This blog marks one year to the day that I woke up and decided to start making a smoothie every morning. This wasn't your average morning, but it was average for me. I woke up not remembering how I got home. I walked down my stairs to find a large pizza box folded in half with a bag from taco bell crumpled inside. My head was pounding as I texted the people I had been drinking with last night; yep, the pizza box and taco bell were mine alright. I smelled like cigarettes and had junk in my hair. I swear I had told friends just days before that I had quit drinking for my new years resolution and that I'd finally started listening to my body when it tried to tell me how much it hated dairy and gluten.
This experience wasn't isolated and it definitely wasn't unique. At that time I'd have done anything to feel alright or to forget the responsibility of being given the soul of an artist. To feel alright; that's what we do, artists, we feel. Your emotions are a raging storm with your heart set sail and we constantly bat away affirmation because it might clog our headspace with contentment.
Or you're riddled with anxiety and depression and your vices plug the holes where your happiness leaks out, just for a short while.
Or maybe you're both - like me
Maybe You see life in vibrant colors and the idea of art excites a display of miniature fireworks somewhere between your belly and your eyes, but you're always on the other side of the glass, you're grey even. Maybe you romanticize the melancholy and the darkness that creeps in you.
Or maybe you're just fine and want to learn how I lost 55 lbs...
Well first I had to gain the weight to lose. I'm 6' 2" and have been about 170 lbs most of my life. I played soccer for a good part of my childhood into my teens and had a metabolism that could KO any food eating champ.
Somewhere in my early 20's my body abandon it's ability to digest dairy and decided to start hanging a gallery of every unhealthy meal I ate. It was something I didn't necessarily catch at first, but when I did it devastated me.
It wasn't the poor metabolism that upset me, but the fact that I already hated myself and now there was one more goal between who I was and finally being who I thought Jesse should be. There was this mental portrait parading around in my mind of a life just on the other side of the expectations I had for myself.
Expectations like :
Be less hairy
Have better skin
Don't be so pale
Never forget to brush your teeth
Be as ripped and as confident as Brad Pitt from Fight Club
Create art that makes even the heartless weep
Write songs that induce orgasms for all within earshot
Basically: be a God
I thought this was completely realistic and would be possible if only I didn't have to wrestle my regular waves of deep depression and social anxiety (the common creative curse). If only I could get out of bed without having to move the weight of invisible depression off of me first, then I could create life changing art. If only it didn't feel like the whole world was collapsing around me every time I had to open a door, then maybe I would be Brad Pitt from Fight Club. I blamed it all on my mental health and I blamed my mental health on my family.
Unhealthy blame + misguided anger x a cocktail of emotions = Countless negatives things
While all of this was culminating in my life I moved from Ohio to Los Angeles at the end of 2011, when I was 21. Yes, Los Angeles, the perfect setting for an emotional shipwreck dealing with deep seated body image issues. Everyday I woke up to a population of beautiful and talented people. My solution to fit in was quick and simple
I stopped eating
This was how I lost my first 50 lbs.
In a period of six months I went from 190 lbs to 140 lbs on a diet of cigarettes, wine, and work. I hardly noticed the weight loss. I still hid from the mirror or would suck in when I walked past. I'd try to pinch an inch, and I swear I could see it in my mind. My muscles had withered away and my cheeks sunk deep into my face. The person pictured above thought they were fat, unlovable, and an eye sore. It's terrifying because he's not alone.
In June 2012, I blacked out from not eating just a few hours before getting on a flight to visit my family in Ohio. I fell to the floor hardly conscious. I managed to get myself back to my feet and in that instant I acknowledged three things:
- I was anorexic
- I was killing myself quickly by not eating
- I needed help fast
I immediately started my quiet recovery. This meant I opened up the gate of indulgence which is quite the monster for someone with an addictive personality. I switched to beer, soaked up my tears with pizza crust, used donuts as sandals, and would regularly finish family sized portions in a single sitting.
Over the next year (2012 - 2013) I gained back those 50 lbs plus 15 more, I wrestled my anxiety and depression, I toyed with my medication, and I found myself moving back to Ohio looking for answers and healing.
My first 8 months back in Ohio (2013 - 2014) was like a movie montage. You know when the main character has to train and grow and mature exponential amounts to move the story along? Yeah, that was me. I started therapy, I got an apartment, I bought my first car, I got surgery, I got a job, I got back to 170 lbs, I put out two albums, and I found myself discovering so much about who I was and investing deeply in the lives of the people around me. I was happy, for the most part. I thought I might even like who Jesse was becoming, but I still had a few things left to check off before I could actually love Jesse.
