Flexibility Part I: Fearing Change

Howdy! It’s been a while.

Have you ever had one of those spans of time where you’re just… blah?  It’s not for a particular reason, and it’s not that you’re angry, or sad, or depressed, or scared, or feeling any one particular emotion. You’re just… blah.

That’s been me the past few weeks.  In particular, that’s been me the last week.  And in some ways, I guess it has translated over to my writing too.  I haven’t wanted to write… and I certainly didn’t know even if I did WANT to write, what to write about.

I mean, I could do a post on a particular food.  Like dates, for example, or coconut.  And I could rave about why that particular food is totally awesome, taste-wise and nutrient-wise.  The date one could definitely have been a thing, as it’s been causing me, or rather the eating disordered part of me, endless vexation.  But I was uninspired.

And I could also have done a post on some incredible macronutrient that we all love to hate and hate to love.  You know the one… that big gooey one.  That deliciously fluffy yet smooth one that just sneaks its way even into the strictest of diet plans…

FAT!

I just realized those descriptions could have also described an undercooked muffin, brownie, or cookie… and hence CARBS!  But I was really thinking about fat…

And now I really want an undercooked cookie…

Moving on!

I could have written about fat.  I will write about fat.  But again, I was uninspired.

And I could have responded to a Liebster Award nomination… which I TECHNICALLY have, but have been unable to post because I’m having a heck of a time coming up with bloggers to nominate with less than 200 followers!! Hence my lack of technical skills rears its ugly head. (Side note:  if anyone can help me find WHERE to find how many followers a blog has, this would be super helpful!)

Anyways, as you can see, I was uninspired.  And I was unmotivated.  You see, because when you go through a good two years with a thigh gap (yes, I know this is an unrealistic and unhealthy ideal, but it’s an ed thing) and then suddenly it no longer exists, as much as you want to say it doesn’t matter, it does.  And it’s a grieving process, and an acceptance process, and a depressing process.  And it leaves you unmotivated.  I’m working through it.

On another note, mirrorless Monday is becoming easier on most fronts.  I’ve decided to totally cover my bedroom mirror with a curtain of sorts, which helps a lot when you wake up at 5 in the morning and forget what day it is.  Plus, the bedroom mirror is, at least for me the most unforgiving and the cruelest.  So actually, I’ve decided to keep the curtain up and closed on this one!  Now, when I want to use it, it actually gives me the space to stop and think first:

  1. Do I really NEED to look in the mirror right now? AKA, is there spinach in my teeth?
  2. Why am I looking in the mirror right now?
  3. Is it going to help me, or is it going to harm me to look in the mirror right now?

And when you have that space to ask yourself those questions, believe it or not I’d say 80 % of the time it results in me walking away from the mirror without having opened the curtain to check at all.  Except for this morning, even though it’s mirrorless Monday.  BUT, I think it’s a legitimate cause to look in the mirror when suddenly you have blood flowing down your face and you have no idea where it’s coming from…

Side note: I apparently picked a scab while I was impatiently waiting for my oatmeal to cook.  TMI probably, but just so you all know, I’m not dying!

So, what am I actually going to talk about?

Yesterday, and I guess today, if you think of the stat holiday as a holiday, was Canadian Thanksgiving!  Or, as one of my best friends puts it: “anxiety+family+food” day!  Which pretty much sums it up.

Thanksgiving is horrendously wonderful.  Turkey day even gets its own slot on the hunger/fullness scale, with 1 being dizzy and weak, and 10 being binge full (Thanksgiving full actually is 9, just in case you were wondering).  So in terms of notoriety, it’s kind of the Madonna or MJ of the food world.

I just had a vision of a turkey, wearing a white glove, and dancing the slide to dark or white (like dark meat/white meat, instead of black or white skin…).  You kinda had to be there.

Moving on.  As such, it is one of those holidays that people with eating disorders love to hate.  I mean, it’s a holiday that celebrates food in all its glory.  It’s a holiday where it actually is normal to eat past comfortably full.  It’s a holiday that delights in fear foods (gravy, creamed sauces, probably some nuts somewhere, dessert, pie, whipping cream, ice cream, pie, alcohol perhaps, CARBS, pie…).  It’s a time of family and friends, which even in the best relationships often gets stressful.  Whether it’s people interrogating you on where your life is going, who you’re dating, offering their unsolicited opinions on what you SHOULD or SHOULDN’T be doing.  Plus, house of 30 people, roasting hot oven= heat stroke, lack of space, lack of air, and irritability.  Or at least, that’s how it usually is in my family.

