Monday, September 26, 2016

The Most Difficult Experience of My Anorexia Recovery

My eating disorder was a dark and severely self-destructive journey. One that I am, even now, uncomfortable sharing in detail. It's hard to find the words, to be eloquent enough to do it justice. But it is a story worth telling, as are all battles against mental illness. They help spread the awareness that our world is in desperate need of. And so I will continue searching for the words to tell my story. But for now, I will just tell you what I am comfortable discussing, and that is my recovery.

Of course, it did not happen overnight. Recovery took years and years, it was a slow process. One full of pain, anger, and the burning desire to understand WHY I felt this way in the first place. I started with the usual courses of treatment, antidepressants and therapy. But they didn't help much. I still longed for the answers I was seeking.

What I did know was if I was going to live, I wanted to be happy and enjoy my life. Not be miserable and struggle as so many others with eating disorders did. I couldn't be anorexic AND live a happy life. I had to choose. Life or death? Happiness or misery? I had chosen life, but happiness? Finding happiness meant I needed to find my self-worth and learn to love myself. But how? I hated everything about me. How could I learn to love myself? I had to make another choice. The choice to try, as impossible as it seemed. And so began the biggest challenge of my life.

So how did I start? By looking for reasons to exist and be happy. First, I had family that loved me and needed me to recover. Second, I already had this amazing man in my life who loves me to this day. He sees something worthy in me. I love and respect him and so I knew he couldn't be all wrong. I had to try and see what he saw. Then there was school where I was an excellent student. And then my career in which I have been successful. All these things gave me some feelings of worth, some reasons to be proud of myself.

Next and best of all came our babies. These beautiful little human beings that I love so fiercely. And they came from me! I couldn't be all bad and worthless if I was able to help create such amazing little people. Motherhood has never been easy for me, but regardless, I enjoy it and am good at providing for them.

Over the years I kept finding these little things in life that I was good at. Even if I had a hard time admitting them to myself at first. I knew that being good at things was not a requirement of loving myself, but it was somewhere to start. I also learned that I didn't have to be the best at something to be good at it or to find joy in doing it. I definitely wasn't good at loving myself at first. But all I had to do was keep trying. And in time, persistence paid off.

Life, as it often does, has thrown many more stressful situations my way over the years. I have continued to look for different and healthy coping mechanisms. I have tried many things, some that have made a real difference. Like surrounding myself with positive people, and eating and exercising in a healthy way. And even though it has been the challenge of a lifetime, I have not resorted back to anorexia for over 10 years.

Through more therapy, meditation, and lots of soul-search, I've finally found the answers to why. These answers have helped the most. And through them, the realization that, despite common thinking, I did not do this to myself. My eating disorder was not intentional. It was not my fault. It was how my young mind coped with the difficulties of life. But I had the power to change it.

This journey has taught me that I am not only in control of my actions, but my thoughts as well. It wasn't, and still isn't, easy but I can retrain my thoughts to be positive instead of negative. In so doing, I learned to change how I feel about myself. I learned to turn my weaknesses into strengths. I now use that perfectionism towards useful and constructive things instead of destructive ones. I'm finding all the things I'm passionate about in life and channeling that energy into them. I am learning to love myself and be happy simply by trying and not giving up.

And I will continue to succeed because I refuse to fail.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How to Survive an Elimination Diet: Part 3

Following an elimination diet is both a blessing and a curse. When you start reading the ingredients on any convenience food you'd normally buy, you'll likely get irritated. No matter what you're eliminating, it will seem like it is in everything. But the blessing comes when you start learning to make things yourself and realize that most things are better homemade, and many are actually easier than you think. If you start googling for ideas, you'll find hundreds of different recipes to accomplish what you need. Some will be unnecessarily difficult but not to worry as there is usually a simplified version. I've been collecting easy recipes, all of which I've modified to my own liking and the amount of effort I'm willing to put into each one. When you have to make basically everything from scratch, you learn a few shortcuts. So today I'd like to share some of those shortcuts with you. Whether or not you're on any kind of diet, I hope you'll find something in this list that catches your eye. Give it a try, come back here, and tell me what you think!

