Goodbye to the Fruit Stand

I only have time for a short post today, but I couldn’t let the day pass without marking its significance in some way.

Today is a big day. Today marks the end of an era, the end of my last ties to the era of ED. Today is my last day at the “Fruit Stand.”

About two and a half years ago, I left New York City. I quit theatre. I purposely missed a Missed Connection. I got a job at a gym and let ED rock me to sleep at night. I planned to compete in a figure competition, and I lived a life in counted calories and panic attacks.

And then I got a job.

A job that was only supposed to hold me over while I tried to heal from ED. But the job I got became so much more. And it opened the doors to recovery in ways I never could have imagined.

I got a job at one of the best companies in the world, albeit a retail job in a store at the mall in my hometown. It was the same store that sold me my very first computer in the 10th grade, the “Super Sexy Mac.” It was a small, busy, crazy, store that became my home.

And the moment I found that home–and the people who became my family–was the moment that I saw a glimmer of a life without ED.

My first year at the Fruit Stand was full of victories and defeats. I learned how to learn on the fly and deal with ambiguity. I went from a first time retail employee to a Mentor (facilitating new hire & ongoing training and building a strong team of trainers to support the store and the market) to an Expert (in the top 25% of sales in the market). I made some incredible friends and started getting excited to leave the house again. I stayed out all night listening to punk bands play covers of the Spice Girls or singing karaoke with my coworkers. I moved into a beautiful little house. I stopped bodybuilding and started eating vegan. Things were not perfect, but, for a time,things were good.

Yes, I lost friends. Yes, I struggled to keep my work/life balance. Yes, I injured my ankle. Yes, I let veganism become a code-word for ED.

But from every dark cloud there comes the clichéd silver lining, and I have the Fruit Stand, in part, to thank for it.

When I visited my mom in California, I happened to visit all of the Fruit Stands in the area. Most were large and busy, and most of the employees with whom I spoke had only a few moments for a smile and a nod and a “welcome!” since they were in the middle of a major product launch.

But when I visited the Fruit Stand nearest to my mother’s house,the smallest Fruit Stand in the company, one of the managers invited me into the back of house, where I spent nearly twenty minutes with the employees who were on break or working on projects. I will never forget that moment–one of the employees showed me a video of the morning of the product launch; one of the employees talked to me about her experience with new hire training; one of the employees said, “You should come and work here.”

And I did.

I moved to California, away from my first home and into a second.

No, my job wasn’t perfect. No, life wasn’t aways sunshine and rainbows. No, I didn’t ultimately decide that retail was the perfect career for me.

But the skills that I gained, the friends that I made, the experiences and the growth that I’ve had…for all of that and more, I will be eternally grateful.

I am grateful for these last two years. I am grateful for every customer who shared his story with me. I am grateful for the managers who came to work loving their jobs every day. I am grateful for the too-small back of house and the chance to develop my business acumen and management skills while dodging merchandise and squeezing around boxes. I am grateful for the Mentor team and the Business team and the Expert team for teaching me to teach myself to grow. I’m even grateful for the weeks I spent learning how to do customer service over the phone (and for the advice my grandmother gave me: at the end of the day, you get to hang up, but the person on the other line still has to live with himself). I am grateful for the set backs, the frustration, and the stress. I am grateful for being pushed past my limits on a daily basis. I am grateful for every single person who influenced my life (in ways both good and bad), because they have helped me get to the place where I am today.

I am grateful for the Fruit Stand.

But now it’s time to move on.

Next time you see me, I’ll be a corporate copywriter, reporting to the VP of Marketing at an incredible start up in San Francisco.

Today is a hello and a goodbye, and I’m ready to turn one ending into a brand new, bright beginning.

- K.

A Day “Without” Calories

I learned, this summer, that by eating the right things and moving as much as I needed to for recovery, I have actually become healthier than I was when I was preaching “health” and parading my six-pack (and osteopenia) around the gym.

Here’s what a typical day looked like for me these part few months* (and, granted, I’m still working on the sleep and adrenal fatigue portion of the equation, especially now that I have things like late-night rehearsals to go to and friends who give me a reason to stay up late. And I’m still learning about how to go low enough carb and high enough fat to feel balanced, so I’m sure that there are still many tweaks I could be making–but I’m not that worried about it right now).

