An Unhappy Birthday

I’ve never really liked birthdays. In fact, I grew up dreading them. My mother almost always forgot the occasion. Relatives I hated swarmed in from out of town. People watching me eat meant I had to eat more. I felt I didn’t deserve any of the presents I received. The passage of time made me anxious about how little I’d accomplished. I frequently spent the day in a hospital of some sort. And then there was the cake.

The cake! Oh god, the cake! The cake was the worst part. I’d spend all year worrying about the cake, planning for the cake, calculating how many calories were in the cake, devising ways to compensate for the cake. A slice of cake had 1000 calories, right? So, if I ate nothing else that day, I could have half a slice and not gain any weight, right? Or I could eat normally and exercise for five hours to burn it off? Or I could purge it? No, that would only get rid of 30% of the calories, providing I did it properly, and I’d still have 666.66 calories in surplus. What if I restricted for two days before? Could I have a whole slice then? Or could I just have a bite? How many calories were in a bite? Or a tiny bit of the frosting? Just a lick! That was my favourite part anyway. But there would be crumbs on the frosting. How would I account for those calories? It wasn’t worth it. I just wouldn’t have any. But I would exercise extra anyway—just in case, to burn off the cake I didn’t eat.

That was my birthday every year, and it was miserable. Like many people, I used birthdays as an opportunity to beat myself up, to get down on myself for all the things I hadn’t done, for everything that I wasn’t. The event emphasised my biggest insecurities—failure and fatness—and I spent the holiday punishing myself for my ‘obesity’ and ‘idiocy’. Needless to say, it was not much of a celebration.

It was my birthday last week, and although my circumstances were not ideal, I tried to make the best of it. I bought myself a book I wanted. I didn’t receive many other gifts, but I’m glad I have this text for my research. I attended two dance classes. They weren’t the challenging jazz ones back home at Pineapple, but they gave me an opportunity to work on my technique. I redeemed my birthday reward for a free drink at Starbucks. Maybe I ordered my hot chocolate with nonfat milk and scraped the whipped cream off in a panic, but at least I challenged my fear of liquid calories. I spent some quality time with my cat Katherine. It was sad not to be in London, but Katherine is so adorable and sweet. I stopped at my favourite bakery. My cake was delicious even though my friends were not there to share it with me. Did I have the best birthday ever? No, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that I’m lucky to be alive having this birthday at all.

Birthdays can be hard, I know. You don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to celebrate them. You can treat them like an ordinary day if you want to! Just please, please don’t use them as excuse to hurt yourself–mentally or physically. Acknowledge who you are and where your at. You may not be who or where you want to be, but you are someone, somewhere. I hope you can appreciate that.

IMG_1710IMG_1708IMG_1709IMG_1706

Disclaimer: This cake was from the Saturday before my birthday. I enjoyed a chocolate cake on the day itself, but the icing smudged on the bus trip back to my flat, and consequently I didn’t get any good pictures.

How to Travel with an Eating Disorder

Travelling with an eating disorder is stressful–whether you’re in relapse or recovery. Your normal foods are not available. You can’t eat at your regular times. You’re not able to exercise like you normally do. It’s hard, I get it. I’ve been there many times, and it was horrible. But you know what? I survived.

My advice is simple. Fuck it. Yes, you read that correctly. Fuck it! Obviously make sure you’re eating enough, but other than that, fuck it. Throw all your food rules out the window, and just eat whatever the fuck you want. Sampling the local cuisine is part of experiencing a culture, so try anything and everything. Does your destination have a signature dish? Get it from several places and see how it differs regionally. Are you going to the beach? Lick an ice cream cone as you lay in the sun. Have you heard about any cool restaurants in the area? See if they live up to the hype. Do you walk by a bakery as you leave your hotel? Buy a pastry to snack on while you explore. Is there a coffee shop near a landmark you’re going to? Sit there with some tea and watch people walk by.

Will you gain weight on this trip? Maybe. Will you lose a couple pounds? Possibly. Will your weight stay exactly the same? Perhaps. Who knows, and honestly, who cares? Travel is a opportunity and a privilege. Don’t waste your time and money working out in hotel rooms and scouring the city for the lowest calorie salad. Go experience the place you’re in. Talk to the locals, visit the museums, shop on the high streets, and most importantly, eat the food. Enjoy your vacation! The memories you make matter so much more than the number on the scale.

