30 Things That are More Important Than my Pant Size.

So yesterday, I reached a precipice:

I had an important meeting to go to… the kind that you can’t wear yoga pants or leggings to.  Which meant digging through my closet to find ACTUAL clothes.

Sometimes being a grown up isn’t fun.

Anyways, I found 3 pairs of pants:

  1. A pair of thai pants… anyone who knows what thai pants are knows that these gems, while super comfortable, make leggings look like business suits.
  2. A pair of sweats… a skip from casual leggings to the lazy Saturday, not-leaving-the-house wear.
  3. A pair of pants I bought around January/February of this year. Wrinkled, but nothing an iron wouldn’t fix.

Obviously, I had to go with the third option.  While to many, this is a non-stressful endeavor, for me, trying on clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time produces tons of anxiety.

Will they still fit?

Has my body changed?

I see fat accumulating on the daily, but they say it’s not an accurate perception.  What if this is my worst fear come true?  An enforcement that what I see is really what’s there?

If I do put them on, and they don’t fit, how will I react?

Will it be the start of more restriction?  A more intense exercise regime?  A reinstatement of my old eating disordered ways?

How will I cope with this?

Regardless, I had to put on the pants.  I built myself up while ironing them, popped a few benzodiazepenes (kidding), and tried to tell myself it would all be okay.

And guess what?

The stupid things didn’t fit.

Correction:  The stupid things didn’t fit the SAME as they fit at the beginning of January.

So let me clarify something… your brain doesn’t store useless information, or stuff that is deemed unimportant.  That’s why, if someone asks you what you ate on September 1st, the most likely response would be something along the lines of:

“WTF, I have no idea?!  Why the heck does it matter?”

And believe it or not, what your body looks like on a day to day, minute to minute basis is pretty useless information.  I mean, your brain is much more preoccupied with keeping your heart beating and remembering how to get home from work so you don’t end up half way to Alaska.  THAT my friends is useful information!

Hence, the argument of many eating disordered patients of, “I swear my stomach has grown two inches since the last time I looked in the mirror!” is pretty unfounded.  The brain plays tricks, the disorder plays tricks, and creates a fictional perception of what you looked like before based on what you BELIEVE you looked like before, and what SEEMS logical in your brain.

Regardless though, the facts lie in the fabric:  my pants were tighter in certain places.  While I can’t remember EXACTLY specifically how the pants fit, because again, useless information, I remember them being a touch looser around my thighs, and butt.

The argument of me is instantly:

The argument of the boyfriend is: “It FITS you, instead of being baggy.  They look good!”

It’s not a drastic change, but it’s a change nonetheless.

In ED recovery, one of the hardest things is coping with a changing body, even if its changing for all the right reasons.  There’s the constant comparison between where you were and where you are now.  You have to make peace with yourself, inwardly and outwardly.  That includes accepting that your body wants to be a certain size and shape, and you have very little control over that if you want to live life as a normal person and not as a crazy food-and-exercise obsessed control freak.

That also includes accepting that the clothes you had when you were disordered, or the clothes you had even before your disorder might, or more likely than not, won’t fit.  AND knowing that that doesn’t mean you’re ballooning, anymore than it means you’re fat.  And even if you are, is that the worst thing you could be?

You also have to decide what you’re willing to give up to create the life you want.

In a world of people telling you to never give up, to push yourself to the limit, and to strive for nothing short of perfection, I am your antithesis.  It is impossible to create a life that is filled with everything.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Something’s gotta give.  _______ (Insert other overused historical/film quote here).

The same thing applies to eating disorders, or rather eating disorder recovery.  If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things.  I know this seems like an obvious statement, but when put into practice it’s actually quite a difficult thing.

So what do you have to give up?

Is it the idea of a lack of cellulite?

A thigh gap?

The ability of the ED to act as an excuse for putting life on hold?

Is it exercising when you’re really anxious about moving?

The idea that health = thinness?

All the food rules and judgements you hold in the name of “health”?

Is it the need to feel in control and right/perfect all the time?

For me, it’s all these things and more.  AND it’s the idea that a certain arbitrary label sewn, probably haphazardly, into an article of clothing has the right as well as the power to determine my worth, value, beauty, and integrity as a human being.

Because in your everyday life, do you look at a woman next to you on the bus, who society deems as “overweight” but who also has volunteered countless hours at the local homeless shelter, and say, “You have less value than the thin woman next to you who has fundraised more for the SPCA than anyone in the town.” ?

Do you say to an “overweight” woman breastfeeding her newborn that because she’s “fat” her breast milk is worth less to the baby she’s feeding, than the thin woman doing the same sitting next to her?

Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.  And whether or not you can fit into a size 2 or a size 14 is hardly the most important thing in your life.

At some point, we have to make peace with our changing shape.  With everything in our lives, we have to decide whether it is something that is important, or whether it’s something that is preventing us from creating the life we want.

We stand at a crossroads, or a fork in the road as obvious as the fork dividing your left pant leg from your right.  We can put on our pants, suck in our guts, and do up the button, all while lamenting the loss of our willowy frames, our high school bodies, our 25 year old stomach, or our grey-less hair.  We can beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like crap for changing.  And we can choose whether the things we have given up or lost, are things that we still want to hold on to or get back.

As my pants hugged my thighs, and caressed my hips and butt, I felt like a failure.  I felt panicked.  I felt as if my world was ending and my worst fears were being realized.  I felt like the person I was was gone, and I could never get her back.

All because denim is unforgiving after a trip through the laundry machine.

But I had a choice.  I could continue to hate myself.  I could cut out sugar.  I could decrease my portions.  I could skip a few snacks.  I could exercise for just 10, 15, 20 minutes more.  I could bust out the screwdriver and put the treadmill that I dismantled because I didn’t want to be chained to it, back together.  I could find the person I was, and bring her back.

I’ve done it before.  Enter relapse, again.

Or I could decide that there were other things that I valued MORE than the person I was, or the size of my pants.  I could be uncomfortable, unsure, unsteady, and exposed to the harsh realities of limited motion fabrics, and not change a thing.  I could move on with my day, and my life.

I could set my priorities… and I did.

30 things that are more important than my pant size:

  1. I can go out to whatever restaurant my friends, family, or boyfriend pick without having a complete mental breakdown, ordering a salad, or looking up the menu/calories ahead of time.
  2. I have a latte every day, and it is 100% delicious and a very normal, enjoyable part of my morning.
  3. I’ve had a few cocktails, a couple slices of cake, and made memories to last a lifetime.
  4. I’ve had cookie crumbs fall into my bra, and lost a drop or two of ice cream in there as well.  I remember a time neither of those would touch my lips or fingers, never mind get up close and personal with my feminine features.
  5. I FINALLY learned to bike, and I bike… a lot.  And have increased the strength and musculature of my legs, as well as my genetically crappy knees.
  6. I’ve spent more time with my friends and family than I have on a treadmill or yoga mat.
  7. I have the strength to go up stairs and hills without getting winded.
  8. My energy level is much more consistent and I have more get-up-and-go than I have had in my whole life, even before the ED.
  9. I have learned to relax my standards a bit more, even though it is uncomfortable to do so.
  10. My hair is crazy soft… and not brittle at all.
  11. I’ve spent less time at home, and more time exploring the world.
  12. I frequently have conversations that don’t revolve around food, weight, or shape… and I can pay attention and remember having them.
  13. I can have a bite of pizza without counting it as a snack or meal.
  14. I have more patience and more compassion for those around me.
  15. I’ve stopped mumbling, “Fuck you!” under my breath every time I saw someone genuinely happy.
  16. I’m not trapped in a specific exercise cycle, with a specific route, for a specific amount of time, EVERY SINGLE DAY, until I die.
  17. I can’t remember the last time I specifically set my alarm clock earlier to fit in a work out.
  18. I can’t remember the last time I did sit ups, weights, or pilates at 2 am.
  19. I’ve carved out a niche and found a great love for blogging, which I never could do when I couldn’t sit long enough to open a browser window.
  20. I’ve fostered relationships that fill the gap in my spirits to replace the one in my thighs, and that never would have had a chance to grow had I not stopped moving.
  21. I have a figure that allows my boyfriend to hold me without fear of breaking me.
  22. I can wear shorts again.  Both in terms of temperature, and in terms of acceptance.
  23. I’ve begun to view my “unforgiveable” past choices, simply as choices.  They don’t speak to who I am now, or who I will, or can become.
  24. My body does not determine my worth, value, or integrity as a person.
  25. I’ve begun to do things regardless of the fear there is in doing them.  I push myself to not stand in my own way.
  26. I don’t take life so seriously.  One choice, one day, one hour, one meal, or one conversation does not a life sentence make.
  27. I’ve shared my deepest and darkest secrets… and was met by only love and support.
  28. I’ve become more literate on the many ways society is more flawed than I am.
  29. I’ve laughed more, seen more, and done more than I ever did when my pants fit.
  30. Basically, I’ve learned how to live, and lived a life worth living.

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And that is worth so much more than my pant size.  So in the end, it really comes down to:

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Seriously Smitten With…

So I want to write the blog I’d like to read, and in my favourite blogs, there’s always a weekly link love post.  And one of my favourite ones is the one that comes from Shutterbean, as an I Love Lists assortment, as it’s always different, always includes some totally random stuff, and always makes me laugh.

I decided I wanted to get in on the action too, so here we are with my new “Seriously Smitten With” series, which assuming I can keep my act together, will be posted every Tuesday.  Here’s some stuff I’m seriously smitten with this week:

  1. This artist makes jewelry inspired by the cities she visits!
  2. I have to question whether some of these fml moments are real, or made up.  Either way, I was almost crying laughing over some of them (especially number ten)!
  3.  My go-to burger recipe, although I use it direct from the cookbook (which is one of my favourite cookbooks ever, just be sure to white-out the calories first (or get someone else to if you know you’ll memorize them/be affected by them instantly) because you don’t need that crap!).  I don’t always make the onions or toppings, but as a base burger, it’s THE BEST!
  4. Diets suck, and we all know it.  We also know that they are not a solution for long term health or weight loss.  But there’s also the growing issue where “getting healthy” is really a diet in disguise… and before you know it, you become less concerned about your health, and more concerned about your body.
  5. Seriously this melted my heart a little bit.  What a genius idea!
  6. I want this spoon.  And knowing me, I should probably get this spoon.  And I’m liking these wedding favors.
  7. I love gold rimmed dinner collections but I hate the fact that you need to hand wash them.  The struggle is real.
  8. I can’t commit to a real tattoo.  Did you know you can make your own temporary ones?!
  9. Whether you’re recovering from an eating disorder, or just trying to make peace with food and your body so you’re not a total nutcase anymore, one of the most important and key things is to start living a non-diet life, and these three points are on point.  In my experience the order to which to approach them is more like 1-3-2, because it’s super hard to tune into your hunger and fullness cues when you have all those judgements from 1 and 3 in the way.
  10. Everyone knows I’m addicted to oatmeal, but there’s a particular combo that I have been MAJORLY crushing on lately.  Usually, I can’t eat the same thing more than a couple times in a week or I get bored, doesn’t matter what snack or what meal.  But I unashamedly had this guy probably 5 or 6 times in the past two weeks, and once it was within 12 hours of each other.  Mind blown.  You can get the combo, which I cannot take credit for here.
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Here was my version yesterday morning, topped with cashews and fresh figs, although my winning topping has been cashews, toasted coconut, and dried cherries.

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

A Weekend Away (Finally!)

 

Sometimes, you need to escape.

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After a whole summer, working full time, or full time plus sometimes, my boyfriend and I were burnt out.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I had an actual holiday… I mean days off, typical to a week, yes.  But an actual overnight escape from the town we live in?  Yeah… I can’t remember.  It’s been at least 4 months I’d say, probably longer.

I’d been burnt out for a while.  I hate it when you get into a rut, and everything you do is just routine.  Wake up at the same time, eat breakfast (which thank heavens is always varied), bike to work at the same time, take a break at the same time, work some more until you have lunch at the same time, work more till you go home at the same time, plan dinner, cook dinner, do a bit of activity/try to unwind in the same ways, go to sleep.  Repeat.  Those ruts where the most diversity you have in your day is your meals and snacks.  Those ruts where even your days off start to look the same:

Day 1: Skype with dietitian, breakfast, blogging/cafe time (sometimes with breakfast), home for lunch, chores/errands, dinner, activity/unwind, sleep.

