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Lost and found.

I got lost on my run today. I guess that’s what I get for turning down a random path I found in the woods (it was well-marked parents, don’t worry). I ended up on some road and had no idea how to get home but I got there eventually. Here’s the thing about getting lost: sometimes it’s fun. If you have the time and no place to be (and it’s not a hot July day), then it’s pretty nice actually. It’s not so much getting lost as it is wandering and just wandering can be good. It can be refreshing. You almost always learn something new after. But sometimes, if you’ve been in the car for hours or you’re hungry or tired or driving or running or moving, it is exhausting. You just want to get to the end point and you just can’t get there. It is the best feeling when things start to make sense again, you recognize where you’re going and you know you’re close.

I have been lost for quite some time in an abstract, metaphysical kinda way. For the majority of the last four years, perhaps longer, I have been lost. I was riddled by uncertainty and insecurity, a recipe for disaster. I felt like I just couldn’t get to where I wanted to be. College is supposedly the best time of our lives, but it wasn’t for me and I’m not ashamed to say it. To be clear, I don’t regret my college choice. I have only the best things to say about URI and I love the people I met there. It’s not about where I was because I think it would have happened anywhere.

If you were privy to the inner workings of my life the last few years (bless those who were), you know that it’s been more than a little bit rough for me. I’ve struggled a lot. I had some good times in college of course but I also had some really bad times. I went down roads that I hope to never go down again. I spent days where I was so stuck in my own head and so very uncomfortable with myself that all I could do was cry. I never fit the typical college kid profile. I have no desire to drink until I can’t see anymore or have sex with strangers or spend days hungover talking about what a great night it was. I didn’t skip classes. I got a stomachache every time I went out to a party or to the bar. It just didn’t appeal to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some of these stereotypical college kid experiences. I’ve done the college kid thing. I’ve drank more than I should have, I’ve crashed house parties, I’ve worn the short skirts and put too much make up on. It’s not that I never tried it. I did and sometimes it was fun, but mostly it was just okay. It wasn’t me and it never was something I was excited to do. All of freshmen year and even sometimes beyond that, I dreaded the weekends because I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing but I wasn’t comfortable enough with myself to do what I really wanted to do.

I’ve had this really awful habit almost my whole life of comparing myself to other people. What they’re doing, what they look like, what they like and care about. All during college, people were more interested in what other people were wearing than what they were saying. They wanted to talk about plans for the weekend and I wanted to talk about plans for the future of the world, essentially. I wanted to talk about life and it was hard for me to find college kids who really want to sit down and talk about life and politics and saving the Earth and why we’re even here on this planet, which is what I think about. Of course, I understand that this isn’t what most college kids want to think about. There are very few years in our lives where it’s socially acceptable to wake up drunk and to stay up all night and to experiment with activities that may not exactly be legal. I get that. And I’m good with that. I’m not judging this lifestyle even a little bit. If it makes you happy, I wholeheartedly encourage it. But it didn’t make me happy and I didn’t enjoy it, not really. It felt like a chore.

I realize this makes me sound like the least exciting person ever and that’s okay with me. I’ve fully accepted my role as an 80-year-old woman in a (almost) 22-year-old body. I’m okay with this. But it took a VERY long time for me to be okay with this. I think I pretended for far too long that I enjoyed being a partying, fun college student. So much so that by the time I graduated, I was over it. I spent the last semester of college going out very seldom, and normally spending Friday nights on the couch with a glass of wine with two of my roommates. Honestly, that was better than any bar/party experience I had ever had. I realize this would bore some people to tears but it did the three of us just fine.

The habit of comparing myself to others is a habit I am finally, finally starting to grow out of. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else is doing. If they want to do the same things as I do, that’s okay. If they don’t, that’s fine too. My body is my own and it doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s (it took me extra long to learn that lesson). I have an unnatural love of Fleetwood Mac and Simon and Garfunkel. I genuinely enjoy NPR. I just spent $25 on a drill so I can make my own compost bin but I would hardly ever spend $25 on an item of clothing. I asked for a book on fermentation for my birthday.  I am a tree-hugging, nature-loving, liberal feminist who is compassionate to the world. I like reading and writing and sitting and being. That’s just who I am.

I was lost during college. I felt like I just kept moving, I wanted to slow down, I wanted to get there. I wanted to be the person I wanted to be and because I was surrounded by people who were different, I didn’t trust who I wanted to be. I didn’t trust my thoughts or my opinions, I didn’t really feel like they counted.  I don’t feel that way anymore. I picked up from college, plopped myself down in the middle of New Hampshire and I’m doing just fine. I spend my days at the internship and my nights doing work for it but it’s things that I care about it and I don’t view it as a chore (unless I’m grumpy and tired). I’m surrounded nature and people who care about the same things as I do. I voice my opinions and I’m not riddled by anxiety about whether people feel the same way or agree.

