June: A No-Weigh Month

Good morning! Welcome to June!

Healthy Smoothie in a Bowl

I ushered in the new month with a quintessential summer breakfast – a smoothie in a bowl!

I used the same winning combo from yesterday:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 large handfuls spinach
  • 1 scoop bourbon vanilla Tera’s Whey
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 3 ice cubes

Cocoa powder may be my absolute favorite smoothie ingredient – it actually helps lessen my chocolate cravings throughout the rest of the day!

Gave her a good ol’ sprinkling of flax seeds and Nature’s Path Blueberry Optima and she was good to go!

Green Smoothie with Cereal

No-Weigh June

Whenever I hear a blogger {or a real-life friend} mention not owning a scale or not knowing what they weigh, I can’t help but wonder: How do they do it? How do they not hop straight on the scale as soon as they wake up?

If you want to put it like it is, weighing myself has been my last hold-out from my eating disorder. I’ve established healthy eating habits and no longer use restriction as a coping mechanism; I’ve learned how to stop a binge in its tracks and I exercise for strength and stamina, not to burn calories. I’ve been very blessed to move beyond those disordered eating habits…yet I still hop on the scale daily. While I can honestly say that I don’t allow the number to influence my eating habits, I still have been a slave to the number.

In reality, I understand that it’s just that – a number. A silly, ever-changing number that doesn’t change how I look, who I am or how hungry I am. Unfortunately, what it has the power to change is my mood. A “low” number always makes me feel victorious, as though I’m proving to myself that I can eat when I’m hungry and not gain weight. A “high” number can turn a good day into one where I wonder what I did “wrong.”

Healthy? I don’t think so. Acceptable? Definitely not.

That’s why I’m packing my scale into the trunk of my car for the entirety of June. I’d love to throw the contraption over the side of my balcony, but I’m not sure that my apartment manager would be thrilled with that idea. In reality, I’m also convinced that without weighing myself every day, I’ll gain twenty pounds without knowing it. Rationally, I understand that it’s impossible, but irrationally, I’m terrified that it will actually happen.

By getting rid of my scale {albeit temporarily}, I’m hoping to distance myself from the number and learn even further how to listen to my body. If that means I lose weight, then I lose weight. If that means I stay the same or gain, than that too will be in response to the needs of my body.

I’m ready to break my dependence on this stupid scale!

What’s your position on weighing yourself? Do you own a scale? How often do you use it? Have you ever made a conscious decision to ignore the number?

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How I Beat the Cycle of Binging and Purging

Recently I was asked an excellent question about binge eating and overcoming restriction to eliminate the urge to binge.

Binging is something many women struggle with. It may be in the form of bulimia, where binges are followed by purging measures, or binge eating disorder, where no compensatory measures are taken.

I personally fell into the former category. The heavy, overwhelming feeling of food sitting in my stomach was almost unbearable. I would immediately be consumed with a need to get the food out of my body. The urge was impossible to ignore and would intensify until I gave in to it.

I struggled with this for nearly two years. It happened more frequently as I began “allowing” myself to eat “naughty” foods – I would order fries or ice cream, enjoy them…and then immediately be slammed by the fear that I’d lost control over my intake and would immediately see the evidence on my thighs. I often had to excuse myself from the table at restaurants, parties at my university and holiday meals with my family. Purging brought an immediate sense of relief, but the guilt that had accompanied the original meal still remained.

During my eating disorder, binging was often the result of stress that I had no idea how to healthfully deal with. For me, binging occurred on two levels:

  • The severe restrictions I imposed on myself 95 percent of the time eventually gave way to the primal need for food. At this point, my body was (rightfully!) distrusting of my potential to feed it ever again, and because it literally did not know where its next meal would come from, my mindset was often to shove as much food in as possible during this slim window of opportunity.
  • Even when I felt that I could continue my patterns of restriction for a longer period of time, I often would binge as a result of feeling overwhelmed by life and its stressors. Common issues that triggered some of my binges included fighting with my mother, jealousy, massive homework assignments and procrastination on various deadlines. Compounded with a laundry list of insecurities, these external factors often triggered a binge that was immediately followed by guilt and a desire to purge.

