Not allowed to speak up?

What got me thinking today were both a omment on a recent post – one of those comments that didn’t appear on the blog for a reason – I received and a lot of what I’ve seen in the blog world for months. The overall topic being: Am I in a position to offer advice and help? Entitled to do so? I’ll get my thinking cap on with Amanda again and hope you can make sense of the thoughts running through my mind.

Thinking-Out-Loud

It breaks my heart to read blogs by – most often – girls younger than me who very clearly show signs of the same disorder I’m battling. Highly voluminous vegetable-filled meals lacking fat or actual [grain or potato] carbs fueling intense hour-long workouts. And: nobody stepping in. People commenting like they didn’t see the signs. Or: maybe they don’t?

Who am I – still in recovery myself – to offer help to these girls? Shouldn’t I rather focus on myself only and keep silent? I’ve been mulling this in my mind over. And over. And over. Like I said: touchy. But back to the point of non-recovers potentially overlooking signs: it’s a possibility.  Once you’ve been there yourself your senses are sharpened for any kind of alerts that could potentially cover an ED in disguise. The piles of vegetables while claming to love carbs. Even a certain kind of appearance that people will claim is in their genes. It might be – or not.

However, I feel that at times it’s especially because we’re personally affected that we can offer help and advice so well. I’ve experienced this myself before. It often wasn’t until somebody affected themselves stepped up and shook some sense into me. Would I still be eating watery vegetable soup without so much of a grain and work out even when injured if I hadn’t had somebody step in and tell me to stop? Possibly yes.

No, I’m not recovered and not claiming to be. But I’m doing better than two years ago. A year ago. And if anything I can help others get to this point, too, or offer to lend an ear. It’s much easier to confine to somebody who can actually relate to your struggles rather than a well-meaning family member or friend who wishes you could “just eat more again“. If only it was that simple. Also, somebody who knows it isn’t that easy won’t judge you in the same way. Sometimes it’s easier to entrust yourself to strangers.

Additionally, from my experience there were many people talking behind my back but very few who dared to approach me to offer help. I don’t blame them: the disordered mindset is mystery if you haven’t gone through it yourself. What I’ve found from past times of offering support to other recoverers and vice versa is that it helped me see areas I needed to work on even better. It also served as a reminder why recovery is so worth it.

One word of caution, though, is the comparison trap: seeing somebody else struggle with something you thought you’d left behind [like cutting carbs at every occasion] can be triggering. But it can also be a positive reminder of progress you made and didn’t notice before.

All of this doesn’t just ring true for eating disorders, though. Any kind of mental or physical health issue is easier to communicate among others in the same situation. We’re united in the struggle – as ironical as that is.

Where this leaves me? Still a little on the fence. What I know is that I don’t want anybody – myself included – to struggle even longer. And if I don’t see others intervening – maybe I am ‘allowed’ to do it? This is the concept self-help groups are built on, after all. We can support each other and work towards the better.

Happiness-inducing today: A good conversation with a colleague.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
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Again, you might not agree and I’m open for other opinions. Share your thoughts!

Embrace the Discomfort

Happy New Year!

Living in Germany I had an early start [nine to ten hours ahead, I think?] to most of you so it feels almost late to say it just now after sending a dozen greetings into the world last night already.

By now, Christmas was probably the time of the year that had me face the biggest struggles but also helped me grow. Christmas – the season of change?  It definitely seems like that for me looking back not only at the one that just passed but previous years, too. While I don’t make my recovery a focal part of my blog I want to share those experiences that I hope some of you will be able to relate to and might find helpful on your own journey. Because I know that’s what I appreciate in other bloggers sharing their stories, too. Thanks to Amanda [who has been a great inspiration for me, too] for offering a motto to go on about my thoughts and reflections of the past holidays and what I learned from them.

Thinking-Out-Loud

Both in terms of exercise and food Christmas has been forcing me to work against the discomfort in past years. But ever since I started blogging and at that also committed to recovery more seriously – key word accountability! – I’ve seen progress.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Christmas wasn’t easy for me. Partly because of some personal issues and partly because of – you guessed it – food. In the safety of my own apartment it’s easy to avoid trigger foods and stick with my regular [and yes, on stressed days “safe”] meals. Elsewhere? Temptation all around. Starting with the immense boxes of grandma’s Christmas cookies, her Rotkohl, my mum’s stash of treats I wouldn’t buy myself, … Here’s the deal: I could have tried to resist, eaten piles of apples only, deprived myself. Been there, done that. It’s easy to say where this behaviour has gotten me during the past: nowhere. Stuck in place. Not facing my fears.

