6 Years Recovered

Practice self-care, loves; this post may be triggering to some.

six candles recovery anniversary | MindBodyPlate

Today is a special day for me – one of my favorite days of the year. September 3rd is my recovery anniversary, and today marks 6 years since the last time I binged and purged.

I blogged about my recovery anniversary last year, but a lot has changed since then. Last year I started the day by taking my favorite yoga class; this year I woke up at 5:30 AM to teach a yoga class.

Last year I thought that self-care was something extra you made time for every day; this year I’ve learned that every facet of life and every choice you make is an opportunity for self-care (self-care isn’t the frosting on the cake, it’s the cake itself).

Last year my ideas about what I should be doing with my life were getting in the way of the actual doing; this year I have a private practice which offers nutritional coaching, private yoga sessions, and peer coaching for those in recovery from eating disorders, and I’m in the early stages of planning the New York City debut of my one woman show about food and body image.

The long view almost always highlights growth — I think that’s why I like anniversaries. Because, individually, most of the last 365 days felt like nothing was happening, like I was getting nowhere. But the sum is greater than its parts, as they say.

peanut loves maple syrup | MindBodyPlate

I want you to know that ‘6 years recovered’ does not mean I have a perfect relationship with food. Just yesterday, for example, I was so frustrated with the logistics of setting up my new laptop that I ended up eating a ramekin full of peanut butter mixed with maple syrup… with a spoon.

…and then I went back for seconds.

Emotional eating at its finest, folks. Were there elements of a binge there, where I felt out of control? Sure. The difference is that after it was done I didn’t throw up my hands and say, “Well, now that I’ve totally blown it, I better eat everything else in the kitchen.” The difference is that I didn’t want to purge or punish myself at the gym. The difference is that I knew a little bit too much peanut butter would not send my weight or my body image spiraling out of control. The difference is that I didn’t beat myself up.

Sarah Kit Farrell laughing | MindBodyPlate

Squished on the subway and loving it!

Actually, I had a bit of a chuckle. I mean, we all get frustrated sometimes — let’s be real, especially when setting up new electronics. Of course I lost a bit of control as my brain became overwhelmed. Of course my body tried to comfort itself. And of course it chose the path of least resistance (dietary fat and sugar!!!).

That I can hold yesterday’s mini-binge with empathy, love, and a bit of humor is the real sign that I am recovered.

Just as all of the changes in one year may not be apparent until the year is over, the hundreds and thousands of mini-steps towards recovery may not be apparent day-to-day. That’s how it is with overcoming anything, I think. We relish when we can look back and feel pride in our accomplishment, now abundantly clear. But the good stuff is happening with every mini-step, every choice to incorporate self-care, every day, every moment, every bite.

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Balancing Omega-3 & Omega-6

We hear again and again about the benefits of essential fatty acids in the diet, particularly omega-3s. But what’s the difference between omega-3 and omega-6? If you prefer visual learning like me, you’ll love this explanatory info-graphic, which I based on an article by Andrew Weil, M.D. with complimentary research from The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, DC. omega-3 omega-6 balance infographic - MindBodyPlateCheck out the two pie charts at the bottom: the left is what our Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio should look like (1/1), and the right shows a fairly generous average ratio for a Western diet (15/1). Yikes! We’re pretty far off, and yet it’s so important that we strive to lower that ratio. In their academic article, The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, Simopoulos explains that a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio is effective in “reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.” In particular:

  • “In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality.”
  • “A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer.”
  • “The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk.”
  • “A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
  • “A ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma.”

The clinical benefits of increased omega-3 can also be seen in:

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Brain Trauma
  • Chronic Pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin Disorders
  • Fertility
  • Fat Loss

Because the western diet is overflowing with omega-6 fatty acids, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is simple: just eat more omega-3s. Eat more salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. Or buy a high-quality fish or krill oil (mine is a liquid that is extra purified for safety and tastes like lemon). Vegetarian sources such as flax seeds and walnuts are wonderful too, just remember the body has to go through the extra step of converting them to EPA and DHA (the two critical kinds of omega-3s). How much is enough? Well, in a lecture I attended by Dr. Barry Sears, he gave the following guidelines:

  • Everyone would benefit from: 2-2.5 g (2,000-2,500 mg) per day
  • For those suffering from obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease: 5 g (5,000 mg) per day
  • For those battling cancer and chronic pain: 7.5 g (7,500 mg) per day
  • For those with neurological disease: >10 g (at least 10,000 mg) per day

Ideally, one would consume a fish oil or omega-3 supplement in conjunction with anti-inflammatory meals, moderate exercise, and stress reduction techniques. As always, remember that I am not a medical professional nor a registered dietitian. Please consult your physician before making any abrupt changes to your diet. References: Simopoulos, AP (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 56(8), 365-79. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909

Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

navy beans with feta

Spring has sprung here in New York City, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy a warm, creamy dish like these navy beans with feta, tomato, and basil. I ate them today in front of my open window, enjoying the light breeze and marveling at how something could taste so comforting and so fresh.

navy beans with feta close up

With garlicky-sweet grape tomatoes and salty, luxurious feta, these beans are reminiscent of a creamy pasta dish, but without the pasta. It’s super simple to make, requires just one pan, and only calls for a few ingredients.

