Tag Archives: wellbeing

In closing. Or, the chips will sometimes be down.

I think it’s possible that I’ve said more or less all I’m qualified to say in terms of this particular subject.  But first:  It wasn’t that one day I woke up and said, “Right – that’s it – I’m going to lose all this pesky weight!”  It was more like there had been too many days on which I’d woken up and said, “How did this happen…again?”  And there’s sort of a gazillion reasons why any of us find ourselves in a situation we really hate and somehow feel responsible for, even if we’d never have wished it upon ourselves in the first place.  And if that situation is of the downward-spiral variety – i.e., feeling bad about it makes us perpetuate it, ad infinitum – well, it’s tricky at best and downright agonizing at worst.

Finding myself clinically obese was the result of a lot of different factors.  I had a bad injury that put me on crutches for 6 months.  That wasn’t so bad, because crutches are damn hard work and so my weight was well within control during that period, but as soon as I had to put weight on the injury, the pain was debilitating and I was afraid of the pain.  I was also working quite a lot in a very demanding job and volunteering as much as possible, and my living situation wasn’t ideal, as we were in London and so sharing small flats with friends where no one really had enough space.  So I was stressed, frustrated, tired, and filled with all sorts of self-pity…which created the perfect environment for me to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like eating too much and too often and almost never the right things.  This was of course compounded by my pain and fear thereof, because I obviously wasn’t moving nearly as much as I should have been.  I’m willing to bet anyone struggling with their weight has undergone a similarly complicated set of circumstances.

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What’s on your plate Special Edition: Salads.

Life in terms of food in the Philippines wasn’t so bad, and it could certainly have been worse.  Where we lived, we had good access to a decent array of fruits and vegetables, and we eventually found a couple of places we could buy tofu (as it’s a common foodstuff, but not found in the supermarket) and learned how to make mungo beans.  But there were a few things we had to go without.  For C, I think the hardest of these was (what we consider good) bread, but he finally bit the bullet and started baking his own, which was awesome for both of us.

Some foods we couldn’t compensate for, though most of these were no big loss:  apples, oranges and grapes were on offer but out of the question.  The apples were tasteless and powdery, the oranges were juiceless and neither sour nor sweet, and I never got around to sampling the grapes…but I wasn’t bothered – we had mangos and rambutan and lanzones and jackfruit and like 4 kinds of bananas (though I’ve heard there were once hundreds of varieties in Mindanao, but due to monoculture there are only a few now – and there are far worse consequences, but I digress).

Something we absolutely never bought, though – except for that first time out of sheer naivety – was lettuce.  The lettuce was awful.  It was hard and bitter and dry…the climate just isn’t conducive to growing the stuff.  So upon arriving in France, I was ecstatic about salad.  The French love salad.  Most families serve it with every dinner and sometimes lunch, too.  The only problem is that for them, salade is the word they use for “lettuce”.  Which is to say that they eat lettuce with their meals, with dressing of course.  But rarely anything else, unless the salad is the main dish, which is typically only for eating out.  Not having lettuce in the Philippines had forced us to learn to love a whole bunch of other raw vegetables, and lettuce and sauce just didn’t cut it for me anymore.

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Weight loss hygiene Part III: The company we keep

When I was at university, I had about a hundred different jobs, one of which was tending bar in a karaoke bar that sat alongside a Chinese restaurant in Oceanside.  We had these two regulars, who I’ll refer to here as Dave and Sam.  They came in absolutely every night.  The nights I worked, the nights I didn’t – they were there.  They always sat at the end of the bar, about two seats apart, Sam nearest the exit so he could go out and smoke.  My boss was this knock-out Filipina single mom in her late 30s, and I’m pretty sure they and every dude in that restaurant were head over heels for her.

Sam was really smooth – almost like something out of a movie.  He smiled, but never too much, and was only really nice after he’d had one too many, so usually quite late in the evening, when he’d started buying rounds and killing my tips (he was a very bad tipper).  He was in his late 50s or maybe even early 60s by that point, and he was always well-dressed, in slacks and a button-up shirt, never jeans – I doubt he even owned a pair.  He drank something classic – martinis I think, or maybe old fashioneds – and he didn’t talk too much.  He’d go crazy when I’d sing “My Funny Valentine” – that was how I won him over, actually – and though he was reserved, he was a good guy.

Dave, however, wasn’t reserved at all.  He was one of those guys who just exudes generosity and kindness.  Dave was heavyset – probably weighed just under 300 lbs – and didn’t drink a drop.  He was in recovery.  He didn’t smoke, either, as he’d quit that not long after he gave up booze.  So nobody gave him any trouble for chowing down on as much deep-fried bar food as he fancied…Dave had already made some very difficult decisions in the name of his health and wellbeing.

