I almost died last night.
Well, OK. Not almost-died, but I could’ve.
I was headed to a charity boxing match-up for my internship, about a 40 minute drive away from my school and I knew I was going to be late. As I approached an abundance of never ending traffic on the expressway, I turned up the old Paramore CD I had in my archaic car (as per lack of aux-cord-capabilities). A few minutes later, the Jeep in front of me stopped short and I slammed right into him.
The sweet-siren sounds of Hayley Williams accompanied by electric guitar and drum set were replaced with a nagging, ringing in my ears and the sound of my heart beating like it was going to fly out of my chest. Fight-or-flight instincts kicking in and regaining full awareness, I hopped out of my car and ran to that which was in front of me to ensure the driver was alright.
The man exited his vehicle just as he was upon his entrance, grateful that we were both alive and his car had minimal damage. Mine on the other hand, was completely totaled.
What you have to understand is, while I know that car accidents can in some ways be rights-of-passage, for someone who relies so heavily on her car, it’s a nightmare. While I am extremely grateful to be alive and very grateful the other driver is alive and well, I am left solving the puzzle as to how I’m going to make my one-hour-by-car commute to school, half-hour commute to my internship and drive to my part-time job. Add in a few trainings or seminars for school clubs on Long Island here and there and some sorority events and I’m left with quite the dilemma.
I have to say though, that in that moment while I was sitting on the shoulder of the Long Island Expressway with tears rolling down my cheeks, watching three lanes of backed up-traffic pass me and realizing that was me in my car just moments ago, I paused.
I was no longer thinking about the classes I skipped earlier due to my terrible cold or the amount of tissues that were scattered all over my car. I wasn’t thinking about the sorority chapter meeting I had to miss to cover this event. I wasn’t thinking about my finances or family issues or dirty closet or dirty car or International Relations reading or Race and Law Research Paper or going to the gym or losing weight or my break up. I was present.
For the first time in a long time, I was present. The world was still and below my feet. My head was on my shoulders and my heart was beating. I was alive.
The whole point of this blog post isn’t for me to whine about my 1st world problems or make you pity me if you do. The point is to show you that some times in life, you simply need to slow down.
While it was probably more convenient for me to come to this realization before totaling my car, maybe this was what I needed to realize that. Often times in life we get so caught up in our own self-caused anxieties that our actual real-world responsibilities seem tenfold grander than they actually are. In theory, an internship, job, school, school club and sorority are all normal things for college students to partake in. But when you spend all of your free moments in your head over analyzing things like job-placement statistics, the dangers of television, how you shouldn’t take cough syrup because it suppresses your symptoms and the amount of calories in a Gala apple versus Granny Smith-dull moments like sitting in traffic become impossible.
Starting at the end of this blog post, I’m going to slow down and I urge you to do the same. This does not mean quit your responsibilities or give up on your dream.
The big picture is still the big picture. But bring your big picture into perspective and dissect it. Dissect it into sections: What you can do right this moment, what you can do next, and what you cannot yet do. That last section is reserved for life. There’s a reason why longevity is to be valued.
The big picture is important, but don’t kill yourself in the process of trying to develop the negatives.
(This post was originally shared on the timesunion.com)
This may trigger those who are currently going through treatment for or are recovered from anorexia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia.
This morning was an absolute mess. I woke up bloated and confused and my typical 45 minute drive home took two hours.
So I decided to make some banana-protein- peanut butter- chocolate chip pancakes because they’re my favorite food. I get home and there’s no bananas. I get in my car and go to the store.I see three of my coworkers. I am in my pajamas and probably reek of the Moe's burrito bowl I had for dinner last night and this is the Fresh Market in Scarsdale, nonetheless, the mecca for fancy, rich and white middle aged women, so of course I caught several dirty looks from just about everyone. Even the deli guy when I asked him for balsamic dressing because I decided to buy a salad too.
