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Being my own advocate

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I constantly feel the need to talk about my bad years because I was never an advocate for myself and now I feel the need to be that advocate for my teen self, because she deserved to have someone advocate for her. It’s engrained in us so damn early to keep our struggles and anxieties internal and our society teaches us to always value our physical appearance over all else. I remember at 14 clutching at my skin wishing I could just cut off any bulge until I was down to my skin and bones. I would come home from high school, pretty much every day, and cry in my room because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin and I couldn’t shed it off.

My dad once caught me crying and asked me if I was crying about a boy and I was so frustrated that his first assumption would be so logical, obviously I was crying because someone else caused me pain right? It would make no sense that I was causing myself that pain, clearly. I had no emotional tools to be able to vocalize my anxieties and say I’M CRYING BECAUSE I HATE MY BODY.

When we got a treadmill I was overjoyed. My most important relationship in high school became the one between me and the sound of my ragged breath as my feet pounded against it every day for 1,2,3…7 miles. As I slimmed down my already small frame I began to hide my mileage, sneaking in quick mile runs when no one was home. I was sick and didn’t want anyone to know—or at least that’s what I believed. I was supposed to be the one with a perfect life, two working involved parents who are still together, no serious financial or familial struggles. President of National Honor Society, National French Honors Society, French Club, Editor-in-Chief of my senior yearbook, on Homecoming Court, working myself ragged to be someone people thought was cool and someone who was admired. I wasn’t supposed to be the person who deserved to have problems.

I believe my eating disorder manifested because I wanted people to know I was unhappy but didn’t know how to put it into words. I barely spoke at that time anyway, all my sentences trailing off in whispers because I didn’t think what I had to say was important. Instead I was going to show them, by making my emotional pain visible in my jutting cheekbones and sunken cheeks.

I wish I had someone who taught me how to radically love my body when I was younger. As an advocate for my teenage self I feel the need to practice radical self love every single day even when it’s fucking hard and I want to slip back into my past behaviors. I feel the need to say when I’m not okay or when I’m having a hard day now, because then I can release my pain instead of letting it manifest in other unhealthy ways.

There’s no foolproof way to prevent eating disorders but we can start by teaching kids, especially young girls, that their importance isn’t in how they look. I wish my family and friends would have complimented me on my reading abilities, swimming skills, love for animals, or any of my other passions BEFORE complimenting my attire or body. It’s not their fault though, it’s normal to instinctually think of people’s physical appearances because it’s been engrained into us that’s where our compliments should stem from. That’s why the body positive movement is so radical. It’s attempting to change the very way we interact with others and ourselves.

Here are some tips from the National Eating Disorders Association:

  1. Choose to challenge the false belief that thinness, weight loss and/or muscularity are desirable, while body fat and weight gain are shameful or indicate laziness, worthlessness or immorality.
  2. Avoid attitudes or actions that communicate, “I will like you better if you lose weight, don’t eat so much or change your body shape.”
  3. Discourage the idea that a particular diet, weight or body size will automatically lead to happiness and fulfillment.
  4. Decide to avoid judging others and yourself on the basis of body weight or shape. Turn off the voices in your head that tell you that a person’s body weight or muscularity says anything about their character, personality or value as a person.

Other great resources on this topic can be found here:

The Body Positive

What is the Body Positive Movement?

And most of all I choose to be my own advocate, because I miss my eating disorder and the familiarity of acting on my self-hatred, but know I can never go back. Practicing radical self love is scary and feels so unfamiliar. This journey will be a life long struggle and I need to be prepared for that, so here’s to educating myself and others about the harmful effects of diet culture and body shaming and being an advocate for my inner teen self for the rest of my life. ❤

 

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When They Go Low, We Go High

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Tuesday night I sat in my living room with my housemates and watched the election results unfold with increasing levels of despair and anger and confusion. At one point my best friend and I went outside and ran around in the dark in the middle of the street just to get away from it all, but when it was finally announced that Trump had won the election we were anchored to the couch. I had my hand over my mouth and I felt like I was screaming inside. Watching him take the stage and hearing the crowd chant “USA! USA!” my heart broke. As a women my heart broke. As a person who has a certain level of privilege my heart broke for all those I love who will be even more drastically affected by these results.

