Odds and Ends of Some Writing

**Written July 27th, 2018**
I tend to see life where people are absent.
Just this afternoon I was driving down a narrow, forest-ridden winding road. With each turn came a new landscape. One bend brought a small shed, weathered with rain and snow and simply time. The next curve forced me to look across the road to a brook slithering under a wooden bridge, both coming from and leading to nowhere at all.
I steal quick glances. In this moment, they’re mine.
Today’s forecast promised grey skies.
Don’t you love when nature proves us mere guessing humans wrong?
The trees that line this road are tall, towering high above the ground and create a canopy overhead. Both sides are steep hills that become small mountains. This road a disturbance, a misfit with its home on the ground.
I glance up to the houses sitting triumphantly at the mountaintop. Pure sunshine trickles in through the cracks in the canopy, places where the trees tried and tried to reach each other but fell short. The beams of light are misshapen. Sunshine spills out where it can, maneuvering its way to the ground. On the woodchips and scattered tree branches. On the fallen logs and wild flowers and puddles of water leftover from yesterday’s storm.
It is in these moments that I see life, and I’m not sure why.
All I know is that I see, I feel, and then, I know.
There is something captivating about watching nature in an undisturbed state. The light’s ability to find its way all on its own. The way the silent hum of the engine beneath my seat falls deep into the background as I take it all in. A world on mute. I can’t hear my breath. I must be holding it, hiding it, but from what? Maybe it was taken. Nature, a thief.
I see beams, literal beams of light. They’re falling and yet they’re rising. An illusion, a comfort.
I trace the beams back to their source. Where did these pillars of magic come from? How can I see the shape of light? I feel special. Strong almost. Seeing beams is my special power. There is life in this light.
This sunshine. This light. It’s resilient, it’s present, and it’s certainly alive. It’s in this moment I long to be barefoot in the midst of it all, briefly considering pulling the car over, leaving the pieces of metal and rubber behind, chasing the swelling need to feel dirt beneath my feet.
Why is it that we don’t consider light alive?
This drive down this road was fleeting. Two minutes at most. And somehow, that was all I needed. To know.
The presence of this light was so strong. It chose its words carefully, speaking in feelings rather than words. Taking in the light as it hit the forest at every angle, in every possible area, I saw life. Undisturbed, allowed to live, to be. To not be expecting the light only to catch it radiating strongest as its heads toward sleep. Sunset.
There is no life in sight to disturb the beams. An absence of life, a void somehow filled with life itself. Life is mysterious. Where did this light come from, how will it return? Life is intoxicating. These beams, this warmth, it floods me with a rush of awe. Life is illuminating.
A winding road, a two-minute drive. Taken for granted all too often. A light show hides within the outskirts, in the places we’re not supposed to look. Eyes ahead, on the road. But brief glance to the hills, a visual climb up the mountainside. Where the people are not. That is where I see life.
Illuminating.

 

Plant-Based Protein: Tips and Tricks

**Written June 5th, 2018**

 

Three.

That’s how many protein bars I used to eat a day.

Three!

Two years ago, I was terribly misinformed. I didn’t challenge the information the diet industry put forward. Young and impressionable, I believed anything that a shredded spokesperson posted on their Instagram feed. So it’s not surprising that my relationship with protein has ran quite a varying course.

From what I understood, too much fat would make me fat, too many carbs would make me fat…but protein was safe. How did I know? I was mesmerised by body builders and bikini competitors, always insisting that the key to their desirable physiques was protein protein protein. Too much protein simply didn’t exist. The more, the better!

On top of adding protein powder to nearly everything, I was also eating large amounts of meat with lunch and dinner. Let’s break it down. On a daily basis, I was consuming heaping scoops of protein powder, greek yogurt, eggs, deli meat, chicken breasts, and protein bars. Most days two bars, some days three. To me, the bars were simply tasty snacks and nothing more. I never considered exactly how much protein I was eating. Not once did it cross my mind that maybe protein wasn’t as pure as the fitness gods painted it to be. It was only a matter of time before I realized that protein was more than just Quest bars that somehow tasted like a brownie but also helped me grow muscles without the fat and carbs I was taught to fear. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

Eventually I began to move away from being fitness-obsessed and dove into the world of plant-based eating. After endless amounts of research, I was finally developed a stable relationship with food. I learned that not all protein is the same; that the source matters. And the amount is not a free-for-all like I had thought.