Homemade Nut Milk


Raw Trail Mix

Easiest Salsa Ever

Real Guacamole

Easy Homemade Hummus

Salad Dressings

Vegan "Butter"

Vegan Pancakes

Read more about what I've learned on my elimination diet journey at the links below:
Coming up next:
Part 4: how to eat-out (or not) on an elimination diet

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I started this blog with very little expectations for myself except that I would at least try. Try to write something that didn't stay hidden away in a mostly empty journal. Be brave enough to step out of my comfort zone. Test my own abilities to write and effectively communicate my life and experiences. It proved to be quite a challenge to write about anything deep. But once I wrote a few posts on depression and other mental illness, I realized I had finally found some courage and confidence in my writing. It's never easy to admit how you really feel, especially if how you feel is depressed or crazy. But a fellow friend and blogger told me to be honest and vulnerable and people will be more responsive. She was so right.

Yet I still find myself cowering away from writing when I'm having a really bad day. You'd think that would be the best time to write but instead I write nothing or if I do it stays hidden in my notebook or deleted from my drafts, never to be shared. I always want to seem up and positive and try to write when I'm at least having an okay day. But now I realize that adds to the falseness that is social media and online presence and I just hate that. I never want to add to this fake layer we have added to an already fake society. I want this to be open and honest and real.

So here's how I'm really doing. I'm a depressed mess lately. I have loved ones that are truly struggling with a wide range of issues and it breaks my heart. I'm a fix-it person, in every sense. I mean it's even a huge part of what I do for a living is fix broken code! I have never been okay when a problem comes my way in life that I cannot fix. People are complicated and difficult. You can't fix people. People have to fix themselves. And often, the problems people have can't even be fixed! So sometimes, there is truly nothing to do for a struggling loved one except to simply be there for them. Listen, offer comfort, and no judgements. This is the hardest thing I have ever attempted in my life. I didn't even realize what an obnoxious fixer I was until recently! But with this awareness, I hope, is coming the ability to be that steady comfort for others in my life, especially those who have done it for me.

When I have a bad day of depression it's often not because of my own problems, but because of others' problems. I don't know how to separate out what is something I need to worry about and what is something out of my control and requires no stress on my part. I guess I felt worry was required to show you truly cared for someone else. The idea sounds silly when put that way but I know I'm not alone in this behavior. How will worrying fix anything, even if it is in your control? It won't, it can't, yet we do it anyway. It's a strange way of showing our love for someone, and I'm finally realizing, it doesn't have to be this way.

I don't have to be depressed about someone else's problems just to show my love for them. It doesn't mean I love them any less because I choose to push their problems from my thoughts and not let them fill me up with stress. In fact, I will be a much better friend if I don't let everything stress me out. Instead of always feeling emotionally exhausted, maybe I'll be able to feel strong and truly be able to hold space for the people in my life. And most importantly, maybe learning to not stress about everything will be the biggest step I can take on my journey to loving myself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How to Survive an Elimination Diet: Part 2


As a follow up to Part 1, I thought I'd share some helpful tips on food avoidance and substitutions during an elimination diet. And like the last post, these tips may also be helpful for starting a "clean eating" program as well. So whether you got your list of foods to eliminate from a blood test or just a generic elimination diet, everyone's list is likely to be a little different. I'll just go over a few of the more common ones I did.

What you'll find it in: most packaged baked goods including waffles and pancakes, pretty much anything breaded or fried
Baking Substitutes: ground or whole flaxseed, baking powder, bananas, or applesauce. There are lots of egg-free baking recipes out there which takes the guesswork out of substituting.
Breaded/fried substitutes: try coating your food in flour and seasonings and baking it instead. Not quite the same but a lot healthier and easier.

What you'll find it in: the obvious (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) plus a TON of packaged food, even things you wouldn't expect.
Milk substitutes: almond, cashew, and coconut milk. They're easy to make yourself even (recipes coming in future post)!
Cheese substitutes: not a lot of affordable, healthy ones, so I stick with leaving it out. For toppings use hummus or avocado instead. You can also experiment with goat cheese once you're feeling better.
Yogurt substitutes: doesn't matter if it's made out of dairy or a dairy-free substitute, most yogurt has too much sugar in it so I just quit eating it. In baking you can substitute with applesauce.

