On Turning 22

Woo. This week has been stressful. I cried for the first time in forever what seemed like forever yesterday, but it was a different kind of cry. I wasn’t lost in despair. I cried hard, and I was deeply sad, but something about it was different. I laid in bed for awhile before I got up and said, “FUCK THIS.” I said it aloud. I talked to myself a lot yesterday. I cried because of things I didn’t have, which is a legitimate reason many people are sad, but it’s easily one of the least productive negative thinking patterns that exist. When you’re focused on what you don’t have, what you do have suddenly doesn’t exist anymore – or it at least feels a lot less important. I’m still feeling a lot of that, but I can’t possibly complain about today.

I went to kettle bell training this morning and put in a fantastic workout. Friday mornings are good for putting me in my place. The weekends used to be my most vulnerable time, but it’s shifted to the lull of my mid-week. After that, Withnail and I braved the cold to hike around Frick Park for awhile. I’ve been home for most of the day since, but I went to Target (duh) because it’s my BIRTHDAY, and I was seriously lacking Hello Kitty things and kombucha, which happened to be on sale. I turned 22 today, but I am an adult child which I’ve learned to accept as a charming quality of mine. I also assume this is one of the most pressing reasons that I’m single (and will be forever). Anyways, we got pretty festive.

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When I left Target, I took a stroll down the street. A woman walked out of a store, and she looked at me and said, “You look happy!” I was pretty much skipping at this point, and I realized I was smiling ear to ear. I told her that I was, and she made a few jokes, and left me with an enthusiastic, “Have a great day!” It was a teeny-tiny little moment of my day, but I thought about how we literally wear happiness – people take notice, and it makes them happy too. I don’t know what kind of day she was having, but she smiled when she saw me, and that’s kinda cool because we only knew each other for approximately 30 seconds.

So yeah, it’s my birthday. I didn’t really want much except to wake up feeling like I wasn’t going to projectile vomit (accomplished!), but I asked my mum to get me just one thing. She obliged, and I’m going to see Sufjan Stevens in DC in May!!!!! I have spent a long time not going to shows, partially because nobody is buying me tickets to shows anymore, and partially because I have seen every band ever – but Sufjan… that’s a different story. I could fangirl about a lot of artists, but there’s something about every album he’s written – masterpieces, completely different from one another, so thoughtful. So many single songs bring me to tears immediately for an unknown reason. They’re not sad or happy. I am so excited to finally see him live. Also, SHARON VAN ETTEN next month in Brooklyn. I might not get to travel the way I’d like to anymore, but I’m making a decent (albeit fairly local) effort while crossing some new bands off the list.

And tonight, for some reason, I’m going to the casino. The casino is pretty much my biggest fear. Fortunately, Hannah will be accompanying me, and we will both be wearing party hats. I decided not to spend my birthday with only dogs. I have lots more planned for the weekend because everyone wants to celebrate, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

The moral of the story is that there are a lot of things I don’t have, and that will always be the case. But today, I have so much. And everything I’ve lost and mourned – even if I’m still mourning those things – and all the things I’ve never had are a part of year 22. Those things are neither bad nor good, they’re just a piece of me.

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Losing Weight After ED Recovery

I’m making what seems like a bold decision today, and that is the decision to lose weight.

Sigh. Been there, done that. It’s always in the back of my mind, although it hasn’t been an actual goal I’ve worked at for over a year now. Writing that out just now is the first time I’ve recognized my complete and total abstinence from restriction which is a huge accomplishment. As I embark on a new weight loss journey (yet again), a LOT of things are going to be different.

I’ve officially reached the weight I maintained for a little over two years. I was this weight before I developed anorexia, and here I am again. If you believe in setpoints (I do), this is mine. It’s not exactly comfortable for me. It’s also unfortunately 1 pound into the overweight BMI range. I’m not really concerned about numbers, not even as I attempt to lose weight, especially BMI. Still, though, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s territory I don’t want to remain in.

