Archive for January, 2012

Silencing the Little Voice

More times than I can count during a roller derby practice, there’s a little voice that starts to pop up:

“wait, I can’t do that!”

“I can’t go that fast! they’re going really fast!”

“What if I can’t skate 25 laps right now?”

“I have to jump over that?! I can’t!”

“I’m kind of tired; I can’t do this”

“I’m not coordinated enough”

“I’m sort of stumbly right now”

“What if I won’t be able to keep up?”

“What if I’m the last one out there?”

None of those thoughts have  a chance of being fully expressed during practice, though. It’s sort of horrifying to read them, actually, because I don’t allow myself to really hear them when they come up. I know now that they’re the voice of self-doubt, of fear, of insecurity, and that voice brings nothing but poison darts. So I silence it, over and over again. I smack it away like an annoying mosquito that you can’t ever quite squish. I skate harder in order to silence it. I have to, because taking it all in would shut me down and chain me to that voice.

It’s important, I think, to recognize this voice for what it so often is — fear and anxiety — and to deny it the power that it seeks. That doesn’t mean ignoring all self-talk, but instead recognizing when that little voice is limiting, making you smaller,  and attempting to keep you from growing.

I could write about growth, but really I’m just still amused by how often those stupid little darts come flying at me in the middle of practice. You know, *while* I’m actually doing the things that it’s telling me that I can’t.


Ok, go.

Last post, I said I wasn’t going to get all confession-y. Well, this time I am. Just to the extent that it puts these recent posts into some context.  And on the wild off-chance that one of the 3 readers out there can relate.

I wasn’t a particularly thin or fat kid.  I was a geeky reading and theatre and music kid who had a passing familiarity with a few sports. I roller skated, ice skated, swam and dove, played a little tennis, a tiny bit of volleyball and soccer, ran and cross-country skiied. I eventually found that all those ski/skate forward-motion sports came naturally, but I never thought of myself as an athlete or even a potential athlete.  I could’ve been, but I wasn’t very interested,  and besides, I didn’t think it was an option for me.  My two favorite sporty things — diving and skating — weren’t school sports options. And then I broke my leg in middle school (roller skating, of all things!) and it sort of killed any ideas I had about volleyball (the third option). It was like I’d missed the zero-entry point, and now I’d have to jump into the deep end of the pool.  Meh.

I couldn’t say exactly when weight came on. In little waves, I’m sure.  High School. College. Break. Law School. Break. Library School. Move. Move. BIG Move.  My highest weight ever was about 2 years into my time at Yale. Scary high, and I actually talked to my primary care physician about what to do — the first time I’d ever had a conversation w/ a physician about weight.  She gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard: Find an activity that you love doing, for its own sake. And just do it, for you. The rest will come. So I picked ice skating, remembering all the fun I’d had as a kid, thinking it might be a year-round option. There was a basic skills class for adults starting up at the Whale, and I signed up. I don’t know how long it had been since I’d been on ice, but I was almost instantly hooked. Over the next three or four years it sucked me in about as much as derby has these last couple of years.  Ice dancing, moves in the field, lessons, skating club, early morning perfect ice with the two or three incredibly generous students who’d secured a cheap timeslot for more serious practice. It wasn’t my style, but it was fun and great exercise, and I poured myself into it. Speed skating might’ve been exactly the right fit, but a bad experience with the leader of the local group turned me off in a big way (“come one, come all!  oh, you?  yes, your skates are ok; they’ll be the least of your problems”). Feh. Anyway. So I stuck it out w/ the short blades. Toe pick!

After I moved to Illinois, concerned that I wasn’t dropping weight (which was the goal, of course! DROP THE WEIGHT!  GET THIN! GET FIT! GET A MAKEOVER!  BE A NEW PERSON AND SHOW THEM ALL!!!), I signed up for one of those medically-supervised fasts.  Yes, one of those. Yes, I know. Sigh. It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Cost me a small fortune, and maybe wrecked my metabolism, and did as much to screw with my head as any other experience in my life. But I lost 90 pounds. I was running a lot, skating a little, and my nutrition was pretty good (not that it was bad to begin with; it was just really unbalanced). But everything in this new health world of mine was good/bad, virtue/shame, compliant/uncompliant, scale up/scale down. And I still had no clue about what motivated me to keep myself healthy.  I knew how to reward  (I knew that going into the program), and now I knew how to withhold.  In a really big way, with food and exercise. Great weapons, those two.  So wrong.

So even though I kept the last 40# off completely, I moved into the first 20# relatively quickly, and have bounced around in the other 30# for the last 5 years.

There were many things about roller derby that drew me in. I’d never really done a contact sport, and the idea of doing one on roller skates — where I felt like I had a bit of a leg up at the start — was super-appealing. I also really admired the women’s empowerment ethos that marked the new roller derby. I loved the idea of physical challenge and actual physical contact as a way to work off stress. Frustrated at the end of a long day of work or home not going well?  Go to practice and hit people! Hard! The harder you hit, the more they’ll like you!  For real, that part is the best. And, like ice skating a decade earlier, I was looking for a sport/activity that I loved and that would help me continue the support and motivation to take care of my health. Ok, so I was also secretly hoping that those 30# would magically melt off.

