Dissatisfied Health

Guess what, folks. I’m about to blow your mind with what you already may know or at the very least suspect somewhere down deep, but what I think is important to talk about. Especiallllyyy in the blog world, especiallllyyy in college, especiallllyyy in today’s culture.

We, as people, are masters of self deception. MASTERS, I say. At least up to a point. (At which point you say, get to the point Michaela. Patience, dear grasshopper.)

I want to talk to you about dieting. About exercise. About “lifestyle changes,” because we all know that dieting and exercise are out of vogue. Diets don’t work, the experts say, and rather than force ourselves to exercise we are encouraged to find fun physical activity and delicious healthy food so we don’t have to diet. And around this new trend, dozens and hundreds of blogs (and a whole web and non-web based health culture) have popped up, including my own. It’s called Pilgrimage of Health, for goodness sake. Health. With Healthy recipes and Healthy lifestyle tips and Healthy thought processes and Healthy healthy healthy. 

And I’m not out to bash any of that. We do need lifestyle changes. We do need to forego dieting, and find activities that we enjoy doing that make us feel good, because we’re facing a crisis situation. In my country of the United States and increasingly around the world, we’re facing an epidemic of unhealth in mind, body, and soul. We’re spending more and more time and money and energy on health, and yet collectively we’re still pretty sick. In response, we’re inundated with lifestyles and ideas and tips intended to transform us into healthy, happy, carefree health goddesses (and gods).

But I think, underneath a lot of the healthy language and healthy blog culture, we sometimes use health as a cover-up. As an excuse, to try and change ourselves into what we think we should be rather than accepting ourselves for who we are. Now, rather than esteeming thinness for thinness sake and dieting and weight loss, we’re instead consumed by this image of health that can lead us into unhealthy behaviors.

You following me here?

An obsession with health can be unhealthy. Part of the problem lies within the motivation behind strict workout plans and eating regimes, but part of the problem can come after. After we’re following the cleanest diet, practicing yoga six times a week, training for a marathon. We become dependent on these as something to define us. We become human doers instead of human beings, fixated on the high of pushing ourselves further and defined by what we don’t do, that is, consume ‘bad’ foods (which in our society can mean a million different foods). And if we’re embracing a “healthier lifestyle” out of a deep dissatisfaction with who we are, I think that’s problematic.

Because our bodies know, right? Our self knows. It knows when we act out of insecurity instead of satisfaction. We know, deep down, what actions come from abundance and deprivation. And that doesn’t come without consequences. Lying to ourselves and saying that we’re “just following this eating plan because I feel tired (or want to be healthier or save the planet or I think I’m allergic to . . .)” when we really are trying to follow a diet without calling it so because we are deeply dissatisfied with ourselves and desperately want change, our bodies and souls know. Don’t try to trick them.

I know this to be true, because I do it. Have done it. Mastered it, for the past five years. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free. I’ve followed strict running plans and done juice cleansing. I’ve committed to abstaining from this or that because of that and this. And every time I eat a certain way or exercise out of a dissatisfaction, it backfires. Badly.

This is not to say that running or vegetarianism or veganism (or yoga or paleo or grain free or . . . you get the idea) are inherently bad within themselves. Nope, because those things can come from a place of true health. They can come from a place of wholeness, a clarity in communication with our deeper selves that says that running makes our bodies feel good or a certain type of food makes our bodies feel bad.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re eagerly about to jump into another trend in the name of health, step back.  Why are you about to embark upon this plan? Is it from abundance, or deprivation? Joy, or insecurity?

 

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On Sabbatical

Hello Lovelies,

For those of you keeping up with the blog, it won’t be any news to you that I’ve been quite sporadic in the amount of posts. I’ve been very busy with my internship and house responsibilities, but more than anything I’m tired, and weary and growing. God has been teaching me quite a bit, and the amount of internal retrospection and processing leaves me without much to share on the blog.

I hope to be able to return with vigor, but for now I have a few other projects I need to pour myself into. With that, I’ll leave you with a few images from the past week, and the promise to come back soon.

xoxo, Michaela

In Nashville at Centennial Park with my sister, Megan.

Look at her beautiful journals! You can check out her website here, or her etsy here. I loved spending the weekend with her.

About to go ‘funyaking’ at North Saluda!

Here’s something to read while I’m ‘away’: http://bravegirlsclub.com/archives/2151

Cheerio!