What you'll find it in: EVERYTHING, no joke, pretty much all processed food, and the obvious (soy milk, tofu, tempeh, edamame) and most "fake" meat and "fake" cheeses. It can also be in other ingredients, some obvious like soy lecithin or soy protein, and others not so obvious like natural flavors and MSG.
Soy milk substitutes: any nut milk
Soy sauce substitute: coconut aminos
Tofu/tempeh/edamame substitute: whole white, black, pinto, or garbanzo beans
Substitutes for all the processed food you'll find it in: gotta make it yourself or hunt around your health food stores for soy-free alternatives

Sugar cane:
What you'll find it in: EVERYTHING, just like soy.
Substitutes: honey, maple syrup, dates, applesauce, or coconut sugar BUT for healthiest results, seriously reduce the amount of sweetener you use in everything. For tea, go unsweetened and for coffee try a tiny bit of coconut oil, vanilla extract, and nut milk.
Substitutes for all the processed food you'll find it in: same as soy, hunt around or make it yourself.

What you'll find it in: Bread, flatbread, pita bread, crackers, pastries, donuts, broths or stocks, many vegan foods (nutritional yeast), alcohol (see below), and anything fermented (don't go too far down that rat hole though as there's yeast floating around in the air so you can't avoid it all)
Baking substitutes: baking powder or baking soda & lemon juice. I found it best to use recipes that are already yeast-free so I didn't have to worry about substituting.
Bread product substitutes: There are limited options of yeast-free tortillas and crackers, but for the rest you'll have to do without or make it yourself.

Alcohol. 😭😭😭
Even if yeast isn't on your list, I think most healthcare professionals will encourage you to eliminate alcohol for at least a few weeks so you can see if it was adding to any of your symptoms. (And here's the sad ending to that story, it probably is!)
What you'll find it in: beer, wine, and liquor
Substitutes: Moderation is your friend if, like me, you find it makes all your symptoms come back full force, you'll learn to keep it in very small amounts and not very often. The best replacement I've found for alcohol is marijuana so you're gonna want to live somewhere it's legal or get a medical card. Hahaha seriously though, let's go get high and think about all the food we can't eat. 😉😂

Friday, August 19, 2016

Self-Love Defined

What does it mean to truly love yourself? To me, loving yourself means taking care of you: body, mind, and soul. And doing whatever you need to do to keep those 3 things in balance. It requires treating yourself with respect, thinking kindly about yourself, and listening to all 3 parts of your being. I know all of that sounds a bit impossible most of the time, especially if you're a parent or caregiver and you spend most of your time looking after someone else. But how can you care for another person if you don't first take care of yourself? And why else should you care about loving yourself? To be happy of course! And who doesn't want to be happier? I don't know a single happy person that doesn't take care of themselves. I think loving yourself is a requirement of happiness.

We spend so much time just trying to "get by." Work, kids, clean, eat, sleep, repeat. It's easy to get caught up in that cycle and sometimes forget to have fun, to remember that life is a journey and we need to be enjoying ourselves, even in daily, routine life. Sometimes it may even take us awhile to realize something is wrong. That we're miserable and why we are. Usually when I take the time to figure out what's bothering me, I discover that I'm not taking enough time for myself, not doing something I need to do to be happy, or just not being nice to myself. I struggle sometimes often with feeling like I'm enough, that I'm good enough, that I'm doing enough for everyone around me. And when I don't feel like I am, my thoughts turn negative. Thinking awful things about myself only furthers my depression. But when I'm being mindful of this, I can break the cycle before it starts or worsens at least. I have to stop the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. I must constantly remind myself that I am always doing as much as I feel able and to forgive myself for those days when I don't do everything I expected (especially since my expectations of myself are often unrealistic).

Taking time for yourself, working hard at turning around negative thoughts, trying to love yourself, it's all really hard work. But it's worth it for even brief moments of true happiness. The key is in making your happiness a priority. Once you do this, many other things in your life will start changing in ways you won't anticipate, but you'll be pleasantly surprised when they happen. It's karma; if you're putting good, positive, happy energy out into the world, you're much more likely to receive that in return than if you're angry, depressed, or negative all the time. So even if it's a struggle right now to try and love yourself, think of it as a gift to your future self who will thank you when all the goodness starts flowing into your life. It'll be all sparkles and rainbows and butterflies....

