The REAL Icing on the Cake

Enough of the sugar-coating. I don’t care for it. 

I’ll pass on the fluffy cupcakes with frosting, gooey cookies with glaze, and warm chocolate iced donuts with sprinkles. 

You may think I’m crazy, but …

No coconut and cream coating, powdered sugar finishing touch, or triple chocolate fudge, please. 

No thanks …

I want to know what’s underneath (and I’m not just talking quality ingredients). Forget the sugar-coating, I want to taste the real stuff. 

And no, this isn’t just another a nutrition talk from your health coach 😉

I want to know more …

I’ll go for some raw egg. Perhaps some unsalted butter. Unsifted flower. Half-melted chocolate chips. Crisco from the can.

I’m craving simplicity. 

I want to taste transparency. 

I want to chew on unrefined adequacy.

I’m craving pungent. 

Riveting.

Relentless reckoning.

I want the REAL recipe. The first ingredients. The natural ingredients. The processed ingredients. ALL the ingredients. Healthy or not. Fresh or stale. Wherever you are right now. 

I want the exact amounts, the honest amounts, and all the mistakes you spilled into the bowl. 

I want the “too much of this” and “too little of that.” 

I want the beaten batter and all of its lumps. 

I’m not interested in the decorated finished product, covered in layers upon layers of sugary colored frosting. I’m interested in the layers underneath—the sources of the sequence, and the steps in the story.

I would much rather meet the creator of the cake. 

I’m craving RAW. I’m craving REAL. I’m craving TRUTH. 

I want to know YOU.

The world often makes us think our raw ingredients don’t matter. We think we can’t share these messy piles with the world. We have to mix things up first; we have to make things look presentable. We become deceived in believing that our lives aren’t exciting enough; our bodies aren’t pretty enough; our schedules aren’t full enough; our stories aren’t important enough. 

I’m here to tell you that “perfect cake” is crap.

Or maybe we think our ingredients aren’t pure enough. We think our contents aren’t organic enough, our prep isn’t smooth enough and our measurements aren’t precise enough to fit in with this world. We attempt to cover up our misguided steps, our faulty accidents, our stained aprons and cracked mixing bowls. 

Maybe if I add more salt here, or sugar there, no one will notice. 

Maybe if I just keep stirring, the batter will become smoother.

Maybe if we bake more goods, good reputation will follow.

Maybe if we pour a little quicker, and beat a little faster, our struggle will become numbed.

Temporary fixes are … well, merely temporary. There will be a day when someone bites down on the piece of the broken eggshell you failed to pick out of the mix. That person might even be you …

We all want to be noticed. We all want to be accepted. We want to be admired, loved, and respected. We want people to bite off a taste of our lives and come back for more. Only, the dish we often are serving to others isn’t real. It isn’t authentic. It isn’t richly bold and filled with flavor. It’s an underwhelming recycled recipe. A recipe that’s not our own.

I get it …trust me, I do. I used to live in the kitchen of forbidden foods. I used to mix to the beat of society’s KitchenAid. I used to chop in the monotonous rhythm of perfectionism’s lies. But at the time it seemed easy. I worked to blend in, rather than stand out. Except I realized that in my mind I did stand out. I wasn’t like other people. I swam in my shame. The eating disorder claimed each one of my meals. I thought my broken cookie crumbs were worthless, so I swept them into the sink. 

I get it … transparency can be tough. Vulnerability can be vicious. Details can be dreaded. Opening up can be overwhelming. Sometimes healing hurts. But truth can be transforming. 

It’s time we shared our original recipe, without fear of judgement. It’s time for us to cook and eat freely and adventurously. There is no reason to confine to the unrealistic ideologies and spotless kitchen floors. We’ve all had a mess that we’ve franticly mopped up before anyone noticed. It’s time to open the jar of individuality and write your name in the chocolate drizzle. 

I admire any person who can tell me their past, lick the spoon, and use it to make a delicious batch of brownies. Secret recipes only hold their suspense for so long …

Just think of what the dessert spread would look like if we all divulged and swapped recipe cards. Just think of the sweet stories we could savor …

Your story matters, whether you think of yourself as a master baker or not. 

Your contents are beautiful … and can create a delicious masterpiece. 

Let’s be raw. 

Let’s be riveting. 

Let’s be REAL.

Human Days

I remember what it felt like to have “bad” days.

It’s not that I don’t have them anymore, but something in my mind is different:

I guess I have finally accepted the fact that I’m human.