Then it came again, the wave of depression, the anxiety, gusts of anger, loneliness, and self-loathing by the boat full. I was either too busy or too numb to notice. As an artist it's easy to sacrifice your health for your work. The muse of 3 am is a sweet one and few know the oddities of a sleepless mind (I'm talking 48 hours no sleep crazy town USA population GO TO BED). And maybe we think this is the last piece of art we'll need to make before it all pays off or we can sleep for months (but it never is and we never do). Maybe you're not an artist, but insomnia's got a hook in you and you're romanced into the dawn of the next day.
My body weight always reflected my mental health and it had been shooting high above or down below my average for years now. I was getting tired. I was getting older. My back and shoulders were a mess from over-working trying to earn the life I thought I should have.
It was now January 2015, for the next twelve months I found myself mourning my lack of motivation at bars most nights of the week. I'd pour one out for all the unfinished projects. I'd buy a round for each song unsung and each failed attempt at finally getting the life I thought I should have. I hated this failure of a human Jesse, so I drowned him in booze.
I drank myself late for work, I drank myself past deadlines, I drank myself back to the darkest parts of my heart. I'd find myself crying because of how heavy the depression would set in with each hangover. I found myself mentally pissing on the montage of my life when I moved back to Ohio, that sweet time period of growth, I spat at it.
Beer has lots of calories
So does pizza
Beer and pizza together is immaculate
Cigarettes too, before and after the pizza, during the beer, it's the only way to appease the beast of my desires.
The depression, the anxiety, the beer, the cigarettes, and my body weight all climbed steadily through the year. I had to be talked down from ledges and cleaned off of floors. I had given up. Hope was an old song now unfamiliar. But New Years was coming, and being the type of person that seriously takes to heart their fortune cookies I found a bit of magic dust in dedicating myself to a New Year New Me. At this point I could only fit into one shirt I had been wearing for a month straight and was on the last notch of my belt.
My plan was extravagant and I was really going to do it, I swear. I was finally going to have the perfect diet, perfect exercise routine, perfect sleep schedule, and beat my addictions. I was going to hit the ground running, wake up a new man, and high five destiny!
The New Year was approaching. I was so hungover on New Years eve I could hardly blow my noisemaker at midnight without my head feeling like it was going to explode. I started my year sober and ready to become a god, but in a familiar fashion I found myself saying "I'll quit tomorrow" after just a few days.
Now we're back to where the blog started. It's the morning of Thursday, January 7th 2016; I'm standing in my kitchen with a hangover trying to find out why I had origami-ed a pizza box into my trash can. There was a great disappointment boiling up in me and I felt ashamed of my complete lack of discipline.
And that's when I gave up...
I got rid of my expectations for myself. I forced myself to look at myself in the mirror and accept who I was. I raised my white flag and claimed my defeat. I cut the cords to the dreams I sacrificed sleep for and threw away my laundry list of personal goals for the year. I stopped trying to indulge myself because there was nothing left to indulge.
And oddly, this defeat was where the change started. I looked at myself in the mirror again, red, hungover, and I just stared at myself, spacing out a bit, for a long time. I had a million and a half thoughts. Some were terrible, but a few kept coming back - "This body/person is the home of every good memory you have, every thing you've ever created came from this body/person, every experience you've had was experienced in this body/person, every person you've ever loved has loved this body/person."
I looked at myself in the eyes and said "It's okay. I love you" and it was such an unbelievably uncomfortable thing to do. Try it, I dare you - Look at yourself dead in the eyes and talk to yourself.
But I just had to do it again, because something happened when I said it; A little squeak came from my heart! So I did it again "It's okay, I forgive you, I love you" and my heart squeaked again. I lifted up my shirt and grabbed my beer belly. I laughed to myself like I was catching up with an old friend saying "geeze! you let yourself go! 212 lbs!"
It seemed that with my completely unrealistic goals and expectations out from between me and loving myself, I was capable of just that - loving myself.
In that awkward mirror encounter with hungover Jesse I managed to forgive myself for totally blowing my New Years resolutions. I decided I wasn't going to try and become a god over night, or ever, but instead just change one thing at a time slowly. I was going to take life slower than ever before, and I started with my diet.
I made a smoothie the morning of the 7th and I posted it on snapchat to a few hundred followers that were mostly friends. I liked it, It was delicious and healthy, so I did it again. Two months later I was 60 days free of gluten, dairy, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. It had all become habitual and the weight of choosing "the healthy thing" everyday was gone. I was free to start choosing "the healthy thing" in other areas of my life, so I joined a gym.