Here’s the thing:  Dave was a recovering alcoholic who spent every single night (except meeting nights) at a bar, and never drank. Still, he was addicted to food – maybe before he gave up drink too – I wouldn’t know – but I imagine it got a lot easier to eat too much after he gave up drinking and smoking.  Meanwhile, Sam was also most definitely an addict.  Don’t get me wrong – he was very responsible with his addiction, always handed his keys over when he needed to and was never disrespectful to anybody.  But he was in that bar every single night. And every night he put back at least 4 or 5 of whatever highball it was he drank.

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London Musings Vol. I: (Mostly) For Vegans

I am officially on day 7 of my 14 day stint in London and these three things are true:

  • I’ve gotten a fraction of what I’d have liked done in terms of work;
  • It’s been profoundly emotive and emotional;
  • I’ve been solidifying all sorts of theories I had about why me and London weren’t best mates when I called it home.

I won’t bore you with the details of any of these…just thought you might like to know.  What I will do, however, is preach a little bit about proper vegan nutrition – something I’ve only recently wrapped my head around and something too few people – from die-hard omnivores to sworn vegans – properly appreciate.

Anybody who knows me (or reads me) knows that I’m not too keen on preaching about being vegan.  It’s something that’s very dear to me in terms of my life decisions, but I’m also well aware that people don’t like being told what to eat or how to eat it, and ranting about it is about as likely to get someone on one’s side as beating them over the head with a butternut squash.

What I’m struggling increasingly to keep quiet about is how vegans too often eat because:

  1. They personally don’t understand how important nutrition is;
  2. They trip over themselves incessantly in an effort to appease omnivores; or
  3. They fall victim to a lack of available foodstuffs that can keep them healthy.

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The Yoga (Every) Body

Way back in January, I started sending off queries for an article on yoga.  It was one of the first articles I pitched, when I was just getting started with this whole writing endeavor.  It was actually my mom’s idea:  debunking the myth of the skinny yogi.

The piece was dear to my heart for three reasons:  Firstly, I know how much yoga has meant to a lot of people who live in / have lived in bigger bodies (myself included).  It can be, and often is, the catalyst for an entirely different way of living life.  Secondly, I also know that it’s utterly fictitious to say that yoga cannot be practiced by any living, breathing human being (and occasionally pets…see: Karma Yoga).  Yoga isn’t just Hatha!  But even Hatha Yoga can be modified to meet the needs of just about anybody, even people with some severe disabilities.  Being bigger-bodied is by no means a disqualifier.  Finally, once I got the ball rolling, I was able to speak with a number of passionate, inspiring individuals about their practice, and about how they feel about the subject.

The article has gone live, and you can read it on Elephant Journal.

I’d also like to introduce you to some of those exceptional people who gave me a bit of their time and whose innovative, out-of-the-box thinking really inspired the piece:

Lauren Rose, LCSW, RYT, is a psychotherapist in New York.  Her brand of healing is quite literally body and soul:  she is also a yoga instructor.

Meera Patricia Kerr is the genious behind the extraordinary book Big Yoga.  She fuses all of her learning, including the teachings of her guru, Sri Swami Satchidananda, creator of Integral Yoga, into this excellent resource.

Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee.  The studio is just one part of Anna’s work – she offers online courses for students not yet ready to practice in public, and sends out regular wellbeing emails to everyone as well.

Janet Zinn is the lovely and tireless psychotherapist from New York who dropped 60 lbs., owing in part to her yoga practice.  Mind, she gave the interview whilst jogging…I don’t think I could recite half of the alphabet while jogging!  She also encourages her clients to incorporate yoga into their healing, and really walks the talk.

Tony Riposo is the founder and director of Infinite Light Yoga in Syracuse, New York, and was so passionate about this subject, I think he could have written the article far better than I did!  His studio and practice are committed to working with every sort of person, especially those with mobility issues.

Dr. Moshe Lewis is a pain rehabilitation expert in San Francisco who often “prescribes” yoga to his clients.  He understands how difficult it can be, particularly for people who’ve not had exercise as a part of their lives, to get back in tune with their bodies.

Do let me know your thoughts on the article once you get the chance!  Namaste!

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On the joys of the unattainable

I’ve been doing yoga for just over a year now.  It really struck me as amusing this morning when I realized that the anniversary of ths profoundly life-altering decision had come and gone sans my attention to it.  (Anybody who regularly reads this blog will know I’m a sucker for anniversaries).

It’s not that it’s been a year since the first time I got into downward-facing dog pose – actually, a friend from long ago, J, introduced me to yoga nearly a decade back, and I knew then how special and extraordinary it was.  But I was clueless as to how it could fit into my life.

Not long before we left for the Philippines, Chris suggested we enroll in a yoga class in London.  Having someone with whom to enroll took all the fear out of it for me (I was shockingly unfit at the time), and I never hesitated for a second.  That lasted 6 weeks, though, and then we were off, visiting France (where we did a few asanas, but nothing that impressive), road-tripping around the U.S. (where we did exactly nothing for more than a month), and then making our way to the Philippines, where copious amounts of stress, heat and humidity for the first few months meant that – in spite of that being the picture-perfect scenario for getting my practice up and running – yoga was forgotten again for a while. The running excuse was that we didn’t have mats.

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