F.

Fear of Flying: My Sudden, Unexpected Truth

End of July 4th week.

I remember that time last year very well.  I was in San Francisco with my husband watching the fireworks near the Golden Gate Bridge after driving up from San Diego and exploring all of what California had to offer.  It was the first time seeing the west coast and, inevitably, falling in love with it.  Before that, in May, we flew to the Bahamas for the weekend.  In February, we decided to spend some time in Boston and, prior to that, we went to México for our honeymoon.  I’ve flown to France numerous amounts of times (I’ve even lived there for a semester in college), traveled to other countries such as England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Canada (just to name a few).  I took plane rides quite often in my lifetime and felt very fortunate.  I was like a little kid who couldn’t wait to see what was next, was super excited about it all, and day-dreamed about where the next adventure would take me.

Yes, I was quite the travel bug.  I always loved going out to experience new cultures and learn about what makes other countries special and unique (languages, especially, are what intrigue me the most!).

Enter the honest truth.  That trip to California (July 2013) was the last time I got on a plane.  One week after coming back home to NYC, I had my giant panic attack.  I no longer wanted to leave.  I didn’t want to go anywhere far.  I wanted to stay home.  I became afraid.  And just like that, in an instant, I had a fear of flying.  How could it be that someone who loved the smell of airports, the rush of taking off, the excitement of some turbulence, and the eagerness to land and explore new territory was now so afraid of flying?

In November of last year, for my milestone birthday, I wanted to travel but was so afraid.  For my one-year wedding anniversary I wanted to get away, but terror struck again.  And, sadly, a few days after my birthday, my grandfather passed away…in another country (may he rest in peace).

When we heard the news that evening, everyone in my family gathered together, purchased plane tickets, and boarded a plane to the Caribbean the next day.  Everyone left.  That is, everyone but me.  I loved my grandfather so much and wanted to see him one last time, but I just couldn’t get on a plane.  I was afraid of panicking, not having enough oxygen, fearing another terrible attack, and passing out.  If I was all the way up in the air and needed medical assistance, it would take a while to land and seek help.  It was better for me to stay grounded and have an ambulance take me to the nearest hospital ASAP (if I needed it).  I debated with myself: “Loren, you can do this, it’s your grandfather, just suck it up” or “Loren, you are not ready yet, you don’t know how to control your anxiety, you will just make things worse.”  In the end, I didn’t end up going.  And until this day it brings me to tears to think about how something like a fear can stop me from very important moments in life.  Another one on my list: my cousin is currently pregnant and is expecting her first baby girl down in Florida.  I want to go visit her so bad, but I am afraid of getting on that plane.  And while I would want to beat myself up, I don’t.  Because it’s OK to listen to your body and your mind.  It’s about knowing that balance between knowing what you want to do and what you have to do.  And for me, I had to stay.  I had to continue on my slow moving road to recovery.

There have also been so many times that I have randomly broken down and just cried.  I cry because I want to feel my toes in the sand.  I want to go zip lining in Costa Rica.  I want to go on a Safari in South Africa. I want to travel to New Orleans and eat amazing food.  I want to be with family when they need me the most.  I want to be present at very important moments, be it sad or happy.  But I’m being held back.  By my own self.

I know that the fear of flying is common. In fact, there’s a great percentage of Americans that cannot deal with it.  But, it was once something I loved to do.  I’ve always had a passion for it.  And it’s something I want to continue doing.  I know not many people may care for it, and that’s OK.  It’s not for everyone.  But, if it’s causing me to breakdown and cry, then it’s saying something.  Something BIG, something LOUD, and something CLEAR.  It’s something I love to do.  And I still love it.  From afar.

I made that trip to Washington, D.C. last month and broke down in the car sobbing because it was a big step for me.  This big panic attack last summer made me afraid to travel.  Afraid to leave NYC.  Even afraid to leave my apartment.  But because this is something so important to me, I am determined to work on getting back to where I was mentally in the past.  No, I will get there and be even better.  I think my next step may be an even longer car ride (more than 4 hours).  Maybe go to Canada.  I’ve always wanted to visit Montréal.  And then, maybe I’ll continue to build courage and allow myself to finally fly.  It’s all about baby steps, right?

