Thankful for Thanksgiving

Back when I was seeing an eating disorder specialist (Michael Spigarelli), he would always make me book an appointment the week before Thanksgiving so we could create a battle plan for handling the holiday and the food that goes with it. Ever since I've had this blog, I've tried to do the same thing by posting about a week before Thanksgiving as a way to prepare myself and hopefully prepare others to embrace the holiday rather than dread it.

In the hopes of publishing this post before anyone heads off to their respective Thanksgiving dinners, I've decided that it would probably be best (and quickest) if I made "listicle"this year.

Ready? Here we go:

  1. Dr. Spigarelli used to always tell me that "You could eat a full Thanksgiving dinner--including dessert, everyday for a week, maybe even two weeks, and you wouldn't significantly gain weight." 
  2. It is always better to eat, than not to eat. If you don't feel comfortable eating the entire dinner and all its sides, start with what you feel comfortable with--just make sure you eat something.
  3. If you're going through a disorder right now, brace yourself. Your family probably won't understand the emotions you're feeling--that's normal and that's okay. If you have a family member who is going through a disorder right now, watch them, but don't hover. If they seem like they're feeling down, distract them. Ask them about their day. Don't make comments about the food, dieting, or anything like that. If you notice they're struggling more than normal, pull them aside in a non-public area and sincerely ask them if they're doing okay and if there's anything you can do to make things easier for them. Be available. 
    1. If you don't know if you have someone in your family who is experiencing a disorder, avoid talking about calories, dieting, and other negative comments regarding weight and food. Your words have an impact even if you're just saying something in passing--they can shape how someone else sees themselves and their food. 
  4. Food is not the enemy. We need it to survive and it does our bodies good. Turkey gives your body protein and folic acid. Mashed potatoes give your body vitamin-C. String bean casserole gives your body beta-carotene and vitamin-B. Sweet potatoes gives you vitamin-A. And even pumpkin pie gives you potassium. Food is more than calories and fat. It is life. 
  5. It's okay to struggle--don't give up on yourself. 
  6. Try to forget calorie counting. Spend more time enjoying the holiday atmosphere--it only comes once a year. 
  7. If you over-eat, don't obsess over it. It happened, but it isn't going to define you or your waist, and it shouldn't define your day. 
There is so much more that I could say, but I think these seven points summarize my thoughts on Thanksgiving pretty well. If you're going through a disorder right now, I know what you're going through. Three years ago, as I was starting to come into recovery, I was having a hard time imagining a future where I could just sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table and not have to worry about sneaking away to the bathroom to throw up my food or to be able to just eat a Thanksgiving dinner without thinking about it. It is possible though--here I am today, excited and feeling positive about dinner tonight. If you need someone to lean on today, lean on me. Recovery wasn't easy, but it was worth it. Additionally, recovery isn't easy, but it is possible. 

Thanksgiving is a hard holiday for individuals who are going through disorders and women in general--so remember that you're not alone in your struggles. Stay strong and be brave enough to be kind to yourself today. You can do it! I believe in you. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

P.S. I totally made my first apple pie from scratch
 last night--it totally looks food blog worthy! I'm so excited
to see if it tastes as good as it looks!


Although I've made a lot of progress on my journey to love my body and who I am post-eating disorders, earlier this year I realized that I still have a long way to go before being completely comfortable with myself in every regard.While I'm usually fine with looking at myself in the mirror and liking what I see, I still cringe whenever I see an unattractive picture of myself (granted, I usually think every picture of me is unattractive unless it's carefully posed and edited--something that I think is more common than not within groups of women). Up until a few months ago, I would even go as far as to untag myself from and hide pictures of myself that I didn't like from my Facebook timeline. Because of this, dating a photographer whose favorite subject to photograph is you, can kind of be problematic.

