Tag Archives: food

I don’t know if I’m “recovered” and that’s okay

I had a particularly physically active day today and, as is fairly typical for me when I’m physically active, my hunger signals were muffled. They don’t go away exactly, but they become majorly delayed and aren’t as strong as they should be (until I actually start eating, at which point they becoming insanely strong). I ran by the store after my volunteer gig and the thought hit me that I could totally just skimp on or skip dinner altogether, go to bed early, and call it a done deal. The thought, It’d just be so easy actually flitted through my brain because apparently physical activity also gives me amnesia.

As of today, it’s been exactly fifty-one weeks since I entered an intensive outpatient (IOP) eating disorder treatment program. I graduated about ten weeks later and haven’t looked back. Well. I have. Obviously. But I’ve managed, through work, therapy, and keeping myself honest, to not dip back into old behaviors. I haven’t purposefully skipped or delayed meals, I haven’t counted calories, I haven’t been running at all.

However. The thoughts are still there. Not all the time, and they sometimes take slightly different forms (I will sometimes fall into a rabbit hole of second guessing myself. “Did I hike for that long because I wanted to or because of calories or something?”), but they still crop up, which is why I’m writing this in the first place.

I remember the first time I really thought about the difference between getting better and getting well. I read about it in a book: the main character spoke about being in the hospital for some chronic condition and how people shifted from saying, “Get well soon!” to “Feel better!” There’s quite a bit of nuance there, and I think it’s important to recognize.

I’ve thought a lot over the past year about the recovery vs. remission camps in the eating disorder community. There are those who say sufferers can completely recover and never deal with an ED again — they can get well. Others say that sufferers can be without symptoms for massive lengths of time (or potentially forever), but that, much like many substance abusers, the tendency to turn to ED behaviors is still there — so, they get better, but still have to remain somewhat vigilant. I’ve sat in both camps over the past year, and now, I have no idea where I fall.

I do know one thing, though: I’m personally doing pretty well. But I still have thoughts. There’s not a part of me that thinks back to this time last year with longing or nostalgia. But, there’s apparently a part of me that momentarily remembered restricting food as being “easy”, at least this evening. There’s a part of me that still has issues with the shape and size of my body or with balancing exercise. It’s all there; I’ve just learned a lot of tools to deal with those issues.

I think this is really important to recognize. Over the years, I’ve often seen recovery painted as a pretty stark Before and After. There’s so much more to it than that, though. It’s rare that recovery is presented in such a way that leaves room for those thoughts, those wonderings, those feelings. (In fact, a couple of years ago, when I first felt urges to restrict after eating intuitively for awhile, I completely freaked out because I assumed such urges meant that I was relapsing.)

I’m not sure where I stand on the whole recovery/remission debate any more, but I do know this: I’m doing really well, but I still don’t love my body. I’m doing really well, but I still have urges to go run when I need to deal with something hard. I’m doing really well, but I apparently still have thoughts about skipping dinner. I don’t really know what conclusions can be drawn about that — it’s not even been a year for me after all. But I do think it’s important to recognize that the recovery process can certainly involve thoughts and urges. It’s not just an After photo.

I ate dinner, in case you were wondering. It ended up being more of a fiasco than anticipated due to some spoiled food (oh, how quickly I would have used that excuse to just skip altogether last year), but I definitely ate dinner. So, even though the old thought was there, clearly something’s different. I think just knowing that is okay for now.

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Why I don’t want to go on your diet

raspberries


This post will probably annoy/upset/offend some people. I should note that this is not directed at anyone in particular, but just at people as a collective whole. I’m shouting into the void, not directly in your face. Promise.

All right, sports fans, it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week here in the States (or maybe everywhere; I don’t actually know) and I thought I’d post a little something. But instead of telling you a detailed and grueling story of weight loss and heartache or posting inspiring before and after photos or whatever, I’m just going to whine. Okay? Okay.

Full disclosure: I have slogged through the putrid swamp that is EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, technically now known as OSFED [Otherwise Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder] in the DMS V but no one, including dieticians and therapists, likes that title, so we’ll stick with EDNOS for now) since 2008 and have only actually begun to work all of my issues out in the past year. EDNOS can take a ton of different forms, but for me it meant that I underate and overexercised with the intent of losing an unrealistic and unhealthy amount of weight as a coping mechanism for dealing with some garbage that was going on in my life at the time, and since that period of time have experienced a lot of anxiety regarding my weight, shape, and food. I have never been underweight, so I have never qualified as anorexic, but EDNOS is just as serious as the token eating disorders (Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa), and involves just as many health risks and just as much emotional anguish.

