Journey to Freedom, Part II: Depression

I didn’t think I would ever share this here. I’ve shared this story a few times over, even wrote about it when I was a writer for The Mighty. I’ve shared my experience with anorexia (see this post), so I guess you could consider this Part II. I’m sharing this experience today because it is just over 3 years that I did something that forever altered my path of living.

What I’m about to tell you is my experience with a depression that tried to take my life. The “s-word” (look up any s-word that is related to depression, I’m sure it won’t be hard to find if you’re confused) is one that I treat like the f-word. Not a word I like to use. It doesn’t have a good vibration, and there are connotations that come with it. So again, I took the same care in crafting this so as not to trigger anyone who has struggled or is struggling with depression. I also do not want to scare people, though what I’m talking about is extraordinarily scary.

This one was trickier though. It’s easier to omit numbers and eating habits from describing a story, so please do not read this if you are triggered by these types of stories. I do not go into detail of the event because that’s irrelevant to the message that I want to convey, but still I struggled to write this because this kind of stuff hits deep. I say this a lot, but as a reminder: it’s always darkest before dawn, and there is always a dawn. If you need to skip to the dawn, I whole-heartedly understand- please skip the section between the three stars (***).

Even with these stars, it’s hard to talk about depression. There’s a lot of stigma that comes with it. There’s a lot of stigma that comes with attempting to take your own life too. Judgment. Name-calling. Stereotypes. The ironic part is that depression can happen to anyone. There is no stereotype. Depression does not discriminate. And it’s a lot more common than we think.

That’s one thing I would like to point out before I begin. You are not weak for struggling with depression. While I was in the throes of it, I was told I’m not resilient. I’m not tough. I’m too weak and that’s why I can’t beat this. I was none of those things. I was and am strong, defiant, relentless, and resilient. And so are you. I could and can do tough things. And so can you.

***

Obviously with an eating disorder, I had my fair share of very low moments. But my true “depression” started in junior year of college. In the few months post study abroad, I found myself stuck. I had two stress fractures in both shins, was off my medication for OCD after finally deciding the side effects outweighed what little benefit I got from it, and hobbled around on a pair of crutches after being told no running for at least 4-6 months. It was the middle of winter, I had missed a whole semester with my friends who stayed back from study abroad (surprisingly a lot of them), and I felt anxious to get back to “doing school.”

Well, shit. How was I supposed to cope with life?

Instead of spending my time clocking miles, I buried myself in books. My OCD came back full force and I became obsessive with my studies, spending hours and hours taking and retaking notes, rereading passages, writing and rewriting papers…it was insanity. I saw no one and did nothing for a solid 2.5 months. I didn’t even realize the impact I was having on my friends either. I caused so much anxiety for my roommates who at one point were my best friends that I lost those friendships.

The pain that depression causes is deep. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the pain of depression was worse than any physical pain I had experienced (that’s saying a lot from the girl who snapped her arm in half doing gymnastics). I was alone most of the time with no one to talk to, so I had no choice but to deal with the demons in my head. I felt like it was a losing battle. I needed more than just studies to cope, and I still couldn’t run. The thoughts of just ending it all became too enticing that I convinced myself it was my best and only option.

I will never talk about the night of March 27, 2015, my attempt, in detail on here because, like I said, it’s unnecessary for the message of this story. All I will say is that I was saved, by the Universe, by God, by some other unknown power, I don’t know, but something made me pick up the phone for when my therapist and friend both called. I still cry just thinking about how grateful I am for those two, both of whom I still talk to today.

That weekend I went home and was checked into a hospital. In the months to follow, I was in and out of the hospital, seeking intensive outpatient therapy, then inpatient, then outpatient again. It was a long journey, with many moments that I had wished someone would just let me give up. But I never did, and that was the best gift anyone has ever given me. The opportunity to keep going. The second chance.

I learned a lot about life, people, and how little we really know of each. The psych ward was the first lesson in that. It showed me the full range of what humans are capable of. I was treated with both love and repugnance, empathy and apathy, true concern and utter hatred all in one night. One nurse pulled me aside to tell me that I was worth more than this, that I deserved love and happiness and that I was strong as hell. Another doctor pulled me aside to tell me that I was disgusting, worth nothing, sick, and that I had revoked all of my human rights the second I walked through the emergency room doors.