Review: Black Velvet Birthday Cake from Sprinkles Cupcakes

I’ve decided to start doing food reviews, and I thought I’d kick things off with an unpopular opinion. I don’t like Sprinkles. Their cakes are bland and dry, their frosting sparse and crusty. The cupcakes come in an odd square shape, which, in addition to being incredibly unattractive, minimises product surface area. You are paying a lot of money for very little dessert. It’s a rip-off! Also, what is the thing on top? Is it a dragée? Is it candy? Is it someone’s lone, pathetic attempt at a sprinkle? I don’t know, but it’s whatever it is, it’s disconcertingly flavourless, bizarrely crunchy, and otherwise inedible. That goes for their merchandise as a whole.

That being said, I found myself in line at a Sprinkles today. I caught a typographical error on their website, and they gave me a coupon for a free cupcake. I am not one to turn down free food, so I took this opportunity to try their new limited edition offering, a black velvet cupcake with chocolate cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles inside. It wasn’t horrible.

The sponge was unpleasantly grainy, but there was much more of a chocolate flavour than I’ve gotten from them in the past; it wasn’t just “brown vanilla”. The frosting was also better than I remembered; it was by no means smooth or creamy, but at least it didn’t flake off like before. I wish the cake were moister and the chocolate flavour stronger, but this would’ve been a fine cupcake—if it weren’t for the nonpareil filling. The sprinkles themselves are the demise of this Sprinkles creation. Obviously, signaturely cheap, they were like eating pebbles, not to mention a potential choking hazard. Nutella, peanut butter, marshmallow cream, or really anything would’ve been preferable. They could’ve left it empty, for all I care; even that would’ve been an improvement.

All in all, I did not like this cupcake, and I (still) do not like Sprinkles. This is a 5/10 offering from a 5/10 place. Go elsewhere to meet your cupcake needs, but if you insist on visiting Sprinkles, opt for red velvet, gingerbread, or salted caramel. They’re less reprehensible.

The Black Velvet cupcake (depicted below/described above) is available through Sunday at all Sprinkles locations. Get yours (or don’t), and let me know what you think. Any questions? Requests for products you want reviewed? Offers of free stuff? General tidings? Comment below.

Recipe: Hot Cross Buns

Easter is fast approaching, and as I can’t subsist entirely on Cadbury Creme Eggs (believe me, I’ve tried), I thought I’d whip up a different holiday treat today. Here’s my take on hot cross buns:

IMG_1059

Ingredients:

For the buns:

  1. 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for lining and kneading
  2. 1 1/4 cup milk
  3. 2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
  4. 1/2 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
  5. 1/6 cup apple juice
  6. 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  7.  1/3 cup raisins
  8. 1/3 cup dried sultanas
  9.  1/3 cup dried currants
  10. 2 1/4 tablespoons (roughly one sachet) self-raising yeast
  11. 1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  12. zest of two small oranges
  13. 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  14. 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  15. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  16. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  17. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  18. 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  19. 1/8 teaspoon all spice

For the glaze:

  1. 1 egg white, reserved from above
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoon milk

For the icing:

  1. 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  2. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  3. 4 teaspoons milk

Preparation:

  1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan with butter. Line with a dusting of flour.
  2. In a small bowl, consolidate the dried fruits and apple juice.  Microwave for 30 seconds, and set aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining wet ingredients for the buns. Mix thoroughly with a whisk or electric mixer.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the buns (excluding the fruit, of course, which is stewing in the juice). Add them to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Add in the fruit/juice mixture and beat further.
  6. Spread a light coating of flour on a sufficiently large flat surface. Knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. (This should take 5-6 minutes.)
  7. Divide the dough into ice cream scoop sized pieces, and place them in your pan (or on a baking sheet, in which case you should omit step 1 and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper instead). Cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients. Brush the glaze over the tops of the buns immediately after removing them from the oven.
  11. Allow the buns to cool for at least 10 minutes before beginning to prepare the icing. Meanwhile, you should slice the buns, if fused together, into your desired serving portions; you can keep them in the pan to do this.
  12. For the icing, mix the two ingredients, adding in more milk as needed. Pipe icing in a cross shape on top of each bun.
  13. Serve warm.