  • Wake up at 6:30 am (8 hours after going to bed). Skip the gym because my ankle is on fire. Take a guilt free shower, make my bed, and go downstairs with Frida. No extra stress, just waking up and getting on with my day. Got enough sleep, so I’m feeling okay. 
  • Have cup of organic coffee with coconut butter mixed in. No idea how many tea- or tablespoons…just enough to be delicious. I don’t need the coffee to wake up, I just like the way it tastes. This will be the only cup I have all day. 
  • Breakfast of bone broth with wakame and a side of bacon, or else two eggs (hard boiled or scrambled with ghee) with bacon and raw sauerkraut. Supplemented with fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend, raw maca root powder, vitamin C, Celedrin, MSM/glucosamine chondroitin. Getting in my share of bone building vitamins and minerals as well as probiotics. Also, the maca, a phytoestrogen, is helping me rebalance my depleted female hormones. (More on the maca in a coming post…) 
  • Head to Starbucks to work on freelance projects or else get some quality blogging done. Drink orange blossom tea and kombucha. More probiotics. And if you haven’t tried Starbucks orange blossom tea, you’re missing out.
  • Lunch around 1 or 2. Roasted garlic, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots with some kind of fish–usually tuna or salmon–and olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. Or a coconut milk and macadamia nut smoothie with spinach, broccoli, and a couple of strawberries (and cinnamon and cocoa powder for good measure!). A high fat, moderate protein lunch keeps me full all afternoon. 
  • Energy is high and no need for snacking. Green tea and writing, followed by a walk with my dog or a short trip to the gym for rehab exercises if I’m feeling up to it. I’ve been working up to walking for about 40 minutes a day. I spend the majority of the day on my butt writing, so this walk is great for strengthening my leg and getting my cardiovascular system back into shape. And now I’m returning to the gym three days a week to do rehab and strengthening exercises for my legs.
  • Dinner around 6:30. Ground beef (20% fat–until I can find a good grass fed higher fat source around here) and chicken liver burgers with kelp noodles and a mushroom and tomato salad, or some variation of meat and salad thereof, sometimes dressed with homemade cashew, basil, and kale pesto. Supplement with vitamin C, food-based Magnesium, more Celedrin & MSM. Again, enough fat to keep me satiated, enough protein for satiety and muscle building, enough green, non-starchy vegetables to keep me healthy and rolling in nutrients. Supplements serve the same purpose as those at breakfast. 
  • Dessert, if I’m feeling it. Coconut butter with maca root, cinnamon, and cocoa, or a couple of squares of Alter Eco 85% chocolate (organic, fair trade, and NO SOY LECITHIN). I don’t have to eat dessert. But if I want it, it’s there, and I eat it without guilt, without weighing/measuring, without binging until I feel sick. When I start to feel any of the negative dessert-related thoughts, I remind myself that there’s always tomorrow, and the food will be there then, too. 
  • Usually asleep by 10:30 pm. Best case scenario. I’m usually in bed by 8, but I have a bad habit of staying up late on my computer. I’ve at least taken steps to install f.lux, which dims and warms the light emitted by the computer in order to minimize the melatonin-depleting effects of the blue, artificial light. 

And I know that it’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me, right now, today. I’m not doing nutritional ketosis or measuring my calories. All I know is that I can eat until I’m full and I’m not desperately spending my day searching for snacks, pounding coffee, and trying to stay awake through sugar crashes during four hour stretches of writing. And the best part is, if I go out to meet a friend for lunch or dinner, I don’t feel tied to any meal plan or predetermined number of allowable calories or macros. And there are no “wrong things” to eat. I avoid the stuff that makes me feel awful (grains, starches, legumes, dairy), and by default I eat only the stuff that makes me feel well.

Now that I’m back at work and in rehearsal, I’m getting much less sleep, but I know that it’s a short-term stressor. And the experience of being in a musical is worth the month of raised cortisol levels and unbalanced melatonin.

I’d love to hear about what you are all doing, and how it’s been working for you. What steps have you taken to healing your relationship with food, both mentally and physically?

- K.

*I started writing this post in the middle of October. This was before the insanity of work/rehearsals/freelance projects/dating/etc. happened. I still try to stick to this as closely as I can–so bed times and wake times and sometimes snacks and workouts are different from what I’ve written here. But the cool thing is: that’s life. I know what works, and I can tweak based on what my temporal and physical limitations are for that day.

Black Friday/Bright Future

It’s hard to believe it, but Thanksgiving is already over. I’m writing this at 9 pm on Thursday night, but you probably won’t see this until I’ve already been at work for several hours. And that’s because it’s Black Friday.