Christmas_cookies

What many of the treats around had in common and hence a reason why I was perfectly okay saying no to them is they all contained eggs. As you might kn0w these are not part of my diet. Select dairy products [no gelatin, no animal rennet] yes, eggs: no. No exceptions here. Until now.

They say ‘When in Rome’ – for me it was: ‘When at home‘. For the three days of Christmas celebrations I gave myself a free pass of eating all the treats and sugar I wanted. Did I feel I afterwards? Oh yes. Stomach aches ensued – that’s what’s to be expected when reintroducing a food we haven’t eaten in years – but they were worth it. What was best, though, is the amount of guilt I felt: hardly any. At least not while eating.  Later on I had a small bout of nausea and blaming myself for not resisting temptation.  However, this wasn’t my … voice. What I feel to be one of the main points in recovery is telling apart the healthy and disordered voice.  Blame for giving yourself permission to fully enjoy the holidays or even life in general? Without a doubt disordered. Like me, I’m convinced you’re SO fed up adhering to these thoughts.  And the only way to break the spell is embracing discomfort.

Do I see myself adding eggs back into my diet after going [rough guess] three+ years without them? Absolutely not. The idea anything with a visible egg yolk still grosses me out [sorry to any friends of #yolkporn], egg white oats don’t appeal to me and I don’t actually miss eggs. But it was the deprivation of some of my favourite treats that was so hard to endure. Any diet we follow should not make us feel constantly deprived and unsatisfied. And satisfied I was after eating my grandma’s cookies, seeing her face light up when I did and enjoying seconds of the calorie- and sugar-laden delight that is cinnamon parfait was invaluable. Christmas should not be about the food but about the ease of mind while eating. That’s what pushing myself past the guilt of straying from my diet did. I felt guilt-less, happy, simply like everybody else scooping more of the ice cream into their bowls and enjoying the sugar rush.

Cinnamon parfait_ice cream

Not the prettiest picture at all but it was THE best dessert I’ve eaten in a long time.

I went over my ‘calorie budget’. I ate more sugar in a single day than I usually do in a week. I indulged in egg-containing treats.  Does this make me an awful person?  Some people might think so. However, I disagree. Reminding myself common advice doesn’t apply to anybody in this situation as well as – blogs are a blessing –  knowing this is normal in recovery I found ease of mind.  This is not me waiting for a pat on the back. I’m not the first breaking free from rules my ED had set for me. I want to encourage anybody to rethink if the choices they are making are genuinely in the interest of feeling good. Or a means of restriction.

What I want to stress is that I don’t in anyway think veganism was a disorder.  It’s not. Like any diet veganism can be as healthy or unhealthy as the individual follower choses. My issues with food go deeper. Neither did choosing veganism start my ED  nor was giving up on it the miraculous cure. I still eat a largely vegan diet and can see myself go fully vegan in the future.  But I want it to be for the right reasons. Namely ethics [that’s why I’m lacto-vegetarian] and taste.  Veganism has introduced me to many new foods, inspired my creativity in the kitchen and connected me with a great community of like-minded people. And really, this isn’t about the diet we choose. Just like eating disorders aren’t actually about the food but identifying the underlying reasons and working on those.

Wow, this got a lot longer than planned so I’ll finish it here. Way to start 2015 on a wordy note.

Happiness-inducing today: Excitement for what’s to come in the new year. This could be one filled with changes and I’m learning to embrace the unknown.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
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Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

Looking back and moving on

Many of you will know it already: it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness [NEDA] week. It might say national but knowing the blog world and the fact that eating disorders affect people all of the world it’s needless to say it’s going to be international. For this What I ate Wednesday I’m going to share some recent meals and snacks as well as some reflections on the progress I’ve made over time. Thanks to Jenn for hosting!

