Wednesday, June 16, 2010


You probably won't hear much from me for the next little while; I have a good friend from the US staying with me and we are spending a lot of hours talking and catching up on lost time. :)

Tonight we made babotie for dinner. This is a traditional South African dish of spiced meat topped with a savoury custard. It's very cheap, easy to make, delicious and nutritious.

To make 3 large servings:

Approx 1lb lean minced (ground) beef
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 slice of soft sandwich bread, soaked in milk for 30 seconds, and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons of mango chutney
1-2 tablespoons of curry powder
75g (2-3 ounces) of sultanas or raisins
75g toasted almonds (I didn't have any so left them out)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
3 eggs
150ml (5 fluid ounces) milk

1. Set the oven to 180 Celsius. Brown your minced beef, breaking it up as you cook. Drain off the fat and set aside.
2. Add some olive oil to the pan and soften the onion and garlic for a few minutes.
3. Return the beef to the pan, and add the bread, chutney, curry powder, raisins, lemon zest and juice and bay leaves. Season well with salt and pepper and mix very well. Transfer to a greased casserole.
4. Beat the eggs and milk together. Pour over the meat mixture and bake for approximately 40 minutes until golden.
5. Eat!

We had ours with a delicious dressed leafy salad and brown rice. I'm stuffed now!

Monday, June 14, 2010

cod with a pesto crust

So the old blog was a rather unhealthy step in my ED recovery - it outlined every mouthful I ate, and every pound I lost (I have now deleted all the weight-related info from the sidebar so that I can forget about it!). I didn't know it but it was helping me in my "shadow motivation" which was to lose weight - not to recover. All the old posts are there but I don't really recommend reading them as it's not particularly helpful. There is the odd insightful post but most of it is food-focused, which is classic ED behaviour.

However there was one part of it that I think was good: the recipes. So I'm going to continue that here, whenever we make a particularly nice dinner. Like tonight. This is easy beyond belief but people always seem to be impressed by it. :)

Cod with a Pesto Crust (serves 2)

2 cod fillets (or salmon, or chicken actually if you don't eat fish)
Olive oil
Grated cheddar
1 slice wholemeal bread (the sandwich kind rather than the cakey, soda-style kind)
Pesto (I just used green basil/pine nut pesto from a jar but more accomplished cooks may wish to make their thanks!)

1. Set the oven to 180 Celsius.
2. Grease a baking dish with olive oil and lay the fillets in it.
3. Convert your slice of bread to breadcrumbs through sheer bloody minded persistence or in my case, by popping it in the food processor for a few seconds.
4. In a bowl, add two heaping teaspoons of pesto and a handful of grated cheddar. Add as much of the breadcrumbs as you'd like to form a nice paste that you can smear on top of the fish.
5. Smear the paste on top of the fish. I load it on with a spoon and then flatten with my hands.

6. Bake for approx 20 mins (although chicken may take a little longer).

Look at that flaky cod, mmm.

7. Eat!

We had ours with stir-fried courgettes and yellow peppers with olive oil, black pepper and a little maple syrup, and some brown rice.

Yum. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

weak as a fat little kitty

At the start of this process I was having real trouble separating thoughts from emotions. I remember writing in my diary at one point, "Is the urge to binge a thought?" I couldn't quite work it out. I understand that in order to begin to feel differently about myself or my circumstances, I need to begin by consciously thinking differently. However if my head-space seems like an echoey cavern while my heart is full of pain, or my stomach is full of screaming, how do I deal with it?

It seems the answer is time. How boring eh. :)

When you start becoming conscious of how your disordered desires are linked to your disordered thinking, then you expect to be able to form automatic links that explain everything away quickly. It only works like that part of the time. The rest of the time you feel things and you're not sure why.

So I've had this recurring issue where directly after Group Therapy or a session with a therapist in the clinic, I get the urge to binge. It's strange - just after receiving a veritable truckload of encouragement and support, you want to get down to the chipper quicksmart and stuff in a burger. This has been baffling me since the start of the journey. Then, finally, I understood why this week.

