Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Body/Brain Disconnect

Image found here.
As I lay in bed this morning, I was chewing on some deep thoughts about relationships and intimacy. I want to be closer to the Best Husband Ever, as well as people in general. I tend to be very closed off in terms of relationships, be it with co-workers, friends, or family. I stay guarded and, while that might keep me from experiencing much of the hurt than sometimes accompanies close relationships, it also keeps me from experiencing the beautiful parts of relationships, too.

The other day, I checked out a book from the library on the Best Husband Ever's recommendation, A Magic of Twilight by S. L. Farrell. Flipping through the novel, I landed on Farrell's dedication page. It said:

For Denise
You are in everything I do

I was floored. Clearly S. L. Farrell and Denise are very, very close. Perhaps they are spouses, lovers, or simply share a deep friendship. Whatever their relationship can be classified as, these two people are obviously intimate and vulnerable with each other. What's more, I realized that I can't say that anybody I know is "in everything I do" (not even God, really), and that fact makes me incredibly sad.

As I lay there in bed, thinking about this first brush with Farrell's novel, a memory rose to the front of my mind. Several years ago, just before I met the man who would become the Best Husband Ever, I was walking downtown with a close friend of mine. This was also around the time that eating disordered thoughts were beginning take hold of my brain. I remember being hungry, and telling my friend that I rather enjoyed the feeling of being empty. The fact that having no food in my stomach also made my belly look flatter was a bonus.

Reflcting on that obviously misguided comment I made four years ago, a new idea occurred to me. The most intimate relationship I have is with myself, with my body. I live with my body. We all do, of course. We can't get away from our secretions, our smells, our physical abilities (or lack of abilities). We experience the world through our bodies, using sights and sounds, smells, and tastes, as well as deeper feelings like when a handsome boy makes girl's heart beat faster.

I know that I am not my body. My identity is more than what I look like, more than my physical form. But . . . my body is my closest companion. If I can feel my body telling me it is hungry, and then willfully misinterpret its message as I did that day while walking with my friend, how can I expect to experience healthy relationships with other people? If I can't have a good relationship with the inner workings and needs of my own flesh, why do I think it should be easy to be intimate with a whole other person?

I don't know if this post makes sense, or if it's even accurate. But I am flaggergasted at this [probably not-so-new] realization -- that I don't know my own body. After nearly thirty years, this skin is still a stranger to me, its inhabitant and daily user. And that knowledge is more sad and disturbing than all of my other relationship-related lacks.

What are your thoughts on the matter? I am eager to hear other perspectives. Or, in other words, help!

Check out photographer Jodi Bieber's Real Beauty project, an extension of the Dove campaign, which I randomly came across while writing this post and found to be very powerful.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Because hooping seems to have taken over the blog this week, I thought I'd share with you a newly discovered hooping inspiration for this [mostly] Wordless Wednesday. I love the way this girl moves.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oat Bran Fan

I never hopped on the oatmeal bandwagon that seems to have swept the healthy blogging world. Health foodies right and left were whipping up daily bowls of oatmeal in various decadent, delicious concoctions while I stuck with my cold cereal messes. I did attempt oatmeal for breakfast a couple of times (way back in the day), but as tasty as the results were they never seemed to fill me up. Perhaps it was because I was still over-exercising while underweight and my body needed more fuel. Or maybe it was because I was too lazy to cook before work everyday. Whatever the reason, I never become one of oats' many blogging fan girls (and boys).

This past week, however, I've been wanting something warm and hearty for breakfast. Don't ask me why -- it's been so hot here that you'd think I'd want smoothies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I didn't. Instead, randomly, I wanted oat bran.

So that's what I ate. My first oat bran breakfast was super chocolaty, with hefty scoops of chocolate Amazing Grass and dark cocoa powder, plus cacao nibs and shredded coconut for toppings. It was enjoyable and filling, but a little too decadent for my morning meal. For my next attempt, I toned down the sweetness. This time I combined my oat bran with pumpkin puree, cinnamon, my favorite vanilla extract, and a bit of maple syrup, stirring in small handfuls of dried cranberries and crushed pecans at the end. Bowl number two really hit the spot, and both the chocolate and the maple cinnamon bowls were far more filling than my oatmeal breakfasts of long ago.

