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Pretty, with a but

So the gentleman who owns the store next to my office stopped me on the street as I was walking back from getting coffee, ostensibly to apologize for calling me Sarah as I walked into work that morning. I said, “Don’t worry about it. Everyone always calls me the wrong name. Usually Sarah or Rachel. All those Old Testament wives.” I went on my merry way but he stopped me again. He had something else to say. I think it’s important that I preface this story by saying that this guy really was not trying to hit on me, which in some ways makes it all worse. Okay, I’ll continue. Here’s what he said.

“You know, actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you. You, I think, are the perfect image of a full-figured woman. I’m just wondering what you think about that. Do you feel good about yourself?”

Now, this dude says awkward and strange things to me and my co-workers all the time. He’s a lonely divorcee who owns a suit shop that never gets any business, so Lord knows what thoughts twirl around his brain all day while he’s surrounded by all that linen and no other humans. But, this was beyond the standard unusual comment. He seemed earnest, like he wanted to learn something about body confidence. I was taken aback, and not super interested in having that conversation, so I tried to end it and leave.

“Um, yeah, I’m pretty confident in myself.”

“That’s good because, you really are perfect exactly how you are and I know a lot of men put pressure on women to lose weight and be skinny, but you really shouldn’t change. You’re like a perfect image of a full-figured woman. I know you’re married, but I hope your husband feels so too.”

Ladies, we’ve all been here, right? In one form or another? We’ve all found ourselves confronted by a man who feels entitled to comment on our bodies even when it’s inappropriate, back-handed, and unprofessional. I meant it as a compliment, they say when we call them on their behavior. And the little feminist pixie that lives inside me turns red and screams because she’s too exhausted to take the time to educate this ignorant man on why it is inappropriate to comment on the body of a person, pretty much ever, but especially when that person works next door to you. And that pixie is also frustrated because she knows that this man really does believe he’s being noble, and perhaps in a twisted way he is. He sees the pressure put on women to be skinny, lose weight, please a man, and he is making a statement to a woman who does not fit that mold to say that she is perfect the way she is and should not succumb to that societal pressure. So how can I be mad? But I am. I am mad. The pixie is mad. Because even though he meant it as a compliment, it made me feel like shit. Which then makes me feel like a failure because it feels like a test as to whether or not I truly have body confidence and when given that test I failed because on the inside I totally collapse as if I’m twelve years old all over again and just got called chubby on the playground. So I’m mad at the man, I’ve failed my inner feminist pixie, and I’ve reverted to the child I was when I was bullied. I don’t have the fortitude to make this a teachable moment. I’m too sad. Now do you see why it’s basically never a good idea to comment on someone’s body? Hot-button is a phrase that doesn’t begin to paint the picture.

Just when I start to think, hey, I think all this body confidence I’ve been working on is really paying off. I’m starting to feel like a confident woman. Not a fat woman, not a curvy woman or a skinny woman or a woman on a diet. Just a woman. Cool. It’s nice to just be a person.

And then, poof.

Along comes a well-intended old man to remind me that no, you are not just a woman. You will never be perceived as just a woman. You are a “full-figured” woman. You are pretty—for a curvy girl. You will never just be pretty. You will always be pretty with a modifier.

I feel so average sometimes that I actually feel invisible. It’s appropriate that this whole confrontation began because the man got my name wrong. It happens ALL. THE. TIME. I usually have to meet someone at least three times before they remember me—not remember my name, remember me at all—and when they finally do remember me they then get my name wrong. Sarah, Rachel, Heidi. These are names I’ve been called this week alone. Everything but Rebecca, who is invisible. I’ve tried to embrace it, my average-ness. There’s a benefit to disappearing into the wallpaper. You get to see very interesting things when people don’t really know you’re there. I also always know that when I have an instinct about something I’m probably right because I’ve learned that part of being average is having unextraordinary opinions. If I think something, chances are thousands of other people have thought it as well, so I’m not alone in my ideas and can generally trust them to have some backing. I’m not an outlier. I’m not an iconoclast. I’m not a trailblazer. I’ve embraced the benefits of being ordinary. It’s led to me being a strong administrator and a creative writer. I like being an invisible pair of hands that makes cool things happen from behind the curtain. But then conversations like this come about and make me feel like the only things that do make me visible are things that are negative. Like being “curvy” or “full-figured.” What does that even mean? The world around this issue is changing a little bit. But not really. Not really. Plus-size models are still plus-size; they’re not just models and I’m not sure they ever will be. They will always be models with a modifier.

The emotional waves settle. My head comforts my heart and I accept that perception is reality. I can’t control how people perceive me therefore I can’t control their reality. I can only control how I perceive myself, so my reality is that I’m just a woman. A woman who struggles from time to time with body image, but is mostly over it. A woman who struggles every day with eating healthy. A woman who runs marathons and loves dance parties. Who is on Weight Watchers but loves carrot cake. Who has a husband who thinks I’m pretty. Period.

I know how much privilege I walk around with as a middle-class, able-bodied, cis, straight, white woman. Crossings like this remind me that what I experience in micro-doses once in awhile, minority groups experience daily and in much more aggressive doses. It’s not right. Perhaps I’ve even been that well-intended person asking someone a question about their life experience that has the affect of making them feel small. I’m going to use this experience to remind me of that, and to remind me to always treat people like people. Not like plus-size people, or disabled people, or ethnic people, or gay people, or trans people. You breathe oxygen and are carbon-based? Cool, then you are people. No modifiers.

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How to Twirl Baton With a Baby

In fifth grade I became a competitive baton twirler. It was fun, until I threw up in the middle of my routine at a regional competition—but that’s a story for another time. My specialty was two baton. That’s twirling two batons at once. I was the only member of my team that did two baton. You throw one baton in the air, twirl the other one under your leg then spin around a few times and catch the first. That type of thing. It was almost impossibly hard to learn, but I stuck with it and finally felt the magic click. You know the one. That click you feel when something awkward turns into something effortless. The moment your muscles remember something for the first time. Magic. Once that happened both batons glided around each other like pieces of a puzzle doing a dance. I won’t lie—it was impressive.