I remember what it felt like, just trying to get by. Pressing on throughout the day, trying to keep busy to distract myself from looking down with disgust or disappointment. Feeling sluggish, bloated, discouraged and disillusioned. Punishing myself with double extra-long workouts, or restricting food until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Yes, there were indeed “bad” days. Poor body image days, hopeless days, weak days, and frustrating days. Anxious days, angry days, and annoying days. Regretful days, resentful days, and rebellious days.

But there were also good days. Motivating days, exciting days, strengthening days and empowering days. Thankful days, thoughtful days, and transforming days. Victorious days, vocational days, and vibrant days. Each and every day soon became my choice.

I could choose recovery, or I could choose relapse. Yes, sometimes the eating disorder seemed more powerful than my will. Sometimes it won over my voice of reason. But there was always an opportunity for a second chance. There was always that short moment of free will. A moment with a fate that spoke the difference between slavery and freedom; isolation and community; pressure and peace.

I know what it feels like to dislike yourself. But what I have realized over the years while in healthy eating disorder recovery is that when I may not have liked myself on the outside, I still secretly loved myself on the inside. While at my lowest, yes, there were times when I couldn’t recognize my own thoughts anymore. In those days I was incapable of making rational decisions on my own. There were times when I pondered the true meaning of life, because I could’t truly feel it.

But after years of slowly getting better, I began to feel again. I began to laugh again and love again. I even began to love myself again. I may not have been happy with how my body looked every day, but I was in love with the person I was becoming. I knew I wasn’t done becoming her yet. So I pledged to keep on going.

I now recognize that this girl will never be done growing. I know I may not ever have everything figured out. But the self-knowledge and self-contentment that I have acquired by allowing myself to heal makes all of that okay. I guess I have acknowledged that we all make mistakes. I guess I have finally realized that no one is perfect. I guess I’ve learned that life is not meant to be wasted while wishing the day away. I guess I have accepted the fact that I’m only human.

Each and every day is a gift from above. There is no room for shame.

human

 

 

“Be Still and Know”

Contrary to my typical school days, I had several good guy friends while in college. These enthusiastic guys were genuinely smart, humorous, truthful, and tended to make certain group gatherings more fun. They were a lively asset to football-watching parties, board-game-playing potlucks, and recreational sporting scrimmages on campus. They were pros at crafting a clever joke, and willingly contributed to thought provoking conversations minus all the nagging female drama. Needless to say, I greatly valued their friendship, encouragement, and personal opinions for that matter. One afternoon after a routine ultimate frisbee session, one of my guy friends, Ken, mentioned that he had seen me running around campus earlier that week (a daily activity for which I quickly became known.) Attempting to compliment my physically active lifestyle, he proceeded by saying, “Amanda, you’re one of the healthiest persons I know.”

Conflicted by his politely intended comment, I remember thinking sadly to myself, “If only you knew, Ken…if only you knew the truth.”

The ironic truth was that back in college I did know–I knew all about my history, and knew that I was still regretfully hanging on to painful pieces of my past. With my academic major of choice being Exercise Science, I had acquired a substantial amount of insight on how the magnificent human body operates. From my own experience and educational influences, I knew all about the foundational idiosyncrasies of my specific condition and was highly aware of what I should be doing to combat it. I knew about many intensive biological processes and detailed components pertaining to anatomy and physiology. I was rehearsed in the guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, and was well-trained on how to properly lead others towards adapting healthy choices and developing a balanced lifestyle. I knew all of these concepts like the back of my hand…I just frankly wasn’t applying them to myself. On the outside I may have appeared fit and healthy, but on the inside, I was deniably still struggling beneath my protective fitness persona.

Reflecting back to my ignorant 13-year-old self, however, I didn’t know. I didn’t know the difference between carbs, fats, and proteins. I didn’t know that there was a such thing as too much exercise or nutritional control. I didn’t know how foods were broken down in our bodies, or that words like “calories” and “metabolism” even existed. I didn’t know anything about nutrient timing or hormones. And of course I didn’t know at the time that all of my intentional efforts to improve my athletic ability and conscious focus on physical enhancement were unintentionally eating up my body. Literally.

 

Yet instead of translating this lack of knowledge into a prime teaching opportunity, the majority of what I absorbed fell within the spectrum of crucially labeling foods and habits as either “good” or “bad.” Despite the attempts to facilitate matters, everything suddenly added on to my pre-existing set of rules. This observant, reserved, intuitive young girl only wanted to become the best all-star athlete out there, and instead accidentally took her competitive perfectionist personality overboard. I “learned” by my own observation and perceived judgement, disappointedly losing the very control I set out to attain in the beginning. I wanted to get things right; I didn’t mean to cause my body harm…but at the same time I also wanted to understand why I was suddenly being forced by doctors to confide in a new strict and monitored lifestyle. In spite of my inner will to improve myself, I was constantly overpowered by the regulations of my treatment team, and my own eating disorder voice telling me everyone else was wrong.

