Intermittent Fasting and Bulimia?

The lovely image above comes from pxhere.com.

It’s all the rage these days, though nothing new: intermittent fasting. Fasting is a regular practice in many religious traditions, and people have implemented it for themselves for centuries. Scientific reports dating back to the early 20th century show that periodic fasting and/or low caloric intake over the lifespan is correlated with longer life expectancy and better health outcomes compared with the standard eating pattern (i.e. daily and full caloric consumption). There are a few different types of intermittent fasting that are most common:

16:8

  • Eat during an eight hour window, and fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. Most folks choose to eat between 12pm and 8pm. Basically, skip breakfast and don’t eat at night. This is one of the most popular forms of fasting among dieters today, with droves of bloggers, vloggers and media personalities touting their success on this plan.
  • Similarly, some folks choose to eat during a 12 hour window every day (rather easy), some choose 10 hours, and still others opt for longer or shorter fasting times. The point is, lean into your body’s normal fasting phase (after all, we all must fast when we sleep) by not eating several hours before bed, and in most cases, several hours after waking.

5:2

  • Eat five days a week, no restrictions. Fast completely for two days a week.
  • Some folks fast three days a week, others one. Some argue that as part of this fast, it is permissible to consume up to 500 calories in one meal on a fast day.

Prolonged fast

  • This involves fasting for a few days in a row (or longer), rather infrequently– once per month or even less often.

Low-calorie long-term

  • This requires consuming between 50% and 80% of the ‘standard’ caloric requirement for one’s body for years on end– usually over the entire lifespan. Reflecting on my anorexia I find this fact dubious, but the science evidences its efficacy. Look it up.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about 16:8 and 5:2, which are probably the most popular today. Google the former, and plenty of videos will populate with dieters’ testimonies glorifying their weight loss success using one of these approaches. Naturally, I decided to try it for myself.

I went for 5:2 (fasting two days per week), without any specific reasoning in mind other than it appealed to me to have what I consider two “pure” days every week– no eating, which means no bingeing, weight gain, or food obsession. In short order, I found myself in a familiar pattern. I was fasting in alternation with wild, out of control binges of food and alcohol on eat days. It’s a pattern I’ve lived nearly ten years.

Bulimia is widely misunderstood to necessarily involve vomiting or laxative use. While these purge methods are popular, there are two significant exceptions to the rule. Purging, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, Edition 5 published in 2013) may involve forced, excessive exercise to compensate for a binge, or it may involve a fast. That’s right– years of binging followed by fasts and hours-long compulsive exercise signaled bulimia after all, contrary to my previous knowledge which dismissed this destructive pattern as sub-clinical.

So what about intermittent fasting? Is it possible, as an ex- or especially as a current bulimic, to engage in this practice non-pathologically? No doubt there are recovered individuals out there who find total, freeing success with intermittent fasting despite their disordered past who would respond, “Yes! It’s possible!” But I won’t lie, I have serious doubts, driven by my past, present, and recent foray into intermittent fasting that a bulimic can engage in fasting behavior in a non disordered way.

Fellow recoverers and sufferers, beware: intermittent fasting may trigger disordered behaviors. Doubtlessly, this practice works for lots of people, and even saves some from food and weight issues. However, for ED folks, it can quickly turn into another abusive behavior in disguise.

Unlearning Pressure: Why I’m Done with School

Cover photo from 2017 Sony World Photography Awards Nominations List, link here

On this rainy afternoon, let me take a break from the hours and hours of finals preparations that I’m enduring to share a short post with you. I’m graduating from college in about 35 days, and I’m wrestling lately with the desire and compulsion to continue my education at graduate school. I won’t sugarcoat things– I’ve been very successful academically all my life, and will be graduating summa cum laude from a top university. It’s not surprising that all of my advisors, professors, and family members are pushing me to consider graduate school. Think about it– research! Publishing papers! Tenureship! Why wouldn’t I go?

Maybe one day I will want to go to graduate school. For the time being, however, I certainly will not be going. Here’s why: since I was young (maybe about nine or ten years old), I’ve mindlessly followed the societal compulsion to endure the sometimes intense stress of getting an education, because it’s just what you’re supposed to do. If you’re a good student, as I have been since I was in kindergarten, you take advanced classes (even though your anorexia is preventing you from focusing during placement tests), you go to a top college (even if the thought of going to school sends you into months of constant panic attacks), you write a senior thesis (even if you can barely stand the thought of finishing your degree), you get a competitive job, and you go to graduate school. I’m somewhere between graduation and getting a competitive job, and realizing that my pursuit of the expected path has done me very little good in my life.

