National Frozen Yogurt Day

“Food holidays” are a rather contentious topic in the eating disorder recovery community. Some people see these occasions–specific calendar days given over to the celebration (and consequent consumption) of certain food items–as detrimental, arguing that they promote binge eating and/or facilitate restriction. I can certainly see this side of the matter; one could binge on the designated food and/or “carb-load” (restrict carbohydrates to “justify” a future surplus) in preparation for the day. A case could also be made that such events sabotage intuitive eating; they could theoretically create a sense of obligation where a patient feels they have to celebrate–that they have to eat the special food on the special day–or conversely, that they can only eat the special food on the special day. These points are valid, and I completely understand where the dissenters are coming from; this just hasn’t been by experience at all.

I, for one, find these “food days” to be extremely beneficial. In recovery from anorexia, it is very easy to get stuck in an limited diet of “safe foods”, and at the very least, these occasions offer variety. They present the perfect opportunity to conquer a fear food in a structured setting; in fact, they may very well be the push you need to move forward in your recovery in that regard. Additionally, such holidays acquaint you with new food items, which, in addition to providing personal enjoyment, nourish your body with a differing array of micronutrients, contributing thereby to an overall healthier nutritional profile.

By no means am I suggesting that you celebrate every food holiday in existence with a jumbo portion of whatever the occasion calls for. No! In fact, I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just sharing my personal experience and encouraging you to find what works for you. Maybe that’s food holidays, maybe it’s not. Talk it over with your treatment team and decide from there. For now, though, I’m going to celebrate NATIONAL FROZEN YOGURT DAY!

Brownie Sundae

In honour of Father’s Day, here’s an essay I wrote a couple years ago about my dad’s death:

There were dead people in the letters. Birds’ nests braided, golden, in the hollow of the O and around the corners of the H, and the dead people walked through them, tiny at first, tiny as they slipped through the toothpick-thin cracks in the concrete, as they spun between the letters and out into the heavy air. That’s when they disappeared, dissolved, disintegrated. They became part of the bubblegum blue sky, the tissue paper clouds, and the grass–the parched, the yellow, the grass, the grass with its life all hacked and sucked away.

What was it like to die? Was it like getting your ears pierced? Just a pinch! Was it sweet like eating a brownie? Was it like jumping into Barton Springs in December?

The dirt was slippery, quite, and grainy, and dry. That’s because it hadn’t rained in ages. (I was fine with that. I mean, I didn’t want it to rain tomorrow. Rain would ruin the Keep Austin Weird parade.) Hey, that’s why–why the grass was dead.

“We’re near TCBY, right?” I asked, tired of standing on the dirt by the side of a busy road, surrounded by suffocated grass, looking at the lettering on the side of an ugly, grey building.

“I–” The grumbling of a passing car gobbled up the rest of the nameless  family friend’s sentence.

“My dad would let me have ice cream,” I crossed my arms defensively.

An old, silvery woman with skin like a wet paper bag had just peered out from behind the L.

“Are you sure you want ice cream?”

“Um, duh.” What kind of question was that?

We got in the car. The doors, as they shut, clicked like the trigger of a gun. “Here,” I took out my phone, my nine-year-old self’s prized possession, which looked rather like an enlarged green jellybean, “I’ll call my dad.” I said that like it was such an imposition. “He’d let me have ice cream.”

The phone rang. There was no answer. I tried again.

We weren’t moving; it wasn’t the 5:30 traffic; he hadn’t started the car. “I promise,” I whined, impatiently slamming my fingers onto the phone’s plastic buttons. “My dad takes me to TCBY every day.” That wasn’t entirely true. (We went almost everyday, but only when I had practiced violin for an hour and twenty minutes and only if we rode our bikes around the block and down the steep Far West hill to our destination.)

“Stop.” He said quietly; he sounded like his mouth was stuffed with cotton balls.

“Stop what?”

“Stop calling him.”

“Why?” He wasn’t going to get me the ice cream. I could feel it.

“He’s not going to pick up.”

The nameless family friend sounded so serious. It wasn’t a big deal. My dad was probably just brazenly taking the Band-Aid off his knee–why would he even need it? he just fell off a bike!–or signing the discharge papers. He’d meet us there. “He’d even pay you back.”

