Off on an Adventure

I am off on my second trip of this holiday break! This time I am going with a group called Cooper House from my church in Hokieville (AKA Blacksburg) to Atlanta, GA to participate in a DOOR Ministries mission trip. This is my first mission trip, and I have no idea what to expect. We have our basic schedule, but won’t know what volunteer sites we will be going to in Atlanta until we get there Sunday night. I am really inwardly excited for this trip, and really outwardly nervous. I have no idea what to expect, only know 2 of the people going with me by name, and have no control over what happens and what plans are made.

 

 

I want this trip to be a learning experience. The first of many this year hopefully. Here are a few things I hope to gain during this week in Atlanta.

A relationship with God. I have this, but I want my faith to grow stronger, and I want to learn new ways to pray and talk to him. I want to encounter God. You hear about people going on these types of trips and feeling God and seeing him work in their life and the lives of the people around them. I want to experience this!

Friends. Like I said I don’t really know the girls I will be going with. The leader is my bible study leader and TA in metabolic and I love her. So I know I will be comfortable with at least one person. But I hang out with so few people at school because I am always studying that I have few opportunities to meet new people and form relationships. I will be eating, sleeping, working, and worshiping, and riding to and from Atlanta with these girls. I will have plenty of opportunities to break down my wall and make new friends.

Information. About me. I want to learn how I can be flexible with food, exercise, studying (yes I am bringing GRE study materials with me, it is a long ride to GA), and doing things spur of the moment. Because I know so many people are not like me and don’t like to plan every minute of their day. I am hoping this trip will kick start my search for balance and flexibility in my life this year.

So I leave with my mom for Blacksburg today (She is being awesome and driving with me out there and then coming back to pick me up next Friday night), and then GA on Sunday morning! I will not be bringing my computer with me as we will be sleeping in a church with other groups for the week. Plus I want to be experiencing social life- that means not using my computer, social media, and TV shows I could watch as a distraction from these wonderful people and God. I know my reader will be overwhelming when I get back. I am OK with that! I cannot wait to come home and see what all of you have been up to for a whole week!

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This is a life in progress

I am linking up with Sloan’s freEDom from perfection campaign this week. The past weeks posts from amazing bloggers have touched me and cause me to reevaluate.

Strength in Freedom

Warning: I don’t know where I am going with this.

I began this blog not really knowing what I wanted it to be. I just wanted a blog, and figured I must have something to offer the world. I love foodie blogs and I love food, but I don’t know how to make delicious recipes or have the photography skills to make the meal creations I do come up with look very pretty.

My first baked pumpkin stuffed with kale, ricotta, and honey. with roasted veggies, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts on the side
Photography by Kailey Proctor (case in point- I can’t take pretty meal pics)

I exercise, but have to cut back sometime soon now. And I don’t have any cool fat burning routines for myself or anyone else. I am a gym rat and most of the time I am OK with that. I am jealous of you runners that go outside and run for the love of it. Actually I am jealous of anyone that works out for pure pleasure everyday because while yes there are days like this past Friday when I just crave some gym time, most of the time I exercise because it’s habit, I feel like I have to, or I really need to study/read for school and that is how I accomplish such a task.

But I was a dancer. Never a runner or a cycler. I started riding the stationary bike in 9th grade when the world around me started saying I should at least 3 times a week. Weight came off and my turns and balance improved. The benefits of the exercise were numerous. So were the new diet restrictions. I always hate admitting that there is a control factor in eating disorders/disordered eating, but looking back my life was pretty damn controlled.

I wouldn’t say exercise ever became a problem though until after my recovery. Sometime between freshman and sophomore year of college my views of exercise and what was enough became warped.  First it was 60 minutes one day and 30 minutes the next with 2 days off on the weekend. Pretty sane and healthy, too bad I had begun restricting again in that time. But then as exercise machines became more available, and my mornings more free I never did less than 60 and every other day I did 90 minutes on that damn arc trainer. Who was I becoming? The good thing was I stopped restricting food by then and ate food I loved and some I didn’t but told myself I should (Read: large amounts of candy and sweets). But those long workout sessions also caused my eating patterns to become quite off. (Read: Breakfast at 11am, Lunch at 3:30 and sometimes 5pm, and Dinner at 9pm or 10pm). Then came the breakdown, and the realization of weight gain despite all of the hours working out, and that my food/meal patterns were really bothering me. Good thing it was summer and I could go home and get in to see my therapist. Conclusion? I was using exercise and food as an escape or excuse not to have fun or live life. So I was assigned to take breaks, have fun, and make a real effort to break out of the shell I had build around myself. O and I was supposed to reduce my exercise and eat every 4-5 hours no matter what.