The past few days I’ve been trying to wrap my head and heart around this election. I think the question “How?” has been echoing in my head non-stop. I’ve had friends cry on my shoulder. I’ve listened to stories of racist hatred breaking out across the US in a much more visible form than previously. I’ve listened to my mom tell me about her students expressing fear that their family members would be deported. I’ve listened to women despair over the fact that if the democratic candidate was a man then Trump would not have won the election. I’ve listened to victims of sexual assault and rape talk about their heartbreak in having a man who has joked about both and been accused of both win this election.

This is not just politics as usual. This is something different. People are experiencing a very visceral level of fear because Trump and his supporters have expressed absolute vitriol and hatred towards people that identify as they do.

Protests and marches have broken out across this nation, including at my own campus UC Santa Cruz, and already I’m hearing people say that people need to just accept this and move-on. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t fly with me. We need to let people experience their emotions. We need to let people use their voices. We need to show that this racism, sexism and bigotry will not stand in this country. Use your voice! Do something, anything, but don’t be complacent.

I think the most terrifying thing about this election is not what will come from Trump’s actual decisions and actions once he takes power, but the absolute magnitude of racism and sexism he has exposed to be thriving in this country. When we have 60 million people voting for a man who openly brags about sexual assault, degrades women, violently stereotypes people of color and more, then we have a real problem. This election has finally put to rest the notion that we are living in a post-racial society. Am I afraid of Trump’s presidency? Yes. But am I more afraid of the attitude and behavior of fellow Americans that supported him? Absolutely. Trump’s victory has only validated their beliefs and behavior.

This is not about democrat v. republican. This is about standing strongly by the principles of compassion, equality and justice.

I’m also fearful for the state of this planet. We will now have a president and vice president who don’t believe in climate change. We live in a dangerous time and we need to be doing everything we can to protect the planet NOW. We can’t afford 4 years of environmental degradation in the name of profit. I genuinely fear where we will be as a world in 4 years.

So what do we do now?

One, stop joking about moving away. We need to be here together and we need to work on creating as much change for good as we can here.

We organize. We make our voices heard. We stand up for each other and we stand together. Together we are powerful and we can let Trump and his supporters know that we will not stand for bigotry. Protest, march, rally. Let your loved ones who are fearful know that you are there for them and that you aren’t going anywhere. Be an ally.

Now more than ever we need to stand up for our planet and all those we share it with. If you are feeling fearful, anxious, angry and are grieving, allow yourself to experience that. Your emotions are valid. Then channel those emotions into creating positive change.

Finally I’m here for you if you need someone to talk/cry/scream to.

 

Trying to Heal

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I rarely talk about this, but just over 3 years ago I spent 3 weeks as an inpatient at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in the Eating Disorder Ward. And 3 years later I’m still discovering the depths and complexities of healing my relationship to food and my body. It’s a struggle to think back to a time that I could carelessly eat food or live life. I used to think my eating disorder started my senior year of high school, but as I look back at pictures and recall memories, those lines become more and more blurred.

In middle school my friends didn’t eat lunch, so I decided that was the cool/good/popular thing to do. In high school I thrived on the “you’re so skinny” comments. In high school I looked up how many calories were in a cup of steamed broccoli. My freshmen year of college I passed on the dining hall every single time someone asked if I wanted to go so I could eat raw kale salad alone in my room.

My mind was a constantly running calculator of calories and hours since I last ate. It was a game. How many hours could I go without eating before I felt faint. How long could I run on the treadmill at the gym listing everything I ate the day before over and over again until my legs felt like they would fall off. Ask me to list the nutritional facts of an apple? No problem.

How many numbers would it take to be interesting? To get people to pay attention to me? Because maybe my eating disorder was some sort of call for help. I don’t understand how it began. I don’t understand how I wound up in a wheelchair, like some geriatric old woman, in a hospital ward. What triggers an eating disorder? I can’t answer that.