Now that I have been (mostly) plant-based for over a year, I feel comfortable sharing my experience with this diet change. The hardest obstacle is getting enough protein, but after trial and error I’ve found what works for me!

Before, I was depending on protein bars and powders as my main sources of protein. More often than not, these products contain added sugars, sugar alcohols, artificial flavors, and animal products. I was under the impression that these other ingredients didn’t matter because all that was important was getting as much protein as possible. Clearly I was ignorant to the fact that long-term consumption of these additives on a daily basis would NOT work in my body’s favor.

Diet culture is heavily influential on today’s youth, especially those who are new to health and wellness. It’s far too easy to fall victim to the myth that people need heaping amounts of protein. There’s barely any chatter pertaining to the sources of our protein. Instead, we’re encouraged to worry solely about what protein can do for our outward appearance while neglecting its impact on our body’s functionality.

My story is just that; one personal account. I’m not here to provide nutritional advice as I’m not qualified to do so. However, sharing my experience may prove insightful for those inclined to revamp their own lifestyle decisions.

For the past year, I’ve been *mostly* plant-based. My biggest concern is finding balance, and balance is subjective. At first I tried to go vegan because I thought this was the best route for me. I barely lasted two weeks before my egg cravings went wild. Since then, I make the conscious effort to simply eat whole, real foods. Think of eating ingredients themselves, not foods with ingredient lists. Aside from eggs and salmon, everything else I eat comes from plants. These two foods are major protein sources for me, so I don’t plan on getting rid of them anytime soon!

I used to depend heavily on meat as my protein source. Sandwiches overflowing with deli turkey, huge stir fry dishes with two chicken breasts, you get the picture. Now that these aren’t options, I’m left to seek out plant-based sources of protein. Some of my favorites include:

  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Lentils (steamed, cooked)
  • Lentil or chickpea pasta
  • Hemp hearts
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans
  • Vegan protein powder (Nuzest is the only one I use! Discount code: “healthful_radiance” to save!)
  • Chia seeds
  • Nuts! (Nearly everything I eat is nut-based)
  • Almond milk greek yogurt (Kite Hill brand)

After removing animal products from my diet, and specifically changing all of my protein sources, I’ve noticed significant increases in my energy and mood. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific cause for one effect, especially since a lifestyle is made of many influential aspects, but I do feel that my protein sources and intake has contributed to these benefits. I feel stronger and more energized. I’m also not eating nearly as much protein as I had in the past. Less is more in this case! What’s hard is finding the perfect balance. Once I decreased the amount of protein I was having, I began to feel better overall. Naturally, I took this and ran with it. I thought this meant that cutting my protein down even further was the way to go.

No enough protein is just as bad too much protein. How did I know I wasn’t getting enough? Everyone’s body is different, but for me I experienced:

  • Low energy
  • Bad mood swings
  • Waking up lightheaded
  • Headaches

When these symptoms began to arise, I knew what to do: amp the protein up! I did this slowly and incrementally which helped me find a balance that left my body and mind at peace.

Life is all about getting to know yourself, and this is a process that’s constantly in flux. Everyday is another chance to learn. I often get asked exactly how much protein I eat in a day. My past with numbers has led me to choose not to know. I have spent years trapped between ranges of grams far too low, far from healthy. I’ve found my greatest success in listening to my body as opposed to a recommended value. However, I do recognize that for some people having a range or a set number is the best way to reach their goals and feel their best. All bodies are different. I can’t speak to any other body aside from my own. All I can do is provide my experience and hope it sheds some light on someone else’s situation. I’m not a professional, or even a student of nutrition (hopefully one day!) so I’m not comfortable giving direct advice or numbers.

If that’s the case, what do I want you to walk away with? This: you are not the next person. What works for them may not work for you. In all areas of life, trial and error are crucial. Nothing is fixed, permanent. Be willing to test new waters, new habits, new experiences. When it comes to health and wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We hear about “superfoods” all of the time, but not every single one works for every single person.