And believe it or not, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  This Thanksgiving for me… well I’ll be honest, it kind of sucked.  No, it really, really sucked.  And it wasn’t because I had to eat turkey, or gravy, or cream sauces, or deal with unending questions of how my life was going or whether I was living up to expectations.  It was because it DIDN’T have any of that.  For a girl who is used to being with family and going through the anxiety provoking yet necessary yearly rite of passage, it was a let-down.

I had to work.  AKA I had to pay bills, which means that I had to work.  Which means, that I didn’t get to drive out of town and spend the holiday with all my family.  It sucks, but it’s life.  It saved me from a lot of food anxiety, as it was a day like any other, and a lot of relationship anxiety, but it also made me feel quite down in the dumps most of the week, and especially yesterday.

I did buck up last night, get angry that I was doing NOTHING Thanksgiving-y, and decide to create a recipe for single-serving pumpkin pie.  It turned out quite tasty, but it was more of a cake because if you don’t have 6 hours to let a pumpkin pie set and cool before eating, you kind of have to go the cake route.  Plus the crust needs a bit of work… it’s not much of a looker either… basically it’s a work in progress.  And it did trigger a rather large ED meltdown afterwards.

Oh the joys of Thanksgiving!

But this Thanksgiving taught me a little lesson.  Actually this week taught me a little lesson: You have to be flexible.

Flexible.

Let’s see… the definition of flexible… ah here we go:

Flexible

  1. capable of being bent, usually without breaking (emphasis on the USUALLY for me)
  2. susceptible of modification or adaptation; adaptible
  3. willing or disposed to yield; pliable

Flexible.  It is one of those qualities that I really wish that I could add to my list of personality traits!  And it’s super funny, because on one hand I’m about as flexible as a piece of plywood, yet at the same time I am so frustrated by inflexibility (including my own) that I will go out of my way to avoid it or push against boundaries.  Hence, my tendency to change my hair quite frequently, or constant need for variety in my diet.

I’m a walking dialectical oxymoron.  Yes… I do use words like that in real life.

Side note: my dietician got a good laugh the other day.  Here I am, bearing my soul in peanut butter and chocolate, and she was stifling a laugh because I’m the first person she has heard actually use the word “whilst” in a sentence!

Double side note:  I’m not actually mad about this… it makes me happy when I amuse people.  Because I believe I am one of the most boring people ever so it shocks me when it happens.  Moving on.

Flexibility, or rather, inflexibility is a big issue in the eating disorder realm.  Our world is ruled by a set of guidelines that supposedly maintains the safety, structure, and certainty of our existence, of our diet, and most importantly of our weight, or weight loss.  We are completely convinced that if we do something the same way and it has always been safe then we will continue to stay safe doing things the same way.  I remember one therapist I once saw told me that one of the key personality traits for someone with anorexia is inflexibility/rigidity, along with high levels of harm avoidance.  So I mean it logically makes sense; why change something that isn’t broken?  Why do something differently if we don’t know what will happen when we do?  If there is a chance that we might get hurt, that the sky will fall, that the pain we fear will come to meet us?

Answer:  Because there has to be something MORE.

There has to be something more than doing the same thing over and over.  There has to be something more than eating the same meal over and over.  There has to be something more than not settling for something that you’re only kind of happy with, or maybe not happy with at all.  And maybe there isn’t something more.  Maybe there isn’t something better.  Sometimes we change something, only to find that it IS worse than before.

But guess what?  You can always go back.

Well maybe not ALWAYS.  This isn’t “Back to the Future”. But with a lot of things that we fear to change, we often forget that a change doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  It doesn’t mean switching one rut for another.  Just because you make a change does not mean you have to stick to it if it’s not working for you.  As I often have to remind myself, going backwards isn’t the same as quitting or giving up, it’s simply re-routing.

And sometimes, when we make a change, we find out that there was something MORE.  There was something BETTER.  And we luck out.  And we grow, we expand (in personality, in depth of character, not necessarily in waistline), and we become MORE than we were before.