Thankfully now, I know. I now know the severity of the disease that consistently won the battle for nearly ten years of my life. I know the mental and emotional toll that tags alongside the obvious physical toll. I know the meaning behind terms like “triggers” and “tendencies,” and how to monitor them. I know now that if I want to be able to continue to engage in the physical activity which brings me so much joy, I have to strategically fuel my body with the right sources. I know that food is my muscle’s best friend, and that it provides substance, energy, and natural healing remedies. I know truthfully just how vital it is to have loving moral support during such a darkly rough time. Additionally, I have no doubt that with my passion for learning, this large knowledge base will only continue to grow. And with this knowledge, I know deep down that recovery is possible. I know, again, a life of vibrancy, contentment, and peace.

In times of confusion, discouragement, and affliction, I remind myself of this gift of the present. In all circumstances, it helps to know there is someone right there on your side. Someone rooting for you each step of the way. Someone who will walk with you, cry with you, and stand strong with you. Someone who values you, admires you, and cares deeply for you. Someone who would drop everything just to sit quietly with you…to patiently wait in silence with you, aspiring to bring comfort and assurance in reminding you to simply

…”be still and know.”

Be still, be calm, and be brave. Be still and know that there is such a thing as hope. Be still and know that it can indeed get better. I know, because I’ve been there. I know, because I’m here.

~Psalm 46:10~

A Voice To Be Heard

 In honor of eating disorder awareness week, which ironically also happens to be the week of my birthday, I invite you to share in both sincere reflection and new excitement with me. But most of all, I invite you to join me in celebrating 25 years of life–a life that was once shackled, and is now free–eating disorder-free. 

  
I applied to become a mentor in an online eating disorder mentoring program, pretty much on a whim. I usually don’t think spontaneously like that, or act with rash intention, but this new curiosity was different. I never even knew something like this existed, and intrigued, I wanted to be a part. Simply put, life is just too short to keep this truth hidden any longer. It is a part of my story, viewed from a new perspective of gratefulness and strength. Yes, it is a heavy part of who I am, but it no longer defines my inner being or enslaves my identity. I have considered myself “in remission” from this awful disease for the last ten years, but it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I began to experience climactic mental breakthroughs. I had finally reached a point in recovery where I was tired of waiting for someone with a similar history to stumble across my path. I wanted to reach out and help heal, or at least offer my own account as some sort of hopeful encouragement. I can remember back when I was struggling through those gruesome times, feeling utterly alone. Thankfully I had my loving family by my side through its entirety, but as much as their caring hearts longed for my curing, they would never fully understand where I was during that daunting point in my life. I want to be able to be that special someone for other suffering souls. Someone who can genuinely say, “I know…I’ve been there…and it does get better.” Sometimes, in the midst of our struggles, those simple words are enough. 

Hearing the news that I had been accepted into the MentorConnect program as a mentor spoke wonders for my current state of stability and strength as an “ED survivor”, and I was elated to immediately receive two match requests for mentees. Excitement overflowed as I was finally able to speak one-on-one with my first match over the phone, and I immediately felt a strong connection to this complete yet friendly stranger from Greenwood, SC. I had never done anything like this before, (conversing with someone form an entirely different state in the U.S. whom I had never met,) about something so personal. Since then, our friendship has continued to grow, despite the fact that we still have yet to speak face to face.

The opportunity to share life with this amazing woman has been extraordinary. The idea that someone would respect my insight (my mentee is 32 years old) and admire me for my success story and current position of recovery is not only encouraging, but completely humbling. It has been an excellent exercise for me also, because our extensive conversations provoke a certain revisiting of those dark times and cause me to realize just how much I truly have overcome. It has prompted me to view my situation with yet another whole new set of eyes, and has allowed me to take on a new grateful title as a counselor and role model. The more accountability I can acquire, the better, as I strive to reach out to this overlooked population and use my story to help others. It is gradually giving me a new voice…a voice which wants so much to be heard, not for my own merit but simply to break the wall of misunderstanding and hopelessness in so many out there. My mentee, just like each and every victim of this disease, also has a voice of her own, and by actively seeking this mentoring program has acquired a new listening companion from my compassionate heart. 

