Valentine’s Day: celebrating self-love

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For as long as I can remember I hated Valentine’s Day. Seeing all these happy couples doing cheesy things like holding hands and cuddling and girls carrying stuffed animals and giant bags full of gifts made me want to projectile-vomit and cut my eyes out because it felt like too much cheesy romantic things. Also, I didn’t need a reminder that I was single.

This year however I’m experiencing a different sort of emotion about Valentine’s Day. Yeah sure there’ll be the usual barrage of annoying couples doing annoying stuff(ugh), but somehow this month I’ve been reflecting on the many events I’ve been pt through that have tested and helped develop my character, and I’ve come to marvel at how much I’m learning what it really means to love yourself.

Loving yourself isn’t just about talking positive about yourself and having a healthy amount of confidence. Loving yourself also involves doing things that remind you of your self-worth & doing things that contribute to your own happiness.

So many young girls and women these days struggle to love themselves because they experience low self-esteem and low confidence, thereby making them feel unworthy of love. They judge themselves too much, compare themselves to unrealistic standards of physical attractiveness and engage in unhealthy behaviors (e.g. excessive exercising or disordered eating patterns) in order to fit into a mold set forth by society, all because they can’t accept and love themselves for the way they are right now.

This Valentine’s Day I’m taking a different approach. Instead of celebrating love for a guy I intend to celebrate love for myself. The many years I’ve spent struggling with an eating disorder and poor body image has made me realize that many of the things I’ve done were done out of self-hatred. Starving myself, binging, cutting, criticizing my looks, obsessively counting calories, rejecting compliments, hiding under ugly baggy clothes, were all things that were done out of self-hatred. When you love yourself, you nourish your body right rather than starve yourself. When you love yourself, you don’t punish your body for eating because of the unnecessary excessive guilt it inflicts upon you. When you love yourself, you dress to express your personality instead of hiding your body out of shame.

Also, this Valentine’s Day I’m celebrating my capacity for self-love by recognizing my worth and value as a woman. I’ve abandoned toxic relationship because my worth as a person, be it as a friend or romantic partner, wasn’t being sufficiently recognized and was making me unhappy. Through various situations I’ve faced & that has tested me, I’ve learned to recognize my self-worth, remind myself of the value that I am, be kind to myself & not disrespect myself in any way by compromising my beliefs to please others. When you love yourself, you are kind to yourself & make choices that you’re comfortable with. When you love yourself, you don’t change to please others; you be yourself and the right people will come to you. When you love yourself, you come to realize that self-criticism is a dangerous method of self-destruction & you mindfully engage in less of it.  

This Valentine’s Day, learn to fall in love with and embrace your imperfections, your flaws, the physical parts of your body that you want to change, your fears, your insecurities, your quirks because they are what make you uniquely you.

This Valentine’s Day, appreciate the love and passion that rests in your soul. Appreciate how sensitive you are, how kind you are, how loyal you are, how loving you are, and how giving you are. Don’t let heartbreak and loneliness douse the fire in your heart. Appreciate that you make mistakes & learn from them because you’re human. Appreciate that you can never be as strong as you want to be all the time, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and learn from being outside your comfort zone.

Finally, this Valentine’s Day, this photoshoot is to celebrate my love for myself because after years of hating my body, I want to live in the moment and enjoy exactly how fabulous and great I felt in that smashing bodysuit and tights.

“The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”

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eating disorders & the paradox of controlling our food

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There’s something involved in eating disorders that play an incredible important role in recovery, and also serves to intensify out eating disorder exaggerated – control.

When my eating disorder was a lot worse, I was trying to control just about everything. Calories in and calories out, food groups, amount of exercise, time to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack, fat and muscle percentages & weight I was trying to achieve. I was trying to pinpoint everything to to reaching that unachievable numeric goal. And the more I tried to control, the more my own intentions backfired me, making my eating disorder even worse and delaying recovery.

Why? Because I refused to surrender myself to my body’s needs. When I wanted rice I forced myself to eat brown bread instead. When I wanted white chocolate I forced myself to go guzzle a load of water. When I wanted curry I reluctantly chose clear soup. When I wanted cheesy pizza I unenthusiastically chose salad without dressing. Not just once, but as many times as I could.  I pretty much was denying my body what it needed and what it wanted.

Here’s the thing: when we enter a relationship with food with the aim of controlling the amount of food we put into our body, the (not-so) funny thing is that it ends up controlling us. When I was dieting and restricting my food I was in control, but when I binged, I felt like I had lost control of what I was doing. When we restrict ourselves so much to the point that our body rebels. We don’t make leeways for desserts, mistakes or one-off occasions. Everything must be followed according to the book and when we deviate from our rigid rules, we end up punishing ourselves.

We binge, because our body is starving. A binge is our body’s natural biological response to what we are doing to our body. 

And let’s be honest. For how long can we “control” ourselves? Do we want to control ourselves for the rest our lives, telling ourselves to choose option A over option B because option B might make you fat?

Your relationship to food is a reflection of your relationship with your life.  What is it in your life that you are trying to gain control or change that is making you restrict? A fear of loneliness that makes you binge to feel better? Trying to get a thin body & obsessing over your food intake? Wanting to get more attention and praise & so obsessively exercising to get a ripped lean body that those fit chicks on Instagram?

In my opinion, an important key to recovering (and deriving happiness from it) is this:

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Whenever I find myself obsessing over calories and getting anxious about my weight, I force myself to sit down and think “Why am I wanting to restrict my food and lose weight?” My answer? I wanted to be thinner; I wanted to lose weight, get attention and seek praise.

And then I think back to what I did to achieve that and what happened when I lost the extra weight: constantly watching what I eat and constantly wondering what I can and cannot eat to lose weight, exercising more and even comparing myself to pictures of thin women and using that as motivation to lose weight. Needless to say, my emotional wellbeing took a dip. When I chose to let go (difficult but I still chose it), I was so much happier. I was less stressed about food & wasn’t beating myself up over that bite of chocolate.

That’s the paradox of control. You can be in control of your life ONLY when you stop trying to be in control of every single aspect all the time. Maybe that’s a lesson that is also involved in eating disorder recovery:  that it’s okay to not be in control at all timesThat its okay to be imperfect. That its okay to overeat on some days. That its okay to not have a meal plan or if you do, to not follow it 100% all day everyday. That its okay to not an itty bitty waist or the body that some celebrities have.

When we stop trying to control our food, we start:

  • Really listening to our body and eat what our body tells us it needs
  • Allowing ourselves sweets and chocolate and cake and ice-cream when we want it without feeling guilty.
  • Removing any emotional associations with food.
  • Finding out that we don’t crave “bad” foods as much as want
  • Choosing to eat foods based on what our body feels it needs at that moment

We can’t always control what we eat, how much we eat and how much we exercise. The thing we can control, is how we choose to respond to a situation. The more we try to control what/how/when we eat, the more emotionally distressed we feel (anger, sadness, self-disgust). But if we choose to change how we perceive food, our relationship to food, and displace our self-worth from our weight, the less our food will control our mental wellbeing

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Perfection doesn’t exist and we are all flawed so let’s just learn to accept that we are flawed human beings just wanting to survive, wanting to pat the dust off our shoes and work on recovering from our disordered eating patterns and just be the best person in recovery that we can be.

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10 minutes with Anastasia Amour

  Hey guys! For today’s blog post I thought I’d take a different approach & introduce to you one of the bloggers whom I follow on social media. In our quest to be more body-positive and break free from the cycle of disordered eating, we look to others for inspiration, to give us hope, love and support, as well as the derivation of comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone in our fight to recover and develop a positive body image.

I’m always on the lookout for people to follow, be it through blogs or Instagram, to get inspiration and encouragement for my own journey & always want to find out more about their own personal journey, their personal stories, and their personal perspectives on issues that are important to me. So today I’d like to introduce you to one of the very first persons I looked up to. Say hello to…Anastasia Amour!

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Anastasia is an eating-disorder surviver (read her story About Anastasia) & body-image educator and blogger from Australia, where snow falls in June and where the summer heat sears in December! She is the founder of her blog: http://www.anastasiaamour.com where she dishes out practical and empowering advice about developing a positive body image, being an empowered, self-confident woman & well as coping with the challenges of an eating disorder based on her own experience with anorexia. Anastasia’s was actually the first blog and IG account I followed when I was searching for body-positive and ED recovery accounts to follow (hehe) and hence, I thought it fitting to dedicate this first interview to her & introduce this wonderful woman to you, & also to pick her brains about her  thoughts and reflections about some of the tribulations and triumphs of eating disorder recovery.

