Tag Archives: eating disorder recovery

chocolate energy bars, 2 ways: coconut mocha & chocolate, peanut butter + sea salt

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When I first changed my diet fairly drastically by removing gluten and then dairy, I did so with a totalitarian “whole foods only” frame of my mind. It was back in 2012, sort of at the onset of the gluten-free fad, when all sorts of new gluten-free processed foods were really starting to become mainstream. If I were going to be eating almost vegan and free of “normal flours,” I thought, I was going to do it all the way. I did not purchase or try gluten-free baked goods or vegan cheese.  If the ingredient wasn’t in basically the same form I could find it in nature, it wasn’t something I ate.

But there was also a double standard because I was really into baking then and still had a strong taste for sugar, so there were exceptions. Namely, I went through a phase of being obsessed with figuring out how to bake bread, pizza crust, desserts, etc. free of gluten and then dairy as well. Even though I don’t bake a lot anymore, and my flour cupboard generally gets much less use than ever before, I’m thankful for that baking phase because when I want it now, I have some really good staple recipes to draw from and the basic science of whole grain gluten-free and vegan baking down.

 

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These days, I’ve ventured into a way of eating that is a little less rigid than it was then–or perhaps it’s rigid in a different way and I can’t quite see it. In any case, I’m okay with a little more processing making its way into my recipes and meals. I began that because I recognized rigidity and eating perfectly is a hallmark of my disordered eating behavior. So recognizing that and doing something about it is why I started eating tofu and tempeh on an occasional basis. It’s why I nearly always have nutritional yeast in the pantry now, though I don’t use it super often. It’s why I made myself a big batch of Valentine’s cookies that were exactly what I wanted and then proceeded to eat the entire batch over the next two weeks, each day asking myself if I actually wanted a cookie, or perhaps many cookies, and each day eating exactly how many I was desiring. It’s also why I began to warm a little more to the idea of protein powder.

It turns out too that I might actually need more protein in my diet. Despite the general consensus (in the plant-based nutrition community anyway) that almost no one in the US actually needs more protein, I’m one of the few that might actually gain from eating more of it–for a couple of different reasons that have nothing to do with generally avoiding animal products but still add up to: providing our bodies with the right amount and types of foods is personal, and definitely not a constant. Adding more protein to my diet, strategically, is a current experiment I’m running. I’m not entirely sure it is necessary or will have the effects I’m looking for. But the protein powder is an easy way for me to adjust my eating patterns without making a drastic dietary overhaul.

 

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I want to mention too, I’m sharing these bars purposefully during #NEDAwareness week. If you aren’t familiar with NEDA, it is the National Eating Disorders Association and February 26-March 3rd is a week of increased advocacy about eating disorder recovery and awareness. If you’ve been visiting this space for some time or have read my About section, you’ll know I struggled with the eating side of that equation for several years, sometimes still do, and have since been doing much of the mental side of recovery more recently. Probably similar to many who have struggled with disordered eating behavior, I did not have much in the way of emotional support in the early years following reaching a restored weight. In fact, I often received, and still do to some extent, a lot of push-back about coming to a way of eating that works for me, and there were many individuals who really pushed me into stressful situations around food, for the sheer fact that they were completely unaware of my history or that struggling with food is about much more than a desire/dislike for eating too little or too much. And it is the part that tends to linger on. Often quite invisibly.

NEDA’s theme this year is It’s Time to Talk About It. As NEDA has stated:
It’s time we take eating disorders seriously as public health concerns. It’s time we bust the myths and get the facts. It’s time to celebrate recovery and the heroes who make it possible. It’s time to take action and fight for change. It’s time to shatter the stigma and increase access to care.

I couldn’t agree more. In the interest of keeping it really real for just a moment more, a few of you know I started writing even a little more personally about my continued recovery process in this last year. My general theme has been using that space as an online journal to completely lay out what I’m working with because writing and releasing it beyond me is immensely helpful. It has been the most intensely scary and sometimes challenging writing I’ve done. It has made me feel incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of the beliefs and views I hold on to. But acknowledging those challenging feelings has helped me to release and slowly grow beyond them as well. This is all to say, feel free to catch up with me there. And if you find that you, or someone you care for, is struggling with what might be an eating disorder, please reach out to someone. It ended up making all the difference for me.    

