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Ruth’s Soapbox

Is the U.S. Government Causing & Perpetuating the Obesity Epidemic?

I recently re-watched the documentary Fed Up about how the U.S. government has basically subsidized the obesity epidemic in this country. It continues to perpetuate the problem through policies and regulation that enhance the financial success of certain food industries at the expense of public health.

In the 1970s, we were told to decrease the amount of fat in our diets. This resulted in the creation of low-fat and fat free products where a fat was replaced with sugar. And it’s sugar that is largely responsible for our problems with obesity, diabetes, and other related problems according to this film. We have our society of people who don’t understand what proper nutrition is and it doesn’t help that our school system is feeding them junk food and tells them that French fries and pizza are vegetables.

Exercise is not enough to combat the problems caused by our horrific diets. This problem is not to be resolved unless we drastically reduce the amount of processed food that we eat.

After watching this film again, I scrutinized the labels on foods in my pantry. Now, I have a pretty healthy diet. Besides putting sugar in my coffee, I didn’t think I had that much extra sugar in my diet besides the sugar in my morning coffee. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, baked chicken, cottage cheese, and I thought most of my processed foods were on the healthier side. I was surprised that the second ingredient in my rice squares cereal was sugar and the first ingredient in my gluten-free barbecue sauce was high fructose corn syrup. (I’ve been more mindful about avoiding gluten in the last few years because I think I’m sensitive to gluten.)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sugar by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now that I’ve seen this movie again, I want to be more mindful about avoiding sugar (with the exception of my morning coffee). I want to limit my portion sizes of certain foods that contain excess sugar and eliminate others altogether – like protein bars. When it comes to sweet foods like jam, barbecue sauce, and desserts, I can at least use brands that don’t use high fructose corn syrup and use these foods as something to have on a special occasion.

In my gymnast days, my teammates and I avoided fat like the plague while we were indulging in sugar filled foods like Snackwell cookies and artificially-sweetened diet sodas. Based on the information in this movie, we would have been better off having an apple and a glass of water.

I’ve asked my friend who is a bariatric surgeon about what I should eat to manage my appetite. He suggested that every meal should contain fiber, protein, and fat; and there should be no limit on the number of fruits and vegetables you can have. In his experience, one of the best things a person can do for themselves is learn to cook. His patients that learn to cook instead of eating processed foods are the ones who have the most long-term success with weight loss. And when you cook you understand what you’re eating and I think you take more pride in what you make for yourself.

Some people may say that it’s their right to fill their body would junk food, and would agree with that. However, just like with cigarettes, I would endorse the government imposing taxes on unhealthy foods. These funds could be used to offset the government’s cost of health care and/or providing healthy lunches to children in school. I would support this, even though it would mean I would have to pay more for some of my favorite treats that I still occasionally indulge in.

If you haven’t seen Fed Up, see it and decide for yourself what role you want the government to play when it comes to your food.

Nobody Knows I Have an Eating Disorder

Warning: This post may be triggering to some people. Please seek help and support if you need it.

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

From the outside, many people would say I’m young, successful, adventurous, and happy. I’m a daring entrepreneur and an outspoken writer. They have no idea that I struggle with an eating disorder.

As a size 4, I’m small but not emaciated. I don’t have the stereotypical eating disorder “look.” Most people don’t know that you don’t have to be severely underweight to have a serious illness that attacks your mind as much as your body.

They don’t understand how hard it is for me to eat. Most of my meals and snacks are carefully planned to keep my calorie count low. They don’t know how often I make a mental list of everything I’ve eaten that day to make sure I haven’t had too much. If I could give up food completely and just wear a calorie patch every day, I would.

They don’t know how I critically examine myself in the mirror, yearning to see more of the bones of my rib cage, shoulder blades, and collarbones. I don’t want to be horribly underweight, just “a little bit thinner.” They don’t know how important it is for me to be able to touch my fingers around my wrists. That tells me I’m still small enough. They don’t know how guilty and disgusting I feel when I’m having a “fat day.”