I guess I’ve always done a lot of things at once. I don’t even realize how many things I’m doing at any given time because the choice isn’t usually a conscious one—I just do things. A friend of mine often comments on my time management skills and how amazed she is that I do so much, and I’m always surprised to hear it. Why should I be surprised? Why don’t I see the impressive motion of all the batons I twirl at once? If asked to describe myself I would use terms like lazy, master procrastinator, laid back to a fault. But if I objectively look at my docket I must admit that I too am surprised by all that I do.

Last Monday I felt unproductive for what reason I can’t remember other than it’s become a state of being for me at this point. I always feel unproductive. I can never do enough. There’s never enough time. I paused and took inventory of what I actually had done that day and my jaw sort of fell open a little. I rehearsed for The Designated Mourner, got lunch with Brad, went grocery shopping, did some laundry, squeezed in a photo shoot for Whimsy Do, went for a three mile run, cleaned out our closet, all with time left over to veg on the couch watching Bloodline. That’s kind of a lot. So why the heck did I feel so useless?

I can’t answer that. This particular entry is not for dissecting that neurosis. This post is meant to rattle me, wag a little finger in my face and say, “You better accept that you’re good at two baton, because you’re going to have to keep juggling if you want to do the things you want to do.” I act, run, clean, and make Whimsy Dos at the same time because I like doing all of those things and the stakes are relatively low on each of them. They’re recreational and relaxing for me, so I just puzzle them together somehow and make it work. When I look at my goals that have higher stakes, I freeze.

I wrote a novel that’s desperately waiting for revisions, yet there it sits in my Dropbox, rough and sad. I have career goals that need outlining, nurturing, executing. I ignore them because they’re hard. I want to be a mother.

Here we get to the hardest puzzle piece of all.

After thinking about this rabidly for the past several weeks I feel like I can map out the next few years of my life. Once the play is open I can carve out time to write. I’m putting pen to paper when it comes to planning my career. I’m laying out the steps. Brad and I have a new savings plan in place to build our dream tiny home here in L.A. The problem is that these things happen one after the other in my grand plan.

Then there’s a baby. I can write a novel, make career moves, and build a house in some semblance of succession. Baby however? I can’t stop everything to have a baby. I also can’t wait until the above items are complete to have a baby. I’ve given myself a headache analyzing my timeline to figure out where a baby best fits, and the answer is nowhere. There is never a good time to have a baby. Maybe retirement. You’ve done the big career stuff, hopefully, and now you can just have a baby and focus on that. I guess this is why being a grandparent is so awesome.

But I’m never going to be a happily retired grandparent if I don’t take up the parenting thing first. If I want to be a mother, I’m going to have to have a baby while I’m doing something else at the same time. That’s a fact. I turn 32 in two weeks. Still viable but the clock is ticking. I don’t know how long it will take me to activate my career goals, to finish my book, to build a house. I have no idea, but I’m guessing it’s going to be more than three years and if I wait until after I’m 35 I’ll be starting a vicious game of roulette with mother nature.

There is never a perfect time to have a baby, so if you want to have a baby you have to learn two baton—or three or four baton—and hope that eventually you’ll feel that magic click. And at some point I’m sure I’ll drop all the batons but if there’s one thing I learned from my competition days you always pick that baton back up and keep going—even if you dropped the thing in a puddle of your own vomit. (I did keep going by the way. Took home 3rd place).

I’ve been so terrified of juggling high stakes items for so long that I’ve been blind to the fact that I’m actually really good at juggling. It’s just that I’ve been juggling apples. They fit nicely in a hand, they have a good weight to them, they’re kind of fun, you get to eat them after, and it’s not the end of the world if you drop them. Maybe a bruise or two but they’re just apples. Apples are simple.

I need to conjure the bravery necessary to juggle fire.

Maybe it’s time to take up fire baton.

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Unfortunately I don’t have any video of me twirling at competition. I guess that puking incident made my mom a little video shy. Check out this clip for a representative two baton routine. This girl reminds me of—well—me.

What Running Taught Me About Body Positivity… It’s All In the Mind

The prompt for National Running Day was “I run to _____.” I actually just had a little wave of anxiety as I typed, thinking about sharing the reasons that I run. The reasons are deeply personal, however publicly I talk about running. Personal, and innumerable, so maybe I’ll try to distill it all down to one basic idea. I run to connect my body to my soul.

I grew up an incredibly confident girl on the inside, with incredible self-loathing for her outsides. I hated my body. Hate is a strong word. Not strong enough. I developed at a young age in all the wrong ways according to a hormonal pre-teen. Big butt, thick thighs, flat chest. Boys didn’t like me, girls didn’t relate to me. I wasn’t athletic. I wasn’t skinny. I wasn’t necessarily fat either. I was the word I’ve come to hate more than almost any in the English language – chubby. I was chubby. And it’s not cool to be chubby as a kid.

So I grew up hating my outsides and wishing for new ones, while simultaneously loving life, being social, feeling creative and insightful, and in general enjoying the human soul that was developing as Becky Sigl. I was very conscious of this strange dichotomy. How could I be so confident and so insecure at the same time? Mind-body disconnect. You’ve all felt it.

Along came running. I began running as early as 6th grade but didn’t stick with it in earnest until my college years. During that time I felt more pressure than ever to somehow achieve the body that I THOUGHT would match my awesome inside self (don’t believe everything you think). Safe in my college incubation bubble, I knew that once thrust into the “real world” the clock began. It’s tough for women in Hollywood and if you don’t jump in the Hollywood Double Dutch game when you’re a kid, then you better be ready again when you’re a young twenty-something still young enough to play high school and college. If you miss THAT turnoff and you’re not “smokin’ hot” or super charactery then you may as well wait around until you’re old enough to play the Mom. I realize I sound very cynical and no one is obligated to subscribe to these silly rules. You can pave your own way and you should! But the pressure. It’s brutal.

So there I was, 21, getting ready for the real world, and I thought to myself constantly “I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” The only time I didn’t think these thoughts was on the running trail. Interesting. I didn’t all of a sudden feel satisfied with my body. I just didn’t give a crap. I was running.

Along comes the real world and wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t magically transform into a 5’10” lithe supermodel or a cute little pixie girl in a size zero. Huh. Go figure. The real world arrived nonetheless and I started to realize how much I truly disliked this game of Hollywood Double Dutch. But I thought I’d still play anyway. I’d still attempt to achieve a body that would match my awesome, spunky, confident, inner self – still repeating the mantra “I have to lose weight” – I started running more consistently.

A funny and unexpected thing happened. I fell in love with my body. The body that in the past 10 years has run 13 half marathons, one marathon, and 2,000 miles to Tahiti. That body. The body that is actually 15 pounds HEAVIER than it was 10 years ago when I started running to lose weight! I love that body. I love it so fiercely. Sure I get a little itchy when I feel a few pounds of new jiggle after the holidays or if I haven’t run for awhile, but I still love the jiggle, however unwelcome. I love it deeply because I’m grateful for it. I know what it can do.

In college I took a philosophy course that focused heavily on the ideas of Iris Murdoch. One of our textbooks was “The Sovereignty of Good.” (I highly recommend it). It is the act of focusing on the Good – art, service, love – that effectuates transcendence. This focusing and taking action lures us outside ourselves. You can’t simply try to be grateful as effectively as when you focus on giving to others which results in a sense of gratitude. You can’t try to understand humanity as well as seeing a great play – the pathos of which evokes an understanding of humanity as a result. A focus on good things brings about Good. The actions make us Good. It’s not so easy to be good for Goodness’ sake. Someone alert Santa.

I couldn’t try to love my body in a vacuum. I just couldn’t. I did try. Hard! I simply did not love it. 10 years of running consistently – focusing my mind on something healthy and active instead of the outcome on my appearance – changed me. It works this way in acting. You want to get out of your own head? Focus on your scene partner. What are you doing to him? Do it. Voila! No more in your head. So too with body positivity as it turns out. You want to love your body? Focus on doing things with it. Be active. Put your body to work. You’ll discover that it’s Good, EXACTLY as it is.

I started running because my 6th grade teacher told me to. I stuck with it in high school and college to try and lose weight, when I suddenly realized it had this potent by-product of making me feel sane. I keep running today not to love my body, but because I love my body. Running, as it turns out, is the bridge between my sparkly, glitter-spackled, spunky, soulful, introspective, confident, awesome, self and the physical vessel I was given to get through life – my body. You get one boat to sail the ocean. Don’t scuttle it. Name it. Take care of it. Decorate it. Love it. Have fun sailing.
I run to connect my soul to my body. I run because it’s spiritual. I run because it’s physical. I run to get out of my head. I run to focus on the Good.

Why do you run?

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Part 2: Let There Be Light (and rain) On My Wedding Day

Today is August 21, 2014, 5:00 pm. Exactly one month ago, on top of a mountain, next to a creek, surrounded by loved ones, I made a promise to join hearts with Brad Light forever. After months of wondering how that moment would feel and being open to every possibility, I can honestly say it was the most beautiful moment of my life.

There’s a danger in wedding planning. Many dangers, truth be told. It is after all a multi-billion dollar industry intent on making you feel it absolutely necessary to have that hand-painted rustic backdrop for your photo booth and out-of-season soft pink peony centerpieces. If you want your wedding to be the happiest day of your life, you must have those things. Right?

Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to denounce the details. I’m HUGE on details. I’m a person who prioritizes aesthetics in life. I relished every moment of planning the details of our wedding. Every late night making paper flowers. Every ounce of stress wondering how to make the seating chart fit into our theme. Every penny spent on the wire hot air balloon card holder. All worth it. However, I have one image for you:

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” Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was Singing! Without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

I loved every detail of our wedding. I loved our hot air balloon card holder, and my beautiful centerpieces, and the starry sky seating chart, and my gorgeous precious wonderful dress. But take them all away and I would have still ended the day married to Brad. I would have still shared that moment with our friends and family. That is what made it the most beautiful day of my life. Such a simple lesson, but one that brides seem to easily forget in the yards of chiffon and cake samples. Sometimes we need Dr. Seuss to remind us.

“It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!”

“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And she puzzled three hours, till her puzzler was sore. Then the Bride thought of something she hadn’t before! “Maybe Weddings,” she thought, “don’t come from a store.”

“Maybe Weddings…perhaps…mean a little bit more!”

And what happened then? Well…in Leadville they say, that the Bride’s anxious heart grew three sizes that day!

And the minute her heart didn’t feel quite so tight, she whizzed with her vows through the bright morning light,

And she brought back the flowers! And the food for the feast! And she, SHE HERSELF! The Bride carved the roast beast!

So that’s the truth. I married Brad and everything else was gravy. Lovely, fun, beautiful, delicious, gravy.

I don’t want to go on and on. I’ll just highlight a few key details of our wedding day.

1. I had a cinnamon roll for breakfast. And a banana. And a fruit salad. Yum.

2. I had so much fun on “Operation Baby’s Breath” with Dana and Russell.

3. Somehow the keys to my parents rental car got lost. They had to tow a new care from Aspen. THAT was fun. The Treadwells are angels for letting us borrow their car to run errands.

4. I watched Doc Hollywood on TV while getting my hair and makeup done. Dana did my hair and makeup and it looked Gorgeous!

5. I felt a bit rushed getting ready. That darn lost set of car keys put us back.

6. I texted Brad back and forth all day about details, every time giddy as a schoolgirl getting a love note from her crush.