And not just any Black Friday, but my last Black Friday in retail.

Oh, and it’s also my 26th birthday.

About that.

I have always hated birthdays. No, let me take that back: I have hated birthdays since I turned 20. And, barring low-key dinners with my family, I haven’t actually celebrated since that time I sang karaoke with drag queens and my dorm-family during my freshman year of college.*

Singing karaoke with drag queens and transvestites at Lips in NYC

One of my dorm-family members being accosted by “E-Piphany” at Lips in NYC.

my birthday at lips in NYC, wearing a birthday crown

My karaoke birthday crown

Birthdays are especially hard when you’ve been schlepping around the kind of baggage that I’ve accumulated since meeting ED. They’re hard, because they’re reminders of the fact that I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve wasted so many years stewing in my own narcissism instead of doing something special with my life.

Or at least that’s how I’ve looked at it, until now.

I’m standing on the precipice of a huge change–A new job, a new city, a new relationship. I’m on my way out of my twenties, the supposed “best years of my life.”

Me and my sisters in height order at PF Chang's on my birthday

Me and my sisters on my 25th birthday

I’m realizing, however, that the years that got me to this place were not wasted. Not in the least. While I may have squandered opportunities and put myself into situations that lent themselves to hardship and struggle, I have the opportunity to finally learn from those experiences and become stronger.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Even depression. Even injury. Even ED.

And I believe that the fact that I’ve somehow made it to California, away from the life that I once knew, lightyears outside of my comfort zone, and nowhere near where I envisioned myself when I was in high school, happened for a reason.

And I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for every hardship. I’m thankful for the tears I’ve shed. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made and lost, for the money I earned and spent, for the stress and the pain and the bright days and the rewards. I’m even thankful for the 7 am shift on Black Friday. Because it makes me appreciate the time I had to relax and spend with my boyfriend and his amazing family today, makes me appreciate all of the Black Fridays I won’t have to work now that I will be moving on to a new job and a new career.

I’m not perfect. I will never be. But I’m barreling toward 30 at full speed ahead, and I’m going to make damned sure that by the time I get there, I have squeezed every last opportunity and experience out of these next four years. And I guarantee those years will be full of gratitude, because I have–and will have–so much to be thankful for.

So…happy birthday to me. And if you’re at the mall, stop by and say hello. I’ll be the girl lost in the middle of the crowd, smiling through the madness.

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Preschool, dressed as an Indian

I hope you all had a very wonderful Thanksgiving.

- K.

*You heard right: I didn’t even celebrate my 21st birthday, although my incredible friends Matt & Graham kidnapped me and drove me around South Florida for a couple of hours…They also made a birthday scavenger hunt that led me from my garage to a mailbox down the street, where they had tied a birthday balloon. I was lucky to have such amazing people in my life.

A Day in the Life of Calories In < Calories Out

A typical day of “calories in < calories out:”

"I am on a 30 day diet. So far I have lost 10 days."

Is this any way to live?