For example, you probably noticed that “collagen” isn’t listed on here. Why? It’s not because it’s an animal product (as you already know I’m very flexible about that). Instead, I don’t use it because I’ve tried it in the past and it simply doesn’t work in sync with my own body. After using collagen for about two months, I was experiencing extreme bloat and my digestion was off. I used up my supply, let it run out and didn’t restock. When I stopped adding collagen to my smoothies/drinks/etc., these symptoms were alleviated. This process of experimentation was so important for me. At first I felt guilty that this magic health wonder wasn’t working for me. I felt bad. I suddenly wasn’t healthy. But then I realized: I’m healthy for listening to my body and removing what was hurting it, not because I wasn’t conforming to the wellness world’s ways.

If collagen works for you, go for it! If you’re not sure, try it out. You are in control of your own wellbeing, to a greater extent than we tend to believe. I encourage you to experiment in a safe and fun way. Make sure you’re eating enough! Other than that, it’s free from here. The best part about food is that we need it all day, every day, for our entire lives…so you might as well have fun with it!

What’s the Word #3: Anxiety

**Written May 5th, 2018**

When I was a sophomore in high school, not only was I dying from an eating disorder, I was also diagnosed with social anxiety and major depression. Quite the intro to this post, I know.  Following this diagnosis, I was put on Lexapro, a medication used to treat both anxiety and depression. This was a decision that my parents and I finally came to after grappling with it for months. I was originally resistant to the concept of medication. I didn’t like the thought that a tiny little pill would mess with my brain chemistry. I thought it was a hoax. A money making scheme. A waste of time. I thought it meant I was weak, that I was incapable of picking myself up and dusting myself off. But then I reached rock bottom. I couldn’t make it through the morning without crying at least three times. I was missing school to hide at home. I couldn’t function. I felt defeated. I didn’t know where else to turn. So I finally agreed.

 

I think it’s important for me to be as transparent as possible on this platform. No need to hide anything. This is my story, and I’m here to share it with you all.

Let the word vomit begin.

