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How I’m Recovering from an Eating Disorder on a Plant Based Diet

 

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I’ve struggled with food for the greater majority of my life. I had a sweet tooth growing up, and as an athlete, I had a pretty big issue with feeling unreasonably guilty about eating pretty much everything as a kid and teen. I had a very distorted view of what ‘too much’ or ‘too little food’ really meant, and it shaped up a spectrum of eating issues from age 8 on. I tried eating almost no calories, I tried eating and throwing up, and I just never was able to find a normal or healthy balance.

A few years ago, things got so bad that I stayed at a residential treatment center in Arizona for just over a month. There, we had to eat a wide variety of food, and eat 6 times a day. It felt strange and confusing to me, that even with how much I was eating, I was feeling so physically and mentally unhealthy; I was sluggish and tired, far surpassing my maintenance weight, and I was still obsessing about food day in and day out. Towards the end of my stay, I started making my meal plans more centered around plant-based foods (trading my carb exchange for a sweet potato versus a muffin, and things like that).

Now, I feel the need to strongly state that I am no advocate for restriction in the least bit, and my mental switch to slightly limiting my variety of food intake to mainly plant-based foods was due to a genuine desire to nourish my body, and not punish it. The more I ate like this, the less I worried about my body and calorie intake. It was like my brain was finally getting the nutrients that it needed to not try to obsess over and feel like I needed to hoard or constantly control food.

I will also point out that my recovery is as perfect as anyone else’s– it’s not. I still have days where I struggle with body image, and the urge to try to control my food to control my weight. What a plant-based diet has brought to the table is the ability to nourish my brain and my body enough to fight the mental battle of obsession and self loathing that is the Eating Disorder, and a live a relatively healthy, normal, and productive life.

A plant-based (mostly vegan) diet has switched my focus to health, self-love, happiness, adventures, and making memories in life versus shying away from them because of a preoccupation with calories and body weight. It has truly changed my lifestyle from one of fear to love.

“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and the body; it’s truly love.”

__ Giada De Laurentiis

I realize that my approach to Recovery may be a little controversial and unorthodox for the ED community, but it’s brought me a sense of hope, health, peace, and vibrancy in my life that I think is worth sharing.

So thank you guys for reading, and if anyone wants an example of a vegan, plant-based recovery meal plan (with adequate calories, and nourishing, simple, and great tasting recipes), be sure to let me know via email or comments!

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An Open Letter to Anyone Who Congratulated me on my Weight Loss

I had, for my whole life up to that point, been an incredibly strong and stocky gymnast. People asked my mom when I was a toddler if I weight lifted, and I had been known in my family for my chubby cheeks– then massive “hulk” legs, ever since I could remember. I had always hated my body, and I wanted to look like one of the lean and lanky gymnasts I looked up to so much. Nastia Liuken and Nadia Commaneci were my two body “goals” growing up, and here I was, 16 years old and literally being asked if I was on steroids and called the “Hulk” by the boys my age I desperately wanted to hide from.

The summer before my Junior year of high school, I dropped 50 pounds in two months– which was a hell of a lot for my 5″2 frame. When I got back to school, I was baffled and confused by the attention I got; I remember preforming at my first pep rally on the first day of the school that year, and my cheer captain telling me that one of the more popular guys wanted to take me to Homecoming– I thought they were all making fun of me and I cried in the bathroom for my entire lunch that day. At the cheer-leading team photo-shoot, I vividly remember my (very sweet) coaches asking me, “What diet are you on, and why am I not on it yet”?

My parents were proud as can be, my mom taking me shopping for new school clothes because I didn’t fit in any of my clothes from two months before. My more popular brother who was two years older than me, who I wanted to approve of me more than anyone, finally introduced me to his friends and actually seeming proud. Those friends actually seeming to flirt with me a little instead of relentlessly make fun of me by asking me to flex for them, or arm wrestle them. I had gone from wearing my brothers massive sweatshirts trying to cover myself the year before, to people telling me I was ‘oh so stylish’ in the new clothes my mom had got for me. I went from happily invisible to confusedly in some weird kind of spotlight- where I was never sure if it was all some big cruel joke. I never thought I was pretty, 50 pounds up or down. However, the people around me made it more and more clear what kind of impact someone’s weight has on their perceived likability– and to those people, 7 years later, with the weight still off, here is what I have to say:

For starters, I had an Eating Disorder, and nobody in their right minds should be shocked by this. I lost 50 pounds in two months. It is not humanly possible to eat normally and lose almost a pound a day. Everybody ignored that fact, and applauded my “new body”.  I was fasting for days at a time, and whatever I did eat was coming right back up. Not to mention that I was exercising obsessively while wearing garbage bags, terrified of drinking water, abusing diuretics and laxatives, writing down and looking up every calorie consumed, and was literally so afraid of water weight that I carried around an empty water bottle and was spitting out my saliva into it instead of swallowing like a normal person.

Next, that was not my “new body”, that was the only body I have ever had– just starved, dehydrated, over-worked, and kept “in line” with social ideals with constant internal criticism, obsession, and hatred. Stop telling people who lose weight “congrats on the new body!”– because regardless of if they intentionally and healthily lost the weight or not, they are not a new person. And it was that feeling of being trapped by losing that “new person”, that kept me in the grips of my eating disorder for years and years to come. The horror of going back to trying to make myself invisible from everyone because I wasn’t the “Ideal” weight, and hiding from the small comments about being heavy, masculine, or looking way older than I was– it petrified me. Because of the people who convinced me that the “thin” me, was more worthy of kindness, more worthy of their time, more of a role model, more “perfect”, I ended up believing that to be a good and worthy person, I had to stay that way at all costs.