Despite that horrid first night, and the disgusting manner in which doctors (not just one, I unfortunately encountered three more doctors who looked at me as if I was a curse to the world) treat mentally ill patients, I met some beautiful souls while I was there. You realize when you’re in the position I was, you really aren’t so different from the next patient. No matter how you grew up, what privileges you somehow were lucky enough to be born with, what experiences you’ve had, you’re the same. You’re both hurting, you both want love, and you’re both scared to move on because for some reason, life just wasn’t so kind to you in the previous years.

I met a boy my age that grew up in just the town over. He had tried to take his own life as well, but you would have never known by the smile on his face. He was the kindest person I met there, brought me to the lunch table and tried to get me to laugh. He had been there for 23 days already. When a nurse came over to us to tell him that his mom was on the phone for him, I listened to him speak to her.

“Hi mommy! I miss you! I’ve been okay, it’s getting better. When do I get to see you?”

That’s when I broke. It made me want to hug him, give him back to his mother, and tell him he would never have to feel this pain again. Ever. He was just like me. They all were.

The next stop was outpatient at two different facilities and in two different states. In the first facility, I drove every day to spend 6 to 8 hours in group and individual therapy. It was actually the first time I enjoyed therapy, and I know that sounds weird, but these people became my family. It was bittersweet whenever someone “graduated” from the group because you wanted them to succeed and have this wonderful life, but you were going to miss them greatly and knew you’d probably never see each other again (we weren’t allowed to keep in contact, but that’s actually how I met one of my best friends- sometimes, rules are meant to be broken!).

Then something I didn’t ever fathom would happen did. One of my best friends from the first university I attended (before transferring to another one) called me. An old friend from our year did take his own life.

In that moment, I once again learned the full range of human emotions: shock, guilt, grief, sadness, anger, jealousy (I know, I’m not proud of that one either)…it was ugly. I ran for two hours straight that day (I was just getting back into running after healing from the stress fractures), listening to “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182 and crying the entire time. I didn’t know how to process all that I was feeling and I felt so raw. He was gone and wasn’t coming back. Why did he get to go and I didn’t? Why did he have to go? He was such a beautiful person. Why did he have to feel that pain?

My recovery slowed down a lot that day, which impacted the weeks to come, ultimately leading to another facility. In a weird way though, it needed to happen. I yet again met more beautiful souls in my stay. There was a “football all-star,” everyone’s favorite player. There was a high school senior struggling to find his footing in this world. There was a retired therapist who was shocked to find herself in her patients’ shoes. There was a mother of five. There was a compulsive gambler. There was the straight A student who did everything she was ever asked (well, there were a few of those). We were all here with different experiences, but the ultimate reason was the same: we had lost sight of our love for life. I guess you could call us the modern day Breakfast Club!

The pain of living began to ease in those weeks. Going back to school to finish out my senior year was another challenge. I got a lot of questions: where were you last semester? What happened to you? Why don’t you want to come out with us tonight? To be honest, senior fall was the biggest test. I had to quite literally learn to accept being all alone and still okay with myself. I had very few friends, and the ones I did have, I was scared to lose them so I tried not to put myself onto them: I didn’t ask to hang out and I rarely checked in. I did make it through though. My second semester, I met a lot of people that I’m still grateful to have in my life because I realized I am worthy of these friendships.

That being said, I still had a lot of learning to do. I didn’t know who I was. Who I had been hadn’t been the truest Britt. I had to relearn how to feel joy and happiness and not fear sadness and anger. I had to relearn who Britt is. It’s a process, but looking back, I’m thankful for every single person that told me never give up, that life was worth it, and that this was only a chapter. I can proudly and confidently say that it was all so worth it; I’m overjoyed to be here today and to have come so far. It’s scary, but we all have the courage to make it through.

***

While the psych ward was a learning experience in how corrupt and disgusting our current medical system is (I know, I’m still bitter. I’m working on letting it go), the other experiences as an outpatient, an inpatient, and a fellow struggler in this crazy world showed me a much different perspective.

I don’t tell this story so that you can feel sorry for me. I hope that you wouldn’t judge me, but then again, I know that with fear comes judgment (because we often judge that which we do not fully understand), and that is human nature.

This journey has made me the person that I am today, and I’m finally proud to be here. You learn a lot about empathy, trust, emotions, the human struggle, resilience, and love.

I can honestly say that with everyone I met, there was not one story nor one soul I did not fall in love with. We’re all human, and while our physical experiences are unique, we share the same feelings for pain, loss, happiness, anger, disappointment, joy, surprise, and love. My heart ached seeing how much pain these people experienced, and somehow it made me realize that if I think they don’t deserve this pain, then what makes me so special that I would deserve this pain?

That’s right! Nothing!

If I could do it all again (though I think one go ‘round was enough for this lifetime!), I would tell the doctors to look at us like we were their sons and daughters instead of dirt beneath their shoes. I would give that nurse in the ER who told me I could do this and that I was stronger than these demons the biggest hug. I would thank every passerby, every therapist, and every friend and family member (still do- I love you guys) for telling me not to give up. I would go back and tell every person I met that they are loved and that they matter.

That’s what I want to get at really with all of this. Please, if you take only one thing away from all of this mumbo jumbo, let it be that you matter and you are loved.

Let me be clearer. 

You matter and you are loved.

No matter what you’re going through, it is a season, and it will pass. Some are longer than others, but it will pass. There will be days going through it that you will feel lonely as hell and wonder if this is it, but I promise you, like I said earlier, your darkest days are just before the dawn.

So keep fighting for that light. Reach out for help, whether that’s a coworker, a family member, a friend, a professor, even just someone you meet in passing. They may not be the person to help, but they can direct you to someone who can.

Next, surround yourself in light. I know how tough this could be, as there were days I didn’t get out of bed and wanted nothing to do with the sunshine. Go play with puppies, turn on music and dance, watch a ridiculous episode of The Office, be in nature, anything that used to bring you joy, immerse yourself in that light. When I first did this, it was extraordinarily painful. I tried to paint and I would just stare at my brushes and cry. I felt pathetic. But I wasn’t pathetic, I was just in pain. Every time I came back to those brushes, I chipped away at the sadness, until I could finally lift up the brush again and let it flow.

If you can find it in you, start to imagine the person you’re becoming- you’re truest self as you heal. I swear, the reason I’m so dang positive today is because of all that I went through. I wasn’t born happy, go-lucky, smiling Britt. I faced a lot of demons in my 23 years of living. But it’s made me appreciate the good days even more, and it forced me to find the beauty in EVERYTHING, because it’s there, trust me, you just need to open your eyes.

Be patient with yourself. It takes a lot to learn how to love yourself again. And it takes a lot to finally see yourself not as the victim, but as the badass warrior that you are. You will probably lose some relationships over all of this, I’m not going to hide that fact because that part was devastating to me. I lost a lot of friends and don’t keep people too close for these reasons. This is something I still need to work on, and I acknowledge that. But the ones you keep will grow stronger, and you might be surprised how the lost relationships could circle back.

Also know that you will have good and bad days still in recovery. Those not so great days are not steps back, but just side steps and hops and skips! You’re going forward, I promise you, and trust yourself that you can make it through. Trust the Universe or God or whatever you call that higher power that you are meant to be here and that you wouldn’t be going through this if you weren’t strong enough to beat it!

And know that you are loved. I’ve said it a thousands times, but it all really comes back to this: love. At the end of the day, that’s all we really are. Never lose sight of that.

 

Easy-Peasy Weekend Frittata

Are you guys ready for an easy-peasy frittata recipe that makes weekends (or meal prep) that much easier?!

Well, I hope you are because it’s coming at you anyways! I decided to make this baby on Saturday, just on a whim, because I was hardcore craving eggs, but not my typical go-to’s (sorry scrambled, poached, fried, and soft boiled! Nothing personal!).

IMG_9260.JPG

The best part about this recipe- well actually there are a few “best” parts – but one of them is that it’s so customizable. I literally just took what I had on hand (not much since it was a Saturday and that’s our farmer’s market day!) and it worked! You will definitely need a few of your favorite spices, but I always keep those stocked up just because I know I’m super bummed if I ever run out!

The second best part about this is that there is no “perfect technique” required to get this right- all you do is whip the eggs with a spoon, pour into a skillet, and bake. That’s it. I bet even my college-kid brother could do this!

All you need on hand are:

Eggs

Your favorite spices (I used cumin, turmeric, and rosemary- highly recommend that combo!)

Your favorite veggies/any on hand (I used mesclun + zucchini)

Sea Salt/Pepper

Ghee/Coconut oil for greasing the skillet

Yep, it’s that easy! Oh, and I also talked about meal prep- this baby can last you all week. Of course, I don’t think it will because it tastes that good- Jared and I devoured it within a day haha! But if you have the willpower, it will be good in the fridge for 4-5 day! Enjoy!