I’m graduating summa cum laude. I’m also graduating with very few friends and personal connections, with lots of scars on my arms, an eating disorder, and a dependence on alcohol. Excluding my earlier education for a moment, which fits neatly in with this pattern, college alone has been a rotten experience for me, and I can say confidently that never before and never again will I allow myself to endure four straight years of crippling depression, anxiety, and maddening mental illnesses. Is it because I’ve pushed myself academically, taken difficult classes, and kept an eye relentlessly on the goal of academic achievement? I don’t think so, but it definitely hasn’t helped.

Looking back over my life so far– my accomplishments (lots of awards, and very few happy memories)– I’m left to contemplate the next step. And as much as I’m struggling to do so, I’m beginning to recognize that I can’t continue on this path. Do I really need an uber-competitive job (because I should), when I know it will continue me down a path of poor physical and mental health? Do I really need a PhD, when the last several years have demonstrated to me what happens when I dedicate myself to academia?

I am terribly guilty of this admission. Guilty that I’m not grateful enough for my academic awards, and guilty that I’m not going to push myself as hard in the future. But here’s what I keep asking myself: when I’m on my deathbed, will I look back and feel grateful that I got a bunch of advanced degrees, and no doubt a prestigious fellowship, or will I regret the resultant depression and isolation? I want to die knowing that I spent my life enjoying family, friends, and cultivating a rich social, mental, and physical lifestyle– not academic or career advancement. I just need to keep reminding myself of this, day in and day out. Maybe it’s not very glamorous to have a happy, slower-paced life, especially in modern America– but I’ve never been one for glamor.

Lemon Chickpea Soup

I love this lemony soup with spinach and chickpeas and often eat several bowls at a time. It’s filling, refreshing, and of course, vegan. Not to mention cheap.

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Estimated cost: $6 for 5 servings ($1.20 per serving)

  • 1 fresh lemon, juice and zest
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh parsley chopped, about 1/2 cup
  • 6 cups Vegetable broth or some bouillon cubes dissolved in water
  • 1 can chickpeas or other beans
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 T Goya seasoning or garlic powder for extra flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Dice carrot, celery, and onion (about medium dice). Mince the garlic and roughly chop the parsley.
  2. Heat a little bit of olive or vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add onion, carrot, and celery (the mirepoix) and saute until beginning to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, saute 1 or two more minutes. Add parsley and thyme.
  3. Add the vegetable broth (or, 6 cups of water with a large cube of vegetable broth dissolved in). Add some salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low to a simmer.
  4. Drain, rinse and add the chickpeas. Add the juice and zest of one lemon.
  5. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender. Once the vegetables are done, add the spinach and wilt for one or two minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Adjust for seasoning, and add a little more fresh lemon. Serve hot. Enjoy!
  7. Optional: add rice or orzo along with the broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the rice is cooked.

LENTIL STEW

I made this lentil soup topped with fresh lemon and parsley and ate it all week. The flavor was wonderful, and it left me feeling full but not weighed down.

Estimated cost: $6 for 6 servings ($1 per serving)

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  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T Cumin
  • 1 T coriander
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Goya seasoning, or a bit of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can crushed tomato
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (or bouillon cubes dissolved in water)
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped thin
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Soak the lentils beforehand, at least a few but up to 8 or 9 hours. They may start to sprout. This can be made without soaking, but soaking improves the texture, cook time, and nutritional value. After soaking, drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add carrot, onion, and celery (mirepoix) and saute about ten minutes, until the vegetables are softening and aromatic.
  3. Add the seasonings (cumin through oregano) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mince and add the garlic cloves, and saute with the spices another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, lentils, and vegetable broth. Add the chopped spinach. Bring to a rolling simmer. While simmering, skim the foam and oil off the top.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low (a lower simmer) and cook about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. This may take longer by 5-10 minutes if you didn’t soak the lentils.
  6. Remove from heat, and add the juice and zest of one lemon. Remove bay leaf, if you used that. Add the chopped parsley. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Note: Store leftovers in the freezer for several months, or in the fridge in airtight containers for about five or six days.