Despite not binging and purging frequently enough to be classified as bulimic, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that healthy women do not consume a half a box of laxatives or force themselves to vomit. It was a very shameful process, and I found myself spending inordinate amounts of time planning ways to excuse myself from activities or hide the red marks on my knuckles. I knew that this was no way to live. Although I never had one “Aha!” moment where I made a conscious decision to quit, I learned to identify the factors that triggered my binge/purge episodes so that I could curb them in the first place.

One of the first things I did was identify “safe” foods that I knew I could keep down. I avoided cheese, rice, noodles, chips and pizza for an extended period of time because I knew that even a small portion would still trigger intense guilt and a bulimic reaction. I based my diet on mostly fruits, vegetables, chicken, salad and protein bars.

Over time, I began reincorporating “fear foods.” At first, I would enjoy a small single bite. Eventually, I taught my body to stomach normal portions of the foods that had once triggered a binge.

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Another key step in beating my bulimic tendencies was learning to stop eating when I’d hit my “full point.” I knew that once I’d reached a certain level of “fullness,” continuing to add food to my stomach would make me acutely aware of the amount of food that I had consumed, leading to – you guessed it – the need to purge.

Eating slowly was key. During binges, I literally stuffed my face in a feverish attempt to get food into my body. I had to make a conscious attempt to enjoy my meal and put away my silverware once I was no longer physically hungry. Learning to stop eating when I was full helped me avoid that unbearably full feeling of food in my stomach. I also refused to allow myself to eat out of boredom or sadness.

There were many times that I caught myself mid-binge (or mid-purge) and noted that I was engaging in unhealthy habits. This happened a great deal during recovery. I made note of the fact that I was not dealing with my urges properly and removed myself from the situation. I often physically told myself that this cycle was an unacceptable, unhealthy behavior. I forced myself to become mindful of what I was doing rather than slamming back pizza slices in rapid succession. I was ashamed of my disordered eating and would typically stop once I realized I was engaging in a bulimic cycle.

Slowly, I learned that a healthy relationship with food involved moderate amounts of whatever sounded best to me. I began independently researching nutrition and soon realized that bodies often crave the nutrients it is lacking. This made immense amounts of sense to me, and I started focusing on giving myself adequate nutrients and enough variety to stay satisfied without having to resort to a binge. I made being good to my body a priority. I viewed purging as a “punishment,” and treating myself with kindness helped counteract that urge. Over time, the bulimic episodes tapered off and eventually stopped.

Although since recovering, I have occasionally been faced with the desire to binge or purge, choosing not to restrict my diet and eating with awareness has helped me curb my bulimic urges. I remind myself that there is no reason to be guilty for enjoying a meal with a moderate fat content or an entire serving of dessert. I believe that I am worth more than a night spent with my face in the toilet bowl. I also believe that no woman should feel so poorly about herself and her food choices that she subjects herself to the misery of a binge and purge cycle. There is indeed a beautiful, liberated life beyond the disorder – a life not interrupted by guilt and self-loathing, and it is worth every single struggle that comes with recovery.

Have you ever struggled with binge eating or bulimia? How have you learned to stop the cycle?


Berry Cheesecake Oatmeal

Some things in life are beyond explanation.

If Vitamin D supposedly gives you energy, why does spending several hours in the sun make you feel like you couldn’t move a muscle if you tried?

How does somebody (a certain blogger who shall remain nameless) get a sunburn in the middle of their armpit?

Why does Hungry Howies offer cajun-spiced pizza crusts? Is pizza not Italian?

Why is cheesecake not a breakfast item?

Maybe – just maybe – I have the perfect answer for the latter.

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Berry Cheesecake Oats

Vegetarian, serves one

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup (dry) steel cut oats
  • 1-2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, bring water to a rapid boil.
  • Add in oats, allow to boil for two more minutes.
  • Add berries, remove from heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (surely an overnight oat version would also be awesome!)
  • Top with cream cheese and sprinkle the flax/brown sugar around the outer perimeter to serve as the “crust.”