7. I cried. A lot.

8. I cried when the florist showed up with my bouquet. It was so beautiful. Those flowers made it real.

9. I cried when I put on my dress. It was so beautiful.

10. I cried repeatedly when I would look at my mom, my cousin, and Dana, because they would be crying.

11. My cousin said a prayer for me, holding hands with my mom and Dana all in a circle. I cried again. It was beautiful.

12. The weather forecast said it wasn’t going to rain but at about 3:30 it started sprinkling. I didn’t care.

13. At 5 o’clock when it was time to walk to the meadow I couldn’t believe the time had come. Were my friends and family actually all out there waiting for me? Was I actually about to get married? I felt like I was about to go skydiving. A mixture of nerves and excitement tempered by deep breaths and open eyes that would keep my heart open to knowing that in a few minutes I couldn’t think about it anymore. I would just have to jump.

14. As I walked to the meadow strangers around the resort clapped for me, congratulated me, and told me I looked beautiful. My heart swelled.

15. It was still raining. Damn. Oh well, I don’t really care. It will work out.

16. The ceremony began. The sound was great. I was so worried about the sound. No reason to worry.

17. I stood with my Dad, waiting on the bridge. Waiting to walk down the aisle. Grateful to share this intimate moment with my Dad. Feeling like I could lean on him. My Dad asks me “Are you nervous?” I say, “Yes.” And he just smiles. Somehow my nerves are spiced with peace. There is grace present. I feel something present in the rain drops and the sound of the creek and the sun poking through the clouds. Something magical.

18. It’s time. The music begins. “Here, There, and Everwhere.” My favorite song. Everyone stands. I breathe and I cry. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of seeing everyone’s face. I make my way over the bridge. Through the raindrops I see only one face. The world around me is swirling and transforming in a vortex and Brad’s face is the tether on the other end of the line. I hold onto his eyes, the only eyes I want to see right now. I feel everyone else looking at me and how grateful I am for their presence. I can’t believe they’re here for me! For us. I can’t believe it. I can never be thankful enough.

19. I make it down the aisle with my Dad. We hug and kiss, and then let go. I feel a wave of peace wash over me. I’m ready.

20. The ceremony begins and it’s perfect. The rain still gently mists its way down from the sky. My aunt begins the ceremony with a blessing. A Cherokee blessing calling on the elements. As she speaks of the sky and water, a drop of rain falls on her page. It’s serendipity. The blessing ends, and the sun begins to peek its way out from behind the clouds. There are little stubborn raindrops that don’t want to be left in the sky and they fall down in the sunbeams, making the air on my Brad’s face sparkle. The air is glittery with water and sun. It could not be more beautiful.

21. Instead of lighting a unity candle we water our “wedding tree.” A tree which signifies resilience, patience, endurance, and flexibility. We named our tree Wilbur. He’s now planted in my In-Law’s front yard in Buena Vista, CO. We hope he is not eaten by a deer but if so, hey, circle of life.

22. Brad’s sister reads from The Alchemist. Our dear friend Joe reads ee cummings’ Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond. My brother sings “Storybook Love,” the song from my favorite movie. My step-dad plays the guitar. My uncle, the officiant, speaks so beautifully about love and marriage. He has such poise and grace. The perfect officiant. I look at him and think, he was there for my baptism (he is also my Godfather). How right that he be here now in this role.

23. We read our vows to each other. Brad puts my hand on his heart. My favorite thing to do is to listen to Brad’s heartbeat. We exchange rings. We say our I Do’s. Each step completely surreal and FUN. How fun to partake in these rituals. I do! My proudest two words.

24. My Uncle pronounces us husband and wife. How did that go by so fast?! We kiss! I’m so happy. I feel a wave of bliss. We turn to our friends and family. Everyone clapping and smiling. I wonder if the recessional music will begin. It does. Mr. Blue Sky by ELO. “The sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight, it stopped raining… It’s a beautiful new day.” Could the song be MORE perfect?

25. We dance down the aisle. I almost trip on my dress. That would have been bad. I didn’t though. I’m still smiling and dancing.

26. We’re married.

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Wow.

There’s a perfect metaphor for the anticipation of our wedding day, and that is the Colorado summer weather. It rains almost every day. I spent the last year worrying. I worried SO much that it would rain on my wedding day, as if somehow my worrying would make a difference. I just wanted to have the ceremony outdoors so badly. I would fret and worry and stress and plead with the sky, but when you get right down to it there is nothing I could do to control the weather. To some things we must simply surrender. Things like whether or not it will rain on your wedding day. Things like how you will feel on your wedding day. Surrender.

You know what? It did rain on my wedding day. And it was perfect. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Beauty in the Chaos

When opportunity knocks… it’s probably going to be when you’re incredibly busy and don’t have time for opportunity but it’s opportunity and you don’t want to say no so you figure out how to get it done and politely and enthusiastically say “yes, come on in.”

My life right now is chaos, but there are two definitions of chaos:

chaos : complete disorder and confusion.

OR

chaos : the formless matter supposed to have existed before the creation of the universe

What I’m experience right now is incredibly profound. I feel that I am swirling in a turbulent yet somehow welcoming and pillowy ocean storm. I’m shedding layers of myself left and right, not sure what I’m about to transform into or if I’m going to regain any sense of identity at all, yet I hold on to faith. Faith that the one thing I can count on in life is change, and that change requires transformation, and that transformation requires at least a brief moment of chaos. So with that, I’m quite fond of the second definition of chaos. I exist in some sort of liminal state but what I’m about to do is create something amazing. I’m about to become someone’s wife. I’m about to forge my own family with another person. We’ve been together almost 7 years but marriage makes things different. I’m 30. I’m learning what that is like. So many things.

So in brief I welcome the chaos, as I must if I want to create the universe. I welcome the chaos of this post, bouncing from subject to subject and thought to thought. I welcome the chaos of my apartment, with its stacks of boxes, candles, flowers, croquet sets, and gift bags. I welcome the chaos of work, and the uncanny sense that every huge project I could possibly have has reached a fever pitch NOW. I welcome the chaos of my family, which is a topic for another day, but trust me, chaos.