Because, nothing is ever easy, my card was declined so I had to put some of my bananas back which was super embarrassing because my co-workers were behind me in line.
After three plus hours at this point, I get home. I'm all ready to make my pancakes and there's no eggs. So I eat some chocolate chips and brainstorm. I decide to make oatmeal with bananas, peanut butter and chocolate. Sounds good, right?
Wrong. After a few bites I wanted to throw up. So I settled on a breakfast of a handful of pita chips. Looking at the clock, 12p.m., I realized I should probably go to the gym or go for a run before I left for work.
Well. I didn’t. Instead I had to run to my bed and lay down.
Eating disorders are no joke.
Back in High School at the peak of my disordered eating I had little routines and rules I followed strictly and if I broke them I would absolutely fall apart. I remember once, at the dinner table, my parents asking me how my day went. I said It was bad because I ate too much, to which my mom responded "why does that have anything to do with how your day went?"
I would never dare eat chocolate unless it was in a breakfast muffin, or eaten before noon, so I could burn it off throughout the day. Chocolate or muffins were approved foods but I had to run an extra mile or two after track practice or go to the gym to burn them off.
Never would I skip breakfast and breakfast always contained one serving of fruit and was around 300 calories. To jumpstart my metabolism.
Old me would have never gone to the supermarket, or anywhere for the record, without working out, showering and getting dressed first. Seeing someone at supermarket or a restaurant was my biggest fear because they might see me buying food, a basic human need, and think I’m fat.
“I saw Jess at the supermarket. What a fatty” they might say.
And never would I ever skip a workout two days in a row, especially after eating Moe's for dinner the night before.
I laid in my bed for a little while. I opened Instagram on my phone and saw a feed of beautiful, skinny and fit women/men on beaches or at the gym or drinking protein shakes. Old me would have sat there for hours scrolling through the pictures and planning my three hour workout for when I got off of work to make up for my messed up morning and eating schedule.
But I didn’t.
I got up and I walked right past everything, the mess I made in the kitchen trying to clean up and the grocery bag from this morning and I stripped down. I drew a bath and I listened to the Avett Brothers and I took out a pen and a notebook began writing, resulting in this reflection.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? We place so many rules, regulations, and rituals on ourselves in hopes to become better. Fitter. Stronger. Healthier. Skinnier. Because once we achieve those ideals we will be successful right?
I'm not saying you shouldn't have drive or ambition. That you shouldn't listen to constructive criticism from your peers, family or own brain.
I'm saying that there is so much more to life than your weight. I can guarantee you apply to college they don't ask for your weight on the common app. When you apply for your first job, there isn't a space for you to indicate how much you weigh. When you get married, the priest doesn't include the number you read on the scale that morning in your vows.
I lost 50 pounds between the ages 14-17 and I gained back about 25 between 17-19. And you know what?
All of it. Being overweight in the first place at a young age, having to diet and go to the gym in middle school when all of my friends were eating pizza.
What would you say if I told you that every day from 14-16 I went to the gym for an hour and a half, minimum, and did the elliptical. Would you believe me?
What if I told you that I cried on my 17th birthday because I felt so fat and I couldn't make myself eat the ice cream cake, mint cookie crumble flavored (my favorite), that my parents bought custom made for my sister and I because I felt so fat.
Would you believe me?
All of that being said, I am blessed.
I have a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I have two beautiful sisters, one who supports me and lets me call her at all hours of the day crying over stupid things like my banana-protein-pancake meltdown I had a few hours ago. The other, at only eight years old, looks up to me like a role model.
I have found friends who don't judge me when I go on rants or scream at the top of my lungs because I feel guilty about something I ate.
I have a job. And even though it wasn't given to me on a silver spoon, an education at a university I adore.
So today I had a meltdown.
But I now realize that it is okay. I'm not perfect. I will probably never be a fitness model. I am a healthy size and I have healthy blood and I don't faint in public places anymore. I not only have to be healthy for myself, but I need to be a good role model for my little sister.