They don’t know how soothing it feels to devour a carton of ice cream or a big slice of cake, only to have that feeling overtaken by tremendous anxiety and shame – so much that I stick my fingers down my throat until I throw up again and again. There is no moderation in my world.

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I once described my disorder as having a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I can eat whatever I want without worrying about getting fat. (Never mind the toll it could be taking on my internal organs.) It’s like being able to drink and being able to make yourself instantly sober again.

Every day is a struggle for me. My mind is filled with anxiety when it comes to deciding what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop. I constantly deal with the fear that if I start eating I won’t be able to stop, and if I over indulge myself that I’m going to get really fat. And in my mind being fat means I’m undisciplined and possibly out of control, which is ironic because having an eating disorder means I’m out of control when it comes to managing my emotions. So I use food to manage, medicate, and escape my feelings instead.

Having an eating disorder is painful – both physically and emotionally. It is truly an illness; it’s not a diet; it’s not something I do to get attention. On the contrary, it keeps me depressed and isolated from the people I love because my shattered self-esteem tells me no one cares. And intellectually I know that’s not true. But this disease doesn’t care about intellect. I can’t think my way out of it.

Having an eating disorder is a bitch.
And most people have no clue that I have one.

To Post or Not To Post

WordPress Buttons by Alexander Grounder from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

WordPress Buttons by Alexander Grounder from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t make decisions easily. I mean, watching me try to order a sandwich can be painful. Once a decision is made, it’s made and you’re probably not going to budge me from my position but getting to that point can be a challenge.

There are a lot of things that I write about that never make it on the blog. When I’m writing about something that I’m really fired up about, I know I’m not always in my most logical mind. (As the great Rocky said, “Anger robs thought.” This fits me to a T.) So before I hit “publish,” it’s not uncommon for me to kick the draft out to one or more people to get feedback before I share it with the world. I lovingly call these people, “The Committee.”

At any time there are probably about 10 people I consider part of The Committee, and depending on the posting question anywhere from one to all of them will get a copy of what I’m thinking about posting before I decide if it goes out. I had so many strong emotions coursing through my veins as I wrote the post, I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore (probably my most daring post to date), so I knew I needed a second and third opinion before releasing it. Here are some of their reactions – mostly paraphrased. (I’m only referring to them by first initial to protect their identities.)

B: Sleep on it and see if you still want to release it in the morning.

E: Why are you hesitating? Posting this is not a bad idea.

R: It’s a thoughtful post. Go with your gut.

P: It’s an excellent post. Who better than a victim to truly state the outrage and expose the injustice of the ways this is handled in our society? If you want to put it out there–go for it. The world needs to hear it.

J: I don’t have time to read this right now. I have a massive brief due.

(That last one was just to show you that my Committee is composed of real people whose worlds do not revolve around me.)

I feel very lucky that I have amazing friends and confidants who let me vent, support me when I’m doing the right thing, and tell me when I’m wrong. I couldn’t do what I do without you.

I Can’t Stay Silent Anymore

The way sexual assault is handled in the U.S. makes me so frustrated. Sexual abuse and sexual assault is so pervasive – the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused and the number of women who are sexually assaulted in their lifetime is devastatingly high, and yet it’s something that is almost never discussed. I saw the trailer for the documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, The Hunting Ground, last tonight and it filled me with fire.

I get so angry when I hear about child molestation by church priests, the abuse by Jerry Sandusky, and the pervasiveness of sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m not angry just because people are being attacked, but because the institutions who are responsible for the victims’ safety are protecting the perpetrators. They are more concerned about maintaining their reputations than doing what’s right. Are they completely oblivious to the devastating effects of sexual assault? Do they know that they have shamed people into silence and attack them for speaking up? It makes me so angry and frustrated at “the system” that it’s hard to find words to express it. I just want to scream at them.

To every institution that turned a blind eye or blamed or shamed of victim who was sexually assaulted under their watch – Fuck You! I don’t believe in protecting perpetrators or the people that protect them.

