Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cheese update

I ended up trying the cheese last night. It was nice. The Rosso Di Langa is milder than I expected, but it has a taste reminiscent of a fresh Munster, not to be confused with the Munster in this country that is served sliced with sandwiches. I can see why others suggest hints of hay, but it's all very mild. There's just a touch of nuttiness in there too. If you're expecting something like Epoisses or Pont L'eveque, you might be disappointed both in terms of texture and flavor. It just doesn't have that smooth feel in the mouth, and lacks any real tang or bite. Still, aside from the slightly chewy texture, it's a nice little cheese and offers some subtly complex flavors that build on the palate. I would think that this cheese would be a good one to offer someone who has never tried the champions of the stinky cheese arena. It's a nice introduction, and won't scare anyone away. In fact, it's likely that, once sampled, it will intrigue some into stepping into that wonderfully malodorous world.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm not in the mood to do anything today, even though I have to run errands and walk 20 minutes on my ever so slowly improving foot.

Last night a friend and I went to Mod Market, a cute little restaurant that features locally grown produce, healthy salads and lower calorie pizza. The calories of each item are shown on the menu. I wasn't sure how I felt about this. I gave up counting calories long ago, and am glad I did. I noticed, however, that when the lady at the counter handed me the soup, my first thought was, "I bet there are WAY more than 150 calories in that bowl!" My friend and I split a big salad with steak and a bowl of chicken chili soup, and she had a few small slices of pizza too. Neither one of us liked the tough and slightly gritty potatoes, so we both took them out of the salad. Though it wasn't the best meal I have ever had, I like that they support local growers, and the food was, overall, nicely prepared. I think I wanted to like it more than I did, but I tend to be quite happy simply getting a salad with some sashimi salmon at Whole Foods. With that, I love to get their Ciabatta roll with a pat of butter. That's like dessert to me. Mmmmm.

When I was struggling so badly with the eating disorder, I used to spend way too much time going over calories, recipes and food magazines. I used the excuse that I like to cook and bake, but I know it was more about the food obsession than anything. Somewhere deep down behind the obsession though, there was some passion. It was a little bit like my obsession with running. On some level I loved it, and on some level I was over the edge with it. I had a fascination and love of cooking and food that got distorted with the illness. Unlike some anorexics who completely lose any joy in eating, I still felt ties to my mother's country of France, where pretty much everyone has an intense interest in food and eating to please the soul. There was no way around that for me, despite the severe restrictions I placed on myself. So it ended up being this weird combination of knowing how I wish I could live, while living this strange and twisted life of baking for others, watching others eat and thinking about all the things I wanted to eat but woudn't. I even had dreams about food. I also had dreams about missing running races, but I'll save that for a different post.

There was a brief moment when I was on top of my running game. I had transferred back to Boulder after a year in Utah (no, I'm not Mormon). I was working again with my high school coach and focused on breaking my own record at the Pikes Peak Ascent. I was dominating the mountain racing scene and poised to shatter that record. Unfortunately, I got terribly sick a few weeks before the race, but I had some great races, runs and experiences in general during that time. I was training with two adventurous girls who were a few years older. Though I was the fast one of the group, especially on the uphills, K was best going down. J was the one to go the distance. That girl could run forever. We did some outrageous mountain runs together. We would get lost, stumble down scrambly hills and follow hints of trails that lead nowhere, forcing us to backtrack and make the run even longer. After hours in the high mountains, we would head back to Boulder, and plop ourselves down in a comfortable booth at our favorite restaurant, joking with the waiter to bring us everything.

I was running so well and training so hard then that eating wasn't as much of an issue as it had been in the past, though I still had strange habits, like not eating most of the day and eating more at night, a habit I still have today, though I eat enough during the day. Still, it wasn't all that odd to catch me eating a big fat cinnamon roll from the Great Harvest Bakery or enjoying some Ekte Gjetost on Carrs wheat crackers. My friend liked her Ekte Gjetost with butter on crackers or toast, while preferred it plain. For those who don't know, gjetost is a Norwegian cheese that is brown from caramelizing the milk sugars in the goat milk. People generally love or hate it. There's no in between with that cheese. I happen to love it.

I don't mean to make it sound like I was on a food frenzy. That didn't happen until I was coming out of the most severe part of the illness much later. Then I was doing some really crazy shit, like eating pop tart sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly and having ice cream three times a day. What a nightmare that was. The pendulum had swung from one extreme to the other. Fortunately, I learned about balance along the way. Considering how low my weight was, all those pop tarts were needed on some level, but it wasn't the healthiest way to go about the weight gain!