  • First of all, I’d like to clear up a common myth. You do not need to be FORMALLY DIAGNOSEDfor your struggle to be validated. Whether that be an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, etc., what you’re going through is no LESSserious because a doctor didn’t acknowledge it. Far too often I’ll get a DM where the sender struggles with an eating disorder but “hasn’t been diagnosed”, so they conclude that it’s “not that serious”. This is an incredibly dangerous misconception and the stigma around diagnoses needs to be addressed. If you are struggling with an issue that is impairing your ability to lead a healthy and happy life, that is MORE THAN ENOUGH to get help for it. The situation should not have to get “bad enough” for someone to notice it and give it a name. You do NOT NEED TO BE EXTERNALLY VALIDATEDfor anything, ever.
  • This is not a proven fact or statistic but rather my personal opinion based on experience, but eating disorders tend to be COMORBID(meaning that there is a presence of additional disorders with a primary one). For me, my battle with anorexia left me craving isolation and the dark recess of my empty bedroom. I avoided socializing in fear of having to eat with others, and eventually this tendency led me to develop anxiety in the presence of other people. Totally not ideal for a student at a high school with nearly 4,000 students. I remember going to school everyday and feeling like I was suffocating in the hallway. I would take longer routes to class to avoid running into someone I knew. I hid in the bathroom between classes and during lunch. I wore hats and hoods to avoid being talked to. My anxiety made me want to disappear.
  • Let’s return to my experience with medication. There is a stigma around medicalizing mental health. I’m guilty of it too; thinking that someone who takes “happy pills” is weak, helpless. But being on the other side, I have a totally new perspective and appreciation for this option. Today, I’m passionate about holistic healing and Ayurvedic practices. I prefer herbal remedies over antibiotics, that kind of thing. But when I was fifteen, withering away, skin and bones, struggling to even hold my head up…the circumstances were different. I simply didn’t have the luxury to pursue any other course. Medication stabilized me. I started off with a relatively low dosage and worked my way up. The first couple of weeks I remember feeling a lot more at ease in the face of situations that would normally drive me wild (my eating disorder had this rule that I HADto wait exactly five minutes between bites of a meal…a couple of weeks on the medication and I remember feeling less anxious about breaking that rule). I’d say around two months I began to feel unmotivated to do anything, and sometimes nauseous. I can’t speak to why this was, but I remember crying to my mom that I had so much to worry about (SATs, AP courses, pre-college program applications) yet could not find an ounce of drive within me. It was as if I were dragging through the days. After about six months on a decent dosage, my doctor and I agreed that I could begin lowering my dosage. I found Lexapro to help ease my anxiety but it amplified my depressive nature. EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT.I don’t regret taking this medication one bit. I believe that it created a stable foundation for me to begin challenging the debilitating fears that allowed my eating disorder to thrive. Once I was able to start knocking these down, coupled with coming off of the medication, I began to focus more on my depression. Story for another post. Overall, I was on Lexapro from the end of my sophomore year right up until the month before I left for college. The last two years the dosage was extremely low and I was only taking it every other day. It’s so important to carefully and slowly wean off of medication. Brain chemistry is serious!
  • During my sophomore year of high school, I kept a diary in the Notes app of my iPhone, constantly journaling all of my irrational worries and anxieties. I found this to be a source of comfort and a space to release my pent-up worries. I’d write all throughout the day. In bed each night I’d read through the day’s log. Seeing my irrational fears in words helped me realize they were just that-IRRATIONAL.
  • A lot of what made me anxious was related directly to my eating disorder and fears I had about food, my body, and exercise. That being said, they were pretty irrational and simply WILD. If I didn’t do 200 crunches each morning before school, the anxiety would eat me alive, insisting that I would “get fat” and “lose my progress”. What helped me overcome these fears was VOCALIZINGthem out loud. I remember the first time I did this. I stood in the mirror, took a deep breath, and said, “If I don’t do 200 crunches before school, I’m going to get fat”. Just HEARINGthat, seeing the words leave my mouth…I realized how absurd it was. It made me realize that if I ever heard someone else say it, I’d go crazy. I’d insist it wasn’t true. But why would it be different for me? This conclusion allowed me to work through similar bouts of anxiety as well.
  • My biggest tip for dealing with anxious situations is to be mindful of rationality. I can’t stress this enough. Are you anxious because going to a family party means having to take a day off from the gym? Sit with the discomfort. Why are you anxious about skipping? Is it because you think something catastrophic will happen if you were to give your body rest? Will you really feel happier after another workout over a day spent making memories with loved ones? Are your fears rational? Anxiety, at least from my experience, is based heavily on fears generated by irrational thoughts. Taking the time to recognize what is worth fear and what is not can make all of the difference.

NYC Fitness Studio Round-up

**Written April 11th, 2018**

 

I’ve been an athlete my entire life. Growing up, I played just about every sport (except basketball for some odd reason??), so my love for movement was instilled in me at a young age. Looking back, I realize how easy it was for me to slip into my orthorexic tendencies. Between my eating disorder and exercise addiction, my recovery called for prolonged exercise restriction in order to restore the lost weight. For me, this period lasted about six months. I was frustrated and anxious, but the wait was well worth it. It provoked a sense of gratitude for my body’s abilities and strength that I had never had before. Since then, I’ve focus a great amount of energy on exercise and its role in my life. Living in NYC, I have a wellness hub at my fingertips. This school year, I’ve made a point to explore all types of movement, striving for balance in my workouts. Up until this past August, I had never taken a group fitness class. Now, I take about two or three a week. I love them! There’s just something about being in a room with like-minded individuals who are just ready to w o r k. I find I can push myself to greater lengths when I’m being coached by an instructor and am fueled by the vibrant, positive energy of my teammates.

One of the most important things in life is variety. In the realm of fitness, it’s critical to vary the ways you move your body. Doing the same workout on repeat will become muscle memory. Your body won’t be excited or worked in new ways, and you’ll inevitably plateau in your wellness journey. Keep your body guessing and you’ll see results. That’s why I love switching up the studios I go to; each one challenges me and moves my body in new ways. Here’s a list of all the NYC studios I’ve been able to try this school year!