  • Wake up at 4:30 am after about 5-6 hours of sleep. Raises my ghrelin (the hunger stimulating hormone) and lowers my leptin (the satiety stimulating hormone). Lower leptin means lower endorphins. 
  • Coffee with artificial low-fat creamer. Raises my cortisol, stimulates insulin response. 
  • Get to the gym by 5 am. Take an hour long spin class. Physical stress of intense endurance workout raises my cortisol, artificially increases my endorphins. 
  • Down a protein shake (dairy proteins, lactose, and artificial sugar). Stimulate insulin response with lactose and artificial sugar, irritate gut with dairy proteins. 
  • Get to my job, which stresses me out (because I hate my job, because I have a big project on deadline, because I hate my coworkers/my boss/my direct reports, whatever). Cortisol stays raised. 
  • Stomach starts growling at 10 am. Have a Greek yogurt with berries on the bottom. Stimulates another insulin spike, more dairy proteins for the gut.
  • Starving by noon. Have a big salad with tofu, low-fat dressing, and a piece of whole grain bread. Snack on a banana. More gut irritation from soy (lectins and phytates and phytoestrogens, oh my!), bread (gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, etc. Another insulin spike from influx of glucose and fructose from both the low-fat dressing (added sugars to make up for the lack of fat, for taste purposes) and the banana. Promote hormone dysregulation with phytoestrogens in soy. 
  • Start yawning around 1 pm. Desperate to stay awake. Another cup of coffee. Cortisol stays raised, body/mind still physically exhausted. 
  • Starving again by 3 pm. Forage in purse of 100-calorie pack of cookies with goji berries. They’re gluten-free and low calorie so they must be healthy. Also, some doctor on the Today show said that one of the ingredients was a superfood. Superfoods are good for me, so I’ll eat more of them. Feeding my gut processed foods, feeding my liver glucose. More insulin.
  • Leave work and head back to the gym because I am feeling guilty for “not working out hard enough” this morning. Another hour of weights should do it. Drink a Gatorade throughout, to replenish electrolytes. More cortisol, more glucose. Liver is pumping insulin like it’s nobody’s business. Body isn’t hurting for electrolytes, but someone tweeted an article that said I needed them, so…
  • Get home and make dinner. It’s Meatless Monday, so, after weighing and measuring all my portions, it’s gluten-free pasta with soy-meatballs and beans for extra protein and canned spaghetti sauce. Pasta is gluten-free and therefore, in my mind, a weight loss food. Two helpings! More soy. Beans are primarily carbohydrate; proteins are incomplete. Also contain anti-nutrients called “phytates.” Canned spaghetti sauce has added sugar. Gluten-free pasta is still densely packed with carbohydrates, which will be broken down into sugar (glucose) in the body. 
  • Still hungry. Need dessert. Start foraging for anything sugary to take mind off of hunger. Cereal it is: one bowl–okay, two–with fat-free milk. If it’s low fat, it’s okay to have the extra bowl….right? More carbs and sugars, sugars and carbs. Nighttime binge courtesy of leptin resistance and one last wonderful spike/drop in insulin from the sugar eaten for dinner. 
  • Spend about 45 minutes logging all my food and exercise with an online calorie counter. Have used it every day for the last 6 months, so I already know exactly how many calories I’ve eaten, but I’m doing it anyway because I feel guilty if I don’t. May or may not have fudged the pasta and cereal amounts. Secretly hate myself because I know how much I really ate. Not a big enough deficit. Negative self talk as a result of using a calorie counter. “Staying accountable” to my disorder (and who says I have a disorder, huh?) makes me feel like I have a sense of power, even though I’ve actually just lost the last 45 minutes of my life to pointless worrying. 
  • Off to bed. Hating myself for the second bowl of cereal, thinking about chocolate cake. Guess I’ll have to go to the gym twice tomorrow to make up for it. Feeling depressed about it. Stay up late reading on my tablet–shut down around 11 or 12 and then toss and turn before falling into a light and fitful sleep. Cortisol levels kept unnaturally high by the afternoon coffee mean that sleep is going to be disrupted. Blue-white glow from the tablet screen disrupts melatonin production, which helps the body to fall asleep. Melatonin production also thrown off by disruption of natural circadian rhythm (staying up too late, getting up too early). Lack of sleep also promotes leptin resistance and stimulates ghrelin. Excessive exercise (stress) can contribute to depletion of serotonin, which leads to depression. Depression from lack of serotonin can lead to insomnia, which contributes to further serotonin depletion. (Vicious cycle.) 
Mom's logic junk food vs. balanced meal

The wisdom behind the standard American diet…

Okay. So remind me again why this lifestyle is considered healthy? Remind me why we “love” exercising and having to snack all day? Remind me why people get upset when anyone suggests that it’s not dedication but obsession?

If you’re a slave to the foods you eat or the amount of exercise you do because you believe that you’re benefitting from it, ask yourself if that’s helped you lose weight, get fit, or enjoy your life at all.

Eat Good Look Good Feel Good Fitspo

Can we just strike the middle one from our list of priorities? If you’re doing the first and third, then the second just comes naturally.

And if you’ve taken it to the “eat clean” orthorexic extreme (as I most assuredly did), then you’re definitely in the camp that believes that extreme measures are needed to stay healthy. And while I commend you for eliminating the 100-calorie packs of cookies, you’re in the same boat if you’re snacking on homemade gluten free cookies with dried goji berries instead. You’re in the same boat if you believe that you have to down a protein shake or some concoction made with egg whites and fake sugar. You’re in the same boat if you already know in advance how many calories you ate and burned because you’ve used the calorie counter for so long that it’s no longer even a necessary tool (especially if you have the mobile app on your phone because you want to log every morsel of every meal the second you eat it, so you won’t forget).

But we’ve been taught to eat less and move more for so long, that it’s sometimes hard to imagine that there could be another way.