Why I Stopped Eating Meat, Part One

This post could also be entitled “symptoms of being a youngest sibling.” Remember about a week ago when I introduced you to my family? Well, as you may have inferred from the introductions and photos, I’m the youngest of four girls!

From left to right: my sister Kelsey, myself, my sister Megan, and my sister Lindy. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be just like my older sisters, especially when I was younger. While I’m sure they were just as nerdy and homeschooled as I was, in my eyes they were the most beautiful, smartest, and coolest girls I could conceive of. If they cut their hair, mine was immediately too long. Their current pastime was the only thing I wanted to do, and whatever room they were in immediately became a desirable fortress.

I’m sure having a mini-me that constantly imitated them and followed them around was irritating, but for the most part they included their annoying lil’ sis.

Why do I tell you this? Well, because my sister Kelsey is the original reason I stopped eating meat. She went vegetarian, and shortly thereafter I swore off meat as well. February 2008, I decided to go vegetarian for a year, whatever that meant. I’d abstain to see what it was like, and I completely expected to be eating meat once the year was up.

This from the girl whose favorite foods were Wendy’s hamburgers and beef-laden tater tot casserole. From the ages of 8 until 13, when we got fast food (a somewhat rare occasion) I would knock back two junior hamburgers, ketchup, mustard, and extra pickles, an order of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a root beer or frostie if my mom would let me. I cringe to think of the type of food I ate, but I was growing up on a farm and growing fast! I needed a lot of fuel, with my mom’s home cooked meals supplemented by . . . “food” that I thought was delicious.

Since I did grow up on a farm of sorts, I grew up eating lots of fresh vegetables and good food, and knew my way around a kitchen. I could cook and follow a recipe and I enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t always a priority. Once I stopped eating meat, I started to increase my time in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with different combinations.

It was after, and not before, I became a vegetarian that I started reading books like Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I began to discover a whole wealth of literature about our food system and its flaws, and the health, environmental, and social benefits of ascribing to a vegetarian diet. Once the year was up, I never looked back–I knew I wasn’t going to eat main stream meat ever again. Now, sustainable food is my passion and what I’m studying in school.

I guess it’s good that I’m a copycat who wants to emulate her big sisters so much. Even better that I have strong female role models that I can emulate and know that I’m aspiring to something wonderful. Without my big sis Kelsey’s influence, I probably never would have discovered my interests in what I am now pursuing as a vocation. So there it is: no breaking, philosophical moment that made me decide to stop, only a little sister wanting to be like the person she’d always looked up to.

She just graduated with a degree in Nutrition, and secretly (or not so secretly) I still want to be like my big sis. She’s my go to source now for nutritional wisdom, and a continuing inspiration to find out about the effect food has on my body.

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

 

Meet My Family

To understand me a bit, and some of the stories that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks, I’d like to introduce you to my family!

Let me apologize for the week without posts–I am currently transitioning from one internship to the next, and this week has been a challenging one. It’s been filled with revelation, self-discovery, and some emotions and realizations that I’m sorting out. I’ll touch on that soon, and how this blog will begin focusing on the relationship between our spirituality and our physical health (while still featuring plenty of recipes)! I have a few of those to share with you that I’ve made, photographed, and devoured . . . YUM!

 My mom is above on the left, I’m in the middle, and my father’s on the left.

The entire family jokes that I am a miniature version of my father–we finish each other’s sentences, think the same way, have inside jokes, the same foot shape, and have a running competition (and have since I was about twelve years old) about who is “right” more often. I’m currently winning 🙂 My momma is a wonderful, dynamic woman that inculcated a deep appreciation of nature, plants, and gardening within me. She is a great lover of people–growing up, I’d often go into our basement to find someone sleeping on a bed that needed “some time to get back on their feet.”

My sister Megan and her husband Tim.

My oldest sister is my mentor, role model, and friend. She has been an incredible source of wisdom and joy in my life, and she currently has her own company, The Binding Bee, that I interned with last summer. Her husband Tim is witty, thoughtful, creative, and contemplative. I wish I could live with them always, and experience the warmth, joy, and happiness that emanates from within them. I love them both so dearly, and they have both shaped and fostered a good portion of my personal growth!

My second sister, Lindy, and her husband Blain.

