2021 End of Year Reflection

2021 was a hard year for many people. The pandemic has taken many things from us and has caused much stress in our lives. As we continue to move forward through it, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what 2021 meant to me, and what it brought me in terms of my journey.

The biggest challenge I have faced in 2021 is finding a balance between the herbal path that I have been trying to cultivate for myself and the pagan spirituality that I have also been attempting to cultivate. Luckily the two are by no means mutually exclusive, but I had been trying to separate the two in my practice with the thought process that I would be more accepted as an herbalist if the spiritual aspects of my practice were not as public. I have found that thought process to be unsustainable, and I am currently working on finding some balance between my pagan spirituality and my herbal practice. Of course, herbalism can be practiced without the spiritual aspects involved, but herbalism at its root is a very pagan endeavor, from building relationships and connections with the plants to working in relationship with the plants to heal aspects of the human. To separate these aspects is like cutting off the head of an organism; it just doesn’t have the same type of life (or any life at all) without that part of itself.

This blog was created so that I could write about aspects of my herbal practice, but will also now include aspects of my spiritual journey as well. That is one of the ways that I am striving to be kind to myself moving forward in 2022. And that is what this blog is all about, how we can be kind to ourselves.

Big Take-Aways from 2021

I had several instances of “lightbulb moments” in 2021 that helped to shape my views moving forward. The biggest one was:

In the end, when you strip everything else away, the only thing that matters is this soul, and the only thing left is nature.

Spirit to Me, 2021

This came to me a few months ago. At different intervals throughout my spiritual journey, I have had this vision of different systems laid down upon this thing we call life: the system of politics, the system of economics, the systems of religion, and many other systems that are out there. Underlying those systems is life. If any of those systems were to collapse, life would go on. Our souls would still live.

These systems have affected nature by beating it down, trying to bring it under submission to humans. But the reality is that if any of these systems collapse, nature will spring back stronger than ever. We saw evidence of this when the world went under lock down in 2020, when humans retreated into their homes and nature took advantage of the fact that humans were not scurrying around like ants to uphold those systems.

Recently I found myself sitting at a stoplight on my way home from work one evening. While this scenario does happen every day, on this particular day the fact that it was completely dark outside became the focus of my thoughts. I live pretty close to a shopping center, so of course the streets are lit pretty heavily with street lights and there is a lot of traffic in the area. I found myself imagining the area without any street lights, how dark it would be. If it were that dark, would all of the people would be out? I had to think that they probably would not be, that they would all be in their homes with their lights and their comforts. And it brought into sharp focus how much we humans have worked to shape the world into the image that we want it to be, and how much of a role that capitalism has played in that shaping. We attempt to stave off the dark as much as possible, to make our day last as long as possible so that people can buy and sell and productivity can last as long as possible each and every day. I was struck by how much we have moved away from the natural rhythms and cycles of the earth by putting artificial lighting in as many places as we can. Is it any wonder that people experience problems sleeping at night when you take into consideration how much we have tried to banish the darkness from our lives?

Everything In Balance

Our capitalistic economic system tries to get us to buy into many ideas so that we will spend our hard-earned money on perpetuating them. Ideas such as what constitutes beauty in the male and female form contributes directly to the diet, health and wellness cultures, as well as the cosmetics industry. The idea that you must be productive at any cost contributes to upholding our capitalist economy as a whole. I recently stepped onto my soap box at work and voiced dismay that the pandemic has not eased any company’s policies related to productivity and the employee’s attendance at their job. My day job is in child care right now, and there are so many parents out there that face the risk of losing their jobs because of exposures to COVID. I feel for those parents because no one should feel that helpless in the face of something that they have no control over. In the child care field, one exposure by a teacher or a child can close down an entire classroom and affect many families for days. Since their child can’t go to daycare, they lose money from not being able to work and also risk losing their job. Rather than companies working to change policies or rethinking how people work in this culture, we are looking at decreased quarantine times that could potentially run the risk of exposing more individuals. (I’m not an expert on COVID contagion times by any stretch but as someone who has worked on the front lines this entire time, a change of quarantine from 10 to 5 days feels kind of risky.)

Balance is something that I have been striving toward in my own life ever since I went through burnout. I have noticed so many areas of my own life where balance was needed. Being of our culture, I had that “productivity at any cost” mindset for much of my working life, and even worked to make myself as “marketable” as possible during the first part of my child care career. I have since become more in tune with myself and my body and have recognized the need for breaks and rest in order to help cultivate balance in my life. I have also shifted my focus so that work is not the top priority in my life as it once was. I am much more focused on home, family, and my herbalism studies now (and I also make sure that my herbalism studies are not commanding all of my attention like my early childhood studies once did).

I have found the concept of balance making its way into my herbal medicine making practice as well. I tend to be very liberal in my use of herbs in my tea and I have begun to see how that can be detrimental to the herbs being able to do their work in the body. Herbs can help bring balance to a body out of balance, but if too much of an herb with a specific energetic profile is used, it can pull the body out of balance and make illnesses or conditions worse. So that concept of balance is working its way through all aspects of my life, from my work to my spirituality to my herbalism practice.

My Life and Social Media

In 2019 I started to intentionally spend less time on social media. I immediately noticed that my anxiety and overall stress level went down. I stopped scrolling incessantly on Facebook in 2020. But I was still incessantly scrolling through Instagram.

