Tag Archives: Food

An Unusual Time for New Awareness

David and I are now nearing the end of phase one of the detox/elimination diet. If I would have been thinking carefully about timing, I might have considered that I was still going to be in the most difficult phase of the diet on the one day each month (well, the one reliable day, anyhow!) that I go batshit crazy. A day that has been known for years in our household as “Crazy Thursday,” though this time it arrived one day early. In case you haven’t figured it out: “Crazy Thursday” ushers in my “time of the month.” Don’t worry, Gents, this isn’t going to be terribly graphic (unless you are one of those guys that likes to pretend that periods don’t happen at all).

Typically on my day of PMS, I am a cryer, not a fighter. I don’t get irritable (unless some jackass is foolish enough to say “whatsa matter, that time a the month?”) I have meltdowns. Like, everything that I have been frustrated, sad, or angry about for the last month wells up and I just have to cry it all out for about two hours. This is best done by myself. In fact, David doesn’t even react to it anymore (we’ve been together nine years – I give him a pass. After it’s over, of course. While it’s happening he is a total asshat in my head for not trying to comfort me!).

When the sadness hit me on Wednesday, I thought “uh oh. Without any of my usual self-soothers, am I going to go totally nuclear?” Strangely, I did not. Rather than having an epic meltdown, I just maintained a certain level of blue all day. I didn’t even shed any tears! So weird! I almost felt robbed! “WHERE IS MY MELTDOWN?!”

Then it hit me. My obsessive thought is gone. I haven’t been turning and turning the same thoughts over in my mind for a few days. Without the obsessive thought, there’s nothing to fuel a meltdown. The reasons for being sad or angry or frustrated occur to me, and I feel down, but I’m not beating them to death enough to sit and cry for two hours. Reason sets in at a normal enough pace so that my brain is going “huh, that sucks, but your whole life doesn’t suck.” Wow.

So, I guess that’s positive detox result #1! Of course, I have no idea what it was that was contributing to my racing mind. I won’t know that for several weeks (if ever I can get that specific – elimination diets are a limited tool of measurement)! But it’s pretty cool to check in on my brain and find that it’s thinking about whatever it is I’m doing at the moment, instead of obsessing about a million things I can’t do anything about!

Chaos Backstory: The Wonder Years

I started writing this post in August. I promised to post it in November. And now, as the year is drawing to a close, I’m finally ready to put it up. Because as I wrote in this post, I think it’s important to know the backstory when attempting to frame up the future.

I have never, at any point in my life, been what people would have considered “dangerously” thin. I have been slightly underweight, but nothing that anyone would have seen as cause for concern. More of my life has been spent being overweight.  Nobody could ever see that there was anything wrong with me (aside from being “fat”); and therefore, as people gradually learned about the eating disorder (ED) that I was actually treated for, they tended to write it off as a phase. In their eyes, my ED didn’t go on long enough to constitute a major life event.  I was never at death’s door. And “obviously” they couldn’t have been that serious, since I “allowed” myself to get fat again. The truth in reality is that I have had eating disorders in one direction or the other for almost my entire life, and for me they have always been a serious issue, despite what may or may not have been perceivable to others.

When I was in grade-school, I was painfully shy, but it’s hard to say which came first: the shyness, or the bullying. I was never a skinny kid; I was always a little bit rounded. But I was never overweight until I was seven.  My family moved to a new neighborhood that year. It was the year that intensive attention began being paid to my little brother and his special needs for getting through school. By default, or by virtue of not having any problems, I was on my own. Unfortunately, that was also the year that I was first allowed free reign in the kitchen. Since my eating was no longer being monitored, I did what any depressed seven-year-old would do: I ate a ton of junk food. It wasn’t lost on my classmates that I was getting bigger. The teasing started, and it didn’t stop until I decided to switch to public school for junior high, instead of going on to private high school with the rest of my classmates. It didn’t stop, even though I did actually lose a lot of the weight between dieting (I started dieting at age nine) and growth spurts before I left.

When I moved on to junior high, even though I was starting with a clean social slate, I had two major problems to contend with: 1. I had stopped growing at age 11, and my body was already fully developed, 2. Thanks to the previous seven years, it was already deeply ingrained in my head that I was fat, and therefore did not deserve love, kindness, sympathy, respect, or pretty much anything good. Obviously, the latter was to be the bigger problem.  The chip on my shoulder ensured that I still got targeted. Some of the more harrowing experiences happened during those years (being picked on while undressing in the locker room, having to file an on-campus restraining order because one of the few bullies from grade school that also switched to public school was still following me around the hall in high school yelling fat-based slurs).