After our first couple of months dating, Justin started to bring his camera on our dates and to be honest, I hated the pictures he took of me. Even worse, he would publish them on Facebook for everyone to see--whether I liked how I looked or not (he actually didn't know how much I was struggling with this until a few weeks ago when I started conceptualizing this post). Although I didn't ever stop him from posting photos of me, I made sure that only the ones I could tolerate showed up on my social media timeline. I was also quick to pick apart why I didn't like the photos, despite all the compliments and reassurance he would give me (I'm pretty sure it's human nature to be your own worst critic). I think it's usually easier for us to find things we don't like about ourselves than things we do--especially in photos. Maybe it's the concrete nature of having a picture taken of you that incites personal critique. As in, once a photo is taken, it can't be taken back. And even more so, once a photo is posted online, it can't be unseen. I think there's also a fear of once you see an unattractive picture of yourself, you become afraid of that potentially being how people see you in everyday life. It's kind of comparable to hearing your voice on a recording and asking yourself: "Do I really sound like that?"

One of the most frustrating parts about Justin taking pictures of me back then was that whenever I didn't like a picture, he couldn't see why I didn't like it. We used to joke that it was because he was biased, but after months of Justin taking pictures of me and having the time to reflect on my negative thoughts, I realize now that there wasn't anything bad with the pictures themselves. In fact, there has never been anything wrong with pictures of myself that I haven't liked or thought were ugly. What was wrong though, was how poorly I was willing to treat myself just because I didn't look the way I wanted to or thought I should. The more I've thought about this, the more I've realized how common of an experience this is for women collectively. We've all asked someone to re-take our picture because we didn't like the first one. We've all taken what feels like a million selfies just so we can get the perfect angle or lighting. We've all tried to use a filter to take away our blemishes or to distract from features we don't like on ourselves. And, we've all looked at a photo of ourselves and desperately asked: "Do I really look like that?"

Over the past couple of months, I've tried to make a consistent effort to question and counter any the typical negativity I experience when I look at a picture of myself that isn't necessarily attractive. And I'll be honest, it's been way harder than I ever could have anticipated. Not only is doing this an attempt to overcome your thoughts, but also your emotions as well. I think as women, we're taught to focus our efforts regarding our worth and self-esteem upon our appearance. By doing this, we place unrealistic expectations upon ourselves to the extent that (at least in my case) when we see a "bad" picture of ourselves, we immediately feel ashamed and embarrassed—almost as if it's a direct blow to who we are as a person (something which is entirely untrue).

Believe it or not, over time I’ve actually found that the “bad” and unattractive pictures of me have their own beauty to them. They show me as a living, breathing, and feeling being. They feature me in all my imperfect, but authentic glory. By embracing photos of me that I would have initially perceived as unattractive in the past, I’ve gotten to see myself with new eyes while also finding a new sense of freedom. I’m no longer afraid that my carefully crafted image of myself and self-esteem are going to crumble as soon as someone posts a picture of me that I don’t like. When I look at a picture now, I see myself first and my imperfections second--instead of the other way around. There really isn't such a thing as"unattractive" pictures, but there is such a thing as having an unattractive outlook on yourself. Pictures are just pictures. In a sense, they're neutral until we assign subjective meanings to them.

We aren't always going to look selfie-ready and that's okay. Photos are meant for capturing memories, not negativity over how we look. Looking at some of the pictures that Justin took of me is almost a bittersweet experience for this reason. In some of the photos, I was so preoccupied with how I looked that it took away from the actual moment that was being captured. Luckily, I realized all of this before Justin and I took our wedding photos. Had I not done this, I think the same thing would have happened with those photos too. However, because of my actions I'm able to look back at our photos and remember how happy I was rather than how preoccupied I was with how the photos were going to turn out or how I was going to look in the photos.  

Although it still takes conscious effort to remind myself that unattractive pictures are just pictures, at least now I know that there is so much more to who I am than what a camera lens captures me as. A camera can never capture how compassionate you are; how intelligent you are; or how talented you are. It can never capture the lives you’ve touched for the better, the challenges you’ve faced, or how intrinsically important you are. 

Pictures capture us in a moment of time whether we're ready or not,  
And I for one want to make sure that I remember that moment as a good one regardless.