2 and 3 Things that Made My Recovery from Anorexia Final

 

marketLast week I shared with you #3thingstomakerecoveryfinal ! Instead of simply saying, Jesus Christ, and then opening the floor for a barrage of questions, I’m letting you in on my answers to a dear friend recently. You can read the first part, here.

2. There are some people that I’ve had to ask to change the conversation. I don’t do this often. But, I have a number of family, friends and acquaintances who are INTENSE exercisers. And though they love me and know my history, some are a bit careless in their conversations and criticism of heavy people or relating the details their last ultra-marathon. It was really tough, but several times I’ve had to say, “Guys, I need to talk about something else”.

3. One thing that really began to change my feelings about food was an experience at the farmer’s market in Olympia, WA. I was alone, walking through the stalls and suddenly overcome by the sheer joy on everyone’s face! These people made their living thinking about food all the time 🙂

And they LOVED it! No one I saw was super skinny. There were people sampling cherries, roasting nuts, counting apples and potatoes. Herbs hung from tall beams, Homemade soaps and mysterious scents everywhere. It hit me for the first time how much of a GIFT food is! How much God wants us to enjoy it! How excited He must be when we harvest and taste and smile over the delicious variety of His creation. But these people were just enjoying it with simplicity–no long mental argument about what was good, bad or best for them to eat.

This has become my pursuit with food and exercise–I want to enjoy this life: Really enjoy it! And whatever comes of my body as I’m “living it up” down here in my good God’s creation, so be it. He is capable of caring for me.

We hear so much about “loving” our body, but I don’t find that anywhere in the Bible. We are called to use our body and care for our bodies. We are asked to touch, feed, nurture, carry, speak, sing, love, hold, birth, reason and worship with our bodies. None of those things require “loving” it–either from a selfish “I’ve got the best body” attitude or the attitude taught so often in treatment that we need to learn to “love our bodies” just as they are.

That’s just it–our bodies just are. They are for the purpose of serving and using and worshiping. And whatever becomes of my body as I’m doing those things, so be it.

And you know the best part about “whatever happens”? In the process of using my body to honor God and enjoy Him, I have EVERY confidence that He will care for the health of my body.

I hope this helps, lovely friend.

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Sacred Sustenance

Ah, I need more time to talk to you! I’ve tuned my ears on this journey of walking and hearing voices  such that I’m finding so many things to share with you. And the truth is, I’m gleaning so much wisdom from the sages I’ve chosen to “walk” with that there’s scarce enough time to fit a word in edgewise. So then, without further ado, listen to C.S. Lewis’ words:

By the bye, what are your views, now, on the question of sacraments? To me that is the most puzzling side of the whole thing. I need hardly say I feel none of the materialistic difficulties: but I feel strongly just the opposite ones—i.e., I see (or think I see) so well a sense in which all wine is the blood of God—or all matter, even, the body of God, that I stumble at the apparently special sense in which this is claimed for the Host when consecrated. George Macdonald observes that the good man should aim at reaching the state of mind in which all meals are sacraments. Now that is the sort of thing I can understand: but I find no connection between it and the explicit “sacrament” proprement dit [“properly so called”]. The Presbyterian method of sitting at tables munching actual slices of bread is clearly absurd under ordinary conditions: but one can conceive a state of society in which a real meal might be shared by a congregation in such a way as to be a sacrament without ceasing to be also their actual dinner for that day. Possibly this was so in the very early Church.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Words to Live By

Maybe this doesn’t affect anyone as it does me. But as a former anorexic, the concept of all meals, taken in gratitude, being sacred arrests me. Food, that so-long-enemy, as a means to honor and embrace the Savior…

Glorified in Consumption

On Monday, I referenced  John Piper in his article, “To Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.” 

As a follow up, I decided it would be valuable to provide you with the whole article, for a fuller perspective on the topic.

Coming out of an eating disorder, my ability to eat, not to mention my motives for eating were completely topsy-turvy. Anxiety welled in my throat at the mere idea of certain foods. How could I ever take those thoughts and fears captive so that I could do everything, yes, even eating, for God’s glory?