And maybe it’s less important for me to understand why it all started. Maybe the question I should be trying to answer is how to let it go. I would say my relationship to food is pretty healthy now. I would say my relationship to my body and my eating disorder is not. It’s always on my mind. Everyday. Without fail. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.

It’s a strange thing. I’m happy, I have friends and people who love me around me. When I was starving I had none of that, or at least felt like I didn’t. But I still have this weird attachment to my illness, this fascination with everything that was falling apart about me at the time. This feeling that if I was sick again I would be more interesting.

My knees ached from resting against each other in bed, with no fat to cushion them. My hair thinned, loose strands clogging the shower drain. Climbing a flight of stairs felt like a marathon. My veins stood out on my arms so prominently it looked like I had been weight lifting 24/7. Wearing three layers in March just so I wouldn’t shiver. The concerned looks. Interesting right?

When they gave me a glass of milk to drink at the hospital I cried.

Sinking to a place where your bodily autonomy is taken away from you is probably the worst feeling. Not being able to stay vegan, being forced to consume the products of another beings suffering and being told it would end my own, was awful. There are so many problems with the ways eating disorders, mental illness in general, is treated in this country – but that’s a whole other blog post.

“If you are not recovering you are dying.” – Blythe Baird

Body positivity is a daily struggle. Whenever I’m insecure or anxious my mind goes straight back to the thought,”I know how to fix this – skipped meals – hours at the gym.” I know the high of an empty stomach growling for food and thinking I had willpower for denying it that. I know the feeling of arching my back in front of the mirror just to see how many ribs stuck out, like a disturbed pro-ana Tumblr account my mind can run for hours on loops of destructive thoughts.

I know how to be healthy. I know how to feed my body what it needs and how to fuel myself. I don’t know how to be happy doing it.

“Why Breakfast tastes like giving up.” -Blythe Baird

I wish I could stop relating my happiness to what I eat and how I look. I want to just be happy. Happy without conditions.

“So how lucky it is now to be boring. The way not going to the hospital is boring…My story may not be as exciting as it used to but at least there is nothing left to count.” -Blythe Baird

I know all the rights things to tell myself. I follow Body Positivity Instagram accounts and blogs. I can wax poetic about feminism and destroying body standards, but it’s so hard to practice what I preach. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, though it is quite a solitary struggle. It’s hard to find comfort in the fact that so many people are also not happy in their bodies.

We only have 1 life to live and I’m tired of living it with nagging, unhappy, unhealthy thoughts at the back of my mind. So this is me, trying to heal. Everyday.

This is me encouraging anyone that still struggles with eating issues and body image to be kind to their bodies and to be patient with themselves. Recovery is a process, a long and grueling process. But if I am not recovering then I am not living.

 

Go Macro Thrive Bar + Giveaway

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I recently partnered with Go Macro to review their new line of Thrive Bars. They’re Non-GMO, Certified Gluten Free, Organic and most importantly totally Vegan! They contain a good dose of Plant Based protein and are rich with great ingredients like Sprouted Flax, Puffed Quinoa, Pumpkin Seeds, and Hemp Hearts. Their new line of bars contains six flavors: Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, Almond Apricot, Blueberry Lavender, Ginger Lemon, and Caramel Coconut.

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I was pretty confident I would love all the flavors and I was not disappointed. These are super handy to have on hand as a college student who is constantly on the go. I don’t always have time to have food prepared and ready with me so having bars on hand is super helpful. These Thrive bars were not only delicious but sustaining containing a good punch of protein, healthy fats and carbs.

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My personal favorite was the Caramel Coconut (surprising because I’m usually a chocolate fiend). It was subtly sweet and crunchy and the caramel flavor was very good without tasting artificial. I would definitely buy this bar in stores to have on hand again.

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I love that you can also clearly see the ingredients in the bar. You know what you’re getting and you know that GoMacro uses real whole foods ingredients.