I sort of miss those days of being able to make my body do amazing and wonderful things. I also miss moving through nature, challenging myself to push harder, keep going and find out what's beyond the next hill. Somehow even thinking about the big mountains scares me now. I always had a healthy apprehension and concern when running in high places, but I also had confidence. After that first ten minutes of getting the jitters out of the way, it was a wonderful feeling to get into a steady groove of running up the hills, arms pumping to keep my feet in a solid tempo. I loved it.

Unfortunately I have to cut this off mid thought. In conclusion here, I have decided to splurge once a month or so, and get an interesting piece of cheese for myself. I get excited about gourmet cheese, and I haven't been treating myself due to the high cost. Today I got one from Italy. It's a semi soft cheese with a nice washed rind. It's a little stinky, but not like a pont l'eveque or anything. I'm looking forward to trying it, and will report back in a week or so if it's any good. I'm on the verge of being able to walk, but I can see my foot isn't quite there yet. I've thought about it though, and I don't need to be training a million miles to splurge on some fun food. For years I never went out to eat and ate only certain things. I like that I'm back to having a little advneture with food again. It's nice to occasionally have some ice cream or share a meal with a friend. I now know that I don't have to be tackling the trails in order to enjoy a little gourmet cheese.

This is the cheese I decided to get:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fear of intimacy

It's weird. My blogs tend to start with a bunch of disjointed bits and pieces of thoughts and words scattered on the page, and then occasionally form into something more coherent.

Having recently been sucked down into my own miserable black gunk with no intention of getting over myself, I was hoping to ride it out, thinking that things would eventually get better, and assumed I'd eventually get to the surface again. It's not happening. I've decided that as well as I'm doing with the food and exercise, I generally suck at what should be obvious life skills. Communication is a big one at the moment, and I've noticed that I'm lashing out in strange ways. I suppose I live in some constant fear that things are going to fall apart. There's some sense of denial mixed with some sense of awareness, but it all gets clouded so that only the bullshit rings in my ears. In the end, I push things to fall apart, so I don't have to wait for it. 

I think most people have a fear of intimacy. There's a common dance where a push away is followed by a pull closer. This is natural, only I shove people over the edge far enough to wreck things. When I was little, my mom always said I ruined everything. I could never have anything nice, because I would destroy it. My Barbie dolls were given horrid hair cuts, and their legs were pulled off after having dragged them in the mud. My stuffed animals were without stuffing, falling apart and had whiskers unevenly trimmed ridiculously short. My sister, on the other hand, kept everything pristine and neat. These days I wreck relationships more than actual things, and when I take a look around at the mess I created, I sometimes long for  the ability to be less destructive. A recent spat makes all my past issues with people look like casual conversations about last night's dinner, so I know something deeper is going on for me. My sister has a nice marriage with two beautiful kids, BTW. Go figure. 

I'm often the queen of cutting off my nose to spite my face too. Lately I've done this insanely heroically, by wrecking the things I least want to ruin. In other words, I need to work on not going over the edge, even though my body seems to be falling apart and contributing to my general state of "I don't give a fuck...only I really do." There's my left foot; watery eye; a blister on my ass from biking; my lumpy breast, which is probably nothing; a cut finger; my sore knee, back and hip from limping; and add to that now my head and heart. I guess I'm longing for things to be different, but wallowing a bit too much, no a lot too much, and not taking enough action. lately it has reached an unhealthy level, and has gotten progressively worse. Somewhere along the way, I stopped living and focused on just getting through the day. I wasn't careful to take the Sam-e which usually helps me, the pain meds and I let other things slide too. There's a definite chemical thing going on right now. I sometimes forget that I'm bipolar, and should watch these downs more carefully. This brings up something that both Dave and Diane addressed, that depression and anxiety can contribute to eating disorders. I'll add that the ocd thing is a factor too. 

I'm using this blog post as a little therapy session. When I was little, I was criticized so much, that I now tend to hear constructive criticism as an attack, even if the comment coming from the other person is couched in the most kind and thoughtful words. I'm sure it goes deeper than that and becomes about how I feel about myself. I will blame myself for everything, whether there are others at fault or not. I have a whole chapter in my book on regret. It frustrates me to no end that I act rashly, and then can't take it back, fix it or somehow change it. I've learned with food to not go there. I am careful in these areas to not slide, choose wisely and move on if mistakes are made. This isn't the case yet in my regular life. I need to pay attention more to playing things out to the end; If I do this, what are the consequences? Often I just act without thinking it thorough. 

