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.


You Are Not Alone

I say that a lot.

On my dysautonomia Facebook page, in the emails I get from people struggling with POTS.

I say that a lot because I sinceriously, whole-heartedly mean it. That's one of the biggest reasons I started putting these pages together -- so people would realize they are most definitely not alone.

But it can feel like it some days, can't it. Only because you are the one who has to feel fatigue settling into every cell of your body. You are the one who has to sit on the couch or in bed, trying not to think of all the things you wish you could be doing and focusing on doing what needs to be done to get better. You are the one who has to sit there and go through all the reasons why you might be feeling awful -- did I push it too much? did I not drink enough water? is the weather going to change? do I need to try exercising more? did I forget my meds? am I letting my stress get the best of me? -- when, in reality, it might be nothing that is in your control.

It might just be: I have a chronic illness.

No, I'm not alone; I've heard from so many lovely people reminding me of just that. But that doesn't change the fact that, some days, it feels like it.


Even Mister Rogers thinks you sucks, Chronic Illness

Even Mister Rogers thinks you sucks, Chronic Illness

So what is there to do?

Sometimes I text a friend and we put in the same movie at the same time and watch it "together", giggling as we try to push the Play button at the exact same second. "Ok... Universal Studios lion just growled." "Crap, I'm behind." "Pausing!" "....Ok... GO!" "Ok....credits fading onto screen..." "Mine too!" "Woooot!" And then proceed to text our favorite lines and commentary back and forth for the nest 120 minutes.

Sometimes I shoot a text to my Dad or my sister or my brothers. About nothing in particular -- hockey, nephew updates, fart jokes. Just to know that they're there.

Sometimes (read: always) I curl up with my dogs, because those fluffy angels never, ever leave me. Not once. Those little heartbeats at my feet. Always constant and loving, no matter how crappy or sad I feel and, God, if they only knew how they've saved my life over and over.

And, sometimes I write a blog post. Long and rambling and usually curse laden because, yes, at times I can feel alone. But -- and this important -- but because I know I'm not. <3

- S

Thanksgiving: Then & Now

There were many Thanksgivings I had to endure with an eating disorder.

Too many.

With every single one, I couldn't enjoy my time off from school, be present with my family, or really be grateful for anything. This usually resulted in me feeling like the worst piece of scum there ever was -- I had people who cared about me, I was blessed enough to have food to eat while so many people didn't. *sigh* Guilt, anxiety, and depression - my synonyms for "Thanksgiving".

I remember a lot about those Thanksgivings... feelings, though. Never any moments.

Eating disorders take away a lot. But one of the things I hadn't realized (until after I was recovered), was that it took away memories. My mind was never "there" because it was always thinking, obsessing, planning. Even when I tried to shut it out, it was still buzzing just below the surface.

Honestly, there is just one moment I remember back then. I stood a few feet away, maybe four or five, from my parents' long, dining room table -- and a little to the left of it. I remember exactly how the sun was shining through the windows at the other end -- mid-afternoon, a little too warm for fall but too cold for summer. I remember how the tableware had been set -- bowls in the middle waiting for the food my mom was still scurrying over in the kitchen. I remember the purple centerpieces my mom had set up -- these oblong whatsits and purple ornaments on top of a matching tablecloth. And the tablecloth wasn't long enough, so Mom had angled in a (surprisingly) Martha Stewart-type fashion.

And I just stood there. Looking at the empty table and the empty chairs and the empty plates and bowls.


These days, I've been lucky enough to spend the holidays feeling full. Happily full. Full of family and friends, full of delicious food, full of gratitude.

Full used to be terrifying. In every way with everything. I guess it still can be, as I sit here on my couch, reflecting about it all. Full is a tough concept, a tough idea, and a tough feeling. But when I am full, I remember moments and I remember feelings. And I am so thankful -- so thankful -- that these days I get to be full of life.

If I could, I would hug every single person that struggles with Thanksgiving. I wish, so much, that I could take them with me so we could be together. But maybe we are, in a way. Aren't we? Because we aren't alone. Because I will think of them, and maybe they will think of me, too -- and try to remember that it can get better.

And that I am thankful for you. Because I wouldn't be filled up by all you wonderful people, now, if I had not been empty back then.


A great event is happening on Twitter today called #thx4support. Please check it out!