Confession: I didn’t do any of it. Summer was good to me in a lot of ways. I no longer felt like I had to workout everyday, I finally came to the realization that dance wasn’t for me anymore, and I was making time for other things besides exercise, meal planning, cooking, and cleaning. But every time I got on the bike I just couldn’t make myself get off until at least 93 minutes had past. Or as I started going to the gym again I couldn’t make myself just do 30 minutes on one machine or the other. Once I had rode the elliptical for 30 and ran for another 30 one day it became my routine and I couldn’t bring myself to change it. And I succumbed to my biggest fear food yet again. Not totally, but it appeared less and less in my daily food intake as weeks past by.

Fast forward to now. My days are jammed pack, I have overloaded my schedule, and my perfectionist nature is stronger than ever. I didn’t overload myself on purpose and all of what I am doing is good for my resume/future career and the things I choose to do I really love (Read: tutoring, anatomy TA, bible study, and spending extra time studying metabolic). I still feel the need to spend a specific time exercising and still find myself on the bike for 70-90 minutes. The fear food is still not a daily choice, and sometimes I restrict it purposefully. Honestly it has become more of a special occasion food, like when I go out to dinner, or it is a holiday, or I realize my stomach hasn’t encountered it in quite sometime. I am not proud of this and I know it needs to change. I know logically and factually from classes that the key to health and metabolic function is a balanced, well-rounded diet. I will be the first person to tell you these fad, clean diets are a load of bologna.

This is all really hard for me to admit. I am recovered right? RIGHT. Because I made the decision to live 4 years ago and committed myself to recovery. I am still committed. But I think along the way I got stuck and never realized it because my weight was stable, I was succeeding in school, and I have what most (me included) would consider a pretty fantastic life.

Just as I am still learning in school, I am still learning in life. I am only 21 years old, and it would be weird if I had it all figured out.  My life includes my recovery. Right now that means I have some days when that dang ED doesn’t have a chance to put its two sense in. But I still have quite a few days where the voice is present and I hear it. But does that mean I listen? The answer should be no. But sometimes I do. But do I act? Again sometimes yes. It is hard not to all of the time, I am not perfect after all.

But none of that means I am not recovered. Because I know who the ED Shannon is and who the recovered, totally awesome smart Shannon is. I see the latter a lot and the former not so much. And when the ED Shannon busts into my life you best bet I kick her to the curb. I am recovered and it is my life. I still have pieces I need to work on and I need to stop ignoring that and actually get to work. I am not a procrastinator so why do I procrastinate with this? That’s a topic for another time.

I’ll end with this. I am committed to my recovery and the healthy life I have been given in the 4 years since my eating disorder. I am forever grateful for what  was a learning experience I don’t wish upon anyone else, but for me it has taught me to never take life for granted, showed me that I am worth it, and has given me the opportunity to live for what makes me happy, not for what I think people expect me to be.

Recovery = Life and Life just isn’t perfect. In other words my recovery won’t be either. The important thing is I have realizations like this that get me back on track.

Watta Weekend!

I haven’t had a weekend home in quite some time. Although to be honest it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was home: it was summer, and I had nothing to do but volunteer at the hospital and spend time soaking in the sun. Thankfully the weather is cooler this time and serves as a reminder to me to get work done!

This doesn’t even begin to describe my work load over the next 4 weeks!

But since I go back Sunday and have epic plans next Saturday (AKA a hair appointment and meeting this awesome girl for the first time!) I wanted to spend as much time with my mom and dad as possible (they both work so I don’t have the week days with them except for turkey day and black Friday). So I refused to hole myself up in my room working the whole time. I did get some things done, but I gave myself breaks and I must say I really enjoyed myself because of it!

White Pizza with spinach and tomatoes and a butt load of carrots and celery… Surprisingly my stomach was just fine after all that fiber!

Saturday night was always pizza night in our house since before I can remember. I got home from dance with mom and pizza in hand. The pizza place has changed a few times over the years and so have the toppings, but the routine still feels the same. I love it.

History from the city I grew up in

Mom and I decided to take a little walk on Sunday afternoon at the Lock’s park in my town. This is where the first land battle in VA of the Revolutionary War played out. Kind of cool! We walked down to stand underneath the bypass, which was pretty cool because I drive on that thing daily. And it sort of sounded like a battle above me!

