Eating Disorder Recovery

California Adventures

Before this last week, it had been a hot-minute since the last time Lizzy and I had been on a real vacation. Our parents love us more than anything, and do their best for us, but when money is tight, it is hard to make extravagant adventures happen.

A few weeks ago I had been sitting in my usual spot in Caribou, (quite a shocker I know), and I was just using my time to read and write and think. I realized how sick of my city I was. I am not a girl who is meant to be confined to a small town on the Iron Range with only one coffee shop and no malls, farmers markets, book stores, and everything else that you find in a large city. I have been feeling this way for quite a long time… ever since I finally embraced who the fact that I am a girl with big dreams and many plans for life. The feeling always tends to get stronger over the summertime when my days are wide open and I can do just about whatever I want to do. I decided that I was not going to let this summer go on the way my past few had been. That meant that I was not going to spend the whole three months of freedom I had in Hibbing, Minnesota just sitting here and wishing I was somewhere else. I decided that if I wanted things to happen, that I would have to make them happen.

I spent a few days looking into different areas that I had relatives in where I could possibly stay. I knew that with my upcoming trip to New York that I had secretly been planning to ask to take would not ever happen if I went and blew all of our money on a different trip. I also knew New York would be a crazy, busy trip and wanted to take a trip with Lizzy where we could just relax and take a break.

One day remembered that I had a great aunt named Sandy who had recently moved back to California after living there in the past. I brought it up to my mother one day and then again… then again… It started off as just a conversational piece but eventually turned into some serious plans. My mom wavered on and off about it, but eventually she was on the phone with Sandy. Initially there were a few different times where we thought the vacation wasn’t going to happen, but one night I got a text at work from Liz saying our plane tickets were purchased. That meant that Lizzy and I would be traveling to California by ourselves to stay with Sandy for four full days.

July 13th (The morning before our departure)

Thursday morning was our last day in Hibbing. I had breakfast with my sister and my Dad so that we could talk before we left on our trip. After some quality father and daughter time, followed by last minute packing, we left for St.Paul to spend the night at my uncle’s house so that we could catch our plane early the next morning.

 

July 14th (The day our flight goes out)

Early mornings are my favorite kind. I started that day at around 6a.m. with a fresh new outfit and some caffeine. After being dropped off at the Minneapolis airport, where we were separated from our mom and uncle, Liz and I managed to navigate through check-in and security and find our gate with little experience and no help. This is the usual for people who travel often, but for us, we felt pretty good about ourselves at that time. We found one of the many overpriced airport restaurants and I had breakfast at the build-your-own yogurt parfait bar plus Caribou. Then Liz and I sat around for a little bit after that and eventually got on our plane. It was an amazing flight where I read quite a bit from The Wellness Project. Before I knew it, we landed in San Francisco. We met our aunt and immediately made the drive to Santa Rosa where Sandy calls home. The drive was another two hours piled onto the three and a half hour plane ride, but we got to do some sightseeing and talk with Sandy.

We arrived and immediately had lunch at a cute little cafe where I enjoyed a kale and quinoa salad along with the Spa Treatment (aka a sparkling water flavored with massaged cucumber, mint, and lime) (aka the best thing ever). Then we made our way to Sandy’s house.

Walking in, my first impression blew me away. The house was a bit older and had so much character. With an open concept kitchen that was flooded with sunlight from the two sets of sliding glass doors that outlook her gorgeous backyard pool and landscaped yard, I already felt at home. After dropping off our bags we made our way to Whole Foods to shop for some food for the upcoming vacation. I walked in and fell in love. I am a big advocate for local, organic, and whole foods. Not only does this grocery chain they follow those standards but they have a deli was full of amazing dishes, coffee ice-cream, bakery items, and so much more (some that I chose for dinner that night). They also carry all the hard-to-get-at brands where I live in the middle of nowhere without any health-food stores. I found Perfect Bars, Siete tortillas, Pressed Juicery juices along with so many fresh and exciting produce. Of course Lizzy grabbed ice cream balls, aka Mochi, that were surprisingly delicious. They had a doughy texture on the outside that resembles bread dough and the inside was pure ice cream, I am happy to say they were the first of my Californian treats that literally left me drooling. The rest of that night was pretty low-key. It consisted of visiting and unpacking along with planning and list-making.

 

July 15th (Our first full day)

Our first morning began with one of my favorite breakfasts: sunny-side up eggs on top of a Siete tortilla smothered with avocado. After enjoying, Liz and I went outside and took advantage of the beautiful backyard while laying in the sun and taking in the amazing view of the mountains. We relaxed like this for a bit and then got our suits on. After a few stops, and lunch-packing, we made our way to Bodega Bay. The drive to the ocean was such a sight. After going through a few towns, (some of which had cute surf shops!), we got to swerve through the mountains where I felt smaller than I ever had before. The Californian Mountains were so large and went back as far as the eye can see. They were full of luscious green patches and dry patches alike. I could not have asked to have seen a more beautiful sight on my first day.

