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.

23 Years, 23 Things

Today is my 23rd birthday- it’s not a milestone, it’s not a monumental one by any means but I find myself feeling more thankful for this birthday than I did for the last few. My heart over the past few weeks and months have been full, overflowing even. Here’s 23 things I’m grateful for (in no particular order).

  1. All of the wonderful, loving, kind, funny, generous, gracious people in my life. My mom and dad for being my best friends always. My step parents for their support. My sister for being the coolest oldest sister ever. My best friends for being the best people I know and keeping my head above water on days where I’m struggling. My partner for making me laugh while also making sure I feel loved and protected- and his incredible family for graciously welcoming me in over the past four years. I’m thankful for all the people I interact with on a daily basis, who keep me going, keep me laughing, keep me loving.
  2.  RECOVERY. Obviously. The past year has been unreal. I hardly recognize myself anymore. Sometimes when I’m reaching for the ice cream scoop at night or picking up an unexpected IMG_6201snack before work, I allow myself a few minutes to marvel at who I’ve become. Someone who’s unafraid of food. Someone who doesn’t force herself to exercise every day. Someone who can fully embrace life and can live spontaneously, without worrying about what and when she’ll eat, where and when she’ll exercise, if she’ll be “safe”. I’m so proud of that girl.
  3. Clean water. Such a simple, often overlooked thing but I am thankful each and every day that I have access to clean water- for drinking, for showering, for brushing my teeth. It’s such a simple thing but it’s something that so many people live without and something I remind myself to be thankful for daily.
  4. A new, full-time job at the New Hampshire Food Bank where I’ll be doing community outreach (working with SNAP, Summer Meals Program and Cooking Matters) and helping people who are food insecure. I am so excited about this position and feel grateful that this opportunity came up so soon after completing my dietetic internship. My start date is in a week and a half- wish me luck!
  5. A cozy, bright one-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire that is 100% all mine. After my internship year, I decided that I needed some time to myself to continue down this road of self discovery. My plans vacillated between a few different options, including living with my partner, but I realized I wanted (and needed) some time to myself in a place that I wanted to be before committing to that kind of change. Putting myself first was a very new feeling for me and I gotta tell ya, so far it feels good! I’m moving in Monday and I can’t wait to make it all my own.
  6. The opportunity to work with my big sister this summer! During the in between months going from
    my internship to my job, I’ve been working in a cute little shop that my sister manages. This marks the most time I’ve spent with her since before she left for college (in 2007) and it’s been so nice to spend time with her, her husband and her puppies. I’m so grateful for this time and so sad about not being able to see her everyday or hang out at her house or hunt for Pokemon together after work (she got me hooked guys). She’s so cool and conducts herself with a grace and style that I just do not have. I’m so lucky to have her. Also- she crafts some very cool things and has a cute little Etsy shop. My favorite are her Payne Killers which are aromatherapy scented pillows that are wonderful for recovery aches and pains. If you want to see her stuff, check out her site HERE.
  7. The democratic system. I, like many others, have been glued to my TV each night this week watching the Democratic National Convention and last week, I watched bits and pieces of the
    RNC. I have unabashedly been a Bernie fan from the beginning- well, that’s not true. I was a Hillary fan right out of the gate. But once Bernie came on the scene, he had my political heart. I have never seen a candidate that I agree so strongly with, nor have I ever seen such a genuine, down-to-earth, bullshit-calling  candidate (although it’s worth mentioning, I have only become wildly interested in politics over the last few years). I was blessed to be in New Hampshire during the political season- and had the opportunity to see Bernie (three times, not that I’m bragging)and 14 of the 16 Republican candidates. That being said, I was immensely proud and happy for our country to finally nominate a woman (a progressive, experienced, passionate, smart woman at that) for a major party presidential candidate. Even though I cried when Bernie gave his speech this week, I got chills watching Hillary accept the official nomination last night….but I’m still not taking this bumper sticker off my car.
  8. My two months home in between my internship and moving out for real. It’s been two months of family, good friends, relaxation, stress (the good kind), gin cocktails, eating dinner outside on summer nights, puppies (not mine, unfortunately), journaling and lots and lots of ice cream.
  9. A warm bed- in fact, more than one. So many people go to bed every night without their own bed or without a bed at all. There are so many families, living in the US and elsewhere, who live with no privacy and no space to call their own. For the last 23 years, I have always had my own room. After my parent’s got divorced, I had two beds all to myself. I still do. Without my own space, I wouldn’t be able to relax and read or concentrate on my writing or be able to watch as many episodes of Parks and Rec as I wanted to late into the night.
