For Me, It *IS* About the Number

Growing up, math was always my favorite subject. It came naturally to me, and I liked that there was always a right or wrong answer. It was black and white. It wasn’t ambiguous or gray. It either was or it wasn’t. Plain as that.
I went on to study business in college, breezing through various statistics, economics and finance courses. Yes, I minored in journalism, but this was more for fun (sorry!) and pleasure, an outlet to express my love of writing. (Yes, I do acknowledge, embrace and love the fact that I am fully fledged nerd. No shame in my game).

Even now, I work in finance. I stare at numbers and spreadsheets all day long, and I feel an utter sense of calm and joy when I find my answer and my numbers tie out. I like to solve problems and I do not like ambiguity. These are facts.

This love of numbers and disdain for chaos and unknown, though, doesn’t just end with my academic and professional life. It’s so deeply ingrained in me that it seeps out of my every pore, and is a part of my very existence. I like answers. I like order. I like structure. I like black and white and nothing in between (although I will say I love gray clothing, but that’s it).

And, I guess, this is either the root of, or an offshoot of, my anxiety. I am a perfectionist to the core, and anything less than perfect (for me) is wrong and stressful. Anything that strays from my routine or plan sends me into a tailspin. There is no calm (again, for me) when there is no order. My solution, then, has been to create order to find calm. But, more often than I’d like, life doesn’t allow me to stick to my plans. And it drives me nuts.

The most prominent way my “need for structure” has reared its ugly head is through food. If you know me or if you have dug deep in my blog archives, you know that food and eating are a struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I share recipes here (mostly healthy) that I’ve loved and enjoyed and that make me feel good. And, I feel it important for you to know that I would never share a recipe here that I haven’t eaten or wouldn’t eat (unless it’s an amazing dish I was able to eat pre-celiac that I think needs to be shared with the world). No, the recipes here are all ok in “my world,” but I will say my food world can be a bit whack.

Why is it whack, you ask? I’d say because I put an insane amount of pressure on myself to eat with a routine, to eat within a certain set of parameters that are absolutely made up.

My made up parameters? A daily calorie goal arbitrarily set for myself on the My Fitness Pal app. I don’t have a damn clue as to how my “goal” was calculated, but my God I’d better stick to it OR ELSE. The app, for whatever reason, soothes me. I can log my food and weight and keep myself steady and afloat. There’s no unknown. Everything I’ve consumed is “in writing.” It’s black and white. There are no questions.  My eating is not a guessing game and I don’t have to wonder.

The problem, though, arises for me when I stray from this “goal” or my “food plan” for the day. Again, in reality these goals and plans are completely arbitrary, but in my routine loving, control freak mind, they are virtually law, and breaking them would lead to utter havoc.

So, I find that on days where I eat an unexpected treat,or grab a fun size snickers at the office, or go to a party and eat some chips after I’ve already reached my “goal,” I feel I’ve failed. My black and white brain tells me I’m done, and my day is shot. I go to my all or nothing mode, which is “well I’ve already eaten one terrible thing, so I might as well eat all the terrible things in the world.” Which, inevitably leads to a binging and purging episode. Which, makes me feel fat (and typically gain weight), which makes me feel terrible about myself. And on and on this vicious cycle continues…

What’s crazy about bulimia is that it really does make you (or me at least) gain weight. Try as I might to right myself of my “mistakes,” it never fully works, and on the pounds come. It’s quite the paradox considering the primal fear that even led to my eating disorder struggles was/is the fear of gaining weight. This crazy dichotomy alone is why eating disorders are so hard to make sense of or understand for people who don’t have them. Hell, they’re even hard to understand for people who do have them! My rationale is that they just don’t make sense, and they probably never will. They’re completely irrational and they’re a full blown disease. They are not caused or kept by choice. No one would choose this lifestyle (at least in their right, rational mind).


So I revert back to my love of math and numbers here when I say, for me it is about the number. I so often read that for people on a health journey, it’s not about the number it’s about how they feel and how their clothes fit. I’m here to say truthfully that for me it’s about those things…and the number. If I am being frank.

It’s about the number of calories I consume and the number of pounds I weight. It’s about these numbers because these numbers are symbolic of my routine and structure, and ensuring that I stay steady to this structure keeps me calm. The numbers are an evaluation of sorts. They tell me how closely I’ve stuck to my plan. The control behind all of this keeps me calm and brings me peace.

