Sharing My Hunger in 2013

Standing at the top of the stairs in San Francisco

Well, here we are on the brink of 2013.

I thought about making resolutions, but I realized that I just…shouldn’t. Why? Because making resolutions is dangerous; I am too goal-driven.

I know–being goal-driven sounds like a good problem to have, at least displayed prominently on my LinkedIn profile; however, goals and resolutions can be negative when placed into the hands of a self-flagellating perfectionist.

Such as myself.

If you go back through my blog, you’ll see many of my relapses with ED and exercise addiction coinciding with “challenges.” 30-Day Bikram challenge, Fruit Stand Wellness (running) challenge, Muscle and Fitness Hers Transformation challenge…etc.

And a resolution, in many ways, is another challenge. It’s another arbitrary start-and-end point with parameters that define “messing up.” It’s an opportunity to punish myself for not achieving, a chance to let ED and associated thinking creep in when I don’t–or can’t–live up to the goals and time frames I’ve set for myself.

So this year, I’m not making resolutions. Instead, I have just one goal:

I will continue to find ways to stay in touch with, learn about, and accept my hunger, and I will help others find their hunger when I can.

That’s it. That’s all I want out of 2013.

2012 has been an amazing year. It’s been one of struggle and pain, to be sure–but I am grateful for every second of it. I have emerged a much stronger, healthier person. I am not perfect and I am not healed, but I’m learning to be okay with good enough and coping with the wounds that haven’t closed and the scars that haven’t faded.

Even better, I’ve figured out how to turn one of my passions into a viable career. I’ve gotten in touch with my diet and exercise, and I’m healthier–mentally and physically for it. I’ve allowed people into my life–incredible people all over the world, old friends and new–who have enriched the last few months, and I know will continue to enrich the year to come.

Thank you all for following me on this crazy journey for the last five months. I’m looking forward to all of the wonderful things the future has in store for us next year.

Stay hungry & have a happy new year,

K.

P.S. I read a great post on Mother Fitness about why we shouldn’t make resolutions. I thought it was worth sharing: Stop Setting Goals

P.P.S. Kelly at Be Anything But Quiet shared a great link from the Huffington Post about surviving the holiday food-and-weight obsession, but I think it’s something that applies all year long.

P.P.P.S. I love that WordPress has put together such a beautiful “year in review” feature. Check out the amazing things that have been happening on the Skinny Genes blog since July!

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 31,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Comparing Apples to Bacon, or When Healthy Lifestyles Become “Diets”

Calories in/out rant ahead. Be prepared.*

Good morning, friends! And Merry Belated Christmas!

I’m sorry that I haven’t been by the blog in a week…I can only hope that you haven’t either–after all, this is the time of year to be spending away from your computer screens and spending time with your friends, family, and loved ones.

It’s strange to be away from the blog for so long–or what feels like so long, anyway. I’ve been doing a ton of writing, but, unfortunately, none of it for myself. Between the writing I do at work (who knew it was possible to go 8am – 6pm without putting down a pen or moving away from the keyboard while writing about a single topic?), the writing I do for freelance projects (hooray for commuting on the train sans wifi), and the transcription I do for the Relentless Roger & The Caveman Doctor podcast (which you should immediately go download and listen to if you haven’t already….I’ll wait.

Aaaaaaand we’re back.), I haven’t actually had the time to analyze, synthesize, and write down my thoughts on any topic that truly hits home at the In My Skinny Genes blog.

But here we are…just a week away from New Year’s, and everyone’s making resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and control.

At the same time, there’s been a lot of chatter in the Paleo-blogosphere about low carb vs. calorie restriction for weight loss, and I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at what’s been going on:

As some of you may be aware, the inimitable Jimmy Moore of the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb blog and podcast as been doing a nutritional ketosis experiment. (For those of you who don’t know what nutritional ketosis is, you can read up about it over at Jimmy’s blog or at itsthesatiety/myketohaven or Peter Attia’s Eating Academy. Suffice it to say that it’s a way of forcing your body to burn ketones instead of glucose for energy by eating a Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diet. It has nothing to do with Dr. OZ or raspberries.)

