My Autumn Bliss-List

I can hardly believe summer is drawing to a close. The past few months have brought change and a renewed sense of hope to my life. For the first time in my years of disordered eating, I am actively challenging myself to previously feared foods and doing so with minimal guilt. Only yesterday, a friend and I popped into the local Coldstone and treated ourselves to swirls of tangerine and pink lemonade sorbet then sat outside laughing and swatting away mosquitoes. Bug swarms aside, this is what I have craved for so long–not just the eating of tasty things but the enjoyment and pleasure brought by the experience of trying new foods and opening myself to life and the joy it has to offer.

As autumn nears, so does a whole new set of potentially blissful moments. I’ve seen a few people posting “bucket lists” for the fall months, and since I’ve never made one, I’m jumping on the trend.

“MoPB (Moments of Potential Bliss)” List 

  • Take an evening walk in crisp, cool air
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Try a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (or similar autumn-themed drink)
  • Attend the Johnny Appleseed Festival
  • Do a leaf craft (such as this one)
  • Bake an apple dessert
  • Watch a ridiculous old horror film
  • Decorate apartment with jewel tones (and burn spice-scented candles)
  • Donate sweaters and jackets to Goodwill
  • Go for a hike once the leaves turn

What are you looking forward to this fall? What possible moments of bliss could you open yourself to?

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I once read an article about eating disorder relapse and about the little red flags each of us have that might signal things are starting to go south in the recovery department. Awareness of oneself and of one’s personal triggers is so important, and yet here I am, knee-deep in the muck of disordered behaviors and symptoms. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention or maybe I was just too preoccupied with other goings-on to truly care. I always find it strange that one day can be all it takes–one day of restricting, one day of binge eating, one day of sadness or self-loathing–to plop you right back on your ass.

I suppose what I am trying to say is…know your body, know your mind and know how to identify when you are headed in the wrong direction. For me, it’s:

  • increased obsessive-compulsive behavior about weighing food (i.e. taking a single blueberry out of the bowl because it puts me one gram over the amount listed for a single serving)
  • increased obsessive-compulsive behavior in non-food-related areas
  • ritualistic use of specific silverware
  • rigid eating schedules (i.e. 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm)
  • continually decreasing caloric values for meals
  • ignoring hunger and relying on non-caloric beverages
  • body-checking  (examining perceived fat in the mirror, feeling the body for flaws)

Fuck the disordered noise in your head and hang on to whatever shred of fight you can find within yourself. You are worth it. Click here for more information on eating disorders, relapses and how to find help.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer… And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger–something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus

Little life changes and a bit on mindfulness

I have been absent for awhile, as events in my life have forced me to re-examine the way I’ve been living, the way I think and the way I carry out my beliefs on a day-to-day basis. I think it sometimes takes a minor crisis to get my attention. With that being said, I’ve developed a renewed focus on being aware of myself and staying mindful in the individual moments of my day. As a chronic worrier, my mind is often a step ahead in another dimension, so this is a titanic task (oooh, I love accidental alliteration).

Being mentally present may reveal a new perspective on the world--a new way of looking at familiar surroundings.

Being mentally present may reveal a new perspective on the world–a new way of looking at familiar surroundings.

In college, I gave a speech about mindful eating. I passed out Hershey’s kisses and asked everyone to look at the chocolate, smell it and finally allow it to melt on their tongues. Eating slowly, using your senses, allows your body to truly grasp what is happening as you nourish yourself. Too often we are in a rush, focused on something else or just too tired to go through this process. And I understand that! I was always eating in front of the television, shoving food into my face without paying attention. The end result? I often felt unsatisfied and reached for more food that I didn’t need.

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” rashaski

One of the newest goals for myself has been to 1) make meals I enjoy 2) arrange them in an attractive manner 3) set the table and 4) turn off the damn television. Without the added distraction, I feel I am able to get more enjoyment out of my meals, leaving me sated and not needing seconds (or triggering a massive binge). I know this is going to be a lengthy process and though I’m not “permitting” slip-ups I’m sure there will be some along the way. Regardless, I feel this is an important aspect of my recovery and of learning that food is not the enemy.

My challenge to everyone is to give mindfulness a chance. Could you sit quietly for even one meal a day? How does doing so change the experience of eating? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more on mindful eating, check out this link. I love these suggestions!

A Single White Goose

Standing brightly among the plethora of Canadian geese is a single white goose. I’ve named her Genevieve.

goose

Check out those gorgeous feathers! (Appreciate, don’t ogle.)

I’ve seen Genevieve all over town–on the sidewalk by the park, swimming alone on the river. I can’t figure out why she is always the only one of her type or why she is generally alone. (Any goose experts out there?)