If I am a copy of my father, my sister Lindy could be a miniature version of my mother! She is about to have the first baby in our family (SO EXCITED!) and is incredibly intelligent, advice-giving, beautiful, and innovative. I appreciate her constancy, calmness, and laughter. Blain is the older brother I didn’t have growing up–playful, protective, sweet, and very diligent and hard-working. He’s also the only person I’ve ever met to be able to toss me over a shoulder and run around like I’m a child!

My sister Kelsey and myself.

Kelsey! Growing up, Kelsey was my constant companion. She is incredibly selfless and a wonderful sister, as well as being adventurous, spontaneous, diligent, creative, and having the appearance of a goddess. Growing up (and still) I undulate between desiring to emulate her as my kick-ass older sister and being jealous of her beauty, courage, and general being.

Who has impacted you most in your life? 

First Day on Farm (2)

So, yesterday I finished with my visit to the hogs. Afterwards, we cleaned the onions we’d just picked.

Even though I’d had my super duper delicious breakfast, I was ravenous by 10:00. I’m going to have to eat more in the mornings before I go to work! I ate lunch at one after washing several batches of spinach and salad mix. Throughout the course of the day, I think I washed about 60 pounds. This was my view at lunch:

For lunch, I had brought some food because I wasn’t sure what the situation would be. I ended up eating some food Amy, one of the owners, prepared, as well as everything I had brought! It was a hungry, food-filled day yesterday. This is the quinoa dish they prepared, and it was sooooo tasty.

Roddy, another owner, showed me several of the meat products they’ve made, including some sausages. I told him If I eat meat this month, it will be the first time in over four years. He was quite excited that I’m open to trying some Greenbrier meat! I am completely comfortable with the way the animals live and are cared for. Ten minutes after this conversation, a concerned Amy came to tell me that she didn’t know I was vegetarian, and that the delicious quinoa dish had their chicken stock in it. Probably the best way to get my system acclimated, I assured her.

After lunch consisted of more washing and packaging!

 All in all, it was a great first day. It wore me out though–I was exhausted and ready for more food by the time I got home.

xoxo Michaela.

What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve done this week? 

Are the farmer’s markets in your area getting started?

A Week of Gratitude

(source)

As I’ve mentioned before, the Pit Stops on this blog are loosely modeled after The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s year long adventure to seek happiness. Each month, she focused on a different aspect of her life she wanted to improve, one of which was her gratitude for others. To work on this, she wrote about what she was thankful for in a gratitude journal every evening. The other inspiration for this week’s project is John Kralik, a man who decided to write a thank you note every day for a year. I haven’t read his book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life, yet, but hope to this summer.

There are so many people that I am thankful for: my family, past teachers, dear friends. My family knows I am thankful for them, but they would benefit from a letter telling them so. Many of my teachers changed my life, and they deserve to know that and be thanked for it.

I love handwritten, posted letters. They take effort . . . which is what makes them special to me. I remember hating to write thank you notes as a child, putting it off until the last minute when my mother finally dragged them out of me. Often, they were short and insincere. As I got older and began to receive letters, I realized how important even small notes of gratitude are. They can truly change a day, and therefore change a person.

Edit: After I published this, the WordPress quote that came up on my screen was: 

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” Phyllis Theroux. How appropriate! 

This week, even with finals coming to a close, I plan on writing seven letters (or more) thanking different people for the positive effect they’ve had on my life. As of right now, I’m thinking of three different English teachers, a church history teacher, the family I nannied for in high school, and maybe some family or friends. It might be difficult to find addresses for some of my past teachers, but I’m going to try.

Do you have a habit of writing thank you notes? 

What is the favorite thank you note you’ve ever received? 

Looking Forward

I finish exams in TWO days. TWO DAYS, people! And the I’ll be finished with my freshman year of college. I feel like I got here two weeks ago, but have been here forever.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I was reading through my journal entries from the beginning of the year. They were vibrant and full of expectation, hope, change. They spoke about my friends now when we had first met, dreams for the future, aspirations for the year. And now, I’m about to be one fourth of the way done with my college career. Well . . . unless I decide to delay it, and go to grad school. But that is a decision for several years from now!

With that said, I wanted to let you all know what I’ll be doing this summer and what you can look forward to on the blog! I’m not going to be lazing around, relaxing in the warm sunshine all day long, mind you. I am super super excited about my summer: I know it will be a period of very spectacular growth in my life.

