Social Media Diet

I’m going on a social media diet. Or a media diet.

I realized I was in a cycle of misery, where actually, my life is pretty great, especially compared to where it’s been, and I find ways to feel miserable and ignore the things that give me all those good feelings. It’s been like this since last year, and after my terrified sobbing fit the night of the Presidential election, I’ve been engaging in a self-sabotaging torture by keeping my awake-self as aware as possible of the minute-by-minute pain and agony, current and to come. I tell myself that my privilege means I need to be aware, but it’s not like I’m not aware, or even like I’ll necessarily forget (though that’s a risk), it’s that by not giving myself time to step away and see the world I’m in, in the here and now, and try to find peace within that, I’m making myself fairly useless, and engaging in other self-defeating behaviors.

I realized this past week or so that I was in this cycle of keeping myself aware through Twitter and news apps, and then carb loading – not because they were delicious and worthy carbs, but because they were there. I realized I was getting in a habitual cycle, I’d scroll my feed, start to feel terrible about everything (the world, myself), and then reach for the nearest thing that could make me feel, if briefly, less horrified. I heard a friend talk about the “Tr*mp Twenty” – and I’ve probably gained that much. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve also let Instagram’s beauty (even “body positive” beauty) tell me what it is to be pretty and attractive.

My friend Marika recently wrote about her own situation with social media, and it really resonated with me. I don’t want to retreat into my privilege. I left Facebook a year ago (mostly because I hate the platform, and think they’re evil), but I’ve stayed on Twitter, dutifully reading the feeds of a variety of people ranging from Black Lives Matter activists, Democratic Socialists, Never Tr*mp Republicans, journalists on national and local beats, and artists and authors I admire. It’s all screaming, all the time – or it feels like that right now. Like the flames are rushing into our last sanctuary and it’s all we have left in the hopes that those in power will save us.

It’s making me unwell. It’s also making me miss doing the things that I really value, like focus on my family’s well-being, beyond just the basics. There are books I want to read, words I need to write, drawings I need to draw. I’ve ended up with serious imposter syndrome that has kept me grounded for far too long, and I’ve been a social media addict since probably before the word was even invented.

It’s time for me to unplug. I’m still working out what that exactly means, but for now, it means I’ve uninstalled apps on my phone, and installed a utility to block specific traffic at specific times to keep me more focused.

Why am I giving companies like Twitter and Facebook/Instagram my data, my intellectual property, for their profit, and my misery? WHY? Why am I consenting to this?

I just know I need to do something different, and spending two hours less on social media seems to be a good start.

Activity Tracker Obsession

I’m a little obsessed with activity trackers. I know they are not every large girl’s cup of tea, but getting metrics on my energy output as well as my energy input validates me in some way. I do know that some people use those things to shame themselves, but after years of doing it through Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, and a activity trackers, it’s made me honest with myself in a way that I wasn’t quite able to do BEFORE I started tracking.

I don’t try every little thing I eat, just the ones I know really count. I’ll track mayonnaise, but not ketchup. Sometimes I’ll track BBQ sauce. I don’t necessarily track every time I walk, but if I spend 20,000 steps in NYC, I want credit for that! It’s kept me in control, and helped me regain control when I’ve felt like I’ve lost it. I let myself slide every now and then, accept the fall, and try to be mindful and not judge.

Anyhow, every year there’s a new way to track energy output and input. There’s a ton of options, most of them not worth your time or money. I’ve tried a few, and I plan to actually write up my experience.

I’ll put it out there, though – the one that I think is the best all-arounder is the Fitbit One.

This was the second activity tracker I owned, and not without its flaws. I haven’t had one for over a year, but I realized I missed it after my third RMA with Jawbone in a year. The FitBit One is easy to lose if you’re not careful, and can be annoying to sleep with in the wrist pocket, with the wrist holster velcro degenerating quickly. However, it’s more fully featured than many of the small, non-wrist based wearables, and has a relatively device friendly eco-system, decent customer service, and is easy to wear.

Also, of the brands I’ve seen, FitBit seems the best suited for those who are a little less tech-savvy. It allows you to use their website as well as a smartphone, and their site includes a fair amount of support information.

I won’t be returning to FitBit at this point, mostly because I primarily want a sleep tracker, and don’t want a wearable I have to keep on my wrist during the day. However, I do think that the FitBit One is a great bet for someone starting out with a wearable.

