Whether you have a history of an eating disorder or not, this is a week meant for everyone to “talk about” and call attention to messages of hope, love and acceptance of ourselves. I hope this post can start our conversation!
Note: This is a refreshingly raw and honest post. Astrid’s candidness is something to be admired!
Astrid from I Have Two Feet and Ten Toes
I have been having such a blast reading all of the Guest Benders! Now it is my turn and I am honored to kick off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week by telling you about my history with bulimia and my unpredictable yet steady road towards a strong recovery. I am happy to say that I am in the strongest state of recovery I have ever been, and right now there is no turning back. Before I get into my story, you need to know who I am!
My name is Astrid, and I have a little blog of my own called I Have Two Feet and Ten Toes, which is my place to share my art, food, thoughts with everyone. It’s my way to keep myself accountable to the things that make me happy.
This guest post is going to have 3 sections. Section 1 will be about my history with bulimia and how I got help. Section 2 will be things that help me to love myself and my body. Section 3 is a dinner and dessert recipe that I will share with you!
Section 1: Eating Disorder
What led me there:
One of the hardest parts about recovery is figuring out the triggers that led to the descent into the eating disorder in the first place. The disorder is the body and mind’s defense mechanism against something that hurts far too much to actually deal with.
1. My first semester at Bowdoin College taught me that I was no longer the smartest kid in the class. I was average. Who in the world was I without my perfect grades and undeniable success?
2. I was sexually assaulted by a friend.
The first trigger left me with a yearning to define myself and be good at something. Being sexually assaulted left me with a strong hatred and fear of my own body. Ironically, I was already on the way to gaining the freshman fifteen. I was drinking far too much beer and eating far too many late night slices of pizza. I was never one to analyze what I ate. But I was not taking care of myself. I was on the rugby team, but I quickly found myself very unhappy with my weight. My dad even agreed with this, and said that losing some weight would make me look a lot better.
3. Now, this was the last straw for me! I am a total daddy’s girl! And here was my dad, telling me that I wasn’t pretty! So I resolved to start exercising regularly and start eating well.
This started out great! I was eating very mindfully and slowly building up my endurance. I loved the results of weight loss and health. But what in the world do you do when you hit your goal weight? I lost control and kept trying to lose weight. I developed bulimia by the end of the semester and it definitely got very serious by the end of the summer. I was thin, and although I was not underweight, I was not a healthy girl! And I knew this.
I got help as soon as the fall semester started. I got a treatment team on campus, and they were great. But I have to be honest, I was expecting a quick fix. I thought that if I went to x amount of therapy sessions, ate x amount of good meals a day, I would magically recover! Nope, it does not work that way. I did slowly get better and my bulimic episodes did decrease. I gained weight and I looked healthier. But my mind and soul were in no way healed. I still had an unhealthy body image and I still did not have control over my ed. Yes, I was better. But I was not recovered.
It wasn’t until I took a semester abroad for SEA semester out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts that I learned what it was like for my body to eat a lot, not exercise compulsively, and watch it regulate itself! I spent 8 weeks on a sail boat in the middle of the ocean. We ate 6 times a day, and didn’t have “workouts”. But since the boat is constantly moving, and you are constantly active, your body pretty much takes care of itself. This is the first time I really experienced how awesome my body was!! It was pretty great! This experience also taught me that I have the strength to survive without my ed as my security blanket.
I was not magically recovered, even after SEA semester. A few years later, I moved down to Texas for graduate school, and was still struggling. After struggling for a full year down here, I got help once again. I got a therapist through the counseling center and joined a support group. This is what made a huge difference for me! Having support from real live faces that have gone through similar struggles made me feel less like a freak! I was no longer alone in the world. And it was also great to be able to take about my triumphs and have everyone actually understand what a big deal they were! It is impossible to put into words how it feels to be talking about a struggle and seeing the people around me nodding in understanding. I want no longer alone in my struggle and this gave me huge incentive to get better for myself once and for all!
I am now out of therapy, and it is nearing 6 years since I diagnosed myself with my eating disorder.
What is helping me now
Through therapy and my favorite recovery book, Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery, I rediscovered my passion for art.