I heard a “fine,” a defeated, muffled “fine.” The red car turned on, and the engine spat golden-orange, glowing sparks. We drove away from the building, from the faces in the lettering, down the highway, and past a screeching ambulance. The dead people faded into red, and then into grey, then into white. They were just dead people, dead people in the letters, getting fainter, getting lighter, getting softer, as we got farther and farther from them.

It did not occur to me that at 6:53PM there would be crooked, yellow teeth, a mustache, and a white bicycle in the crevice on the letter P, bicycling, bicycling in circles, bicycling up and down. As we drove, the family friend and I, in the maroon car towards the swirls of frozen yogurt and the fountains of sprinkles, they–the corpses–looked down, placid, knowing, watching. They smiled; they smiled, because they knew, the dead people in the letters.

Asking for Help

I could feel myself slipping, the world sliding out from under me, my feet skidding on sliding ground, my fingernails scraping at empty air. I could feel myself falling, gravity sucking me down, my legs breaking, my arms flailing. It was terrifying, but I liked it–in a way. And then I came to my senses. I could hear my heart beating a little slower; I could see my thighs getting a little thinner; and I could taste that sourness again, that comfortable sourness, that deathly sourness. I was relapsing, wasn’t I? I was relapsing, and I knew it.

So I took a deep breath, pulled out my phone, and texted a friend. “I think I’m slipping back into my eating disorder.” I wrote. “What do I do?” She didn’t reply; she showed up at my flat with two cups of hot chocolate and told me we were going to Camden. We ended up getting ice cream and having a heart-to-heart. She said some really amazing things that I want to share with you:

  1.  Calories may make you gain weight, but they also keep you alive. Food is fuel.
  2.  Your eating disorder probably only defines you in your head and not in anyone else’s. People didn’t know you had an eating disorder until the end; they knew you as a person. 
  3. It makes sense to not know who you are without your eating disorder, so think about who you want to be–and that is not someone with an eating disorder. Imagine that you left your eating disorder back at the hospital, and eat for the person you want to become.

It was incredibly hard to ask for help and it went against all my natural instincts, but I am so glad I did. Not only did it keep me in recovery, it brought me and my friend closer together. So my point is this: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in it. It doesn’t make you weak, or a failure, or a bad person. It just means that you’re struggling, and that’s perfectly okay.

Happy Birthday, Kate Moss!

Today we celebrate an icon and inspiration. Today we celebrate the woman who never ceases to amaze me. Today we celebrate the person that saved me during my darkest times. Today we celebrate my rolemodel, the incredible, extraordinary Ms. Kate Moss.

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Now, I know what you might be thinking. What the hell? You’re a Shakespeare scholar recovering from severe anorexia. Why are you obsessed with a drug-addicted supermodel known for saying ‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’? Let me explain:

As a little girl, I’d flip through the pages of Vogue at my grandmother’s house. I found a picture I liked, cut it out, and made a paper-doll. I put her up on the wall of my room with some blue sticky-putty. She hung above my bed, scowling down at me–a sort of a guardian angel, a sort of a teacher, a sort of a mother. If I ever had a question, if I ever felt down, I’d look up and I’d think, ‘What would Paper-Doll Kate do?’. She’d smile her pretty, pouty half-smile, and I’d know that whatever it was, however it turned out, we can and would make it through.

I am alive today because of Kate Moss. It sounds silly, I know, but Kate Moss–or rather a photo of Kate Moss–taught me how to eat again. There’s this picture of her–she’s sitting by a car, wearing no makeup, eating an ice cream cone; she looks so at peace, so content, so secure. I figured that if Kate Moss could eat ice cream, so could I–and I did; I set this photo as my phone background, took a deep breath, and with shaking hands, purchased my first ice cream cone in five years.

Kate Moss saved my life, and what’s more, she showed me how to live it. Through her example, I have learned that individuality is a necessity, that addiction and sickness can be vanquished, that beauty is not only external, and, that, finally, I can be whatever I want to be. People may not say, on account of her high-profile partying and the extremely de-contextualised quote above, that Kate Moss is a good rolemodel, but ‘what other people say isn’t going to stop me’; I am proud to tell you that Kate Moss is my hero, my savior, and yes, my rolemodel.

Ms. Moss, if you are reading this, I want to wish you the happiest of birthdays. You are an amazingly talented, beautiful, and inspirational woman. I am a braver, kinder, happier person because of you. Thank you for all that you do, and once again, happy, happy birthday.