Day 2: breakfast, cafe time/chore time, lunch, therapy, boyfriend time (this can always look different yay!), dinner, activity/unwind, sleep.  Or if it’s a doctor week, it’s a trip out of town… but that’s only once a month, and while it’s a change in pace and super exciting, it just doesn’t happen enough.

And you get burnt out.  You get bored.  You get stagnant.  And when you’re still just making ends meet, you get depressed.  Your constant routine is a breeding ground for behaviours.  The predictability offers too many ways to let the ED sneak in.  The routine, which is so familiar, is engrained in your memory.  You remember when you were actively engaging in your eating disorder, and all the places you fit it in.  Those places are still there.  It’s too easy to go back to old behaviours because everything else is the same as it was when you engaged in them all the time.

The past two weeks were a bit of a landslide.  It wasn’t a relapse, it was just a tough haul.  I had super emotional session with the dietitian that started it, and it sort of threw my mood into the toilet.  It was harder to be happy, it was more work to get up in the morning, it was dreading the start of another work week, it was stress.  It was feeling defeated, feeling that recovery was hopeless, feeling like you were failing yourself and those around you.  It was feeling trapped in your thoughts, feeling once again scared of everything.  Scared of food, of drinks, and especially, of not moving enough.  It was feeling as though as enjoyable as movement was, it was entirely compulsive, and feeling stuck in a juxtapositional paradox- I am loving something as much as my ED is, I feel liberated from my thoughts and my cage by flying down the street on my bike, but I feel trapped as soon as I get back.  Knowing that with every push of the pedal, it would be harder to sit still the next day, and knowing that as much as it was liberating me, it was giving the ED voice more power than it’s seen in a while.

We planned this vacation for a while, booking it off (as required) almost a month in advance.  We had been hoping to visit my uncle at his house in the mountains, and were looking so forward to the time away.  I think the countdown really started the moment we requested the time off… as we work two different jobs, when we both find out that we get the time off together it’s that much more exciting.

But of course, life got in the way.  About a week before, we were asked if we could postpone it.  My family was burnt out, and the thought of having more guests was just too much.  My grandmother has been having a really tough time medically lately, and in the last two weeks has been moved into hospice care.  It’s been really hard on all of us, because she was in every meaning of the word, the head of the family.  And we’re a pretty close family unit, so it’s taken its toll on all of us.  We understood, but we were crushed.  We both needed a vacation.  The boyfriend has been working 13 hour days 6 days a week for almost a month, so he probably needed it even more than I did.

It would have been relatively easy to get back on the schedule at work, I think, for both of us.  At my work we were short staffed, and at his, they can always use him.  I was going to do it, because when we finally DID take time off, I didn’t want to lose the hours.  I mean, I didn’t mind, but the bills did.

But at my last dietitian appointment before the trip, the dietitian saw my tiredness, my defeatedness, my sadness… and she said, “You NEED a holiday.  You need to take that time, find something else to do, to see, go somewhere else.  Please try and get away.”

Long story short, we made it happen.  We decided to head to Vancouver, last minute, and stay with my two aunts, who so graciously offered up a room for a couple of days.  And this is what happened:

The car broke down.

No, I’m not kidding.

We both worked Saturday morning, and got off by 2 pm.  Just when we think we’re FINALLY going to get away, about an hour before we left the car started idling low and just quitting.  I’m blessed however, and I have a boyfriend that is not only talented at just about ANYTHING that involves using your hands, but who is also knowledgeable about cars.  This one kind of stumped him, and the mechanic, though.  However, his impulsiveness is a blessing at times, as well as his unwillingness to give up.  At a time when I would have been like, “Well, looks like we’re not going anywhere,” he fiddled with it and was persistent.

“Well, I don’t know what’s wrong.  But it’s good probably like 60-70% of the time.  So I’m putting my tools in the trunk, and YOLO.  What’s the worst that can happen, right?  Lets go!”

No, I’m not joking.

Are we crazy?

Probably.  But I prefer to look at it as refusing to be the victim of life’s challenges.  There’s always a way out of a problem, even if it takes eight detours.  And oftentimes, if it does take eight detours, it makes for a good story at the end of it.

So we headed off, later than anticipated, but determined to get away.

While sitting in the car, I made a conscious decision.  Considering how difficult the past couple weeks had been, I do give myself credit for it, as it wasn’t the easiest one to make.  I inhaled the fresh air coming through the window, closed my eyes, pictured it flowing to all the parts of my body and giving them renewal.  Spreading out from my center, cleansing my arms and hands, my neck and head, my legs and feet.  And I exhaled, picturing my negativity and stale energy flowing out of my feet and legs, head and neck, and hands and arms, to my center, and out of my body.  I chose to feel refreshed and renewed.  And in that moment I decided to wipe the slate clean.

“This weekend, I am going to live wholly and fully.  I am going to embrace every moment, and treat it as if it were my last.  I am stepping away from my day to day life, and being completely present.  And by doing so, I am consciously choosing to let the eating disorder go.  For this weekend, it is not a part of me.  For this weekend, my choices are going to be based on my cravings.  For this weekend, food will not give me anxiety.  For this weekend, I am going to go with the flow.  If there is something that sounds good, I am going to have it.  I am not paying attention to a perfect meal, or a perfect snack, how many snacks I’ve had, or whether my plate has veggies.  And I’m going to savour.  Savour food, savour moments, savour laughter.  I’m going to look at the world and actually see the world, without being in my head a million miles away.  Because I want to look back on this time, and remember how I lived, not how I controlled or manipulated my food or my body.  I want a moment of laughter to be the first memory that comes to mind, not a moment of anxiety over a bite of cheesecake.  Because in the end, it is the moments that matter, and I know that my body can handle whatever I throw its way.  I trust, I surrender, and I choose to live.”

Was it a scary idea?  Yeah.

I did it anyway.  And this is what it looked like:

Saturday night, we had to take a detour to see my aunts who were visiting my grandma in hospice so we could pick up the key to their appartment.

Knowing that the greater portion of our drive would be in the middle of nowhere, we decided that it was a good idea to grab dinner before we left… and I was craving Quiznos.  It’s been months since I have had it, A) because I remember the calories from my ED days, and B) because since new owners took over the one at home, it has not been the same (they skimp on toppings because they suck).  But we were in the city, so we figured it was safe.

(side note: why is it that the food never ACTUALLY looks like the picture they advertise. I mean, Quiznos is closer, but have you ever seen McDonalds or A&W? The discrepancy between the advertised burger and the actual burger is hilariously comical)

I don’t have a picture of the actual food because I didn’t think about writing a post like this until the morning after.  Whoops.  But I got a beef and swiss, and an ice water because I knew I was super dehydrated and needed some pure fluids.  Super yum, and a craving satisfied.

Boyfriend got a chicken carbonara, his usual.  I totally agree, and I alternate between the chicken carbonara and the beef and swiss depending on my cravings.  Best two, other than the ultimate best sandwich, which is the Baja chicken.  I can’t eat that one anymore though because I’ve developed a pepper allergy, but if YOU can, then I totally recommend it!

After this we headed off.  It was a relatively uneventful 5 hour drive… minus the two times that the car died when the clutch was engaged, and we rolled down hills while boyfriend tried to start it again.  The good thing is it always starts right up again, so we never actually had to break out the tools.  Once we finally got to Vancouver, we used GPS to get to the apartment as it was their new one and I’d never been there.  This was super helpful, minus the fact that it didn’t tell us about turning lanes, so we got a couple of drivers a little irate.  It’s hard to pay attention when you’re trying to listen to GPS, watch the idle so the car doesn’t quit, heed the traffic, and deal with weird turning lanes, merges, and overpasses.  But we made it there in one piece!

We got in super late, so it was pretty much straight to bed, especially since we had both started work super early (I had to get up at 5 am), so we were done in.

Sunday morning, we headed out to buy our transit passes (because you’re crazy if you’d rather drive and pay for parking!) for the day, as it’s so efficient and affordable there.  This ended up being a long ordeal, as they had gotten rid of the FareSaver paper tickets (yes that’s how long it had been since I had been there!) and had switched to electronic cards.  This makes much more sense, but considering we were trying to buy day passes, it became complicated.  I looked it up online, but everywhere we went they said they didn’t sell day passes.  An hour later, we got frustrated, went back to the apartment to look it up again, determined that you could actually buy them right in the skytrain station that was literally a block away.  So we wondered around for an hour for nothing.

But it was a nice day, and the air was full of sea breezes, so I couldn’t complain!  The only thing was by the time we finally got them, I was super hungry!  I had woken up hungry, but since we thought we would be getting breakfast right away I didn’t eat at the apartment.  I decided that I was on a mission to find the best iced latte in Vancouver.  Now, I couldn’t be as avid about this as I could have been with a lot of my other friends, or my dietitian, because boyfriend doesn’t like coffee.

Yeah, I know right?!

So I knew I wouldn’t be drinking them all day and really just had a couple of shots.  One of my favourite things to do is look up places to eat and drink before hand, so I can find something with great reviews and not miss out on great opportunities I don’t even know about… so I looked up some places.

My previous stays in Vancouver had been predominantly dictated by my ED.  I remembered going to this coffee shop that sold amazing homemade donuts and coffee both with friends who lived there, and family.  But every time, I always had ordered water or tea… and I was determined to try their lattes and their donuts that had always looked SO GOOD!

Enter 49th Parallel Coffee, and Lucky’s Doughnuts, a combo shop on West 4th Ave.

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I really should have taken more photos of the buildings and stuff… noted for next time I do a travel diary!

There were WAY too many choices to pick from because they all looked SO GOOD!  We ended up each getting a savoury pastry, and splitting a sweet donut.

Boyfriend got the pistachio and salami scone, and an iced tea.  I got the ham and cheese croissant, and the iced Venezuelan.  This was a spur of the moment thing to try something new… it’s caramelized milk reduction, served with espresso and texturized milk with a bit of cocoa powder.  It was good, but a little too sweet for my liking.  The croissant was delicious though!  Fluffy and flaky on the inside, and crisp on the outside.

We were both full after that, so we took our sweet donut to-go and picked on it through the morning.  It was a BACON apple fritter (yes bacon!), and THAT my friends is the texture a donut should be!  It was just the right amount of sweetness, and that smoky savoury bacon was perfect.  Nom.

It was boyfriend’s first time in Vancouver other than the hospital, so I was the main tour guide.  We decided to head out to Metrotown in Burnaby after breakfast.  For those who don’t know, Metrotown is a GIANT mall, with stores for absolutely everything.  We wondered around there for quite some time while I tried to find a new swimsuit and leggings, a difficult task.  I’m fairly easy to shop with though because I literally go into a store, do a loop, and if nothing catches my eye from a distance, I’m done.  Speed shopping for the win!  I almost had a mirror meltdown, or two in the process, but thankfully I had my man there to keep me happy and together.  He knows exactly what I need to hear and how to keep me calm in my worst moments.  I am forever grateful ❤️.  I never found a swimsuit, but I did get some leggings that I LOVE.

We stopped and did some tea sampling at Teavanna, got some iced teas, and then decided it was time for lunch.  It was easiest to just eat at the food court, which isn’t my favourite because it’s never GREAT food.  But we decided to try Fresh Slice Pizza, as it was quick and easy.

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A slice of meat lovers topped with parmesan cheese for me, and a diet coke.  I used to keep diet coke in the house all the time, but now I prefer to have other drinks around (some of them even have calories 🙌!) and just get my diet cokes when I go out to the movies and at fast food chains.  I enjoy them a lot more that way.

After that we headed… to IKEA!  Yep.  It sounds like nothing exciting, but we’d both never been to one before.  My basic synopsis, is when I need to furnish my house, this is where I’m going!  We compared countertops, and kitchens, talked about my need for my dream kitchen to have tons of counterspace and an island.  Luckily it would appear that we are both very similar in terms of our likes!

Some favourites I noticed:

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After IKEA, we decided to get some late 5 pm froyo.  And shock of shocks, I was actually feeling peckish.  Boyfriend had never been to Menchies, and he had never had froyo… I know right?!  I was shocked!  Not about the Menchies… we don’t have one at home, but who hasn’t eaten froyo?!

He learned the cardinal rule, which he will definitely abide by next time: Limit the froyo so you can put all the toppings on!  He went the other way, and it was too much froyo to actually enjoy all the toppings!  I on the other hand knew this from experience, so I had half as much froyo and ALL THE TOPPINGS!

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A bit of butter pecan and nutella swirled froyo, a bit of cake batter and cookies and cream swirled froyo, topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Oreos, cookie dough, strawberries, peanuts, and chocolate sauce.  Yep… I think that was it.

