Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Unicorn Dreams, Yoga, and Maple Syrup

I'm still not sure how it's already the middle of July. All year long, summer seems so far away, and then it gets here, and we realize that we actually spend a lot of it working . . . and then it ends. But I'm grateful to have this time to get to be with my mum and brother more.  (And at least Fall means plaid skirts, which are always a plus.)

I've got a lot of work to do to get ready for the school year starting. It may seem early to begin prepping, but I'm going to be applying to a speech pathology program, and I need to work on that before I'm tutoring and subbing every afternoon. My dream right now is to work in rehabilitation of some kind . . . and in my "unicorn dream," I hope to use yoga and art and writing therapies with children at Vesnova in Belarus. Does anyone else have a "unicorn dream"?

From Giphy

This August marks ten years since my grandmother passed away. She helped raise me and my brother, and we miss her red hair and freckles every day. I didn't really understand the extent to which she was sick (lupus, cancer, etc.) until after she died, and my heart goes out to anyone who's dealing with any sort of autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are like ghosts: they aren't always visible, but they're there, and they're felt.

They're definitely felt.

When I was little, my grandmother used to bake with me, and she liked to make pumpkin pie and apple crisp and a whole assortment of other gluten-free, allergy-friendly treats*. One of my absolute favorite parts of the baking process was getting to taste the batter because it had maple syrup in it.

Maple syrup is delicious.

But I haven't had maple syrup in the past several years because I've labeled it as "too sugary." Ugh, why? I know that there isn't any one perfect diet system and that dropping diets is the best thing that any of us dealing with disordered eating behaviors can do, but there are some principles of Ayurveda that have been helping me recently. Ayurveda actually recommends maple syrup for anyone dealing with excess Vata or Pitta. Certain eating disorder behaviors--like obsessing, restricting, and avoiding--fit really well with Vata and Pitta imbalances.

And Ayurveda aside, maple syrup is yummy and packed full of antioxidants. Why deprive yourself of that?
Image from Amazon.com

This morning I was baking muffins for our neighbors, and I picked up one of my favorite cookbooks (Deliciously Ella, yay!) to look for some ideas. I found Ella's blueberry muffin recipe, which calls for a lot of maple syrup. My initial reaction was to think, "Okay, what should I sub the syrup for? How can I make it less sugary?" But then I read her description of the muffins as nourishing, satisfying, and energizing, and I decided to drop my maple syrup avoidance and instead embrace the idea of trusting the recipe and trusting myself.

Interested in yoga? Try it here!

In yoga "class" (aka YouTube videos in the living room), I often hear to "trust the yoga." (Thank you, Adriene Mishler!) It's such a simple statement, but for anyone who struggles with feeling anxious or doubtful, releasing fear and control and just trusting the yoga is actually really liberating. It's all going to work out in the end. It's going to be fine! So today I trusted the recipe and just added the maple syrup, and as soon as I started pouring it, I remembered being four years old and sitting in my grandmother's kitchen tasting syrup off of the spoon while she baked.

Everything felt better in that moment.


Just breathe and trust.


*Note that I'm not pushing a gluten-free, etc., agenda or anything . . . my family just has a history of Celiac Disease and histamine issues. Any choices I reflect on the blog regarding vegetarianism or dairy or anything like that aren't fear-based.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Food Anxiety and Our Body-Mind Connection

Happy Thursday! I know I should get back to my "real work" soon, but I just thought to write this, and sometimes when I don't write things down, they end up getting lost forever.

Food anxiety is a topic that doesn't get a lot of attention in the mental health-o-sphere, but it's sadly a big part of so many lives, and the insidious irony is that anxiety over eating often causes many more issues for us than eating itself does. In eating disorders, we spend way too much time thinking about what we're going to eat/what we ate/what we "should" eat, and this just causes us frustration, worry, and pain.

From Healthy Place

For instance, one day, I made lunch, ate it, and then felt the effects of a little bit too much salt, so I immediately had this thought that I'd eaten "improperly." I don't eat a lot of salt usually, so whenever I have any, I "feel" it, and it's easy to go into "reaction" (i.e. anxiety) mode. 


