-Thighs are a big deal for me. We all have that one “big deal” flaw or what-have-you that is the most important to us.
In fact, this point is worth delving into a bit, since a study I participated in in college demonstrated that we seek in and judge other people the things that we are so attentive to as flaws in our own selves. So I immediately look at people’s skin and their thighs when I “judge” them – or at least these are the characteristics that stand out – because I focus so intently on my own.
-When I was 137 pounds I nitpicked specific body parts – mostly my thighs, though I guess that’s not apparent in these photos – and every time I looked at these photos on facebook I winced, thinking other people would find me unattractive.
-When I was 105 pounds I nitpicked specific body parts – mostly my thighs – and every time I looked at these photos I felt bad about myself, like I wasn’t winning the skinny game.
-When I returned to 130+ pounds in 2013 I still had bad days, but the good days significantly outnumber them. “Bad brain” tries to pick apart my body and put it into these tiny, scrutinizable, dissectable pieces, but “good brain” says “hell no, woman, you are healthy and whole, inclusive of every piece of you.”
-Fear robs us of love and objectivity. In my current body, I am so afraid of being judged and rejected as substandard. But in hindsight – having already lived the time – I look back on it knowing that everything was perfectly fine and healthy.
-Even in a case in which I/we look back and find myself in less good health, I can still see how my fear made me feel unacceptable, but I needn’t have felt that way, since everything was just plain okay. And I am on a continuously evolving, surprising journey.
-Life is not neat. It is messy. This fact can be scary, but it can also be quite lovely and liberating. Looking at photos of like this demonstrates how much our bodies change even while our reactions to and fear about our bodies stays the same. I have the same fears and anxiety at 130 pounds as I did at 105, and at 137. Of course there are differences, but my anxiety about it all has always been present. Knowing this fact teaches me a bit more each day to let go of control and embrace each day as it is.
Okay! Whoopah. What do you think?
Mannequins do not menstruate, and this is not just because they are made out of plastic.
Here are some images of mannequins in clothes and fully nude. I think this difference is important to pay attention to because seeing mannequins in clothes the majority of the time impairs our ability to process just how specifically manufactured they are to drape clothing just so and to go beyond all reasonable body size aspirations. We don’t regularly see what’s underneath. But what’s underneath is nothing but angles and Barbies.
Note, for example, how hip bones often jut out, which is a way to cause skirts and pants to taper and hang low and stereotypically sexy. Note also how waists are tiny. Note also how legs are longer than the list of activity on my credit card accounts. Which is to say - Long. Disproportionately so.
To which I can only say, holy crap thigh gap.
Mannequins are problematic for a lot of reasons. One of the worst is that this is a subconscious problem. We are well aware of the damage magazines and celebrities and runways and the like do to our self-love, but how often do we consciously acknowledge the power mannequins have over us?
Not very often.
Which is unfortunate – because it has been at least somewhat scientifically proven that mannequins do not have a high enough body fat percentage in order to menstruate.
Two Finnish researchers, Minna Rintala and Pertti Mustajoki, tested standard accepted body fat percentages for women against measurements they made on mannequins (of arm, thigh, waist, and hip circumference are all standard means by which to measure body fat percentage) they found in Finnish museums that were from the 20s, 30s, 50s, 60s, and 90s.
Women need, on average, at least 17% body fat to begin menstruating. The researchers also use the data point of 22 % body fat for regular cycles – though I would argue that this is a statistic biased from the sample being drawn from the super industrialized nations of Western Europe and the United States. For the purposes of our investigation, however, their standards hold since we are largely of industrialized nations such as the US. Our mannequins, we should also note, are typically about 5’10 — the same size as the “fit” models on runways.
In this study, the pre-WWII mannequins had levels of body fat that were consistent with those seen in a healthy, young female of reproductive age population: up to 23 percent, at least. All the way up to 23 percent! That feels incredible – though it makes me sad to write that sentence. Women are known to be quite healthy up to and around 30 percent.
