My (Radical?!) Guide to Eating Healthy For The Holidays!

Every year, without fail, I see articles talking about how to "eat healthy for the holidays". And, every year, I want to throw something at my computer because they only perpetuate dangerous ideals. Mainly that some foods are "good", some are "bad", and we all must carefully navigate through the forthcoming edible minefield OR ELSE.

So, I decided to come up with my own "guide" for eating healthy during the holidays. And it goes a little something...likeathis...

Eat What Sounds Good To You
I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

I know this is a revolutionary idea for diet companies/food companies/basically everything. And I know the aforementioned are shitting themselves at my very suggestion of such a thing. But here's what I've learned in my years of pre-, during-, and post- eating disorder/recovery/whatever phrase suits ya best -- if something sounds good to your body, that's not a bad thing. Because, as I mentioned before, foods are not inherently good or bad. They're (oftentimes extremely delicious) things that help make our bodies go and jump and hug and throw large objects at our computers when we read frustrating articles. 

Eat a Variety of Stuff

Sure, no food is good or bad, but eating one type of food (even if it was on my "good" list during my disorder) doesn't do a great service to my body because I'm not getting all the nutrients I needed. In fact, I actually feel better and feel I am taking better care of my body when I eat a variety of foods, including foods that used to scare me. Bananas, pudding, soup, sandwiches, cookies, salad, apples with caramel dipping sauce, pizza, zucchini bread, fresh green beans, PIE and MOAR PIE, etc. Each has something to offer me. It's when I'm only eating one thing/denying myself other varieties, that makes it so my body *needs* something else (which often led to purging). 

Eat When You're Hungry, Stop When You're Full

Sounds simple, but it can be incredibly tough. The body is a pretty fantastical machine and can let you know what does/doesn't sound good, when its had enough/wants more, but I knowfirst handhow this sensation can often be lost in the throes of an eating disorder. And it took me a while to not only get it back, but also to trust it. I had to eat very slowly and very mindfullychecking in with myself after each bite. "Am I really full or is that my brain trying to tell me I am?" And then be proud of myself for stopping when I was full, and/or continue eating food if I was hungry. (Oftentimes, if I wasn't sure whether I was full or not, I would stop and remain mindful after the meal in order to see whether I was hungry still and, if so, head went back to fridge and honor that feeling.)

It's OK To Be Full

There is nothing wrong about eating to fullness. Nor is there anything wrong about having more food than you did the day before. Some days I'm more hungry and some days I'm not, so some days I eat more and some days I eat less. That's normal.


My list is pretty short compared to the many I've found, but I feel it covers some good basics. No part of this is easy, of course. Not for people who've struggled with eating disorders or some form of disordered eating, or anyone who has been led to think/feels that food is an enemy to struggle against. For me, getting anywhere near to these concepts came after a lot of practice and therapy, so if you aren't "there yet" that is OK! Every single step I took is what got me to this point, even the ones that didn't feel big at the time and especially the ones I wanted to skip over.

Each year I can't help but reflect upon all the Thanksgivings and Christmases that were torture, and how nice it would have been for mewithin the horrific repeats in my mind and self-hate in my heartif there was another "guide" that spoke of food so differently and showed that all the excruciating steps I was taking might lead to a completely radical (and freeing) relationship with food. Regardless of how far fetched it may have seemed at the time.

This makes me want to add one more thing to my list, actually:

Reach Out If You Need Support

There is nothing wrong with needing support through the holidays (or at any time)! For the past two years the hashtag #THX4SUPPORT has been used on social media (you can read about it here) for those who need some community on difficult days like Thanksgiving. I'm not sure if it is being "officially" run this year, but that doesn't mean people still can't use it and support each other if necessary. (Also, don't hesitate to tweet me (@SEtotheCarson) or drop me a line or whatever if you feel drawn to do so!).

And, no matter what, keep fighting to know that you deserve to be happy, to feel and know you have worth, and to be free.


Thoughts on Therapy

Sometimes, this is what recovery/being recovered looks like for me:

I have to take extra care that all the nutritional labels are either directed to the back of the pantry, or upsidown and against the cabinet shelves. 

I have to actively tell myself that my pants aren't smaller. And even if they are, I could stand to gain some weight. And even if I have gained weight, it's ok. 

I have to decipher whether I would normally have that FOOD if that part of my brain wasn't so heightened and, if so, still eat it if it sounds good.


I have always felt that when my mind kicks up, it's for a reason. Something going on in my life, feelings I haven't processed, etc. When it does, the first thing I always try to do is figure out where it's coming from.  