But, it’s wrong. It’s totally wrong. And it’s a totally sick and unhealthy and irrational way to live. Hell, it’s not even a way to live. Because real life is full of unknowns and interruptions and craziness that will hinder plans and inhibit routines all the time. That is life. And it’s how we react to these changes and curveballs that matters, and for me (clearly) I don’t react well and am sent into a tizzy. And that’s no way to live because it’ll drive me batty (and it does).

You might ask why I’m writing this. Selfishly, airing my feelings makes me more aware of them and reminds me that they’re just that, feelings. They’re not facts or the end of the world as I perceive them to be. They’re silly little thoughts that creep in and that I ruminate on unnecessarily and can’t get rid of. Writing them or saying them aloud helps me feel that I have power over them, and that I’ve tossed them aside.

Writing here, too, is a reminder of the many things I need to work on and work through, both in my daily life and with my therapist. And, TBH, it’s 2017. Don’t be ashamed if you have a therapist. And, if you feel like you might need one, don’t be afraid to seek one out. They’re trained professionals who don’t judge and can help you work through your feelings. They’re basically magical wizards and they’re awesome.

Most importantly, though, I am sharing this because I know I can’t be the only one who feels and thinks like this. Often it seems I must be, but I hate the thought that anyone else might feel isolated in this similar anguish. You are not alone. I am here. I get you. There is help. There is hope.

And, I want you to know that while I struggle with and wrestle with anxiety, I am extremely happy. I have a great life. I have great family and friends, a great job, and so much joy. I want you to know, too, that being riddled with anxiety and being happy are not mutually exclusive. You can be both. But, I am pretty darn certain you (and I) will be even happier as we further conquer our anxiety. It will be a lifelong battle, but opening up and being vulnerable gives me strength. It reminds me that my voice is bigger and more powerful than my anxiety, and it helps me put these thoughts at bay.

So if you, like me, struggle with a need for constant need for control, you are not alone. Together we can overcome.

XOXO

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I should really title this post “My Diet Starts on Monday (& Other Lies We Tell Ourselves).”

While I don’t believe in dieting, I’m all for making healthier choices and positive lifestyle changes. This cauliflower pizza crust is no expception…if you can ignore the entire bag of shredded mozzarella cheese I put on top. That’s NOT the point, friends. 

The point is, I made pizza crust sans flour, and whether you have celiac or want to reduce your carb intake or just like veggies, this is the perfect pizza crust aka justification for ALL.THE.CHEESE.


It’s basically a salad.

Pizza and I have grown apart since my celiac diagnosis, and it’s truly heartbreaking. Recently, though, I’ve found some good local pizza places with GF crust (hello, Blaze). However, nothing can top this cauliflower crust (well, except cheese. Excuse the dad joke).

I made this on a Charlotte “snow day,” otherwise known as the day it snowed half an inch and I refused to leave my apartment lest I lose my life in the treacherous weather. Safety first / any excuse to watch excessive amounts of TV and eat snacks all day. Ahem.

This recipe comes from Damn Delicious and let me say, it’s damn good. My boyfriend and I were obsessed, and pretty amazed at how good it was. We expected to like it, but to love a crust made of veggies? We weren’t going that far. 

We were wrong.

This pizza crust isn’t necessarily as crispy crunchy as normal pizza crust but it’s GOOD. It’s seasoned and flavorful and the perfect vechile for all.the.toppings. Go crazy, my friends.

I baked my crust slightly longer than the original recipe, but my gage was just to ensure the edges were brown. Yum.

We topped our pizza with red sauce, cheese cheese cheese, mushrooms, chicken and spinach. I’m drooling at the thought.


Make this for yourself, and don’t be shocked when there are no leftovers. Too. Dang. Good.

Enjoy!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Recipe via Damn Delicious

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.
  2. To make the cauliflower crust, add cauliflower to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground, yielding about 2-3 cups.
  3. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Cover loosely and place into microwave for 4-5 minutes, or until softened; let cool.
  4. Using a clean dish towel or cheese cloth, drain cauliflower completely, removing as much water as possible.
  5. Transfer cauliflower to a large bowl. Stir in eggs, mozzarella, Parmesan and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Spread cauliflower mixture into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle onto the prepared baking sheet. Spray lightly with nonstick spray and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.
  7. Top with any and all desire toppings. Place into oven and bake until the cheese has melted and edges have browned, about 5-10 minutes.

Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

New Year, New Me, right? ‘Tis the season I suppose! I vowed to myself that I would cook more (and blog more!) in 2017, so here’s my debut. I know you’ve all been waiting on bated breath.


Not quite a year ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and while the transition to the gluten free life has been easier than I suspected, it has been a transition nonetheless. It requires me to be more mindful of what I’m putting in my body, and definitely requires a bit of preparation and thinking ahead. So, my goal has been to cook more – which I hope I’ll achieve better in 2017…

My hope in sharing gluten free recipes is that it’s a realization that gluten free does not mean nasty and tasteless! Nowadays, there are so many gluten free subsititues (thankfully!), so virtually anything can be modified to suit my celiac needs.

I found this recipe for 4-Ingredient Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats from The Wholesome Dish on Pinterest, and let’s just say, they did not disappoint!


Easy to put together, and full of flavor, this is a healthy weeknight meal that comes together quickly and deliciously – and it won’t break the bank (also important). Full of chicken and cheese, with the added bonus of veggies (!!!) this was a hit, and the leftovers were just as tasty. This will definitely be making a regular appearance in this new year.

Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

Recipe via The Wholesome Dish

Serves 4

Ingredients :

  • 4 small-medium zucchini (about 1¾ pounds)
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ cup Buffalo Wing Sauce (not regular hot sauce)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook for 7-9 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the buffalo wing sauce.
  4. As the chicken cooks, cut the zucchini in half, lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and center out of each zucchini half, leaving a ¼ inch thick zucchini boat. Place the zucchini in the baking dish cut-side up.
  5. Spoon the chicken mixture into the zucchini boats. Sprinkle the zucchini evenly with the cheese.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 35 minutes, or until cheese is browned and melted.

When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Sure They’re Gluten Free

Admittedly, I have had this title in my head for a couple of weeks since I first heard I might have Celiac Disease. Two weeks later, I am writing with an official diagnosis .

So, I guess this means I’m now that girl. That girl who can’t eat gluten and requests a special menu and refuses to eat your (delicious and tempting) pizza. Curse you, gluten!

Back in December, I had some routine bloodwork done which showed heightened liver enzymes. Given my history of eating disorders, I felt it necessary to look into this, as my behavior certainly has internal (and unseen) consequences.

In January I had a liver ultrasound which showed that my liver was normal (thank goodness!), so my doctor thought it wise to see a gastroenterologist to get to the bottom of things. After a few more vials of blood were drawn, they told me my bloodwork tested positive for Celiac antibodies. Excuse me?!

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Well, gluten…

This was such a shock as I felt totally fine (I feel very lucky about that!), and I know that often people who find out about their gluten intolerance feel utterly awful. But, I marched on and today had an endoscopy/biopsy of my small intestine which showed that I have Celiac Disease.

It’s crazy to find out such a thing at 23 years old, as you wonder how long this has been going on/how it just developed. And it’s also crazy that even though I felt fine, internally my body was struggling. I’m SO grateful for the medical care I received, including the encouragement and insistence that I look into the issues found in my bloodwork.

Now, I know this all seems kind of odd considering my eating disorder history, but I was told the Celiac Disease is likely unrelated. And, I know that people will say things like “well now you have an excuse to be more restrictive,” but reality is, I have to avoid gluten for my health, and I am not purposefully doing this to “cut carbs.” Like anyone, I want to do what’s best for my body and for me, that means cutting out gluten (per doctor’s orders).

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So, while this will be a major lifestyle change for me, I’ve tried to thing of a few pros (and some cons) of this diagnosis:

PROS:

  • I HATE beer (always have), and now have a legit excuse as to why I refuse to drink it!
  • Gluten free pizza dough is available at so many yummy places (lookin’ at you Mellow Mushroom & Papa Murphy’s)
  • I prefer corn tortillas to flour – long live my Mexican food addiction
  • I truly love fresh, natural and whole foods – fruits, veggies, meat, etc.
  • One of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girl Eats, is now exclusively gluten-free after author Kristin was diagnosed with Celiac (“later” in life like me!)

CONS:

  • I will have to become an avid label reader (not totally bad, but may slow down my grocery trips)
  • I will have to be very vigilant when out to eat/at social events
  • Biggest of all, I love baking and will have to learn how to whip up some gluten free goodies (although, I did see that Pillsbury makes gluten-free Funfetti mix – PRAISE!)

All in all, I feel content about this diagnosis. While it is definitely not ideal, it is not a death sentence and it is doable. I am grateful that we live in a world that has adapted so much and now has so many gluten-free options. And, most of all, I am grateful to know what was causing the crazy results of my bloodwork because it is never fun to drive yourself insane and wonder what’s wrong with you!

