Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why I Wear Purple



I'm wearing purple today in honor of Eating Disorders Awareness month, and it means a lot to me that there's a growing community out there that wants to get the word out about this debilitating disease. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affects up to 24 million people in the United States, and only 35% of those suffering will ever get treatment. It has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, and almost 50% people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.

These statistics are jarring, and they are a call to action. We need more public awareness and more research into treatment methods and modalities. I have struggled with my eating disorder for more than half of my life, and have been in treatment multiple times, yet I still battle the behaviors and thoughts that come with this illness. The fact that 24 million people suffer from eating disorders just isn't fair. They are such debilitating disorders, and we know so little about how to treat them. Even the best treatment centers can only do so much. When you reach the 'outside world', there are many challenges and obstacles to recovery, and I'm experiencing this first hand.

Recovery to me means a world free of obsessions, compulsions, anxieties and fears about food and exercise. It means a world where I am connected to others deeply and honestly, and where I can be a compassionate and caring human being. I care so much about so many things, but when I'm in my eating disorder, the things and people I care about take a back seat. Even my commitment to becoming a vet tech has been compromised by my eating disorder: When I'm anxious and worried about food and exercise, I can't concentrate on my studies, which matter so much to me. I want to be able to pay full attention to my work and what I'm learning so I can be the best vet tech possible. And I look forward to the day when I'm not on exercise restriction and can take my dogs on long, rambling walks with my husband. I also want to be able to spend time with my family without worrying about when and what I'm going to eat. I don't want to obsess about sitting still (yes, that's an irrational fear of mine) or be overcome with anxiety when faced with a fear food. I want to feel and give love fully and truly, which is something I can't do when the eating disorder is still inside of me.

Eating disorders rob you of the freedom to live and love. They rob you of your health and happiness. They are not about vanity, they are not about wanting to look like celebrities. They are not caused by the media (although the media doesn't help). They are not temporary diets-even if they start as diets, they can quickly consume you and become full-blown disorders. They are not glamorous. They are not easily cured by 'just eating something' or 'just skipping the gym'. They are vicious, evil disorders, and they kill too many people.

I don't want to suffer anymore. I've said it multiple times, and I'll say it again: I'm a fighter. I want to win this battle, and I have the love and support I need to see this through. I want my life back, and I want to feel like 'me' again. I look forward to the day when I can say I'm truly in recovery. I have a ways to go before I get there, but I'm taking small steps. I'm getting closer every day, and even though I have slips and stumbles, I get back up. I want the same thing for everyone else out there struggling with an eating disorder-a life where recovery is possible, even if there are obstacles and set backs. So I'm wearing purple for me, but also for all of those people out there battling their own demons. I have hope, and I want to spread that hope.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Feeling the Love (and the Chocolate)



I know I should hate Valentine's Day-it is a Hallmark holiday, after all-but it's actually one of the few holidays I celebrate. I love my husband every single day of the year, but I do enjoy taking one special day to celebrate our bond and the compassion we feel towards each other. It's also a motivator for me to find new ways to show Mike that I love him and appreciate him every day, and part of that involves taking a deep look at what I've been doing on my part and on what I need to change.

Lately, I've been a little emotionally distant. I don't know if it's the winter, or my depression setting back in, but I've felt a little aloof and cold. I've had some ups and downs with the eating disorder, and while I'm back on track now, it takes a lot of time and energy out of my day (and Mike's) to keep up with recovery. A friend of mine has been incredibly helpful in giving me reality checks about what I should and should not be focusing on, and she's made a great point: I'm almost putting too much focus on recovery. It's become a job instead of a process. I fret about over every walk taken with the dogs, every yoga video I do, every missed snack..you name it. And it becomes the daily topic of conversation. That's not what a normal relationship should be like. Mike is incredibly supportive and helpful and hopeful, but it's not his place to continuously remind me of what I need to do or what I don't need to be doing. I should be able to put recovery and my eating disorder aside and focus on my marriage and the joys of being married to such an incredible man.

Today I choose to focus on what I love about my life right now, including my amazing husband.  I love that I have a partner that supports me in all that I do and is there for me on good days and bad.I love that I'm following my dreams, even if school is arduous and anxiety producing. I love my family, and all of the relationships I have with my parents, my grandmother, my sisters and their families. I love my dogs, and the joy they bring to my life. I love being in a place where I can eat chocolate and enjoy it, and cook 'scary' meals and survive (and relish) them. I love that I'm surrounded by friends who care about me and whom I care deeply about. These things I love every day, but am especially grateful for today.

I'm trying my hardest to focus on the positives in life, and that can be difficult when things get rough. I get anxious about food and exercise on a daily basis, but I'm making progress, and those who love me are there for me (even my dogs). I worry about my success in school, and the temptation to throw in the towel is always there, but Mike and my family won't let me give in. Somedays it's hard just getting up, but I know I have people who care about me and who love me to guide me through the difficult days, and that keeps me going.