I actually joined the gym in late January, but never went. The idea stressed me to the moon and back. I didn't know the first thing about gym etiquette or gym equipment. I felt like I would burst into flames the moment I walked in and tried to work out. The anxiety of the whole situation lead me to actually drive to the gym, park, and immediately drive back home without going in TWICE.
I looked at myself in the mirror and said "It's okay, I love you". I googled things like "First time at the gym" "Gym Fails" "10 things not to do at the gym" "What does gym equipment look like" "Should I give up?"
I actually found a few incredibly helpful videos/blogs.
Nerd Fitness: How the heck do I get started?
Nerd Fitness: Strength Training 101 - Where do I start?
Nikki Blackketter: NEW TO THE GYM GUIDE BOOK
Radu Antoniu: How to Finally get Lean
So in March I started going to the gym. On my very first day this ripped guy walked past me when I was on a bench and he farted in my face. I hate that guy. But I knew why I was there, not because I wanted to be him, but because I was finally okay with being me and that made me want to be better for myself. I wasn't going with the intention of becoming Brad Pitt from Fight Club, but instead I just told myself I was going to "at least move around a little bit"
And that's what I did 3 days a week for 2 months - I "moved around a little bit" and lost another 10 lbs. (I would do light cardio for 5-10 minutes, I'd do five light lifts: push - pull - quad - core - hams, then cool down with another 5-10 minutes walking, stretch, done)
(Halfway through March a friend took me bouldering. It was here that I realized I couldn't lift my body weight even an inch with my arms. This became my six month gym goal - to be able to do one pull up.)
After those first two months at the gym I found myself no longer winded while going up the stairs. Things seemed a little lighter. Sleep was sweeter. My brain was filling with colors. Clothes were already starting to fit different (or at all), the smoothie snaps were getting louder and funnier, more people were watching, And I was down 34 lbs from January 7th.
In the past I had always approached hobbies by buying all my "gear" upfront hoping that it would motivate me to start the hobby which would NEVER WORK! Don't do this with the gym - you don't need new running shoes, sweatproof spandex shorts that charge usb, or glasses that tell you your heart rate with a French accent. One thing I learned about the gym is that doing anything like this made me feel more out of place rather than comfortable and confident. I spent those first two months wearing old worn out band merch I collected from friends over the years and worn out running shoes that were all sorts of ugly. I didn't start showing up in cool looking compression tights until month three, even then I felt silly about it for the first week or two.
But now I was a regular gym goer, right? two months? wow, I was a regular gym goer! I was upping my reps and cardio, I had earned my first piece of fitness attire.
Then my first big emotional hurdle; I missed a day at the gym. I know this doesn't seem too detrimental, but I'm an all or nothing person. I can't just have one piece of pizza, I must have them all. I can't just have one drink, I must drink it all. And I can't miss a day at the gym, or I might as well never have gone.
I had gone almost 11 weeks without missing a single day. In the past I would've thrown in the towel and beaten myself up about it, I was terrified that the five month old healthy Jesse was going to crumble without the gym at the foundation, but then I realized the gym wasn't my foundation at all. The foundation was that first encounter of forgiving myself, choosing to be patient with myself, and loving myself. I looked in the mirror and said "It's okay, I love you" and I went to the gym the next day.
Depression and anxiety were my masters in previous year. I was my own worst enemy and I always felt heavy. It was a weight that had followed me since my early teens - a darkness seeping out of my mind and into my life. Anxiety would rise like a wave at any moment. It would crash in my ears like an orchestral cymbal. It was the white noise emotion. They were what I blamed for never reaching any of my unrealistic goals in the past. But it turned out that I never reached those goals because they were goals created for someone that hated themselves, and not because that person was "too emotional" or deep feeling to change.
It was a miracle...
Depression and Anxiety were nearly none existent the first few months. Caffeine and nicotine had always been massive triggers for my anxiety, and addiction was the root of much of my depression. Eating clean kept my head clear, and any emotional turmoil was either from something external in my life, or because I would unknowingly slip up on caffeine.
The greatest lesson I learned about my mental health is this: Healthier body = Healthier mind
My sixth month anniversary was coming. I was so excited to show everyone how much weight I had lost (40 lbs), but then I got a terrible summer cold. It was so bad that I couldn't make it to the gym for almost 3 weeks. My six months came and went amidst the sickness. I was so upset, but it was out of my control. I looked at myself in the mirror and said "It's okay, I love you."
I changed courses and decided my big health post was going to be on September 1st when I attempted my six month gym goal of doing one pull up.