Jimmy Moore is doing this experiment because of his health: for the past 9 years, he’s been blogging about his battle to overcome his obesity and his struggle to understand and control his nutrition and fitness so as to live an optimal life. And this nutritional ketosis experiment, which he’s doing for himself and not for anyone else (in fact, he won’t even post his meals, so it’s not like he’s proselytizing a specific diet plan to anyone else), has been a huge success in terms of helping this very insulin sensitive person fix his health. The weight loss is just a part of that.

Of course, Jimmy Moore’s success has spawned debate. He isn’t counting calories or doing high intensity exercise. He’s just eating a lot of fat–not overeating, but just eating until he’s full–and not a lot of carbs . (Like, tons of butter and avocados and coconut and meat and sour cream and all of the things that conventional medicine tells us will kill us). He has lost a ton of weight, started to change his body composition, improved nearly all of his blood markers, etc. etc., But the main thing that people seem to care about is that he’s lost weight. And if he’s lost weight doing this experiment, then perhaps, they reason, so can I. And therefore, in the Paleosphere at least, nutritional ketosis–eating fat until satiety and not counting calories–is being hailed as the next intermittent fasting.

And so those in the very low carb high fat camp have taken up the battle cry, “Calories don’t count! Eat fat!”

And, of course, Robb Wolf–who is a total fitness BAMF and one of the biggest names in Paleo–recently published a post about calorie counting vs. low carb diets. His argument was based on his own experience with very low carb eating in an attempt to change his body composition. Robb, mind you, was an already slim person with a good amount of muscle mass. This, of course, sparked a whole big debate around the blogosphere. The gist of his argument is that, while LCHF worked for a time, eventually it became difficult to support his body composition goals using that diet. (Robb, for the record, was a Crossfitter and now does Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, among other gymnastic and strength protocols.) His argument is well reasoned and based on his own case study: “LC is fantastic for this in that one typically feels satisfied on high protein, moderate fat, loads of veggies. If one is insulin resistant, this approach can be nothing short of miraculous. HOWEVER! If one manages to cram enough cheese, olive oil and grass-fed butter down the pie-hole, this is in fact, a ‘mass gain’ diet.”

Robb says (and I’m quoting here, so sorry for “screaming” in caps lock), “CALORIES MATTERED MORE THAN CARBS FOR BODY-COMP.”

Do me a favor, all of you, and just keep that sentence in mind for the rest of the post.

I read another argument about the efficacy of calorie counting vs. low carb/high fat diets for weight loss over at  Weight of the Evidence. The argument there looks at Jimmy Moore’s 85% fat, ketogenic diet, and asks if it’s more useful for weight loss than calorie restricting.

The argument opens with a quote about carbohydrate recommendations made by the Atkins Diet and other prominent low carb advocates, such as Phinney and Volek (two vey prominent LCHF researchers who have published the modern day HF bibles, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance). The author uses Phinney and Volek’s own words against them in order to make the case that, in the end, calories matter most. For example: “…of course, if one eats too much fat during that low-carb diet, you’re not going to lose weight; there are differences in metabolism, but calories count in the process of eating a low-carb diet” from Steve Phinney, and “Don’t count calories, although we ask you to use common sense. In the past, some individuals made the mistake of thinking they could stuff themselves with protein and fat and still lose weight.  If the pounds are falling off, forget about calories.  But if the scale won’t budge or it seems to be taking you forever to lose, you might want to do a reality check, caloriewise” from New Atkins for a New You.

Reminder: keep Robb Wolf’s quote in mind: “Calories mattered more than carbs for body comp.”

So then “That Paleo Guy,” Jamie Scott in Australia, posted an absolutely brilliant rebuttal to pretty much everybody. His argument is that, yes, calories count. Sort of. If you eat enough of them and don’t do anything about them, then sure, you’ll gain weight. BUT the composition of those calories count just as much, if not more. If you can, go check out his absolutely brilliant currency analogy. (Summed up: Calories in and calories out is not just like putting money in checking or savings, but about what kind of currency conversions you’re doing, whether you’ve devalued the currency by flooding the market, etc. etc.)

I’m not going to go into the finer points of everyone’s articles and just rehash and rehash the same thing over and over again. Why? Because the articles are already written, and there’s no need to opine when the opinions are already well-documented…but also because I think everyone’s kind of missing the point.

And the point is this: What is the purpose of focusing on calories in/out vs. LCHF in the first place?

