Wednesday, January 11, 2012

cleaning up

Hello friends.

It has been awhile. Again.

This is going to be a somewhat introspective, somewhat text-heavy post. If you read this for the recipes, or the pictures, you can scroll down. Or just skip it. Return to regularly scheduled programming in the next post. No hard feelings.

Some things I am:

1. At a big life transition.

More than any other time in my life, I feel like I am taking steps for the long haul. This week I started community college classes in the hopes of getting all my science requirements out of the way to apply to Master’s in Nutrition programs in fall of 2013. It’s hella exciting, but it’s also a Big Deal. I consciously know this, but I think it’s doing even more of a number on my subconscious.

2. Still living at home.

I love my family and I love coming home and getting to tell my mom about my day instead of calling her angsting from college and wishing I were closer. Still, there are things that are challenging about living at home. Less control about the people coming into your space. Less control about the STUFF coming into your space. My last semester of college, I had a roommate with a boyfriend she essentially lived with (they just got married, aww), and it meant I had a teeny tiny apartment virtually all to myself. I. loved. it. I cleaned up and everything stayed clean. I controlled the noise level. There was no junk food in my apartment because I didn’t buy it.

3. A control freak.

As you might have guessed with the stuff about the apartment above, I liked being able to control my environment. I like knowing what’s coming next in my life. I like planning. I like making my own schedule. I like organizing things. I like numbers and data.

4. Thin.

Thin-ish. Not as thin as when I started this blog. Nor a few months later, when rather than thin, in retrospect, I was skinny. I couldn’t buy pants at Target anymore. They were too big! That’s no good. I wanted to always be able to buy stuff at Target! Anyway, I am thin, but I feel myself expanding. It began slowly (bakery job), then picked up RAPIDLY (stressful Americorps job), then seemed to be in a pretty solid, maintenance, healthy but satisfying and enjoyable life, “happy weight” place. But lately, I have been…

Okay, let’s get down to it.

5. A mess.

I am a little bit of a mess right now.

Who hasn’t been here, right? Life changes, the stresses and re-evaluations of everything those cause snafus in your schedule, unfamiliar and occasionally unwelcome influences appear in your life and home.

In my case, it’s been the thing that has kind of always been in the orbit of my life: eating. I went to a shrink for like… a day in college. (Anyone who has tried to make an appointment in a university’s student health center, ever, knows what I’m talking about.) I remember saying to her, “Being a heroin addict is easy. You just don’t go under your shady bridge and buy heroin. If you’re weird about food, you have to deal with it at least three times a day. You can’t just quit eating!”

So as of late, my way of dealing with food has been… The best analogy I can come up with is that if a four year old were given free rein of the kitchen.

The funny thing is, what’s really going to stop a four year old from eating whatever he or she wants? Nothing, right, which maybe explains our current childhood obesity epidemic. Still, one hopes, if that child has responsible parents looking out for that child’s best interests, they say things like, “That’s a treat food, not an every day food”, or, “If you’re hungry, sit down at the table and eat your snack instead of grabbing the bag”, or, “Let’s eat the vegetables on our plate and see if we have room for dessert.”

Well, here in my post-holiday cookie-filled house, I have been that four year old kid. Rather than taking on the role of the responsible adult saying “Save room” or “Don’t eat straight out of the bag”, or “Just one cookie”, I have been going NUTS. This is the mess I refer to. Incessant snacking. Simple sugars, typically in the forms of cookies and candy, as mood elevator and energy source. Stress eating.

Then scurrying to the gym and guiltily and unhappily working out for hours and hours. One should exercise like an adult, too, understanding that it’s not a calorie-undoer button, it’s a chance to strengthen your heart and your muscles and whoa, how about that, be a mood elevator and energy source naturally.

And who stops me? Nobody. Because I am an adult, and it’s my job to take care of me. And that job has entirely fallen by the wayside these past few weeks.

So. Where does that leave me? (And perhaps you, as from chatting with various friends- you know who you are- this feeling is not entirely unfamiliar around the holidays?)

Here’s what I don’t want: to count every calorie I eat and remove any joy from the experience of eating. It’s rigid, depressing, and simply unrealistic. I don’t want to be the hungry automaton Anna Wintour and our self-loathing culture want me to be. Here’s what else I don’t want: to continue what I’m doing.

