weight gain

Good Days, Bad Days

Sometimes I think I’m over it.

That it doesn’t matter how I look, or what size I wear, or what I grabbed to go from Chipotle on my way home from work because I’ve been pulling 13-hour days a few too many times this month, and sometimes you don’t even care that guac is a dollar more.

But sometimes I feel like I’ve been lying to myself all that time.

It can be any number of things that set the feeling off.

A glance down when toweling off after a shower, which even after all this time I studiously refuse to do, because the wave of sadness I get from looking at my new Buddha belly hurts more than I usually feel comfortable admitting.

Another goddamn rejection letter, when for some reason I really thought we were going to get somewhere this time.

Another lunch break sacrificed to a meeting or a project I don’t feel like I understand, or that I’m good enough to do. Hello, impostor syndrome, my old friend.

Whatever it is, it usually ends the same. Lying flat on my living room floor, staring at my bookshelf without any intention of picking up a book, wondering why my current lifestyle refuses to let me lose weight.

Yes. Yes. I know.

I know that diet culture is a cruel cocktail mixed by capitalism and the patriarchy.

I know that before I chose recovery I was no happier, in fact much less happy.

I know that I still reap the benefits of thin privilege in about a million different ways, and that my health is not in any way connected to the way my body looks.

I can rationalize my way through that. Most of the time I do. I can hit you with a Health at Every Size–based rant at the drop of a hat, literally or figuratively. Like, if you actually throw a hat at me, I will catch it and say “$20 billion annual profits of the US weight loss industry” in the same breath.

But some nights I don’t want to.

Some nights I want to wallow a little in the self-pity I try not to allow myself too often.

I want to acknowledge the weight of a small creature perched on my chest, pressing the breath from me and keeping me here on the floor, this small creature that does not feel exactly the same as my eating disorder did, but is close.

Quieter.

More subtle.

It is the whisper in the back of my mind that says “You failed at being thin. Just exactly the way you fail at everything else.”

I wish I weren’t writing about this. I realize that it isn’t helpful. But maybe the admission that I don’t always have it all together, that I’m not always here to be helpful, maybe that’s worth something. I don’t know. I’m not convinced my thoughts make sense, and I think it might be important to admit that, and edit a little less. Radical honesty does not always make for lucid prose.

But that’s all theoretical. What matters is tonight.

Tonight, I will let these feelings hang there, for the amount of time it takes to write this blog post. Because they are real, and they matter.

And then, also tonight, I will stand up, close my computer, and go do something else. I don’t know what. Sing along loudly to the Sweeney Todd  original cast recording, or finally start the latest Toni Morrison novel, or watch the rest of Season Two of Orphan Black. Anything else.

Because my residual ED feelings are part of my life, but so are all these things.

And they are real.

And they matter, too.

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Recovering Like a Vulcan – Fighting Feeling with Logic

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Last week(end), for those interested, marked the 2014 iteration of the San Diego International Comic-Con. Given, this has a very minimal impact on my day-to-day life as a blogger living in Michigan who personally would welcome a decrease in superhero movies playing at the local multiplex. (Except for those with Loki in them. Because I don’t know if I’ve talked about my Loki feelings lately, but they are powerful, visceral, and 120% positive.) Anyway, what I’m getting at is that Comic-Con is an unapologetically cheap and easy segue into what I want to talk about today: rationalism and emotions.

Weight gain and recovery, in some manifestations of eating disorders, go troublingly hand-in-hand. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case: EDs don’t always result in being dangerously underweight. There are many kinds of eating disorders, and you can’t tell who has one or who doesn’t just by looking at them. (Super-intentional link barrage is super-intentional.)

But for me, and for many readers I’ve chatted with, fear of weight gain is one of the reasons that resistance to recovery is so strong. Recovery is something like full-frontal exposure therapy in these cases. Throwing yourself straight into your worst fear on the word of friends, family, and support either IRL or online that everything will turn out for the best. Imagine a man terrified of sharks being told to watch Jaws in an underwater cage in the Pacific in the middle of Shark Week. It’s something like that. Only without the smell of chum.

