Essena O’Neill and the Curated Life

Jeny / Pixabay

I’ve written before about the need some people feel to obsessively over-edit every picture ever taken of them, but I came across an interesting story this morning and wanted to share.  We are all aware of the “curating” of Instagram feeds and other social media.  People want to make their lives look perfect.  Health and fitness bloggers want to make their bodies look perfect.  We see stories of a person who finds an old friend on Facebook and is immediately jealous of their life, only to discover that the life curated online isn’t their true life at all.

Of course, I’m not against putting your best foot forward.  There are definitely some photos of me that I would prefer to keep off of social media.  (I’m sure everyone has a bad camera angle.)  And I’m not against using photo editing software in general, just the over obsession with it.  Remove that annoying pimple, fine, but don’t reshape your whole face.

A popular social media personality from Australia named Essena O’Neill just quit social media and she did it in the most awesome way.

Buzzfeed does a great job of summing up her story.  She made social media her career, and made a living from it.  But she was spending hours upon hours curating and planning and working to get the perfect look and the perfect picture.

And now she has quit.  She has quit social media and in doing so, is making a point to say how miserable she truly was.  Her accounts made her look so happy with a fabulous life.  But she was miserable.

She talks in the video to her 12-year-old self, the sad girl who wanted to be pretty and popular and who obsessively stalked celebrities and models online and decided she also needed to be popular, because that’s how she thought she would be valuable.

In the video, she says “You don’t have to prove your life on Instagram for it to be a good life.” She’s not against social media, but the way we currently use it, and I absolutely agree.  We’re so surrounded by the curated life.  People are so obsessed with making their lives look amazing on social media.  I’m sure I’m guilty of this at times too.  (Though my Instagram is still 90% cats.)

We all know “that person” online that seems to have the perfect life, but we don’t think about how long they must spend making that life look perfect.  And that’s an incredibly sad state.  We shouldn’t have to be fake.

And we should remember that much of what we see IS fake.  We shouldn’t look at other people and compare our lives to theirs because what they’re presenting might not be real.  And even if it is real, it’s certainly never the whole picture.  Clearly we all try to put our best foot forward in public, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t. We should just remember that there’s more to the story.

Essena has created a website, Let’s Be Game Changers, designed to encourage people to live authentically, not for the online life.  I really hope young people take a look at this and try to find some balance between their online life and their real world life.  And maybe we old people should do the same.  It doesn’t mean you can’t share your life online, but share your life, don’t create a life for the screen.




Losing Weight

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

photo credit: Johnny Vulkan via photopin cc

I’m battling a cold because a coworker thought it was a good idea to come into work super sick.  So my workouts this week have been… pretty much non-existent.  I rode my bike for 45 minutes last night and it felt like a killer workout, but really wasn’t much of anything.  It’s hard to write about fitness when all you’ve been doing is sitting on the couch.  I am enjoying the new fall TV though.  Which is good, because I’m going to need something to fill up all of the trainer and treadmill time I have planned for this winter.

I’ve talked about my weight loss struggles before.  When I moved to DC, I was in the best shape of my life, thanks to a summer of studying for the bar exam.  I made the gym my study break, and I was so paranoid of gaining a ton of weight that I ate so incredibly healthy.  I looked darn good when I moved here.  8 years later, I was up almost 40 pounds.

I’ve never actually seen that in writing.  40 pounds.  That’s… a lot.  The weight slowly came on as I started my new job, as was to be expected, but because it was slow, I wasn’t really paying attention.  And when I really started to pay attention, it was almost too late.  So I started calorie counting.  And it worked, to a point.  But then I would have a day where I screwed up and it all fell apart.  I tried Weight Watchers.  That didn’t work either, again, because of my own failings.

Back in September, I did the Swim Bike Fuel program.  It was expensive, but I needed to do something.  For whatever reason, this seems to have worked.  Since September 1, I’m down almost 10 pounds.  I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been at in years, and I don’t feel deprived.  I’m not calorie counting.  I’m not specifically avoiding any foods, but I’m being conscious about the choices I’m making.  What I loved most about the program was that there was nothing in there that felt funny to me.  No magic potions, no tricks.  In fact, if I’m honest, I knew a lot of the information that was presented.  But I just didn’t know how to put it into action.

While the program worked for me, I’m not necessarily saying that it’s what’s going to work for you, but it’s about finding what works for you.

For example, one change that I made (that wasn’t part of the SBF recommendations, but was approved when I asked about it) was that because I workout after I get home from work, I switched my big meal of the day from dinner to lunch.  Yesterday, for lunch I had baked chicken, squash, quinoa, and broccoli.  Dinner was a green smoothie (which I love – feels like a treat).  I don’t get super hungry in the afternoons anymore, and I can get through my workouts without hitting a wall.

I’ve also been working on my sugar addiction.  The holidays are going to be rough because I LOVE sweets.  Way too much.  But it’s all about moderation and choice.  I no longer eat the cookie just because it’s there.  I eat it because I want to eat that particular cookie.  And sometimes, I don’t eat it.

I guess it’s starting to be noticeable, because a coworker asked me what I was doing to lose weight.  I made a few comments about eating well and avoiding the donuts in the kitchen, and she looked at my healthy lunch and said “Oh, that sounds too hard.”  Okay then.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve fallen away from the plan a bit, and I’ve noticed that in my weight loss.  I’m still at a record low, but I’m stalled here.  Some of that is likely due to comfort eating since I’m sick.  For some reason, when my throat is sore, it hurts to drink, but feels good to eat.  So I end up eating too much.

How much weight do I want to lose?  I don’t know.  But I do need to get into a healthy weight range.  Even though I’m down 10 pounds, it doesn’t feel like a huge difference.  Some of my clothes fit better, which is nice.  Given my height, I’m still obese according to the BMI charts.  I know that the charts have their limitations, but they’re a starting point.  Getting to “normal weight” on the BMI charts would put me below what I weighed 8 years ago, so that might be a bit unrealistic.  Right now, I don’t really have a number goal.  I’m just seeing what happens with good eating and exercise.  Every pound I lose is one more that I don’t have to haul up the hills on my bike.  And that’s a good thing.

There is No Magic Pill

I wasn’t going to post about this, but I don’t think the person I’m referring to reads my blog, and if they do, well, it’s their own fault for doing what I’m about to discuss.

I don’t post a ton on my personal Facebook page, but when I do, it’s often in reference to races (or funny animal videos, which is the purpose of the internet).  And this includes photos of me in race gear.  For triathlons, that means spandex.  Spandex is the great equalizer.  I don’t know that anyone really looks great in spandex.  Okay, there are some people.  But the average human being doesn’t look stellar.

And you know what?  No one cares. At a triathlon, no one is judging you for how you look in your kit.  (Unless you look fabulous.  Then we’re probably envious.)  Triathlon has been great for my body image.  Yes I have some unsightly bulges that perhaps should be smaller.  But I just hauled those bulges through a tough race and I deserve all the accolades coming my way (even if they’re just in my own head).

So at some point in the not so distant past, there was a photo of me in my cute pink Team Coeur kit on my Facebook page.  My hair was a disaster and I probably had dirt on my face, but I was grinning and having a grand time.   I thought it was a good pic.

And then I got the message.

A “friend” messaged me to tell me that she had seen my pictures and wanted to offer me a deal on some great slimming wraps to help improve my shape.  She just knew that these would help me out a lot, and since there was a sale going on, it was the perfect time to buy.

Now if that’s not a hit to the self-esteem, I don’t know what is.  I’m so glad to know that people are reading my Facebook page and judging what I look like and deciding “Hey, that girl looks like she could lose some inches.  Let’s try to get her to buy some product I’m selling!”

Plus, let’s be real here.  Those things do not work.  I don’t care what anyone says.  Slimming wraps have no real effect.  Will they dehydrate you and temporarily reduce your waistline?  Sure.  But we’re talking extremely temporarily.  Like less than a day temporarily.  Like “drink a glass of water and it’s gone” temporarily.  So, you know, if you’re about to go out and do a bikini photo shoot, by all means!  These things are for you!

But if you’re looking for a true change in your body, one that lasts?  There is no magic pill.  No wrap or cream or pill is going to make you smaller.  I know, the ads are compelling.  All the before and after pictures make you want to try it out.  But it’s not worth it.  What works is hard work and dedication.

We would all love that magic pill to solve all of our problems.  But the biggest problem is that we spend all of our time hunting for it instead of working towards real solutions.


A brain dump about pace and time and inferiority

I’ve been playing around with this post for nearly a week now, not exactly sure what I’m writing or where it’s going.  So I’m just going to do a brain dump and leave it at that.

I’ve had a pretty good trend with my running as of late.  I’ve had some major improvements and some amazing races.  Last weekend, I had a blast running with Betsy during the Cherry Blossom Almost Ten Miler and we kept up a really solid pace.

But emotionally, my slow pace is just getting to me.  I’ve gotten so much faster over the past few months thanks to a coach who is pushing me just the right amount, but the harder I work, the more I notice that I’m still one of the slow ones, and it bothers me.  It doesn’t make me want to quit, but it’s not been good for my motivation either.

This is tough to put out there because I am such a big fan of the slower runners and the slower triathletes.  I have friends who are faster than me and I have friends who are slower than me, and I couldn’t care less about their finish times.  I’m so proud of everyone who gets out there.  Your finish time doesn’t matter.  It shouldn’t matter.  And yet suddenly, I’m finding that my finish times do matter to me.