While recovering, and then developing terrible binge-eating habits, the weight piled up. I refused to confront it, hoping that it would sort itself out naturally. Welp, it didn’t. I made a lot of excuses that were legitimate at the time i.e. I am sick, I am metabolically inefficient, I can’t focus on a calorie deficit, etc. I found myself making these excuses the other day when I finally thought to reevaluate them: they no longer apply. Okay, I’m definitely metabolically challenged, but that’s no excuse to not reaching weight-related goals. There is a way to overcome that, especially with a paleo diet, exercise, and good sleep. So, my first reason for wanting to lose weight is that the excuses not to aren’t relevant. I am very healthy. I do not feel a need to starve myself while restricting to a reasonable amount of calories each day. I technically could afford to lose weight and be even healthier.

I am aiming to lose roughly 25-25 pounds, although I plan on never quite knowing. The one thing I will be doing differently on my new and revised weight loss journey is not reading the scale. I know how to lose weight, and if I treat my body right, it will do what I want it to do. I do not need validation from a number.

My real goal is to fit into my clothes again, which have only become too-snug-to-be-comfortable over the past 10 pounds. My true long-term goal is to be fit and strong. I want to gain muscle, most of all, but I certainly don’t want to pile it on top of unnecessary fat.

I don’t know what common protocol is to follow a calorie-restricted diet after recovering from anorexia, though it seems like it might be frowned upon. Regardless, I will be writing about any trials and tribulations right here on this blog for the world to see, so I will remain accountable for any terrible, awful habits that might bubble up. The food scale is back in action, but it doesn’t quite taunt me the way it used to. And I’m not measuring fucking kale, no way, no how. I’m going to work out 5-6 times per week rather than 3-4, but you won’t catch me dead in a gym for more than 45 minutes, especially on the elliptical. This goal is a part of my lifestyle, it is not a solution to my damaged self-esteem. This time will be much different, and I will be able to share and celebrate my success without guilt or shame.

Self-Help and Change

I have a lot to add to my previous blog post regarding fat acceptance, but I’ll leave it for another time.

Today, I am three weeks binge-free. Three days caffeine free. Three days prescription free. Two nights of perfect rest despite no sleeping medication. I don’t know how I accomplished this, but it’s a far stretch from any personal post I’ve written since I started this blog.

I listened to an interview with Stefani Ruper and Dean Dwyer today. The focus was how we can successfully change our habits and build a healthy life. Slowly but surely, I’ve discovered on my own the main points that they focus on.

1. When you envision a change, even if just for today, you have to be ready to take on that change EVERY day. If this isn’t a change you can live with for the rest of your life – why bother? Nobody wants to do something for just a week or a month. It’s a backwards countdown until it’s over. I don’t think it’s inherently wrong to challenge yourselves within the confines of a designated period of time, but you have to be willing to carry that on.

I’m almost always involved in some sort of challenge. Accountability, food pictures, weight logging, exercise records, etc. I don’t do these challenges or groups because I need a kickstart. I do these things to feel involved with a community, which is a crucial tool to success when you want to make permanent changes. By talking to other people and being honest with them, we are honest with ourselves. There is a lot of room to grow in these communities. Many people do challenges because they believe that a) they are a quick fix (i.e. weight loss) and b) the sense of accomplishment in doing something for 30 days or however long the challenge might be. Those two mindsets cannot possibly result in a fruitful challenge for that individual. You must know that no group, no challenge, no individual, no book – nothing – will provide you with the results you’re seeking if you do not put in 100% now and later.

2. It’s just that. There is no solution outside of yourself. People and organizations who advertise a “new you in 30 days” are trying to get your money. There are certainly people and organizations worth investing your money in, but it comes down to the work you put in daily. You can invest and lose interest, and you will eventually repeat the process over again. When it comes to your finances and your goals, be smart. Spend your money and time on something you are entirely willing to do everyday. Whoever you’re paying will be thankful, and so will you.

It. never. ends. If you treat your life as a journey, you will never stop facing challenges. You will never stop being defeated. You will never stop being wildly successful.

