Slide forward, jump back

I’ve come to learn I shouldn’t be left to my own devices in other people’s apartments. I don’t mean that I steal things, or that I look for embarrassing things under the beds and in the medicine cabinets. Those things don’t really interest me (though a certain Chanel purse had me rethinking the “don’t steal” thing), and between the Nickname Posse I would be SHOCKED if we had any secrets that would lurk under the bed or in the medicine cabinet; or at least any secrets that we don’t all already know/text/talk about in detail. But when left alone this weekend in my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment to watch their pup while they went off somewhere beautiful and relaxing, I did *perhaps* go a little wild… on the wealth of non-Whole30 approved food in their cabinets and fridge.

Actually, even before arriving to their place down in the Financial District, the end of last week turned into a mini free-for-all for my diet, starting with indulging in free pizza for lunch at the office and ending with me ordering from my favorite Dominican restaurant in the Heights for dinner; I told myself it was because I had barely any groceries in the apartment to make a decent meal, but in reality I’d had a glass or two of wine and tipsy me figured “well, I already ate grains and dairy today so SCREW IT!” After settling in with the pup early Saturday afternoon, I went looking for a cup for water (because despite having watched the dog multiple times and having spent countless days and nights in this apartment, I still forget where everything is), and happened first upon a cabinet that contained, among other things, a jar of Nutella and something called “Cookie Chips.” I’d brought some leftover groceries with me and could have stuck closer to my normal diet if I wanted, but for Friday and Saturday I’d decided not to, which led to an interesting revelation on Sunday.

Sunday morning I woke up with what can only be described as a food hangover. My head hurt from all the sugar from a Nutella binge and an impulsive cupcake purchase, my skin was starting to break out from the dairy, and I was experiencing some gnarly stomach cramps due to I’m not even sure what. I wandered out of the guest room (aka my bedroom) in search of an essential oil or antacid or something to help, and found myself in R/H’s bathroom staring at a scale. Now, given my sordid history with anorexia, I do not own a scale and never will – but more often than not, I will still weigh myself if I see one. I know the number doesn’t matter. I know that. But Sunday morning after a delicious night of treats from R and H’s cabinets, their scale said that I was up 10 pounds from the end of Whole30, and seeing that number put me in a mental tailspin. Truly, I haven’t indulged in the Eating Disorder part of my brain in probably a year, but for whatever reason, this time, I did.

Life after an eating disorder is an endless struggle to think a certain way, constantly fighting to remember no, you’re not fat, and food is not scary. Before Whole30 I was really good at disassociating which voice was the eating disorder and which voice was rational thought, because okay, maybe I didn’t need to eat six KitKats from the work candy drawer that day but I won’t feel bad that I indulged in chocolate. During Whole30 I was really conscious about which voice could have been the eating disorder versus which was my body adapting to new meal patterns and eating schedules and the lack of sugar. It’s post-Whole30 where things have blurred; there’s this pull now to stay as close to that diet as possible because it makes a tangible difference in everything from my sleep, to my anxiety, to my work and to yoga, but once I’ve had something non-compliant for the day it turns into an awful cycle of “MIGHT AS WELL EAT EVERYTHING” followed by crippling anxiety about whether that will be the meal that finally makes me fat. Sunday night I sat on the couch for a while staring at a photo I’d put on Instagram earlier, a post-Bikram yoga sweaty shot where I’m in a sports bra, mentally bouncing between Rational Thought and Eating Disorder, and as I felt the panic start to rise, I immediately shut down Instagram and texted my soul sister E, the only person who could calm me down when anorexia rears its ugly head.

“It never really goes away, does it” I told E after we’d talked me down from my Nutella-induced food panic. “No,” she agreed. We talked a little more about how annoying it can be dealing with life post-ED, how one day I’m totally fine letting myself enjoy that third slice of pizza or a KitKat from the candy drawer, and then a week later I’m fighting back tears over a number on a scale. I hadn’t had a food-driven breakdown like this in months, maybe even over a year, and I’m lucky that E was available to help me step back and realize that everything is fine. I’m actually kind of grateful that I went a little crazy on R/H’s cabinets (*with full intentions to replace the Nutella I PROMISE), because I think I was starting to give in to the old rigid food rules that precede a relapse, hiding the anxieties connected to “bad foods” behind Whole30, instead of realizing what was happening and nipping it in the bud.

