Tag Archives: food

Why I am afraid of "fat"

I’m still afraid of looking fat.

This is where the bulk of my shame lives as I continue my recovery from anorexia. Nearly six months into my treatment, I am happy to say:

1) that I am up to a healthy weight (though I don’t know what that weight is and don’t care to know).

2) my metabolism is healed (did you know dieting and starving destroy your metabolism? I didn’t.).

3) my body cues are functioning on their own (meaning I know–for real–when I am hungry and when I’m full; when something sounds good and when it doesn’t).

4) I am eating intuitively, which means I eat according to when and what my body tells me in terms of what it needs and what it wants. No rules; no invitation for others to have a say.

These are huge leaps of restorative progress that have happened in a relatively short amount of time, considering I have had anorexia for 13+ years.

Yet, I still have an eating disorder. If you have ever looked at a skinny girl and said, “Dang, she needs some meat on her bones. Give that girl a cheeseburger,” I am here to tell you this disease has nothing to do with food or weight–and please, I kindly request, do all of us “skinny” girls a solid and stay quiet because those words just feed our disorder.

All of my progress is in long-term danger because I still fear “looking fat.” This is perplexing to me because on December 6, 2014, I wrote the following in my journal:

“I fear being ugly and invalid; society says fat is invalid and ugly. Therefore I cannot be this way. I have fallen ill by playing into society’s definition of fat. I bet “fat” isn’t even in God’s dictionary. I can’t define “fat” on my own because I am stuck between two worlds–> God’s and this fallen earthly place. I know God sees people beyond their size. Size literally does not matter to God. The condition of my heart matters; right now my heart is infected. I see it now from God’s world. Yet,God still sees me as valuable and lovable.

IMG_20150419_082316In my fallen world, infected minds have determined that size does matter and it reflects how good or not good we are (“skinny” is beautiful which makes skinny marketable, profitable, desirable–valuable. If you’re not skinny, then you’re not valuable).

This completely contradicts God’s perspective. 

I must decide who I will trust. Will I continue trying to define a word that simply doesn’t exist in God’s world? Will I keep striving to appeal to a definition outlined by infected hearts and minds? Or, instead, will I throw this word away entirely and focus only on the things of which affect–grow, purify, honor–the condition of my heart?”

Well, given my progress in health, we can see what I chose, right? But I confess to you, dear reader, I still fear looking fat. I feel ashamed by this. And frustrated. Why can’t my eyes see beauty when I look in the mirror? Why can’t my spirit feel confidence when I dress in the morning? Why can’t I let go of “fat” and “skinny” when I know these ideas don’t exist in God’s kingdom?

Idolatry.

God, the Father in Heaven, the Son in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in my heart, is no doubt my God. Yet, He isn’t my only only god because I still idolize my body. Part of me still stands with the cultural ideal, IMG_20150419_105452worshiping beauty and perfection as defined by a society that places value on what we manufacture for our physical body. I can’t let go of “fat” and “skinny” because I still place more value on my body image rather than God’s image. This is a hard dose of humility to swallow today.

I am not manufactured. I am created. . . uniquely created by a perfect God who made me in His image. I believe this, but clearly not with all of my heart because I still worry about “looking fat” and thus having little to no value (interest,validity, etc.) to other people. This is a dark depth that still needs transformation. I surrender to this truth today.

I can’t fix this today. I can’t fix this, period. God has to. My own self-efforts for change lead to manufacturing something that doesn’t align with what God has already created in and for me. He will heal this broken part of me; I got down on my knees in tears asking for forgiveness and asking Him to take this part of me and change it. He will. And when He does, the danger of relapsing into anorexia will become less of a threat. Cheeseburger or no, my eating disorder does not hinge upon food but rather the belief and deep understanding of where my value lies.

 

 

Calories are not bad for you

WARNING: What I am about to say is radical and contradictory to cultural norms!!

Calories are not bad for you. Food is not bad for you.

*gasp*

I know. Mind blown, right?

I am not a dietitian or nutritionist or a health coach or a doctor. I am a woman who is in treatment for a 13-year+ battle with anorexia. I am working closely with a (phenomenal) dietitian and a therapist who specialize in eating disorders; I am becoming awakened to faulty beliefs about food.

