Minding My Mirrors: Proportion Distortion

So there are a whole slew of things that I’m admittedly terrible at.

1) Any sport. No seriously, pick anything and I am horrendous at it. Perhaps this is due to my high pain avoidance (I avoid things that have the possibility to cause me physical pain. Sports= a cornucopia of ways in which I can experience physical pain). Most of it though I think is because I legitimately have pretty terrible hand eye coordination, which my parents can’t figure out because they both were pretty into sports and had excellent aim. I tried to land something in a trashcan two feet away from me the other day and missed and hit the window. Yes, seriously.

2) Saying, “good enough”. I really struggle with this. Part of it, I’ve realized in the past week particularly, is because I literally have no self-trust or belief in my own abilities to do something correctly. I know, perfectionism, but it does get in the way. Especially when you’re trying to get out of work on time, but still insist on completing every item on the checklist when the world actually wouldn’t end if you missed one of the minor things.

3) Repetition. I hate doing things that require a lot of repetition with very little deviation. I get bored way too easy, cue the distraction and complete unwillingness to actually get the task done. Hence why studying and monotonous rote doesn’t work well, practicing piano never happened (I always played I just never practiced), and also why I literally spend all my time cooking my own food and making every meal different. The idea of having the exact same thing twice in a row or even twice in a few days bores me to tears!

4) Unpacking a Suitcase. So not only am I a last minute packer, which can be a problem of its own, I have this inexplicable inability to unpack a suitcase. Thankfully, dirty laundry is instantly taken out, but other than that I will just systematically take out things item by item as I need them until eventually my suitcase is unpacked.  I think the longest my suitcase has sat on my floor after a trip was 2.5 months.  Yes, really.  And there has really only been one time where my suitcase was instantly unpacked when I arrived home, and that was when I was going through a change-all-your-non-productive ways-and-judge-yourself-on-every-move-you-make-phase.  It was fleeting, and as I said it only happened once.  (Side note:  this is just reminding me how my suitcase is still on my floor from a trip I took last week… perhaps I should deal with that…)

5) Cooking fish. My love of fish is huge, and there are a couple (actually one- basa fillets) that I’ve mastered. But this more so is because I know my oven, and not because I really can cook the fish. Either way I always, ALWAYS get someone to double check because me+salmon=overcooked. And I like my fish just barely cooked, or I find it dry and unpalatable. It’s a work in progress.

6) Folding sheets. It doesn’t matter how many times someone shows me, or how many times I practice, they always end up a crinkled mess. I’ve since given up and just morph them into something between a pancake and a muffin top shape and call it a day. If bed head is considered a legitimate hairstyle, there’s no way my sheets need to be smooth.

I could go on. That’s life. Hopefully one day I’ll marry someone that can barbecue a killer salmon, doesn’t need to play soccer or go for jogs for “fun”, and can fold at least the guest room sheets like a beast. Currently accepting applications.

There are also some things that I’m crazy good at though!

1) Word games. You name it. Crosswords, Boggle, Pick Two (my favorite!), Scrabble… I’m a beast. It actually seems to drive people nuts, to the extent that they don’t want to play with me anymore (other than my Aunt Lucy… her goal is always to beat me!). It’s kind of sad though because I’m not TRYING to win… there are just so many good words right there in front of me!

2) Numbers. Addition, subtraction, algebra. Now I don’t mean that I find these things particularly FUN (although algebra can be a neat game…), and I certainly don’t want you to come up to me with a two trains meeting question because I will run away screaming with my hands in my ears (actually I’ll probably run and trip over something, hence the lack of coordination…). But I’m good with them. Like I can add sums really quickly, and I tend to remember them well. Hence the whole calorie counting thing and anything you can really put into quantities has always gotten me like a magnet.

3) Listening. I’m a killer listener. I prefer to listen really, and I don’t actually do well when it comes to the relation and talking part of a conversation (especially with people my own age… I have no opinion on Nicki Minaj and probably couldn’t even pick her out if you showed me pictures…). But if you need someone to sit and listen to you mull a problem over, or just listen to really anything at all, I’m your girl. I’ll even listen to a conversation about Nikki Minaj with vague interest. Just don’t ask me my opinion. (Side note: my knowledge of Nicki Minaj is so vast that I actually had to look up how to spell her name. I totally spelt it wrong.)

4) Looking in the Mirror. No, I’m not vain. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t spend hours in front of a mirror, primping and preening, and I don’t actually seek out mirrors to check myself out. But I know how to use one really well. And by really well, I mean something like this:

Oh look, a mirror/reflective surface that I happen to pass by. Just a quick glance. Hmmm, wow, my thighs are really big. Yep, they’re at least an inch wider than last week. Soon they’ll touch, and then I’ll want to die. Never mind my chipmunk cheeks. You can’t even see my cheekbones anymore. I wish my hair would grow out faster so that I can cover them up before this weight gain phase is over. And my ribs… ha, well you can’t even tell I have those. Yep, I’m a cross between a chipmunk, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and a marshmallow. Ha, remember that episode of Arthur where he gets a really puffy green jacket that makes him look like the Michelin Man? Yep, I’m like that… but I don’t need a jacket.