FYI, I’ve been told that there are pills I can take while on a plane to calm myself down or knock myself straight to sleep.  Personally, I don’t want that because I feel like it’s a temporary relief for something that will always remain alive until you confront it.  I’m on a journey to be brave.  I am on a journey to confront myself, find myself, and love myself. My true self.  Naturally.

I can’t believe that I look at planes like someone back in the 1600’s would; how does that heavy thing fly?  Where are the aliens?  It may be funny to hear, but it’s such a truth.  And it’s such a sudden truth because I would have never imagined myself to be like this.  But, I think it’s all about educating yourself.  Asking questions and finding out the answers.  If you do, there is no room for speculation.  You will not stress out about it.  All will be understandable.  I’m getting there, slowly but surely.  I have to stop crying about wanting to fly and just work on my confidence, and maybe, one day, I’ll fly again.  I’m determined.

oneday

When I look up at the skies, I compare myself back to last summer. I do feel stronger than I was back then, but I know I’m not ready.  Not just yet.  But, when the day comes that I do fly (which I will definitely share on here, and obviously continue sharing my journey to get back on it), I know I will cry.  But they will be happy tears.  Ah, I am excited for that day.  But for now, I know what I have to do.  I have to wait.  Before I take it to the skies and fly, I have to take it by ground.  Isn’t it funny, though, how something happens all of a sudden?  Never would I have imagined this; however, I do believe that everything happens for a reason.

I used to be the little travel bug that could.  I’m currently the little travel bug that can’t.  But know that, one day, I’m the little travel bug that will.

Loren.

ps: If you have any tips or advice on how you successfully travel via air, I would love to hear them!  Please share in the comment box below :).

S.

Spring Cleanup: The Purse, Your Mind

Ah, spring, you have finally decided to enjoy us! Welcome, welcome.

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, we may be putting away some of our heavier, winter clothes and pulling out the lighter garments for our wardrobe.  Today, I want to talk about something that could also get a little lighter: our purses (or satchels ;)) and our minds.

You know, I was in the subway the other day and felt tension and pain on my shoulders.  And with reason!  There were just so many things in my purse that were, literally, weighing me down.  Confession: I usually carry around three bags!

So when I got home that evening, I sat down and emptied out the contents that were in my bag.  And, voilà, it occurred to me just how much anxiety was hiding in there.  Think about it, “Ah! I can’t find my keys!” usually gets you aggravated.  You have to dunk your hand in your bag and dig them up from the land of ‘beyond.’  Or, you might be checking out at a bar or retail store when suddenly you go “OMG my wallet! I know I had it in here!  Where is it?!” and that instantly just fills you up with a great overwhelming feeling of nerves and anxiety because now your ‘entire life’ is potentially gone.  Living like this is crazy (!) (and I’m no stranger to this kind of life).  So I vowed to clean up my purse… and more.

complexity

It does, however, beg to ask the question of “How did my bag get like this in the first place?”  Well, for me, I think it’s because I, and perhaps may others out there, are always in this ‘just-in-case’ mode, where we have to carry so many things around, just for that one time we may potentially need it.  In the past, I’ve tried to leave all of the truly unnecessary things behind, but failed.  I was so nervous that I wouldn’t have that one thing that would save me one day.  So I kept them.

And this actually goes further than your purse; it extends out to your life.  An example could include perhaps an acquaintance, or friend, that you honestly cannot stand, but may keep them in your ‘back pocket’ just in case you need them one day for a favor.  Or maybe it’s that sweater that doesn’t currently fit, but may one day fit, so it sits in your closet taking up space.  Or, maybe it’s that gym membership you pay for on a monthly basis and won’t cancel because, again, maybe one day you will go back to it.  All of these things aren’t farfetched to me, because they are some of the things that I couldn’t let go of.  And, surprisingly, they were all subconsciously something I was holding onto.  They were things that were bringing me back to where I didn’t want to be.  But you have to think: why spend your energy on someone who doesn’t appreciate you or help you ‘grow’?  Why tell yourself that you’re not ‘skinny’ enough to fit into something and then hate yourself for the rest of the day?  Or why spend money on something you don’t currently use instead of putting it towards something you do use?

All of this, believe it or not, is code for a fear of ‘letting go’.  Yes, it’s hard, but you need to push yourself to make a change, because it will lead to a feeling of relief, a feeling of freedom, and a feeling of open happiness.  You need to trust yourself that you can do without all of these things and build a life that is better for you.  Here’s another expression that makes more sense to me these days: “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”  Right?  It’s real.  And it’s literally on our shoulders.  That bag just gets bigger and heavier, huh?  And it drives us crazier and crazier.  Yeah, wow.