WIAWbutton_1

Like I mentioned in my post on Monday I’ve been trying to figure out what works best for me in terms of my diet. There were some recent changes to my daily routine [sorry for being vague here for now] that in turn require me to deviate from my previous meal schedule. As in: no more snacking all around the clock. Sunday, however, was all about that. Mainly due to my breakfast of choice at first …

Spoon_bread

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that the bread pudding wasn’t a tasty choice. But even with the bread in there going for a hig[er]-protein option instead of my usual bowl of oat bran didn’t do the trick. It took a lot more almond butter and more fruit on the side to get satisfied. Not for long, though. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I felt the need for a snack …

With recovery in mind this was a positive change for me, though. For years I felt like I needed to stick with the lowest calorie options. If I ate breakfast at all it was something I wouldn’t even consider anything close to a proper meal nowadays. And eating again this soon afterwards just because I didn’t feel quite satisfied? No, I’d try my best to sit it out. Wait. Drink a cup of tea to fill the void in my stomach. And count down the hours until the next time I’d be ‘allowed’ to eat.

Cereal

Did my family notice all of this? Yes. Did they try to intervene? A million times. But were they able to help? No. Because recovery is a choice we have to make ourselves. No matter how insistent my mum was about me eating that bowl of soup, drinking the full-fat hot chocolate in a coffeeshop when we were out shopping or making me have a whole-grain roll for dinner [only for me to nibble on it and discard the largest part in an unobserved moment]. I’d freak out about the unknown calories and try to make up for it the rest of the day. Or better yet: by cutting down my intake the whole next day. It wasn’t fun – but it made me feel in control. When actually, it was the eating disorder taking control over me, robbing me of joy in food and life in general. Eating something like chips straight from from the bag while watching a movie on a rest day? Impossible.

Flips

These days I’ve gotten a lot less strict about which foods I eat, experimenting and coming up with own recipes and keep getting better about going with my cravings no matter of the time. For me, it’s still a way to go but with every time I’m challenging the ED voice in my head I know it’s getting better. There’s too much good food and too much enjoyment in life to miss out on.

Cheesy

Vegetable bake topped with vegan cheese

Even when it was time for lunch I didn’t eat according to my cravings but whatever had the lowest amount of calories and highest volume. At my worst this could mean a whole head of broccoli with meticulously measured low-fat sauces. And if others dared asking for a bite of whatever I’d prepared or even stealing a spoonful without doing so in advance? I’d get furious because my alloted serving size had been decreased and I wasn’t able to calculate how much more I’d be allowed to make up for missing parts. It was all about calories – pleasure didn’t matter. With a painfully bloated stomach it seemed like I had eaten a lot but I never felt satisfied.

Eating a real lunch was one of the biggest challenges for me at first – and now I can’t imagine not having it anymore. No longer is it just about piling up steamed bland vegetables on a plate but I truly enjoy trying new dishes. The blog world has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement for me on my journey and I’m thankful for that.

Chocolate chips_II

Ending on a sweet note is a favourite of mine. Be it a post or a day. For whichever reason, I never gave up sweets during my ED, either. I’d rather skip a proper lunch [see note above] to ‘save’ calories for some chocolate. A scoop of ice cream. What remainded, though, was the guilt I felt for going over a certain amount and if I snacked on some chocolate chips [measured out, obviously] I wouldn’t give myself permission to have any other kind of sweet that day or – if I did – I’d feel guilty. Fruit had to suffice. Nowadays, I don’t skip meals and if I feel like having half a bar of chocolate – so be it. The world has yet to stop turning and my clothes fit. Some even looking better on me than back in the day. Some days we might crave a little extra sweetness, the next it might not appeal as much anymore. It’s about seeing the big picture and trusting that things will even out in the end. And even if I have my anxious moments I know there is a huge blogging community out there to support me. Which actually was the case with my mindset about the chocolate here …

Lindt

Where does this leave me? Am I recovered yet? By far not. I’ve seen a lot of improvement already but there will be many more struggles to come until I get to the point of feeling ‘normal’. Challenges to face. But I’m determinded to keep going on – because backwards isn’t an option anymore.

Happiness inducing today: Enjoying my lunch outside in the sun.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

Are you good at listening to your cravings?

If you’re in recovery: What were or are some major challenges for you in terms of food?

And because I realize this is a very wordy post and it’s WIAW after all: What have you been eating lately?