Perhaps one of the most important things I could tell the people who congratulated me on my detrimental and disordered lifestyle, is that Eating Disorders change the structure of your brain and impacts your obsessions and compulsions as much as addictions (Stuber GD, Evans SB, Higgins MS, Pu Y, Figlewicz DP. Food restriction modulates amphetamine-conditioned place preference and nucleus accumbens dopamine release in the rat. Synapse. 2002;46:83–90.) I almost killed myself in two months to live up to the societal expectation that you all patted me on the back for. The worst thing? I had had an Eating Disorder since I was 8. It was just at a point in time where it reached a peak in severity. You all literally congratulated me for an eating disorder that I’d had for almost a decade, that had gotten to a horrifying, life-consuming point. Eating Disorders are just that- a disorder. The worse it got, the more I was reinforced by my environment for it and backed away from getting help. And by having to go to a residential treatment center for it, many many other girls are in the same predicament. Stay in a disease that consumes their lives, ruins their relationships, and may kill them– or be quietly ridiculed by society again? Most would choose the obvious, but if we didn’t our brains and bodies did for us.

You can’t just simply stop having an eating disorder. Well, you can, and some do, but it sucks. The first time I tried to recover from my eating disorder was after I threw up a considerable amount of blood while hiding in a bathroom stall before school started one day about a year after I had dropped that 50 pounds. I stopped restricting and throwing up, but nobody tells you that your body has to adjust to food again; My stomach swelled up to the size of a pregnant woman’s after starting to eat again, my “slowed stomach emptying” (as I learned it’s called on ED recovery forums) was a nightmare and the gas was horrific. Not to mention your hormones readjusting and you feeling like a 13 year old from hell all the time, your body temperature not controlling it’s self, the facial, joint, and finger swelling because of your body not being used to being hydrated. The migraines because of withdrawals from coffee loading and binges, and the fact that no matter how long time goes by, the obsessive compulsive thought patterns when it comes to food never seem to completely dissipate. In treatment, the fact that eating disorders simulate addictions is so emphasized, that in my 30 day stay, I went to over 60 12 step meetings. The really frustrating part about going to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, was that you can just abstain from those substances. You can’t do that with food, and the fact that your brain is addicted to a substance that you are told to have 6 times a day in treatment, seems like an impossible feat sometimes. Could an alcoholic recover if they had to have one shot of whiskey at every meal? Recovering isn’t just “deciding to eat”, it’s handling withdrawals, teaching your body to process food again, and the strong part of your brain telling you to eat or else, is telling us people with eating disorders to not eat at all, or to binge and purge, or to always eat, or to only eat certain foods over and over again, or else. Recovery sucks, and it’s every meal and every day for the rest of our lives. 

Lastly, after it surfaced that I had an eating disorder, some of the same people that had patted me on the back, started to label me as “crazy”. And I will have you know, and shout it from the roof-tops, the only difference between the first day of school and the day you found out is your mindset.  You went from saying “good job” to placing a stigma on me, with no change in behavior of my own. People’s eating disorders get worse and worse because of the nature of the disease and the impact of the brain, but also because there is an ultra fine line drawn before people “see” a disorder. Let me just tell you now you can have an eating disorder at any age or weight. I know, because I had one as a lean 8 year old, still as a stocky and muscular 15 year old, as a fit and thin pretty 17 year old, as a 20 year old who’s spine bones jutted out so much she had bruises just from sitting against hard chairs, and as a pretty normal-sized 21 year old spiraling after coming back from a 30 day stay at a residential treatment center.

Eating disorders are a brain disorder that causes you to have food centered obsessions, compulsions, and rituals, and have withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. They are not fast ways to get thin, they should not be societally accepted, and we need to stop congratulating people on torturing themselves into looking a way unnatural to their own genetic physiology. 

As a conclusion, the real reason for this letter, wasn’t to shame the people who told me “good job” when I lost weight with an eating disorder. It’s to show the detrimental impact  of society’s response to someone genetically predisposed to have an eating disorder. Nobody gave me an Eating Disorder– I was born with acid reflux and a hard time keeping my food down, to a natural tendency to be an obsessive perfectionist and a people pleaser, and the perfect storm swirled into an eating disorder starting at age 8. My disorder was sadistically applauded when I lost weight, and it made me think it was okay to listen to the disorder more and more. When my disorder got worse, people clapped louder. Then when my body couldn’t take anymore, I felt stuck in my eating disorder because of the blockade of withdrawal symptoms and the fear of being “found out”. When I was forced into recovery, I had these withdrawals on top of the stigma of being “crazy”, and on top of less approval with weight gain.

So, stop telling people “good job” when they lose weight, as if it made them a better person. Stop telling people in recovery to “just eat”. Stop acting like people who dramatically lose weight are doing something noble, and as soon someone states the obvious- that they have an eating disorder- acting like they’re suddenly crazy.

I was at a peak in my eating disorder when I lost all that weight, it wasn’t a “good job”, and I wasn’t a better person. I had withdrawal symptoms and had to gradually retrain my body to eat again, I couldn’t “just eat”, and I still have life-consuming food obsessions to this day.  I certainly wasn’t doing something noble when I lost weight, and I didn’t suddenly become crazy as soon as people found out.

I’m a good person at any and every weight I’ve been at, and it took me a long time to figure that out. Having an Eating Disorder is confusing and scary, and I’ve had obsessions and compulsions that I genuinely don’t understand. I’ve thrown up handfuls of blood, passed out, fluctuated 60-70 pounds in my life, destroyed relationships, been on and off tons of different medications, went to a 30 day residential treatment center, starved for days, binged and purged unimaginable quantities of food, dumpster dove, stole food, taken thousands of laxatives, gone to more 12 step meetings than I can count, tried recovering cold turkey, had my belly look pregnant for 6 months, only eaten fruits and veggies for years at a time, dehydrated to the point where I had to seek medical attention– I have done so much in the process of giving-into and trying to combat my Eating Disorder. And the obsession over weight, which is the backbone of the disorder; the main component of the obsession which leads to the compensatory compulsion– is still somehow applauded in society. 

Everyone in our society is taught that this one lean body type is acceptable, but what if we took more interest in the well being of the person losing weight rapidly, than that societal standard? Maybe eating disorders wouldn’t affect the 8 million people currently diagnosed with them in the US (ANAD.org). Maybe it wouldn’t be the statistically highest mental health disorder with the outcome of suicide. Maybe people would stop telling people that are genuinely struggling with a disorder that is altering their brain that they’re “Looking so good!” or  asking them “what diet you’re on?”. Then, maybe people will stop telling them they’re “crazy” or “just need to eat” for the same disorder. People wonder why Eating Disorders have grown so much, and the answer is that people applaud them until they’re labeled or sickly looking. 