Starting in the 1950s, the estimated body fat on the mannequins decreased significantly. By the 1990s, a significant number of mannequins would not have sufficient body fat to menstruate if they were, you know, actual people. Check out the graph below. The bars detail body fat percentages for hypothetical women of “healthy” body mass indexes of 20-25. In the early decades the mannequin measurements come close, but in later decades fall far below a healthy BMI (note also that the WHO standard for “healthy” BMI goes down to 18.6..though this is contested, as in all things).
The one thing that we talk about most in this community is how to be in hormone balance. How to be fertile. How to enjoy being a woman instead of constantly fighting the basic facts of natural womanhood. Every day I send emails to women making recommendations regarding food choices, lab tests, and self-love and body image issues. I thought it perhaps best, then, to share with you the differences I have experienced at different points in my life regarding my hormone balance.
Pre-weight loss; pre-exercise-binger; pre-paleo
As an adolescent and very young adult, I had some but not extreme acne. I weighed 137 pounds at my “heaviest,” which at 5’2 is approximately a size 7, and on my larger days a 9. I was also quite stressed out so did not menstruate super regularly, but still menstruated on a fairly regular basis. My periods were not always, though sometimes, incredibly painful, and lasted approximately 6-8 days. I do not have any good photos from the time (and I deleted off of my facebook any of the ones that actually showed my body fatness… choosing to leave tagged only those photos that were most flattered). But here is what I looked like, more or less:
(College “I’m drunk meditating on the side of the road in Beijing” phase)
(College “I’m dressed as a fairy holding the ‘make out’ hat” and “this photo is actually super flattering” phase)
Yet I dug up one from another angle in which I appear a bit less flat:
(Yes, I’m kissing someone, not a phase.)
(College ”I’m a crunchy hippy” phase)
In the fall of 2009 I finally achieved the momentum I needed on my low fat, low calorie, vegetarian diet, 90-minute-sprint-workouts-every-day regimen to shrink down to, at my lowest, I think I was probably around 105 pounds. I bounced back up to 115 for the next few years but I still wore size zero, 25 inch waist pants.
In this time period, I experienced:
-the complete cessation and continued absence of anything resembling a sex drive
-an vagina that was, all of the time, as dry as Oscar Wilde (if not more so-if such a thing is possible)
-a completely absent menstrual cycle
-constant hunger (though I did not know it at the time since I had yet to experience the real cycle of intuitive eating yet)
These five bullet points might not look like much – but when you’re a woman who prided herself on her voracious sex drive and then it completely vanished, and you became infertile, and had acne… the thing was, I always suspected that my weight was to blame for my acne, at least in part, but I always thought it still worth the trade off. I’d rather have acne and be thin than be fat with clear skin.
This is what I looked like in this time period:
(“I cover my face because the sun burns my acne” phase)
(“I have eight pack abs, so what, b*tches?” phase)
(“Thigh gap!” phase)
(“Holy crap I’m so comfortable in this tiny body please don’t take it away” phase)
Lots of women probably menstruate at the size I was in the photos above. They probably had sex drives. I did not. All I had managed was to salvage my skin, mostly by reducing the fiber and protein contents of my diet, as well as by adding a topical probiotic to my daily regimen and ceasing to use conventional soaps and such. I had also managed to ovulate a few times, mostly by radically reducing stress or by having a particularly potent sexual encounter, but I did not have a true menstrual cycle, not by a long shot.
I also ate paleo the whole time, so anyone who says all you need to be healthy is a paleo diet is woefully uninformed.
Then came a time in which I prioritized my work and energy over everything else, and was extraordinarily stressed out. I gained weight. fast. And surprise of surprises, I menstruated. (Literally, it smacked me right out of the blue.) My sex drive had steadily increased up until that day, and has remained not just “oh thank god sex doesn’t disgust me anymore” or “well sure I’ll kiss you I guess” but “holy crap I want to do it now” since then. I have continued to cycle since. And my skin has cleared, almost entirely (to be fair: my stress has also been radically reduced), and I have, to my mingled dismay/resignation/fear/acceptance, continued to gain weight.