Somehow out of this, love will mold the universe.

So why was I talking about opportunity? Oh yeah, because of course Murphy’s Law would suggest that since I’ve found myself in the most chaotic stage of my life thus far, now would be the time for opportunity to come knocking. And I’m grateful! Again, I simply embrace it all and laugh! Laugh as I see all the balls in the air. Somehow they’re still in the air!

Last week I was contacted by Buick with a fantastic promotional opportunity for my blog. I won’t go into the details here. Right now I’ll just tell you that it involves running and traveling, which are the exact topics that spurred the creation of Running to Tahiti. I want to devote an entire post to this project so look for that tomorrow. Today I simply wanted to set the stage of my life. Beautiful chaos.

I had the opportunity to see an original Jackson Pollock today at MOCA with one of the museum educators. This piece could not have been more perfect right now. I may as well be looking in a mirror.

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The guide really took us through the painting. I would say that I’ve always “liked” Jackson Pollock but mostly because I didn’t really see a reason not to like him. He obviously made a strong signature on the art world. But today I really got it. I saw that the painting itself is beautiful chaos. That within the “mess” is the act of creation. Looking at that painting was like looking at a song being orchestrated or a city being built. There is motion in it. The layers, the colors, all playing different parts and evoking different feelings. Kind of amazing. Good job Jackson.

Beautiful chaos. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Beautiful chaos!

Why I Won’t Be Losing Weight For My Wedding

I could go on and on and on and on and on about female body issues. I could probably go on about male body issues as well. I haven’t really tried; but I’m sure I could. Today I’ll try not to go on too much, but ever since I got engaged there’s something I’ve been meaning to say. I won’t be losing my weight for my wedding. For several reasons.

There’s this strange expectation when you get engaged that you’ll want to get fit, lose weight, tone up, look perfect. I’m not going to bash the idea. I understand it. It’s a significant day. One in which dozens of people will all be looking at you, sizing you up whether they mean to or not; and one in which you’ve spent dollars, lots of dollars (probably thousands) to have your picture taken. You likely want to look your best. It doesn’t surprise me that getting fit and looking great become a priority to engaged ladies. What saddens me is that it often seems to become priority #1, and that our culture is obsessed with it.

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To each his own. I’m not here to judge anyone. If getting married is a catalyst for someone to get healthy, who am I to condemn that? My instinct is to criticize that we seem to equate thinness with worth in our society, and no where is that more apparent than the pressure put on a bride. But perhaps I’m projecting. Let me remove myself from the position of casting judgement and turn the focus inward. I’m only here to talk about my own experience, and if anyone out there can relate perhaps we’ll start to open our minds a bit about what it means to be a beautiful bride.

My entire life I’ve been in a perpetual state of trying to lose weight. Truly, for as long as I can remember. I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting when I was 12. I was a chubby kid. I got teased. It sucked. Make no mistake about the power of bullies on a sensitive young heart. I wish I had the magic elixir to protect my future children from the nonsense of bullies, but knowing that I don’t have it just as my own mother didn’t have it no matter how much she tried, keeps me up at night. Children can be cruel, and I let myself be a victim. I grew up throughout my teenage years always wanting to lose weight. Always. All. Ways. I begged my mom to let me do three-day crash diets that consisted of canned beets and plain hot dogs, cabbage soup diets, grapefruit juice fasts, the master cleanse, Atkins. All of it, I did it. And I lost weight a lot of the time. I fluctuated between being in a state of weight loss which made me feel FANTASTIC, and being in a state of weight gain which made me feel utterly worthless as a human being. I was addicted to dieting. A weight loss junkie. The highs were so high, the lows so low. But man, those highs. It’s a dangerous state. That being the pattern I allowed myself to grow up in, I began to equate happiness with weight loss.

I had these flights of fancy about what would force me to “finally lose the weight” in a once and for all kind of way, as if it wasn’t me in control, but an external force that could finally put the nail in the chubby coffin. I had some dream of a weight loss fairy Godmother in the form of these motivating life benchmarks. I thought going away to college would do it (apparently I’d never heard of the freshmen 15). Then I thought going off to London would do it (all those cute Brits. I had to be ready). Then I thought graduating from college would do the trick, or moving to L.A. After all, I couldn’t in any way participate in Los Angeles looking like “this.”

With all of those benchmarks come and gone, some hit, some missed, I thought there was one down the road that would be a surefire win. One moment in time that would surely be the catalyst for my final victory over the fat. That moment would be when I got engaged.

That would do the trick right? There’s no way I would allow myself to walk down the aisle looking chubs. And besides, it’s what women do, right? Then a funny thing happened.

I got engaged.

And I felt no desire to lose weight. It didn’t even cross my mind. In other significant moments throughout my life such as getting into college, getting asked to prom, getting cast in a TV show, the absolute first thing that entered my mind when these things happened was “I have to lose weight.” So believe me when I say that I was the most shocked of all when Brad put the ring on my finger and the first thing we did was go eat a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and salad covered in delicious ranch dressing, capped off with chocolate gelato.

So let me take a step back, because the truth is the weight monsters began to drift away a lot earlier. Namely, the moment I fell in love with Brad. That’s not meant to sound sappy because I’m actually a bit critical of myself for it. I’m disappointed in myself that it took the opinion of a male in my life to finally shift my thinking. But that’s the way it went down. Brad fell in love with me, all of me, especially me, with no condition that I lose weight. He didn’t say “oh yeah, I totally love you, but we’ll only really be together once you lose 20 pounds.” See, that’s what I told myself. “I’ll only get a boyfriend when I lose 20 pounds.” So if I recited that to myself then of course I believed it was the steadfast condition upon which I would find a mate. Then along comes Brad and the condition evaporates. It’s not because he loves me that I learned to love myself. It’s more like his love was a wake up call. I finally opened my damn eyes and got over the idea of only loving myself -20 pounds.