In speaking with her I am faced with a new challenge–I must be open and honest, but also take into consideration her current state and respect the fact that all of us move through life at our own unique pace. Being a true “fixer” in personality, this is often extremely difficult. I must accept my own limits and circumstances beyond my control, and focus instead on how to help encourage healthy behavior and positive outlook. I do feel a personal connection and care deeply for this incredible gal, but must wait out this journey with her while demonstrating patience, persistence, and understanding. Everything isn’t always perfect on my end either, nor will it ever be. But for the first time in a really long time, I’ve accepted that fact with peace. 

Upon acquiring this exciting new outlet, I have also been engaged in a lot of deep reflection, which is something I am often accustomed to doing when life throws me curveballs. My mind has been spinning and bouncing back and forth to past revelations, scenes, and emotions, and has repetitively hovered around one recurring idea, or dream if you will: to write a book.

For a while now, I have heard God’s voice telling me that I’m meant to use my story to help others, and I have just been rather unsure as to the specifics attached to this. Recently, however, I have begun to connect a few dots here and there. One of my “breakthrough moments” was in the car while listening to the song “My Story” on the Christian radio–a beautiful song of how God’s saving grace is revealed in each of our unique individual stories. Lately I have realized just how much I love to write, and talking with my mentee has influenced me to reflect on just how much I wish to be able to say. All my life, friends and family have attempted to highlight writing as one of my gifts. Words have always had a special meaning to me, and I find joy in sharing them with others. In a hand-written note on the inside cover of a journal that my Nana gave me for Christmas following graduation, she encouraged me to continue to record my memories through expression of the written word, using this joyful gift. I already have a plentiful archive of journals and thoughts stashed away from over the years, pertaining to the sincere topic of my painful history. But why only continue to write for myself? What good will spark from keeping powerful words in anxious secret? Why not write with the intention to share not only a personal journey, but a story of conquered struggles, successful survival, and sustaining hope? 

I have now reached a point where I passionately want to be heard. No more sulking behind a regretful shell of shame. There is so much truth that I wish to share, with an attempt to instill faith and comfort to those currently struggling, or who are helping a loved one fight the battle. My mother admitted to me the other night that during the most devastating times, a comforting word was something she searched for–book after book was flipped through, only to disappointedly stumble across one more depressing narrative after another. There were very limited (from what my mother could find) success stories and uplifting documents on the topic. During the dark hole when my family needed it most, the encouraging promise from someone who had walked in their shoes ensuring that “things will get better,” was simply nowhere to be found. 

Standing before you today with even greater compassion and voice of confidence, sincerity, empathy and truth, I wish to change that sad report. I want to provide that encouraging word, that yet even in the toughest challenges, offers a faithful account of a true success story–something which is devoutly possible given the proper education, guidance, and support. There is so much to be said, so much to be revealed, about the complexities and anxieties of this misunderstood condition, which I long to bring to the surface. But not to evoke a sense of sadness, or create an aurora of disheartening sympathy. My efforts will be to be real enough to draw you into the mind and home of an eating disorder victim, with an attempt to offer a glimpse of the severities, only to emphasize the immeasurable weight of a stable recovery–which IS attainable through a network of faithful, dedicated spirits. 

Writing and collecting my thoughts into one published piece of work would allow me to share this voice–this strong, bold voice of truth. The voice which has won over the notoriously often-quoted “eating disorder voice.” And in doing so, hopefully will bring peace, comfort, insight, and exhortation to every person who flips through its pages. I want to obey the voice of my eternal Savior, who dug me out of my unintentional self-made pit, and represent all of those precious trapped voices of victims then and now. I am excited to let the words flow…words no longer to be kept guarded inside, but shared out of love.
                                                          ________________

Stay tuned for relevant snippets of my survival story in its entirety, optimistically projected to be completed by Feb 25, 2017 (Which will be my 26th birthday and over a decade since my initial diagnosis.) Although I still plan on consistently posting healthy recipes during this project, the Fit Peace By Peace blog site will be mainly devoted to a collaboration of thoughts and expression towards this goal. Therefore, please pardon my brief hiatus from general nutrition and wellness posts as I attempt to gather and organize all of the jumbled heavy words which have been pressing on the inside walls of my brain over these past 12 years. Using detailed memories, personal accounts and maturing circumstances, I hope to extend a message of hope and encouragement to those suffering and to their loved ones, as well as to the other misguided minds of society. Your support means the world to me as I strive towards fulfilling my vocational calling to intentionally give back in this area, while sharing bits and pieces along the way, to become genuinely transparent in attempts to help anyone through their own health journey no matter what their background entails. I welcome any questions or inquiries with outstretched arms as I take on this compelling opportunity. The time has come to commit to a new season of openness; to become the woman I’m meant to be; to cough up some courage, and truly become an “open book.”