Easy-Peasy Brunch Frittata

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 8 organic, pastured eggs
  • Your favorite spices (I used 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp rosemary)
  • Your favorite veggies (I used 1 cup steamed mesclun, ½ cup sliced then steamed zucchini)
  • Sea salt/pepper to taste
  • Ghee/Coconut oil for greasing

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a medium cast-iron skillet.
  2. Crack eggs into a medium bowl and whisk together like scrambled eggs.
  3. Fold in spices.
  4. If you haven’t pre-cooked your veggies, I would suggest lightly steaming them. Otherwise, fold in your veggies to the mixture here.
  5. Pour mixture into the skillet and place in oven.
  6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes.
  7. *If it starts to bubble, place a piece of tin foil over it to allow it to continue cooking!
  8. Remove from the oven, let cool, and serve!

Paleo Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

Nothing beats the smell of banana bread right? I’ll be honest though, sometimes I have absolutely no desire for the mess and process of baking, and I really just want the yummy taste paired with the sweet aroma…I can be lazy too, ya know!

That’s how I was feeling last weekend! I had the completely browned bananas, all of the ingredients, and the tools, but I wasn’t about to go dirty more pots and pans (Sundays are my recipe testing days, and I had already been through a load of recipes haha!).

IMG_8194.JPG

That’s when I realized I had the Birch Bender’s Paleo Banana Pancake & Waffle mix on hand! Let me tell you, this mix has more uses than just for a flapjacks morning! And because I’m a choco-holic, I decided to spin the mix to make it feel more homemade!

So I present to you Paleo Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins!

IMG_8209.JPG

Ooey, gooey, and so freaking easy, it’s almost unfair! All you need is:

Birch Bende’s Paleo Banana Pancake Mix

Cacao Powder

Cacao Nibs

Water

Ripe Banana

That’s it! How easy is that? Plus it’s all one in under 30 minutes too! Not bad, huh?

Check out the recipe below, and happy baking!

Paleo Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Makes 6 bakery-style muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups Birch Bender’s Paleo Banana Mix
  • 1 ripe banana (use half for the mix and half to top)
  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs
  • ½ cup organic raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a large 6-muffin tin with muffin cups
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together banana mix and cacao powder
  3. Next, add in mashed banana and water. Stir until well combined
  4. Fold in cacao nibs
  5. Pour about ¼ cup of the mix into each tin
  6. Top each muffin with a banana coin
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean
  8. Remove from oven, cool, and drizzle with almond butter, more cacao nibs, or coconut flakes!
  9. Enjoy!

Paleo Coconut Cake

Easter is quickly approaching, and I have just the recipe for you 🙂

IMG_8259.JPG

Paleo Coconut Cake with Paleo Sugar-Free Coconut Frosting! In fact, this whole cake is low sugar…seriously. I used cinnamon to sweeten the entire thing, but you can definitely throw in a teaspoon of ground stevia leaf or a tablespoon or two of maple syrup if you need!

This cake is so easy to make, and was adapted from Primal Palate’s Paleo Coconut Cake. I’ll provide my swaps below, but check out their full recipe on their blog! However, I did make my own coconut frosting, and let me tell you, it is LEGIT!

IMG_8303.JPG

Sweet, moist (sorry, but it’s true!), dense, and delicious as ever, you’re going to want to make this cake stat!

Paleo Coconut Cake with Paleo Sugar-Free Coconut Frosting

Serves 12

Cake alterations:

  • Added 2 tsp cinnamon in place of maple syrup
  • Added ¼ cup melted vanilla ghee
  • Used 1 cup coconut flour instead of ¾ cup

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 can organic full fat coconut milk (try to find one without guar gum)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp melted vanilla ghee
  • Optional: 1 tsp ground green leaf stevia or 1 tbsp maple syrup

Frosting Directions:

  1. Flip coconut milk can over (before opening) and place in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes, while coconut cake is baking. This allows the fat to harden in its place.
  2. Remove the can from the fridge and flip over. Open with a can opener on top (should be flipped back to the top) and drain out all of the coconut water.
  3. Place the coconut fat, along with cinnamon, ghee, and optional stevia/maple syrup into a medium mixing bowl and beat on medium-high until fully combined.
  4. Keep in the fridge until ready to frost, when the cake has completely cooled (or else it melts!).
  5. Top with coconut flakes, and enjoy!

Journey to Freedom, Part I: Eating Disorder

Taking a deep breath in.

Okay let’s do this.

I’ve shared this story a few times before (true life, I had a blog while in college but never shared it with anyone so I felt comfortable sharing “my story”! It was actually called Balance and Bananas…can you tell I like bananas?), but this is the first time I feel confident speaking about what I’ve went through. I’m not afraid to stir up any old emotions, and I’m not fearful that Ana or Ed (Ana code for anorexia, Ed code for Eating Disorder) will come back. This is my life, not theirs.