This is what a Stefani that can menstruate looks like:
(“I’m such a big deal I do photoshoots and holy crap I’ve got hips” phase)
(“Holy crap back fat stomach fat” phase)
(“Bear in mind that the camera on my phone elongates and I’m not nearly this tall or slim” phase)
If you want to see a video of me partner dancing in a body that menstruates (which is, still, a size or two smaller than I am now, I am more than happy to invite you to do so, here).
Looking at these photos, you might hardly see a difference. So what, you say. ”She’s not overweight.”
No, of course not. I agree. I mean — there is definitely a difference, and just about everybody in my life has remarked upon it. My thighs are about 3 inches thicker, each. My face “fuller.” My abs, gone. My periods, pain free, and quite short (thanks to paleo!). I used to be a size 26 jean, and last night I wore a 30. I can no longer wear any outfit with carefree abandon — I now have to worry about placement and what the most flattering cut is and how to handle the parts of my that jiggle.
Some people say I look better. I don’t know. Can I compare? I don’t know. I know I look different, and that’s all that has mattered, and all that made this, while on one hand the best thing in my life, also, on the other hand, one of the harder things I have done (at least in 2014 ).
It’s been a small difference, but I had to read my own writing, and reach out to others for reassurance, and make a deliberate effort to arm myself against the tides of psychological baggage that tells me putting on weight makes me a failure, marks me as lazy, and renders me unfit for love. I believe so strongly in allegiance to our natural bodies, but that does not mean that I still did/do not have to fight for it on my “bad” days. Only because the gains I have had have been so great – I’m never giving up sex again — and because I have such loving, supportive people in my life, and because I’m currently finishing editing a book all about self-love, was I able to fall asleep peacefully at night rather than in a fit of frustrated, frightened tears.
Our society makes it hard. Even at my own relatively small weight gain and size. It makes it hard to “lose ground.” It makes it hard to “backslide.” But that doesn’t mean we give up. We remind ourselves of our own inherent worth, and we push through, and we change the face of womanhood one woman at a time.
I am no longer a fitness champion. I can no longer compare myself to Victoria’s Secret models. But I am different. I’m a new kind of sexy (more about which in coming days). I am me. And I am happy, and fertile, and healthy, and alive.
Hell. Yes.Read More
New roundtable podcast on disordered eating is up! George Bryant, Stacy Toth, Sarah the Paleo Mom, Tara of Primal Girl, and more.
I recently had the enormous delight and honor to hang out and chat with George, Stacy, Sarah, and Tara about our personal experiences and opinions on body image – on The Paleo View for the third time in four months. Awesome! The podcast has now been posted, and there are also extensive show notes at the link if you don’t have the time to listen and just want to get the gist of it. These are really powerful people with big time ideas, and I love them all so much, they’re such wonderful friends and real people who are inspiring for both of those facts in equal measure.
George and Stacy on bulimia, me on perfectionism, how people treat you differently when you change your appearance — literally – do you become more visible? an object? – what happens when your fourth grade teacher tells you you’re fat, and how the shape of your self love changes as your weight loss / health efforts move forward.
Grab the podcast here or on the image below!
Today is the second to last day of Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The theme of this year’s Week is “Everybody Knows Somebody.” It’s sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Awareness Foundation, and the goal this year is to spread awareness of the prevalence of eating disorders.
And boy they are prevalent:
One in one hundred American women are anorexic;
One in forty are bulimic;
Eight million Americans suffer from eating disorders– so that makes about 7 million of them women, and 1 million of them men.
If you know more than fifty people, statistics say you know someone.
Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. They are, in fact, uniquely life-threatening: the mortality rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
So they’re not a joke. Almost half of anorexics never fully recover, and approximately a fifth of all people who suffer eating disorders die of complications related to the issue.
So what do we do about it?
I know it sounds trite, but I have no better solution. We treat everyone we meet with acceptance and affirmation, and we smile at people and love them even from a distance, and we do our best to hold the spaces of those who struggle. We do not judge anyone; we do not laugh at people for suffering under the weight of these mental pressures; we walk with as much empathy as possible. For people who suffer eating disorders, as well as anyone else.
For eating disorder victims who are closer to us in our lives, we have the unique and important opportunity to love them more specifically. It takes a very long time to learn to accept ourselves as we are, and to let go of whatever demons (which are numerous) make them feel the need to control or to purge or to what-have-you. So one way in which we teach people to love themselves is to be demonstrable about our love for them, and to make them as absolutely safe and comfortable and at home as possible in our presences. Over time, that safe and comfort permeates the rest of their lives, and hopefully their brain spaces, too.
Yet perhaps the most important thing we can do as individuals and as a society is to live by example.
It always baffled me, when I struggled with body image and food, how some women I knew could have some fat on their abdomens and still wear bikinis out in broad daylight. They would smile and laugh like everything was fine, and it was beautiful and amazing if a bit befuddling. What the hell? How could I personally do that? Did I want to? But didn’t I have to wait until I had the perfect body?
No! No one is ever perfect, and no one ever feels perfect. Instead, those women who were laughing and joyful in their own skin, they were choosing to ignore fear and to affirm their own contexts. What if everybody did that? What if we all stopped apologizing for the current state that our bodies are in — whether thin or overweight, young or old, baggy or springy, healing or sick, crippled or toned? What if we owned our natural bodies and our histories, and lived without fear of rejection? What if we dared to be ourselves without criticism or doubt? What if we loved ourselves so much that the world began transforming into a radically affirming rather than radically fearful place?
So it’s a fantasy. I don’t care. And that’s the whole point. For what do we aim, if not the stars?
Eating Disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimina Nervosa come from a wide variety of places and mental disturbances. Different circumstances such as the level of control we have over our lives or family issues or OCD or anything else destabilizing plays as big a role as love and affirmation in eating disorders. So solving those problems is complicated. But the part about love is crucial. Love powerfully does two things: it creates a safe space in which people can work through more complex issues, and it over time teaches them how to radically love and embrace themselves.
As for those of us who do not suffer from explicit eating disorders but suffer daily from disordered eating and body image issues — which may be as high as 50 percent of the general population or even 75 percent of certain populations such as women in college — the answers are much the same. The need for love is so big. The need to overcome fear is urgent. The need to stand firmly in ourselves and love ourselves and never waver in the face of adversity — priceless.
The biggest factor in the epidemic of disordered eating is fear. Fear makes us doubt ourselves; it makes us worry; it makes us try to change ourselves with a neuroticism that can be frightening.
Fear is the opposite of love. Fear tears at the bindings of love, and it makes it impossible to hold on. Fear leaps on the spirit like a giant, voracious spider, and it slices through all of our positive emotions to make us empty and alone. When we are afraid of what people think of us, we lose our ability to live freely. We become defensive; we withdraw into ourselves; and as we sit in ourselves, we worry about the face we are presenting to the world, we worry about our image, and we worry about how we might ever achieve validation.
When we are faced with defensive or fearful people in turn, our walls go up. Walls spring up between people dozens of times every day. This happens in an act of anticipation: instead of anticipating love and affirmation from them, we anticipate rejection, and we tuck ourselves away before we have the opportunity to be hurt.
On days when I am at peace and I love myself, and I feel confident and happy to be in my shoes, I meet everyone’s eyes and smile. I am not afraid of them. They cannot hurt me — I am secure in who I am. And this is the trick to the whole thing. We have to be firm in ourselves. We have to stop apologizing for who we are. We have to accept who we are, and radically, and to live comfortably in our own shoes.
