Woman

Recently there have been lots of insights and realisations in all the best ways. In some ways, it feels like things are finally all falling into place and I feel like I’m being myself in a way I never have before. At 45, if I dwell on it, I wonder what took so long, but realistically I do have some understanding of that and am just happy to be here now.

Many years ago, I mused to my then husband that I didn’t always feel like I was a ‘real’ woman. Apparently this was insulting to him as a man or some such thing so I heard the message loud and clear that I shouldn’t think these things, or at least not speak them out loud. And I didn’t. For a long time.

The thing is, I don’t tick a lot of the boxes that would mark me in our culture as being feminine. I hate wearing make up and finally stopped doing so several years ago now. I much prefer pants to skirts or dresses and I don’t particularly care for doing my nails and other such things. Because of things like this I mostly just felt like a ‘bad’ or ‘failed’ woman. I just wasn’t good at it, I figured.

Over the past several years, I have done a lot of reading and learning about gender and have spent time with and listened to various people who are transgender and/or non binary. Listening to and reading other people’s stories and processes is really helpful in many aspects. I thought about why I felt the way I did and if maybe I wasn’t actually a woman. Tried those ideas on for size. But they didn’t fit me.

One thing I have learned is that all those superficial things, like make up and clothing, are not what make us any particular gender at all. Honestly this was fantastic news to me. I have realised that while I might not be super into fashion, makeup, and other things that are seen as synonymous with femininity in our culture, I actually resonate deeply with womanhood and know that I definitely am a woman. The term ‘lady’ on the other hand does not resonate at all, and makes me feel really uncomfortable and detached if it’s used toward me.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a singing masterclass with Clare Bowditch. The song in the clip above is one of the ones we worked on that day and sang in the evening at our concert. The lyrics speak to me deeply. Her voice and harmonies are beautiful too. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life and I’m so glad I had the opportunity. And so glad that I had done all the work stemming from the IE course so that when it came up I grabbed at it.

~ B

Intuitive Eating – Update

IMG_4225I’m now on the last module of Christy Harrison’s Intuitive Eating course, so it seems a good time to reflect on where I’m at and what I’ve learned. I love that the course was self-paced and I could take as long as I wanted to work through and think about each module. It was certainly about more than food, just like the book. It was about really getting to know yourself and getting in touch with your intuition.

For me, the course has definitely met and exceeded any expectations and hopes that I had.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch promise in their excellent book that when you become an Intuitive Eater that one of three things will happen. You will lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your current weight. In my case, I have gained weight. I have no idea of the numbers as I don’t weigh myself but I know how clothes fit and I’ve definitely got bigger. Learning to accept this has been a big part of the course for me. But I realise that following the tenets of Intuitive Eating is actually the way for my body to reach its set range, and I can’t tell my body what that range is. That’s just not how it works.

I’m sure that there will still be times when the weight bothers me because I live in this society where we are constantly bombarded with the message that our weight and size determine our value. Like many others before me, I call bullshit on that. But between podcasts, Facebook groups and following a heap of awesome body positive people on Instagram (some time soon I’ll share links of all my favourites) I know that it will only be a temporary glitch and that I’ll get through it and move on. Even though I probably meet less societal standards of beauty than I have at any other time in my life, I feel good about myself and the way I look in a way I never have before. Considering we’ve recently moved into an apartment with a lot of mirrors, including in the kitchen, this is great news!

I don’t think I have any more ‘Honeymoon Periods‘ to deal with. I want to eat balanced meals most of the time and if I feel like chocolate, or a donut, or ice cream, I have it and I don’t feel any guilt about it. It really does make you crave it much less when you take away all restriction. I feel so at peace with many foods that I never could have imagined I would. I’m enjoying cooking and thinking about preparing meals more than I have possibly ever.