One thing I do want to make clear about any experience that I share on here is that I refuse to trigger someone. I would hope that you wouldn’t compare your experience to mine in a way that implies one was better, tougher, “more deserving” of a diagnosis, or more severe than the other. Anyone who experiences an eating disorder or disordered eating has been through trauma. It’s not about more or less, so I want that to be out in the open. I’ve spent way too many years thinking that way, and I’ve seen others do the same. This community is about love, and so anything I share is out of love to help someone in some way.

With that being said, I will never share any photos from my past on here. That is the biggest way we compare, and so if you’re on here to scope out what I looked like when life was being sucked out of me, think again. Don’t mean to be harsh, but while I’m all about love, I’m also all about realness and calling bullshit. Guess that comes with the territory!

I will also never share numbers regarding weight. Yes, I reached a weight that was deadly, and no, you don’t need to know that number. Why? Because at the end of the day, it was never really about the numbers. It was a façade. There are plenty of people who have struggled with eating disorders and disordered eating who look like what the world considers to be healthy and radiant, yet they were screaming for mercy on the inside. While I had a condition that manifested itself in the physical, it was a means to show me what was really happening on the inside. And to be honest, our bodies are just pure physical manifestations to begin with- you are not your body, you are a soul living in a body.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s begin. Oh, and another note, because I know this is a sensitive subject to many of you who are reading and if you know that reading other people’s experiences with an eating disorder is triggering, please skip the part between the ***, denoted at the beginning and the ending of the story.

***

So to be honest, I never really remember a time when I was happy with how I looked, even as a kid. I guess you could say I wasn’t fully aware of my body until around 5 or 6, and when I became aware, I wasn’t happy with it.

I can even recall one of the first times I was made to feel that I was less of a person for not being skinny. It was 2nd grade, and I was standing in line with my best friend to go to art class. The lights were off, as we were getting ready to leave the classroom, but everyone was still talking. I forget exactly what led us to this conversation, but for some reason, my friend and I decided it was a good idea to stand side by side. I think I was telling her I was the same size as she was, and she disagreed so she took her hands, placed them on her stomach, slid them across her flat tummy, straight into mine.

Now, I was a pudgy child, but this was the first time I recall being made to feel less because of that pudginess. Her fingertips didn’t even come close to crossing over my stomach, just poked my hips, to which she replied, “See, I’m skinnier.”

I can’t say this was the start of my eating disorder, but I will say my childhood was plagued with the feeling that I needed to be less; in weight, in size, and of a burden. I don’t know why, but I always had this feeling that I was a burden to people. I never asked for help (God forbid anyone gave me any critiques or suggestions on how to do better- I could do it on my own, thank you very much, and get an A for that matter), and I rarely got into trouble (I didn’t want to cause anyone stress…yet somehow I always felt like I was in trouble).

The catalyst for my eating disorder was in 8th grade, when I snapped my arm in half doing a back handspring. Literally, my arm was clean in half, both the radius and ulna completely cleared. I had to get surgery to put plates in, and I was told I couldn’t do gymnastics for a year. I think that sparked something. I remember feeling extreme anxiety about not working out. I could still do my lower body though, right? What about my abs? Isn’t there some way my arms didn’t have to be involved so I could still do tricks?

Then the classic restricting came in. I tried to go back to gymnastics after my arm was completely healed, but at that point, I had been out for too long and I had hit a growth spurt, so it was pretty useless. That’s when I became obsessed with working out and running. Coupled with the restriction, my family almost moving to Boston (Day 3, we decided to turn around! How’s that for a fun fact?), and starting high school, I was a mess.

I didn’t get to do many after school activities because most afternoons were spent in a therapist’s, dietitian’s, or doctor’s office. My bones became brittle fast, I was losing hair in clumps, and I lost my period (got it at age 12, right after my accident, didn’t get it again till age 20). You would have never expected me to be combative, but I swear, anorexia brings out an alter-ego in most. I would get into yelling matches with doctors and dietitians, trying to break free of any attempt at control over me. They said some not-so-pretty things to me, and I said some not-so-pretty things to them (one called me a f***ing bitch, to which I responded, “you’re the f***ing bitch”). Of course, I was all too happy to acquiesce to Anorexia’s requests because she promised me happiness. But you know, she never did bring that happiness and wholeness.