We also have to acknowledge that other people are going through the same process. Everyone wants to be affirmed, and everyone fears rejection. If people are nasty to us, it’s only because of their own personal pain or worry, and not because of our own value. Instead of engaging others in a dance of avoidance and walls, then, what if we lower our own? What if we take that first step towards reconciliation, and what if we give ourselves up as open and vulnerable? What if we stop fearing others, and extend love to them? What happens then? How do they respond to our openness, our positivity, our fearlessness, our love?
If we do not dare to be brilliant, and to think ourselves lovely first, then no one is going to doing it, period.
Someone has to be leaping, and it may as well be you.
The final piece to all of this is that it’s fun to be the leaper. It takes a long time to accept ourselves. But every day on the journey is an adventure. It’s a lesson in life, and it teaches us about the shape of our own minds, our histories, and who we are. It helps us understand our own skin, and it helps us understand humanity. And even more than that, it helps us laugh. Be joyful. Be free. Fly. Share our new groundedness and lack of fear with others. Stare life straight in the face and stop flinching. Look at it instead with fierce eyes, wind in our hair, brilliant smiles, and a body bursting with joy. It doesn’t work this way every second, no. But periodically, and increasingly, and with more and more understanding of the shape of the world. Life isn’t out to get us specifically. We just have to dare to drop our walls, and to affirm with radical and radiant love what it means to be a human being: Love. Joy. Community. Courage. Falling, and getting back up. Running, and sometimes coming in second place. Being in our own skin, and delighting in it. Sharing that love with others, and inviting them to do the same.
I have a friend who once told me that everything we do in life is either an act of fear, or an act of love. What a brilliant way of looking at the world. Open up with love, and let the fear slide.
Be at peace in your own skin, and show everyone else in your life what a joy that can be.
We can build this world. We can heal those around us. We can re-inforce the fractures in our friends, if slowly and with Herculean will. What it takes is the desire to step up. It says saying “I do,” to both ourselves, and to our loved ones. And then to leap, and to laugh, and to love.
Suffer from an eating disorder? Or disordered eating? Or body image issues? Have lived through them and come out on the other side? What’s your story?
Check out National Eating Disorders for more info.
More questions about PCOS this afternoon! No surprises here. Below are some thoughts on endometriosis and PCOS, quinoa, feeling restricted, allergies, and moving forward with hypothalamic amenorrhea.
If you find that a question you asked me is below and I have not stripped it enough of your personality to post it here, please let me know.
Help! I have both endometriosis and PCOS. I don’t understand– I thought endometriosis was a condition of high estrogen levels, and PCOS a condition of low estrogen levels. What gives?
There are two ways to answer this question. First, PCOS patients can have high estrogen levels, and in fact many of us do. For this reason, you can have both endometriosis and PCOS without rocking the boat of your theory. On the other hand, I also believe it is entirely possible to have endometriosis and to have low estrogen levels. This is because endometriosis and endometrial pain is related to high estrogen levels, but there are a variety of other factors in the development of endometriosis. Having an impaired immune system and inflammation are two big ones on the list. Once those things happen together, and you plant endometrial tissue somewhere in your abdomen (and in all likelihood aided by having high estrogen levels), then you have endometrial tissue that is going to be very difficult to weaken. That is just the nature of the tissue. It does not just shed off effortlessly. In this time period your estrogen levels can drop and your immune system can improve, but your tissue may still cause you pain. This is how you can have low estrogen and endometriosis. The solution is to mitigate the problems as best you can, reducing stress and inflammation, healing your gut, boosting your immune system, and eating a hormone balancing diet such as the paleo diet.
I wrote about endometriosis at great length here.