Throughout jr. high and high school, I did make many good friends. A good core group of friends was something that I had been lacking before, and it was such a relief to finally feel like I wasn’t all alone. But I still always saw myself as the ugly duckling, and in hindsight, that warped vision of myself had already begun to create a much different internal world for me than what others saw on the outside. The body dismorphia aspect of an ED was definitely in full effect by the time high school rolled around.

I was always bracing for the next emotional hit,  and had therefore developed a bit of a sharp edge. I cringe when I think about some early attempts that boys made at asking me out. I was incapable of seeing myself as attractive, and completely used to being defensive about my appearance. One clear incident was a boy who was perfectly nice and not at all the type to be cruel, that attempted to ask me out and was met with an incredulous “no!” simply because I couldn’t believe that he was asking me out. I thought that he was being sarcastic and just teasing. He never spoke to me again – for good reason! I had unknowingly totally mortified him! Sadly, this would become a bit of a pattern in my early romantic life. I often didn’t realize until it was completely too late that my behavior , based on my own reality that others had no idea about, would seem totally bizarre and confusing to normal people who thought that I was a normal person.

Tomorrow: As if College Wasn’t Crazy Enough.

Chaos Backstory: My Sordid Food History

In my recent ramblings here I’ve been focusing a lot on how I’ve finally been having some breakthroughs on some health-related issues (read: addictions); namely food, booze, and cigarettes. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions here that I’ve had life-long eating disorders (ED), and have said that those are the root addiction for the other two. However, I don’t think I’ve ever really told my story here. In fact, the only person who really knows and understands the whole story at this point is my husband.

After spending a lot of intensive time thinking about my sordid past in the last six months, I feel like I’ve sorted through a lot of things (particularly some of the anger that I have surrounding my ED), and am ready to share it. I think that the backstory helps to give some context to what I’ve been struggling to pull myself out of for the last several years, and helps me to frame up some of where I want to go with my writing here in the future.

So, I guess the first point of clarification is that I refer to my history of food issues generally as “eating disorders” because I don’t feel like any of the three major “diseases” really accurately describes me. The three generally acknowledged eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. From what I understand, a lot of ED sufferers don’t feel that they fit squarely into any of the three categories.  This is probably because the three have overlapping symptoms and hypothetical causes (there is no agreed-upon cause for ED), so a lot of people really do express all three throughout their lives.

My ED began as a pretty young child with straight-up binge eating, which is the least commonly diagnosed and, I feel, the ED that is taken the least seriously (which is very unfortunate because I would guess that a lot of the incidents of the other 2 EDs started out with binge eating, and all 3 disorders have negative long-term health effects). During my fairly brief stint in treatment for my eating issues, I was diagnosed with Bulimia. What that meant for me was that I would starve for 2 or 3weeks, and would then kind of “lose my mind” and go on a binge-purge spree for 2 or 3 days. Once I was “cured” of Bulimia, I stayed pretty stable and healthy for about 2 ½ years, and then slowly began sliding back into binge eating.

To keep any one part from getting too long, over the next week or so I’m going to break the whole story down into 3 parts: childhood, college, and adulthood.

Sorting through all this crud has been a 10-year work in progress of varying intensities, and I’m sure I’m not totally through it all yet. But I do feel like I am well on my way, and have a much better awareness surrounding it than I ever have before. For that I am grateful!

Perhaps I was a Bit Slow to Admit I Needed Help

Six weeks ago I made a decision about my weight issues. I decided that I had been trying various methods of dieting for 2 years, and nothing had really worked, so maybe it was time that I swallowed my pride and got some help. A couple of my co-workers have been on Weight Watchers for a long time, and both of them have really liked it, so I decided to give it a shot. However, the whole idea of attending meetings and weighing in under supervision really freaked me out. All I could picture was a weekly recreation of humiliating childhood experiences in locker rooms. Now, I know that’s irrational, but it’s a fear nonetheless. So I decided to use the Weight Watchers online program to start, and if that didn’t work, then maybe I would try the meetings.

What I have discovered (rediscovered?) in the first 6 weeks is that there really is no magic bullet for me. Yes, my metabolism could be more sluggish than that of others. Yes, I can’t eat as much as the average person can because I’m petite. Yeah, my body doesn’t process sugar very well. Yes, many of the excuses that I have used for giving up in the past could possibly be true. But none of those excuses will ever change the fact that my body is what it is and it only needs a certain amount of food per day. I can think it’s not fair all I want, and it’s never going to change the fact: I’ve been consuming too many calories for my body to use.  So I can either suck it up and stop being whiny and excessive or I can learn to accept being overweight and uncomfortable.