There is a voice to be heard, a voice once trapped behind a lying voice of false identity–and I’m not just referring to my own here. Voices of sweet souls past and present. His voice, her voice, your voice…all deserve to be heard. There is no reason to be ashamed…your voice may be exactly what the person next to you needs to hear. 
                      ~“This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”~ 

Know Your Numbers (And When to Forget Them) 

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I am a person who loves figuring things out. I like answers, and realistic figures and being able to come up with reasonable reliable solutions. But not in the mathematician or Excel Spreadsheet-master sort of way– I purely like the simplicity of having a definite outcome, which acts as a sustainable source for future reference. For this reason and this reason alone, I didn’t mind math back when I was in school. Also for this reason, coupled with a sharp ability in visual memorization, I developed an apt for numbers–numbers capable of practical application in the real world as it pertains to health, fitness, and performance.

I write this not to bore you, nor to take you through a tedious calculus lesson, but to offer a means of escape–escape from something that perhaps subconsciously may be “weighing” you down. Let me elaborate on that idea for a second, so you can get a better taste of the point I am trying to reach…

For years, the scale was the enemy. A thin medal box that held secrets capable of ruining an entire week’s worth of effort. A creature that hid in the dark depths underneath the bedside table, only to be brought out often as the bearer of bad news…hesitating for a moment upon receiving a standing presence, its dials moving back and forth as if it had some control over your center of being–like a magnet playing with the key to your soul. For so long, I placed value in the scale and its “magic numbers.” There came an outward praise for a reading deemed “good,” yet coupled with a secret luring of dissatisfaction from within.

Funny how we tend to place so much self worth in a device so inconsistent, and in a number we are told is regretful or acceptable.

While the scale is by far the most prime example I can emphasize with regards to “sticking to your numbers,” there are all sorts of other “scores” we tend to give ourselves in life. Some of these standards, milestones or checkpoints are wonderful motivation and sometimes necessary for intervention purposes. It is when we let the pressures and unrealistic expectations control us that these numbers can become obsessive. Clinical values such as blood pressure, fasting glucose, cholesterol and other blood-test results are types of numbers that are often necessary to keep track of. Assessments that include body fat percentage, lean mass, total body water, and BMI can be great for beginning an exercise plan and for documenting results. Keeping a detailed running log with specific mile splits and personal best times can be a very useful tactic to stay on track with a training program for a half marathon or a 5K. Knowing just how many arm strokes it takes you to complete a one lap swim can benefit your 50m freestyle. But if you already possess quite an avid competitive nature, some of these practices involving numbers may eventually get to your head. I know this, because by attempting to better myself and my athletic performance, I unintentionally found myself trapped in a sudoku puzzle filled with society’s pressures and my own expectations.

I remember the first time I went for a jog without a watch strapped to my wrist…

…with the the wind in my face and thoughts flowing freely, I noticed the bright blooming flowers in the tops of the trees along the side of the road in my very own neighborhood. I could hear the light consistent pounding of my feet and rhythm of my breathing. I cornered the same familiar bend I veer around every morning, usually around 7.23 minutes and counting. But this time, I hugged the curb free and unattached, lengthening my stride and reaching for more.

Although I still use numbers as a reliable source of progress, they no longer dictate my being. Placing too much emphasis on hitting targets, adhering to a confined regimen, or building explosive statistics can cause fitness (and other endeavors) to  become more of a pressure rather than a choice. My time, place, rank, weight, score, dimensions, Facebook likes, age, or track record may hold some sensible significance for a scrapbook someday, but they don’t deserve to rule my life. These values definitely serve their purpose under specific circumstances, and can also gain appropriate praise or provoke essential calls to actions when necessary. But I would much rather strive towards something greater than a number on a screen or a figure on a scale. Reality is, I’m only one person–one mind, one opinion, one thought, and one heart. But sometimes, in the sea of scrutinizing self-criticism, you’re not the only one. Sometimes, amidst all the comparison and continuous counting, one is simply enough.

You are worth so much more than a numerical value. Your presence in this world matters. Your thoughts, your hopes, and your dreams are worth sharing.

So know your numbers, in as much detail as you choose. Just know when it is safe (and sometimes favorable) to forget them. Be the one you can always count on.