Mom then proceeded to take me to Target, where I bought things I needed and some things that I may or may not have needed but really wanted. My spendings: Two new travel mugs (I only like tea and coffee from travel mugs for some reason and my current one is super stained from my morning tea); Our wine for Thanksgiving dinner!; A new workout pullover; cute headband to keep my ears from freezing off during morning walks; Tights to keep me stylish and warm in my clothing of choice (Read: Skirts and dresses); More hand cream (my hands are cracking like mad!); and a nifty coffee gadget for my future coffee/keurig we are looking for on black Friday this year.

I also bought two tickets to see the Moscow Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker when it comes to Tech next week! Beyond excited! Now I just have to ask off from work! And I ordered an epic planner from Erin Condren. These planners are kind of expensive but so worth it from what I have seen. Since I am a very schedule oriented person this was well worth it. And will make a great stocking stuffer for Christmas!

Ham, spinach, and tomato w/ swiss laughing cow cheese and provolone mozzarella omelet and sauteed brussels sprouts, carrots, and orange bell pepper

This lunch made my afternoon. Enough said.

Mom and I also went to our town’s pitiful excuse for a farmer’s market on Saturday. While it was pitiful I did manage to pick up 3 sweet potatoes and spinach. I thought this particular potato was super cool! and when I cut it open it was so beautifully orange! Hello Vitamin A and Beta-carotene! Too bad my eyes already stink 😉

Favorite Sunday Night Sweet Potato

It is official this is my go to Sunday night meal. I don’t know what happens to me on Sundays, but the time gets away from me no matter what. All of a sudden I am sitting at my desk (or in the case of this night, on my mom’s bed) doing homework when I look at the clock and its past dinner time! So I go to the quick nuking of this glorious meal! This one has cinnamon laughing cow cream cheese, almond butter (of course), pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and pomegranate seeds! It was awesome.

If I am being honest, every time I decided to take a break I would look at my to-do list and a part of me would cringe at the fact that the break would take me away from it and potentially stop me from completing something on it. But I still left the list behind to go have a little fun. It was obviously worth it. I know I can’t do work all of the time, but finding the balance between work and play is pretty difficult for me. Definitely something I need to work on.

If anyone has any tricks to relaxation/taking yourself away from the never ending to-do list of projects, studying, and other misc. stuff I would greatly appreciate it!

I hope everyone had as great a weekend as me and is looking forward to this week and the special day set for us to show gratitude in our lives.

Balance Checks

Tomorrow Gabby Douglas and Allie Reisman compete on the beam. I didn’t take enough gymnastics to ever make it to this skill. You really do have to be pretty freaking amazing to conquer the beam in my opinion! You must complete the most difficult skills while remaining on a straight 16 foot long beam that is not only 4 feet from the ground, but also only 3.9 INCHES wide. So don’t fall off because that is a huge no no and a rather large deduction…

Actually it seems like everything is a deduction in this sport. Is it possible to get a perfect score? Yes but not likely. Because no one is perfect, yet that is what this sport and a lot of others demand of the athletes. Strive for perfection. This ensures the athlete is always improving because again perfection isn’t attainable.

On the beam every balance check is a deduction. These girls go through some pretty extraordinary measures to stay on that beam, but most of the time those measures cost them a few tenths of a point. Not fair right?

I say this because I have recently experienced the sensation of being off balance in life. You see, when I first came to Virginia Tech 2 years ago I made TONS of great friends, stepped out of my box, and acted like a normal teenager. But then this year for reasons I can only partially explain I lost my time with those great friends and stopped making time for FUN. All that mattered was that I received perfect grades so that I could build up my resume in order to ensure I was matched in 2 years for a dietetic internship of my dreams.

Me in 1.5 years…. Except Match Day for dietetics is April 1 (No I am not fooling you)

I was completely off balance! I was not making time for both sides of things. I forgot that too much of one thing (even something as awesome as a 4.0 GPA every semester) can be bad. Looking back I have mixed feelings about the choices I made to stay inside and isolate myself from the rest of the world so that I got in over 50 hours of studying, lots of exercise, and the meals that were comfortable and routine. Because these choices helped me remain safe in my comfort zone of great grades and planned food and exercise. But these choices also meant that I have no group to go to football games with like my freshman year. They meant saying no to some potentially fun opportunities. I forgot that all work and no play makes for a very boring day. Or life in my case.

Good thing I am dedicated to my recovery enough to realize that all of this caused me to turn to food to help cope. I am at a point when I can feel my ED and know that it is not because I want it back but because something else is wrong. Something in my life is off balance. My eating disorder is my very own balance check! The difference between life and gymnastics is that balance checks are allowed in life. Sometimes we have to put our hands down for support. What I mean is sometimes we have to ask for help, because when we are too off balance it is all we can do not to fall off.