I went out for a run the other day and all I needed was my house key.  But, instead, I started to pack my cell phone, three credit cards, some cash, all of my keys, my pharmacy customer loyalty card, and a bottle of water.  Was I going out for a run for my health and well-being or was I going out to run some errands?  Running for my health.  I was going out to run for my well-being.  So I took my one key off my keychain, dropped everything else on the floor, and left the house without anything else.  You don’t know how hard that was for me.  Because, honestly, I wasn’t just leaving behind my belongings.  I was leaving behind my comfort zone.  But I sucked it up, walked outside, told myself that I was doing great, and off I went for a run.  I let physical things go, but also the intangible feelings of worry and concern.  It was me time, something that we probably don’t get too often, but something that I am learning to really, truly appreciate.  I cannot explain how great it felt to not have things bring me down!  I not only felt a sense of freedom, but also felt a sense of growth in my confidence.  Because if I can do this little thing, I know I can do bigger things.

You know, my dad always teased and said that he didn’t understand why many people (women, especially) reminded him of the ‘mules’ (you know, the animal) back in his home country.  I always laughed it off and gave him a little innocent eye-roll (what a terrible thing to compare a woman to, huh?!)  But, he said it out of fun, and to put across the point that the mules ‘back home’ would be loaded up every morning with the fruit, bread, and merchandise that would then be brought to the local market to be sold.  He didn’t understand why everyone (including me) had to carry so much weight around.  He was sure that if the mule had it his/her own way, it wouldn’t be carrying anything at all!  And I am always reminded of that (oh, dad, haha).

simplicity

So I started with my purse, because it’s a symbol and a reflection of me and my life.  It does hold some aggravation, worry, stress, and neglect.  But, little by little, I will start to let go of other things that bring me down, too.  I don’t need the extra pair of flats every day in my bag – just wear the flats.  It won’t rain every day, so check the weather and leave that umbrella home.  I carry around a small bag in my big bag, just in case I need it.  Yeah, that had to go.  And all of that loose change?  That gets heavy.  And it’s also money that is laying around.  Into a piggy bank you go and off to the bank at the end of the month you shall stay! 😉

As for my earlier examples, I’ve been working on cleaning that up: I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but instead put that money towards my yoga instructions. I also (very hard, but had to) let go of acquaintances/friends that were just bringing me down and didn’t help me ‘grow’ and make me want to be a better person.  And those sweaters that didn’t fit?  I donated them to those who would get a better use of them than my closet and mind would.

Learning to live in the present, and growing a sense of confidence in yourself, is amazing.  Because you truly are your own Superman.  Think of all of the great things you’ve accomplished thus far and just think of all the other great things you will accomplish in the future by slowly working on yourself today, for a better tomorrow.  In order for something to come in you need to make room for it by taking it out.

So spring clean your purse, spring clean your mind.  You will feel more in control, trust me – it’s so relieving!  And trust yourself; you are greater than you think you are.  Spring clean your life and, oh, don’t be a ‘mule’ 😉

Loren.

L.

Letting Others Affect You: DON’T.

I’m not perfect.  And I don’t expect this blog (a reflection of me) to be either.  With that said, I want to share an obstacle that presented itself to me that turned into a real struggle.  And although it comes once in a while, the way it took me over was unacceptable.  And so I learned a new way to test myself to be brave.  Maybe this can help anyone out there with a similar situation, too.

What presented itself:
The other night I went out for dinner with a few people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  And while it was meant to be an enjoyable outing, it turned into something that took my high spirits for a detour – for about a week.

It’s hard, as you may know, to accept everyone you come in contact with as they are.  There are things that people might say or do that you may not necessarily agree with.  And while I am generally good about not letting others affect me, there seems to be a few selective ones that I cannot shake.  And that was my case the other night.  Someone at dinner seemed to have changed within the past year and acted in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate and, thus, tested my tolerance level for it.  So, throughout the whole dinner, I had this anxiety building up, just brewing inside of me.  I was worrying about: what they may say next, how they would say it, or if they were going to do that annoying thing they do again.