Barry’s Bootcamp:

The first time I went to Barry’s I opted for a double floor workout. You have the option of either staying on the floor the entire time or splitting your workout so you’re on the floor for half and doing treadmill work for the other half. The class is focused on different exercises using weights, resistance bands, and other equipment. Depending on the class you choose, you’ll work upper, lower, or full body. I was intimidated by the treadmill element the first class, but after leaving I regretted not doing it. Double floor was pretty repetitious (you do a circuit while the runners are running, and then they come join you for the same circuit again). The second time I went I bit the bullet and tried the treadmill, and I’m so glad I did. It was so much fun pushing myself to try a new way of moving and how it called for me to use  different muscles I don’t normally use. Love how the studio is dimly lit with red lighting (because dark lighting is my best lighting, you feel?)

Favorite Class: Chest, Back, and Abs

Rate: 8/10

Fhitting Room:

I love the structure of these workouts. You begin with a warm-up, then move through circuits. This studio really emphasizes group work and partnering, which is so much fun because you feed off of each other’s energy and hype and it’s just great. I’ve met so many awesome athletes here that pushed me to get in just one more rep. You can take class with about 20 other people or opt for the Pit option, which is a more intimate class of about 12 people. I love the Pit classes, and prefer it to the general class, but they fill up quick. I don’t find the workouts here too challenging overall, but I have had some instructors who really killed it. Depends on who you get. However, I don’t go into every single workout looking to be pushed to exhaustion. I love Fhitting Room because it always creatively moves my body, and I’ve honestly learned a lot from the instructors here!

Favorite Class: FhitPit Fhix

Rate: 8/10

Tone House:

Okay. Not to play favorites, but Tone House is my favorite. Huge shout-out to my friend Seth (@kaleforniakitchen) for recommending this death sentence to me. Tone House is a killer workout. It’s like personal training on steroids. If you can survive the warm-up, you can do anything. I’ve never been challenged so much in my life. The instructors are kick ass. The workout is the athlete’s dream. There’s speed work, agility, strength, tears…you know the deal. I’ve only ever taken the 101 intro class and have 0 plans to graduate from it. The regular class is actually for superhumans and marathoners alike, so trust me on this and embrace the 101 class. Every time I’ve hit the turf here my classes have been no larger than 8 people, and I loved it. We were constantly moving onto the next challenge, always rooting for each other, and striving to work as a unit. I’m always sore for at least five days after I leave the House. I. Love. It. My favorite workout by far. Because it’s so intense, however, I make sure to space out my visits to give me enough recovery time (once a week, but usually I go once every two weeks). Totally recommend.

Favorite Class: TH 101: Core

Rate: 10/10

Physique 57:

Physique 57 is a pilates-based studio. I’ve always been drawn to more HIIT, CrossFit training styles. My mom is a big fan of this workout (they have at-home tapes that she raves about) so I figured I’d try it out and test new waters. Honestly, it was incredibly challenging for me to just slow down. However, I liked the heightened focus on really feeling each movement and being mindful of how my body was working. I took an intro class, but I did find it to be a tad easy and not exciting enough for me personally. It was nice to take a break from my usual intensity, but I wasn’t captivated with this experience. Not for everyone, and that’s okay! Totally not discrediting how hard this workout, or pilates in general, is. It takes a great deal of strength and does help shape, tone, and sculpt your body. The instructor was wonderful, and the class was about 20 people. I didn’t have a bad experience here, I just wasn’t hooked. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for something new though!

Favorite Class: Signature

Rate: 5/10

SLT:

First semester, I was at SLT on a weekly basis. This class is pilates revamped. You do the entire workout on a megaformer. The workout calls for a lot of resistance and strength work. The first time I walked into the studio I was intimidated; I had never encountered anything like the megaformer. However, it was an Intro class, and the instructor made sure to take the time to walk me through how the machine worked and how the class would be run. I instantly felt comfortable. I really enjoy SLT because it’s a workout I could never replicate on my own, so I definitely get my money’s worth. I haven’t been in awhile, but I’d love to get back there soon! My favorite way to switch things up by far.