My Binge Triggers

Last time I posted about binge eating or BED, a lot of people responded positively and were excited to think about that conversation (check out this post I wrote: You Don’t Have Binge Eating Disorder).

So, I’ll be posting a little bit more often about my experiences with BED and bingeing– it’s incredibly important to talk about since BED is highly stigmatized.

Last night, I had a bit of a binge. It was the first time I’ve binged since I switched to a plant-based vegan diet (or in about 18 days), which is a very long stretch for me. In that past, I’ve gone through months-long spells where I binge anywhere from 3 to 10 times a week, so an 18-day dry spell is something that I’m proud of. In any case, I did binge last night, and since I’ve been bingeing a lot less, I was able to sit and think. Why am I bingeing right now?

A gave it a thought and came up with this list of triggers for my bingeing. Let me know if you have any of the same.

  1. The end of the month. At the end of every month (whether for a week or a day), my bingeing always spikes, probably because I’m looking to the month ahead, expecting to make a significant dietary change, and telling myself that “Today is the last day– better binge!” subconsciously. The end of December and then January, I had massive binges which lasted pretty much constantly for about ten days. Last month (February) was a bit better, with a much shorter-term binge.
  2. Being with my boyfriend. This is a tricky one. For years, whenever I would see him, he would help me feel less depressed by giving me my favorite foods– rice and beans, ramen noodles, ice cream, etc. That evolved into using him to help me binge. I would visit him and demand that he drive me to a series of fast-food restaurants to satisfy my binge urge, and a toxic pattern developed. Now, even just being with him briefly triggers the urge to eat tons of food, since I’ve associated him with food and being happy. Yikes.
  3. Nighttime. Simple enough.
  4. Small meals early in the day. Pre-binge yesterday, I didn’t prep well enough and had an energy bar for lunch rather than a real meal, so that by the time dinner rolled up, I was a bit over hungry. That didn’t help.
  5. Stress.

Yesterday, I succumbed to the binge, but here’s the thing– because I’m eating a mostly vegan, plant-based diet, I only binged on vegan plant-foods. Did I eat too much? Yep! My stomach was in a LOT of pain. But here’s what I binged on: rice, beans, salad, popcorn, dried dates, some oatmeal, peanut butter, etc. That’s a far cry from the pizza-ramen-hot fudge sundae binges that used to dominate me. I’m not thrilled that my crazy brain still took me for a whirlwind, and that I felt out of control and anxious about the calories– but I’m really glad that I didn’t compromise my food beliefs and that I filled my body with excessive amounts of healthy carbs, fiber, omega-3s and other good things, rather than lots of saturated fat and added sugar.

Nine years of on again-off again bingeing isn’t going to go away in a couple of weeks, no matter what my diet looks like. That’s something that I’m learning. My goal is to reduce the disordered behaviors over time, and hopefully, I will break the binge pattern altogether. Today, I’m working hard to not count calories (and it’s hard). But small steps are good, and learning what my binge triggers are is a small but necessary task.

 

Strange Things Are Happening to Me: 10 Days Vegan

The beautiful cover photo was found through The Bojon Gourmet, a recovering pastry chef, in her recipe for Green Noodle Soup (See it here)

Today is my tenth day of following a whole foods, plant-based vegan diet. Basically, I’m eating loads of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (mostly quinoa, oats and brown rice), legumes (mostly lentils and chickpeas) and some nuts and seeds (peanut butter, pecans, chia seeds, flaxseed meal, etc.) Some very unexpected things (good and bad) have been happening to me which I attribute to the diet change. So I’ll just jump right in.