I want you to think about a time when you, or someone you know, started on the calories in/calories out bandwagon or started a diet or made a resolution to go to the gym. What was the reason you gave, regardless of your actual weight?

(I’d place money that the first reason, no matter what you actually meant by it, was the phrase: “to lose weight.”)

If you recall, the first time we even started worrying about calories was in that diet book, Diet and Exercise with a Key to the Calories by Lulu Hunt Peters in 1918. It was, let me reiterate, a diet book. A book about losing weight for cosmetic reasons.

It was a book that villainized body fat, not because of its health implications but because of its social implications. It was a book about losing weight.

Now, when we talk about calories in/out in the “real world” today, we use the phrase–no matter what we actually mean by it–”to lose weight.”

If we look at Oxygen Magazine and its fit sisters–Women’s Health, Self, Health, and the like, you’ll see the “lose weight/cut calories/eat less fat” message repeated over and over, with “lose weight” used as a synonym for “stay fit.” I have friends who love their fitspo and go to the gym every day and plug away at their cardio machines, because they are trying to maintain or increase their fitness. They tell me, however, that they are trying to “lose weight.” When I was 112 lbs, cutting/restricting calories, and adding an hour of cardio to my weights workouts, it was because I was trying to increase my fitness/maintain my level of leanness (or so my anorexic brain told me)…but the words I’d use to describe what I was doing was “trying to lose weight.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?

“Lose weight” does not always mean “maintain body composition/increase fitness.” That is not to say that the two can’t happen at the same time (look at Jimmy Moore: he’s losing fat and increasing muscle mass by eating LCHF and performing low intensity/heavy lifting exercises)–they’re mutually exclusive. And we’re using them as synonyms. And then making arguments based on not necessarily aligned goals.

So here’s the thing–and then I’ll shut up about the calories in/out thing for a little while–I just want you to consider this:

When you look at all of the bloggers and fitness gurus and tweets by Dr. Oz and fad diets on the Today Show and try to parse out a definitive answer to whether eating fat or burning it with exercise is going to be more efficient…it’s impossible. The problem here is that everyone has the right solution…but maybe focusing on and fighting about the solution isn’t really a solution at all and just an excuse to continue feeding a disorder.

So I think we need to stop arguing about which diet is more efficacious and look instead at why people care so much about either diet in the first place. And I think the biggest issue for me is that when people say “weight loss” they actually want “sustained weight maintenance.” Or they need sustained weight maintenance because they’re already at a healthy weight/level of fitness, but are busy chasing after a disordered, aesthetic goal.

Body composition isn’t everything. Weight maintenance is not the same thing as athletic performance OR aesthetic goals. It can be, but it isn’t always.

You have to ask yourself whether you’re living on ketones because you’re trying to improve your blood lipid profile or because you’re trying to get better at kipping pull ups or because you want to look better in your lululemon sports bra. You have to take stock of whether your diet is supporting weight loss for your health, weight maintenance for your well being, increased fitness for your sport, or aesthetic goals because you want to look like one of the skinny celebrities on the cover of Shape.

Whatever your goal, you have to be honest with yourself and others about why you’re striving for it and what your diet and exercise is actually accomplishing.

If you’re an intense exerciser, you need to eat the food that will fuel your exercise, just as if you’re a light exerciser, you might not need as much food (not calories, but food, there’s a difference thankyouverymuch) to fuel your everyday goals.

Low carb high fat is not necessarily a solution for getting a six pack (it can be but not always), but it is a solution to help you get in touch with your body’s satiety signals, to help reset your neurotransmitters, to help end cycles of snacking and bingeing. It’s not only a solution for weight loss (although it can be if you’re starting with a sad diet or processed food/carbohydrate dense diet), it’s a method for finding and maintaining homeostasis. If it is psychologically sustainable for you (i.e. you’re not looking at it as an “Atkins induction phase” and waiting for it to be over so you can eat a doughnut), then it’s just as good as spending 100 hours on the spin bike, if not better.

Calories in/calories out is a short term solution that people mistake for a long term practice that they ultimately can’t sustain. LCHF is a long term solution that people look at as a short term diet fix. Do you see the problem here?

