The REAL Icing on the Cake

Enough of the sugar-coating. I don’t care for it. 

I’ll pass on the fluffy cupcakes with frosting, gooey cookies with glaze, and warm chocolate iced donuts with sprinkles. 

You may think I’m crazy, but …

No coconut and cream coating, powdered sugar finishing touch, or triple chocolate fudge, please. 

No thanks …

I want to know what’s underneath (and I’m not just talking quality ingredients). Forget the sugar-coating, I want to taste the real stuff. 

And no, this isn’t just another a nutrition talk from your health coach 😉

I want to know more …

I’ll go for some raw egg. Perhaps some unsalted butter. Unsifted flower. Half-melted chocolate chips. Crisco from the can.

I’m craving simplicity. 

I want to taste transparency. 

I want to chew on unrefined adequacy.

I’m craving pungent. 

Riveting.

Relentless reckoning.

I want the REAL recipe. The first ingredients. The natural ingredients. The processed ingredients. ALL the ingredients. Healthy or not. Fresh or stale. Wherever you are right now. 

I want the exact amounts, the honest amounts, and all the mistakes you spilled into the bowl. 

I want the “too much of this” and “too little of that.” 

I want the beaten batter and all of its lumps. 

I’m not interested in the decorated finished product, covered in layers upon layers of sugary colored frosting. I’m interested in the layers underneath—the sources of the sequence, and the steps in the story.

I would much rather meet the creator of the cake. 

I’m craving RAW. I’m craving REAL. I’m craving TRUTH. 

I want to know YOU.

The world often makes us think our raw ingredients don’t matter. We think we can’t share these messy piles with the world. We have to mix things up first; we have to make things look presentable. We become deceived in believing that our lives aren’t exciting enough; our bodies aren’t pretty enough; our schedules aren’t full enough; our stories aren’t important enough. 

I’m here to tell you that “perfect cake” is crap.

Or maybe we think our ingredients aren’t pure enough. We think our contents aren’t organic enough, our prep isn’t smooth enough and our measurements aren’t precise enough to fit in with this world. We attempt to cover up our misguided steps, our faulty accidents, our stained aprons and cracked mixing bowls. 

Maybe if I add more salt here, or sugar there, no one will notice. 

Maybe if I just keep stirring, the batter will become smoother.

Maybe if we bake more goods, good reputation will follow.

Maybe if we pour a little quicker, and beat a little faster, our struggle will become numbed.

Temporary fixes are … well, merely temporary. There will be a day when someone bites down on the piece of the broken eggshell you failed to pick out of the mix. That person might even be you …

We all want to be noticed. We all want to be accepted. We want to be admired, loved, and respected. We want people to bite off a taste of our lives and come back for more. Only, the dish we often are serving to others isn’t real. It isn’t authentic. It isn’t richly bold and filled with flavor. It’s an underwhelming recycled recipe. A recipe that’s not our own.

I get it …trust me, I do. I used to live in the kitchen of forbidden foods. I used to mix to the beat of society’s KitchenAid. I used to chop in the monotonous rhythm of perfectionism’s lies. But at the time it seemed easy. I worked to blend in, rather than stand out. Except I realized that in my mind I did stand out. I wasn’t like other people. I swam in my shame. The eating disorder claimed each one of my meals. I thought my broken cookie crumbs were worthless, so I swept them into the sink. 

I get it … transparency can be tough. Vulnerability can be vicious. Details can be dreaded. Opening up can be overwhelming. Sometimes healing hurts. But truth can be transforming. 

It’s time we shared our original recipe, without fear of judgement. It’s time for us to cook and eat freely and adventurously. There is no reason to confine to the unrealistic ideologies and spotless kitchen floors. We’ve all had a mess that we’ve franticly mopped up before anyone noticed. It’s time to open the jar of individuality and write your name in the chocolate drizzle. 

I admire any person who can tell me their past, lick the spoon, and use it to make a delicious batch of brownies. Secret recipes only hold their suspense for so long …

Just think of what the dessert spread would look like if we all divulged and swapped recipe cards. Just think of the sweet stories we could savor …

Your story matters, whether you think of yourself as a master baker or not. 