 I love her blog and her other social media accounts because its just jammed-packed with so much empowering and positive posts that cover the tiny little everyday things that affect the way we see ourselves – such as the words we use & the things we do –  to dead-serious issues that make you stop in your tracks and wonder why you’ve never thought about it impacts women. She posts encouraging motivational quotes to remind us of our worth, what it means to be an empowered womb, as well conducts her own social media movements, such as the Fearless Body Confidence, to spread messages of body-love, healthy, diet-free living, confidence & self-acceptnce.

Plus her blog & all her posts are so pretty!! ❤ ❤ ❤ Makes me wish I knew more about HTML! Sigh pie.

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I think what made me decide to want to personally reach out to her is because I wanted to create a bridge from the superficials of what I know about her and what she does, as well as gain insight into what she really thinks about some issues that I, as well as other women, go through during an ED recovery. Sometimes, when I read blogs or even Instagram feeds I feel a slight sense of disconnect from the user even though we share the same struggles because while I love their work, part of me always yearns want out to find out more. I wonder if she felt this way. Did go through the same thing I did. Does this affect her as well? I wonder what she thinks about this issue I’ve been thinking about.

When I read her responses to the questions, I was so floored! I kept going “OMG yes exactly this is what I’m thinking too. OMG yes, girl I know what you mean. OMG yes now somebody i know feels the same way about this. OMG yes, this was what I went through.”   Hence, I wanted to introduce you to her and the awesome work she does to uplift women because isn’t that what the blogging and body-positive community is about? 😀 Also, I think it pretty much reinforces this important fact: you’re not alone in this struggle. Sometimes I keep thinking that I’m the only one feeling this way because I can’t seem to find anyone sharing the same experiences. The information I source online are all…impersonal. If you get what I mean. Written by the hands of a journalist or researcher instead of one who has actually experienced what I’m going through. But then there are people like Anastasia, advocates who reach out to other women in wonderful awesome ways to empower them, to help them reinvent themselves and be confident queens ❤

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Anyway, here’s Anastasia for you ❤ For those in recovery, I hope her responses strike a chord in you that motivate you to continue reaching for that shining light that will help you stay on recovery!

heart border1Hi! For those unfamiliar with your work and what you do, please introduce yourself.

Hello! My name is Anastasia and I’m a Body Image Educator from Australia, writing at anastasiaamour.com. Suffering from Anorexia Nervosa in my teens, I went through some very dark things – now having recovered, I’ve gone on to study Psychology and Mental Health, and I dedicate my life to empowering all women to feel beautiful, whole and amazing in the skin that they’re in.

What made you decide to reach out to others?
I know that there’s such huge power in community and sharing our stories and when I was at my lowest points, I longed for a sense of camaraderie with other people who were going through the same thing. None of us are truly alone in life.

Your eating disorder story that you’ve shared on your blog touches the hearts of so many women struggling with the same things! What were some initial struggles you faced with your recovery?
The hardest thing about recovery for me was the fact that I chose to do it all myself. I was very secretive about what I was going through and although my parents and friends could easily tell I had an eating disorder, I never actually said the words to anyone or let them in on what was happening to me. I felt sure that I would fail everyone around me if I told them and I falsely believed that needing help would make me weak, so my recovery was entirely self initiated and managed. It was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

As someone who’s recovered from your eating disorder, have there been times when you felt tempted to return to your old habits? How did you overcome them?
Plenty of times! Relapses are real and sometimes no matter how well you think you’re doing, those old thoughts and habits can infiltrate your mindset. With many cases of Anorexia Nervosa, even when a sufferer has “recovered” there will still be old thought patterns and pathways within the mind. I say many cases because in some ED sufferers, the triggers for their ED are largely internal but for most, external variables are merely the catalyst that sparks an internal imbalance caused by a complex series of processes in the brain that misinterpret hunger and emotional cues, to name just a few elements. Knowing this, relapses are inevitable and for me, knowing that my ED is always going to be a part of me, it’s about prevention. If I can take steps to minimize the impact of relapses, they’re usually much less severe.

There will be times when people think about cutting back their food intake, or exercising to compensate for their meal & sometimes wishing they were thinner, even when they say they are fully recovered. What are your thoughts on that? What is recovery, then? Do you think that one can be “fully recovered” from an eating disorder?
This ties back to what I mentioned in the previous question, and the definition of “recovery” will vary from person to person depending on what they’ve been diagnosed with and whether the triggers for them are internal or external. It’s a complex subject because the definition of “relapse” may also vary between sufferers – for example, one sufferer might count a relapse as any thoughts of bingeing/restricting whereas another sufferer might only count a relapse as a full blown episode of disordered behaviors. For me, recovery is a symbolic concept of inner peace and acceptance, and knowing that even in the midst of my relapses, I have the strength and tools to handle it. Personally, tying recovery to a concept that comes from within is much more satisfying than putting a condition on it because I don’t consider my relapses to invalidate my successes and triumphs. After all, mental illnesses aren’t a choice.