I choose “suck it up.” I am very interested in being healthy, and in being able to enjoy life to the fullest. I am still working on the whole issue of image v. self (ie., how much of my wellbeing is truly determined by  my own and other people’s perception of my appearance?), but I would like to feel good about my appearance. Regardless of who’s deciding the definition of beauty, I think that healthy is beautiful.The straight up fact is that I haven’t been very healthy, and I don’t look it. At the age of 31 I am already being physically limited by problems caused by being overweight: my neck, back, and knees have been suffering.

Anyhoodle, so far the WW online program has been working for me.  I like that no food is off limits. I can stick to eating traditional foods and not using low  fat or other processed food (if I don’t wanna!) without a problem. I have clearly been having a problem with estimating portions on my own, so I also like the point system that WW uses because it makes keeping track of portions a lot easier than trying to count calories, fat grams, or carbs. Each week I also get “activity points” for any exercising I do. That means that I get to eat more as I work out more. I haven’t even been using all my activity points, but something about them really drives home that “treating myself” is a trade-off. The added incentive means I’ve been working out for a minimum of an hour 5 days/week (rollerblading, biking, hiking, or jogging with the dog).

I’ve lost 10 lbs since joining, plus 5 I’d already lost earlier in the spring. 15 lbs is a lot of bulk off from a short person! My knee problems are already almost gone. I have voluntarily been eating more fruits and vegetables. I still have a long way to go, but I am already feeling a lot better, which is the greatest possible incentive.

Of Food and Freedom

A new state bill is up concerning raw milk sales. I first heard about this via MPR, so I went to the MPR website to find out more. Here is MPR’s coverage of the issue. But first I have to point out that when I searched “food law” and sorted by date, this gem of a news blip came up: Freedom to Eat.

The fact that these two articles (and proposed laws!) are so close together strikes me as kind of hilarious. The raw milk coverage heavily leans against having freedom to choose your own health risks, and the freedom to eat article is about a bill that proposes personal responsibility for obesity.  I just want to point out that the MPR article attributes to raw milk approximately 1,700 illnesses and 2 deaths(nationwide, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC)) between 1998 and 2008 (that is, for the record, 10 years). Even if this statistic is accurate, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when compared with the full scope of foodborne illnesses (quoted from the CDC’s 2002 report on Foodborne Illnesses, bolding is mine): Foodborne diseases cause an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. The 2006 (the most recent full survey that I could find on the CDC site) report doesn’t even include dairy in the top offenders: the most common food commodities to which outbreak-related cases were attributed were poultry (21%), leafy vegetables (17%), and fruits/nuts (16%).

Now for the other article. How many illnesses and deaths are attributed to obesity?  Well, I couldn’t find a direct statistic (probably because obesity is related to so many different illnesses, it’s hard to nail down an exact number), but here’s the CDC’s most recent obesity report, and here’s how much obesity costs in this country. Funny that this obesity problem showed up in the U.S. right around that time that there was widespread food processing. Funny that milk pasteurization didn’t start until around the turn of the century, with the appearance of industrial feed lots, but is now  a must for all dairy farmers, big or small.  But, I digress…

I’m not going to go into some drawn out argument on why I think raw milk is good. I believe that the details of the raw milk argument are more or less beside the point. The point is personal liberty. People should have the right to choose what they purchase and eat. If the government wants to hold us responsible for choosing to eat foods that are known to make us obese (or cigarettes, or booze for that matter!), why shouldn’t we be granted the responsibility (AKA, freedom!) to choose foods that may carry some risk, but definitely carry some benefits (and, based on the info above, we legally choose foods that carry risk, anyhow!)? Why should the government regulate some choices, but not others? Think about it. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Love for “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

My copy. Note the food stains on the cover.

I’ve owned a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for over a year. Barbara Kingsolver has been one of my favorite authors ever since I read the The Bean Trees in high school. I think that she’s a phenomenal writer, and I’ve been a fan of her focus on environmental preservation for a long time. So you’d  think, especially as a whole-foods freak, that I’d have been totally stoked to read about her year of eating only local and homegrown foods book. I was stoked when I bought it, but then I had a few false starts. I just couldn’t get into it.

At first I thought that it was boredom. A lot of the facts and opinions that Kingsolver &  family present are the same as those presented in other books I’ve read, such as Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Plenty. But, considering that the book is still slightly different, and entertaining due to Kingsolver’s wit, boredom didn’t seem to be enough of an answer. After struggling to get into the book for several month; the answer dawned on me. I was jealous! Basically, Kingsolver is living MY ideal life! She’s a highly successful professional writer, she has what seems like a great family, and she is living my rural dream: growing her own food, having time to cook, and having peace and quiet and nature all around her.