Here’s John:

Some of you then asked the practical question: Well, how do you “eat and drink” to the glory of God? Say, orange juice for breakfast?

I’ll Tell You What I Want

Here is a naked truth that I did not even know about myself. As I sort old journals, cull memories and query friends and family, I am realizing how little I actually knew about my own battle with an eating disorder. It’s kind of like taking a shower, an effort to cleanse away the day’s dust, and discovering a birthmark you had never seen before. images

Obviously, it’s been a part of me forever. Since opening the womb, my “me-ness” has been as God sketched it. My soul has born the same imprint. Surely, culture and family and circumstances ebb and flow across each life and erode some things faster than others while sifting silt and revealing precious stones. But I had hardly seen it.

I was told that in writing my book, I must “bleed on the page and be saved in the process.”

Well, sometimes bleeding hurts. And when you’re naked, even the smallest prick can make you bleed.

I WANT.
You see, I grew up the oldest of four girls. One of the anthems that I remember echoing through the halls of our home was, “Abby, you’re the oldest, can you please just give in this time?”  – – or – –
“Be the mature one.” – – or – –
“I expect more out of you.”

And I did, and I was. But denying want does not erase it. In fact, denying want on the surface dug a deep, subversive pit in my heart where I stuffed want and greedily demanded all my desires while on the surface, others observed a starving little girl denying even her need to eat.

Now, I can clearly hear the melody of my heart all those years, the percussion to which I kept time:
I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want others to think I am self-disicplined. I want, I want, I want. I want all of my parents’ attention. I want to be your favorite. I want you to notice me. I want you to think I am spiritual. I want your sympathy. I want your touch. I want to be able to have everything I want. I want you to tell me I can eat anything I want. I want to be safe. I want to be independent. I want, I want, I want. 

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands.
That’s a pretty ugly naked. 

Now, lest you think I am unnecessarily berating myself, or attempting to beg pardon, let me tell you the TRUTH.
I was needy. I do want things.
There are a couple differences now, this is not selfishness. I have learned to ask for things – both my  needs and wants. Secondly, I am learning to be attentive to the needs and desires of those around me. And lastly, I have stopped looking for others to notice and fulfill my emptiness.

I have found the bottomless source of gifts. I have found the unquenchable fulfillment of all my desires. I have found the solitary source for the satisfaction of all my needs. And He loves for me to come to Him HUNGRY. 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

Outside the fence

Thank you for being a listening ear when I just have to explode with the goodness and truth about my Savior Jesus Christ. He has more than saved my soul, He has more than removed the dread of death, He has more than rescued me from the pit of hell – Jesus daily saves me from my personal hell.

Everyone has it. A personal hell. A circular thought pattern of anxiety on an endless loop. Like a hamster on a wheel, the cogs churn all night in your mind, working, twisting, writhing to find some answer you missed before.

A personal hell. A habit you hate that nips at your heels like a rabid dog. It’s breath is death. If you’re lucky, for now, you’re one step ahead of it.

A personal hell. A never fading memory. Faces or words that lurk in your quiet moments, feasting on your peace.

A personal hell. Impending possibilities of unemployment, illness, danger, financial collapse. Everyone has a personal hell.

As most of you know, my hell was born in the form of anorexia. But the habit of starving and compulsive exercise fed on my peace and grew into anxious, relentless thoughts of calories and laziness and bulging body parts. Then, anxiety swelled until it infected my mind with fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, fear of change and of course an every growing fear of food. And finally, even when recovery began blinking sporadically on the horizon, and I began plunging toward it in blind, uncoordinated desperation; then my hell bloomed like licking flames behind me. Memories.

Bless the Lord Oh My Soul! Who becomes my vision and my only thought!

Two weeks ago, I learned that I now weigh as much as I did before I ever dueled with anorexia. That in itself is enough of a change to fan the flames of fear. Then, this weekend, my husband and I attended a marriage retreat in Staunton, VA. It was a chaplain’s event called Strong Bonds. 

[Side note, if you have an opportunity to go on one of these retreats – take it! Especially, if for some reason Chaplain Denning is leading it!]