This is rarely easy or straight-forward. And I'm aware that, sometimes, it might just be chemical/brain-based— that, for whatever reason, that day everything-about-me-which-can-short-circuit does. These days days are very difficult for me to handle and accept, because there is little I can do. If I can't figure out a probable cause, I can't examine it and feel like I'm DOING something. I know I am not the only one who struggles with needing to "actively do something"; it is a large contributor to my actions and tendencies. And it requires continual practice on my part to understand that, sometimes, not doing anything is doing something.

Regardless, lately I've been starting to dig into some deep down stuff. Therapy can be such a process; I've had to start at the top of the muck and keep digging away and away, like an archaeologist. And only recently have I started to get to some things that are ingrained. Things that didn't happen and I needed them to. I have had an inkling of an understanding regarding these Things for a while, but had never determined what looking more closely at it all would do. I am aware of it enough, I'd think. And nothing now could change it. But I don't know. I suppose if I poke at it, like I'm beginning to do, and it still bleeds, then it's still something I need examine. If it's not scarred over, or fully healed, and it still can turn on that part of my brain, then it's still unresolved. And it's just like anything else I've ever done in all this—no promise that rummaging through painful self-reflection will feed any benefits, that nothing will come from it other than more pain and more days where I have to be even more careful with nutritional labels than usual. That I could very well slip after nine years of steadiness. 

But there has never been any promise, has there? Just the closing of my eyes and sheer god damn stubbornness.

And yet here I am— in all my fight and floundering— and I will keep doing that which scares me.

One Word (surrounded by lots of others)

A very wise, very dear friend of mine posted this morning that she chose #oneword to help direct her intent for the new year and I immediately fell in love with this idea. Not only because her reasoning and insight was so powerful, but also because I’ve never much bought into New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always been the kind of person who continually tries to work on things (often to my detriment, but I’m working on that, too! ;P). I don’t know if I do this because I enjoy challenges, because I’m stubborn, or what, but having a chronic illness ties into this mentality even more because every day is, essentially, a new resolution. I'm always weighing what I can and can't do. What I would like to accomplish vs. what I is even possible. And, generally, my daily goals are usually the same as they've always been (with variations like "managing to put on real pants" vs. "completing a marathon" depending on how I feel).

As one could imagine though, always trying to better yourself can be exhausting, unhealthy, and counteractive. (Only took me 12+ years of eating disorders and chronic fatigue/dysautonomia to teach me that! Like I said – stubborn.)  Lately, within the past few years, I've been trying my best to live by “balance” and “acceptance”. In fact, they’ve become little mantras for me without even realizing it I think, and have been immeasurable in their ability to draw me out of old patterns and back into the present moment in my daily life and mind. As well as related to my chronic illness by balancing pushing myself and working toward those daily resolutions with accepting my limitations (still SO HARD FOR ME AAAH!).

So, just as my beautiful friend has chosen to “embrace” this one word concept, I decided to also. (Thank you, Favorite! <3)

With that, I dove into reading and hearing about other peoples’ words and their reasonings for them. They were all magnificent and perfect in their own right and I felt like, with each “oneword”, every person gifted me something about themselves I would never have known otherwise. I, however, had yet to come up with mine. Patience, maybe? But that ship sailed a long time ago (and I’ve accepted that. (SeewhatIdidthere?!)). Bravery? Hmmm, good – but doesn’t quiet feel right. Vulnerability? Oh god, that one scares me, so no.

And then I stopped myself – if it scares me then maybe that is exactly the one I need.

So I mulled this over between dog-snores and dog-farts and decided on a variation of vulnerability:


And all of the sudden, all the concepts started pouring out:

First it started with being honest and putting my writing out there. I mean – out there out there. Telling people I’m doing it and owning it even if it makes me feel kind of pukey to do so, especially allowing strangers and people I know to read it (and I still can’t figure out which one of these is more terrifying to me)!

Then it moved to being honest with others. Saying what I need, saying what I think, saying what I feel. And not in the round-about way I’ve built myself up to doing after years of practice. Now I need to do it with that final leap – with to-the-point-words and sentences ending in big, fat periods.

Which drifted to being honest as to why that scares me so much. In being honest in all my fears and honest in my vulnerabilities. And being honest in why feeling vulnerable scares the everliving shit out of me. I mean, I’ve tried to dabble in it (Vulnerability: The Gateway Fear). In fact, just the other day I texted someone – actually initiated a conversation to talk about how I was feeling and needing help – and I got a reaction that didn’t suit me. So I shut down. “Oh, they don’t really care to know and I’m already uncomfortable and feeling vulnerable so at least I tried.” I said to myself, and that was that. But why not take the next step? Why not say, "Hey, I was trying to open up just then and I need more from you."? That way I know I gave my honest self to the situation. And if it still doesn't pan out like I need, then I have to walk away and accept it.