Am I joining the ranks of the blogosphere's oat lovers at last? Maybe . . . !

I want to send out a big thank you for your encouraging comments on yesterday's post. They made my day! I really appreciate your words (and you, wonderful readers!). Also, I was featured on the Foodie Blogroll last week, which was a fun surprise. And, while you're exploring the web, be sure to hop over to enter Clare's ToeSox giveaway, and then go see Maggie to congratulate her on getting married last week.

Happy Tuesday, y'all!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rock It

I did it. I faced yesterday's challenge head-on -- and it turned out great. I made a new friend, I hooped with her, and, most amazing of all, I hooped like a crazy woman after she left. In public. With cars driving by. I even made a video for evidence/posterity.

(And, if I do say so myself, I think I rocked it.)

Victory? I think so.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hoop Dreams

Today I'm going to be hooping. In public. With strangers (or, at best, new web "friends" I connected with at SparkPeople, where I track my nutrition).

Yeah. I'm nervous.

But I just ran across this sweet photo on Hoop City, and, well, I don't think an explanation is required.

(But I will say this -- let me know if you're local to western Montana and want to come hoop it up. I'll send you the when/where.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Finds #3

How is it Friday already? My mom's visit this week has thrown off my sense of when I am, so I'm very surprised to find that we're heading into the weekend already! That means it's time for another edition of Friday Finds. I've been accumulating some succulent web reads for you all. This week's selections are mostly inspirational or about how to find balance in pursuing a life (and/or career) of creativity. Enjoy!
What are you reading/browsing/trolling these days? Do tell! I'm always looking for more valuable methods of procrastination.

Food Matters Premium Access Cancer Video LessonsFree preview of the Food Matters Premium Access Depression & Mental Health Video Lessons (LRG)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living Gently

Life is funny, sometimes. I was looking for a way to use this photo in a post, but just couldn't figure out how. You see, my mom came to visit this week, and on her first night here she treated the Best Husband Ever and I to dinner at a local artisan pizza restaurant. As you probably guessed, that is where I took this picture.
I really like the photograph, actually, because both my veggie pizza and my mom look so forlorn. In reality, they were not. (At least, Mom was not -- perhaps the veggie pizza did feel a little sad as I devoured it.) Still, I didn't want to use it in a post announcing my mom's visit, since I thought maybe it would make said visit seem depressing and mournful. While her visit was emotional, it was not as despair-filled as this picture might insinuate.

But I did find something else to use it for -- a depression-related post! (Yes, I know that I have now associated my mom's visit with depression, defeating the purpose of avoiding using the photo in the first place. Bear with me.) Yesterday, I was so sad. No, not sad -- depressed. The sort of depression that borders on despair. I'm not sure of the cause -- spiritual attack? brain chemistry? too much coffee and not enough sleep? -- only that I seemed to ooze with heaviness, tears, and inertia. I couldn't bring myself to exercise, which is a rare thing. I watched some Gilmore Girls, ate some ice cream, and went to bed early

Today, I still felt tired when I woke, but I got up anyway. I took my time in the shower, lingering under the warm water, then dressed in an outfit that felt both comfortable and attractive. I felt the need to keep breakfast simple, so I ate toasted (and locally made) nine grain bread spread with butter and strawberry-rhubarb preserves. I drank some coffee, then drank some tea. I cleared my inbox and my reader. I ate more toast for lunch, along with some watermelon and more tea, reading a fun book about werewolves at the same time. I sat in the sun, enjoying the breeze that carried the possibility of thunderstorms our way (my favorite kind of weather). I watched our neighbor's grandchildren search for their cat and say hello to our dogs. I still didn't feel like exercising, so I took Jackson on a walk around the neighborhood. I ran into a former colleague, took a moment to stop and chat, then headed home. I did some push-ups. I fed the dogs. I blogged (or, more accurately, I am blogging).