I’ll post next about some of the changes I made this summer, but I’m interested in hearing what you guys have to say. Does any of this sound familiar to you? What does your day look like?

- K.

A Sunday Health Update…and a BIG Announcement!

Gosh, it feels weird to blog again!

 

It’s not as though I haven’t been writing…I just haven’t been writing anything for myself. I suppose it’s both a blessing and a curse to have so many exciting freelance projects up in the air all at once.

 

Before I finish my calories in/calories out series, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experience in the last few weeks in dealing with rehab, stress, sickness, and change, since it’s part of my story, and, well, why not?

 

REHAB

 

So, as many of you who know me in the real world know by now, I’ve been back at the retail store for a week and a half. I’m only working part time hours because of my ankle, but in those part time hours, I only get one break and spend the rest of the time in shoes and on my feet. I’ve done surprisingly well, although there have been moments (read: hours) during which I’ve done semi-barefoot.

 

Kick Ass Take Names and Flowers

A very thoughtful “Happy First Day At Work” gift from a very thoughtful someone….

The funny thing is, there’s nothing structurally wrong with my ankle anymore, but for the fact that it’s weak as hell and has severely limited functional range of motion. The pain persists in two forms: the same dull ache that drove me to the operating room in the first place, and acute electric shocks resulting from even the slightest touch to the skin (a condition called allodynia, where pain occurs from an otherwise non-painful stimulus.)

 

It’s the allodynia that makes me feel a little insane…for example, I’m performing in Les Mis in a few short weeks, and we performed “One Day More” at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday night. Due to some parking issues (because that’s so unlike California, right?), I and the woman with whom I’d car pooled, had only five minutes to make it from the parking garage on the other side of the complex, through the massive, packed, standing-room-only crowd, and to the tree. I had no problem ducking, weaving, and speed walking (when it was possible) through the crowd, but the fact that I was wearing boots that touched the side of my leg while I stood to sing made me want to cry.

 

Les Miserables Rehearsal Boys on the Barricade Children's Musical Theater

Rehearsing the barricades

My physical therapist is getting aggressive with the treatment, since I won’t be able to see him after November 30th. (Details on why in a moment.) He’s been trying to help me desensitize the area…we started by just lightly brushing it with a tissue, but by the end of my last session, he had some scary, silver, ridged tool out and was basically digging it into my scar for a good 10 minutes. Apparently the fascia is ridiculously tight, and that may be causing some of the pulling on the scar, which causes the nerve pain. I sat there and took it, but there may or may not have been tears.

 

All that to say: we’re not there yet, but we’ll get there. I just have to be more aggressive with my own treatment. I even kept my shoes on through my whole shift on Friday…(Although I’ve been paying for it with random shooting pains in my foot and ankle all weekend…)

 

SICKNESS & STRESS

Besides the physical stress, I’ve been dealing with the kind of emotional and work-related stress that I haven’t seen since I went on disability over five months ago. (Hard to believe it’s been that long…)

 

I have been incredibly fortunate to take on several freelance writing projects–from public relations, to marketing, to social media and brand management, to copywriting/editing an ebook. I’ve even written a 120-question reading and writing drill for a test prep company. (I now have a new-found respect for the good people who write the SAT. If you think it’s easy to write those boring reading comprehension passages, I can assure you, from firsthand experience, it most assuredly is not. It’s a seriously intense undertaking.)

 

Unfortunately, however, I haven’t just been sitting at my adorable little neighborhood Starbucks and lounging about all day while writing, as I had been able to do while blogging all summer. Not only am I back at work for four hours each day, but I’m also in rehearsal for four hours each night and six hours on the weekends. Moreover, I’ve actually been more social than usual (and more about that in a later post as well).

 

Frida the Chihuahua with her foot on my computer, forcing me to take a break

Frida says, “Take a break, Mom. Let’s go for a walk!”

In other words: my sleep has been a little limited. Most days, I’m up by six or six-thirty, at Starbucks to write by seven-thirty, at work by nine-fifteen, and in physical therapy or back at Starbucks until rehearsal at six. I get out at ten, and then if I go out afterward, I’m usually up until one, before I repeat the process again. It’s a little stressful, both mentally and physically, to say the least. Especially since I’m used to going to bed by eight, and not having anywhere important to go or anything important to do.

 

Between the lack of sleep and the stress of writing deadlines, my poor little immune system has been compromised. And so, after five months of perfect health, I went back to work in the petri dish retail store and immediately got sick.