But the thing is, there was no mistake. Food does not have moral value. Food will not make or break you. And when you're coming out of disordered eating patterns, one of the most important steps is to get comfortable with new foods and new feelings. If you've limited your salt intake significantly (note: eating salts like sea salt and pink salt is actually good for your health), then you'll be extra sensitive to it. If you haven't allowed yourself dessert in a couple years, then the first sweet treat you have may feel overwhelmingly sweet. Your brain will react first and start telling you, "Oh, no, you did something wrong!" But unless you're having an allergic reaction (which I've had, and it's no fun, so please avoid any legitimate allergens!), the chances are that you're experiencing more of a mind-over-body effect than anything else.

Mind-over-body can be used for good, but it can also be used for bad. If you're thinking, "Oh, I feel awful," then you might feel worse than if you're thinking, "I've got a strong, smart body that knows what it's doing."

I recently discovered the "Fear-Free Food" blog by Nicola Jane Hobbs, who is the author of Fear-Free Food and Thrive Through Yoga. One of Nicola's posts is about what she calls "Eating Essentialism":
Eating essentialism is about only focusing on the elements of eating that are absolutely necessary. So, rather than worrying about which lunch option has fewer carbs or whether your oats have gluten in (unless you are diagnosed coeliac), you can channel your time, energy and effort into more meaningful goals. (Nicola Jane Hobbs)

Basically, Eating Essentialism means casting aside the food rules we've accumulated over time (excluding allergy restrictions) and focusing only on a) eating without rules and b) eating enough to nourish ourselves properly. Drop everything else, and just focus on these two principles.

It's pretty liberating, right? I highly recommend checking out Nicola's other posts, which delve into meditation, intuitive eating, and recipes.

Something else that's helpful...spirituality! Pema Chodron says that, when in times of struggle, we need to "just be with" our struggle. She says, "people . . . have the capacity to feel" a whole range of feelings. We don't feel good all the time. That's the "richness of life," and in eating disorder recovery, there are a lot of times when we feel uncomfortable, so we want to pull away. We want to run away. But this is where a lot of addiction stems from. We're too scared to leave the little boxes we've created for ourselves because we're desperate to feel comfortable. Don't eat salt. It feels "different." 

No. No more rules. Everybody, let's step out of our boxes!!  "Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth" (Pema Chodron), and our bodies are stronger and smarter than we give them credit for. Get rid of food anxiety, trust yourself, and open your life up.

Let your life crack open and spill a gorgeous rainbow everywhere.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Thoughts on Spirit and Ego (and a Baby Sloth!)

I keep thinking it's a Wednesday, but it's still only Tuesday. Is anyone else having inner calendar struggles? 

I'm so grateful that the soccer team trapped in the cave has been rescued. My mum, brother, and I have been following that story on the news and praying that the team would make it out okay. So much courage and bravery on both the sides of those who were trapped and those who were trying to rescue them!

I recently found myself tumbling a little bit into the world of "let's look for labels!" again. Oops! I find a lot of security in "identity," and, while self-reflection is very meaningful, it can take a dark turn when it becomes overtaken by the ego.

Wait, what? 

The "ego," from a somewhat spiritual standpoint, is the part of the mind that is focused on how an individual is perceived by others, seeking importance and validation in often materialistic ways. Each of us has an ego, and, when it gets too powerful, it can completely drown out our sense of intuition. The ego can also manifest rather skillfully as an eating disorder. It takes everything that you really care about and casts it aside, turning fitness and dieting into overwhelming, dangerous idols.

Sadly, much of our current culture feeds the ego. Just look at the cover of any magazine and you'll see the next fad fitness trend or 10 ways to make yourself "better" (i.e. thinner, fitter, etc.). The ego grabs onto these messages enthusiastically: "Oh, look, you need to change! You need to work on yourself!" Essentially, we end up disconnecting from all that is intuitive and compassionate and going down a scary path into obsession, manipulation, and fear. The ego loves fear, and it teaches us that we need to "fix" something in order for ourselves to feel "whole" and ready to participate in our lives.  But deep down there's an inner voice--the one that is part of this great complexity we call the universe--that knows the ego isn't telling us the truth.

From Quotefancy

In her brilliant and beautiful A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson discusses the importance of disconnecting from the ego and reuniting with the spirit so that we can really get to know ourselves and remember what's truly important. No level of control over food and no dietary label is ever going to provide us with long-term happiness or security. We don't need to advertise some sort of identity to the world in order to be validated! Isn't that refreshing? Take a step back from the pictures on social media and the advertisements that flash brightly across the TV screen and ground yourself in the moment. You are here. You are now. All is well.