Jimmy Moore is using nutritional ketosis to lose weight. Robb Wolf was using LCHF to increase fitness/change his body composition. Those are not the same things. Maybe they’re both in perfect health for where they need to be, but that’s not always the case. It wasn’t for me. When I ate a calorie restricted diet with moderate carbs, I could do 10 perfect dead-hang pull ups and run for an hour in the hot sun, but I was also not getting my period and at a risk for osteoporosis. And I believe that there is a large contingency of people out there who read these blogs and don’t have the insight or the self-awareness of the Jimmys and Robbs of the world–people who truly understand their own body’s needs, who both understand how to do the exercise and eat the food that works for them.

Instead, these people–my friends, my acquaintances, my coworkers, my blog readers, my strangers-I’ve-eavesdropped-on-at-Starbucks–these people honestly believe that they have to lose weight because they have to be fit, and they honestly believe that they need both of those things to be healthy. So they’ll listen to any person who can podcast their message loud enough, because they’re chasing this magical dream of “losing weight” so they can have a six pack.

So here are my last words (for now, because I’m sure I’ll end up having more to say about the subject) about calories in and calories out:

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: “in shape” does not equal healthy.

Burn all the calories you want. Run yourself into the ground. Restrict your food and grow  yourself a six pack. But DO NOT mistake that for health.

Conversely, eat all the fat you want and don’t think about quantity at all. Gorge yourself on cheese and coconut and never touch a weight. Sit on your butt eating egg yolks. But DO NOT mistake that for fitness.

My unsolicited advice? Eat a diet that helps you clue into your satiety signals and eat until you’re full. Exercise enough to stay fit and healthy without turning muscle into a measure of your worth. Eat fat if it supports your goal. Eat carbs if it supports your goal. Go to the gym or do sprints or take a spin class or do crossfit, but don’t bear your exercise–or the calories you do or do not expend–like a cross. There is more to life than “losing weight,” whatever the hell that means. Find a balance, stop counting calories, and quit quibbling over the minutiae. Or at least stop trying to compare apples to bacon and just eat them instead.

– K.

P.S. I hope this rant made sense. I am writing it before the sun comes up after only about 4 hours of sleep. Just to clarify, in case my thesis got buried: It makes me sad when people sit down to eat together and spend the entire meal discussing a) how guilty they feel for not eating a salad because they don’t like the way they look, b) how they’re eating a salad because they’re trying to count calories because some doctor on TV tried to sell them a fitness tracking device and a calorie counting app, c) how they’re just going to be a “pig” and eat what they want because they’re going to gym later anyway, etc. etc. and that’s how you “lose weight.” I am sick of people conflating “weight loss” for health, and embarking on restrictive diets for aesthetic goals instead of scientifically-reasoned diets to support fitness/athletic goals. Especially when they take a way of eating, like low carb/high fat, and turn it into a weight loss miracle instead of a way of supporting physical and mental health. Does that make sense? I hope so.

*Note: Please don’t read any negativity toward Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf into this post. I think they’re both incredible and have done SO MUCH to help thousands of people change their lives. I highly suggest following the both of them to learn as much as possible & then go and make educated choices about how you choose to live your life.

What Happens When You’re Hungry:

 

I'm sorry for what I said when I was hungry

If there’s anything that I’ve gotten out of the past ten years of starving myself, yo-yo dieting, and exercising until I’ve dropped from exhaustion–anything at all–it’s that I hate being hungry.

 

I’m not necessarily talking about that acute, stomach-rumbling, natural reaction to the fact that I haven’t eaten in X hours sort of feeling, although that’s no picnic (pun intended) either.

 

I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re purposefully navigating the treacherous waters between caloric deficit and emotional eating, the kind of hunger that settles on you like a fog, slowly rolling in and obscuring your vision so stealthily that you don’t realize you’re being engulfed until the moment it hits you that you can no longer see.

 

I’m talking about the kind of hunger that happens when you’re depriving you body and, perhaps more importantly, your brain of the nutrients it needs to survive, whether that be by starvation or by restriction or by just consuming nothing but man-made, processed foods.

 

I’m talking about the kind of hunger that you can’t ever feed–not fully, not completely–until you learn to speed your emotional and spiritual hunger, and even then you have to consciously work to nourish yourself or else you’ll go right back to starving again.

 

When I was in the worst throes of my last bout with anorexia–living in New York but barely living in any sense of the term–I spent every day in tears, running almost exclusively on cortisol and egg whites, with some protein powder thrown in for good measure. All I wanted was to go home.