Back to Jesus’ valiant rescue…I always fret over these types of “fun” events. They are anything but fun for me. My regular workouts are threatened by pathetic hotel gyms and no space outside to go running; not to mention early morning obligations. And, nice as everyone seems to think free food is, for an anorexic, the idea of a prepared plate being set in front of you is terrifying.

Who knows how much butter some careless caterer used on the mashed potatoes? What if they serve dessert? How do I say no when everyone is watching and moaning over how sublime the cheesecake is? How am I going to find safe food to eat if these are my only options? On top of all that, a retreat is supposed to be relaxing and fun. For most people that means lingering over good conversation and dark beer. Or, swirling red wine while debating the merits of a restaurant’s barbecue ribs. For me, that means sustained agony in a place of temptation while bound by a bunch of self-woven rules.

The first night there, we went down to dinner. I had told them that I am a vegetarian so the caterer brought me a plate of pasta, drizzled with olive oil and flecked with onions, mushrooms and green pepper. Yikes! Patrick was served chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.

My darling hubby looked at my plate and asked, “Do you want my potatoes and green beans? I’ll eat your pasta.”

“Okay.”

So we traded partial plates and I ate. I ate every delicious creamy swirl of potato and every green bean dripping with golden butter. And it was good! But the best part is that fear did not rise up in my throat. Anorexia did not loom behind me all night with a tightening grip on my neck. We finished the evening over  beers by the fireplace in the hotel bar.

But Day 2 was even more spectacular! At breakfast, I did not eat the special, safe food I had thrown into my duffle bag “just in case.” Instead, I enjoyed fried potatoes and scrambled eggs! Then, I sat on my derrière for a three hour lecture! After the lecture, lunch was served. I tried to refuse it and Patrick agreed to take me to Subway later.

But when the waitress delivered a veggie wrap the size of a small torpedo, my tummy growled. The thin flour tortilla was crammed with broccoli, mushrooms, sprouts, full-fat cheese… and dressing. Some saucy, delicious, doubtlessly not-light dressing.

OK, OK. I’ll eat half. Oh well, I’ll eat all of it – it’s so good!

I could go on and on about the excitement rumbling against residual fear in my belly. But the tantalizing hope of a different future – holidays not spent skulking in the kitchen to monitor the usage of oil. Date nights not wasted at Subway restaurant so that I can get a  50 calorie salad. What if…. it doesn’t have to be that way forever?

Tiny Staunton is quaint, to be nice it’s historic, but there’s not much to do. So, we found ourselves sitting in a little bar a couple hours later, sampling beers with friends. So much for a low calorie afternoon! Then, of course, dinner time arrived. That merciless hour when every American is supposed to eat…again.

We landed at the Mill Street Grill. (Highly recommended by everyone, if you’re in the area.) Just a salad, I told myself. Just the side salad.

Oh, but I love shrimp. I had lived through Friday night. I had lived through most of Saturday. What if, simply enjoying Saturday night too, isn’t a crime? So I had shrimp and salad. And hot chocolate when we got back to our room.

If you have never argued with yourself about the merits of a certain food, or the innate evil of an extra calorie. If you have never run an extra mile to compensate for a delightful dessert or celebrating your own birthday, then maybe you don’t have any idea the freedom that I enjoyed this weekend.

But, if you have ever skipped a meal so that you could go out to eat later. If you have ever run an extra mile (or two, or three) because you ate four extra crackers. If you have ever stayed awake counting calories instead of sheep – then you know exactly what I mean. You know exactly the type of freedom that we have not danced in for so many years. 

The truth is you may not be there yet. The truth is, I didn’t think I was there. But Jesus knew I was. And Jesus is the one who saved me. And Jesus is the one who surprised me by throwing open the gates I have long hidden behind.

Oh the beauty of the view as I stand here in His arms surveying the landscape of blessing He has in store for me – and you. 