Art is a therapy for me. It lets my express myself and get my crazies out onto a safe place. I haven’t taken an art class since middle school, and I definitely do not consider myself to be an “artist,” but I am a creator of art. It is so easy to get bogged down by being a perfectionist. But honestly art is not expensive and you do not need much. Get out and buy a pad of paper or canvas, get a cheap set of colored pencils, pastels, acrylics (whatever medium you want to work with), some brushes, and get to work. It is amazing what comes out of your hand when you just let it out! It is such a healthier release than purging. And that is what I NEED in my life. Ways to release my emotions in a way doesn’t harm my body.
I love creating art with paint, pencils, clay, and FOOD!
Section 2: Love Myself and My Body
Self love and acceptance is such an important part of recovery. One key thing is to accept yourself and get rid of any recovered “image” or yourself. You are not going to magically change, but your mentality can.
This is my list of things that have helped me love myself and my body:
A boyfriend who loves me and all of my imperfections
Exercise (running, weights, and yoga are my favorites)
Eating well and having an eating schedule that I work around. It helps me stay on track and make sure that I am eating well and enough. I do not skip meals, ever.
It is a short list, but it works. You may find the second one a little crazy, but it is an amazing way to feel comfortable in your own skin. What better way than to roll around in soft sheets with nothing in the way of any sensation! Try it.
Here is a list of resources that have helped me stay in recovery:
The Something Fishy website: http://www.somethingfishy.org. This site has resources and a message board where you can go and write about your story, challenges, and triumphs with an ed. It has been an amazing resource and support for me.
Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery by Lindsay Hall. This book has a 3 week stop bingeing plan that really helps. It gives you awesome writing exercises and activities to keep your mind on what is important: your health.
School counseling center
Don’t be afraid to ask for help for yourself or a loved one. Please.
Section 3: Food Time
I have enjoyed cooking for a while, but seeing food as an art form has completely transformed my relationship with it. I can cook awesome meals, snacks, desserts, and be confident that I am putting something inside my body that is nurturing. Interacting with the food has helped to lessen the control that some foods have over me. There are no longer any forbidden foods in my apartment, because I don’t believe in banning something from my diet. If I crave it, I will eat it. And I will enjoy it!
Tortilla pie! One of my favorite dishes to make.
It’s just 4 tortillas layered with meat, beans, cheese, and veggies.
Layer with spinach, cheese, beans, and turkey.
Layer with tomato, cheese, beans, turkey.
Top layer with butter on it! This makes the pie come out soooo delicious. I will never ever skip this step. It is essential to tortilla pie success!
Done with the oven and nice and toasted.
Sliced up! Just to tell you, these tortillas are small ones, so the servings were smaller than the usual tortilla pie I make.
Now for one of my favorite sides! I grew up eating lots of Puerto Rican foods and now I like to make my own twists on them. Here is a nice twist on plantains!
For these, you need ripe plantains. These are yellow with some black spots. Peel them, then rub some olive oil on them. Bake in an oven preheat to 400 F for 30 minutes, turn them over and cake for another 20 minutes. At this point, take them out of the oven and cut a slit along the length of the plantain. Fill this slit with cheese and return to the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melty. It is absolutely amazing and good for you, too, as well as a little indulgent!
The Chocolate Cookie Experiment
1 stick unsalted butter
generous 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp Kahlua
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
a few shakes of cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350*F. Brown 3/4 of the stick of butter on the stove and let the other 1/4 stick of butter sit at room temperature. Take the browned butter and pour onto the brown sugar. Whisk together quickly until it is well mixed. Whisk in the room temperature butter, then whisk in the Kahlua and the egg yolk until it looks like the picture below.
Sift together the dry ingredients and then whisk into the wet ingredients. The mixture will seem dry and you will be able to form it into a ball like below:
Mix in the chocolate chips with your hands. Go ahead and get messy!! Form into balls and bake on greased baking sheets for 12 minutes.
I let them cool on the baking sheets. Then I cut a cookie in half so that I could sample it!
The test cookie propped on the book that helped inspire my recipe.
I adore fresh-baked cookies and make sure that I incorporate them into my diet, because I love them, especially if they are homemade or from an awesome bakery. I have learned eating healthy and well is not about restricting calories or eating a certain way, it is about eating for me. That’s the way my body and mind love it!