What has changed since embarking on recovery, in terms of your perception of yourself, your mindset or your attitude? What prevented you from relapsing?
I’m constantly changing, learning and growing and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I’m not the same person as I was yesterday, and I’ll be slightly different again tomorrow. I don’t want to hold myself to a definition of what I “should” be because I know that we’re all ever-evolving, and I want to embrace that. And like I said, relapses are very much a reality for me sometimes. You can’t predict that, so the best you can do is to be well prepared knowing that they might happen again at any point.

How do your blog and Instagram help girls and women struggling with body image issues & eating disorders?
I’ve had a lot of comments from girls & women suffering telling me how helpful it is just to see a range of bodies. I’m all for diversity in representation of the female form in the media, and I want to shatter the idea that only a certain type of woman’s body can be attractive. I love disconnecting the notion that your worth as a woman only comes from your appearance; instead embracing the idea that it’s totally okay to be at peace with your body and love it.

Losing weight can be a very personal decision & can be motivated by many reasons. The body-positive movement encourages women to accept & embrace their body; to exercise to reap its health benefits more than to achieve aesthetic objectives, yet there are people who choose to embrace the latter. What is your response to that? Can a person struggling with body image issues learn to be more body-positive yet still want to lose weight to look a certain way?
I think it would be naïve to attempt to completely disconnect body satisfaction with wanting to look a certain way, and where you draw the line at wanting to change your body and how that affects your mindset varies for the individual – one person’s obsession is another person’s norm. It’s entirely possible to love your body but still want to change it in one way or another, and whether or not the desire to change is “healthy” is largely connected to the motivation behind the change.

Recovering from an eating disorder is slow and can be tiring and equally stressful with lots of obstacles along the way. What advice do you have for other women struggling with their own eating disorder journey?
Recovery can be exhausting and it’s hard to explain that feeling to someone who hasn’t been through it! Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that even though those around you might not understand what you’re going through, they want to help you. If you can’t talk to a friend or parent, there are counselors and psychologist and help line workers who are all happy to listen to you, and sometimes it’s so helpful just to get your feelings off your chest. Never underestimate the power of talking about what you’re going through!

People struggling with eating disorders have a distorted relationship with food. Based on your own recovery journey, how can one reframe his/her thoughts about food to see it as fuel instead of as the enemy?
One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people (including those who aren’t suffering from ED’s) make with food is forming these intense emotional connections to it, especially around the emotions of guilt, fear and loneliness. It’s very hard to see food as just fuel when you lock yourself in a cycle of treating food as this big, scary and highly emotionally stimulating trigger. Again, this is going to vary for the individual and their specific issues but it all starts with tracing back your relationship with food to understand when you first started to form emotional relationships with what’s on your plate. You can then begin to unpick that and work from there.

We live in a society that continues to glorify thin bodies. Despite your acceptance of your flaws and your vulnerabilities, have you at times, wished you were thinner? How do you overcome that? What can we do?
For sure. I don’t tend to think of my body in that way any more and glorification of thin bodies doesn’t have to come at the vilification of larger bodies, and vice versa. For a long time I perceived my body as the polar opposite of thin, and it’s that “black and white” thinking that can be particularly damaging, particularly to ED sufferers. These days I prefer not to slap a label on my body, as seeing where my body fits on a spectrum doesn’t necessarily add anything to my existence. My body is just my body, and I don’t need to label it as fat or thin or anything in between. It’s just mine.

When you look back to who you were before embarking on your recovery journey, what are some thoughts and feelings that you have about how far you’ve come in terms of how the process of recovery has empowered and changed you?
The transformation within myself has been huge. I’m sure those who’ve known me for the entire time can certainly see that change but I think the full extent of the person I used to be vs. the person I am now is something that only I see fully – I’m a fairly private person and at the height of my struggles, I didn’t let anyone in on with what was going on with me. Even after recovering, there are still maybe 60% of the details of what went on with me that no one else knows. So introspectively, the change is really noticeable to me. These days I find empowerment in sharing what I’m going through and overall, I feel whole inside. The crushing emptiness and nothingness and great hatred and sadness that used to live inside me is now filled with light. And that’s not to say that I don’t have my negative moments because I certainly do, but I don’t actively open the door to negativity anymore.