 

But I remember one conversation exploring that possibility with my mother very distinctly:

 

She told me that it might not be a good idea, because my little brother was afraid of me.

 

My brother, who is 13 years younger than me, who has a terribly gentle soul, was afraid of me. I was too mean, too angry at the world, and his youthful naiveté and general good cheer upset me enough to lash out at him verbally whenever he bounded into the room singing Hannah Montana. And so he was afraid of me.

 

That killed me.

 

Even after I moved home, even after I worked hard to become the kind of person who my brother could trust, I still struggled with the anger, the depression, the anxiety that all led me to say hurtful things and storm out of the room. And it was because I was hungry.

Even after I started eating again, I was still hungry. I moved in with my fruit stand roommates, and, while they had their part in destroying our relationship, I can’t help but wish I could take back the things I said and did because I was hungry. I was a vegan, eating nothing but fruit and soy and whole grains and nuts, beans, and seeds, and kale-and-broccoli smoothies (so much kale), and doing Bikram yoga twice a day or going to spin classes and I was hungry. I had panic attacks when I had to be away from food, panic attacks when I had to be around other peoples’ food, panic attacks when I couldn’t have everything my way so that I could just eat my food when I wanted to (even though that was always) according to the schedule that the government and the health and fitness industry and the Huffington Post and Oxygen Magazine said I should be keeping.

 

And this past Friday (two weeks ago now), having had to give up some of the fats I normally eat (a new n=1 acne experiment I’ll write about soon, I’m sure), having had to give up all control over my schedule with the new job and the musical, having relied on extra fruit and caffeine and chocolate and sugar-free gum to keep me awake and functioning, I came home and saw my brother for the first time in nearly a week, and I was hungry. And as soon as I realized that I was lashing out at him the way I had when I was 112 lbs and starving, I realized that I was falling back into the mindset of the person I didn’t want to be.

 

I am all about full disclosure, so here it goes:

 

These past several weeks, I have been struggling so hard with my body image and my food issues. I haven’t worked out or been near a gym in so long that I’m starting to beat myself up every time I look in a mirror. I have been lashing out at the people I care about because interacting with them means less time for sleeping or eating food at a normal (for me) hour. I have been agitated by having to explain my eating habits over and over again to my new coworkers and have been apologizing for the way that I eat (as well as avoiding invites to lunches and dinners because I just want to eat alone).

 

But I don’t want to be the girl who needs the gym to validate her existence. I don’t want to be the coworker who eats alone at her desk every day. I don’t want to be the girl whose younger brother is afraid of her.

 

I don’t ever want to go back to being hungry again.

 

I don’t have any answers today, or even tips or tricks or scientific studies…just honesty. That’s all.

 

– K.

An Open Letter to My Orthopedic Surgeon

No, I don’t have anything of value to add to the discussion on ED today. Instead, I offer you an open letter to my orthopedic surgeon: 

 

Dear Dr. H—,

 

Do you remember how I came to you, desperate, for a second opinion about my ankle after being told by a Stanford doctor that my MRI showed a torn tendon and that I needed surgery, and you not only agreed but encouraged the surgery, even pushing it up a month, and then, after the surgery, telling me that the tendon wasn’t torn and there was nothing structurally wrong with my ankle but a lot of inflamed synovial and scar tissue, and then telling me I’d be fine to walk within a week, but then when I wasn’t getting better by my next check up, wrenching my ankle around in several directions telling me to get over it, only I had gotten an infection from the surgery you did and that was why it wasn’t healing and still hurt terribly, so you put me on antibiotics that almost killed me because I was allergic to them, but you took one look at me when I was covered in huge, painful hives and actually denied that I was having an allergic reaction to the medication, and then, after having to do another surgery to get rid of the infection, you wrenched my ankle around a lot and sent me to physical therapy saying that I was fine and had no reason to be in pain, even though the nerves in my ankle wouldn’t stop firing and it hurt to put on a shoe or even touch the area near the scar, and then, after two months, when the nerve pain actually got worse you came into the office, wrenched my ankle around in a bunch of different directions despite the fact that I was crying from the pain, declared, “We’re done,”* and then walked out of the room (and charged me $30 for the less-than-five-minutes you spent with me)?

 

Well, this keeps happening:

Swollen ankle 5 months after surgery

 

“There’s nothing structurally wrong with your ankle.”*

 

Thanks, doc.