Our nation has done a pretty good job of scaring people to death (literally) of eating. The media touts the obesity epidemic and plasters 100,001 ways to lose weight, not gain weight, watch weight, manage weight, control weight, maximize weight, minimize weight. We’re instructed to avoid carbs of all types, bread, grain, sugar, fats and many protein sources like legumes and dark meats. We’re successfully whittling down our diets to 100-calorie packs and organic greens. We’re constantly in each other’s foods with judgement and warning, “Are you going to eat that? It causes cancer.” “That’s bad for you.”

As a result, I dare say, it isn’t an obesity epidemic our nation is dealing with. We’re dealing with a disordered eating epidemic. Obesity is just easier to see. Anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia are much easier to hide, accept as “normal,” and completely misunderstood.

Food is not bad for anybody. There aren’t even certain foods that are bad for the body. It’s habits that are unhealthy. Eating too much or too little of any kind of food isn’t good for the body. Too much ice cream is just as harmful as too much  broccoli. Too much soda can be just as hard on the body as too much kale or blueberries or flax. Ice cream in itself is not “bad”; soda is not “bad”; carbs are not “bad”; beans are not “bad”; the “badness” of food is not the food’s fault–it’s the habits by which you consume or not consume the food according to what your body needs that deserve the scrutiny.

The human body operates on calories. It will use anything you feed it… to give you energy, to help you think, to help you digest, to help you build muscle, to help you feel happy, to help you function. Your body is really good at telling you what it needs if you know how to listen. Ever eat too much candy? You get a belly ache. Eating too much cheese lately? You get constipated. Ever avoid carbs before a workout? You get dizzy and tired half way through. The body is kind in notifying you, “Hey, yo! I need some fruit. I need water. I need fat. I need protein.” And when you oblige the body, it rewards you.

Similarly, if your body can’t handle a certain food, it will also tell you. I have celiac disease which means my body cannot utilize gluten–the protein found in wheat, barely and rye–and it lets me know with resounding borborygmus, rashes, nausea, and extreme fatigue.  This doesn’t mean gluten is evil. Nor are grains evil! It just means my body can’t read gluten properly. Some people know they can’t eat peanuts because the body says, “Hey yo! I can’t breathe when you eat these things!” This doesn’t mean peanuts are bad, but rather their body can’t read peanuts properly.

Your body is always working for you–trying to protect you. Even in disorder, the body will seek to adjust to a “normal” function within the disorder, always striving to keep you alive. But we don’t just want to eat to stay alive. We’re built to thrive, my friends! If we don’t feed the body calories and trust our body to work with the nutrition it asks for, we fall ill. We injure our metabolisms, which our body depends upon for a multitude of internal processes; we mess with our brains, which is a powerful but fragile organ; and we deplete our capacity to thrive, thus reverting to survival mode.

Trust me. I am living proof.

IMG_0673 (1)

Photo courtesy of my sweet friend Monet Borla!

Take a look a this box of ordinary light bulbs. The measure of light is calculated in lumens–the higher the lumens, the greater the light produced and usable for our needs. Think of calories the same way. The measure of energy in food is calculated in calories. The greater the calories, the greater the energy produced and usable for our body’s needs.  Why would you ever want to deny your body energy–life, light!

Just as we adjust our lights based on what we’re trying to do; so it is with our calories.  When we work out, we need more energy, more calories; when we’re hibernating in those cold winter months, we don’t need as many. Regardless, we always need a balanced  mixture of carbs, proteins, fat, and sugar because all these elements work together to produce full life. You omit or restrict one, well, the lights dim. Restrict the calories long enough, the lights will go out completely.

Don’t be afraid of calories. Ignore the media headlines and listen to what your own body is asking for. It won’t let you down.

 

 

Rehab

XXL white flag

I’m going to rehab. For my eating disorder.

It certainly wasn’t my idea.

I thought I was going to go to a support group–you know, to get a little extra support in my recent spiral downward.  The other day my therapist told me if I dropped anymore weight she’d have to refer me out to more intensive treatment. I had been bucking the idea of seeking out an eating disorder-support group for months, but I decided now maybe it was a good time. I have had deep fear of support groups, but losing my therapist scared me more, so I was willing to take the recommendation she had.

My husband, Andrew, gave me great perspective: “You know, when a player gets injured during a game and has to have surgery, he always has to go through rehab. They don’t want to do it because it sucks. It hurts and it’s a grind and it takes a long time and it keeps them out of the game. But they recover. If they don’t do rehab, they risk permanent debilitation and losing their career. Just think of a support group as rehab. Oh and food–that’s your medicine.”

