My Disclaimer My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the … Continue reading
[source] For those of you playing the home game, you already know that I’ve been seeing a functional medicine doctor, and that we’ve already figured out that I’m dealing with stage 2 adrenal fatigue, a messed up thyroid, and a … Continue reading
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Hey–FYI, triggers ahead. Read at your own risk. I’m not a stranger to stress. In fact, if you know me, you know that’s a bit of an understatement. Type-A, overachieving, blah blah blah. You’ve heard it before. You’ve probably lived … Continue reading
Disclaimer: I wrote this post on the airplane home, coming down off of the adrenaline rush of spending some of the best four days of my life with incredible people and after not sleeping for 24 hours straight…I’ll be back … Continue reading
Howdy, friends! I’m still coming at you from the other side of sunrise (at least as I write this), but without a Trigger HAPPY Thursday video in hand. I’m in the middle of several big projects–one of which I’ll be … Continue reading
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*Just a note for those of you who know my father, no, this has nothing to do with him or the Elektra complex. I’m talking about Eating Disorders, or ED for short, thankyouverymuch. During my very expensive mistake … Continue reading
If there’s anything that I’ve gotten out of the past ten years of starving myself, yo-yo dieting, and exercising until I’ve dropped from exhaustion–anything at all–it’s that I hate being hungry.
I’m not necessarily talking about that acute, stomach-rumbling, natural reaction to the fact that I haven’t eaten in X hours sort of feeling, although that’s no picnic (pun intended) either.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re purposefully navigating the treacherous waters between caloric deficit and emotional eating, the kind of hunger that settles on you like a fog, slowly rolling in and obscuring your vision so stealthily that you don’t realize you’re being engulfed until the moment it hits you that you can no longer see.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re depriving you body and, perhaps more importantly, your brain of the nutrients it needs to survive, whether that be by starvation or by restriction or by just consuming nothing but man-made, processed foods.
I’m talking about the kind of hunger that you can’t ever feed–not fully, not completely–until you learn to speed your emotional and spiritual hunger, and even then you have to consciously work to nourish yourself or else you’ll go right back to starving again.
When I was in the worst throes of my last bout with anorexia–living in New York but barely living in any sense of the term–I spent every day in tears, running almost exclusively on cortisol and egg whites, with some protein powder thrown in for good measure. All I wanted was to go home.
But I remember one conversation exploring that possibility with my mother very distinctly:
She told me that it might not be a good idea, because my little brother was afraid of me.
My brother, who is 13 years younger than me, who has a terribly gentle soul, was afraid of me. I was too mean, too angry at the world, and his youthful naiveté and general good cheer upset me enough to lash out at him verbally whenever he bounded into the room singing Hannah Montana. And so he was afraid of me.
That killed me.
Even after I moved home, even after I worked hard to become the kind of person who my brother could trust, I still struggled with the anger, the depression, the anxiety that all led me to say hurtful things and storm out of the room. And it was because I was hungry.
Even after I started eating again, I was still hungry. I moved in with my fruit stand roommates, and, while they had their part in destroying our relationship, I can’t help but wish I could take back the things I said and did because I was hungry. I was a vegan, eating nothing but fruit and soy and whole grains and nuts, beans, and seeds, and kale-and-broccoli smoothies (so much kale), and doing Bikram yoga twice a day or going to spin classes and I was hungry. I had panic attacks when I had to be away from food, panic attacks when I had to be around other peoples’ food, panic attacks when I couldn’t have everything my way so that I could just eat my food when I wanted to (even though that was always) according to the schedule that the government and the health and fitness industry and the Huffington Post and Oxygen Magazine said I should be keeping.
And this past Friday (two weeks ago now), having had to give up some of the fats I normally eat (a new n=1 acne experiment I’ll write about soon, I’m sure), having had to give up all control over my schedule with the new job and the musical, having relied on extra fruit and caffeine and chocolate and sugar-free gum to keep me awake and functioning, I came home and saw my brother for the first time in nearly a week, and I was hungry. And as soon as I realized that I was lashing out at him the way I had when I was 112 lbs and starving, I realized that I was falling back into the mindset of the person I didn’t want to be.
I am all about full disclosure, so here it goes:
These past several weeks, I have been struggling so hard with my body image and my food issues. I haven’t worked out or been near a gym in so long that I’m starting to beat myself up every time I look in a mirror. I have been lashing out at the people I care about because interacting with them means less time for sleeping or eating food at a normal (for me) hour. I have been agitated by having to explain my eating habits over and over again to my new coworkers and have been apologizing for the way that I eat (as well as avoiding invites to lunches and dinners because I just want to eat alone).
But I don’t want to be the girl who needs the gym to validate her existence. I don’t want to be the coworker who eats alone at her desk every day. I don’t want to be the girl whose younger brother is afraid of her.
I don’t ever want to go back to being hungry again.
I don’t have any answers today, or even tips or tricks or scientific studies…just honesty. That’s all.
A typical day of “calories in < calories out:”
- 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.)
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.
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?