Now that that’s out of the way…

I do not want to go on your diet. It does not matter what your diet is, if it masquerades as a lifestyle, if it allows you to eat chocolate every day, if it causes significant life changes, etc. Barring me finding out that I have a medical need to cut a certain food out (like, I know I can’t eat gluten, but that’s not a diet; it’s a survival tactic to keep me healthy, employable, and not nauseous/vomiting/other uncomfortable things 24/7), I do not want to go on your diet.

I am fully aware that you love your diet. I know that you have lost x number of pounds on your diet. You have reiterated time and again how much better you feel on your diet. I still do not want to go on your diet.

Why? Because I hate restricting food categories.

Actually, that’s not true. I love restricting food categories. Or, at least, the eating disorder that I’ve battled does. It makes me feel strong and in control and like I’m accomplishing something. So, when I start to restrict any category of food, I just want to do it more and more and more.

If I cut out simple carbs, why not all carbs? If I can’t eat beef, let’s add chicken and fish to that list. If I’m not supposed to eat butter, how about severely decreasing my fat intake? No milk? No problem! I’ll cut cheese and yogurt out, too.

I assume you can see the issue here.

I currently eat an immensely healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and all three of the macronutrients necessary for life. I, generally speaking, don’t eat too much or too little. I have the energy I need to go for a run and go to the store and go about life. I’m not losing weight or combining my meals in a specific way or avoiding an entire macronutrient group. And, shockingly, I somehow manage to live a pretty good life without doing any of those things.

I want to eat foods I enjoy (bell peppers, apples, cupcakes, tofu, broccoli, vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberries, grilled cheese sandwiches, clementines, and so many others). I want to avoid foods I hate (stevia-sweetened anything, mushrooms, stevia, red velvet cake, stevia, calamari, stevia, rice pudding, stevia, cauliflower pizza crusts, and did I mention stevia?). I want to be able to eat soup and sandwiches and waffles and bananas without feeling guilt because I didn’t stick to some arbitrary rules set forth as the only way to maintain health. I want to eat dinner at a friend’s house without the heavy oppression of a set of instructions that must be followed or else.

Because the fact of the matter is that abandoning all of my food rules has resulted in me having energy and hair that grows at a normal rate and nails that don’t chip every time the wind blows. I’m not cold all of the time any more, I’m not growing increasingly weaker, and I no longer feel like I’m going to pass out on a near-daily basis. My dress size may not be what I want, but at least I’m a functioning human being.

So, no, I don’t want to go on your diet. I don’t want to go on anyone’s diet. I want to live my life for once without being worried about what food I eat or don’t eat. And, to quote one of the great philosophers of our time, “That’s all I have to say about that.”


Approximately one million (or maybe fifteen) statements about food I’m tired of hearing (and my mental responses)

1. “Did you see how many calories are in that?”

No, I didn’t. Because I chose not to look. For many reasons. Please stop telling me.

2. “There are no such things as healthy carbs.”

Please take a nutrition class. Any nutrition class. Here, I have a catalog for our local community college for you.

3. “Ohmygosh you can’t eat gluten?! That must be so hard!”

The hardest part for me personally is trying to convince others that life without bread is still worth living and that I rarely have to think about how horribly deprived I am of all the apparent gluten-filled wonders that the culinary arts have to offer.  Well, that, and not being able to eat Lebanese food.

4. “Eat this thing it’s really good. No, really, have some. No, really, you have to try some. My personal worth is apparently attached to whether or not you decide to eat this thing. Have some.”

I have said “no, thank you” like three times at this point. This could be for a variety of reasons including: I’m not hungry, I am allergic to it, I am trying to cut back on sweets, I already know I don’t like it, or I just plan don’t want to.  Please stop harassing me about this.

5. “Yeah, I ate a whole pizza, but I’ll run it off later.”

This is not healthy. Food is fuel. Exercising in order to eat is not okay.

6. “But the calories!”

Like, do you even know what calories are?

7. “I’ve been really good all day, so I can totally eat _____________.”

Food choices are not moral choices nor should food be a reward; it’s fuel for your body. Sometimes we put in premium, sometimes we put in questionable low-grade fuel from that weird gas station down the street. But it is all just fuel.

8. “This has zero calories, so I’m good!”

You do realize the absence of calories means that your body does not recognize this thing as a food source, right?

9. “Juice detox!”

STAWP.