Yep that’s my thought process, or something remarkably similar, usually actually ending with the Arthur memory. Did anyone else see that one?

So unsurprisingly, this pretty much makes me feel like crap, makes me anxious, and kills any positivity I might have been experiencing. So needless to say, I don’t specifically SEEK out mirrors to make myself feel shitty. I just seem to have a laser ability to find them, or at least, when I happen to notice my reflection in something, I can’t help but stop and look, just to double check that I haven’t ballooned up like a blimp. Except that while I might not be exactly Mr. Puffy (I’ll stop with the Arthur references, I promise), I always seem to find something that appears bigger than the “last time”, even if the last time was earlier that day or (more usual) a few days ago.

Mirrors are tricky. When I first entered residential treatment, a few days after I arrived they decided to do a little experiment where they covered all the reflective surfaces and taped over all the mirrors in the house for two weeks. We couldn’t see ourselves for two weeks, and some odd things happened. At this point I was in the honeymoon phase of recovery where I truly believed everything would eventually be fixed by gaining weight and it would be like a temporary thing that I could totally be rid of once I completed my prescription of poundage. So I didn’t really have this crazy urge to look at myself in a mirror. I didn’t find a roll of tape and sneak into the bathroom, peel off an inch section to body check by standing in the sink and re-tape it so no one would know the difference. And I didn’t find myself suddenly lifting the semi opaque kettle at odd angles to try and decipher some sort of image in its barely-there sheen. (All things I saw/heard about other people I was with doing). In a weird sense, I felt liberated. I felt calmer. And while it probably was the start of my bend over, head between the legs thigh checking, in other ways it made me freer than I had been in a long time.

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Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles

Here are the things we tend to forget about mirrors:

1) Distortion. Yes, the ED brain comes often with some body dysmorphia. It’s like, if we were sitting in the living room and I pointed to the rocking chair and tried to tell you that that plain as day chair in the corner wasn’t actually there. It’s all in your mind. Crazy and hard to believe, right? It’s hard to not believe in something that’s staring you in the face. However, there is also mirror distortion. Mirrors reflect light, that’s all they do. So if there’s a divot, or a crack, or an uneven surface, the image reflected back to your eyes is not going to be accurate. Think of a funhouse with its wonky mirrors and associated distortions.

2) Fear amplifies things. Think of something you’re afraid of. Perhaps it’s spiders. Now, if you’re afraid of spiders and you see a spider on the wall, to the unaffected friend sitting next to you it’s nothing more than a tiny common household pest, but to you…man you could swear that thing was the size of a tarantula! Or at least half as big as your hand… it doesn’t matter! It was HUGE! Fear makes things seem bigger than they are… it’s a self-preservation thing, a survival tactic. So if you look in the mirror, and you fear seeing fat on yourself, guess what you’ll see? Or at least, guess what will look more prominent than it actually is?

3) They’re not a measure of health, or of worth. Cue the violin solo and the inspirational I have a dream speech. You are worth more than what you see in the mirror. A mirror doesn’t show you how your heart is functioning, how your brain neurons are firing, or how well your liver is detoxifying your body. And the size of your body is not an indicator of much. Some people are genetically larger. They have bigger bones, they carry their weight in different places, they have a higher natural set point. Does this make them unhealthy? No. Does it make them fat? No. I sound like a recording, a psychotherapist, and a hypocrite all rolled into one. How does someone who is clearly so affected by her reflection feel she has the right to tell us not to be affected by what we see?

I don’t.

It’s a work in progress.

Anyways, the point is, mirrors don’t help much. Sure, they can tell you if you have a mascara spider or spinach in your teeth, or if that red hat really doesn’t go at all with that blue jacket, but beyond that they’re kind of toxic.

And cue my brainwave of last week.

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The Hall of Mirrors again at the Palace of Versailles… for once these mirror shots are bringing back positive memories… but I still judge what I’m seeing even now.

I like naming things, often alliteratively. See there’s Fear Food Friday, and Survivor Sunday, TBH Tuesday (that’s a new one I just thought of… will have to explore that more). So I figure that Monday has to have something too, right? Because Monday kind of gets the short end of the stick… for many it’s just kind of a crappy day. It’s the start of the workweek, it has a lack of good late night TV, and it reminds you of the homework you didn’t get done on the weekend that was due. Oops.