Each week at weigh in, I’d see the number get lower, and I’d get a jolt of delight, almost like a hit, and then there was a sinking pit in my stomach that it wasn’t enough. Even though I told myself, at X weight, I’ll be happy, I never was. The number got lower, along with my happiness and my relationships.

That’s the other thing most don’t talk about. My relationships with friends and family (the most important) plummeted. I hurt them by hurting myself, but I didn’t do it intentionally. If I could go back, shake the old Britt and tell her snap out of it, I would. I didn’t choose this disease, and yet I had to suffer all of the consequences.

At the same time, I was in so much internal pain that I couldn’t see all the damage that was occurring around me. I would cry at every family meal (don’t even get me started on holidays), I created weird food habits (which I will not share because I don’t want to give anyone any ideas) to break my dietitian’s rules, and I had this constant pang of anxiety jolting through my body that never stopped. It’s actually a miracle I was able to get straight A’s in high school because most of my time was spent worrying about my body, how the food was being processed in it, and if I could escape my next meal.

The worst part was not feeling understood by anybody. No one without an eating disorder could relate, and the ones that could were still in it so that was no use. I absolutely hated group therapy because of that. Every other girl was in there with an eating disorder and I could see how they sized me up. And I knew they were doing it just as much as I was doing it to them. It wasn’t healthy for me, sometimes you get a great group and it works, but eating disorders, that’s tricky business. It was even worse when I was sent to Renfrew (lasted one night, then I was pulled out).

When I went to college, things took a real turn for the worse. I was on my own, forced to make new friends again, and at a school I didn’t even want to go to. I felt trapped. I missed my friends back home desperately and didn’t want to have to start over. My eating habits got worse, I was lazy about going to see the school nurse every week for weigh-ins, and I struggled to fit in. There were a lot of issues at that school in general: a lot of eating disorders, sexual assault/rape, and just straight up negligence by the administration.

When I was sexually assaulted at the end of my first semester, I felt like I had not fallen but was catapulted to rock bottom. Once you hit rock bottom though, you only have two choices: stay and die or climb your way up. He doesn’t deserve a voice in this story, so I’m not giving it to him, but it did affect my experience so I will state it as a point in a timeline. I decided very quickly that I wanted to transfer, but I still struggled. My doctors and my family told me that if I didn’t get better, I would have to leave school and I couldn’t transfer.

I remember that night so vividly. I was balling my eyes out (naturally) on my dorm room floor after just hanging up with my mom. Then one of my few friends that I had knocked on my door. She heard me and wanted to check up. I told her everything, start to finish. I couldn’t keep this weight on my chest anymore. At the end of it all, she said, “I think you know what you have to do and I think you do want to get better.” I stopped crying and felt confused because no part of what I had told her suggested I had any intention of getting better, but I think she could tell deep down my soul was crying for freedom from this all.

She told me, “Just try gaining weight like you’re trying on a pair of jeans. If you don’t like the fit, you can take them off. You’ve already proved you can take it off before, but why don’t you prove you can try it on?” In that moment it clicked. I can’t explain in words what exactly just changed, but it’s like I found the off switch for a moment, the off switch that I had been searching for 7 years!

I won’t say that the months to come were easy. There was still a lot of calorie counting at first and crying at meals. But I leaned on two of my friends, one of which is still my best friend today. One night when I was anxious about having to eat dessert, she grabbed a fork and sat down on my dorm room floor to eat cheesecake with me. One of the happiest memories of my life. Despite all the pain that school put me through, I walked away with the greatest gift of a friend, and for that I’m so grateful.

***

I ended up transferring and while there were still a lot of struggles, I would say the next two years were good. Recovery isn’t a straight road. I had a lot of ups and downs, both with my weight and with my ability to eat intuitively. I think it took me a solid 4 or 5 years until I really felt good, the reason for it being so long was because of something I’ll discuss in an upcoming post on March 27th.

Like I said, it’s not a straight path, recovery. And there are different degrees of it as well. Recovery is winding, zig ziagged, bendy, and filled with grooves. There were days that I stepped backwards, but then I sprang forwards. There were days I side stepped, wanted to throw in the towel, and thought I would never be free. You will be. Recovery looks different for everyone, so take what I’m saying and apply what makes sense to your own life. If none of it does, that’s okay. If some of it does, great!

I would say I still have moments in my mind where I struggle. An old voice I thought I shut out long ago came back, but I now know what it’s like to feel alive again, so I shut it out again. I can say confidently that I do have food freedom, and I’ll go into a little bit about how I reached that.