All that to say -- I kept today simple. My brain wanted me to go to the gym, or shed major sweat in front of a workout DVD, but my heart (and my spirit?) vetoed the idea. Today I lived gently, and it felt wonderful and, even more importantly, needed. It was (and continues to be) therapeutic.

The eating disordered side of me wants to condemn today as wasted, as lazy, but the sane part of me disagrees. Yesterday, for whatever unknown reason or reasons, was hard. It was flat-out bad. Today, as a result, became a time of recovery. I allowed myself that time and now I think that tomorrow will turn out to be much better for it, and I bet I'll be back on track in terms of goals, writing, and workouts. We all need time off, and I forget that too often.

How do you rest and recover, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


This is not a fantabulous example of hooping by any means . . . but it's what I've been doing, which also happens to represent some nifty personal victory. Plus, it's fun, regardless of how nerdy I may look. Happy [mostly] wordless Wednesday!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yellow Cake Fail

Remember that chocolate protein cake I mentioned in Friday's post about the renovated banana split? I wrote that I've been eating "loads of April's chocolate protein cakes," and it's true. And it's true. To date, I've eaten my protein cakes naked (the cake, not me), with almond butter, with sliced up bananas, with banana syrup, with maple syrup, with coconut butter, with caramel peanut butter . . . you get the idea.

Then I got to thinking -- why chocolate? My preference when it comes to real, non-healthy-fied cakes has always been for white (or, more accurately I suppose, yellow) cake with white frosting. While I adore April chocolaty creation, I wondered if the same nutritious and tasty results would be possible if I made a vanilla protein cake. So, of course, I tried.

Instead of chocolate protein powder I used vanilla. I removed the cocoa powder and added some the most amazing vanilla extract I've ever tasted (seriously, the best). I may have added a little vanilla coconut kefir. I hoped for this, but yellow:

What I actually got was this:

Hmm. It seems that further, ah, finessing of the recipe may be required. Just a guess. Do you have any ideas on how to make it work?

What's one of your funniest/favorite food fail memories? Another one of mine involves the inability to make Jell-O (yes, really).

Love Street Living Foods, my favorite affiliate as well as maker and purveyor of the aforementioned vanilla extract (among other wonderful goodies) is offering free shipping off orders over $150 USD until 11:59 PM EST today (July 19), as well as three free samples on any order with the coupon code COOKIES. Click here to visit Love Street Living Foods. Thanks, Love Street!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


In case you were wondering, my hot water assault on the ant invasion proved victorious. (Yes, those are deceased ants, killed either via boiling or the subsequent foot-stomping method.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Summer has been slow in coming to Montana. Now, however, I think it is finally here. We are experiencing super-hot days and little rain. Although I was rather sad to see the summer solstice (a.k.a., the longest day of the year) come and go the midst of weeks-long stretch of rain, that rain has now yielded the most luscious and vibrant July weather I've ever experienced in my five years in Montana (wow, has it really been that long?!). The grass is still green, the earth is not yet hard and parched, and the dogs' favorite mountain romp spot still boasts a sizable water hole. Also, this makes for truly glorious hiking, which I'm never sorry for! I thought I'd share some glimpses of our gorgeousness on what looks to be another beautiful day.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gone Bananas

I'm all about the bananas this week, apparently. Close on the heels of banana muffins and banummus, now we have a banana split! This week I received an email from Foodbuzz about how they are teaming up with Kelly Ripa and Electrolux to raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF). In order to further this effort, Foodbuzz will donate $50 for every single post on banana splits by their featured publishers, of which I am one. Pretty cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I don't like banana splits. Not even a little. I didn't when I was a kid, and I don't know. I figured I was out of the running for this one blog event . . . unless either my palate or the nature of the banana split changed. So I decided to try making my own version of the banana split.