So, now I must begin my gluten-free journey! I have to educate myself on all the dos and don’t’s, and all of the gluten-free options out there. My hope is that I can find some delicious recipes and restaurants with gluten-free offerings and share them with you all! And, if you have any advice or tidbits you’d like to share with me on Celiac Disease or gluten-free diets, please let me know!

XOXO

The Truth Will Set You Free…

It always upsets me that there’s such a stigma around mental illnesses, especially as they are so common. Despite the fact that I am upset by this, I still refuse to openly talk about my own battle with mental health, simply because I’m embarrassed and afraid to be judged. Quite the contradiction – I hate the stigma, yet I clearly let it live on by not talking about my own battles.

In the spring of my freshman year of high school (2007), I decided to give up sweets for Lent. Innocent, right? Well one thing led to another and I was no longer avoiding sweets, I was avoiding anything I deemed “unhealthy” and overly restricting my calorie intake. I was exercising excessively and dropping weight extremely quickly.

My poor, sweet friends confronted me with their concerns, and I agreed, I had a problem and told them I would stop. Inside, though, their comments only fueled my fire. I accepted their concerns about my weight as a compliment, and used this to drive me to more weight loss.

As school let out for the summer, I had more or less removed myself from any relationships I had with people. I spent my days working out, restricting food and being utterly miserable. I can still picture the meals I ate. 3/4 of a cup of Special K (no milk of course). A can of tuna (no mayo) with pepper and a sliced tomato. Minimal intake of whatever my mom cooked for dinner. Writing that brings me to tears, because I feel the misery and hopelessness I felt back then. And it’s suffocating.

I vividly remember getting up from a chair by the pool, and blacking out and falling to the ground, because my blood pressure was so low. At my worst, my heart rate was 44 and I weighed 88 pounds. Keep in mind I’m 5 foot 5 inches. Terrifying.

After being told if I didn’t get better (by the 3 doctors I saw each week) that I would be sent to treatment, I had hit rock bottom. And I was able to heal and move forward, with the help of my family and friends and a great team of doctors.

Fast forward to junior year of college (2012-2013). My life felt like it was falling apart. My dad was undergoing chemo, my grandmother was dying of ovarian cancer and I was utterly devastated. I turned back to the control of the eating disorder to avoid the hurt.

I would wake up at 6 am to workout before class. I would barely eat at (delicious!) sorority meals. I blacked out at parties. I removed myself from friends, and I know I scared people. Some sorority sisters of mine reached out to my parents, who once again came to help.

I sought treatment at school and seemed to be getting better. Better enough, in fact, that I moved to LA to complete an internship.

I was doing well, but I missed my parents and sisters. I worried about my body, because I didn’t belong to a gym. I felt out of control, and that’s when the anorexia morphed to bulimia (as it often does). After one particular episode that summer, I ended up in the hospital. You’d think that would be rock bottom, like when a drug addict OD’s, but even that didn’t stop my behavior.


And, to be frank, it still hasn’t. I still struggle. To this day. It has been 8 years, and I know it will be a lifelong struggle. Which scares the bah-jesus out of me.

I’m writing this today, after 8 years in this battle, because I am determined to do something. While I’m still figuring out what that something is, I’m calling on you all for help. Help to remove the stigma around mental health. Help and support as I make my decision for what’s next. Prayers for recovery.

Most immediately, I’m asking for donations.  On Saturday, November 14th, I will be participating in a National Eating Disorder’s Association walk in West Chester, PA. You can access the donation link here: http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR/NEDAWalk/General?px=1547384&pg=personal&fr_id=3910

I want to show that I have accepted my problem, and I’m ready to raise awareness and start a dialogue that needs to be started. We as a society have to change, have to stop putting pressure on people to look and act a certain way. We have to stop perpetuating the belief that there is norm we need to prescribe to. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and I’m damn sure there’s not just one best way for us to look and act.

Yet, while I’m damn sure, I’ve still fallen victim to this belief and I fight a daily battle as a result. And I know I’m not the only one, despite often feeling so alone. So please consider giving in some way, even if it’s just saying a prayer. It all matters. Not just for me, but for the millions of people who suffer.

This is the scariest, most honest piece I’ve ever written. I’m fearful of the judgment I will receive for being so open. But I know, the stigma won’t end without the conversation and, let’s be honest, when do I ever pass up the chance to start a conversation.

XOXO.