What living away from everything did to me

I have the terrible habit of re-reading old diary entries. I’ve been journaling for as long as I can remember, through happy times as well as the darkest times in my life, and I’m terrified that Giac will actually keep faith to his promise of publishing all my journals when I’m dead. (The fact that he’s so sure I’ll go first should probably scare me.)
A while ago I was tidying up the chest I keep all my journals in, and inevitably I ended up leafing through a few of them, including the one I was compiling just before moving to New Zealand. Since I had never been, I could only imagine what this place would look like, which was reflected in pages and pages of couldn’t-be-further-away-from-reality expectations. In my ignorant eyes, New Zealand was the place of never-ending summers, where I would live off coconuts and pineapples in my mansion on the beach.
Well.

One thing I got right, though, was that in New Zealand I would be away from temptations. That I knew: New Zealand was not going to be the same as London.
During my five years in the UK, I was constantly bombarded with ads and commercials wanting me to buy stuff; shops and malls were everywhere, promoting thoughtless consumerism. When I lived in Stratford I literally had to walk through Westfield, aka the largest shopping centre in freaking Europe, every single day on my way back home.
I’m contemplating this as I apply a nail polish that I probably grabbed without much thinking during an unplanned trip to Boots over lunch break. This would be a common occurrence in my previous London life: on any given day I would be highly likely to walk into Boots/Superdrug/Paperchase/Lush/H&M/you name it and buy things I didn’t need just because I could.

If I think about any of the possessions I acquired since I’m in New Zealand, none of them has been purchased on a whim.
First of all, I don’t have a stable income now, which is enough to prevent me from impulse-buying anything without mulling it over for weeks first.
Secondly, shopping in new Zealand is lame anyway. I simply don’t like any of the shops here (all three of them). All the chains like Glassons or Factorie, not to mention the infamous Warehouse, sell cheap, poorly made, unethical clothing I don’t want to have anything to do with. There is no such thing as Boots. Makeup is ridiculously expensive. Top Shop landed in Wellington and closed down in the space of less than a year. The first H&M in New Zealand is opening in EIGHTEEN DAYS OMG and although I will admit I am annoyingly excited about that I am also prepared for it to evaporate as swiftly as it appeared as soon as people realise how overpriced it’s going to be #livingonanisland

In my journal entries, I was well aware of my problem with consumerism, and expressed my trepidation of being about to move away from temptations. However, now that I’m here, I’ve experienced something strange. I remember, during my first months in New Zealand, being extremely annoyed by the lack of things. Even in Auckland, the biggest city in the country, I was disappointed with the absence of theatres and museums and shops. I mean, they were there, but they weren’t cool. They were nothing like London. And in spite of me thinking I was ready for this, once in New Zealand I found out that I really wasn’t.
I missed buying things. I missed cool shops like Whole Foods, Ikea, Waterstones and R.E.I. (I’ve been to the States a bunch of times). And those that did make it to New Zealand, like Lush or Lululemon, were so overpriced they brought tears to my eyes.

Fast-forward to now. I’ve been living in New Zealand for over a year. I’ve travelled for a few months, lived in a van, carried all my possessions in a backpack. I got very much into ethical living, Zero Waste, conscious consumerism. I gradually stopped being drawn towards what I would once consider temptations. When I walk down the main street in Welly and I pass shops and boutiques, all I see is useless stuff I don’t even want.
Back in London I would observe people’s outfits and wonder where I could get those clothes and wished I could look like that. Now I can’t help but notice that everybody’s wearing the same Katmandu raincoat and the same Adidas Stan Smiths and all I can think about is how I don’t want to conform to this sad homogeneity or to contribute to a fashion industry that promotes child labour and global warming.
As a result, I have become very frugal. I have bought things, but not without carefully considering if I actually wanted them and where they came from. I pretty much only shop second hand. I haven’t bought a single piece of makeup since I’m here.

And I freaking love it.

I’m pretty sure the initial phase of desperately wanting to buy and consume stuff was a reaction to finding myself in a completely different scenario that I wasn’t ready for, actually realising how freaking far away New Zealand is from everything else, and missing London a lot.
But I got over it, and now I really enjoy living simply. I don’t mind not having fancy kitchenware or house decorations. I’m happy that I can fit all my clothes in the wardrobe without the need for extra storage. Going out to eat has become a treat. I only pay to go to the cinema for films that I really want to see. I check out books from the library instead of buying them (although I have to admit I haven’t completely adjusted to this last one just yet). I still want a stable income but I want it because so I can put money in the saving to go travelling, not because I want to splurge on things I don’t really need.