But now, this is what the Lord says, He who created you Oh Jacob, He who formed you Oh Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have summoned you by name and you are mine.’ Is. 43:1

Fear Not: 31 Days to Freedom from Fear

Reputable Fame

“Quantitative analysis revealed that fame was the number one value, selected as the most important value for participants’ future goals,” according to a study done by psychology professors at the University of California at Los Angeles.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, it becomes obvious on a practical level that Satan’s most fatal weapon is subtlety. Literally, all that God created is good. ALL. Evil does not manufacture itself and is only observable relative to its opposite: Good. So it makes sense then, that to trip up a generally good person, someone mostly moral, someone rightly motivated, someone who would see right through blatant evil, Satan’s tack must be almost good.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan walked Eve up to a tree that probably looked just like the others. It looked good. It was almost OK.

Last month, in my town, three teenage boys were arrested for making sex tapes with six, unsuspecting teenage girls. Their goal? Fame.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized. Proverbs, the Book of Wisdom, tells us that a good reputation is desirable over  great riches (Prov. 22:1). And in Prov. 31:23, a man is honored to be known among the leadership of his city. It is a God given desire to be loved by others, to have something to offer society and to leave our heel print in the clay of time. So Satan takes this righteous quality and pushes it just a little too far, just slightly over the edge. As we over indulge in our good reputation, it becomes self admiration and suddenly our hearts are warped. Warped just enough to mar the beauty of God’s reflection in us.

Left to ourselves in a broken world, we cannot help but pervert the complete goodness of all God’s gifts. Sex into promiscuity. Beauty into idolatry. Reputation into fame. Honor into pride. Hope into fantasy. Food into gluttony. Drink into drunkenness. Hobby into addiction.

Besides the redemption of our souls, maybe that’s another reason that Jesus had to come. More than to die and rise again, perhaps this is why He came and lived 30+ years on earth. To show us how to use all God’s good gifts for His glory.

If Only it Were that Simple

Monday, I began reviewing the website, Simple Steps.

If only recovering from an eating disorder was as simple as two steps. It’s a grand promise, a glorious assumption, a wonderful wish.

Background:

Been there… Done that. I developed anorexia when I was 14 years old. I fought for my life, gave up on my life, cried in misery, sought expensive help, was prayed over, cast-out, pleaded with, coached, counseled, recovered, relapsed, fed, fed too much, and more. The first round of this multi-approach therapy lasted about six years. In that time I was inpatient twice for separate three-month stints.

At age 20, God finally shook my world a little, just enough to rattle the loose marbles in my head; they fell loosely into place. I married at age 22, but then my husband deployed for a year. I balanced on the edge of a healthy weight, with moderately healthy behaviors until the next move.

Suddenly, all of the simple techniques I had finally mastered in order to teeter on the recovery balance beam, weren’t so simple anymore. In spite of every best intention, I slid quickly back down the slope toward hours of exercise and the  well-proved, food-fear diet.

So, my first qualm with Simple Steps, is the premise. It’s not easy. Personally, from years of experience and in-depth observation of multiple case studies, a website is insufficient to address even the deadly symptoms of an eating disorder, much less the deeper roots and causes.

I read a few of the success stories on Simple Steps. Rachel seemed to agree with me about the difficulty of overcoming an eating disorder.

“You would think such a scare is enough to kick start action but trying to recover at home without real support and guidance is difficult for not only a sufferer but family as well. I felt powerless and hopeless, as did my parents and little brother. In fact we felt lonelier than ever as though we had been sent into battle blind.”

You have to read Rachel’s story, because she ultimately comes to a very different conclusion.

But here’s the clincher of my first day’s review of Simple Steps. It’s not simple. Recovery is much more than gaining lean muscle mass and beginning to follow a regimen. For an anorexic, that prescribed meal plan may seem like a savior, but it’s simply stepping out of one cage and into another.

Growing With Granola

I have contemplated staring a recipe blog, something like “Recipes for Recovery.” I am testing the idea here on Mondays, so I am very interested in the response. If you enjoy the healthy, adapted recipes you see here and would like to to see more foods and recipes that have encouraged me to eat again, please comment!