Because we ate the froyo so late, we decided to go for a late dinner and go to a movie first.  Let me be clear… I don’t do horror movies. Or at least I haven’t since I was eleven or so when I watched Darkness Falls and was scared to sleep for months.  I can still see her in my mind… no.  Just, no.  But somehow I was at the movies to see Suicide Squad and saw the preview for Don’t Breathe, and it looked good.  And I have a man, so he can cuddle me when things get too intense… so I thought why not, lets try it.  Being from a small town, we don’t have a movie theatre, nevermind a fancy one, so we were debating on what kind of “fancy” theatre to go to.  We had to decide between D-Box, UltraAVX, and IMAX… but IMAX was out because nothing we wanted to see was playing.  In the end we went for UltraAVX because we’re both money conscious and couldn’t justify a $25 ticket just for moving seats.  The verdict was: Not that exciting really.  I personally don’t think the sound and huge high quality screen is worth the extra cost.  But the movie itself was good, although boyfriend only half did his job of cuddling me when it got intense…

The coolest part of the theatre was the soda machine!  Forget seven or eight choices of soda, this one had over 300!  SO MANY!  I had a hard time picking, especially when there were so many I hadn’t even heard of!  This is something we definitely need everywhere, nevermind the fancy screen 😉…

After the movie we decided to walk to dinner, which was super close to where we were staying.  Joy of joys, I was to my great surprise feeling hungry again.  One of my favourite things to do when I travel is use Zomato (formerly UrbanSpoon) to pick out where to eat.  I LOVE this app, as I can search by food type, area, or “best ….” (my favourite!), really whatever you want/are craving/are feeling in the moment, which totally allows me to honor my cravings 👌👍.  Some people are like, “Oh, whatever, we’ll just find somewhere to eat.” But I’m all like, “Please, if I’m going somewhere I want to enjoy every moment to the fullest, and try something new that’s supposed to be AWESOME!”

Side note:  If anyone has any other good app recommendations for this, I’m all ears!

So it was a little harder because we were eating at like 10:30 at night, and a lot of places are closed by then, but I decided to pick something that had good reviews and hazard a try.  We were both craving the best burgers (we both LOVE burgers… it’s a great thing that I’m glad we share) so I plugged that in and came up with a bar called The Hub.  This actually ended up being our favourite place we ate at the whole weekend and it was a total win.  The picture however, doesn’t serve it justice because the lighting was SO DARK!  Both of us agreed just a bit brighter would have been nice, because it was even dark when reading the really small print on parts of the menu.

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We both ended up ordering drinks which were DELICIOUS!  We kept talking about them all weekend, and you know it’s good if I’m tempted to order a second one because I NEVER do that.  Neither of us drink a lot, so it was nice to just relax and have a drink together.  The funny thing was that we both ordered different cocktails, but ended up switching them as we preferred each other’s order to our own.  Only one drink each though because they were doubles and I really am a lightweight.  I was definitely feeling it after only one, so I knew it would be a bad idea to have another.

What I ended up with:”Blueberry Lemon Mojito- Stoli blueberry vodka, muddled lemon + mint, blueberries, simple syrup, soda”.  This was my first time having a mojito and if they all taste that good, I’m definitely a fan!

Boyfriend: “Tequila Paradise-  El Jimador tequila, peach schnapps, Triple Sec, pineapple juice, fresh citrus, soda”. The only part that turned me off was the abundant pineapple aftertaste, but he loves pineapple so it worked for him.

And for dinner we both ordered the “Crack Burger.”, but I had mine with sweet potato fries instead of regular because I don’t like potatoes. Guys… it was honestly the best burger I’ve EVER had!  The patty is encrusted in cracked black peppercorns, and topped with Monterey jack cheese, lettuce, pickle, tomato, onion rings, and pesto aioli.  Boyfriend doesn’t like onion rings so I got his on the side of my plate as well because me+onions= super happy!  We relaxed, ate, marvelled at how awesome the whole meal was, and planned our activities a bit for the next day.  Then by midnight we decided to head back home and get some well-deserved sleep.

I didn’t expect to be hungry in the morning, as I had eaten my whole burger, half my fries, and we had eaten so late, but I woke up starving!  The next morning started out with a trip downstairs to JJBean.  Yep, downstairs.  My aunts’ apartment is right overtop of a JJBean, and a block up from a skytrain and a few awesome grocery chains.  Safe to say they have everything they need at their fingertips!  I’ve heard nothing but good things about the coffee at JJBean, but I’d never been, so we decided to check it out.

img_2507 Side note:  Look at the difference natural light makes!!!

I went for a peach oatmeal muffin and a half sweet vanilla latte.  Odd choice for me as I’m not big on peaches in muffins or in oatmeal, and I usually get my lattes iced, but both just sounded appealing for some reason that morning!  Boyfriend got a ham and aged cheddar turnover, and a really good iced tea.

This latte was one of the best ones I’ve had in a while, and I understand the Bean love.  It was smooth, nutty, but not overpowering. I love coffee, but I still want my latte to be creamy and subtle in flavour, which is one thing the coffee shop back home is missing.  Their coffee is so strong, I have to order it with regular sweetness instead of half just to cut that bitter strong coffee taste.  It always reminds me of two distinct flavours – coffee… and then some milk, with a bit of the flavour shot you added if you’re lucky enough to taste it (hence the full sweet versus half).  I want my coffee to be one drink, not two distinct flavours mixed.  Hence this latte was right up my alley.  And the muffin was pretty good too!  I did eat the whole thing, even though it was ginormous because I was hungry, and I didn’t feel overfull after which was awesome.

Then we headed up to the entrance of Stanley Park, and we decided to rent a tandem bike from English Bay Bike Rentals for the day.  We did some research beforehand and had decided on this place from its good reviews, reasonable rates, and location.  They also supplied a basket, lock, and helmets with the rental so that was awesome.  It was our first time riding a tandem, and though it took probably 20 minutes to get the hang of it and synchronize our movements, soon we were pros.

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We decided to bike the seawall, did the Stanley Park Loop, through English Bay, went down through False Creek, and then stopped for a bit at Granville Island.  This is an artsy little island, where the Emily Carr Institute is located, as well as cute little shops and an awesome marketplace.

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Boyfriend with the tandem at Stanley Park.  We’d pretty much gotten the hang of it by this point.

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I have the world’s worst luck with sunglasses!  I spend $30 on a pair, and I break it within 2 weeks.  EVERY TIME!  These ones I bought from a street vendor in Paris, for the equivalent of $2, and they’re a piece of crap literally.  They are SO CROOKED, as you can undoubtably tell, but I CAN’T BREAK THEM!  Seriously, they’ve been half way around the world.  Thrown in bags, knocked around, bent backwards and forwards, but they never break.  At this point I’ve given up and just gone with it.

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We wondered around Granville Island for a while, and by the time we’d seen it all it was time for lunch.  Boyfriend was craving Chinese, and I was indecisive, but I knew I was feeling the need for something lighter and fresher with some produce.  He’ll never understand my love/need for vegetables, but it is a real thing!

We saw some iced teas at the Granville Island Tea Company, and decided to get a couple of those, and boyfriend got his Chinese.  The nice thing about the market is that there’s so many choices all close together, so people don’t necessarily have to have the same thing from the same shop.  In this case I did though, but instead of going for the traditional smorg-type food, I went for a seafood noodle soup with veggies.

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It wasn’t anything spectacular, but those fishballs were delicious, whatever fish they were.

I should have really listened to Boyfriend when he said, you’re probably feeling full from liquid.  I drank the broth, ate the seafood and veggies, and had my iced tea, but I didn’t have many noodles.  I started to feel really full and they weren’t THAT good anyways.  So I stopped.  But it definitely wasn’t a food full and ended up being a fluid full, as I was peckish again in under two hours.  Oops.  You live and you learn.

After Granville, we biked to Kits Beach, and then all the way out to UBC, one of the universities I attended in my attempt to find myself.  Anyone who has done that bike ride will get me when I say THAT, is one BIG HILL!  By the time we got to the top and to UBC we definitely needed fluids!  So, because caffeine is totally fluids that hydrate you (yeah right!), Starbucks it was!

IMG_4448My signature grande half sweet cinnamon dolce iced coffee frappuccino.  I asked for an iced water too but they forgot and the line was so long I didn’t bother.  I should have though because I was SO DEHYDRATED by the end of the day!

At UBC we walked around a bit, and then took the trek down a bisquillion stairs to Wreck Beach.  Yes, Wreck Beach.  We’d never been, and boyfriend wanted to see it… and yes, it is an optional nudist beach.  And yes, people were nude.  And no, it’s not a big deal.  It’s the human body.  I’m more inspired than anything, because you definitely have to be comfortable in your own skin to walk around nude.  Just saying.

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The stairs going down… SO GREEN!  I love Vancouver for its ocean and its GREEN!

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We didn’t go nude.  We also only saw the top corner and it was super rocky!  Found out afterwards that the main, sandy beach was farther west towards the bottom of the UBC corner… so we kinda missed out on the beachy part of the beach.

Afterwards we biked down the crazy hill (which was super fun!) and returned the bike at around 5 pm.  Somewhere along the ride, the thought popped into my mind to go and see the old residential treatment center I went to when I was really sick.  They used to be in a different isolated location far away, but they’d recently moved to Vancouver so I was in the same city as the new center.  So we found some water bottles and then took transit to the new building.

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I didn’t go in.  We got there at like 6, and I knew they’d be eating dinner (an always stressful occasion), and that most of the professionals that I’d worked with would have gone home for the day, save a few nurses maybe.  So I just looked from the outside, completely immersed in memories.

“Why do you want to go there?  I don’t get why you’d want to see it again.  It’s memories of one of the biggest struggles of your life.  It’s painful stuff.  Why do you want to put yourself through that?  You don’t want to be back there do you?”

It’s a combo question I got when we were on the bus to the facility, and as we were standing on the street, looking up at the building.  It’s interesting how so many people think that it’s a process I don’t want to relive.  I mean, no, I don’t want to be sick like that again.  No, I don’t want to have to go back to residential treatment.  But the memories… they’re a part of me.  And, I honestly don’t have bad memories of that place.  Truly, I don’t.  That was the best place I could have been at the stage in recovery I was at.  It was a safe, welcoming environment, that allowed me to slowly wean off the medications I had become addicted to (doctor error), and start to reclaim my life.  I met people there who, still this day, are some of my best friends.  I have so many laughs, so many tears, and so many good memories.

The difference is that now I’ve moved beyond that point.  At this point, being in residential treatment would interfere with the good parts of my life that I’ve built, as opposed to start a new life, or save my life.  It’s not a place I need to be at this point in my recovery journey.

We stayed there only for a few minutes before we bussed back into the city center, and headed back to the apartment.  By this point, neither of us had had anything substantial since lunch, other than Starbucks, and we were STARVING.  My aunt had gotten off work, and we decided to all go for dinner together.  She is like me, and she loves to try new places.  You’re only on the ocean for so long, so boyfriend and I knew our last meal in the city had to include fresh seafood!

We ended up heading to Provence, which was right on the harbour, and quite fancy.  My aunt had never been there either, but it had pretty good reviews on zomato, so we decided to give it a shot.  We agreed, it wasn’t as good as the burgers, but it was still super nice and the food was good.  The winning dish was definitely mine, and boyfriend even said it was a high contender for the best meal, although he didn’t enjoy his as much.

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He got a fresh seafood linguine with tomato sauce.  I NEVER combine my seafood with tomato sauce and I can’t understand it… to me it takes away from the incredible flavour that seafood has.  Hence, I didn’t order it, because if it’s seafood it needs a white, or butter/herb sauce every time.  Or just simple grilling.  No tomatoes.  No red sauce.  No way.  Boyfriend said it was good, but definitely not great.

img_4747-2I got their famous (they said they’re known for it) wild mushroom ravioli in a wine butter sauce, and added grilled prawns.  I was actually strongly feeling pasta-y which doesn’t happen too often.  All that biking, I guess I needed to replenish my carb stores!  I even had bread from the bread basket beforehand which I never do, but I couldn’t wait for the main meal.  And I ate it all (the main), and I was comfortably full. Win.  And this… yeah it was DELISH!

We also had drinks, which were good, but nothing terribly exciting.