 

I’ve been congested and coughing all week, so that hasn’t helped my ability to function much. I’ve avoided the gym, because I know that I just need to rest my body instead of adding another extra stress, but that does add a little bit of mental stress (once a chronic exercise addict, always a chronic exercise addict–I’m still learning how to handle the cravings to work out…). I just want to get better, but I know that it’s going to be difficult until I can cut some of the extra stress out of my life.

 

But that being said, I’m kind of grateful for having gotten sick. I know that sounds crazy, but let me explain:

 

Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodward and Resting Dog

Frida knows how to handle an addiction to perfection: Get more rest!

I have always just allowed stress to happen. I’ve always said “yes” when asked to do a project. I’ve always taken on immense guilt for saying “no” to friends who want to go out when I’m exhausted. I’ve always overextended myself, because I hate to be bored, because I hate to feel unproductive, because I hate to feel like I’m missing something.

 

And this was, in some ways, very instructive for me. I got the chance to see how much I could handle before my body and my brain just had to tell me “no.” This awful sinus thing is my reminder that I can’t be Super Woman. It’s my reminder that wanting to do everything and being able to do everything are two entirely different things.

 

While I’m continuing to freelance, I’m only working on one (and a half) project(s) right now. While I’m continuing to work at the retail store, I’m only doing so part time, and not stressing about my job while I’m home (a first for me!). While I’m continuing to do the musical, I think this will be my last one for a while. I’ve made my peace, and I’m ready to have some down time.

 

CHANGE

 

But that being said…I do have a big announcement. A very, very big announcement. A very, very big, life-changing announcement:

 

I’ve put in my two weeks notice at the retail store.

 

I have gotten a job at a startup in San Francisco. It’s my dream job: In-house Journalist/Copywriter/Copy Editor. I’m in charge of all of the written content and reporting to the VP of Marketing.

 

My life is about to change in so many ways. And now I’m going to be better prepared to handle it. Because I know my limitations, and I know my strengths. I’m scared to death, but I’m excited as hell.

 

This is definitely a good week for giving thanks–because I have so much to be thankful for.

 

So…here goes nothing…

 

Happy Sunday, y’all.

 

- K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Just Science: How nutrition got stuck in the past

“And here we are, 35 years later, trying to untie a Gordian knot of weak science and powerful industry cemented together by the mutual embarrassment of both political orientations. The entrenched liberal ivory-tower interests don’t want look stupid by having to admit that the 3 decades of public health policy they created and have tried to enforce have failed miserably. The entrenched big-business-supporting conservative interests don’t want to look stupid by having to admit that Giant Agribusiness, whose welfare they protect, is now driving up government spending on healthcare by acting like the cigarette industry did in the past and for much the same reasons.”

…I wish everybody would read Adele Hite’s blog.

A Little Bit of Silence…

Hello all you lovely readers out there in the blogosphere!

I just wanted to stop in and apologize for the lack of writing around here lately. This week is a little insane, between going back to work, rehearsing every night, and working on three (count ‘em–three!) freelance writing projects.

I’m grateful to be busy, but man, oh man, does it make for difficult blogging.

Never fear, however. I’ll be back soon (with a big announcement, too!).

Until then, I urge you to read the following articles (and start voting with your fork!):

Not Just Science: Nutrition and Politics over at Eathropology

Lessons from Prop 37 at Underground Wellness

Okay. Back soon. Have a great week, everybody!

-K.

The Math of Mealtime

If you have ever been on a diet, every started a new fitness regimen, done your first “couch to 5K” or started restricting one or more food groups for the sake of getting a six-pack, then you know it doesn’t, ultimately, work. Even those of us who maintain weight loss/muscle gain through any sort of extreme change a) know in the back of our minds that it’s not sustainable without restriction/over exercise and b) start to indulge in thoughts of guilt and shame over things we come to believe are cheats, slip ups, and undeserved days off.

The problem is that we’re looking at weight loss/muscle gain through the lens of aesthetics masquerading as health.

When I wanted to “get healthy” by “eating clean,” I really meant that I wanted to “get thin” and “have a six-pack.” And please don’t pretend that any of you are above conflating healthy with some fitspirational ideal. It’s such a deeply ingrained part of society now, that I think it’s just a natural impulse to feel this way. (In fact, one of my blog’s commenters pointed out how the message in the Eat-Clean Diet books is really all about saggy skin, love handles, and cellulite, not optimal performance and vibrant health, as they claim…)

Oxygen Magazine Disordered Fitspiration Collage

How many disordered messages can you count here?