Anyways, Mondays suck. And I’m not all into the whole Man Crush Monday shenanigans, and while Mugcake Monday holds promise, it is a little bit of a drag if I either felt like having the mugcake on a Tuesday, or simply didn’t feel like one on the Monday… and Muffintop Monday sounds delicious but can be taken in too many more destructive ways…

Distracted.

So Monday! Let’s throw some self-compassion, or at least take a stab at it, into a crappy day. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Mirror-less Monday.

Yep.

One day a week where you don’t look in a mirror, and you avoid all reflective surfaces. Psshaw, sound easy? You’d be surprised…

So I came up with this cockamamie idea on Sunday, and being the type of person I am, I thought hmmm let’s try this, and decided the next day I would dive into it.

I don’t wear makeup. I think I stopped during my hospitalization 3 years ago and just never started again. Once you see how much nicer your skin health is without it, it’s hard to go back to foundation-induced pimple-land. So I mean, aside from spinach in my teeth or out-of-place cowlicks, my actual NEED for a mirror is quite minimal. But hey, we already determined that bed head is a legitimate look now. I can just elect for the grunge look and fake it till I make it.

I’m kind of lucky in the sense that my house has a general lack of reflective surfaces. We’re not that decorative, so it’s not like we have these little knickknacks with mini mirrors or a lot of silver decorations everywhere. And I’ve found that if you actually leave the exterior of your windows dirty, you don’t see your reflection near as much… logically this means that it’s a wonderful idea to never climb on a ladder outside to wash your windows. I have just been unconsciously planning ahead for this project!

So basically I’m faced with three-ish overt mirrors that I regularly come into contact with: my bedroom, my bathroom, and the door leading outside. I’m not someone who spends time really in my bedroom, so my contact there is minimal- getting up in the morning and going to bed. It also tends to be one that hates me often, as you tend to get dressed in your room and thusly can see that much more of yourself.

Note to self: Take a note from treatment facility for next week and at least make a board or something you can place in front of the mirror the night before when going to bed. Then you don’t have the instant, I’m-not-thinking-straight-because-it’s-5-am slip up when you first get out of bed, and have forgotten today’s goal…

But I digress…

The most frequent one I come into contact with is the bathroom, because I’m almost never in the other bedrooms, and let’s face it: nature calls more than once a day. So the practicality of this one is a little different, as I can’t just cover up a common bathroom mirror that everyone else uses. The most effective strategy seems to be leaving the lights off when I’m in there, as it has no windows, and we only have a tiny nightlight that really only spreads enough to see where you’re going and give you a vague outline of your shape in the mirror with no specifics. So technically, assuming you remember not to turn on the light that one should be easy enough.

Work is actually the easiest place to avoid seeing my reflection because there are literally almost no reflective surfaces, other than in one section that I very rarely have to be in. The only real cincher here is the bathroom. Obviously, it has no nightlight, and leaving the lights off is not an option unless I leave the door open. Obviously, that’s a no go (I’m sure the other employees appreciate my conclusion on this one too). I think that one is just going to take a bit more practice.

The side view mirrors in the car… another one that you just have to try to remember. I can see all kinds of bad things happening if I tried to cover those guys. And because I’m not allowed to exercise at this point, various external reflective surfaces are at a minimal because I’m not going out for a jog or a walk. Check and check.

So it’s a work in progress, but I think it shows promise. And I invite others to join me, regardless of sex, age, condition, constitution… we all could use a break from the scrutiny of the silver eye. Screw Man-crush Monday, Meatless Monday (because I just like chicken, okay!), and Mimosa Monday… actually wait, that last one could be delicious.

And just because I can, I’m going to end this by sharing a recipe I’m currently crushing on at snack time.

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One bowl wonder!

Because little, round cookies don’t need a mirror either to embrace their cute chubby perfection.

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Mid delicious creation…

So if you love the wonder that is peanut butter, love one bowl dishes, don’t feel like turning on your oven, or just need to remind yourself what deliciousness is…

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Second batch I made- drizzled with peanut butter chips instead of dark chocolate chips, because peanut butter.

Try these no bake peanut butter chocolate drizzle cookies.

Tada!  Original batch I made.  Chocolate and peanut butter heaven :)

Tada! Original batch I made. Chocolate and peanut butter heaven 🙂

Now. No really. Right now.

Intuitiveness: Eating Until You’re Full vs. Eating Fully

So I have a secret…

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It’s deep and dark, and oh so juicy…

Actually it’s more like deep and dark and oh so sticky…

The secret is…

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I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast.  A full cinnamon roll.  A full cinnamon roll slathered in a delicious but not too sweet cream cheese frosting.  A full cinnamon roll with an ooey-gooey cinnamon brown sugar syrup centre, and dough that is so fresh you can still smell the yeast faintly.  A full cinnamon roll that is so slightly heated to soften it, and that has faint wisps of steam coming from its centre.  A full cinnamon roll that was bigger than the palm of my hand.