I noticed that when I was on Instagram, I was focusing so much on what other people were accomplishing that I was not able to concentrate on what I wanted to accomplish. I love Instagram and looking at what other people are accomplishing, but not at the expense of what I want to accomplish. So I took an extended break from Instagram as well. Since ridding myself of social media distractions, I have been able to focus on the things that I want to accomplish.

Moving Forward

I have so many plans and goals for 2022. I want to finish the herbal course that I started this year. I want to learn about several new herbs that I can add to my herbal toolbox. And I want to grow in my spirituality, marrying it with my herbal practice any way I can.

In the tarot, 2022 is a Lover’s year (2+0+2+2=6; The Lovers is the 6th card of the Major Arcana). Typically when people think of the Lover’s card, they think about relationships with other people. This is not a realistic way of looking at this card, though, because someone may not have a romantic relationship with someone else to base this card on. The Lovers is about showing yourself love and compassion, giving yourself care when needed. It is about paying attention to what we are projecting onto other people, because that can give us clues about where we need to make changes in order to live a more fulfilling life. That will be the theme of this year, and will serve as a starting point for forward movement and reflection this coming year.

Happy New Year to everyone. I hope that 2022 is a year of growth and fulfillment for everyone.

Linden Monograph

If there is one herb I would recommend anyone work with during these trying times, it is Linden. I am only disappointed that I had not started working with it sooner.

I have mentioned my road through burnout before on this blog. I have worked with several herbs to help me through the journey: Chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, and valerian, just to name a few. Linden has been such a helper in releasing tension, helping to lower stress levels, and helping to modulate my blood pressure, which has been elevated due to stress and other factors. I’m not sure I can really explain how much linden has helped me as I continue to work on recovery. It truly is a powerful helper when it comes to the nervous system.

One of the things that I love about the flavor of linden tea is that it is uniquely floral. I believe I have a linden tree close by my house, because I smell that same scent in the air a lot. Smelling that scent makes me feel like I am building a better relationship with linden than I would just by drinking the tea alone. It is like it is reminding me that it is here to help me whenever I need it, one part of nature here to support another part. I haven’t found the tree yet, because I think it is beyond a fence on the property that I live on, but when I smell the scent in the air, I do feel closer to the plant itself and the medicine it has brought me through its tea.

Linden flowers, bracts, and leaves

Linden

Tilia sp.

Family: Tiliaceae

Parts Used: Flowers and bracts, leaf, twigs, inner bark, charcoal (from the wood)

Native To: T. americana is native to North America, while T. cordata, T. platyphyllus, T. europa, and others are native to Europe

Botanical Description: Linden is a large deciduous tree up to 100 feet tall or more. Its canopy is often roughly in a pyramid shape, and its trunk with grey bark and flat ridges. From late spring to early summer, linden bears a profusion of fragrant white or yellowish-green flowers in clustered cymes with leaf-like bracts. Its leaves are alternate, and more or less heart-shaped with pale undersides. 

Taste: Sweet, mildly salty, musty

Energetic Properties: Cooling, moistening, relaxing

Element: Air

Tissue States: Irritation, Atrophy, Heat

Actions: Demulcent, nervine, anti-inflammatory, sedative, hypotensive, anodyne, relaxant, diaphoretic

Affinities: Cardiovascular and Nervous systems

Notable Coustituents: Volatiles (.02 – .1 percent), flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol), caffeic acid, mucilage (3%), tannins

Medicinal Applications: 

  • Linden is helpful for high blood pressure, palpitations, arrhythmia, angina, tightness, and dryness in the chest, and those with histories of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular surgery. Linden has a blood pressure modulating effect, evening out both high and low blood pressure.
  • Gentle and cooling nervine action indicated for anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, and agitation. Linden is particularly suited to mitigate the effects of drying, stimulating medications like Adderall and Ritalin, and is well tolerated in children.
  • Soothing to nerve pain wherever it appears in the body. Intestinal pain from indigestion or food allergies, systemic pain from fibromyalgia or MS, tension headaches, tense menstrual cramps, nerve damage due to injury, and nerve damage due to viruses, including herpes, all can be calmed down by linden.
  • Particularly indicated in stress-induced conditions
  • According to Matthew Wood, indicated for fevers that are not relieved by profuse sweat, fevers associated with chills or shivering, as well as painful fevers associated with heat, irritation, and spasm.
  • According to Matthew Wood, soothing to children, especially when hot and stimulated. Yarrow, Elder, and Linden good for children who are hot and over-active (hyper-active) – could totally cure hyperactivity and attention deficit, according to Wood.

In Practice: 

  • Long infusion has been helpful for increased states of nervousness and anxiety. Can help relax tense, stressed nerves, and thus help move stuck digestion, bringing relaxation to the entire body.
  • Helps to “let go” of things that the body and mind are carrying that they do not need by allowing both to relax.

Preparations: 

  • Infusion
    • One teaspoon linden flowers steeped in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes taken 3 times a day
    • Or steep 2 tablespoons in one liter of water for 12 hours for more demulcent effect. Take one cup three times a day.
  • Tincture
    • 1-2 mL of tincture three times a day

Cautions: Linden leaves and flowers are very safe for children, elders, and pregnant individuals. The bark should not be given to people on blood thinners. The bark is not used as much in modern herbalism. 

Friends: Hawthorn, Rose, Motherwort, Wood Betony, Lemon Balm

Ginger Monograph

Since I am doing a course from Commonwealth Herbs, I am trying to do my herb of the month in the order that I am learning the herbs. Which is going to be challenging because I am learning about so many herbs so fast! So I figure that from here on out, I will be doing herbs that stand out as personal herb allies.