And then of course there’s running. Magical, beautiful, blissful running. I attribute a huge portion of my current happiness to my running habit. My feet make me grateful for my calves, and my calves for my knees, and my knees for my spine, and my butt, and my arms, and my lungs, and my eyes. I love running, and I need all of those things to run, therefore I love all of those things. The best thing I could have ever done for my body and self-esteem was to take the first step onto the running track.

So fast forward again to the engagement. Our relationship is built upon the foundation that we love each other as is. Warts and all. Or weight and all, in my case. If Brad’s nose fell off, or he grew a third arm, or his skin turned green, I would still love him. Those things would be weird, but I would love him. So now that we’re planning our wedding the condition, the code that I’ve always lived by which dictates that I must lose weight before accomplishing anything, that code is gone. It feels false, not to mention regressive, to reinstate it just because that’s what brides seem to do.

I’m happy, truly happy, with exactly the way I look right now. And it’s not the same as the volatile roller-coaster of happiness I was on before when my weight would go up and down and up. That happiness was dependent upon something external. This happiness comes from within. Yes I could stand to lose a few pounds to make my doctor happy, but that will come in time. After all I’m about to begin training for a marathon. Something is going to be lost. It might be my weight, it might be my dignity. Time will tell. For now I’m stable. For the first time in my entire life, my self-esteem is stable. I don’t get nervous to look in the mirror, not knowing if I will respond with adoration or disgust. I love every inch of my body and not because it’s thin, but because it keeps me healthy. It’s an absolute miracle, the only one of it’s kind.

Would I like to look the absolute ideal version of myself on my wedding day? Sure. Of course. But I’m not sweatin’ it. I know how my brain works. If I lost weight for my wedding day I would obsess over it. It would consume every thought from here until July 21st. It would make our day about how I look. I don’t want my wedding day to be about how I look. I want it to be about how I feel. And how Brad feels. And right now, I’m in love. Brad loves me just as I am. More importantly, I love me just as I am. I’m a bride. A bride takes a leap of faith in the name of goodness. A bride places the importance of another person’s life right alongside hers. A bride makes a declaration that love conquers, fear falters, and fidelity reigns. A bride (and groom) in love truly is the most ideal version of herself, and that ideal has nothing to do with size.

swimsuit

B&B

 

Plus! There’s sound equipment that needs renting, and paper flowers that need making, and rehearsal dinner that needs planning, and ceremony readings that need picking, and hair that needs highlighting, and a mini-moon that needs booking, and gifts that need buying, and, And, AND! Yeah. I’ve got enough on my plate to not have to worry about what I’m eating off my plate.

Until next time.

Love,

Becky

 

 

 

Lactic Acid, the Hero We Need

This past week I made some bold moves on the internet. I started threads on Facebook about the perhaps most contentious discussions of the moment: vaccinations, breastfeeding, and Woody Allen. I figured I’d bring the controversy to my blog. There are many topics to choose from: stretching vs. not stretching before a run, Gu vs. gummy bears, how much water is too much water, and of course everyone’s favorite controversy, barefoot running. I’d like to touch on all of these subjects eventually; stir up the runner’s pot a bit. Today however I embark upon a quest to understand the misunderstood. To set the record straight. To defend the maligned, the convicted, the discredited. Today I write in defense of lactic acid.

This subject may not be as interesting to anyone you as it is to me. Sooo, sorry about that. I merely want to share my revelation. I will say that my allusions on social media to writing this article have been met with keen interest from fellow runners so hopefully my painstaking research will shed some light on a mysterious topic. Much more mysterious than I even could have imagined.

Living in an age where we’re making eyeglasses with computer screens in them and talking about using nano robots for microsurgery, I just assumed that we had a pretty decent handle on the basic chemical functions of the body. I was wrong. Of course we know a great deal, but so much is still a mystery. We can land a robot on Mars, but we can’t quite get to the bottom of lactic acid’s processes in our body. And I’m not just talking about me and my effort to understand. I’m talking about the established medical community. I’ve spent the past week reading warring medical journals online. The tete a tetes between disagreeing doctors is nothing short of hilarious.

After diligently researching the subject by reading countless medical journals, I feel confident that I understand what’s going on with my body when I run.

You read that right. I read medical journals. This right-brained theatre major who took anatomy senior year of high school because chemistry was just too hard for her, read articles in the American Journal of Physiology titled things like “Biochemistry of exercise-induced metabolic acidosis.” I felt like I was reading another language, but it was an incredible exercise for the brain. My brain felt like my legs do after a half marathon!

I’ll link to all of my references at the bottom of this article if you’d like to partake.

On to lactic acid. First, let me take a step back for a moment. I had a rough run at last month’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Despite feeling fairly trained and ready to race, about 5 minutes after crossing the finish line I felt that I’d been hit by a truck. I learned that much of this was probably due to sleep deprivation, but others advised me that I was also displaying symptoms of lactic acid build-up. I’d heard that before. We’re runners. We’ve all heard that and thrown it around ourselves. “Oh, that’s lactic acid.” Eeevil lactic acid. I hadn’t given it much of a second thought before, but I felt so frustrated by the outcome of the Tinker Bell race that I began to question. Why? Why, when I need my body to do everything it can to throw me a bone in a strenuous situation, why would it create a substance that would make me feel like I was dying? I thought I’d do a little research and find a simple answer. I was wrong.

Lactic acid has become a catch-all to describe an incredibly, INCREDIBLY, complicated set of chemical processes in the body. The truth that I think I’ve begun to uncover is that lactic acid is not guilty of all that we attribute to it.