Sure enough, the week before September 1st I noticed a shooting pain at the base of my middle finger. I had developed a cyst on my joint and couldn't use my right hand for anything gym related. So September 1st came and went and I didn't get to make my big scheduled post. I shook my fist at the sky. I called my mom to complain about it and she reminded me that the beauty of my story was the change in the person, not the weight lost. She was right - life happens and you've got to have your motives rooted deep - loving yourself as your are and not for who you think you should be changed me inside and out.
(It took about two weeks for the cyst to stop bothering me, I managed to do four pull ups unassisted September 9th! I almost cried in the middle of the gym!)
It had now been nine months of what had been dubbed the #SmoothieRevolution. I was getting snaps daily of people all around the world making smoothies, taking apple cider vinegar shots, and drinking cold pressed juice. I had people telling me that they lost weight from the #SmoothieRevolution and that they decided to look at life a little differently today. I had gotten settled into loving Jesse and it brought so much life to so many parts of me. In fact, I decided I was going to finish a book I had been working on for years.
I had been in and out of a serious relationship for five years. She loved me through my tidal wave of emotions, the thick (literally), and thin (literally). But the last days of our relationship looked like us deciding that we wanted pretty different things in our lives. I was dumped and it felt like my ears were ringing, but I respected her decision. A few days later I left for tour to play keys with the act VESPERTEEN. I thought it would be a great opportunity to clear my head from the breakup. Half way through tour our van was broken into and everything was taken. It was actually impressive how much the robbers managed to steal. I had a few thousand dollars worth of stuff taken from me - handmade clothes, collectibles from Japan, my passport, my DSLR, macbook, journal, jewelry, everything except what I had on my back and the keyboard I was playing. Dumped and robbed, wow!
We finished tour and the day we got back I woke up to an email that was asking me to come to a work meeting. I realized the robber had taken my only car key so I had to walk in the rain. In that meeting I was let go from my job. Dumped, fired, and robbed all within two weeks of each other. If I wouldn't have been 9 months deep into something as healing and deeply rooted as the #SmoothieRevolution then I would've been knocked straight onto my ass, out the door, and into the gutter. I felt oddly cleansed, but at this point it took everything to keep my head above water. I felt blank as so much of my "conversational identity" had been stripped from me. But I was alive, I was healthy, I loved myself, and the things taken from me didn't define who I was.
A week after the Vesperteen tour I left for another tour - This time with Dodie Clark, Rusty Clanton, Tessa Violet, Dante Cimadamore, and Jon Cozart. I was too afraid to look behind me to see if there was a storm brewing from everything that had happened just weeks before. The storm never found me, but instead words of affirmation found me. Friendship, love, and support found me. At almost every show someone would show up with a smoothie to support the #SmoothieRevolution. People would show up wearing blue lipstick to support the weird and bold, the DFMB (deep feeling magic beings). My tour mates were like an IV of love. I couldn't have been placed in a more nurturing and healing group of people. I felt so lucky everyday to be with them.
The final stretch...
I was ready to get home and finish out the last two months of the year strong. I had missed almost six weeks of the gym from touring (working out on the road when I could). I wanted to make sure that my one year before and after photos were of someone who really DID THE WORK! but sure enough while doing pull-ups before the final performance of tour I noticed something on my stomach, a little bump -tahdah! - an umbilical hernia! I laughed because I remembered getting sick for my six month anniversary, a cyst for my six month gym goal, and now this. So I looked at myself in the mirror and said "It's okay, I love you"
I got home from that tour at 6 pm on November 1st. Two hours later at 8 pm I had my first meeting about something called Secret Midnight Press. Secret Midnight Press was an idea my friend Ashley and I got only two months prior. It was to be a boutique publishing company (and so much more) that we published our two upcoming books through. We held our breath, took the risk, and launched November 14th. Within just a few weeks we had sold out of every product while everything was still "preorder only"
It lead to a busy December and I missed plenty of days at the gym. But it's okay because this story isn't really about going to the gym, it's about why I went to the gym in the first place and why I still go back to "at least move around a little bit" when I can.
I learned to love myself by removing unrealistic expectations from my life. I stopped saying "I'll love myself when" and started saying "I love myself because..."
I love depressed me, I love over-weight me, and I'm going to give myself the grace I extend towards others.
I slowed down the most I ever have this year
And ended having written a book, regained my health, discovered happiness, and so much more
Today I'm a happy 158 lbs
And there's over 8000
and I love them all!
Thanks for reading
I hope that this inspires and encourages you
I learned a lot over the past year and have many more blogs to post about it.
Also - Smoothie Recipes!
P.S. Curious about smoothies? Already making them? Check out my regular additives here!
And here are a few of my recipes!