faith

photo 2-18

 

The thing about life being really, really shitty for a really, really long time is this: it gets better.

 

Which doesn’t seem like much of a consolation, I know. But I don’t think it’s meant to be. It’s not the consolation, it’s the reward. It’s the everything-after.

 

It gets better. And that better is a delicious and meaty sort of that thing.

 

It. Gets. Better.

 

I say that with a deep exhale of relief and exhaustion and joy.

 

Like collapsing onto a bed at the end of a very long and very good day.

 

It gets better.

 

Shame recedes like the waves at low-tide. And gratitude rushes in. For everything. For the whole of your life. Not a part of it, but the whole messy lot. And for the grace that is that mess. The perfect ordered chaos of it.

 

It gets better and good becomes a flutter in your chest. A constant hum.  And you become aware of the musculature of the heart—how it pulses and expands and grows. And to be privy to the physical experience of that.…Everything begins to feel like a prayer. One of gratitude and wonder and a delicious sort of blooming. Every action an act of faith.

 

Faith.

 

I don’t think of myself as a religious person. And yet. And yet and yet…faith, the word that wets my lips and sits on my tongue and fills what once was empty.

 

Faith.

 

The thing that rolls out like the proverbial yellow brick road.  A path before you. And you don’t know where you’re going, but you know you’re on your way.

 

Faith.

 

Which makes fear beside the point.

 

Which lays waste to timelines.

 

And makes tributaries of loneliness and sorrow and grief—small streams leading to a larger body of water, important and necessary but not the point.

 

Which disappears loneliness—transforms it—makes it sweet in its impermanence.

 

Everything worthy and good I learned through the lens of an eating disorder. Which is something I struggle to explain—it’s not exactly an easy lead in at a cocktail party.

 

Now standing firmly on the other side of the thing, the question of how I got better is one I’m often asked. And the answer is a simple and complex as this: I had faith I would. And so I did.

 

And faith is what I move forward with. That nearly overwhelming stretch of time succeeded in distilling everything dark and complex and seemingly impossible into that one thing—that one word. And that one word broke me open—made me sturdy and soft and so very human.

 

Faith, the invitation to my very own ever-after.

 

It gets better. 

 

It really, really does.

 

....................................................................................................................................

{more on the subject}

more faith

the mystery of faith

 

(for any new readers out there

this post deal with things i've previously

written about in much detail.

more information to be found in the food +health

tab)

hips and birthdays and forgetting and getting through it

laughingbw (1 of 1)

 

I was feeling so very much two Sundays ago. And emotions are such tricky little things they're not always easily placed. I was pacing my tiny apartment, my insides alight with like a hundred and one crummy feelings and I sort of stopped for a moment, caught my breath, cocked my head, and wondered, did I binge today? Was that to explain for this maelstrom of emotion? Because certain things print themselves on your body and it sure as hell felt like I binged.

 

I really had to stand there and think for a moment: what had I eaten, where had I gone, what had been the day?

 

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve binged. But last Sunday, for a split-second, I thought I had. And then I didn’t know. And once I did (I remembered I had last eaten a half stack of flap-jacks while at brunch with my parents before getting on the subway home and having a massive cry), it took a moment to trust what I knew to be true.

 

The thing about eating disorders is that we think they’re about the body. We talk about them as if they’re about the body, we speak of flesh and bones and extra weight as though that’s the point, but, truth be told, for six years my mind was not my own. For six years my mind betrayed me again and again and the pounds piled on--the weight a symptom of deep inconsistencies in my life--my mind not matching up with what was real and tangible and known. My eye flipping the image, as it’s meant to, and my brain then flipping it again and again and again so when all was said and done, I didn’t know which way was up, which way down, or if I was ever actually on solid ground.

 

There were stages of course. The first being the thought to binge. And my helplessness against that thought. It was so clear then. Straight lines. Black and white. The binge, and it’s before and after.

 

But as I began to recover, things became less clear. The binge didn’t always follow the thought. Sometimes it did, but sometimes it didn't. And then, sometimes, it was much delayed. There’d be days when I was convinced I'd already binged, but really I hadn't; and so confused was I by this, I eventually would.

 

Then binging gave way to overeating, which is a totally different thing--not nearly so frenetic or scary or possessive.

 

I am so well now. So totally free of the thing, but for the occasional confusion by my own tangle of emotions which has nothing to do with an eating disorder and everything to do with the daily struggle (and blessing) of this human existence. But such confusion occasionally stirs the silt, dislodging forgotten pieces of the thing.

 

Which leaves me on the occasional Sunday afternoon feeling the rip-roar of loneliness and thinking I've binged. Because for so long the only explanation, the only release, for such an onslaught, was food.

 

But I no longer know how many calories are in a cup of coffee. And I know longer know how many calories are in a glass of wine. I no longer know how many calories are in a serving of quinoa or a tablespoon of olive oil. I definitely no longer know how many calories are in the pint of Ben and Jerry’s I had the other night, but my guess is, quite a few.

 

I used to know. But I forget. I patiently and systematically went about forgotting.

 

And the act of forgetting, where calories are concerned, is one of the very best things I’ve ever done.

 

Because it's been nearly a year since I've binged.

 

Thoughts have to be fed. And I stopped feeding them. I fed my body instead. And what that means is I can look at the photos from my 28th birthday with great affection for the woman I am now--the woman who got through those six years, the woman who can look at the photo above and see she's happy. Before anything else I can see I'm happy.

 

And then I can see the curve of my hips. And actually love the curve of my hips.

 

Because damn if it isn't a lovely thing to look like a woman.

 

 

 

(This week is mental health awareness week. Seeing Tom (a therapist specialized in eating and weight disorders) has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. He's helped me navigate something no one should ever have to navigate. But life is hard and life is tricky and frankly it should be. We'll all one day navigate things no one should ever have to--and we'll probably do it more times than we care to count. While I'd never wish an eating disorder on anyone, it has proved an incredibly rich training ground for all that comes after. So I suppose this is the point where I add my small voice to the mix and say, take care of your mind. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family will see you through much, but sometimes you need the objectivity and talent of trained professional--and how lucky that there are people out who are just that. For more on this subject I've got a ton of posts under my food and health tab on the left-side of the blog.)

what i'm eating (day three)

after my posts on attempting to eat as little sugar as possible and why (onetwothreefour) one of the common requests was would i show what i eat on a daily basis. what follows is my best attempt… day one | day two | day three:

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i'm gonna level with you. this challenge (we can call it a challenge can't we?)--this challenge of accurately representing what i eat has been quite difficult for me.

for a few reasons.

mostly because in the same way that language inherently distorts an experience, just knowing that i'd be sharing what i was eating affected my choices.

which is to say, these sorts of posts...wherever you may see them... should be taken with a grain of salt.

(if SELF magazine tells me that Jessica Alba eats x, y, and z, then i very much doubt that Jessica Alba actually eats x, y, and z. and if she does in fact eat x, y, and z then i like to remember that she has a chef or delivered meals or a whole team of professionals making sure she looks her best. and i don't blame her for this--looking good is part of her job. she should invest in that. and if that means time, money, and ability and she has said time, money, and the ability to hire a personal chef--more power to her).

{that tangent was all to drive home the point: grain of salt. take. this all. with a grain of salt}

but whether we get paid for looking good or not, i do think we can all invest in our health which will then be reflected in our appearance. it is important, for all of us, whether we have huge funds or not, to take pride in what we reflect to the world. it immediately lets others know the respect we have ourselves and the respect we in turn demand. dressing up and looking good are important (and can be done at any size, in any body, on any budget).

okay, so there were like three tangents there and i'm not even tremendously sure where the rest of this is gonna go, but follow along, won't you?

one of the first things that tom said to me was that any calorie can save your life. if you're starving, the calories in a twinkie can be of huge import to you. but not all calories are created equal. if you have a normal diet (which is to say you aren't starving yourself) you may go out to dinner, way overindulge, and wake up in the middle of the night hot and sweaty. why? because when we aren't starving ourselves the body doesn't feel the need to store every calorie. so it knows it's just gotten a huge influx and it can get rid of 'em. and it works a little harder to do just that, hence the sweat.

i know for myself, that the further i get away from the years i restricted my intake and my brain feared i'd never again eat, the more forgiving my body is about those moments i consume too much.

there's a new trend in the diet world... the starvation diet. and all of the tests on mice and rats have shown that their vitals get really good, which in a lot of ways can be explained by a thing called repair response in which the body senses it's not getting everything it needs and has to kick in to high gear and make the most out of everything it has. essentially, the body gets really effective. to explain this a little further, because it's confusing: when i was in school we did a ton of voice work (remember i trained to be an actor) and i often got colds in which my voice was compromised. but whenever i went into class with a cold my teacher would remark on how well my voice and breath were working together. well, that's because it was hurting and damaged and didn't have any extra effort to do anything beyond what it knew how to do best. it got super efficient, and outsmarted me. but i still sounded like i had a cold. because i did. when the repair response kicks in the body takes over and does what it knows how to do best and churns out the sort of results that look really good when measuring markers in the blood. but it's still working from a diminished capacity. tom made a great point last week. he said, we can measure quite a bit about those starving rats. but we can't measure their quality of life. they may seem healthy and fit, but may be actually and acutely totally miserable.

when all you think about is food--to have or not to have--that is a miserable existence. when your very worth is tied to how many calories you did or did not consume that is a miserable existence. it is small and narrow-minded and totally not the point. of life. life! (i can say this because for years i was that person so i have tremendous sympathy). but i am also the person that will be the first to say, we must choose, day after to day, to want something bigger for ourselves. all of society and commerce conspire to make us overweight and unhappy (we buy more then), so we must choose, actively choose, to prioritize our health and our happiness and outsmart the system.

as we approach, or rather, find ourselves smack dab in the middle of swimsuit season (for all of my norther-hemisphere readers) something tom said years ago keeps coming to mind: when we think someone is looking at us and judging our body, they're only thinking about us for at most...five seconds, before their mind turns to judging their own body.

and a lovely reader, Agnes, sent me this article which i just think is so genius and everyone, everywhere should read. but if you don't read the whole thing, let me at least share this:

"An eating disorder is not one person's disorder; it is our society's disorder. We need to stop telling girls to be thin and lithe and carb-free, and we need to prize our intellectual and powerful women like true heroes rather than curious little pseudo-Thatcherite oddities of history. We have to stop celebrating strong women while also mocking their bingo wings. We need everyone to rejoice in the love and friendship and balance that we experience every day when we eat food with others or alone, rather than treating it like woman’s worst enemy."

so i want to say, in regards to these "what i'm eating posts"...they should not be a template for what you are eating. rather, they should show you, i eat what i want, when i want it. serving size is not accurately represented in the photos 1. because it's a personal thing 2. because it's hard to. one of the issues i have with diets like weight watchers is that (essentially) they tell us we should eat the same amount everyday. and that is just a load of hooey. some days i eat more. some i eat less. some months i eat more, some less.

so without further ado, what i ate (day three)i woke up and had half of an at-home-latte + quite a few tortilla chips. that was it, until around three pm i went to momofuku milk bar and got myself a compost cookie (so see there, i ate sugar, full out) and a large iced latte. and then when i got home from work i went to the corner restaurant and ordered myself a big burger with cheese and fries. and i ate it at eleven pm. and that was my day. there are few redeeming qualities about those food choices, but for the fact that i don't feel bad about any of them. it was one day. i wasn't hungry (stress can make me as nauseous as the next person) until eleven when i felt the need for a serious bit of meat.

 

and in conclusion:

"how about instead of 'all body types are beautiful' we say 'beauty is extremely subjective and fleeting and doesn't determine your worth and you don't owe attractiveness to anyone so why don't you focus on something important like being a worthwhile human being.'" via.

(i don't know who said this, but i think it's genius in the way that few things ever are. and for any woman, or girl, out there who thinks men care if they are ten pounds lighter or not, i've yet to meet a man i've liked who'd even notice such a thing--it's sometimes frustrating how little they notice!).

what i'm eating (day two)

 

after my posts on attempting to eat as little sugar as possible and why (onetwothreefour) one of the common questions was would i show what i eat on a daily basis. what follows is my best attempt…

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(i really mean it when i say i believe in full-fat lattes. they get me going each morning. i believe in the ritual that is coffee--making it, as well as drinking it).

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(i'm a big snacker. and some days my meals are more snacks than anything else).

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(st andre cheese is my absolute favorite in all the world. and upon occasion i'll get it cheap from trader joe's and treat myself).

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(i have this dish all. the time. i get the shaved brussel sprouts from trader joe's, chop them up just a bit more, add olive oil and salt, parmesan cheese {or any sort of hard, shaved cheese}, and a toasted nut {pine nuts and almonds are my favorite}. this is also a dish that could happily take some avocado chunks).

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(before bed i took a warm bath and had a latte {DECAF!}. it feels important to say that there was quite a bit of joy taken in soaking in the warm water with a warm drink in hand. oftentimes we turn to food for comfort when a good book, a good bath, a lit candle, and the like are as just as much--if not more--value).