Favorite Class: SLT All Levels

Rate: 8/10

SoulCycle:

Ahhh, how did this one not come up sooner? I only began riding at Soul after a friend of mine at school asked me to take a class with her. Since then, I’ve been riding weekly. Before this year, I had only cycled here and there at my home gym. Cardio isn’t my favorite, but in my effort to expand my horizons, I opened up to Soul. Yes, it’s pricey, but I think it’s well worth it. I’ve taken some classes that felt like a waste of my money. My advice is to find an instructor you love. They change everything. I take the same class on Tuesday nights after work and it’s the highlight of my day. The instructor encourages lots of resistance as opposed to choreography, which I appreciate so much. This 45-minute ride once a week has definitely improved my stamina, made me stronger, and most importantly helps me focus on de-stressing and recentering myself after a long day spent between school and the office. Even if you can’t make it a consistent thing, I encourage you to try it at least once. The overall experience is kick ass.

Favorite Class: SoulCycle

9/10

Brick NYC:

I found Brick on ClassPass. It’s a similar workout to Fhitting Room in that its HIIT workout focused that is broken up into circuits. You work with partners and groups for most of it, so I liked that element. However, even after a few classes here, I’m not hooked. The workouts are not overly challenging, and sometimes too simplistic. Some of the instructors I’ve had spend a lot of time talking and then the workouts are cut short. I’m sure I just had a few off-classes, but I don’t feel like I get my money’s worth. Many of the circuits I’ve paid to do here I could have easily done in the small living room of my apartment. Not my favorite!

Favorite Class: B l X

Rate: 5/10

 

What’s the Word #2: “Health”

**Written April 5th, 2018**

 

“Health”.

Quotes. Why? Because without them, you’re likely to think of the term as defined by the wildly vast expectations society has associated with it. On a daily basis, we’re constantly fed ideas of what health is, what foods are healthy, what diets are not, etc. In the midst of this information whirlwind, we always forget the most important thing about health…it’s relative.

  • What’s healthy for one person isn’t necessarily healthy for the next person
  • Health is more than what you eat and how you move…it’s what you choose to think about, how deeply you love, how accepting you choose to be. It’s how free you are in the body you were given, how open you are to embracing what comes your way, and how passionately you take charge of your life.
  • Whether it’s in real life or over Instagram, I’m constantly being asked “how are you so healthy?” and it makes me want to SCREAM. I know what is being referred to, but I just wish those who ask would realize something. When you comment on my “healthy” lifestyle, you’re referring to dedication to the foods I choose to eat and the way I choose to move my body. However, it’s not these surface level elements that make up health. I’m “healthy” because I eat foods that contribute to the overall well-being of my body, but also to my mental sanity. I enjoy eating plant-based. It just so happens that this choice also benefits the literal health of my body. I’ve been an athlete all my life, so I love to move. It just so happens that this choice also benefits the literal health of my body.
  • Too many of us are consumed with the idea of wanting to be “healthy” but have irrational interpretations of the concept. Smaller is not healthier. Less food is not healthier. More exercise is not healthier.
  • I spent years trying to be “healthy”. It was mentally taxing, to worry about every little thing I ate, trying to make every second at the gym count, etc. When I finally burned out, let go, and shifted my focus toward living my best life, only then was I able to find the peace of mind that to me, is health.
  • We tend to praise people for being “healthy” when we can see outward signs that we attribute to health. Think lean bodies, muscles, etc. What we have to do instead is accept that health is an inward manifestation. It will reveal itself outwardly, but not in superficial ways. When I feel my healthiest, my eyes look different. Brighter, lighter, not as empty. That kind of thing.
  • As long as you’re working toward self-love, body acceptance, and overall peace of mind, you’re pursuing health. Keep going.
  • I’m not healthy because I eat vegetables, I’m healthy because I ENJOY DOING SO.
  • “Health” has emerged in recent years as a trend, and this is both good and bad. It’s amazing to see so many people taking initiative toward fueling their bodies with whole, real foods. It’s incredible to see so many people coming together to move their bodies, to get stronger. However, with the heightened attention around health, there is opportunity for plenty of misinformation to circulate. There are hundreds of trends circulating. Which diet is best? Healthiest? One day carbs are bad, the next day it’s fat. Is Bulletproof coffee actually good for me? Should I only be baking with almond flour? It’s overwhelming to keep track of everything. And trying to do so, while it may seem to be done in the name of health, is actually doing the exact opposite. It’s stressing you out. Stop. Obsessing.
  • So you see your favorite Instagrammer promote a certain diet or trend. Don’t feel pressured to pursue it yourself. They are not healthier than you for doing so. You are not less healthy for choosing not to.
  • Health is impossible to talk about without referring to food. Keto, paleo, vegan…there are copious amounts of diets that you likely feel pressured to explore. Forget labels. Ask yourself what your body needs at the moment. Some days all I crave are high fat foods. Don’t think for a second there aren’t days where I eat two full avocados…my wallet doesn’t forget them 🙂 Other days, all I can think about are carbs. Those days, lots of starchy foods will go down. I can’t tie myself to one label. It’s not in my best interest to do so.
  • Don’t be intimidated by your health journey. Everybody’s path is different. Look to others for ideas, inspiration, and motivation. Then, fall in line as needed. Listen to your body’s needs. You are not that person you admire so deeply. Learn from them, but in respect to your own body, mind, and spirit.
  • Health is eating vegetables but not being afraid of sweets. Health is crushing it at the gym but then taking three days off to rest and be social. Health is a balance, not an extreme.
  • Health. Is. Relative. Don’t forget it!

