The End Begins Now

I honestly do not know where to begin on this last day of 2012. All of you have written beautifully composed posts about what you experienced this year and what you are looking for in the year of 2013. But I don’t think I documented this year as well as I would have liked to. Sure I have some amazing memories and experiences…

change 6

Goodbye to dance

Climbed the Arc de Triomphe

Climbed the Arc de Triomphe

Cheers!

Cheers!

Done with my last day. See you in the winter Chesapeake Regional!

Done with my last day. See you in the winter Chesapeake Regional!

First cosmo

Ordering my first drink

DSCN0236

Rebekah came to VT

25825397832759877_lM4KfDt4_c

Coffee obsessed

523336_10151032565502066_1576185373_n

Hokie football = sad season

616357_3954844600577_1623527467_o

New friends! All thanks to blogging

Dad had the idea of going on a little jog after opening presents. Awesome idea! I loved every minute of it

Started running and no longer hate it

And I learned a ton about myself through all of it. A beautiful sermon that felt very much directed towards me yesterday plus a few internal struggles I have been dealing with as of late have caused me to want a few resolutions this year. But I never stick to resolutions or goals or whatever you want to call them. I get caught up in school and all of my normal routines pretty quickly and by the end of the year I normally cannot remember what goals I set at the beginning of the year. I don’t want that to happen this year. If I keep going on the same track I will never grow and the struggles I had this year will follow me for the rest of my life. I do not want this.

Yesterday I was asked to contemplate what takes me away from God. My answer was everything. Until I realized that God wants me to have talents, he doesn’t want me to stop studying or exercising or eating a healthy diet. But he also doesn’t want those things to be done without him. I need him to guide me on a path in life that will lead me to a destination only he knows of.

What really takes my life away from God is an eating disorder that I have carried with me for over 7 years now. For most of this time I have considered myself recovered, and I still do. I wrote in the past about how I felt stuck. Well I still feel stuck and that is because I was too busy making excuses instead of sitting down and deciding on a plan of action to one day rid my life of this part of my life completely. I have fear foods that I refuse to release because the fear keeps me safe. I still struggle with what exercise is supposed to be for me, although this is something my mom was kind enough to point out I have been working on and succeeding in. And I am still consumed by appearance, the thin body ideal, and perfection in everything. Until I let go of these things I will forever live a life in which I am in a constant battle with anorexia. I might be winning for the rest of my life, but as long as the battle is still going on there is a chance for losing.

I don’t want to live my life on the battlefield. So in 2013 I will work to end this war. I am not making it my goal to rid my life of this thing that has consumed me so long. I cannot set a time frame for when this will be over and not longer consume me. I making 2013 the first year of the end. There will be a time in my future that I am completely free.

I am currently working on a short list of short term goals that will help me to end this battle. I hope by posting this list in the next week it will keep me accountable to trying new things, challenging myself, and taking risks so that I can begin to experience life that is led by the light of God.

Advertisements

Because I DON’T Have to!

I’m back!!! At least for a little while, Christmas break is going to be jammed packed of fun and life-learning experiences. And they already began. But all of those deserve their own separate attention. But I will leave you hanging with some intriguing details… Macados, twiin Christmases, Waffles, Exams, Rudolph, Fun > Studying, Snowball Camp, Atlanta, GRE, Research, Toll-Receptor 4?, The Hobbit, Les Mis… the list goes on and on!  But how fortunate that today is Tuesday and I have time for a #FreEDom post from the lovely Sloan’s campaign. It’s not going to be a long one, but a simple revelation and challenge to myself for this upcoming break and new year. I have some other thoughts on perfection for a future post but I am waiting for something. Geeze I am not being very revealing am I? Sorry, you will understand when the time comes. For now let’s find #freEDom!

