Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life is Good -- C'mon, Get Happy --by Rebecca W.

My initial emBody write-ups were about trials I had been through dealing mainly with my poor self-esteem and body image. All had good things to say that others could relate to. But after reading through each draft, it never felt like that was the post I was supposed to send. While reading through a recent post on my own blog, it dawned on me that I finally knew what I really wanted to write about. A topic I love; a topic that resonates with me.

Today, I want to use that same post with a little bit more elaboration.

A recent conversation I had with a friend shed some light on my life, where I stand now and where I can go from here. I answered a question with a phrase I’d thrown around for years. However, it wasn’t till this particular chat that I realized exactly what I had meant by it and how much it rang true for me.

Ken and I were catching up. Having not seen each other for years, the topics addressed were the normal ones for young, single, college grads from Utah – work, money, dating (of course), future plans and dreams.

“I have this film project I really want to do. I won’t feel whole till I can complete it…I just need funding. It’s like I’ve finally realized what I’m suppose to do with my life. I dream about it every night-it completely occupies my thoughts and then I just…know. You know? What about you, Bec. What’s your dream?”

I’m living my dream

“Haha seriously though – what’s your dream?”

After thinking about it for a while, a smile came across my face. I looked right into his eyes and said:

In all honesty, Ken, I AM living my dream.

He had a puzzled look.
“What the hell do you mean? What you do-your job you have now-that’s your dream?”

Let me explain. My life has had its ups and downs, just like everyone else. I’ve been no exception to misfortune, sadness, internal struggles and feeling like the entire universe is working against me to keep me from having things I want. I’ve experienced the death of my father, several forms of eating disorders, purposefully injuring myself, dealing with an addiction to codependency, and have battled depression. I use to live from one pity party to the next, constantly comparing myself with others in every possible aspect of life and I was determined that I was one whose “problems” were far beyond repair. Notice that its past tense.

In the last two years, I’ve discovered a different way of living – a better way of being. I didn’t change any eating or exercise habits or increase the amount of time spent reading through scriptures.
I learned to live out of drama, to live with no shame.

As human beings, are constantly bombarded with subliminal (and not so subliminal) messages telling us that who we are is wrong: how we dress, talk, eat, move, look and think about ourselves.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this commercial by Dove.
In its simplest form: I have learned, through massive amounts of practice, to completely believe with my entire soul that I – who I am right now – am ENOUGH, and know it to be true. I am enough. I am enough for God; He loves me regardless of how big my thighs are, any lack of intelligence or the fact that there will always be one person better than me at something. I am ENOUGH for Him and that is all that matters. Period.

So, back to the original topic of conversation – my dream is to always, no matter what my circumstances are, be truly happy. And the best part about that dream is that it’s completely attainable for anyone who wants it. I have things I do now and that I want to do in the future which I consider steps to help make it possible for me to always be happy. Once I discovered and practiced this way of living, my life became clearer which lead to simplicity and higher self-esteem. I was finally completely at peace with how my body looked; I could see my true self in the mirror instead of mistakes; I was able to find the beauty in my “imperfections”; I was able to love myself for who I was and not torture myself for not being flawless.

Sure, I’m not perfect, and yes, this whole thing might sound crazy. But I have learned that it’s not the trials I’ve been through that determine who I am-it’s the way I choose to deal with my trials, the emotions they bring, and any repercussions they may have that determines the kind of person I am now and will continue to be.

There are five steps to this life.

Step one: Get out of drama. Pretty tricky because IT’S EVERYWHERE. Own whatever you need to that is rightfully yours. Don’t deflect responsibility by pointing out others faults. Don’t spread yourself thin trying to make things perfect for everyone else. Don’t mope about, taking the blame for everything and dwell on the thought that things are always your fault. When you take ownership for something you did, be accountable without feeling shame about who you are. You made the mistake-YOU AREN’T THE MISTAKE.

Step two: Take care of yourself!  You only get one body, one mind, and one spirit.  Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Smile – it’s been proven to actually make difficult tasks feel easier. Strengthen your relationship with God. Believe in His love for you with every ounce of your soul. Trust it; build on it; know that you are enough.

Step three: Choose happiness. Everything is a choice, including your emotions. Though different feelings and emotions are brought up, every minute is an opportunity to choose how to be effected by coworkers, social media, family and your own thoughts. You can feel anger and choose to not dwell on that anger. The same goes for sadness, frustration, alienation…you get the idea.

Step four: Positive affirmations. They work, people! Here’s a darling little girl as proof:

Ones I love: I can do hard things; I am strong; I am enough because I know who I am; God loves me, I am enough in His eyes, and that is all that matters; Everything will go my way today.

Step five: Trust yourself. Love yourself. Always be moving forward and living IN THE CURRENT MOMENT. What happened in the past doesn’t matter and it should stay in the past. Don’t go digging things up. “Life by the yard is hard; life by the inch is a cinch.”