As I am wont to do, I’ve been personifying this solitary white goose. She’s a loner, independent. She stands in stark contrast to her environment but doesn’t care! No inadequacies here, Genevieve knows who she is and isn’t afraid to show it.

M’dears…if you’re feeling insecure, look to Genevieve and be your big, bad, beautiful self!

goose2

The Vegan Oddball is really weird. Quack! (I really just typed that…)

 

Pancakes For Lunch! (On Listening to Your Body)

One of the many important lessons I’m learning as I work toward recovery is the importance of listening to my body. So often I have eaten specific meals or foods because I thought I should eat them, not because I actually wanted to. The problem here? After finishing the meal I felt I should eat, I was nearly always still craving the foods I’d initially wanted. While considering what I wanted for lunch today, my first thought was, “Pancakes!” Then my disorder kicked in… “You need to eat veggies. You shouldn’t have pancakes for lunch. Veggies, Holly….veggies.” You know what? To hell with that. I wanted pancakes, so pancakes is what I had.

Pancakes

Texture porn.

Later, after working out, despite my brain yelling that I’d had far too many carbs, I devoured the most delicious bowl of pumpkin oatmeal topped with melted coconut whipped cream.

Oatmeal

The picture does not do this bowl justice. Best oats I’ve had in quite awhile.

I know that I haven’t yet won the war, but successes like these make me hopeful that one day my life won’t be ruled by numbers. What’s the takeaway here? If you’re craving a specific food, allow yourself to have it (in moderation). Giving yourself permission to eat delicious things decreases feelings of deprivation and, subsequently, helps to prevent future binges. Win win! P.S. Know what’s on the menu for later tonight?

chocolate

I’m fairly certain chocolate should be eaten daily.

Seriously…stop and smell the flowers.

By default, my brain is a negativity sponge. Left to its own devices, it would put down roots in the land of all that is gloomy, cloudy, gray and uncomfortable. Preventing this takes work. Every day is a choice: Give in and ruminate in sadness or fight like hell.

I will say that years of practice have made the fighting, or rather the knowing how to fight, a little easier. For instance, you won’t generally find me sitting alone in the dark; If a room has curtains or blinds, expect me to open them. I’m wary about the music I listen to and the movies I watch. I almost always do some kind of chore while I wait for my coffee to brew in the morning because it helps me to productively pass the precarious minutes between asleep and awake time. This is important because those minutes have the capacity to set the tone for the entire day.

Perhaps most importantly, I am learning how to look for the good in each day. My hope is that slowly but surely my brain will start to see these things naturally, that the effort to be consistently happy will be less difficult. And I have reason to think this could be the case. Studies in neuroplasticity show that, contrary to popular belief, the brain continues to rewire itself throughout life. Exposure to difficult and/or new experiences can actually change the physical structure of the brain! How fucking cool is that?!

In the meantime, spring has finally arrived in Indiana and with it, so many reasons to feel happy and hopeful. Just look at that blue sky!

IMG_20140409_143541

Lying in bed last night, I was thinking about the similarities between spring and the end of an episode of depression. Both bring a sense of new life and an enhanced appreciation for all the little things. While I certainly don’t recommend taking a spin at depression (“All Aboard Misery Cruiselines!”), I do believe that experiencing a particularly rough patch of life can help one to better appreciate moments that might otherwise be taken for granted.

Take a moment today to step outside and feel with all your senses.

Stop. Be still. Close your eyes and breathe.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Prior to my birth, my dad competed in Olympic-style weightlifting, and he continued to lift as a hobby for many years after. Growing up, our garage walls were covered in posters of hairy men demonstrating proper technique for the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch. (Could they have come up with dirtier names?) And at one point or another, all of my immediate family has engaged in some form of weightlifting. Perhaps it’s our short stature and resulting low center of gravity, but in some ways I feel like this sport is in our blood.

I’ve bounced in and out of gyms over the years, never staying as true to the sport as I would have liked. Too often, I’ve allowed my eating disorder to thwart my attempts at a better me. Recently, however, I decided to incorporate some light lifts and bodyweight exercises back into my routine, and I am so glad I did.

snatch2

This guy’s clearly enjoying himself…right?

No other activity has ever proven as effective in increasing not only my physical strength but mental endurance and feelings of hope and empowerment. When I am able to turn my attention to fitness and health, my brain’s idea of the “perfect body” quickly changes from pale and skeletal to toned and rosy. Lifting is not always the most pleasant activity (oh god, squats…), but I’ve found there’s nothing like cranking my music to 11 and busting out a few sets of deadlifts to make me feel seriously badass.

That's more like it...

That’s more like it…