Don’t have any basil on hand? Chop up some arugula or kale instead. The greens do more than add color, they really elevate the flavor and give it a crisp brightness.

navy beans stove top collage

Navy Beans with Feta, Tomato, and Basil

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic (or 1/2 large clove), minced
  • 3/4 c grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 c canned or pre-cooked navy beans
  • 1/4 c feta, crumbled (more or less, depending on the severity of your cheese addiction)
  • 1/4 c basil, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1-2 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over a low flame.
  • Add the halved grape tomatoes and the garlic, stir, and let them cook over low heat for anywhere between 15-20 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until the tomato skins are crinkled, the juices are gurgling, and the garlic is golden.
  • Add the navy beans, and increase the heat just a tad, stirring occasionally until the beans are warm, about 5 more minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, but don’t overdo it on the salt! Feta is pretty salty on its own.
  • Turn off the heat, and immediately add the feta, stirring constantly so that it melts a bit and incorporates fully.
  • Toss in a small handful of chopped basil, stir, and serve warm.

Serves one as a main dish, or two as a side dish

navy beans and window

MBP Daily Three: When Life Gets Messy

MBP3 IS A SERIES DEDICATED TO WALKING THE WALK. WHAT ARE 3 THINGS YOU’VE DONE TODAY TO NOURISH YOUR MIND, YOUR BODY, & YOUR PLATE?

MindBodyPlate Salt Spill

Life gets messy. We make mistakes. Things go wrong, and it’s not always possible to make them right. But no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, there is one thing that is always in our control: the extent to which we have our own back.

If you’re a sensitive soul, it’s all too easy to take everything that’s gone wrong and use it to punish yourself. Depending on how many years of practice you’ve had beating yourself up, having your own back in the midst of conflict might seem like an impossibility. So it’s important to start small. Little acts of self-care go a long way in getting you through the mess.

The next time you’re struggling to uplift yourself, remember the MBP Daily Three. Relentless self-care in the form of tiny but deliberate acts of self-kindness will give you something to grasp onto when you feel like falling down.

Mind Seek out emotional scaffolding.

When I’m faced with highly emotional conflict, my tender heart takes my physical body for a ride: nausea, elevated heart rate, dry mouth, the works. And since I’m still learning to have my own back, my mental health feels similarly precarious. I liken my state to a tower of jello: the form is there, but the structure is shaky. So I reach out for what I call emotional scaffolding (emotional buttressing might have been more appropriate, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it). I reach out to my loved ones and picture building an all-encompassing scaffold up and around my shaky tower, plank by plank. With each phone call, text message, or lunch date my scaffolding grows higher. I reach out to others like it’s my job, even if I want to hide at home under the covers. I reach out not so much to commiserate as to remind myself that I am surrounded by people who know me and love for for who I am, as I am.

Body Get outside and get moving.

When your body feels like a shaky tower of jello, running a 5k doesn’t make a ton of sense. So go easy on yourself, but do get moving. A walk to the mailbox or the local coffee shop might be all you can muster, and that’s just fine. When last I felt this way, I met a friend near Bryant Park and asked her to peruse the Alice + Olivia showroom with me. Window shopping may not be an Olympic sport (yet), but it gets the blood flowing, and in my case, it felt therapeutic and safe. Simple upper body strength training is another great option, as weight lifting tends to inspire more than just physical strength. And if your nerves are steady enough to hit up a restorative yoga class, do it. Any activity that gets you moving and stills the mind is really where it’s at.

Plate Keep it simple. 

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you know the curse of the anxious stomach. You feel too queasy to eat yet become increasingly weak as your blood sugar wanes. You’re not doing yourself any favors. But I have some surprising and delightful news for you: you know all those refined grains and simple carbohydrates we’re supposed to steer clear of? Now’s their time to shine. Refined carbs are much more gentle on the digestive tract than whole grains and most other foods, so when your nerves have got you queasy, feel free to bust out the white rice, saltine crackers, and French bread. At this point, providing your body with the energy it needs to function is far more important than achieving some kind of arbitrary dietary perfection. If your nervous stomach wreaks havoc on your intestines as well, you might be interested in congee, a Chinese porridge that is super gentle on the stomach and has, ahem, a binding effect on elimination. Warm, non-caffeinated herbal tea and broth are also good choices that will help you to feel more grounded and calm.

I hope it’s clear that one or two small acts of self-kindness can go a long way in bolstering your spirits when things go awry. While it’s important to admit when you’ve made a mistake, you don’t earn bonus points for torturing yourself about it for days, weeks, or years to come. Self-awareness must be tempered with self-forgiveness. If you’re struggling with that, then follow the MBP Daily Three like it’s a prescription, and you’ll find it gets easier. Because cultivating self-care, having your own back, and putting yourself first actually feels pretty damn good. Even and especially when life gets messy.