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The berries pop in the boiling water and create a thoroughly gooey, evenly distributed fruitiness to the oatmeal, while chilling the oats makes the dish even more reminiscent of the chilly dessert!

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A sweet, almost dessert-like breakfast like cheesecake oats are the perfect segue from a weekend full of treats such as sangria, cake batter and pizza into a week of healthy, veggie-packed eats.

Are “Cheat Days” Really Only Cheating You?

During several of my many past “diets”, I adhered to a rigid plan during the week yet designated weekends to be “cheat days.” This often led to five days of broth-based soups followed by a fried free-for-all on the weekends.

These days, I enjoy plenty of little treats any day of the week. No foods are ever off-limits, so when the whim strikes to enjoy a certain flavor, I generally go for it. I have found that this reduces many urges to binge.

Even now, however, my weekend meals are a bit more “junky” than weekday meals. My social plans often wind up involving monster cookies or takeout. Although I order mindfully (such as a delicious zucchini and cauliflower enchilada platter for Saturday night’s dinner,) I still find that my weekend meals are richer and more indulgent than my weekday eats. The beauty of ditching the heavily restricted weekday meals means that these weekend indulgences aren’t met with guilt or followed by a shameful purge in the ladies’ room.

The thought behind “cheat weekends” is that during the week, the dieter should delay their craving until a designated “cheat day”, when they could give in to their cravings without guilt. Unfortunately, this programs the mind to view certain foods as “off-limits.” Naturally, the more forbidden a food seems, the more intense and unshakable the craving for it tends to be.

Even if the dieter is able to wait until the weekend to consume the dish they had been craving, the bliss that comes from a dish hitting the perfect spot is completely lost. The sheer delight that comes with the satisfaction of a sweet or salty craving is reduced and often eliminated. Worse yet, when the dieter has the freedom to stuff her face with whatever she desires, she can easily get carried away with the laundry list of “naughty” eats to be packed into a two-day span. Once Monday rolls back around, the bloated belly from a ridiculous influx of sodium, sugar, alcohol and grease is a sad reminder of the flavorful frenzy.

Personally, I do cut myself a bit more slack on the weekends as far as balanced meals go. If a particular lunch or dinner is void of vegetables or a spoonful of frosting happens to leap from the jar into my mouth…I won’t give it a second thought. As much as I enjoy every single sinful bite consumed on the weekend, Mondays often bring back a craving for fruits, vegetables and extra nutrients. As usual, the body knows just what it needs to regain its balance!

What is your favorite “indulgent” or “dessert-like” breakfast? What are your thoughts on indulgences and “cheat days?”


Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

The other day, I passed along my blog URL to a coworker who was interested in my recipe for my fruit salsa. (Hi, Rachel!)

At first, I began to type out the recipe by hand. The thought of sharing my blog with people that I know in real life is quite intimidating. I can count on one hand the number of readers who I actually see on a routine basis. Why? Because of the detail in which I describe my struggles with an eating disorder.

I never once had a second thought about sharing that message on the blog. I feel incredibly blessed to have beaten the anorexic and bulimic habits, and every day I am thankful every day that I made the decision to fight for myself.

Because I feel a deep connection to the countless other women who are dealing with the same issues of self-loathing, deprivation and insecurity, I published my own experiences in the hope that even one person could be inspired to find their own “healthy place”. The comments and emails I’ve received from readers who could identify in some way, shape or form absolutely brighten my day. I understand firsthand the hell that an eating disorder can be, and if my story can help another woman feel less alone and less powerless as she fights the same tendencies, then it served its purpose.

That said, few people in my “real” life know about my disordered past. After a few months of dating, I opened up to The Coach about it, yet outside of two or three other friends, it’s a sealed secret. Although I’m proud to stand up and write about breaking free from disordered thinking, a stigma still surrounds the anorexia and bulimia that I faced several years ago.