Enjoy, and I HOP everyBUNNY has an EGGcellent Easter, filled with chocolate and hot cross PUNS. (Sorry, I had to!).

 

“Am I Dying?” and Other Hunger-Related Questions

Hunger is a tricky thing for people with eating disorders. We’ve disregarded it for so long that we forget what it feels like. I, for one, ignored my hunger until it became a perpetual part of my reality. I started experiencing it again in recovery, and I was honestly so confused; I kept asking my dietician “what’s happening to me? what am I feeling? what is this? am I dying?” Today’s post answers these questions and more. Read on to learn about hunger:

Question: What is hunger?

Answer: Hunger is the physical sensation generated by the body when needs more nutrients. It is caused by hypothalamic processing of the hormone ghrelin (lenomorelin), which is secreted by gastrointestinal tract in response to blow blood glucose levels and/or an empty stomach.

Q: How do you know if you’re hungry?

A: We all know about the obvious stomach growling, but hunger can manifest in many other ways, too. Symptoms include a churning, hollowness, or tightness in the stomach, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting, headaches, muscle cramps, shakiness/jitters, rapid heartrate, exhaustion and fatigue, irritability/agitation, lack of concentration, and even nausea.

Q: What should you do if you feel hungry?

A: Generally, if you’re hungry, you should eat. Exceptions include if you are fasting for a surgical procedure, on a meal plan that dictates your intake times, or have been otherwise advised by a medical professional not to do so.

Q: Why are you hungrier on some days than on others?

A: Hormone, activity, and stress levels can all influence your hunger. For instance, women tend to require extra nutrition prior to their menstrual periods (on account of increased calorie expenditure), and cardiovascular exercise has been shown to stimulate appetite. Growing children will also consume more calories than average, and studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to inversely proportional food consumption.

Q: What if your hunger can’t keep up with your metabolism or vice versa?

A: A healthy individual’s hunger and fullness cues will be accordance with their body’s nutritional needs, and they will eat enough to maintain a healthy weight at a reasonable activity level. Of course, this is not the case for all people; a number of factors including metabolic syndromes, chronic dieting, eating disorders, autoimmune diseases, certain medications, and economic factors can disrupt the body’s natural rhythm, resulting in skewed conditions on either side. In such cases, dietetic services are required to prevent and treat the effects of malnutrition.

Q: How does hydration affect your hunger?

A: Apparently, 37% of people confuse thirst with hunger. This is primarily due to the lack of stomach volume presented by each.

Q: How do you know whether you hungry or thirsty and what should you do about it?

A: At times, hunger and thirst present with similar indicators, notably dizziness, fatigue/exhaustion, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, tachyarrhythmias, and stomach churning/emptiness. Thirst is often accompanied by the following differentials–dark urine, dry mouth, and perspiration. If you are thirsty, you should rehydrate with fluids or eat foods with a high water content (like melon). In the past, dieticians have advised patients to drink water fifteen to twenty minutes before a meal to make sure they are actually hungry, but due to frequent disordered manipulation of this guidance, doing so is no longer a common practice; instead, nutritional professionals recommend you hydrate throughout the day and honour your hunger signals.

Q: What is emotional hunger and why wasn’t it mentioned above?

A: Emotional hunger is a psychological craving for a certain food. It was not included in the above designation, as it is a separate biochemical process. Emotional hunger is a psychological phenomenon while physical hunger is physiological.

Q: How can you tell if your hunger is emotional or physical?

A: While both physical and emotional hunger can make you crave certain foods, they are very different in nature. If your body is craving something, it is because it needs a specific nutrient contained therein; any food containing that nutrient will satisfy it, and your craving will subside. In instances of emotional hunger a food is desired on account of its associations; that food and only that food will do. Emotional hunger also tends to be accompanied by a (typically negative) emotion; it comes on suddenly and does not respond to physical hunger/fullness cues (the processing and secretion of the hormones ghrelin and leptin respectively), leading to an over- or under eating of the specified food.

Q: What should you do if you experience emotional hunger?

A: A little emotional eating won’t hurt you. It’s perfectly normal to celebrate your promotion with a slice of cake or to pick up pizza from your favourite restaurant after a bad day. Just don’t make it a habit. Food can facilitate celebration and comfort, but it is not (and never should be) a substitute for actually dealing with your feelings.

