Connections

Before I talk anymore about the calorie myth, I just want to take a brief second to talk about a recovery–and life tool–that has become really important in my life recently.

In fact, I think it might be the single most important tool I’ve discovered–more so than nutrition, fitness, and even therapy or program.

Connection.

ED (or disordered thinking in general) grows strongest when we disconnect from other people. ED loves to sit in your head and wait for the quiet moments to start playing the negative self-talk record on repeat. ED knows that the longer you obsess about your own self and body, the less you’ll be open to letting anyone else in–and then ED has you all to himself.

I have always been the quiet kid who preferred to isolate. I used to get sick to get out of going to sleepover parties with my girlfriends in elementary school (although I didn’t realize that it was partly psychosomatic until recently). I preferred going on long walks by myself around New York City at twilight to staying up late with friends in my dorm. I am notorious for giving rain checks on days when the anxiety sends me to bed before 9 pm.

Frankly, while being alone can be a wonderful way to meditate, get in touch with yourself, and take a break from the world to calm the anxiety, it’s not an efficient tool for getting better. In the end, taking a risk and putting yourself out there–even for a little while, even with just one person–gives you a better chance at fighting the negativity that would otherwise fill the silence.

Easier said than done, you say. And you’re right. It’s easy to sit here and type out the words after I’ve already started doing it. But who said that only easy things were worth doing? So, in case you’re wondering how to dive in and start connecting, I’ve outlined my own journey:

1. The first thing I did was listen to myself. This is a connection that you can make alone, however you’ll have to work for it. In the months that I’ve been sitting in my house recovering, I’ve had a lot of time to sit by myself. In the past, that was some quality time with ED waiting to happen. Instead, I started listening to the other voice in my head–my voice. It was the one that asked, “But why do I need to go to the gym two days after my surgery? What will that prove?” and “Why do I care how many calories are in bone broth? Can’t I just enjoy it?” It was the voice that said, “I’m lonely. Please reach out to someone. Please.”

2. The second thing I did was listen to the universe. This is probably going to sound a little crazy and “hippy-dippy,” but bear with me: I believe that the universe sends us messages. Sometimes, those messages are in the form of people, sometimes they’re in the form of opportunities. A good example: In early June, I accidentally took a voice lesson. My little brother was going to miss a paid-for voice lesson when he went to visit his father in Florida. My mom insisted I take the lesson, even though I hadn’t sung in about three years and had no desire to ever go near the theatre again. Now, not only do I take lessons every week, I’ve found an incredible friend in my vocal coach and I am going to be in my first musical in six years. If I had fought the universe, I wouldn’t be doing Les Mis.

3. Third, I learned to talk to strangers. Probably goes against everything your parents taught us, but I’m not talking about the kind who offer you candy from unmarked white vans. I’m talking about the ones who offer you freelance work in Starbucks because they noticed that you were a writer. I’m talking about the kind whose blogs you stumble upon while searching for positive examples of recovery. I’m talking about the ones who send you incredibly heartfelt emails or leave incredibly honest and beautiful blog comments because they read your story and wanted to share theirs. I’m talking about the people who make small talk while standing in line, the people who see you walk into the gym after 4 months and ask you how your injury is healing. People are essentially good, and you can learn so much from them if only you donate a few minutes of your time to the experience.

4. Fourth, I learned to let people in. I have never been good at having friends. I have never been good at staying in touch. But of late, and partially because of this blog, I’ve reconnected with many of my high school, college, and grad school friends, as well as some of my coworkers from previous jobs. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that they are still in my life. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that they still care–and to be able to care about their lives. And that includes some of my new friends here in California, too. I was so scared of sharing even a tiny piece of myself with them–after dealing with the drama that I left behind in Florida–that I ignored the chance to connect with some really incredible, beautiful people. And I’m making an effort now to be a part of their lives as they’ve tried to become a part of mine.