So for Valentine's Day, I plan on cooking my amazing husband a delicious meal, followed by the premiere of House of Cards. The dogs will get just-made dog cookies shaped like hearts (natch), and will be given extra lovings-just because. A quiet night, but a romantic one for us. Tonight's dinner? Vegan ravioli with homemade sauce, steamed green beans, fresh bread, and perhaps a glass of red wine. It will be simple, but perfect for us. And to follow that delicious dinner? Some tasty vegan chocolate.

Here are a SELECT few of my picks for some chocolate treats to round out your Valentine's-whether you celebrate or not.

Chocolove Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate
Endangered Species Organic Dark Chocolate & Cherry
Taza Chocolate Chipotle Chili Disc

And just if you're curious, the vegan ravioli I'm making isn't homemade (sorry-the sauce is!), but it's equally as tasty. You can find it here:

Soy Boy Original Ravioli


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Letting Go

My grandfather died today. I knew it was coming, but it still struck me. Hard. He was such a big part of my life, and I looked up to him in so many ways. To say that I will miss him would be an understatement. My grandfather never failed to remind me of how proud he was of me, and of how important I was to him. He knew I had an eating disorder, and while he never explicitly commented on it, he was always there to support me and to show me love.

I have been fighting especially hard lately, and part of it is due to my grandfather. He wouldn't want his granddaughter to live a life plagued by an eating disorder. He would want to see me happy, healthy, and caring for animals. He would want me to be free of this evil disease. He was a doctor, so he knew what the eating disorder was doing (and could do) to my body, and I'm not blind to what damage I've done either.

It's an uphill climb every day, but I'm working my hardest. I don't want to carry this eating disorder around with me any longer. I want to be healthy and happy, like my grandfather would have wanted and like my family and husband and friends want. I am digging down deep for the strength to fight back against the urges and the demands of the eating disorder, and I'm happy to say that lately, I've been on the winning end most of the time.

I feel like I'm finally shedding some of the eating disorder, even if the pieces I shed seem tiny to others. I'm doing things that make me uncomfortable, and I'm surviving. I'm proud of myself for that, and I know my grandfather would be, too.

I'm not saying that it's been easy to transition from being 'in' my eating disorder to fighting like hell to get out of it. Not at all. But I have a loving, supportive husband, a wonderful family, and caring friends, and they've been there for me. I also pay people to listen to me, so there's that. Mostly, though, I just want to live. Being trapped in an eating disorder isn't living. I have a husband to love, animals I adore, people I care about, things I want to learn and places I want to go..

If my grandfather's death has taught me anything, it's that life is precious. It sounds corny, but it's true. I don't want to waste any more of my life with an eating disorder. I'm think I'm finally starting to let go.




Monday, January 13, 2014

It Begins Again


Yes, it's that time again. School officially starts again tomorrow, and I'm trying to get myself psyched up for another semester of SUPER FUN CLASSES. Kidding. I do love learning, so I'm looking forward to getting back into the groove of things. My classes will be really challenging, but this break has not been as relaxing or refreshing as I wanted it to be. Without having something to focus on (say, school), I've been more focused on food and exercise. Not a good thing. 

I was in a pretty bad spot for a while, to be honest. I was really struggling to gain my footing, and have been doing a lot of soul-searching. I'm back on the right path, but everyday is a reminder of how hard this battle is. I want it to get easier, and I hope it does with time, but I know I need to work hard to get there. 

School will be a good thing for me. It will challenge me, keep my focused on my goals, and provide me with the stimulation I've been sorely lacking this past month (there's only so much time I can spend on the computer or watching re-runs of Parks and Recreation). Actually, I take that back-I could watch Parks and Rec all day-if the eating disorder didn't count that as being lazy. Yes, the eating disorder counts watching TV as being lazy. Ergo, I don't watch much TV until nighttime when the eating disorder has quieted down. Rationally, I know watching TV or movies or sitting and reading don't mean I'm lazy, but the eating disorder tells me I should constantly be doing something other than sitting and relaxing, so this hasn't exactly been a restful break. I have done a ton of journaling, a lot of mindless internet browsing, some yoga, and a lot of cooking and baking that I won't have time for once school starts...tomorrow.

I am working really hard to get myself to a better place mentally and physically, and I know school will help with that. Less time to ruminate over my meal plan, how much exercise I'm getting (or am allowed to get, I should say), less time to sit at home and focus on how anxious I am re: the eating disorder. The eating disorder is far less powerful when it has to take a backseat, and it certainly will take the backseat to school. It did last semester, and I'm fairly confident it will this semester. 

I have a huge motivator other than school, too. My little sister is getting married (!!!) in February, and I am her matron of honor. I want to make her and my family proud, not worried for my health. 