My dinner, though, had all the right ingredients for a successful night: delicious food, a great glass of red wine, and an environment that was ready to foster a night of open conversations and laughter.  But there I was: angry, sad, confused and frustrated.  Because out of everything I was doing to make my life better, there just seemed to be that one person that ‘messed’ it up.

So, that was a couple of nights ago.  But ever since then, the way I perceived myself hadn’t exactly been the same.  I noticed that I allowed this other person’s actions come in and encompass me, turning me into someone I couldn’t shake.  I kept worrying about the situation, kept re-living the conversations, and kept letting it get the best of me  Yes, I did go to yoga, but for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t concentrate; my practice was not enjoyable.  And then I noticed, after each passing day, that a little something was starting to chip off of my ‘road to recovery’ block.  It was like someone was taking a sledgehammer to a home I had been building for months.

Breaking us down:
I allowed for all of the negativity to come in and live itself inside of me.  And the consequences were presenting themselves very clearly, I may add.  For starters, my white board wasn’t updated.  My room started to become a mess, followed by the kitchen, and then the living room.  I craved nothing but junk food and my water intake was very low.  I was not in a clear state of mind and, thus, I couldn’t concentrate.  My self-esteem was low and I even started to panic a little on a crowded train (ugh!).  I just didn’t care about myself anymore, it seemed.  Because, why bother building myself up when someone could just come in and break me down?

I was stuck in a rut and realized that I was regressing.  The signs were all clear: I was starting to feel sluggish, I wasn’t as happy as I was throughout the weeks prior, I became more anxious, and I even started taking every day for granted.  Who was this person?  No, this was just not acceptable anymore.  I didn’t like this person; I didn’t like me.  There was no need to be stuck in this rut.  I hated feeling bloated and feeling like I was just wasting my days away.  It was time to wake up and realize that I was heading in the wrong direction.  So I put my foot down and decided that I was going to suck it up, be brave, and change my habits.  I was going to regain control of my life.

Picking ourselves back up:
I tried yoga again the following night and when my husband picked me up afterwards, I burst into tears and told him that I wasn’t happy.  I told him that the dinner from the other night was driving me insane and that it was taking over my life.

So he talked me through it (he’s so kind) and made me realize that I was basing my everyday view of myself and life on one person.  Who, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t even know that all of this internal turmoil was happening.

Yes, there was someone that messed up my evening that night.  And that person was me.  I allowed the outside world take me over and I let myself succumb to being put second.  And so, because I let in the aggravation and held on to it for days, I suffered.  No one else.  My internal suffering isn’t going to change the other person; the other person may never change (they may never know).  And we can’t control that.  Yes, we can try to talk to this person (which I have done so in the past and, no luck), but if that isn’t an option or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then just let it go.  Don’t let it control you.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m saying it and learning how to do it.  So I know the struggle.

Change comes from within, as we know.  So unless I dive into this other person’s soul and live life as them, then there’s no changing anything.  Heck, the closest thing I can get to is thinking of how I married my husband and how we became ‘one’, but there’s no way I can change that man (haha, he’s great actually).  But putting jokes aside, what I can control is how I handle the situation and how I compose myself throughout it.

How to deal in the future:
So, knowing that letting what someone says or does boil up inside of me leads me to gain five pounds, be unhappy, and perceive myself as ‘not worth it’, I think I’d rather not let their actions get to me and lose five pounds, be happy, and perceive myself as definitely worth it.  Next time, I can just nod my head politely and smile.  I don’t need to have an opinion or engage in a deep conversation all the time.  I can still be respectful, but shouldn’t anticipate myself changing them.

Letting others affect you?  Don’t.  I know, sometimes it does hurt to take things in, but if you’ve been working so hard on yourself for a better you and a better tomorrow, then there should be no one that can be able to tear down your walls down and make you regress.  Not even you (ah, that quote that says “you are your own worst enemy” is starting to make sense now…).

And I came to this realization when I was taking a hot shower yesterday. Because it was in the shower that I noticed that the person wasn’t there.  The other person was just another event in my life.  The other person was about a week ago away.  So I let the water cleanse me, I started to clear my mind, I breathed in deeply and let out a huge sigh.  I was telling myself that I really do deserve better.  And that I should not let another week of self-pity and anxiety control me.

