Chapter 1: Ithaca is Gluttonous

I requested that WordPress send me an email weekly to remind me to keep up with my goal of posting one per week. According to them, a lot has happened since my last post a couple of weeks ago and I should write about it. And a lot has happened. I’ve cried several times. Received from pretty solid take-home messages from my therapist. Had some deep thoughts.

So here I sit with puffy eyes after a melatonin-laden sleep with yesterday’s refrigerated coffee trying to garner some creative GENIUS for this post.

Thanks, Linds, for capturing this.. -_-

Thanks, Linds, for capturing this.. -_-

My last entry was a prologue to my journey since last summer. Naturally this should begin to tell that story. So, let’s.

I took a nutrition counseling class last spring, and in the class our professor asked for a volunteer to come to the front and be a client. My friend Sammi said under her breath, “Nicole will do it…” and I said I would NOT because I’m sick of always volunteering. However no one volunteered and I couldn’t leave the prof hanging so up I went.

I guess I could say that was a life-changing moment, now that I think about it. In those next 10 minutes it was like it was just me and the professor in the classroom. She had me totally focused on her questions, and I finally saw what it could be like to have a good therapist. I had tried several a couple years earlier without avail (would you continue to see one who told you that “lawyers don’t know how to have a conversation” so your dad probably has no personality?), and this was different. My professor’s first question to me was “So what brought you here today?” I had to think fast because, I don’t know, I volunteered to sit up in this chair, so I said, “I just don’t think of food the same way that I used to.” And we went from there. She asked me some personal stuff. Lowest weight in adult years. How I’d gotten to that weight. When we were done I needed to let out a big exhale. It was kind of intense answering questions about my relationship with my body and food in front of 18 other people. But I am so thankful I did. I knew I had a lot to explore, as they say, but that 10-minute intro sesh was eye-opening.

Fast forward to this past summer at my Cornell 5-year reunion. I was excited to go but overwhelmed because I wanted to eat everything that I’d loved as a student there. Even before arriving, food added an exciting but slightly negative component to the weekend. I’m disappointed to say that food essentially ruined my weekend up there. The first night I was distracted by whether I should eat more pizza at dinner (I did). Then I hastily purchased two Betty Crocker cookie dough bars so no one could see while we all bought ponchos for shelter in the downpour (#Ithaca), and secretly ate them through my poncho walking to the quad (those big sleeves come in handy). The next day I ate so much BBQ, despite the fact that I was still full from breakfast, that I skipped sushi with my pledge class and by the end of the night got totally sick (the quality of the BBQ was questionable, but I blame overfeeding myself regardless).

It was sad. Looking back on the weekend, I don’t think as much about catching up with old classmates, or walking campus with two of my friends and taking beautiful pictures once the sun finally came out. What sticks out in my mind is that food consumed me to the point where it was a total distraction and ruined my night. Disappointing as that was, it was a turning point. I called my then therapist-to-be that week and made an appointment.

One thing I quickly learned in therapy regarding that weekend is that one of the reasons I couldn’t control myself at the reunion is that I didn’t allow myself to eat anything like that normally. I ate in a manner that I considered healthy but was actually restrictive. I thought I had some sort of balance going on: really “good” and really “bad”. Two opposites – that’s balanced, right?

Well, not exactly, because that sort of pattern isn’t a healthy one. That’s one of the many lessons I’ve learned in therapy, and it’s one that I try to keep with me. NOT easy to do, I can tell you. Winter break in Austin (i.e. Tex-Mex and the best BBQ ever) put a few extra pounds on this chica, which has not been sitting well with me, and I think about restrictive (quick/easy) ways to get back to normal frequently. I’ll go into that in a future chapter, including healthy behaviors to help you achieve a positive relationship with food. For now, though, I’ll leave you with something sweet:

The Wegman’s cookie. I ate two at lunch that Saturday hoping my friends wouldn’t notice…

Prologue

I’ve been trying to find my “voice” for a little while now. My blogging voice, that is.  I started my original blog maybe… wow two years ago?… called AFutureRD. It chronicled the day-to-day life of a future dietitian trying to find the delicate balance between living life healthfully and to the fullest. I thought I knew what I was talking about, and to an extent, I did, but a lot has changed since then.

A couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to workout with my boyfriend after work, but I felt like crap. I wanted to cry. This happens to me sometimes. I feel “depressed” and want to do absolutely nothing but sit or eat. Rather, I want to do nothing but sit and eat.  Literally just sit and eat and cry, all at the same time (glorious trifecta, eh?). That day, I knew that if I did make it to the gym, I’d start crying in the middle of our workout and thus told him I was going to skip it. He’s a personal trainer and had just come from training a client (good for her, I suppose). He was hungry, and I was hungry, so we decided to hang out and order Chinese.

No workout. Yes Chinese delivery. I felt like my dreams had come true.