It’s a very strange thing when you’ve been lost for a long time and things start to make sense again. It’s an even stranger thing when your life starts to make sense again. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so comfortable being myself. It’s been so long that I actually question when the last time I was so completely comfortable was. That makes me sad. It makes me feel like I missed out on what could have been really fun years. But it was a journey and like my dad told me yesterday, “it’s not where you’ve been it’s where you are.” And where I am now is really, really good. If I hadn’t spent the last few years lost, I would never have gotten to know myself so well. I think that it’s something I had to go through and though I would never want to do it again and I hope I never do, I’m glad I did. I came out on the other side better than I was when I went into it.

I’m glad that I know myself as well as I do and to be honest, I’m really freaking proud of myself to have gotten to this point. In all fairness, I did not do this on my own. I couldn’t have gotten here without my friends and family, whether they knew they were helping or not. And to be completely honest, I don’t think I would have gotten here without a few years with a good therapist. To be even vaguely comfortable in your own skin is a very new concept for me. It makes me realize how very uncomfortable I’ve been these last few years. I’m not done with the whole journey yet and I know that. Of course, there are still the unwelcome and unexpected self-hate thoughts that pop in sometimes. But I’m getting better at slamming the door in their face and that’s a pretty incredible feeling.

Oh, the thoughts you have when you get lost on a run.

Reason to Recover #2: Enjoying Holidays

Here’s what I remember about holidays growing up as a kid:

I remember being surrounded by family and friends. I remember eating the candy the Easter bunny brought before we went to church on Sunday morning. I remember sneaking downstairs with my sister on Christmas Eve to see what was in my stocking. I remember testing my new bike out and playing the games that Santa brought. I remember playing in a giant refrigerator box on Thanksgiving day with my cousins and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I remember eating the same coconut cake on Easter every single year at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s house and always having the brightly colored eggs that my grandmother made every year to go with it.

Here’s what I remember about holidays in my eating disorder:

I remember preparing for weeks in advance- extra long workouts, skipping meals, restricting wherever possible. I remember always ensuring that there was a “safe” food present when we were celebrating at my house- and the crippling anxiety of going to someone else’s house and not knowing what there would be to eat. I remember trying to make time on every holiday to go for a run, even if it was Christmas Eve and 20 degrees out. I remember checking the times the gym would be open to ensure that I could get there. I remember analyzing every single thing I put in my mouth, counting calories, seeing how that food would “fit” into my plan for the day. I remember choosing foods I didn’t like as much because they were “better for me”. I remember skipping dessert, saying I was just too full. I remember picking at the leftovers in the kitchen because it feels safer when no one is watching. I remember feeling nothing but guilt and shame after the holiday for days, if not weeks, and the compulsive need to “make up for it”.

Sound familiar? Anyone who has dealt with an eating disorder or even anyone who has been a chronic dieter/compulsive exerciser, I am sure, can relate to some of these thoughts. Holidays are hard when you have an eating disorder. You suddenly dread the holidays you loved as a kid. You want to get them over with. You want to get back to your normal/healthy/clean/whatever-it-is kind of diet you want to maintain.

This Easter was my first holiday since I committed to recovery. There have been one or two instances over the last year that I can remember treating myself and eating what I wanted- but it was closely followed up by shame, guilt, remorse. The feeling that I had done something wrong. Yesterday, I celebrated Easter with my family and here’s what happened: I ate cinnamon buns and muffins and sausage. I drank a mimosa (or two). I ate what I was hungry for and not what my “mind ghosts**” told me to eat. And what’s more- I engaged fully in conversation with my family, something that was always nearly impossible when my mind was consuming with calories, body hate and anxiety. I left my sister’s house with gratitude, rather than shame; love, rather than hate. YUGE (shout out to my Bernie fans) recovery win. 

Traditionally, Easter has been a celebration of life, a time of rebirth. And while my relationship with religion is still being explored as I learn what spirituality means to me, I cannot help but think how fitting it is that my first holiday in recovery is the holiday celebrating rebirth. Eating disorders don’t want life- if you let them, they will kill you. If you’ve read my recovery journey, you’ll note that the first time I remember exercising to control the way my body looked was after an Easter dinner. Yesterday was exactly 10 years after that day. Which just goes to show that anyone who is doubting that they can break out of that eating disorder world, you can. For anyone who thinks they’ll never break out of diet culture, you can. Anyone who thinks that holidays have to be stressful, they don’t. You deserve to belly laugh with your family and not spend time calculating how much you ate. You deserve to eat what you want to eat without having to “make up for it” through exercise or other behaviors. You deserve more than you have given yourself. There is so much more life after you choose to recovery from an eating disorder. I promise you it’s worth it to find it.

*”Mind ghosts” is a term coined by the fabulous Instagram account @nourishandeat- I don’t want to take credit it for it but I do love the term as a way to describe the eating disorder voices that pop up.

P.S. If you missed my first reason to recover, check it out here!

P.P.S. If you’re still not following me on Instagram, what are you waiting for?! Check it out @sundaesforthesoul.

Ten things I’ve learned as a dietetic intern.

Happy September!

I realize that this is little late, given that it is the 9th but September doesn’t officially start til after Labor Day if you ask me (I just made that rule up). I went home this weekend and got a lot of questions about my internship then I realized yesterday that it has been TWO MONTHS since I started. That’s wild to me. It feel so short and so long all at the same time. So I decided I would make a list of what I’ve learned and tips and such for anybody who may be doing this anytime soon (or anyone who just wants to read about what dietetic interns do).