A few days ago I had a session with a clinical nutritionist who specialises in eating disorders. She herself is recovered from Eating Distress. It was deeply helpful. (Some other day I will post up her advice for the healthiest way for the body to eat.) However it was also very emotional, because she understood. She got it. She'd been there. I left tearful, but armed with a lot of helpful information, and feeling very supported and motivated. And then I was struck with the overwhelming urge to binge.


Because the session allowed me to be vulnerable, and being vulnerable makes me feel fragile. And feeling fragile makes me look around for something that will make me feel strong. Food, while eating it for emotional comfort, has always in that moment made me feel strong. It's the very definition of a crutch. This explains why I have had the urge to binge after every single session at the ED clinic. It has taken a few months of feeling the fragility and simultaneously enduring the urge to binge to finally get some clarity.

Last night I found myself struck with grief about a difficult situation in my life that I cannot change. It basically involves someone that I love and with whom I have a complicated relationship in a long-term pattern of severe self-destruction. It has been going on for years. I have always used comfort eating as a way to cope with it. Last night, I cried and cried and cried about it. It was very unexpected and a little scary. But I am aware that all the blocked emotions of my life are currently making their way to the surface and have been advised to (where appropriate!) just let it come. To my surprise, the grief was not accompanied with the urge to binge. Amazing.

Thanks to those of you who are reading. It's great to have some companionship for the journey.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

i am my own best friend

That sounds gay, doesn’t it? J

It is a lesson I am trying to learn though. For many years whenever I was having a bad day I would turn to food. It was a quick, dependable and easy way to get some comfort. It was fairly short-lived however, as once the food was eaten, I needed further comfort. More food? Why yes, thank you.

I have always been viewed as a “strong” person, despite actually being quite mentally and emotionally fragile. I have talked about this before. I gave the impression of being strong because I never depended on anyone else. Why did I never depend on anyone? Because I was busy depending on food.

On days where I was feeling sorry for myself (these days still occur you know) I would sometimes feel the desperate need of a friend (of which I have many). Did I ever pick up the phone and ask for help? No. And then when help and support from friends was not forthcoming, I would actually feel angry at them. I’m there for you all the time – where are you when I need someone?! Had I just swallowed my pride and asked for some company, or sent an email, I would have received what I needed. But I never did. I turned to food instead.

A couple of months ago I was having a “black” day. This is the kind of day when the ED seems to consume me. I have been binge-free for a few months now and have not allowed myself to use food as an emotional crutch – only as nourishment. And on this day, it felt (as I have described before) as though there was screaming going on inside me, unrelenting screaming. Pleading for food one moment, forcefully demanding it the next. Thinking back on those days (I haven’t had one to that extreme for a while now) it strikes me that the internal conflict has a demonic edge to it…there’s a good cop/bad cop thing going on. There’s this pathetic voice…Please, please give me a snack. I am so hungry…quickly followed by a complete screaming tantrum…GET IT FOR ME! It is a living torment. I used to quieten it down with food before it ever reached those kinds of proportions. Not anymore.

Anyway, on this black day, I was being beaten black and blue on the inside with this bullshit. And it occurred to me that I needed a friend. And it occurred to me further that perhaps I could be that friend. Perhaps I could speak calmly to myself, offer myself reassurance, do something kind for myself. And I was right. I was able to do those things. And I felt better. I do have the capacity to take care of myself. When I do this, I am in a better state not only to love and care for others, but to receive love and care from others.

This realisation doesn’t mean that I don’t need friends, or that I don’t need to call on others for help sometimes. It also doesn’t mean that I am invincible, or that I can fulfil all of my own needs: as a Christian in particular, I definitely don’t think that’s true. However I have been denying myself a relationship with me for so long – choosing food as an alternative; ironically, depriving myself .