Okay, okay, of course that last bit is a pipe dream. We'd all like to believe that karma is real and we'll receive as much love as we've given. And there are days I do believe it is real. But then there are days when the world takes a fat dump on you and it can set you back a lot, make you wonder why you bothered trying to be positive in the first place. But we have to experience bad days so we can appreciate all the good ones. Hopefully you've had moments of true happiness in your life to look back on when it's a bad day, and remember how good it felt. Then you'll remember that it is worth your effort to make your own happiness a priority.

Self-love is putting your feet in the sand :)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Survive an Elimination Diet: Part 1

I started my elimination diet journey over 8 months ago, and what a journey it's been! I've learned a lot along the way, plenty that I wish I'd known BEFORE I started. And so it seems only right that I share my knowledge with you for surviving your own elimination diet, should you need to. These may also be helpful for starting a "clean eating" program as well.
  • First tip is, DON'T do an elimination diet unless you really need to! Probably not what you were expecting me to say, but seriously it sucks, it's hard, and may not have the results you want. I'm not trying to discourage you completely, but if you're doing it because you think it's the next cool, fad diet, you are in for a world of hurt. It has a very important medical purpose, so if you do it, do it for the right reasons. 
  • If you have no medical reason to do this and are just trying to eat cleaner, then great! But I wouldn't recommend trying to eliminate everything all at once. Instead try making changes gradually. It will be a lot easier to manage and cause you a lot less stress.
  • If you have lots of food intolerances, this "diet" may take a lot longer than you think and will likely turn into a new way of eating for some time. My biggest mistake was in thinking I'd be all better in a few months, and I am not. I have made great progress, but it's not over yet.
  • Eliminating foods makes your body extra sensitive to them. I don't fully understand why and didn't think about that when I started. But after experiencing it, I feel like it's a good thing to warn you about. When trying to reintroduce foods, the symptoms I experienced were FAR worse than what I'd had before I started. 
  • Probiotics and digestive enzyme supplements are your friends. I didn't take this seriously until I became flat out ill when trying to reintroduce foods. Take them every day or at the least take the enzymes when you eat any food you didn't prepare yourself.
  • Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the kitchen! Not every meal needs to be elaborate, but you'll still have to throw it together yourself as finding prepared foods that will fit into your diet is extremely difficult and expensive (depending on what all you're eliminating of course).
  • If you have or have ever had an eating disorder of any kind, including chronic dieting, then be careful. Aside from pregnancy this has been the biggest challenge to my recovery. If you're in the early stages of recovery, do not do this or any restrictive diet!
I've learned so much that I will be writing multiple posts on the subject so stay tuned for the following, coming soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Parent Confessions

I haven't joined my friend Danielle for Confessional Thursday in quite awhile so thought I'd share some parenting confessions with you today.

I confess that...

...I am a bit uncomfortable around kids other than my own. I just don't know how to make other kids behave. I am easily overwhelmed by mobs of children (a mob=more than 2) and one of my least favorite things is indoor play places.

...when kids are mean to my kids, I have a hard time holding back the urge to tell the kid off or at least send them away. But I know my kids must learn to handle mean people. Still, baffles me how horrible kids can be at such a young age. If my kids are ever an ass to you or your kids I give you full permission to call them out on their shit and ask them to stop or send them home!

...I'm kind of strict about bedtime. They don't go to bed super early but I don't often let them stay up past 9 and avoid things that will keep them up late. Sleep is super important to their mental and physical growth and I'm not going to purposefully keep them from getting as much sleep as possible. Plus they turn into little assholes when they're tired.

...I am even stricter about my kids sugar intake. Yep that's right, I am "that mom." Sebastian has a clear sugar intolerance with symptoms including moodiness, vomiting, and diarrhea if he has too much, and Oscar gets crazy hyper. Think what you want about it, I don't care when we're talking about my children's health. kids can be so annoying and it's all my fault. My wonderful genetic gifts included talking incessantly, asking a million questions, and repeating oneself to death, all things I also drove my parents crazy with when I was a child. Karma can be a real pain in the ass. makes me feel so much better when Brian loses his patience with the kids too. Then at least I know I'm not just being impatient with them, they really can be frustrating beyond reason.

...despite my frustrations, I LOVE spending time with these little monsters. Walks, bike rides, cards, board games, Legos, cars, it's all fun times with them. Snuggles are still my favorite though, no matter how big they get.

...I have been able to take Fridays off this summer so I could spend more time with them and it was the best decision I've made in a long time. I have my whole life to work but my kids will only be little right now.