Once we got to the beach Liz and I got settled in the sand, which included an episode of a barefooted Lizzy who reassured me with her scream and run tactic that, yes, the sand was extremely hot and that, yes, you do need to wear shoes. We settled onto the sand and enjoyed our lunch of our Whole Foods finds on our towels and then began our trek along the shore. Our time was filled with a beach photoshoot, sand dollar and seashell hunting, and squeals as we attempted to dip into the glacier-temperature water. After walking for quite a bit we found our way back to our little spot on the beach and I spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping in the sun next to the Pacific Ocean.IMG_0899

Eventually our beach bums got up and did a bit of sightseeing. We walked through some shops and candy stores along the road that ran along the whole beach.Our trip was finished with a stop near the top of the road withan overlook onto the whole beach and the gorgeous waters. Although the cold wind sent me into the car for half of this part of the sightseeing, the view was extraordinary. I have always felt most connected with the God when I spent time in nature, where I can really see His gorgeous handiwork. In those moments, I spent time thanking Him for the opportunity to be taking that trip to Cali and for the detailed and unique creations that he has put on this earth for my enjoyment. It is truly an amazing thought that God, the Creator of the Universe, created all of this and yet felt that the Earth also needed one of me as well.

Of course, after a day at the beach, ice cream is mandatory. So Sandy and her sister, Barb, took us to their favorite spot: Frosty’s Freeze. I got a chocolate cone that brought me back to my childhood days after visits to the cabin with my father when we would always stop at DQ and my order was the same (aside from the chocolate dip that I also added as a kid).IMG_0675

 

July 16th (Our second full day)

Sunday mornings have always been my favorite. I woke up and Lizzy and I enjoyed our breakfasts by the poolside. After getting ready, we left for church. It was a nice service with some amazing worship music, one that I felt very welcomed to. After realizing that Sandy had left the pool water running back at home, we rushed back right after the service to shut off the hose just in time before her backyard began to flood! Although, due of the fact that Santa Rosa broke a heat record that day reaching 108 degrees for the first time in years, I don’t think her plants would’ve minded much.

Once we hopped back in the car we made our way to the East West Cafe. This was only one of the many I had on my “Californian Foodie” list of places to stop. They served Mediterranean dishes that were very authentic. After enjoying a salmon wrap with hummus, brown rice, and tabbouleh, we stopped for coffee. Acre Coffee served an amazing soy latte that I sadly forgot to picture, but I did get a few snaps of the cute coffeehouse! Then we drove back to the house and Liz and I, again, suited up and had what we referred to as our ‘pool day’. Due to the heat we had a quick photo session again and then jumped in. With 108 degree weather, the cold pool water felt like a breath of fresh air. We jammed to the Disney radio and swam around while making up dances and just had fun. We had a fun time of relaxing on the furniture with books, some amazing sister talks, and just enjoying our afternoon. Then that night after supper we walked around Sandy’s neighborhood. We walked up and down streets that contained architecture of all kinds. One of my favorite observations I made on this trip was in this state you will see one house, but then turn your head and look upon the neighboring house and you’ll notice it is, most likely, completely different. I love that the people around here were not afraid to express themselves through their homes. There were houses of all colors and shapes that were decorated in such unique ways. These people really lived by the quote, ‘A home is for creative expression, not good impressions’ (one of my favorites from an old movie). When we got back from our walk that was quite a steep one, we felt we deserved to have a movie night by the pool, each with a pint of ice cream to reward ourselves with.img_07271.jpgIMG_0739

July 17th (Our third full day)

It is true when they say that you can find it all in big cities!! We had breakfast that morning at the Omelet Express; a restaurant dedicated to omelets. I had an omelet filled with turkey, avocado, veggies, and sprouts that was to die for. I then nursed my food baby, because I obviously ate my whole omelet, something that the waitress was very impressed with… Apparently most people don’t finish the whole thing, but I could’ve kept going if there had been more! Despite my past of being afraid of food and of trying to resist my intake, I now love to fuel my body and give it all the nourishment it asks for… and that morning… it asked for quite a bit! Soon after we stopped at The Flying Goat Coffee Shop. I was able to try my first ever latte made with oat milk! I have a favorite blogger who raves about it, so I have been dying to try it. That latte had unique flavor that I really enjoyed, along with the thickest layer of froth I have ever received without asking for extra! We walked back to the car and made our way to the main street where Sandy found a parking spot downtown and let us loose. Lizzy and I spent that morning exploring Santa Rosa’s beautiful downtown shops and sights including a magical bookstore that I could’ve explored for hours. I got to spend quality time with Lizzy bonding, laughing, and making the most memorable of memories!IMG_0905IMG_0913

After finishing up in that area we traveled to Sonoma Avenue so that I could hit up The Pharmacy for lunch. It is a cute cafe where they use local and organic ingredients. Their motto is ‘Food is medicine,’ which couldn’t be more true. I ordered the avocado toast, which if I could, I would do over a million times. The thick sourdough was toasted to perfection, it had such a thick layer of avocado, and it was topped with fleur de sol, Katz Olive Oil, chili flakes, and sunflower sprouts. I enjoyed it on their patio furniture while Liz ate their lemon meringue jar. We then continued with our adventures throughout Santa Rosa’s many different offerings of shops and villages.IMG_0967IMG_0918