I stumbled upon your website researching the Paleo lifestyle and was pleasantly surprised to see the tie in to PCOS! I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m commenting on this article but being an avid consumer of marijuana, I had to click and read. Admittedly, I was quite disappointed in what I read not about marijuana but more about seeds, nuts and quinoa. I was under the impression that quinoa was NOT a grain but rather a seed. I’ve successfully omitted all grains, beans, soya from my diet and this was a major bummer to read. I am feeling very deprived right now thinking of the possibility of having to omit this as well. Thank you for the great article however and keep up the great work.
Quinoa is in fact not a grain. It is called a “psuedo cereal” because it does not come from grains or grasses, but is rather the seed of a plant. It is gluten free. That being said, it also has many properties that seeds do, such as having a relatively high amount of phytoestrogen content (and will contain many of the phytates inherent to legumes, beans, and grains all). Phytates are also a bit of a problem for PCOS because they have the potential to limit calcium and magnesium absorption– two ions quite crucial for the development of healthy and fertile corpus lutea. All of which is to say that seeds are not great for PCOS, but unless you are eating buckets they will not make or break your case. Probably, at least, in my opinion.
My thoughts about restriction are of course always complicated. If quinoa is something that is necessary for you to feel good about food and your body, then I advocate keeping it in your diet at least for a while. Clean up as much as you can, and relax into your food choices. Try eating less whenever it seems easy to do so. If it’s a battle, don’t fight it. Just phase it out only as you can let it go with peace. This will happen over time with patience and with love. And if it does not, I really think that’s okay, too. Take care of your brain first and foremost. It is going to be your most important tool by far for taking care of your body for the rest of your life.
I have question. I had a hysterectomy in May 2012. I struggle with endometriosis, hashimoto’s, Sjögren’s syndrome & celiac. I’m on estrogen therapy & the autoimmune protocol but my allergies are getting worse! I eat meat, non starchy vegetables & fruit. I can’t tolerate any spices or starches & my allergies continue to worsen. Any suggestions?
You may wish to try eating a GAPS diet to heal your gut further. Allergies are not my specialty– but I highly recommend first doing everything you can to assist your immune system, since this is where allergy problems are rooted. This includes reducing stress, getting as much sunlight and/or vitamin D as possible, eating organ meat often–I’d advocate at least once each week–getting as much sleep as possible, and potentially getting your micronutrient levels checked to see if you have any deficiencies that are hindering immune function. Boosting immune function will help your immune system react appropriately to foods without leaping into panic mode. It also depends very much on what your allergies are and how you are reacting to them. Are they definitely allergic reactions, or are they food intolerances? This is a crucial difference. An allergy is rooted more in immune issues and food intolerance is rooted more in the gut. Allergen-specializing docs are probably the best place to go for troubleshooting this sort of issue. You also want to make sure you are taking care of your hypothyroidism appropriately — are you supplementing with thyroid hormone? because with Hashimoto’s you may need to be, so speak with your doctor about it — because thyroid hormone is crucial for immune function, for cellular repair, for probably energy usage, and just about everything else cells do.
I have had HA since february, since I stopped taking the birth pill. I am really underweight (5’10 and 100#). I lost a lot of weight when I started crossfit and doing a low-carb diet for two years. I am now trying to conceive. My hormone levels are all very low. I haven’t worked out for several months. I only walk daily for one hour. I started seeing a therapist about my anxiety, who is helping me gain weight. She makes me track my calories in order to gain weight. I have to eat more than 2,000 calories but rarely go over. I am a bit scared of carbs. Gaining weight is not working although I eat more and stopped working out. I keep counting the carbs and feel bad having potato chips and a cookie (too much carbs). I do eat a good amount of fat (teaspoons of coconut oil, nut butter bacon, greek yogurt etc…). What should I do?
