Recovery

comfortED

I’m baaaaccck….again. I know I keep  saying I’ll be consistent and keep writing but yet here I am three months (ish) since my last post. So where have I been? I’ve been teaching lots and lots yoga. I’ve been doing chores, lots and lots of chores. I’ve also been trying to stay one step ahead of Melvin, and dealing with the loneliness that has surfaced. With each passing day I say to myself, “I need to write”, “this would be a great post”, “you could be writing right now since you aren’t doing anything but watching Netflix “,or “I’m too emotionally spent to do anything but watch Netflix”. Lately though I have felt compelled to come back. There have been too many self discoveries, perfect post ideas, and recently I’ve been encouraging others in their recovery journey. So here I am, watching Netflix (think a British version of House Hunters) and writing my first post in three months. Here we go…

This past Sunday in Small Groups we were asked a question, “What is your favorite comfort food?”. All of us had to answer as a way to promote class bonding and get prepared for the lesson (how God is the ultimate comforter and through his comfort we can be of comfort for others-awesome right?!). We go around and everyone answers. People talk about their mom’s macaroni and cheese, their grandmother’s chicken spaghetti, ice cream, cupcakes from this cupcakery in Wilco, Texas, chocolate chip cookies with coffee,  and pad thai and other Asian noodle dishes (my husbands answer). I was last and it was my turn! All eyes were on me. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t think of anything. I eat avocado brownies-not comforting. I eat lentils-I have a favorite recipe but it isn’t what I’d call comfort food. I drink protein shakes with collagen-not comforting. I have sweet treats that I binge on (dairy free ice cream of the chocolate chip cookie dough persuasion to name a handful) but those indulgences don’t comfort me–they have the opposite effect. Luckily the leader’s wife helped me out. She made a really witty joke about how my food allergies keep me from having any comfort food. She has a point, I mean I can’t eat my mom’s macaroni and cheese anymore.

 

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All during class I couldn’t shake the fact that food doesn’t comfort me. Here I am six years later and I still have a hard time with food. I cannot use food for comfort because it will trigger a binge; which will lead to a purge session either on the treadmill or weightlifting bench.If it doesn’t lead to a binge it will lead to self loathing. There are times I really do enjoy food (like the vegan ramen from Goru Ramen in the Plaza District, Ridgewood BBQ back home, anytime I eat pizza, Holey Rollers donuts) but food is still a form of survival. I eat because I have to. I eat because I get hangry if I don’t. I eat because I have fitness goals. I eat because starving sucks. I eat so I can keep Melvin at bay. I eat because that’s what humans do.

Taking this a step further and using our Small Group lesson about comfort I started thinking about how ED’s are used as a comfort. Those of us who live with an eating disorder or lived with one, found comfort in it at one point in our lives. Instead of God, family, music, faith, food, yoga–counting calories, lifting sessions, and laxatives became our comfort. When our friends weren’t there our ED was. When our family didn’t understand us, our ED did. When God forsook us, our ED showed us the way. When we were alone and misunderstood, our ED “got us”. Everything was cold, hard, and dreary, except for our disorder.

We believe our ED is a comfort instead of what it really is-a discomfort. We can’t see the discomfort that our disorder is causing us because we have been so manipulated by its words and the false sense of purpose it gives us. We believe with every calorie it will replace the friends we are losing.  We believe that every minute on the treadmill will warm us up like a flannel blanket. We believe that every meal we skip will save us from the torment that is our life. When in fact its the opposite. Those skipped meals aren’t warm flannel blankets. Those perfect calorie counts and hours on the treadmill don’t comfort us like our friends and faith will. The only comfort we have is knowing that there is something bigger and better than our disease. The only comfort, even though it can be just as discomforting, is recovery and placing faith in a higher power. That is the warm flannel blanket. That is what warms our hearts. That is our comfort food.

 

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self obsessED

Life has been a whirlwind since I last blogged. Lots of life has happened. Since my last post, my husband and I go had three weeks to move from TN to OK. I have been in OK a little over a month and I have been busy! My goal to work in a yoga studio has happened. I am slowly meeting people and still trying to find a way to dance. I have been to the ballet, sipped coffee in new coffee shops, and tried some new things. While life has been good-I am thriving professionally and loving the city life-I have also been relapsing.