What do you think it means to be an empowered woman?
The beauty of empowerment is that it can mean whatever you want it to mean – it’s up to you to define it! Personally I feel empowered when I’m not comparing myself to others and when I’m celebrating the success of some of the amazing women around me. I know that someone else succeeding doesn’t invalidate my own success, and it’s such a gorgeous feeling to be able to embrace that and lift up others

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Follow Anastasia’s journey and learn to be an empowered confident woman at: Anastasia Amour

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anxieties about eating when traveling abroad

Wow so its been a while since I last did a proper blog post. In between job-hunting & experiencing a quarter-life crisis trying to figure my life out, I’ve been feeling pretty zoned out and just felt a need to take a break from what I do on social media with regards to body image and EDs.

A few days ago I was just looking through the photos I took during my solo trip to Japan (Kyoto, Osaka & Nara) and found some pictures of food that I took. I’m by no means those people on Instagram with the compulsive urge to take pictures of their food before eating it. I’m more of the “can we just eat already?” kind of person. Anyway, I had taken the photos because I knew that when I got back, I wanted to do a blog post about the anxieties I always experience whenever I travel abroad and eateng.

Every time before I travel I’m always plagued by these questions

  • What if I can’t find food that’s suitable for me?
  • What kind of food can I eat?
  • Will the food I’ve been eating be available there?
  • What if I get fat?

In ED recovery, there is a “routine” of sorts that you become familiar with that is really important in  recovery, especially in the early phases. After spending so long eating haphazardly and bouncing from not eating to full blown bingeing, its important to establish a proper eating routine to help your body get its natural appetite and rhythm back and help you learn how and when to eat. At home (Singapore), I’m familiar with what types of food I can get, and where I can get them. I’d stick to certain types of food and avoid foods that I know will trigger unhealthy thoughts. I make sure that I eat something balanced at every meal (proteins/carbs/veggies) instead of just proteins orchards because I know I will start panicking if I eat only from one food group. Routine helps ease my anxiety because the predictability of knowing and being able to plan what food I will eat helped ease my transition into longer-lasting recovery. Routine also gives me something to rely on. Whenever I have a slip and mess up my eating, be in through overeating or bingeing from, negative thoughts, stress or boredom, I tell myself to just calm down and make a mental note to go back to my “routine” of my regular eating patterns that I’ve been adhering to (e.g. balanced meals, drinking lots of water etc). Routine also means that sometimes when I just don’t feel comfortable with eating a certain food, especially when I eat out, I’ll fall back on something that I know is “safe” for me.

While routine has its benefits, it also has its consequences in the long run. In the long run, routine means that we don’t learn to break out of our comfort zone. We end up eating the same type of food from the same places at every meal and may actively reject food that doesn’t adhere to our routine. We can’t possibly do that the rest of our lives? Are we going to reject cake at a best friend’s party because its not part of our routine, even if its just for one day? Are we going to refuse to enter a cafe or restaurant because it doesn’t serve the exact type of food you want? One can become bored with routine after a while. We need to practice flexibility and be willing to explore different types of food once in a while

The first few months of my recovery I spent a long time creating my own routine. I made sure to drink water before and after each meal because I know that when I don’t feel full, I may end up bingeing like I would in the past. I try my best to make sure I eat a balanced meal each time I eat and at the same time so that I wouldn’t panic at eating only carbs or only protein.

Before going to Japan (and also before my three trips to the USA) however, I spent about a week worrying about food. I’d be facing a totally new environment. I wouldn’t be able to go to a coffeeshop and order from a menu that I know. I don’t know what kind of food there will be. What kind of food am I going to be able to get? What happens if I have a slip? What if the food makes me fat?

After days of frantic anxiety and introspection, I came to the simple conclusion: I am going on vacation people. The point of a vacation is to see & experience new things. I’m not going to bring my alter-ego Snix along for the ride. I want to breathe in fresh hair, struggle to communicate with the locals, get lost in alleyways, watch the sunsets & walk all over the city. I don’t want to spent hours on end agonizing over food. I don’t want to go to a new country and eat food that I can eat back home. Heck I want to be able to try the local food while I’m there. That’s what traveling is about. Agonizng about food just robs you of the amount of joy & enthusiasm you will experience while on vacation.

Of course being on vacation doesn’t mean you should put your recovery on hold and take this as an opportunity to overeat every day. Yes, I was still worried & I wanted to enjoy myself without so I made sure to apply my own principles that I learned while I was abroad that: (1) eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full, (2) whenever possible try to eat balanced meals & (3) know your trigger foods but be willing to try something new. 