What’s the Word #1: Recovery

**Written March 31st, 2018**
Today’s word? Recovery.

What I plan to do with these is to simply make a list of anything and everything that pops into my head that’s relevant to the word. Bullets probably won’t flow coherently from one to the next; rather, it’ll read more as a stream of consciousness type of list. Hopefully these can be helpful in getting to cover a larger scope of details about the word as opposed to focusing on one point about it!

  • (I know I’ll get asked this) My eating disorder recovery consisted of two inpatient stays, one php program, three or four completely different outpatient teams, 10+ therapists and nutritionists, an attempt at FBT (family-based treatment), and a whole lot of relapsing. Way to set the vibes for this post. Cool.
  • Recovery is not a one and done deal. My personal opinion is that nobody 100% recovers. Before you label me a pessimist, let me explain. For me, at least, I know that “life after recovery” means living with consistent strength. I can’t unlearn the terrible behaviors and beliefs that are rooted so deeply in my brain. I can’t unlearn what a certain amount of calories looks like, or what it feels like to behave in a specific way. I’ll always know those things. I’m not in recovery anymore. Not in the conventional sense. I’m years past my eating disorder. However, I believe that everyday is a choice, a choice to accept that I know these things, and subsequently choosing to defy their irrationality.
  • If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not in recovery. The defining characteristic of recovery is that you’re experiencing discomfort. Why? Recovery implies that you are taking on a challenge, moving past a time of comfort and familiarity and choosing to leave it behind. That’s scary.
  • Be willing. Every relapse I’ve faced had been the result of me shutting down, rejecting change.
  • It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your life. But not a day will pass years later when you’re not flooded with gratitude for it. When the sun bleeds through your window and wakes you up, and you roll over and look out and realize, hey, life is good, it’s worth waking up for, I have a place, I’m capable…do it for those moments.
  • Recovery has to be the most selfish time of your life. Comparison will kill you. This is the hardest part about recovery. You have to watch everyone around you do the things you itch to do, and have to accept that you can’t. Watching my sisters play sports and grab 100 calorie snack packs for breakfast-on-the-go made my ED furious. All I wanted to do was prove that I could do “better” (workout two times as hard, fueled by nothing at all). This is the fine line between relapse and recovery.
  • Positive self-talk saved me. Constantly reminding myself that the discomfort is temporary.
  • Distract yourself! Recovery fails when taken on in the solitude of your room. You’re going to be thinking about food and exercise way too much. You’re going to want to fall back on old habits. Keep busy. Be willing to socialize. Realize that the pain in socializing is far less destructive than the pain of isolation. Especially when in that isolation you are free to relapse.
  • Have fun with it! This is a time where there is so much unexplored territory. Find yourself. When the distractions of food, exercise, and body image are stripped away, what can you dedicate your time towards instead? In my recovery I found that I actually love to color, and read books upon books. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed learning; my time with my disorder left me with brain fog and stripped my appreciation for school. Once I began to recover and leave behind these detrimental behaviors, I found myself again.