This regret thing can go back into missed opportunities and end up being a big game of "what if". What if I hadn't been so sick and messed up? Would I have gone to the Olympics like so many of the girls I was running against in high school? Who knows. I try not to dwell, but sometimes it comes to the surface. 

I know this sounds like I'm failing miserably here, but at least the foot is coming along, despite some unwanted crunching and popping. I'm hoping for the best, even though there's the worry with things still feeling really funky and sore, especially the nerve damage on the top of the foot. Yikes that feels weird. 

Sigh..so here I am again among the rubble, wondering how I managed to create such a fucking mess.  Sometimes it's impossible to fix a broken Barbie. I suppose my best option is to take her out to play in the mud... and hope to not do it again. I'm hoping some good music will ease my mind too. 

In cases like this, the good thing is knowing it can't get much worse, tomorrow is another day and whatever other cliche fits in here.  That and knowing the things I need to work on are helpful, despite having to do the actual work! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

let's call it the comeback

I think I just stole some lyrics, but I can't remember the artist.

In general, I'm more of a cover girl. I'm not into mash-ups as much. However, a friend of mine found one that is completely and radically awesome. It's NIN meets the Beatles. Lately, I've had to have some encouragement in terms of good music while getting through even the easiest of bike workouts. I have a little bit of burn-out going on, and yet I don't want to slack completely. I've been listening to Gorillaz, Tv on the Radio, Elbow and the Secret Machines. It's funny how songs can really get you out of a bad head space and feeling better.

I'm craving chocolate in a bad way lately. I once gave up chocolate long ago, but I went back to it. I was fine without it, but it's quite addicting once you start up with it again. I guess I could do without, but I do crave those "natural" peanut M&M's. I pick out the lumpy oddly shaped ones, because I'm convinced that they taste better. I have also convinced myself that the various colors taste different, even though I know deep down they really don't. At one point, I had to give up chocolate because I have a heart valve leak. My doctor told me it was for the best, and would lessen the symptoms. Fortunately, I found that small amounts of chocolate are OK. I heard that chocolate can contribute to lumpy breasts too and inhibit calcium and iron intake. I'm hoping the lump in my breast is chocolate related. I had a lump before, so I'm not too worried. It ended up being nothing. My mom is convinced that chocolate is constipating, unless it's Ex-Lax, of course. My constipation a few weeks ago was more due to lack of movement and a regimen of pain killers and not enough salad.

The worst constipation I ever experienced was a few years ago when I had viral meningitis. I was 9 days in the hospital, and it took forever to get back on my feet. I remember taking a shower was an all day affair and greatly fatiguing. One day, after I was home, as I was stepping out of the shower, it occurred to me that I hadn't pooped for nearly 2 weeks. This is stuff the doctors and nurses neglect to tell you upon leaving the hospital. Their job is to keep you alive, which, in my case, they did. I came home with scaly skin, malnourished, emaciated and constipated, but I was alive with a big huge headache. It was an enormously big ordeal to go poo though, and it hurt! Man, that first time ripped me apart. OK, I know this is gross, and I'm not sure what got me started on it, but I'm going with it. I didn't want to take laxatives, so I suffered through several days of excruciatingly painful and bloody poops. OK, enough on that...

On a related note, does anyone else eat stuff they know will make them fart? I do. Jeez, there are some things I just can't resist, despite knowing I'll end up gassy. Heh. I try to avoid it if I'm headed to work or have to be around people.

Getting back to chocolate (yes, I realize it's not appetizing to go from poop and farting to chocolate), but I used to write chocolate reviews back when I was doing a podcast with a guy who also liked chocolate. I haven't written one in a long time, but I always mention the Long Grove chocolate covered pretzel rods as one of the better chocolates we have tried. In terms of originality, a white chocolate with dried olives still stands out as one of the best strange flavors we sampled. I should get back into writing some of those reviews. We tried some of the most amazing chocolate bars one can imagine, and some that were not so good too. I think I even spit out a few. It makes it funnier to know that this was all recorded and available to the public.