Ice cream-topped banana splits still don't whet my appetite, so I considered what else I could load my split banana up with. Lately I've been making loads of April's chocolate protein cakes like they're going out of style, spreading each little cake with a healthy slather of almond butter. But I thought that the protein cake could use a little extra embellishment . . . such as gracing the top of a banana split.

Behold my [very modified] version of the hallowed banana split! After slicing a banana in half down the middle, I topped it with protein cake crumbles, peanut butter, blueberries, and shredded coconut. A drizzle of maple syrup may also have found its way onto the very delicious pile. Check out a bird's eye view:

No, it's not your traditional banana split, but I purport that it's even better. Now it's your turn. Do you like banana splits? If so, what's your favorite recipe or toppings concoction? Also, be sure to visit Kelly Ripa's Foodbuzz page to learn more about the OCRF, the related fund-raising, and to contribute -- for free! You can build your own virtual banana split, and each virtual split you create contributes another dollar to the OCRF.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poor Boy!

Jackson, our Australian Shepherd/Rottweiler cross, has had quite the day! (And by day, I mean twenty four hours.) After going on a six mile hike with his pals (and me) yesterday, Jackson finished up the romp pawing at his right ear. Back at home, the situation didn't get any better. The poor boy shook his head every few minutes, favoring that right ear, and definitely looked unhappy.

This morning he was the same, so I called the vet up. This afternoon I checked into the clinic, and the vet told me that he probably had some sort of grass in his ear, which was easily removable -- from an unmoving dog. Jackson is anything but unmoving, and of course any dog would be while getting tweezers stuck in his ear. So Jackson had to be sedated. I left him with the vet, the pup looking a little confused but not distressed, outside of the ear situation.

When I picked Jackson up two hours later, he was a different dog. This is a dog that loves to move, but this afternoon it was all he could do to stay upright on the car ride home. Even once we got into the house the poor guy swayed when he stood, and he was more than happy to be locked in his crate while the drugs wore off.

As I write this, all three dogs are lounging around my desk. Jackson has revived somewhat, going so far as to wrangle with Lio, our chihuahua, and to try to steal Cody's alligator toy (Jackson won that tug of war, by the way). I have no doubt that Jackson will be fully himself tomorrow, but it's been both funny and a little troubling to see him so dazed. It makes me wonder what he'll be like when he gets old. My guess is that no matter how stiff and crotchety he may get, Jackson will still be the one with the alligator toy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mo' Muffins*

I'm on a baking roll. Specifically, a muffin-baking roll. Last week the insides of my oven saw not one, but two batches of muffins. You already know about the rhubarb pecan muffins, whipped up for a Fourth of July picnic. But the muffin madness did not stop there.

A couple of days later, the Best Husband Ever noted that our banana stash was going brown fast. I mumbled something about baking banana bread, although because it was so hot out I didn't really mean it. After he left for work, however, a spirit of muffin creation came over me, and so I pulled out my mixing bowls and flour and got working.

They were banana muffins, of course, made with my heart- and star-shaped silicone forms. The original recipe calls for oat bran, whole wheat flour, and applesauce, among other things. I didn't have any applesauce on hand, so I subbed in a couple of tablespoons of pureed pumpkin and one tablespoon of coconut oil. I also replaced half the brown sugar with stevia baking blend. I sprinkled some crushed pecans on top and sent the muffin batter into the oven.

Coconut oil + bananas + pecans = delicious. Now that I'm not as afraid of fats as I was during the time of my eating disorder, my baking has improved vastly. No longer does the Best Husband Ever cringe when he takes a bite of proffered muffin or bread. Instead, my baked goods are now "pretty good," these banana oat bran muffins included. They were moist and flavorful, and I especially liked how each muffin contained substantial chunks of banana, as I only roughly mashed the bananas.