This relapse has been slightly different than previous ones throughout my years of recovery. As one continues in recovery, relapses take different shapes and forms (see my other post Rabbit Hole Relapse). This little set back has been triggered by the move. Which makes sense because I am not in control, I am new to a foreign place (even though OK isn’t too different from TN, the parallels are quite spot on), trying to get my ducks in a row, and my workout schedule has changed quite a bit–more on this next week. On top of all of this my GI Phantom has reappeared and we all know how that goes…

 

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Obviously one must restrict calories and find the control through food manipulation when one is going through an uprising. However, I cannot restrict food because it makes me even crankier, so I just obsess about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I secretly count calories, have marathon worry sessions (to bad these marathons don’t burn calories!!!!), eat lots of fruit,  and the worst part of all: I become selfish.

Those of us who suffer from ED’s have one thing in common-we are selfish. When we are in the depths of ED despair all we can think about is ourselves: what we look like, what the number on the scale says, if our food choices are healthy, asking our safe person five hundred times a day if we look fat/have our thighs turned dimply/do we look any different, all we can talk about is food-exercise-body image. We aren’t aware of those around us and how they feel, we can’t see how we are bringing them down, we aren’t content, we see the worst in everything, and most importantly we forget to look around and see the beauty in life.

 

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For the past month, everyday I have been negative about my body. Asking Jeremy every hour on the hour that he is home “how do I look?”, “are my thighs turning into cottage cheese?”, “I haven’t exercised today because my schedule is crazy, is that ok?”, “can you tell that I haven’t worked out?”, “am I still pretty?”. Everything is revolved around me, me, me. Even though he is stressed and could use some comfort I cannot see it or give it because all I care about is what I look like. These thoughts not only cloud our head and thought processes, they cloud our vision. We cannot see things for how they really are. We cannot see who we really are. It isn’t until someone calls you out on your selfishness that you can begin to make a change.

This is precisely what happened with me and Jeremy. One day this past week I spent over the half the day not talking about anything but food and my horrible body. I guess (I guess, hah, I know!) that Jeremy had had enough and he said to me, “I know that what you look like is all you care about but….” I can’t really remember the rest but that statement “all you care about” was enough to knock me back to Earth because I DO care about other things. I care about my family, my dog, my husband, being a good yoga teacher, art, helping those around me, spreading smiles and happiness to those who seem a little sad. That statement helped me to back off a little bit, instead of 500 questions a day about my body I’ll ask 490, and focus on my relationship with Jeremy–because my relationship with him will always overcome and be priority over my relationship with Melvin (my ED).

While I’m still coping with my body and not very happy with it, I am trying my best to be less self obsessED and more content(ED).

 

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Rabbit Hole Relapse

I’ve written about relapse before but this topic is always worth coming back to. Especially when you write about your experiences, need something to write about, and just had your first relapse in quite some time. Relapse isn’t scary for me anymore. When you first start recovery you are scared of relapsing. You are scared that you will loose the progress you made or that you are…what your ED tells you…”a failure”,”worthless” or my favorite, “you really are fat”.  I have been in recovery for almost six years and I will say relapses doesn’t happen that often. After you’ve been around the block a few times you  begin to notice when a relapse is happening or when you approach food or exercise the wrong way. I pull the yoga approach and just acknowledge it. Recognize that it’s there but go on my merry way. I do not sit down with it and have a cappuccino, or better yet a binge induced vegan affogato with the new Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream.

When I relapsed recently I actually found it intriguing. Why? Because I went through a dance concert a few months ago, where I was in multiple numbers and didn’t restrict food. I for once ate a lot, kept myself healthy and sane. I use to do the opposite. So obviously you would see why I was confused with this relapse. I didn’t do my yoga techniques or recovery techniques, I instead sat down and had 2 TBSP pistachios, 1 cup of soymilk, blueberries, and fiber pills. Or I would have measured out cereal, measured out oven fries, measured out everything. I was angry, I was hungry (I think it’s called hangry), I was checking for cellulite, I was hating my body (more so than usual), everything sucked. I think I said “I hate everything” with a few expletives more than once.