Once I realized that I was just jealous, I was able to get over it and enjoy the book, wherein Kingsolver and her family move away from Arizona and on to their family farm in Virginia. They commit to a full year of eating foods that they have either grown themselves or sourced locally. The book is full of gardening, cooking, and animal-raising anecdotes  from Kingsolver, as well as recipes and essays on their experience from her 18-year-old daughter, Camille, and more scientific essays on the global impacts of the standard  American diet from her husband, Steven Hopp.

True to form, Kingsolver’s writing style is wonderful. She is descriptive, yet still conversational. Her passion for delicious food is contagious. Unlike Plenty, this book has nothing to do with deprivation. It is all about how much more flavor and abundance one’s life can have by eating food that is grown close to home. It’s not just about tastes, it’s also about living in the moment and taking full pleasure in what nature has to offer. It is an absolutely compelling argument (for pretty much anything) to explain all the ways in which a person’s experience of life will be better if they choose a particular lifestyle. Kingsolver is able to advocate local eating by example and without proselytizing.

Despite my desire to run away to my family’s farm and live precisely as Kingsolver does, I understand that I must remain reasonable. I don’t have the money or the writing career to support running away from the city just yet. I have some work to do. However, I am inspired anew to put the effort into planning for what I can do starting in the spring. I already make every effort to purchase local meat, eggs and dairy. Local produce is nearly impossible to buy during a Minnesota winter! But, now I have a year of gardening and lessons learned behind me, so I think I should be able to plant a successful garden next year. I can also plan better for possible canning when I shop at the farmer’s market. I feel ready to take the next steps, and am already getting excited to do it!

Raw Milk Awesomeness

Dave and I have been getting some raw milk. Direct from farm, of course. It is illegal for farmers to sell raw milk off of the farm that produced it. It is also illegal to advertise it, so I think I have to be careful here. Can just writing about it on a blog constitute advertisement? I don’t know.  I might seem paranoid, but you’d be surprised by the swiftness, and harshness, of prosecution if rules regarding raw milk aren’t closely followed. I’m not going to go into the trials and tribulations of the real dairy farmer right now, since it’s a topic that I am still researching. What I am going to do is write a little about how much raw milk rocks.

I am tempted to go into why dairy is actually good for us, overall. However, I am still learning about that, too. So, for now I’ll leave it to a simple comparison of pasteurized and raw dairy; since we obviously consume a ton of dairy in the U.S.. First, a lot of people who think that they are lactose intolerant are actually only intolerant of pasteurized milk. This is because the pasteurization process kills the enzymes that exist in milk that our bodies can use to help process it. People have varying levels of enzymes already in their guts (based on genetic predisposition). True lactose intolerance is the inability to produce the enzyme lactase . This is common in cultures that did not descend from dairy consumers (duh – makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?). People of northern European descent are more likely to produce lactase beyond childhood (everyone produces it as babies, since we need it to digest our own mothers’ breast milk) than those of southern European, African, or Asian descent.  A lot of people who do produce lactase  just don’t produce enough to handle pasteurized milk because it makes the body work so hard to digest it. Or, a lot of people that think that they are lactose intolerant are actually allergic to milk because of the difficulty of digesting pasteurized product. I’m an example of this myself – pasteurized milk causes stomach and sinus problems for me. Raw milk does not. We’ve tried this out on a couple “lactose intolerant” friends, neither of whom reported any problems.

The second awesome thing about raw milk is how quickly the body absorbs the nutrients in it. It is insane. Dave and I joke about how it’s an elixir. But it’s really no joke. I tend to be calcium deficient, which can lead to muscle spasms as well as cramping. When we first started buying raw milk, I could drink a glass of raw milk when these symptoms set in, and they would literally go away within minutes. It is insane! Since I’ve been drinking it regularly, my problems have disappeared. I don’t take a calcium supplement, either. Pasteurization makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients from the milk (again, because the heating process basically kills it; kind of like putting vegetables in the microwave kills a lot of the vitamins in them).

The third awesome thing is that, unless they are extremely ethically challenged, raw dairy farmers follow very stringent guidelines on the living conditions of their animals. The cows and their living environments need to be extremely clean and drug-free to guarantee the safety of the product without heating it. Furthermore, most farmers that care enough  not to take nutrients out of the milk, also care enough about the nutrients that are going into the milk. This  means that the cows are commonly pastured for as long as they can be, and are fed organic straw in the winter. The cows that my milk comes from are treated like pets. They have names. They are handled gently. And when new calves are born the farmer sends out birth announcements like a proud mama! It feels good to be guaranteed cruelty-free product.

Finally, it’s just delicious. Plain and simple. Which is why people have such a hard time giving up dairy (ahem, for those of us that have tried to be vegan!) in the first place!= )