Eating Disorders

Bon Appétit!

I looked at my meal this morning
It was simultaneously
Too much, and not enough
Just like me
When I woke up this morning
Asking myself: am I hungry?
Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know…
I’m full and yet, empty
My mind plays dirty tricks, you see
It says: what does the scale read?
Is the number good enough
For this morning’s feed?
But that’s irrelevant, I know
To eat by earth’s gravity
And not by signals I ignore
From my poor abused body
Yet hunger, how do I honour you?
For years, you’ve frightened me
To feel you is unfeminine
So says our society
To want, to need, is weakness
A shame one must conceal
To yearn, to crave, is wanton
For women, to reveal
My hunger is enormous and
It’s something I can feel
But I can’t go and seize the day
Without a morning meal…

So quiet the toxic voices
That say “no, you cannot”
They’re wrong, because you CAN
Don’t listen to that rot
You can, you should, you will
No fear, just be yourself
You’ll shine like the constellations
When you regain your health
Know that you’re worthy of love
Just the way you are
Embrace the hunger, chase your dreams
Sweet soul, you are a STAR.

 

Breakfast is one of those meals where most people tend to take less seriously, and for those recovering from an eating disorder, it can be particularly hard. The Ninja Turtle skipped breakfast for many years, and during recovery, spent six months making it a habit.

One of the biggest problems and fears for sufferers is “why eat when I’m not even feeling hungry anyway? I’m going to have to restrict later during the day when I actually feel hungry, so shouldn’t I just save my breakfast calories for later?”

No. Oftentimes we don’t have an appetite when we awake, that’s true. And most healthy people can afford to skip their morning meals without dire consequences. But when one is recovering from an eating disorder, every meal is an opportunity. Food is medicine, and mealtimes are training sessions – a chance to be less scared of food, a chance to re-learn what we like and do not like, a chance to nourish our broken bodies correctly, deliciously, happily without anxiety or guilt.

Another concern during recovery is “if I start eating when I’m not even hungry, when do I know when to stop eating?”

This is another opportunity to learn. The Ninja Turtle really struggled with hunger and satiety cues, and she still does now, but it only came with a lot of practice and patience and courage to dare to eat. You cannot know what it feels like to be full if you keep denying it when you feel hungry. Only when you know the two extremes will you slowly learn the varying degrees of in-between.

You’ve been restricting and running on “empty” for so long (it doesn’t matter what weight/BMI you are, as long as you are undereating to your individual physical needs, that is restriction) that your brain and body needs a few, if not many opportunities to recognise it’s-OK-there’s-enough-to-eat-so-eat-to-your-heart’s-content which is for the Ninja Turtle, “full to bursting”. But that’s OK. Eventually it all calms down. The brain and the body are starting to recognise there is no need to eat like one must prepare for a famine, because the mental and physical restrictions are removed.

So one day, maybe breakfast can be pushed off to become brunch (preferably with lots of champagne, eggs and avocado toast, waffles and ice cream) or a simple cup of black coffee. But not yet. Not when one still needs to replenish, rebuild and re-learn.

Eat your breakfast, fellow warriors. Some days you will want it, some days you will not. Some days you will enjoy it, some days you want to fling the darn thing at the wall on the other side of the room. Some days you’ll be awake two hours before it, looking forward to the orange juice, bacon and jam on toast, some days you will wish all the omelettes and oatmeal on earth could just vanish forever.

And one day you will wake up thinking about poetry, fashion, travel, politics, animals, languages, archaeology, volunteering, [insert what you like here] instead, and whatever you’re served up for breakfast becomes irrelevant, and then you realise… this is what it means to be free.

N.B This was a photo taken in January 2011, right back the the “beginning” so to speak, when GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle first started officially dating. This was a trip to Saigon in Vietnam, back in a place and time when the Turtle could eat a morning meal without qualms and just get on with the rest of her day (which was exploring Vietnam’s war history in the Cu Chi tunnels).

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Arts and Culture, Eating Disorders

Christmas Poetry

As most people suffering from eating disorders know, the end-of-year holiday festivities is a particularly trying time. Christmas to New Year’s? Ha! More like from Halloween stretching up to Valentine’s Day (heck, why stop there? sometimes it extends till Easter), the entire world seems to be in a perpetual let’s-see-how-much-we-can-feast-or-indulge mode.

Stressful enough for everyone in general, it creates additional anxiety for those dealing with eating disorders as one is constantly surrounded by food, and with all those parties and gatherings come conversations and remarks surrounding one’s appearances, eating, dieting, etc etc etc.

*brain explodes*

When one feels this overwhelmed, it’s dreadfully easy to lose sight of the true meaning of the festive season. Be it Ashura or Bodhi Day or Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yalda or Yule (apologies if your particular faith has been overlooked in this list, but the Turtle acknowledges there are plenty of religious holidays at the end of the year, not just Christmas), it seems in every corner of the world, people of all backgrounds, skin colour, creeds and faith seem to be celebrating.