For instance, I typically have toast for breakfast in the morning, but I didn’t want to have plain ol’ toast while in Japan. In Japan, green tea and red bean go together like peanut butter and jelly. So every morning for breakfast I’d eat a different type matcha green tea pastry filled with azuki beans, topped with eggs…well, because I like eggs. One day it’d be a green tea danish pastry with red bean paste, the next I’d have a green tea choux puff with azuki beans and the next I’d have a green tea croissant topped with almonds and azuki beans. Its still bread, but just a different type of bread I always eat. When I ordered soba noodles from a noodle stand on the streets after visiting the Bamboo Grove Forest, I ordered extra sides as I didn’t want to eat only the noodles & wanted something with protein to satisfy my appetite.

What also helped keep me distracted from my worries about eating was that I was kept really busy with sightseeing. I was always seeing new things and taking in new sights and just the awe & excitement at being able to see beautiful world heritage sights was enough to take my mind off from food. Why worry about something like food when you can have a visual feast on breathtaking gardens, historic temples & magnificent mountains and lakes? When you’re treated to magnificent views, food becomes irrelevant.

To those of you with fears about how to continue your recovery journey while on vacation, give yourself a break and allow yourself in try some of the local cuisine there because you can’t do that often when you’re back home! Not only will trying the local food give you bragging rights (you guys had borsch soup? Sweet, did I tell you I had authentic borsch soup while I was in Russia), it helps you break away from your comfort zone and learn how to be more flexible with your eating and add more variety and fun to your meals. You don’t have to try something new for every meal time if it will make you panic, but do make the effort to try something new for at least one of your meals.

It can be daunting and scary, but the key here is to not think about dieting. Think about how you started your recovery and what steps you did to get your eating back on track? Continue to apply those when you are choosing the foods you eat and when eating them. For me, it was to have a balanced meal (I need to have a good mix of both carbs and proteins in every meal now and will feel weird if I don’t), eat til I’m full and drink water.

Now now to address the elephant in the room: as for your fear of getting fat, unless you’re in a tour group where’ll you’ll be sitting in a tour bus, think of all the walking and running around you’ll be doing. Some of the best sights in a new town are only discovered by walking so put on your walking shoes and go walk around! You’ll be getting in tons of cardio by all that hours of walking. I admit I too was afraid about gaining weight when abroad because I most certainly am not going to go to the gym when in Japan. But I was walking just about everywhere I went. I mean literally almost everywhere I went –  except of course when I needed to take the trains to other parts of the city – as it was just too far. I was walking along busy streets, “accidentally” walking into back alleys, strolling long pathways next to lakes and flowers & climbing up hills and endless stairs. Moreover, buses don’t really run in temples, shrines and gardens so there was a lot of distance that I covered on foot and I got to see lots of amazing sights that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I took the bus.

Finally, please remember this crucial thing: you are abroad. It can be for leisure or business, but the fact is: you’re going to a different country! That’s an exciting thing for anybody and you shouldn’t let your fear of food get in the way of discovering new and exotic places! Sure it might take some planning and some effort, but you’ll definitely enjoy your experience more so go ahead, bring out that wanderlust and treat yourself ❤

And now…PICTURES

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This is a traditional Japanese food called Okonomiyaki. It was 8pm by the time I got back to the Kyoto Station area where my guesthouse was and I was starving and simply decided to just go to whatever happened to be open at the time. It was my first day then and hadn’t really the chance to look around at the food places. I came across this in the menu and was about to pass it up, but decided that since I was in Japan, it’d be silly to not try a traditional Japanese food. It came with a choice of fillings so I had this with pork though I didn’t particularly fancy it as it was more wheat than anything else. I ended up dipping it in mayonnaise for added oomph.

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THIS IS SOYA DONUTS AND I HAD THE CHOCOLATE ONE AND IT WAS SO GOOD I WISH THERE WERE SOYA DONUTS IN SINGAPORE. Its more chewy and more doughy than regular donuts & oh my Lord I love soya donuts & I actually smuggled one home in my lunchbox & now I wish I had bought more.

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Some places do have English menus, but in other places, they don’t.. My friend, Mika read the menu for me but in the end I told her to order whatever she thought we should have.