All is love.

And, if you need a cheer-up, here's this photo of Lunita the sloth:



Friday, July 6, 2018

A Banana is Not a Number

One of my absolute best memories from childhood is about granola. My mum got out of work very late most nights, but every Friday, she, my little brother, and I would watch a movie together. We called it "Friday Night Party Night," and it has become even more meaningful to me now that I know everything my mum was going through back then. Autoimmune disease. Working too hard for too little. Rent payments. Divorce. Etc.

One particularly cold, wintry Friday when I was five, my mum bought some of the raspberry-vanilla granola from the local vegan grocery, and she took me and my brother to the little video store down the street to pick a movie. We rented one of the Miffy and Friends VHS tapes and watched it while eating raspberry-vanilla granola like we had an endless amount of it. 

But in my eating disorder, granola became a "no" food. Too much sugar, too many calories, etc., etc. 

From Giphy

While there are granolas that include ingredients that will make my skin break out, there are also granolas that are skin allergy-friendly! Yay, acne-free granola time!

I found the Deliciously Ella website a few years ago, and today I decided that I no longer wish to live in a granola-less world. I picked one of Ella's granola recipes and preheated my oven. I didn't have many of the nut ingredients, so I subbed hemp hearts and extra walnuts in, and I needed to bake for longer than I should've because I messed up a bit.  But the feeling of pouring granola onto coconut yogurt and fruit for lunch today was really quite wonderful! 

While baking, I chose not to count calories or macros or anything like that. I understand that some people can count calories and macros in a totally healthy way, but I tend to let calorie/macro counts become very restrictive. If something has "too many" calories in it, I won't make it. But today I decided to tune into my body, trust the recipe, and trust myself instead of focusing on numbers. 

Our bodies are not calculators. The nourishment that comes from bananas, coconut, oats, walnuts, and almond butter = more important than numbers. 


P.S. For anyone with any sort of bloating/indigestion from eating crunchy treats like granola, I recommend soaking the granola in coconut yogurt and some stewed fruit before eating it. It'll make the granola sort of warm, but warmth can be good for your digestive fire :). 

We Aren't Paper Dolls


This is a word that I keep in my toolbox for times when my blood sugar drops but I don't want to acknowledge it. I'm not hungry yet. It hasn't been long enough since I last ate . . .
Our bodies are not made to be starved or deprived or forced. They're made as vessels for us to exist in, but we want them to look a certain way, so we decide that they're not good enough and that they need to be changed. Dieting, obsessive exercise, calorie counting, food rules . . . these are all just ways we've devised to manipulate and control our poor bodies when all they want is for us to love them and do what is truly best for them. Because we're all different, each of our bodies requires a different approach to wellness. Some of us need quiet time. Others of us thrive in social environments. Some enjoy long runs. Others love short yoga flows. But we're all equally worthy, and our bodies deserve the love and respect needed for them to thrive. 

So, nourish. We need to give ourselves what is "necessary for growth, for life" and for "health and happiness." We nourish ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Spirituality. Earth-friendly treats. Good friends. Experiences. Generosity.

I get that nourishing can be challenging when so much of what we see around us pushes deprivation. We don't like taking up space, and it seems so desirable to feel like a "paper doll." That's the term my mum uses. She says that, by restricting or punishing or escaping, we're trying to make ourselves into paper dolls. And it's becoming more and more clear to me how true this is. When my skirt doesn't hang off me, or when I feel my arm brush my side, or I sense my own physical presence, I often get panicky. Oh, no, what do I do? There's an insidious inclination for weightlessness--all bones, no skin, like a clothes hanger. A paper doll.

But we aren't paper dolls. We're humans. We're spirits inhabiting bodies that will fluctuate and change, and we have to accept that. We're only going to be here--in these forms--temporarily. Our bodies will eventually return to the stardust from which they were made, but while we have them, we have the obligation to respect them.