Like when I first started with my new dietician, and I said, “I don’t want to try a new breakfast because I’m so scared that I’ll hate it and then I’ll have wasted my calories.” For someone who is starving themselves every little calorie you allow yourself to eat is precious.  You cherish it.  You plan for it.  You savour it.  Or at least I did, because I never knew when I would be able to have it again.

But if I hadn’t tried something new, I never would have discovered baked oatmeal, overnight oats, or the wonderful thing that happens when you blend an avocado into a smoothie, or slap some scrambled eggs on a waffle (if you haven’t tried either of these ideas, stop reading NOW, and go do it!  I can wait!  Preferably at the same time, because you can have a smoothie and a waffle and an egg (and cheese) at the same time (with some spinach and milk and banana and almond butter thrown in, hint hint), preferably for lunch, because there are NO RULES, and it is DELICIOUS!) And my body would never have learned how to digest food properly again.  Okay maybe that last part was more along the lines with just eating properly again and not just the breakfast shift, but you get the point.  The change was good!

Or this past week.  I had to go in for weigh in, but my doctor called me the day before and said that he had to move my appointment from 11 am to 1 pm.  And this was my face:

And I had to be flexible.  I had to adapt.  Why was this a big deal you ask?  Because I MUST get weighed at the same time of day, wearing the same clothes, after having eating at the same exact times I do every weigh in day!  It must be consistent or the world will END!  My weight won’t be accurate, I’ll blow up 10 extra pounds because I ate lunch first, I’ll retain some fluid…

So I planned to skip lunch… or rather not skip it, but wait until after 2 to eat.  At least, until my dietician reminded me not only how ridiculous my reasoning sounded, but how impractical this plan was since I still had a snack to fit in before dinner.  So I had to adapt, and I had to be okay with eating lunch before a weigh in.  I had to be okay with the possible water retention (that is NORMAL), and the possible fluctuation of weight (that is also NORMAL).  And I had to be okay when I finally decided to eat lunch on the way and what I was going to order had something I was allergic to in in and I had to pick something else in the spur of the moment.  Pressure + me = RUN!

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Except nothing happened.  Nothing.  The world didn’t end.  And assuming that no one is lying to me, my weight increased the same amount as usual… the same amount that it’s supposed to be increasing by.

I had to be flexible when I realized I couldn’t spend the holiday with my family.

I had to push my boundaries.  And yes, it created a ridiculous amount of anxiety!  Yes, I wanted to panic, yes I wanted to run away, yes I wanted to restrict, yes I wanted to jump on a treadmill, yes I wanted to physically cut the fat that suddenly seemed to appear when I did look in the mirror off my body.  Yes it was uncomfortable.  Yes it hurt.

Yes, there was something more.  Yes, I did survive.

And there will be more surviving.  This morning my meal plan changed, and needless to say I am terrified.  We went from avidly counting calories to food exchanges… and now that that has just turned into another set of rules like calories we have to switch it up again.  Once again, this lack of structure cued my face:

It’s more of a “flex plan”, that gives me room to play and try to identify my hunger and fullness cues.  There is a basic structure, but I have wiggle room.

In my mind, this could result in either massive restriction or me blowing up like a balloon.  Of course this is black or white (dark meat or white?), and completely illogical, but thats just how it feels.  But what is the alternative?  Staying the same.  And there has to be something MORE.

I want more.

So I have to be flexible.

And because this is getting long, I’ll call this part I, and end it here.  Actually no, I’ll end it here, because I’m all Thanksgiving-y and pumpkin-y and it’s necessary to have a killer oatmeal recipe in your arsenal for those mornings where you just can’t wait a half an hour for your breakfast to bake.  I might have made it this morning…

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Chit Chatting over Breakfast

Hi there, I’m Tiffany!

Just another wannabe food blogger here, navigating the realms of htmls, upload links, a lack of professional photography training, a lack of professional culinary training, and a lack of technical know how and savvy.

No seriously, my technical skills are extremely limited… you should have seen when I finally bought my iPhone how long it took me to compose a 3 sentence text message because I kept hitting all the wrong letters with my apparently spastic thumbs.  It wasn’t pretty… (insert randoM capit.als and punCtuation into every other wor.d here)

So this will be a bit of an adventure to say the least, and it won’t necessarily be pretty, but hopefully it will be amusing, exciting, and delicious (which is better than pretty, right?)