First of all, here are some myths that need busting:

  • Lactic Acid is responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
  • Lactic Acid causes cramping
  • Lactic Acid can be expelled from the body through sports massage
  • Lactic Acid causes long-term muscle fatigue
  • Lactic Acid is a waste product
  • Lactic Acid is your worst enemy

These are all untrue. In fact lactic acid is created to help you. I’ll explain more on these misconceptions in a minute but first, a science lesson. To truly harness the power of lactic acid in your training you must understand how it works in the body.

*Disclaimer* What I’m about to describe is an incredibly complicated chemical process and I’m basically boiling it down to a very simple few steps. So all you O-chem students out there don’t write me letters about how I didn’t accurately represent the Krebs Cycle. I know I know already. Just trying to keep it simple.

I drew. I channeled my inner Allie Brosh and I drew some accompanying diagrams to aid this science lesson. They are crude and awful, but hopefully helpful. Like I said, right-brained visual thinker over here.

We begin our story. It’s a tale of an unsung hero, saving our muscles from collapse when the world around us begs our demise. This world we’ve entered is a world of exercise.

When we exercise, our bodies need energy. Well, our bodies ALWAYS need energy just to live but specifically we need a lot when we exercise. That energy comes in the form of ATP, which shall henceforth be represented by this magical ATP butterfly.

ATP Butterfly.png

We create ATP in our bodies either Aerobically or Anaerobically. When we’re just walking around and sitting and sleeping and eating and living our normal lives, we create ATP Aerobically which means, you guessed it, with oxygen.

During Aerobic creation of ATP, our bodies break down GLUCOSE through a process called GLYCOLYSIS. Through that breakdown of GLUCOSE we meet our next player in this story, PYRUVATE. PYRUVATE is the gatekeeper to our metabolic process, doling out the goods to make ATP. He shall henceforth be represented by this purple helper monster.

Pyruvate Monster

Pyruvate then enters a process called the Krebs Cycle which is way too complicated and chemistry-y for me to go into. Basically what you end up with is ATP. Yay!

Running Girl

Which requires:

Energy

Since it’s an easy run, the kind where I can carry out a conversation the entire time, my body is going to produce ATP mostly through Aerobic Metabolism:

Aerobic ATP production

ATP Gives Energy

And then the ATP gets used up and recycled to begin the process all over again. It’s very efficient and miraculous. Good job body!

But we’re athletes. They aren’t all easy runs. So what happens when we want to push it to the max?

Running Fast

Oxygen gets harder and harder to come by (you know that feeling of asphyxiation when you sprint?), and yet our bodies don’t give up. We kick in to Anaerobic Metabolism.

In that scenario, our body still needs ATP. We begin the process of GLYCOLYSIS to create PYRUVATE. Because we’re kicking it into high gear and using all of our oxygen, we can’t keep up with the demand for ATP via the Krebs Cycle. So instead PYRUVATE creates… LACTIC ACID! Hurray! You’ve been waiting for her to make her entrance.

Good ‘ol lactic acid then gets turned into LACTATE. Now here is where our real star is born. All this talk of lactic acid is misleading, the real actor in this whole scenario is LACTATE. Henceforth LACTATE shall be known as this pink superhero monster:

Lactate Superhero

I heard someone needed a boost!

LACTATE is able to fill in the gap where OXYGEN left us hanging and continues the process to provide our bodies with much needed ATP for exertion. Thank you LACTATE.

Like any good superhero, he has his nemesis. Enter: HYDROGEN ION. HYDROGEN IONS are also known as CATIONS, which lets be honest is an incredibly cool name for a super villain. Enter CATION!

Hydrogren Monster

I will crush you with my free floating molecules.

So here’s his story. The breakdown of Lactic Acid to LACTATE yields a build up of HYDROGEN IONS in the body. In the aerobic process these HYDROGEN IONS get balanced out and the body maintains a neutral pH; but some things get a little hanky in the anaerobic process. LACTATE, as useful as he may be to our ability to sprint and push ourselves, is left wanting when it comes to fighting HYDROGEN ION aka CATION. And so with all of these free HYDROGEN molecules floating around in the body, our muscles are left with an unbalanced pH, i.e. an acidic environment.

Anaerobic Metabolism

This acidic environment is sometimes referred to as Lactic Acidosis or Muscular Acidosis. THIS is what is happening when we feel like crap during or right after a hard run and we curse the name LACTIC ACID. What we really should be shouting is “Curse you CATION!!!”

LACTATE just can't fight off HYDROGEN ION

LACTATE just can’t fight off his nemesis CATION

So yeah, despite LACTATE’s best efforts to help us and give us energy to keep running, wicked CATION has turned our muscles into his own personal acidic wasteland. A wasteland known as Muscular Acidosis. The symptoms of Muscular Acidosis are:

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperventilation
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Severe Anemia
  • Hypotension
  • Irregular Heart Rate
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)

All LACTATE was trying to do was get us our ATP when we ran out of OXYGEN, and sneaky HYDROGEN ION busts in there and causes all the problems and then blames it on LACTATE. The injustice.

In a very elementary nutshell, that is why our bodies produce LACTATE (or Lactic Acid if we want to go back to using the more umbrella term) when we run. The moral of the story is that, although the by-product can be incredibly uncomfortable, LACTATE is there to help us perform under strenuous circumstances. LACTATE helps push our bodies beyond the confines of pedestrian oxygen and tests our mettle. He may not be the hero we always want, but he certainly is the hero we need.

He cannot work alone however. In order for LACTATE to work efficiently, we need to work together. This is where smart training comes into play.

LACTATE is an elusive superhero. He leaves us almost as quickly as he arrives, and luckily takes his nemesis HYDROGEN ION with him. Within approximately one hour after a strenuous workout all of the LACTATE in your body will have been metabolized either by the heart, the liver, or even through your sweat. However that can be an uncomfortable hour if you’re in a state of Acidosis. So what we need to do is to make sure that our bodies don’t produce LACTATE faster than we can clear it. It’s like a game of Dr. Mario. You always want to make sure you’re clearing out those pills faster than Dr. Mario is throwing them at you. If you get behind, suddenly there’s a major build-up and you die. It’s just like that, except for hopefully not the dying part.

dr-mario-classic-nes-series-20040810082856155_640w

Now I will list the main steps we must take to make sure we’re using LACTATE to benefit us.