  1. It is nothing like undergrad. There are no structured class times, no times where you can passively sit listening to a professor ramble on, no leisurely 4-hour long breaks. Very little direction is given. You have to be ready to be in the thick of it, contributing and working and participating. You’re lucky if you get an hour for lunch. And you can’t just grab coffee anytime your little heart desires. You gotta chug that goodness real quick in the car before you go in (my technique this morning).
  2. You will become some weird, dysfunctional-but-somehow-functional family with your fellow interns. Stick a group of ten girls together for 8 hours a day for 2 months and see how fast they bond. Seriously, I feel like I’ve known every one of them for years and it’s only been a couple months.  You learn all each others weird little habits and probably know wayyy too much about their personal lives. Nothing is too much information when you’re spending that much time with one another.
  3. You will love your peers and then you will hate them and then you will love them again. To be clear here: I really do love them. But again, 8 hours everyday is a lot of time spent together and trying to do group projects with 10 people is like trying to herd a particularly rambunctious pack of wild but very kind and caring animals. It’s exhausting and there will be moments you want to punch someone in their beautiful face but you don’t and before you know it, you love them again and life is great.
  4. You will find yourself doing things you never expected. Waking up at 2:45am to work a 4:30am shift at a nursing home, prepping muffins for the old folk? Not exactly on my bucket list, but there I was, zombie-looking and (not) ready to go. Tasting thickened milk? Probably the worst thing I have ever experienced but I tried 5count them, 5 different types. Scraping food waste off college students’ plates into a giant bucket? Yep, just did that this morning as a matter of fact. You learn to just go with the flow and take it as it comes cause there’s really not a whole lot that you can do about it.
  5. Carry band-aids. There is a lot of time spent on your feet and at least half of the interns have walked barefoot back to their cars at the end of the day because their feet are in so much pain. Blisters happen. Get comfortable shoes. Also- have Advil. Headaches are pretty much guaranteed. You’ll make friends quick if you’re the intern with the Advil. And weirdly enough, plastic spoons. Interns like yogurt. Interns also like to forget spoons to eat it with. We have a self-designated spoon supplier for those of us who don’t want to eat yogurt with our hands and she is very much appreciated.
  6. You will be tired. In college, I was usually in bed before midnight and could at least keep myself together the next day. Now there are days I am laughing so hard I am crying at 3:00pm over things that aren’t funny. Some days, I’m falling asleep on the couch at 7:00pm (but obviously manage to keep myself up for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy). You will go from being a college kid to an adult real quick. Sleeping until 7:00am will seem late to you. It’s terribly concerning. AND you have to put on real people clothes in the morning. Pro tip: do not put on pants until the last possible second before leaving the apartment.
  7. You learn that other people pick up your vibes pretty quickly so it’s really a help to everyone (including yourself) to try to be as positive as possible. This is tricky and I certainly have not been a ray of sunshine everyday, but it’s really easy to tell when someone is disinterested or mad or cranky so it’s worth it to at least try put on a happy face. You may know that what you’re doing isn’t what you’re going to do with your career and that’s fine, good for you for knowing what you want, but the work you’re doing is probably important to someone wherever you are so I say just do it and then you can forget all about it if you choose. (Again, this is MUCH easier said than done but it’s still worth trying.)
  8. You will think about how you’re doing all this work for free and you will become ENRAGED. I can’t even talk about this one, I get too heated……But actually, let’s talk about just how ridiculous it is. I am paying nearly $13,000 (not taking into account living expenses) to work over 40 hours a week. We are doing the same amount, if not more, work than some people with jobs out there and we get nothing to show for it (except for the rare internships that provide you a stipend- which is not mine). And while I’m at it, can I just mention that we don’t qualify for student loans because dietetic internships don’t count as schooling? And we are expected to work 16 (but usually more) hours outside of the actual rotation? And that it’s pretty much impossible to work any sort of side job when you’re already working 60 hours a week? But whatever. Hey. I’m not mad. Really, I’m not.
  9. You meet a lot of people. Like, a lot of people. Besides the intern class and your intern directors, you will go to rotations and meetings and trainings and education days. And they will reappear later at some other conference or meeting and you will have no idea where you saw them because everyone blends together in some sort of dietetics-professional jumble. But at the same time, it is extra super helpful to network with people who could possibly help you in your career some day.
  10. You will realize why you’re here. Somedays all I want to do is complain and sleep and curse the project I’m working on and then I start to wonder if I’m really going to end up in a job requiring an RD (and working in sustainable food systems and food insecurity, this is possible). But then I think about it and there’s a reason I’m here. I would be terribly unfulfilled if I didn’t get the RD after my name. And while I’m doing it, I can complain until I’m blue in the face, but really that’s not going to make anything better. I realize that this is just something those of us in this field have to do. And it’s certainly not all bad. You will learn more about real world nutrition than you ever did in undergrad and if you’re lucky, you will also become part of an awesome little intern tribe who can make you belly laugh on the days you want to cry stress tears. It’s not all bad, I promise.