5. Finally, I learned to reach out.  This is the big one. This is the hardest, hardest part: making the first move. I have always waited for people to come to me. If the universe didn’t seem to be sending a message (or I was too busy ignoring it because ED was holding my attention captive), then so be it. I would be alone, and that was that. But I’m learning that good things don’t always come to those who wait. Those who wait sometimes let the good things slip right through their fingers. Recently, I sent an email to one of my favorite podcasters, Roger Dickerman of Relentless Roger and the Caveman Doctor. And now I’m going to be transcribing their show. And yesterday, I sent an email to the big daddy of all Paleo/Low Carb podcasters–and one of my favorites as well–Jimmy Moore. And this morning, he sent me an email asking me to be on his show in 2013.* Take a chance. You never know who will write, call, or answer back.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, connection, communication, conversation…it’s the only way to heal. Other people can’t make your scars fade, but they can help you see past them. Other people can’t validate your existence, but they can enrich it. Other people can’t make you love yourself, but they can hold the mirror up for you so you can start to see the beauty you have inside.

Today is a good day to start connecting.

Today…is a good day.

-K.

*I can’t even tell you how much I’m “fan-girling out” right now. (And, yes, I just coined  term. Shakespeare did it, and so can I.) Jimmy is such an incredible force for positivity in the podcast world. I am so grateful that he even responded, let alone offered to let me be one of the “& Friends” on “Low Carb Conversations With Jimmy Moore & Friends….

“But You Still Have To Go To The Gym”

This commercial makes me so angry–it embodies pretty much everything that’s wrong with the state of fitness and nutrition in our country today. There are so many things wrong with commercial that it’s almost hard to find a place to start. So I’ll do my best to focus on the main reason why this seemingly innocuous Cheerios commercial makes my blood boil.

Looking past the fact that I no longer agree with the contention that the whole grains in Cheerios are part of a “heart healthy breakfast,” the majority of my ire today comes from the last line: “But you still have to go to the gym.”+

Now, as a certified personal trainer and an incurable gym rat, I’m happy that General Mills is suggesting that fitness is an important part of anyone’s “heart health” and “weight loss” regime; however there’s a more insidious message behind the commercial, and it contains that ugly, 7-letter “C-word.”

Calories.

(If I never have to hear the word again, it will be too soon.)

The crux of this commercial’s message is: no matter how healthily you eat, if you don’t burn it off, you’ll get fat. (And Cheerios carries disordered food messages throughout much of its marketing strategy. Dr. Deah Schwartz, a Health At Every Size blogger, did a great post on the disordered implications of its “more whole grains, less you” message on Peanut Butter Cheerios boxes).

More Grains, Less You: negative body image from Cheerios Ad

This is disgusting to me on so many levels.

Here’s the thing: calories in vs. calories out does work. But only for so long.

It goes something like this: I start eating well and working out. I eliminate processed foods but don’t change my portion sizes. I buy a pair of running shoes and go for a 12+ minute mile jog 3-4 times a week. I lose weight. And then, all of a sudden, I plateau. So:

I lessen my portion sizes slightly and keep up with my running. I lose weight and then plateau. I get a personal trainer and lift weights several times a week in addition to the running. I lose weight and then plateau. I read some broscience forums and realize that I need to tighten up my diet. I eliminate fats (because fats make me fat amirite?*) and start working out 6 days a week. I lose weight and then plateau. Fine. Now my choices are to either make my portions even smaller or eat nothing but egg whites and tuna with steamed broccoli. I do both just in case. My metabolism slows. I become leptin resistant. I am hungry all of the time. I need to work out more. I go to the gym twice a day or do more than an hour of steady-state cardio every day, because who needs rest days?**

And in order to maintain, I have to continue manipulating my food or my workouts in an ever lessening/increasing ratio.

Exercise should be about rewarding the body with endorphins and strength, not about punishing your body for what you've eaten

FACT.

WHY. Why would anyone–anyone–do this to him or herself? What’s the point of spending your entire life worrying about how small, bland, and tasteless you can make your portions or how long, bland, and exhausting you can make your exercise? For some aesthetic goal? (Because it’s certainly not for health, despite what the fitspo images are assuring you. If you were healthy, you’d be able to go to a restaurant without freaking out when they cook your chicken breast in oil, or stay out late without worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to wake up in time to do an hour on the elliptical before work.)