And to the people struggling with Eating Disorders who are reading this: Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind when it comes to weight loss. Societal standards don’t matter when you have real, loving relationships (be it platonic, familial, or romantic). You will always be you, no matter how much weight you gain or lose, and you’ll be equally as good and worthy of a person at any size. Recovery is hard, and it sucks for the first 6 months or so, but it’s worth it. You need to work on it every day, and it never ends. Secrets keep you sick, so f*ck stigmas and let people know what’s going on. Surround yourself with good people who will support health not sickness. The dumbass telling you to “just eat” is absolutely a dumbass, but probably a concerned and caring one. You’re not “crazy”, your brain’s survival circuits tied to pleasure receptors and food are out of whack, and you’ll find something that works for you if you’re truly dedicated to recovery. And lastly, having an eating disorder doesn’t make you more perfect or more noble, it makes you sick and you need help; even if you’re the only one who knows it at the time. Stay strong, and FUCK ED.

 

The “Hard Way” Isn’t More Noble

Alright, I’m really passionate about this topic. Because my whole life, I was taught in Gymnastics, at Home, and at School: “Don’t take the easy way”, or “If it hurts, it’s working”, or “What comes easy, won’t last”, or even, “Do what is right, not what is easy”.

And, hey, guys? This is the biggest load of bullshit the world has ever seen. Because why the actual hell is it so bad to take the path of least resistance? Why is that equated with being immoral? A lot of people in this world assume that to succeed at something, you have to struggle, complicate, or spend an outrageous amount of time on that thing; and honestly, it’s true sometimes. But absolutely not as a rule of thumb. Sometimes you don’t have to hussle, cheat, steal, or cheat at something to succeed at something in an easy way.

I have a couple of examples for you. First, my gymnastics career. I love gymnastics, and I have ever since I could remember (I started mommy and me classes at 1, and “retired” at age 16). I love the control of my body on the beam, the feeling of flying while tumbling, and the warmth of the relationship I had with my coach and teammates. But, I didn’t appreciate any of that, because I was so concerned about torturing myself, getting angry at myself for not being the best, and constantly finding things to fix. When your mindset is, “Struggle is success”, you can’t notice the good things. If I had just calmed the hell down, and done just what people had asked from me, and not constantly looked for some unattainable and perfectionistic new goal every single time I reached a goal instead of celebrating that success, I might have had a much different view of myself, a much more fond experience, and more gratitude expressed for the amazing people I had gotten to know. In the 15 years of my life that I did gymnastics, my biggest regret is thinking that just happily doing the bare minimum of what was asked of me, wasn’t beyond good enough and something to be proud of.

“Can you make grass grow by pulling it? Can you bake a cake faster by turning up the temperature in the oven? Can a boy make himself grow any faster? In nature, things happen in their own way and at their own pace. Trying to make things happen faster than they do naturally often leads to disaster. The grass gets pulled out and dies, the cake gets burnt and has to be thrown away.” — Henry Edberg

Next, and the biggest thing, is my relationship with food and trying to attain beauty and health. From ages eight to my early twenties (I’m 23, so it honestly still is a struggle sometimes), I had been convinced by the world, that “beauty is pain”, and decided that somehow hating myself would make me a better person, and make the people I loved proud of me. If I was constantly in misery, and everything seemed hard, I must be doing something right, right? So I flip flopped from throwing up my food and losing 50 pounds in one summer(which at some point somebody told me was “taking the easy way out”), to restricting my food for years until getting so desperately hungry and disoriented that I would get to points where my hunger drove me to eat ludicrous amount of food (which, of course, I then purged). But suffering is noble, right? Doing the hard thing, gets the best results, right? If it hurts, it’s working, right?

In my eating disorder, and in gymnastics, I destroyed my body and esteem, for a sense of pride I never got. 

I’m super happy to report that I figured out just how wrong this is by taking the path of least resistance. I finally stopped torturing my body, and I started telling people who wanted me to take the hard way to fuck right off. Instead, I ate things that I personally felt were nourishing, easy, and met all my needs- because it was the path of least resistance. Instead of criticizing myself to absolute pieces, I started just accepting myself and celebrating life and letting shit go- because it was the path of least resistance. Instead of aiming to work out until I wanted to throw up or cry, I chose things that I actually liked doing and didn’t push myself beyond my limits- because it was the path of least resistance. Instead of putting other’s needs in front of my own, I let them know that I’ll do me, and then I’ll do what I can for them, because I end up being able to do more for others- but especially myself, because it’s the path of least resistance.

“Like a reed in the wind, if we can bend down low and yield to the pressures of life, letting go and allowing the natural course of events to shape us, we can survive and prosper. But if we refuse to yield and remain firm and upright, the world can break us. We are like a ship on the ocean: rowing against the wind is difficult and pointless. Let go and let the wind do all the work. It may take you to wondrous new shores.”

I’m not saying don’t work hard when you have to, or to not have a work ethic; I’m saying that in our culture, doing enough really should be enough. Eastern Philosophies for the most part have gotten this concept for thousands of years (especially Taoism), and we really ought to catch up. I would much rather be someone who takes the path of least resistance and works just hard enough to get what needs to done, be happy and grateful for my life, and have low stress, and kick ass mental health; versus continue being the person who equates struggle and pain to “being a good person”. Mostly because I’m a much better person now than when I thought like that, and the more I take the path of least resistance, the better of a person I become (for me and the people around me).

30 Day “Miracle Morning” Challenge

So, I’ve tried to create and abide by a solid morning routine many, many times. Sometimes I stick with it for a week or two, but always end up falling off the wagon. The past month or so I moved out of my house, and have had a pretty chaotic time trying to balance work, healthy habits, and making time to see my friends and my partner before we move into our new home (hopefully this weekend!). I really love mornings, and I’m definitely ready to kickstart a new and consistent routine when I move into my new house.

I’m really working on being impeccable with my word lately, and really following through on what I set out to do. So, I’m going to be doing a series of 30 day challenges, where I try something pretty well researched that has been shown to increase either Health, Happiness, or Balance in life. So without further ado, I’ll start to answer just a couple questions about the “Miracle Morning” challenge!