But this does mean that I have a caring and intelligent friend at my disposal every moment, if only I will call on her. And that’s myself. That’s a big deal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

diets don't work

Dieting has never worked for me. Diets have always made me feel very miserable, unhappy and profoundly deprived. Calling them "lifestyle changes" didn't make any difference either. Yes, I lost weight, but no, I never maintained the loss. Deprivation simply doesn't work. If diets worked, fat people would lose weight and remain thin. That just doesn't happen. Everyone I know who has ever lost a significant amount of weight by dieting has regained it all, and now yo-yos between high and low weights, in a constant battle with food, their wills and their own bodies. We treat our bodies as enemies to be defeated instead of our most beautiful and useful assets to be nurtured.

I now recognise how detrimental this pattern actually has been to my health. I found this excellent article the other day via Lori's blog. Please give it a read if you are a yo-yo dieter, as it really opens your eyes to what this habit does to the body. Please read it if you have a few extra pounds and you're thinking of starting a diet to shed them.

I am beginning to understand that depriving the body destroys the metabolism. If my body regularly experiences calorie deficits, then it's going to react strongly whenever I overeat, and try its best to hang onto the extra calories...for survival! I have often wondered why some people can go to say, a wedding, and eat and drink lots more than usual, and not gain weight. The answer is not luck. The answer is that their metabolism functions properly because it has not been confused and destroyed by cycled bouts of deprivation followed by bouts of excess. Therefore it metabolises extra food instead of turning it into adipose. My husband has always eaten pretty moderately and exercised. He does not do this out of principle - he does it because he listens to his body unconsciously, eats what he needs to, and enjoys running. At special events, he does not gain five pounds. I do, though. And it's not because I've consumed 17,500 calories worth of food either (one pound contains 3,500 calories). It is because my physiology has actually been affected by this behaviour of deprivation and excess that has been going on since I was about 13.

What is the antidote to this problem?

My friend Lee would say, actually, that it is love. She is fully recovered from Eating Distress and has left the world of dieting far behind her. To quote her:

"I was every weight...I hit both ends...and no number on the scales, no dress size, no body size ever made me any happier, or any more content. What I discovered was, that the more I obsessed about weight, the bigger my weight got. The more I trusted, forgot about it, and just listened to my body, focused on finding a weight just stabilised. I lost the excess weight caused by emotional over-eating, restricting and not listening to my body's signals. There were times I restricted and gained pounds at the end of the week (a symptom of fluid retention and metabolic rate standing still). Then I trusted that I could eat more and never had to worry about it.

I focused on accepting my body; sending love to the parts I didn't like, and that seemed to be the live anyway and the body just kinda sorts itself out when you aren't focusing on it and you are wrapped up in doing other living!

Sometimes you temporarily gain a bit of weight becuase your body is healing. The poor body...being so beaten up and broken and yet it keeps fighting for you...but as it heals, it sorts itself out. You just need to trust; to beleive it's worth it. Something that helped me was realising that what had caused all the problems I experienced with my body was the disordered behaviour in the first place.

So there was no point in going back looking for the solution in the very thing that had created the problem! The answer is to build up the self-love. When you love yourself enough, you stop hurting yourself.

Build up the acceptance: only when you accept something the way it is completely can it change in positive ways. Build up the forgiveness (forgive your body for not always meeting your expectation, trust it is doing its best...).

Work on feeling good enough the way you up your sense of feeling good enough to the point that nothing can break it."

So this is what I am trying to do. It is genuinely difficult to trust that it is all going to work out ok. Our culture screams at us that all we need to do is put down the fork. That's actually not the case. In fact, many of us need to learn that it is actually ok to eat. It is actually ok to give our body what it needs. I think I have been stuck in a mindset of thinking "If I can just deprive myself for long enough, then I will reach my target weight, and then I can stop depriving." That is total bullshit. Deprivation does not work. Dieting does not work. Why would I want to go back there? It has caused so so many problems: such a sense of failure. Sometimes you can even get a bit of a (short-lived) high from depriving yourself. Yay! I ate very little today! I am hungry but my willpower won out! Soon I will be thin! You think this feeling is confirmation that things are changing in you - but they're not!

What does seem to work, in the experience of Lee and others like her, is imperfectly stumbling along in the journey of kindness and self-acceptance, while feeding the body every couple of hours with something nutritious...plenty of meat, fish, fruit,vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, pulses, cheeses, yoghurt.

