Cardioversary

Today marks one year since the last time I did cardio exercise.

Now, yes, I walked 16 miles a day while in Italy. And yes, there have been some times where I have been active enough to get my heart rate up that one could consider it aerobic. But as for going out with the intention of doing cardio exercise? I have abstained for a full 365 days, and I am incredibly proud of that. I remember the day I first started thinking about the possibility of taking a break from cardio. Not like a “while I was in treatment and they made me take a break” break, but a real break. One that I was really doing for myself, that no doctor or therapist was holding me to. One that I was doing because I believed it was what was best for my body, and for my mind. I’d just finished reading Decoding Anorexia for the first time. I’ve read it enough times since then to feel like I know it like the back of my hand. I was shocked by the studies that had proven how effective abstaining from any cardio exercise whatsoever was for someone in recovery, especially when there had been an exercise addiction component. It was so clear in the science, that someone in recovery needed more than just the bare minimum of a couple of weeks, or even months off from exercising their body in order for it to fully heal, and especially to avoid relapse. A year was used time and time again to show that enough time had gone by, that the patient could begin reintegrating exercise back into their life and do it in a healthy way. I remember reading that and thinking, “Okay. That’s it. That’s what I want. A healthy relationship with exercise. So I guess it’s gonna be a year.”

And it was a long year. It was a long year, but at the same time, it went by fast. So much has happened that I can’t believe it’s really been twelve months. I hated my decision at times, I resented it, and I was often jealous and frustrated of my friends that were doing things I wanted to do: going to workout classes together, training for a marathon, going on a hike, doing a mud run. But even on the worst days, when I cried on the phone to my mom because I just felt so awful and wanted to go for a run more than anything, I never questioned it. I knew that it was the right decision for me, and I was determined to stick it out. I think for a long time, this year of no cardio will be up there with my proudest accomplishments.

If you’re wondering if I’ll be going for a run today, the answer is no. Would I like to?

HECK to the YES.

But I’m not. I’m not going to rush into it just because it’s been a year, when I’m not at my goal weight yet. I don’t think that would be very good in principle. But it is a heck of a lot of motivation for me in my eating to know that the second I am at my goal weight, I’ve done my time and can begin to slowly reintegrate cardiovascular fitness back into my life.

Okay, but aside from cardio…I’ve had quite a few victories the past few days. And surprisingly, I still feel pretty darn great.

Victory List:

-On Wednesday night, I went to look at lights with some family friends. We had decided to get dinner at the food carts, and I got a bratwurst! The man (chef) asked if I wanted him to make it with oil or with butter, but said that the butter tasted a heck of a lot better. And I said he could use the butter!!! I will say, it did taste pretty good. As my mom would say, “Everything’s better with butter!”

-On Christmas morning, my mom made crêpes for breakfast. I ate them. Not one, not two, not even three. I ate four crêpes (topped with butter, lemon, and powdered sugar). And the E.D. just had to deal with it.

-Later that morning, Brad and I went over to my Dad’s house. I didn’t know what was going to be there for lunch, but had decided I was going to try to be flexible. Worst case scenario, I knew they’d have stuff I could make a sandwich with. His wife had made sliders, which were made up of roast beef, mayonnaise, oil, swiss cheese, and dinner rolls. Not a single food in that list is not a fear food of mine. I had them anyway.

-The morning after Christmas, I was headed out to the mall and told my mom I was craving a Jamba Juice. I then went and got one, and I did not choose one based on the number of calories it contained. I picked the one that sounded the best (which happened to have more calories than my usual and “safe” option). It was the “Mega Mango” and it was delicious.

-That SAME day, I was coming back from the mountain with my Dad and step-brothers and Bradley in the afternoon (I didn’t ski or board, just read and looked at the snow), when my dad said they were going to stop at Dairy Queen. I’d already had my afternoon snack of an Almond & Coconut KIND bar and an ounce of nuts, but thought, “Heck, I’m trying to put on weight anyway. I’m going to get a Blizzard!” and ordered one! It was Heath and I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I’d had a Blizzard in at least five years.

-Yesterday morning, my mom and I went to Grand Central Bakery and I got a blueberry scone and cappuccino. E.D. wanted me to choose a much smaller pastry and order the cappuccino nonfat, but I pretended I was in Italy and just ordered them the way they were. Both were delicious.

So yes, you could say it’s been a successful week. Oh, and did I mention? I got the stomach flu on Thursday night! Both Friday and Saturday I was out cold (actually I was hot, sweating up a storm!), hardly eating (obviously not helping my case) and throwing up (luckily only once). That obviously could’ve set me back, but I’ve been rallying and working extra hard to make sure I’ve made up anything I could’ve lost over those two days.

On another side note, I’m having surgery on my hand/wrist this afternoon for carpal tunnel (I know, crazy at my age, right? I think so, too). Because of that, I’m not thinking I’ll be able to blog or do much typing for a while, so it will probably be a few weeks before there’s another post.