  10. EARTH. I got a love of nature from my parents and it runs deep. I love everything about the Earth- the stars, the sky, the trees, the grass, the dirt, the creatures. During my internship, I would say a little prayer out loud to myself on my way to work- a habit I’ve gotten out of now, but really need to get back into for my own peace of mind. The first thing I always gave thanks for was the Earth and all the things it has brought to my life. Part of the reason I’m moving to NH is for the hiking, the way everything is spaced out, the trees, the trails, the lakes. All that good Earth hiding away up there.
  11. Coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee. Coffee with milk, coffee with cream. Coffee ice cream. Coffee gives me life. Note: I used to NEVER let myself have cream in my coffee but man sometimes some cream in your coffee really hits the spot.
  12. Wine. Wine, wine, wine. White wine, red wine, or a nice rose (my personal favorite). Cheap wine, expensive wine. Wine makes my already wonderful life just a tad better. Note: I used to avoid drinking alcohol to avoid the extra calories but now I am unashamed to have a glass of wine at the end of the day. Not that I’m some alcohol fiend but still, a good glass of wine every once in a while is quite lovely.
  13. My health and my access to healthcare. Ironically, my body had less aches and pains than it did last birthday when I was beating it into the ground. Eventually, obsessive exercise will catch up with you, as it did with me which has resulted in all sorts of knee, hip and foot pain. However, even though I’m achy, my body is recovering from all the hell I put it through over the past 7 years and I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful for my access to healthcare (not something everyone has, unfortunately) and the doctors who are and have treated me.
  14. Similarly, THERAPY. I love therapy. I think everyone should go to therapy (if it is available for them). I left my therapist in May when I left New Hampshire but am hoping to see her again soon. Even if I feel like I’m doing much (much) better than I was in the days I was seeing her, there’s still little pieces of things that come up where therapy really makes a difference. Seriously, go to therapy. It’s the best.
  15. I already mentioned him above but- my partner, Charles, is one of the best people in my life. I tend not to talk about him too much on my blog since I don’t think he feels great about being discussed in the big blog world but it’s my birthday and I’ll talk about him if I want to! Charles makes me laugh, he reminds me not to take life so seriously (something that I work on nearly daily). Throughout the last 4 years, he has seen me at my absolute lowest point. He saw the raw, real, miserable part of me that I tried to disguise to most other people in my life. And he saw me through it and loves me just the same. Our relationship has gotten stronger and simpler over the past few months and I’m so thankful for that.
  16. I have never, not ever, had to worry about where my next meal is coming from. Food and I have a complicated relationship but food insecurity has never been a part of my story. I’m thrilled to have accepted a job that will help people get access to food.
  17. My uncle’s healing and recovery! For almost 2 and half months now, my uncle has been in the hospital after a whole bunch of complicated, scary health problems. I am so happy that he is finally getting better and that I’ve been able to visit him twice now and see him on the upswing. Even though it’s been a long process, it’s so great to see him getting back to his old self.
  18. Books. Obviously. All books- fiction, juicy beach reads, memoirs, biographies. I’m particularly thankful for books by funny women like Amy Poelher, Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler (books I also re-read during moves to alleviate stress). There’s nothing I like better than curling up on a couch and getting sucked into a new book. It’s my favorite way to travel.
  19. The recovery community online! Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten this far without the community I’ve discovered. As I’ve mentioned before, I relied (rely) on the Minnie Maud method for recovery and at first, it took a lot of support and reliance on the people who were using/have used MM to recover. I’m now part of many different recovery/body positive forums that I use for inspiration, support and compassionate understanding. If you’re looking for extra support or want to hear more about things like this, please feel free to comment or email me at [email protected]!
  20. I’m equally thankful for the recovery and body positive accounts that I follow and connect with on Instagram. Some of my favorites include- @bodyposipanda, @nourishandeat, @thefuckitdiet,@thelifeofandie, @goofy_ginger and @dothehotpants- all of whom I’ve connected with in some way or another and have immense respect and gratitude for. Seriously, if you’re looking for badass, uplifting and refreshing badass women, there you have it. There are lots of other accounts that keep me motivated and show me love and support on the daily. If you’re not already following me, check it out here!
  21. The ability to be present for my own life. Since I started recovery, I realized how many times I was
    absent to my own life and that makes me so sad to realize. I choose not to feel sorry or sad for myself, and instead choose to show up everyday to my own life.
  22. The people who read this blog! When I first started blogging, I was a bit (a lot) uncomfortable with both the process and myself in general. I had always narrated my life in my head, like I was writing a novel or magazine article, so starting a blog was natural in some ways but also took a leap of faith. I was nervous to put myself out there but have been met with warmth and love and support, all of which I cannot thank you all for enough.
  23. This past year of unequivocal self-discovery. I’ve learned more about myself this year than I have in my whole life. It’s so empowering and makes me a more confident and happier person each and everyday. I’m so incredibly, wonderfully grateful for all I’ve learned about myself and all the ways in which I’ve learned to love myself.