We ate food and watched Modern Family. It was lovely. Until he left for his next client. I got into bed and ate dessert. I’m supposed to eat dessert once a day (I’m serious), so I ate 3 Halloween-candy sized Baby Ruths. I stared blankly at American Idol until I felt like a couch potato and had tears in my eyes. At that point it was 9 pm, and I had been doing nothing for 5 hours. I had to move. I rolled out of bed, gathered fallen pieces of chocolate and peanuts into my hand, got myself together and ran out the door to the gym.

Though I only broke a teensy sweat, I was pretty happy that I went. But the sense of satisfaction was transient. Two blocks into my walk home I felt down again: “Everything sucks. I want to cry. I have no motivation to do anything.”

Blah blah blah. And the little white girl cried all the way home.

Knowing that things weren’t actually that bad, I attempted to do what I’ve heard can be helpful when feeling this way, which is to take time to think of things for which I’m grateful. I got as far as “Well, I have my health…” before feeling like it was totally cheesy and superficial, so I took a second and thought of something related to the situation for which I was truly grateful.

I thought of how I would have handled the situation eight months ago.

<<Clears throat>>: I would have left work at 5 pm. Feeling sad, I would have stopped into Sprinkles and bought two mini cupcakes – so I didn’t feel like I was being “that bad.” I wouldn’t have felt satisfied, though (I mean, they’re small), so after getting out of the subway, I would have picked up something else, something convenient, maybe a pack of cookies from CVS or Reese’s from a newspaper street guy, or – ew – a Snickers brownie from Pax (clearly it wasn’t always about quality). Craving savory after, I would have stopped to get pizza, 2 slices, and burnt my tongue because I’d have eagerly taken a bite while walking home.  I would have felt kind of exhausted but not “done,” so next would be dessert (again), probably frozen yogurt. I might have ordered delivery, because walking the 10 blocks to get fro-yo would have meant admitting that I was really “doing this”. With the $10 minimum, I would have had to order two, pretending that both wouldn’t get eaten that night. Amidst all of the eating, panic and regret would begin to sink in, so I would pull out my phone, scan the spin class schedule for the next day, and schedule two classes. Next would have been a string of text messages to my mom and sister about how shitty I felt about everything I had just eaten, to which they would respond that I still “look fine” and “always get back on track.” I would stress that that’s not the point, watch TV, and go to bed.

Do you need to take a deep breath? Because I do.

As feelings of hopelessness set in that night after the gym, I decided to acknowledge how much I’ve improved. I didn’t eat dessert on the way home because I knew I could eat it later on (as per my daily dessert allowance). I didn’t go crazy at the gym to punish myself for eating too much Chinese or one too many Baby Ruths.  And while I still felt pretty down, it was a world of difference from the mess that would have occurred eight months ago.

As I wrote my original blog, I realized that I was exposing unhealthy, hyper-balanced, compulsive, restrictive eating and behavior. I didn’t want to show that anymore. And from a nutritional standpoint, trying to “undo the bad” with “super clean” eating isn’t a healthy message to send. I know that now. Eight months ago I finally decided to speak to someone about how I felt, and I’m so thankful I did. Sometimes I still feel stuck. Other times I feel my life has changed because of it. I do know, though, that I have a much healthier mindset now. And can you guess the best part?

I get to eat dessert once a day 🙂

And this was tonight’s

one smart cookie

photo
Here is the recipe for the whole wheat dark chocolate chip avocado cookies I made last night! I just took a new batch out of the oven – this time with walnuts! – and 3 are gone…
This recipe is for 12 cookies:
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (Note: That says one and a half, not one-half. I learned that the hard way with a muffin recipe a while back…)
1/2 cup ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350*. I have a convection oven (no real oven in my NYC studio apartment), so I set mine to 325*.
  2. Cream together the avocado and white and brown sugars until they are smooth.
  3. Beat in egg.
  4. Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda. *A recipe on allrecipes.com instructed to dissolve the baking soda in hot water. I haven’t looked up exactly what that’s for yet, and I kind of forgot to let the baking soda actually dissolve in the water before adding it in. However, those are part of the instructions, so I feel inclined to share them with you.
  5. Add flour and chocolate chips.
I baked them two different ways. The first time I made them into rather robust round balls (I rolled them in my hands, which is helpful because the dough is sticky). They didn’t flatten out much like a regular cookie, so the second time, I used less dough and made them flatter before cooking. A taste tester today told me the first way is better, so, in conclusion: roll them with your hands into round balls and lay them on a “greased” cooking sheet (I used Pam cooking spray).

Hello, little ones.

They took about 20 minutes to bake in my convection oven. Longer than normal cookies. But experiment a bit with your oven. If you have a regular oven and it’s at 350* see what happens after 10 minutes or so (toothpick time!).
They won’t brown too much, and they stay somewhat fluffy. Honestly, halfway through cooking I’ve flattened them with a spatula so they cook a bit faster.
They’re quite good! I need to not eat 3 at once in the middle of the day (end-of-day dessert, however, is a different story…). I like them because they’re whole wheat and therfore have more fiber, and because the avocado is of course a healthier fat than regular butter. It also has way fewer calories. I want to attempt to do a side-by-side comparison of fat, fiber, calories, etc. of regular cookes vs. these. Stay-tuned for that! In the meantime, enjoy :).