Although skipping a workout gives me anxiety, I have found the strength to be able to move on.
And while this morning wasn't perfect, and tonight probably won't be, I'm going to be ok.
That's the beautiful thing about recovery, the comfort that no matter what happens- you will be ok.
(This post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― C.G. Jung
Authenticity is dead and has become replaced with superficiality based on outward appearances alone. I feel as if it has become evident that people have forgotten what exactly it means to be human. With the fake eyelashes, hair extensions, tans. Exercising and eating healthy not for health reasons but for vanity. Playing "cool" in terms of our feelings towards others--yes we are all guilty of it. I know I am. But why do we do this?
A human, is by nature--authentic.
In our pure, raw state, makeup-free and naked, which for many of us is only immediately after we step out of the shower (for some, not even then), we are just humans. Humans with thoughts, emotions, intentions, hearts, brains, and blood pumping through our bodies.
But for some reason, we are constantly trying to fight this--not only superficially, but emotionally, too. We live our lives with our guards up, always refusing to become intimate with those close to us--hiding our feelings for others when they arise, choosing to leave relationships before we get "tied down" or "whipped," ignoring texts, leaving people on "read" to act like we don't care, purposely avoiding eye contact with those around us, creating problems which don't exist when things seem to be "too good to be true." This isn't just the case for our romantic relationships, but our friendships, too.
This time last year, I fought my feelings tooth-and-nail. I planned to be Pre-med, and told everyone I was dead-set on becoming a doctor. Doctors make a lot of money, I thought to myself, and I knew I wanted to make a lot of money. I had been surrounded by those with financial issues during my youth and prioritized making money over happiness. While I struggled to obtain a C+ in Physics and Chemistry, I flourished in my English courses--my professor raising an eyebrow at me when I told her I was a Biology/Pre-med major.
Let me tell you something: the day I changed my major to what I had always wanted to do since high school--journalism, was one of the best days of my entire life. I remember walking into Blodgett Hall, the home of the communications department at Adelphi, and feeling instantly at home. My adviser was the chairman of the department and greeted me with a warm welcome. As my class schedule changed from Physics and Chemistry, to Introduction to News-writing and Spanish, I felt the elephant that had been sitting on my chest lift.
That same semester, I worked my actual ass off--and loved every single second of it. I was published on the front page of my local paper, The Times Union (which resulted in being offered an internship there), became Editor in Chief of The Odyssey Online at Adelphi University, was offered my own blog for the Times Union, became an intern at Emerging Market Views (which is a project of one of my previous professors who offered me the position), started a job as a student reporter for Adelphi's Office of Public Affairs, and was recently offered the position of a writer/video producer at Two-Buttons-Deep.
I know, I kind of sound cocky. However, I reassure you I'm not. Of course I'm not the best writer in the world. I probably won't win a Pulitzer any time soon. I commute 45 minutes because I love my school so much. I am constantly stressed--my days are always booked at least 12-hours in advanced, sometimes people comment awful things on my articles and blog posts like "you're a terrible writer," and what not, and I literally have $0.53 in my bank account.
But what I can also tell you, is that I have never been this happy in my entire life. Because for the first time in a long time, I am being 100% myself.
Why are we so scared to reveal ourselves, to let ourselves fall in love, to go to school for what we actually WANT to do, or to let our connections to those around us deepen? Why are we so terrified of being intimate, raw, and HUMAN?
Maybe it's because becoming vulnerable makes us authentic. And being authentic makes us vulnerable. And being vulnerable makes us susceptible to pain, to being hurt.
We don't want to wear our hearts on our sleeves, live paycheck to paycheck, go makeup-free or just say 100% what is on our minds all the time, because if we do that we can be hurt.