I don't always get it right. I eat too much or too little sometimes, or too much non-nutritious food or whatever. Sometimes I go too long without eating, which slows the metabolic rate. I also allow stupid bullshit thinking to go on in my head instead of correcting it and slamming it down at every turn. For example, I was at a bbq recently. We were eating at the table. Plate after plate of meat and bread and salad came my way as they were passed around. Feeling a little pressurised, I mindlessly took something from every plate, not even thinking do I like this? Do I want this? When the loading was done, I looked down and saw far more food on my plate than I wanted, including foods I do not even like. I panicked slightly. I began to eat quickly for a couple of reasons. (a) So that people would not see the quantity on my plate and (b) so that I would not offend our hosts by leaving half a plateful, having helped myself! How idiotic! Halfway through my meal I was very full, but kept going. It was actually terrible. And it all transpired not because there was a lot of food and a lot of "temptation" but because my thinking was utterly disordered. However I have learned a lesson about mindfulness in such situations and I won't let it happen again.

I am definitely a bit scared at the moment. I suppose I have been feeling that I can trust that my body will stabilise at a healthy weight if I can see the "proof" on the scales. (As you know, my scales are gone.) My therapist's suggestion that perhaps seeing lower numbers on the weighing scale was in fact not proof of recovery woke me up to the realities of my a lifetime serial dieter from a very early age, I think I was actually viewing the recovery process as the key to losing weight. How insane is that!

I have to battle against this mindset now on a daily basis, but at least I am aware of it, which means I can get into the ring and fight it, instead of taking the covert digs from the condition day in day out without really realising how I am ending up so battered and bruised...

Here's to self-care, self-nourishment and the rest. Later.

Friday, June 4, 2010

i only have today

I was talking with a friend of mine today while we sat in the sunshine eating delicious sandwiches, drinking tea and solving all the world's (and our own) problems. She asked me some hard questions about what exactly it is that I am trying to do: what's the meat and potatoes of it? How does it work out in practice?

I understand: it's confusing. I am definitely confused myself. I am muddling through my own distorted thinking (which has been deeply influenced by the culture in which I live) trying to find the truth about myself at the bottom of it all. And something that has been very helpful to me is the acknowledgement that I only have today.

Now, I don't mean that I can't make plans. I don't mean that I can't dream about the future. In fact, it's the opposite of that. Acknowledging that I only have today in fact helps me to make plans and have dreams. And my plans and dreams will not be defined by a dress size or the number on the scale, thanks very much. Just because I carry extra weight does not mean that I do not deserve a bright future.

If I only have today, then I only have to worry about today's emotions. If I only have today, then I only need to worry about what I eat today. I don't need to stress about tomorrow, or that wedding I'm going to soon. If I am worried that I will be fat and unhealthy forever, well, making plans to lose 2lbs a week for the next 40 weeks isn't going to alleviate me of that worry. Also, binging isn't going to alleviate that worry: it's obviously making matters worse. However, choosing nourishing, delicious foods for my body today (which is all I can do) and trusting that those choices are all part of this journey toward full health - emotional, physical and spiritual - makes my tasks seem smaller.

If I feel overwhelmed today and want to stuff it down with food, well then I need to ask myself why. What exactly is overwhelming me? And what else can I say to myself or do for myself that will allow me to feel less overwhelmed? Being overwhelmed doesn't come from nowhere. Neither does anger or stress or frustration. Our emotions have roots. If I am overwhelmed, perhaps I need to sit quietly and feel it. I can take a look around my brain and my heart in that quiet moment and get the reason why. Once I have located the reason, I can make a choice as to how to react to the problem. And sometimes it's simpler than we might think.

For example, I might wake up, take a look in the mirror and feel upset with what I see. This might lead to feelings of anger, or being overwhelmed.

I might then think upon reflection that I feel upset because I am fat, or because I am ugly, or because none of my clothes fit right. I might mistakenly think that those are my problems (being fat and ugly). But that is not why I am upset. Being fat and ugly are not my problems.