10. “You have to be on the exact diet that I’m on in order to live life to the fullest.”

What. No. Just, no.

11. “CALORIES.”

Just…go read something about calories that didn’t come from SELF magazine. Please.

12. “There are toxins that stay in your body for thousands of years and to get rid of them you just have not eat food for a month, drink only a mixture of water, cayenne pepper, powdered inulin, and take this new wonder herb from the Amazonian rainforest that absorbs all of the toxins in your small and large intestines and–“

I honestly do not understand where we got the idea that our bodies cannot take care of themselves if we give them proper fuel. What is happening.

13. “This is a healthy fudge brownie because it’s sugar-free and fat-free!”

For something to be healthy it must contain actual nutrients from actual food sources that are actually benefitting your body in some form or fashion. Being sugar-free and fat-free does not magically pack a recipe full of nutrients. Technically, using this logic, I could just eat spoonful after spoonful of Splenda and call it healthy.

14. “Ugh, fat!”

Fat is actually good for you in proper amounts and is entirely necessary for many functions of your body.

15. “BUT CALORIES.”

Aaaaaand we’re done.


Weight loss worries: I’m done with the status quo

I realized early this morning that I have spent more years in my life being worried about my weight than I have spent years not being worried about my weight. This troubles me. I like the way I look right now. I like the way I eat (though I probably have a few too many sweets…). There are a few small changes I need to make for my health’s sake, but not necessarily for my weight’s sake (they are, contrary to popular belief, not always the same thing). So, why am I still constantly concerned about what I eat and what pant size I wear?  When does the worry end?

I know that as a woman in a Western country, I am technically expected to obsess about weight gain for the rest of my life.  The above realization about spending over half my life worrying about weight is hardly a unique one.  Most women (and many men) in America and other countries as well seem to feel as if the desire to lose weight is something to default to.  A few years ago, I was in a basic college PE class. There was a questionaire at the beginning about personal habits and such. One of the questions that I was required to answer was, “Are you committed to losing weight during this class?” Not “Do you want to lose weight?” or “Are you at a healthy weight?” or “What does you doctor say about your current weight?” but “Are you committed to losing weight…?” because the assumption is that we will always want to lose more, that our lives will be a constant fight against physical expansion.

Photo courtesy of Adpearance

But that seems so horrifying.  We must be constantly vigilant lest the numbers on the scales and on our clothing labels creep upward in the night.  We can’t think about food or exercise without ascribing moral implications to it.  Eating vegetables is “being good”; eating sweets is “downright sinful”.  Exercise addiction is the only addiction I can think of that is actively applauded despite the fact that no addiction is healthy.  Eating fresh food items is considered “eating clean”, which means that anything not in that category is dirty, right?

Too many people go through life feeling as if they have to earn any food they ingest. Too many people think that it’s okay to exercise or starve in order to eat this or that and that’s just tragic. Let’s get this straight: you deserve to eat food when you are hungry. Even if you just ate an hour ago. Even if you skipped the gym for an entire week or month or decade. Even if you look in the mirror and you hate what you see. You deserve to ingest nutrients; you deserve to treat your body with respect and to feed it so that it can continue to pump blood, breathe air, move, and heal itself.

I know that these concerns about eating and weight gain are considered natural and even healthy at times.  And I do think we should be mindful of what we are putting into our bodies. But mindful is not obsessive; mindful is not feeling as if you’ve sinned if you eat something with such-and-such calories or sugar or whatever; and mindful is certainly not feeling as if you have to make up for eating a cupcake by depriving yourself of food or by running for an hour.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

I know that as an American woman, it would not be unusual for me to spend the rest of my life battling it out with calories and weight gain and fat and cellulite. I’m supposed to fight this battle paying no mind to the fact that I look healthy, eat well, am strong and, with training, am able to do nearly anything physical that I want to do.  I’m not even sure what I’m battling the calories and the fat for any more.  Is it in a quest to feel good about myself? Is it in a quest to make someone else happy? Because obsessing about what I’m doing or not doing in the areas of food and exercise will not accomplish either of those things, and it certainly won’t make me any healthier as a person.

I know I’m supposed to worry about this until I reach an old age.

But I don’t want to any more.

What are your thoughts on the issue of weight loss obsession?

As an aside, I highly recommend this spoken word piece that’s been making the rounds on the Internet. Lily Myers speaks about this issue with eloquence and raw honesty:


Cooking isn’t hard

So, I am a food lover.  I have (by choice) watched cooking shows since I was two years old.  As a teenager, if I had nothing to do, I would read cookbooks over and over again to understand basic technique and recipes.  I have been baking for around sixteen years and have been cooking the majority of my meals for about four years  and I have come to some conclusions.

Cooking isn’t hard.

Some may want to argue with me.  But, really, cooking meals from scratch isn’t hard. The type of cooking that you are most interested in may be difficult–not everyone can be Gordon Ramsey or Ina Garten.  But the act of heating and combining foods to make an edible meal is not actually all that complicated, nor is reading a recipe and following the steps.

Which is why the many magazine articles and books dedicated to quick, easy [insert number here] step meals and the bizarre amount of boxed and bagged dinners available in the grocery store bug me: because they imply that all other cooking is too difficult for mere mortals to master.

Honestly, with a small amount of research to understand terms, I’m fairly confident that anyone with proper motor skills and some interest can make just about any recipe.  I’m also confident that you don’t need three cans of soup and two packets of dressing mix to make chicken in a crockpot.

Image

 

No, really, Pinterest.

I mean, anyone can make whatever they want with whatever weird or non-weird ingredients they want.  But I just think it unfair for convenience foods to have the corner on the Easy Dinner market.  Especially when the “convenience” is often simply that they combined incredibly common ingredients for you (I’m looking at you, pancake mix).  Many, many dinners are easy.  If you’re looking for hands-off cooking, there are thousands of slow cooker recipes out there that just involve chopping a few things up and chucking them in that Crock Pot Grandma gave you for your wedding.  That prep takes all of 15 minutes.

I think I’m just irritated that food is presented as this complex animal that only the truly dedicated can understand, leaving the rest of humanity with their packets of flavoring and boxed dinners.  And, if you want to eat those, that’s fine; but don’t feel like you have to eat them because you think cooking is too hard; it really just takes a bit of research and a little bit of time.


Dear People Who Describe Non-Food Things as “Delicious”

Dear People Who Describe Non-Food Things as “Delicious”,

Your phrasing makes me shudder.  Apparently, anything and everything can and should be described as “delicious”.  I don’t particularly feel like going into the dictionary’s definition of the word, as it is broad and can really support both sides of this argument.  However, I want you to give the following phrases some thought:

“This wallaby cordon bleu is delicious!”

“This fur coat is delicious!”

“Those boots are delicious!”

“That fifteen-layer, chocolate-strawberry-pâté de foie gras cake is delicious!”

“Your baby is delicious!”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I imagined someone eating each subject as I wrote the above sentences.  And, that’s the problem, really.  Even though the word “delicious” has a just-barely-vague-enough definition to allow for non-food applications, it is so widely used to describe food in America, that it really shouldn’t be used for anything else.

Because, really, the mental image of someone eating a fur coat or my friend’s baby is simply horrible.

Please, please find other adjectives. They exist in abundance.

Please.

Sincerely,

Chelsea


Dear Pumpkin Spice Latte

Dear Pumpkin Spice Latte,

Most everyone I know loves you with an insane passion.  They associate you with the coming autumn months, as well as the lovely weather and pre-holiday fun that those months bring. (What we all did to tell the passing of the seasons before Easter candy, Christmas cookies, popsicles and you, I will never know.)  I have been determined to like you as others have.  I even spent an entire trip to Michigan two years ago trying to track down the perfect Pumpkin Spice Latte. (Panera’s is the best, at least in my experience.)

But, if I am truly honest with myself and you, I have to admit, I don’t actually like you.

At all.

I like pumpkin pie spice, mainly because the spices that make it up are similar to those used to make wassail.  Wassail, as you may not know (in fact, being that you are an inanimate food product, you most definitely do not know), is a mulled cider drink that tastes of apples and cloves and fluffy scarves and angel wings and butterflies and all things warm and good and comforting.

Despite using the same spices, you are a far cry from wassail. You, Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte, taste like warm, sugary milk that someone accidentally knocked a container of spices into.  Most of the time, I can’t even taste the coffee that is allegedly one of your ingredients because you are so weighed down with tooth-achingly sweet syrups and milk.

You’re gross, PSL.

There. I said it.

You don’t taste like falling leaves or crisp, cool air, or firewood burning and crackling.  You taste like a creation made on Bring Your Toddler to Work, Oh, and Also Let Them Create a Signature Drink That We Can Market For Millions Day.

As someone who has considered herself a bit of an autumn enthusiast since childhood, this was a disappointing discovery.  However, I am glad that I can finally admit just how much I dislike you.

Sincerely,

Chelsea