I’m not saying I completely detached myself from the world of consumerism (a separate post on this is coming soon), but living away from temptations has definitely taught me that you don’t need a lot of stuff in your life, and that a lot of the things you want are probably not things you need. And if I personally surround myself with things I don’t need, I’ll probably end up getting rid of them anyway, so why purchasing them in the first place?

(Having said all this, I also have a list of things I want to buy when I’m in Europe over Christmas. But they are all things I really want and need. But this is a whole other story.)

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I finally found my ideal skin care routine

I’ve switched up my skincare routine recently and I’m so amazed by the results that I HAVE to share this with you.
I have normal to dry skin, super sensitive and annoyingly acne-prone. In spite of gingerly skipping through a pimple-free adolescence, once I hit my mid-twenties my skin exploded and I spent the past five or so years struggling with recurring, painful acne.
Needless to say, I tried everything: from drugstore remedies to dermatologist-prescribed medications, from stress-reducing meditation to mind-emptying running. Nothing worked. I had a brief acne-free window around the time I got married (THANK GOODNESS), but since I moved to New Zealand the zits irremediably came back.

Living Zero Waste and as minimal as possible also made me reconsider my approach to skin care. I didn’t want my bathroom drawer to be cluttered with dozens of creams and masks and cleansers. I did made an attempt at making my own face cream, however I wasn’t very pleased with the end result, plus I still have a bunch of products I’m trying to finish up, so basically I never got round to use it consistently and ended up abandoning the idea.
Then, about a month ago I had enough. I decided I was done spending time lathering my face with sunflower oil every morning, double cleansing every evening, spending endless hours looking for the perfect combination of moisture, glow and zit-repellent agents.

So I adopted a new skin care routine, which involves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I wash my face with lukewarm water in the morning, just enough to remove eye boogers and wake me up. In the evening, I only wash it again if I’ve been sweating or if I feel like I’ve accumulated excessive dirt. I pamper myself with a face mask once in a while mainly because I still have two face masks that I like and I want to finish, but once they are gone I probably won’t purchase more.

The result of all this is that I haven’t had a single pimple since I stopped torturing my face. I still have some acne scars that are slowly fading away, but other than that my skin has never felt better. I went through a phase where it felt really dry and tight for maybe two weeks when I first stopped using products, but now it’s smooth and clear and I can’t fucking believe it.
I am currently going through my first PMS with clear skin since I can remember, which makes me wonder what hormones have to do with all this.
Another thing I’m doing – and I have no idea whether this is contributing to my skin improvement – is chugging a litre of lukewarm water with ginger and lemon juice every morning (and sometimes evening, as I quite enjoy it). Other than that, I have been trying to reduce my coffee intake (although I’m writing this in a Starbucks) and to incorporate plenty of hydrating foods, however I’m still eating shit most of the time which led me to the conclusion that probably food has little to do with what my skin looks like.

So there you have it. If you’re struggling with acne, I would highly recommend that you try leaving your skin alone for a while. It might do wonders – plus think about all the money you’ll save or how much lighter your toiletry bag will be next time you travel!

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Losing weight after anorexia – A very long post

Today I went to the gym for the first time in seven months. I had an ok workout, and at the end of it I thought I would weigh myself, just out of curiosity since I don’t have a scale at home and I’m totally oblivious to my own heaviness.

Turns out, I put on 4kg.

My first reaction was, Well, this explains why I can’t zip up my jeans anymore – a thought shortly followed by: I better run for longer than 20 minutes next time.
I immediately felt bad. Why should gaining weight be associated to something negative? Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?

What does it mean to want to lose weight from the perspective of someone who has suffered from an eating disorder?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, so today’s episode is the perfect occasion to finally talk about it.

Disclaimer: YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR WEIGHT. The number on the scale is not representative of what you are as a person. You are beautiful and worthy regardless of your weight.
(Also, I’m not going to talk numbers as I know that it can be triggering, plus everybody is different and the same weight will not look the same on different body types. Also, it doesn’t freaking matter. All I’m going to say is that I am currently 4kg heavier than I was seven months ago.)

If you know me in real life you’ll know that I’m a very short person, and any weight I put on or lose I can feel, and you can see. Now, I’m not too concerned about what I look like so much as how I feel. When I saw that number on the scale, I realised it wasn’t much of a surprise after all: I’ve been feeling that I’d gotten a bit heavier in the past months.