Near dinner time we went home and rested up for a bit and then got ready for what we named our ‘really fancy dinner night’. We told Sandy we would like to treat her to an amazing dinner at a restaurant of her choice along with buying her a bottle of her favorite wine. We ended up at The Villa; an Italian restaurant in the mountains with the most breathtaking view. That night was what I considered to be a breaking point, so to say, of our vacation. Although I had felt comfortable with Sandy throughout our whole time together, we really bonded that night. She told Lizzy and I about all her different life adventures. She has lived in many different homes in many different towns and states. She has traveled to many countries of which included Israel (where she was able to walk on some of the same streets as Jesus). She told us all about her romance with her husband Bill, of which has now left me with expectations of Prince Charming for my future mate. She told us all kinds of stories of her past and of family history. Liz and I were absolutely amazed with the knowledge that Sandy held. You never realize how much one person has to share until you really take time to get to know them. And I had never realized, until that night, that I had a great aunt who had lived such a fulfilling life full of adventure, traveled to so many places, taken so many crazy opportunites. This lady that I was spending my vacation with was truly someone who had taken life and experienced it to the fullest. So we talked, and laughed, and shared stories, and eventually made our way home to nurse our bellies full of amazing Italian cuisine.IMG_0969

 

July 18th (The last full day of our trip)

Our last full day began with another breakfast at the house next to Sandy’s beautiful bay window out-looking her backyard (and conveniently located next to her Keurig machine). Once we had all gotten ready we drove over to Soco Coffee where I got my usual soy latte and where Liz and I had a quick photoshoot outside on the patio. Then came our drive through the mountains aka ‘wine country’. Before this drive I hadn’t seen too many vineyards and wasn’t quite sure yet why that area is considered the wine country in the first place. However, once you take the drive to Sonoma from Santa Rosa, the question isquickly answered. We went by many, many vineyards, everyone getting more beautiful than the last. They went on for miles, the rows of grapevines. They were such a beautiful, deep shade of green that outdid many of the evergreen trees that I had, before that day, thought were as green as they got! The vineyards were so symmetrical, their rows forming large patches or lines throughout the mountainsides that resembles the rows of lines that are made with a hoe being pulled through the dirt of a garden. The wineries were all just as mesmerizing with their gorgeous architecture and the beautiful gates that were welcoming tourists to turn onto their roads. This 18 mile drive was my absolute favorite view that I witnessed on the whole trip by far, had it been the only bit of nature I got to see on my trip, I wouldn’t have been disappointed.IMG_1004

Once we made it to Sonoma however, once again I wasin awe. It was such a gorgeous place. There was a big square park in the middle of the town surrounded by a large square of boutiques, wine-tasting shops, coffee houses, bookstores, and so much more. We walked all afternoon going in and out of places with a stop at the Cheese Factory for lunch along with coffee at the Sunflower Cafe. My favorite was a shop that went by the title ‘Love Sonoma’ where I found a few cute items. The best part about the place was the lady working there who went by Amy. Amy, Lizzy, and I talked for what seemed like an hour. We told her all about our vacation, and our upcoming summer plans. Then she shared suggestions, advice, some stories. Exchanges like ours with Amy are one of the wonderful pleasures that I most enjoy about life. What an amazing thing when you are able to genuinely connect with others, despite being strangers, and you can enjoy each other’s personalities and experiences, it is quite beautiful.IMG_1058IMG_1296

After we had decided that we were all exhausted from a long day we made the gorgeous drive home. We spent that night getting ready to go home the next day which included packing and some cleaning. Once we had finished we relaxed for our last time near the pool, each with a book.

 

July 19th (The day we depart Cali)

Another early morning called for a quick breakfast as I had one more coffee shop that was on my mandatory to visit list. After leaving we made a stop at City Garden on 4th Avenue. Here I enjoyed a ‘Lover’s Lane Latte’ which had Lover’s Lane Honey and was dusted with bee pollen. Lizzy ordered the ‘Garden Latte’ with lavender and rose syrup and was garnished with rose petals and lavender buds. Along with her coffee she ordered their Guittard Chocolate Donut which are made fresh daily with locally sourced ingredients. We took a few photos, had a few sips of our coffee (or if you are me you finish your own and then sip the latte that Lizzy didn’t finish), and we were off to the airport. The drive through San Fransisco left me in more awe than it had on the way in. I was so flustered by the fact that I was in California on my first day that I had not truly taken in the sites. I love the busy city of San Fran. I had been there a little over a year ago with my choir and it was as amazing as I remembered. So many sights, so much cultures, a city of dreams… and fog.IMG_1114

Eventually we made it to the airport, and with another flawless experience making it through the airport to our gate, we safely landed in Minneapolis that night and I immediately suggested we have dinner at Whole Foods (duh), and then went home. That night consisted of reuniting with my parents, my dogs, and my bed. And the hellos were all very quick due to the fact that I was back to work at Caribou the next morning.

 

There were a few things that I took away from my short but sweet trip to The Golden State:

  • If you want something to change, you need to make it happen. No amount of sitting around Hibbing, feeling sorry for my small-town self, was going to get me to California.
  • Take time to get to know the people around you, they all have stories to tell. I had gone years of seeing Sandy, but had never really talked to her. She was always my great aunt, now she is a lady who I see as one who has both seen and done it all. I was granted advice and wisdom in so many areas of life: school, family, romance, traveling, Christianity… and to think that it had always been residing in her, yet I never before took the time to listen.
  • Life does not need to revolve around money. I realize that these days it seems as though you need to have a high-paying job to really experience life, but that is not the case at all. Although I did spend some savings in the boutiques that we visited, and we went out to eat quite a few times, most everything else that we spent our vacation doing were relatively low-cost activities, or even free ones. If you are able to budget well, and be a smart shopper, you can make money stretch quite a bit farther than you may think you can.
  • Take time to smell the roses, and be thankful for them. I cannot tell you all the amazing sights that I saw on my trip that weren’t mentioned, and that I did not picture, because they were unexplainable, and couldn’t be captioned by even the world’s best camera. It takes an eye that is looking to see the details sometimes, but they exist. Not only do they just exist, but they were given to us by God. He created this world for us to enjoy and to see His glory.
  • You and your siblings WILL grow up to be best friends. Everyone always told me this, but Lizzy and I fought so much as kids I thought the idea of even staying in touch after becoming adults was funny. However, as we have gotten older, and I have been able to work through the wall I built around myself throughout my last few years of life, I have realized hey were right. No one can ever come in-between the bond that is built between siblings. It is a strong one that is truly unbreakable.
  • And lastly, always stop at every coffee shop you see!! One reason this is one of my favorite things to do is because not only do I love the beverages, but the experiences. Most cafes tend to be each their own. They are like people; every one with its own personality. I love to go to new coffee shops as they all have their own story which are told by the baristas, the regulars, the decor, the vibes of the shop, the beverages themselves, even all the way down to the uniqueness of the different cups and sleeves you will find at each one (which I have a collection of at home). I base my favorite shops off of the experience I remember having along with the coffee I remember drinking… and of course, the pictures that I am able to get, which is dependant upon how good the lighting is at the shop.

 

All-in-all, I had an amazing experience in California! I was blessed with seeing so many beautiful sights and got to learn so many lessons. I am looking forward to my next upcoming vacation to New York City, which is the gift I am receiving as an early graduation present from my mother! I am excited to experience the East coast, as I just did the West, and learn all the lessons that will be taught there as well. Until then, I plan to use what I have learned and continue to grow.

Doing What You Love, Loving What You Do

So often I feel I hear others saying that they hate their job, or they hate the sport that they are involved in, or they are not a morning person yet continue to set their alarm for a 6 am wakeup call. I can totally relate to those feelings, as I am sure most people can! So why do we allow them to come to us so often? Before I continue on I want to put out the fact that, yes, I do realize that there are some things in life, such as school, that no matter how we feel about it, we just have to do. Life does come with some different factors that we just cannot control, but what about all the rest that we can control?

Everyone has the exact same amount of time. We all get 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. How we decide to use this time however is totally up to us. I used to be a busy-body back just a few years ago. I would be involved with four sports at a time, youth group, Girl Scouts, Knowledge Bowl, Math Masters, a few other clubs, I was on the honor roll, you name it. I lived like this for my elementary days and pretty far into my high school days as well. Back during that time, that schedule worked for me and I enjoyed how my life was being spent! However, fast forward to today, and I would be surprised if you were to find more than two scheduled events on any given day. Not to mention I am only in a few organizations, and I only take around one to two exercise classes a week. Aside from these scheduled events, I do regularly exercise, read, bake, spend time with family and friends, etc. However, it is all on my own time, and I do it when I feel that I want to. This is what makes me happy. There are people who thrive off of being busy all the time and others who don’t. I now enjoy slow days doing things such as going to coffees shops to read, which I never had time fore before. My point here is to thrive off of what you love! So often people spend their time trying to do things the don’t enjoy. For example, as I mentioned earlier, many people will say they hate the sport that they participate in. So why do they continue to do it? Why spend your time doing something that you don’t love? When I was transitioning from my busy life into this more laid back style, and was in basketball, it was consuming me. DAY AND NIGHT I had practice, or a camp, or needed to be shooting or lifting. Then one day I realized: for what? Why am I spending all my time on this sport? I was miserable in games and practices and dreading spending any spare time with it. So why was I wasting my short amount of time that I did have trying to master this sport that I hated when I could have been reading (which I love to do), or spending my time elsewhere?

One person that has always inspired me in this area of life is my sister Lizzy. She is not a morning person, and she knows it. There are so many people I know that, despite not functioning well in the mornings, they continue to try and set their alarms early to get things done. Then when their time comes that they normally thrive during, the later hours, they are groggy and cranky, but not ready for bed. However my sister doesn’t do this. She requires quite a lot of sleep, and instead of trying to get up early, she always allows herself to sleep in or at least sleep as late as possible. She embraces who she is. I believe that our society needs to learn to function more like that. To embrace who you are and how you like to spend your time. If you like something, then do it! If you aren’t enjoying something, or even if you don’t like some type of food, then you don’t have to continue doing/eating it! Just because someone else likes to do a particular activity, does not mean that you also need to like it. Or just because your doctor tells you that carrots are good for you and that you should eat them, if you think they are gross, then don’t waste your hunger trying to choke them down! Instead enjoy the banana that you are craving!

The time that we have is so miniscule, despite what it may seem. So I am proposing that you take an afternoon and sit down with yourself, maybe with a pen and some paper as well. Ask yourself this: What do I like to do? Am I doing it? If so, rock on! If not, what am I doing with my time? Am I forcing myself to be someone I am not? Doing things I don’t enjoy? Trying to please others? If you have found yourself in this trap that so many other people find themselves in daily, then I suggest that you make some changes. You should do what you love, and you should love what you do. You should be able to embrace who you really are, and be able to truly say that you enjoy your life and the way that you are spending your time. This life is flying by, don’t wake up when you are an adult wishing that you hadn’t spent your childhood the way you did. Instead, wake up knowing that you pursue your passions and lived the life that was meant for you. Wake up knowing that you did, and that you are still doing, exactly what it is that you love and what it is that God gave you a passion for in this life.