I have eliminated so many bad habits in my life. I’ve quit everything a human could possibly quit. I did this all with a lot of steps backward. The reason I live without vices and bad habits today is not because I told myself, “I’m never going to do that again!” Rather, I envisioned my life without those things – better in one way or another – and took it day by day. One week turns into three. Three months turns into a year. One year turns into three. It works that way if you work it.

Fat Acceptance (Warning: Unpopular Opinion)

Okay, I’m slacking, but I’m writing nearly every day. Here’s my thing. I aim for 100% all the time, but I am satisfied with about 85%. So if I blog 25 out of 30 days, I’ve met my personal quota. If anyone misses my daily post so much, you should e-mail me, and I will send you a personalized inspirational message that will probably include a photo of my face.

I’m on day two of no meds and no coffee. I feel a little funky, not gonna lie. I’m expecting the worst, but it’s really not the worst yet. I think I’m lowering my expectations to “moderate struggle,” which is every second of my life with or without chemicals in my brain. I will manage. There is this weird sensation that comes over my head which I’ve experienced before when I went off meds. It’s a light-headedness not like I’m going to pass out, but almost like clarity. I experience this 2-3 times per hour. It is the most noticeable symptom, but doesn’t seem to be more than a fleeting moment. Otherwise, I feel about the same. I’m a little bit tired, but the weekends don’t have much going on, so I tend to sleep a bit more anyways.

Since I’m removing all chemicals from my body on top of a strict paleo diet, I feel like I can finally get to know myself. My next venture in understanding my biology is some serious hormone management. Thankfully, I have never considered or taken birth control which in retrospect feels like one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The more I learn about my body, the more I realize this could have been quite detrimental to me. When it comes down to it, women in particular are extremely complicated. Sleep, stress, and hunger are all hormonal responses. Over time, irregularity in these three aspects of life will effect those hormone levels a LOT. Medication also interferes with all that. Since going paleo, I’ve inadvertently learned a lot about hormones, but I’m going to become the MASTER. If you are interested, listen to Stefani Ruper or The Paleo Mom. And you SHOULD be interested. Your body is really fucking cool. The more you know, the better you can treat it.

Speaking of the way we treat our bodies, I went to a free screening of the movie Fed Up yesterday. In a nutshell, it’s a documentary about the sugar industry. If you weren’t aware, here are the biggest problems with sugar:

– It’s in everything.
– It’s making you fat, and it’s making you sick.
– The companies who manufacture packaged foods don’t give a shit about you.

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Sugar is evil and the processed foods industry is evil. They are going to great lengths to make sure that you consume their products. You ever notice on a nutrition label how there is no DV percentage for sugar? Yeah, they’ve managed to avoid that one forever now. I have had approximately 23 grams of sugar today, mostly because I ate some blueberries. The average American consumes 1/4-1/2 a POUND of sugar per day, probably not from blueberries. If you’re not disturbed by this, you should be. Children have diabetes now. Teenagers receive gastric bypass surgery. There is nothing genetic about becoming obese and remaining obese. It’s easy to gain massive amounts of weight because sugar is like an invasive species, and it does two things: it makes you want more sugar, and it encourages your body to store fat. I’m just going to come out and say that I am, after much consideration, unwilling to take part in the “fat acceptance” movement. There is a huge difference in accepting your body in the way that I am writing about, and accepting your body as a result of defeat.

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The problem with fat acceptance is the complete lack of will to SAVE YOUR OWN LIFE. There is nothing healthy about being obese, eating twice as much as you should in a day, eating food with no nutritional value, and not moving your body. I wanted to understand this movement, but it’s illogical. It’s a movement based around accepting sickness and death. The movement is built on hospitals on tax dollars. You cannot live your entire life severely overweight or obese and not suffer terrible consequences. This is NOT something people should buy into. Loving your body and who you are ARE important regardless of weight. Still, loving yourself should reflect in the way that you treat your body. There is nobody who cannot become a reasonable weight and therefore eliminate health problems and increase their life expectancy. There is no excuse. I’m not shaming anyone who may be overweight, I am shaming an entire movement that encourages death. And this may be an unpopular opinion in 2015 on the internet, but so be it. I’ve been obese before – there is nothing glamorous about it. If I went on gaining weight at the pace I was, I would weigh over 300 pounds right now. I would have probably developed health problems no 21 year old should have. My entire life would be different – and not in a good way.