Sorry to be absolutely blunt here, folks, but calories in/calories out is a really tragic*** way to live.

But what’s the alternative?

Well, let’s start at the beginning.

- K.

+And I can guarantee you’ve all seen this couple at the gym, too–you know, the woman sweating it out on the treadmill for an hour, lifting a light dumbbell awkwardly while reading a magazine, the man sitting on the pec-deck machine for an hour, doing endless sets of chest flyes with his neck jutting forward and taking 20 minute breaks between sets to chat with his friends…

*No.

**Everyone

***I was going to use a different word here, but I figure I’ve maxed out my curse word allotment for this post by using the “c” word again.

The Promised Land

It's time to take a risk, sweetheart; city skyline at night; quote

 

So, it’s not really nutrition or fitness related, but I thought I’d share the news, since it’s definitely more than a tiny baby step:

I’m going to Israel.

Why? Well, here’s the thing: I am Jewish by birth, the granddaughter or Holocaust survivors on one side, niece to an incredible rabbi on the other, a cultural Jew whose religious education stopped after Shabbat during pre-K at the JCC.

I still can’t say I’m a religious person, but I am working on reconnecting with my culture and my spirituality.

I’m also turning 26 next month.

What does that have to do with anything? One word: birthright.

If you are born Jewish and have not been to Israel, you’re actually entitled to a 10 day trip to Israel before the end of your 27th year. I’ve never been to Israel and my 27th year starts on Black Friday.*

I had never considered actually going on birthright, but something struck me this past summer. I want so badly to feel a connection to something, to learn about a piece of myself and my history. To maybe find something I didn’t know was lost.

So I filled out the application and put down the deposit…and now I’m going to Israel.

It won’t be until January, so I still have to make it through the musical and the holiday season, but my trip will be the light at the end of the holiday-season-in-retail tunnel.

I’m nervous–10 days with strangers, in a country on the other side of the world, where no one knows that I am fighting my one-day-at-a-time battle with ED, where there will be no excuses for squandering my time due to social anxiety.

At the same time, I’m really excited for the challenge and the experience.

Man, this is gonna be surreal.

- K.

 

*You can tell I work in retail, huh?

Forgetting Fitspiration

A quick thought before I go back into the science and history of the calories in/calories out myth: 

 

My physical therapist wants me to start going to the gym again. And I am utterly terrified.

 

I know it’s silly, especially since I’m hoping to make a career of fitness and nutrition, but I can’t help it.

 

The gym has always been both a haven and a prison. It is where I saw some of my greatest triumphs and my hardest falls. It is where I learned to love my body and hate it, to gain muscle and lose my mind.

 

Yoga is one thing, but going back to the gym is definitely another.

 

I just find this very relevant now, as I start to understand the myths that fueled my ED and exercise bulimia–as I start to explore why calories in/calories out is a fallacy, and how obsession is fueled by the false advertising of the fitness and health industries.

 

I’m not sure how to reconcile the fact that my PT wants me to start doing 5 minutes of steady state cardio with my former impulses to do hours of the same. I’m not sure how to reconcile 3 sets of ten light-weight negative calf raises on the leg press with the desire to deadlift 100+ pounds on the first day.

 

Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated, fitspiration

So said the voices in my head. But sometimes, obsession is really just obsession.

I’m terrified of finding myself listening to the voices that once upon a time told me the lies that led to my pain.

 

That being said, I feel a little bit better about the fact that I know that the voices tell lies. That I know that ED is always going to be waiting for me to start listening again. That I know how to tune the voices out–that I want to tune them out.

 

It’s funny: I was listening to the most recent Paleo Solution Podcast, and someone wrote in with a question regarding the Health at Every Size movement. It seemed strange–Robb Wolf, of The Paleo Solution Diet fame, is all about nutrition and strength training; HAES is more about body image and mental health/perspective. The question seemed out of place, being answered by a man who doesn’t struggle with an eating disorder and really hasn’t focused on Paleo or strength training as a method for coping with overweight or obesity in his own life. And something in the question stuck out at me: it was sent in by a personal trainer who noticed that the several of his overweight/overfat clients who had made significant gains in their health and vitality were the ones who were more likely to be upset when they didn’t see the same results reflected in belly or underarm fat.