I have so much goodness in my life. Honestly, I feel guilty sometimes for all that I have. There are so many people who have less. It was a full and grateful heart that I say thank you to all of you who keep up with my blog and thank you for reading this today. Happy weekend my friends!

A Celebration of Fathers

A pause on the body positive, recovery things for a big Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! As I am wont to do, I’m going to use this here blog as a platform to honor two of the most important people in my life.

 

My step dad came into my life when I was 8 years old and even though we had somewhat of  a rocky start, I am extraordinarily lucky to have him in my life. He has always supported me in whatever I do. He regularly reminds me how proud he is of me and what I’m doing. And there is no one who embraces family quite like he does. He shows his love for his family- his parents, his sisters, his sons, nephews and niece- often and sincerely. I’m so lucky to have that kind of love in my life and so thankful for his unending support.

As for my dad…

The very first thing I can remember in my life is of my dad, coming into my room when I was standing up in my crib, crying. I remember him finding my pacifier so I could go back to sleep. Although it had been happening for many months before, that’s the first time I actively remember my dad taking care of me and it hasn’t stopped since. As I write this, he is in the kitchen making me a salmon burger since I just got home from work (note: I am not writing this on actual Father’s Day!)

My dad is the coolest person I know. He taught me how to fish (even if I still make him worm my hook and take the fish off because it freaks me out). He passed on his aptitude for science and his love of running (which is currently on pause for the sake of recovery). He passed on parts of his dry, sarcastic sense of humor onto me and my sister. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel which continue to be my all-time favorites. (He also gave me his finicky digestive system, horrendous sinuses and terribly wide fingernails, but I’m not talking about those things).

My dad was made to raise two daughters. I think it’s probably hard for some dads to raise two girls but man, this guy nailed it (in my humble opinion). My dad has supported my sister and I, always.  He is constantly reminding us that he is proud of us no matter what we choose to do. He reminds me that all he wants is for me to be happy, regardless of what I choose to do or where I choose to go in my life.

My dad is non-judgmental and full of compassion. He taught me how to important it is to care about the world around me. He instilled in me a deep love of the Earth and nature and trees and dirt and stars. He set up his telescope when we were younger so he could show us the stars and planets in the night sky. He brought us on vacations that allowed us to see new things and explore nature. He took us to Los Angelos and brought me to Yogurtland three times that week when I became obsessed with it. I’ve spent many-a-week with him at lake houses in the summer time, sitting on the dock talking about life after making burgers and corn on the cob for dinner. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For the first several years of my life, I was told often how much I looked and acted like my mom (which is a compliment in its own right). Once I went away to college, I discovered new pieces of myself- new passions, new ideas, new interests- and suddenly, everyone was telling me how much like my dad I am and that, my friends, is the compliment that I wear most proudly. There’s a certain part of me that I think only my dad can understand. It’s the part that I don’t think either of us could put into words but he just gets me on a cellular level and I’m so immensely thankful for that. There’s not a lot of women my age who could say that their dad is one of their best friends, but I can confidently say that I am one who can. My dad is the coolest, tallest, baldest person I know and I’m so infinitely grateful for him.

To all the fathers out there: thank you. For fixing the things that break, for the vacations, the meals, the trips to the movies and the park. For cheering at the sports we were never good at. For the support. For the love. Thank you.

An ode to mothers

I never knew my grandfathers. But  while my parents were at work when I was growing up, I spent my days with one of my two beautiful, strong, funny grandmothers. Both my grandmothers have seen some tough things in their days- and both of them have remained strong throughout and have kept their sense of humor. I learned a lot by watching them- how to keep my faith, how to laugh about what you can’t control, how to tell it like it is. Thanks to my father’s mother, I learned how to play roulette at age 5 and spent many hours of my childhood spinning that little metal ball in the roulette wheel. She played Monopoly with us, convinced us that there was a real genie living in her bottle in the kitchen (twenty years later, Gram, I know it was your voice all along!). She let me eat three cheese-filled Oscar Meyer weiners while I watched the old Alice in Wonderland movie at her house (the one with real people, not the cartoon). If we were good, she let us pick out two things from the dollar store, which resulting in a weird collection of little cat figurines in my room. My mother’s mother let me play her piano and pretended like I was good, even when I wasn’t. She took me to swimming lessons and picked me up from preschool. She showed me both how to be a good wife and how strong love can be- she steadily took me to visit my grandfather everyday after he got into a car accident when I was a baby and remained hospitalized. She took me out to lunch and always let me get dessert. She brought my sister and I to the mall, where we tried on silly hats and laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. They continue to be two of the women I admire most in the world.