For me, living those five steps each day is crucial.

Where I am in life, right now, is great. It’s even more great because I know I’m not going to be stagnant and in the same place forever – I’m going to grow through all sorts of experiences. I’ll move, change jobs, find new passions and make new friends, all of which will make me happy for I’ve learned how to deal with anything life throws at me, including degrading thoughts and feelings about myself.

So, I start off each day with my affirmations, a happy/upbeat song, a dance party (literally, it helps), some exercises and stretching and a smile that doesn’t leave my face because I know that every day will be the best day possible because I choose that it will be. I am the only who can determine my attitude and how the events of the day will impact me. That, my friends, is POWER. Combining that with the truth that I am enough for my God whose love is endless and unmatchable and I am guaranteed a whole, authentic happiness.

It’s the best feeling in the world.

My life is good.
I am true to myself and am striving to always by my true self.
I know I am enough.
That is how I live my dream every single day.
I love it.
And I wouldn’t change it (or any of the hardships that helped mold me to where I am now) for the world.

I have found my happy.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you go and find your happy as well.


Monday, February 18, 2013


A day late (or four days late) and a dollar short, but that's how I roll these days.

Happy V-Day, Valentine's Day, Your Ex-Boyfriend's Birthday, WHATEVER you celebrated on February 14th!  (I happened to have celebrated all three!)

I'm certain it was an amazing day for some, a terrible day for others, and just another day for most of us (it would have been for me HAD THERE NOT been red velvet cupcakes in the staff room.)

I want to apologize for seriously dropping the ball with this blog.  It is a passion of mine but life has gotten busier than I'm used to.  But get excited, folks, there are some good things coming.  As always, if you feel inspired to write about anything in the scope of this blog, send it my way!  (Which several of you have done, I just need to post those bad-boys).

Eating Disorder awareness week is coming up (February 24th-March 3rd) and so we'll find some great/informative reads for you to spread the awareness.

In this month of Valentines (and presidents) I challenge all of us to fall in love with our bodies.  Rekindle that old flame.  Think of the last time you loved your body.  Maybe you weren't even aware that you did.  Maybe you just loved what your body could do and the way your body made you feel.  Fall in love with running, singing, dancing, walking, biking, stretching, hugging, kissing, eating, hiking, seeing, smelling, hearing, and breathing.  Fall in love with your smile.  Fall in love with your thighs.  Fall in love with being alive.

a tired (but happy) drama teacher and a red rose to match the color of her stress-induced acne.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail--by Mackenzie D. P.

This summer I joined the ranks of thousands of dreamers, schemers, and believers and set out from Springer Mountain, Georgia and started walking north. 140 days and 2,184 miles later, I ended up on Mt. Katahdin in central Maine. It was the best and hardest and craziest experience of my life.

I first decided I wanted to thru hike the Appalachian Trail when I was 14 and hiking a 50 mile section with my church group. Me, 10 other girls, and a few leaders met a few thru hikers and listened intently to their stories and adventures.  I kept it in the back of my head as a “bucket list goal”. 10 years later I found myself in between jobs and thinking about goals and achievements.  I decided on that day that if I wanted to thru hike, if I were really serious about leaving everything and walking from Georgia to Maine, I would have to commit and just do it. No one would gather my gear, research logistics, and put me in Springer Mountain.  There will always be a million good reason not to thru hike- always money to be made, promotions to be achieved, or semesters to be studied.  I decided, with my husband’s full support, to put all that on hold and plan on leaving the following spring.

10 months later my parents dropped me off in Georgia and I found myself completely alone. Not quite literally- approximately 2,000 people attempt to thru hike each year. Most start in early spring in Georgia to go northbound, while others start in early summer in Maine going south.  There are about 250 shelters all along the trail, basic lean-to structures that usually provide a water source, a privy, and most importantly a hub for hikers to interact and share information via shelter journals.  Starting out that very first week reminded me of the first week of camp. Everyone is excited to be there, testing out their new gear and making new friends. Hikers adopt “trail names”, sometimes humorous, descriptive, or motivational. I adapted to a new routine, aiming for 9-14 miles per day.  Some days I hiked with a new friend, others by myself.  While I did feel more lonely than I expected, I enjoyed the feeling of self sufficiency.. I was carrying everything I needed in life on my back- all 28 lbs of it. While I always planned to stay around a shelter or designated camping area for the evening, I loved knowing that I could stop wherever I wanted and have everything I needed at the ready.

I came to the trail fairly physically fit and didn’t find the terrain overwhelming.  It was exciting to increase the mileage goal each week and see my body become stronger.  I found a hiking rhythm with each step and plant of my hiking poles. I was developing muscles I had never even seen before.