My love affair with cinnamon rolls started young, and I have more fondness for some of the memories attached to cinnamon rolls than a lot of other things in my life.  Growing up I spent a large amount of time at my grandparents house, as both of my parents worked and one thing she was famous for were her cinnamon rolls.  I don’t know when I started helping her with her cinnamon rolls, but suffice it to say that I was young enough that to reach the top of the counter I had to be perched on a very high stool.

My Grandma was, and still is one of my best friends.  I have a love for her that I have for no one else in the whole world.  Those afternoons spent with her have shaped me into who I am, and gave me some of the best memories.  Whether it was playing rummy on the patio deck, or getting our hands dirty in the flowerbeds, or (more often than not) baking something wonderful in the kitchen… you name it, I have a grandma story for it.

So I started baking with her when I was really little.  I remember her rolling out the dough, and watching the strands of gluten snap gently as it was moulded into the perfect shape.  She’d take her hands, not a measuring cup, and toss on brown sugar, and shake on cinnamon.  Every time, it smelt the same.  Not too cinnamon-y, not too sugary, just right.

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She’d start pressing the sugar gently into the dough, her on one side and me on the other.  I remember the feeling of it between my fingers, that soft pillowy tenderness, not yet sticky as it hadn’t been baked.  We’d meet in the centre of the dough and then look up at each other, and she’d smile.  Grandma always smiles with her eyes.

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Her cinnamon rolls… you can’t duplicate them, and this is sheerly because there is no recipe.  The amount of vexation that I and various family members have experienced when trying to get a recipe out of her (98% of the time either the cinnamon buns, or her equally incredible pie crust) is a real issue.

“Grandma, how much flour do you put in?”

“Enough.”

“How much sugar?”

“Just a bit.”

“What does that mean?!”

“I don’t know… until it feels right!

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For us analytic, and quantitative types, this kind of logic, this innate sense of rightness is unbelievably frustrating.  Especially now, as she loses her sight, and we all know that both the amazing cinnamon rolls and the pie crust perfection are slowly disappearing from our grasp.  In a way, it almost feels like that’s how it should be.  A good baker never reveals her secrets- or if she does, she does it when the one she’s revealing it to is too young to remember numbers and figures.

Ooey-gooey goodness.  We’d make tons of cinnamon rolls, and we’d store them in the freezer.  Being a minister’s wife, there was always a church function to pull them out for. Plus you never knew when someone would pop in for a visit.  Or with ten children and their respective families, holidays were always an occasion requiring a cornucopia of cinnamon rolls… and cookies.

Grandma would make her cinnamon rolls, usually somewhere between 2 to 4 dozen and into the oven they’d go.  You could sit on the floor and watch them rise, and the whole house would cry with the delight of the aromas that filled the air.  But grandma and I had a special thing…

There was my little pan.  She always made sure there was a little pan of mini cinnamon rolls just for me.  It was a little blue and white bowl, with a pink bird on the inside and a stubborn crack running down it’s inner surface.  She’d take the ends of dough left over (or perhaps she just made sure she had some left over) and sprinkle them with cinnamon and make me my little bowl, a soup bowl, with four or five little cinnamon rolls in it.  It was our thing.

I loved my little cinnamon rolls, but I usually only had one of them.  That’s all I ever wanted.  The rest I’d share, usually with my Dad who has the biggest sweet tooth known to man.  And my little cinnamon rolls were the best, because they did not have near as much sugar on them, being the ends, and were just gooey cinnamon-y goodness.

My love of cinnamon rolls was cultivated by my grandmother, and I have nothing but positive memories of them.  They are quite possibly my favourite treat, if they’re done right.  Even with an eating disorder, while they might terrify me, I can only think of great things about them:

  1. Cinnamon.  You can never have too much cinnamon.  Not only does it taste great in almost everything (smoothies, overnight oats, oatmeal, cookies, chicken marinades (yes, really)…), but it has some wonderful benefits too, including aiding digestion and stabilizing blood sugar.
  2. Brown Sugar. Yes brown sugar.  Believe it or not, it has its place!  Sugar is what?  A carbohydrate.  That’s what it is.  And carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy and are needed for your brain to function properly.  I’m not here to condemn food.
  3. Flour.  More carbohydrates!  More brain functioning!  And of course, you can’t negate the wonderfulness of biting into something doughy and gooey and chewy… without the flour that pleasure could not exist.
  4. Cream Cheese. Believe it or not, cream cheese is often fortified with vitamin A.  Yes, it’s high in fat, but fats help the permeability and rigidity of your cell membranes, and are important for many things not just an energy source, but also for proper nerve function.
  5. Butter.  More fats! More vitamin A!  Butter, though often condemned, actually has another benefit.  It contains butyric acid, which is a particular saturated fatty acid that really aids your intestinal cells to do their jobs.
  6. Deliciousness.  Enough said!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why cinnamon rolls are wonderful.  Could I put all these facts on a scale?  Could I said, well yes, brown sugar is different from other sweeteners like honey, or maple syrup, or agave?  Could I go into the whole wheat versus  white flour debacle?  Of course I could.  But how is that helpful?  How is it helpful to make someone feel like they are committing a crime by enjoying something in its pure and original form?  How is it helpful to join the voices waging war on the “fat epidemic” by encouraging people to say goodbye to the things they truly enjoy and thereby encourage them to feel deprived and therefore probably eat more than their share of the same exact thing at a later time.  And once again cue the guilt, the shame, the fear, the dangerous and dissatisfying cycle.