As a survivor of sexual assault, my heart goes out to these victims and fellow survivors. I suspect I know your pain, your anger, and your shame. We live in a world that tells us to stay silent about being victimized and traumatized, to “get over it.” The people who say this are too uncomfortable with the fact that this happens everywhere and to all types of people, so they try to ignore it. They push the problem onto the victims when it’s really them who have the real problem.

The survivors of sexual assault have a challenge – to deal with the damage of the trauma we’ve been through. And if you’re a survivor too, you know how soul crushing and devastating it can be. This isn’t something we just “get over.” We live with it for the rest of our lives. It’s our responsibility to do what we have to do to take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like. And for some of us dealing with this deep trauma doesn’t take weeks or months; it takes years, maybe even a lifetime.

I’ve been silent for too long, shamed by individuals, institutions, and cultural norms. Speaking only for myself, I feel like I’m at a point where I can’t say that survivors should feel empowered to speak out whenever they need to an to call out individuals and institutions that perpetuate this problem, unless I’m willing to speak out too.

Alternative Uses for the State Bar Directory

My Arizona State Bar Membership Directory - aka Massive Dust Collector

My Arizona State Bar Membership Directory – aka Massive Dust Collector

I just paid $475 for the privilege of being a licensed Arizona attorney for the next year. One of the most frustrating things about having to pay for a mandatory state bar membership is watching the people in power spend it on things we don’t need or want – like a paper membership directory. It’s the phone book of lawyers. Every licensed attorney in the state gets one – and our dues pay to have it printed, shipped, and mailed to us every year.

Some people like having a paper directory. I’m sure this is the same minority that still uses the regular phone book while the rest of us use the internet to look up whatever information we need. I wish there was a way to opt out of getting this, or at least limit it to one directory per law firm. I recently joined a law firm that has 7 other attorneys. We don’t need 8 directories!

This situation made me think, “What would be a better use of our directories than letting them collect dust on the shelf for the year or automatically recycling them upon arrival?” I did some research and here are some of my favorite ideas.

Make spit balls or paper airplanes to throw during boring CLEs

Paper mache project


Door stop (I’ve actually done this with my bar directory.)

Booster seat for kids

Cut a hole in the middle and hide stuff in it

Garden mulch

Wrapping paper (The minimalist in me loves this idea!)

Kill bugs with it

Alternative for packing peanuts


I recently got a new desk and I’m pretty sure my bar directory is going to become my new foot rest. I can’t help my state bar membership directory fulfill its destiny as a phone book but I can give it a new purpose.

What did you do with your state bar directory?

Bad Customer Service from Office Max

Holy crap, I had awful customer service from OfficeMax recently. I went to their store because I needed furniture for my new office and lawyers get a discount through the Arizona State Bar. I was there on a Friday late morning, and there was almost nobody in the store. As I perused the desks and chairs, no clerks came up to ask me if they could help. I wondered if they didn’t think I could afford their furniture or if I just wasn’t worth waiting on because I was wearing baggy jeans and a zippy.

I selected a desk and a desk chair and went to the front of the store and asked if I could place the order. I informed her that I was short on time because I had a lunch obligation that day, and I was willing to come back if that would be better. She said she could help me right then. She entered my order into the computer and directed me to her counterpart when I said I wanted to arrange to have the desk assembled for me. He looked at the schedule and said the earliest availability wasn’t for 2 weeks. I let him know that I would like to be put on the waiting list (if they had one) in case an earlier slot opened up.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got a call a few days later letting me know that my delivery was coming. My delivery was scheduled for Thursday afternoon between 1:30 and 3:30. I arrived at the office just before 1 o’clock so I could be there to meet the delivery people; however when I walked in the door, our receptionist informed me that the delivery people had come and gone. I was impressed by how swiftly they worked, until I looked in my office and saw my desk, unassembled, still in the box, on the floor.


Desk in a Box


I called the delivery company to report the problem and they said I had to call the store where I place my order. The clerk who answered the phone informed me that they use different companies to deliver and to assemble products. It’s not uncommon for products to be delivered days before the assembly team is scheduled to come out and put them together. (That would have been helpful information to give me when I placed the order.) He said that the time I booked was the earliest they could get out to assemble my desk.

Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t believe this guy didn’t fully explain their delivery and assembly procedures to me, and that he didn’t offer to do anything to remedy the situation. I was under the impression that I would have a fully assembled desk that day based on the idea that I’d be working in my office and available to see clients. At that point it seemed like my options were to wait 8 days for my previously scheduled assembly appointment or put together my desk myself and get a refund on the assembly service. It’s a heavy desk with a lot of pieces, but I was stubborn and pissed off, so I opened the box and started putting it together. One of my office mates helped when I needed an extra pair of hands.

My New Desk

My New Desk

On that Thursday afternoon I managed to get through steps 1-8 (out of 20). Thank goodness the instructions were relatively easy to follow. I returned to the office early Friday morning and finished putting together my desk around 12:30. When we put the top on the desk, which until then had always been top-down on the floor or in the box, we noticed it had a dent and a crack. I went back to OfficeMax to get my refund for the assembly fee and hopefully an additional partial refund for delivering a damaged desk, but I was told they couldn’t do the refund unless I had the receipt. How is it possible for a business to operate this way? Shouldn’t this information already be in their computers? Shouldn’t the clerk have told me this when I called the previous day?

Damaged Desktop

Damaged Desktop

I went back again on Saturday with my receipt and within minutes the clerk refunded the assembly price and gave me a $50 refund for the damaged desk (~20% of the price I paid). He seemed pretty sullen. I think he knew he screwed up.

Thoughts about School Dress Codes

I’ve wanted to write a blog post about school dress codes for a while and it seems like now is a good time since kids will be heading back to the classroom this week after Winter Break. When I was in school, I wore a uniform for kindergarten through eighth grade and went to a high school with a strict dress code. We weren’t allowed to wear clothing with words or pictures on them, skirts and shorts had to be mid-thigh length, and guys couldn’t have long hair or facial hair.

I saw a few images this fall that made me want to share some thoughts about dress codes. Here’s the first:

Screenshot from Facebook taken in Fall 2014

Screenshot from Facebook taken in Fall 2014

I agree that wearing leggings or yoga pants does not make you look like a prostitute. However, I do believe that high school is a place to get people thinking about what is/is not an appropriate way to dress. If teenager’s job is to go to school, then part of that education is about how to present yourself. I agree that students’ dress should not be a distraction to learning, but it should take a lot to cross that line. Some of my classmates prided themselves of following the dress code while wearing absurd things like a 3-piece polyester plaid suit or pairing purple tights with a lime green dress. Whatever dress code you set, the kids are going to push back – and I actually encourage that if they can do it in clever ways that don’t break the rules.

I had mixed feelings about this photo:

Another Image from Facebook from Fall 2014

Another Image from Facebook from Fall 2014

On one hand, I’m a huge believer that we need to look at how children are socialized and work on teaching them that no one deserves to be objectified and no one should feel pressured to be in that role. If you find someone attractive, learn how to look discreetly.

On the flip side, I agree that visible bra straps and short shorts have no place in the classroom and it’s fine to make any student who is violating the dress code to go change. But that has nothing to do with gender roles.

Speaking of gender roles, these images made me think about what dress code I would create if I was responsible for a school. I support the idea that the same dress code should apply to boys and girls in regards to what garments may be worn and how long short/skirt lengths should be. I have no issue with a biological male student wearing a dress to school as long as they adhere to the same standards regarding dresses as the girls. Here’s the list I came up with:

  • Your appearance must be clean and neat – no ripped or stained clothing. Your hair must be neatly styled.
  • No facial hair.
  • Workout attire should only be worn during P.E.; exception for athletic shoes and socks.
  • No excessively baggy or tight clothing. No see-through clothing. No backless or sleeveless tops or dresses. No exposed cleavage or midriffs. (You should be able to raise both arms above your head without exposing any torso skin.)
  • No visible undergarments.
  • No leggings may be worn as pants but may be worn under shorts, skirt, or dress. No “skinny jeans.”
  • The hem of your shorts and skirts must be at least 5 inches from the bottom of your hip bone.
  • No visible tattoos unless you are at least 18 years old (because you have to be 18 to legally get a tattoo) and the image or verbiage must not be offensive.
  • No verbiage on your clothing except for small logos, unless it is official apparel from a legitimate school or college.
  • Your top must have sleeves.
  • Your shoes must have a closed toe and heel.
  • No hats or hoods may be worn in the building.
  • No pajamas, including slippers.