WHAT IS “THE MIRACLE MORNING”? 

Recently, from a suggestion from a friend (who informed me that thousands of people are actively practicing this, and it’s basically a cult followed self-help movement), I read up (and obsessively watched his talks) on the brilliant Hal Elrod’s, “The Miracle Morning “.

To briefly summarize, the philosophy is that if you get up excited for the day, with a daily practice that makes you start off the morning with accomplishments, you will become a more productive, successful, and happy person.

WHAT ARE “SAVERS”?

“SAVERS” is the acronym that Hal uses to outline the steps to creating a miracle morning routine. They are:

Silence

Affirmations

Visualization

Excersize

Reading

Scribbling

MY MIRACLE MORNING ROUTINE: 

This is in Detail, and I would love to hear suggestions from others!

Silence: As soon as I wake up for the day (at 6am),  I love the thought of starting my day with a silent 5-10 minute smiling meditation. I haven’t practiced meditation super seriously yet, but the studies they’ve published about the effects on the brain are irrefutable. And if Thich Nhat Hanh practices smiling meditation, so will I.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Affirmations: Affirmations are things I have been forced to do, and have done out of my own free will, off and on ever since going to treatment for an Eating Disorder. No matter who pushed it, it’s always helped. I love that Affirmations are a step in “The Miracle Morning”, and mine will center around confidence and being more assertive (something I struggle with). Some examples would be “I can say no without an explanation”, “I am worth every bit as much as others”, and “I have full control over how my day goes, how I feel, and what I invest my time in”.

Visualizations: For this one, I’m going a little rogue. I really like to visualize things by writing them down on paper. So, for my visualization, I’m currently writing a list of what my detailed, ideal life would be (people in it, things I’d be doing, adventures I’d be going on, what my every day life would be like, how I feel, cozy things I could do, people I’m inspired to be more like, how grateful I will be and how I’ll express that gratitude…), and I’ll be writing a manifesto of sorts, and I’ll read over both every day. This will be used as a source of kind inspiration to myself, and not something to compare and make myself feel bad if I’m not there yet. *Only has positive vibes*

Excersize: This is one I need to write down for SURE! I have such a hard time getting motivated to work out very often, and I used to be really averse to it because I muscle easily and I thought it made me look masculine. Well, pardon my french but fuck that, it makes me healthier, stronger, and more full of Vim & Vigor. So this will be my morning workout plan:

300 abs

150 squats

50 push ups

50 jumping jacks

 

Reading: Now, again, going a little bit of a different way on this one (but not by much). Still using the theme of using external information from other brilliant minds to get inspired, I’m going to watch some TedxTalks, self-help podcasts on Spotify, or some health/fitness/vegan/minimalist inspirational videos on YouTube. That’s what personally gets me stoked for the day, and I can also listen on my 20 minute drive to work!

Scribble: I do this compulsively anyways, but having a set time and setting every day up with a daily list filled with goals, inspiration, and gratitude? Sign me up anywhere and everywhere. Every morning, I plan to write out an intention, most important 5 goals, 5 things to look forward to, and 5 things I’m grateful for.

*I will also add that I’ll be starting every morning off with a healthy, wholesome, vegan breakfast, plus a vitamin B-12 supplement, and a spoonful of Ghee.

So what would your daily “Miracle Morning” look like? If anyone wants to try this out with me and/or have an accountability partner, let me know! And I hope your morning was miraculous (*pun intended*).

 

 

 

15 Ways to Give the Middle Finger to Codependency

Codependency has been a big struggle for me, and the biggest killer of my happiness and balance in life. Here are some ways I’ve combated Codependency, and brought more confidence and joy to my every day life:

  1. As yourself, what does the real you think? My therapist pissed me the hell of and freaked me the f*ck out when she kept asking me this every day. It didn’t even start to make sense until a few weeks had gone by. In situations where people ask you questions, don’t just say what you think they want to hear; Really think about what you feel about a situation, and don’t be scared to ask for what you really really want. The worst thing that’s going to happen is someone disagreeing with you. The best? Getting exactly what you want.
  2. Take yourself on a date. Yeah yeah, this one is taboo to some people. IDGAF. It helps. It feels awkward at first because choosing and going places without the crutch of someone else when you have Codependency is 50 shades of uncomfortable. But the more you do it, the better you’ll feel about it, and eventually it gives you confidence to make choices without your crutch. And seriously, what did you think about the last person you saw somewhere alone? That’s right, nothing. Everyone is too wrapped up in their own world to analyze what anyone else is doing.
  3. Do something out of your comfort zone. This one is hard to start, but fun to finish. My favorite thing to do is make a seasonal bucket list with things that kind of scare me. Like this month, a few of my bucket list items include picking up boxing, start a blog (CHECK AND MATE), and meet my partner’s family in Louisiana and go to Bourbon Street with a group of new people. All of those seem scary and unfamiliar to me, but checking them off should be a pretty  damn good time.
  4. Plan a solo trip. I’m doing this one right now, and I will tell you that nothing makes me feel more confident, excited, and independent as planning a trip across country, all by myself. I have motivational audiobooks, podcasts, and playlists started to be put together, I have key places and experiences that I want to hit, and I’m preparing myself in advance for a week of not relying on anyone to make a choice for me.
  5. Say “no”. I didn’t have this option much growing up because my parents were a little (insanely, but lovingly) controlling, and it has been a really difficult transition for me. However, figuring out that I’m not just allowed, but expected to let people know what I honestly want when they ask me to do something, has brought me a lot more calm and happiness in my life. My partner has recently taught me that you don’t even have to pretend to even consider it if someone asks you to do something you’re averse to. His go-to (if it’s a no, which isn’t all the time by any means)  is more of a “hahahaha F*CK NO BUD” response; which, I don’t exactly think will ever be my tactic of letting people know my answer is a no, but by god- he never lies about wanting to do something, is never passive aggressive when he’s doing something for someone, and his choices rarely make him unhappy. I’m certainly not him, and don’t want to be– but I think we could all use a little more bluntness for our own mental well-being.
  6. Write down all the reasons why you’re dank. This is a huge one. When you’re having a shit day, you think you’re bloated, hard to be around, feeling like you’re annoying everyone around you, etc.– having a list of all the reasons why you’re a total badass is such a great thing to self soothe yourself when you’re feeling like you constantly need someone to validate you. It can also help you shift some negative cognitive biases you may have when it comes to your self perception.
  7. Affirmations and Mantras. Yeah, okay super cliche and cheesey, but the more your brain is exposed to certain ways of thinking, the more your brain will automatically use that way of thinking in day to day life. You can seriously train your brain to think whatever you want. In treatment, we all had to say three mantras after every meal. My personal favorites were, “I AM GOD’S FAVORITE”, “I AM Beyonce”, and “Bitches be tryna get a piece of dis ass”. You know, things that I actually do on the daily would be “Right in this moment, I’m okay”, “No matter how much I think my weight fluctuates, I’m still me”, and “I will do what’s nourishing for my mind, body, and self today”.
  8. Start asking yourself what’s nourishing instead of what’s “best”. When was the last time you had a thought like this: *situation: you could eat an entire bag of chips because who cares, or literally nothing at all because you’re basically a fat palatypus who just so happens to be unlovable (Side note: Brains like to be assholes sometimes)* “The best option is not eating because I at least have self control”? Last time you were PMSing? Samesies. Try re-framing these asshole thoughts to go something more like this: “What is the most nourishing option in this moment?”. This statement implies that, 1. Your asshole brain is wrong and you’re worthy of care and nourishment, and 2. There are more options than those two all or nothing, awful extremes.
  9. Stop “shoulding” on yourself. This is one thing I used to be the absolute worst at. Every other thought in my head was, “I should have done this”, or “I should definitely do that”, or “I shouldn’t have…”. Madness! “Shoulding” on things implies an unhelpful expectation and unnecessary pressure on yourself before you even decide to do something. Stop this bullshit, because it doesn’t serve you or anyone else! You can reframe this in a useful way, with “You know, I could choose to do this or that, and again, maybe ask yourself what’s the most nourishing option, because that’s what you deserve.
  10. Realize guilt and fear absolutely useless. GUYS. Did y’all know this? I had someone drop this bomb on me a while back, and it’s changed the way I look at everything: “Fear and Guilt really just get you super busy doing nothing, getting you in a bad mood, and feeling really crappy”. Replace fear and guilt with action and direct apologies where genuine remorse is felt in a situation, then let that shit go. It doesn’t help you or anybody else.
  11. Focus on the good. This point deserves it’s own post (which I will do later on), but Daily Detailed Gratitude has changed my life more than anything. Focusing and seeking out the wonderful little things in life, makes you feel amazing- every time you do it. Today so far, my DDG list includes: matching pajama sets, heavy blankets, cinnamon and soy lattes, Starbucks, Apple Pie Oatmeal (recipe in my “Vegan Meal Plan” post from yesterday), fall indie playlists, planning trips, studying minimalism, a simple, clean, organized closet, hearing from my friends from treatment (especially when they’re just kicking ass), gorgeous tattoos, packing for Louisiana and finding vegan dishes at restaurants we’re planning on going to, how pretty fall is in Utah and the smell of burning leaves and the pumpkins for sale on the side of most streets in the Valley, my kiddos at work pulling their behavior around and seeing them happy with peers and in class, cutting my hair so it looks more healthy again, and the little guy in my class who just got super excited about the new straws “like at the gas station!” they gave out at lunch today (*UPDATE*: is now super stoked about his spork).
  12. Positive Journaling. My positive journaling practice includes: DDG lists, weekly goals I KNOW I can smash, accomplishments, lists of people I love, the best moments in my year so far, things to celebrate, things to do and places to go on trips I’m planning, a log of things that make me feel happy and confident, and my mantras, affirmations, and intentions that I typically change up seasonally.
  13. Make an Empowering Playlist. I clap between each word with this one, that’s how passionate about the power of music being able to change your mood I am. There is absolutely nothing in this world that makes me feel better than an intentionally made playlist blasting out of the windows of my car, driving down Logan Canyon in the fall. Anything in life can be cured by an intentionally made playlist on Youtube, Spotify, or whatever medium you use, that includes your favorite uplifting songs, TedxTalks, and podcasts. Battling Codependency, I would suggest that you make the theme confidence or independence; anything that will make you feel like you can conquer the world!
  14. Go to a Meeting. Codependents Anonymous guys. Have been to many many meetings, and they help SO much. It gives insight to things you do where you can recognize it in others and gain a different perspective, you can give and get support,  you can get some killer tips from people, and it really makes you feel less alone. Because so many people suffer from Codependency– an article back in 1990 published in the NY Times, stated that up to 96% of Americans will suffer from Codependency. So, never think you’re “weird” or “needy”, and focus on building yourself up. And get help if you need it! Meeting places and times are posted on CODA’s website.
  15. Fake it till you make it. I still catch myself being Codependent at times, but most of the time I try to pick up working on my mental health right where I left off. Listen to podcasts, get obsessed with becoming confident and mentally strong, and try your best to act as if you’re already where you want to be. If you do this, I guarantee you’ll get there faster!

Codependency is a serious struggle, that most of us will have to get some kind of a handle on. Some people do it as a kid, other’s have to work on it into middle and old age. For me, it’s an ongoing process, and one that’s actually fun to work on and makes me happy. Give the middle finger to Codependency, and strive until you thrive in a mindset of autonomy and confidence!

How Codependency Kills Happiness

We’re all human, and life isn’t perfect. Neither is our physiology. 40 million people in the US struggle from diagnosed anxiety, and 350 million people in the world suffer from depression according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think this is some Bullll Shit. Is there anything we can do about it? According to Yale Psychologist Judith Rodin, the answer is yes. In an experiment she conducted a study on depressed subjects in nursing homes, and found a 93% improvement in Alertness, Activeness, and overall happiness, because of this one variable: Autonomy. 

Autonomy is defined as “External freedom from control or influence; independence”. Now, I grew up with (and they would agree with me), 2 extreme control freaks as parents. As Behaviorists, my parents’ drive to control negative or positive outcomes in my life was, I think, genuinely a very caring, well-intentioned attempt at protecting me from failure or “negative” outcomes.

