Also, when I say I haven’t had bread or cookie butter in a “REALLY LONG TIME” I mean: one week. Because obviously in like Paleo-time that’s about 3,258,856 years. Approximately.
It’s been a few days since I journaled and my internal alarm system is blaring. Something is building up inside me and I need to slow down, check in, listen to what my still, small voice is trying to tell me.
I make myself a strong cup of coffee and settle down with pen and paper. Journaling is my meditation. It helps me go inward. When I journal, I don’t think. I just start writing wherever I’m at and write my way to insight. Sometimes it takes a full page, sometimes several. Usually, I have some pre-cleaning to do. My soul gets cluttered with emotional post-it notes, an assortment of mismatched feelings, a thin layer of memory dust.
I have to write through all of that, sort of like cleaning house. I have to pull up the old carpet, remove all the tacks and staples, sweep everything clean. It’s not until the floors are swept and the wood polished that the gleaming insight reveals itself.
Today it wasn’t until page three that the idea I was looking for surfaced and spilled itself onto my page.
I sat there for a moment in the still morning quiet and sipped my coffee. I let the insight sink in. I waited for the yes and amen of my spirit.
As I’ve read your stories and thoughts over the past couple regarding our relationship with food and feeling fat, I’ve struggled to understand what is driving my self-loathing. I mean, I know where my self-hatred comes from. But I don’t know how to change it, how to heal it.
I’ve tried cutting myself off. Deprivation only makes the desire stronger. I’ve tried fasting and cleansing and confessing. For me, this leads to self-rejection and deeper feelings of shame. And then I end up falling off the wagon with a huge crash, gobbling up junk food in the parking lot of Taco Bell.
So often I function from a place of scarcity, greedily snarfing up any leftover crumbs because I’m convinced the full meal isn’t coming my way. My default mode is to operate from fear–to believe that time is running short, the end is near and there’s not enough to go around.
Today, I think I may have found something different.
Healing and recovery isn’t about cutting myself off.
Lasting change happens in small steps.
If I feed myself well, I won’t be tempted to eat junk.
When I am fed and satisfied with good things, the Cool Ranch Doritos just aren’t appealing. It’s when I wait until I’m hungry! Starved! Stressed! that I reach for the quick-fix.
And this isn’t just about food. It’s about my spiritual and emotional health as well. So often I’ll just dive in headfirst, make 110% commitments, go whole-hog, gung-ho and then wonder why I’m feeling stressed, starved for love and reaching for the quick-emotional-fix.
This is a whole new way of living for me. It’s gonna take some practice. I simply don’t know how to slow down, listen in, exercise moderation. But I’ll start by making a list of Good Things To Feed My Soul. Here’s my list so far:
- Gratitude list
- Writing encouraging notes
- Teaching faith formation classes to kids
- Teaching writing classes
- Eucharistic adoration
- Lectoring at Mass
- Reading aloud to my children
- Reading a good book
- Baking cookies
- Helping my children pursue their dreams (Jewel will be performing a ballet solo this year!)
- Tending my roses
- Walking my dogs
- Making soup
- Decorating for the holidays and seasons
- Memorizing poetry
- Listening to classical music
- Contributing to neighborhood get togethers
- Participating in book clubs
- Volunteer work
- Visiting the sick
How about you? What Good Things fill up YOUR soul?
But this is what the camera sees:
The thing is, I can look at this picture and understand that what I see (fat girl) doesn’t match up with reality (not fat girl).
But so what? KNOWING THAT in my mind does NOTHING to change how I feel about my body.
Yesterday, one of my friends Voxed me and was like: “Whhhhyyyy are you doing this Paleo???”
And so I thought about that.
And here’s why: I feel ugly and fat unless I can fit into this size 2 dress:
Looking at these two pictures together, though, maybe I’m the only one who can see the difference? In other words, the girl in the first pic is not as OUTRAGEOUSLY FAT as I imagine
her to be?