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I’m sorry if this was preachy or sounded really arrogant. I am trying to avoid speaking from a pedestal. The issue is not people, it’s an entire industry and country that refuses to intervene with a serious problem that is effecting millions of Americans and costing millions of dollars. It’s not anybody’s fault, but nobody should be willing to accept these circumstances. Fat acceptance is not radical, revolting against the food industry IS. We all deserve a future – the future of humanity does NOT lie in fat acceptance.

I think that’s all. I want to go watch The Twilight Zone and drink tea now.

A Better Day of 30 Days of Blogging

Sorry about the meltdown, friends. Today started new, and it reminded me a lot of why days like yesterday happen in the first place. I was reminded over and over again that this journey – my life – is something much more than a number. I know this, yes, but when I am confronted with those numbers, it has the ability to derail me completely. I’ve bounced back.

I woke up today with the awful feeling of anxiety in my gut. I went to refill my prescription for my sleep-aid last night only to be told there was an issue with my other medication, despite the fact that I have been taking both for months. I woke up a lot in the middle of the night, and I didn’t feel so hot this morning. I woke up at 6 a.m. to get to kettlebell training at 7. I put in 100%. My form was nearly perfect, I lifted heavier than I ever have with ease, and I felt fucking incredible. This was my first step in detaching from that little number I saw yesterday. My body is capable of things it was not capable of just a month ago. I looked at my arms yesterday in shock because they have gotten so big. I flexed them, and I realized that they were solid. I’m not out for a certain physique, but I KNOW that my body is becoming more muscular which the scale and mirror both reflect. There is no reason to rely on a number to determine my health.

I’ve dedicated my life to health, essentially. When I got home today, I worked on the weekly newsletter I write for the people who use the app I work for. It reminds me of what I strive for everyday. I want to embody the message I’m sending to people. We have made huge strides and have been getting a fair amount of exposure in the paleo community, and I want to live up to my example. Later, I met up with a friend’s mom who is transitioning to a paleo diet as a way to lower inflammation. I was so excited that she had reached out to me as a reliable source of information. Once again, it was another reminder that I am on the right path. Neither of those tasks felt like “service,” but in the larger picture, those tasks are me actively working toward a much larger goal. I want to impact lives and improve people’s health; we don’t talk about numbers, we talk about real food and what it means to FEEL good. In the midst of my improving condition, I received an e-mail from someone who I didn’t expect would ever have found something that he relates to in what I write, but he wanted to tell me that he did. He was also the first male to reach out to me about eating issues which is a pretty big deal to me. After lunch, I went to John’s house (he’s my boss, also my friend) and we watched some brilliant television program and snuggled with Withnail. Now I am home, and I put on clothes that aren’t ill-fitting or yoga pants (BIG DEAL), and I’m going to go OUT. Like, to a bar or something.

Last night, I had no idea who to call. I felt like a victim. I felt sorry for myself. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I was so fucking entirely completely alone in this universe, and nothing would ever get better. I don’t believe that it’s entirely coincidence that I received the messages and support that I did today. Each person I’ve spoken to today has offered me something crucial in their own way whether they realize it or not. I am so, so beyond grateful. We are all victims of something, but we don’t have to play the role.

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Solution: snuggles.

In the way that I do things, I’m making some drastic changes. John and I got to talking today, and he suggested a few things to me. He is a smart man, and he always knows what he’s talking about for some reason. He told me this: quit the meds, quit the caffeine. It’s intimidating, but I’m going to do it. If I turn into a monster, you’ll know why. I’ve also decided that I am going to fire my entire medical team because they suck. That’s all.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…

Here’s a story about the time I cried myself into hyperventilation and nearly lost my voice from screaming so hard in my car which was approximately three hours ago.