THE GOOD

  1. My body dysmorphia… has vanished. I’m not kidding. And this is coming from a person who has had dysmorphic body image since she was twelve. After about 24 hours vegan, I looked in the mirror and was startled to see a thin face, thin back, a neck with tendons variously straining out… it was a far cry from the self that I normally perceive (fat, fat, fat). And it happened overnight. I’ve lost a small amount of weight so far, but in my mind, it looks as though I lost 20 pounds. It’s hard to explain, but for folks who have BDD or eating disorders, imagine suddenly seeing the body(part) you’ve been obsessing over all along… overnight. It’s exciting, and yet troubling, to realize that your body imagine may have been so incredibly distorted all along, and you didn’t even realize it.
  2. My cravings are also gone.   This is something that caught me off guard, since I really thought that I would be ravaged by cravings. And yet, I’m not. In fact, I haven’t been this craving-free in all my memory. Can you imagine seeing, or smelling a piece of hot pizza, and not yearning for it with your whole being? Or having a tray of warm cookies placed in front of you, and not taking at least one bite? I never could, and yet now… I am.
  3. I’ve lost several pounds rather quickly. I’ve been obsessively trying to lose a certain 4-5 pounds for almost a year now. Usually I lose one or two, then have a binge-fest and gain it back. I’ve dropped four pounds without even trying, and I feel really good. I haven’t been at this weight in over a year, and it somehow took far less effort than I was trying to give. 4 pounds in 10 days is a lot for someone my size, so I know that some of it is excess bloat from all the bingeing, and that the weight loss will level out and stop pretty soon. But it still is exciting.
  4. I’m wired. Maybe it’s coincidental, but I’ve noticed a sudden and dramatic increase in the amount of energy I have. I’ve been a lot more productive. It’s a huge contrast to how I’ve been living for the last 6-8 months, where I’ve been lethargic, sleeping a lot, and too fatigued to even change my clothes sometimes. It feels awesome. Plant-based? I’m not sure, but I’m hoping that’s the reason, and that it will continue.
  5. My blood sugar and energy levels have completely stabilized. This was another thing that I didn’t expect at all. I’m totally the type of person that gets super hungry between meals, snacks all day, eats every two hours, and has dramatic blood sugar drops where I get shaky and feel faint at least once a week. In the past 10 days, that hasn’t been the case at all. I’ve actually been satisfied and energized eating 3 main meals a day, without snacks in between. I’m going about 5-6 hours after a meal before I start getting hungry again, which amazes me. I’m also less hungry in the mornings, and am not having to eat until nine, ten, or even eleven o’clock in the morning, while in the past I would need to eat first thing.

 THE BAD

  1. My skin is breaking out. Chin, nose, cheeks, even my forehead (which is usually really clear). I don’t know if it’s residual from the massive grease-bingeing that I did earlier this month before I transitioned to plant-based vegan, but either way, since the ten days I’ve started I’ve noticed a lot of acne. I’ve read online and watched YouTube videos where this appears to be a common ‘symptom’ in the first couple of weeks, for unknown reasons (some people call it detox). They all say it goes away on its own in short order, so I’m banking on that and wearing a lot of makeup for now.
  2. I’m having a surge of digestive difficulties. Last week was the worst– tons of bloating and diarrhea. This week is a little bit better, although last night I had sharp stomach pains (the kind I used to have in high school and early college, when my digestive system would become inflamed for no known reason and become very painful). It could just be from the diet change, but I’m also looking in to whether it’s a nut allergy (I had an allergy test come back positive for a mild tree nut allergy, and I’m starting to think my increased consumption of almond milk and cashew bars has a lot to do with my worsened discomfort). I’m limiting nuts for now, and will have to keep testing to figure out what’s up.
  3. I’m having a hard time getting enough calories. And it’s not because I’m intentionally restricting, at least not consciously. It’s because I’m actually full. All the time. I can only eat so much brown rice and bok choy before I’m stuffed to the brim. I haven’t been actively counting calories (a miracle, I know) but in the evenings I have done a quick calculation for the day just to gauge where I am, and I’m coming in pretty low without trying to. I have lots of excess fat reserves, so I’m not that concerned, but I do need to keep in mind that I have to eat high-calorie plant foods like seeds and avocados. That’ll be tricky with the possible tree nut allergy.

 

That’s where I’m at now with my plant-based vegan diet. I need to sift out the nut allergy (or sensitivity) problem– I’m switching from almond milk to coconut milk, for one thing– and I need to be cognizant of getting enough calories in my diet. Otherwise, I feel like I’m really thriving on this diet, and I haven’t had the urge to binge or restrict once, in TEN DAYS. I can’t tell you enough how much of an anomaly this is for me, since almost every day for the last nine years has been dominated by the urge to binge, restrict, and purge. And at least for the last 10 days, I’ve been completely free of that.

Warm Spiced Lentils

Note: Cover photo from The Wanderlust Kitchen, link here.

One day I’ll start taking nice pictures of the dishes I make!