  1. Physical Fitness
    • There is no doubt that the better shape you’re in, the better off you’ll be, so take your training very seriously. The better the shape you’re in the less LACTATE your body will need to produce in order produce ATP, and thus the less likelihood of a build-up situation where you can’t clear it as fast as you’re making it. Being in tip top shape is like playing a Beginner Level of Dr. Mario. Easy peasy and fun. To GET in this kind of shape you’ll need:
  2. OBLA Training
    • You have to GET in really good shape. You have to GET really good at Dr. Mario. So what you need to do is train at a high level. When we’re talking about Lactic Acid tolerance, we’re talking about OBLA training. This stands for Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation. In OBLA Training you will run as fast as you possibly can while still maintaining an Aerobic environment. You’ll be at that threshold before your body crosses over into Anaerobic mode. What this does is keeps your body at that level where lactic acid production is *just* below lactic acid clearance. So you can push yourself athletically without evil CATION taking his grip. This is key because the more you exercise at the OBLA level, you’ll slowly start to increase where that threshold is and you’ll be using lactate as efficiently as possible without entering that Lactic Acidosis territory where your muscles stop working and you feel like you want to vomit. OBLA Training is like playing Dr. Mario at EXTREME DIFFICULTY and being REALLY good at it. Those pills are coming down fast but you’re *juuuust* able to stay ahead of the game and clear them out. Sorry if these metaphors are getting old but the Dr. Mario thing really works for me.
  3. Cool Down
    • To me this may be the most valuable of all, and often the most difficult to accomplish in a race environment. If you’re in a situation where your body is producing a lot of Lactic Acid, the more you keep moving and breathing the quicker that Lactic Acid is going to clear from your system and the better you’ll feel. So if you’ve got yourself in a pickle where you have too much LACTATE and his nemesis HYDROGEN ION, give yourself another half mile or so to cool down with an easy jog. As I said, this can be hard during a race because once you cross that finish line you find yourself in a sea of people and photos and medals and spectators and BLAH. Cooling down is basically not an option. What I now know happened to me at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is I pushed it reeeeally hard the last two miles because I’m dumb and stubborn. I was already at my max and then I pushed it beyond and produced what I’m sure was a shit-ton of Lactic Acid during those last two miles. I then crossed the finish line and BAM! It was like hitting a brick wall at full speed while driving a truck full of flammable liquid. Kaboom. CATION took hold.
    • In training this isn’t a problem. Run your scheduled distance at your planned level of exertion, then jog for another half mile or so to cool down. Do some gentle stretching, some walking, and some deep breathing. In a race this is harder to do, but I have a solution. Let’s use the half marathon as an example. What I recommend is, if you want to push yourself, make sure you do it by mile 11. At that point you really should use mile 12 and 13 to run your comfortable half marathon pace, and use the last half mile to really cool down, whether that’s a gentle jog or even walking, depending on your level of fitness. I know that sounds so unappealing when all you want to do is BURST through that Finish Line, but let me tell you from experience. When you’ve got Lactic Acid build up in your body, that line is an illusion. What it really is, is a brick wall. Don’t be fooled.

Let me get back to a few of those myths I listed at the beginning of the article. Most of them should have been dispelled throughout, but just to make sure we clear LACTATE’s good name:

  • Lactic Acid is responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
    • FALSE – as I mentioned earlier, Lactic Acid is completely cleared from the body within 60 minutes of finishing exercise, so there’s no way it’s responsible for the soreness you feel 24 and even 48 hours after your run. Lactic Acid has an alibi! She was busy being metabolized into glucose by the liver!
  • Lactic Acid causes cramping
    • FALSE – mysteriously enough, there is no scientific consensus as to what causes cramping. Most scientists agree however that it has to do with lack of oxygen to muscle tissue. Since Lactic Acid is created to fill in the gap where oxygen is left out, essentially trying to help by continuing to create ATP, it doesn’t contribute to cramping. Essentially they are separate issues in the body.
  • Lactic Acid can be expelled from the body through sports massage
    • FALSE – studies have shown that athletes who underwent a sports massage after a hard workout displayed the same levels of LACTATE remaining in the body as athletes who did nothing after their workout. Still, if I were the latter athletes in that study, I would’ve certainly felt like I got the short end of the stick. There’s no doubt that massages are awesome! Just not gonna help you clear lactic acid.
  • Lactic Acid causes long-term muscle fatigue
    • FALSE – see first myth. There’s nothing long-term about Lactic Acid.
  • Lactic Acid is a waste product
    • FALSE – for shame! Everything that LACTATE does to keep our engines burning and we dare to call him a waste? Sorry LACTATE.
  • Lactic Acid is your worst enemy
    • FALSE – hopefully everything I’ve said in this article has shown you that this really is not true. Though that HYDROGEN ION aka CATION sure can be a stinker.

Lactate SuperheroHydrogren Monster

In summary, Lactic Acid is your friend. Lactic Acid is the mother of LACTATE and LACTATE is your hero when you want to excel your physical fitness to the next level. LACTATE continues production of ATP, is an excellent source of liver glycogen, and like all good heroes, he knows when to leave. He arrives when PYRUVATE raises the signal, does his job, and is gone within the hour. Unfortunately we can’t have a superhero without a supervillain, and CATION fills that role nicely. He tags along with the production of Lactic Acid and makes LACTATE look bad. His free floating Hydrogen Ions turn our comfortable muscles into an acidic wasteland known as Lactic or Muscular Acidosis. But his grip is weak. As LACTATE makes his exit, CATION is dragged out with him, leaving our muscles where they belong, in a pH balanced environment. He may not always get the credit he deserves, but for all of you ambitious athletes out there, LACTATE is a special little chemical hero.

References