 

What is so striking to me is that those people–people whose health has dramatically improved, whose lives have become infinitely better, whose chances at surviving to live a long and happy life have just increased–were unhappy because they aren’t physically “perfect” (whatever that word means).

 

All of that to say that I don’t understand why we spend so much time trying to equate health and fitness with aesthetic ideals.

 

I don’t understand–even though I’ve lived through it–why we have to equate flat abs with health and First Lady arms with longevity.

 

You know what? I no longer have completely flat abs. My triceps don’t pop anymore. I can’t deadlift or do a pull up (or ten) like I used to.

 

But you know what I’m more concerned about? The fact that I can’t run up a flight of stairs–or even walk it without getting winded. I’m more concerned about the fact that my gut health is still affecting my skin. I’m more concerned about the fact that walking my dog isn’t easy.

 

And because I’m spending more time worried about my lack of physical fitness, I’m spending less time worrying about my lack of a six pack. Funny how priorities change. (Would I like a six pack? Sure. But if it means having to starve myself or eat tuna and egg whites six times a day, then it’s not worth it.)

Me with flat abs after Muscle and Fitness Hers Challenge

In order to take this picture, I starved myself, ate nothing but tuna, egg whites, and protein powder, had no friends, went to the gym 7 days a week, and cried a lot. NOT WORTH IT.

 

So maybe I will be okay to go back to the gym. Maybe I finally have the perspective that I was missing when I was spending hours on the elliptical, hoping for the “perfect” body (whatever that is). All I want now is the perfect body for me, where I am today. One that will keep me healthy, happy, and living a good, long life.

But that’s just me. More soon,

Love,

K.

The “C” Word

I have added a new “bad” word to my vocabulary. Forget the f-word, forget the four-letter c-word: this is a 7-letter c-word, and it’s the most heinous, stupid, useless wastes of breath I think I have ever wasted time uttering:

“Calorie.”

In fact, I am sick of hearing that word used, because I think we, as a culture, completely abuse it without having any actual understanding of what it actually means.

Over the course of the next few posts, I’m going to explain how potentially ruinous the “calories-in/calories-out” mindset is, so prepare to have your minds blown (and your sanity restored):

From the moment I met ED, I had a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that part of my miraculous weight loss was due not just to the fact that I was eating less, but also to the fact that I was exercising more.

The summer between 8th and 9th grade was spent not only eating soy-free (a.k.a. apples and peanut butter), but also biking back and forth to the gym every day, spending an hour doing some asinine combination of light weights and cardio, and then doing “toning” and “core” exercises on my bedroom floor each night. And, for a long time, that formula worked.

Skinny Bat Mitzvah Picture at age 16

At my sister’s Bat Mitzvah, the thinnest I would be in high school

After my 9th grade knee surgery, I started increasing my caloric intake while sitting on my rear and healing, so I, of course, gained weight. As soon as my knee would allow it, I joined the cross country team and began doing long, slow (very slow) endurance runs. As my competitive nature kicked in and my leg grew stronger, I started running longer and faster, even on the weekends. By the time I became cross country team captain in 11th grade, I was going for a second run every night after dinner, even if I’d already run long and hard at practice that day.

Of course, the more I ran, the hungrier I got. And all of the conventional wisdom at the time pointed toward carb-loading, so I made sure to have extra helpings of french bread and spaghetti between my after school practice and my nightly training. I also made sure to down a Clif Bar before cross country every day, even though I had eaten a large lunch and a packet of peanut M&M’s less than 2 hours beforehand.

I thought it didn’t matter, because conventional wisdom also said that my exercise (calories out) was burning off the huge amounts of food I was eating (calories in). As long as I went for that second run each night, I was golden.

Wearing school uniform in the school gym, at my heaviest weight

At my heaviest in high school, hiding behind a size-too-large uniform shirt.