We sat with my two aunts, had good conversation, good food, and good company for a couple hours.  On the way back to the apartment, boyfriend and I stopped in at Urban Fare to grab some breakfast supplies we could eat in the car in the morning, including Erin Ireland’s “To Die For Chocolate Macadamia Nut Banana Bread””, which I had heard of a few times in the blogosphere.  We had to be back by 10 the next morning, so we were up and greeting the morning by 4 am.

And what did I learn in all this?

  1. If I let things go and stop thinking so much, my hunger and fullness cues are WAY more reliable.  In other words anxiety and stressing out about food actually impact my body to tell me what it needs in more ways than I ever thought possible.
  2. If I tell myself I SHOULD feel a certain way, I often do.  Hence, when I eat a big meal, or a scary/higher calorie meal/snack, I spend a lot of time telling myself either I won’t be hungry later, or I shouldn’t be hungry later.  HOWEVER, if I just let it go, my body does its work, and wham, oftentimes I am still hungry the next time a meal or snack comes around.  As was the case for our dinners this weekend- each morning I woke up starving regardless of whether it was 4 am or 6 am or 8 am, AND regardless of the fact that I had eaten the whole plate at dinner.  I let it go, I was fine, and my inner cues were going strong!
  3. It’s easier to function if you stay present and in the moment.  As was the case with the leggings shopping with the mini-meltdown in front of the mirror.  I stopped, closed my eyes, breathed, focussed on my breath to calm me down.  And then I said, “The goal right now is to buy leggings, not to make myself feel like crap.  So I’m going to get out of my head, into the now, and focus solely on the goal.”  Win.
  4. Vancouver is fantastic.  Enough said.

 

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Normal is Disordered: Reframing the Size Bias

Hello all!  How have you been?

My week has been crazy.  It’s the middle of summer, and we’re approaching a long weekend where I live, which is typically the busiest two weeks of the year here.  It’s great for our economy, as I live in a tourist town that relies on the sizzling hot summer months to survive, but it makes work a gong show! Plus, we’ve been having so many issues with people calling in sick, breaking ribs, altering schedules, etc in my department, that that just adds to the hectic nature of summer, and not in a positive way.

I’m one of those people that, when I decide to do a job or am employed to do a job, I do it to the best of my ability… call it my perfectionist/fear of making a mistake or failing bias, but it works quite well in the workplace.  I mean minus the fact that it usually stresses me out more than it should.  The boyfriend always says to me, “You did what you could, and honestly they don’t pay you enough to care the amount that you do.  The way you worry about things is the equivalent that the manager worries about things… and they certainly don’t pay you the same.  It’s not your job to worry about all these things, and it’s not worth the amount that it stresses you out.”

True.  So true.  But I have such a perfectionistic bias!

AND, it translates to my mood, because I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember.  The idea that you only half-assed do things just doesn’t compute in my brain, so when I go to work and see people putting in minimal effort, calling in sick when they are NOT SICK, and/or just not giving a shit or dogging it, it pisses me off.  Like, ridiculously so.  You can ask the boyfriend about this… he’s experienced it personally.  And in his oh-so-logical mind, he says to me, “You can’t let other’s emotions, actions, or sentiments influence you so much.  Just because they’re not doing something doesn’t mean that it needs to impact you.  No one will come back and attack you for not getting something done… it’s their head on the line, not yours.  THIS is why you are so stressed all the time!”

Oh, rational brain, why do you not function so simply!  These things logically make sense, but they still do not compute.  I have a bias… and it is a blessing and a curse.  I find myself SO OFTEN lately playing this game:

Okay, rant over.

At least on that guy… but I’m here today to talk about another bias that’s been getting on my nerves lately.

Yeah… you know the one I’m talking about.  That whole size bias thing.

Side note:  This movie is the best!! I mentioned in my last post how this was and still is my favourite movie of all time.  I’ve seen it a million times and I never hesitate to see it again.  And it’s just so great for those moments where you just need a good quote 😉.

See, I’ve started this new body image/self esteem coaching program, and while I’ve been so reluctant to do MORE therapy, I new I’d hit a wall.  You can’t be okay with listening to your body to tell you what you need in terms of food and exercise unless you trust your body.  And you can’t trust your body until you believe your body is worth trusting.  And you can’t believe in your body’s own worth until you believe in your own self worth.  And you can’t have a sense of self worth until you start to have some self esteem and respect for yourself emotionally and mentally.  And you can’t do that until you believe in yourself enough that you give yourself permission to take up literal/physical and mental/emotional space in your own life.

Long story short:  You can’t hope to be intuitive and move past an eating disorder until you believe you are enough, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  You have to accept your existence not as a hindrance to the world but rather as an asset.

Anyways… it’s pretty intense.  I’m spending more than an hour every day actively writing and working through my thought patterns and body image issues.  And while I’m still trying to get the hang of putting new neural pathways into action and remembering to do things differently than my current rut, at least this delving into exploration gets my brain going and thinking about things both in my past and in my present in ways I haven’t really examined before.

I’m basically one step away from growing out my armpit hair and living in a tree, one with nature…

Actually not really.

But it’s gotten me thinking.  A lot of this work has to do with reframing the way you look at things.  Not stopping thoughts, not judging yourself for having thoughts, but also not giving your thoughts the power to shape who you are and how you live your life in a day to day fashion.  I don’t remember the context, but in my first therapy session I was asked a question to which I responded quite simply, “because normal, nowadays in modern society, is disordered.”

How true is this?  And how screwed up is that?

And by taking a step back from my own life, and my own head, I’m able to observe this more objectively and see this truth in action:

  1. A non-eating-disordered woman I know, talking to my boyfriend who was frustrated with my obsession with thigh gaps, said simply, “I don’t blame her.  I’d love to have a thigh gap.”

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    image source (side note: it’s actually brilliant!)

  2. They build strollers SPECIFICALLY for running with your baby… as if running around looking after your baby was not enough activity for a woman.

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    image source (side note: who the HELL dresses like that to go for a run, much less with your baby?!)

  3. Recipes are no longer focussed on flavour but rather on numbers:
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    Before —-> After

     

  4. An Oreo is no longer a mid-afternoon treat, but rather a workout guideline:

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    image source (Side note: Who, in their RIGHT, RATIONAL state of mind, eats only one oreo? Unless you’re pairing the oreo with a golden oreo…)

  5. Witnessed personally: A starving hospitalized non-eating disordered woman who hasn’t eaten in over 24 hours refuses to eat food unless it is one of her packaged diet foods from the current crash diet plan being followed.

  6. You can’t walk into a restaurant without being blatantly greeted by nutritional information, that was unsolicited by you in the first place:
    gtres66

    image source (Starbucks… it wasn’t even on the leaflet, but displayed instead)

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    image source (Side Note:  This was Panera… and the funny thing was the website the image came from titled it “I’m on a diet and I can’t have a bowl of soup!”.  #modernlifeinanutshell)

Man I could think of so many more options, but this just gets too lengthy.  The funny thing is modern society is screwed.  This is DISORDERED!  I gave you six plus examples of these things that are considered “acceptable” if not “healthful” practices in modern society, WHICH, if I personally engaged in any one of them, would be told I was engaging in eating disordered behaviour.

I’m sorry, but if it’s DISORDERED for me, is it not DISORDERED for everyone?

And where do all these things come from?  It is often lumped under the assumption that you are engaging in these behaviours in an attempt to be “healthier”, but then what is your definition of “healthy”?

If a person who is naturally built larger, whose body wants to be what society would normally deem “overweight”, engages in all of these behaviours, chances are eventually, their weight would still be “overweight”.  Because that is where their body naturally wants to be according to set-point theory! And that person goes to the doctor, for a bladder infection… and the first thing the doctor says is, you need to lose weight if you want to be healthy.

Excuse me, but how is this related to the problem at hand, a bladder infection?  The person didn’t even come there for weight loss advice!

The person says, “Look, I run every day.  I eat lower calorie foods, whole grains, low sugar, and vegetables.  I count everything and make sure that my calories in equal my calories out, but I can’t seem to lose weight.”

Without even running blood tests, or cardio tests, or what have you to determine the actual “health” of the body, we’ve already determined that the person needs to lose weight.

When you yourself go to the coffee shop and order a skinny, or fat-free latte, and claim that you’re doing it for “health”, ask yourself, what does “health” mean?

If you can close your eyes and picture yourself at your healthy self goal, what does that self look like?

Does your “healthy self” equal ripped abs, and a long and lean physique? Do your thighs not touch?  Is your cellulite gone?

Yep.  So let’s stop the delusion.  The issue is not “health”… the issue is SIZE, WEIGHT, and the associated bias that goes along with it.  The idea is that you are worth more if you take up less space.  The idea is that skinny > fat, that skinny people are happier, healthier, stronger, more driven, more desireable, more attractive, more loved, more accepted… basically they’re just more.

They are more, because they are less.

What an oxymoron?!

I remember when I was little, I always had a large appetite, but I was never overweight.  I was always pretty lean.  I used to eat the same amount as the hockey jocks in high school, and one slice of pizza was never enough to satisfy me, even when I was 6 or 7.  People would joke that I eat SO MUCH, and I used to feel pride and joke right along with them.

I used to be a size 0 or 2, and then when I became a 4 or 6, I was actually proud that I was growing and becoming less of a child and more of a woman.

Somewhere along the line, this changed.

Somewhere along the line, whenever I ate as much, or more of than my boyfriend it became less of a joke, and more of a source of guilt, shame, and anxiety, because a rule was created that girls should not eat as much as guys.

Somewhere along the line, if I ate 2 or 3 slices of pizza, it became not about satisfying my hunger and cravings, but rather about eating the lesser amount because a rule was created that girls should (based on observation of others) only eat one slice of pizza, and pair it with a salad.

Somewhere along the line, advertising and the bandwagon taught me that a latte had to be skinny, and that I should feel guilty for enjoying my coffee with a non-sugar-free flavour shot and actual milk.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that cake and cookies should be enjoyed in secret, and that the 8th deadly sin was a love of peanut butter cups.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that “healthy” people swapped their pasta for zoodles, and their rice for cauliflower.

Somewhere along the line, I no longer felt proud of my size 4, or more often 6 frame that was curvy and womanly, but ashamed because it wasn’t closer to a negative number.  Somewhere along the line, I threw out the notion of womanly curves in favour of the teenage boy gangly look that accompanies a restrictive diet and the loss of body shape and boobs… all because somewhere along the line I accepted the notion that two became the new four, and zero became the new two, and six became the new fourteen.

 

We’re a generation that is expected to be able to DO more, while running on LESS.  We’re supposed to get more in touch with our “hunter gatherer roots”, and serve it with an aspartame filled fizzy drink.  We’re confused.  We have too much knowledge, and too little perspective.

Because if we stopped with the high powered craziness for ten seconds, and stopped running a mile a minute, accepting ideas willy-nilly because we don’t have the time to stop and think about it before internalizing, we would realize that none of this makes sense!

You cannot do more while taking in less.  I cannot be on my feet at my job, for 8 plus hours, come home and make dinner, and go for a bike ride afterwards while eating zoodles and diet coke.

You cannot compare the amount of satisfaction you get from a real chocolate fudge brownie, with the “healthy” plant-based black bean, Splenda sweetened 56 calories a piece one.  Yep… one pan later, and I’m just as lethargic as before and my chocolate craving is still there.

An oreo is not equal to 1200 jumping jacks any more than a romance novel is equal to a llama, or my left butt cheek is equal to my elbow.  You can’t equate two totally different things!  Plus, imma enjoy my oreo, but I’m not gonna enjoy 1200 jumping jacks.  That pleasure factor is significant!

You’re going to make more memories playing peek-a-boo with your baby and hearing him/her laugh, than you will jogging with them in a bikini. AND if you’re like me you’ll be much less likely to end up with road rash from tripping over something… although, you might accidentally poke yourself in the eye.

We talk about health in terms of weight… but we seem to not notice that the size bias that is running rampant through all our heads, and the associated disordered notions that accompany it, is making us the most miserable and habitually depressed and unsatisfied generation ever.

We have less patience/tolerance of others, less connection to our hunger/fullness cues, less connection to other people (because we’re too obsessed with diet/exercise/technology), less sense of belonging, drive, motivation, contentment… all because we’re HUNGRY.  And I don’t mean hungry just for food, but hungry for balance and a sense of calm that you can only get when you stop trying to be MORE, and do MORE all the time.  Hungry for all the connection with others and relationships that you’re missing out on because you are never stopping.