To summarize:
It’s hard being brave.  But it’s not impossible.  I’m sure the first few times will be a little difficult, but there is always a challenge before being presented with the greater success.  So my plan for today is to pick up my home, clear up my mind, and clean up my act.  I am going to update my white board, go out for a run, and be happy again.  Because at the end of the day, it’s me that counts.  And no one should ‘mess’ that up or take it away.  Because, honestly, the only one that ‘messed’ it up or took it away was myself.  And that’s just not right.

behappybeme

Last thought:
I remember when I first started telling my parents a few years ago that I wasn’t going to continue to eat white rice and oily chicken every night for dinner anymore.  And I remember telling them that I would prefer a healthy piece of salmon, some brown rice, and a baked sweet potato instead.  It wasn’t something that was exactly accepted at the time with an open mind (because, who was I to go in and change them and how they did things?  Who was I to say how they should raise their family?).  But, had I let their actions, comments, and traditional ways get to me and anger me internally at the time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I casually pushed for that salmon because that’s how I wanted to live my life.  Happy.  Healthy.  With a piece of salmon.  And, in the end, I got my salmon.  On my own.

And that applies to many things we may encounter in our every day life.  And it’s in these situations that I have to remind myself to either take it easy or not care at all.  My parents, by the way, did accept this new way of eating (they practice it themselves today and were actually the ones that introduced me to quinoa!).

So, with that said, what do I say to my next dinner outing with that person that I can’t really tolerate?  Life is wonderful.  I am wonderful.  No one is tearing me down.  Not even me.  Bring. It. On. 🙂

Loren.

A.

Anxiety & Eating: How they go hand in hand (Part: II)

Putting all of the reasons why and how the food I had been eating all these years supported my anxiety behind, it’s time to focus on today and how I am feeling so much better.

For about the past two months or so, I’ve been eating smarter and healthier.  I didn’t just go cold turkey one day and change my whole routine.  Oh, no.  I don’t believe in extreme changes.  I do believe, though, that it’s all about those baby steps and patience that will get you to where you want to be.  My small weekly changes turned into daily ones that, today, are changing into my lifestyle (read: not diet, lifestyle).  So to start things off, I started drinking more water.  I found that when we are ‘hungry’ or have a ‘craving’ for something during snack times (think not breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but rather those times in between), we are actually thirsty.  So instead of reaching for a chocolate bar (which, ha, I can no longer have unless it’s dark and contains no dairy), I reached for a glass of water.  I then started to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.  I would eat a nice juicy apple as a mid-morning snack.  And those three o’clock cravings?  I nabbed them with some carrots and peanut butter (which I make myself (very easy)).  When you feed yourself every couple of hours or so with good things and keep up with your intake of water, you actually lose some of the cravings for the ‘bad’ stuff.  And this is how I started to increase my ‘good’ foods and move away from the ‘bad’.

Being told that I was lactose intolerant was a blessing in disguise, I feel, because it did force me to find better foods for my body.  I was now sensitive to a lot of things that I would have never imagined I could be sensitive to.  One example is any kind of those processed sandwich breads, even the ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain’ ones.  You know, the ones that stay fresh in the plastic bag for weeks.  Red flag: that isn’t normal.  Fresh bread has a very short lifespan.  What’s keeping it fresh are the extra things they put inside of it.  When I used to eat it, I would feel excruciating abdominal pain.  And that’s when I learned to look at the ingredients list and, surprise, surprise, it contained dairy (sometimes found under its derivative names, such as ‘casein’ and/or ‘whey’).  So I stopped buying it and switched to a more ‘natural’ bread (like Ezekiel Sprouted Bread), the kind that needed to be frozen (makes sense).  When eaten, I found no pain.

Another thing that I moved away from was coffee.  I first limited my intake to one cup per day (instead of two or three) and substituted cow’s milk for almond milk.  I then found that not only was coffee making me very dehydrated, but that drinking it made me very jittery and added that extra anxious effect I didn’t need.  So I stopped drinking coffee (yes, you can survive without coffee!) and found that I didn’t need that boost in energy because I was already finding it in the good foods I was eating – the natural way.