I’m not going to change my diet or lifestyle following this revelation – I still feel immensely better physically when I’m not eating things like grains and dairy, and frankly I prefer salads and smoothies to pretty much all foods – but this week my goal is to indulge in something every day, and to let myself enjoy it. Maybe it’s more Nutella on a spoon, a soy latte, or a warm croissant from the bakery in Chelsea Market; maybe it’s just an extra piece of fruit in the afternoon and a bigger portion for lunch. If I’ve learned anything else from yoga, aside from how to really shut down the anorexia part of my brain in such a way that dealing with this felt foreign, it’s that everything in life takes constant practice. Growth, after all, only comes after you slide back, fall down hard and still pick yourself up, always working so hard to move forward.

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PLD Montage: Vol. 2.2 (Whole30 Edition)

30 days is not a long time, all things considered. Breaking it down, it’s four weeks at work and four weekends, it’s two paychecks, and maybe four trips to the grocery store. But when you’re on Whole30, those days break out a little differently. That’s 90 meals that need to be planned, prepped and consumed all on my own. That’s four weekends of no wine, four weeks of no chocolate, and two paychecks largely sacrificed to food-related purchases. It’s 30 days where you feel sick, and bloated, and depressed, and over it for a large portion of the time; it’s four weeks of your brain taunting you with all the things you “can’t” have and maybe a night or two where you dream about swimming in a pool filled with pinot noir.

But it’s only 30 days. And in those 30 days, there are a lot of things you can learn. SO without further ado, I give you:

PLD Montage: Whole30 Edition:

  • After some back-and-forth on the exact start date, my lovely friend M, who was joining me in this round, and I decided we’d start on Monday, March 30. The way I saw it at the time, I had two big “tests” during the month – dinner with a client, and my grandmother’s 90th birthday party – and the rest of the time would be smooth sailing. Work was supposed to calm down after the insanity of March (March Madness, if you will), I had zero plans on the weekends aside from the aforementioned birthday party… what could possibly go wrong, right?
    Lesson learned: Always expect the unexpected.
  • In preparation for the 30 days ahead, I spent a lot of time reading about what to expect throughout the process. I read the Whole30 timeline, read people’s reviews online, asked M and G more about their experiences, and generally thought that I’d done a bang-up job preparing for the month ahead. The more I prepped, admittedly the more I thought I’d “probably just skip” some of the early unpleasantness, like carb flu and any gastrointestinal weirdness. I mean, my diet was pretty aligned to the lifestyle anyway. Was I really eating that much sugar, in the form of work chocolate and wine, to affect me in any noticeable way?
    Lesson learned: You are not the exception to the rule, snowflake. Also CARB FLU IS A REAL AND TERRIBLE THING.
  • On Day 13, I just felt crappy. I’d been dealing with the stress of my grandmother in the hospital/nursing center and trying to help my mother through that time, plus a stressful time at work. I hadn’t seen a single improvement in 13 days of eating foods that were starting to bore me – my skin didn’t look better, my energy was steady but not great, I was still sleeping poorly and if anything, I felt like my yoga performance was getting worse, not better. I was in Connecticut at the time, surrounded by my parent’s incredible wine collection and take-out pizza from my favorite place in the world, and all I had to eat were chicken sausages, sweet potatoes and kale. If there was a single moment this month where I wanted to quit, dear god, it was that one.
    Lesson learned: Putting seltzer in a wine glass and going to the wine cellar to stare at all the bottles actually helped get me through that moment. I swear one of the bottles of Three Sticks was telling me “it’s only two more weeks…”
  • On Day 30, I woke up at 5:45 with a ton of energy, checked Instagram (duh) and hopped out of bed. I made myself a delicious breakfast, packed a big lunch, and checked the fridge to confirm I had enough leftovers from Sunday for dinner. I practiced a little yoga, opening up my shoulders and back for the long day ahead at a desk, and then went into a forearm stand, a pose that I’ve been working on for months, and one I set as a goal to master during Whole30. I smiled as I eased out of the pose, got dressed and quickly checked my schedule to confirm when I’d be able to pop out to Chelsea Market for a bottle of wine to open in celebration tomorrow night.
    Lesson learned: It’s about the journey, for sure, but the destination is pretty sweet too.

It’s been a whirlwind experience, to say the least, and it’s crazy to think it’s just because I tweaked my eating habits for 30 days. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this Whole30, in ways I never expected. I’ve learned that I can and should eat a lot more food than I was eating before, because even doubling my portions hasn’t caused any weight gain that I can tell. I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I’d imagined, passing on my favorite foods free in the office kitchen, passing up the best bottles of wine from my parent’s cellar, and passing the candy drawer at work multiple times daily. I pushed myself to try new things and found so much happiness in the little victories, like falling under the spell of Bikram yoga after managing not to pass out in the standing postures, and buying unusual produce to challenge myself, like golden beets and funny-colored squash. I learned that I love foods like olives and beef bone marrow, and most of all, I learned that I can cope with some heavy things on my own, not buoyed by the comfort of a drink or a brownie.