Eating disorders are surrounded with specific connotations. Those who have never experienced them  have a hard time understanding the complex mental aspects. As a result, it’s easy to view someone who has struggled with such issues as “weak” or “crazy.”

I refuse, however, to live by those labels. The things that I have had to deal with make me who I am today – a strong, independent, confident woman who knows how to balance salads with ice cream sundaes. Where I’ve been is not something I should be ashamed of. It was not a choice, it was not a lifestyle – it was a series of insecurities that overtook my life. Finding the strength to let go of those disordered habits was by far one of the hardest – yet most worthwhile – things I’ve ever done.

Every morning when I look in the mirror and see my curves, I’m proud of them. I know that this body is a healthy one, fueled by wonderful foods and capable of amazing things. This body is going to take me to some amazing places. Where I’m going is not limited or hindered by where I’ve been. I’m not broken – I was never broken – and the same applies for every single man or woman who has ever dealt with an eating disorder.

We are capable of happy, healthy lives. We are not defined by the things we’ve been through. They certainly shape who we are, but rather than making us a fragile, “messed-up” individual, they make us stronger and wiser in the long run. They make us appreciate each cookie that doesn’t end up in a food journal. They make us enjoy a workout because it allows us to be athletic and alive – not because it burned off the calories in the four carrot sticks we ate for dinner. They make us savor every authentic smile that wasn’t covering up a secret struggle.

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I refuse to feel ashamed of struggling with an eating disorder. Countless people across the world deal with the same issues on a daily basis. It’s a scary place to be, but the beauty of moving beyond it is being able to look back and appreciate the strength it took to get to where we are now. I’m confident in who I am right this very moment…yet I’m excited to see who I will become in the years to come.


The Strength to Move On

In the last 24 hours, I’d written three different blog posts. I then proceeded to trash each one because they felt half-assed and insincere.

While Lovely as Charged is intended to inspire positivity and self-confidence, sometimes, there are certain topics that are neither lovely nor positive, yet still demand attention. When those topics are the real issues that you are dealing with, a fluffy, banter-filled post about oatmeal or Oscar de la Renta jackets doesn’t exactly feel authentic.

Between the stress of moving, the fear of losing the people I care about and the pressure to be the perfect new employee, my brain has been in panic mode. I certainly haven’t been the most pleasant person to be around. Even worse, I’ve been internalizing the stress rather than simply facing it.

When I developed my eating disorder in the fall of 2006, it wasn’t as much a means of control as it was a coping mechanism for being afraid. I had just started college and was terrified of the major changes that lay ahead, as well as the things that I was going to have to leave behind. Furthermore, I didn’t feel that I could talk about it without seeming “immature” or “dramatic”. Fear and weakness are so closely associated that I felt the need to be strong in some area – albeit the wrong one – just to balance everything out.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been confronting a lot of disordered eating urges. I haven’t been happy with the woman I see in the mirror, and my natural impulse has been to counteract life’s stressors by binging or skipping meals.

I’ve said before that I am at a much better place in my life than I was a year ago, and now more than ever, it’s become evident how true this really is. While I’ve felt incredibly compelled to resort to unhealthy habits out of familiarity, I refuse to mistreat my body simply because I’m trying to ice over other emotions. I’ve fought too long and too hard to recognize that I deserve better, and while my brain may still send me the “skip dinner” urge, I know that these disordered habits are a slippery slope from which nothing good can come.

Although a binge may be temporarily soothing, it’s certain to lead back into a pattern of habits that caused far more misery than simply dealing with the triggers. In the end, life is going to move on, and in a few years, I’ll be in a drastically different place where the things I’m going through now won’t even register in my memory. While being hurt will pass, being sucked back into a cycle of self-loathing and destructive patterns can continue wrecking a life for years.

Part of truly living is allowing yourself to truly feel your emotions. This is as equally true when you feel confident, driven and secure as when you are sad, hurt, or upset. No skipped meal or box of cookies will make your life magically better, yet life isn’t intended to be smooth. It’s going to be a constant challenge, and you’ve got to find ways to pull yourself through.

