25 June 2017

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces - Read This Book!

I read (devoured) Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero while riding a train from Switzerland back to Italy.  Then I promptly reread it because the author gave Gabi, the main character, so many good lines that I needed to make note of some of them. 

[Source]

Gabi is a high school senior and the story deals with lots of things high schoolers deal with...sex, school, relationships, looks...but Gabi is overweight (the book doesn't say how overweight she is but Gabi considers herself to be fat).  She thinks about and talks a lot about food and it's this relationship that I found so relatable - although I think the way Gabi is brought up believing that even thinking about sex makes her a bad girl is probably relatable to many.

The first line that struck a chord with me was:

" My baby brother is different. He doesn't say much, but he feels a lot of anger and sadness, and he can't scream it out loud or eat through it like I do."
My "little" brother is really tall and super skinny and can't gain weight if he tries.  He doesn't eat his feelings (he eats tons but not to drown feelings...he has other unhealthy ways of doing that) like I'm prone to do.

Gabi often turns to food to deal with her feelings:

"I tried not to cry. And was able to wait until I got into my room and shut the door.  I pulled some Kit-Kats from my underwear drawer and chewed my heartache away."
And she gets excited about food:

"However, I did say something like, "Oh my God, Martin! It'd be cool to work on poetry with someone else. And I have some really good beef jerky we can snack on!" Which now that I think about it, sounds pretty awkward and creepy.  Who gets excited about snacking on beef jerky, no matter how good it is?  Me, that's who.  And only me."
Being a vegetarian, I don't get excited about beef jerky but I do completely understand being super excited about a food item which, to most, would not be something about which to get super excited.

Anyone who struggles with using food to deal with feelings will relate to this one:

"I have to do something to feel better. Right now though, this box of Thin Mints will have to do."
And Thin Mints are vegan!!  Not that there aren't many, many, many reasons not to eat them but...

Like many people to struggle with weight and body image issues, Gabi seems to think that her weight dictates parts of her life that really have nothing to do with the number on the scale.  Like her intelligence.  As if fat girls aren't just as smart as skinny ones:

"Me. The Mexican fat girl. Accepted to Berkeley!"

Almost anyone who truly enjoys food has felt something similar to this about some food item...be it really good dark chocolate or tacos or, if you're one of those people, roasted Brussel sprouts :)

"Tacos are like what the voices of a hundred angels singing Bob Dylan while sitting on rainbows and playing banjos would taste like if that sound were edible."

Moderation is not something everyone is good at (whether your vice is food or alcohol or running or whatever it might be):

"Not only did I have seconds but also thirds, they were so good.  I immediately regretted eating all of that gordita goodness after I spoke with Cindy on the phone.  She called to see if I wanted to go prom-dress shopping with her this weekend because it was getting close, and she didn't have any idea what she would be wearing. How am I supposed to fit into any sort of non-muumuu dress after all that food? Ugh!"

I love her description of clothing sizes.  Most of us don't fit the exact standards to which clothes are designed.  Some of us are super short but not super slim while others are exactly as tall as a size 10 jeans but have chunky legs or extra booty or whatever it is.  Clothes shopping is super frustrating for almost everyone I know.


"None of the dresses I liked were available in plus sizes: they only came in "I-limit-myself-to-only-one-gordita" or "I-only-eat-lettuce" sizes.  That's the main reason I hate shopping."

Even when we try to do what we know is "better" for us, sometimes our old comfort habits are still what make us feel the best:

"Went for a run, but the ice cram I ate afterwards helped a lot more."

I don't consider myself to be the "fat girl."  I carry a few more pounds than I would like but regardless, YES to this...yes, yes, yes:

"Never ask the fat girl if she is hungry.  She's always hungry.  Even if she's not, she is, because food is safe and controllable and soothing and salty and sweet, and it doesn't scream at you or make you feel bad unless you are trying on clothes."

So many people struggle with the enemy of the mirror thanks to society's constant bombardment of "perfect" images and what we need to do to be "perfect" and why we're failing at being "perfect."  Ever left the house thinking everything was good and then caught a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or window and had an avalanche of terribly self-negative thoughts crash into your head?

"How would that be.  I don't think I want him to see me naked, I mean, eww gross.  Sometimes I don't want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy."

Ahhh....if only we all felt this way most, if not all, of the time! If only we felt like it was okay to be happy being ourselves.  If only we didn't feel like we always have to be striving for that impossible perfect.

"At that moment I wasn't too fat, I wasn't too white, I wasn't bad, I was just me."

I absolutely LOVE that she wants her brain's vacation to include eating pizza!!


"This is the thing with me: as soon as I start thinking about something, I can't let it go.  It's exhausting. I wish I could just turn my brain off and let it take a small vacation - near the beach, drinking lemonade and eating pizza."

A world without cheese...

"The thing about being a fat girl is that bathing suits are at the top of your list of nightmares--along with diabetes, too-small leggings, pants that give you camel toe, underwires in a bra and a world without cheese."

Body image issues can overwhelm a person...sometimes to the point of them not leaving the house or always sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy themselves.  If I wear pants I'll be uncomfortable because it's too hot.  If I wear shorts I'll be uncomfortable because my thighs rub together. Being comfortable should not be difficult. 

Maybe you won't get in the pool with your kids because you don't want to wear a bathing suit and listen to people call you Olive Oil and ask if your boyfriend likes spinach.

Or maybe you don't fly to your sister's wedding in Hawaii because you don't want the embarrassment of asking for the seat belt extender. 

Perhaps you just had a baby and feel like you haven't lost enough of the baby weight and none of your clothes fit right. 

It might be that your finances don't allow you to buy new clothes and you don't want to be judged for wearing outdated fashions. 

Could be that you tried giving yourself a new hair color and it turned out all wrong and you can't stand the thought of anyone seeing it.

There are so many reasons why we judge ourselves and assume others are judging us.  It's often difficult to feel comfortable in our own skin.  It can be hard not to watch our coworker eat French fries every day and be jealous of the fact that she stays so slim without working out.  Or to see someone walk into a store, buy a pair of pants off the rack and have them fit perfectly without having to pay an extra $8 per pair to get them hemmed shorter.  For my brother, it's frustrating for him when people pick on him for being so skinny that his ribs and hip bones stick out. 

"The other thing about being fat is that you spend too much damn time worrying about being fat and that takes time away from having fun."
I'm working on getting out there and having fun and without worrying about whether I have on the right outfit (I probably don't but I rarely go shopping (because I hate it) and don't think I have much of a fashion-sense anyway) or feeling like I should be foregoing the gelato or the chocolate or the pasta or whatever it is.  I need to be me, as I am right now; not as I think I "should" be.

This book dealt with a lot of things that weren't food-related and I think a lot of people (it's a YA book but I believe adults can connect with it as I did) will have things in common with Gabi. It's a really fast read and I think Quintero did a great job making Gabi such a relatable character with real flaws and real struggles and even if the ending was a tiny bit cheesy (of course they both got accepted and will go together even though chances are they won't stay together long because it's college and people change a lot) I loved the book and it will probably end up being one of the few books I read over and over and over.

21 June 2017

A Little Chat

I did REALLY well giving up sugar for 6 weeks.  Insanely surprisingly well!!  I've never had such an easy time and I wish I knew what made it so easy this time.  I even lost weight and that almost never happens.  I got a little off track with a month-long visit from the family and some other things (dog had to have emergency surgery last week and that affected the whole week's schedule and routine) but this week I really thought I could get back on track.

I was passing by a friend's office the other day (I'm doing some work in the building where she works) and her door was open so I stuck my head in to say hello.  She greeted me by holding up her green smoothie.  I said I was also drinking smoothies this week because it's really dang hot and the idea of cooking or eating something hot is too much.  She mentioned better eating and I said I had done really well for 6 weeks.  Anyway, just that little 5-minute chat was enough to help me power through some stress and exhaustion (hello unexpected )11 hour work day without grabbing some junk to eat. 

Sometimes it doesn't take much to get or keep yourself on plan.  I mean, let's face it, sometimes  you need an ocean between you and the stuff you want to stay away from.  But sometimes just a very small thing can be all you need to keep your motivation up.  YAY for small victories!

Today is International Day of Yoga.  The plan was to attend an event downtown but it starts at 1930 and ends at 2030 and I'm usually crawling into bed about that time.  So as much as I want to go, I think I do some mental yoga as I attempt to wrap my brain around my Italian lesson :)  Happy International Day of Yoga!

08 April 2017

Let Your Pit Hair Grow...Or Not

It amazes me that people get so freaked out about body hair.  As if it's some sort of aberration that it dares to grow where it was biologically programmed to grow.  What is the big deal?!?!

Back in college I stepped into an elevator and, before looking up, saw a set of very hairy legs (dark hair on pale legs).  When I looked up and realized they were attached to a female (who lived on my floor in the dorm) I thought, "I wish I was brave enough to grow out my leg hair like that."

A few years later I went to Ghana, West Africa, to do two years of Peace Corps service.  Given the scarcity of water and how easy it was to pick up small infections that could turn deadly, I knew I wasn't going to shave my legs while I was there (even little shaving nicks or ingrown hairs could become host to infections).  I haven't shaved them since.  It's been 16 years and I've never looked back or felt like I owed it to anyone to do something I didn't want to do with my own body.  Nor do I hide my unshaven legs or armpits.  If someone doesn't like it that's their problem. 