It made me think about drug and alcohol rehab. That probably doesn’t feel so pleasant and no one is probably ever fully ready, but they go. This seemed to make a lot of sense and seemed doable. Support-group rehab. I would just search around, gather some information–I wouldn’t need to commit to anything right away. In the meantime, I would just stay the course with my weight and try not to tick down any farther.

Yesterday we called Hopetree Counseling–just to get information. No biggie; shouldn’t be too hard.

Wrong.

I couldn’t even make the call because a squall of anxiety had rushed my nerves. Andrew, had to do it. I will spare the details of the conversation, but after we got our questions answered, the lady on the phone essentially screened my situation through Andrew, who was using speaker phone. What resulted was the following:

  • Your wife needs help.
  • She’s on the cusp of needing hospitalization; her bmi is on the edge.
  • We wouldn’t put her in a support group until she was ready
  • She doesn’t want help because she thinks treatment will make her fat
  • She’s terrified; deep down she wants help
  • She will be okay but she needs intervention now
  • Tamara would be a great counselor for her
  • We have a dietitian that can work with her dietary needs and food fears

I was a wreck. I felt trapped in my house–practically running from room to room to get away from my husband and that damn phone. My anxiety had exploded–I was crying and angry and shooting evil-eye laser darts at my beloved husband, who, I felt somehow in all this, had betrayed me. I hated him for calling, and I couldn’t believe the audacity of this woman on the phone!

I am not that sick! I don’t need this! I just need a little extra support. All I need is a support group and I’ll be fine. What these people were offering was rehab. Like for real. No way was I up for that.

But this call has stuck with me. I am mad (so mad!) and scared and confused, and this woman’s words are so conflicting with the voice in my head that says “I am not THAT sick.

Why am I so angry, though?

I got my answer this morning while spending time with God. I am currently going through My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, and this was today’s devotion:

There is no escape when the Lord speaks. He always comes using His authority and taking hold of our understanding.  Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you. God speaks in the language you know best–not through your ears, but through your circumstances.

God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know this is what I should do”–and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We show ignorance in the very way we decide to serve Him.

I am angry because I am overwhelmed. I’ve been called out on my own convictions that I merely need “a bit of extra support.” God has destroyed my confidence in what I thought I needed and has directly spoken His voice into my circumstances.

I am quite ill. I need help. I need intervention. I don’t need a support group–I need rehab. The truth of revelation has me on my knees before my Father, shedding quiet tears of humility. “I delight to do Your will, O my God… (Psalm 40:8).

I will make the call before noon today to schedule an appointment; if I don’t, I have given Andrew permission to call and schedule for me. (I promise not to hate him–too much.)

I am scared, friends. Anorexia feels safe to me. To release myself from the grip of this disease feels like stepping off a cliff into a free fall toward my fears that wait to devour me upon my crash.

?????????

Confessions of an #anorexic mind: A pear is too heavy

I slept in until almost 8 am, which I haven’t done in years. My spirit and body felt heavy upon waking.

The voice of my ANA took advantage of my weak emotional state. You’re fat. You feel fat. You look fat. Do not eat.

Fine. I didn’t feel like it anyway.

Yet, there was thesane part of me, the part that knows fully well that I must fight the voice–fight the temptation of letting the disease take over. You’re eight pounds under where the doctor wants you. You must eat. 

I don’t want to. Your stomach is fat and it will only get fatter. You need self-control. Didn’t you see yourself in the mirror today? Yes. Unfortunately.

photodune-8051021-pear-xsLate into the morning, my intellectual self thought I might try to eat a pear, something safe to get a little bit of calories and burst of sugar. But my mind recoiled at the idea; the slight nature of a simple fruit felt analogous to a large spaghetti dinner with endless baskets of bread. It would just sit my gut, making it bloat and grow.

No. A pear is too heavy. Don’t even bother. 

I served the pear to my husband and children at lunch. To keep my husband from suspecting and asking questions, I choked down half a ham roll-up. I took note of the calories, satisfied I had adequately cut my serving in half, and I confidently told my husband I ate lunch.

Like standing on tightrope high in the wind, I wavered back and forth all day trying to make sense of myself. One the one hand, I know I have to gain weight. I’ve been dropping and I don’t know why. If I keep dropping, I risk having to go to a treatment center. I don’t want to leave my family. I must fight. Every bite is another baby step forward–keeping steady.