I’m lucky to have been raised by these two women. And I’m lucky, too, to have my stepmom, who is the exact opposite of every evil stepmom in a Disney movie. She is kind and funny and is always willing to be my own personal nurse when I have a problem. She helped my sister learn how to sew and let me play with all the scraps of fabric, which is all I really wanted to do. She taught me to wash mirrors with the lights off so that you don’t get streaks and she can get out literally ANY stain (trust me, I’ve tested the limits). She helped me when my anxiety was too much to bare and empathized with me during one of the lowest points of my life. Plus, she makes my dad happy too so it’s a win-win for us all.

And my mom- I’ve looked up to my mom for as long as I can remember. She’s been my best friend, my cheerleader, my doctor, my driver, my teacher, my chef, the one who sang to me every night growing up and who tucked me in far after it was cool to have your mom tuck you in. She planned my birthday parties and helped me with my homework. After my parents got divorced, she worked full time, drove a 45 minute commute every day and still made my sister and I dinner every night (which I marvel at, now that I’m older). She held my hand at the doctor’s office and let me eat blueberry poptarts for breakfast. She let me stay up for Survivor and made all holidays special. She took April vacation off every year so we could spend time together, always taking a day to go shop at the outlets and eat lobster rolls. She lets me borrow her shoes. She always encouraged me to do my best and never made me feel like my best wasn’t good enough. She continues to be the first person I call when something goes wrong, when I need advice, when I feel like the world is not on my side. She was the first one to point out to me in the beginning of my eating disorder that what I was doing wasn’t healthy. She helped me get help. She encouraged me and checked on me, even when I was annoyed that she did. She can tell, without even talking to me, when I am sad or anxious or stressed. She has an insane mother’s intuition that continues to boggle my mind.

Over the last 22 and a half years, I’ve learned a lot from her. I’ve learned that it’s okay to eat apple pie for breakfast. I learned how to make a macaroni salad that will make the neighbors jealous.  I learned the names of flowers and birds and spend parts of my childhood with pressed up against the window with binoculars, looking at her bird book. I learned how to dress like an adult and how to wear socks that aren’t gym socks. I learned that it’s important to write thank you notes and to always keep Dove dark chocolates in the kitchen. I learned how to make the best waffles in the entire world (and I’ll go to the mat on that one). I learned that looking young isn’t always a bad thing. I learned how to be compassionate and genuinely care about other people. I learned how valuable being nice to people is. I learned that if you believe everything happens for a reason, then eventually you really will find a reason.

I’m so thankful for these women. The women who raised me, the women who made me. I continue to admire their strength, their humor, their goodness. And I’m lucky enough to have lots of other mothers in my life- aunts who aren’t related by blood, best friends’ mothers who became “second moms” in my childhood, my godmother, women who I’ve met in my adult life who’ve acted like a mom for me. To all these beautiful women and to all the mothers out there, I wish you a big, giant, over-the-top happy mother’s day. Thanks for inspiring.

Why we need to stop wasting our time with weight loss

Hey hi hello friends! I feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here- things have been quite busy over in internship land. I am about two weeks away from being done with my internship which means I am two weeks away from becoming eligible to be a full-fledged registered dietitian, YAY! If I’m going to be honest with you, a career as a registered dietitian is something I grapple with nearly daily. I never, ever want to be a weight loss dietitian. I do not ever want to counsel people to lose weight- it just feels too hypocritical to me. Plus when you look at research looking at the effects of weight loss and health…it’s really not the holy grail it was once considered to be. More on that later.

Given that I’m almost done, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m going to do once I’m done. I have a little bit of a buffer period where I’ll move back home for a few months and work for my sister and get all my doctors appointments out of the way to make sure my health is improving (fingers crossed!) but come fall, I’m going to be out in this big wide world and I’m going to need a job and a purpose.

Last week, I was talking to a woman in the hospital where I’ve been interning who was 87 years old. I went in to chat with her about the (medically necessary) low-sodium diet she was prescribed. As I started talking to her and asking about her usual intake, she told me that she had been on Weight Watchers for the last 20 years and eats mostly their frozen, pre-packaged meals. To which my only response was: ick! (in my head so as not to offend this little old lady).

Weight loss is so unanimously sought after that this nearly 90 year old woman was still trying to chase it. In fact, she was chasing it in detriment to her health (because those frozen meals were not really what she needed for her condition). Which got me thinking- do I really want to be like that? Do I really want to be on my death bed but be able to say that I’ve dieted for the last 20 years? Do I really want to be laying sick in the hospital but be able to say that I lost a couple pounds? That I’ve followed “diet” rules for the majority of my life? Will that mean anything in the end?

Or do I want to be like the other woman I saw last week- who was 90 years old, had no significant medical problems, who had zero interest in changing her eating habits at all because she’s going eat how she wants to eat? The lady who was eating pizza for lunch and potato chips for dinner, who had no illness to speak of? That lady was killin’ it. And to be honest, I would much rather be like her. I would so much rather live my life and eat what I want than dedicate my life to following diet rules.