As early as the 80s, Joan Jacobs Brumberg, the author of Fasting Girls, noted that “a ‘narcissism based on health’ is not essentially different from one based on beauty. In fact, spokespersons for the new credo of female fitness espouse the same principles of vanity, self-sacrifice, and physical and spiritual transformation that characterized the beauty zealots of the early twentieth century. What is different is that compulsive exercising and chronic dieting have been joined as twin obsessions.”

And our culture has been so inculcated with the idea that the only way to lose weight/get healthy/look sexy is to eat less and exercise more, that we can’t even conceptualize any other solution. And because, according to this mindset, a calorie is a calorie, we have to perform a complex mathematical equation every day just to make sure we’re burning more than we eat:

Calories out must be greater than or equal to calories in. Fats contain almost twice the number of calories that carbs contain, so I’ll just eat more carbs. A stick of gum has five calories and celery has negative calories if you chew fast enough. The nutrition label on my box of cereal has a different number of calories from the one on Fitday, so I’ll make up the potential difference by running longer on the treadmill, which will, obviously, accurately report how many calories I’m burning based on the weight I enter on the machine. I’m starving, so I’ll eat less and move more and that will surely take my mind off of how hungry I am. 

Brumberg notes that “[h]ow much one runs and how little one eats is the prevailing moral calculus in present-day anorexia nervosa,” but I’d argue that specialization in this form of math–and the feelings of moral superiority that it engenders*–has moved past the small enclave of anorexics who once claimed expertise and into the mental calculators of your average gym goer.

But the fact of the matter is, a calorie is not just a calorie.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the connection between leptin resistance and exercise addiction, where excessive exercise can actually lead to weight gain. It’s the same thing with calorie counting and restriction.

Calories out can mean that the body starts worrying about starvation and starts holding onto calories in. The wrong calories in can confuse the body into forgetting to let the calories out.

But there’s more to the story. That zero-calorie coke you’re drinking? The artificial sweeteners can contribute to sugar addiction and weight gain.

That marathon you’re running? It could be making you lose the muscle definition you’re working your butt off for in the gym.

Abel James Future of Health Now, Demonstrates Cardio vs. Sprinting with Body Composition

Abel James demonstrates the difference between steady state cardio and high intensity sprints…like a boss.

We’ve been fed so many lies so often and with such startling earnestness that it’s almost impossible to understand where the falsehoods end and the truths begin. And, like a diabetic in a candy store, we eat up the media’s latest health announcements, experience a brief high, and suffer again from the inevitable crash–which has serious implications for our continued health and wellbeing.

In fact, just check out this infographic from Time.com . I’m going to be honest here: it’s the same crap you’ve already heard: exercise more, eat less. Eat mostly carbs. If you don’t burn more than you eat, you’ll gain weight. Track your calories so you know how much you’re eating.

(On Jimmy Moore’s podcast a few weeks ago, one of the guests said that the best way to make money is to sell a diet solution that actually makes it impossible to reach the goal. It’s really true. Because even if you do manage to live happily through the initial weight loss/muscle gain/body and lifestyle change, you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to maintain it or regain it after you lose it.)

It’s time for a new paradigm, because the only people benefitting from the current ones are the people who work in the diet, fitness, and fat loss industries.

In my next post, we’ll look at one way of making the shift.

- K.

*See: “Obsessed is the word the lazy use to describe the dedicated,” et. al.)

The Incredible, Edible…Calorie? (Trigger Warning)

Believe it or not, before 1918, people lived without calorie counters. Yes, folks, you heard me: before the end of the first World War, it was possible to eat a sandwich without entering every morsel into Fitday.*

What happened? It’s not like once the calorie was discovered, it started infiltrating our food and making us fat, forcing us to begin counting in order to stave off weight gain.

A couple of things: First of all, we as first-world denizens started eating more processed foods and drastically increased the amount of sugar we consumed on a daily (and monthly and yearly) basis. Second of all, with the rise of the moving picture industry and its resulting stars, we started to become a nation focused on the importance of image.

Third, and most damaging, of all, we figured out that we could quantify ourselves and our food. And suddenly, the diet industry had a powerful tool that led to its quick explosion. In 1918, one Miss Lulu Hunt Peters published a little diet book that introduced the population to a new way of manipulating the body through food: by counting the “newly discovered” calorie.

 

How many calories per day for the average US adult

Says who?