I’ve never had an eating disorder, PER SE, but one thing has always remained: I always feel fat. I always feel not good enough.
And there is the core issue: I’m Not Good Enough.
So, if I’m going to be extremely honest, here: I’m “dieting” not because I want to be healthy. I’m dieting because I want to be skinny again. Skinnier than size 2. I want people to say: “Wow, you’re so skinny!” Oh, god. Let me just be 100% honest: I want to disappear. I want to be waif-y. Because somehow, when I look in the mirror, being skinny makes me Feel Like A Good Person.
There it is.
Excuse me for a moment while I bawl my eyes out.
*LOUD SOBBING NOISES*
OK, I’m back.
I’ve done enough therapy and recovery work to know where this comes from. MY CHILDHOOD. Of course it does. Godly women were tiny, weak and very quiet. And I was never, ever tiny enough.
In my church, a diet trend would sweep among us like a flu epidemic. Dieting was the new holiness. If you were “on fire for God,” then you were earnest about fasting and doing juice cleanses and–especially if you were a woman, you tried to fast yourself down to a size zero; which is pretty much the same as saying you whittled yourself down to invisibility.
Here’s the thing I never learned: moderation.
I mean, you never just ate this way 80% of the time. You went cold turkey.
You gave 110%.
You cut yourself off.
IF YOUR RIGHT HAND OFFENDS YOU, CUT IT OFF!!!
Pretty much you attacked everything in life this way.
There was no such thing as pacing or moderation.
“Burning out for Jesus” was a virtue!
Alright, so. Here I am. Day 3. Gluten-free/Paleo. I *do* need to lose a few pounds just so I can fit back into my regular jeans. BUT. I don’t need to be ALL FUNDAMENTALIST about it, do I? No, I don’t. I can be gentle with myself. I can ease back a bit. I can have some frozen yogurt at night.
Most of all, I will LOVE MYSELF just as I am right now. I will not WAIT until some point in the future to love myself. I can accept and cherish my body with all it’s stretch marks and kinks and “imperfections” right NOW.
Because here’s the dirty secret: even when I was a size 2 and the “skinniest” I’d been since highschool? I STILL FELT FAT. Also? I wasn’t any happier than I am today.
All Together Now: I am beautiful. I am lovely. I am perfect just the WEIGHT I am.
Since remodeling wasn’t enough for me, I decided to start another project: going gluten-free. THIS PICtURE SHOWS YOU HOW WELL THAT’S GOING FOR ME.
Oh my gosh, people. How the—what the–who the—HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT BREAD??????
I mean, I know “man cannot live by bread along” (har-har) but I seriously feel like my brain is trying to crawl out of my ears. I woke up with a POUNDING headache this morning and I would give anything for an Empire State Building of hot, sourdough bread.
I’m only on Day 2 but I want to kick Paleo in the face. Right after I eat these stupid carrots.
I posted this picture on Instagram, and the lovely “Sorta Crunchy Megan” (which is what I call her in my brain) pointed out to me that I didn’t have enough fat. OH. IS THAT WHY I FEEL LIKE I’M DYING?
I blame it on my ENFP brain. I’m forever getting all inspired, diving headfirst into things and then waking up on Day 2 going: OH. MY. WORD. WHAT THE HUCKITY-HUCK DID I GET MYSELF INTO? Well, EE, maybe you aren’t eating enough FAT.
So, I remedied that this morning by eating BACON. Because, whoa. Apparently, when you’re on El Paleo Dieto you can eat BACON. My new catchphrase: “I’m gonna Paleo that.” Meaning, Imma pop some bacon on that and call it Paleo.
Ok, OK. So I’m not a PALEO PURIST. I’m not what you might call a PALEO FUNDAMENTALIST. Excuse me for LIVING.