 

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Now, I’m sharing these energy bars because I think of them as my recovery snacks. I tend to eat granola/energy bars in the mid-mornings or mid-afternoons on a fairly regular basis and generally I make my own. I designed these with the idea of eating them after a run to kickstart the recovery process when a larger meal isn’t coming super soon. So they have more of the suggested endurance recovery carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3 or 4:1. But I also find I can handle a portion of a bar 30-45 minutes before a hard effort too with no problems. And because of the slightly higher protein content, I also have been using them whenever I just need a snack in general since they are a slightly better option right now than my old stand-by of mesa sunrise and almond milk.

I recognize these are specialty bars, designed for a specific person and purpose. But if you like the idea of a Coconut Mocha or Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar that is delicious and nutritious, these might be for you too. If you’re not overly concerned about needing more protein, there are options for alternatives as well.

 

Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate + Sea Salt Bars, makes 8
1/2 cup (100 g) peanut butter
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. (10 ml) raw honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups (50 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. +2 tsp. (40 ml) water
1 square (10 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks
additional sea salt for topping

  • Puree the peanut butter, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and honey in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Add cereal and 2 Tbs. water and pulse a few times more until it just comes together. Add a little more water as needed. Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Then, sprinkle with a few shakes of additional sea salt, and gently press in. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, and then cut into individual bars, store, and eat as needed. They will last in the fridge for at least two weeks with no change in texture/consistency.

Coconut Mocha Bars, makes 8
1/4 cup (50 g) cashew butter
2 Tbs. (10 g) coffee beans, finely ground
1/4 cup (30 g) shredded unsweetened coconut
6 (100 g) pitted Medjool dates
6 Tbs. (50 g) hemp protein powder*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. (5 ml) coconut oil
1 Tbs. (15 ml) maple syrup
2 cups (65 g) crispy rice cereal, gluten-free if necessary
2 Tbs. + 2 tsp. (40 ml) water
2 squares (20 g) dark chocolate, broken into chunks

  • Puree the cashew butter, ground coffee beans, coconut, dates, hemp, salt, vanilla, coconut oil, and syrup in a food processor until completely combined.
  • Then add the cereal and 2 Tbs. water as needed. It should come together easily when you pinch the ingredients with your fingers. Add a little more water if needed.
  • Then stir in the chocolate chunks.
  • Turn out and press into a 8×8-inch baking pan, or something of similar size. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cutting, storing or eating.

*Notes: For a hemp protein alternative, try another plain plant protein powder such as pea or rice, or use the same quantity (by weight) of hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.


beans + rice for busy days, with turmeric special sauce

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Buckwheat, quinoa + millet mix, lentils, steamed beets, shaved rainbow carrots, sliced radishes, spring greens + turmeric special sauce.

 

Once a week, my coworkers and I eat lunch together during our staff meeting. We are all healthy-food loving ladies with different diets and food preferences, and we often begin the meeting looking around at each others lunches, thinking and sharing about how good they all look and how we’d like to trade. It is a great environment to work in, one of non-judgement and non-competitive respect and inspiration for eating well.

 

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Brown rice, lentils, sautéed cabbage, kale + matchstick carrots, sauerkraut + hemp seeds.

 

Prior to working with this group, I ate lunch with my fellow science teachers at the high school I taught at. It was the first time I had worked at a place where everyone took 30 minutes every day to sit down, eat together, and catch up. Those 30 minutes kept me sane, but I wasn’t at first keen about sitting around having others see what I ate every day. I didn’t want my coworkers to judge my weird food habits. I have a pet peeve with people telling me, You eat sooo healthy, in that envious/judgmental wayBut that never happened. Instead, I learned that everyone has weird food preferences, and no one cared what I was eating. It was pretty darn liberating.