Cinnamon-Roasted Veggies

If you are familiar with my Instagram account @balancingserena, then you would know that my diet is FULL of vegetables because I love them! I have always thought of vegetables as a savory food… but I have found a way to incorporate them in my meals as a sweet factor! I have become obsessed with roasting them in the oven with cinnamon!! It is such a simple process that can be used on soooo many different vegetables. If you try this, I can promise you that it will turn what many see as a ‘boring’ ingredient into the game-changer of your meals! All you have to do is follow this simple list:

  • Preheat your oven. I usually set mine around 400 degrees. However, I know people that set their oven to 350, others at 450… It is up to you and your oven!
  • Then I prepare my veggies. That normally means I will wash them, chop any that need to be, and then lay them on the pan.
  • After I season them. I always use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil spray to start. After I spray my veggies, I will either choose to add cinnamon, pink himalayan sea salt, or both**.
  • Last I stick them in the oven! The amount of time that your veggies need to roast will differ depending on the veggie, your oven, the temp you choose, and your preference as to how soft or crispy you would like them to be! A general rule of thumb that I like to live by is to stick my pan in for about 15 minutes and then I will check whatever is in there. At this point my food is usually ready to be flipped and put back in for about 10 more minutes. Some veggies will require a bit more time if they are bigger, thicker, etc.. It is always a bit of a guessing game!
  • After they are done I take them out and allow them to cool completely before putting them in the fridge, otherwise they will become soggy!

**The veggies that I enjoy roasting with cinnamon for a sweet effect include carrots, sweet potatoes, some types of squash (such as acorn), and even sometimes zucchini! Of course there are some veggies that I love to roast that I do not season with cinnamon because, well, I just don’t think it would turn out well. Those can include broccoli, peppers, some squashes (such as spaghetti), brussel sprouts, and so many more. I also suggest trying sweet potatoes, carrots, and zucchini to be roasted without the cinnamon, they are good prepared with just the avocado oil and salt!

We are all aware that when you roast your veggies in a savory way that they can become an ingredient or apart of your meal… but what about when they are roasted with cinnamon? How do you eat them? My favorite way to enjoy these sweet treats are in yogurt bowls with some fruit, peanut-butter, maybe some granola, etc. You can also enjoy them the way you would normally without the cinnamon and they are just as great! There are endless ways to get creative with your vegetables. Healthy eating can be so much fun and delicious, it doesn’t have to be hard and boring! It is all dependent upon your mindset and wether or not you are willing to take the time to prepare them! I hope this was able to spark some ideas so that you now feel like running to the kitchen and having fun while fueling your body in a healthy way!

 

My Journey to Finding Balance

My love for both health and fitness was one that sprouted from a bad seed, but has flourished into something beautiful. I suffered from an eating disorder for a bit of my life, and I would like to share with you all my story. Before you read this, you have to know that once you suffer from an eating disorder, some of those symptoms and thoughts never go away. It becomes a part of you in a way, but I have learned to drown out those voices in my head in favor of more loving voices. This is something I have felt really compelled to share. For so long I was ashamed, but it is apart of who I am. I also believe that all the family and friends who have been affected because of this deserve to know what has really happened with me within the last year. This is the first time I have ever told (wrote) and allowed anyone to hear my whole, entire story (aside from my therapist who I am currently seeing). This is the most vulnerable thing I have ever shared, but I am not afraid. I hope to inspire and maybe even give hope to anyone out there who might be on the same path, or perhaps maybe just make you aware of the evil that is an eating disorder.

It all started last year in my sophomore year of high school. I do not have a date, however I could never forget that day. The day I cried myself to a migraine at the bottom of my closet. After reading this, I hope you will be enlightened as to why balance is such a huge concept for me. For so long I lived extreme. I lived in an all or nothing mindset, there was no balance. And that almost destroyed me.

It was the middle of my basketball season on a Saturday. I had always been taller and more muscular than most girls my age. Although because of the fact that I was taller, and extremely athletic, I had a large appetite. In NO WAY was I overweight, however I did have a little extra bit of body fat on my body. I was always insecure about my body, even at a very young age. I think it had quite a bit to do with never having any very secure friendships in grade school and the fact that I was teased. This caused me to be always second guessing my personality and my looks. That is the only conclusion that I have ever been able to draw as to why I might have been so insecure with myself for most of my life: I did not have a strong, solid support system that most people get from their best friends.

One Saturday, in the middle of basketball season, during my sophomore year I remember looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. I thought I was fat and I started to cry. I remember thinking my thighs were huge, my stomach flabby, my skin full of stretch marks and acne, my hair was just a mess, I didn’t like anything about my body. So that day I made a promise to myself: I WOULD lose weight. I WOULD be as skinny as the other girls my age. I WOULD show everyone that I could be as beautiful as them. I would finally fit in for once in my life. If I could just be skinny, then maybe I would finally stop feeling like the weird girl out. Looking back, I wish I could be there to give my younger self a huge hug, break that mirror, and let myself know how absolutely amazing my body was at that moment.

So as I mentioned before it was basketball season. That meant that everyday I had about a 2-3 hour practice after school. After that day in my closet, however, I no longer only had a three hour practice. That was only part one of my exercise for the day. After practice I would come home and have dinner and do my homework as normal. I would go about my nights just about the same as before except for one thing: I would end my normal activities a half hour early so I could run on the treadmill we kept in our basement.