The point is, I realized something needed to change. Please click away now if you don’t like TMI. It’s about to get all TMI up in here.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve suffered from constipation. Just constantly. I also have a very sensitive stomach, a hiatal hernia and once had colitis. SO YOU KNOW. I have tummy issues. The best I’ve ever felt in my life (food wise) was when I was on the Zone Diet. It’s sorta like Paleo in the sense that you eat almost ZERO BREAD. In other words, I hated it. But I felt fantastic! Also, I lost weight without exercise.
In the past few months–pretty much as I neared my book deadline–I packed on at LEAST 7-10 lbs. Because STRESS. Because writing a memoir about your painful life experiences is HUCKITY-HUCK painful.
None of my cute dresses fit. My jeans? NOT EVEN CLOSE. I’ve been going around in elastic waisted skirts and yoga pants. Sexy.
Now that my book is done and I’ve rested and Pinterest’d and am starting a new project, I decided it’s time to DEAL WID those pesky 10 lbs. You know, right before the holidays. ALWAYS A GREAT TIME TO START A DIET AM I RIGHT?
Wow, I’m writing in all caps a lot. That’s what it feels like in my brain right now. Yelling. Lots of yelling. And dreaming of bread. And pasta. Cakes. Cookies. BAKED GOODS PILED HIGH THANK YOU, PALEO, I HOPE I FEEL BETTER TOMORROW!!!
p.s. I tried Paleo once before, about a month ago. I got to Day 7. I got through the headaches and the yuck. And then I was driving along and I just suddenly SWERVED into Taco Bell and snarfed down 3 Taco Supremes and a Large Sierra Mist in like 30 seconds flat. I don’t know how that happened.
p.p.s. Since nearing the end of the book, I’ve been slacking off at bootcamp. This week I realized how much ground I’d lost when I couldn’t keep up with ALL THE SLOW PEOPLE. The people who just started? I was WHEEZING behind them. So, I started crying. OF COURSE. And then I said to myself I said: EE? It’s OK! You wrote a book! Be gentle with yourself!
p.p.p.s. This is my reading material (WHY IS SHE SMILING? PALEO ISN’T FUN, LADY!!!) Here’s hoping I get further than Day 7 and that my constipated tummy feels better and that my 10 pounds just magically melts away. AUUUGGGGHHHH.
Feel free to give me gluten-free tips/meal ideas/online resources, etc!!!!
Also, did I mention I feel awful?????
Does this mean I’m super addicted to bread? And sugar?????
Here I am elbow-deep in dirty dishwater, all sweaty-pitted and smelling of eau de Cream of Mushroom Soup. I’m scrubbing the last, stubborn bits of tuna casserole off the glass baking dish and feeling very blah. There’s something blah and outdated and unsophisticated about tuna casserole, too. It’s not glamourous. One doesn’t fantasize about serving tuna casserole from paper plates lined up on the kitchen counter, no matching china anywhere to be found.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the kitchen window above my sink and note the gray hairs growing in around my temples. Gray hair and wrinkles. Also not glamorous. Also blah.
But tuna casseroles feed the hungry masses–and with minimal whining at that. Tuna casserole is good enough and maybe that’s exactly what I need right now.
I find myself bled out and exhausted these days. I think writing the book did it to me. I wrote three complete drafts. I’m about to begin final edits but for the last two weeks I’ve been limping around, all burned out and glassy-eyed, comforting myself with baked goods, Cookie Butter and House of Cards on Netflix.
I’ve gained five pounds.
I’ve gone to bed at 7:30pm each night and slept for 10 hours straight.
I do not recommend writing books. Or, at least, not memoirs about religion. As Dave Barry once wrote, “The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people and then they come after you with machetes.”
Sometimes I wake up in a blind panic convinced everyone will hate, hate, hate my book. Or, maybe–which would be worse–they’ll read and be all: meh. whatevs. Apathy gives me nightmares.
So, I’ve been worrying and then comforting myself with casseroles. The only problem with this coping mechanism is that my oven, much like myself, is also Emotionally Unstable. My oven doesn’t LIKE being set at 350° thankyouverymuch, and it will simply TURN OFF unless I set it at 365° but preferably at 375°. And even then it makes no guarantees. Because hot-flashes, apparently?