Of course, "respect" doesn't translate to "fear." There's a difference there. Back in my darker days, I would see things like "respect your body" and immediately start thinking of all the "rules" I needed to follow in order to be "healthy." Don't eat __. Work out __ times a week. Etc, etc, etc. Following rigid, restrictive rules is NOT respecting your body. That is fearing your body and treating it like it's "out to get you." Your body isn't seeking every opportunity to make you miserable, I promise. It's just doing its best, and all you have to do is make an effort to show your body that you love it. What does love mean? Well, for starters, eat food that makes you feel good physically and mentally. Don't punish yourself with food, and don't deprive yourself of food just because you don't feel like you've "earned it." Food = necessary for survival. When you have the opportunity, choose foods that are sweet to the planet . . . showing love for Mother Earth in the choices we make is rewarding and life-giving :).

Sending <3 for everybody!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Inspiration for Today

My brother this morning: "Is it really only Wednesday?"

The news this morning: going back and forth between tragic and inspirational.

We need more cute bunny stories and fewer heartbreaks.

Here's some inspiration for today. (I may have spent some time on Pinterest while getting ready for work . . . )

And, of course, a song:

"Life is Better With You" (Michael Franti and PS22 Chorus)

<3 Frances

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Eating Disorder Recovery, Triggers, and Rules

Hi, loves! We're kitty-sitting, and it's a Tuesday, and I just got back from an incredibly long day of camp counseling. I don't know where my thoughts go while I'm working . . . most of my brain seems to be so occupied by counting students and helping them that I don't even identify as my own person until camp lets out and all of a sudden my own mind rushes back into itself and I remember that there's more to my life than a hot glue gun and band-aids. LOL.

Coming home tonight, I turned the computer on and began working on my assignments for health class. We're learning about nutrition, exercise, and "weight management" this week, and when I saw all those words, I immediately remembered being 15 and in my first high school health class again. There were a lot of positive things about my health class, and I am grateful for all my teachers, but I definitely attribute my descent into disordered eating behaviors to the "calories in, calories out" and "watch what you eat" guidelines that I learned both from the media and from my textbook. The textbooks all mean well, but when you've got a predisposition for any sort of eating disorder, reading that "activity levels must balance out with caloric intake" can be really triggering.

I didn't understand quite how triggering they could be until just a few minutes ago, when I opened a worksheet about BMI, negative calorie requirements, and goal weights that caused me to break down sobbing to my mother.

I'm not criticizing any worksheets or assignments, and I've known people who have incorporated fitness goals and calorie counting very successfully and positively into their lives, but as a person in eating disorder recovery, a worksheet focused on calculating my goal "pounds to lose each week" is really, really distressing. It reminds me so much of the very first rules I chose to incorporate into my restrictive eating habits several years ago, and it speaks to the rules I am now working so hard to let go of.
Add caption

The tricky thing is that any diet or exercise advice I read becomes a "rule" in my head--something I have to abide by "or else." I don't take the advice to heart . . . instead I take it to a very deep, dark, addictive place within myself.
Eating late is bad for you? Omigosh now I need to stress about mealtimes. Drinking water is good? Better finish two bottles of water in the next two hours!
Sitting is dangerous? Stop sitting!  
If you're serious about recovery, you need to actively remind yourself that these rules are NOT what are keeping you "safe." Honestly, breaking these rules won't hurt you nearly as badly as stressing yourself out about them will.

Stressing out about following a "rule" is much worse than facing your fear of the unknown. 
 My challenge for you (well, for all of us) today is to ask yourself where your "rules" come from. Are they from a textbook you read? An article you skimmed? An advertisement you saw? Try to imagine your life without these rules:
What if you listened to hunger cues, not to a clock?
What if you could eat food prepared by other people?
What if it was okay to sit down?
What if snacks weren't the enemy?
What if the answer wasn't always "eat less, exercise more"?
Think about it, now. Would your life open up without these rules? Would you feel less anxious? We often rationalize our diet and fitness rules as protecting us from uncomfortable feelings like stress, indigestion, and breakouts, but I've actually found that the angst I feel over following all my diet/fitness rules actually causes stress, indigestion, and breakouts. When we're relaxed and willing to go with the flow and just accept our bodies(!), we feel SO much better.

I'm definitely not recovered yet, but I'm working on it. I know so much more now about myself than I did when I was 15 and calculating my BMI for the first time, and I'm not going to let myself let go of all the hard work I've done to pull away from restriction, addiction, and compulsion. Life with an eating disorder is not a fun one. It's freaking stressful, and I think that, if we really commit to recovery, we can get to the other side and find that flexibility, flow, and acceptance bring way more joy than dieting ever can.

<3 <3 <3