Yet, on the other hand I don’t want to fight. Especially not today. I don’t have it in me. I feel low and weak. Depressed. The feeling of freedom in the fall sounds so appealing. Why?

I prayed all day as I moved through activities and thoughts. Wrestling. Arguing. Pleading. I walked closely with God as I always do. I felt Him nearby in everything. But it didn’t help. Proof that praying harder and thinking positively doesn’t necessarily make things better when your mind is ill. I asked God for forgiveness. “I don’t have it in me to eat today, Lord. I am so sorry. I am giving in.”

God sent me a song–one of my favorites.  A line stood out above the rest “There’ll be days I lose the battle, grace says that it doesn’t matter ’cause the Cross already won the war. He’s greater.”

Grace. I don’t know how that’s even possible. I couldn’t accept His gift.

The self-loathing began. Seriously? Grace? You are so weak and selfish. You have friends going through bigger battles than you. A friend lost her father yesterday! You have the audacity to think you’re battling something? Just eat for crying out loud. It’s food. It isn’t a big deal. What’s the matter with you?

So I began to clean and organize. Like a maniac. That’s what I do when I don’t know what to do with myself–I work out the angst on my own. After sending my husband to the grocery store for more pears and yogurt for the kids, I spent two hours cleaning my fridge and pantry. I rearranged shelves and meticulously moved food and cleaned nooks and crannies; I scrubbed my microwave.  I spent another three hours preparing lunch and snacks for my family this week. Then I prepped dinner.  My hands are dry and chapped from washing food, dishes, floors, and shelves.

ANA’s voice is amplified in my head as I write– You are crazy. You can’t eat so ????????instead you surround yourself in food; immerse yourself in your kitchen organizing and cooking and prepping? Yet you can’t take one bite. What is wrong with you? Why did you have your husband buy more pears? You can’t even eat the damn things. 

We ate dinner as a family tonight. I had no choice but to sit down to a healthy meal. I ate it and now I feel sick.  My gut twisting and turning with nausea. It’s beautiful, nourishing food, but my mind despises it. My daughter asked for the 10th time today, “Mama? Are you happy?”

I smile and say yes. But really? No my sweet, love. I don’t think so. Not today. I pray tomorrow will be different; perhaps today was merely a bad day. If not, therapy is on Tuesday. I’ll work it out then.

Bird seed and porta-potties and grocery lists, oh my!

Grocery-list-making face.

Grocery-list-making face.

Husband: “Hey, hon? I know you are going to hate what I am about to ask you, but I have three coupons for the grocery store that are going to expire. Can you make a grocery list?”

Ugh. This request seems innocent enough, but for me making a grocery list is like riding a bike uphill for miles in the blazing heat. I’d rather clean the porta-potties on the route. But seeing as I am the gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, anorexic-celiac-friendly chef of the household, all meal planning and grocery-list making falls to me.

We’re kind of desperate over here. My kids have eaten hot dogs for dinner three nights this past week. My husband and I basically eat the same thing every night: some sort of grilled meat or fish with a side of veggie and starch (either sweet potato or rice). That is the extent of our  menu these days.

Thank God my husband enjoys the shopping. I can’t walk into a grocery store alone without going into a panic attack. Literally. Braving Whole Foods the other day on my own, I had teetered on the edge of a full-blown attack; I had to sniff soap to calm my nerves before I could make it through the check-out line with my single box of quinoa hot cereal.

Here’s why:

After I spent the entirety of July feeling physically ill and having multiple food reactions, it seemed perhaps a food sensitivity test would be the logical next step in figuring out why my gluten-dairy-corn-soy-free lifestyle wasn’t solving my intestinal distress.

100% celiac-friendly. About 45% everything-else-friendly. Everything in the upper-left quadrant , with the exception of the tea and Domata flour, is off limits now.

100% celiac-friendly. About 45% everything-else-friendly. Everything in the upper-left quadrant , with the exception of the tea and Domata flour, is off limits now.

The results were surprising as it revealed that most of the foods that had become safe and staple elements in my restricted, leaky-gut- and-celiac-friendly diet were indeed NOT safe. Almonds and anything almond-based, like almond butter, almond flour, and almond milk had become the anchor-source of safe and calorically dense nutrition. Turns out my system is off-the-charts sensitive to almonds. And also all other nuts. Adding “nut-free” to my growing list of dietary restrictions, I also learned many basic produce that I eat every day, such as bananas, lemons, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, and lettuce were also big no-nos.