The first time I ever tried this dish (which is called dal in Hindi, also pappu), my roommate made it for me. I was amazed by how simple and how delicious it was, and as a perk, it’s healthy (and vegan). My roommate, whose parents are Indian, sent me her family’s recipe– this is my (very slightly) altered interpretation. It’s easy to make, and very filling. Love and thanks to Priyanka for introducing me to this dish!

Cook time: 20 minutes
Level: Easy
Vegan and gluten-free, if that’s your thing

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils (masoor dal), rinsed and picked through; green and yellow lentils also fine

1 T coconut oil (alternatively, use olive or canola oil)

1/2 large onion, any kind; medium or fine chop

1 clove garlic, minced

1 can good chopped tomatoes OR 1 large fresh tomato

1 small dried chili pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped fine

1 vegetable bouillon cube (I also use Better than Bouillon in a jar)

2 cups water

Salt and pepper

Optional: fresh cilantro or other herb

The spices (popu):

1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds (black is better, but yellow or brown is fine)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed (ground is fine)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils. Soak for a few hours, and even overnight, although it is okay to skip the soaking. The soaking leads to a shorter cook time, better texture, and less gas-producing compounds.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic, good until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. If you are using fresh rather than canned tomatoes, add them to the pot and cook with the onion mixture about two minutes.
  3. Add chopped chili pepper, then the spice mixture. Some folks add the turmeric later, but I like to add it all together and let everything warm and toast together in the pot. Cook for a minute.
  4. If using canned tomatoes, add them to the pot at this time, along with the 2 cups of water and the bouillon cube. Stir to combine, breaking up the bouillon cube to dissolve it.
  5. Bring to a gentle boil, uncovered. As soon as it is stably bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes covered, or until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are tender. If the liquid absorbs too quickly, add more water. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Remove from heat, and eat! I like it as-is, no toppings or sides. You may enjoy some fresh cilantro, or a side of basmati rice and naan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Antidepressants Cause Mania

I’ve been thinking about an experience I had a little while back that might be worthwhile to share in this blog. Who knows what the purpose of this blog is… eating disorders? Food? Mental health? In any case, what I’m going to share was a significant, and frightening, event in my life, and might inform those of you who are considering or taking SSRI antidepressants.

A few weeks into starting Zoloft in 2015, something strange began to happen to me. I felt wired. I wasn’t sleeping very much, and found that I couldn’t sit still. For the most part, I kept this under control, and it didn’t disrupt my life– it was only a few days, after all. Except that within this 5 or 6-day long episode, a number of stranger things did happen to me. I remember studying in a center with my friends, and being unable to focus. My brain and body were buzzing. I started doing somersaults on the floor. Yoga (downward dog). I couldn’t stop moving my body, even though we were in a semi-public place, and I shouldn’t have been. The feeling got worse. I took off my socks and shoes and ran outside (it was nighttime, and about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, or quite cold), and I ran around the outdoor track at school a dozen times until I couldn’t breathe. I returned to my friends with frozen feet embedded with grit, my eyes darting back and forth frantically. I felt totally manic. And this kept on happening.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only time this has happened. The following year, I stopped taking the Zoloft for several weeks. When I resumed, there soon followed a similar period that felt like a form of mania, or probably hypomania. I was racing, and felt out of control. I felt manic, and suicidal. I jogged around campus, and then around town, at night and without a coat despite the cold, frightened and yet exhilarated by the idea of jumping into the street. After one of these panicky jogs, I came home and began to destroy my bedroom. It was midnight, and I was dismantling the wooden boards of my bed, tearing down pictures from my walls. The next day I crashed, and didn’t leave my bed, or shower, or go to classes, or eat a meal for about two weeks.

To be clear, what I experienced was probably not a full manic episode, like the ones that occur in bipolar disorder type one. From what I understand, those episodes often result in reckless sex, violence, crime, or other harm. They’re extreme. Maybe I’m misguided, but that’s what I’ve learned. Contrastingly, hypomanic episodes, like those in bipolar disorder type two, match more so the experiences that I had. Racing, out-of-control, and perhaps engaging in some reckless behaviors, but to a lesser degree. I’m not bipolar, to the best of my knowledge, which is affirmed by the fact that starting Zoloft preceded both major events of hypomania. Which is why I want to talk about Zoloft, and the risks associated with it.