Whether or not you feel like you are strong enough to ignore the self-sabotaging urges, you are strong enough to do so, and when the bad days blow over (which they always will), you’ll find that you never needed the coping mechanism to make it through in the first place. Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to live, allow yourself to cry if necessary…and trust that you’re going to come out stronger, healthier, and happier once the rough patch blows over.


Giving Thanks for Me

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hopefully we’re all spending today reveling in gratitude for our friends, our families, and our lives. I also hope you’re spending today enjoying a huge spread of delicious and satisfying holiday dishes!

I figure you’re already inundated with posts encouraging you to be thankful for the abundance of blessings in your life, but today I’d like to encourage you to be a bit self-centered as well.

You know that I-just-ate-my-weight-in-mashed-potatoes-and-feel-like-a-stuffed-pig feeling that accompanies so many holiday dinners?

Let’s send it right back where it came from and celebrate the amazing features that make us the incredible, intelligent, gorgeous creatures that we are!

I love the freckles that dot my shoulders when I tan.

I love the denim blue eyes that I would have given anything to trade for brown ones when I was a child.

I love the mole on my back shoulder blade.

I love my genetically blessed shoulders for being perpetually toned without any effort on my part.

I love my firm, toned booty and runner’s thighs.

I love the little lion-shaped birthmark on the inside of my arm.

I secretly love my chubby little fingers for reasons I can’t quite identify 🙂

I love my incredibly loud laugh when I find something riotously funny.

I love my tendency to make jokes at the absolute strangest times and about the most random things.

I LOVE MY BLOG READERS!!!!!

Okay, so that last one wasn’t really something I love about me…but it’s definitely something I’m truly thankful for! I love y’all and it makes my day to hear from you and see what you’re thinking!

What do you love/What are you thankful for about yourself?


Smorgasbord

Good afternoon!

Want to know something funny? Bosses don’t like calling their employees an hour after they’re supposed to arrive and finding out that they are still in bed because their alarms never told them to wake up. Lo ciento!

In my defense, I was up late working on my new header. If you’re in reader, click through and let me know what you think!

After a rough start to the day, I was more than ready for a good lunch. The only problem was that I had no idea what I wanted!

When in doubt, have a little of everything!

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Part-skim mozzerella, Nature’s Pride whole wheat toast, sugar free all natural apple sauce, baby carrots, and almonds.

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Down the hatch!

Cheese, please!

I know that in the past, I’ve talked about keeping a vegan kitchen. I chose to cook without animal products but allowed myself to enjoy the occasional ice cream or slice of pizza at a restaurant. My claim has been that I feel better without loading down my system with animal products, which I still stand by.

The other day, however, all I wanted was some smooth, gooey fresh mozzarella to melt onto my flatbread. A quick stop at Publix and voila – one of the most delicious things I’d eaten.

I then began to ask myself why I was depriving myself of dairy. I can honestly that I don’t enjoy meat, yet ice cream and cheese were foods I genuinely liked. While I fully support ethical eating, my decision to eat primarily vegan was not one driven by an animal rights standpoint. Instead, I realized that it was coming from a restrictionist mindset. After finally letting go of my deprivational habits from my eating disorder, denying myself of a group of foods became a condoned way to keep some control over my food intake. I was not eating vegan foods in the name of health, just in the name of taking on another label more acceptable than “anorexic”.

I’m not trying to say that those who eat a vegan diet are doing so in a disordered eating fashion. There are many who have a genuine conviction for animal rights and choose to eat as such. In my own personal case, though, that was not where I was coming from. I have a great deal of respect for those who have committed to a vegan diet and lifestyle, but my reasons for doing so are not ones that I can fully stand behind.

I’m still planning to create a number of vegan recipes. My diet isn’t going to change drastically, nor will the content of the blog. I feel my best fueling myself with clean and plant-based meals, but I don’t see the need to deprive myself of ethically sourced foods that I genuinely enjoy. And with that, I have a cheese cube to finish 🙂

How do you feel about food labels? Where do you personally fall on the spectrum? Have you ever made the choice to break out from a specific dietary label, and what prompted you to do so?