So that is what I did. About 2 weeks ago on a random Wednesday I realized how overwhelmed I was feeling with life in general. I was nervous about school starting again soon and that I wasn’t doing enough to get the right experience in dietetics. I was feeling the exercise burnout/addiction coming back and knew it couldn’t. I was unsure about my food choices and if I was eating any of the right things… It goes on but you get the picture. So I called my therapist and we made an appointment. WOW did she help me see how off balance my life had become. To sum it up, when you are filling up on a bunch of resume building things you lose time for FUN! Now don’t get me wrong I love my work at the hospital and I love my time exercising and actually I LOVE LOVE LOVE studying. But now I see that I have to make time for FUN that is unplanned and has nothing to do with my resume.

Unproductive fun.

So I have a few guidelines to help me.

  1. Work on reducing exercise for awhile so that I do not become dependent on it. This includes another rest day that is unplanned. Not easy but something I am ready to work on
  2. While still on vacation: 20 minutes (or 2 ten minute sessions) of unplanned fun
  3. In school: Take study breaks every 2 hours (yes I am one of those Hermonie Granger types who can study all day everyday with breaks only for food)
  4. Find fun at school and meet new people. I am going to try out ballroom dancing at VT first and a new church in Blacksburg. So I have a plan for this one!
  5. Be held accountable. AKA have someone I can tell that I am indeed going to the ballroom (and more than once!)

But the most important thing to remember is that I will not conquer all of these guidelines at once, nor can I automatically do them perfectly (or ever do them perfectly). I will slip up and forget the extra rest day, or forget to have my fun time because things get hectic, and sometimes I will not be able to make it to the ballroom class because I do have school and it matters too, or I might not like the ballroom but that means I find something else. This is about finding the balance again. Saying no to some things sometimes because the other side is more important, but then remembering that the side I said no to is still important and deserves just as many yes’s as the other!

Have a great Monday! My mom and I get to spend another day in Blacksburg fixing up me and the roomie’s townhouse 😀 which is making me uber excited for school and all the new experiences it will bring! I will be back later this week with pictures from the the move and a FUN moment!

Letting Go

I once thought I knew everything about eating disorders. Even before mine occurred, I had done school projects on them, loved their chapter in nutrition related books the most, and as I said last week always really enjoyed the TV episodes dealing with them (and still do). But the truth is I knew nothing about my individual eating disorder. I had know idea that it could be so hard to gain weight and keep it on, that there was a whole mental side that I would have to spend years figuring out, and that this disease would effect every relationship (friends, enemies, significant others) in my life. You give up a lot when an eating disorder takes over your life, and that doesn’t just change because you gain the weight back.

That last statement is something I am just comprehending today, tomorrow, and in the future. This post is about my recovery, the biggest accomplishment in my life. But I don’t fully understand my recovery yet. I have however made some huge breaking points in my life and recovery from this mental disease that took over my life when I was 16.

A little background.

I started seeing a nutritionist (not an RD) immediately once I broke down to my mom about my fear of eating. (that is also something unique about me, no one made me admit I had an eating disorder. I knew it but didn’t know what to do with it anymore.) This woman was so nice and sweet, but she had no idea what monster she was dealing with. It was her job to help me gain weight, but I managed to take everything she told me to do and turn it into a way to lose more weight. I was going down the wrong road with her. Unfortunately my visits with her only made my weight loss and mental stability worse. After almost 4 months my mom was about to give up on getting me help at home and throw thousands of dollars that were saved for my college into a treatment program. Did I want that? Yes and No… I did not want to leave my home, but I just could not let go of this ED. It was the most important thing in my life. We decided as a family to try one more time with a new professional who was a Registered Dietitian. Thank you Babs. Who knew this old lady could break me down to tears while telling me I must now eat 6-9 servings of grains a day, 5 servings of veggies, 2 servings of fruit, 3 protein sources (she never made me give up vegetarianism), 4 cups of milk a day, and what eventually built up to 11 servings of fat (which I called Omegas). O I cried, I brainstormed ways to not eat all of that, and I continued to leave lotsof what I called scraps on my plate. But guess what? Even I could tell by the look on my mom’s face on weigh days that the number was slowly going up. All of my efforts were failing, the weight was coming back. And one day I left my last scrap…

A person must choose to recover for themselves.