I’m sure some people will think that it’s odd that someone like me – who wears t-shirts professionally and participates in the annual No Pants Ride would endorse such a conservative school dress code. (My high school alma mater’s dress code is actually more conservative than this.) But here’s the deal – I’m an adult. I know how to dress myself according to the situation. For many people, this will be the type of dress code you will have at your first job. Plus, I want young people to understand that they are more than their appearance. They’re in school to develop their minds so they can have the future that will give them the lifestyle (including dress code) that they want.

Thoughts about Change

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. As I was walking my dog this morning, I thought about how much my life has changed since I’m moved to Phoenix almost 11 years ago. It made me reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned about change and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

Now by Kalyan Kanuri from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now by Kalyan Kanuri from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Change is a Commitment
When I was in early recovery, I remember people saying, “New playgrounds, new playmates, new play things.” And that’s absolutely true. When you make a change in your life it often requires letting go of people, places, and things from the way your life was. So if your New Year’s resolution is to be healthier, the first step is probably getting the junk food out of your pantry. If you’re going away to college and you want to make over yourself in the process, you shouldn’t bring your old clothes with you because the risk is too great that you will end up back in your old patterns.

I’m working on committing to change right now as I’m writing this post. This morning I force myself to raise my sit/stand desk to work from a standing position and I turned on my dictation software because I think, once I get used to it, it will be easier to write this way.

Sometimes Change is Hard
I’m not going to sugar coat this: sometimes making changes is hard and even scary. It requires doing things differently and being mindful not to slip back into old behaviors. And sometimes there is even grief involved because you’re letting go of how your life used to be.

Every time I move to a new place or a new job, it’s excruciatingly painful for me, even when it’s in my best interests. It takes me a while to settle in and feel comfortable but I know in the big picture it’s for the best so I muddle through, knowing that I’ll be fine in a few weeks.

Sometimes Change is Easy
I’m often a person who will resist change, kicking and screaming, until it’s way too painful not to change, but change doesn’t always have to be hard or painful – especially if you’re ready for it. Sometimes I’m excited for the changes that are to come, like with my minimalism projects. When change comes easily, it often feels more like an adventure, or at least a seamless process.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with acid reflux, and my a doctor gave me the list of dietary recommendations which included giving up high fat, tomato products, not eating within 3 hours of bedtime, and giving up caffeine. I told him I would do everything on the list except give up caffeine. There was no way I was giving up my coffee. Six months later, I still had problems with acid reflux and so I relented. My office mates were so frightened of me my first week off of coffee, but because I was ready to go through the withdrawal, it really wasn’t that bad. I had a mild headache for a week and it took about 3 weeks to stop feeling tired all the time, but then I was fine. (I quit caffeine for probably 2 years, but I only lasted about 2 months into law school before I was back on coffee again.)

Change Requires Risk
No matter how you feel about making a change in your life, it always requires risk – risk of failure, risk of being uncomfortable, etc. When you change behaviors, it may change the way you feel about yourself or possibly the way you view the world. I don’t know about you, but generally for me change is scary and I often resist it just to maintain the familiarity of the status quo, even when the status quo is bad. But one thing I’ve learned is that when I’m afraid of making a change, it usually means I’m making a change for the better and often in a big way. With great risk often comes great rewards.

I’m not really one for making New Year’s resolutions but rather I use the start of a new year to think about how I want to be different or better a year from now.

I wish you happiness and success for 2015. Make it a good one.

The Slippery Slope of the Hobby Lobby Fallout

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that a closely-held for-profit company could use their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse to pay for birth control their employees. I think the court was 100% wrong in this decision and I’m annoyed that it’s probably going to take us decades to undo the damage this ruling is going to cause.