Nope.  There are no rules.  Cinnamon rolls have their place, and that place is special.  It is something to be savoured and treasured, and kept solely for the cinnamon rolls.  And they’re something meant to be enjoyed, and enjoyed fully in their entirety.

So back to today. I ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast. A full cinnamon roll. A full cinnamon roll slathered in a delicious but not too sweet cream cheese frosting. A full cinnamon roll with an ooey-gooey cinnamon brown sugar syrup centre, and dough that is so fresh you can still smell the yeast faintly. A full cinnamon roll that is so slightly heated to soften it, and that has faint wisps of steam coming from its centre. A full cinnamon roll that was bigger than the palm of my hand.

These weren’t my Grandma’s cinnamon rolls, but the delicious factor was almost identical.  I took the time to stop at an amazing Dutch bakery and select four of their finest.  And this morning I woke up, and I knew that upstairs in the kitchen was a very special treat waiting for me.  I selected one out of the box and set it on a plate, popped it into the microwave to take the chill off, and waited ever-so-not-patiently for it to be ready.  I sat down at the table and looked out at the view, and took my first bite.

I died a little.

Let me mention that this was the first cinnamon roll I’d eaten in a very long time.  ED doesn’t give you a whole lot of cinnamon roll space in it’s daily schedule.  Suffice it to say, I was long overdue.

A second bite.

Every ounce of happiness.  Every wonderful memory of me and grandma making cinnamon rolls together in her kitchen came flooding back.  And for once, there was no room for ED to spoil it.

A third bite.

This is the point where I normally would start to question things.  How many times have you heard the phrase, eat intuitively?  Eat slowly and in tune with your body?  Listen to your body and honour what it tells you, what it wants, and more importantly separate what it wants from what it needs?

This is a fine line, especially for those with an eating disorder.  It can be incredibly difficult to decipher what your body is telling you from what ED is telling you.  Especially in the beginning of recovery, hunger and fullness cues are not reliable.  Even, take yesterday for example, if I listened solely to my fullness cues, my fullness cues would have told me that I was “finished”, and that I had eaten until I was “full” after only one bite.  One bite!  Logical?  Not so much…

This begs the question:  What is more important- eating until you are “full” versus “eating fully”?

In a world where there is a constant “war on fat”, we are encouraged often to eat only until we are “full”, until we feel that physical sensation of “fullness”.  This is so important because obviously if we eat a few bites too many we will balloon up and our bodies don’t know how to handle it, and automatically everything extra is stored as that muffin top over your jeans and the cellulite on your thighs, right?  Because our bodies are that stupid that they can’t possibly figure out what to do with that ounce of extra cream cheese, right?

I’m not condemning eating intuitively either, don’t misunderstand me.  But I am talking about how even a concept so healthful and balanced such as intuitive eating has been taken to extremes.  Our fat-phobic society has turned eating until you are “full” into an overanalyzed rationale that is lead not by how your body feels but rather by your fear.  Your fear of a cinnamon roll, of a cookie, of an extra bite of lasagna…

This is not intuitiveness.

The definition of intuitiveness, as according to dictionary.com is:

                  “Perceiving directly by intuition, without rational thought, as a person or the mind.”

In my opinion, if we are truly to practice intuitive eating, we cannot do it if the place from which we approach it is one of fear.  When we are so hyperaware of the physical sensation of “fullness” that we look for it, almost pray for it to come faster and faster because we are scared of overeating, we are already placing judgement on that sensation.  We already have a preconceived notion of when that feeling “should” come, and are scared both to feel it, and to not feel it.

Did you notice that while you were waiting for the feeling of “fullness” you were doing nothing but thinking about it?  We can’t be intuitive when all we do is think about it!  That goes directly against the definition of intuition (without rational thought!).

So once again I ask, what is more important:  eating until you’re “full”, or eating “fully”?

I ate a full cinnamon bun today.  I felt physically “full” after one bite.  Did I do it wrong?

There really are two states of “fullness”:

  1. Physical fullness- you can feel it.  You’re physically satisfied.  That food is sitting in your stomach, and your stomach is no longer telling you you need to keep eating.
  2. Satisfaction- You feel both physically full, AND you are no longer eying that cinnamon roll and thinking about how you’d like just a couple more bites.