It began as a thirty minute run any day that there was not a game. But as I became more into running, it started becoming an everyday thing, it became an obsession. Gameday, weekday, or weekend, I would run. I remember getting home from a game one night, it had to be about 12:30 in the morning. I remember thinking I was so tired, but it didn’t matter, I had to run. So I forced myself onto that treadmill and did my thirty minutes.

As the season progressed, so was my desire to lose weight. I remember playing with my treadmill one time and discovering the option to view the amount of calories burned during my run. It was a whole new world to me, so I started to do some research. According to just about every website ever, as long as my calories I was consuming wass under maintenance, I would start to lose weight. So that is when I downloaded MyFitnessPal. I set my calorie goal to 1500. And from then on, numbers became my worth. I was constantly restricting my eating. I was eating as little as possible. And I began to opt for low calorie, low fat, low carb, low sugar, and all that crap.

Every morning I would weigh myself, and my weight determined my mood for the day. I started to track everything I ate. I would never eat over my goal of 1500, not even when I would run. I would normally burn around 300 calories on my runs, according to the treadmill, but I never took that into account when it came to the amount that I ate. At first, it was hard, and that was because I had a very terrible diet and everything I ate was so high in calories. But somewhere in the mix I developed orthorexia as well. It started with just ‘healthy eating’, but then I began to cut out foods group, such as meat. I began a vegetarian lifestyle because I believed all meat was bad, and it would be easier to not eat much food when I could refuse the largest food group when it came to meals. I also stayed away from any carbs and sugar. I was constantly restricting. Sometimes this even lead me to binge on things like bread, or brownies. I would crave one and then not eat it. I would eat all the fruit and veggies in the world trying to resist it and then I would end up eating the whole pan of brownies plus all the fruits and veggies instead of maybe just the one brownie I might have had if I would have just honored my cravings. Binges did not happen to often for me, I have always been pretty disciplined. But when you are restricting your diet 24/7, binges are almost inevitable.

The whole summer I was miserable. I never once went swimming, an activity that I absolutely ADORED before this all started. I couldn’t anymore because I had no body-fat to keep me warm. In fact I almost never wore anything like shorts or a short sleeved shirt. When it came to clothes, mine were not fitting, so I never had much to wear. I was always so cold and miserable. The idea of an ice-cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day was foreign to me.

I can honestly tell you that that summer (last summer), was a blur. To this day, I cannot quite recall everything that happened. Why is that? It is because although I was present in a physical sense for most of what was happening, I was not there mentally. I can tell you what did happen though:

  • I lost almost all of my friends. I began to isolate myself because all I could ever think about was food and how hungry I was and how long I could get by without eating.
  • I began to fight with my mom, dad, and sister all the time. This was because I was in a constant state of ‘hangry’. When some people get hungry, they get cranky. Well, I was always hungry, therefore, I was almost always mean. I ruined these relationships. I no longer told them much of anything personal. Little did they know it, but they were strangers to me.
  • I was constantly restricting my appetite and foods. This also caused me to constantly crave certain things that I would not allow myself to have. I started to deem foods good or bad. If it was bad, I could not eat it. This usually caused to crave my bad foods all the time, which made me even more miserable when I could not have them. I was starving.
  • I lost myself. I no longer found joy in any of the activities I used to love. I quite all the sports I was in, stopping going out with people, no longer wanted to read or write or do anything like I used to. I literally could not name one activity to you that I found joy in, because there was no joy for me to find. I was living in a deep state of depression. I hated myself, my body, and my personality.
  • Honestly, I spent my days and my headspace just thinking about food. I was always constantly starving, which is why I became obsessed with food. I could tell you the calorie count and every single macro for any food I ate. If I couldn’t, then I wouldn’t eat it. I was always using my extra time to calculate the calories for potential meals and snacks.
  • I started to refuse to eat any food that others prepared at their homes or in restaurants because I didn’t know how it was made or how many calories it was. This caused me to become even less social. I was refusing offers to do anything because I was too scared about my food situation and also lost the joy of being with others, even the people I used to call my best-friends.
  • I no longer really knew my anyone for their true selves, just their names, because anytime I was with them, I was only worried about resisting the food that usually came along with our get-togethers.
  • I lost contact with my hunger-cues. I no longer became hungry or full, but ate by numbers. I had no clue what it felt like to know when I was hungry or how to stop when I was full.
  • I pushed away any and everyone I was close with because I was afraid of them finding out of my disorder. All I thought of was myself and no one else.
  • I missed out on about a year of my life. That is a whole 365 days worth of living that I can never get back. I missed out on so many memories, so many opportunities, ended so many good friendships.
  • I became obsessed with cardio I was pushing myself to run at LEAST 7 miles a day, even if I was sick or sleep deprived. If I was hurting, or had a busy schedule, it did not matter. I had to run.
  • I never had energy. I never wanted to get up to do anything.
  • Honestly: just living in general became no fun. There were days when I did not want to wake up because I did not want to put up with having to live with my thoughts, having to starve and worry about food, all the math that came along with counting calories, all the hoping that I wouldn’t want to eat much that day…It was exhausting.

 

There are so many times that I missed out on life because of this. I spent three-weeks counseling kids at a summer camp that summer. I honestly can say that I was worrying so much about what I was eating and the fact that I couldn’t run that although I was always with my campers, I mentally barely was there with those girls.