I’m at the library right now, still freaking out. I’m having flu-like symptoms because of some emotional breakdown I had earlier today. This is hard, and the rest of the day will follow suit: difficult for no good reason. I’m not looking forward to it, but I’m here. In public, getting my work done before the deadline, and writing about how fucking neurotic I am in an attempt to breathe again (and regain my resting heart rate of 59, because it’s certainly much higher now).

I went to the doctor’s today after blowing off multiple follow-up appointments. I have a few issues with going to the doctor. One is that my health insurance disappeared. They are sending me bills in the mail because they unsuccessfully try to draw my blood and decide to refill my prescriptions after asking me one relevant question and ten to rule out potential alcoholism. I am not paying these bills because I don’t have the money. I owe a lot of people (er, companies) a lot of money. I’d like to avoid collecting more debt. Two, the scale. Obviously. The scale is located approximately 5 ft. from the door, and it is the first thing we do. The platform is large with two arms on either side. It looks industrial, presumably because the human race is becoming more industrial-sized. The point is, I can easily step on the scale and not look even close to the number it reads. So I did just that. My doctor promptly came in to make sure I wasn’t going to kill myself, and I told her that I wanted higher doses of the pills that make me sleep. That was it. My blood pressure and resting heart rate are normal if not quite low, so I was feeling pretty good about myself at that point. As we were walking out of the room, she asked me how my weight’s been. I told her word for word, “I don’t weigh myself, and I will never weigh myself again.” She is aware of my eating disorder history, it is written all over the computer she rolls around on a magical little moving desk. The fact that she even asked me about my weight when it is clearly documented for her in all of its increasing glory seemed unnecessary, and paired with the anxiety I felt, made me want to cry immediately. Whatever, I was going to make a clean escape and go on with my day. Not so fast. She then printed out some papers for me with information that was important because, well, I don’t know why because I couldn’t possibly listen to her. My weight was listed on the papers, and immediately as I turned my back to her, I couldn’t even breathe. I had to sit in my car for 20 minutes because I was crying so hard – harder than I’ve cried in months. I drove home while losing feeling in my limbs, hardly able to breathe. I’m trying not to cry while writing this. I don’t even know what’s wrong with me.

This is dumb. This is SO. DUMB. It’s a number that doesn’t matter, but it’s making me want to disappear and I can’t. Every thing I might do to try and escape this feeling will ruin what I had before I read that number today: content, happiness, joy, respect for my body and the way it looks, good sleep, no disordered eating. I haven’t even called anyone because I don’t know who. I am writing this to say that tonight is going to be okay, and I’m not going to let this destroy me.

Day 8 of 30 Days of Blogging

I’m just going to write a list of useful things that you and I can both use to overcome our food problems and our crippling depression. If this applies to you, or you’re curious of the very specific actions I take/what I’ve changed, keep on reading!

1. Don’t be lazy, don’t get lazy, don’t even think about being lazy. When you feel like being lazy, remember this: you will fuck yourself over. This applies to anything else I write on this list. This does not mean I don’t highly recommend long baths, naps, or doing absolutely nothing. I mean don’t shut your brain off when it needs to be on which is most of the time.

2. Read the book ‘The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression’ especially if you are taking or have ever taken an SSRI, have had or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or have experienced depression for any extended period of time. I am not a Zoloft commercial, this book is EXTREMELY informative, helpful, and perceptive from both a personal and scientific point of view.

3. Help other people. When someone comes to you for something that you have a chance to make easier for them, take that opportunity. You are helping yourself.

4. Talk to yourself. Make it a habit. When you are feeling deep and utter despair or overwhelming joy, don’t just let it happen. Talk about it out loud. This shit is powerful. Turn it into prayer or meditation. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to pray, and you don’t have to know how to meditate. These things happen spontaneously when you are being present and learning to be aware of what you’re feeling.

5. Make sleep a priority. If I don’t sleep, the rest of my day is completely ruined before it even starts. I have to take large doses of medication to achieve this which is unfortunate, but the good outweighs the bad in this instance. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try literally EVERYTHING to get better sleep. If you simply like to stay up late on the internet, stop. If you want to experience a better quality of life, start waking up before the sun rises.