A month or so ago, I spent a couple full days teaching at the high school. I brought my lunch with me and left it in the car. During the break, one of the students caught me on the way out and asked, You’re not eating? Is that why you’re so skinny? This was coming from a slightly overweight teenage male who was standing in the hallway, noticeably not eating also. I felt absolutely crushed at his response. After assuring him I was on my way to lunch, I asked about his own lack of food. He told me he was waiting for a friend. I don’t know whether he actually ate during that break, but I remember my own eating habits during that age, along with my former and current students’ tendency to skip breakfast and lunch. As I walked away, the interaction got to me. It was a really nice day, and I ended up eating my giant lunch bowl outside in the garden, in lieu of having more inquiring eyes looking on at my food choices.

 

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Brown rice, garbanzos, chopped collards and cabbage, diced beets, and carrot-miso spread

 

When I was teaching full time, many of my students asked about and observed what I ate. I could tell they were searching for a role model and they knew and loved talking about my tendency to eat the entire apple, drink lots of tea, and avoid all dairy and fast food. They thought it was all just plain weird but also cool. When some individuals approached me to talk about food and health, I tried to offer guidance that was actually helpful for where they were at. At the same time, I was conscious of not being too out there, both for their sake and mine. Out of self-preservation, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having a conversation that involves someone vocally comparing their body size to mine.

Inevitably, every time I work with a new group of high school students, I’m asked whether I’m vegetarian. This question always brings up a lot of personal anxiety and I tell them, no, I eat meat, and leave it at that. They don’t need to know it makes its way on my plate a couple times a year lately. My own personal viewpoint is that the adolescent and emerging adulthood years should be ones of exploration, and they don’t need me telling them they should follow a particular diet, cut out entire food groups, or ascribe to my food-belief system. I have entirely too much experience with disordered eating and body shaming to possibly lead someone toward that camp.

 

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Millet, goji berries, oranges, kale, roasted romanesco and delicata squash with a citrus vinaigrette, hazelnuts + baked tofu.

 

Instead, I try to simply emphasize more whole foods and less processed, in baby steps. I avoid making recommendations about foods I don’t personally choose to eat, but I also recognize that what works for me in terms of food choices does not work for everyone. I particularly enjoy the teachings of traditional medical paradigms like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, which emphasize eating to one’s personal constitution and the seasons. It is especially difficult to teach this concept to my high school students, as they are often trying to fit in and do what their friends are doing. As an adult, I’m only just beginning to feel especially comfortable eating and sharing what works for me.

 

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Quinoa, black beans, roasted Brussel sprouts and onions, kale + cumin-lime dressing.

 

I read recently in the book, Nourishing Wisdom, that women tend to engage in a silent competition during meals of who can eat the least, while men tend to openly compete for who can eat the most. I resonate strongly with the female side of that scenario and I am especially thankful that these last few years, my meals with co-workers have been free of that extremely harmful silent competition. Especially since what works for me tends to be beans + rice bowls, and the combinations are usually generously sized.

I’m curious, too, about the best way to approach these conversations about food with teenagers and individuals trying to find their way to healthy eating. How do we positively guide them? So far, I’ve focused on strengthening my self-confidence and relationship to food so I don’t feel the need to compare, and let the result of that show up by role-modeling positive behavior and conversation about eating, when it comes up. If you have another approach or successful experiences, I’d love to hear!

 

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Quinoa, garbanzos, roasted winter squash and bell peppers, mixed greens, cumin-lime dressing, + pumpkin seeds

 

The reason I’ve included so many random meals is that The Recipe Redux theme this month is breaking up the lunch rut. My lunches nearly always tend to be leftovers from the night before and often that means I’m eating what I call bean and rice bowls, even if they have no rice and are rarely eaten in a bowl. Sometimes, however, I pull random ingredients from the fridge and come up with something slightly new. Unlike a lot of people, I rarely enjoy eating out, especially for lunch. It is one thing I wish I were more comfortable with, but knowing exactly what I’m having for lunch is a little comforting ritual that I like to keep amidst busy days.

The only advice for creating a quick lunch combination is to have a few key ingredients prepped ahead of time, be creative, and add color. Eating food that is beautiful is half the experience. I often have leftover cooked grains, some beans, and leftover dressings hanging out, and to that I add whatever vegetables and herbs are on hand and sound good. If, on the off chance I do not have ingredients prepped, I reach for quick grains like millet, quinoa, and buckwheat and cook them, along with a pot of lentils, while getting ready for my day. They all can be ready within 20 minutes.

The photos I’m sharing here are random compilations of beans and rice that I’ve made over the last few months for busy day lunch or dinners. They are only just a start, so go ahead and be adventurous!

 

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Quinoa, white beans, roasted beets and onions, matchstick carrots, greens mix + turmeric special sauce

 

Turmeric Special Sauce, makes 2 cups

This is my current dressing of choice. Adapted from David and Luise by way of Laura, it is packed with a lot of nutritional goodies. In my current quest to eat a few more fats from whole foods rather than oils, I’ve eliminated the oil from the original recipe, added lentils for a little more protein, which I tend to eat on the lower end for my needs, spiced it up with additional chili powder. The turmeric and nutritional yeast add color, umami flavor, and B-vitamins, plus much of the latest research has turmeric as a real powerhouse in terms of health benefits. All in all, this sauce is a good one, has a tiny kick that is completely balanced amongst all the other bowl ingredients, and comes together quickly, if you remember to soak the seeds. I especially like it with beets because in my opinion, vibrant salads taste just a touch better.

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 2-4 hours

1 – 1 1/4 cup water

1 1/2 Tbs. nutritional yeast (flakes)

1/4 cup cooked lentils, white or mung beans

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. maple syrup

1/2 tsp. cumin

3/4 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

  • Drain and rinse the soaked seeds, and then add them, along with all the other ingredients to a food processor. Purée until smooth, adding a little more water as needed to thin it out. Adjust seasonings to taste.


a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons

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I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.  – Kurt Vonnegut

 

I’ve shared little snippets about my running injury over the last year or so, and even more about the upheaval to do with my eating disorder which came to the surface when I stopped running. My thinking about my body and my relationship to running was exceptionally anxious, fearful, obsessive, and controlling, and it took me a while to become aware, accept, and then work on that. At the same time, I feel less anxious and obsessive, and much more connected and active in my faith through running. This is a continuation of my processing, and I’ll share a summary at the end of this post:

 

Something changed one day. Or perhaps it was a gradual transition and one day it came into awareness. I was running in Alton Baker Park. It was mid-February and I was on the outer edge of Pre’s Trail and I had this thought: What if it all just doesn’t matter? What if all these things I’ve been worrying about and building up are not big deals? What if I set them down and walk away? What if this were my last run and tomorrow I go back to riding horses instead? Immediately, the response was there. It was a very noncommittal shoulder shrug saying, Sure, that would be fine. 

The manic part of my brain fired back, You’re thinking that because you’re in the middle of a long run, in your happy place. You won’t be so happy tomorrow when you’re not experiencing this. There was fear in that thought, the fear of the what-ifs related to my body and my desire to control it. Those fears have plagued me.

But over the next several weeks, I kept circling back to that shoulder shrug, that lets not give such a fuck attitude. And I think right there I set down a little of the load, the attachment to an outcome, and there has since been a little space between where I’m at in the moment and what I wish for the future with running.

I am a little less attached to it, and certainly less anxious. On days when my feet or legs or body hurts in ways that are unexplainable, I’m often able to set down the pain and feel it only in the moment, not worrying so much about whether it will be there in the next moment, in the next day, in the way of the things I want to accomplish out there. I’ve stopped printing my weekly training plan and some days I have no idea what the next day will bring, nor do I overly care so much. I used to know every detail of what the week ahead would hold. 

I really don’t know what led to the change in my relationship with running, but because it was important, I prayed about it. I prayed for well over a year, often desperately. In January and February of last year, when I was not running, I was at a low point. William tried to console me one evening, It’s just a little injury. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be back to normal. You’re fine. 

It’s not, though, I responded. This is major. This is going to take a very long time. I don’t know how but sometimes I just know things. I knew the ‘little’ injury no one could explain was not so little, that it went way beyond the physical, that it was going to change me. That I had a long climb down before I could start climbing back up. In my desperate conversations with Jesus, I asked him to make it obvious if the answer was no, if I needed to set down this running hobby. I asked him to slam the door shut in my face and please, oh please God, just take away my desire to run. Help me find other hobbies. Help me find balance that is healthy. Help me not trade one obsessive, addictive tendency for another, i.e. food for running and vice versa.

 

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He did not slam the door shut in my face. There was a crack, and I cautiously, fearfully tip-toed through it, all the while expecting it to still slam closed. Even so, I’d catch glimpses of affirmation, out of nowhere, often on days that were otherwise real downers. One came sometime in the fall. I was in the middle of a run, in pain, frustrated, and a little depressed about the situation. Even so, I was like an earthworm; I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, even if I could not see it. That little gift of His affirmation was enough to keep me trudging upwards through the mud. 

At some point, months before that February run in ABP, I stopped praying about running or physical healing without even realizing it, and my conversations with Jesus were more friend-like, not so tied to an outcome, and more in line with asking for direction with the big-picture of life, and not some non-essential hobby.

It’s often hard to say where one story ends and another begins. I don’t know when I began identifying myself as perpetually injured, or not good enough, or not worthy enough to go after goals. Or when I decided to set down that story and begin another one. It probably doesn’t matter. And I can’t really explain it, not even to myself. Why running? And why share about it? Why write and have an often too-personal blog? During the past year of prayer, several things became clear: It’s not really about me and there’s a purpose here that I don’t get to understand right now. I have some unsettled, fuzzy, too-big-to-understand running dreams that won’t go away, no matter how much I try to make them. The door keeps quietly opening, little by little, and though I’m afraid to try, I hear Him asking me to keep walking with faith, a few steps each day.

Like that day in Alton Baker Park, more recently on another run that wasn’t going all that well, I had another flash of realization. I realized I feel in a very powerful place these days, truly as if there is an energy in my physical and spiritual self not entirely of me, as this unexplainable journey I’ve been on, with all its painful, difficult, individual traumas is part of the transition upwards, out of the mindset of I can’t, I don’t get to, and I’m not good enough that I’ve been carrying around during this lifetime. In that moment, the journey itself sparkled beautifully before me, with all its ups and downs. I realized then I want to explore a concept I haven’t explored in a while: What if I can? What if I get to? What if I am good enough? What if I stop worrying about whether the door will slam in my face and instead concentrate on finding out what’s on the other side of the door? 

 

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I want to find out what I’m capable of; I want to find out what He is capable of doing in me. I want to do His work. I want to walk to the edge where He leads and see what He has for me to see. Right now, for whatever reason, running is part of that. And even though I feel in a powerful place, there are still doubts. There are days and little moments where I take a step back, look at the bigger picture of how I currently feel physically and what quiet affirmations I feel in my heart, and tell myself, lady, you’re either really fucking crazy, or on to something. I prefer to believe I’m on to something.

 

Reflection: I want to make clear this is my journey, and I’ve had a whole slew of professionals advise me. I do not recommend running through an injury unless under the supervision of a professional. I also have explored, in depth, my relationship between running, my eating disorder, and other behaviors that allow me to gain control. Running has always been intricately linked to my eating disorder, as I began running shortly before I began controlling food, and it likely served as a catalyst for the ensuing food and body image problems to surface. With that being said, those problems were there long before I began running regularly, and running has become one of the ways I deeply connect with my faith, with where I learn about myself, with how I finally came to love and feel comfortable in my body, and where I let go of other life problems. Two great articles I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks include Gena’s reflection on How it Feels to Leave an Eating Disorder Behind and When Exercise Becomes an Addiction. I believe there is a place for endurance and/or competitive sports in the recovery process, and really enjoyed Julia’s podcast interview with Rich Roll on How to Take Ownership of Your Evolution, especially his thoughts on how athletic endeavors can fit into the recovery journey.

 


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