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That’s what a relapse does. It makes you angry because 1) you gave in 2) you fall back into old habits that were coping mechanisms for your insecurities/control that exacerbated the problem. Relapse is also a “rabbit hole”, just like Alice in Wonderland. You go follow the white rabbit, usually it is a thought put in your head like “I’m not the skinniest girl in the room anymore, I’m fat”, “My muscles are different”, “Why doesn’t my top quad stick out as much anymore?”. You take the bait, or should I say pill to stay with the Alice theme, and BAM! you are in a hole that you can’t get out of-only if you want to.

If you want to…If you want to…If you want to. Relapse is a peculiar thing, it’s comfy and constricting. You can easily get out of it-work your steps, call a sponsor, do some yoga-but it is comfy, like your favorite hoodie. The hoodie that is worn in, holds special memories, the perfect fit and smell. It keeps your warm and protects you from the rain. However, you still get wet from the rain. The hoodie has holes. The hoodie has its fair share of bad memories. Just like a relapse. Relapse has it’s good memories (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours) but it also has it’s bad (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours BUT couldn’t sleep because you were starving?). Relapse constricts you because you haven’t been in for awhile, so you’re a little bigger and it has to work harder to tighten you up, makes you pull the hood over your head and pull the string…tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter.

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After a few more rabbit hole trips and not being able to  breath due to the hood over your head there are two options. 1) stay in and go back to your old ways or 2) make the decision to stop the relapse. Option one is definitely easier but it sucks because your anger is making life difficult. Option two is more difficult but makes life easier. Which one do you think I chose?

Two. I definitely like to be comfy and cozy, but my ED doesn’t make me comfy and cozy anymore. My dog and husband make me comfy and cozy. I do like rabbit holes, but only when I watch Alice and Wonderland or am on a Parks and Recreation Netflix binge. I am trying to choose two every day. I haven’t been perfect, but as yoga teaches us, there is no such thing as perfection and just be OK with the process.

 

Battle of the Food Allergies & Eating Disorder

A few weeks ago I wrote one of my favorite entries, Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?. I had always wanted to share with my readers how food allergies changed my eating disorder recovery in a myriad of ways.  Even though food allergies make recovery more difficult, they have helped me overcome and stay on top of my eating disorder (for the most part). I stay on top of my ED with a few simple tools: learning a new way to eat, inventive ways to prepare/cook food, meal planning-my ultra super secret weapon.

I grew up eating, enjoying, and cooking good ole Southern food. You name it I can make it. Chicken and Dumplin’s, beef stew, biscuits and white gravy, pound cake, layer cakes of all kinds, buttercream frosting, casseroles, apple butter, canned green beans, etc. If it was a cheese dish, you added extra cheese. If it was a cake, more frosting!  And like all Southern kids, I spent quite some time stirring the jelly in the copper pot while complaining my arms are getting tired. It took many years to master the subtle art of Southern-Appalachian cooking however, when I was diagnosed with food allergies I had to adapt to this new world of food. Gluten free cooking/baking a horse of a different color. I had to learn about flours and how they interact, how to make blends, how to decrease contamination. When it came to dairy free cooking/baking I learned how to make my own buttermilk, how to create dairy free cheeses out of tofu and nuts. I even learned to make my own nut butter since I was allergic to peanuts. It was, and still is an ongoing and fun process! I enjoy learning new ways of approaching food and the challenge of making gluten-dairy-nut-free food taste good.

Lets take that a step further and add eating a mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan diet. It definitely makes things more difficult, maybe I am a glutton for punishment or I just like my tummy to feel good, possibly both. When you cook vegetarian or vegan fare it takes finesse, skill, and an understanding of spices/herbs, how you can make non-meat (tofu, mushrooms, beans, lentils, I don’t eat “fake meat”) taste like meat and manipulate the textures to make it tasty. When you have a meat loving husband you try even hard to make your allergen free, meat free, food taste better than their gluten and meat filled counterparts. It is fun to read cookbooks, find pins on Pinterest, and go on your whim-take what you already know and play with what you are learning or what you think would work. In other words: YOU COOK! I have had epic fails and amazing successes. All in all when I rely on good food I know I am nourishing myself which is exactly what Melvin (my ED) doesn’t want. Cooking is a way to shut him up and feed him yummy, tasty, delicious allergen free, meat free fare.