But, when we do this, when we live unauthentic lives, we miss out on the the beauty which is the human race. When we dehumanize ourselves, we are denying the amazing things life has to offer like falling in love with someone, getting butterflies in your stomach when you see them, wanting to scream at the top of our lungs because we finally got that stupid article we wrote a month ago published--things like the sensation felt from sitting outside and just letting the sun graze your skin, and allowing the sounds of the wind consume you as it passes by you.
C.G. Jung once said, "the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are," which leads me to ask you this: Are you truly being yourself, or are you conforming to the societal norms which constrict you?
And finally, are you happy?
(This post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)
Popular smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose it, and the like are slowly infiltrating our daily lives. These applications set calorie limits for us depending on our weight-loss goals. (i.e. gain weight, lose weight, or maintain). By forcing us to track our calories we consume and the calories we burn via exercise, these applications can produce and invoke eating disorders quite easily, as they remove the focus from health and well-being to calories-in-calories-out. I began using these applications, Lose it specifically, when I was just 13 years old. I had just gotten my first I-phone and I was tired of being called fat, so I just simply downloaded the app and began tracking my calories. My body retaliated to the 1,200 calorie a day goal by giving me a few broken bones, fainting spells, and what ultimately lead to a pattern of disordered eating which I still grapple with today.This is dangerous, and can ruin your basal metabolism . When you restrict your caloric intake, your metabolism slows because your body thinks it's starving to death (even if you are technically overweight), so whenever you decide you don't want to eat 1,200 calories a day and go back to 1,500-2,000 you will ultimately gain weight- which is exactly what happened to me.
After a long battle- six years- with calorie counting apps, I have decided to delete them from my smart phone. Here are five things I'd honestly much rather do than sit around tracking my caloric intake all day:
1. Eat When I'm Actually Hungry
And eat healthy. Calorie counting apps place a stress on the caloric composition of a food, not the health benefits associated with it. For someone who is restricting calories, they may think it's O.K. to eat 1,200 calories of muffins, french fries, and fried-chicken- as long as they eat less than 1,200 calories then they'll lose weight, right? Well the problem with this, is that there is much more to nutrition and food choice than calories alone. A 1,500 calorie diet filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and lean protein is much more beneficial for your overall health and longevity. When you're counting calories chances are you will have an issue balancing when to eat what amount of calories and will end up relying on a food schedule, eating when you are full and ignoring your hunger pains when you're starving because you already hit your calorie goal. This causes issues with appetite and messes up your natural hunger signals. Just eat healthy foods when you're hungry and stop when you're full.
2. Listen to Music
Throughout my life, music has always been my "rock". No matter what was happening in my life, during the ugly and the beautiful, I always plugged in my earphones and played Mumford and Sons or Dave Matthews Band as a way to cope. Hey, you know when music sounds the best? When you're not deprived of your basic caloric needs as a human, and you can actually pay attention to the lyrics, chords, and melodies instead of the sound your stomach is making.
3. Paint my nails
Or just take care of myself. I'm going to go ahead, paint my toe nails, dye my hair that color I've been wanting to forever, take a bubble bath, heck drink a glass of wine- my body is my temple and it deserves to be taken care of. My body has never done me wrong, all it does is keep me alive and able to do my favorite things... I ask you to do the same and STOP PUNISHING YOUR BODY FOR TAKING UP SPACE!
4. Do my favorite things.
Do you like running? Hiking? Fishing? Reading? Golfing? I'm going to run more because the sensation of my feet on the pavement makes me freaking happy and I miss it so much. Whatever your favorite pastime may be- go ahead and do it. You'd be surprised how much time you spend logging your calories on MyFitnessPal or Lose It. Probably at least three hours a day. Three hours a day is the equivalent of running almost an entire marathon, hiking about 13 miles, and reading at least one awesome John Green novel.