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The lemon ginger was also one of my favorites! The lemon and ginger provided a nice zing without being overpowering.

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I was a little skeptical of the Blueberry Lavender because I don’t usually like foods with lavender in them, but I was pleasantly surprised. The lavender added a nice touch to this bar rather than overpowering it.

I highly recommend the line of Thrive bars and cannot wait to go out and stock up on some more. Now on to the giveaway!

You can use the code Thrive30 for 30% off of your purchase for Thrive at GoMacro’s online store: http://gomacro.com/shop/product-category/thrive/.

Link to Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

 

 

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie

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A few days ago I received the “Vegan Is…” Tumbler from Meaningful Paws and I absolutely love it! So I’ve made smoothies everyday just so I can use it. Haha!

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Isn’t it cute? She has so many great products at her shop. Now on to the smoothie, which I’ve had almost twice a day the last few days. Sometimes I just get in those moods where I crave the same food for a week and then eat so much of it that I never want to eat it again. Hopefully that doesn’t happen with this smoothie because it’s SO good!

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie

  • 1 large frozen banana
  • 2 pitted dates
  • 1 cup unsweetened flax milk (I use Good Karma brand)
  • 1/4 cup oats (currently using the quick cook oats because that’s what I have)
  • 1 spoonful cacao powder

That’s it! I also love adding a tbsp PB2, powdered peanut butter. So good! For an extra treat you can add a drizzle pure maple syrup! Yum!

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The other day I came across this picture of Eloise from 4 months ago and I cannot believe how much she’s grown! I feel like a proud parent whenever I talk about her.

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She’s almost full grown now! I have an Instagram account for her too so if you like lots of cat photos and videos follow Eloise @it.is.me.eloise

The weather in Santa Cruz has been so nice lately it’s almost ridiculous. Only in California do you get 80 degree weather in February. Maybe it has something to do with global warming as well 😦 I’m not complaining but I hope we get to enjoy a few more rainy days before the summer heat comes.

Yesterday i also made the decision to cut 10 inches off my hair! Well I didn’t really know what I wanted going in, I just wanted a change. My hair was getting long (mid way down my back) and would always get caught in my backpack straps etc. I also was getting a lot of split ends and decided it was time for a change. It feels so liberating to cut my hair off but also slightly terrifying because I think I was hiding behind my hair a bit.

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I’m growing to like it! Also this morning when I woke up it was so low maintenance! No tangles and long hair to brush out.

Anyway, until next time!

 

Good Days – NEDA Week

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I’m still constantly surprised with how good a day can be. A day like today. It was simple enough, I had two classes this morning, finished some things on my to do list, went to the farmers market and came home to make dinner in my kitchen while listening to music. Just an average day, but I’m so happy. I love my life right now. It’s not perfect but I can’t believe how happy I am sometimes.

It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and reflecting back on past years I’ve never felt so good. Most people celebrate recovery by posting progress/low weight pictures on social media and I’m not here to police how anyone celebrates recovery. I mean I posted a low weight picture last year. This year I’m not and it’s precisely because I feel such a desire too. It’s the part of me that still wants to say “Look how skinny I was!!” It’s that disgusting sense of pride in how low I was able to sink. Low weight pictures can also be extremely triggering. I know they are for me. It brings back that desire for control. This year I’m celebrating by spending time with friends, cooking myself a meal and being happy.

I remember days, even at the beginning of this school year where I would lay in bed so intensely lonely wishing that I could just stop existing. I did not like my life. I felt alone and isolated and being in recovery made me even angrier. I wish I could go back in time and change so many things about my life. I wish I could tell myself to be kind to myself and to be happy, but on the other hand I’m happy that I went through hard times because than days like today might not be as important to me.

I do have regrets – a lot of them and when I have bad days they come back full force. I wish I had never developed an eating disorder. I wish I hadn’t royally screwed up my first three years of college by isolating myself and ending up in a hospital my first year. I wish I had taken full advantage of everything life had to offer.