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So Mika brought me to a place that serves kushiage – fried food skewered onto a stick! We ordered the set meal & we had fried chicken, fried salmon, fried sweet potato, friend green beans & fried cheese. YES. Fried cheese. I’m not one for fried food, and knowing that we’d be having a lot of fried food for dinner freaked me out. I ended up removing about 70% of the batter and eating what was underneath!

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This is the fried cheese! I was expecting something else to be honest, but it turned out to be a slab of regular cheese coated in batter. But still so cool!

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According to Mika, this delightful thing is called “monaka” which is actually azuki bean filling sandwiched between wafer slices, but the kushiage bar that we went to served ice cream instead of azuki bean filling. I initially didn’t want it as I don’t usually have a full desert after dinner but I’m so glad I ate it in the end because it was so nice to be able to eat ice cream after not eating it in months. AND it was so good.

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I decided to go and have McDonald’s on my last night because I really wanted to see how different it is in Japan. If memory serves me right, the menu for the outlet I went to in Gion only displayed, 5 types of burgers. No fancy Big Macs or special kinds of burgers whatsoever. No double chickens or fishes whatsoever. It’d either be simple chicken, fish or beef with their own Japanese dressing. Plus, fries, corn and some dessert or another. I decided to have the chicken filet burger because Singapore’s McDonald’s don’t serve chicken burgers.

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THIS WAS MAGNIFICENT I’M SO GLAD I BOUGHT THIS EVEN THOUGH IT WAS 2 BUCKS. It a matcha danish pastry with azuki beans I bought from the food department in Isetan (favorite department ever). You know how some bakeries rip you off by putting only a little bit of filling inside and selling it to you? This was different. This was filled with azuki bean paste in in layered swirls and topped with matcha green tea powder and it was just beautiful.

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I WENT TO HOGWARTS (okay Universal Studios) AND HAD ME A CUPPA BUTTERBEER. It was perfect to counter the sun beating down on your back!

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This matcha green tea macaron i picked up in Nara was amazeballs.

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Matcha green tea ice cream. Oh god. I couldn’t stop. Again, I didn’t want to get ice cream but I decided to just sod it because I wanted to have matcha ice cream in Japan. The matcha flavor was fabulously intense.

Now feast your eyes on a vast array of other types of food I saw whilst trawling through the streets of Japan.

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Convenience stores do sell ready-made bubble tea for you! Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how long they’re kept in the fridges and how fresh it’ll be. I’m thinking they bring in new ones every day and toss out unsold ones but when I first saw them I thought it was such a neat concept!

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Every time I enter a convenience store I’d always end up spending 5-10 minutes just looking at their drinks.

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You will see ice cream stands like this all over Kyoto.

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Some stalls along the street served free tea! It was cold, wet and raining and I decided to abuse that privilege for 10 minutes to warm myself up. Oops.

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I wish I had bought one back home 😦 I’m not a fan of cake but I can be partial to cream & the cream filling inside is just tempting me, even right now.

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Bento boxes!

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I came across this stall selling these spiral fries! I didn’t buy them though because I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for a proper meal later as it was already lunchtime then but it looked really interesting!

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Japanese curry is my absolute favorite Japanese food. I’m just sad that I only saw this restaurant on my last night AFTER dinner and on the way home and I couldn’t get to eat try it. I did have Japanese curry at another place, and also again in Osaka with Mika BUT STILL.

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I came across this sight while in Osaka and was curious to find out what it was. When I edged closer, it turned out to be a line of  business workers eating soba while standing up. Yep. In Japan, there is “fast food” places called Tachigui Soba – in which you literally stand up and eat soba when you’re hungry and in a rush and have time for a quick meal. They are mostly in train stations that serve commuters. Its fast food, not because its fried food, or burgers or anything. Its because…standing up and eating the soba like that without the need to sit down and wait is quick and efficient.

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Green tea popcorn! I contemplated buying one carton but it was so expensive! It was $7 so I just stood around staring at it for like 5 minutes before walking away and commiserating with that green tea ice cream.

The subsequent pictures below are food items from Nishiki Food Market – a market place that’s famous in Kyoto for selling traditional Japanese food at cheaper prices. Fish, meat, octopus, Japanese sake, wine, plum juice, traditional crackers, squid, clogs. You name it. Some say you might even spot whale meat but I didn’t. I thought I saw the Kanji character for “whale” but it turned out to be eel instead.

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Quail egg stuffed in the head of an octopus. Yeah I’m not sure I feel about this.

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Dried food

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That’s all folks! Shall post more pictures from my Japan trip in the next blog post!

on fear of fullness

fear

With anything in life, recovering from ED comes with its own fears, and recently I’ve experienced a type of fear that I’ve not really had before that’s made me question the types of thinking I still hold on to that impede recovery.