Apparently, however, diet books published in 1918 don’t come with trigger warnings (so those of you who need one, please consider that before you read the following excerpt).

Because it was published in the teens (and therefore a few years out of copyright), Lulu Hunt Peters’ Diet and Health with a Key to the Calories is available as a free download through Project Gutenberg. So I downloaded it to my Kindle app and started reading. And within a few seconds, I had a good idea of how this incredibly influential diet book helped kickstart the current calories in/calories out-eat-and-workout-or-hate-yourself mindset.

From the first chapter (and I quote): “Are You Thin and Do You Want to Gain? Don’t read this.

Skip this chapter. It will not interest you in the least. I will come to you later. I am not particularly interested in you anyway, for I cannot get your point of view. How any one can want to be anything but thin is beyond my intelligence. However, knowing that there are such deluded individuals, I have been constrained to give you advice.”

Oh. My god.

Talk about body shaming! Please, if you can’t hear how absolutely sick this is, let me know, and I’ll help you locate a therapist. This simple paragraph epitomizes the voice of ED as it blares in your gym, your mother’s kitchen, your head…This book was the first to teach Americans how to quantify their food in calories.

She goes on to write:

“You should know and also use the word calories as frequently, or more frequently, than you use the words foot, yard, quart, gallon and so forth…Hereafter you are going to eat calories of food. Instead of saying one slice of bread, or a piece of pie, you will say 100 calories of bread, 350 calories of pie.”

But what the hell is a calorie, anyway? A calorie, as we modern Americans know it, is actually a measurement called the kilocalorie. A kilocalorie (or Calorie, big “C”) is “defined as 1,000 times the energy it takes to heat a gram of water from 14.5 to 15.5 degrees Celsius.”  That’s all it is. Not some insidious fat-building virus that proliferates upon introduction to your body, not a molecule that attaches to your belly and makes it bigger or morphs into thigh cellulite out of spite. It’s just a measurement of energy. That’s all.

  Calories real definition: "Tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night."

And food contains energy. That’s why we eat it. Because we need energy in order to live. So, therefore, yes, food contains calories. That’s an inescapable fact of life.**

And living burns calories. We need a certain amount of calories just for our bodies to function. If you want your heart to beat or your lungs to expand, you need calories. Again: inescapable fact of life.

Now, it would stand to reason that, as a post-industrial society, eating food indiscriminately and also growing fatter by the year, we’d want to know if there were ways of controlling the sudden spike in tendencies toward overweight. So it made sense in the minds of people like Lulu Hunt Peters that, once we came to understand the concept of calories–how many exist in each morsel of food we eat, how they’re used and burned by our bodies–that we would all become masters of our physiques.

1920s Tapeworm Diet

Do tapeworms have calories?

That was 1920. And guess what? We’re not masters of our physiques. We have no idea how to deal with the complex machines that are our bodies. We’re anorexic, bulimic, overweight, underweight, obese, compulsively exercising, sedentary, snacking, bingeing, and restricting, and we’re no closer–as a population–to understanding why calories in/calories out doesn’t work.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s because every calorie is not the same. And if we could just come to eat the right ones, we’d stop having reasons to obsess about the others.

And maybe our Cheerios couple could stop living the disordered cycle of calories-in/calories-out.

-K.

*Although, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Fitday came a little later…hehe.

**Unless you’re eating zero-calorie food-like products, but since they don’t contain calories–or pronounceable ingredients that can be found in nature–they’re not technically food.

 

The Civilized Caveman

I only have a couple of links to share with you today, but I think they’re important ones.

I love reposting Stefani Ruper’s words here, because she is so insightful, and offers some useable tips for “hacking” your ED. Today is no different. Here’s a link to her last week’s “Get Indignant.”

I also wanted to share with you an amazing post by a man named George Bryant. For those of you who are not familiar with the “Paleosphere,” George, aka the Civilized Caveman, is a Marine who fell into the Paleo diet and now hosts a blog full of amazing “cooking creations.”

George recently came out about his struggles with Bulimia on Abel James’ Fat Burning Man podcast, and followed it up on Stefani Ruper’s Live. Love. Eat. podcast. He then posted this blog about it. I highly encourage every one of you out there to go and read it. George is a force for good in this world–his earnestness and honesty is astounding, and his willingness to share his story is seriously special.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you on this rainy Friday morning.

- K.

 

[EDIT:  Just realized that today is Thursday. Apparently my brain was ready for the weekend.]