As for the basic celiac-friendly grains, my body rejects aramanth, brown rice (another basic staple), lentils, and oats (even the gluten free version). While we’re at it, I may as well  mention egg whites, cinnamon, mustard, plums and white beans all cause bodily discontentment.

The good news: Lima beans are a no-go! That news was like finding $100 bill in a pile of wet poo.

So what in the world is a busy anorexic-celiac writermama of two hungry munchkins and wife of an athletic husband supposed to eat and feed her family?

photodune-1029451-agaporni-xs

“Hey, are you going to eat that?”

I don’t know. Hence the panic attack in Whole Foods the other day.  I went in to simply to purchase millet–one of three grains I can eat. What’s millet you ask? You might recognize it as the main ingredient in–wait for it– bird seed.

Yup. My diet has been reduced down to the mere culinary delicacies for birds. Rabbit food would be a five-star treat at this point. 🙂

Meal planning and grocery shopping are like picking a bouquet of wildflowers in a radioactive minefield. There is a multitude of brilliant foods that look so colorful, fresh, and nutritiously rich to choose from, yet these days, anything I pick is contaminated with ingredients that are unsafe for me. One misstep and BOOM! I experience a physical reaction that will make me ill for four to seven days. Believe me when I say, I have become a good label reader, but most products I pick up I must put back; most recipes that catch my eye need a customized overhaul. I haven’t yet gained good knowledge of the safe and delicious substitutions to create a new dietary landscape for my household.

I digress. You can see why making a grocery list isn’t something I can just whip up. I found myself pacing and wringing my hands together, trying to figure out where to start. I would need to look at recipes–maybe paleo recipes and then adjust accordingly? It seemed so hard, and I wanted to cry. Enter my friend Nikki who was scheduled to come over for coffee (decaf, Swiss-water processed coffee, of course).

I poured out my plights and heard myself plead, “Will you help me make my list?”

Nikki was so happy to help! “Let’s come up with five meals,”  she suggested. That seemed doable to me. She sat with my food sensitivity test next to her and within five minutes she helped me come up with 10 meal ideas based on the foods I could eat! Whoa! We spent the next hour online researching recipes for each dish that would be easy to make and easy to make substitutions. Nikki helped me think of fresh ideas. For example, I cannot have lemons or limes, but we found a great pineapple-mango salsa recipe that is great for fish!

Grocerylist

Completed list! Rough draft–have to rewrite so hubby can actually shop from it. 🙂

When our list was complete–we celebrated. I’m talking high-fives and happy dancing! It felt amazing to have the list done, and I had that glorious relief feeling–like the feeling you get when you’ve finally popped your taxes in the mail knowing you are getting a fat refund. All the tedious hard work is done and there is great reward to come. Thank you, Lord, for Nikki!

Then I crashed. I was so exhausted and had quite the headache, as if I really did just ride for miles uphill in the heat. While having Nikki by my side made this task achievable, the anxiety that burdens me around anything food-related still built up inside–only this time it didn’t explode into tears, panic or self-loathing. It stayed dormant until the task was complete. I was too elated to dwell on the hardness of the task. Instead I curled up and took a nap–resting in my accomplishment.

Someday this will all seem so clear.

Someday this will all seem so clear.

For the first time, I allowed myself to be okay with the weirdness that making a grocery list is really hard and exhausting for me. Meal planning and grocery shopping are the most basic of tasks for any stay-at-home mama, but for this mama it is a dizzying challenge; it all makes my mind spin. I am confident this won’t always be the case, (and I won’t always rather clean porta-potties) but for right now, I have to allow myself to take this journey one list and one meal at a time.

Upcoming Meal Plan (with links to the recipes I’ll be modifying)

Chili (a modified version of the one I usually make)

Cherry Chicken

Mango-Coconut Rice w/Chicken

Spaghetti Squash ‘n’ Meatballs

Fish w/Mango-Pineapple Salsa

Crock-pot Cornish Hen w/Grapes

Asian Pork w/sweet potatoes

Shrimp Creole

Salmon Patties w/millet-quinoa broccoli medley

Turkey w/cauliflower rice