I have also started to incorporate mindful eating and a more yogic perspective on eating. The book Yoga of Eating inspired me so much.  When I eat more mindfully, as in I eat slowly and listen for hunger cues, I can stop myself from binging. I can also stop myself from getting sick and irritating my GI issues. I also try to eat smaller portions slowly so I can fully fill my stomach get full and go back for more if I  need it. I also try not to pigeon hold myself into traditional dinner rules or other eating rules. I may not have any grains in a day and that is ok because my body may not be able to digest it. I may have more grains than fruit. I  may have more vegetables that anything else. Whatever it is, I make sure I get enough nutrients and listen to what my  body wants. When I eat what my body wants and not what I want I again have set myself up for success against Melvin.

Lastly, my biggest tool against my eating disorder that I have learned in my fiveish years of this lifestyle, is to meal plan. I never really understood meal planning till I got married. I had to plan our meals and maximize our budget. Then that changed once I stopped eating meat. I had to plan my own meals, his meals, maximize our budget, and make sure I have enough food for snacks (which I have a hard time doing because I just think of three meals). I sit down each Monday and meal plan for at least two weeks, sometimes I get through one. I peruse Pinterest, cookbooks, and my recipe collection, pick similar recipes or recipes that use similar ingredients. I also look at my pantry staples and see what I can already  make out of them. I write down my recipe ideas, usually three to five dinners/lunches (it’s just me and I LOVE leftovers), three snacks that make multiple portions (raw bites or smoothies), and then I pick up some go to prepared but whole food snacks that I can supplement as well (bean chips, whole grain corn chips from Aldi’s, with their peach mango salsa is a must!).  I have noticed that when I don’t plan I go to the grocery store more I rely more on packaged, processed foods like Amy’s Meals, while great on occasion, aren’t the best all the time. Or drive thru Bo-rounds and their Cajun Pintos.  I also notice that Melvin is more rampant. I tend to refuse to eat because “I have no food” or I binge on junk food (vegan ice cream anyone?), I also feel hungry. My body isn’t properly fueled and can’t sustain itself with my busy and active lifestyle. Ages ago I could go on hours of exercise on little to no food. But now as I am older and more aware this yogic dancer needs her food or else I am not pirouetting or down-dogging!

All of these tools I learned or honed because of my food allergies. Without being diagnosed with food allergies I would not have learned how to use these tools to manage my ED. I am continuing to develop these tools and adding new ones to my arsenal. How do you use food to manage your ED or other food plagues? For my fellow allergen followers what have you learned from your food allergies? I would love to hear what you have to say in the comment section!

 

Why I Drink Diet Coke

Yes, I am a yoga teacher and I drink coke. Not just coke, but Diet Coke or Coke Zero. And I don’t mean Pepsi. Pepsi is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Call the yoga police, call the vegetarian sheriff, Lord forbid I ingest aspartame. Lock me up and make me do hundreds of chatarunga’s, I don’t care. I drink Diet Coke in my Jack and Cokes. Bartender’s look at me weird but I don’t care, just make me my darn drink that will take eight dollars out of my pocket. Just make sure it is a double.

You may ask, “Why does she drink Diet Coke? Obviously she knows the horrible things it does to you. I mean just look at what it does to a toilet basin” or “She is gonna get cancer because it has aspartame in it. Doesn’t she know what it did to those rats?”. I have one thing to say, I don’t care. Want to know why I drink Diet Coke? Want to know why I drink Coke Zero?

It is because for many, many, many years I deprived myself. I had no form of carbonated soda drink. Soda was the devil (and please read that in a Southern accent). Growing up soft drinks were the occasional drink, and were viewed as treats or special occasions, like they should. At birthday parties or get together’s they were ok. But they were not to replace water and enjoyed in moderation. As I grew older and grew into my eating disorder, the less and less I consumed them. They were no longer a treat or a special occasion beverage. Melvin said no and what Melvin says goes. For years I deprived myself. I would sometimes want a Diet Coke, or even a REAL Coke. But Melvin said NO! I would be at a party and want a drink, but no I had to have water. Water, coffee, and green tea was all I could have. No enjoyment there. I couldn’t even have a fun coffee drink (different story, next time).