I’ve been known to stand watch over my oven, talking to it, coaxing it to please not shut off, to please bake my unpretentious, unsophisticated tuna casserole. I make listening noises, mirror my oven’s emotional state and when I lose patience, I snap my oven with a dish-towel.
Here’s a truth I’ve realized as I’ve fretted over my oven: it doesn’t matter whether I write a bestselling book. Or cook gourmet meals. Or have a flock of perfectly reared children. Inside me, deep down, there is a lurching loneliness which can’t be filled up with careers, babies or fancy meals cooked on designer Viking ranges.
I stand over my oven and I realize that I must, at some point, acknowledge the emptiness. I must feel it. I serve slopping spoonfuls of tuna casserole, I wash the dishes and I feel my emptiness.
I’ve heard preachers say we’re born with a God-shaped hole in our souls and nothing can fill it except (you guessed it) God. I find that trite if only because when I sit quietly with myself, this emptiness feels far greater. There are chasms, caverns, entire Grand Canyons of echoing emptiness inside me.
Nothing, nothing, nothing fills it.
I am learning to sit with this discomfort. I am learning to pray. I am learning to accept the things I cannot change and asking for the courage to change the things I can.
And when I pray, I I feel myself coming unstuck, loosening a bit. There are moments. Glimpses of being filled up, like during Mass when the cantor sings the responsorial Psalm. Or when my children fall silent, eagerly spooning tuna casserole into their hungry mouths. God is here, I think.
God in the outdated and ordinary and unglamorous. God turning my loneliness into solitude. God in the common comfort of tuna casseroles.
Be not afraid. God loves you and wants us to love one another as He loves us…He loves us with an infinitely faithful love. –Bl. Mother Teresa
For me, Sundays feel like land-mine days. Somedays I manage to pick my way around the bombs, other days–I am blown apart.
In the morning, we attend a Presbyterian church where I learn about God’s conditional love and how He loves me “in spite of who I am”–the actual words we were supposed to recite aloud this morning. I remained silent.
In the evening, I attend Mass where I experience God’s unconditional love, the love of an ever-pursuing God, a God who loves me with–as Mother Teresa wrote–with an “infinite faithfulness.”
In the middle of these days, I try to knit my family together through a simple ritual I have come to call “Sabbath Day of Soup.” It is my meager attempt to make peace, to be an instrument of reconciliation, to try and mend the splintered Christianity within my own family.
I serve soup and hope they can taste love in each spoonful. Did they see the fear and pain in my eyes this morning at church when we were taught (yet again) that God’s love is conditional? Do they know how this wounds me afresh every time?
How do I tell my children that I’ve been having flashbacks? It’s been awhile since I had a traumatic flashback, but my memory was triggered this past week…..
I am standing up crying in a crib. It is pitch black. I scream and scream but nobody comes. I am scared. The door opens, light from the kitchen floods in all orange. Mama picks me up. She didn’t hear me crying because she was at a prayer meeting in the building next door.
This is the one, lingering impression from my childhood: I am left behind so my parents can “serve the Lord” and/or attend meetings. I am left in the care of many babysitters–some of whom abuse me–I am left in cribs, left at summer camps, left in dark rooms to “cry it out,” I am taught that unless I live a life pleasing to God, I might get left behind at the Rapture.
And now we attend a church where we are told that God’s love is conditional. His love might leave us, too.
I don’t know how to make sense of this.
I am only just coming to the place where I scarcely dare believe in God’s unconditional love. Each Sunday, it’s as if I’m torn apart in the morning and healed up in the evening.
So, I make soup. It is my single, solitary non-violent act of defiance against authoritarian religion and the soul-scarring pain I still carry each day.
I make soup to remember nourishment, to remember peace, to remember I am worthy of love.
I ladle soup for my children and pray it shows them they are worthy of love, too.
I ladle soup and know we all carry pain. This is me trying to take my Sunday pain and make something beautiful and nourishing from it. This is me trying to make peace.