Briefly: I fought a loosing battle with anorexia for about 13 years. Then, I began to get the upper hand. There are still battles sometimes, but the war is won and I’m not ever going back. In the thick of my struggles, I outlawed many foods and categories of food. First it was fat, then carbs became evil and protein was innately scary to me.

The first time that I actually saw the cloud of fear around food roll back was in Washington state, near Percival Pier in Olympia. The Olympia Farmer’s Market is renowned. Geometric shapes of colorful fruits and vegetables spill over the tops of semi-permenant carts. The heady fragrance of cinnamon roasted pecans winds through the sea of shoppers in the fall months. Friendships ignite over heads of cauliflower and bundles of wildflowers. Artists mix with farmers mix with bakers and ranchers.

The first time I wandered through the market, I was alone. Tears sprang to my eyes as I observed crowds of people expressing nothing but appreciation for the indulgent art of eating. Food was about color and nutrition and pleasure and friendship and spontaneity. Food was fresh and new and lively and shared and personal and creative. I desperately wanted to experience food in that way.

So that was the beginning of NEW. Later, I volunteered at the Co-op in Olympia. The Co-op was crowded with hippies and hemp. It was open air and very chilly in the winter time. My section was the dry goods, so I restocked oatmeal and granola, cereal, flower, nuts, seeds and fruits. I wondered how people enjoyed nuts? granola? Oh how delicious they looked, but I knew they harbored hundred of calories in a child-sized handful.

I began to find joy in food by making it. I applied the same principles that farmers and bakers do. Perhaps, I thought, their love for food comes from the investment of their time and creativity. So I took it upon myself to make granola. I’ve since made tons and tons of varieties and experimented with recipes from friends and websites. I realized, much to my delight, that granola is easily manipulated successfully. So don’t stick with what I post here. I’m purposefully giving vague ingredients and amounts, because if you vary the baking time, you really can’t go wrong.

Enjoy! Appreciate the joy of creating and eating!

P.S. My greatest love to Dana, who gave me my first granola recipe. Dana, there is no one like you and never will be. You inspired so much of the healing God has brought me through. Not only inspired it but helped me to survive it. I love you!!

GRANOLA

2 C puffed rice

2 C  old fashioned oatmeal, or other dry flake cereal such as rye flakes, barley flakes, etc.

1/4 C shelled and salted sunflower seeds

1/4 C dry roasted and salted soybeans

1/2 C mixed, chopped, salted nuts

1/4 Splenda

1 T spice of your choice – cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, if you’re really bold try the SMALLEST dash of cayenne

1/4 honey or flavored syrup (can use sugar free) like maple, carmel, vanilla, coconut

add dashes of water, probably up to about 1/2 C

Stir to determine if it’s the consistency you want. The entire mixture should be damp but not soggy.

Here you can add lots of things: wheat germ, flax seeds, more nuts, stevia if you want it extra sweet, switch out some of the water for olive oil or melted butter

Spread your granola on two greased baking sheets and bake at 300 degrees for about 20-30 minutes stirring regularly. Feel free to take it out at any time you think it is done. Make sure it cools completely before storing it. At this point, I like to mix my granola with another boxed cereal to make it last a little longer and alter the flavor. Try Cascadia Farms version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Cinnamon Chex or Honey Nut Cheerios or Kashi Honey Sunshine or Peanut Butter Puffs by Puffin Cereal.

Let me know if you try this recipe and make it your own!

Panera Playground

Wiggle worms,

Thirty inch squirms.

Tables are towers,

The bench has powers.

 

Mom’s not looking,

Trouble’s cooking.

Too cute to stop,

So we all watch.

 

One in blue, the other yellow,

Chase and catch the other fellow.

Mom’s now spied and on the run,

Out to ruin all their fun.

 

Grins and giggles,

Adorable wiggles.

They’ll grow up and it’ll all be over,

Climb the chair and call, “Red Rover!”

(I don’t usually plan to post more than once a day, but sometimes poetry just jumps out at me.  In this case, two absolutely adorable children – if they had been louder or really obnoxious, they wouldn’t have been so adorable.  I snapped two cell phone pictures, don’t worry, you can’t see their faces.  But they were so inspirational!)