(Photo from

March Against ED

I've been seeing #MarchAgainstED floating around on le Twitter the past bit, but only just today clicked on a link to read about it further.

I'm glad I did.

I have been recovered from anorexia for 7 years. Prior to that, I bounced around to various therapists (many of which were complete idiots, I have to say) over the course of 3 - 4 years. And hey, guess what? Therapy isn't cheap. Thankfully, I eventually found my God-sent (for sooooooooo many reasons) therapist, Carolyn, who worked with me on a sliding scale. But the bills still added up to at least $400 a month.

Guys, I'm a teacher and writer... I may have plenty of children's boogers and crippling self-doubt, but I do not have $400 just lying around.

Oh, and this is before I went to an intensive outpatient program. Which, for the record, was not covered by my insurance. The deadliest mental health issue and they (like they do to so many others) just told me, over the phone, with no intonation whatsoever, "We do not cover that."

So, wait a tic, I finally built up the courage and fight and desire to do the most difficult thing I will ever have to do and I will have to pay for it on my own? That's super awesome, thanks.

According to this article in the New York Times, it costs around $30,000 a month to attend a residential treatment program. And individuals typically need treatment for 3 to 6 months in order for it to be effective. So $90,000 - $180,000. OH, and did I mention this was the quote in 2010? Who knows how many thousands of dollars to which it has increased in 2014.

When I was in my recovery, I was lucky enough to have a family and a husband that not only supported it, but also did not bat an eye at the price of treatment. And, luckily again, I was able to get the majority of help I needed through appointments with Carolyn, rather than an extended stay at the outpatient program, which would've cost God knows how much.

But not everyone is as lucky as I am.

In fact, most people -- people who have found the absolute, unbelievable courage to finally seek treatment -- are turned away at the door.


What's even more messed up is that quotes that 1 in 10 people receive treatment, whereas 11 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. This means 9,900,000 people are not receiving treatment.

Just in America.

So what can I do? I've wondered that a lot. I can talk about my personal story, what I went through, my recovery, my struggles, anything. But, what can I do to help change the fact that, when someone has finally decided he/she is worth recovery, he/she does not hear, "Oh my gosh YES. We will help you. We will support you. You are strong. You are brave. You can beat this." But "You aren't covered."?

This is why I am so thrilled I stumbled across #MarchAgainstED (their website is here, btw). Because, as a single voice -- a voice my eating disorder tried so hard to take away from me -- I have learned I can do a great deal.

But many people bringing their voices together? To DC of all places?

What can't we do.

- S

(By the way, I still see Carolyn to this day. Sometimes I go without seeing her for years, other times issues crop up that I need to learn how to deal with and understand, so I see her every couple months again. I think, with any addiction like eating disorders, you can be recovered but you still need to be proactive.

My appointments are still not covered by insurance).

July 3rd, 2014

When I was little, I wrote in a diary all. the. time. I still do these days, too -- just not as often. I have about 20 journals sitting in the bottom right drawer of my roll-top desk. All entirely full of scribbles and thoughts and anxiety and teenage angst. My God, the embarrassment is so acute that whenever I read back through them it is almost painful!

Of course, there are some entries that make me giggle -- usually about the boys I loved in middle school (ahem, Mark, ahem).

Anywaaaaaaay, I've been thinking a lot about my blogging the past couple weeks and, tonight, mulled over a dichotomy.

Usually it's a bit fearful for me to post a blog. I get riddled with anxiety (because, well, first of all because I am only recently realizing that I might have a bit of an anxiety disorder). But, also because opening up is difficult and scary. A lot of times, it's very weird for me because I write things never knowing if anybody reads them. Usually thinking that no one does. It makes me wrestle with a sense of loneliness and uncertainty. Which is curious to me -- something I'm examining to understand about myself.

But, tonight though, it feels like it's the opposite.

You know how sometimes, when you look at the night sky, some people say they feel so tiny and insignificant and small? It was surprising for me to hear that because I always felt the opposite. It was incredibly amazing to me that I was a part of something so beautiful. That I could just sit there and look at all of this with my own eyes. It made me feel larger than life.

With that said, it's interesting that most nights I don't know if anybody reads this. But, tonight, it's OK. The universe can seem so large at times. I have journal after journal that proves just that.

I suppose, what I'm saying is: thank you, kind reader(s) (;P), for allowing me to sit here and look at the stars with you.