And it gets us into a vicious cycle… because we’re bombarded by this size bias and are convinced that we would be happier by being thinner.  We’d be more accepted, more loved, more driven, more motivated.  But trust me, if thinness made you happier when I was literally lying in the hospital on my death bed I should have been the happiest person on earth.  Needless to say, I’ve never been more miserable in my life… except when I was trying to RUN while in this deathly ill state.  I was more miserable then because I was in more physical pain than you could ever believe.

It’s time to address the real issue, which is not your weight, shape, or size.  It is your relationship with yourself, and the world around you.  It is your need to fill only one facet of your life (diet/food, body shape/fitness), and ignoring all the rest.  It is a lack of balance.  It’s the acceptance of all of these DISORDERED notions, as NORMAL.

It’s the fact that you’re allowing zero to be the new two, two to be the new four, and six to be the new  fourteen.  It’s the fact that you’re allowing the calorie count to be the deciding factor rather than your tastebuds, and the treadmill to dictate whether you can spend time with your friends at a coffee shop later.  It’s not make you healthier, and it’s not improving your value or worth.

It’s time to stop buying it.

It’s time to go back to your roots and reframe the bias that you’ve been trained to accept.

It’s time to look in the mirror and instead of condemning your love handles, appreciating your womanly curves.

It’s about making the choice when buying new clothes and having to go up a size, to allow it to be the beginning of a new relationship with another stage of your life instead of the beginning of another crash diet.

It’s about eating an oreo for a snack without reading the label, and then eating another if you weren’t satisfied.  And trusting that eventually you will be, and your body will let you know when you are.

It’s about going for coffee with a friend and ordering a cookie to share, even if you’ve already eaten, because it ADDS to the experience and the memories, not to you your hips.

It’s about changing your vocabulary when it comes to food, taking out all the “skinnys”, “cleans”, “cheats”, or whatever other judgements you make, and allowing only flavours, textures, and cravings to make your decisions.

AND it’s about doing all these things and not thinking you’re being LAZY, LACKING WILLPOWER, or being a GLUTTON for doing them.  

Because normal is disordered… but who ever wanted to be normal anyways?

Eating to Live, AND Loving to Eat

I’m going a little crazy at the moment…

The cafe I’m sitting in is baking something, and the air is full of the enticing aroma of toasted coconut.  I go through coconut phases, as in I’ll have three or four days of being like, “I MUST HAVE EVERYTHING WITH COCONUT IN MY VICINITY, MAKE A PLETHORA OF ALMOND JOY MACAROONS/COOKIES, AND ADD IN SOME COCONUT MILK INTO SAVOURY ENTREES”, and then I won’t touch it for a month or more.  But there’s still that serious love.  I don’t get it.

Anyways, I actually can’t remember the last time I had a coconut rush… probably at least two months ago… but the smell of this coconut is awakening the almond joy aficionado inside of me.  I suddenly have the desire to run home and break out my jumbo Costco sized kilo bag of shredded coconut.

The power of suggestion.

Just like how the elderly couple at the table next to me are drinking steaming cups of tea and two slices of freshly baked carrot cake, slathered in the thickest layer of cream cheese frosting… and now I want carrot cake.

Actually I just want the icing.  Cream cheese frosting… yes.  Ooh, coconut carrot loaf, with a cream cheese frosting centre!  Picture it:  You see a loaf, nice and golden brown on the outside, with flecks of orange- just enough to tell you it’s either carrot-y or orange-y. It’s all normal, but then, THEN, you take a knife and slice in….

AND BAM!

d108976-creamcheese-frosting-003_vert

All is right in the world…. because there’s cream cheese frosting.

And coconut… just enough to give a hint of coconut flavour and that awesome texture that’s kind of crunchy, kind of creamy.  Because the texture is the best part of coconut.  I mean, what other fat out there has that luxury of being both crispy crunchy, and creamy AT THE SAME TIME?

I think that loaf would be killer.  Although I wonder if you were to bake a loaf with cream cheese frosting inside, whether the heat would melt the frosting and you’d be left with a gaping hole in the centre, and a really dense bottom half of a loaf?  Has someone tried this?

I like those surprise foods… those things with a little unexpected twist that sends it into an art nouveau category.  Kind of like the pie I made when my sister was here a few weeks ago:

IMG_5183

 

It’s banana cream… with an oreo crust, chocolate shell and peanuts.  PEANUTS!  Mind blown.  And it was delicious.  You can find the recipe here (I did add sliced bananas to mine too, but you know the banana paradox: if you add them too early they turn brown, so it was later that evening when lighting for photos sucks but we were on schedule to devour.  The struggle of a food photographer’s life.)

Or inside out apple pie a la mode.  Yeah, that sounds delicious too.

Food is great.

ckmbicd

Yes, I did just say that.  Is your mind blown?

I like to be a walking dialectic, and a walking oxymoron.  Like, I adore food and I’m terrified of it at the same time.  Or an anorexic chef.  See, dialectic oxymoron.

Actually, in the world of eating disorders it’s really not all that uncommon.  It is, and it isn’t.  Particularly, you find a lot of anorexics that actually love food… they just can’t eat it.  Hence, you got one of the key warning signs, or characteristics that are often noted in diagnostics.  Shows food obsession, and has a tendency to bake or cook a lot of things- extravagant things- for other people, but will not eat what they make.

For me, this was very much the case when I first was descending into my eating disorder.  I always made two dinners:  one for my parents, and one for me.  And the further I got into it, the more extreme the differences were between them, and the more extravagant the meals that I made for others became.  I remember two weeks before I was hospitalized one of the last meals I cooked for my parents.  It was mid August, and roasting hot outside for everyone else.  For me, with my extremely low body fat percentage and horrible body temperature regulation, I was still clad in a sweatshirt.  Thanks to that extreme heat, I was comfortable.

Anyways, the meals:

Parents:  Grilled corn on the cob with cilantro lime butter, bacon salt, and bacon crumbles, a harvest green bean and tomato salad with tarragon and a dijon vinaigrette… and I can’t totally remember the protein.  I want to say it was a grilled chicken with a shwarama style marinade, but I’m not 100% sure.

Me:  An egg white, three plain beans, and a slice of a plum.  No seasoning because “I like things plain” (AKA:  I’m terrified of the potential calories in salt or herbs or seasoning, not to mention potential water retention and weight gain from the sodium.  I mean come on, I couldn’t even take the vitamins that the doctor at least wanted me to have to try and keep my organs functioning because I was convinced there had to be calories in them).  Trust me, I don’t actually like things plain… and chances are, if you’re with someone that you believe could have an eating disorder, they probably don’t like things plain either, regardless of what they say.

Relapse?  Not as much.  I was educated enough in nutrition and through working with dietitians that I at least ate the food that I made… I just only really made one or two meals a day.  No snacks, that’s it.  So my meal (if it was particularly gourmet it was meal singular) was delicious, and not plain.  But still, the foodie mentality was there, as well as the obsession.

Often times “food love” is considered synonymous with “food obsession” in the eating disorder spectrum.  And it’s regarded as a symptom, and by extension a phase.  For many people this is true.  You’ll find a lot of people that vow, while completely entrenched in their disorder, that they’re going to become a chef.  They seek out jobs working with food, go to school to become a pastry chef, or a baker, or, dare I say it, a dietitian.  It really does make sense:  you’re starving, and all your body wants, and needs, is nourishment.  So what is your brain going to make you focus on, in an attempt to get what it needs?  Food.

So, by extension, when this process is reversed, when the patient or sufferer begins to eat normally again, recover, and get closer to their set point weight, the obsession lessens.  Food thoughts move more to the side the further you get in the process, and room is made for you to focus on the things that bring you joy.  Relationships, true passions, hobbies, friends, family, animals, school, whatever it may be.

I’ve definitely seen this, particularly in inpatient hospital settings, and residential treatment. It’s interesting to see the change in people, as well as the differences between people.

Inpatient hospital setting (aka, medically unstable, we’re forcing this food in you and confining you to bare minimal movement to keep you alive):  95% of patients sit down at the table, a tray of food in front of them, and lament their existence and the food on their plate.  This isn’t to say that they hate food, or didn’t fall into the food loving category, but rather that they’re being forced to eat the food they love yet need to avoid.  So they’re terrified and it’s easier to focus on that and by extension spread the hate instead of the jelly.

“I can’t stand cream sauces!”

“This chicken isn’t cooked, I can’t eat that when I can see a vein!”

“Butter makes me want to gag!”

“This is hell!”

“Why is my plate so much bigger?! We’re supposed to be on the same meal plan!”

“The dietitian hates me!  She’s got a plan to make me fat for her own twisted pleasure because she hates me!  This food is disgusting!”

“Muffins are fat food!”

“I purposely pick carrot sticks for my snack instead of the animal crackers because they’re healthy!  Plus I hate cookies…”

You get the picture.

And then there was me… the other patients didn’t get me.  Once again the walking dialectic oxymoron:

“The veggie burger is the tastiest thing on this menu, and if you have a burger you need mayo!  Ooh they’re having apple crumble as a dessert option on Tuesday!  If you have to gain weight, wouldn’t you rather do it by eating delicious things rather than BOOST or ENSURE?!  I hate celery, why would I have it for snack (not to mention I’d eaten enough of it, and rice cakes, before hospitalization to last me a lifetime)?  GIVE ME ALL THE BANANAS! (No one voluntarily ate bananas due to their high calorie content compared to other fruits…. I had 3 or 4 a day.  I couldn’t get enough!)”

And then you move on to residential.  People here are medically stable, so it’s working more on weight gain if necessary, but more so the mental side, and the behaviours surrounding the food.  Here is where you start to see the differences between people.  Sure you see a lot of the above, particularly if the patient is new to treatment in general, or just beginning recovery and living in total fear.  But with those who have gotten past the initial terror and indignation, you start to see the symptomatology emerge, and two distinct groups of people.  AKA, my body is being nourished enough so that I realize that food is not actually my passion, versus… the me’s.  The conversation is different.  Cue the check in after every meal:

“Ugh.  I’m tired of eating!  I’m full.  I’m fat.  I don’t want this at all!”

“Why was her plate so much smaller than mine?!  Why doesn’t the dietitian listen to me?! I don’t need this much food!”

“Can we just get this over with already?”

“I don’t care.  I hate grilled cheese.  I hate that we have to eat food we don’t like.  But I guess I can’t do anything about it, so whatever.”

“My Crazy Obsession is on tonight!”

“I want a cigarette…”

And then there’s me:

“Well, I really liked that meal!  I love couscous day! There’s something about the texture that’s just awesome!  I’m nervous, but that was sooooooo good!  I secretly love cheese and cheese surprise (a mac and cheese creamy dish that terrifies everyone and everyone loves to hate)!  Oooh it’s Sunday/Wednesday/Friday, and that means dessert tonight, I hope it’s peanut chocolate clusters, PB&J tart, ice cream sandwiches, carrot cake cupcakes, or fudgey brownies!  If there’s energy balls for snack, Imma be so excited!”

Don’t get me wrong:  I was still terrified.  I was still needing to run to justify eating all the things I love.  It was still easier to skip a meal or snack than to eat it.  I still freaked out after eating the dessert.  I still spent time in front of the mirror, pinching the flab I could see.  BUT, my excitement for the food, the joy, the satisfaction and fun I had when I got to experience it all… textures, tastes, smells, consistencies, everything… it was GREATER.  It was so much better than the fear.  It was worth the fear.  It was worth the turmoil.  Because for that half hour while I was experiencing the food, I was truly experiencing it.  I was comparing it, contrasting it, savouring it.  Imagining what spices I could add to it to make it better, and what flavours I’d like to take away.

I remember this one night at residential… oh man, I’d say 95% of the patients hated that night!  And I had so much fun, I wished they would have made it a recurring weekly thing.  Have you ever heard of O.NOIR restaurant in Montreal?  A complete sensory eating experience, you literally eat your meal in the pitch black dark, allowing the smell and taste to be heightened when you can no longer see.

Totally on my bucket list!

Anyways, the dietitian at residential decided to recreate the experience of O.NOIR for us in the hopes of encouraging us to be more mindful with our food and really experience it when we didn’t know what it was.  We were totally blindfolded, and had no idea what they were setting in front of us for dinner, or for dessert that followed.  It was the one meal where we were permitted to talk about the food whilst we were eating it.  And there were MAXIMUM freak outs going on!  I mean, you can’t count the calories or lament the fats and oils when you have no idea what you’re having.  You can’t purposely eat less, when you don’t know how much they put on your plate to begin with.  You just have to trust.  You have to put all your faith in the dietitian and the cooking staff that everything will be okay.

I was in heaven.