Since your primary concern– and biggest obstacle– in getting pregnant is convincing your body that you are fed, you want to err on the side of eating more rather than less. This should be the case all of the time. Also, I recommend that you eat whatever you want. Anything you want. I personally eat a very high carobhydrate for extended periods of time to zero ill effect. Do your absolute best to stay within the range of non-toxic foods (ie, skip the gluten, deep fried foods) and eat heartily. The more frequently you can hit your 2000 mark, or even better, go over, and the less you obsess, the faster you’ll regain hypothalamic health.
I cannot stress to you how much all of the factors of relaxing, reducing your anxiety, and gaining weight are all important for your ability to conceive. This takes a lot of work. You are going to have to have patience, and to forgive yourself as much as possible for all of the difficulty you are having moving forward. The thing is that it is not your fault. You have become inordinately thin as a result of psychological pressures put on you by an external environment, and now you are stuck with fighting that. Keep your chin up and move forward as lovingly as possible. Accept yourself as a natural body with natural needs. When you look in the mirror, don’t obsess. As a matter of fact, don’t look in the mirror. It is way too easy to start seeing ourselves as bigger than we used to be– and even while we need to gain weight to be and even look healthier, by the simple fact of being “bigger” we think we look huge. Don’t let your brain trick you into such radical subjectivity. Do your best to put your evolutionary need and your fertility at the front of your mind, and be excited when you see yourself put on a bit of weight. Do it slowly and make sure to protect your brain in all of this, but embrace your needs. You are a woman with some strong ovaries and the power to carry children. Nourish yourself as your body is crying out for, and take as much pride in that as possible. Being thin doesn’t make you worthy. Being a badass and tackling these problems with as much love and determination as possible does.
Eat carbohydrates!!!! Carbohydrates a) do not make you overweight, they just don’t, period, and b) are supremely healthful for you, especially in a state of metabolic distress. Start eating them slowly and learn bit by bit the lessons I am telling you. You will see that they make you feel and look better without making you balloon in some ridiculous fashion. They are just food, same as fat and protein. Period. Eat them whenever, however, and however much of them as you want.
Be patient, however, love. These things can take time depending on how much damage has been done and how diligent you are about allowing some weight gain and calorie intake. Increase what you are doing as much as possible, and make sure that you are erring on the side of nourishing yourself more rather than less. Believe it or not you have already made radical progress. You have started therapy– something most women never do!– and you have admitted that you need to work on some of these issues. And you have really cut back on your exercise, and you are working on eating more and gaining weight. These are all awesome things. You are doing it, and you have so much to be proud of moving forward. You will get there, especially with love, forgiveness, and harmony with your natural body on your side.
You can read more about my work and opinions and plans for PCOS in the manual PCOS Unlocked.Read More
Today’s food and love hack is one of my favorites. It has been one of the most important hacks for my own health and happiness. It gets at the very root of many over/under eaters’ issues, and, I would argue, perfectionists and this society as a whole.
The Hack: Loosing your Dependence on “Why”
Why do we ask the question “why?”
We ask the question “why?” because we are curious creatures. That makes sense. We like knowing things. Additionally, the question “why” is key to our survival. It’s an evolutionarily evolved advantage. The more we question, the more we know. The more we know, the more we can navigate our environments safely.
For an every day example: just two days ago I felt my face start to heat up. I thought: “hm? The cold weather?” and I sat in that hypothesis. I let my body feel what it needed to feel. But the sensation did not get better. In fact, it got much worse. Much later that day I remembered that I had used an old therapeutic lotion that morning, and I thought: “holy crap, I gave myself a chemical peel.” I am now recovering as appropriately as I can because I have that knowledge. This is what we get for thoughtlessly using modern interventions, ladies.
Knowledge enables us to control ourselves and to exert control over our environments. This is a good thing– perhaps the most excellent thing of all! It is well-known in psychological and sociological literature that the more control a person perceives she has over her own life, the happier she tends to be. No one likes to be controlled, and no one likes to be out of control, either. ”Learned helplessness” is in fact the clinical term used for one of the greatest causes of depression and anxiety.