5. Spend time with my family and friends
At the peak of my eating disorder and obsession with calorie counting, I would actually decline invitations to parties, social gatherings, and dinners because I was nervous I wouldn't have enough calories to eat at the event, and if I didn't eat everyone would raise an eyebrow at me. This is terrible. Eating disorders thrive on isolation, and tracking calories promotes isolation because if you isolate yourself you will be more likely to stay within your calorie goal. Honestly, I'd rather go out with my friends and run an extra mile in the morning, than spend my night alone pretending I'm too busy to hangout.
These are just five things I'd rather do than count calories, but I'm sure as the time I spend away from these awful apps increases, so will this list.
Are you struggling with disordered eating/ distorted body image? Call these hotlines:
NEDA Helpline:(800) 931-2237
(This post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)
"At least I'm not heavy like you, Jess, right?"Pause. The music playing in the background gently fades, my eyes leaving the faces of my friends to focus on a tree in the background. A familiar sensation of worthlessness washes over me.
Flash back to seventh grade. At about 180 pounds, 5 foot 4 and 12 years old, I was, in medical terms, obese. At the sensitive age of 12, kids are brutal. Whale, chubby, Teletubby and my favorite, "fat Mexican" were names I heard basically every day.
One day as I was leaving the school bus, it's funny the things you remember, I heard "You should go on Weight Watchers!"
So I would go home and find comfort in junk food and TV. What would now probably be considered a binge eating disorder, was then to me just my routine.
When I got to high school, the weight started coming off. I developed a unhealthy relationship with food and terrible body image, dropped 50 pounds and became a zombie. Counting every calorie, running every mile with the sole purpose of shrinking my own body, for what? My relationships crumbled (as did five of my bones from malnourishment) around me as I chose to stay in instead of hang out with friends, because when friends hang out, they eat, and I didn't want to be over my calorie count for the day.
I destroyed my metabolism during my bouts with anorexia, gained 10 pounds despite exercising and eating clean and am left to deal with the psychological consequences weight gain causes in those with a history of disordered eating.
And while all of my friends are out enjoying their summer in their bikinis, I am having panic attacks trying to find an outfit to wear to even the most trivial places, like the supermarket.
Honestly though, it had been forever since anyone had made such a comment about my weight, as until now I had been rather thin.
To the boy who called me fat, do you know how long it took me to get ready to go to this party?
Do you know how many outfits I tried on, my friends reassuring me I looked okay and not to worry, before my head finally gave up and decided on something?
I didn't try on 20 outfits because I just love all of my clothes and couldn't decide what looked best, or because the weather was up in the air and I didn't want to be cold...
I tried on 20 outfits because looking at myself in the mirror, being confronted with my "new body" and extra weight -- my biggest fear -- paralyzed me.
And while I felt your words like knives in my most tender bones, you -- the boy who called me fat -- don't have the right to bring me back to that dark place.
The place of consistently avoiding food, the place of spending two-plus hours at the gym, the place of sitting in my bed at night crying because I ate a bowl of organic cereal, which put me over my "allotted" calorie count and carbohydrate levels for the day, because my hunger was so real that it literally woke me up in the middle of the night.
So instead, I'm going to heal.
I'm going to write and paint and spend time with my family and friends.
I'm going to use the four hours a day I probably spend tracking my calories and worrying about my weight to stop and enjoy my life.
To the boy who called me fat,
I'd love to say I don't care. I'd love to agree with my friends who tell me that you are just a narcissistic prick and I'm "hot" or whatever, but to be honest, I do care.
But instead of being upset that I care, instead of crying any more than I already have over a mere seven words, I'm going to let you in on a little secret:
You could be a size zero and have cholesterol levels through the roof, so out of shape you can't walk up the stairs without wheezing.
You could be a size eight and be able to run an entire half marathon without a break and eat a well balanced, plant-based diet.
You can be a size 24 and spend hours a day dancing your heart out, eating three square meals and taking hikes in your free time.
Why is everything about weight?