I need to be careful in honesty, yes. Not just spout everything off to everyone. I need to be conscionable and learn the balance within this just like I have worked for balance in so many different things. But I also need to be forthcoming so people know when I do say something important, I really mean it.

Which finally led to being honest with myself. When my Dysautonomia or fibromyalgia is too much and I can't walk the dogs or do all the things. Or, conversely, being honest when I really can push myself and just don't want to. And always examining the honesty in, and of, my intentions – in writing, in interacting, in everything.

And then I thought, “Man… I should’ve chosen another word.”

Anyway, I will continue to mull over this for a while. I do think it could be especially powerful for those of us who are in #edrecovery, though, as we tend to focus on specifics, black and white things, etc. Whereas a single world can encompass a lot, be very broad and forgiving, and force us to move more freely in our expectations or ourselves and our worlds.


What do you think? What would your #oneword/intent be?

Honestly, I want to know.

Recovery and "The Moth"

One of the best sentiments and explanations of recovery I ever found came from a TV show. 

That might be silly, but it was so profound to me that, at the time, I was brought to tears. And to this day, I still think about it often. Sometimes dissecting the depth of it. Sometimes just letting it drape over me without any real thought.

So, on second thought, I guess there isn't anything silly about that. Because that's what art does.

Anyhoo, it was an episode of Lost which (I've found) to be sort of a polarizing TV show. So, if you're on the "eh" end of the spectrum, hang with me here because it's worth it. I promise. :) A few days after they crashed on the island Charlie, drug addict, begins going through withdrawl. Previously, he had given his remaining stash to John Locke, telling Lock to keep it from him.

CHARLIE: You hear what I said? I want my drugs back! I need them!

LOCKE: Yet you gave them to me. Hmmm.

CHARLIE: And bloody well regret it. I’m sick, man. Can’t you see that?

LOCKE: I think you’re a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I’m gonna prove it to you... I’ll let you ask me for your drugs three times. And the third time...? I’m going to give them to you. Now. Just so we’re clear.

CHARLIE: Why-- Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just throw them away -- Get rid of ‘em and be done with it!

LOCKE: If I did that, you wouldn’t have a choice, Charlie.

Choice is an entirely different part of recovery I think, but that's something I'll have to muse over and write about later.

In summary, though, Charlie's withdrawl eventually worsens, and he comes back asking Locke to give him his drugs for the second time...

CHARLIE: I want my stash, Locke. I can’t stand... feeling like this.

LOCKE: Let me show you something... (Points out a cocoon on a tree trunk) What do you suppose is in this cocoon, Charlie?

CHARLIE: I dunno. Butterfly, I guess.

LOCKE: No. It’s much more beautiful than that. This is a moth cocoon. Ironic. Butterflies get all the attention. But moths? They spin silk. They’re stronger. Faster...

CHARLIE: Yeah. Wonderful. What’s the --

LOCKE: See this tiny hole? This moth’s almost ready to emerge. It’s in there right now, struggling, digging its way through the thick hide of the cocoon. Now I could help it, take my knife, gently widen the opening... And the moth would be free. But it’d be too weak to survive...

The struggle is nature’s way of strengthening it.


Now, there's an entire other conversation to have about the interaction between Locke and Charlie, what each of them are doing, how healthy/unhealthy it is for recovery, etc. But this post isn't about that. This post is about that little cocoon with the moth inside, fighting to get out and be free once and for all.

And that is the image I carry with me on my recovery. Most especially in the beginning when there were many relapses and sliding backwards and hatredfrustrationanger that now when I had decided I wanted to get better I still "wasn't".

But the struggle is part of recovery. Not just a "well, that's just how it goes and the way things work" part. But, I feel, a truly miraculous and necessary part. And, with the help of this two minutes, I was able to see that my struggles were actually aiding me. The sliding backwards, the relapses -- they were still moving me forward in my recovery because they were strengthening me in ways I needed to be. In self-understanding, in patience, in forgiveness, in determination, in conviction.

When you're in the mix of it, though, it definitely doesn't feel that way. Because that's what the eating disorder wants you to think -- that those moments mean you are weak. But, in actuality, it means you, and your recovery, are becoming an even greater force of nature. If I backslid again, I could remind myself that I have before, but that I was also able to right my ship. I had the strength to do that. Me. Myself. I had the choice and I kept choosing recovery. And a recovery with relapses and struggles, I think, might be stronger than one that is "perfect".

It’s frustrating for me –- I can't seem to find the words explain how I feel about it. I really wish I could, though. Because, now, that part of recovery -- that horrible, tortuous, hope shattering, drowning-in-guilt, "I can't even do this right" part -- strikes me at as something inexpressibly and achingly beautiful.

Because we can look at those moments and know we have been forged by fire.

("The Moth" script borrowed from: