Cooking with one label

Ask everyone in my family, and they’ll say I’m a good cook. Probably the best out of all four.

Thanks to my eating disorder I became quite skilled in the kitchen. In order to get well, I had to learn to cook, which I write about in my book Sick. Basically, I was eating all raw foods and then my body became too cold and weak to digest them. Then, I got too habitual with the foods I was able to eat so my eating disorder resurfaced. It didn’t help that I began to exercise  frequently as soon as I gained some strength, which made me need to eat (the same things) more. Often, I did not eat for this reason and stayed anxious, hungry.

I stopped liking cooking because I felt I had to do it, couldn’t eat out or enjoy myself. Slowly, with some professional help, I added more in and started to experiment. Today, I’m lazy on cooking sometimes. Soon, when I feel more settled and ready, it will come back . I didn’t just drop doing cooking totally and start watching TV, or something like that. Instead, I opt to do more of the other healthy activities that make me feel good, such as taking care of my face or driving somewhere special to walk. I still spend plenty of time in the kitchen.

When I became “obsessed” with cooking, my eating disorder did not come back seriously compared to where I had been before. But it  happened badly in the sense that, once again, everyday folks thought I was just thin or small. I felt like such a nothing and didn’t want to share “anorexia.” Although I was trying to get better, I felt incarcerated as ever.

I don’t like that people seem to think I’ve had more than one eating disorder. Then again, things seemed unclear in my book based on the well-meaning medical “threats” I received and what people said was going to happen! I didn’t have eating disorders. One label is more than plenty, mind you! A doctor said I’d probably become bulimic, but I’ve never made myself throw up. Maybe I was “exercise bulimic” but that would have been at the same time that I was anorexic, anyways. I gained a lot of weight in a short period of time, yes, but that wasn’t anything new. The point is, I cut through and found therapies, such as new types of movement. Also, I know what binge eating is and have met various people with that condition. I don’t have that. I do; however, have lots of shame, insecurity and doubt. Not gross amounts, but more than what I previously could handle. But just because I’m no longer anorexic doesn’t make it right for people to wonder, in light of my history, What’s next. What more is wrong with this woman?

Five of my favorite health-related “things”

1. Nature. I love nature. Generally, I prefer moving in nature as opposed to working out indoors. I feel very fortunate and grateful for the environment.

2. Walking. This goes along with nature. Walking is centering and grounding. When I walk in nature, I listen to the sounds. When it’s not such a good nature day, I play music and go more with my emotions.

3. Foam rolling + free stretching, dance and singing. This can include jumping on a trampoline/rebounder or simply getting up and walking around the house. I used to push through and ignore the little signs my body gave me. I’ve reached a point, now, where I just want to be happy. I want my body to feel good. Usually, that doesn’t mean I have to go super intense. If I find a way to be with the movement in my mind and enjoy it, calculating and competing are unnecessary. Sometimes, though, at least in my personal experience, you’ve just got to burn and push because that’s what feels good. The challenge is not to set yourself up in such a way that encourages the illusion of overpowering the body–as if it is separate from who you are! For some people, setting more specific fitness goals is beneficial. These people may like to train for races and competitions. I’ve been there, done that and for the most part prefer the freedom offered by a more creative mindset. With that said, I also have strong discipline; I value the body, I value movement and believe that exercise should be the highlight of the day, not something to dread.

4. Massage. I hope to begin massage school fall 2014 or in 2015. Massage has helped me so much! I received my first massage at nineteen. I discovered it from yoga. In my world growing up, the general stereotype was that massage was for spoiling yourself. But, for anyone who has experienced a good massage, you feel the benefits of regeneration. For me, massage has been so helpful in understanding and connecting with my body. I think it is natural to want to share something with other people that has helped me.

5. Esthetician or do-it-yourself beauty. To me, an esthetician is a teacher. I visit her every few months. I am interested in organic and natural products. I love learning things, asking questions and experimenting at home. Personally, I feel much better about myself since I began this quest. Taking care of appearances isn’t a chore or something necessary, it should be fun. You do it because it makes you feel good.

5 things I do to help myself when I am feeling down

1. Make a nice batch of tea and drink it while I work.

This sure is a nice way to say to myself: “I care.”

2. Go to the farmers market and pick out fresh fruits and vegetables.

Not only to they taste delicious, but eating nutritious foods help me be productive too. Also, drink plenty of refreshing fluids.

3. Move often and have fun without overdoing it.

I’ve been working pretty hard physically in preparation for a certification test I have coming up. The last two days, I’ve switched up my routine and though anxiety drones in the background, I’m doing my best not to let it control me.

4. Get clear on your role models.

It’s easy for me to lose perspective on myself when I’ve been trapped all day working. I think it’s important to look up to people who are different than you are but similar enough so that your goal of “becoming” is attainable. I look up to someone and think “I CAN be her!” Working hard now is part of the process of getting there. I also review the positive changes I have made over the years.

5. Do something that helps you feel relaxed, but will motivate you to get organized and feel on top of things. 

Ideas include: energy work, massage, a walk in nature, or a nice long nap.

Five tips for taking care of yourself

1. Make yourself feel with music.

I love music. It has the potential to change my mood, take me back to a place I want to be, or help me think about the future I would like to create for myself. It is easy to get stuck listening to the same songs all the time and get in a funk. For this reason, whenever I hear a song I like on the radio, I write it down and would encourage other people to do so too. Later, I listen to this song again, and I am surprised by how inspired it makes me feel to write, move my body, or just meditate and feel.

2. Warm your heart with an animal.

I am very fortunate to have a sweet dog named Rocky. He is incredibly cute and looking at him always brings my attention to my heart. I love walking Rocky and feeding him, yes, but best of all are the times I spend with Rocky that do not involve chores. Doing so challenges me to put my work away and come back into the beauty and peacefulness of the present moment.

Do you have an animal you like spending time with at home? Next time, pay attention to the sensations in your body spending time around an animal brings up for you.

3. Play…in the water!

I do not often go to the pool, but I love taking baths. I add salts with aromatherapy oils and do gentle swimming motions in the water. Usually, I follow up by doing some self-massage. If you are more curious about self-massage, I learned the idea from an Ayurvedic practitioner, who introduced to me the concept of “Abhyanga.” Later, I did a school project in which I talked about self-massage and the role touch played in helping me heal from an eating disorder.

4. Spend time by yourself.

Sometimes relationships with other people can be draining. In order to realize which relationships in your life are more draining to you than uplifting, spend some time alone and assess. Do the people you spend time around value you for who you are? To what extent do you feel the need to uphold an image in order to be wanted?

5. Experiment with movement.

Movement can be a wonderful tool to come in touch with yourself and feel all different kinds of emotions. That said, exercise can be detrimental and dangerous—especially depending on the individual situation—when it becomes overly routine and encourages a self-defeating mentality.

My advice: Step out of your comfort zone if you want, but I prefer to shift the focus to getting comfortable moving whenever/wherever…no matter the zone! One of my favorite things to do is dance in my room to music when nobody is looking. I prefer to move throughout the day rather than pressure myself to “get it all in” in a short period of time.