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a huge advocate for the separation of church and state and the notion that people can have whatever religious beliefs they want, as long as they don’t try to inflict them on others. This ruling crosses that line. If the federal government passed a law that says companies with 50 employees or more have to provide certain health insurance to employees and a company doesn’t like it, their options should have been to pay the penalty for violating the law or shrink their company so the law wouldn’t apply to them, not getting an exception based on religious beliefs.

This week I read about a similar case – a pharmacy in Washington State wants to refuse on religious grounds to stock and dispense Plan B (the morning after pill) even though all pharmacies are mandated by state law to carry it.

Here’s my take on these situations – laws should be passed for the good of the general public. If you don’t like a law, don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to abide by it. If you’re a pharmacist who dislikes your state’s laws about what products you have to carry, get out of the business or move to a state that doesn’t have that requirement.

There are plenty of laws that I don’t like but I accept that I have to follow them or accept the penalty if I get caught breaking them. I can try to get the law changed, but until that happens, I’m stuck with them.

Having legally recognized exceptions written into laws is one thing, but giving people the ability to refuse to follow the law based on religious beliefs is a slippery slope. When I was an undergrad, I was furious to learn that a pharmacist at the student health center wasn’t filling prescriptions for the morning after pill because of her religious beliefs so students could only get that prescription filled when she wasn’t working. She should have been fired for that. What’s next – a clerk at a sex shop telling his boss that he’s ok with selling sex toys but he can’t sell porn because it violates his religion? Or a biblical literalist who works at a department store who claims she can’t ring up customers who buy garments made of more than one fabric?

If I had to claim a religion, I’d say it’s Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be a dick”). As a business owner, I get to handpick who I do business with, and I don’t work with clients who are dicks. But if there was a law that said I had to, I’d look for a way to change my business to get out of it or make it worth my while. However, if I was ever someone’s employee again, I would never get away with that. If I refused a direct order from my superior, claiming that dealing with dicks violated my religious beliefs, I’d expect to be fired.

(Mental note: If business owners and employees are allowed to violate or get exceptions to the law based on religious beliefs, I need to start documenting my sincerely held religious beliefs which are not affiliated with any official religion so I can use them to get my way when it suits me.)

Top 10 Bonus Skills from being a Gymnast

Although I was a gymnast for seventeen years, I haven’t done anything harder than a handstand without the assistance of a trampoline for at least the last five. Nevertheless, there are certain skills you develop as a gymnast that stay with you for life. Here are the top ten:

Beautiful Erika with a Sunset, used with permission

Beautiful Erika with a Sunset, used with permission

Beach Handstand 2008

I Try to do a Handstand every Place I Visit

  1. How to wash your hair with one hand because it hurts like hell to get shampoo in a rip.
  2. How to change leotards in a parking lot without committing indecent exposure because the line for the bathroom at the meet was too long, also how to pee without taking off your leotard.
  3. How to turn your hair into cement with the right combination of hair products where you can take the rubber band out of your hair and still have a ponytail, also how to cut tiny rubber bands out of your hair without cutting your hair along with it.
  4. How to shave your legs, arm pits, and bikini line in thirty seconds in a shower of any size
  5. How to pick up clothing, pencils, etc. with your toes.
  6. How to flush toilets and open doors with your feet – yay for flexibility!
  7. How to do read and write in the car without getting carsick – because the car ride to/from practice was your only time to get homework done.
  8. How to sleep and do homework while in the splits or otherwise bent in half.
  9. How to ride public transportation without having to hold on anything without losing your balance.
  10. How to eat a full meal before working out and not have any issues.

By far, the best skill that comes from being a gymnast is the ability to focus, compartmentalize, and stay determined. I’ve heard from several former gymnasts that being in this sport gave them the ability to work through physical and emotional pain and “go on with the show” when they’d rather curl up and cry. As my coach, Rocky, used to say, “It’s only hard.”

Once a gymnast, always a gymnast. It’s been over a decade since my last competition and I love that some people can tell I was gymnast by the way I walk and carry myself. Gymnastics is more than a sport; it’s a way of life.