I have this visceral reaction to lentil beans. They remind me too much of a childhood steeped in hippie-influenced health food: millet for breakfast, whole-grain sandwiches for lunch, eggplant casserole for dinner. No processed food, no refined sugar, very little dairy. For the rare dessert, we ate carob chip cookies.
The moral of the story is that now I have a ferocious hankering for Mint Milano cookies.
But I have also decided I need to get over my antipathy toward lentil beans. You know, give beans a second chance.
So, I made Lentil Sausage Soup this past Sunday. My Sabbath Day of Soup has turned into something of a spiritual journey. I wanted it to be meaningful. Reconciling myself with lentils seemed like a good place to start.
There was a lot of chopping involved–not that I minded. If you let yourself relax into it, prepping veggies for soup is rather meditative. I used a couple extra garlic cloves because, well, that’s just what I do.
I ended up filling a large bowl with scraps. I guess I could have made vegetable stock with it, but I didn’t think about that until after I’d thrown it all out. I seem to get my best ideas like way late. It’s like thinking up the best comeback line while brushing your teeth at night.
When you make soup, there’s always a chance some child won’t like it. So you have to make something else, too. Everyone loves biscuits–even my pickiest eaters. I was feeling extra homey, so I made biscuits from scratch.
While I was making the biscuits, Matt came into the kitchen and started fiddling with the box that covers our door bell chime. Our door bell has been broken for months. I chopped, he fiddled. The twins came pounding in, wanting “snacks! snacks!” I doled out granola bars before dicing my cold butter into the biscuit mixture.
My boys were outside playing Lacrosse in the street. I watched them from the front window while I rolled out the dough. The biscuits turned out nicely. So did the soup.
I set the table and we all sat down together. The boys were sweaty (and stinky) from playing outdoors. The twins, having been awakened from a brief nap, were grumpy and disoriented. My oldest was exhausted from a birthday party. But we were all there. And that’s what mattered most, I think.
Of course, one of my twins didn’t like the soup. She wailed for most of the meal. Which was fine. It’s hard to be three, sometimes. Especially after an interrupted nap.
This made her happy. Until we told her she had to eat three bites of soup, first. She wasn’t particularly excited about this.
But she relented. Most of us will do anything for cake, I think.
As for me, I’m happy just to have my soup and eat it, too. And I’m happy to report: me and lentils are on good terms again.
Since I can’t go to church anymore, I’ve settled into a new Sunday morning routine. I help get the children dressed and out the door with their dad (they love church–and I’m happy to support them) and then I pour myself a second cup of coffee and pore over soup recipes.
Sunday Supper has become something of an art-form, an act of worship for me. There is something almost sacramental about soup making.
I never set out to be a Soup Enthusiast, but here I am. To my great surprise, I’ve discovered there are few things in life as completely satisfying as the sound and smell of freshly minced garlic, onions and leeks popping away in a hot bath of unsalted butter. Making soup is like creating art except you get to eat it afterwards.
I’ve never been an eager cook. The domestic arts were bludgeoned into me as a child–the mark of Good Woman being her facility with a frying pan. For a long time, I viewed the kitchen as a sort of prison. What I objected to was not the cooking itself, but the overlay of spiritual obligation. I hated being told that my worth as a woman was directly related to my ability to cook well.
My worth as a woman–as a PERSON!–had nothing to do with whether or not I baked cakes from scratch or from a box. All of this is to say, for a few years after leaving the cult, we ate a lot of take-out.
But now, I’m experiencing a sort of rebirth, I think. I’m not going to church, I’m not playing the Spiritual One-Upmanship Game, I’m not competing for eternal rewards. I’m more concerned with what’s going on in my soup-pot than with whatever sermon series the pastor has cooked up.
My kitchen has become my holy of holies where soup making is an act of worship. I’m creating something nourishing and wholesome, something I know will bring joy to my family. The act of cooking is full of anticipation: oh, won’t they LOVE this?