I was finally allowed to talk about the food while I was eating it!  I was allowed to guess out loud whether I was tasting cilantro or parsley, dill or fennel, panko or regular bread crumbs.  AND, I couldn’t control it at all, so there was no point in feeling guilty, or stressing out because I had absolutely NO IDEA what or how much I was having.  It was my free pass to be a foodie in treatment for an eating disorder, and to not stifle the creative juices.

And I remember the debriefing later, the tears, the screams, the attempted running in bedrooms at all hours of the night that followed.  The claims of cruel injustice and vows that they will NEVER do this again, from my fellow patients.

A couple of days later I had a session with the dietitian and she asked me how the experience was for me.  I remember raving and telling her how freeing it was, how much I wish I could do that regularly, and how great it was to experience the flavours, the smells, the textures, the consistencies of everything.  And I remember the look on her face, happy and pleased that I had a positive experience, but with a shadow behind it all.

“Well, it’s important to enjoy what you eat, and I’m glad you could.  I’m glad you could let it all go.  But don’t forget, there’s more to life.   And don’t forget, the fascination will fade.  And it’s important you let it.  Don’t hang on to it.  Fill your life with other things, not food.    Satisfy your mind, not just your palate.  Food isn’t your purpose, it’s simply your fuel.”

I’ve heard this type of thing numerous times.  I’ve heard the generalizations, the worry, and the fear.

“Enjoy your food, but don’t enjoy it TOO much.”

“Food is fuel, not fun.”

“Eat dessert, but only eat it once a week.”

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants…”

“Be careful, you don’t want to go from one extreme to another.”

See, when you’re dying, when you’re literally skin and bones, people can’t stuff you fast enough.  But when you’re a normal weight, or close to it, the fat phobia kicks in and the food they once glorified suddenly becomes something that you must monitor, must eat with restraint, and something that you must be wary of.  Where they once tried so hard to get us to find a minuscule amount of pleasure, they now flip the theory and say it’s no longer normal to enjoy.

And for those recovering from an eating disorder, it is EXPECTED that you actually don’t enjoy food as much as you do in the initial stages of recovery.  The symptomatology dictates that you’re no longer supposed to think about it, to read recipes, to pour over food blogs, to make extravagant or fancy dishes.  And while this might be true for a large percentage of sufferers, this overgeneralization puts those who actually get enjoyment from food regardless of their affliction in an awkward and potentially shameful situation.

I remember the conversations with various dieticians, doctors, therapists:

“I think I really do belong in food.  I mean, I’m the happiest when I’m creating something in the kitchen.  I’m the calmest when I’m combining flavours and textures, and watching art come together in edible form on a plate.  I love putting it all together on a plate, and making it look beautiful.  And then tasting, trying, sampling, and seeing others enjoy what I make too… it’s the best!”

“That will pass. It always does. You don’t belong in food, you should be far from it. Your life has been consumed by it enough, and it’s not healthy. You only think that you enjoy it to that extent. Give it time. You’re not meant to be there, and you’ll be happier when you let it go.”

But what happens when it doesn’t lessen?  I mean, just like I mentioned in my last post, I spent a chunk of my life believing that there was something wrong with me, for one reason or another.  I believed that I wasn’t okay just being me, liking what I liked, having the personality and the body that I was born with.  So now, coming out of treatment, pursuing outpatient, and loving food as much as I do, once again I am bombarded by the same message.  If you’re an eating disorder survivor, and you love food, or think about food a lot, or actually enjoy cooking, eating, and/or reading recipes, then you’re not letting go.  You’re not actually recovering, because if you were, you wouldn’t love it any more.

And it gets old.  It makes therapy and dietitian appointments depressing.  It makes it tedious and a drag, especially when something that is supposed to make you feel better and less anxious only worsens the problem.  When you’re encouraged to find your passions and discuss them, but if you’re truly passionate about food, you’re discouraged and told that you’re not trying hard enough.

And as much as it sucks for those who suffer, this generalization is not limited to eating disorder sufferers.  We live in one big contradiction.  Mindfulness and the yoga movement is all the rage right now, and that concept is seeping into food as well.  This is not a bad thing.  Mindfulness and intuitive eating are things that we all should strive for: listening to our bodies rather than a calorie count or diet plan to tell us what and how much we need.

However, the current trend seems to be more along the lines of:

“Be intuitive, within limits”.

Or rather, “Eat what you want, up to a certain amount.”

“Enjoy your food, but only if it’s certain types of food.”

“Don’t control your food, but control your calories.”

“Enjoy your food, but not TOO much.”

It’s kind of like when I was in residential, and I was supposedly on “mindful/intuitive” eating, but I still had to fill out a meal plan with specific amounts of carbs, proteins, veggies, dairy, etc.

HINT: this is not intuitive, or mindful.

And along those lines, we’re kind of boxed into a corner.  Shame be on you if you say, “I love donuts.”, without adding in “once a month” or “after a 5 k run”.

Are we not allowed to simply enjoy a donut?  Is there something wrong with finding pleasure and fulfillment in an alfredo sauce?

Is it always, “Eat to live, not live to eat.”?

Answer: NO.

You’re not a failure if you love food.  You’re not broken if you get more than just vitamins and energy from a plate.  Food is meant to be enjoyed, regardless of your shape, size, weight, or whether its a salad or a burger.  And guess what?  That’s normal.  Why bother eating if you don’t enjoy eating, or rather, if you’re eating something you don’t enjoy?  If no one was passionate about food, we wouldn’t have restaurants, recipe books, blogs, or culinary schools.

And to all the me’s out there:  If you’ve survived a restrictive or other eating disorder, and still feel like you come alive when you’re in your kitchen, THAT’S OKAY.  If you enjoy reading recipe blogs and cookbooks long after you’ve reached your set point weight, go ahead and read them!  If it’s more than the calories, if there’s more to it than the feeling of need due to deprivation and food rules, then allow yourself to gain pleasure and satisfaction from food.  I truly believe you can have a life that allows you to enjoy food without limitation, restraint, and still be healthy and happy, and in recovery.  And I’m tired of being scared that loving food will push me towards the other end of the spectrum, like if I allow myself to unleash my passions, build the best cookie, and devour a burger, I’ll suddenly be a binge eater.  It’s not that simple or that extreme.  Passion doesn’t create disorder, but resistance and denial does.  Remember:

Be a walking dialectic, and an oxymoron.  It fits better with your unicorn horn anyways.

 

 

The Happiness Equation: Mathematical Machine or Magical Unicorn?

 

 

Hello all!

It’s a sunny Thursday morning in my part of the world, and I feel like I’ve won the lottery because not only is it gorgeous outside (so gorgeous this cafe has its windows open!), but I managed to score a table with an outlet so I can plug my computer IN whilst I write. My face be like:

smile12

Except replace the penguin with an outlet… if it was an actual penguin, my face would be more like:

yeeaaaa-rollerskates-11934-1311641451-13

Novelty of novelties, I know.

But seriously, there should be a law that every coffee shop has outlets at at least half of their tables, or along their bar.  This particular cafe has only two outlets in the whole store, and they’re both at tables that people love to sit at who don’t have anything to plug in at all.  And while I’m fine with sharing the comfy chairs, for those of us who forget to plan ahead and plug in our laptops the night before and are running on like 20%, those extra outlets would be very much so appreciated.

Either that or people need to become more accepting of having someone sitting under your table at your feet.  Just pretend I’m your adorable Labradoodle.

Personal space bubble, what’s that?

Moving on…

I was sitting here the other day, and I overheard a conversation between two people, specifically two women.  Both were drinking coffees, and it appeared to be a typical meet up of two friends.  But being the recovery warrior that I am, I’m kind of like a dog and the mention of the word walk or treat:  I hear a word related to nutrition, exercise, weight, or shape and my ears perk up.  So while checking my emails, my Spidey senses were sent tingling when I overheard this:

“Hun, you’d be so much happier if you just lost a little weight… I mean you seem pretty happy for a fat person, but 20, 30 pounds, and you’d be so much happier.  It’s all about calories in, versus calories out.  Just tie up your running shoes, and stop ordering the banana bread when we come here for coffee.  It’s all about willpower.”

And it takes a lot of restraint to avoid throwing my iced latte in her face, but:

  1. My iced latte tastes way too good to waste.
  2. I haven’t thrown a drink on someone since I waitressed and tossed red wine on a man’s white pants.  Side effect of being semi accident prone, and not an experience I wish to repeat.

How many times have you heard this ideology: weight=happiness, happiness=weight ?

How many times have you witness/held the belief that the key to all happiness lies in external appearances?

How many times have you been mislead to believe that what you weigh or what shape you have is completely within your control, and by extension, you are in control of your own happiness?

Probably too many to count.

One of the hardest concepts to grasp in recovery from an eating disorder is that you are not a machine.  Part of this comes from the hope and key belief that all eating disorders hold: you are in control.  One of the biggest rewards an eating disorder gives you is a feeling of total control, and that regardless of whatever mayhem is going on around you, there is one thing the tornado of life cannot touch: what you put in your mouth, and what you do with your body.  A plane could crash in my backyard, or a typhoon could occur in Laos while I was on vacation there, or my uncle could wind up in the hospital, and regardless of all this I still have a choice whether or not to eat my McDonalds hamburger.

Mc-scuse me… my Chicken McNuggets.

And by feeling like we are in control of this one key element we feel stable and secure, because this feeling of control brings a whole bunch of other feel-good emotions along with it:

Pride: Because you have (will)power, and a “enviable” body shape due to your ability to control what, when, and how much you eat.

Motivation: You have that get up and go, because at least initially you will receive positive feedback on your changing frame from those around you. And motivation lifts depression, sadness, and shame.  And because you have something to “control” you have a clear cut goal, and that makes you feel motivated.

Hope: This control gives you hope, and the eating disorder itself gives you hope.  Hope that by controlling this one thing everything else in your life will get better, or at least become bearable.  And because a “beautiful” (aka: thin, toned, fat-free, or whatever adjective of choice appeals to you) body is toted throughout society as being of critical importance and worthy of praise, you become hopeful that you will feel content when your goal is attained.

And these three emotions, or feelings, are unbelievably powerful.  They give you a sense of purpose, a feeling of power, significance, and importance, and tend to override other more uncomfortable feelings.  But notice, there is a key emotion I didn’t include in this list, sort of the Grand Poobah of the emotional hierarchy…

Side note: As I wrote this, I felt the need to know where on earth the term Grand Poobah came from.  Apparently, it originated from Gilbert and Sullivan, but it was used most frequently in… “The Flintstones”!!

wtl1evn

#stoneageknowswhatsup

Double side note: Did you know “The Flintstones” was from the 60s?! AND that it’s spelled Flin-T-stones, not Flinstones?! Mind. Blown.

Moving on…

Right.  The Grand Poobah of the emotional hierarchy: happiness.

Because that’s really where we’re all trying to get to in the end, isn’t it?  Like, if we were all happy people, we really wouldn’t feel the need to change ourselves, or complain, or need to feel all those uncomfortable emotions: guilt, shame, anger, fear, sadness, and the like.  By not feeling those uncomfortable emotions, and by not feeling a need to change ourselves, we’d feel less need to change others… because often times we try to change other people in order to make ourselves feel better, or less guilty about some characteristic we possess ourselves.

Yeah, world peace, sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows, right?

I promise, I’m not running for Miss America, or becoming a hermit in a tree growing out my leg hair and becoming “one” with nature.

#toomanystereotypesinonesentence. Scratch that.

But, it’s true right?  I mean about the end goal being happiness… I mean, people get high paying jobs to be able to afford the lifestyles they want, in order to be happy by having the lifestyle they want.  Likewise, people quit high paying jobs to be able to spend more time with their families, in order to be happy by being with the people they love.  The reasoning for the actions and the actions themselves are different for everyone, but the end goal is the same: happiness.

And with the sense of control that the eating disorder gives, along with the secondary feel-good emotions that come along with it, you find yourself in a state of pseudo-happiness.  Or rather, you are ensconced in the pursuit of happiness, and completely convinced that the path you are on will eventually lead to happiness.  Because it just makes sense right?  I mean, you feel ALMOST happy, when you feel pride, or motivation, or hope, so eventually if you build up enough pride, or motivation, or hope it will equal actual happiness.

It’s like an A+B+C = D concept.  Linear, straightforward, and mathematically and logically sound.

Except think about it: at the same time that you were rolling your eyes at me for going all sunshine, and lollipops, and rainbows on you about how the world would be perfect if we all just loved ourselves and were happy, you took it to an equal extreme by assuming that pride+motivation+hope=happiness.