Strength in Freedom

I have recounted time and time again my addiction to exercise. Over the course of the past two years I did it too often, became obsessed and sacrificed a lot of life because I was working out for a good 3 hours in the mornings on that stupid elliptical. Add in the 5-6 hours I spent preparing and eating meals and most of my day was consumed by exercise and food thoughts and it can safely and accurately be stated that the rest of the day was consumed by nonstop studying. No fun, friends, or relaxation in the mix. My therapist challenged me to stop the addiction in its tracks before my ED had the chance to come back. And to look for areas of fun in life to replace the loss I was bound to find when giving up the exercise. I fought this, and I fought this hard. But in the time since Thanksgiving and my first freEdom post something has changed within me, something is not the same…

I don’t have time to exercise every day. At least not formally strap on sneakers and workout clothing, get to the gym, and work up a sweat. School is so much more important to me. And I do a lot outside of the classroom. I study hard. We are talking massive amounts of flashcards to the point where I memorize my notes and then take that memorization and put it into application. Because it is not enough to memorize this information, I have to understand it. OK sorry for the rant but I love school and I could talk about studying all day.

Source: google.com via Laura on Pinterest

Exercise is not my passion. My passion as stated above is school. More specifically as I have discovered this year, metabolism. I could talk about enzymes and their substrates and their regulation all day long. You would be bored, but I would be on cloud nine. We all have different passions in life, but I think with the obesity epidemic and the new popularity of healthy living communities a lot of people believe that if they don’t love to wake up and exercise every day there is something wrong and that they are not living a healthy life. That just isn’t the case.

So here it is the point of this longer than expected post. I love exercise. And recently realized I don’t mind running. Short distances mind you and at a slow little turtle pace. But I don’t want to do it every day. But I sure feel like I have to. Take today, I am not really sure I want to go to the gym for that sweat session everyone says is necessary. I know I will enjoy it, but my question to myself has to be what are my motives? Burning calories, reducing stress, smiling, feeling guilt without it? Yesterday I wanted to run not for the calories or the feeling of guilt, but because I hadn’t in a few days and missed it. Healthy mindset that I am very proud of. I want that mindset every day of my life so here is my challenge to myself: Practice being OK with not wanting to work out and only work out when I am doing it for the right reasons. If I find myself lacing up those sneakers because I feel the need to burn calories in order to eat what I want or feel good about my body I am doing it for the wrong reasons and wasting valuable time that could be spent studying, reading articles, hanging out with friends, or just relaxing.

 

So that is the challenge. Will it be immediate? Nope. Just like with breaking the exercise addiction it will take some time and effort on my part. It will take me forcing myself to listen and respond to the reasons I am heading to the gym. Especially when there will be times over break when I have all of the time in the world and could spend it all working out, planning meals, eating meals, and then planning my next workout based on those meals. I am up for it. And I know I will have the support from my family and friends as I really work towards this mental health I never got back in my recovery.

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.

Streesy Sweet Potato

There is something comforting in knowing I have a “go to”

In recovery from my eating disorder I had many security blankets. Making food preparation important, measuring everything with a scale or a measuring cup, writing down everything I ate, blacking out calories on boxes, covering up mirrors… You get the picture.  But with time I was able to release a lot of these things and set them aside, either because I was just so sick of them or because I knew they had to go in order for my life to proceed. But something I have always gone back to in times of stress is my need for routine and my “go to” meals.

Routine keeps me sane sometimes. Take these next couple of weeks for example, I have a lot of exams coming up the week of Halloween (how is that for scary!) and the second week of November. That means late nights of studying and early mornings of bike riding in order to absorb all of the information. O and a large amount of flashcards! It also means I have no time to be stressing over food or pushing my eating disorder thoughts out every day. It means I need to go back to routine to keep that pesky anorexia out of my life for good so that it does not sneak up on me like it has done in the past. The more I am aware of the potential for triggers and invasion during times of high stress, the stronger and more independent of the illness I am able to be.

I have a “go to” meal. I get home late (8ish) most nights and I have yet to really start any work on days like Mondays and Tuesdays (or yesterday because we had our class ring premier!!!) because I work. Let me tell you there is nothing more frustrating than trying to help someone learn material and all they want is for you to do their homework for them. Add to that that you would ideally like to be working on learning your own material and studying for those couple of hours and you have a recipe for stress.

My Times of Stress Good Luck Exam Meal!

Microwaved Sweet Potato (from the farmer’s market last weekend!) with Trader Joe’s Raw Crunchy Almond Butter, Cinnamon, and Ricotta Cheese

Nothing extravagant, but then it wouldn’t be a very good easy go to meal would it? But it is packed with nutrients! I even added ricotta this time, which took it to a whole new level! Don’t be surprised if I tweet about adding maple syrup or honey to this combo in the near future because the idea is stirring in my head, and like I said I have a lot of exams in the near future.