They didn’t melt off, and once I hit a sort of plateau with my derby skills, I headed into the gym to work on strength and endurance. And those 30#. They were like an obsession, those #. Watching the scale, watching calories, waiting for clothes to fall off, hitting the gym over and over again, like my head against a wall every morning with a 4:15 alarm.  Not entirely, but that dynamic was there the whole time. It took so much more time than I would’ve liked, and the frustration was so great it leaked all over my closest friends. But the headbanging eventually did pay off in speed and endurance, and in more confidence to push my agility and take more risks. And then life got in the way this fall and I lost my routine for a few months, which brings us to now, back to those damned 30#, and the next stage.

New league, new perspective, new routine. New goals. No more obsessive goal-setting, scouring race calendars and jumping on the scale practically every time I see it. The scale is gone. It’s something for my trainer to watch, not me. I’m watching whatever is happening now. No more getting depressed by whatever I did or didn’t do last month or last week or last night; No more living in a vision of the future where everything is better.  I’m just working and enjoying the work now. Starting again. Watching the track, my PiYo and running form and the dust from my bike trainer tire. Listening to the sound of a few hundred wheels moving across the floor, and that little voice in my head saying “come on, just a little more.”

going around the bend, by McBeth



I suppose it’s possible that I put my cranky pants on today, and I may get flaming arrows from every side on this, but this image, posted by a Facebook friend earlier today, got me sort of worked up. This is SO MUCH not my idea of positive messaging from a supposed “health” company. Getting the body check and disturbingly rapid-fire pitch from a *Derbalife rep at regionals was a red flag, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

*Derbalife = Herbalife distributors/representatives who work within the roller derby community, as far as I can tell. I have no position on the product or program itself; I haven’t tried it, and currently have no interest in trying it. This isn’t about the quality of any product itself, it’s about the message.

I’m going to fast-forward through the arguments here: that the U.S. has an obesity problem, that it has a lifestyle-related health problem, that it has a food problem, and that it has a near obsession with diets. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But the bottom-line is health. We want people to be healthy and active and live long lives. If you don’t believe that — if you believe it’s about thinness and appearance — then stop reading now, this isn’t the blog for you. I don’t even want to engage in that debate.

This one picture represents a huge problem I’ve had with a diet and so-called “health” industry — this company included — that shames women into buying their product (I’m looking at you, Women’s Health magazine). Images like these are not helpful. Shows like the Biggest Loser show wasting truckloads of food to tempt contestants or to demonstrate some point are not being helpful. The cringe-worthy home movies of participants are not helpful. SHAME IS NOT PRODUCTIVE, PEOPLE. That whole eat in front of the mirror trick? Doesn’t work. Shame isn’t empowering. But they know that. It keeps them in business. Shame = $$$.

Gah. I have no idea how healthy either of these women is. Not for me to judge. Also, INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION. I’m also not so naive as to assume that either photo is unretouched. But I do know that if this is what D/Herbalife stands for, then I want nothing to do with them.

I’m not a ranter, and I may regret this later on, but right now I’m horrified and I just couldn’t fit my horror into 140 characters.

More Wellness, Again.

This isn’t strictly a derby post, but my wellness mindset is very much shaped by my relationship with a sport, and derby is the sport in my life now. I had three convergent thoughts rolling around in my head as I started to plan this post:

  1. After a much-too-long practice and gym break and a recent league change, going back to practice feels like starting over.
  2. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these many years, it’s that you can always start again. The lapse doesn’t matter, not really. Starting matters. What you’re doing right now matters. Forget what you missed yesterday.
  3. This time, I’m going to… I don’t know. Stop and think? Stop thinking so much?

So. Not to get too confession-y here, but this starting over is starting to feel like an old friend. I’m still not sure what kind of a friend it is, but I’m embracing it. And working on cultivating acceptance. Acceptance as the foundation from which everything else comes: confidence, motivation, perseverance, change, contentment. I’m reading about the HAES (health at every size) movement/philosophy, I’m observing the messages I take in and the self-talk. And I’m trying to approach food and exercise without judgment  or regret — much easier said than done.

I also struggle with differentiating between acceptance and complacency, concerned about the latter, and I often catch myself fighting an inner battle over which is which.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

Patience is not my strong suit, I’ll admit. But this is a big part of the challenge in living a contented, well-balanced life.

My body and body image have changed greatly over the years. I look back at photos and cringe at how bad I felt in what I can now recognize as a healthy body – a body that I was terrified of, though, and totally disconnected from. The times I was working the hardest were the times when my body image and self-talk were actually the worst. Yes, I’m more than a little angry that no one ever recognized the destructive self-critical crap I was feeding myself, and the effect it continued to have, year after year.  Even now, the hard-core athlete mode that I can get into — reveling in the sheer magnitude of it — can actually fuck with my head more than anything. It feels so strong, and on the surface looks so productive, but it’s not necessarily positive. There’s an incredibly strong pull to withhold that accompanies it when I don’t meet my expectations;  to deny food as a demonstration of strength and control. Getting out of that space is so difficult sometimes.

But I’m starting this time with a little bit more awareness, and a little less goal-setting. I need to stay out of that hard-core mode for a while, and yet still get my sport on, still work towards something. Today I started the day with a workout and a green smoothie, and finished it with a great derby practice (with the new league!) and some salty sugary carbs.  Tomorrow, a lighter workout and more protein. And no judgment.  After all, this body just skated 25 sprint laps. It’s agile and powerful and you’d be amazed at how quickly it can knock you to the ground.