I learned a lot about ginger before even doing the research for this monograph because I started to get sick the week before doing this research. One of the things that I have loved about the classes I am taking with Commonwealth Herbs is that I got some actionable herbal information very quickly. Apparently a tea made with dried ginger and thyme is great for heading off a cold that is trying to come on. My daughter got sick a week ago and of course I almost immediately felt like I was getting sick as well. I made the ginger and thyme tea and drank it throughout two days. I also did several thyme steams, another thing that they swear by. And wouldn’t you know it – now I am typing this with no cold symptoms whatsoever. I was able to talk both of my daughters into trying the thyme steam, and both of them said that they felt that it helped their cold symptoms.

Ginger

Scientific Name: Zingiber Officinales

Family: Zingiberaceae

Parts Used: Rhizome/Root

Native To: Southeast Asia

Botanical Description: A reedy, leafy stemmed perennial (having a cycle lasting longer than two years) that grows up to two feet, ginger shoots up a tall stem in the spring and has lanceolate leaves. The flower stalk grows from the root and at the tip, develops an oblong and scalloped spike from which white or yellow flowers blossom. It has become so widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world that it is rarely found growing wild. Cultivated propagation has been done by root cuttings for so long that many cultivars no longer produce seeds. Z. officinales prefers warm, sunny, humid, low altitude locations and medium loamy, well drained, highly fertile soil. 

Taste: Pungent, bittersweet; warm, moist; diffusive, stimulating

Energetic Properties: Warming, Drying

Tissue State: depression, constriction, atrophy

Actions: stimulant, carminative, rubefacient, diffusive, relaxant, antispasmodic, antiemetic, anodyne, emmenagogue, diaphoretic

Affinities: digestive, circulatory, and reproductive systems

Notable Constituents: volatiles, 1-3% (zingiberene 20-30%), oleoresin 4-7.5% (gingerol, shogaols), sesquiterpenoids, lipids

Medicinal Applications: 

  • Archetypal carminative – warming remedy to support healthy gastrointestinal function and increase digestive fire. Indicated for cold conditions in the GI tract manifesting as indigestion or sluggish, incomplete digestion. Relieves pain by warming and reducing spasms and constrictions. Improves digestion, bile secretion, fat digestion, and movement of food through the digestive tract, reducing stagnation, irritation, and gas. Can help relieve colic, abdominal pain, distension, flatulence, and the griping pain associated with diarrhea. 
  • Antiemetic – for all forms of nausea, including those from food poisoning, medications (including chemotherapy), morning sickness, and motion sickness. Also prevents and expels worms and parasites. 
  • Diaphoretic – helpful for encouraging healthy fever response to infection. This can lead to sweating, which can then cool the body. Increases arterial circulation, which can lead to warming of extremities. Helpful during cold or flu as it raises body temperature, making the body inhospitable for pathogens.
  • Emmenagogue – warming and soothing for uterine cramping. Encourages blood flow when experiencing slow, scant menstrual flow. 
  • Circulatory Stimulant – thins the blood, improves circulation, nourishing tissues and clearing away stagnant fluids. 

In Practice: 

  • Commonly used in tea blends for gut health/support of digestion. Commonly used in tea blends for painful menstruation cycles with scant bleeding, or when someone does not experience heavy bleeding. 
  • As a tincture, helpful for severe nausea, when someone can’t keep anything down. Candied ginger is helpful for nausea as well. 
  • Anodyne (relieves pain) – for cold, constriction-type headaches such as tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches. Form the powdered ginger into a plaster with water, apply on paper or cloth to the forehead.
  • Fresh ginger is diffusive, moving blood and warmth outwards toward the surface and periphery. This method is good for colds and flus.
  • Dried ginger is more centrally warming, heating the core. This works well for digestion and reproductive systems. 

Preparations: Z. officinales can be prepared as an infusion, decoction, tincture, extract, glycerite, honey, oil, salve, compress, ginger beer, ginger wine, and food.

Cautions: Ginger has a blood thinning effect. Use caution if taking blood-thinning medications. Ginger’s emmenagogue action will increase the menstrual flow of those with already heavy cycles. Can be too warming for some people. Dried ginger in a bath can cause severe irritation to sensitive tissues. 

Friends: turmeric, galangal, cardamom, chamomile, fennel, garlic, calamus

Resources:

Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism Course Work

Ginger Monograph. Maxine Hughston, Herbalist, Massage Therapist. https://www.maxtheherbalist.com/myplantallies/ginger-monograph. Sept 18. Accessed Oct 17, 2021

Zinziber – Ginger. Henriette’s Herbal Homepage. https://www.henriettes-herb.com/eclectic/kings/zingiber.html . Accessed Oct 17, 2021.

Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA. North Atlantic Books, 2009. Pgs 533 – 537 Print.


Ginger Monograph. The Herbarium by The Herbal Academy. https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/1012 . Accessed Oct 17, 2021.

Disclaimer: The above information is for education purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

New Website Name, New Focus – Total Rebrand

So its been a while since I have written any posts on this blog. Let me catch you up.

I think the last time I wrote anything, I was in the middle of a break between jobs. The pandemic had not hit yet. Things were not totally insane yet. But for me they were. That break between jobs was completely necessary as I was going through major job burnout. It is common in the early childhood education field for teachers to experience burnout. I had never had it happen to me before, and let me tell you: Burnout is no fun.