The reality is A+B+C ≠ D, it actually equals a smoosh of ABC which if you speak english, you can’t even pronounce never mind achieve.  So by extension pride + motivation + hope ≠ happiness.  It simply equals pridemotivationhappiness.  You can’t make oatmeal out of bananas and peanut butter, so you can’t make happiness out of pride and motivation.  But you can put it all together and make a killer dish.

I feel like I’m getting sidetracked…

Point is, you can’t magically create happiness.  It isn’t something that’s mathematical, and it’s not tied to a specific formula.  You can’t add two things together and create something that is completely individual and independent.  It’s like combining sodium and iodine and expecting to create boron.

 

3xpdg3j

#sonotgoingtohappen

I so did not just use chemistry to illustrate a point…::cringe::.

So now we know, the sense of control the eating disorder gives promises eventual happiness, but it never delivers because it can’t.  It can’t create happiness.  And it can’t create happiness because it, and you, are not as in control as you think you are.

I repeat, you are not in control.

The eating disorder is not in control of your body because you’re not in control of your body.

The eating disorder is not mathematical or magical because you are not mathematical or magical. And you are not mathematical or magical because:

You’re not a machine, and you’re not a unicorn.

In the eating disordered lifestyle, you fall on either one of these extremes on a day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute basis. And because we love black and white thinking so much (insert jazz hands emoji for us Apple users), it’s always one or the other, never a shade of grey. Let me illustrate:

Scenario A:

“I must eat number of (calories, carb grams, protein grams) a day, or less, in order to lose or maintain my weight.”

AKA:  I am a machine.  My body only uses so much, and any insufficiency or excess whatsoever will equal weight loss or weight gain respectively.  I can track from minute to minute what I burn, based on what I am doing, my height, my age, my gender, and what have you, and come up with a precise tally.  This is exactly what I need and this specificity is integral to the operation and mechanics of my day to day life, as well as my weight and shape.

OR

Scenario B:

“I know that your body uses fats, but mine doesn’t.  If I eat fats, it sticks right to my body as fat.  It doesn’t use fat at all, it just stores it.  Therefore I can’t eat butter, oil, cheese or deep-fried foods. In addition, other people burn enough calories to eat lunch after exercising, but I don’t.  My body barely burns anything.  My body is different.”

AKA:  I am a unicorn.  I am unique and special, and even though I could admit that x, y,or z is true for the rest of the world, and logically makes sense, it just isn’t the same for me.  I’m not trying to be better than anyone else, it’s just that I know it won’t work that way for me, because it can’t.  For some unknown (magical) reason, the rules/standards that apply to everyone else, do not apply to me.

And believe me, you, or rather your eating disorder, can twist these things in any which way to keep you living in a cycle of fear, shame, regret, guilt, depression, anxiety, but unsurprisingly NOT happiness.  You don’t even have to have an eating disorder to fall victim to this type of mentality.  After all, how many people have you heard lament, “good for the lips, straight to the hips”?  Or, “I’m going to have to have to do an extra hour on the treadmill to make up for tomorrow”?  It is a lethal side effect of living in a fat-phobic and media driven world, where we are consistently bombarded by messages telling us what we should do, eat, think, and look like.  All to sell us products or lifestyles that may or may not be ideal for us or our body type(s).

So, how do we begin to separate reality from fiction?  How do we begin to see the world as it is, rather than how we think it should be?  How do we begin to let go of the reins of our eating disordered brains?

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Take a step back.  Close your eyes.  Feel what is going on in your body and brain right now:

  1. Feel the air rushing through your nose, into your lungs and expanding your chest as it fills.
  2. Feel the sensations in your fingers and toes, the subtle lines of energy and blood flowing down your arms and legs.
  3. Feel any pain, any stiffness, any discomfort in your skeletal frame.
  4. Hear the world around you, be it the quietness of your room, the blare of traffic, or the bustle of a cafe.
  5. Hear the thoughts going through your head.  Feel their motion and the effect that they have on every part of you.  Feel how one thought produces a physical reaction in your body, be it a tensing of a muscle, or a quiver of a lip.  Notice how the thoughts pop through your head endlessly, and how you cannot change the fact that they appear.
  6. And now notice the air rushing back out your nose, the compression of your chest as it deflates.

Open your eyes.  This is now.

Notice that all those things occurred in the space of seconds.  And notice that every single one of those things you had no control over.  You do not consciously control your breathing, your body just does it.  You do not regulate the degree of sensation in your limbs, or choose how quickly the blood flows through your veins, your body does.  You do not control whether or not your feel stiffness in your neck or shoulders.  You cannot control the car rumbling down the street, or the wind in the trees.

So, if you cannot control all these things, what makes you think you can control how your body processes the things you consume?  What makes you think you are in complete control of what your body looks like or what shape and weight you have?  If your body has its own ideas of how it wants to breathe, or circulate, what makes you think it does not have its own ideas of how it wants to look or feel?  If it is smart enough to know how much oxygen to take in and how much CO2 to expel, do you not think it’s smart enough to know how much fat to store around your midline?  And if it has the power to choose how much testosterone or estrogen to produce, and has manners ingrained into it to keep everything in your body at the correct, not too high or not too low, levels, do you not think it also has the power to control your weight and shape and prevent either from becoming too high/large, or low/scrawny?

You are not a machine.

If you were a machine, you’d require only one type of fuel, like electricity or gasoline.  And you wouldn’t have these mechanisms in place.  If you were a machine, you would rely on someone else to supply you with your fuel, and cease to function if the amounts given were too high or low.  If you give an appliance too much voltage it is fried, or a car too little gas it dies.  Yet, one day we eat more, and another day we eat less, but our ability to carry out our daily lives is unaffected.  Our bodies are smart.  We require a mess of nutrients and types of food to function.  It can alter our metabolism up or down to keep our energy levels and weight and shape stable.  And it does all these methods of preservation automatically. Just as automatically as your breathing or your heart rate.  When we try to override the system, it just alters what needs to be altered to keep ourselves safe, stable, and balanced.

You are not in control.  Your body is, and your body will win.

And that person that you just saw running down the street, or the lady sitting at the next table is the same as you. She breathed, her blood circulated, her ears heard, and her brain thought. And they did all these things without her conscious control too, because she isn’t in control of how her body does things any more than you are.  If her body has the same degree of intelligence as yours in terms of circulation, breathing, hormone levels, enzymatic function, and all other mechanisms, why would the way her body processes food or maintains weight and shape be any different than how your body does?  Why would she use exorbitantly more energy than you when she exercises?  Why would her freedom with food and activity level be easily so much different than yours?

It’s not.  You’re not a unicorn.  Your body is no less or more effective at doing what it needs to do for self preservation than anyone else’s.

You do not control the fact that a thought occurred.  I repeat, YOU DO NOT CONTROL THE FACT THAT YOU THINK.  The only thing you can control is how you react to the thoughts.  You can choose what thoughts you heed, and which thoughts you let go of.  You can choose what directives you listen to, and which ones you ignore.  Remember, you’re not a machine.  You don’t have a CPU that obeys every keyboard shortcut.  You call the shots.  You can choose what thoughts to keep and what thoughts to shred.

Shred the idea that you are a machine.

Shred the idea that you are a unicorn.

Shred the idea that you are in control.

Keep the awareness of the current moment.  Keep the idea that your body knows more than you think it does.  Keep the knowledge that it will keep you where you need to be.

And accept that that is exactly what is going to happen, like it or not.

And through acceptance, eventually you will find a certain degree of peace.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, peace eventually leads to a certain degree of happiness.  You might eventually attain it, when you weren’t even pursuing it at all.  And that is the real happiness equation:

Happiness = something found when you finally stop looking for it.

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50 Shades of… pizza?

Good morning all!  Unless of course you live in another time zone, which I mean if you live in the majority of the world you do, in which case it’s a good afternoon, good evening, or good night.

Wasn’t there a movie that used that line?  Probably… oh wait!  The Truman Show!  Tell me you’ve seen the Truman show… hang on, I’m Youtube-ing…

I’m actually kind of impressed with myself for remembering where that was from.  I’m usually that person that will be talking about movies with someone and they’ll say, “Have you seen _____?” and I’ll be like, “Um….. maybe?”.  I never remember titles.  I also tend to forget actors/actresses names unless they’re like fantastic (Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep anyone?), so a conversation gets a little sticky quite quickly when you combine the two together.  It typically goes something like this:

Me: “Have you seen that movie… oh I can’t remember what it’s called.  It’s the one with the guy… oh crap… That guy with the hair?  You know, he was in that other movie?  The one where there’s a big misunderstanding (aka every movie ever made!).”

Yeah… it doesn’t go over well.

I think it’s genetic.

I know, I know, blame the genes.  But seriously though, I grew up mostly with my grandma because my parents worked, and she was the champion of “the thing”.  You spend enough time with her and you learn to read her mind at least a little, or you’d get a seriously riled grandma on your hands.  And if anyone knows my grandma, you don’t want a seriously riled grandma on your hands.

“Get me that thing, from the place over there.  No not that thing! The other thing! The one next to the big thing with the grey stuff on top!”

Like I said, genetic.

That was like the other day in the truck with my boyfriend… I was trying to explain the defectiveness of my thermos and justifying it by the fact that two different people tried to open it but couldn’t.  In the end we destroyed the rim on it because we got so desperate to open it that we tried to open it with a jar opener.  Anyways, I couldn’t remember the word jar opener, so I said can opener… but I totally knew that wasn’t it.  I did get it eventually, but it took longer than it should.

Side note:  those jar openers are handy, aren’t they?!  I mean, it didn’t work on my thermos, it just destroyed it. But that thermos is just evil. For other jars they’re great!

Double side note:  I’m not totally hopeless.  I don’t forget everything.  Just had to be clear on that.

Moving on.

So something major happened since we last chit-chatted:

It was my birthday!

Yay!

Remember this post?  I started it off by being oh so convincing and telling you it was my birthday.  Guess what?  I’m doing it again!

IMG_3199Actually, I’m not.  It was my birthday!  That right there is an awesome peanut butter birthday cake, stuffed with peanut butter chips, frosted in peanut butter frosting, and decorated with mini peanut butter cups.  It’s a plethora of peanut butter!  And I didn’t even have to make it myself, because someone gets me! This is the corner slice, aka the best slice, because it has the most frosting and the most peanut butter-ness.  Win.

And I was spoiled.  I was treated to the most amazing massage at the spa, which was so needed because I kind of suck at self care, as most eating disordered people do, and I have such a hard time sitting and relaxing.  I had this pesky knot in my shoulder, which had been bugging me for at least a month, and now it’s gone.  And I’m like…

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Oh yeah…..

Then there was a homemade panini lunch, followed by the aforementioned cake, a slice of which ended up in my face…

Side note:  Apparently this is a semi-common tradition?  It was a new one for me…

Add on a gorgeous apron from London, and a beautiful scarf, and you have me completely spoiled.  And of course this brings up an all too common eating disorder emotion:  guilt.

Why do we engage in eating disordered behaviours?

Guilt.

Why do we restrict when we eat a forbidden food?

Guilt.

Why do we suck at self care?

Guilt.

Why are we always keyed up and can’t relax?

Guilt.

Why are we afraid of certain foods?

Guilt.

Why are we so secretive, and don’t want to include other people in our struggles, or open up?

Guilt.

What keeps us stuck in our eating disordered ways?

Guilt.

I swear you’d be hard pressed to find someone with an eating disorder who doesn’t struggle with a guilt complex.  In my experience it is the most pervading emotion that finds its way into every nook and cranny of my life, and it would actually be a challenge to find a moment in my day where I’m not feeling guilty about something.

Guilty about sitting and relaxing instead of “being productive” and doing work.

Guilty about living with my grandmother for a time and helping her to stay in her house for as long as possible, while others claimed I was “sponging off of her”.

Guilty about living at home with my Mom and contributing as much as I can to household expenses, while once again other people claimed I was “taking advantage”.

Guilty about being lactose intolerant and needing the more expensive soy milk.

Guilty about dropping out of school multiple times and not “living up to my full potential”, disappointing others.

Guilty about being the one to pick an activity when spending time with friends or family, because of the chance that they might not enjoy it, or be bored.

Guilty about the amount of carbs I’ve eaten today.

Guilty about the lack of vegetables I’ve eaten today.

Guilty about that slice of cake.

Guilty about opting for a burger instead of a salad.

Guilty about adding a flavour shot to my latte.