There are so many talented, smart, passionate, genuine women who are wasting their time trying to lose weight or look a certain way. And it is so sad to me. We are capable of SO MUCH MORE than weight loss. In the end, I would rather be remembered for the good I did in this world than the body I inhabited. I am forever grateful to my body for moving me through life, for keeping me going even when it was starved, for being the vessel that carries me. And for the first time in years, I’m not going to try to fight my body into looking a certain way but rather accept it where it is and continue to be grateful for what it does. I’m slowly learning that there’s beauty in making peace with your body and not trying to change it. And what’s more, if I’m not focused on my body, I can be focused on the things I really do care about in this life. I can focus on the big things, the important things rather than spending my time in front of a mirror scrutinizing my body. I’m learning through my recovery that the brains in my head and my passion for life is much more important than my ability to control what I eat and how I look.

I’ve spent a lot of years trying to change my body or comparing it to other people and I have no desire to spend another minute engaging in these comparisons. I don’t know what I’m going to do after I’m done with this internship. But I do know that I want to help people be empowered by their lives and encourage people to live BIG- and not to restrict or reduce their life down to counting calories or minutes at the gym. For the first time in my life, I’m realizing that I’m capable of so much more than I ever thought. And for anyone out there who continues to struggle (whether you have an eating disorder or not)- YOU ARE CAPABLE OF SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU THINK. I promise. Even if you can’t see it yet. I promise.

Looking for ourselves in old photos

This past week, I’ve found myself looking at old pictures of me. Pictures of me in college, pictures of me at the beach, pictures of me at my sister’s wedding, pictures of me at my graduation. In all this pictures, I am smiling, looking happy, taking photos with all my family, laughing with my friends and I looked back at these photos and I felt…

Awful. Terrible. Ashamed. Self-conscious. Sad.

In all this pictures, I weigh less than I do right now. Most of these pictures were taken in the span of time I was at my lowest weight and the ones that weren’t were when I was at a weight that was still too low for my body. And right now, I weigh more than I ever have in my life (I can’t say that definitively because I don’t own a scale or weigh myself but I can tell you with pretty much absolute certainty that it’s true). I don’t look like I do in those pictures, at least not to me. I look nearly unrecognizable to my disordered eyes. My belly has some squish, my bum is ever-expanding and my first reaction when I saw these pictures was I want to look like that again. 

But here is the thing: that’s not true. I don’t want to look like that again. Because when I looked like that, I was waging a war inside my head. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I was too busy counting calories and planning workouts to enjoy the beach or the time with my friends or the party. Wherever I was, I wasn’t really there. I was off in my own little world, a world filled with self-hate and calories and meal planning and workouts- a world that no one should ever have to live in.

As I looked at these pictures, I thought to myself: if I looked like this right now, how would my life be different? The answer: it wouldn’t. My life wouldn’t suddenly become better. I would still be a student, finishing up her dietetic internship and getting ready to launch into the real world in a few months. I would still be living in this same apartment, driving the same car, have the same friends. All my relationships- with my family, with my friends, with my partner- would be exactly the same, arguably better because I more willingly engage in conversation when my head isn’t swirling with ED thoughts. I would still be a book enthusiast, a feminist and advocate for equality, a coffee shop explorer, a Bernie Sanders and lefty politics supporter, a lover of all things Earth and an admirer of funny women; I would still drink tea in bed every night and listen to podcasts and watch Jeopardy and like nothing more than a night alone with a glass of wine and a good movie in bed. (And in case anybody was wondering, yes I am living the life of a 65-year-old woman in a 22-year-old body). All of these things would be same if I was that smaller size again. My position in life wouldn’t change.

If I were that size again, I would be in exactly the same place but. I would still feel trapped, imprisoned in my own head. I wouldn’t feel this free. I wouldn’t be able to eat ice cream every day. I wouldn’t be able to reconnect with all the foods that remind me of childhood, that I deprived myself of for years. I wouldn’t be able to read and write and daydream in the afternoon because I would be forcing myself to complete an excessive workout. I wouldn’t have time to spend with the things that I’m passionate about, the things that make my soul sing. My body would be smaller, but my life would be smaller too.

Here is one of the latest photos of me, taken last weekend right before a date night. Enjoying the space I’m taking up, embracing my recovery body and excited about life. If you’re in recovery, I urge you to think of not just how you looked in old photos but how trapped you felt felt. Think of not just the weight you’ve gained, but the life and the freedom and the ability to enjoy life. So do I want to look like I used to? You know, I think I’m actually okay here.

Mirror, mirror.

Mirrors are great for checking your teeth after lunch to make sure there’s no spinach stuck in between them. They’re great for making sure your skirt isn’t tucked into your underwear as you leave the bathroom or to check to make sure there’s no toilet paper hanging off your dress . They’re handy for putting on make-up, if that’s something you choose to do. They are nice to have around to ensure your shirt matches your pants or to check if your skirt is appropriate length for work.

You know what mirrors are not great for checking?

Your self worth.

Now before I go any further, I need to preface this by saying this post is not intended for those who have love their bodies and are happy with what they see in the mirror and who are so beautifully entrenched in the idea of body love. To you, I think you are awesome and inspiring and I encourage you to keep on doing you. For everyone else- keep reading 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, I went home last weekend for Easter. This was my first visit home since I started the recovery process. After about 10 minutes of being home, something because remarkably clear. Mirrors, mirrors, everywhere. Now before I continue, my house does not have an exceptional number of mirrors. There are mirrors in the bathroom, the bedroom and a few decorative mirrors around the house. It’s not like I live in some crazy fun house of mirrors or anything like that. But my apartment, for the most part, is quite devoid of mirrors. There’s a small mirror that reveals only my head and shoulders in the bathroom and a very small mirror I use to put on makeup (which I do begrudgingly) and that’s about it. My full-length mirror hides tucked away in my closet, pulled out only when necessary (mostly on date nights or mornings where I’m too tired to decide if the things I’m wearing match). So to go to somewhere with more than two tiny mirrors, well, it was a bit of an eye opener.

I decided months ago, before I began this process, to hide my full length mirror in the closet because I realized I had become quite a mirror addict. And my guess is that I’m not alone in this, especially for any women reading this. How many times do you check the mirror before you decide on an outfit in the morning or before you leave the house? How many times do your find yourself seeking one out during the day to make sure your hair isn’t sticking up funny or your butt doesn’t look too big? And of course, how many people use any semi-reflective surface they walk by to check out their reflection? Windows, glass walls, reflections on car doors, reflections on regular doors…sound familiar? I am definitely guilty of this. In high school, I remember using the trophy case in the social studies wing to check my reflection every day. I was obsessive about checking my reflection and the way my body looked in mirrors during college. I find myself using the glass sliding doors in the morning when I’m walking into the hospital some days.

And the thing is, this isn’t even an eating disorder behavior at all. I’m willing to bet that some, if not most, people reading this can relate to the phenomenon of needing to check your reflectionMaybe you check out your stomach, your face, your thighs, your boobs, your shoulders….whatever it is! Everyone can find things on their bodies that they fixate on and don’t like. And so what do we do when that happens? We feel the need to check on it all the time with the help of our trusty mirrors.

Personally, I have always been fixated on my stomach. Every mirror I walked by. I would check it out by the side, from the front- and if there was a way to check it from the back, I’m sure I would have done that, too. I tormented myself over those 6 square inches of my body. How did they look today? Was it bigger? Smaller? Puffier? Flatter? Should I stop wearing this shirt? Ahhhhh! I’m driving myself crazy just thinking about this old habit of mine.

But guess what? NO ONE CARES. No one cares how my stomach looks. No one cares if I have a funny hair sticking up. No one cares about my little bit of eyeliner that went slightly off course this morning. No one cares because chances are, they’re too busy thinking about their own flaws anyway. It needs to stop! We give these mirrors so much power over us. I used to let me reflection in the mirror ruin my day. As soon as I woke up, it was the first thing I checked and if I didn’t like it that particular day, well then, the day was ruined. Here’s the thing: nothing good came from this. Giving our mirrors more power than they deserve is a losing battle. I rarely thought I looked good, no matter what I saw. And on the off chance that I didn’t hate it, I felt pressured to keep it that way and to do more, control more, which just feeds right back into the eating disorder. It’s a vicious cycle that anyone can get sucked into, regardless of whether you have disordered eating or not.

Your reflection in the mirror does define your worth. It cannot show the happiness and joy you bring to other people’s lives. It will not show you your compassion or the way your genuinely care about the world. It cannot measure the love in your life or the kindness of your being. It cannot show you how much your friends and family care about you. It cannot show you all the good things you think or the bad jokes you tell that make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts.

This week’s blog comes with a challenge, my friends:

DO NOT let your mirror control your life or your mood or your day or anything else.
DO NOT give your mirror more power than what it is- a silly little piece of glass.

Pay attention to how many times you look in the mirror and what you’re hoping to seek from it. Are you going to check that you don’t have something in your teeth? Cool! Are you going to make sure that your body looks “acceptable”? Not cool. You might actually be surprised once you start recognizing how often you look in the mirror (again, this does not apply if you are one of the fabulous people who embraces body love in all their glory. In THAT case, keep looking in the mirror cause damn, you look good girl). I encourage you to try to practice a little mindfulness when it comes to your mirror-checking habits. OR if you want to challenge yourself even more, point out all your positives when you look in a mirror. Give yourself compliments. Shower yourself with self-love. In my hopes of embracing body love, those are things that I’ve been trying to do lately and I gotta tell you, I think it’s helping. Cause I gotta tell ya, those mirrors at home? After awhile, they didn’t bother me one bit.

Just for you guys…some silly mirror pictures to prove how little my reflection really means. If this post resonated with you or if you do challenge your mirror habits, I would love to hear about it in the comments below! Sending love and wishes for a happy week to you all!

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.

Reasons to Recover

There are a thousand and one reasons to recover from an eating disorder. More than that, probably. One of the first things I did when I committed to recovery was make a list of reasons why I should recover. I sat in my bed with candles lit and mellow music in the background and scribbled out a list of everything I could think of in my journal. There’s a lot of reasons and I hope to talk about a lot of them as I continue to share on this blog- my hope is to share a new one every few weeks. They won’t be in any particular order- none are more or less important than the others. But right now, I want to share one in particular with you all.

So here is my first reason to recover that I want to share: being able ot eat out at restaurants without guilt. I love restaurants. I think eating out is such a small and delicious pleasure in life. I love going to restaurants with their perfectly set tables and their beautiful flatware and their tasty cocktail menus. I love a perfectly dressed salad, a wonderfully seasoned piece of meat, creamy polentas and risottos. I love the option of appetizers and desserts. I love breakfasts away from home. Omelettes, perfectly buttered toast and homemade french toast. I’m getting carried away but the bottom line is: I love food.

Buuuut…I hate food at the same time. Food has provided me with the biggest love/hate relationship of my whole life. I love food- how it tastes, how it looks, how it’s art within itself. But I hate food- for causing me anxiety, for never feeling like I deserve it, for the never ending guilt that I associate it with. And throw in the fact that I am a nutrition major and know much more about the scientific properties of food than any person should…well. It’s just complicated.

But recovery has flipped this whole thing upside down. I’m trying to go from a love/hate relationship to a love/love relationship. Which is hard. But kind of awesome.

I’ve been to a lot of restaurants throughout my recovery and while I love love love dining out, there’s been very few occasions where these outings didn’t totally consume me with guilt. Before recovery, eating out at restaurants meant being in very tight control of my intake and exercise for days before and after. It meant ordering whatever was “safest”. It meant saying no to dessert even if I wanted it.

But NOW. Now, my friends, things are different. Now eating out has no rules- it doesn’t take preparation. No extra workouts. No calorie counting. No restricting in preparation. Now, eating out is just that. It’s just a meal out. No strings attached. And how wonderfully freeing that feeling is.

Now I’m going to be totally honest: the first time I went out to dinner in recovery, it practically sent me back into a relapse. I was filled with anxiety before we even got to the restaurant. Despite how “free” I was, I felt ED screaming back at me to order the “safest” entree so that’s what I did. And I felt so guilty afterward, I felt sick to my stomach. This experience left my mind whirling- I felt like I had messed up my recovery. It turns out I didn’t mess it up- I just had a very normal, somewhat expected and entirely temporary fallback into my ED brain. I felt like I could do nothing but go home, curl up and go to sleep.

This weekend, exactly two weeks after that first experience, my partner and I went out to dinner once again. My ED brain was screaming at the top of her lungs last week so I was a bit nervous. When we first got to the restaurant, I went to the bathroom and made myself breathe and then said out loud to my reflection in the mirror “it’s not what you eat, it’s who you eat it with” (I’m a bit crazy I know). I went back to the table and quickly identified the safest entree on the menu- but that’s not what I ordered. I challenged myself to order something that I would have never even considered ordering before. Something that came cooked in loads of butter. Something that was delicious. We shared two appetizers before- and I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever allowed myself to enjoy a cheese plate so thoroughly. At the end of the meal, we ordered Irish coffees, something which I’ve said I wanted to try for years but never had the courage to actually order.

 

Here’s the thing: this experience didn’t fill me with dread or shame or guilt. It didn’t make me want to cry and it didn’t make me embarrassed. It was so freeing to sit across from my partner and enjoy a meal with him. It was so nice to be able to carry on a conversation without adding calories in my head or sneaking my phone beneath the table to try to add them up. It was so nice to be present and not be caught up in the food or everything I have attached to it.

Dining out continues to confuse me- just yesterday morning, I went out to breakfast and I couldn’t decided if I wanted the safe food because I wanted it or because it was safe. I spent minutes antagonizing over the decision of what to order. I expect that this will continue to happen for awhile until I can repair my mind-body connection and be able to truly rely on my hunger cues.

The confusion is worth the freedom. I might not have had to deal with the confusion and the indecisiveness of ordering when I was stuck in my ED, but I was just that: stuck. I was trapped. I was trapped in a little prison I had made for myself and while it was cozy, it deprived me of so many of the beautiful things in this world. Like coffee with cream and  broiled fish in butter and white wine and pancakes and scallops wrapped in bacon. Things that may seem mundane and insignificant to other people that represent a HUGE win in my recovery.