I don't want to keep carrying this eating disorder around with me. I'm so sick of it, and so fed up with its demands. They are always unfair, always unhealthy, and always put me and those I love in precarious positions. I have been fighting the good fight over here all month since I've been off, but it's time to kick it up a notch.

The demands of school won't last forever, though. I am working on finding ways to relax, finding ways to quiet the ed voices, and finding outlets for my anxiety that are healthy instead of destructive. This is where it gets hard. I've had this eating disorder for too long, and while I've said it before, I'll say it again- I do NOT want to be a poster child for anorexia. I want to be a recovery story. And I will be, as long as I remind myself that I deserve to be kind to my body, deserve to feed and nurture my body, and deserve to fuel my body in a healthful way.

I am anxious about starting school again- who wouldn't be? But I know it I'll get used to the routine, and I'll get used to being bombarded by work and projects and labs and exams... all of that good stuff that comes with being a student. That's a part of me that the eating disorder can't take away. It can't take away how strong I am, or how determined I am to win this battle. It can't take away how much I love being with animals, and how excited I am that I am in a program where I get to do exactly that. There's a lot it can't take away, and I'm proud of that.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm immersed in Microbiology or Algebra (suck it) or something equally as fun-filled. 

That's all I have for you today. Maybe next time I'll write a post about the joys of college math! NOT. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter Vegan Essentials


Along with freezing cold temperatures, winter brings dry air, wind, snow and outdoor activities. There are some essential vegan products I depend on to get me through these chilly months. I wanted to share them with you and suggest some products and ideas that might help you endure the joys of winter (I'm being sarcastic. I hate winter with a raging passion).

Hair

I recommend Giovanni's products as they have no wax, no parabens, aren't tested on animals, and leave your hair moisturized and silky smooth. For shampoo, I use their Smooth as Silk Deep Moisture formula. For conditioner, I use their Tea Tree Triple Treat Invigorating product.


Skin and Face

My skin is zapped of all moisture during the winter, so I depend on a few products to keep my skin smooth and silky. For body, I use Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Maximum Moisture lotion. I slather it on my arms, legs, feet..everywhere. For my face, I use Earth Science Naturals Almond Aloe moisturizer with SPF 15. It's always important to wear SPF, and even if the sun isn't always out in the winter, it's still possible to damage your skin during this season, so protect it! 


Makeup

I don't wear much makeup, but when I do, I shop Gabriel Cosmetics. In the winter, I get especially pale. While this isn't necessarily a 'problem' that needs to be solved, I don't like to look like a walking corpse. I use Gabriel Cosmetics blush in Apricot to add a little color to my face.

Keeping Warm

If you live where I do, winter is COLD. You need a good winter coat to live here. And boots, gloves, and a hat, and a scarf, and sometimes, a face mask. It gets that bad. It can be tricky to find cruelty-free products, so I've picked out a few things I think you might like.

For coats, avoid down. The feathers come from geese that are essentially tortured and plucked to death. Choose primaloft or some other synthetic form of down, or go for another type of winter coat instead. One good option is Patagonia's Women's Better Sweater Coat  or anything from the way-out-of-my-price range Vaute Couture

Patagonia's coat:


Toasty drinks and food:

To keep your belly warm, make sure to drink plenty of hot beverages. I'm a coffee girl in the morning, but throughout the day, I drink plenty of tea. My winter favorites include Yogi's Echinacea Immune Support, Good Earth's Organic Original Sweet and Spicy, and Numi's Chocolate pu-erh


For winter food, I make a lot of hearty whole grains like barley, bulgur, cook a lot of soups, and eat a lot of winter greens like kale and cabbage. I've included a soup recipe here that I absolutely adore. It's a chickpea and cabbage soup adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen's recipe. I also eat a lot of seasonal fruits like pears and apples, and when I'm missing summer fruit, I buy it frozen and add it to cereal or oatmeal.

Anyway, here's the recipe, and I hope this guide gave you some ideas for your vegan winter survival kit.



Chickpea Cabbage Soup (adapted from the PPK.com)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tsp. dried thyme
1 Tsp. dried sage
1 Tsp. dried parsley
1 Tsp. dried dill
1/2 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 lb carrots cut thinly
1 lb savoy cabbage or regular green cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head), sliced thinly
6 cups broth (homemade is best, but if you use store bought, make sure it is low sodium)
3 cups chickpeas, homemade or canned. If canned, drain and rinse.
salt and pepper

1. Warm a stockpot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once oil is hot, add onions and garlic. Stir for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add the herbs and about 1 Tbsp. of salt.
2. Add rice, cabbage and carrots and then pour in the broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once it has boiled, bring it down to a simmer and let cook for another 20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.
3. Stir in a little bit more salt and pepper, and serve with crusty bread.

Enjoy and stay warm!