Guilty about being so “indulgent”.

Guilty about spending money on new clothes, even though my assignment from both the doctor and dietitian is to gradually replace my whole wardrobe with clothes that I can’t associate with a certain weight and fit before recovery.

Guilty about being on exercise restriction, and relying on others to drive me around.

Guilty about being inflexible and/or anxious at times when it comes to food and certain food related behaviours.

Guilty about doing the opposite, not paying attention to my eating disordered behaviours and not being so rigid, thus obviously overdoing it and being a gluttonous pig (although apparently I’m the only one that thinks that when I relax I overdo it…)

Guilty about being something other than perfect.

Perfect at recovery.  Perfect at anorexia.  Perfect daughter.  Perfect student.  Perfect at eating “clean” or “healthfully”.  Perfect friend.  Perfect girlfriend.  Perfect caregiver.  Perfect body.  Perfect shape.  Perfect weight.  Perfect size.  Perfect plan for success.

Having everything perfectly under control and perfectly planned out.

Needless to say, perfection is impossible.  Perfection is unattainable.  Perfection is limiting, and it’s black and white.  Perfection is not reality.

Perfectionism and guilt, not always but often, go hand in hand.  They both live in the land of black or white, good or bad, all or nothing, and as such one influences the other heavily.

Pick a burger —–> Judgement:  There are so many healthier choices! (aka not the perfect choice) —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am

Choose to leave school —–> Judgement (self inflicted or heard): Wasting life, too stupid to stick it out, was going to fail anyways —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, stupid, lazy, self indulgent, and lacking willpower and drive —–> guilt and shame for making that decision and for being the person I am

Pick an activity that others seem uninterested in after the fact —–> Judgement: The activity bores them, even though I enjoy it.  Therefore I’m boring and stupid for enjoying it.  There are other things I should be more interested in doing. —–> Not perfect= completely wrong, selfish, self indulgent, lazy, and lacking willpower, drive, and interest —–> guilt and shame for making that decision, and for being the person I am

Need I go on?

You could pick any of the scenarios listed, or create your own.  Realize what process is going on in your head:

Decision/Action —-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Emotion

which ultimately leads to some behaviour positive or negative to cope with or manage said emotion.  And let’s be clear also on the judgement stage: The judgement can be heard from others, but ultimately it comes down to you taking on the judgement and claiming it for yourself as truth.  Ever heard the saying “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”?  Yeah, it’s true.  But that doesn’t make it easy to not adopt the judgments that you hear around you.

Guilt is a difficult emotion because it’s sticky and uncomfortable.  I’m not saying that no one has difficulty coping with joy, because I have met people that struggle to be okay with being happy.  Although, in my experience, oftentimes people struggle with being happy because they feel guilty about feeling happy.  It’s a judgement of an emotion.  Oh wait!!! I forgot to mention, you can totally flip that equation:

Emotion—-> Judgement (self inflicted/heard from others) —-> Decision/Action (coping mechanism potentially)

MIND BLOWN!

Side note: I have this uncanny ability to attempt to turn everything into a mathematical equation similar to the equations above.  X+Y=Z, or if this train was leaving Kansas at this time, then as a result I’m eating sushi in Canada. Yeah, that made no sense.  But there’s probably a mathematical reason for it.

Moving on…

Guilt.  It’s sticky.  Oddly, it’s one of those socially acceptable emotions.  And by socially acceptable, I mean, we’re expected to have it and it’s somewhat praised… at least in the sense of, if you do wrong you should feel guilty about it, so that it prompts you to make amends.  And if you do wrong, and you don’t feel guilty about it, it’s frowned upon.

That whole conscience thing.

And I mean it makes sense.  Like if someone murdered someone, I would hope they’d at least feel a little bit guilty about it.  If we didn’t we’d all be running rampant, looting, stealing, pillaging…

Apparently in my mind we’d all be pirates.

But there’s this whole other side of the coin, this part where you feel guilty in a situation where you have nothing to feel guilty about.  Unjustified guilt.  And as useful as a conscience is, when it comes to unjustified guilt some of us don’t have that filter.

Now, if there is guilt around food, I can pretty much guarantee you it’s unjustified.  Unless you murdered someone by flogging them with a day old baguette, knowingly fed them something that gave them an anaphylactic reaction, or purposely had them choke on a cannoli.  If this is the case, go ahead.  Feel guilty.

But, listening to what you’re craving and eating that, eating something new or different, taking advantage of what is available that is not always there, or sometimes eating past comfortably full don’t qualify as things that you should feel guilty about.

AKA:

Guilt about the amount of carbs eaten = unjustified

Guilt about the lack of vegetables eaten = unjustified

Guilt about a slice of birthday cake = unjustified

Guilt about opting for a burger instead of a salad = unjustified

Guilt about adding a flavour shot to my latte = unjustified

 

Or some typical ones:

Guilt about having seconds just because it tasted that good = unjustified

Guilt about not going for a run after eating Christmas dinner = unjustified

Guilt about adding ice cream to the top of a slice of pie or cookies = unjustified

 

I don’t care if it messes with your macros, adds extra calories, adds extra fat grams, or “goes straight to your thighs” (hint: it doesn’t!), that guilt is still unjustified.  Unless you have a medical condition, like diabetes, that makes counting your sugar grams very important, you should never feel guilty about having a brownie.

With eating disorders, guilt surrounding food or the guilt about not following rituals based around food is a constant issue.  When I was in residential treatment, after every meal we’d have a process time where we were expected to share how we were feeling having completed the meal.  Most of the time, everyone would go around the circle and say, I feel fine, good, bored, tired… and while if you were close to having a mental breakdown you’d often admit to the guilt, often times it was left unsaid.

It wasn’t because we didn’t feel it.  It was because we all were ashamed of having eaten at all, and wanted to ignore it.  We wanted to avoid it.  And we all knew that we felt it, and didn’t need to open up that can of worms.  Once again, I reiterate, if we share how we’re feeling with other people we’re putting our troubles on them, and we feel guilty about it.

Guilt about feeling guilt.  Unjustified guilt sandwich that doesn’t taste near as good as a pb&j.

And I’m not going to say that it’s a bad emotion, because we all know there’s no such thing as good or bad emotions.  They all have their purpose and it’s important to allow yourself to feel it.  It’s just how you try to assuage it that makes it a little more complex.  Most people with an eating disorder will feel so guilty about having eaten that they need to do something to assuage the guilt.  If the guilt was justified, such as the guilt you feel when you hurt someones feelings, it’s a harmless fix.  Say you’re sorry, and the guilt is at least mostly gone.  With unjustified food guilt, this “righting of the wrong” is usually a behaviour, and not a healthy one.

Restriction for the next meal, snack, day, week, etc.

Purging.

Laxatives.

Going for a run… or nine.

Self harm.

Seems ridiculous to those who don’t suffer.  Heck, it seems ridiculous to those of us that do.  We’d never tell someone else to do the things we do… but rules of kindness and self compassion don’t apply to us.  We’re different, of course.

So how do you deal with unjustified guilt?  Specifically unjustified food guilt?

You sit with it.

Oh I’m sorry, did I disappoint you?  I know you were hoping for a miracle pill just like those fat absorbing tablets you can down after your meal to assuage the guilt you feel for a burger from Wendy’s.  Or perhaps you were expecting me to say, “Well, the guilt serves a purpose: is healthier than so the guilt you feel is kind of appropriate.

There is no kind of appropriate.  There is no coming at it half way.  You can’t say, well I’m going to beat my eating disorder, or my disordered eating (because the majority of the world suffers from this) by allowing myself to eat a burger 3 times a week, or a brownie once a month.  Let’s be honest here.  What happens if you’ve already had 3 burgers this week, and then suddenly your boss decides to have a lunch meeting at Smashburger? Or if you happen across an amazing bakery in your travels with these incredible looking brownies that you only have the one occasion to try, but it’s only 23 days since your last brownie?

You’ll find yourself in one of two scenarios:

  1. You “indulge” in the food, either with a normal portioning or to excess because “I’ve already screwed up”, and you feel a profound sense of guilt, shame, and decreased self worth for “being bad” or “lacking willpower”.
  2. You flat out refuse the food, and then spend a large chunk of time feeling unsatisfied and unhappy because you didn’t listen to your craving.  And then potentially this leads to an eventual binge because you’ve deprived yourself.

I don’t know about you, but either scenario sounds rather depressing to me.

pretzelguilt

The Guilt and Deprivation Balance (aka why ED sucks), and a homemade pretzel!  Twas my first time making pretzels… did you know that if you add baking soda to water, it explodes?!  I now know… and so did my completely white stovetop.  But the deliciousness factor was so worth the clean up.

Because, when deprivation is high, your guilt is low.  Sounds good right?

Except you’re deprived.  And no one likes to feel deprived.  No one deserves to feel deprived.  And eventually, and understandably, you will rebel and the balance will flip.

There is zero deprivation (may or may not include a binge), but your guilt is so high, it’s unbearable.  Cue compensatory behaviour.

So how do we even this out?  How do we not make that scale so black and white, guilt or deprivation?

You gotta get rid of the unjustified guilt, THROUGH a lack of deprivation.  So when the guilt is unjustified, you sit with it.  You sit with all of the uncomfortable feelings, the urges to compensate, and the shame that comes alongside of the guilt, until eventually it subsides.  And then you do it again.  You do it over, and over, and over, at high frequency until you no longer feel the unjustified guilt for eating a burger, pizza, or cake.

For me, this has entailed a systematic reintroduction of all my fear foods one at a time, but at a high frequency.  We’re talking EVERY SINGLE DAY, again and again and again, until I’m not only sick of the food, but I AM NO LONGER SCARED OF IT.

Not one or the other.  Both sick of it, AND not afraid of it.

I’ve done this in my previous attempt at recovery, but it was different.  It wasn’t every day the same food, AND I was still allowed to exercise.

Let’s be honest again: this solves nothing.

I’ll eat anything if you allow me to run for three hours afterwards.

So really, when I thought I was no longer afraid of things, that really wasn’t true, because I was always compensating and slowly becoming more and more hooked on exercise.  Until eventually, I was exercising for more than six hours a day, and once again decreasing my intake more and more and more.

AKA: Relapse.

So this hasn’t been comfortable, because for once I’ve actually had to sit with the fears.  Literally sit.  Literally shake.  Literally bawl my eyes out until I have no more tears left in me and I’m severely dehydrated.  I’ve literally had to get my Mom to physically hold me down while I thrashed and kicked and screamed trying to claw my way to the treadmill.  I’ve screamed at myself, called myself vicious and horrible things, and practically clawed my own eyes out.  And my anxiety has been at some record highs.  Duh.

And, here’s the thing:  You can expect a TOTAL MELTDOWN for every food.  Yes, it sucks.  BUT, eventually, it passes.  And eventually it gets easier.  And eventually the fear goes away.  It might take weeks.  Yes, weeks of the same food every day.  But this has also been an occasion to get really creative to keep myself from getting bored.

My first food was… dun, dun, dun… Pizza.  And it took over a week.  So what did I come up with?

pizzacookie1

Breakfast oatmeal pizzookie topped with greek yogurt, peanut butter, bananas and raspberries

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Made up recipe: Apple crumble pizza, with a graham cookie flour (aka ground graham crackers instead of flour 🙂 ), cinnamon cream cheese sauce, toasted pecans, caramelized apples, and a brown sugar butter crumble

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Dessert for Two’s chocolate raspberry almond pizza: melted dark chocolate chip “sauce”, raspberries, toasted coconut and almonds, and a white chocolate drizzle

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Pita pizza, topped with butternut squash purée, chard, onions, crispy chickpeas, a little bit of cheese, and alfredo sauce

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Painting day, and take out greek and chicken pesto pizza

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Polenta pizza crust, topped with black beans, mozzarella, avocado spinach purée, sautéed onions and spinach, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, greek yogurt, and cilantro

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Thin crust pizza topped with a roasted garlic butternut squash purée, kale, sautéed onions, bacon, mozzarella, and alfredo sauce

And since then we’ve moved on to loafs.  Anyone following my instagram will have seen my current fascination with french toasted banilla (aka pumpkin, banana, vanilla bread) from How Sweet Eats.

frenchtoast

And so far, the loaf is taking much more out of me than the pizza… but I have some serious sweet bread issues from the hospital, so that would make sense.  And the rest of my list is long… so I’ll be at this a while. But that’s okay, because you’ll be here to take the journey with me.

And in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.

jim-carrey

Ahh Jim Carrey.