If you are a mess, then you have to clean up that mess. You have to say to yourself, I deserve someone who treats my body with the same respect and love with which a caring parent tends to their child’s body. My body doesn’t deserve this careening-towards-diabetes sugar roller coaster. It doesn’t deserve to be stuffed mindlessly.

Furthermore, the people who worked to create the food don’t deserve it.

My Steve and I took a blissful hiking trip over this past weekend to Sugarloaf Mountain. On our way home, we stopped at a roadside stand and bought some absolutely gorgeous squash.


Because the stand had actually already closed and the register was boxed up, the farmer was going to give us the squash for free (Steve got another three in addition to these!)

But I was never going to let that happen, because I know that this small farmer- along with the other small farmers at my local market from whom I am lucky enough to get a good portion of my food- deserve so much better than that.

Hours of effort, crossing fingers and hoping for no weather disasters, gritting their teeth every moment they have to be out hawking their goods instead of tending to their farm: being a farmer is no easy task. (I actually am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it’s making me both very pleased at where I get my food and newly respectful- and craving mindfulness- about its source).

The same is true of all food, though. When my boyfriend, or my mom, or my family member, or my friend makes me dinner, they put their effort into it so that it would taste good, so that it would nourish me. If I’m scarfing it down without thinking about it, or I’m gritting my teeth and trying to eat as little as possible because I had three totally mediocre industrially produced cookies earlier, that’s terrible disrespect to that cook’s work.

Where am I going with all this?

Food is nourishment. Food is important. Good food- in every sense- is something to strive for.


So self, yes, you’re a mess right now.


No one else is going to take care of my body. I am an adult, with all the responsibilities that entails. If I want to be healthy, if I want to thrive, if I want to be strong, if I want to get all the things I want to get done, done, then I need to take care of myself. Period.

Obviously, there are mechanisms in the brain that are tricky to deal with in our era of Frankenfood. We crave salt, fat and sugar. They are rare in nature but all too common in modern America.

So, I just did a necessary cookie purge in my house. I felt HORRIBLY guilty wasting food, even un-nutritious food, but I gave an atoning donation to the World Food Programme to try to make up for it.

I’m excited to learn about the human body and nutrition in the next semester, and I think it will reinforce this real compulsion I feel to respect and nourish the awe-inspiringly effective systems of my body.

And I have to eat well. I have to relearn, yes, like a kid, to be good.

The irony of course being, that even in this nutty phase I really have eaten some good food, and I am in the future for more things to look like this.

The sugar hangover breakfast:


(Greek yogurt, clementine, banana, apple, puffed wheat, milk drizzle atop)

The non-greasy lunch:


(toasted flatbread, hummus, tomato; broiled)

The contemplative, thought-out cooking and stress-relieving kneading


(calzone dough; calzones ended up in the freezer for future meals)


(on the left, calzone filling; on the right, veggies prepping for lunch salad)


(calzone filling, finished off with a small amount of goat cheese)

The lunch I wish I hadn’t preceded with the office party cake and cookies:


(Clementine; farmer’s market sunflower flax bread, salad)


(On a base of kale, the salad had chickpeas, kohlrabi, carrots, avocado, and olives in a yogurt dressing)

The wholesome snacks I partially ate but too much displaced with junky stuff:


I am going to the gym, because I want to feel good. Both while I work out and when I come home and when I wake up.

Here’s to cleaning up.


Eireni said...

I "amen" this post (feeling pretty much in the same place right now, actually...) and also would like to note that I owe you a phone call ASAP and will be calling you this weekend:), get ready for it!

Erin Lee said...

it's nice to hear you talk about your thoughts -- I miss you! Sigh, I'm a mess too. Your eating is my dating. (and boys are everywhere, too!...though sometimes married).

But, you WILL get through the winter and find that sunshine, calm, and better peace of mind is waiting for you. In the mean time, remember that just because "you are an adult" doesn't mean you can't ask for help. After all:

"When we were children, we used to think that when we grew up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability, to be alive is to be vulnerable." Madeleine L'Engle

I got yo back.


marie said...

We All understand exactly where you are coming from. Unfortunately our health is a lifetime commitment and an indefinite work in progress.

I gave up a long time ago trying to be strict or severe with my diet but try to nourish myself with plenty of healthy food so there isn't a whole lotta room for the sweet stuff that I will inevitably eat.

When I make cookies I freeze them, ditto zuchinni bread and all other treats.