Today I eat clean.  I eat broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, strawberries, red quinoa, sweet potatoes, and other natural, organic, good things.  I shop the outside perimeters of the supermarket and don’t go into the middle aisles.  Or, when I do my groceries online, I only buy fresh things and rarely go into the ‘grocery’ section.  I’ve lost about ten pounds due to eating so much better.  Not only that, but my complexion now has a bit of a glow and my mood has been absolutely positive.  I should add that a friend of mine shared with me that she, too, had become lactose intolerant and found a shake (Shakeology) that was vegan, all natural, and helped with digestion.  Willing to give it a shot, I ordered it and, within a week, loved the effects it had on my body.  While it took the guess work out of my breakfasts, it gave me the chance to focus on other meals that I could improve on: snacks, lunch and dinner.  Yes, even a little dessert here and there ;).  And that’s how I started.

I have seen, first hand, that when you eat ‘clean’ you feel amazing.  And that same feeling goes to your mind and lessens anxiety.  Think about it: when you eat poorly you regret it and start to bring yourself down.  “Oh, I shouldn’t have had that extra plate of pasta, I’m so ‘fat'” or “Gosh, I hate myself.  I ate that giant piece of cake and now I suck.  The world sucks.  Everyone sucks.”  However, after eating a delicious, healthy salad (low on the dressing!) we don’t go around thinking negatively.  No, we say “Wow, I just did something amazing for my body, I am great.”

Now imagine if you continued doing this throughout the day?  Your outlook on life would be better because your outlook on yourself becomes better.  Through my own experience, I’ve learned that there is an even exchange between eating for the body and the gift of a better mind.  When I ate poorly I was, really, abusing my body.  So my body decided to abuse my mind.  I grew anxious.  None of the foods that I was eating helped me think clearer or feel better.  Yet, when I ate healthy, my body thanked me by giving me a healthy mind.  And with ‘clean’ eating, you gain a sense of clarity.  So I am eating healthy to reduce anxiety.  And it’s working!

I did lose some weight, but that wasn’t the intention.  Nor did I ever see it as ‘dieting’.  Heavens, no.  I saw it as a lifestyle change. And it started slowly, making small changes until they occurred like second nature.  I never felt like I was sacrificing anything.  Ever.

lorenfood1
My table shows what I have in my fridge and pantry pretty much all the time – how colorful! PS: Pineapples are yummy!
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Carrots and herbs (along with 1 cup organic chicken stock) can make a mean side to any meal!
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Almond milk, limes, eggs, lettuce, kale, cucumbers – all organic, all delicious!

I’ve been told that there are medications out there that can help my anxiety and my mood.  But I refuse them.  Because I want to learn the real way of living: facing some of my fears and controlling my mind.  Taking drugs is letting something control me.  And we don’t really learn that way.  Educating myself on the natural, good things will lead to a natural, good mood and way of life.  I am about two months in and am feeling an amazing difference.  I will make sure to share some of my favorite meals and tips in future posts, because I think it’s so important to help each other and see each other succeed!  Change starts from within.  I am really learning what that means now.  Amazing.

And remember: drink your water, eat your veggies, smile, meditate for even two minutes, and enjoy life.  Like many things in life, you will get out of it what you put into it.  So put lots of love and care into yourself and the result… well, the result shouldn’t be a surprise. 😉

Loren.

A.

Anxiety & Eating: How they go hand in hand (part: I)

White rice, whole milk, frozen dinner entrées, ice cream, lots of soda, beef patties, and cake.

These were some of the things I ate growing up; heck, there were some days that I ate all of these in a single day.  It was definitely a kid’s dream come true.  But ‘kid’ defined me from the moment I could chew my food to, literally, a couple of months ago.  I have been eating ‘clean’ for about two months or so now and, I must say, my anxiety level has gone down and my positive mood has gone up.

But, before I get to the current, positive moment of eating clean, I think it’s good to reflect and see how the ‘bad’ foods helped support the anxiety that was built inside me for many years:

You know, I grew up in a very loving family that taught me a lot about respect, values, and how to love.  But one thing that I was never really taught was how to eat properly.  Yes, there was always food on the table, food in the pantry, and food in the fridge, but they were all ‘quick’ things.  My meals were very predictable, too.  Breakfast was pancakes (from a box), drenched with a sugary (addictive) processed syrup.  Lunch was take-out from the local Chinese food place.  Dinner meant rice, beans, chicken, and maybe a salad.  And then the night concluded with lots of ice cream, cookies, and maybe a second round of dinner.  The only real time I would eat fruits were if we went out to the farms during the summer and went apple or peach picking – but even then there wasn’t any kind of portion control.  I would have about eight giant peaches on my way home because the giant basket (filled with nothing but that) was sitting in the car!  And then I would be tired of peaches.  I would refuse them.  When I got home it would be all “oh, hello, microwaveable bacon!”  And I went on with my life.  ‘Happy’ at the time, sad looking back at it now.