Now, you ask, why the deuce did you bring up Comic-Con in that first paragraph, then segue into Jaws, and then somehow end up at recovery? Well, two reasons. One, because I mix metaphors like bartenders mix the ingredients for a Manhattan: into a delicious concoction that goes down smooth every time. And two, because my best strategy of coping with the difficulties of facing recovery’s weight-related fears is to think like a Vulcan.

I’m a little young for the Shatner series, but I’ve seen the more recent Star Trek films (because of Benedict Cumberbatch, and because my former roommate took to yelling “KHAAAAAAAAAN” every time our toilet failed to flush or our stove caught on fire again), so I think that basically makes me an expert in the Vulcan’s inability to process or express emotions. Life to the inestimable Mr. Spock is a math problem, a physics equation, a series of numbers and probabilities that can be followed to its natural and logical end. “Feeling fat” or “fearing weight gain” has no place in the Vulcan universe. You are what you are, logically, rationally, ipso facto. That’s it.

I’m the kind of person who bursts into tears at the smallest provocation, so clearly this isn’t a kind of lifestyle I’m apt to fall into particularly easily. But thinking about issues surrounding weight gain, I find it helpful during tough times – like now. A year and a half after I started blogging about the recovery process, I’m now at my highest weight to date. If you’d told me at the time I would be where I am, I imagine my swirling maelstrom of emotions would have had a thing or two to say about it.

But now, looking at it objectively from a much healthier, much more stable place, I can start to take it apart. The last few days have been a little rough, and I’m still not exactly comfortable moving around in my body the way it feels right now. If we’re being honest (a practice I favor, generally),  I wouldn’t mind losing xx pounds in a healthy, slow, and reasonable way. But when the going gets particularly bad, I’ve started to pull back and ask myself the important questions.

  • “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if I wasn’t able to lose weight from here?”
  • “What, really, is bad about the way I am right at this very moment?”
  • “If something happened and I was stuck at this weight forever, what would I lose that I could have had otherwise?”

Answer key, for those playing along at hime:

  • Well, I wouldn’t be able to wear those super-comfortable jeans from two years ago I bought on sale for $20. Which would be sad, but reasonably, I could always buy more jeans. Even if I do hate shopping, it would be about thirty unpleasant minutes. I sat through PompeiiI can handle more than thirty unpleasant minutes.
  • What’s bad about the way I am? Well, I’m not happy. It’s easier to work on being happy with the present than changing it into something it’s not meant to be.
  • What would I lose? Well, those pants. And the privilege of saying that I “got back to my high school weight,” which is apparently an important thing for some reason. Other than that? I’m having a tough time.

I’m not claiming that this exercise is always easy, or that it works every time. But it’s helped me through many a tough morning. For example, a few days ago was my monthly allotted trip to The Scale, when I learned that my newly instated exercise habit had failed to make an ounce (#RecoveryPuns) of difference. The emotional part of my brain was wildly disappointed with this, but after a few minutes, I tried to put my response into the same logical question format.

What exactly were you hoping to accomplish here? Have you accomplished it?

I exercise to feel powerful in my body. I exercise to take care of my heart and my legs and my muscles and my various other et caeteras. I exercise because it’s nice to start a morning with a jog and the chance to listen to the ever kick-ass John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman on The Bugle.

Why does weight logically need to come into that? I can be healthy and happy at any weight. Sure, there’s still that initial moment of “crap, I worked so hard and what do I have to show for it?” I don’t know if there’ll always be that moment, but for right now it’s pretty tough to deny it completely. But what’s important is to cut the thought process off as soon as is logistically possible and really, critically, think about it.

If you’re having a tough recovery day (and we all do), try sitting down for a few minutes, alone and away from distractions, and really asking yourself the question.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if I gain XX pounds? What’s the worst thing that could happen if I embrace recovery and the physical changes that come with it and after it?

Try as hard as you can not to let anything subjective or exaggerated enter this mental discussion. Be honest with yourself. Accept that “physical perfection” is a social construct that means objectively nothing. Be gentle on hard days and do something that makes you happy, because in recovery self-care is a radical and revolutionary choice.

And if you can figure out a way to beam me up somewhere, please drop me a line and let me know. I’m still operating without a car and it would be really lovely not to have to bum rides all the time. Thanks.

Mythbusting: Eating Disorder Recovery Edition

Mythbusters and associated logos are under copyright by Beyond Entertainment and the Discovery Channel.

Mythbusters and associated logos are under copyright by Beyond Entertainment and the Discovery Channel.

This post was originally published for Adios Barbie and can be read in its original context here.

September 1st was my one-year anniversary.

Not a romantic anniversary with a candlelit dinner and diamond earrings. The one-year anniversary of my recovery from an eating disorder.

I don’t know if taking a day to celebrate the recovery process is common, but I wanted to commemorate the year I began taking care of myself. I’d thought I was taking care of myself before – avoiding weight gain, exercising, eliminating “bad” foods. In the name of getting healthy, I reached what looked to be the point of no return.

Operative words being “looked to be.”

Here I am, one year later, at or near my body’s set point (my body’s natural, comfortable weight). All my blood work comes back consistently normal. I can run up stairs without getting tired now, and I don’t wear hooded sweatshirts in 80-degree heat anymore. I think celebrating a different kind of health is worth it.

There are plenty of resources for people beginning recovery from any kind of eating disorder.NEDA provides an extensive list to get you started. Doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and well-meaning friends and family might be present at every turn, or they might not be. And yet, it’s still difficult to get a straight answer for the most pressing question on people’s minds.

What is recovery going to look like? Will it go on like this forever? Will I be strong enough to make it?

My experience was my own, and I can’t pretend that it will ring true to every person beginning a recovery journey. But I think this episode of “Mythbusters: Eating Disorder Edition,” if you will, is pretty universal. Take it from me: this article is not a magic spell. Recovery is hard. But it doesn’t need to be any harder than it has to be.

Myth One: You need to meet with a full treatment team three times a week, or you don’t really want to recover. And if you don’t want it, you’ll never get better.

Truth: You probably do need support, but what form that takes is up to you.

Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t easy. If it were, we wouldn’t need to talk about it. And as with any difficult life issue, it helps to have people on your side.

But support looks different for everybody.

If you don’t meet regularly with a physician, a therapist, a nutritionist, and a psychiatrist, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to get better or that you’re not trying. It just means that your needs are different from other people’s needs.

Some people benefit from in-patient treatment centers. Others try out-patient programs at hospitals or other facilities. Some meet with a therapist a few times a week, go in for nutritional counseling, or try to go it on their own with family and friends on their side. I’m not suggesting that anyone should discount therapy or nutritional counseling. They’re valuable techniques that help many people sort out complicated problems. By all means, give them a go. But recovery and treatment are not one-size-fits-all.

Use your voice, not your eating disorder’s, to direct your life. Doing recovery your way (whatever way that is) means you’re beginning to take charge. For many, this comes with some kind of professional help or guidance from a trusted therapist. But the biggest change has to come from within. Find the help that works for you, and don’t give up.

Myth Two: Shifts in weight will happen at a rate of X pounds/week.

Truth: Honestly? Who the heck knows.

Not all eating disorders result in a drastic change in body weight. But some do. Whether you are hoping to lose weight after fighting with BED, gain weight after anorexia, or settle into your body’s set point and a regular pattern of eating after any eating disorder, your body is influenced by a number of factors. The duration of your disorder. Your height. Your family history and genetics. Your body type. Your metabolism. Your current level of stress. Heck, your sodium levels and how much you tend to sweat.

Your set point isn’t something that can be predicted. Bodies change with age and life circumstances, hormones and stress. I had a weight in mind I was comfortable with when I began recovery, but my body decided on a different one. All of this is scary, but it’s okay.

Medical professionals told me that my rapid weight shifts would stop after about six to eight weeks. I was also told a pound range that was normal to expect per week. Well, I gained about twice that per week, and it didn’t stop after eight weeks. It took me nine months. Disinterested strangers watching me might have mistaken me for a pregnant woman (Ah, recovery bloating). And that’s okay too. Your body is going to do what it needs, no matter how frightening that might seem.

The theory of a “set point”? I thought it sounded like the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. And then I found mine. It took longer than I wanted, but it does happen.

Every body is different. Just give yours time.

Myth Three: Relapsing means you failed at recovery.

Truth: Relapsing means you hit a setback. It’s how you deal with setbacks that matters.