6. Eliminate any substance abuse. No matter what you’re trying to heal, those substances (unless prescribed by a PSYCHOLOGIST and not JUST a psychiatrist) are harming you. This is different for everyone. Some people can have a drink or two without experiencing consequences, and some people can smoke marijuana from time to time. There is no excuse for using any other drug, and there is no excuse for drinking daily. I am aware of the medical benefits of marijuana especially concerning mental health, so use the green wisely. If you do not know what it is like to deal with your mental illness without marijuana, I would consider eliminating it and reintroducing it after thirty days to fully understand its effect.

Here is a list more focused on disordered eating…

1. If you have a problem with overeating, address your actual diet first. It is a highly emotional problem, but your body will react better to certain foods and food pairings. Eat nutrient-dense foods. Eliminate wheat (or all grains) and sugar because these foods wreak havoc on the body – your body has no idea what to do with these foods, and they effect insulin levels especially without fat. Speaking of fat…

2. MOST vitamins and minerals are fat-soluble. When you eat fruit without a source of fat, your body is not receiving the utmost nutrition of that fruit, so you may as well be drinking sugary water. Sugary water begs your body to use it as energy, and when it’s not, your blood sugar will spike and drop. The sugar will be stored as fat. If you want to avoid feeling like shit, being hungry after just eating, and gaining weight, keep this in mind.

3. Avoid veganism if you want to recover from any eating disorder. Transitioning from anorexia or a restrictive eating disorder to veganism will only perpetuate your nutrient deficiencies and any other health problems you might be suffering from such as low brain functioning (not enough fat) and anemia (not enough iron). Transitioning from bulimia or binge-eating to veganism will inevitably lead to binge-eating. I’m not speaking from my paleo pedestal, I am speaking from experience with a little bit of science in the mix. Fat from healthy animal sources, leafy greens, unsweetened coconut products, wild-caught fish, offal, and bone broth are the key foods to consume if you want to maximize nutrition and satiety. Most of that list is not acceptable on a vegan or vegetarian diet. If you want to feel good and not be PHYSICALLY hungry, consider being an omnivore.

4. Adjust your exercise routine. If you are doing 45+ minutes of cardio a day, STOP. RIGHT. THERE. If you are completely sedentary on top of a desk job or working from home, go for a walk. The best thing you can possibly do in either case is to incorporate natural movement into your day. The crucial aspects of natural movement include: strength training the entire body with minimal focus on isolated strength training, walking out of necessity (to work, to run errands, the stairs vs. the escalator) or as your primary workout, stretching, good posture, not sitting for long periods of time, and not doing extended periods of intense cardio. Better options are high-intensity workouts which are brief (15-45 minutes), but keep your heart rate up or interval training (i.e. sprints). Intense and long periods of cardio make you hungry. If we feel out of control of our emotional hunger, the best thing we can do is to address physical hunger.

5. Do not skip meals. Do not eat out because you don’t have a healthy meal that you’re comfortable eating handy. My tupperware is my lifeline. Again, if you don’t becoming overwhelmingly hungry physically, you have already addressed half your problem.

6. Recognize your triggers. This is where you absolutely CANNOT get lazy. Whatever triggers you into disordered eating whether it is a food or a person or something else that you can avoid entirely – get rid of it. Do not indulge because you think you are strong enough to. You probably aren’t. You can’t expect different results from something you know has caused you immense pain and stress in the past.

7. Don’t stay in the dark. I don’t care if you care what other people think about you. YOU are important. If these people think negatively of you because of what you reveal, they aren’t worth it. Anyways, they will more than likely understand. When it comes to an eating disorder or a mental illness, the people you spend time with should be aware that this problem exists for you. This means that those people can accommodate you better, and that you have someone to talk to when you need support. In turn, you will be able to do the same for them.

8. This journey is no longer about a number. The sooner you can replace that ideal with more important goals, the sooner you will feel better.

9. (Try to) love yourself.