By the way the reason this is “lucky” is because I am an extremely superstitious person. Last year before every Anatomy exam I have a bagel with nut butter and an apple. This year I have decided that a sweet potato dinner in necessary for the night before metabolic! Ideally a sweet potato in a far with either ricotta (because I am obsessed now!) or with Fage yogurt and flax. I tworked last exam (100 baby!) so I am sticking with this brain food 😉

I normally have my sweet potatoes with a delicious slightly still unripe banana. It is perfect for dipping into the side of almond butter (or other nut butter) I have set aside that was not used on the potato. But this week I had no time to even stop by the store that is literally 1 minute from my apartment to pick one up. So I chopped up a sweet yellow bell pepper, washed a couple grape tomatoes, and threw them in an ice cream bowl!

Yellow Bell Pepper with Grape Tomatoes… In an Ice Cream Bowl (which is the only reason I even took a picture)

Maybe kids would be more inclined to eat their veggies if they were in a pink ice cream bowl? Then again maybe I am just weird, but I swear the veggies tasted better from this bowl and I love these two veggies to begin with!

Do you have any go to meals?

How do you handle yourself in times of stress? Do you go back to routine and comfort?

Bring on the Rain While I Call for Help

I moved back to college for the 3rd time in my life. I am Junior. And leaving never gets easier. I always think this time will be the time that I don’t cry/sob when it is time to say goodbye. Yeah not so much. Actually this time I had make up on and it ran down my face and now I have a stye on my eye. So maybe I am not so great at goodbyes?

This trip back to college was different than the other two. I took my car this year because me and my roomie are in a townhouse this year and we need a car. No more depending on the bus at 10pm when we just want a night out at the movies and IHOP. Or when we visit our favorite restaurant Macados for pretty epic spinach and artichoke dip + sandwiches + madison mud pie. And of course grocery shopping just became ten times easier. Well except for having a budget, that is new and something that I need to learn to get used to. Excited for the new opportunities! 

Yup that is me and my Hokie Bird and hot red car ready for the drive to school solo. I was very much freaking out about driving the whole way on my own this year. But I was also excited and confident in my ability to do so. With GPS in hand, a car packed full, and a planned stop on the way to chill with my best friend and eat the lunch I packed I was ready.

And then it started to rain. No actually it started to pour. You know the kind of downpour you only seem to run into on a country back road in the middle of no where. Where the only place to pull over it either a stranger’s house or a tavern on the side of the road… Yeah. So I had to call my mommy. She and my roommate and my daddy all agreed that the weather was looking bad. So mom and dad to the rescue! They drove out to meet me (I was already a good hour into my drive) and planned to follow me as I drove to college. And of course the second they arrive the rain stops. I felt awful quite honestly! Here I was trying to grow up, move on my own, and I needed my parents help not even an hour in. And then the whole time they drove with me, there was no rain. They went with me up until I reached my best friend’s apartment and then left to turn around and go back home. Now the plan was to stay and eat lunch (that I had all packed) at my friend’s apartment but I needed to get on the road pretty quickly because I just wanted to get to school at this point. So I stopped, we hugged, and I got back on the road. Remember I said the rain had stopped? Not anymore! Yeah I drove the next 90 minutes in more downpour. But it wasn’t bad enough to pull over or slow me down so this time I handled it on my own. However the lunch I packed never got eaten (well it did but 3 days late….) 😦 But I did get to school and my apartment with plenty of time to chill with my roomie before getting all dolled up for an epic night out for dinner 😀 Sorry no pictures, we were too consumed with life and catching up to capture the moment.

I Realized 2 Major Things

  1. I am growing up. I am more adult than even 2 weeks ago. And I am 21 in about 2 weeks BUT when I am not comfortable it is OK to ask for help. Actually anyone should ask for help when they are confused or lost and in trouble. That is the only way we learn (well that and making mistakes). I am terrible at asking for help when I need it. I am just so self conscious. But everyday I am learning. There was nothing wrong with me calling my parents. Actually it would have been wrong to keep on driving and put my life in danger. That is the thing, when we don’t ask for help sometimes it is a life or death thing. So I am going to work on asking for help/advice whenever I need it. Sometimes, yes, I need to problem-solve for myself but when I have tried and tried again on something there is no shame in raising my hand, picking up a phone, or yelling into my roommate’s room (politely of course!) that I am confused and frustrated or I just need help!
  2. I am learning to go with the flow. I couldn’t eat my lunch on my car ride. A year ago I would have been silently freaking out. Thinking my ED will start to pop up. I will have to overcompensate at dinner. This is so wrong, what if I go down the wrong road again. Not this time! I made a decision that I wanted to get to my new home with time to unpack and chill with Kailey. I did not want to stop anymore. So I didn’t. I was normal. When people around me miss a meal they don’t freak out or overcompensate at dinner. I didn’t either. I got to my new home and Kailey and I got cute and went out to dinner. I listened to my body and ate until I was full and satisfied. I did not feel like I needed to eat more or less than I did. And the next day I had no inclination to skip lunch again (A thought that definitely would have occurred in the old days) It was a glorious feeling! So I am going to keep up with my efforts to go with the flow. If I forget my lunch one day (o wait I did that yesterday… told you I was going with the flow) I will buy something on campus (like I did yesterday) and my packed lunch will be there the next day. It feels a lot more free and I know the people I love appreciate my new endeavor to stop planning every moment of their lives and mine 😉

I hope everyone has a great day!

I am onto my 2nd day of classes and I have no expectation that things will go as planned. I don’t know what my posting will be like for the next week or so. I need to get in a groove. But be prepared for some epic back to school tales coming up in the near future!

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.

Cause and Effect

I left off last Thursday with a bit of a cliff hanger… Sorry! So on to the next portion of my journey.

What caused me to have an eating disorder?

It is actually a question that even I have not answered all of the way. Every day/month/year I seem to uncover another portion of my eating disorder I had no idea existed. But I am getting ahead of myself… I am not going to highlight every trigger or every thought that came about as my eating disorder came about but I am going to highlight what I believe are the important parts that brought anorexia into my life.

*** I will not be sharing photos of myself at my worst because not only could this post about triggers lead to triggering others (and myself) but this blog is meant to show how much my life has grown and developed, and how much more I appreciate all of life’s challenges now. Looking back on the past and how unhappy I was does not really do justice to my motto of plating it and climbing. The goal is to climb up not down.

  • Dieting.

As I said before I have always been very preoccupied with my appearance. Being little was something I took pride in, and I grew up unconsciously worrying about my weight and size. I say unconsciously because it wasn’t something I tried to change, it was all thought no action. But I would hear about dieting and associated it with something adults did, so naturally, my time would come. When I started high school I put on a very little amount of weight and I was concerned because now that I was dancing in pursuit of a career my appearance was even more important. So my mom was just trying to get me into fitness and healthy living when she suggested I try out our exercise bike for 30 minutes. I loved it and weight did start to come off. Then she bought me the book above and I became obsessed. I would read this book at night and was inspired to take up cooking, eat vegetables, non-sugary cereals, and begin to realize that portions mattered. All of these things were great concepts. It wasn’t the book that caused the eating disorder… I believe that it was when the weight came off that my brain began to change. And then I regained a lot of weight (I still wasn’t overweight but when you have lost weight and then it comes back, sometimes it can be upsetting) and became so distraught and for some reason I couldn’t get back to where I thought my body was healthiest. Of course the weight I had gained and then couldn’t lose was probably where my body was feeling healthiest… but my brain wasn’t having it.

So dieting was a trigger for me but it is not for everyone.I just want to make that clear.

  • Competition, Being the best, the need to have something I was recognized for…

There was a time that dance was fun. I looked forward to class and I was good at it. There was no sense of doom and gloom when I talked about my future in dance.

I am on the right in pink shorts. This was when dance was still fun

But when I started high school I made the decision to leave my recreational studio where I had basically grown up. I knew that in order to really make it in dance I needed better technique than my studio could give me. I also started Governor’s School for the Arts (I was accepted into the Dance Department) and that meant I danced for my grades! Dancer’s heaven? I thought so. But then this is when dance began to bring more worry than fun. I was always comparing myself to other dancers and I never felt good enough. There was always someone better or some skill I was too scared to even try. And then suddenly class was something I dreaded. I would stare at the clock counting down the minutes until it was over or I would convince myself I didn’t feel well so that I could sit out. I didn’t know it at the time but my eating disorder was my escape plan…

I was a Virginia Tech HighTech Freshman year of college… it took awhile for me to give up dance

It took me a LONG time to admit that I didn’t want to dance anymore. I tried many things to keep me dancing: Pageants (I’ll cover that in the post about my recovery), The NCAA dance team in college, and taking classes because I though I was supposed to. When something has been a part of your life since the beginning of real memories it is hard to let go. And I will admit, most of dance comes so naturally to me (not all though). So it was hard to explain to people that it wasn’t that I didn’t love dance, it wasn’t that I didn’t feel good enough, it was that I didn’t like the feeling of dance anymore.

My last dance

A lot of people ask me if dance caused my eating disorder. My answer? NO. I was never pressured to lose weight or look a certain way at any of the schools I attended. I pressured myself to be too perfect. I lost my love of dance and didn’t realize it and then an eating disorder became my way out because when I did recognize I didn’t want it anymore I was too scared to leave the one thing I felt good at. Dance is beautiful, and it does wonders for so many young boys and girls. I would not be who I am today without my years in dance. I just don’t love to do it anymore.

  • Something more complicated

I don’t have a picture for this one sorry. This is incredibly complicated and I don’t understand it  myself. But ever since I knew eating disorders existed I have had a fascination with them. I have always enjoyed watching the movies about them, the TV shows (Emma of Degrassi anyone? or DJ on Full House?), and books that dealt with them. I don’t know why, but I glorified these stories and I think unconsciously I was in a way learning how to have the perfect eating disorder. There is a lot of research out there now suggesting that some people have a specific gene that makes them more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. I am someone who believes this to be true. We found out shortly after I was diagnosed that my grandmother exhibited bulimic behaviors throughout her childhood and young adult life. And my mom admits to also dealing with some disordered behaviors (although I look up to my mom so much these days, she eats what she wants, no longer diets or counts points/calories, and takes such great care of her body). When my grandma was young eating disorders were not mentioned and treatment was pretty much unheard of so of course she was never diagnosed with an eating disorder and no one would have thought to be on the look out for the possibility in later generations. Now I am. Because if there is a gene, research also suggests that the gene does not have to be activated. That happens when outside forces come into play, and that happened for me as you can see.

So many things can lead to a person developing an eating disorder and the 3 things I mentioned here are only a few of the things I believe led to mine. I believe it is so important to know possible triggers because eating disorders ruin lives. Yes recovery is possible, but it is hard to chose it and when you do the battle has just begun.
I did not realize how hard the recovery from an eating disorder would be. They leave that part out in the magazines and in the movies don’t they. Well I am not leaving it out because my recovery is what I am most proud of.

Come back next Thursday for my path to healthy and happy! I promise it is a good one!

Stepping Out of the Boat

Step out of the boat and into the water. The sermon at my church today was about walking on water. And facing fear and failure.

For those that do not know the story, Jesus walked on water to reach his disciples in the middle of rough water and Peter trusted Jesus to help him walk on water too. He trusted him to help him do the “impossible.” He did falter, but he recovered because Jesus had him. He sank but then came back up stronger.  That was the over all message… but there was more to it.

Having faith, being a Christian does not mean your life will be perfect. When was the last time you asked yourself What did I do to deserve this? or I follow God, I pray, I believe so these things should not happen to me. But the things is, as my pastor pointed out today, no where in the Bible does it say that if you follow God nothing bad will happen to you. It says that God will always be with you, he will never leave you. That means that although you are struggling, God is there. But why would he allow these bad things to happen?

He is building up your faith. 

For the athletes: It is like when you are training and you hit a point of plateau in which you can’t move forward and improve your skill unless you push yourself and make things harder. 

But there is the fear of failure, the fear of the unknown. Even the fear of succeeding. But again God doesn’t promise you won’t fail, he promises to be with you no matter what. So you are going to fail. Not all of the time, but there will be times when things get hard, and you fail. But you have to have faith that you will overcome the failure and keep going.