 

– K.

 

*Actual quote.

Leave a message at the tone…

Hey blogosphere,

Sorry to disappear for the week. I’m not, unfortunately, taking a much needed vacation; rather, I have been pumping massive amounts of cortisol due to the musical, freelance stuff, starting a new job (& a new, wifi-less, hour-plus-long-both-ways commute), and general lack of sleep. Moreover, during said parenthetical commute the other day, I opened my computer to find out that it no longer wanted me to type on it, so it is currently in custody at the fruit stand. And as much as I love you all and want to type all sorts of exciting blog posts for you, doing so on an iPad sucks. Especially since the posts I was working on are only accessible from my backup hard drive, which is, unfortunately, not compatible with said iPad.

So there are a bunch of excuses for you as to why I’m not writing this week…however I can still respond to any messages you leave me via iPhone (or iPad, in wifi, ’cause I’m cheap and didn’t buy the cellular model)…and I’d love to hear how your weeks are going. What stressors are you battling? And how are you coping?

Sending you all a bunch of love from the train…

K.

One Girl’s Trash Is Another Girl’s Trigger

Thinspiration "The Voice that says you can't is a lying slut"

When it comes to the calories in vs. calories out issue, I know that there are no easy fixes. We live in a culture that sees “truths” in absolute terms so long as they’re based on recommendations by the government … Continue reading

Easier Said Than Done

I know that I’ve been incredibly positive, posting about my wins and making sure to tweet my gratitude daily…but I do have to admit that life after ED is not always rainbows and lollipops and warm puppy kisses. (Well, I do at least get to partake daily in the latter, but you catch my drift.)

 Kissing my puppy

I’ve been lucky to have had the whole summer to sit alone in my house and make peace with my disordered eating and my eating disorder; however, now that I’m back out in the world, forced to interact with real people and not just ancestral health podcasts and recovery blogs, I’m finding myself bombarded with disorder again. I don’t think people even realize how disordered their conversations are–even if they don’t actually have an eating disorder proper. But just because talking about calories and exercise and food and dieting is “normal,” doesn’t mean that it’s right.

I’ve really been struggling lately, because I’ve had no choice but to be back out in the world again, reading Facebook posts about feeling guilty for not exercising, in line at Starbucks listening to apologetic “I really shouldn’ts”, at work watching my friends check their Nike fuel, on Twitter reading HuffPost articles about calories out and super foods, in physical therapy at the gym watching women toil away on their treadmills, at rehearsal listening to my fellow actors worry about costumes feeling tighter than when we first tried them on…and it goes on.

On top of that, I often have to stop myself from even trying to explain my position on food and nutrition in public. People bristle when I try to explain that I’m eating low carb/high fat, or else they apologize for eating gluten/sugar in front of me (“I know it’s not healthy, but I can’t imagine life without it/but I only have one life to live and I don’t want to miss out on cake/but I know that saturated fat is bad for you, so I’m actually eating raw vegan on the weekends now and giving up soda every other Thursday…)

Maybe I’m just listening for it…but it seems like that’s all anyone knows how to talk about anymore.

Moreover, my physical therapist asked me to go back to the gym…to do cardio. At first I balked, but I eventually decided to compromise: I went back to do strength/rehab exercises. No cardio machines involved. I found myself finishing my workout quickly and then eyeing the cardio equipment, convinced that I hadn’t sweat enough yet. And I found myself trying to justify my desire to hop on the revolving stairs for an hour with the thought that my PT wanted me to do cardio. (Never mind the fact that he was talking about 30 minutes of non-impact exercise a few times a week.) But as soon as I neared the cardio section of the gym, I knew I had to stop myself.

Sometimes I think that going back to the gym period was as bad as asking an alcoholic to hang out at a bar. I could feel ED stirring.

Since I’ve spent the last two weeks at work and in rehearsal/in a show with barely a moment for breathing in between (especially since I got sick somewhere in there), I haven’t been able to work out at all. And even though I made it through the summer just fine, between the conversations about Thanksgiving calories and the reawakened gym rat in me, I’m struggling.

That being said, a little struggle is no reason to give up or give in. I’m just having to relearn how to be a part of this nutritionally backward culture, where we value the last box of Twinkies more than a life without diabetes or calorie counting.