My weight has fluctuated a bit in the first couple of years after recovering from anorexia.
I was at my heaviest during my Masters in London, when the majority of my diet consisted of beer and cheese. Back then, I had a nice fat roll around my stomach, a considerable bum, and a chubby round face. Interestingly, that was also the happiest I’ve ever been, as I was surrounded by mega supportive people who couldn’t care less about how big my behind was, and it was the perfect environment to be after recovering from an eating disorder. I was also at my fittest: I was playing basketball every day multiple times a day, I could do 93 push-ups in one minute and I would run like the wind.
But in spite as being happy and fit as fuck, I knew that was not my ideal body weight. Most importantly, I knew I was eating a terrible, unhealthy diet. When  moved back to Italy after graduation, I effortlessly shed all the excess weight just by eating regular meals at regular times (and drastically reducing my consumption of beer and cheese).
That was the first time I realised how important it is to eat well. I learned how to fuel my body so it can work at its best, and since then my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I never felt like I wanted to get thinner, if anything I wanted to get fitter in times when I wasn’t exercising enough, but once I reached my natural weight I stopped giving it much though.

Fast-forward to now: I am quite active, I play basketball, do yoga and I have a job that keeps me on my feet all day. However, I have also been eating crap.
This is something I’ve been whining about in months: since moving to New Zealand my diet has drastically changed, I went from eating an abundance of fruit and veggies to living off bread and sugary cereals due to the fact that food and produce are quite expensive here. I’m also not drinking enough water and sitting down a lot – which is my own fault.
So I’m pretty confident in saying that this time round my four extra kilos are unfortunately not muscles. And on top of storing the crap I’m eating as excess rolls of fat, my skin has also been breaking out pretty badly, and my mood in general has been all over the place.

So, what am I going to do about all this? I’ll be honest with you: I do want to lose weight. But the reason behind it is that it doesn’t feel good. And here is the big difference between wanting to get thinner from an eating disorder’s perspective, and wanting to feel better in your own body from a healthy perspective.
When you suffer from anorexia, you don’t see yourself as you truly are. Even if you’re reduced to a bunch of skin and bones, you still see yourself as fat. You think you are horrible, disgusting and unworthy. In fact, you don’t think like that: your eating disorder does.
When you recover, you start developing a healthier vision of yourself. You look in the mirror and you see yourself for what you really are. You are able to close your eyes and picture your body exactly how it is in reality, and not a distorted version of it. If you’re gaining or losing weight, this is no longer a matter of life or death, it’s just something that’s happening, it’s your body changing, and you are able to recognise that. You exercise in order to get fit and strong and because you enjoy it, not in order to burn calories or to punish yourself.

And this is where I am now.

Can someone who has suffered from an eating disorder still want to lose weight? Yes.
Is it dangerous? Only if done in an unhealthy way.
Am I in a safe place to say I want to lose weight? Yes.

However. I’m not going to make losing weight my priority. The reason why I would like to shed these four extra kilos is because I know I am heavier than my natural body weight and I know I feel at my best when I’m a bit leaner and more toned.
I’ve never been on a diet and I’m not planning on going on one, if this is what you are worrying about.
What I’m going to do is put my health on the top of my priorities. I will focus on only eating fresh, clean food that has a nutritional value (fries don’t, cookies don’t). I will be organised and pack myself a healthy lunch instead of grabbing a pie and a giant cookie at the gas station every day. I will drink more water. I will bring my ass to the gym.
All of this I’m going to do because it makes me feel good.
This way I know that even if I don’t focus on losing weight per se, I probably will by simply cutting out the junk from my diet, getting my ass moving, and concentrating on my health.

Your body changing is completely natural and ok. You should not be freaked out by putting on some extra kg. However, it’s good to also get know your body and learn what makes it happy. And if you’re reading this and you do have a past with eating disorders, I feel you and I love you and I want you to be in a safe place. You are beautiful and worthy and you deserve to be as healthy and happy as you can possibly be.

Elaborating struggles – Part 2

The second reason why I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated recently (see previous post) is that I’ve been struggling to take care of myself.
In the past months (years?) I’ve been working really hard to become the best version of myself, and I got to a point where I know what makes me feel good. Theoretically, I could be 100% all the time. I know what my body needs, how its needs change throughout the course of every month (a lot of my body fluctuations are period-related), and how to meet said needs. I also know how my head works (well, most of the time) and how to create a safe, calm and serene mental space.

But for some reason, it seems like I can never be bothered to listen to my body and mind’s needs.
For example, I know that simply drinking a glass of water and do some stretching first thing in the morning would make a huge difference to boost my mood for the day. Yet, I hardly ever do it. Or better, I seem to only be willing to do things that make me feel good when I’m already feeling good enough to do them.
Let me explain: if one morning I wake up feeling happy, relaxed and energised, I would feel more motivated to drink my water and spend some time on the yoga mat before starting my day. On the other hand, if I wake up feeling groggy, uninspired, with troubles on my mind, all I want to do is wrap myself in a burrito blanket and spend my day on the couch binge-watching #vanlife videos on YouTube. In other words, it’s very easy for me to dwell in self pity. If I don’t feel great, I feel like there’s no point in trying to feel better. I’ll just accept that it’s a bad day and roll with it.
This ends up being a vicious cycle, because I need to feel good to take care of myself, but I need to take care of myself to feel good. Plus, in a situation like the one I’m in now, where I’ve been stressed for months, you can see why this can get dangerous.