And although my weight was going up (at a minimal rate) I was only doing it because I saw how much I was hurting my family. I figured I could recover for them for a little while and then just go back once I was on my own. That is not recovery. I chose recovery at an IHOP in Williamsburg, VA (Read it!) because I realized that I knew so much about this disease, and that I could do something with that knowledge other than unintentionally take my own life. I could use my recovery to help others. It could be my platform in pageants, and I could start to live again. After that night my weight increased every week and I became invested in pushing this invader out of my life. I can honestly say that junior year of high school was the best yet. I made the decision to stop going to Governor’s School, I was able to start exercising again, and on February 14, 2009 I reached my goal weight. But was I done with this? I thought I was close I really did. Until I decided it was a good idea to leave my school and city to go to Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA. I felt anorexia coming back… and I fought it. It took me 6 weeks to finally say I was unhappy and had made a big mistake going to VSA. But because I did eventually realize that mistakes happen and we all make bad decisions, I went home. I went home to complete what was to be a pretty fantastic senior year. I loved my classes, I had a social life (even a boyfriend to go to prom with), and I won the title of Miss Hickory High School (a dream of mine since I first saw the pageant in 2007!) O and I was both accepted and wait-listed at a few colleges. I owe a lot of credit to my therapist who I didn’t start seeing until my senior year. I had seen someone initially but he had no background in treating eating disorders (he did his best and did help me cope with accepting recovery). My new therapist has allowed me to more than cope. She has showed me that what happened to me can be a tool to help me in life. Because of her I see that my recovery has been more than just gaining weight, it has been about discovering who I am, what bothers me, what makes me happy. Most importantly she has helped me to realize that I can deal with bad situations successfully. I can turn a curse into a blessing. So thanks to her and my own efforts I can honestly say that in my senior year I was not consumed by an eating disorder every day. For anyone who has had an eating disorder, you know how BIG this is.

Life throws some nasty curve balls.

Freshman year of college was amazing. Who was this girl with friends and tons of people who liked her? She was going to all of the football games, handling changing majors one too many times, attending military balls, and having a great time without thinking about the next meal! I was living and learning and stepping out of my comfort zone every day! I wish I could say that all of this lasted. but it didn’t and my sophomore year is now over and I lost a lot of the friends I was close to because I stopped being outgoing and got stuck in a rut. I got comfortable and refused to break from my routine. It was working right? Straight A’s, a best friend, keeping my weight steady… But I lost a lot too. I gave up time with friends, Hokie football games (which you just don’t miss!), and new experiences because I was scared. Scared of what? I don’t know. but I can name a few things like failure, not being accepted by others, and gaining weight. I lost balance in my life. And boy did it hit me this summer! I realize now that there are still some things I need to discover about my eating disorder.

The road is ever changing

Does the fact that I went a little backwards mean I am back where I started? OMGsh NO! The differences between this past year in college, and me when I was 16 are huge. For one I do not want an eating disorder. I want to live a life where I do not think about food and my next meal, or if I worked out enough for that day. I had no idea what was happening to my life this past year, no idea that I was losing important aspects of my life! But I figured it out and wanted to change it. This goes back to being at a healthy weight doesn’t = recovered. What does = recovery is never wanting to go back, and living a life that does not revolve around this disorder. I am almost there, I can feel it. I am searching for that piece of me that got lost when it was pushed away by the eating disorder many years ago. And I will find it.

Sometimes I feel like I am lying when I say I am recovered. But then I remind myself that if that weren’t true I wouldn’t still be living and accomplishing so much! The only way I would be lying was if I stopped recognizing my red flags, and stopped trying to dig deep into the roots of my ED. I am able to recognize my eating disorder and fight it. It took some pretty smart people to help me see that to be true.

Everything in it’s own time for that individual.

There was a time that I needed to be in pageants to recover from this. Now that isn’t true, I have a lot of other reasons to keep climbing in my recovery other than a crown, and a platform I love. There was also a time that I believed I could never be a dietitian because it would only hurt my recovery. That changed too and my goal to help others with this struggle only continued to grow. There was also a time not too long ago when I imagined my future as a dietitian as one who only treats eating disorders. That is beginning to change too. I believed that in order to stay in my own recovery I had to surround myself with eating disorders while helping others overcome them. This is still a life goal of mine, but my goals continue to grow and expand beyond eating disorders. I now realize that at one time I had to hold on to eating disorders to keep my recovery going strong. Now I see that there will be a time when I will let go. I will never forget, never stop fighting to educate others about this mental illness, or stop lending my hand to help others recover. But it doesn’t have to be my whole life.

This is where I am now. Working (and looking forward) to my future. And parts of that future include my passion for recovery and helping others do the same, but another part involves letting go and discovering the other passions in my life.