But after turning out a dozen delectable muffins, I still had a lingering banana to find a home for. Fortunately, I already had an idea and so I got out the blender. In went the ripe banana, one can of garbanzo beans, about a tablespoon of lemon juice, and hefty pinches of garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg, plus a light sprinkle of ginger. I was going for banana curry hummus (or banummus, if you will), and it turned out great. I smeared some on a muffin a short while later, an intriguing combination that I really enjoyed. (I didn't offer this concoction to Best Husband Ever. That would have been pushing my luck, poor guy.)

Now, both muffins and hummus have disappeared into our collective stomachs. We have a new bunch of green-ish bananas hanging in their basket in the kitchen, and I have no doubt that we will consume those before they become too mushy to handle. If we don't, though, I know exactly what I'm going to do with them.

*I totally wanted to name this week's post on yoga "Mo' Money, Mo' . . . Yoga?" but somehow that didn't seem appropriate. Mostly because it makes no sense. So I indulged in my white girl gangsta speak today. Thanks for humoring me.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Life can get so complicated sometimes. I'll admit that sometimes those complications are self-inflicted and completely unnecessary. For example, the Best Husband Ever and I had a little conflict yesterday. Small (and sometimes big) conflicts are expected in a marriage or relationship where you are living in close quarters with such an important person that so much history and emotion revolves around. Except I made our unremarkable moment of friction into something else. I translated my hurt into "He doesn't love me!" when really he's just a human being who is as imperfect as I am and who does love me very much. Why do I create such drama out of the normal currents of relationship? (Oh, and we resolved our little conflict after I stopped being offended and huffy.)

This morning, I got to thinking about how wonderful simplicity can be. I was picking through the fridge and pantry for some breakfast, trying to decide what I felt in the mood for. As you know, I've been eating oat bran berry crumble daily and so I had planned on enjoy another crumble this morning. Except I just didn't want it today. Apparently I was all crumble-d out. I wasn't even hungry, and was all set to have a boring bowl of cereal just to get something in my belly. The eating disordered side of me protested: You can't just sacrifice a meal and eat something you don't really want! If that is the case, why eat at all?

Thankfully, sanity (or God?) stepped in. It's just food, said Sane Me. Put gas in the tank and get going on the day! So I did. I crunched down an apple, then enjoy a small bowl of 2% cottage cheese. And let me tell you -- that breakfast was glorious. Sure, it wasn't complicated, and it wasn't fancy, and it sure was no crumble, but it was good. It satisfied and it fueled me. It was actually incredibly delicious. Isn't there some famous quote about simplicity?

"Simplify, simplify."
(Henry David Thoreau)

Oh. Right.

How do you simplify life in this very complicated world?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More Yoga, Please!

Last week I posted about my dismay with the apparent lack of calorie-burning effort required for yoga. I felt stuck -- sure, an elliptical session typically requires more caloric effort than a yoga session, but yoga feels so good. What's more, yoga feels good even when it doesn't feel good, if you get my meaning. When I fold at the waist in a forward bent and, in spite of my very bent legs, my tight hamstrings are screaming for mercy -- something about that effort, or lack of effort, feels right. When I'm running (or kickboxing, or elliptical-ing, etc.) and it starts to feel bad, it sure doesn't hurt so good, baby.

So there's something about yoga. After last week's post pitting yoga against more aerobic exercise, reader Anika left this thought in the comments section:
I think Bikram's yoga would burn a lot more calories than the vinyasa flow but I am with you-it makes me feel good. And when I don't do it I need the chiropractor! The fact that it does bring you so much comfort and does wonders for your mind and body is priceless...maybe calories aren't the most important thing when you can really feel that difference. But as an aside-do it for 3 months and you will see changes in your body that calorie burning doesn't offer-and nice long,lean muscle!
Hmm, did I hear a challenge in there? Not a balls-to-the-wall, butt-kicking competition, but a far gentler try-and-see challenge. Anika suggested trying months of regular yoga practice and then judging the results. Although I didn't officially decide to embark on this yoga adventure until later, I kept doing significant yoga each day following that original post. And it never failed to help me feel strengthened, stretched, and centered.

I had an interesting experience during one of these at-home practices. I was groaning my way (joyfully, right?) through a power yoga class when we came to pyramid pose. Normally, this pose would cause my eating disordered/competitive/perfectionist qualities to emerge and I would start to get irritated, wanting to go on to a pose that I could muscle through rather than rest and stretch in. This time, however, I experienced something much different. As I was bent over my front leg, I felt this rather strange intimacy . . . for myself and my body. As I later wrote to blogger friend Clare, "Something in me was like, 'I like this leg, and it's all mine, and I'm going to hug it because I can!'" I've never had such an emotional experience in yoga, and it was rather mind boggling.

As a result, I decided to follow Anika's suggestion and practice yoga at least five times a week for twenty (or more) minutes. I was all in on this yoga thing. I was ready to explore and open myself to new experiences.

Until the next day. And the day after that, and the one after that, too, and so on until today. Unable to sleep, I started my day off with ninety sweaty, trembling, and happy-inducing minutes of an Eoin Finn podcast class. It felt glorious.

Every time I get on my mat, I remember just how much I enjoy yoga. This holds true for this morning's practice. But why can't I carrying the memory of my enjoyment through the spaces between practices? Perhaps I'm avoiding the potential for intimacy, or my brain just can't conceive of yoga as true exercise. But it is exercise, I think, and not just for the body.

All that to say . . . I'm all in (again) for this three months of yoga thing. I'm sure I'll do more than just yoga, but yoga will become a regular staple in my day to day activities. I don't know what to expect, although I do know that the best shape I was ever in came during a period when I was practicing yoga every morning for at least an hour, in addition to cardio workouts. I don't want to go back to doubling up sixty minutes each of yoga and cardio each day, but I am interested in discovering where regular vigorous yoga can take me.

Do you practice yoga regularly, and, if so, what are your thoughts? Do you want to join me? Let's have a yogadventure!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Have you seen what Polly and Heather have been cooking up?! Yes, I'll wait while you wipe the drool off your keyboard. Meet Polly's oat bran crumble, which Heather HEAB-ified to serve one. I cannot begin to describe the deliciousness, so how about another photo?

I made Heather's single serving crumble and, also at her suggestion, served it over a voluptuous bowl of maple cinnamon protein ice cream (a.k.a green smoothie). I also played with different fruits, trying the crumble in cranberry/blueberry, peach/blueberry, and cherry incarnations. As of this morning, I have eaten a crumble+smoothie for at least one meal of each of the last three days. Can you guess what I'll be having tomorrow?

Of course, no ice cream (protein or otherwise) is required to enjoy an oat bran crumble. The Best Husband Ever really liked his cherry crumble, which I served on its own. Of course, the ice cream is a delicious bonus, so why not go for it?

The real question, though, is why are you still reading this? Go! Visit Heather and Polly to snag their seriously amazing recipes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ant Invasion

We have ants. Not, thank goodness, inside our house (yet), but they have taken over our back patio. And that patio is far too close for comfort to the house and the almost always open kitchen window.

Yesterday evening, both the Best Husband Ever and I have found (and killed) a couple of ants who penetrated the perimeter, probably via dog. This morning, upon letting said dogs out in the yard, I noticed a disturbing number of tiny ants tumbling over a corner of the patio. Scanning the rest of the area, I discovered that they seemed to have put down roots over nearly all of the patio. Ugh.

After doing a momentary panic dance, I roused the Best Husband Ever from his sleep earlier than he wanted and, with only a little groaning and rubbing of eyes (because he is the Best Husband Ever, after all), he came outside to assess the situation. He did not seem as worried as me, which is good since I was semi-seriously expecting the ants to swarm over the entire house at any moment (they didn't). They did, however, do a little bit of swarming over the Best Husband Ever's feet, chomping away with their insidious little mandibles.

Now, I consider myself a fan of nature. I like hiking, blue skies, and even think waking up on the morning of a camping trip to find a scorpion hanging out beneath your neighbor's sleeping bag pretty cool (and yes, that actually happened!). But I like the great outdoors to stay, well, outdoors. It was bad enough in my mind that these ants were only a foot away from the exterior of our home. But what if they got inside? I was all for any solution that would prevent this from happening.