People keep asking me now that the Whole30 is over whether I’d ever do another one. That answer changed daily throughout the past month, one day a resounding “DUH I FEEL LIKE SUPERWOMAN” and the next a loud “HELL to the no.” The answer today is “Definitely, but not for a while.” Because the most important lesson I learned? I could live without dairy, grains, legumes and sugar for the rest of my life. But god dammit, I love a good glass of wine.

Spring Cleaning: Beast Mode

This weekend I went full beast mode on my apartment. In truth, I’ve spent so little time there this past month that there was a laundry list of things that needed to be done (up to and including actual laundry), and given the next 12 days will be entirely dedicated to managing two big projects at work that wrap up around the same time, this weekend was my only chance to get through that list. It started as an innocent idea: I’m going to give everything a good cleaning, and maybe I’ll do my seasonal closet purge, something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. It somehow spiraled into the most productive weekend I’ve had all year, allowing me to wake up this morning with a fully-decluttered and rearranged apartment, every single meal prepped and ready for the upcoming week, and even a few spare minutes this morning for some extra stretches in Monday yoga.

One of the big reasons I wanted to give a good clean to my apartment is to prepare for the new furniture I’m getting next month. It would be a big deal regardless, redecorating the apartment, but this is bigger than any redecoration I’ve done in the past. This is the one where I’m finally getting rid of the things I’ve carried around from apartment to apartment, trying to retrofit the style into the new place but ultimately leaving myself with more clutter than style. This is the one where I’m mounting things on the wall, cleaning out all the closets, tossing anything that I don’t need and only keeping the things I do. This redecoration officially marks the apartment as Mine for the foreseeable future, as I have no intention or incentive to leave. The biggest change started on Saturday evening, as my lovely friend M and I systematically removed hinges and doors from my old dresser, walked the skeleton down my five flights of stairs and left the drawers next to it on the curb. It was a really sad moment, actually, watching the very first piece of furniture I bought when I moved to New York sitting on the curb like an outcast. But it was also thrilling in a way, like everything I did this weekend makes it real that things are all about to change.

My apartment has looked different with every year I’ve lived there. There were no decorations for the first year, since I thought I’d be leaving after just one, and the furniture didn’t fit with anything, having been purchased for my completely-different apartment in the Upper East Side. The place felt empty for a while, the brash white walls and the furniture that didn’t fit; I couldn’t figure out how to navigate my bedroom with the two closets and wonky pipe running down a prime corner. Ten months after moving in, the somewhat-impulsive-may-have-been-reacting-to-a-break-up decision to paint the living room kicked off a burning desire to redecorate, but in planning a major re-do, I started realizing it was going to be a much bigger ask than I’d anticipated. I put everything on hold, living with a painted living room but clutter everywhere else for the next year; and now here we are: freshly-painted kitchen and bedroom to match the living room, and everything rearranged how it’s never been before. Each of these little milestones connect back to a different time in the apartment: different jobs, LB in a relationship, single LB, 24 years old to 26 years old, blonde LB, redheaded LB. The past two years have probably been the most formative of my entire life, all growth, learning experiences, great moments and horrible months. Having my ever-evolving apartment change with me has been such a massive part of this time in my life, and it’s crazy to think that in just a month it’s going to change that much more.

I sat on the couch last night with a Sunday treat, a strawberry-banana-almond-coconut milk smoothie and my favorite TV show in the background. I looked around at the place, so excited to see everything come together like the vision I’ve had in my head for a year. I checked my phone for a message, caught a glimpse of the date and all of a sudden realized that I’d moved into this apartment exactly two years ago, March 15, 2013. I started to smile, and then laugh, as I looked around at the still-new set-up, all the changes the place has already experienced and the bigger changes yet to come. It’s so funny how something like your apartment defines your days, how milestones like painting a living room blend into new beginnings and occasionally endings. This weekend may have been on the tamer side, but it was a spring cleaning in every sense: out with the old furniture, the memories of the early years in the city, the baggage associated with those extra Chapstick tubes hiding in the bottom of a dresser drawer and the unnecessary nostalgia of a photobooth reel; and in with the new. New furniture, new set-up, new attitude and a new season of growth.