Yes, fellow sufferers of eating disorders. It’s a time of celebration, not of stress and unhappiness. It’s a time of getting together with people we love, people who mean the most to us. It’s about sharing the most precious thing in life – moments.

Don’t let the self-loathing distract you from the fact that people are truly happy in your company. Don’t let the critical self-judgement turn into unhappy disagreements with people who truly care for your well-being. Don’t let the lies of the disorder fool you into believing there is anything more important than sharing time with friends and family.

Not your dress size, not the extra bowl of creamy cheesy mashed potatoes, not the third glass of mulled wine or mug of hot cocoa spiked with rum. Not the number of kilometres you have to run before or after Christmas Day. These things don’t matter. They are irrelevant.

Let go. It’s OK.

While sorting through her poetry collection, the Ninja Turtle stumbled upon a poem titled Christmas 2010, written in a period of her life when she was in a much better head space. A time when she could see what truly mattered. For the last few years she’d lost sight of it, but as she continues to claw and fight her way out of the grip of this frightful disease, she’s hopeful that every Christmas will be like this again.

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Christmas 2010

Friends and family, loved ones dear
On this day all gathered here
To celebrate the festive cheer
What a magical time of year

Cards and gifts and wrappers a-flurry
Drinks and nibbles, a feast of plenty
The boys all strapping, the girls all dainty
Music and laughter, all joyful and merry

A time of giving, a time of receiving
A time with others, a time of sharing
A time for loving, forgiving, forgetting
A time to make memories forever worth keeping

A toast all around with cheap champagne
To pleasant company, great to entertain
I think, my friends, it’s rather plain
That next year we’ll be doing this again!

 

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Arts and Culture, Eating Disorders

Change

Of course now I’m different
For nothing stays the same
Not even you, my dear friend
But changes bring no shame

For are we not improved?
By sands of time, refined
Polished by the fires of fear
Like rubies, now we shine

Our daily tribulations
Dull aches of suffering
So sharpen our resilience
To face what tomorrow brings

And crises flung our way
Each battle that we waged
We’ve scaled canyons of grief
Surmounted with great courage

Look back not at yesterday
And wonder what may be
No more are you the same you
Nor I, the same old me

Focus instead of what’s ahead
The journey’s not yet done
But knowing that we’ll make it
That’s half the battle won

So embrace change, fear it not
It’s the only certainty we’ve got

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Food

Harvesting Wild Blackberries

One of the better things about returning to the countryside, as the Ninja Turtle has found, is that time slows down enough for one to think differently. Sure, the city life in Lyon offered the duo plenty of exciting activities year-round, and one is constantly engaged, amused, stimulated… but perhaps that was the problem. It was very hard to disconnect, pull back and simply have some time for oneself.

In the quiet and calm of the campagne, far away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and the commerce, the Ninja Turtle becomes much more pensive. And in her reflections, she begins to feel an immense sense of gratitude, despite her malady. There is, after all, a lot to be grateful for, despite everything.

Grateful for each moment she is alive.
Grateful for each person who’s come into her life.
Grateful for each experience that brings joy, or a lesson.
Grateful for each emotion and every new sensation.
Grateful for the hurt, the sorrow and the pain
Grateful that despite that, she still has much to gain.
Grateful for the kindness from strangers she receives
Grateful for the love friends and family give.
Grateful for existing in this messy world
Where life can sometimes be incomprehensible
Grateful for just being here today
Grateful for tomorrow, come what may.

There is so much richness in life, when one chooses to receive. The Ninja Turtle, in her leisurely strolls along the country road, recently chanced across wild blackberries growing in abundance, free for the picking and ripening at a deliciously alarming pace.

When GodzillaPin returned from his cycling trip a couple of days ago, the Ninja Turtle could not wait to bring him blackberry harvesting. OK, fine, she’ll admit it. After spending 2 hours harvesting blackberries alone the first time, and having the unfortunate experience of falling into the blackberry bramble (an experience which she will never wish upon anyone) when trying to reach for the higher branches, she knew she needed a helping hand from someone less vertically-challenged than herself.

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Enter GodzillaPin, 6’1.

Of course when the Ninja Turtle first proposed blackberry harvesting, GodzillaPin thought it was going to be a breeze. Little did he realise that battling the blackberry bush thorns and the stinging nettles that grow alongside, this was less of a leisurely pastime, and more of an extreme sport.

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After about an hour, the duo decided that they’d had enough (enough of being pricked, and enough blackberries to last a few days), so they hurried home excitedly to taste the fruits of their labour.