"Can we spray?" I asked.

"I guess . . . " replied the husband. "But I thought you didn't like spray?"

"I don't like ants. Let's spray 'em."

Yep, in the face of a slim possibility of ants in the kitchen, I was all for breaking out the most virulent, vile chemicals possible. Thankfully, the Best Husband Ever suggested using boiling water first, although he cautioned that ants are very resilient and that the water probably wouldn't kill them all. But I had to do something, so I set pots a-boiling on the stove, ready to annihilate some ants.

Forty-five minutes later, the kitchen was terribly hot from the stove top and I had spilled more than a little water down my front -- but the ants were gone (sort of). I had at the very least washed the majority of them away, deluging both the patio's surface and any crevices between the stones that might harbor nesting ants with the boiling water. They'll probably be back, but I feel better. Plus, the dogs can now go outside and then return without coming in covered with ants.

Have you ever had an infestation of ants? What did you do to get rid of them?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chasing Freedom

Thank you all so much for your encouraging comments on my last post. They were wonderful to read! What's more, your words bolstered my confidence for the next social challenge that lay in wait for this ex-anorexic: the Fourth of July.

I don't know why exactly, but holidays are difficult for me. Perhaps it's because our culture imbues such days with heightened expectations that never quite get realized (at least, not for me). I also dislike how the world shuts down, including the gym, which is something of a safety net for me (i.e., "if no other exercise pans out, there's always the elliptical" kind of thinking). Of course, holidays are always paired with increased and sometimes very concentrated social events.

Normally, I don't do much for the Fourth. But earlier this week I received a text from a friend (the same friend, in fact, that I set aside exercise to see on Friday) inviting the Best Husband Ever and I to a pot luck picnic at a park in honor of the holiday. I responded with a "yes," and promptly began worrying -- Who will be there? What food will be there? Will I eat it? What food will I bring? What will I wear? Will anybody talk to me? You get the idea.

By the time yesterday afternoon rolled around, I was stressed and, as a result, cranky. I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay home where it was safe and I couldn't be ignored and I couldn't disappoint anyone else. But I had already baked rhubarb muffins in honor of the picnic's red, white, and blue theme (see below for the recipe), and I had told my friend that I would bring some hula hoops. The Best Husband Ever, I knew, hoped that I would go, although I'm sure he wasn't holding his breath.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a deep breath. I told the disordered, cowardly voice in my brain to shut up, please. I showered. I got dressed. I frowned at my reflection in the mirror and changed my outfit several times before finding a dress that felt comfortable physically and emotionally. I gathered my hoops, wrapped up the muffins, and got into the car, the Best Husband Ever waiting at the wheel.

All that to say -- I went to the picnic. I didn't want to in the hours shortly before going, but once I got to the park I was so glad that I had chosen to participate. I really enjoyed sitting with the small gathering of friendly people, some of whom I had not seen in years. My muffins were well-received, there was much smiling at my friends' baby, and there was even a little live worship guitar and -- gasp! -- hooping.

I don't know how to end this post. I wish I could say that now every social event I attend in the future will be a stress-free breeze, but that would be a lie. I do know, however, that now that I've started repairing friendships and pursuing relationships, overcoming my fears, that I will keep pressing on. It will be difficult, and probably painful, but it will also be worthwhile. Thank you sharing this journey with me, blog friends.

Rhubarb Pecan Muffins

1 cup almond flour*
1/2 tsp xanthan gum*
1 cup whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking stevia (or plain white sugar if you don't have stevia)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg whites
2 T canola oil
2 T pumpkin
2 tsp grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cup finely chopped rhubarb
2 T chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350* F. Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners, or grease a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to mix evenly.

In a separate bowl, add the egg whites, canola oil, applesauce, orange peel and orange juice. Beat until smooth. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until moistened but still lumpy. Stir in the chopped rhubarb.

Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of chopped pecans onto each muffin and bake until springy to the touch, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 muffins. Adapted from the Mayo Clinic's recipe.

*I used the almond flour and xanthan gum because I was out of all-purpose flour. Feel free to simply use 1 cup of white AP flour instead of the almond flour and xanthan gum. Or, to completely remove all wheat from this recipe, substitute the wheat flour for the same amount of almond flour and add another 1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Will the Real Blogger Please Stand Up?

Who is this person I've become? Yesterday I was given a glimpse of what the rest of my life still might hold -- health, balance, and friendship. The day was more full of outside obligations than usual -- I had to take Cody to the vet for some shots, and then I had planned to meet a friend for a long overdue hang/chat session. In the evening, I was going to hook up with some local hoopers for a hike and mountain top jam.

Even though that doesn't sound like nearly enough to fill up a date book page, these obligations were placed at such intervals that I didn't feel like I had time to squeeze in writing, workouts, or yoga. As much as I longed to see my friend and to participate in the hiking-and-hooping, this stressed me out. A day without exercise? Yes, I plan one rest day a week, but it usually falls on a Sunday. This was Friday. A failure to exercise felt inexcusable.

I was tempted to reschedule the appointment at the vet, to push back my meet up with the friend, and to bow out of hooping. The old disordered voice inside wanted my day free and clear -- so I could take care of my body, the voice whispered, but I thought its motivations might be a little different. I thought it wanted me to be as un-social as possible. But, as scary as opening up to more people a little at a time might feel -- I don't want to be a hermit. My desire for human relationship and contact is overriding my fears -- and the eating disordered part of me does not like that at all.

Yesterday's seemingly simple schedule -- God time, breakfast, vet, lunch, friend, dinner, hooping -- turned into a battle. Healthy me versus disordered me. Sanity versus insanity. Good versus evil . . . okay, perhaps it wasn't quite as epic as all that, but it was still a struggle. Certainly I could cancel at least one of my three obligations to make room for a sweat session, right? That wouldn't be cowardly at all, right? Right . . . ?

Guess which obligation I canceled. None of them. Not one. I decided to walk to meet up with my friend in the afternoon and counted that as my exercise for the day. Interestingly, the hoop hike was rescheduled due to weather, but I didn't know that until late in the day. What's more, hanging out with the friend whom I haven't seen in far too long felt so sweet and blessed. It felt good and right and, above all, healthy.

Yesterday, I trembled at my decision to prioritize relationship over habit, people over myself and my dysfunction, receding though it may be. Today, I am proud of myself. This was pure victory. We are not meant to live in isolation, I think, and yesterday represented a brave -- if shaky -- step toward the restoring of healthy friendships in my life. I refuse to live in an eating disorder-dictated vacuum any longer.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Coffee + Coconut + Cocoa = Taste Bud Love

Why, Green Mountain? Why do you create the most delectable coffees, make them available in easy-to-brew one-cup quantities for my Keurig brewer, make my taste buds fall head-over-heels in love . . . and make those very same flavors seasonal specials? Because seasonal means that one day it will go away forever! [Insert howl of despair here.]

This week I discovered Green Mountain's exclusive coffee creations for summer 2010, and their Island Coconut has won my heart (the peach is good, too!). After brewing up a cup earlier this week and adding a little Silk creamer and skim milk, I thought my coconut coffee tasted so great that I proclaimed it to the world (or my little corner of it) via Twitter. The Green Mountain folks tweeted back, suggesting that I add a little cocoa for an Almond Joy-esque treat. Who am I to argue? I took their suggestion and fell in love all over again.

Almond Joy Java

8 oz. brewed coffee (I recommend Island Coconut, of course, but any kind will do)
1/2 T dark cocoa powder
1 T vanilla creamer (I prefer Silk)
optional: 1 T coconut flavoring

Mix everything together in a mug. Sip and die happy.

Serves 1.

What's your favorite way to drink coffee?