So I was taking a break and sitting in front of the pool a lot. During that break I sat down with a friend who introduced me to essential oils and all of the amazing things that they can do. And during that discussion, one thought kept going through my head: “If the oils from plants can do all of these things, then what can the whole plant do?”

This is how my journey toward studying herbalism started, about 4 years ago. I’ve had a few twists and turns along the path, but my fascination with these plants has not waivered. I have used plants to help heal my nervous system from burnout. I have used plants to keep me from getting sick with colds. And even though I have been studying for 4 years, I have finally found a program that is making me feel like I am learning what I need to learn in order to become a clinical herbalist, which is what I have been dreaming about for 4 years.

Before today this blog was about weight loss. I had taken several weight loss journeys on this blog, and if you happen to go through the blog archives, you will see this journey laid out. There are even recipes on this blog that I posted when I went Paleo. I am not going to remove these from the blog. I think it is important to remember where we came from. But where my focus used to be on weight loss, now my focus is on health and wellness. I have accepted myself in a larger body and am working to be the healthiest version of myself that I can be in this body. The weight loss see-saw that I have been on most of my life is no longer sustainable since I am at a weight that has been hard for me to wrap my head around. I have looked into Intuitive Eating, which I have talked about some on this blog, and I am also reading the book Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon. It turns out that you can be healthy, even if you are in a larger body.

By the way, those links go to books on Amazon, but I do not have an Amazon affiliate account so I get no kickbacks from posting these links.

I will talk more about this journey and how it is affecting my health and wellness on this blog. I am also going to be doing posts about different aspects of herbalism that I learn about. So far this has been a very interesting journey, and I can’t wait to share it.

The Bathing Suit

Okay, here’s a little about me and the past of this blog: this blog used to be my diet and exercise blog. I’ve documented Weight Watchers, Paleo, and Keto. I’ve documented exercise programs. I’ve documented successes. And I’ve documented frustrations.

One thing that I have not documented is my disorders. I have had undiagnosed bulimia since I was in high school. When I was doing the Paleo diet, I became so restrictive that I became worried that I had crossed over into orthorexia. When I came off of the Paleo diet after five years, due to a high stress level, I tried to experiment with how different foods made me feel while enjoying foods that I had restricted myself from for so long. I gained a lot of weight very quickly as my body sought to heal itself from all of the restricting I had done. The stressful jobs that I have held over the past year and a half have not helped; my bulimia came roaring back with a vengeance about a year ago.

I count myself in recovery now, as I try to learn healthy ways to handle stress and relate to food. I am not restricting my food choices, but am trying to be aware of how I feel when I am eating at certain times of the day, as well as being aware of how certain foods make me feel. I know that my stress at work now is leading to me binge after work. I am trying to incorporate different stress-reduction techniques to help with that as well.

One aspect of this that has been hard to deal with has been my larger body size. I think I have blocked my emotions from my thought processes when it comes to having a larger body. I have tried to be matter-of-fact about needing to buy larger clothing, but this weekend I needed to buy a bathing suit. This is a task that I have always hated because I have not been comfortable with my body in a bathing suit since I was a child. In fact, last summer I didn’t even buy a bathing suit. I took my daughter to the pool and didn’t swim, and even went to the beach and didn’t swim.

This year I decided it was going to be different. I have unlimited time this summer to be at the pool, and I would like to thoroughly enjoy myself while I am there. No not buying a suit just because I hate the process. There are unlimited choices out there, so I just need to find one that I like.

And I did find one that I like from Torrid, which I ordered (thank goodness for Torrid). But my daughter is all over me to swim NOW, and the bathing suit isn’t supposed to be here until Monday. So I needed to find a suitable stand-in.

I went to Walmart, which was probably my first mistake, but I needed something cheap because my funds are really low right now. And I went through the same humiliating experience that I have always gone through when it comes to shopping for bathing suits. I was so upset when I got out of the store that I cried in my car and wallowed in my embarrassment in my bed when I got home.

I did buy a top that I actually do like. But tops have never been the problem for me. I bought some shorts to go with them because the bottoms they were selling with the tops were cut weird and were very unflattering. But I had to put it in perspective – my body is not what is the problem.

The problem has been companies not willing to make clothing that flatters bigger bodies. They take the designs that flatter smaller bodies and adapt them – make them in larger sizes, and it doesn’t work. It feeds this culture that says we need to be smaller, we need to restrict, we need to diet, we need to fit the image that stares at us from the cover of every magazine. But I’ll tell you what that message got me: two different eating disorders, a hugely disordered body image, and a need for a recovery mentality that I have to work at every single day.

Moving Forward

It is so wonderful to be in a place where I feel like I am moving forward and am able to make some long-term plans that make sense. It has been a long time since I have been in a place like that.

I think I said something in a previous post about changing my direction and rebooting the path that I had previously been on. Well, it was working okay…I guess…I just couldn’t seem to get myself motivated to actually work on what I was trying to reboot. So I had to step back a moment and think.

One of the things that I have been working on personally is something called Warrior Goddess Training. I know that might sound a little gimmicky, but it is based on an Earth religion tradition called Toltec, and one of the things that I have learned from this process is about agreements that we make throughout our lives about ourselves. For example, when we are younger we may be told by someone in our lives that we are fat and need to get into shape. If we then embark on a lifelong quest to become thin, we have made an agreement that we are fat and need to work on getting in shape. Agreements are choices; we can choose to agree with the idea or opinion or not. But whatever choice we make affects our path and the way we move forward with our lives.

I realized earlier this week that I had made an agreement about this particular path of mine. I had made the agreement that I wasn’t good enough to be doing this work. I didn’t have enough education, and the work itself wasn’t good enough to be presented. I made this agreement despite the fact that I was actually out there doing the work and I was getting a ton of positive feedback from the material. It was changing people’s lives and making a difference for teachers, which is my goal. Even though all of that was happening, I still made the agreement. I walked away from doing what I loved and went back to school. It may have been necessary to go back to school but not in the way I did. I also began to take a meandering track through my career which led to an excessive amount of stress. And I have been incredibly unhappy since I entered that agreement.

So I rejected the agreement. I made a new agreement that not only am I good enough to do this work and the work itself is good enough to be presented and more and more research backs up my work, but I made an agreement that this is the work that I am supposed to be doing with my life and I have a path forward.

The results have been amazing. I am totally motivated now to work on this, and the ideas keep growing. When I previously folded the business I spent a lot of time destroying the material that I put together, but despite those efforts I have been finding all kinds of notes, materials, and projects that I did not destroy entirely. I have a lot of pieces to work with, and the knowledge that I have gained since I did this before means that I can put it all together even better and stronger than it was before. At least there is that plus to all of this.

What Stress?

Okay, I’ve been stressed lately. In fact, I can’t remember a time in the last three years or so when I have not been stressed. It has almost been a constant in my life, so much that for all of my trying to restore some balance and get myself together, not much has changed.

Until last week.

I’m not sure what happened. Well, I kind of know what happened, but the fact that it made things so much…easier so quickly has kind of thrown me off. I mean, I’ve been able to breathe and relax, and I’ve actually enjoyed my job for the first time in a long time. Well, despite all of the parts of my job that were stressing me out before, but I don’t seem to be as stressed by them now. So what happened?

Well, first I kind of got real with myself. What has been my major problem in every situation where I have felt the most stress? Or, as a podcast I listened to asked me, what has been my relationship to power? This was a powerful question for me because I come from a major background of feeling powerless, and that has seemed to carry over into my adult life in less-than-healthy ways. Namely, if I’m not in a position where I am in control, or can control a situation, then I feel threatened and I do everything I can to put myself in a position where I can control the situation. It has affected my relationships with countless people, coworkers, and has caused me to leave several different jobs. So I had to try to reframe my relationship with power and redefine where I get my power. I have seen that my power comes from two different sources: balance and connection. Rather than fighting to be in control of a situation, I can use my power to bring balance to a situation, which is a much different type of power with a much different total outcome. Power to control leads to a power imbalance, with one person or entity on top and another one on the bottom. This type of power has led to all sorts of social injustices all over our world, and this is not the type of power that I want to wield. However, it is just what I have been doing. However, using power to bring balance to a situation does just that: it balances the scales so that everyone can enjoy input and can feel worthy.

Just this one admission and adjustment has done so much to help me see where and how I have been in a power struggle and how much of my energy it has been taking. It has also shown me the bigger place where that energy is needed: connection.

I work all day in a place where connections should be made all the time. But when you are stressed out and involved in a power struggle that is zapping all of your energy, it is hard to build connections with anyone. So when I came out of that place of power struggle and began to try to use my power to create balance, I also began to build the connections that I have always been so passionate about building. That led me to enjoying my job, one of the most stressful teaching jobs I have ever had, for the first time in forever.

So that’s how it happened. But wait, there’s more!

I have been involved in trying to start a school. I’m using those words rather broadly, as I haven’t done anything definitive to start a school. The thought of the whole process has been so overwhelming to me that I have really done nothing to actually get anything off the ground. But when I came into this realization about my power, balance, and connection, I remembered my business doing professional development workshops and my huge plans to create a school under the umbrella of that business. And all of the workshops that I did during the time I had the business were about….(drumroll please)…

Balance and Connection. Broadly speaking.

Hello! I was happy doing those workshops, and I haven’t been happy since I folded that business. Maybe because I folded it due to someone’s words about what I should be doing, and my inability to figure out a major problem related to the business, I began to feel threatened and went into power struggle mode. I’m not sure. I may never know. But one thing is certain, I am going to start that business up again. I even figured out a hopeful solution to that problem.

I think everyone’s source of power is different. In one podcast I listened to, different from the first one, the lady said that hers was love. I’m sure there are others, and they are probably related to values that people hold in their lives that cause them to act in certain ways. So I guess it is very important to figure out your values and how you are manifesting those values in your life. I know that figuring that out for me has changed my own interactions so much.

Trusting Myself: An Update

I did a funny thing this morning. I decided to write a blog post.

I haven’t blogged anything in a really long time. I have several blogs that I used to keep up, but I haven’t posted anything on any of them in quite a while. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling the blogging itch coming on, so I know that I have a few things that I want to say. I will tell you this – it has been so long since I’ve written a blog post that I totally forgot that I changed the name of this one. This blog was my Paleo blog that I started in order to chronicle my Paleo journey. I did Paleo for five years and then, a couple of years ago, took a detour. I was worried that I wasn’t doing Paleo in a healthy way. In fact, I was starting to become obsessive and it was very unhealthy for me in how I was approaching it mentally.

The break really helped and gave me some perspective. I spent most of that time not subscribing to any one diet or lifestyle. I simply enjoyed food in all of its glory. Everything that I had missed, I ate. But then I began to feel bad, and I gained a lot of weight. An eating disorder that I had not had to worry about since going Paleo reared its ugly head in the midst of a ton of stress that I was going through. It was a very crazy and unhealthy time.

I switched jobs to lower my stress level, which has ended up being one of the best decisions that I have made, despite my brain trying to manufacture stressful situations. It hasn’t been a total walk in the park, this new job. I am an assistant teacher now, but the lead quit not too far into the school year so I had to assume the role for a time while they tried to find a new one. The classroom itself has been stressful, but still hasn’t touched the stress that I was dealing with previously.

In all of this, I tried to go vegan. Clint (my fiance) is vegan and has been for some time. He researched it after I adopted our rescue beagle and it has become a lifestyle for him. I tried several times through the stressful period to join him on that journey but it did not really help with all of the stress. Once my stress level went down I tried again and started doing pretty well. But I’m a very introspective person, and I spend a lot of time monitoring how things make me feel (like stressful jobs and lifestyle changes). I wasn’t feeling good on the Vegan diet. I had almost constant brain fog, which made it hard for me to focus and concentrate, something that is very important in my job, as well as in the side projects that I am always doing. We have had a lot of snow days lately, which would be really good for my side projects, but one day I had such a lack of focus and willpower that I spent the entire day sitting on the couch playing games on my phone. My feet and legs have constantly been hurting. I have been consistently tired. I spent pretty much the entirety of winter break sleeping, which I probably needed because I was at the beginning stages of recovering from a year of stress, but was still worrisome for me because I don’t usually sleep like that. My sleep throughout the night has been inconsistent – I don’t think I’ve really gotten a full night’s sleep since I went full-on vegan. And that is one thing that I don’t like to mess with, sleep. I love sleep and I love my mornings, and when my sleep gets so messed up that I’m sleeping until 8 in the morning (which I know is normal for most people, but not me), then I have a problem. All of that sleep in the morning was making up for sleep that I wasn’t getting in the night, which has been a sometimes problem for me but never a consistent, nightly problem like it has been.

Throughout my foray into Veganism I consistently flirted with the idea of going back to Paleo. I think I recognized that Paleo made me feel better than Veganism was, and I wasn’t doing it for the noble, moral reasons that Clint was. I was doing it to be healthier, and all of the literature that I was reading claimed it was healthier, but I didn’t feel healthier. I felt almost like a zombie. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. It was becoming a struggle to get out of bed, and the constant aching in my feet worried me. I’ve felt that ache before and I’ve blamed it on shoes, concrete floors, any number of things that could cause foot aches. The bottom line for me was that I remembered the ache going away when I was eating Paleo. I remembered the energy and the clear-headedness; I have old status updates on Facebook about brain fog lifting and energy levels skyrocketing. The lack of focus has really become a problem. I work with kids, and when I can’t focus or even have a lot of energy, it really diminishes the impact I have in the classroom. I can’t give my full self to the kids because I don’t have as much to give. That is not acceptable to me while I’m in this field, which is so demanding of time and energy.

This week I made a choice. Part of living a beautiful life and practicing self-love is being able to trust yourself, something that I have a hard time with. I’m a people-pleaser. I want to make sure that everyone around me is happy and I do what I can to make that happen. I tend to project other people’s moods onto myself, making it hard for me to listen to myself because I am so busy listening to the moods of those around me. But in this case, I don’t have a choice. I have to listen to myself or risk being unhappy, feeling unhealthy, and being unmotivated. And I’m not in a place where I can do that right now.

Detour to my current side-project, which is very important to me. For many years I have been studying about trends in education, specifically early childhood education, and contemplating about how those trends transfer over to education as a whole. For years before I got my degree, I read books and studied education, creativity, and motivation. I developed a personal philosophy of education that is sometimes at odds with the current system. And now, many years later, I am attempting to start a school that utilizes that philosophy. It is an exciting and daunting journey, much more exciting and daunting than any of my previous side-projects. But the difference with this one is that I haven’t had the focus, energy, or motivation to self-start, to organize my thoughts, or to organize my actions. In some cases I know what the next step is but I get caught in a rut of procrastination mixed with a lack of energy and a complete sense of overwhelm. I am a huge procrastinator, a professional really, but in my last big project (starting my own business doing professional development workshops) I don’t remember the sense of overwhelm and lack of motivation being so high. I was doing Paleo then, and I just remember feelings of high positivity and a constant drive to work through the overwhelm and a feeling of focus that I have a hard time achieving now.

I switched to Paleo two days ago. Already I am feeling more energy, and my focus has been a lot better. I have been able to get some housecleaning done and focus on my project enough to start, something that I had seemingly been avoiding before. My desire to sit and play on my phone is diminishing slowly, and I feel better walking – so much better, which is great because I do need to walk this dog. I think she is tired of her pitiful little walks because of the snow. There have been many benefits already, although it is early into the journey. I keep thinking that it might even just be the placebo effect, since it happened so quickly, but I’m not sure. Knowing me, I will be monitoring the hell out of how I am feeling to make sure that it is the right thing to do. But I do know one thing: listening to myself and trusting myself is already paying off.

Forward

It has been a really long time since I have posted. A lot has happened since then. And I need to say this up front: If anyone who has an ED is reading this, there is triggering language in this post.

If anyone has been following this blog for any amount of time, you may have noticed that the title has changed. And the sub-title. And the content of this post as opposed to the ones that came before it. There are several reasons for that. Let me share them with you by telling you my story.

This blog started as a way for me to highlight my weight-loss journey. I’ve always been self-conscious about my weight. It started in elementary school. I’ve always been a little heavier than my peers, and it doesn’t help that I am short; that weight gets distributed differently when you are short. I had several girls that I looked up to when I was in school, mostly the cheerleaders. I wanted to be skinny and athletic and have it all together like them! One girl in particular I idolized. She was tall, had the most amazing personality in the world, had the best hair, and was the fastest and smartest. I wanted to have what she had! She loved sports and was really good at them. She was a cheerleader and a basketball player. This is not to say that I wasn’t athletic. I loved participating in sports. I played tee ball when I was little and softball when I got a little bit older. I loved riding my bike. And I loved playing basketball. But I always felt slow and incompetent next to girls like her. It didn’t help that some of them were very judgmental toward me. I think now it would be called bullying, but I didn’t recognize it as such then. I was too busy idolizing them.

During my seventh grade year the basketball team would practice during our gym class. I wasn’t on the team so we were given a different task. The jr./high school had an obstacle course that wound its way completely around the campus, and we were charged with running this obstacle course every day. There were only a few of us that actually did it every day. I was one of them. Before long I could tell I was getting stronger.

One day we were not told to do the obstacle course for some reason. We were allowed to run drills with the team. We were doing a running drill, running the length of the court, when I noticed that I was running ahead of everyone. I didn’t know what to do! No one could know that I was running ahead of them! That would bring attention to me, and perhaps more judgment and ridicule! I purposely slowed down so that I would not be at the front of the pack. The fact that I felt the need to do that still haunts me to this day. I had conditioned myself to think that my place was at the back of the pack, no matter what my ability actually was.

Fast forward to high school. I had moved to a place that was worlds apart from where I grew up. The group of girls who had the body and the friends and the personality was much bigger, and the pressure to be like them was bigger too. I developed an eating disorder the summer before my senior year, losing 50 pounds in a month. I remember when we went back to school in the fall and everyone telling me how good I looked. I started dating a guy who was super hot and on the football team. I learned that when you are skinny, doors open for you. I never made it to the in crowd – I couldn’t really relate to them on any other level, but other things were happening.

The ED has been with me my entire life, and I feel like most of my attempts at dieting have been to try to either control the ED or get skinnier. My brain has always said that the doors will not open for me when I am not skinny. Now that I am older I don’t forget about the chubby me that played softball and basketball and enjoyed moving around, but I have developed a belief that since I am fat I can’t accomplish the things that the younger me did.

When I started this blog I believe that I was on Weight Watchers. I started the program in an attempt to curb the ED that had been plaguing me, as well as lose weight. I figured if I was counting points I would better be able to control what I was consuming and I wouldn’t go on a binge. The opposite happened, though. I would count the points and feel really good about my progress for a few weeks or a month, but then I would feel deprived and go on a huge binge that lasted for weeks, and then feel worthless and like a total failure. This cycle would go on over and over again, and each time I went through the cycle I vowed that I would do better, that I would have better self-control, and I would finally work my way to being the skinny person that I knew was inside me. Each time I failed.

In 2011 I discovered the Paleo Diet and fell in love. It was simple and easy – no counting points, no restrictions other than I couldn’t eat any grains, sugar, or dairy. Of course, I’m over-simplifying it for the purposes of this post, but I really fell in love. Most of the posts on this blog are Paleo related. Most of the hits I’ve gotten on this blog have been Paleo related. The first six months I was on the plan I lost 50 lbs without even really trying. I was simply focused on what I was eating. For five years, I stuck to my own very strict version of the program. And while I was on the program my ED seemed to disappear. Meats and vegetables do not cause as much bloat as grains, and the bloated feeling has always been a trigger for me. But in the five years that I did the program, a new ED seemed to appear. I became more and more restrictive with the program, cutting out anything that did not help me maintain the new “healthy” feeling that I had. I developed an irritable bowel and constantly seemed to have digestion issues, as well as energy issues. I was constantly pushing for a way of eating that helped me maintain the massive energy boost I had at the beginning of my Paleo journey, as well as the wonderful sleep that I had. Toward the end of the journey that was all I was doing was trying to get back into that feeling that seemed to become elusive. Not only that, but in those five years I had gained back every pound of the 50 I had lost, plus some. No amount of tweaking would get any of the weight off. And I was constantly tweaking.

And then, in 2016, I crashed. It was a hard crash, and it began with an experiment. I was really starting to worry that I had developed orthorexia through my restrictive habits, and began slowly introducing foods that were off plan in an attempt to see how I would react to them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Around that same time, a huge load of stress entered my life and I began eating anything indiscriminately. Enter the ED that I grew up in, and I was in a heck of a mess. I tried in vain to get back on the Paleo wagon to curb the ED, but the plan was so restrictive and my stress level was so high that I couldn’t climb back on. I tried for several months. I went to see a counselor, but stopped going when he said that the once a week schedule that we’d had was going to have to change to every two weeks. I tried other things, such as vegetarian/vegan, in hopes that I could calm the ED, but the cycle of self-control/crashing and the continued emergence of the ED through the crashes made it impossible to feel good about anything that I tried. I even tried Weight Watchers again. It simply made the cycle worse.