This is such a random post, but what got me thinking about all this was this old way of treating eating disorders. It used to be that dietary schedules were given at the hospitals. In other words, we were on a diet. We had to follow certain rules around food. I think mine was something like 1 serving milk, 1 serving protein, a fruit, and 2 servings of carbs in the morning, same for lunch only no fruit and a vegetable instead, and the same for dinner plus a fruit as a snack. This was on limited exercise, of course. One of the problems with this, aside from it being no fun, is that it doesn't account for PMS, bad emotional days or sick days. It also doesn't make sense to follow the same schedule for eating if you run a whole bunch extra one day. I think hospitals are moving away from this rigid meal plan concept, and trying to get people to be more in touch with their bodies. Let's hope so anyway.

I think I'll make my next post about running and all the combacks I attempted to make in my running career. This is the week where I will be getting the walking boot off, and learning how to use my foot again. In the end, I'm hoping I can run with less pain. I'll admit that I'm terrified that this pain will hang out with me longer, or worse, that the foot won't be as I had hoped. All I can do is keep getting through the days, and sometimes a little chocolate helps. Sigh.

Mmmmmmm Chocolate!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Old Article

I forgot about this little article that I wrote some time ago:

Orthorexia: anorexia in disguise?

Living in Boulder, Colorado, one gets used to the myriad of food restrictions people impose on themselves in the name of good health. Those with allergies (assumed or diagnosed), food sensitivities or other health, environmental or political concerns around consumption flourish in this small bubble on earth that many describe as 25 square miles surrounded by reality. However, some have stated that there is a deadly trend emerging called orthorexia where people take the concept of healthy eating much too far. Is this trend really a new illness or is it merely anorexia in disguise?

Orthorexia is a term coined by a Colorado MD, Steven Bratman. He describes those with orthorexia as overly concerned or obsessed with "correct" or "righteous" eating. This can include a fixation on eliminating fats, processed sugar, and additives from the diet. The supposed goal of an orthorexic is to feel pure, not to lose weight. Though Bratman states that anorexia and orthorexia are two very different illnesses, there comes a point where one must ask if this new term is just a mask for an underlying case of anorexia.

There are many people in the world who eat what most would consider a pure diet. For example, there are people who eat only organic, raw, whole foods. Simply put, one can eat as pure a diet as one wants without suffering extreme, life threatening weight loss. Both anorexics and orthorexics become afraid to eat certain foods. The fact that orthorexics become phobic of what many in the health food industry deem "bad" or "unhealthy" doesn't take away from the fact that it becomes an irrational thinking pattern that ultimately harms the individual. Nearly anyone in a state of starvation would opt to eat something, even if it were in not their top choice of foods. In fact, in severe states of starvation, many would resort to even eating unappetizing foods in order to stay alive. For example, my mother ate raw eggs during the war to stay alive. Those with orthorexia become so rigid in their food intake, that many have often starved themselves rather than bend their own self imposed rules around food. This screams of classic anorexic behavior. However, not to discount the very subtle differences in the two illnesses, it should be recognized that orthorexics really do see themselves as doing something healthy, despite the harmful consequences.

In some cases, an anorexic will go to great lengths to lose weight and practice what everyone widely accepts as truly unhealthy behavior including, over exercising, taking drugs and severely restricting food intake. Those with orthorexia, on the other hand, may find drugs too impure to consume. Their true goal is not specifically weight loss. It is, rather, to become pure. In many cases, this pureness in eating becomes what the orthorexic sees as a path to spiritual enlightenment. This being said, the fact that orthorexics sacrifice their own health leads one to believe that it is more of an offshoot of anorexia rather than an actual completely new illness. Orthorexia can be seen as similar to any other eating disorder in that it interferes with a person's lifestyle and overall health, affecting normal functioning and general wellbeing. In severe cases, the extreme dietary restrictions of orthorexia can even lead to death as documented on the website, Beyond Vegetarianism. On the website, an in depth description of Kate Finn's life and tragic death due to orthorexia is presented.

Though some claim there is a very real distinction between anorexia and orthorexia, there is no question that the two are both deadly eating disorders. Whether or not there is enough of a distinction between orthorexia and anorexia to classify orthorexia as a new illness, is debatable. The bottom line is that orthorexia, just like anorexia, can lead to extreme emaciation, health problems and even death. The focus should be more on recovery from the illness not on the label itself. It is no secret that anorexics can be manipulative, controlling and irrational. The concern with adding a new term to what most consider an offshoot of anorexia, is that anorexics will use it in order to stay in a state of denial or in order to try to avoid getting the help they need. Anytime a person becomes irrationally afraid to eat, it should be recognized that this is a symptom of anorexia. There are beautiful examples of people all over the world who truly dedicate themselves to eating the healthiest diet imaginable who are not in a state of starvation. To imply that a focus on eating healthy is an illness is backward thinking. It should be recognized that any extreme restriction in food intake to the point of harming health and wellbeing is and should be classified as anorexia.
For help with eating disorders the following links are useful:

Lize Brittin is a writer living in boulder, Colorado. To contact the author, please email her at lizefb@aol.com

Thursday, March 3, 2011

body dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, according to the clinical definition is "a (psychological) somatoform disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features (body image)." The concern can be about one part of the body or several. This disorder is exceptionally high in those who suffer from eating disorders, but can also affect anyone in the general public. In the past, my warped sense of my own body was far worse than it is now. People will often say that an anorexic sees herself or himself as fat. For me, I had some sense that I was excessively thin, but I felt fat. I definitely didn't see myself exactly as I was, but I also didn't look in the mirror and see an obese person. It was more that I was intensely unsatisfied with my body, especially my stomach. Some people may think this kind of thinking is crazy, but I think there's something to the teachings of Louise Hay. She suggests that "the stomach holds nourishment and digests ideas. Problems indicate dread, fear of the new, and an inability to assimilate the new." I also read somewhere that not liking one's stomach can be related to having father issues. It's an interesting thought. I think of it more as it being difficult to not like or have issues with someone who is "supposed to" be supportive and loving, and transferring that emotion to the self or a specific part of the self. In other words, it's safer to direct negative emotions on the self.

It's interesting that I will occasionally still say I feel fat. I have learned though, that it generally means there's something going on other than my weight. It could mean anything from I'm worried to I'm feeling out of sorts. Somehow over the years, any uneasy feeling translated as me feeling fat. I believe it was a learned response from growing up a bit chubby. In my mind fat = lize= shame, guilt etc., etc. I was teased and told over and over that I was fat. This resulted in me being a bit of a loner. It also resulted in me being a little bit afraid of others. In the end, the result was that my emotional feelings got crossed with what was going on in my physical body. Since my childhood, I have worked hard to overcome these issues. I now have a job in which I must deal with the public. This forces me to face any fears I might have dealing with others.I also have to acknowledge but put aside any babbling negative nonsense that my brain might spin in my head in order to focus on my work.  

It was thanks to a few really good friends that I cut way back on saying, "I feel fat." I love that I have friends who are straight forward. I was told I said it too much when I first started to recover. What I noticed is that the less I said it, the less I felt it. There was a definite correlation to what was coming out of my mouth, and how I was feeling. At first I still felt fat, but over time, the feeling dissipated the more I focused on talking about other things. It was another time when the universe presented an open door. I could either take what my friends were saying into consideration, or I could continue down the same road. It's a little bit like running in a race. If you're up in front, and the lead pack makes a break away, you can either gather courage and strength and move with them or sit back and wait for another opportunity that may never come. This was another time where I jumped, and the result was beneficial. 

In the end, I have learned that my self image is often a reflection of how I feel. In the past, it was a warped thought that I was fat while starving myself, but it was how I felt. Over time, it became what I learned. I'm now unlearning that, and focused on finding what is underneath the feeling of this fatness in my head. Most of the time, I'm happy to report that I don't think about my weight, don't feel fat and can live more in the moment. There are times though where that feeling pops up, and I have to address it. Now I have the tools to do so. It's always a matter of taking the time to express it or define it rather than ignore it completely or let it spiral to an absurd level.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Interesting blog post from Diane Israel

Some time ago, Diane Israel, Joe Eiben and I did an interview for a local radio station on eating disorders. It was great to have not only a male perspective, but a gay man's voice in the group. There was quite a lot of discussion about the difficulties that the gay community faces both in general and in regard to eating disorders. Somehow there's this idea that "thin is in" in certain communities. This is certainly the case in Boulder, where the average person is an ultra endurance athlete who does yoga on the side, eats a vegan diet and avoids processed sugar. Apparently in the gay community though, there's fat, and then there's "gay fat". This is a term mostly applied to gay men, and it means that what some would consider being normal isn't good enough. Even a thin gay man can be considered gay fat, because there's an emphasis on having an ultra thin, excessively toned body. It's upsetting that those who are often already struggling with acceptance must also face pressure from their peers to be a certain way.

Diane's post explains better than I can some issues that arise for those who are, as she put it, LGBTQ-identified (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Queer). I think it's fantastic how far Diane has come. Mostly I just want to share her post, because I think she has incredible insight and offers a unique perspective.