However, by trying so hard to control every situation in my life that could possibly go wrong, what they really instilled in me was the cognitive bias of Learned Helplessness. Learned helplessness arises when a person suffers a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic even, or a persistent failure to gain control in their life or to succeed.   

I never really got the chance to make choices completely on my own, and then, at 18, everyone all of a sudden expected me to make all of them.  This is the point in the article where I point out that I didn’t even recognize the problem for a year or two– until I wound up in treatment because I couldn’t make food choices because what say I did have in my diet growing up, was monitored as much as humanly possible and had consequences and contingencies for abiding by it. I wasn’t just failing at making good food choices, but I relied on anybody and everybody I could to make all my choices in life for me. I needed someone to ask if we should go to any social event, I needed someone to ask if we should excercise that day, I needed someone to tell me what attractive was so I could dress, act, and get dolled up to their liking; I was a Co-Dependent wreck of a human. I was unhealthy, I was anxious all the time because all of the aspects of my life were tied to living up to someone else’s standards.

While in treatment for my eating disorder, after hearing a little about my life story, the first thing my (badass, wonderful) therapist said, was, “So you don’t have an Eating Disorder problem, you have a Co-Dependency problem.” And that woman freaked me the hell out every day by asking me questions twice– she would let me answer once, then she would say, “Okay, now what does the real Mikayla think?” I had no god damn clue. I didn’t even know what she meant. I genuinely was under the impression that everyone in the world answered questions by trying to get the right (most kind, reasonable) reaction from whatever audience they were talking to. That’s what I had done my whole life, trying to avoid the consequence of a situation set up by my parents, and just do what they wanted me to do. The idea that my “feelings” and “thoughts” could help dictate what I chose to express to others, or to dictate my own choice of action in a situation seemed super weird and foreign to me, as strange as that sounds.

As things have progressed since then, I’ve taken steps towards Autonomy and more happiness by gradually practicing making small choices just for me. I started with small things like choosing one activity to do alone per week (taking myself on a day date to the Barnes and Noble an hour away from where I live, writing at a coffee shop I love, an at-home spa day while listening to podcasts…). Eventually I started making bigger choices, like choosing my own meal plan and letting myself mix it up according to my own feelings that day, choosing to end relationships that didn’t serve me at the time, going after the job I really wanted, and filling my day with things like to do, versus things I thought other people might have a positive perception of.

Now, I am no where near perfect at this, and this article is as much of a reminder to myself to make more choices for me instead of others, as it is to you. I still struggle with speaking up and asking people for what I want instead of quietly just dealing with whatever it is I’m struggling with, I still have a really hard time making choices sometimes (especially when it comes to eating out, which drives my partner absolutely crazy!), and I still slide back to putting other people’s perception of me above my own at times. The thing is, that I always find myself feeling more anxious and depressed, and kind of stuck in a rut when the more I slip back into codependency. 

The more I take charge of my own life, base my actions and reactions on my feelings and personal experience, and the outcome that would make me feel best, the happier I get, and the more I naturally get what I want out of life. Plus, I really think people respect me more when I do.

It’s perfectly natural to want to connect with and please the people in your life that you love, just not at the cost of your own well-being. The more Autonomy I cultivate, it seems the more Vim & Vigor I end up being filled with.

I Call Bullshit: Why Insecurity Is Ineffective

I don’t think it’s a surprise that most people cling to insecurity. We live in a world where 20 million women, and 10 million men suffer from a clinically diagnosed Eating Disorder in their lifetime (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011), and as Dr. Joe Rubino reports in “The Self-esteem book”, 85% of the world is effected by low self esteem.

When it comes to the struggle bus of insecurity, I could be the god damn driver at this point. With an Eating Disorder lasting for over a decade that wound me up in a residential treatment center a little over two years ago, insecurity dictated the vast majority of my life. I always felt a deep sense of uncertainty in myself, my choices, and my actions and interactions with other people– and it wasn’t until this last year that I realized all the questioning, obsessing, and insecurity was completely and totally pointless. In fact, not only did I find that my relentless internal questioning of myself was total bullshit, but I found that it killed my health, attractiveness in relationships, and my happiness.

How insecurity killed my health: Some people hold the belief that abstaining from accepting themselves is what keeps them from becoming lazy or unmotivated to be the best person they can be. I was definitely one of those people. Now I’m sure this mindset manifests in everyone differently, but for me it’s what kept me in my Eating Disorder for 13 years. I thought if I accepted my body and stopped fixating on needing to change it, I would totally let myself go, gain tons of weight, and that I’d be seen as this lazy, ugly, horrible person, with no self-control. I spent years and years fluctuating up and down 50 pounds, being overweight, being underweight– and it was never enough.

“Remember in the hardest times of Recovery, that you destroyed your body for a piece of mind you never got.”

The only thing my Eating Disorder did was make my skin look old and dehydrated, took the life out of my eyes, made my weight fluctuate at an insane rate (because drastic dieting isn’t ever something you can maintain, and everyone I’ve ever met who’s had an Eating Disorder agrees with me here), slaughtered my skin thanks to hormonal acne and too much anxiety to not pick at it, literal bald patches in my hair that took forever to regrow, and make me incredibly emotionally unstable to the point where my relationships and morality were compromised.

How Insecurity killed my attractiveness in relationships: While active in my Eating Disorder, most people would say I was, indeed, physically a pretty attractive person. Nice face (even with my Bulimia Cheeks), lean and fit body, I wore long hair extensions, and I knew how to dress my body and do my makeup to get the attention I needed.

However, in my need for those men to provide me with my self-worth, I ended up being a clingy, crazy, paranoid neurotic shitshow, that inevitably self-destructed out of my own insatiable insecurity.

I had no spine, and would go with literally whatever they wanted to do because I didn’t have enough confidence to know that I was half of the equation in the whole relationship thing. I would be passive aggressive when they didn’t give me attention 24/7, because I couldn’t calm the hell down my own damn self. What inevitably killed my relationships, was that my insecurity got so loud, that in my head, I knew I would eventually screw things up so I might as well end it there before they could break up with me themselves and make me look like an idiot. So, I did. Even if I was absolutely crazy about them.

How Insecurity killed my happiness: 

In my experience, I’ve found that insecurity and happiness are mutually exclusive things more often than not. The more I focused on analyzing my own behavior to pick out flaws and uncertainties, the more my mind naturally started focusing on the bad things in my life.

A focus on the bad things in yourself make you feel inadequate and needy, unmotivated and unproductive, apathetic and unconnected, and grumpy and ungrateful.  I always felt shitty about myself, no matter what I did or didn’t do. Everything I did came with anxiety, so I never enjoyed anything.

What actually is productive?

What’s the answer to being more healthy, attractive, and happy? Radical Confidence. Even if you’re totally faking it.

An insecure person looks to others to dictate what they should do with their health. They look to friends, to magazine articles, to fad diets, to Eating Disorders that draw in the kind of concern and attention that they’re not giving themselves. An insecure person won’t be as healthy as a person confident in themselves, because real health comes from listening and responding to internal signals (hunger cues, cravings, when your body wants to go to bed, etc.). The confident person trusts themselves enough to listen to what their bodies are telling them, and not try to follow a trendy Instagram personality’s “4 grapes a day plus some egg whites and 2234 burpies before crying at your naked self in the mirror before bed” online fitness e-course. The confident person is healthier because genuinely listening to internal signals is the most perfect and personalized wellness plan anyone could ever get. I learned this through 13 years of sticking to an obsessive Eating Disorder before stopping ED behaviors cold turkey, and actually ended up losing weight in the process (as well as my hair growing back, my skin looking 21 instead of 45, and my energy levels bouncing back up to where I could actually enjoy life again and not be horrible to be around).

No amount of hotness can overcompensate for being a needy bitch. Unless you’re Jennifer Aniston (which none of us are *sigh*), you will never be able to pull off mentally consuming insecurity projected onto your potential suitor. While insecure people come off as passive, nervous, and either emotionally unavailable or clingy as hell (sounds hot AF, am I right guys?), the confident person is attractive because the attributes associated with confidence  (even over-confidence) are actually proven to be more desirable. 

In a study done by Swami, Greven, and Furnham (2007), it was found that personality plays a key role in perceived attractiveness. When it comes to high levels of neuroticism (characterized by anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, jealousy, and loneliness– all of which accompany insecurity), the study states that, “Overall it does seem as if strongly Neurotic people would be considered unattractive, too emotionally demanding and draining.”

Note to self: Needing external validation and desperately seeking it  and clinging to it, and having mild to debilitating episodes of pure panic in the 5 minute time frame it takes for the boy your crushing on or dating to text you back– it’s not your best look.

Being confident in relationships doesn’t mean you know you can get everyone’s approval and are an arrogant asshole. Being confident in an attractive way is to be able to walk in a room and not worry about how you’re being perceived, but actually being able to show genuine interest and engagement in determining whether or not you like them. Confidence is the lack of a need to make other people like you or want you, and setting standards and boundaries for the people who want to be in your life because you know your own worth. One of my favorite quotes on the topic is, “Insecurities are loud, Confidence is silent”. And it’s sooo true. T

Think of the last time you went on a date with someone who only talked about themselves in a desperate attempt to convince you they’re great. It’s obvious, and it’s kind of sad. You’re already there, you’re interested, and they kill it with their inability to validate their damn selves. Be the person who isn’t so preoccupied with convincing the other person to stay, that you actually get caught up in finding out if you guys will get along. Why? Because if they don’t want to stay, it’s not going to work out anyways. (Sorry Boo.)

There’s no need to be clingy if you realize that if it’s going to work out, it will (you can’t control it). And your insecurity will do nothing but drive you to act out of neuroticism– which we’ve established will lower your attractiveness in the long run.

Now, we know insecurity can make you do irrational, physically damaging, and unattractive things; But thing most impacted by your low self-esteem and self-trust, is by far your happiness.

In a study conducted in the Psychiatric unit of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, it was shown that low self-appraisal actually predicted the onset of Major Depressive Disorder. I don’t think this comes as a big surprise to anyone considering that if you feel shitty about yourself, you typically feel shitty about everything.

In an article posted in Psychology Today, David G Meyers states, “During the 1980s, no topic in psychology was more researched than the self. Many reports showed the dividends of high self-esteem—in some University of Michigan studies of well-being in America, the best predictor of general life satisfaction was not satisfaction with family life, friendships, or income, but satisfaction with self. People who like and accept themselves feel good about life in general.”

For years I always constantly researched the ideal diet, the most attractive style and physical characteristics, the best personality traits to make friends or to get a man or a job. In turn, everything in my life that didn’t measure up to that ideal (which was absolutely everything, by the way), made me and my life seem like a total failure. When I finally decided that I wanted to be happy more than I wanted to be perfect, I actually began to see the outcomes I wanted in life.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve had a few revelations in life, but none more helpful and empowering than the fact that anxiety is physiological, and it’s just going to happen sometimes– but pinning that anxiety on insecurity instead of acceptance or action does absolutely nothing for you but makes you feel shitty about it. If your anxiety is not helping you book it while being attacked by a tweaking neighbor that randomly showed up in your house, it’s not helpful. And you don’t have to listen.

Everything in life stems from your beliefs. So, believe that your body knows what it’s doing, trust in that if a romantic relationship is going to work out that it won’t need your added neuroticism. Believe that you’re attractive, speak and act out of confidence, and rest assured that insecurity in any area of your life is completely ineffective. Accept what you can’t change, and realize that you can make mistakes and learn from people without hating yourself.

Weekly Vegan Grocery Shopping List (That Won’t Break the Bank)

Hey there! If you haven’t read my last post, it was basically how I structure my weekly meal plan. I know that Veganism has a pretty bad rap for being more expensive than the average American diet– but I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily the case. Every recipe in there, I bought with the following ingredients, and I work as a Refocus teacher at an elementary school (basically, I get the naughty kiddos who need help calming down). I make 13.75$/hour at this job, and a little under 11$/hour at my second job. Now, I’m not one to spend money frivolously, but I’m definitely willing to make the most important things work- like my recovery, health, and happiness. Clearly, I’m not exactly rollin’ in the doe, you could say, but I have been able to eat this way without struggling in other areas. So, without further ado, here’s my shopping list that goes with my meal plan:

Produce:

Fruit: 4 apples, 7 bananas, 2 kiwi, 7 tomatoes

Veggies: 4 cucumbers, 2 heads of kale, 2-3 bell peppers, 1 onion, 4 avocados

Other: 1 small bag of dried chopped dates, 1 small bag of coconut flakes

Canned foods:

3 cans of chickpeas, 2 cans of sweet corn, 2 cans of spinach

Grains:

1 bag of organic oats/ oatmeal, 1 bag of sprouted bread,

Fats: 

Small bag of chia seeds, small package of almonds

Other: 

1 carton of nut milk of choice, tahini, rice vinegar, cacao nibs or cocoa powder.

 

And that’s it! Hope your day is great and filled with things that make you happier and healthier.

 

 

 

My Cheap and Easy Vegan Meal Plan

Hey there! It’s Mikayla, and welcome back to Vim & Vigor! Today, I was getting ready to do some grocery shopping, and I thought it might be helpful if I wrote down my meal plan, to add a little organization and simplification to my week. I also like to plan out dishes that use some of the same ingredients to make sure I can get the biggest bang out of my buck that week (I’m posting my shopping list for this meal plan next, so stay tuned!).

Personally like to just give myself a 3-4 options of simple, quick, wholesome, and nourishing recipes per meal throughout the week, and choose which one sounds the best the day of.  So here, I’ll break it down by meal, then just give you an example of my options this week. So, without further ado, lets get started!

BREAKFAST: 

  1. Apple Pie Oatmeal: 3/4 cup of natural, quick make oats, one chopped up apple, cinnamon and stevia to taste,  a Tbs. of chia seeds, 1/4 cup of  dates, and you can use soy whipped cream, and cacao nibs to garnish.

2. Tropical Green Smoothie Bowl: To make the smoothie, just blend together 2-3 frozen bananas, about 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed OJ, and however much Kale you’d like (I like 2-3 full leaves). The mixture should be “nice cream” like, and thick. Just pour your smoothing in a bowl, and add 1/2 a chopped up banana, a teaspoon of chia seeds, one sliced kiwi, and a tablespoon of oats.

3. Avocado morning toast: First, mush together about 1/2 can of drained chickpeas and a tsp. of Basil, himilayan pink salt, and garlic powder. Get two pieces of vegan, sprouted bread (I personally love Jack Sprouts), and toast them to your liking. After they’re done, smooth the home made hummus generously over your toast. Add half a sliced tomato, and 1/4 of a sliced avocado, and pop in your microwave for about 15-20 seconds or until it’s warmed to your liking.

LUNCH: 

  1. Cowboy Salsa Stuffed Peppers: Mix together a can of sweet corn (drained), a can of whichever beans you like the best (again, drained), a 1/2 cup of pico de guillo (can buy premade for cheap at any grocery store), and a 1/2 of an avocado in a bowl. Add in 2 tbs. of sweet rice vinegar as well as any spices you like. Next, slice open two bell peppers of your choice, and scoop out the seeds– to make room for scooping your ‘cowboy salsa’ into them. Heat them up in the microwave for up to 1 minute if you prefer this dish to be warm.
  2. Sweet Cream Cucumber salad: Peel and slice up one full cucumber and put into a bowl. Add together 1/4 cup of plain (soy) yogurt, as well as 1 tbs of dill, and 1 tbs. of sweet rice vinegar. Lastly, mix in about 1/4 cup of soaked cashews, and the longer you let it set in the fridge, the better it seems to get.
  3. Tomato Avocado Sandwich: Now this one is my absolute favorite- and so so simple and quick. I start with spreading plain yogurt mixed with hummus and dill onto two pieces of sprouted bread. Next, I simply slice up 1/4 of an avocado and as much tomato as I can fit onto my sandwich. Then I sprinkle on a little pink himilayan salt and some pepper, maybe add some sprouts or Kale if I’m in the mood, and stack my sandwich together.
  4. The Vegan BLT: Now, I got the “Bacon” part of this recipe from Fully Raw Kristina’s channel on Youtube. She basically dehydrates carrots to make her version of “bacon”, and you should check her channel out to see exactly how she does that. Other than the carrot bacon, I put two leaves of Kale or Lettuce on, as well as my own “mayonnaise” (plain soy yogurt, chick peas, cashews, and spices).

DINNER: 

  1. Vegan Sushi: I first spread some hummus thinly on some Nori Rolls to make it stick when I roll it up later, then add thinly sliced cucumber, tomato, and avocados before tightly rolling it up and cutting it.
  2. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: People bake potatoes a lot of different ways, but I find the easiest way to be stabbing it with a fork or knife after rinsing, then wrapping it up fully in a paper towel then running it under water until it’s all damp. Then, I just stick it in the microwave for 6-8 minutes, and it’s done! After that, I scoop out about two spoon fulls from each side, and in a cup I mix it together with my “Cowboy Salsa”, and a little of my own “mayonnaise” that I mentioned above, and heat that concoction up for about 45 seconds. I like to garnish with fresh basil leaves and dill.
  3. The Buddha bowl: In a dish (next to eachother- not mixed), I like to add 1/2 a precooked sweet potato, one can of spinach mixed with “mayonnaise” and any vegan cheese, 1/4 of an avocado (sliced), and 1/4 cup of chick peas. Heat for 1.5-3 minutes, and dress with tahini.
  4. Kale and Chickpea Stew: Use 2-3 cups of any pre-made broth, squash, pumpkin, pea, or mushroom soup or bisque as the base for this recipe. Mix in 1 tsp. of pink Himalayan salt, tumeric, and 4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped up. Next, add in 1/2 a head of Kale, and 1 can of rinsed Chickpeas. Also add in one preheated (for about 4 minutes with my method) sweet potato (diced), and a tsp. of garlic if you want. Bring to a boil and let simmer until sweet potato is cooked to your liking (should be about 10-15 minutes.

And there you go! There’s how I plan out my meals for an easy, nutritious, energized week.