You have NO idea what I've been through at all. Quite frankly, you have no idea what ANYONE has been through at all. I don't care if you are a literal God or Hercules himself, you have ZERO right to make ANY comments about ANYONE'S body. In a world where pro-anorexia blogs, Tumblr accounts, Instagram feeds and the like exist, it is our job to promote self-love, acceptance and health.
To the boy who called me fat: you hurt me.
But it's what I do with this pain you've caused me that makes me a stronger human than you'll ever be.
(This post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)
Hi. Its been a while since I've paid much attention to you and I'm sorry. But here I am reaching out to you to bring you back home to me. A few years ago I lost you, you must've gotten lost in the chaos of trying to find yourself.
Growing up we were pretty close, but somewhere along the way something happened. We went from running around the play ground with scraped knees, not a care in the world, wearing whatever we wanted and eating whatever we wanted, to hiding in the comfort of our home eating bags of chips while watching TV. If I had to pinpoint the exact date I lost you I'd say it was the first day of sixth grade. At eleven years old, shopping with my mother as most eleven year olds do for a perfect first day of school outfit- something happened.
Standing in the old Limited Too store in upstate New York, I looked in the mirror and realized there was something different about me. Looking at the skinny, blonde haired and blue eyed, eleven year old model in the poster hanging above the cash register. Looking back at the overweight, brown-haired, olive skinned, eleven year old girl in the mirror sent me into some sort of paralysis which I was stuck in for another seven years.
The second time I realized you were detached from me, Body, was my first relationship. At 15 years old, after four years of running on my local track team and counting every calorie, I was almost 40 pounds lighter than I was in Limited Too. I wouldn't say I completely hated you, but I'm so sorry Body for treating you so badly. A positive addiction to running which I had acquired, was accompanied with a negative addiction to losing weight.
Every night after going to bed with a pang of hunger so strong that it would sometimes wake me, I would run to the mirror to monitor my shrinking body in the mirror. At 15 years old He asked us out. And at 15 and a half he told us he loved us. But that Love was later replaced with anger. They say anger is a healthy emotion, but Body, I'm so sorry for the scars his love left on you. Constantly worrying about whether you were good enough, you started to give in to the demons telling you you weren't good enough. Struggling to be his ideal, struggling to meet the standards which he had set for his "dream girl", I left my two hour long track and field practice to return home and complete another hour of exercise. After losing another 10 pounds you began to retaliate.
One herniated disc, a few stress fractures, a broken heart and an age of 17 I began to try to find you again. Running, having been my only connection to you for so long, came back to me. I began running- six miles turned into eight which turned into 14 and before I knew it I was running across the finish line of the Saratoga Springs Half Marathon at 18 years old. I ran and ran, until my lungs were left breathless, my legs filled with lead and my heart pounding out of my chest. I ran past it all, past the girl in the mirror at Limited Too, past the girl who could never be his "Dream Girl", past the girl who desperately wanted to love and be loved. I ran into you Body.
I gained 5 pounds of muscle during my marathon training which I can attribute to learning how to eat like a normal person again. And with the extra 5 I gained in college which made me temporarily hate myself, you, Body, responded with a little extra bounce in my step. My runs no longer felt forever long, my body no longer felt forever week.
So, Body, now that we meet again I have an apology for you. I'm so sorry for everything you've been through these past seven years. The 800 calorie days, the long runs on no food, the verbal and physical abuse I put you through after a day of normal eating. I'm sorry for all of the awful things I've said to you, the public embarrassment felt when you caved in and fell to the floor in Walmart, then again in ShopRite behind the cash register. I'm sorry for ignoring you when you were so hungry in fear of being "fat".
Not only am I sorry Body but I am thankful. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for keeping me alive and keeping my heart beating. Thank you for bouncing back from the blows which I dealt you with resilience. Thank you for having strong legs which carry me through my morning runs and keep me dancing at my favorite concerts. Thank you for having a voice so loud, one which finally reached my head and told me to to recover.
(This blog post was originally shared on the Odyssey Online)