I have to work on stepping out of my personal “boat,” and into the water.  I have hit a place in my recovery where I am actually already out of one boat and I have made it to another. My weight is regained and has been for 3 years and I have no intention of going back to an unhealthy and unhappy life. And I have learned to enjoy my food, have conquered most all of my fear foods to the extent that I can and will eat a food even if I still remember the fear I had and may still have some fear of it. I know that by taking a bite I push my eating disorder away from my life more and more. BUT pieces of the ED still dominate my life if I am being honest. Now I have heard both tales told: 1- that you always have an ED but learn to live with it by adopting coping mechanisms and 2- that some people recover they are not living in recovery. I am not sure which one exists for me, but I can say for sure that I am not going to settle with what I have reached so far because I have this feeling that I have not pushed my ED far enough. It does not control me anymore, I still think about it every day. And I realize that it is a strong person who can live with an ED thinking, and then having the strength to still do what is sane and healthy and happy. But I want more. I do not want every day to have an ED thought that I push through. I want there to be days that I forget

I used to think these thoughts were just me remembering what the ED had done to my health and my life. Now I am seeing that this remembering is just a way of making an excuse for my thoughts. So I need to step out of my comfort zone and cross to another boat.

Staying safe is no way to live life. Sure I  could stay right where I am. I am at a healthy weight, I know what thoughts are good and what thoughts are bad (I hate the words good and bad by the way because what is bad for me could be good for someone else), and I am very happy with the decisions I have made to put me on the life path I am on. not it is time to confront fears that I could live with.

  • Breaking from my routine and trying something new- I could live with the same old routine, but it would definitely hold me back and stop me from experiencing a lot of potentially life changing things
  • Actually listening to my body instead of what I think is right- Following a clock and again sticking to routine works, but there might be something that is better for me and only my body can tell me that

Just to name two (there are more, and some I haven’t even realized yet I am sure).

I hope this challenges more people to walk on water even though there will be times that you sink. You just have to trust that when you come back up you will be stronger in both body and mind than you were before because

You had faith!

My Path Here

One of my first posts was a link to a story I wrote my freshman year at Tech. It is a “fictional” account of how my eating disorder not only hurt me but really hurt the people that loved me the most. But that story doesn’t tell about the why behind the disorder. I have recently loved reading about other bloggers’ journeys towards their relationship with food, especially those that deal with disordered eating into recovery because I see how every situation has parts that are very similar, but more that are so unique. I want to work as a dietitian serving those that are recovering from eating disorders and disordered eating, and reading these blogs has made me see that I will encounter so many types of people and no one person will be treated the same way.

Every story I have read has amazed me. The courage it takes to recount all of the fear and put yourself out there publicly is beyond words. So here is my story, I hope to do just as great a job as all of you other bloggers! (Part One)

I have been a picky eater for a very long time. Since I can remember I have had my food rituals. My breakfast almost always stayed the same: the cereal I was eating (apple jacks, cinnamon toast crunch, and wheaties) + milk (that my dog would finish for me once the cereal was gone) + a Krispy Kreme Doughnut + Orange Juice w/ water in it (because of my intolerance) + chocolate milk and soda (there but very rarely actually finished) and all of this had to be set on my TV table just right or I would not eat until my mom or dad set it up right. When I didn’t have this meal I would enjoy a breakfast treat of pancakes (explains my love for them now!) but my pancakes had to be cut up into very small pieces or I would refuse to eat them too.

A recreation of my old favorite breakfast

I have also loved patterns and order. When I first learned about patterns in school I attempted to make everything into one. And I admit I still do this today especially with my food. Order on the other hand was different. I was not neat, my room was always messy and I never cleaned. But my socks always had to fit just so, and I loved my routine. The neatness has grown as I have grown and now I do love to vacuum and fold laundry just so.

I have also always been too competitive. Now a little competition here and there is a good thing, but I compete with everyone including my parents and best friends. Looking back this is probably why I had so few friends growing up. My competitive drive was only encouraged through the dance environment I grew up in. Dance is a cut throat sport (yes it is a sport) and to make it you have to push yourself and everyone else. To make it you have to be the best.