We sit down together, light the candles, fold our hands and pray aloud in unison. Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Here is ritual. Here is sanctity. Here is peace.
I know it’s no substitute for a true Sacrament, but for now, soup is my offering of worship.
Today I’m making Potato and Leek Soup. Again. Because there’s pretty much nothing holier than soup that requires heavy cream! Can I get an amen?
When I make pizza, I turn on the music and dance unabashedly with my rolling pin. Rolling pins are very obliging partners.
Scandalous as it may sound to my proper fundamentalist upbringing, I really like to have fun. I can't help it. I've tried to squelch that unholy urge for years. Then I discovered Catholicism.
Now I eat, drink and am merry. For tomorrow I go to Confession.
Let's just put it this way: Catholicism has given me the long-awaited permission to enjoy my life. Now I attack life with WILD ABANDON and without one tiny scintilla of guilt. I love making pizza, I love making sex, I love making a bajillion kids, I love a bustling, bright kitchen where food and drink and laughter, debate, discussion and dancing with rolling pins are not only allowed…they are CELEBRATED!
Speaking of pizza, look at this beauty I whipped up the other night:
After all, I am Greek and we Greeks like to take credit for everything in Western civilization. Including Pizza. Which may or may not be Greek. But who's quibbling?
Is it Italy or Greece? Is it Rome or Constantinople? Is it the Pope or the Patriarch?
See, did you ever suspect that making pizza was so pregnant with such potential controversy?!
We Greeks also like to say the Greek Orthodox church was the official, original Church. To which I say: TYPICAL GREEK. Then again, I do love the Greek Orthodox Church and am sorely ticked off at my Grandfather for abandoning it and thinking he knew better and could start his own, new and improved church. WE ALL KNOW HOW THAT ENDED. Typical Greek.
So, here I am. And I hate picking sides.
Why should I? Anyone can see Italian pizza does just fine with Greek olives on top.
Can't the Orthodox and Catholic churches just make up already?
Everybody kiss and eat pizza!
I've been shuttling kids all over town for two hours (baseball drop-offs and pickups) and am finally in the drive-thru line when he texts me.
WHAT? Casa Dios? Casa de diaz? Oh, wait. Quesadillas.
Apparently, our iPhones don't spell-check in Spanish.
[sidebar: the iPhone spell-checker bugs the heck outta me. Mostly because I like to invent words. The spell checker is always correcting these words. Also, it doesn't understand the plethora of nicknames I have for my family members. It keeps offering suggestions like: Honey? Lover? And I'm all: NO! NO! HIS NICKNAME IS SHINDER McLENDERSON THE 53rd! IS THAT SO WRONG? So, yeah. iPhone spell-check. Annoying. But, I digress.]
Anyway, I couldn't respond to his text because I was already in line at Taco Bell. Plus, I had my taste buds fixed on taco supremes and raspberry iced tea. You can fall off the diet wagon once in awhile, right?
And then he leaves me a voice message. Except it's nothing but background noise. And yelling toddlers. DELETE.
An hour later, after baths, homework, sorting, etc. I'm crashed on the bed. He comes in and I'm all: "Sorry about not getting that text."
"No worries. When I didn't hear back within two minutes I knew you were in a drive-thru line. And so I quit making the quesadillas."
This makes me laugh so hard I almost choke.
"How did you know that?"
"Because I know you."
"I hate that you know me so well!"
He just grins.
"Where's the mystery? The intrigue?" I wail.
He grins again. He genuinely enjoys my histrionics.
Dude, I love this man. My very own Shinder McLenderson the 53rd. Take that, iPhone spell-checker!
edited to add: Please note that my blog doesn't always happen in real time. Sorry for the whiplash! The "deadpression post" was a culmination of several weeks' thought and feeling, ending with Saturday's 'breakthrough moment." I finally set it to future publish last night at midnight. Tonight's post was just me being spur-of-the-moment silly. Sorry for any confusion.