The month of May (starting at the end of this week!!) I will be interning with Greenbrier Farms. Greenbrier is a smaller, poly-culture farm that I actually did a research project on last semester for my Sustainability Science introductory course. Sustainable agriculture is one of my passions, and the chance to (quite literally) get my hands dirty and learn about fills me with exhilaration. It will be hard work, I hope, but definitely rewarding. I’ll probably be working in the produce gardens, helping out with events, putting together CSA bags, and working at the farmer’s market. I might not be able to take too many photos, but I’ll snap them when I can 😉

This entire summer, I’m living at a house run by our Mere Christianity Forum on Campus. It’s called the Vista House, and it is intended to a place for intentional Christian community.

In June, our Servant Scholars Program starts. I’ll be interning with United Ministries, an organization that has several programs dealing with homelessness, poverty, and adult education. I’m expecting to be thoroughly challenged and stretched by my work there.

The Vista House has an absolutely amazing kitchen, and I won’t be on any type of meal plan this entire summer! That means . . . lots of cooking. It’s where some of these beautiful communal meals took place:

This summer is going to be a great experience. I’m excited to share this part of my journey with you!

What are your summer plans? 

Facebook and . . . Bacon?

Tomorrow, as you all may be aware, is Monday. Which means another project on my journey to health and a suspension of my current undertaking: a week without Facebook, Hulu, or checking my WordPress stats.

And it’s ridiculous how relieved I am. I’ve held strong, no slips in that vein–but I still simply want to get on Facebook. A bit revolting how much it’s pervaded our lives, eh? Because Facebook is not equivalent to real life, interactions on the site are easier and therefore perhaps a bit cheapened, and we’re all very cognizant that a friend on Facebook may not be a friend in actuality.

But part of my desire to get on is purely practical. There are several people for which I lack phone numbers or email addresses that I’ve wanted to slip a note, and at times when someone wants to see a picture of a member of my family or someone else it seems so useful. Maybe that’s how it gets us–by convincing us it’s all good.

A few times this week, friends have approached me with quizzical looks and a note of concern. There’s something I want to ask you . .  . about bacon? Apparently, one of my joking male friends thought it would be simply hilarious to use my computer  (with its easy access to my Facebook) and post some tidbit about bacon on my page. Since I’ve been abstaining from the site, there was no universal denial nor way to clear my vegetarian name. The audacity!

(source)

The irony is, if I was ever to be tempted by meat it wouldn’t be bacon. As a child, I loved pigs. Adored them, really, and had an embarrassingly large collection of porcine treasures ranging from small figurines, fuzzy slippers, and piggy banks nearly as large as I was. For those who knew me, a pig token became an easy gift, thus growing my already large collection. From the age of about four until a year before I became a vegetarian, a morsel of bacon, ham, or pork chops never crossed my lips.

Sausage, however, was a different story. Somehow I mentally excluded it from the pork family after an event that transpired about a year after I’d sworn off any meat from my beloved animal. The family was at breakfast at Denny’s, and as my father and mother recount the tale, I ordered a pancake breakfast that included sausage links. My parents looked at each other dubiously, asking with their eyes does she know? Does she know that it comes with sausage, and what that means? The meal came. I stared at my plate in silence, and after a moment my papa leaned over and inquired gently, do you know what’s in them, Michaela? My chubby little face nodded and my eyes betrayed my conflict . . .  I choked out, “I’m sorry little piggies!” right before I hurriedly shoved the links into my mouth.

The week away has been a good and refreshing break from those places of the internet that steal my time and tempt me to acknowledge them as more than they are. Look forward to tomorrow’s Pit Stop Monday, my friends!

Now tell me–any similar childhood stories 🙂 ? 

Have any of you sworn off Facebook for good? 

No Shame: Let’s Talk About Counseling

I go to such a beautiful school!

A wonderful Wednesday to you all!

Guess what I did yesterday? Shouldn’t be too challenging of an assumption, considering my title. After having to change my appointment because of school related busyness, I finally went to the nutritional counselor at our school.

It was scary. The half hour before I went, I was very anxious–heart pounding, slightly nauseated, wanting to run away anxious. But I went, was greeted kindly, and talked to her for over an hour. She affirmed me in many ways, listened, and offered hope. She encouraged me greatly, and told me I was brave, and in the process of healing. I didn’t feel very brave, but I did feel hopeful, and slightly regretful that I hadn’t gone earlier.