For this reason, the question “why” is of supreme importance to our lives. I might even argue that it is the most important concept for us as human beings. The question “why” I really do believe makes us human even more than love or virtue or awareness does.
So why advocate loosening our hold on it?
It is my belief that we sometimes develop unhealthy relationships with the word “why.” The great extent to which we have “figured out” existence up to this point in our society has led us to develop the illusion that we can know and control more than is actually possible.
Many of us have health issues or are at least concerned about optimizing our health. But how much is this truly possible through tweaking? Much we might like to believe that we can master our bodies completely, even in the most highly analyzed and tweaked body there are millions of processes going on at any given point in time that could influence the individual. We simply cannot account for all of them–we cannot. Accounting for every single feeling, fluctuation, or indicator we experience is an exercise not just in fertility, but in a particular kind of madness.
Which is my own kind of madness, mind you.
Hyper-attention to the question “why” when coupled with the belief that our bodies can be controlled by food intake is not a godsend but a big time trouble maker. Appropriate attention to the word “why” is great. Hyper attention is not. When we continually ask why we are feeling a certain way, and needing desperately to know the mechanics of it all, then we come to a place where we are trying to optimally control everything that is happening in our bodies– something that I would argue from personal experience is just about impossible.
There are a wide range of factors that make health still as mysterious as it is a hack-able problem. Our psychology is one of them, perhaps the most important one. How we are thinking and feeling at any given point in time exerts an enormous influence on our health. For this reason, our desire to control what’s going on in our bodies may in fact be counter-productive. But we cannot know precisely how and why that works– we just have to do it as best we can.
Our immune systems are also quite complicated. How do we know when and what we are battling at any given point in time?
Or what was our gut flora doing on that particular day? Had we reacted to a food that would normally have been quite comfortable?
Is our hormone balance off because of a night’s sleep, or just because of a natural fluctuation?
If we are healthy, and we feel healthy, I believe that we need to let go. We should ask why as often as it is helpful, and on other occasions begin trusting our bodies and our lifestyles to do their job without micromanagement.
This can powerfully help us relax our relationships with food. We want to know how certain foods affect us, but micromanaging our food intake exacerbates the impulse for control and perfection. We become obsessive over figuring things out, controlling our bodies, and being the master over them. A bit healthier of a perspective might be to let them speak to us without prodding back. And trust them. It may seem impossible at times — how do I know if I am hungry or not?! — but we’ve just got to trust that the right hunger response and the right healing mechanism is in there and trying ot come out, and we’ve got to let it happen.
It won’t be perfect moving forward, but that’s almost the point. Work with your body and trust in it, and ask it questions only that you think you have the power to answer gently and without panic.
This has to do with our bodies, but it also has to do with our lives. Are we trying to control too much? Are we attempting to master our environments and our friends and our emotions with an iron-tipped whip? We don’t need to — and it’s probably a bit of a illusion that we ever think we might be able to, anyway. Questioning and loosening our relationship with “why” and working on trust issues helps us loosen up if we have a controlling grip on our lives.
Don’t let go of “why” entirely. But analyze it’s role in your life. If you feel a bit off one day, don’t run to scary questions and conclusions. Don’t question your whole eating paradigm. Give yourself some grace, and trust in your body, and see how it goes. Perhaps it shall resolve itself.
And think about the issue particularly as it relates to your relationship with food. Do you micromanage your food intake based on microsymptoms? Do you hyper-detect, and therefore get a bit obsessive about what you are eating? Do you exercise so much control over your eating patterns that you have forgotten what it feels like to be hungry, to be satiated, to feel good about yourself naturally? Work on micromanaging less, and trusting your body more. It’s doing what it needs to heal itself much of the time. YES it needs help, and yes it needs questions and answers, but never in a way that harms you or it, psychologically, physiologically, holistically, spiritually.
Give “why” a looser leash. Permit it some freedom and some peace, and move forward with trusting, loving, and embracing your natural self and life.