I’m not the only person that has had a manic or hypomanic episode upon starting antidepressants. It’s one of the side effects they don’t tell you about so much, and one of the particularly dangerous ones. The majority of people don’t experience this side effect, to be clear, but for those who do, the experience can be frightening, overwhelming, and down right exhausting. Also, let me mention a few misconceptions about mania following antidepressants that misguided me and made me afraid to seek help right away:

  1. Mania does not occur because you “didn’t need the antidepressants” and so they are making you “too stimulated.” Actually, the chemicals in our brains are far more complicated than that, and a manic episode can be an indication that the drug is being administered in the wrong amount, or that a different drug would be more suitable.
  2. Because mania is not a sign that you’re “not really depressed” (I was quite afraid of this), nobody is going to just take away your medication and not provide you some kind of substitute. If you’re having mania on Prozac, for example, your doctor will probably advise you to stop taking it gradually, but don’t worry– you still deserve, and will still receive, treatment for the depression/anxiety that you were trying to help in the first place.
  3. Mania does not necessarily or even usually occur because there is underlying bipolar disorder. As a matter of fact, if an episode occurs in conjunction with antidepressants, bipolar disorder should not be considered as a diagnosis at all at that point in time, because the antidepressants can significantly alter brain chemistry on their own. This is a major misconception that I had. I thought that I had bipolar disorder, and ignored the fact that I had just started medications which alter serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that are similarly affected by mental illnesses.

I want to share this experience in the hopes that someone who went through, or is going through, the same thing can relate and know that they are not ‘crazy’, they are not alone. And if you think you had a manic or hypomanic episode, don’t ignore that fact. I’ve never told anybody about these episodes, because I’ve diminished them in my head (“It was probably nothing, I was probably just depressed, or hyper”), but thinking back on those times I’m troubled by how erratic and disturbed my behavior was. And above all else, I’m grateful that the episodes did end on their own, and that I didn’t have any lasting harm. Please, be cautious when taking or considering antidepressants, and if you do experience an episode, get immediate help.

Healthy Asparagus Soup

This is the first recipe that I’m posting on my blog, and it really is a bit of a practice round in terms of set-up and posting. But it’s still a very tasty, light and healthy recipe– not to mention vegan if you skip the parmesan cheese!

Cook time: 30 minutes

Difficulty level: Easy

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound good asparagus, hard bottoms cut off
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A pinch of thyme
  • Parmesan cheese, for topping
  1. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Wash and chop asparagus into one inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic, sauté one minute. Add asparagus, and about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Add bay leaf and thyme. Saute 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the bay leaf, and add the broth. Bring to a high simmer and cook about 15-20 minutes depending on the asparagus stalks’ size, until it’s tender but not mushy.
  4. Remove from heat, and add the juice from about half the lemon.
  5. Working carefully, puree the mixture in a blender until smooth. Strain if desired to remove firmer asparagus bits.
  6. Correct for salt and pepper. Top with a little more fresh lemon and some parmesan cheese, if desired.

Confessions of a Baby Vegan

Note: the gorgeous cover photo was found at Studio Codie Caissie. See it here

“Ew you sound like a vegan.”

“I’m vegan-phobic.”

“LOL if I were a vegan I would kill myself.”

– A sampling of quotes from friends and family

Three days ago, I decided to go vegan. I’m in horrible health, bingeing on sugar and fat, drinking in excess, not moving my body or sleeping or drinking enough. And I’ve been in horrible health for the last ten years as I’ve stepped through eating disorders with bingeing, starving and purging ebbing and flowing. At this point, I’m desperate to be healthy, and being vegan seems like a pretty surefire way to achieve that.

A quick note: I’m not just a ‘regular’ vegan, which would mean that I could be eating lots of processed vegan grains (white bread and rice), processed vegan food alternatives (vegan cheese, or soy protein burgers) and vegan snacks (potato chips, pretzels, Doritos, etc.) Nope– I’m avoiding processed foods as much as possible and sticking mostly to plants, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Today I had a fruit smoothie with chia seeds, a squash-and-pecans concoction for lunch, stir fry with tofu and quinoa for dinner, and a sweet potato for dessert. Yum.