And yet, two years later in New York, while I was dieting and cleansing and generally miserable, I was vastly under-eating (probably about 800-1000 calories a day while cleansing, if I had to hazard a guess) plus going to the gym every morning and doing an hour of some asinine combination of light weights and cardio–and I was gaining weight.

It didn’t make sense. But yo-yo diets aren’t supposed to make sense; they’re simply supposed to continue to fuel our negative self-talk, self-hate, and confusion. If anything, we’re doing ED a favor by focusing on eating less and exercising more until our bodies are so exhausted that we can’t fight back.

By the time I started bodybuilding, I got my starvation (*ahem* sorry, eating clean) and exercise down to an art, so I started dropping weight again. By this point, even though the “transformation” I was following didn’t recommend massive amounts of cardio, I still threw in an hour on the elliptical or the rotating stairs, even after a 45 minute workout with heavy weights. The fitness models I followed on Facebook and Twitter all talked about doing fasted cardio* in the morning (which I started doing) followed immediately by weights and then a second workout in the evening (which I technically did by biking up and downtown between my two jobs while I lived in NYC). I wanted to make sure that I was burning calories all day, whenever I had the chance. The more I limited my diet, the more I exercised, the thinner I was going to be.

Calories in calories out scale

Seems right…but it’s not that simple.

By the time I moved to Florida, I was absolutely exhausted. I worked out fasted in the morning and made sure to drink my protein within the 15 minute post-workout window, and then went home and collapsed onto the couch for the rest of the day (with minimal movement allotted for meal times). By this time, I was about 110 lbs. I was also incredibly depressed. If I didn’t work out, the depression went from awful but bearable to absolutely monstrous (cue: depleted neurotransmitters and fatigued adrenal glands lecture here). If I didn’t work out, I would spend the day sobbing, brooding, scowling, snapping or some combination thereof.

Worse yet, I found that, even though my diet wasn’t changing, I had to do more exercise, harder exercise, to get the same weight-loss and mood-altering affects. It wasn’t fair–but I was addicted. I was ED’s willing prisoner, and so I didn’t care.

- K.

*Cardio on an empty stomach

A Tuesday Morning “Drinking Game”

While this is completely unrelated to nutrition and recovery, I wanted to share this with all of you.* As you all probably know by now, I don’t really drink. However, don’t let that stop you–should you choose to partake–from playing a little drinking game:

The setup: Recently, the amazing duo of Bryan Moriarty and Eric Bricmont asked me to join them on their hilarious and really enlightening podcast Nerds on History to discuss my first love: theatre.

Nerds on History Podcast

I had a really great time recording–and I’m so excited to share the experience with you. So, if you’re feeling in the mood to hear some solid history, gross exaggerations, and discussions of golden phalluses and bear-baiting, then go download Nerds on History Episode 7: It’s a Grabber! (it’s a free podcast, people, no excuses now) and then pour yourself a drink.

The game: So, you know how every time you hear or see a recording of yourself, you get hypercritical of little things that no one else would notice? No? Just me? Well, my hypercriticism led me to create this drinking game. Every time you hear me say “it’s really interesting, but” (or some variation thereof), take a shot. You will be completely wasted before the middle of the podcast. You’re welcome.

Honestly though, I really love the Nerds on History podcast–mainly because I’m a nerd about history, but also because Eric and Bryan make history fun. They discuss everything from Egyptology to Star Trek, and I highly recommend that, if you liked the theatre episode, you subscribe to them on iTunes. Again, it’s free–and it’s guaranteed to be a lot more fun than your high school history class. (With the exception of maybe Drews’ or Stohr’s classes, for those of you who have followed me here from NBPS…) Go check the Nerds out and give them some love!

A message for Daisy Drews from AP US Government

Context: An AP US Gov quiz that surprised pretty much everyone but me. The message on the board was left for Ms. Drews by my friend Craig.

-K.

*Technically, this is important in the context of my own recovery. Staying out semi-late, pushing through social anxiety, and talking about the theatre again…yeah, it was an important night.