The Ninja Turtle had recently made a rich chocolate and beer streusel cake, and the acidity of the blackberries married well with the sweet dessert. They also tried the blackberries in a soy yogurt and fruit salad parfait.

They say that on the road to recovery from eating disorders, there are good days and bad days. That was a good day for the Ninja Turtle, and for that, she is grateful.

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Arts and Culture, Travel

The Search

O lonesome voyager, you are so very far from home
You’ve seen many faces, but still you walk alone
Each day your path unfolds in directions quite unknown
Leading you to everywhere, it seems, except back home

Your rucksack carries little yet your weary shoulders sag
Forever burdened by your thoughts, from all that you’ve seen
Or worse! thing that you’ve heard, of places you’ve not yet been
The weight of faint hope and dashed dreams can’t fit in your bag

Know what it is you truly seek? O lonesome voyager
Some vague definition – a roughly-shaped idea
A glimmer of an outline to your indescribable desire
Without a clue to what drives you, you’re condemned to aimless wander

Pose your belongings for a while, sit and have a rest
Let the stillness engulf you, as time melts and slips by
In this silence your heart speaks – to you it will not lie
So trust the little voice inside, for it truly knows what’s best

O lonesome voyager, though you be far from home
As you journey onward, know that you’re not alone
Your guardian angels keep watch and the North Star it has shone
And when you’ve found that which you seek, the winds shall blow you home.

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Arts and Culture, Running

A Tribute to Vaco

When I first arrived, you jumped upon me
Knocked me over, and licked me with glee
Back then, the French tongue, I could not comprehend
But you showed me with no words that we’re to be friends

Your eyes were huge, your heart was bigger
You always wanted to share my dinner
But never mind if I gave you no food
It never destroyed your joyful mood

You taught yourself to open doors
Despite your only having paws
And knew when bedtime rolled around
You’d nuzzle us, then head underground*

When I first started running years ago
Unfit as I was, the going was slow
As I slogged through valleys resembling canyons
You came along as a faithful companion

Until your joints gave out one fine day
No more runs, but you still loved to play
Sure, age was slowing catching up
But deep down inside, you were still a pup

Who roamed the street we lived on, free
Strutting between number 2 and 3
To check on Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit
Your loyalty was a daily habit^

You were doing fine, but all of a sudden,
We got the news: you went to doggie heaven
I didn’t even get to say “Farewell,
I love you, good doggie, you were swell”

Goodbye dear Vaco, you’re one of a kind
You’re loved by those you’ve left behind
Though you most sadly did depart
You’ll forever live on in our hearts.

*For many years the dog’s bed was in the basement, where it was cooler and more comfortable. He’d jump up on his hind legs, open the door and descend the flight of stairs when he decided it was bedtime, but never before wishing us goodnight by licking a hand or nuzzling against us.

^Grandpa and Grandma Rabbit live about 100m down the road from GodzillaPin’s parents’. The dog would once again, open the front door and let himself out, cross the road carefully and trot down the pavement to make sure the old folks are OK. Every single day. That dog had more filial piety than most human beings.

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Arts and Culture, Running, Travel

Running Along the Thread of Time

My shadow and I went for a run today
I said “Christopher, come out, let’s play!
It’s been too long since you last ran
You look quite tubby in fact, my man!”
Christopher nodded, so off we went
To tackle the first of many ascents
He broke no sweat, and kept up with ease
While my breath was visible as I wheezed

A silent world on a Saturday dawn
The sun kissed us as a new day is born
While the earth lay dormant, gefroren und weiß^
Encrusted in a shell of sparkling ice
Lone witnesses to such glorious beauty
Our hearts sang in silent harmony
Our feet shuffling to a joyful dance
Through a lost village in a corner of France

The winding road rose up to meet us
We tackled each hill with minimal fuss
Passing the ghosts of Quatorze-Dix-Huit*
Des cimetières, monuments et villages détruits **
How much of our lives we owe to the fallen
In this hour of peace, may they not be forgotten
We bowed our heads in respect as we passed
These little reminders – dead hands of the past

Four hours and forty minutes later
26 miles, we’d also run out of water
I was cramping badly in both my thighs
While the sun had vanished in the skies
The headwinds reached 50kph
A windstorm was slowly starting to rage
Christopher’d vanished, I was now alone
To make the final stretch back home

So I did the sane and responsible thing
I gave my better half a ring
“Come pick me up!” I shouted into the phone
While all around, the angry wind moaned
That night in bed, all stiff and sore
I thought of my shadow, I thought of war
I thought how I’m so undeservingly lucky
To have been born in the 21st century.

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Montfaucon d’Argonne, in the footsteps of the fallen of 1914.

^ frozen and white
* WWI (also known as The Great War, or 1914-1918)
** the cemeteries, monuments, and destroyed villages

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