As for Intuitive Movement, this has been an interesting process for me. Initially I cut right back on what I was doing fitness-wise as I knew that I had a lot of body composition and weight loss thoughts in my head when I was exercising. I wanted to look strong and fit to be a ‘good vegan advocate’ seeing as this is the message that is so prevalent in the vegan movement.

I did yoga for 2 months, which I did get benefit out of, especially as it was an extremely body positive and accepting class that I joined. A lot of the focus was on having the right to take up space in the world, which was a message that I needed to hear and absorb. But I eventually realised that yoga is just not something I love to do. I can see why other people do, but it’s just not for me.

I’ve cut back on my running compared to what I used to do and am enjoying it much more. I’ve taken the pressure away to be faster and go longer every time I run (another thing I thought I should do to be a better vegan advocate, ugh) and just get up and run as much as I feel like at the time. And it’s so much more fun once you take away the expectations and just enjoy it.

Lifting weights is something else I enjoy but I had to let that go for a while too. I had to wait until those voices in my head weren’t pushing me to focus on all the wrong things. And I love to lift weights because it feels awesome. I honestly don’t care what response my body has in terms of composition because I just love the feeling. And my partner’s kid is a personal trainer and can give advice so I don’t have to sift through weight loss and body building crap to find the information I need. I made the mistake of googling something on it this morning. Won’t do that again.

And how has veganism fit into this whole thing? Honestly for me it’s not even an issue. Animals just aren’t ours to exploit and I could no more eat a chicken or a pig than I could eat my dog. Which is never under any circumstances in case that wasn’t abundantly clear 🙂 And the same goes for eggs and dairy as the harm is at least as high there. To say that I am restricting my diet because I am vegan is like saying that I am restricting my diet because I don’t eat dogs or humans. Technically true in a sense, but completely irrelevant in reality.

Something that has been reiterated during the course and in various podcasts has been the importance of knowing one’s values and living in line with those values. For me this has to unequivocally mean being vegan in the same way that it means being unequivocally feminist and anti-racist and body positive.

All in all, the verdict is pretty darn positive for this Intuitive Eating stuff. In the picture above I am in the city eating a Vego bar which is a delicious fair trade chocolate bar. This is me now. Happy and eating what makes me feel good. I consider myself to be an Intuitive Eater. I feel fantastic physically and mentally. I think my mental health is better than it has ever been at any other point in my life and my physical health certainly isn’t suffering. I feel happier than I’ve ever been and I look forward to what comes next.

~ B

 

 

Veganism has protected me

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I went vegetarian as soon as I realised it was an option in life to not eat animals. It took me until I was 14 because I was always the kind of kid to just do what I was told. It was never about health or weight for me but because I didn’t like the idea of eating animals. Even though it took me nearly 2 decades to realise the harm of eggs and dairy and go vegan, it was always about the animals. The motto of Edgar’s Mission speaks to me with this – ‘If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others… why wouldn’t we?’

As I continue to work through this Intuitive Eating journey, I realise just how much being vegetarian and then vegan has actually helped me from getting as far into the whole diet world as I could have otherwise. I read so many people’s stories where they talk about going through the whole list, Atkins, low carb, high protein, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, raw etc. For so many, vegan is just another diet. It is true that if you really understand what veganism is, it’s not a diet at all, but it is so often presented that way, even by animal rights activists much of the time, that you can’t blame people for seeing it that way.

The thing is that I did pick up and read about a lot of diets over the years. I even wrote to the Atkins guy after reading his book asking for ways to make it work while not eating animals. I didn’t get a reply. For most of my adult life, the diet of the day required less fruit and at least some meat or it just didn’t work. I couldn’t live with eating animals so I didn’t do it and just figured I’d have to make do.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still conscious of amounts of food and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, etc and still had incorrect ideas about weight and its correlation to health and the importance of keeping it ‘under control’. I still had the ‘diet mentality’ in my thoughts regularly. But I didn’t get as deeply into it all as I would have if there was a strict diet available that lined up with my ethics. I just figured I’d have to sacrifice health and weight because I couldn’t deal with harming animals for my food.

That is until the last few years when the whole ‘plant-based diet’ has been the basis for many of the diets everyone is talking about. Therefore, I went from teetering on the edge of having the diet mentality control my life to diving deep into the hole in the heart of it. I’ve never been interested in going 100% raw which many vegans seem to do at some point. I considered it, but there was no evidence of it being better when you factor in that there are plenty of foods that release more nutrients when cooked. McDougall, on the other hand, got me completely sucked in. There’s a lot of sense to what he says, and I tried to ‘ignore’ the fat shaming and focus on weight as a priority. It didn’t work. It messed with my head.

Thankfully just as I was starting to be sucked right in, that episode of Rise and Resist podcast where Lacy recommended the Intuitive Eating book came into my ears and I haven’t looked back.

Being vegan has brought a lot of wonderful things into my life, including heaps of amazing humans and some wonderful non-humans, like the beautiful calf pictured above (seriously, look into his face and tell me it’s okay to steal his mother’s milk and send him to slaughter!). Protecting me for most of my adult life from the full effects of the diet mentality is another thing to add to the very long list.

~ B

Day at the Museum

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Today we went to see the Jurassic World Exhibition at the museum. It was a pretty fun day out all in all. I love Melbourne and the trams and we were able to catch a tram there with a pleasant walk at either end. I feel like they probably let a few too many people in each time slot as the exhibition was pretty crowded but it was cool and they’d done a great job of the dinosaurs and getting them to move in pretty realistic ways.

Afterwards we went to one of our favourite restaurant in the city and had some sweet and sour (vegan) pork with vegetarian fried rice. I’ve always been a fan of sweet and sour and haven’t managed to replicate the sauce the way I really like it, but the way this place does it? Just delicious 🙂 Afterwards I really felt like dessert but wasn’t sure whether to have the banana fritter that I’d had there before and really enjoyed, or to head across for a doughnut.

It was decided that I’d check which vegan doughnuts (donuts?) were available and the decision was made. They normally offer 2 vegan options daily, but this time they had 4. I’m hoping this is a sign that they’ve noticed the demand and that they will keep it up. We were going to get 3 as there are 3 people in our household but they offer a discount for 4, so….

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In the end we got 2 of the Morrissey (choc donut with sprinkles and peanut butter cookie dough), a Sia Later (red velvet with a delicious icing) and a Rainbow one with a lemon glaze and skittles. They’re not all gone yet because we stop eating when we’re no longer hungry here now, but they have been thoroughly enjoyed so far and rest assured will be finished before they’re no good any more.

I’m also about finished Module 1 of Christy Harrison’s Intuitive Eating course. I’ve enrolled in this because, after reading the book, I’ve been convinced that this is what I need to do and how I want to live my life, but I know that I need reinforcement of the principles and support and reminders to ensure that I don’t ultimately just go back to haphazardly alternating between not caring and restricting. There are too many forces in this world trying to bring us there. I have been getting a lot out of her podcasts so thought it was worth giving the course a go. So far it looks promising.

~ B

Separating veganism from ‘healthy’ plant-based diet

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the conflation between health/weight loss and veganism. In some ways it’s an unfortunate result of food being a very large and obvious area of animal exploitation. But when the health/weight loss and veganisam are conflated it’s actually dangerous. It’s important for people to realise that you can be vegan and get adequate nutrition regardless of your lifestyle, but when veganism is constantly ‘sold’ as a way to lose weight or become lean or even to get healthy, people will be harmed by seeing veganism as yet another possible solution to the never ending problem of finding the perfect ‘diet’.

In my mind, the term ‘ethical vegan’ is redundant as to be vegan is to be inherently ethical in your choices. Because I don’t want any sentient beings to be harmed and I know that I can eat in such a way that I do not contribute to that harm, the only option I have, if I am to like, value and respect myself, is to be vegan. Animal products are no more seen as food to me than is the option of eating human flesh. Veganism is not about restriction any more than not eating human flesh is a restriction.

Unfortunately, it is seen as a restriction, and this as well as the way it is sold as a health solution, means that it is often used as an excuse for restricting and leads many people to put it in the ‘doesn’t work’ basket along with all the diets.

But it’s not a diet.

Anyway, realising all this is making me all the more motivated to learn as much as I can about Intuitive Eating. What is clearly needed is Intuitive Eating resources for vegans. This is what I hope to create. If you have any ideas or thoughts, let me know 🙂

~ B

PS – the picture on the left is baked potatoes with baked beans and Daiya cheddar cheese, on the right are 2 jam donuts and a caramel slice, all vegan, nothing ‘restrictive’ about it

 

Today’s challenge

I’m taking a few days off work at the moment to get a bunch of things done that I don’t really have time for usually. One of the things on today’s list was to buy some jeans. A couple of pairs of jeans that I had before would fit me on ‘good days’ but mostly they were too tight and uncomfortable.

So today I set out to buy a couple of new pairs in a size that fit. There’s nothing like looking at yourself in a change room mirror to really test your focus on Intuitive Eating and body positivity and not wanting to change what you eat based on what your body looks like. Especially when the comparison you start doing against all the others in the shop leaves you feeling pretty darn inadequate.

I’m glad that I went in feeling good. As I said, I’ve had a couple of days off and I’ve been checking things off my list and the sun was shining so I was feeling pretty happy and relaxed. That certainly helped but I still started doubting myself, my worth and everything I’m doing at the moment.

I’m also glad that I’ve been listening to a bunch of Intuitive Eating podcasts as I had downloaded all the available episodes of Food Psych. So I kept reminding myself to think about how I feel physically at the moment rather than the shape of my body. I’ve been running 3 x per week and doing a 30 minute strength workout 3 x per week and feeling great during both. I’ve also noticed my fitness in between times, climbing stairs or running to public transport, is pretty good. I managed to mostly replace the negative messages with helpful ones.

I’m still tempted to start bringing back some food rules, but I know that’s not for the best. I’ve also just enrolled in Christy Harrison’s 13 week Intuitive Eating course, because I know that I need some help reinforcing the concepts. I’m pretty sure that this is something I want to be doing for the rest of my life, so I figured it was worth the investment. Today’s challenge has made it clear to me that I was right to think I need reinforcement. There’s still a way to go before I can truly call myself an Intuitive Eater.

~ B

Being flexible

IMG_1681.JPGIt’s important, as much as you may (or may not!) have a routine or a program, to allow yourself to swap things around when you need or want to.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to run but when my alarm went off I could hear it absolutely pouring with rain outside. Now I don’t mind a bit of a run in the rain but this was really heavy and I did not feel like it. For a moment I contemplated rolling over for another half hours sleep but instead I decided to do the workout I had planned for today.

Now I’ve always loved doing upper body weights. I enjoy lifting and I especially love to feel that my muscles have worked hard afterwards. I feel strong then and I like it. So I got up and did some biceps and triceps exercises and after a good stretch I felt fantastic.

It’s been a while since I have felt so good because I had been too caught up in eating the ‘right’ way and looking right and fitting workouts in at times that didn’t suit me, etc etc. Now that my primary goal with exercise and food is to do what I feel like doing, I’m remembering what it was like to love it.

I felt so good that I wanted to run around punching the air and I even did a bit because why the hell not, right?

More specific goals will come but for the moment, I still need to get out of the diet mindset and the persistent thoughts that exercise is for the purpose of weight loss and looking a certain way. Until I’ve worked through that, it will just mean going backwards if I try to do more.

It’s a slow process and that’s okay. Whatever you’re doing today, I hope it’s something that feels good 🙂

~ B