Dirty Secrets From Eating Clean: Food Addiction and the Leptin Connection

I wrote last time about how limiting calories can change the chemicals in your brain–how my dopamine highs from under-consuming calories and my endorphin highs from over-exercising had become inescapable addictions. But there is more to the story than  the upset of just a couple of brain chemicals:

We hear a lot these days about insulin, especially in reference to the diabestiy epidemic. [Brief science lesson: Insulin is a regulatory hormone that is secreted by the pancreas in response to the presence of sugar in the blood. Our bodies were only meant to have about 1 tsp of circulating blood sugar, so when you eat foods that contain (or are converted to) a lot of glucose, the body responds with insulin, which shuttles that glucose out of the blood and into your muscles to be burned or liver to be converted to glycogen and stored.]

But there’s another hormone that people are only just starting to talk about (because it’s only recently that science has begun to understand it…): Leptin.

Fat cells, believe it or not are part of the endocrine system (the system related to the release and regulation of hormones). Your fat cells tell your brain when you’re starving and need to eat or that you’re full and good to go by releasing the hormone called “leptin.” When your fat stores are high, your fat cells are full of leptin, which transmits the “we’re full, don’t send supplies” signal to the brain. When your fat stores are low, however, there’s a lot less leptin to go around, and your brain gets the message that you need to eat.*

Leptin Pathways Simplified

Leptin is also responsible for stimulating the production of endorphins, the exercise-high neurotransmitter.

Now, there’s a lot of chatter in the science/nutrition world about leptin disregulation as a result of obesity, but what about leptin disregulation in anorectics and eating disordered people? (For a short, really informative look at how leptin disregulation and insulin resistance can influence/be influenced by obesity, check out this awesome video by Sean Croxton: Leptin: Fat-Loss for Smart People)

When you’re eating disordered, an overly restricted eat-clean devotee, or somehow reaching low levels of body fat, your leptin levels go way down. Your brain gets the message that you’re starving and need to build up your body fat levels again, so it tells your body to start craving food. The cravings raise your dopamine levels, making extended marathons of Man vs. Food seem like a good idea. Of course, the restriction is what feeds the dopamine high, so you keep restricting and craving.

Now, those of us who couple the restriction with exercise are in an even more dangerous boat, addiction-wise. Why? Well, as I mentioned earlier, leptin is partially responsible for your brain’s release of endorphins. If your leptin levels are low, your endorphins become low as a result. What raises endorphins? Exercise.

So it’s very possible that your exercise regime becomes necessary to maintaining your mental health. And, as with most addictions, you can easily build up a tolerance. Now you need more exercise to get the same high.

I know this to be true because I’ve lived it. Because I used to read the transformation stories on the Oxygen and Eat Clean websites, because I still follow some of the professional fitness models on Twitter. The stories are all the same: I was overweight (or thought I was) and decided I needed a change. So I started by cutting out processed foods. I felt so good that I went for a run. Then I found (insert clean-eating protocol here) and started lifting weights. I looked and felt so good that I got a personal trainer. In a few months, people in my gym suggested I compete. And so: the diet became a strict regimen of extra-lean meats and “complex carbs” like oatmeal and brown rice. And so: the exercise became fasted cardio in the morning and weights in the afternoon. And so: the complex carbs were “too much food” except around training times. And so: the exercise became necessary to not having a nervous breakdown today and I pushed myself so hard I cried but it was worth it because I’m still in shape. And so: the food became all I thought about and egg-whites-with-stevia are delicious, you just don’t understand because you’re not healthy and devoted like me. And so: exercise became the only thing I cared about, not that you’d understand because you’re busy living your fat lifestyle while I’m flying high on thinness and muscle.

Leptin "Pill" in Mouth

It scares me that this is even a possible thought process, but there it is. (And you can find some version of it on every thinspiration Pinterest board or on some of the fitness pros’ Twitter feeds if you don’t believe me.)

I’m not saying that this will happen to everyone who tries to get healthy, nor am I against cleaning up your diet and starting to exercise–in fact, I’m all for it! But for those of us who may already suffer from neurotransmitter imbalances, trading one addiction for another–cookies and cake for quinoa and kale; “skinny is the new healthy” for “strong is the new skinny”–becomes a real and imminent threat.