Your contents are beautiful … and can create a delicious masterpiece. 

Let’s be raw. 

Let’s be riveting. 

Let’s be REAL.

Know Your Numbers (And When to Forget Them) 

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I am a person who loves figuring things out. I like answers, and realistic figures and being able to come up with reasonable reliable solutions. But not in the mathematician or Excel Spreadsheet-master sort of way– I purely like the simplicity of having a definite outcome, which acts as a sustainable source for future reference. For this reason and this reason alone, I didn’t mind math back when I was in school. Also for this reason, coupled with a sharp ability in visual memorization, I developed an apt for numbers–numbers capable of practical application in the real world as it pertains to health, fitness, and performance.

I write this not to bore you, nor to take you through a tedious calculus lesson, but to offer a means of escape–escape from something that perhaps subconsciously may be “weighing” you down. Let me elaborate on that idea for a second, so you can get a better taste of the point I am trying to reach…

For years, the scale was the enemy. A thin medal box that held secrets capable of ruining an entire week’s worth of effort. A creature that hid in the dark depths underneath the bedside table, only to be brought out often as the bearer of bad news…hesitating for a moment upon receiving a standing presence, its dials moving back and forth as if it had some control over your center of being–like a magnet playing with the key to your soul. For so long, I placed value in the scale and its “magic numbers.” There came an outward praise for a reading deemed “good,” yet coupled with a secret luring of dissatisfaction from within.

Funny how we tend to place so much self worth in a device so inconsistent, and in a number we are told is regretful or acceptable.

While the scale is by far the most prime example I can emphasize with regards to “sticking to your numbers,” there are all sorts of other “scores” we tend to give ourselves in life. Some of these standards, milestones or checkpoints are wonderful motivation and sometimes necessary for intervention purposes. It is when we let the pressures and unrealistic expectations control us that these numbers can become obsessive. Clinical values such as blood pressure, fasting glucose, cholesterol and other blood-test results are types of numbers that are often necessary to keep track of. Assessments that include body fat percentage, lean mass, total body water, and BMI can be great for beginning an exercise plan and for documenting results. Keeping a detailed running log with specific mile splits and personal best times can be a very useful tactic to stay on track with a training program for a half marathon or a 5K. Knowing just how many arm strokes it takes you to complete a one lap swim can benefit your 50m freestyle. But if you already possess quite an avid competitive nature, some of these practices involving numbers may eventually get to your head. I know this, because by attempting to better myself and my athletic performance, I unintentionally found myself trapped in a sudoku puzzle filled with society’s pressures and my own expectations.

I remember the first time I went for a jog without a watch strapped to my wrist…

…with the the wind in my face and thoughts flowing freely, I noticed the bright blooming flowers in the tops of the trees along the side of the road in my very own neighborhood. I could hear the light consistent pounding of my feet and rhythm of my breathing. I cornered the same familiar bend I veer around every morning, usually around 7.23 minutes and counting. But this time, I hugged the curb free and unattached, lengthening my stride and reaching for more.

Although I still use numbers as a reliable source of progress, they no longer dictate my being. Placing too much emphasis on hitting targets, adhering to a confined regimen, or building explosive statistics can cause fitness (and other endeavors) to  become more of a pressure rather than a choice. My time, place, rank, weight, score, dimensions, Facebook likes, age, or track record may hold some sensible significance for a scrapbook someday, but they don’t deserve to rule my life. These values definitely serve their purpose under specific circumstances, and can also gain appropriate praise or provoke essential calls to actions when necessary. But I would much rather strive towards something greater than a number on a screen or a figure on a scale. Reality is, I’m only one person–one mind, one opinion, one thought, and one heart. But sometimes, in the sea of scrutinizing self-criticism, you’re not the only one. Sometimes, amidst all the comparison and continuous counting, one is simply enough.

You are worth so much more than a numerical value. Your presence in this world matters. Your thoughts, your hopes, and your dreams are worth sharing.

So know your numbers, in as much detail as you choose. Just know when it is safe (and sometimes favorable) to forget them. Be the one you can always count on.