This year has been my best year. I’m involved in Banana Slugs for Animals, which I love with my whole heart. I feel so inspired and supported by everyone in BSA. I’m making friends and I have plans on the weekend and people to call or text when I need to talk. I’m going on hikes and exploring campus and some mornings I even make it to the beach before class. So the thought of leaving, of this being the end of that experience after only a few months brings me to tears. I have fears that my new friendships might not last beyond this academic year. I have fears of once again being alone and out on my own. I wish I could go back and redo my college experience at least once a day.

It’s so hard to come to terms with the fact that I can’t change the past and I can only make my future better, but everyday I’m getting a little closer to that.

Recovering from an eating disorder is not just physical. It’s emotional, almost overwhelmingly so, and mental. I had to learn to be me again and make friends and be social. I wish I had the support I have now a few years ago. Maybe things would be different. And that emotional and mental component is so hard to explain to people.

It’s that nagging voice at the back of your mind when people talk about their diets or food restrictions, when they talk about their workouts and when they talk about health. It’s learning to live with that nagging voice and silence it when it raises above a whisper. No one can control my actions except myself and I’ve learned to take that control back.

And I’m wondering a little bit why I feel the need to write this but I also know reading about other people’s experience helped me immensely in recovery so maybe I can help someone too?

Good days are coming. Life does get better. And the days when you just feel simply happy? They make me feel victorious.

 

Frustration

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If you’re vegan or even vegetarian, you’ve heard it all before. The snide little comments and jokes that friends and family who eat meat make. To them it’s no big deal and the fact that the majority of the population is on their side makes them feel comfortable and at ease in their ill-sided humor.

Recently a friend posted a meme poking fun at vegans and their “fake food” and other comments include judging people for their choice to eat meat.  Most people I would just shrug it off and say “whatevs” but it gets under my skin when it’s a long time friend. I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m vegan. I shouldn’t have to explain why other people should be too. I shouldn’t have to explain WHY slaughtering millions of animals every day is not only cruel but illogical.

But every day I’m asked to justify my choices. I don’t mind being laughed at or poked fun at because that’s minuscule compared to what the animals face everyday. What I do mind is people making jokes about the flesh of a being who was born into this world and suffered immensely and was killed without being shown love and care.

Even writing this my eyes are getting teary because the callousness of the majority of the population eats away at my heart.

I don’t want to shoot down people who aren’t educated or informed about the cruelties inherent in consuming the flesh, milk and secretions of living sentient beings. BUT when people are informed and they just turn a blind eye I’m left to wonder whatever happened in their life to leave them so cold?

I usually restrain myself from commenting on people’s memes. The anxiety that comes with arguing with people on the Internet isn’t worth it. The hand-shaking, heart-racing anxiety that leaves me a heap of nerves and rarely changes their mind.

It’s hard when you recognize meat as the flesh of a dead animal who wanted to live. It’s so damn hard to hear people joking about it or casually consuming it while they laugh and carry on with their day. Sometimes walking past the meat section in a grocery store is enough to send me fleeing out the entrance.

Sometimes I just want to shake people or make them all sit down and watch Earthlings. If they’re going to joke about something as horrifying as the meat industry they should have to bear witness to the atrocities. I just want people to wake UP and realize that it’s not right. What we’re doing is so very very wrong and the easiest way to do something about it is to stop contributing to it.

“I realize that animals will continue to suffer and die—but not because of me.”

a very underused quote by Eddie Lama

Instead of explaining why I’m vegan I’m just going to share some pictures of the amazing animals I’ve met rescued from the horrible cruel animal agriculture industry and if you haven’t transitioned yet I hope they spark compassion in you. They’re lives have value. 

“If you have the choice to do less harm, but you choose to cause harm anyway, it’s your job to ask yourself why, and it’s your job to come up with an answer. No amount of changing the subject will make that question go away.” 

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Shouldn’t it be enough just to know that our choices are causing harm? Shouldn’t that be enough for us to want to change? And if it’s not then we should be asking ourselves why.