I could go into a long rant about who I am, and get all metaphorical.  I could say I’m misunderstood (who isn’t?), that I had a difficult childhood (but so does everyone, and it doesn’t mean it wasn’t still full of love and good times), and that I’m just trying to find myself (I think myself might be lost in the peanut butter aisle of the grocery store…), but I don’t think that my past is really that important for you to know.  If you’re interested in knowing, drop me a line and I’ll come lie on your couch and you can ask me how everything makes me feel.

Did I mention I’m sarcastic?  Get used to it…

I’ll give you the short and sweet though because if we’re going to start a relationship, I think you need to be able to at least picture a bit of me.  I’m a twenty something female, from Canada (and no, I don’t live in an igloo, I *gasp* hate maple syrup, and if you asked me what team won the Stanley Cup last year, I couldn’t tell you… go ahead get out your pitchforks eh!).  I’m the eternal perfectionist, which works really well in a lot of situations, and is my achilles heel in a lot of others, who was always the top student, identified herself by being the academic nerd, and who has kept her posse of friends and family close but small.

I’m an average day job worker by day, and batman by night… catwoman?  Superwoman?  Is there a super woman?  If you haven’t guessed I’m not into sci-fi, comics, or any games that you play on a computer or xbox (hello that would require technical savvy!).  No, my alterego is actually a closet, or maybe not so closet foodie whose FAVORITE (the capitals are intentional here, and very important) past time is being in the kitchen trying new things.  I’m the most relaxed, most invigorated, and most alive when I have a spatula in one hand, an ingredient in the other, and my eyes glued to a recipe book, food blog, or food gawker.  My dream is to eventually do some cooking training, and open up my own restaurant/cafe/bistro that has a similar focus to this blog.  Healthy, wholesome food, with a bit of good old “indulgence” thrown in, with no food rules, no exercise rules, and a lot of numminess…

Sound familiar?  Have you seen it before (insert name of almost everyone whose recipes appear on pinterest or food gawker here)?

Here’s the catch.

I have an eating disorder.

Yep, a good old fashioned, I’m terrified of food, anorexic eating disorder.

Seem weird since I’m actually the most alive, and most at peace when creating things in my kitchen?  Yeah, I haven’t figured it out either…

See here’s the thing… you give me any recipe and I will dive in head first.  The smells, the tastes, the flavors, the herbs, the creative process… it’s better than crack.  Not that I’ve tried crack, so I have no reference point here.  But I’d imagine that it would be better (or at least better for you!)… The tricky part comes to eating it.  See I love to eat it… but I’m too scared to. A lot of the time.  Or if I do eat it, it is only no big deal if I can go on my treadmill for 6 hours to make up for it.

Yep, that’s the diagnosis.  Restrictive anorexia with an obsessive overexercise component.

So I’ve gone through the process.  I was hospitalized (yes it was that bad) 3 years ago, and stayed there for a good 3+ months until I weight restored.  Then I went into outpatient treatment, for a month before entering a residential treatment centre for another 3+ months.  And I don’t regret a moment of it.  Any of it.  I learned so much about myself, my disorder, my likes, my dislikes, and met some amazing people (professionals, and just other patients) that have impacted my life in more ways than I can say.  I went into outpatient for almost another year before taking a semester in Paris, France to study language.

I don’t regret that either…

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But here’s the thing.  I never recovered.  Through all that I never did… I still hated myself, my body, had a denial complex in which I was still totally obsessed with exercise and eating “healthy” 98% of the time.  Yes I ate finally… I just had to exercise it to maintain weight/lose it.  So going to France, while wonderful, was the start of the breakdown for me.

I had to sit.  In a chair.  And study.  For hours. And there was no formalized exercise.  For someone who taught herself how to knit standing up because she’s too afraid to sit down because that will burn less and somehow more fat will end up on your ass that way (eating disorder goggles?) this was the worst thing possible.  With a lack of a weigh scale, and a lack of exercise, the food restriction came back, and started the course to relapse.

I’m human.  I’m imperfect.

So now… over a year later I’m at my bottom again.  But I’m not in the hospital!!  And I’m trying this new like, recover for me thing, where I try in an outpatient type setting to regain the weight, and recover.  It’s a process, and I’m just starting it.

I found this totally amazing person when I first started this recovery process years ago, who showed me how to love food again.  And I’m so lucky because now, she’s helping me recover.  I feel like I won the lottery.  No seriously, no sarcasm here.  Because here’s what I want in my recovered life:

  1. No food rules.  None.  If I want pizza today and a burger tomorrow, I refuse to be confined to have a salad for lunch to balance it out.  Because seriously, a week from now, I’ll probably have two salads in one day because I love vegetables and that is what I’ll want to eat THEN.
  2. No weighing or measuring food.  Eventually, no portion sizes.  Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.  If that’s 2 chicken breasts, lovely!  If that’s a half of one, who cares?!  There is no rule (Side note: This is not possible in the beginning stages of recovery.  I’m not delusional…eventual goals are listed here 🙂 )
  3. Exercise does not equal food.  Calories in does not equal calories out.  I want to exercise and do the things I love, and not have it have a correlation with what I eat in any way shape or form.  I want to be healthy and strong.
  4. Try everything.  Anything!  Go out for dinner.  Be with friends.  Have a day where your PVR is more friendly than your gym shoes.  And be okay with that.
  5. A day is not a day without peanut butter, in ample amounts.  True story.
  6. End your day with something sweet.  Because it makes you happy, because it tastes amazing.  And because it’s okay.

And I have this new meal plan thing that this totally awesome person gave me… one where I eat six times a day.  And here’s the reality… It kind of sucks for the anxiety.  I feel like I can see the weight all over me, and I’m trying to avoid the mirror because I can gain 5 lbs in 5 minutes (seriously I see it… eating disorder goggles).  And not to mention, I can’t exercise right now… like at all.  That’s kind of heaven because I’m no longer in physical pain every two seconds, but awful for the eating disordered brain.  But it kind of rocks in every other way.  I’m going to be honest here.  I am bouncy.  Like happy.  Like insanely happy.  Like I don’t need to yell at my dog for looking at me the wrong way any more (true story), and that diet coke I lived off of… I feel like I drank like 3 of them and I haven’t had any.  Long story short:  I have energy.  And I’m not like striving to make every single meal absolutely perfect… well, I still try :), but I’m okay if it’s not because I’m actually going to eat again in three hours and eat something I like (as opposed to, well I can’t eat again for 12 hours) so I don’t feel this huge sense of deprivation and like I screwed everything up because I’ll never be able to eat those pancakes again.  Seriously.  Every meal I had was like the last supper for me.  Everything felt like it was the last time I was going to allow myself to eat it.

Which brings me to my breakfast today!!  I finally got here!  Remember how I said short and sweet… yeah, not so much.  But you try and sum like 3 or 4 years of your life up… I think I did pretty well!

What was on your plate this morning?

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Pancakes were on mine.  Yep.  Specifically, these pancakes.  And let me tell you, the last time I ate pancakes… probably 2 years ago.  No joke.  Sometime before I went to France. I was pancake overdue.

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And the best part?  Blender pancakes. Single Serving Blender Pancakes. Here’s the thing about me and pancakes.  I’m not addicted to them.  I don’t want leftovers.  They’re one of those things that I could eat like once every month and be satisfied.  Now this on the other hand…  I have eaten a slightly modified version of this almost every day for 2 years.  Is it because I was scared to try other things… yes, but mostly because it is the most delicious thing of life… other than yesterday’s breakfast, which is now a serious contender too for best thing of life…

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Yes, that is a whole two tbsp of peanut butter, and some chocolate cream cheese… but I digress.  Back to the pancakes.

Growing up I never really ate pancakes.  I had them on occasion, and usually special occasions like holidays when I went to my grandma’s house.  She made these amazing cottage cheese pancakes… which I of course topped with syrup (when I was little I liked it… I can’t understand why), and a mountain of more cottage cheese.

So when I do make pancakes, I’m kind of still a novice.  In my whole life of pancake making, I think I’ve done it less than 10 times.  So a blender pancake, throwing all the ingredients in a blender is up my alley.  How can you screw it up?  Unless you forget the little rubber liner at the bottom of the blender… This has happened before.

I have kitchen malfunctions.  Like my quiche the other day… You know when you blind bake a pastry crust with dried beans to weight it… there’s a reason they say to line the crust with parchment paper.  I have no photos (I wish I did, because it was quite funny), but suffice it to say that although I managed to scrape out probably 95% of the beans, we had some crunchy surprises when eating.  No harm no foul, we’re still alive!

I’m distracted.

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So I never really thought about how scary pancakes can be… I mean you get past the ingredients fairly easily, but then the cooking process.  I mean she says spray your pan every time in between batches.  That means you use oil and a lot more than I’m used to.  But then I had to think about how if I didn’t do it, it would probably result in what happens 95% of the time when I try to make pancakes:

  1. I stand there like an idiot looking at it with confusion.  How many bubbles should there be before you try to flip it?  Is that sturdy enough to flip?
  2. I decide to flip.
  3. Pancake is drier than the sahara on the bottom, and is stuck to pan.
  4. Pancake turns into crumbles and literally 12 pieces that I have to chisel off.  AKA gross and no longer pancakes.
  5. Pan starts smoking.  I start swearing.  Pan goes in sink.  Out comes the oatmeal.

Pancakes and I have a love hate relationship.  It was time to make a change.

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So I sprayed my pan.  Between every pancake… big achievement!  And They flipped and came out beautiful! Side note:  I bought this spray from whole foods- St Francis Herb Farm coconut oil and butter ghee- because I will not use Pam or those artificial sprays.  Seriously recommend!  Coats so well on anything, and gives a little coconut taste 🙂

Now my palate is a little different.  My favourite topping is yogurt.  But dietician’s challenge was to try it with some peanut butter and granola.  Granola and peanut butter on pancakes?  Two of my favorite things, but I’ve never thought to put them on pancakes..IMG_5652

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It was pretty delicious.  Going into my repertoire for sure.  But I had to go classic too.  Except I realized afterwards that my yogurt topping is specific (who knew?!)  It’s always lemon flavoured!  Does anyone else have specific flavour combos for things?  Like some things just taste better with specific flavours!  Rice Crispies with peach yogurt, Bran flakes with vanilla, pancakes with lemon… coffee flavoured yogurt with anything because it is DELICIOUS!

So I went in the fridge all happy only to become incredibly sad and realize we had no lemon yogurt, because I haven’t eaten lemon yogurt since the last time I had pancakes because the lemon yogurt has twice the fat of the regular, and ED doesn’t like the numbers with that at all.  It’s a work in progress.

So I had to branch out… peach mango.  It was surprisingly good.  Not lemon, but decent.  And this granola thing… liking the texture!  It’s been a while since I had granola too.

And then I had raspberries.  It’s summer and the produce is amazing right now!   Got to take advantage.  Although the meal plan said nothing about fruit, so I sat with the bowl of raspberries for like 30 minutes trying to decide if I was being a pig by eating it.  Thankfully awesome people tend to answer texts at ungodly hours (I’m a morning person!) and tell you it’s okay to eat the fruit.

Like I said, work in progress.  And a journey.  A journey I invite you to take with me.

What will this blog look like?

  1.  Well for starters, not every post will be this long.  It’s an intro, deal with it.
  2. Fear Food Fridays- get ready for a section on fear foods.  We had that in the residential centre.  We always dreaded Fridays because we knew the foods would be particularly difficult.  I don’t know what this will look like exactly but stay tuned.
  3. Recipes.  Lots of them.  Hopefully eventually some of my own, but also a lot of my favorites from other places.
  4. Nutrient/Ingredient Day.  Some day a week (I have to figure out a cool name first :P) will focus on a specific ingredient or nutrient and why it’s good for you.  Focus on the health, not on the fear.
  5. Other stuff.  This is not just a recovery blog.  It’s a celebrate life blog.  Celebrate moderation, happiness, things that bring joy and fun.  Books I love, places to see, things to do… all important in a healthy lifestyle.
  6. We’ll see!  I’m new at this!

So there you have it.  I hope your breakfast was as delicious as mine… and now that I’ve killed 3 hours writing this, I have to go and make a snack.  Happy Nibbling!