Eventually as I began to recover I started to enjoy what foods I could have, ones that weren’t derailed by my long list of food allergies. Diet/Zero Coke was one of them. If I wanted one, I would have one. If I was out at a party and didn’t want an adult beverage and there was Coke by goodness I was having a Coke Zero. I enjoyed that Coke. I go to bars and order my  double Jack and Diet Coke with pride. I go to the drive through (gasp) and get a LARGE Coke, sometimes with a french fry! I even took a  Diet Coke into my yoga teacher training on multiple occasions, and I wasn’t kicked out or forced to do hundred’s of chatarunga’s. I have a Coke Zero/Diet a few times a month. Why? Having a Coke reminds me of how far I have come in my recovery.

Maybe one day I will actually drink a real, cane sugar filled Coke. Probably not, but who knows. Each dollar I spend on Coke is a dollar over Melvin. So excuse me as I go take a swig of my Coke Zero. Mmm…bubbles.

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In Response to: Teaching With An Eating Disorder

The other day I read this great article about a dance teacher Hannah Maria Hayes and her experience teaching while being under the influence of her eating disorder. It really touched me and made me think about how eating disorders can influence teaching. I wrote an entry on a similar topic a few years back when I was co-directing The Nutcracker. It was about how I viewed myself as a hypocrite because I tell my dancers one thing and think/do another. I recently came back to this when I noticed one of the girls check out her stomach in the mirror before ballet class.

Bam! It hit me, like how one hits the floor when they slip out of a pirouette. All the words my director said to me, “you know these girls look up to you”, made sense. I have never been a role model or in a position where young girls want to dance like me.  Sometimes these young dancers copy my dance style (clothes or movement quality) but it is so much  more than that! They can copy my attitude, mannerisms, and drive. Some specific dance mannerisms are, checking out their profile in the  mirror or standing in front of the skinny mirror. Ask any dancer and they know all about that one mirror that makes you look good, how to pick out the slimming leotards. Better yet, ask any dancer about how often they check themselves out in the mirror and criticize what they look like. I don’t want that for these girls. I don’t want them to fight each other for the skinny mirror. I don’t want them them to give into the pressure of “the dancer body”, to feel as if they must make themselves smaller to “make up for their lack of ability” or to “make themselves stand out”. I starved myself because I felt inferior to other dancers. I felt as if the skinnier I was, the more fit, the stronger I was, the more people would want to work with me/hire me.

I loved how in the article she wrote, “Thinking about stepping into a dance studio to teach ballet makes me panic, even though I have a dozen years of experience. Being trapped in a mirrored room and seeing how out of shape I am, compared to when I was a dancer myself, makes me feel claustrophobic. I assume my students will judge my figure”. I can relate. There is a panic, especially when you are in a relapse or feeling down about yourself. Lately, my self esteem/ED talk has been on the loose. My body has begun a dreaded change and my GI issues are rearing their ugly head and all I want is to cover up. But I am wearing a leotard (still as covered as I can get without being in modern dance attire) because these girls look up to me. I am trying not to profile check myself. I feel as if the more I do things that are positive for aspiring ballerinas/dancers it will help me separate from my ED.

Maybe dance teachers with eating disorders do need more attention, and more mental work. Hayes quotes a NYCB consultant,

” ‘Though most of us associate eating disorders with students and professionals, unresolved body issues and controlled eating patterns from pre-professional training can follow you into adulthood. “You are still the same person,’ says Hamilton. ‘And under extremely stressful situations, old habits come back…’Dance teachers need more attention than they get,’ says Hamilton. ‘You’re a role model, and if you are not able to approach eating in a healthy way or if you think you’re never thin enough, it’s going to come across to your students. We don’t need to pass this on from one generation to the next.'”

Which is so true! How can we as teachers, be a true role model if we cannot approach body image in a positive way? How can we demonstrate the love one needs for their own body when we hate ours? I try so hard to not pass on my disorder, my disgust, and everything that I did wrong in my heyday to these girls. I don’t want them to go through what I went through or what I am currently going through. How can I effectively do this? Maybe it is to get more help. To continue this things called recovery. Maybe it is to show these girls what an ED fueled life can do.

For my educators out there, dancer or other forms of athletics, how do you handle this? What has worked for you? How do you struggle? Is it even a trigger?