All things considered, I’m so thankful for mine and my family’s health, and for all of my friends. I’m thankful that our Savior was born in a manger and that God sent Him to live on Earth so that we could be forgiven. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, and I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a happy New Year!

 

In Him,

Bridge

Ten Steps Forward, One Step Back

Something I pride myself in with this blog is being real. And reality isn’t always (or nearly ever) as perfect as I’d like it to be.

I’m not taking away anything I wrote in yesterday’s post, but I feel this update is necessary if I want to really convey the full story. I still feel like I took ten steps forward in my mental recovery while I was away. I did, however, take one backwards in my physical recovery. I had a check-in with Dr. Rock yesterday and learned that I did lose (a significant amount of) weight during my time away. Considering Maddie and I were walking an average of 16 miles a day, it’s not necessarily surprising, but it is frustrating. It’s largely frustrating for me because, since I am committed to my recovery, it means I have to restore that much more weight. I’ve maintained my motivation though, and am still thankful for all of the mental and emotional progress I feel I made in my recovery while on my trip. Since being home, I’ve continued in my progress with my eating, having a bratwurst from a food cart last night at a holiday festival with friends, letting my mom make my breakfast this morning (which was different from what I usually eat), and, yes, I did make and eat that homemade pizza yesterday — and it was great! I’m really trying to utilize this current swing of motivation I have and just get this restoring piece over with. My treatment team has established a certain number that my weight needs to be at by the time winter term starts if I am to return to school without them recommending that I leave to obtain a higher level of care. I’m determined to return to school, so that means over the coming weeks I’ll be eating a lot, and a lot of dense foods, and not doing much of any activity. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past two months, but even more. I know it will be hard, but I’m up for the challenge.

 

In Him,

Bridge

 

My 10 Days in Europe

img_0826-copyI spent the last ten days in both Italy and France. Technically, Switzerland and Germany, too, if you count airports. Those ten days had more of an impact on my recovery than I could’ve imagined.

Prior to embarking, I knew there were two potential outcomes of this trip. One being that I would return home, anxious and eager to resume familiarity and security in my eating. On this trip, I would not have access to a scale (I do not weigh myself, but I do weigh my food), my usual foods, or any other E.D.-related comforts. I would be going twelve days without getting weighed in, which is the longest I have gone in over a year. I also would be faced with challenge foods daily: pizza, pasta, cheese, and gelato (to name a few).

The other possible outcome was that I would come home inspired: excited about experiencing a new culture and all that came with it, food included. My palate would be expanded and I would begin to incorporate new things into my menus. New tools in my toolbox, as my mom would say.

As much as I hoped for the latter, I honestly didn’t expect it. It’s hard to explain the discouragement and sense of hopelessness that frequently sets into my heart when it comes to my eating disorder. When something’s been a part of you for so long — and truly, I cannot remember what it was like to not struggle with my eating; it’s been six years — it has a way of embedding itself in you. While I prayed my trip would not be consumed with concerns of food, my expectations were not high.

Not only were they met, my expectations were far surpassed. I feel like I’m on fire. All thanks to Jesus as well, I’m also experiencing the utmost appreciation for the new medication I am taking, which I have been on for just over a month now. Appropriately, four weeks is the amount of time it’s supposed to take for one to be able to see an effect. I think I’m seeing it 🙂

I was able to notice a marked difference when I was in the Zurich airport yesterday, preparing to fly home. I had two options I could purchase for a late breakfast, at around 11 o’clock: a croissant from Starbucks, or a soft pretzel, freshly delivered from a Swiss bakery. The croissant was the safe option. For one, I knew the calorie content of it (unfortunately, I memorized the nutritional values of major food chains years ago, Starbucks being one of them). And secondly, I’d already had three croissants on this trip. That tool had already been added to my toolkit, it didn’t really scare me anymore.

But the pretzel…it looked so good. It was fresh. It was something I hadn’t tried yet.

I ordered it. And it was delicious.

To understand the significance of this, you have to realize something. The eating disorder thrives on certainty. I’ll choose a clif bar over an unpackaged snack any day, and not because I believe it’s healthier for me, but because it’s wrapped. It has a set number of calories, which means I don’t have any room for error. A handful of crackers or a cookie is so uncertain. There’s not a label on the individual pieces, and that terrifies the heck out of the E.D.

Yet, I ordered the pretzel. I’d begun to appreciate the quality of food over the number of calories it contained. I can’t describe the momentousness of this shift. The weight I felt lifted off my shoulders once this realization set in was enough to make me smile ear to ear.

The header photo of this post is me with a cappuccino and a crêpe. I love crêpes. Or should I say loved. They used to be my favorite breakfast food. My mom would make them from scratch and I would top them with butter, powdered sugar, and lemon. I think the last time I had one, we were in the house we lived in when my parents were still together. That would mean I was no older than twelve.

Our first full day in Paris, I chose for Maddie and me to eat at this crêpe restaurant. There was absolutely no rationale behind that decision other than that a crêpe sounded good. When’s the last time I made a decision based on that? It’d been a while. Keeping with tradition of the ones I so used to love, I ordered a sweet crêpe: salted butter and sugar. It was absolutely divine. I knew I needed a milk as well, so I had a cappuccino along with it.

A note on cappuccinos (or really any coffee drink) in Europe. Nonfat, or milk alternatives, they’re not an option. At one of the restaurants Maddie and I went to for breakfast, they didn’t even have a menu. They told us they had croissants and cappuccinos. That was it. And they were excellent.

Ten days of experiencing this, I don’t even know what to call it — a different culture around food, I guess you could say, really opened my eyes to what good food is. Not safe food, or healthy food, but just good, quality food. Nowhere in Europe did I see anything labeled at a restaurant with a calorie count. Not one place. The focus was so much more on the quality of it: at my favorite sandwich shop, we watched the butcher slice the prosciutto straight off the ham, the bread come right out of the oven, the mozzarella that he said had just been made one day prior. Nothing frozen, nothing low-calorie. Just real, good, food.

Instead of eating my usual turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch today, on the first day I am home and could return to my normal meal plan, I’m making homemade pizza. I want to try making it the way I had it in Italy (SimBIOsi was my favorite pizza spot, but there were so many great ones!). The latter outcome, the one that I’d so hoped for but didn’t think would happen, happened.

As my mom has been reminding me, it takes a minimum of 21 days to change a habit. I think that number’s got to be a lot larger when you’re dealing with something that you’ve been doing for six years. Whatever the number of days, I am thankful for being ten days closer to changing mine.

 

Other victories (and places I’d recommend eating if you’re in Florence or Paris!)

SandwiChic (Florence)

Le Consulat (Paris)

Angelina (Paris)

La Ménagere (Florence)

Ditta Artiginale (Florence)

 

In Him,

Bridge

 

 

Ciao! 

Well, well, well…I’m in Europe! I really can’t believe I’m here. The whole trip has been surreal so far, from the minute I stepped onto my plane at PDX, to seeing Maddie for the first time as my train arrived in Florence (or “Firenze,” as the locals say), to even right now, while we’re sitting down at the cutest cafe called “Ditta Artigianale.” If you’re wondering if me being in Europe means that I reached my goal weight at the weigh-in following my last blog, I did not. That goal remains, and needs to happen ASAP. Actually, ASAP’s coming up pretty darn soon, as my therapist has said that I will be dropped from her care if I am not weight restored upon my return (which I do understand, since my going on the trip is against their recommendation). There’s a long story to cover the last few weeks, which I will detail later, but am not going to go into right now. For the next six days I have left in Italy and France, I’m just going to focus on and enjoy the present. I’m challenging myself in LOTS of new ways here. I’ve already had gelato twice, which is more than I’ve had dessert in the last six months. I’ve also had pizza so fresh the cheese slid all the way off of it, three cappuccinos made with whole milk, two servings of gelato, the and two sandwiches on thick, home made Italian focaccia bread, fresh mozzarella, olive and sun dried tomato pâté, and prosciutto that I watched them slice off the pig. And it’s only day four. I’m sure you can see why my eating disorder is going a bit haywire at this point! I am doing okay though. Even though nothing that I’ve eaten since Thursday has been off of my typical menu, I’m doing alright. Actually, I’m doing more than alright, I’m getting to enjoy Italy with one of my best friends. And that’s my plan for the next six days as well. To try, the best I can, to just enjoy it. Or as my mom would say, “embrace the gelato.” She thinks that should be my hashtag/mantra for this trip, and that I should call it my “recovery tour.” I think it’s cute, but probably won’t be hashtagging it on my instagram anytime soon 🙂

I will say that I’m a bit concerned about how much walking we’re doing, given my need to gain weight. I am working so, SO hard in my eating here…seriously every single thing I’ve put in my mouth has been a food that my eating disorder has previously said “No” to, but I’m definitely not following the guidelines for exercise restriction. It’s unrealistic on this trip, and I knew that coming, which is partially how I’m justifying everything I’m eating to my eating disorder. If I’m going to exercise (nothing more than walking, though!) when I’m not supposed to, I need to be compensating with my eating. 

But, I also know that I’ve been in situations before where I’ve worked incredibly hard, and it still wasn’t enough. My goal for the next week is to finish strong in my eating, and try to enjoy it as much as I can. We will see about that last part! 
Okay… here are a few photos! I’m blogging right now because Maddie is working on homework, but I probably won’t get around to posting again until I’m home.


Ciao, and Happy Holidays! 

Bridge