After the first month, my husband decided that he was missing out on too much fun and came out to join me for the rest of the trail. What a blessing this was!  He joined me in Tennessee, and, after an adjustment period for him to catch up and get his “trail legs”, we hit our stride.  I finally felt like I was a real thru hiker.  We had a wonderfully simple and dedicated plan: up at daybreak, breakfast of oatmeal, pack up our stuff, and walk. Take lots of snack breaks, and walk. Stop walking after 20-22 miles, set up our tent, make dinner of mac n cheese or mashed potatoes or dehydrated soup and go to bed. Repeat! Our life became a series of 4-5 day hikes in between trail towns. Towns were an oasis, full of luxury.  Our accommodations were run down motels or hostels, but they offered showers, laundry, internet, and access to restaurants and grocery stores for resupplying.

Food became fuel. While I’ve never experienced an eating disorder, I have always been very conscious of what I’m eating and how much energy I’m burning. Climbing up and down mountains with a pack on your back, all day every day, burns about 3,000-4,000 calories per day.  Replacing these calories is a big priority. In towns, this was awesome. Words I had previously never uttered were coming out at restaurants: “Can I sub that for french fries?” “Which of your pasta dishes do you recommend?” or, our favorite, “What is the largest thing you have on your menu?” You know those sections of the menu that is a platter for two or more people? One thru hiker, easy. All you can eat buffets in trail towns are known to have time limits to prevent hikers from staying all day and eating continuously. It was, in short, amazing.

On the trail, however, you’re obviously limited to what you can carry in your food bag. Food that is high in protein and calories are the most desired- peanut butter, protein bars, and Snickers are staples for thru hikers. Huge spoonfulls of Nutella smeared on tortillas (or straight out of the jar!) is commonplace. I found eating to be a chore during the day. I’m hungry again, seriously? This feeling was really surprising for me. I’d never been one to dislike or turn down food- freshman year of college I took the Freshman Fifteen very seriously, completing the weight gain in just one semester.  The buffet style cafeteria was a danger zone to me and I overate constantly.  Now, for the first time in my life, I saw food as the source of energy and life. Without the feeling of self restraint, as I normally experienced meals, I actually wanted to eat more conscientiously because I didn’t have that “forbidden” feeling.

Despite all this, weight loss is inevitable. I was curious to see what I would weigh by the end of my thru hike. I was surprised to see that the lowest number I saw while I was hiking (weighing in at random hostels or stores that happened to have scales) was just a few pounds lower than my usual weight, and still definitely in the “normal” range for my height. I looked great, but not really that different than a lot of girls who are naturally thin and don’t work out. Interestingly enough, it was common for women thru hikers to keep some body fat even in these condition while men gradually looked more and more emaciated. Ladies, this is just how we are made. 

Just like I had detached myself somewhat from an emotional response to food, I saw my body in a different light. After seeing that at the very peak of human physical condition- probably a state I will never see again- I could still pinch fat on my stomach and my thighsstill touched and I still didn’t have cute tiny arms.... but I didn’t really care. I could out hike, out run, and probably out leg-press anybody you put me up against that did have those characteristics. I was strong. Super strong! A machine! I put food in so to make my machine go, and who cares that my machine has thick thighs and carries weight in the midsection.

Even more than that, I was mentally strong. I stuck with this impossible goal to walk over 2,000 miles carrying everything on my back because I thought it would be cool. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “And WHY did you think this would be a good idea?” But, I never ever wanted to quit. I questioned why on earth I chose THIS THING as MY THING, why didn’t I choose running a marathon (that only takes a few hours!) or volunteering in a third world country (then you’d at least be helping people, c’mon Mackenzie) or just stay home like a normal person. But I chose to do this, to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, and that’s what I was going to do.

And I did! It was even better than I imagined, because I had my husband there experiencing it with me. The Appalachian Trail has a beautiful culture. I love how it makes people be a little kinder and a little more generous. My fellow hikers and I rode in countless cars driven by strangers willing to pick up a hitchhiking thru hiker. We were delighted to find "trail magic" at random points in the trail, usually in the form of a cooler left with goodies for hikers or a spread of food out of the back of a car. I heard stories of hikers who, at the end of a meal in a restaurant, were told that another diner had picked up their check and to enjoy the rest of their hike.

I think about the trail every day, and am both saddened and relieved to think that it’s really truly over. It’s hard to summarize a 4 month and 18 day hike, covering 2,184.2 miles, in just a few paragraphs. I tried to keep a decent log of our journey on my blog, If the Appalachian Trail interests you at all, don’t hesitate to get involved! There are hikes that appeal to all levels and interests on the AT. There are flat easy parts in Pennsylvania, rolling hills in Virginia, steep and technical climbs in New Hampshire. Once the AT is a part of you, it will change your life forever.