Luckily, the other day at yoga I had one of my revelations.
I’ve been going to hot yoga for the past couple of weeks (long story), and I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit I have to say. Last Friday I forced myself to go to a 7am class, spurred by the desire to clear my mind after a post-basketball vexation and the prospective of the class being taught by a super hot instructor (which is the main reason why I’ve been going in the first place). However, the hottie wasn’t there, and I was knackered after the game the night before, so I sat in Sukhasana already predicting a bad practice.
Halfway through, we were doing some weird pose that I’d never done before and that required a lot of balance (which I don’t have), and I kept on wobbling and falling and was getting really annoyed. When we shifted to downward-facing dog to recover, I told myself, Fucking. STOP. This.
Stop being annoyed. Stop focusing on what you can’t do. (This was also basketball-related). What’s the point? Instead of getting frustrated because you can’t hold a pose, think about what your body is already doing for you, acknowledge it and accept it.

And so I did. I couldn’t do all the poses and I spent more time in child’s pose than most people, but by the end of the practice I felt relaxed, tired as fuck but at peace with myself. I walked home as the sun was rising, watched people going to work, smiling at the thought that it was only 8am and I’d already accomplished so much.
At home I sat back on my yoga mat and did some more breathing exercises. I can never do yoga for more than two weeks at a time because I always end up losing interest, however this time I’d really like to keep it up. I’ve learned that yoga shifts the focus from what your body looks like to what your body can do – and that’s pretty awesome.

Conclusions:

  1. Think about what you can do rather than what you can’t, and try to understand why you can’t do what you can’t do.
  2. It’s ok to feel crap sometimes, as long as you don’t let the crappiness ruin your day. Just embrace it as something you’re going through, but do something to change it.
  3. Remind yourself what makes you feel good and fucking do it. You are worth of feeling awesome every day.

 

Elaborating struggles – Part 1

Dear readers,
I’d like for apologize for the inconsistency of my posting, and for the fact that recently I’ve been whining and complaining about personal stuff rather than posting constructive content. The truth is, a lot has been going on in my mind in the past month or so.
I haven’t really been stressed, but I’ve definitely been experience a certain level of frustration due to a couple of factors: my job situation, and my relationship with myself (which will be explored in a separate post).

I think I’ve mentioned that I have a job walking dogs which I love (when I tell people what I do, the most common response is, Wow, it must be your dream job – and it sure is). However most days when I get back home after work I feel like I’m 13 years old and I’m making pocket money by walking the neighbour’s dog after school. My employer has a long-term plan that sees me becoming a part of the business, being assigned my own area of the city, finding my own clients and making this a full-time occupation. This sounds good, however she made it very clear that it will take years before it happens, and in the meantime I’m making $100 a week that I have to decide if I want to spend on grocery or to pay our electricity bill.

Now, it’s not really about the money (although I do miss being financially independent), what I miss the most is stability.
I know what you’re thinking: What? Stability? You? The crazy head who moves to a different country every other year? The one whose ultimate dream is to live in a van?
Well, yes. I still want to live in every country in the world, but once I am in a country I do need stability. It stresses me out a lot not knowing when and where I’m going to work next, what hours I’m going to do, how much I’m going to get paid and when. As much as I love petting dogs, I don’t like having to call my employer every Sunday night to ask her for my schedule for the week. I never know what days I’m off, sometimes I plan my day and dogs get cancelled or added at the last minute, and on top of all this I don’t have a steady income.
I never thought I would say this, but I long for a routine. I’ve been carefree long enough. Now all I want is a fixed schedule, at least 30 hours of work a week, and decent money in my bank account.

Bottom line: I’M NEVER HAPPY. I know. And this would lead me to my second point – how I’m dealing with my messy self – but again this post would be too long. In the meantime I just wanted to throw some questions out there, which I’ve been mulling over for a while now, and I still haven’t found an answer to.

How the fuck do you deal with being constantly dissatisfied? Should you keep on hunting for more, or simply settle for what you have and accept that you don’t always get what you want in life? Is it ok to always feel like you could do better? I always thought that not feeling 100% fulfilled was a great prompt to push myself to look for more, but what if it means that I’m actually… Never happy?
Does any of this make any sense?

If anybody out there knows how to deal with all this, I’d very much appreciate some help. And thanks for bearing with me.