Can I be Allergic to my Eating Disorder?

One thing I haven’t written about in the two-ish years I’ve had this blog has been how my food allergies has affected my eating disorder and recovery. I will admit having food allergies can make relapse easier and recovery harder. Especially when you are diagnosed right as you begin recovery. Food allergies are no joke as well as eating disorders. Every aspect of you life is affected by them.  You feel as if your food allergies are an eating disorder. You feel as you can’t recover. That it is easier to just give in to your disorder and feel sorry for yourself. But with time, it does get a tad easier…I said a tad not 100 percent.

I played around with the concept of recovery late summer of 2011, before I went to Bates Dance Festival and my last major injury. During this pre-contemplation phase, I was still restricting food and doing the usual ED things, but I was very very sick. I had constant battles with throwing up and constipation, tummy gurgling, and most of all 3 hour migraines every day with extreme fatigue, the migraines got worse when I exercised. For the most part my family and I thought it was seasonal allergies because if you live in East TN you have seasonal allergies, and just IBS from my dad’s genetics. I also didn’t give it much thought because when you don’t eat, abuse laxatives, and other means of self torture you just blame everything on your ED. This went on for a few months while I was in early counseling, mainly just talking to someone about my anxiety of being injured before a major summer workshop. While I was at Bates my throat began to tingle and feel off. I called my Mom and she said I need to go to an allergist.

While waiting to get into the allergist I had a session with my first successful counselor. We had a talk about what could be the worst thing about recovery or learning to eat more “bad” food. I remember saying, my biggest fear is having food allergies because food allergies with my eating disorder will be the death of me. Well, I guess my mind had the right idea because just a few days later I was diagnosed with food allergies; and not just one or two. But a slew of them: gluten, oats, dairy, shellfish, most nuts, apples, cantaloupe, melons,  and plums. That meant no more PB sandwiches. No more apples. No more oatmeal. Pretty much my safe foods turned out not to be safe!

I have my list of can and cannot’s and I feel as if I am back into Melvin’s grasp. He has me. There is no way I can make a full recovery with my recommended/must list of can and cannot’s. I already had a list and I didn’t want another one. I cannot go back and eat foods that I hadn’t eaten in five, seven, or ten years. I will never know what it is like to enjoy those foods I wrote off. Why? Because they are filled with gluten, oats, dairy, butter, peanuts, almonds, and everything that is delicious. Especially good Southern cooking—shrimp with cheese grits anyone?

I go to therapy. I go to the store. I go everywhere with my list. With my head full of confusion and Melvin cackling like a witch in my head.  Questions such as, “Can I eat this? Can I eat that? No I can’t eat this? Ugh, this bread is not bread, it is concrete! But I must eat it because it was eight dollars. What can I eat? I hate broccoli. All I can eat is vegan yogurt. I guess I will make tuna salad (back when I ate seafood) with veganase again…” I ate so much of that dairy free tuna salad that I have to leave the room if I smell tuna and I can still taste that tuna salad. I made a damn good tuna salad though.

Eventually one of my recovery warriors and good friend who was gluten free and dairy free stepped in and helped me navigate this new life. This new world of food. How I could eat well and eat to a healthier recovery. How to make bread that doesn’t taste like concrete. How to overcome the voice of Melvin when I am at the store when I get discouraged about not finding food. How to properly prepare food and plan for food success, and not relapse.

I still struggle with this aspect everyday. For four years it is a battle of Melvin wanting to manipulate my food allergies. It is an everyday battle of Melvin telling me to eat allergy filled foods so I can throw it all up and lose weight; but I say no because I hate throwing up. It is also a battle of not bingeing because Melvin will tell me that I can eat as much my sweet treat I want because it is gluten free, vegan, sugar free, Paleo…but if I do that then I will be full of guilt while being full of food. It is an everyday battle of Melvin using my restricted food list to restrict even more food.  On the other hand, I am learning how to enjoy free food. How to make healthy and indulgent coconut whipped cream. How to make flourless and vegan black bean brownies, that even the hubby liked.  I even made a gluten free, dairy free tiramisu for my birthday and enjoyed every bit of it.

Do you have food allergies and an ED?  Or maybe you developed an ED because of your food allergies? Let me know. I wanna hear from you!