Being able to eat out and enjoy not only the food, but being able to enjoy fully in the conversation and presence of the ones you’re with when you’re out to dinner is a beautiful, beautiful thing and in my opinion, one of many reasons to recover.

If you haven’t already done it, follow me on Instagram @sundaesforthesoul, Facebook at Sundaes for the Soul or Twitter at @sundaesforsoul (links above). I have heard from quite a few of you and I LOVE reading your comments and feedback so please keep it up! I love to talk about my journey and hear about yours. Sending you all strength and love this week!

A letter to all the young girls

To all the young girls and boys (and all the older ones too),

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a lot of memories of myself when I was younger that I haven’t thought about in quite some time. I had a wonderful childhood, really and truly. I grew up with four supportive and loving parents (and step-parents). I had a cool big sister and two neighbors that were practically family- all three of whom shaped my whole childhood and filled it with more happiness and goofiness than I can describe. I had friends who stayed by my side through middle school and high school and are still my friends today. I am lucky to say that I was surrounded by good people growing up.

But there’s other parts of my childhood that aren’t filled with this same kind of love. Don’t get me wrong- I knew nothing other than love from the people who I was closest to. To this day, I know more love than some people know in a life time. But there was always someone who was criticizing me, pointing out my flaws and showing me quite the opposite of love. And that someone was the little voice I had inside myself who was always telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not good enough.

I remember being no more than 12 years old and laying on the couch watching TV, pinching the skin on my legs thinking I was “fat”. I remember coming home from school in middle school and eating a large snack then immediately feeling guilty thinking that I had done something “wrong”. I remember going for runs to make up for all the “bad” foods I had eaten, even when I didn’t want to run. I remember feeling bad about my body because it didn’t match the girls I saw in the magazines or on TV. I remember feeling like I wasn’t fashionable enough because I didn’t have the “coolest” clothes. All of this before I even got out of middle school.

Once I got to high school, it continued and unfortunately, got even worse. Because once you get into high school, everyone’s bodies are changing/changed and you see older girls who look so much cooler and you feel like you’re the only one who feels trapped in her own awkward body. I remember how it feels. I remember thinking I was not “hot” enough. I remember feeling that unless I looked a certain way, no boys would ever like me. I remember the first time I panicked about eating mac n cheese and soda for lunch at a friend’s house because I felt like that wasn’t “healthy” enough. I remember comparing myself to every celebrity I saw in magazines. I remember feeling like everyone else was somehow doing it better than me. Here’s a secret: they’re not. 

Because here’s the thing: none of what I’ve mentioned so far- your body, your clothes, your stomach- those things are not what makes you beautiful. What makes you beautiful is the thoughts in your head, your hopes and your dreams for the future. What makes you beautiful is the way you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and how passionate you are about dancing or playing the violin or softball or whatever it is that you are passionate about. What makes you beautiful is how much you care about your friends and family and all the time you spend with them. What makes you beautiful is how you love to ride your bike and how you spend your nights watching Disney movies and how you do silly things with your best friends at sleepovers. What makes you beautiful is the way you care about your schoolwork and how you want to make the world a better place. What makes you beautiful is even the funny way your hair sticks up in the morning or how your fingernails are really wide or how you share the same big nose as your grandmother. What makes you beautiful is all these little things that make you you- the you that is more than just a body, the you that is your mind and your thoughts and your hopes and your desires.

All my life, I’ve been comparing myself to other people. All my life, I’ve been thinking that I wasn’t good enough. All my life, I didn’t think I was beautiful. I’m writing this so you know, far earlier than I did, that you are beautiful and you are good enough and you are the very best version of yourself. You don’t need to try to be anything different. You don’t need to pick yourself apart when you look in the mirror. And comparing yourself to others, well, it won’t get you anywhere. It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “comparison is the thief of joy” and my goodness, isn’t that the truth. Comparing yourself to other people or celebrities in magazines will not bring you joy, I can assure you. It will rob you of your joy and you, my dear, do not deserve that. Your beautiful mind was made for things much, much more than trying to lose weight or trying to look a certain way. Your mind was made for more than comparing. Your mind was made for dreaming, for wanting to enlist change in the world, for thinking all the wonderful thoughts you think as you lay in bed at night.

So my advice to you is this: eat whatever you want. Wear whatever you want. Move your bodies in a way that feels good and healthy to you. Throw out any magazines with toxic images of “perfect” girls. And please don’t let yourself waste your young life or your early adulthood or even your full adulthood spending anymore time thinking that you are any less than beautiful. Please don’t let yourself waste anymore time thinking that you are not good enough. Because you are. There will never be anyone else who is as good as being you as you are. And don’t you ever forget it.

xoxo