A huge step in recovery is being able to step back after a moment of relapse and say, “Yes, I made a mistake,” or “I wish that had gone differently.” And then you continue on, planning to do better next time.

Relapses are not the end of the world. Of course, we try to avoid them at all costs, but sometimes learning what sparks a relapse can be important. What issues cause you to retreat back into destructive behaviors? What problems are still unresolved in your life? What is it about this situation that makes you want to wrench back control in this way?

Just because you have problems doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome them. You are strong and powerful and you can do it. You’ve proven that by deciding that you want recovery in the first place.

Need more reassurance? Watch this great video from Arielle Lee Bair on relapse in recovery. This inspiring poem by Portia Nelson captures the spirit of relapse and recovery—a comforting thing to keep in mind during hard times.

Beating yourself up over your mistakes is part of your disorder, not a viable way of ending it.

Myth Four: If you are underweight, you’ll feel way better as soon as you start gaining the weight back.

Truth: Weight restoration is hard.

Not necessarily because it’s hard to gain weight. It’s hard because it means looking your biggest irrational fear in the face and saying, “Come at me, bro.”

It’s hard. And it doesn’t always feel great, especially right away. In fact, weight gain can feel horrible (and terrifying) at first. Bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, gas, night sweats, impossible clothes shopping… It’s not fun.

But it gets better.

It’s a gradual better. You might not even notice it while it’s happening because you’re caught up in all the problems. But when you take a step back and realize, “Hey, I’m not cold all the time anymore,” or “I just ate breakfast and I didn’t think about the calories,” that’s when you see it. And it makes the rest a lot easier to take.

Myth Five: Complete recovery from any eating disorder is impossible.

Truth: If you’ll pardon my French, bullshit.

Recovery is hard work. I’ve been working at it for a year, and I’m still not totally there. But every day, I get closer.

I fall in love with my former off-limits foods. (Looking at you, French fries. Delicious.)

I continue to re-evaluate my relationship with exercise.

I think critically about weight-loss tabloid articles and the latest fad diets.

I surround myself with body positivity, whether through online communities and articles or re-directing conversations with friends and family that turn to body-snarking.

I might not love my body 100% of the time, every time. But I respect it for what it does, and it’s forgiving me for what I’ve put it through previously.

Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Confessions of a Reformed Yogi

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If yoga is supposed to be about getting in touch with yourself and developing inner peace, for years I was doing it wrong.

Some teachers say that there’s no “wrong” way to do yoga. Modifications and adaptations are all ways of listening to your body wants, and if you’re moving in a genuine expression of what you’re feeling, that’s no less valid than someone who can execute a perfect flying bakasana ten times out of ten. I agree with this. But these yogis weren’t talking about yoga practice the way I was doing it.

I began practicing yoga in the fall of 2011, through a reasonably priced and well-taught program at my university’s gym. I met with a fabulous teacher twice a week who put me through the paces of a vinyasa flow, starting gently and moving into longer sequences of postures. It felt great, especially as at this point I was trying to find a way to exercise while having been forbidden to run or do vigorous cardio. Yoga, it seemed, was the perfect solution to get a workout while leaving my running shoes at home.

Yes, I fell prey to the “yoga body fantasy.” If I spent enough time in downward-facing dog, if I did enough sun salutations, I would finally be able to get the slim, toned, perfect body I had spent so much time running trying to obtain. And even if the results weren’t immediate, at least it was a way of burning calories and toning my muscles instead of sitting on the couch and turning into a fat slob. Which, obviously, would happen within weeks, and would be irreversible. [*sarcasm abounds*]

My teacher told me that yoga was a mental, physical, and spiritual unity. My eating disorder told me it was a cardio workout.

I missed out on so much during these early practices. I focused only on the standing, high-intensity postures and loved the feeling of my leg muscles burning during warrior poses. I once did sun salutation after sun salutation not to get lost in the rhythm of mind-body movement but because it made me sweat and I couldn’t work up the motivation to go for a run. I scorned seated postures and worked every practice to the max. Come hell or high water, my inner perfectionist commanded, I would be the best damn yogi in that room.

Not exactly the best recipe for inner peace.

About a year ago, my recovery from my eating disorder actually took off, and my body began to undergo physical changes. In yoga, a practice so highly intertwined with an awareness of one’s body, where full-body scans are a normal practice, changes in body size create changes in the whole experience. And for me, these changes were almost traumatizing.

I hated the way my belly rested against my thigh when I moved into revolved side angle pose (put aside the fact that revolved side angle pose looks like this, and pretty much requires placing one’s belly on one’s thigh). Shoulder stand was agonizing as my shirt would slide up my chest, revealing the (so I saw) enormous fat rolls cascading towards my face. I’m sure the horrors of plow pose (with my newly-extant belly three inches from my face) need no elaboration. And let’s put aside that my yoga studio doubled as a ballet studio, and the two side walls were covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It was, to put it lightly, not exactly a relaxing hour.

As my recovery progressed, against all reason and logic, I had to take a step back from yoga. I was treating it as a weight loss crutch, and I would leave practice more stressed-out than I entered it after seeing my stomach and thighs from every angle imaginable. For several months, I didn’t touch the mat. I missed the sound of yoga breathing in my lungs, I missed the zone I used to fall into while doing sun salutations. But I wasn’t sure if I could handle it.

Last weekend, I hit the mat again. And it was glorious.

My roommate and I visited a tiny, out-of-the-way yoga studio on the far side of town. Both of us stressed, tense, and stiff (hello, midterms, you lovely beasts, you), we decided a nice, easy, soothing practice would only be beneficial. And you know what? It was the best feeling ever. We spent most of the practice seated, practicing spinal twists and stretching, releasing tension in our muscles. Not a high-intensity vinyasa flow in sight. I didn’t come out of the practice sore and sweating.

My old self would have felt cheated and disappointed. My current self felt energized and relaxed. Stomach resting on my thigh and all.

Yoga does not have to be about obtaining the perfect body. It can be about getting in touch with the body you have now, and treating it well so that it can treat you well in the future. It can be about taking a step back from the difficulties of everyday life and remembering, if only for an hour, to breathe. Yoga is for everybody, not just the lithe models in LuluLemon ads. Even with our complicated relationship in mind, yoga can be for me again.

So body hate, you can kiss my asana.

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Recovery: A Process, Not A Destination

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Feminine stereotypes? Forget it. I cut my hair short three years ago and I’ve never looked back. I get more angry at the team playing against my college football boys than most of my male friends. And, as I’ve written about before, I hate shopping.

A lot.

That’s not strictly true, of course: I enjoy shopping for shoes and tee-shirts. Things you don’t need to try on. Things that always look good and come in a variety of colors and patterns. That’s fun.

But every time I decide I need a new pair of pants, everything gets unnecessarily complicated. And I remember that recovery is a process, not a destination.

Obviously, there was a small event that sparked the need to write a post about this, and that small event happens to be back-to-school shopping. I’ll be starting my last year of college in about two weeks, and it seemed like a good idea to take advantage of one of the last times my parents will be willing to take me to the mall and get me a few new things to wear. After all, my Ramen-noodles-and-Goodwill budget days are just on the horizon.

As far as I’ve come in recovery, there are still some things that are incredibly difficult for me. Going up a size or two in clothes is one of those.

Now, I can rationalize my way through my discomfort until the cows come home. I can say that sizes across stores are not consistent, that size isn’t important and it’s how much healthier I am now that matters. I can remember how much I liked that pair of jeans I tried on twenty minutes ago, and how comfortable I was in them. And yet, when I hit that moment that the jeans in the size I thought I was no longer go over my thighs, I still get that sinking feeling in my stomach.

Why is this my particular issue? I don’t know, but every time I have to go to the mall, I notice that my thoughts become more negative, and my behaviors inch closer and closer to what could be considered a relapse. I want to be able to fit into the clothes I used to wear, though I know that there’s nothing wrong with my body the way it is now.

There are plenty of things to be learned from this pattern, but I’m going to focus on two of them here that might be useful to people other than myself. Meaning I’ll let slide the fact that I should probably stop shopping at Forever 21 for the sake of my sanity.

First, the fashion industry is not designed to bolster positive self-esteem.

This is as depressing as it is readily apparent. The media has recently bedeviled stores like Abercrombie & Fitch and, more recently, LuluLemon, that deliberately exclude what they call “plus-size” women and what logic and rational thinking call “the average-sized American woman.” Runway models are being recruited at eating disorder clinics. Fashion magazine editors are airbrushing out hipbones and ribcages on their models, leaving us with impossibly thin women with the consequences of extreme thinness erased with Photoshop. Sizes across stores are not consistent, and so it’s almost a given that you will go up three sizes just by crossing to the other side of the mall.

All this is to say that it’s not surprising that shopping might make somebody feel bad about themselves.

It doesn’t justify the practice, nor does it mean that looking for jeans is invariably a death sentence to your self-esteem. For me, it sometimes helps to realize that the problems I’m having are not because I’m crazy, but because there’s something endemic, something inherently twisted about the system. I’m not giving myself a free pass to mope, but I don’t need to blame myself for it.

Second, and I’ve said this before, recovery is a process, not an end point.

Sorry for the cheesy Tumblr inspirational pictures. Sometimes they're what you're in the mood for.

Sorry for the cheesy Tumblr inspirational pictures. Sometimes they’re what you’re in the mood for.

It’s more frustrating than usual that shopping can still get under my skin like this, because I really thought that I was doing well in recovery. I am able to go several days without worrying about my weight or beating myself up, and while my weight is still not quite as stable as I might like, it’s certainly better than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect.

It’s been a year since I actively began recovering from anorexia. I’ve marked September 1st on my calendar as my one-year anniversary, and I intend on celebrating in some random and exciting way. I’ve made a lot of progress. And while I do believe that full and total recovery from any eating disorder is 110% possible, it’s not the kind of thing that can be done by snapping your fingers and wishing it away.

Recovery takes work. It takes slip-ups. It takes realizing what pushes you over the edge and figuring out ways to face it head-on.

My head-space is still healing from yesterday, but I know that I need to find a way to look at shopping in a new light. I need to find a way to sit with the discomfort I have with my new body, and hopefully in time embrace the way I look and feel.

I still feel like I’m living through a real-life version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers at the moment. My mind has been moved into a body that I don’t know how to manipulate. It’s like puberty all over again, and heaven knows puberty was awkward enough the first time around.

Recovery isn’t hopeless, and mental doubt and difficulty is not a prison sentence.

It just means that the road is always more winding and complicated than we want it to be.

But every road has to end somewhere.

Serenity, Peace, and Cake: A Recovery Story

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Some of you who have been with me for a little while are pretty well acquainted with my recovery process. You’ve listened to me rant about the uselessness of doctors, therapists, and nutritionists, you’ve listened to me bang my head against the wall as the number on my scale continued to defy logic and science, you’ve listened to me work my way through triggering situations and try to wrap my head around the recovery process. Sometimes, when you put all these moments together, it seems like recovery is more trouble than it’s worth. But I can tell you this:

RECOVERY IS WORTH EVERY MOMENT YOU SPEND ON IT.

There’s so much negativity wrapped up in anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, body dysmorphia, EDNOS, and all other disordered eating behaviors in between, that it gets difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I began trolling the Internet for resources for people in my stage of recovery (not that kind of trolling. I’m not one of those people), everything I could find was, mood-wise, on par with a re-reading of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Thought-provoking and important, but not helpful when you’re looking for somebody to lift you up.

Well, I’m here to tell you today, I feel myself lifted. It does get better.

I am in recovery. And I’m farther along than you might think.

The event sparking this dramatic pronouncement is a pretty banal one, one that pretty much everybody experiences a few times a year barring those with severe gluten allergies, religious restrictions, or relatives who don’t like to bake: the birthday cake. June 6 was my dad’s 53rd birthday. And I baked him a cake.

That’s not particularly noteworthy in and of itself, if I’m being honest. Since last summer, I consider myself an improvisational baker. I enjoy pulling out the bags of flour and sugar and the adorable little jars of vanilla extract and whipping up something strange and delicious for my family while I’m at home for the summer. I quickly volunteer to provide things for the bake sales my student organizations at college put on every few weeks. Let’s be totally honest about my previous baking experience, however: I bake things. I don’t eat them.

Apparently this practice is not as uncommon or strange in those with eating disorders as I’d thought. I wish I’d read this article about linkage between cooking and eating disorders earlier: it pretty much describes my descent into foodie-ism to a T. I felt like a crazy person setting myself up for terrible failure: my “trigger foods” almost all involve sugar and/or chocolate, and here I am filling the house with things I’m not allowed to eat? But my family would tell me how delicious things were, and I would feel good that I could pull off something as grown-up and professional as cooking. It was great that, even if I couldn’t indulge in these heavy, non-safe foods, at least I could vicariously enjoy them by seeing my family praise them.

Plus, I was notorious about taking pictures of my concoctions. One of my largest Facebook albums contains nothing but pictures of food, usually centered on a contrastingly colored plate and under ambient lighting. I’m a terrible hipster that way.

When baking something I planned on eating myself, pre-recovery me would go to websites like Cooking Light, Eating Well or Weight Watchers and paw through recipes for that ideal 100-calorie-a-serving air-and-egg-whites dessert that I would pretend was exactly what I was craving. It wasn’t, by the way: I could have eaten a whole pan of peanut butter fudge with a spoon, but I decided that strawberry cheesecake cool whip trifle was really what I wanted.

Fun fact for all those who don’t believe that processed, sugar-heavy foods have any place in a balanced, healthy diet: the longer I went without my peanut butter fudge, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I would waste hours daydreaming about that Reese’s Cup Blizzard from Dairy Queen while eating a sugar-free Jello chocolate pudding. If that’s your idea of a healthy lifestyle, count me out. Everything in moderation, including moderation.

But back to tonight. Because my house is in a bit of an uproar at the moment (my dad’s in crunch time at work, my sister’s been sick for a week and my brother’s open house celebrating his high school graduation is this weekend), I ended up suggesting to my mother that I bake my dad’s birthday cake. And not only was I going to bake a cake, I was going to do it right. I dug into the recipe box and pulled out my grandmother’s recipe for chocolate-frosted banana cake.

In all its fabulous glory.

In all its fabulous glory.

Now, for those of you who aren’t blessed with the recipes of a Jewish grandmother, let me sum them up in two ways. 1) They are delicious. 2) They would stop the heart of each and every employee at Cooking Light. They pan out somewhere between ordinary food (“Hmm, this cake needs some sugar!”) and Paula Deen (“Add ALL THE BUTTER!”). Which is what make them so good. But for years, I would have made this cake for my dad and then quietly eaten my no-sugar-added trade-in dessert in the corner, basking in the praise of family and friends.

But not tonight.

No. Tonight I ate the cake. And I didn’t even feel bad about it.

You know why? Because chocolate-frosted banana cake is DELICIOUS.

Om nom nom nom.

Om nom nom nom.

Not only is it delicious, but it was a lot of work. You ever tried whipping up egg whites to a “soft peaks” consistency while simultaneously sifting flour and baking powder and mashing up five ripe bananas? You need more than two hands is all I’m saying.

Plus, it was my dad’s birthday, and I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have a family that means more to me than just about anything. They’re my serenity. They’re my stability. They’re the only people I can make Lord of the Rings jokes to at unexpected times and expect them to follow along. If I can’t enjoy celebrating with them, who can I celebrate with?

The cake politely chilled in my stomach as sustenance and a fond memory throughout the evening, and while during recovery I’ve eaten my fair share of decadent desserts, this was one of the few that I’ve had that I neither dreaded nor was consumed with guilt over. It was a piece of cake. Life goes on.

And life has gone on. Many of you have read my Freshly Pressed post where I discussed the problems with recovery weight gain that seems to go on in blatant disregard for the laws of physics. You want to know something fantastic? For the past month going on five weeks now, my weight has been in a stable, healthy, relatively unmoving zone.

Not to say I don’t still get fluctuations up and down, but they’re small, manageable, and don’t freak me out anymore. The scary part doesn’t last forever.

Recovery is a roller coaster ride without lap bars or seat belts. It flips you upside down and you’re hanging on by your fingernails and a prayer, wondering how long the ground is going to insist on being the sky. You think you can’t go on any longer. And then, all of a sudden, everrything flips the right way around again, and you’re just flying.

And there’s a delicious slice of chocolate-frosted banana cake waiting for you when you get off the ride.