This second state is the tricky one, only because we overanalyze it.  We condemn it.  We look at ourselves as gluttons just for achieving it, because we went those (literally) two bites past physically satisfied.  This is not turkey dinner.  This is not physically uncomfortable.  This is still within the realms of comfortably full, but you’re also mentally satisfied.  There’s a difference.

If you don’t reach this state of satisfaction, if you stop at simply physically full, chances are you will be thinking about those two or three bites you wanted.  You will think about how you weren’t quite satisfied, and on some level, you feel that sense of deprivation.  With anorexia, this deprivation will give you an unparalleled high, and a sense of strength and resilience.  You’re not a hero… don’t listen to it.

As soon as that dissatisfaction sets in…that sense of deprivation sets in, your chances of overeating later to compensate for it skyrocket.  Because no one likes to feel deprived, and you just want to fill that void that you could have so easily filled with only two bites more.

And trust me, your body knows what to do with those two bites, and chances are it doesn’t involve a muffin top.

So what’s more important?  Eating to you’re “full” or eating “fully”?

They have their place, both of them, and they work hand in hand.  In my mind, eat until you’re physically “full”, but eat until you’re also mentally “satisfied”.  Eat the whole cinnamon roll, or don’t eat the whole cinnamon roll.  Honour yourself, don’t judge yourself.  Eat fully.

Eat salads, and eat cookies.  Eat cinnamon rolls, and eat oatmeal.  Nothing is good, nothing is bad.  Eat fully.

Eat what you want, when you want it.  Don’t deprive yourself. Eat what you want, until you’re full, and until you’re satisfied.  Honour yourself, and by doing so you don’t need to worry about unbuttoning your pants (unless it’s thanksgiving!).  Eat until full, and eat fully.

Defining “Normal”

So guys, guess what day it is???

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MY BIRTHDAY!

No, not really. But that would have been really fun… I mean, even if you don’t like the idea of getting older, who doesn’t, somewhere, deep inside, secretly love birthdays?! You can’t tell me that balloons, and flowers, and that extra little bit of love you feel doesn’t warm you up somewhere on the inside.

Alas, it’s not my birthday. But guess what day it IS?

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Have you figured it out yet?

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That’s right, Friday! Specifically, fear food Friday! I mentioned this before, but I’ll recap. When I was in residential treatment, Friday was the day you kind of loved to hate a little bit, because chances are that you were going to be challenged with a typical fear food on that day, at least once. I mean sure, they denied it, but we all knew when we got that 7 am wake up call that we were walking downstairs to pancakes with whipped cream, or “cheese surprise” (basically extremely cheesy mac and cheese) for dinner that night. Or that one day… that ONE day, where they gave us pizza for lunch, milkshakes for afternoon snack, and then surprised us when we thought it couldn’t get any worse by putting heaping mounds of pasta on our plates for dinner.

Yeah, that wasn’t pretty. A lot of Ativan was given out that night…

Anyways, Fridays tended to push our boundaries a bit in terms of what we ate. This was stressful for sure, but, at least for me, there was still a small part of me that really looked forward to Friday just because I knew I was going to be able to have something that, chances are, I really enjoyed (except for the whole pancakes and whipped cream thing… I’m not huge on pancakes, I legitimately can’t stand whipped cream, and the alternative was syrup and butter, which we all know that despite my Canadian roots, I find repulsive too). And there was this whole permission thing… like I could let myself enjoy it because I didn’t have a choice but to eat it. So in some ways that obligation was my scapegoat, and my way to assuage any guilt I felt. Or at least most of it.

When we got through that day, in particular the pizza, pasta, and milkshake one, the next morning we all pretty much went on strike with the dietician. We insisted that eating like that was not “normal”, that even people we know without eating disorders did not eat like that in the “real world”.

Our dietician had a rough job… actually all eating disorder dieticians do, because so often they become the enemy in the recovery relationship. They become the evil one that is just trying to get you “fat”, and the one that you can hurl all the horrible garbage that is swirling around inside your head at. Let me tell you, that day she got a beating from roughly twenty outraged patients. Ever cool and collected, I remember her sitting in her chair and insisting, in her quiet but firm, no nonsense way that this WAS “normal” eating.

Believe me when I say that none of us were convinced.

But as I move farther in my journey, albeit after a relapse, albeit being in a worse state now physically than I was on that fateful fear food filled (alliteration is fantastic, is it not?!) Friday, I can say I’m definitely in a different mental state now than I was then.

For me, relapsing in many ways has resulted in a harder recovery this time around. The depression that accompanied the acquisition of such a low BMI was much much worse this time around, and the resulting hole that I dug for myself seemed that much harder to climb out of. Or rather, I didn’t have the mental energy to build the ladder needed to help me climb out of the hole.

Before, the threat of dying, the threat of having a heart attack, the threat of not waking up in the morning was enough to allow me to take the initial steps on the recovery path. This time it was different. I knew the battle that lay ahead, and I knew the end result: weight restoration, and yes fat acquisition, but even more so, a body that I never learned to love. A skin that I never felt comfortable in, regardless of all the therapy. The constant feeling of wanting to crawl out of yourself, or hide yourself away because you feel so ashamed of the physical body you are in.

And more than once, as I worked my way down deeper and deeper into my anorexic pit this time, I found myself saying: if that is how I’m doomed to feel every day of my life, what is the point? Even at a weight restored place, even after rounds of therapy, my exercise was entirely linked to my intake, and my intake was controlled by a strict set of rules that had gradually gotten more and more specific. As I maintained a “pseudo-recovered” mindset, I fought so hard to ward off old, dangerous behaviors (like weighing and using measuring cups for food, or using calorie counters) that I just ended up developing new ones. And eventually the old behaviors came back too.

I didn’t see it. The threat of dying wasn’t enough when the threat of living was so overwhelming.

I never thought of suicide. I never wanted to end my life. I still don’t. But I was willing to let it go if that was what it came down to.

The admission of that is depressing.

All I’ve wanted, ever since my eating disorder first took hold was to have a “normal” relationship with food, to be able to eat “normally”, and to be able to maintain a healthy weight in a body that I felt comfortable in. This time, this goal felt so impossible that I was willing to let go if I had to.

In all of this, it sounds as though I was actually in a worse mental state this time than before. Perhaps I was, in some ways. But in others, I was leaps and bounds ahead of where I was the first time I decided to try and regain my health and happiness.

This time, I know the path I am on. I know, in general, what to expect. And, this time, I have an ability to be realistic and not naïve about the process. This time, I know that it’s not a simple matter of regaining the weight and then magically your life goes back to what it was. I know that I can’t expect to wake up one morning and have this all disappear, like it was just a bad dream.

Anyways, I have a point to this…

Going through the motions: recovery, relapse, recovery… and through the different phases: hospital medical ward, inpatient, residential, home, real world, and ALMOST (but not quite) hospital again, has taught me a lot that I didn’t know before. Or rather, I never thought about.

For example: the dietician sitting in her chair, insisting that the consumption of pizza, milkshakes, and pasta in one day was “normal”. No way!!

Except I know now… it kind of is “normal”. Actually, it’s so unbelievably “normal” that you can’t believe it.

I can see you all getting out your pitchforks… I can see some angry hater getting on my case about the obesity epidemic, about the “unhealthy” food choices and their ramifications in our modern society…

BUT, hear me out!

Firstly, I’m not getting into the whole argument on “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” foods. My goal in my own process is not to put such labels on anything, or to allow that judgment to reign supreme. Those labels are the source of deprivation, dissatisfaction, anxiety, stress, depression, and overall guilt and shame. With such ugly side effects, I don’t know why we’d want to swallow that pill?

Secondly, “normal” doesn’t exist. There really isn’t a set of rules, even though probably a good 90% of people believe there is. “Normal” is unique, and completely individual.

But, for the sake of the argument here, I’m going to use the word “normal” as I can’t really think of one to replace it. Perhaps balanced could, but context-wise, I think all of you eating disordered people out there will understand what I’m talking about, what I’m feeling and thinking, if I stick to “normal”.

Is it “normal” to eat pizza for lunch, a milkshake for snack, and then a big bowl of pasta for dinner? Yes!

I can say that now! I finally get where the dietician was going with this!

Yes! But here’s the catch: it doesn’t happen every day.

The label of “normal” has become almost synonymous with black and white, or all or nothing thinking. You’re “normal” or disordered, good or bad, skinny or fat, smart or stupid, starving or binging… the list goes on and on!

But picture this. You wake up on Friday morning and grab a quick breakfast before you head off to work or school. Lunch is in the cafeteria, and oh look, there’s pizza! And the salad at the salad bar either had someone just sneeze on it, making it totally repulsive, or you saw mold on the grated cheese on top because that one has been sitting in the grab and go case for WAY too long, or simply you just really don’t feel like eating it and are craving a slice of pizza. Doesn’t really matter. You grab a slice of pizza and go sit down to enjoy with your friends/colleagues. During lunch, you get to talking, and it’s Friday, so plans for the weekend are discussed. Someone mentions the new movie that came out this week, and everyone talks about how much they are looking forward to seeing it. Before you know it, plans are made to head to the showing tonight at seven. You’re excited!

After lunch you head off to class/work. The day progresses and you get busy: you have after school band/soccer practice, or a project is due to your boss first thing Monday morning. Either way, you get tied up and don’t get home until 5, 5:30…

Luckily, your spouse/parents was there and has cooked dinner: a delicious bowl of your favorite pasta in that amazing sauce. Not only is pasta relatively quick, but it’s usually fairly easy to make, and it tastes good to boot. You sit down and have a nice dinner that was lovingly prepared, while chatting about your respective days.

Before you know it, it’s time for the movie! You head out and meet your friends/coworkers at the cinema, and sit down to (insert emotion and response of choice here) your head off/eyes out/etc. Afterwards everyone decides that they’re really enjoying themselves and the night is young. How about going to the ice cream shop around the corner, someone suggests? Why not?

So you go. You order that classic favorite shake of yours (mine would be a combo of Caribou Caramel and Cookies and Cream J) and enjoy it with everyone else. After some prolonged socializing you head home and off to bed, thoroughly content with the course of your Friday. After all, TGIF!

And look what happened! You ate pizza, pasta, and milkshakes, all in one day. Not only did you live to tell the day of it, but also you didn’t even realize it. You didn’t even know that you committed some societal cardinal sins, and that you behaved so “abnormally”. You never even thought about it.

Because guess what… your “abnormal” was “normal”. It was special, social, fun, and guiltless. No shame.

This is why fear food Friday is so important!

Not only is it important to challenge our fears, whether they be food related, work related, or what have you, but it is important to remember that indulgence, that satisfying cravings, and that occasionally overeating is part of a “normal” lifestyle, and a “normal” relationship with food.

It doesn’t happen every day. And on those special days where it does, no harm, no foul. No guilt, no shame. No judgment, no fear.

Well, theoretically… easier said than done. It’s a bit hypocritical for me to say that considering that I almost had a melt down over a smoothie and nuts today… but I’m a work in progress. And I do believe that this outlook, while not totally embraced by me right now, is a healthy one, and one that I will strive to have, through fear food Fridays and my recovery journey in general.

So without further ado, here are some scary things I dealt with today:

Breakfast:

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I made a pumpkin bread breakfast bake with oats, topped with coconut peanut butter, and yogurt on the side. The fear: adding in a yogurt. I love yogurt, but somehow having yogurt when I have nut butter already is terrifying. Gotta love those fats and those calories! To top it off, a sprinkle of granola on top. Scary too!

Morning Snack:

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Harvest Crunch Granola. I wasn’t really sure what I felt like for snack today, but when I saw this guy in the cupboard it was calling me. I haven’t eaten it in so long, and really for me it’s a nostalgia thing, as my Dad used to make me a bowl before school often. The fear: additive sugars. For someone who is already afraid of granola as it packs a bit of a punch relative to volume, not making it myself and being able to control the additive sugar is always a challenge.

Lunch:

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A plate of indecision! Once again, I didn’t know what I wanted. Actually I did: I knew I wanted pretzels, and I knew I wanted black bean puree. Reality: I needed to use up some of the hummus, and those beans taste wayyyy better with cheese on top. The fear: Processed food (aka pretzels) typically judged as “junky”. Plus cheese. Plus the volume of beans and hummus… ED never likes multiples when the option exists to always have less. Plus kombucha… because I don’t drink my calories.

Afternoon snack:

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My doubler, and quite large snack of the day. I went shopping yesterday and bought protein powder for the first time as I have seen so many interesting looking posts around the web that use it. Decided to try this recipe. The challenge: smoothies tend to be scary with the sugar content, and the inability to totally count out exact servings of things… I knew I had to add to it as it wasn’t enough for me right now, but my judgment of “normal” portions kept getting in the way. Eventually I tried the KIND bar (normally love KIND bars) but that flavor was… unpalatable to me. Will not buy again. After two bites, went for some nuts instead, which my dog heartily supported. The fear: FATS! More to come on this, as I could go for pages and pages!

Dinner:

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Was on my own for dinner for the first time in a long time. So I did what every young person does when they’re on their own… roast chicken breast and cook boozy red wine cheesy pasta with fresh herbs and veggies! Not everyone does that? What? Is it just me? Then again, many people would say I’m the only person that plates their lunch at work and garnishes with fresh herbs and spices…The fear: Pasta, cheese, wine… you name it!

Dessert:

So my own personal (and dietician approved) challenge is to work my way through immaeatthat’s single serving cookie cookbook! I’ve had the cookbook since it first came out but have been too scared to use it! Daily challenges are the best! Today was a no-bake toasted coconut cookie with chocolate drizzle. The fear: fats, in chocolate and coconut, as well as the walnuts. Sugar in the dates.

One recipe a day, plus some yogurt (because I don’t like milk and cookies… sacrilegious I know) for the next 35 (because I started yesterday with 36!) days. Feel free to join me on this, or at least on your own Fear Food Friday challenges! And tag me, and let me know what you’re challenging yourself with, food-wise or in other aspects of life. I’d love to hear  🙂

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Because it’s “normal” to like cookies, too.