 Save the Twinkie Political Cartoon

I’ve had to stop myself from getting involved in peoples’ conversations or offering my opinion. I’ve had to stop myself from getting upset when people start in on me about why they have to keep eating wheat or why they have to go to the gym for sixteen thousand more hours. I’ve had to stop myself from allowing other people’s disorders trigger my own.

I’ve realized that, just as I’ve resolved to meet myself where I am each day, I have to do the same for others.

I get it. Not everyone buys the “Paleo” thing. And I get that people are leery of going low carb and high fat. I get that hours on the stairmaster seems like a necessity. I get it, because I once was there. I get it, because I see and hear just how ingrained the message is. And just because I’m learning (and trying) to disavow that kind of thinking doesn’t mean that everyone else in the world is ready.

I accept that the world is full of disorder. I accept that I am responsible only for myself. I accept that I have to respect the body I’ve been given, and I have to honor my beliefs. And I believe that following a low carb/high fat Paleo diet is going to keep me from seeking ED in times of stress and vulnerability.

And just to explain: Paleo–or, rather, ancestral health, as I prefer to refer to it, since I’m more focused on just eating real food and not following a “diet”–is a lifestyle choice. It’s not a restrictive diet (can’t eat this or that, only so many calories, no cheating, etc.).* At the core of the Paleo movement is the belief that modern disease was born with the advent of agriculture, and that human beings are genetically better adapted to a pre-agricultural  hunter-gatherer diet. In overly simplified terms, going Paleo means not only cutting out all of the processed foods that have come to clutter our grocery store shelves, but also cutting out foods that the human body has difficulty processing for nutrients (or foods that actively poison the human body) like wheat, grains, legumes, and dairy.

 Paleo Cartoon Restrictive Eating

As soon as I wrote that, I could already hear you, my readership, flinching. Wait, you’re thinking, so you are cutting and restricting your food again? Looks like you’ve still got a lot of recovering to do

And to that, I counter:

I no longer think about the foods I can’t eat. I look forward, instead, to the foods I can. I eat meat, fish, eggs, fruit, and all the vegetables I want. And the best part is, Paleo really isn’t as simple as just cutting out foods and starving for “cheats” from the bakery section. In fact, that’s why I kind of shy away from the whole “Paleo” moniker, since it’s associated with certain limitations.

This past summer, while I’ve been trapped in my house, waiting to heal and go back to work, I’ve had the opportunity to do a little research about nutrition as well as the science behind food addiction and health. And the most important thing I’ve learned is that there is no one way of eating. The only “diet” you should follow is the one that works for you, and you alone. That means that if you can tolerate dairy, go for it. If nightshades make you sick, don’t eat them. If you were one of the lucky ones who developed the gene to produce more amylase** than your hunter-gatherer forefathers, have at those carbs and don’t look back.

And when you find the foods that work for you and cut back on the ones that don’t, you’ll start to free yourself from the ugly world of obsession and food addiction, calorie counting and processed foods.

Personally, because I’m not working out very hard (or moving very much at all), I’ve found that a low(er) carb approach works best for me. No, this isn’t Atkins, and I’m not going to die of a heart attack because I’m drinking heavy cream. I’m also not going low carb, low fat, and high protein, because that actually causes calorie restriction by necessity. I eat fat. A lot of it. Maybe not enough, but I’m not afraid of it anymore. And I often don’t measure my portions except with my eyes–nor do I worry about calorie counting.

And, while I’m not able to go out for a run, I’m in good “shape.” I am happy living in my body, because my body not only looks good and healthy, it feels good and healthy. And I’ve realized that’s even more important than the image in the mirror.

I have to just remember that what I’m doing is healthy, that I don’t need ED to be loved or respected, that a “perfect” body means I’ll have to live an imperfect life. I don’t need to binge on cereal for the same reasons that I don’t need to chain myself to the treadmill.

I will find balance. I will not look for excuses, and I will not give in to triggers.

It’s easier said than done, but just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean I can’t do it.

I’m going to keep my head up and do what’s right for me. Because I respect myself. I respect my values and beliefs. I respect this body I’ve been given. And it’s as simple as that.

– K.

*Although there are plenty of people who do it wrong, and it morphs into the same cycle of restriction and deprivation that leads to yo-yo dieting.

**An enzyme released in the mouth during the digestive process that helps break down starches.