Tracking

One of the things that I wanted to finally sit down and write about was mindfulness. It turns out though I can compose these thoughts in my head, and maybe tell you about them over coffee, it’s much harder to sit down and put them on the screen.

I thought I would try today – but I’m too exhausted. That’s the excuse I’m sticking with right now. I’m also decaffeinated due to figuring out that even half-decaf coffee starts disrupting my sleep and putting me on edge. I also lost the use of one of my security devices, Fitbit One. It turns out I’ve become reliant on knowing all the little things that the device tells me about myself. It’s ridiculous, but sometimes humans are ridiculous. I am going to try the UP24 while I wait for the kind people at FitBit to ship out my (free) replacement. I have two weeks to decide if I want to keep the UP24 or return it (per the Apple Store’s policy.)

I stand back and think of this as a sort of madness that I am unwilling to stop myself from engaging in. I also think there’s some parallel to ideas of mindfulness and the attachment to unending streams of personal data.

I’m too tired to think too hard about that right now, though. Luckily UP has a caffeination tracking app available. Maybe that will come in use.

*Results Not Typical

I’ve been trying to lose weight since I was eight years old. I was a kid who took water pills, owned my own copy of Sweatin’ to the Oldies and Deal-a-Meal, and wished I could be anorexic (liked food too much) or bulemic (I hated barfing.) I went to a kids, hospital-sponsored weightloss program. I went to a dietician. (Memorable point: there was when she said I could eat “low fat,” and found a 0g fat Entemann’s coffee cake. I ate the whole thing.) I rode my bike back and forth from my house to Remke’s (supermarket) ten times, equalling ten miles. I walked around the neighborhood. I seemed unable to stop the increasing gain. I hated scales. I hated my doctor’s office. I hated the clothing available, and settled on oversized t-shirts, jeans, and a flannel jacket that fit my Dragonlance books neatly in the inner pocket. I loved the brief time in middle school that I got to play floor hockey. I loved tennis. I loved lifting weights in a brief PE unit in high school.

When talking about activities I loved, it would be incomplete to not mention my junior and senior year, where I auditioned and made it into the high school marching band color guard. My instructor kicked my ass, and for my latter high school years, was the mentor I needed. She was tough, but fair. Despite the fact that my weight only budged about 15 lbs total during those years, my head was held higher when I started my junior year, and people noticed.

I hadn’t intended on telling that story, but I guess it needed to be put there as a preface. I’ve lost five pounds! In Weight Watchers, that would equal a star and a round of applause. It’s been a long time since I’ve lost five pounds in a concerted effort to eat better, and I’m pretty happy with myself. This is an achievement I’ve been waiting for for a year.

Here are the secrets to my five pound success (which has taken me three weeks of effort):

  1. Tracking my food intake with a free online/mobile app – I’ve been using MyFitnessPal which has an enormous database that makes it easy to track my calories. It also includes a barcode scanner for easy tracking of packaged foods. I leave the setting for my base metabolic rate (BMR) at sedentary, and set my goal loss at 1.5 lbs per week.
  2. Tracking my daily activity with a fancy pedometer – Fitbit syncs with MyFitnessPal and alters my daily caloric limit based on my activity level. It’s not fool-proof, but it’s nice to know for sure when I can eat more because I’ve earned it.
  3. Eating the right foods – This is the really hard part, because it’s not as simple (for me) as calories in and calories burned. I need to eat THE RIGHT foods for me, and it turns out that a low protein diet (10-15% protein) is a DISASTER for me.

    Years ago, I bought Jillian Michael’s Winning by Losing when it was in hard cover. Inside she had a Metabolic Type quiz (found here as well) which says I’m a “Balanced Oxidizer” that needs 30% of my calories from protein (30% from fat, 40% from carbs.)

    What’s amazing to me is that focusing on getting enough protein (and lower amounts of fat and refined carbohydrates) had led me to crave refined carbohydrates MUCH less, and when I do indulge, it’s not the disaster it’s been before.

    The other key thing for me is to cut out the non-nutritive carb fillers. I did not eat the scoop of brown rice on my plate last night, which saved me about 100-200 calories. I did, however, indulge in the petite chocolate cake for dessert, and I enjoyed it MUCH more than that scoop of rice. I’ve been passing on the bread, for the most part.