There was one specific time in general with my mother and my sister that I remember so vividly. We had gone camping for the first time in years. They left to go check out a bear sanctuary (I stayed back because it seemed too exhausting to walk around that much because I never had much energy anymore). They came back with food from a local cafe. I cried and screamed and told them I hated them for it. Why? 1) They brought me food that I did not know the calories of. 2)It was really good looking food that I wanted to eat so bad. 3)They were considered to be “bad foods”. (A salad full of dressing and a small piece of cake). 4) I was starving. 5)I was energy deprived and just needed to be sleeping. 6)I was not able to exercise that day. 7)They were so happy and I felt miserable, and it made me upset… The list could go on and on….but that is what it is like to live in the mind of someone with an eating disorder. I was actually mad at them. The rest of the trip was spent fighting or in silence. It was awful. And I am so sad that I missed out on such a fun opportunity.

My family has always been big on food. So as you can imagine, holidays were awful for me. There was food everywhere and all I wanted to do was drown myself in it. Instead I would try to eat as little as possible. This last Thanksgiving was a nightmare. I tried to do that, only to eat a whole pie at midnight. Then the next day, when my sisters, mother, and I were all supposed to be bonding and having family time shopping together on Black Friday, I hated myself. I was so mad that I did not eat until dinner that day. I was hungry the whole day, did not get to bond with my sisters, and then when they all wanted to go to Applebee’s, I left to get a salad at Chipotle because I knew that there were less calories and it was something I could track in my calorie counting app.

Eventually at some point I found the online world of Instagram and the community of food and fitness lovers that I am apart of now. Although when I first discovered it, it wasn’t all good. At some point I had read all about weightlifting and bodybuilding. So I started following all kind of body-builders and bikini competitors. I started reading all about IIFYM. If you aren’t familiar, competitors workout for insane amount of time and are always going hard because it is their job. When they are on prep for a show, they are working to temporarily achieve a physique that would not be healthy to maintain constantly. However, I was working around the clock to maintain that physique day and night. If you took a look at my picture roll all you would see were screenshots of protein bars I wanted to buy, a new protein powder I had to order, macro friendly recipes, workouts that would take two hours to complete. I became a gym rat. I was going to the gym for at least two hours a day, and I was obsessed. My life began to revolve around lifting weights. The first thing I would do in the morning was plan out a really tough workout and the time that I would do it. If I couldn’t find time during the day, I had to cut something else out. There was not a week that I went less than 6 days a week. If for some awful reason I was out-of-town, the whole weekend was spent worrying about how my muscles were going to disappear and my goals were going to get so off track. I praised gym junkies. I wouldn’t eat anything if it didn’t fit my macros. All I had left for the days macros was some protein and it had to be fit into few calories? Egg whites for dinner it is. I began to weigh everything to the gram, even things such as lettuce. This went on for quite a long time, much longer than I would like to admit. I even started to get body-scans. I would get one almost every week. Now my happiness was dependant upon if my muscles and fat levels were up or down. It also depended on how much I could lift and for how many reps. One of the biggest factors was my time and intensity in the gym. If my workout wasn’t long and sweaty, it did not count. I was always working towards a hug butt, flat abs, small thighs, and defined arms, shoulders, and back.

Do you want to know what the worst part about all of this was? I was constantly being praised. Everyone thought I was so strong for eating so healthy and spending so much time at the gym. What they didn’t realize were my motives. I was doing all of this because I hated myself. I hated my body and the way I looked. I was always trying to look like someone else or be something that I was not. Every single day, my mornings started with a weigh-in and a body check. I was always looking at myself in the mirror finding something to hate. I would always compare myself to ANY picture I saw or any person I saw. No matter how unrealistic the goal for me to achieve their physique may have been, I hated myself for not looking like basically anyone else I thought looked better. I do not really ever remember once looking at my body throughout that whole year and appreciating it, I was in a constant state of self-hatred.

I honestly cannot pinpoint any dates, but let me tell you: It was by the grace of God that at some point I found two different recovery accounts: @healthyfullysam and @heathful_radiance. After that, my world turned upside down. I read their stories and learned all about their experiences with eating disorders and overexercising and began to start following their recovery journeys. I soon began to fill my feed with less and less competitors and more and more recovery accounts. I was then exposed to yet another whole new world. I started to read about body-positivity, self-love, intuitive eating, eating food for nutrition and not macros or calories, and so many more beautiful tools.

At some point I decided to make a recovery account myself. Once again, I do not remember the exact order that everything happened in but to the best of my knowledge, it went a little something like this:

When I first started the account I was still tracking my macros, but there was something different. I no longer wanted to, and I no longer wanted to be a slave to the gym, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live the life that my new role models (like Angie) were living (she was my biggest influence and I often messaged her with questions): a life where how you ate and exercised were all dependant upon your body and how you felt. For so-so long I wrestled with it in my mind. But one day something clicked. I was watching a video on Intuitive Eating by Kelly U. I started to watch all her videos and then proceeded to watch many by Jen Brett as well. And then one night, I deleted MyFitnessPal. I also started seeing a counselor for depression. Although, I still have some problems and my depression is still on-going in some different forms, much of my constant depression has already been rapidly disappearing as a result of the deleting of this one app.. I had been using that app religiously for the past year and a half or so. It became apart of me, I tracked even the smallest sip of a glass of milk or the tiniest bite of a carrot. From that day on out, my life has changed.