I could go on and on about why I’ve gone vegan, mostly in order to defend myself from those who would accuse me of doing it to lose weight (you’d be partially right) and those who would accuse me of zealotry (you’re wrong on that one, actually). But it might be more useful to provide a truncated list of the main reasons, so here they are:

  1. I don’t believe in eating animals. I’m more ambivalent about dairy and eggs, but I do feel that the way we keep dairy and egg animals is inhumane, and therefore I shouldn’t eat them.
  2. I don’t believe animal products are good for our bodies. People who eat plant-based diets live longer, healthier lives. Of course, lots of people at small amounts of fish and meats, and are also perfectly healthy when balanced with many plants. But it’s not healthy at all to eat them in amounts that we do, and then again, see point one.
  3. I’m desperate for a solution to my eating disorders. And if this could possibly be it, I’m willing to try it. No more counting, no more obsessing… just eating fully, of plant foods.
  4. It’s better for the planet to eat this way. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been a little ambivalent about global warming (obviously it’s not a myth, I just suck at recycling). So if changing my diet is a way that I can make a serious impact on my environmental footprint, I owe it to the planet to do that.

Okay, so there are my main reasons. So here’s an abbreviated list of the things I’m worried about:

  • Going out to restaurants. Most places don’t have vegan options other than a salad, hold the cheese, chicken and ranch dressing.
  • Family and friends retribution and stigmatization. See quotes at top of the post.
  • Spending more on food. I know it’s a myth that being vegan has to be expensive, but I’m still concerned that buying more healthy veggies, nuts and legumes will add up in expense, compared to my typical eggs and oatmeal diet.
  • Not being able to eat my absolute favorite foods. I’m talking about my grandma’s cheesy lasagna, cream cheese frosting, and pizza. There are substitutions, and by being vegan, I’m not giving up these foods for life. I’m taking a flexible approach where, if once in a rare while, I truly feel like I’ll gain joy from eating a non-vegan food– maybe some cheesecake on my birthday– of course I’ll do it! As long as the balance is far more vegan, plant-based foods than not. I’m shooting for about 95%.

I’m into day three, and actually feeling really…. great. My energy levels are excellent, I’m feeling positive and comfortable with my food choices, and I’m not having cravings. Again, for simplicity, I’ll share a quick list of the positives that I’ve already experienced (after three days!)

  1. I’m not counting calories or food amounts. Like, at all. I can’t even describe how rare that is for me. Usually if I’m in that kind of place, I’m in one of my short periods of recovery from the eating disorders. Last time I had one was 4 years ago.
  2. My digestion is going really smoothly. Twice daily kind of smoothly. It’s great, considering I had IBS in high school and early college and usually would only go once a week.
  3. I’m not bingeing, nor am I having the urge to binge. When I’m hungry, I’m eating. Bananas, sweet potatoes, prunes, oatmeal, blueberries, peanut butter. Peanut butter! I’m eating it and not feeling guilty and depressed about it!
  4. My energy has been oddly stable.
  5. Because I’ve been eating only vegan foods, I’ve had to put a lot more effort into meal planning and cooking. I thought I would find it arduous, but I love it. I love cooking, I love getting home and chopping vegetables for half an hour. It’s so much more cleansing (literally, too) than watching an episode of Friends, plus I end up with a healthy dinner.

And some negatives….

  1. My skin is really broken out. But I’m certain it’s because of the wild bingeing that happened over the last two weeks. Something tells me that three days of being vegan wouldn’t cause me to have a massive breakout. Nope– that’s been in the making for some time, and it’s finally showing up.
  2. I’ve been a little extra gassy. Lots of lentils and beans.
  3. I’ve had to be a little bit evasive around friends, coworkers, and family. When I’m offered food with eggs, chicken or cheese, I have to decline, and usually that’s the end of it– but occasionally, I’ve been pushed and had to really defend my choice. It’s weird, actually… and I’m realizing that we need to be a lot more respectful of people’s food choices.
  4. I actually underate the last few days without trying to at all. After the days had ended, out of curiosity (not compulsion) I counted up the calories, and came in well below my daily maintenance amount. Today I’ve been more mindful of having snacks when I’m hungry so I don’t have a significant undereat.

Okay, that’s my quick and very parsed-out explanation of my vegan experience over the past couple of days. I’m very excited to continue doing this, and for the time being I am just taking things one day at a time. If this Saturday I have a piece of cheese, so be it. Whatever. But I’m thinking that my default might indeed become plant-based vegan, because this is feeling really, really good.