Is there anything else YOU want to know about hunger? Drop your questions in the comments below, and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can. Have a delicious day, everyone, and Happy Spring! xo

Making Pancakes on a Sunday Morning

You’ll wake up one morning, and you’ll be really, bizarrely hungry. You’ll yawn, rub your eyes, and contemplate going back to sleep. But you won’t; you’ll swing your legs out of bed and slippers half-on you’ll wander into the kitchen. Without a second thought, you’ll start making pancakes, greasing the pan with butter and adding extra chocolate chips. You’ll flip them, and it’ll feel so easy, so fun. They’ll fly through the air, and you’ll laugh as they land on the stove with a plop. You’ll have to put them back in the pan and wait a couple minutes. The edges will turn golden-brown, and you’ll switch off the stove. You’ll finally find that syrup in the back of your cabinet, and you’ll open it for the first time in years. It’ll all spill out, too much, but you won’t really care. You’ll just dip your finger in it, and you’ll realize that this, this is what recovery tastes like.

Ingredients:

  1.  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 2 eggs
  3.  3/4 cup blueberries
  4. 1 cup milk
  5. 3 tablespoons melted butter OR mildly flavoured (I recommend either vegetable or canola, but coconut can be substituted if necessary) oil, extra for greasing and garnish
  6. 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  7. 1 3/4 tablespoons sugar
  8. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  10. Maple syrup, optional, to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, and milk. Whisk well.
  3. Combine the contents of the two bowls. Stir until the batter is uniform.
  4. Add blueberries.
  5. Heat a griddle or large frying pan to medium heat. Grease it with butter or oil so that the pancakes do not stick to it.
  6. In approximately 1/4 cup portions, ladle the batter onto said pan.
  7. Let the pancake cook for approximately two minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.
  8. Flip your pancake and cook for another 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 until you run out of batter.
  10. Serve pancakes with butter and syrup.
  11. Enjoy!

Pizza Hut

There was a Pizza Hut on my way back from dance. I used to walk past it almost every night. I’d press my face against the window and gaze at the cloud-like crusts, the buttery garlic bread, the golden oil glittering atop the cheese. I could smell the salt, the tiny granules dancing inside my nose, and I could taste the tomato sauce, the lightly sautéed veggies, the… “You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 42 kg.” I told myself, lurching away. “You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 42 kg.”

“You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 41 kg.” 

“You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 40 kg.” 

“You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 39 kg.”

The number kept getting lower and lower, and by the time I got to 38 kg, I finally realized I would not be going to Pizza Hut. I would never be thin enough, and if I ever was my metabolism would’ve slowed down too much to handle it. One bite of that cheesy, greasy pizza, and I’d gain back all the weight I’d worked so hard to lose. 

So I just kept walking. I shouldn’t even look at it, I decided, then I would go in, and I couldn’t have that. So I just kept walking. 

~~~

There’s a Pizza Hut on my way back from dance. I walk past it almost every night. I used to press my face against the window, and stare at the salad bar, the white bowls of crispy lettuce, the swirling spirals of the pasta, the red, ripe tomatoes. I used to stand outside and smell the food, and I used to imagine myself eating it, what it would taste like, what it would feel like sliding down my throat… 

“You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 42 kg.” I used to tell myself. I still hear those words in my head. I still see those words in my mind. I still feel those words in my brain. 

So I decide I’ll go someday. I should, shouldn’t I? It would be a crucial step in my recovery. I could even write a blog post about it! So I decide I’ll go someday.

~~~

There’s a Pizza Hut on my way back from dance. I’m walking past it right now. I look in the window, and I glance at the menu, the appetizers, the drinks, the mains, the desserts. I turn to my friends, and I nod, and I smile, and I open the door, and I put one foot in front of the other, and I take that step.

“You can go to Pizza Hut when you weigh 42 kg.” My eating disorder used to tell me. I can’t help but think about those words; I can’t help but remember that world. It was my life for a very long time, a very long time ago. 

But here I am at Pizza Hut, weighing a whole lot more than 42 kg, about to enjoy a veggie pizza with a side of fries. I never thought I’d get here, but here I am; here I am at Pizza Hut.