My life consisted of processed foods, filled with chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce.  They had absolutely no nutritional value, but they made me feel ‘good’ for a quick moment.  The things inside of all of those things were alien to my body and acted like a drug.  Actually, they were my drugs.  Because that time I was seven years old and my grandmother passed away, I held back my tears because I was subliminally told that I shouldn’t be a cry baby and that sharing my emotions towards other people was a ‘personal’ thing.  This emotion was mended with me eating a whole loaf of white, processed bread, toasted with tons of trans-fatty butter and a giant glass of sugary chocolate milk.  And that time I got an eighty-eight on my math test in the eighth grade and was told that I could do better and needed to get nothing but one-hundreds?  Well, that made me feel like I was a total failure.  But there it was, that very fatty fourteen-ounce tub of ice cream and giant bag of addicting chips to help mend my broken heart and mind.  So while I was ‘healing’ my heart and mind with food, I was actually holding a lot of things back (anger, frustration, confusion, etc.) and burying them deep, deep down inside. (That explains those times I’ve cried during yoga, huh?)  So you start to become anxious.  Hating the next time you feel this way.  And it all continues to build up.  Every little bit counts.

My emotions were controlled with eating: failure was rewarded with sugary fats and successes, if I felt I had them, were rewarded with greasy foods (pizza party, anyone?).  And I grew up like this.  I was confused, trying to figure life out, restricting my self-desires to come out, and hoping to make everyone but myself happy.  I found comfort in food.  But the food I was eating didn’t give me any clarity; I couldn’t think things through with a ‘clear mind’.  All it was doing was fogging up my mind.  They served zero nutritional value, but made me ‘happy’.  Voilà, my adolescent (and well-into-my-adult-hood) drugs.

Side note:  you could only imagine how self-image played a role in this.  Why, with all of this poor eating, I wasn’t exactly ‘fit’.  I was ‘fat’.  And the media hated ‘fat’.  They said that that it wasn’t ‘beautiful.’  So, naturally, I also grew up with very low self-esteem, telling myself that I was ‘ugly’, ‘useless’, and a ‘failure’ every day.  My confidence level was lower than a turtle’s.   And this is how I grew up.  For more than twenty years, this was my life.

circa high school graduation - 2006
high school graduation – 2006

After years of suppressing my own happiness, and right before my giant panic attack last summer, I noticed a few months worth of terrible abdominal pain.  Not only that, but I was also very bloated and starting to become a bit overweight.  Worried, I went to a gastroenterologist (tummy & digestion doctor) and found out that I was lactose intolerant… great.

My life seemed to have shattered at the instant of being diagnosed, because it meant that I could no longer have the ice cream, yogurt, pizza, or cake that once mended my wounds.  I did play devil’s advocate and ate them anyway, but felt the consequences within thirty minutes of consuming the stuff.

2013 - before panic attack - after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant
summer 2013 – 2 weeks after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant & 2 weeks before panic attack

So it was true, after all.  I was lactose intolerant.  Two weeks before my I-didn’t-even-see-it-coming giant panic attack, I had to adjust.  And that was hard.  I didn’t really know how to adjust.  I never learned.  And looking back at it today, part of me thinks that the attack maybe came out from being forced to learn how to live with some confrontations and without some of those drugs.  I was starting to be confronted by my own self.

I didn’t know how to deal then.  But today, I am learning how to deal now (next post – stay tuned!).

But until then, be kind to your body.  Think back to those times you maybe reached for that thing you shouldn’t have reached for.  Think of what you were running away from.  Starting to slowly think about these things will help open up and shape you for a better tomorrow.  Don’t resolve to continue suppressing emotions with food.  Eat well.  You are beautiful. Who cares about the media.  They don’t pay your bills, you pay their bills.  They don’t give you a hug when you need it the most.  And this applies to others around you.  There is only one person like you out there and you deserve the absolute best.  The road to a better tomorrow starts with this type of first step… and it starts from within.

Loren.