I’m not sure what it is.  I am a proud Galloway runner.  I run/walk.  And yet so many times, I hear “Come on, stop walking!”  Or “With time, you’ll end up running longer and longer intervals and won’t need to walk anymore.”  As if there’s something wrong with my run/walk.  It’s gotten a lot of people out there, and honestly, I wouldn’t be able to run if I weren’t running intervals.

I was chatting with someone from a local triathlon group at the Cherry Blossom expo, and I asked about the time limit.  “Oh, you’ll be fine.  No one ever gets cut, and if they do, they deserved it.”  As I chatted with this guy more, I realized how down he was on the slower triathletes.  Another woman walked up to chat with us and commented that she was an Athena, and felt the need to say “I’m faster than I look.”  As if there’s something wrong with being a larger woman in triathlon.  (Note, this woman was not what I would call large.  She was tall with broad shoulders that made her look like a scary good swimmer though.)

As I was dumping this all on my coach, she made a good point.  I do have a physical limitation that will always keep me slower, and it’s tough because that limitation is invisible.  I always downplay my heart rate issues, because they’re not that big of a deal in the whole scheme of things.  I can still do everything I want to do, just maybe not at the level I want to.  In short, my heart rate likes to skyrocket when I workout.  If I push too hard during that one minute run interval, my heart rate easily reaches over 185.  I do my best to keep it under 185, and have my Garmin set to alert me when it hits that point.  I usually try to keep my heart rate in the upper 170’s.

(Note that the common equation for recommended heart rate during exercise puts me at under 160.  So this is still a higher heart rate than many people are working at.)

The problem is that when my (or your) heart rate gets too high, your heart isn’t pumping efficiently.  I’m not an expert in biology by any means, but from what I understand, the chambers don’t have time to fill completely.  Ultimately, this just means that my body won’t be able to keep up the pace I’ve set and I will naturally slow down.  But if I push this limit too much, I feel awful after my run.  It can’t be good for me.  Before I was diagnosed, I caught a stomach bug and just couldn’t bounce back.  I was exhausted all the time and really not in a good place physically.  I think it was all related to completely running down my body.  I never want to be in that position again.

But just writing this out makes it feel like an excuse.  Like I have to explain why I’m so slow.  It shouldn’t matter to me or anyone!  Maybe it’s just frustration because I am working so hard and I’m realizing that I will never be fast.  My fastest 10 mile race was around a 1:50.  Pretty slow.  And I remember feeling awful afterwards.  But I don’t know that I’ll ever get back to that.

You know what?  It sucks.  It sucks to have this limitation.  It sucks to know that no matter how hard I work, I will never be fast.  It sucks to hear people saying “Oh, a 5:30 marathon?  That’s nothing to brag about,” and knowing that I will never run a 5:30 marathon.  Yes, I’m getting faster, but physically, there’s a limit for me.  And I don’t like it.

I guess I don’t have to like it though.  I just have to accept it.

Of course, I’m glad to know why I was feeling so wrecked after my races.  Who knows what kind of damage I would have done to my body if I had kept it up.  More likely, I would have given up completely.  I would have never even thought about doing triathlons.

Admittedly, I’m in pretty good shape right now thanks to all my training.  My legs look fabulous, to the point where I’m actually excited to show them off in cute summer skirts.  And while I haven’t taken measurements or gotten on the scale, I feel pretty confident in how I look. My body is far from perfect, but right now, I just don’t care.  So not only am I seeing improvement in my running, but my self confidence has increased and my legs look amazing.

I’d love to be able to come up with some great lesson here.  Something about not worrying about other people and just doing your thing.  And I guess that’s true.  But maybe this is also about how sometimes the doubts creep in and you just need to accept them sometimes and know that you don’t always have to be positive.  But you do have to keep going.

Spandex: Not Just for Superheroes

charlemagne / Pixabay

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, whether you celebrated Passover, Easter, or just the coming of spring.  Speaking of the latter, I am so ready for spring, but I am not so sure about the coming of summer.  I love that I can go out on a run on the weekend and not have to bundle up like crazy, but I’m not sure that I’m looking forward to having to set my alarm for some crazy time in the morning so I can run before it gets hot.

This is why I will never move to Florida.  Also, Florida has large bugs and reptiles that will eat you.

Sadly, with summer comes the need to uncover.  And after this past week of eating like crazy (that’s what the end of Lent is all about, right?  Stuffing your face?) the idea of wearing anything even remotely revealing is kind of horrifying.  Not to mention that triathlon means spandex, and I still can’t believe I chose a sport where I have to wear spandex in public.

So now that the food holidays are out of the way, it’s back to serious calorie counting.   Otherwise that spandex is going to be even less attractive than normal.  Yikes.