Sometimes, we can’t get through things on our own. Seeking help doesn’t mean that we are weak–it means that we are strong, and brave, and willing to do hard things to help ourselves. Seeing a counselor should not be a source of embarrassment, but I’ll admit that I was a little worried. What if someone sees me go in? What if they assume I’m crazy? I responded, Really, self, it sounds like a very sane thing indeed to do anything and everything to make us all better. And if someone does see you, then maybe that will be an encouragement to them to get help if they need it. 

So, let this be an encouragement if you need to get help. I know it took the encouragement of some of my friends to go see our nutritional counselor. Maybe your struggle is very different than mine, or maybe it isn’t. We all have our different obstacles and trials. Maybe your help won’t be in the form of a counselor–maybe it will be finally opening up to friends and loved ones. That’s what I had to do first, a little over a year ago. And if you do go see a counselor and it doesn’t feel right, don’t assume that it’s counseling that’s wrong. Maybe you and your counselor aren’t a good fit–they’ll understand. In high school, I saw a counselor twice before I stopped going. It wasn’t that I disliked her, something about our sessions just felt off. Unfortunately, it’s taken me this long to go again.

On a check in for my focus on flexibility this week…let’s just say I haven’t been as intentional as I should be. Good thing it’s early in the week!

Greetings!

Somehow, though I love to write and this should feel more like an introduction than a chore, I feel like I’m about to begin one of the college application essays that plagued me last year around this time. Wouldn’t it be nice if my blog were already established, if you knew me already and I could just muse about the day or share some tasty tidbits.

But you don’t, so here goes! A sampling of sorts with more substance to come in later posts. 

My name is Michaela. It’s nice to meet you. As a college freshman meeting new people every day, I’ve pretty much gotten brief introductions with strangers down. This, however, will take a little bit more time. I’ll try to keep it from getting too wordy, but please forgive me if I do!

I go to school in South Carolina at a small liberal arts university that I love. I have not yet declared a major, but I am passionate about sustainability (particularly in relation to food and agriculture) and nutrition, but I am also enamored with the Spanish language. It was a twisty road that brought me to where I am (not only geographically—also spiritually, mentally, and physically!), but one I’m glad I ventured upon and emerged from whole. I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Growing up, I had a less than notable yet perfectly idyllic childhood placed in central Ohio. My family owned a little over 13 acres in the country, and I since I was homeschooled until sixth grade I had ample opportunity to roam the woods, play in the creek, catch tadpoles from the pond, and perform my allotted chores associated with our hobby farm. The youngest of four girls, my older sisters flip flopped between doting on me and teasing me mercilessly, but I even when I whined I loved the attention and affection. 

I’m the cute, slightly odd-looking baby with what appears to be a Mohawk.

When I was fourteen, the father changed jobs and up and moved us from the farm to the dismal, dreary place of his birth . . . Houston, Texas. I’m not going to dwell too long on Houston, except to say that I was not initially a very happy camper. Moving was good for me. It helped me to mature, but after the move I found that I missed the community that had been established for me in the Midwest. I missed my childhood friends, the church I’d grown up with, and the land that was my home. Friendships took effort, and as a slightly embittered teenager I wasn’t eager to reach out and abandon my claim to my home, to Ohio. This left a hole. I was no longer sure who I was, where I fit, and what gave me value.

My, this is turning out to be a bit longer than I expected! Hold on for just a bit longer, I’ll wrap it up soon!

 I’m pretty tall and somewhat slim, so I’d always experienced a litany of folks either telling me to model or asking if I did. When I saw an ad online for a casting call at my local mall, I tentatively approached my mother and father. Though rather ambivalent, my mother accompanied me on the excursion that was to send me sliding down an oily and perilous path. Naively, (or dumbly) I thought that modeling would somehow give me value and make me special. Instead, it led to a long battle with my body, isolation from my family and friends, a vacancy in my relationship with God, and a distorted relationship with food. Somehow, I forgot that I was already valuable, and already very unique. 

Whew. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at any of these photos. Well, that’s me—skinny, trying desperately to convince myself I wasn’t miserable. I’ll probably end up telling the whole story one post (or two or three or four, trying to contain it to one . . . that would be a challenge). I stopped modeling, I regained myself and my values, and now I’m on a journey, a pilgrimage if you will, to health. I desire health overflowing—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

And I welcome you to come along with me.