You have to fully break the relationship with the ED and accept that there is an issue deeper than food. While I’m not a certified professional (yet), from my experiences I’ve come to realize that no eating disorder stems from food. Food is the manifested physical component of what is really going on inside. For me, that was the feeling of being a burden. I felt like I was a weight on this world and that my presence was a nuisance, so I quite literally tried to make myself lighter. It sounds stupidly obvious, but this is what happened.

No matter what anyone tells you, that once you reach a certain weight, you’ll be healed, that once you hit a certain amount of years, it’ll break, let me tell you this: You. Will. Not. Get. Better. Until. YOU. Want. To. Get. Better. I can’t tell you how many doctors told me X number is the weight that my mind will switch. HA! If it were that easy, then classic eating disorder treatment facilities would actually be helping people. Once you realize that YOU want freedom from this insanity (and trust me, you truly do inside, this entire time, you’ve wanted freedom), only then can the true recovery come.

I want to make this clear though, anorexia is not glamorous, it’s not fun, and it’s not something to brag about. It costs money, it costs time, it costs your health, it costs relationships, and it costs your life. I’ve met women well into their 50’s that are still plagued with this. Some of them are just living in treatment facilities, some leaning on their families if they still have them because everyone else has deserted them and they can’t hold a job. It’s not fun, despite what Netflix portrayed it as recently. I wish I knew I would be dealing with depression, hypothyroidism, messed up menstruation, weak bones, and the heavy lifting of repairing relationships as the wreckage from Ana and Ed. It’s not worth it, guys. Please know that you are worth so much more than this pain.

Next, find a team that you can trust. The only member of my team that has been with me the entire time is my therapist. She’s now known me for 12 years, and has been a rock through this entire process. I went through so many nutritionists and dietitians because at the end of the day, I couldn’t trust them. There were only two, one that I still see, that I could trust because they were always honest and never tried to deceive me. The dietitian I currently see is the one who actually inspired me to follow suit. She understands me because she’s been in my shoes and she’s seen the other side, the side where you’re healthy and happy, and it made me want to that for myself too.

Eat real foods. Ditch the diet crap, anything labeled “diet” (that means no diet soda!), low carb, anything preaching sugar-free, laden with chemicals (I had a major addiction to Splenda). Of course, work with your dietitian on this, but I only found true food freedom when I was actually eating real foods: beautiful and nourishing plants, good quality and organic/grass-fed meats, and rich sources of carbs and fats. That being said, be wary of falling into the trap of orthorexia or extreme clean eating. Just because you’re eating a bunch of whole and nutritious foods doesn’t mean you need to make rules around what you can and can’t eat. Eat to nourish your body and have fun exploring what makes it thrive. One thing is for sure, it’s not written in a rule book.

It took a while for me to reach this point. For a few years after I decided enough was enough, I still hung onto foods and habits that only served to make me sicker. Another thing that I want to talk about with refeeding is that at some point, you will probably feel out of control. You’ll want to keep eating because your mind has literally been in starvation mode for years and for once it’s getting fuel. Know that this happens to almost everyone that has recovered. In those moments, your mind is hungry, despite what your body may be telling you. You have to trust this process that the mind will finally recalibrate to knowing when it’s satiated, along with the body, and they will be in tandem. Once I hit this point, I started to see food as nourishment and beauty rather than a frenemy or straight up villain.

Getting to the point of intuitively eating is long, and you won’t be able to just snap into it. I had to do a lot of re-feeding AND relearning what it means to feel hunger. I would say that for almost a decade, I never felt hungry, or I was so used to feeling hungry, I didn’t notice it because I starving my body. It will take a while to get back to what your body knows to be it’s normal, which I have to tell you, might look differently than what you want. You might have to be eating a lot more than you could ever imagine, especially in this moment, but once you find a team that you can trust, then give them the reigns. Know that you can speak up when something doesn’t feel right, but this is new territory, so much of this will probably not feel right. Learn to trust the process, and release control. You’ll be better for it.

Remember that things that were broken during your experience with ED and through recovery can be fixed. It will take time, some of those relationships I never gained back, but a lot of them did and they were stronger for it. I’m still in the process of repairing my body. Obviously, it’s rebelling against me right now (ironic because for so long, I told myself that my mind was in control of my body, and it has quite literally flipped flopped in recent months), but I trust that I can fix it. If you have to stop working out or running while in recovery because of your relationship with it, that is okay. Get to treat exercise not as a way to lose weight but as a way to honor your body for all of the amazing ways it can move and be strong because YOU are strong! Again, I am not a health professional, so trust your team that you have!