Brava to this young lady for accepting herself in such a bold and proud way. 
body hair positivity post bc i’d never let misogynistic opinions dictate what i do with my body 💕  — lalonie (@SLAYLONIE)

Of course, she got plenty of nasty comments and, thankfully, lots of supportive ones as well.  Women and girls are under so much pressure to be perfect, look perfect...why can't we just be ourselves? I'm not suggesting that everyone has to let their hair grow.  To each her own.  I'm just saying that I really don't see why anyone else cares whether there's hair on my legs or not. 

My hair is really light blond so it's hard to see but it's there!  This was about 5 years ago in Amsterdam.


Thoughts?

03 April 2017

30-Day Yoga Challenge with Angie Eats Peace

Right after I posted about getting back to my yoga practice, Angie over at Angie Eats Peace posted that she was doing a 30-day yoga challenge.  While I wasn't ready to commit to doing an hour of yoga for 30 straight days I was willing to challenge myself to doing some form of yoga or stretching every day.  I managed 27 of the 30 days. 

One day I decided it was more important to take the dog (she's very old) through her stretching/joint manipulation, one day I was simply super exhausted and one day I had had such a bad day at work that I went to bed early without doing several things I really should have. 

A few times I did nothing more than lay with my feet up on the wall while I gave the dog her pre-bedtime attention.  I won't say that this challenge changed my view of yoga. I already know how beneficial it is.  I also won't say that it made drastic differences in how I felt physically.  But I will say that I know the nightly stretches (on days when I didn't go to yoga class) were good for me and I plan to keep doing them.

My biggest challenge...every. single. time.
My downward facing dog was more downward facing A dog!!

Thanks to Angie for the prompt. I'm glad I did it.

20 March 2017

Senza Zucchero per Sei Settimane

I'm putting this out there for everyone (not that many people read this but...) to see that I'm going on a sugar vacation (meaning, a vacation from sugar) for 6 weeks.  I've done this before. I call it giving up sugar for lent even though I don't know when lent is or even really what it is and I really don't care.  People seem to get the concept of giving something up for lent so it's easier to explain that way. But I've usually only done it for 30 days.  So this one will be the longest I've done.  Fruit is allowed.  I'm talking processed sugar (chocolate, cookies, ice cream (gelato)...).

YES, yes I have!

Truthfully, I've just been way over-consuming sugar lately and it needs to stop.  I know I'll feel better once I'm off the sweet stuff.  After a few days the cravings will start to go away. Hopefully I'll have more energy and feel less tired.  I'm also hoping the lack of sugar will help ease some of the inflammation that causes much of my back pain. 

I picked 6 weeks because that's how long until my parents arrive. Not that their arrival is an excuse to go back to eating too many sweets.  It was just a convenient date on the calendar.

Wish me luck.  I live in the land of gelato and I LOVE me some dark chocolate. 

Have you given up sugar?  Any tips?

23 February 2017

Finding My Way Back to My Mat

About 2 years ago I started seeking treatment for low back pain.  I won't go into all the different things I've tried but at some point along the way I stopped going to yoga because so many different movements hurt so much.

Well, here I am without much success treating the pain and finding articles like this one about treating lower pack pain and decided to see if yoga could help rather than hurt.  I've only been a few times (I don't get free classes here and what is available does not work very well with my work schedule).  Obviously, there's no instantaneous relief but even if my back isn't feeling better I'm feeling better.  I had forgotten how much of an impact yoga has. 

I'll be really super beyond happy if it helps my back (because nothing else has) but even if it doesn't I'm glad to be back on my mat. 

Have you found any alternative ways to treat back pain? How has yoga helped you?

05 February 2017

I Have Too Much Stuff

All my earthly possessions are here and have been for a month.  I haven't unpacked all the boxes yet.  I have too much stuff.  I know I wanted my stuff but now I don't.  I mean, I want my bed and a couple other things but the rest...it's amazing how quickly I can dirty a whole sink-full of dishes! 

Before my stuff got here, I was able to clean the kitchen in 10 min.  Now...lordy how I can make a mess and a massive amount of things to clean.  By the time I'm done I'm too tired to clean it all up. 

I'm not saying I want to go back to having one bowl, one spoon and one fork but I'd like to find some sort of happy equilibrium where I have enough so that I'm not super restricted in what I can do but not so much that it becomes too much.  I don't know what that looks like.  I like being able to cook all my meals and snacks for the whole week and have them all in the fridge (its a squeeze in my tiny European fridge here).  I'm not really sure what I could get rid of.  Hoping I can find a way to simplify the kitchen...somehow.

If you have any suggestions please let me know!