And if you’ve ever had these thoughts, it’s okay: it’s not your fault. There are processes in your body and brain that you and I can’t see or hear or feel, processes that happen in the background, processes that can mean the difference between starvation and health, addiction and freedom. And once your body/brain chemistry is affected, it’s hard to see past the immediate need for the next hit.

It’s especially hard when the messages sent out by science and society only serve to encourage these addictions.

- K.

*Leptin isn’t the only hormone involved in hunger–there are other hormones/peptides like ghrelin and PYY that are secreted by the lining of your stomach/pancreas to mediate some of those hunger responses…But we won’t get into that today!) For more, check out Wellness Mama’s great explanation here.

Health Update

Well friends, I’m not going to lie: I’m exhausted. For the first time in a long time, I have an excuse for being exhausted, and it’s a surprisingly good, fulfilling feeling. That said, I’m going to have to make this fairly short. I’m also going to have to apologize for the fact that my posts are going to be made a little less often, because I’m working on THREE big writing projects, all of which have NOTHING to do with this blog, nutrition, or health in general. (So any time that I spend not writing is time spent doing research…my brain is exploding from all of the information it’s trying to absorb, interpret, and feed back into the world…)

I did, however, want to give the concerned among you a couple of quick health updates:

In re: my acne, things have gotten horrible again. Maybe it was good old Murphy and his not-very-awesome law, but as soon as I posted about my face clearing up, I broke out again. This probably has to do with the fact that I stopped my hormone replacement therapy (more on that later), so my body is freaking out because it doesn’t know where to get estrogen if I’m not popping it in pill form every morning. I’m hoping that things calm down soon.

My dog lying on my foot

Frida wants my feet to heal.

As for my ankle, according to the doc everything checks out structurally; it’s just the pain that’s a little worrisome. (I also still don’t have full range of motion or the ability to stabilize–watching me try to do a squat is kind of sadly hilarious.) Not only does my ankle still ache, but now I also have crazy, burning nerve pain that makes it difficult to do things like wear shoes or touch my ankle at all. My physical therapist, who happens to be all kinds of wonderful, has made some great suggestions for helping to rewire my brain so that it stops focusing on the “pain” message that my ankle keeps sending, however erroneously.

So far, I’ve stuck my foot in a bag of rice, tried doing ultra-light massage, exposed it to various different textures of blankets, macguyver-ed a mirror box, and identified left and right feet in rapid succession using an iPad and Google Image.

Using a bag of rice to desensitize my foot, CRPS, RSD

This is exactly as silly as it looks. (But much more painful.)

It’s been a weird couple of weeks.

I’m trying to start building up some strength by walking a bit every day, but I still spend more time on my butt than I’d like.

I’m still just taking baby steps and allowing myself to go slowly. My PT gave me some reading to do about how our brains create pain, and it’s allowed me to forgive myself a little; there is nothing more frustrating and confusing than chronic pain, and some days the lack of change or progress can get really overwhelming.

But for now I’m going to just keep pushing through, and hopefully I’ll be past this plateau soon…

That’s all she wrote…

Using a mirror box, CRPS, RSD

It’s almost like I have two normal ankles!

Now back to writing!

- K.

Big Steps

This morning, I’m running off to Palo Alto for an ankle check-up, so I’ll a) be continuing the food addiction saga on another day (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, get started here) and b) posting an update about my ankle and the rehab process as soon as I have more info from the doc.

Before I hop in the car and brave California traffic, however, I just wanted to let you all know something.

It’s silly to be so excited about such a seemingly insignificant bit of “news,” however in the context of my life, it’s pretty enormous:

On Saturday, for the first time in three years, I went to a restaurant with another person, without knowing the menu beforehand, without restricting any of my meals prior, and without succumbing to panic, anxiety, or even negative self-talk after I ate (or even the days after!). Do you have any idea how amazing that feels?

Freedom is a beautiful thing.

And with that thought, I’m off to the doctor’s office. See you all soon!

- K.