    Making sure that I eat 30% of calories in protein is brutal (along with keeping my fats under 30%), especially because I just don’t like to eat that much meat and non-cheese dairy products. My supplementing with a mid-morning Vega Energizing Smoothie in almond milk has made a huge impact on whether or not I’m satiated when I eat lunch. Further, shifting my breakfast from cold cereal to quick steel-cut oats (1/4 cup dry) had helped stay my hunger for a little longer.

These results are not typical, and I don’t claim to know about whatever you need to reach your health goals. I go to the gym for strength training three times a week, and am trying to jog/run at least five miles total a week. I’m also a mother of a very active toddler and live in a city where I walk almost everywhere.

I’m hoping I can keep this up, mostly because I like that I’m seeing results on the scale, and in general, I feel more energetic. Really, that’s what this is all about, feeling good. I need that.

Do what thou Love shall be the Will of the Law

me running
Las Vegas Rock and Roll Half Marathon 2010
I just came back from my third run in three days. This is unusual for me of late, and comes from my new found energy since I upped my protein intake. Today’s run was a little more, though, since the news of the Boston Marathon bombing hit my consciousness, and the sun shine beckoned me outdoors.

A wonderful thing happened on my run which hasn’t happened since I was training for a half marathon in 2010: I lost myself in the run. I reached that moment where I stopped paying attention to how far or how fast I was going, I was just running, and my brain was busy working things out. Things like “Do what thou Love shall be the Will of the Law.” Granted, there are some of you who know what this refers to, but for the rest of you, you can look up “Do what thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

I’m not sure exactly what my bastardization means to anyone but myself, but it came from the other day when I watched Kumare, a documentary about a false prophet, and Jeff Who Lives at Home, a film that, oddly enough, seems to be an “answer movie” to M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Kumare is a man’s quest to understand faith, studied the phenomena, and asked if just anyone could be a prophet, including himself. He creates an alter-ego prophet, sets up an ashram and religious practice, finds devotees and then unveils himself. Though Vikram (aka Kumare) maintains that he was not *actually* a religious leader, I found myself wanting to argue with him that he was, and also, a legitimate spiritual teacher. Jeff Who Lives at Home, features the tension between the two brothers, one who is terribly unlikable with a crumbling life, and another, stoner “loser” brother (Jeff) who sees the world through the lens of fate. Jeff wants to believe, and through the movie, made me believe (though frankly, only within the confines of the film.)[1]

The easiest explanation I have for what I believe in is that I am an atheist. Like Vikram Ghandi, the director and creator of Kumare, I was drawn to religious study hoping that it would help me understand and perhaps solidify my religious leanings. By age thirteen, I had a spiritual calling for ministry, one that despite my religious non-affiliation, I still have and see my vocational choices as being complimentary. My study of religion (both academically and through social circles) led me to abandon orthodoxy in favor of what I have always essentially believed: there is no magic. The caveat being that each person is a creator and divine, and creates the god of their belief and the magic according to their system. There are no gods, and there are all the gods. I see it as strange and powerful stuff, but only real to those who see and believe.

That being said, I think that religion and religious practice are necessary and part of the intrinsic fabric of many humans. I’m not about to take that away, especially if they respect my unwillingness to share in their devotion. During times of tragedy, people often feel helpless, especially when far away, and offer thoughts, prayers, lit candles and other rituals, most of which are materially useless, but enriching (I’m told) for believers.

My magic was that I went on a run, and fell into that brief euphoria that running can give a person. I engaged with an ecstatic moment, noted each runner as I passed them by, wondering if they were in a similar devotion today, thinking on the people of Boston, the runners, the observers, the city. Running, like many other body-punishing activities, lends to an ecstatic experience that is otherworldly. The Boston Marathon is a gathering of ecstatics some “True” others “False,”[2] but all sharing in a grueling experience that many will never take part in.

Though it did nothing, I ran. I thought of Boston. And perhaps like I accuse Kumare of being more of a prophet than he realizes, I show how much like Jeff I want to believe that putting myself out there with ecstatic intention means something more than sore quads in the morning.

[1]This “renewal of faith” within the confines of the film was done far better in Jeff Who Lives at Home than in Life of Pi. Life of Pi had beautiful special effects, but was in the end a spiritually hungry white person’s quest for meaning with the help of magical brown-person.

[2]All practices have their True Believers, those who will claim for whatever reason that no TRUE runner would do x, y, z. And those True Believers will disagree with what’s True. At 200 lbs, jogging a slow 2.5 mile, am I a true runner? At 155 lbs, and running 13.1 in 2:15:21, was I a true runner?