I was using calorie counting as a way to find some control in my life. Now that I no longer can do that, it has allowed me to start feeling my feelings again: something I have not done for quite a long time. As with last summer, the past few months of my life have been a bit blurry. So many amazing and beautiful things have happened so fast that I have been losing track:

  • I have finally begun to give myself grace when it comes to exercise. I no longer follow a strict schedule, but I do what I want, when I want. I do what makes me feel good. There are days when I just want to rest, and I allow myself to do that. I truly love the exercise now and not hate it. It makes me feel good to move my body, I feel energized, not energy-deprived.
  • I have begun to find myself again. The other day my sister and I went clothes shopping, something I do often. I used to love shopping. However, during my disorder I hated it. Not only did I have to focus on my body and look at it, but I hated anything that took me away from my normal food and exercise schedule. For the first time in a year that I can remember, I loved it. I used to have a very distinct style and loved to dress up. This past year though I stopped caring about my appearance. I no longer enjoyed shopping because I did not have a style, I would pick up a shirt and not know if it was cute or not. The other day, I went crazy. I found all kind of things that spoke to me and I felt cute and confident.

I also used to love reading. I have started doing that every single day now. I stopped reading because the thought of sitting for long periods of time made me nervous and feel as though I was going to gain weight. I haven’t enjoyed reading for so long. Now, my nose is either used to breathe, or it is in a book.

  • I have began to build relationships again. I have started spending a lot more time with my family. I am not starting to get close with them again because I am present. I am no longer worrying about the gym or my body or my weight, but instead my conversation and time with them. I can not tell you how amazing it feels to find that you have parents and siblings that are actually the best and most loving in the world.
  • I have found peace with food. I no longer look at foods for their amount of calories. I also do not look at foods as good or as bad, but rather I look at how they make me feel. I have started intuitive eating. This means I am working to honor my hunger. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I also give myself permission to eat whatever I crave. For the first time the other day at our Easter celebration, I ate a piece of key lime pie without guilt. Normally I would have restricted it, only to become cranky and mad because I wanted it. Then I would only think about it all night, only to binge right before bed. Instead I ate a piece because it looked good, and then I was satisfied. I no longer wanted more, or thought of it, and I enjoyed the rest of the celebration. It was the most freeing feeling in the world. I felt so amazing and happy and proud.

I have also learned that all the foods I considered bad and was restricting, that I no longer crave them. I have learned that I love to eat to fuel myself. I do not feel the best when I eat sweets and foods full of chemicals. I feel great when I eat for my health and nutrition. My body and mind feels so fueled and energized when I am eating whole foods and eating foods with only ingredients that I can pronounce! It is so freeing to know, though, that if I did want to eat something, that it is not off limits.

  • I have started to love my body again. I no longer look at it and criticize it and get mad. I no longer look at others and compare myself. I have started to really love my shape. I mean my body is AMAZING!!! It allows me to breathe, run, read, and live! My shape is mine, if it was not mine, I would not be me. It is my imperfections that make me beautiful. I now look at others and see how gorgeous they are too. All shapes are beautiful. I now truly believe that health can be found at every size. And I honestly believe that I am beautiful.
  • I have stopped criticizing others. I look at all women and truly believe that they are beautiful, just as I am. All our bodies are unique, and it is such an amazing thing.
  • I love waking up. I love life. I love spending time with my family… It is like re-visiting old friends that you haven’t seen in years because it retrospect, I haven’t. I am just constantly being thankful everyday and finding new, amazing things about life that I was missing this past year and a half or so.

Now this is not to say that all my depression, my restricting and binging, my body-hatred, my exercise and healthy eating obsessions, my addition to tracking and such all were cured by just the deletion of that one app. There was quite a lot more that went into it than that. There was a long period of time where I was in both a mental and emotional battle. However that was the final string that needed to be pulled. It was the last straw that gave me the ability to control that part of my life. When that was gone, I now had so much time and energy to actually live again. I know that it was by the grace of God that I was able to finally able to do it. I believe that sometimes the Lord does everything for a reason. I believe that He will use this one day. I have already seen ways in which it is benefitting me. I have found a new love for myself, my family, food, health, fitness, running, reading, basically everything. I have also met so many new friends because of all of this. Due to the recovery account that I started I have met so many people with the same journeys: Angie, Allie, Kara, Claire, Rachel, Colleen, Sam, Leanne, and soooo many others. I am so thankful for life. I have such a new outlook on life. I am not saying that things are perfect, however. Life is a never ending journey. Somedays I fall back into old habits like feeling guilty for eating too much, or for eating past a certain time, or for eating a piece of cake with a lot of sugar. When this happens, I remind myself all that I have been through and that in the end I am human. Who I am is not dependent upon my looks, my weight, how much time I put in at the gym. In the end, who I am in dependant upon my personality. If I gained or lost five pounds, my family would still love me. And so what if you gain some weight or don’t always work out? At the end of the day do you want to remember all the macros you hit, or the memories that you made? I wasted way too much of my life, and now I am ready to live. I am ready to embrace all the happiness that comes from truly living the healthiest life of all. In my opinion, that is a balanced life. A life where things are no longer black and white, but instead things are grey. That is why balance is so important to me. For so long I was living so extreme, so extreme it almost ended me. Now I live a life full of balance, or a ‘grey’ life as I like to say. Grey is now my new favorite color… maybe that is why I decided to dye my hair this color? I am not totally sure..but I love it(: