Tag Archives: Dietetic Intern

Refuse to shrink (and other recovery thoughts)

Hello world! How ya doin’?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this blog to be. It’s shapeshifted multiple times over the past year and a half- from just a general personal blog to eating disorder recovery to body positivity and now is at a place that is kind of a combination of the three. But after last week’s election, I am more inspired than ever to talk about feminism and oppression and social justice. It’s clear by the election results that there is still so much work to do and I want to help do it. It’s possible that those topics might leak more into my blog every week- this is your warning. You don’t have to read it. But like I said last week, I have to say it.

Today though, I want to talk about my recovery and my eating disorder response to the election.

My recovery has been going really, really well. I hardly count calories ever, except to make sure that I get enough. I order what I really want when I go into a coffee shop. I eat chocolate at 9am like it ain’t no thang. I am coming to a place where I really do love and appreciate and honor my body. It feels really, really good.

As I’ve forged my way into recovery, I have learned to stand up and speak out. I have never been one for confrontation (in fact, I am still not if I can avoid it). I also lived solely to please others. I lived in a world where isolation was easier, so that there would be no one else to please- but that self-isolation mostly just brought depression and anxiety. I felt trapped and like I wasn’t smart enough/important enough to speak out and say what I believed in. I felt like it was never my place. Now I can see that I have to make my place in this world. I can see that I am valuable and that I do have important things to say.

The election results were really, really hard for marginalized people of all sorts, including people who suffer from mental illness. The mental illness support pages I follow on social media were posting links to suicide prevention hotlines and other similar resources. Their messages were all the same. You matter. This is not the end. Do not give up here. We will make it through this. 

That is really scary. Scary that the election made marginalized people feel so hopeless, so worthless, so unimportant that advocates and sufferers alike were worried about taking their own lives. Scary that death seemed easier than dealing with the hardships that are, undoubtedly, ahead. I heard from friends and acquaintances who suffer from the whole spectrum of mental illness- no one took this news easily.

As a person who has suffered anorexia, my response was the urge to restrict (surprise, surprise). This election made me absolutely sick to my stomach (no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, this election was pretty sickening). I felt nauseas and sad and not even the teensiest, tinsiest bit hungry. It made me want to push away from the world, back into that little hole of isolation where I only had to worry about myself. It made food seem unimportant. In the days after the election, I wasn’t necessarily restricting but I certainly wasn’t taking good care of myself. And I was doing that for reasons that are obvious to me- I wanted control of something, at a time when everything seemed so wildly out of my control. I wanted to shrink my world back down to that little safe, sad hole where heartbreak like that didn’t exist because I didn’t let myself feel that hard.

Thank God that didn’t last long, amIright?

I let myself wallow for a few days and be sad. I am still sad. I don’t think this particular brand of sadness will go away for awhile. I did not, however, let myself skip meals or go for a 7-mile run to numb myself. I wasn’t my best recovery self, but I certainly wasn’t my worst eating disorder self either. Not even close. Not even a little bit.

After a few days of processing, I can see clearly that this is not the time to shrink. This is not the time to back away. This is not the time to hide.

Now is the time to stand up. To engage. To fight. To refuse to back down, regardless of what challenges lie ahead. And this goes for anyone who feels anything about this election. We need to stand up for what we believe in. Our beliefs are valid and worthy of being shared. The only way we will move forward is by sharing and seeing that we are all part of each other. We belong to each other. And we have to love each other really hard.

When I restrict, my brain gets foggy and I can’t think clearly. Anxiety and depression come more naturally. I don’t have energy and I start to lose that piece of myself that has forged her way into this world and found her place. I start to get a little lost.

We cannot let ourselves get lost.

To anyone suffering from mental illness or any other marginalized person: this is not the end. There is light and love and goodness in this world- we have to engage and be part of it. Let yourself be sad but then invite courage and strength into your world so that we can stand up and unite. I believe in you. I believe in all of us.

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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!

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

Climbing.

I hiked a mountain yesterday.

I love hiking and no matter how many times I do it, I will never stop loving the quietness of nature, the sound of leaves crunching under my hiking boots, the scrambling to get to the top of the mountain, the way the whole world kind of melts away. And this hike was especially wonderful because it was with two of my best college friends and conveniently, two of the best roommates I’ve ever had.

Now, I know, really and truly, that hiking a 4000 foot mountain isn’t exactly within my recovery “rules”. My recovery body has not experienced exercise in over 7 weeks. Not even a short run around the block. Not even a brief stint on the elliptical. I do some yoga stretches sometimes, particularly when the sunshine (or moonshine) is coming in my window in the morning or night but that’s about it. But this was one of my best friend’s first time ever in New Hampshire and what is New Hampshire without mountains? So I admit, I broke a recovery “rule”. But I actively made the decision when they told me they were coming up that this hike would not be about calories or about how I was “burning off” my meals or how I was “earning” food. This hike would be about friends and trees and nature and Earth. And also, I’ve lived with many-a-rule for much too long and even though my no-exercise rule is in place for a good reason, it was worth breaking to appreciate this time with my friends.

The world slips away when you’re hiking. You aren’t surrounded by people and noise and useless chatter. You’re not comparing yourself to other people you say either in real life or on social media. You’re not scrolling through your Instagram feed looking at people who have “perfect bodies” and you’re not watching Snapchat stories of people having “more fun” than you. Your idea isn’t filled with other people’s ideas and images; it’s filled with your own thoughts, your own imagination with nothing but the dirt and the sky and the trees around you. When I’m hiking, I’m not comparing myself to the perfect-looking girl in the advertisement, I’m not pinching the parts of me that are not “perfect”, I’m not counting calories in my head. I’m just appreciating the fact that I’m made up of the same stuff as the dirt and the sky and the trees and that I deserve to be here too.

Hiking a mountain parallels recovery in a lot of ways and there’s a lot of metaphors (or similes if we want to get really technical about things)  that I could come up with. Like how it’s easier in the beginning and then after awhile, it starts to get really hard and suddenly you’re finding it much more of a challenge than you did in the beginning. Or how there’s always going to be parts where you trip or possibly fall. Or how there’s unexpected parts where it’s slippery (because it’s March and there’s still ice- and because there’s always going to be places in recovery where it’s easier to slip up). Or how good it feels to get to the top after so much hard work.

I haven’t gotten to the “summit” of recovery yet, I’m not even close. Full recovery doesn’t happen in 7 weeks. It happens in a year or two years or eight years or twenty years. But I can say with certainty that I’m getting closer everyday, even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I feel like I want to sit on the ground halfway up the mountain and just enjoy where I am without pushing on farther. But I don’t. I don’t give up because I know there is so much more at the top. I know that I’m cutting myself short if I stop. That even though I might be comfortable where I am right now, it’s not where I’m supposed to end up. That if I keep going, there will be so much more and I will be able to breathe so much deeper and see farther and have an even better perspective. Because that’s how it feels to be at the top of a mountain- you can take a deep breath and enjoy. Look around, spread out your arms and embrace all of the beautiful Earth around you.

 

I haven’t gotten to that point in my recovery yet, but it’s coming slowly but surely. And until then, I’ll refuse to give up, I’ll refuse to stop climbing, I’ll refuse to sit down and I’ll keep looking ahead to the day where I can spread my arms out and breath a little deeper.