I am upset because I have decided that to be a truly beautiful woman is to have perfect hair, a symmetrical face, a size 12 figure and expensive, well-cut clothes. More than that - tanned skin (not this white freckly stuff), nice hands and feet, medium height...this can all be added to the mix. Let's not forget that this imaginary woman also has a fantastic career, a clean home and a happy brood of kids around her. She is not stressed out or disappointed by life, either (ha!). I am upset because I have made decisions in advance about what is acceptable and what is not, and as I do not fit into this imaginary acceptable category, I cannot feel happy.

My husband says I am beautiful every day. Is he a liar? No. He sees my beauty as I am right now; no changes necessary. My friends often tell me I am beautiful. Are they lying too?

And when I tell one of my own friends (none of whom are supermodels) that they look very beautiful, am I lying? Of course not. Sometimes I am struck by how gorgeous they appear - each and every one of them! - because I am seeing their spirit and their personality shining out of their unique faces, and they are stunning to me.

So I've gotten out of bed. I've looked in the mirror and I appear to have been hit by a train. Am I willing to look myself in the eye and say, "You look good actually. You have good eyes with long lashes, a straight nose and strong teeth. You have a mouth and tongue which have the potential to say truthful and kind things. You have arms and hands that can hold your loved ones, or welcome a stranger. You have strong legs that can walk a thousand miles - literally and metaphorically. You have a sharp mind, safe in a head of dark hair. You have a heart that beats every moment, and that can feel and love."

Isn't that enough, for today?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

completely and utterly nuts

If any of you reading are familiar with Weight Watchers, you'll know how it can unwittingly screw with your perceptions of food. One of the things that years of dieting with Weight Watchers did to me was fill me with a fear of eating nuts. Weight Watchers points are calculated based on the calorie count and saturated fat content of any given food. Nuts come in pretty high in points and, despite them being rich sources of nutrients and essential fats, I tended to avoid them. (I did not avoid, however, low-points packets of crisps, sweets and other junk.)

In an attempt to begin truly nourishing my body I went a little nuts with buying nuts today. I bought raw hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds and cashews. I poured these into a huge canister and mixed them with raisins, dried cranberries and dried apricots. Now, when I want a snack between meals, I can have a little scoop of nutrient-dense deliciousness.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So today I took the advice of my therapist and got rid of my weighing scales. Anybody stuck in the dieting mentality will be thinking, "ooh, risky." That'd be me then. It was a terrifying decision. I know from the last time that I weighed myself (this morning, in fact, just before I put the scales away) that I am still obese, and yet I am making the decision to disregard the scales? Forever. Forever?

My therapist helped me to realise that I was rewarding myself for the courageous acts of not binging and actually sitting through and feeling the emotions that this raises, with numbers on a scale. She's right. She asked me what I was getting out of weighing myself every day. I had a hard time answering that. I suppose it was giving me reassurance that I was doing things right. She responded with the suggestion that perhaps seeing numbers go down on a weighing scale isn't always signalling that you are doing things right.

This highlighted for me that my motivation, despite what I have been saying, is actually to lose a lot of weight, rather than to gain full freedom. The irony with all of this is that with full freedom comes the body stabilising at a healthy weight, but that stabilising at a healthy weight in and of itself does not bring full freedom around food, thoughts and emotions. Basically I was working backwards and the destination might have been thin but it would not have been happy or healthy.

So I need to have a little trust in myself. I do not need to document every morsel that passes my lips for "accountability"...who am I being accountable to anyway? What I do need to do is to eat regularly - every 2-3 hours - and eat nutritionally dense foods. Treats are not a problem. Binging is to be completely avoided and right now, there are some foods that might lead to binging, so these are best avoided for the time being (bags of jelly sweets, large packets of crisps...that kind of crap).

One of my therapists said something in Group Therapy last night that made a lot of sense to me. "Unless you have a history of recovery, don't gravitate towards the past." So I've realised I need to lighten up about my weight. So I'm overweight. Big wow. I won't be overweight forever, and it already does not define who I am.

Time for dinner.