  • Don’t focus on “eating healthy” in recovery. Today, I’m a strong advocate for whole foods, but I hate the word healthy. Health is relative; what is healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. In recovery, health means something world’s apart from health for a person who is stable in body and mind. Accept that right now, you are not the latter. In recovery, “healthy” means anything that will bring you to the point of stability. I constantly get asked how to gain needed weight “the healthy way” and I want to scream. I restored 50+ pounds and did so by eating whatever I wanted. I saw recovery as a time to finally, finally after four years, honor my body and enjoy the foods I was craving. Was I scared? Like hell. But I decided to see recovery as a time of letting go of responsibility, at least for the time being. Eating disorders are reliant on being in control; passing on the responsibility of food to my doctors, hospital programs, and my parents took off so much pressure. I was finally able to breathe and focus on working through other issues.
  • You’re not better than recovery.
  • You need recovery.
  • You’re not weak for choosing recovery.
  • Stick to it. You’re going to want to give up almost daily in the beginning. Don’t. Talk to someone instead. Reach out. Go downstairs and tell your mom that you’re really uncomfortable in your changing body. Call your best friend and cry and don’t explain why, just get it out. Reach out to ME.
  • What’s scaring you about recovery? Take the time to write these fears out or say them out loud. Getting them out into the open and evaluating them from an outside standpoint allows you to realize how irrational your fears are. I used to always cry to my mom that I was scared to eat more because my body would change. Then I realized, wait, isn’t that the whole damn point of recovery? To improve my relationship with my body? To become more accepting of it? How would I be able to do that if I stayed stagnant?
  • Your recovery will be 100% from the next person’s. Embrace the fact that there’s no blueprint, no set of steps or rules. As long as you are bettering yourself, your health, your mind, your body, you are recovering.
  • It’s crucial to maintain good decision-making throughout your recovery. Every single action and thought impacts how well your recovery goes. At this point in your life, you’re extremely fragile. It won’t be like this forever, but for the time being, it is. So pay attention to that. Make plans accordingly. Will going out with this specific person trigger me right now? That kind of thing.
  • Did I mention how harmful comparison is? Yes? Am I bringing it up again because it’s critical? Major league yes. FOCUS ON YOU.
  • The current state of treatment centers infuriates me. I’ve watched countless people get sent away from inpatient care or released far too early in the name of insurance coverage. I promise you, if this is an issue that is stopping you from getting treatment, you have the ability to fight it. Be persistent. It’s an intimidating hurdle, and unfair, and frustrating, and cold and cruel and impersonal, but you can fight it. As legit as it seems as an obstacle, it can be overcome. For those who aren’t familiar with what I’m referring to, insurance companies will evaluate patients based on a mere set of numbers to see if they still need to be in treatment. This is wrong. Eating disorders are mental manifestations. They fail to be captured in their entirety through a set of numbers. The need to meet a number determined by some stranger in order to be declared “well” is disgusting. I was in treatment for months; I watched those who needed the same be sent home after a week. There’s steam coming out of my ears right now.
  • Accept all the help you can get.
  • It’ll come up, someone will ask, and I’m an open person about all this bullshit. Was I on meds? Yeah. Try staying inpatient for months and not finding yourself on that pharmacy line every morning and night. Even after treatment, I was on low dosages of medication. I’m not a doctor, and definitely not comfortable providing medical advice as I’m not qualified to do so. Do I think these helped me? I was diagnosed with general anxiety and depression, and was taking a medication that worked to alleviate the symptoms of both. I think this definitely helped me in my most vulnerable stage of recovery. Once I was more stable both mentally and physically I was able to slowly come off. A story for another time. But the point is don’t be so adamant to think you’re above any sort of option.
  • Don’t go into recovery expecting anything. Understand that life works in funny ways. Everything happens for a reason. The course of your recovery is unknown. Embrace that. Don’t expect anything other than for it to be hard, but worth it.