Then, a friend of mine blogged about her ED journey. Her story touched me because it was similar to mine. She spoke of the Body Positive Movement and how it has helped her to see herself as more than a body, as a person. She talked about how she has a better acceptance of who she is right now instead of trying to change herself to fit the mold society has created. The post and subsequent conversations with her have led me on my own journey to self-acceptance. Granted, she only posted her story a week ago, but my mindset has changed so much in a week. I feel like a new way of looking at life has opened up to me, and I don’t have to be ashamed of my body or my journey.

One thing that I thought about the Body Positive Movement before I started this journey is that the people that are part of the movement don’t care about their health; they just want to justify being fat. Nothing could be further from the truth. These women and men are tired of trying to fit the societal mold of what a healthy person should look like – thin, six-pack abs, long blonde hair, white, etc. Men’s advertising is just as bad as women’s. They are doing what they can to gain fitness through exercise that excites them, and are doing what they can to promote acceptance of all of the other body types that are out there besides the ones promoted through the advertising industry. They recognize that the diet industry is failing everyone through their promotion of these “ideal” body types, and want everyone to know that all body types are to be celebrated. Just this recognition has lifted so much stress off of me, especially the stress of trying to conform to the expectation to be thin. It has led me to believe that there are better avenues to health than the cycle that I have been on for years. It is time for me to break that cycle and be proud of who I am and what I can accomplish. While I am still struggling and will continue to struggle for some time, I am reaching for resources that I didn’t know existed that are helping me feel better about me and are helping me realize that I don’t have to be ashamed of who I am or what I look like. It is that shame that led to the ED, and it is the building up of confidence through these resources that will help me move beyond the ED and into a better, healthier frame of mind.

 

What Am I Doing?

Okay, so a month ago I posted that I was doing the ketogenic diet. I was really excited. I weighed myself for the first time in a few years. I had it going on.

And then I didn’t.

I was so excited about what I was doing and I did it well. I kept track of everything for a while. I ate fat like it was going out of style, which is hard for me because I don’t eat cheese, butter, or other high fat dairy things. Fat, yes. Dairy, no.

I went on vacation in the middle of October, and during that vacation I wondered what would happen if I started eating dairy. Vacation is a great time to find out, since I can sleep off any negative effects. I got some cream to put in my coffee (I was trying to do the bulletproof coffee but that stuff is so nasty) and cheese to eat. I basically OD’d on cheese while I was on vacation, which totally threw my ketosis off. I spent the next couple of weeks figuring out how to get back on track with dairy in my diet, since I didn’t seem to have any ill effects. It was nice to be able to eat cheese again.

After that, my fiance began to read a book about low-carb diets and what they ultimately do to your metabolism. The ketogenic diet is extremely low-carb, even more low-carb than most low-carb diets. There was a chapter just about the Paleo diet, so I read it. I had to at this point. Nothing I was doing was working out that well, and apparently I was doing something majorly wrong since I gained back pretty much all of the weight I had lost. I was pretty frustrated, but the chapter was enlightening. It reminded me of what this whole thing is about – eating real food. It isn’t about the fat that I eat or the carbs that I eat or any of that. It is about eating real food, period. I have been demonizing carbs this whole time, and it hasn’t helped anything. Weight hasn’t been falling off and I haven’t gotten any healthier because of it. Its all about real food.

So I started adding carbs back in, in the form of vegetables. I don’t care what this book about carbs says; I will not go back to eating grains. I already know how I would feel after I eat those, so I’m not even going there. I’ve upped my carb intake purely through adding a lot of vegetables into my diet. I’ve been doing this for about a week now.

On top of that, I decided that it was time to get serious about getting some more activity into my life. This sitting on the couch thing that I have been doing for so long isn’t cutting it. Yes, I’ve been doing yoga fairly regularly, but it isn’t enough to see any lasting change. What I need to do is get out of the house, move around more. I looked into a gym, one that seemed to have a pretty dedicated, supportive staff. I figured I could get some really good personal training and actually make some progress. And then I got an even better idea.

I got a dog.

I have been wanting a dog for quite a while, years even. But this is the first time that I’ve lived close enough to home to be able to take a dog out on my lunch break. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had this low stress level in my life. This is the first time that I’ve thought that I could probably handle it.

I didn’t want just any dog, though. I wanted a beagle. I have wanted a beagle since I was young. I think they are the prettiest dogs. So I started looking at beagles, and I found the perfect one. When I was a kid I had a stuffed animal beagle that I named Roxy. I have always wanted to have a real beagle that I could name Roxy, ever since that stuffed animal. When I was searching for the perfect beagle, I came across one that was perfect in every way, including the name. Her name is already Roxy. She is completely house trained and has been a joy. She is an amazing dog. And the best part is, she is motivating me to get out of the house and walking around. She loves being outside. I have been motivated to track my steps ever since she came along, and she is definitely helping me be more active. We have gone for walks twice a day ever since I got her last weekend.

So two life-altering things: I added in a lot more vegetables to my diet (by the way, I’m not nearly as hungry all the time as I used to be, and that seems counter-intuitive), and I’m a lot more active since I have a really good reason to be. In the last seven days I’ve lost seven pounds. I don’t know what is up with that, but it is interesting. Probably water or something, but it is still awesome. I even had someone comment and ask if I had lost weight today.

I know, this whole journey has been more about health than weight, but when you lose fifty pounds in six months and then, without really changing how you eat, you gain it all back, it is frustrating and my tendency is to focus on that. But I’m gaining healthy habits from my quest to lose weight, so I’m not going to beat myself up too bad. I just hope that I remember what I’ve learned as far as the food stuff goes: Adding more vegetables is the way to go. More updates to come.