I’m a firm believer that nothing is permanent, only change, so accept this and move with the waves. You will look back on this and see yourself as this badass warrior who put her/his ED to shame. You can do this. We’re all rooting you on. You are loved, and you are worth it.

 

 

Paleo Carrot Cake Bars

Do you hear the birds chirping? See the flowers blossoming? The leaves finally budding? Yeah, me neither with this nor’easter that just hit NYC haha! But hey, at least we can still enjoy the tastes of spring, especially with the holidays right around the corner!

IMG_7880.JPG

Yesterday during that snow storm, I did some serious recipe testing, and I came out with a winner!

Paleo Carrot Cake Bars!

Yep, these babies are perfect for Easter, Passover, or any springtime holiday and will be sure to be a crowd pleaser with all types of eaters! The best part is that you probably have all of these ingredients in your fridge (and pantry) right now! Check it out:

Sweet Potato

Carrot

Cinnamon

All Spice

Eggs

Almonds (to make almond flour- I used Nuts.com sprouted almonds!)

Coconut Flour

Sea Salt

Ghee/Butter/Coconut oil (I use vanilla Fourth&Heart Ghee

IMG_7877.JPG

I feel like I’m becoming notorious for omitting any kind of sweetener, save for cinnamon, but I truly don’t believe you need it! Not overpowering the other ingredients with sweetness allows the true flavors to shine through! So give it a whirl and let me know what you think 🙂 Oh, I also iced the bars with raw coconut butter mixed with cinnamon- uh-maze-ing!

Enjoy!

Paleo Carrot Cake Bars

Serves 9

Ingredients:

  • 1 baked then cooled sweet potato, skin removed
  • 1 cup shredded carrots, steamed
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup almonds, pulsed into flour (I used nuts.com Sprouted Almonds)
  • ¼ cup Fourth&Heart Vanilla Ghee, melted + more for greasing pan (or any cooking oil!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp All Spice
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • Icing: Artisana Coconut Butter + cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and grease 9×9 baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mash sweet potato and stir in carrot.
  3. Next fold in flours and spices and mix until well combined.
  4. Crack eggs and pour melted ghee into the bowl and stir thoroughly.
  5. Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Once completely baked, remove from oven, and while still warm, scoop coconut butter on top and spread like icing.
  7. Let cool completely, either in the fridge or freezer, before serving.

Zucchini Cauli Protein Paleo Oats

Hello, hello sweet friends! I’m in LA working Expo West for Mikey’s, but I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite paleo “oats” recipes made sweet with cinnamon + cauli + zucchini! I promise you, you won’t even know you’re getting in a full 2 cups of brekkie before you’ve finished your morning cup of joe 😉

[photo]

It’s a super simple recipe that requires only six ingredients, and you don’t even necessarily have to chop your own veggies (but I do recommend it, because it tastes fresher!). What you can expect: good fats, yummy carbs, and lots of satiating protein. You can’t go wrong!

Skittish of having “sweet” veggies in the morning? Don’t worry, I’ve been there- aren’t veggies just supposed to be savory? With the recipe, you really won’t even notice! I triple dog dare you to give it a go hehe.

Let me know what you think by commenting below or on my Instagram post! Lots of love to you all!

Zucchini Cauli Oat-less Oats

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cauliflower rice (can use from frozen)
  • 1 cup shredded yellow or green zucchini squash
  • 1 pastured organic egg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp organic vanilla bean powder or a few beans scraped from the pod
  • 2 tbsp-1/4 cup Imlak’esh Sacha Inchi powder (or your favorite protein powder)
  • Ghee/coconut oil for greasing skillet

Directions:

  1. Heat a medium skillet with ghee/coconut oil on medium
  2. Add cauliflower rice to skillet and cook for 5-6 minutes, until lightly browned (this is to ensure the cauliflower is fully cooked when consuming to avoid any upset tummies)
  3. Once cauliflower rice is cooked, transfer the rice to a bowl and add zucchini, egg, cinnamon, vanilla, and Sacha Inchi/protein powder
  4. Stir and combine well, then turn the burner on medium and reheat skillet
  5. Add zucchini/cauli mixture into the pan and let sit like an omelet at first
  6. After a few minutes, give it a stir like scrambled eggs, cooking the mixture until it looks less wet and more firm, like scrambled eggs
  7. Transfer to a bowl, top with desired toppings, and enjoy!