“Don’t Mess With a Serious Dancer”

And I was always preoccupied with my appearance. I guess standing in front of the mirrors at a dance studio in clothing that could be used as a back up bathing suit if you forget yours and fancy a swim after class could do that to a person. But I think that even without that in my life I would have had this obsession with mirrors and weight. When we got measured in class for costumes I would stand by and listen to everyone’s measurements and then suck in and hope mine was the smallest on the list. A lot of times it was, and a lot of times it wasn’t.  I would sulk silently wondering how I could become the smallest again if I wasn’t, and smile with pride if I was… When you are destined to never grow above 5 feet tall being the smallest is sort of the only thing you can count on… until it’s not.

You would think that with this competitive nature that I would always want to first in everything I did. That was true in everything except for when it came to food. At every school party I can remember since 1st grade I can remember sitting with my piece of cake or my cookie and waiting for everyone else to finish before I took my last bite. I wanted to be the last person to taste the treat.

Photo Source

And finally, growing up there were multiple times I would silently declare that the easy mac I just devoured because I was bored would be the last time I would eat. I would think about how I could make the uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and all over my body go away but never have the conviction to throw it up or stop eating. The thoughts would invade, but be pushed away by other (more important) things in a child’s/adolescent’s daily life. AKA barbies, best friends, the first time I was allowed to wear make up, my first crush and love…

Looking back, I see that there were a lot of the warning signs for a potential eating disorder. But warnings are just that. None of these things guaranteed I was going to develop an eating disorder.  In most cases, an eating disorder in someone like me (someone who has it almost in her genes) could still lay dormant all his or her life.  A trigger has to push the disorder into motion. Unfortunately that is what happened to me.

Now this post is long and i have covered a lot of thought contemplating ground. So this feels like a good stopping point. I will continue with my story Next Thursday

No Plan B

No not the birth control… “No Plan B” was the ultimate point I got from today’s sermon. Our pastor spoke about how when David planned to build God a temple he was stopped by God, who had other plans for David. But that wasn’t a Plan B because the temple didn’t work out. In God’s eyes there is no Plan B, in our eyes we always see life’s struggles and detours and failures as a resort to Plan B.

I am very guilty of thinking like this. Take my dance career, when my body and mind started to resist dance, when an eating disorder took over I decided to go to “plan B” and go to school, work my butt off, and ultimately go to college. But what I am starting to realize is that my dancing, my eating disorder, and other life experiences are just preparatory steps to something bigger.

Another example? I had no real idea where I wanted to go to school or what I was looking for in a school but I knew William and Mary and The University of Virginia were highly prestigious schools so I set my mind on “the best.” but I didn’t get in, i got wait listed. So I chose “plan B” Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was actually the only school i visited that I got that feeling of home. But I never gave it a lot of consideration because it didn’t have an elementary education track. Good thing God knew that the only place for me was VT because now I am no longer planning a career as an elementary school teacher. (I realized by doing that I would indeed enjoy my career, but I would be taking the safe road). I am in a top notch dietetic program that I didn’t even know existed until the second semester of my freshman year!

Plus I used to never watch football, I now hate to miss a Hokie football game 😉

But yet again i find myself trying to plan out my entire life. Graduate with my Bachelor’s in Dietetics, get that internship that is so coveted and so difficult to obtain, and help those suffering from eating disorders conquer the nutritional aspect of the disease! Good plan, but do I know that it will work? NO. I can hope, but God might have another plan. So as I worry for the next two years about whether or not I am doing everything I need to do to get that internship I will also be reminding myself that if I don’t it is not the end of the world and the next step is not Plan B. but is actually the plan set for me all along!

This day is going to be really great! It started off with a strange craving for breakfast, and just became amazing with church and that sermon.

BREAKING MY FAST 😀

I woke up craving Eggs, Peanut Butter, and Banana but was struggling to figure out how I would incorporate that into a meal I would enjoy. VOILA a truly Shannon moment. Egg pizza crust, PB “sauce” and banana “pepperoni.” This was a total success in my stomach’s and taste buds’ opinion! And really easy to create!

  • Mix the eggs (I used 2 whole eggs but you could use 1 egg and an egg white or two if you wanted) with a dash (or more) of cinnamon
  • Place on a heated frying pan (sprayed with nonstick spray) and allow the mixture to set
  • Flip like a pancake and cook for one more minute
  • Plate it, spread with PB (or any nut butter) and top with a sliced banana!

I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday! Mom and I are off to see Magic Mike!!!