I love running. And dancing. And basically physical activity that makes me sweat. I like working out, period. And obviously when you work out, you need more energy to be able to work out. And more energy means you might need to eat just a bit more to give your body the energy it needs to move.

Recently however after eating I started becoming scared of feeling full.  It makes me think like I’ve done something wrong and that this will impede recovery. I start panicking. Additionally, I almost immediately start thinking that I’ve eaten too much, and you know what that sometimes can lead to. For me, it led to thoughts like “I’ve eaten too much this isn’t good” or “oh I’ve eaten too much I’ve failed I might as well as stuff my face since it won’t make a difference anyway“. The feelings of anxiety and guilt start settling in like unwelcome house guests and I start thinking of whether or not I should work out extra hard the next day just so i can alleviate my guilt.

I spent the next few days in introspection, assessing my thoughts and emotions and why I was thinking and feeling the way I did, and I suppose still do. And I came to this conclusion: my body is signaling for food but my mind is ignoring this call. On the days that I start to run and work out more intensively (e.g. going for spinning classes oh my goodness have you tried that?), I start to eat more, but I am somehow refusing to give in to this physical need.

Why

It seems that I am holding on a somewhat inflexible thought: that my body by right needs a certain amount of food and I’ve been consuming that particular amount since I started mindful eating. It’s as though I’m (not deliberately of course), keeping a mental log book of the amount of food I’ve consumed as I practice mindful eating and telling me that I should keep to eating this amount of food. So as I begin to run more and my body demands more energy, my mind rejects it.

I know I know. This completely goes against mindful eating because one of the principle notions of mindful eating that I’ve been trying to follow is to eat when you experience hunger and stop when full yet here I am, displaying such erratically contradicting behavior and not even wanting to eat despite my body’s call for food.

I think this happens because some part of my mind is maybe holding on on to the thought that eating more food will make me gain weight, and that is something that my alter-ego simply wouldn’t allow. After all, she’s been in control for the last 6 years and even in recovery, there are times when she sneaks in and calls the shots and makes me question why I’m even eating in the first place. She’s terrified that I’d gain weight.

I won’t lie to you and tell you just because I’m in recovery means I’ve totally abandoned all thoughts of wanting to be thin. Here’s my deal: I work out not because it makes me feel more active, but I do also want to be slimmer. The only difference between the old me, and the present me is that the old me was completely bent on being skinny. Exercise served only one purpose. Her self-worth was defined only by her weight and body shape. The present me is, however, understanding that there is more to her life than body weight and she no longer wishes to be trapped by the mentality that being thin will make you the happiest woman on Earth. Exercise now serves more than that one purpose and she exercise less to be skinny and more to be strong.

I’ve always been talking about my journey with mindful eating and how it played a  helped me regulate my eating and hunger signals at the beginning of last year. I don’t always practice what I preach in the most perfect of ways; I go through ups and downs and am trying to find the right balance that works for me. But ultimately, if your body is signaling hunger, then feed it. You don’t need to experience anxiety, panic or guilt when you feel hunger because it means your body needs to eat for energy. And that’s normal for everyone.

 I think one of the things that can help if you see food as fuel instead of fat. If you don’t eat, obviously your body will start breaking down because you’re not giving it the energy it needs to function properly. If you see food as fat, you’ll start avoiding it and fear feeling hunger. Probably another thing that will help is to actually acknowledge that there is a change in your lifestyle which requires that you consume more energy. I’ve probably been denying that I need to consume more food even though I work out more on some days. And one more thing that just crossed my mind, eat instead of diet. When you think about dieting – or at least when I do – I think of cutting out calories and eating less and eating a specific way. When you diet, your end goal is mind is to be thin. When you eat, you allow your body to eat whatever it needs. When you eat, the end goal is nourishment and satisfaction. Focus on the latter instead and you’ll think less about dieting.

Recovery means learning to trust your body, so learn to listen to your body because it knows what it needs. We don’t act what it tells us right, because for so long we’ve been listening to our ED instead. But the important thing is that you’re making an effort to create change and that’s already something.

Have you experienced a fear of hunger or fullness, and if so how did you go about changing that? 

(too) clean eating

Last week for a few days I’ve been noticing a pattern. I’d eat regularly as I always do, but then at the end of the day, I find myself just wanting to have something sweet. Now that pretty much sounds normal, to end of the day with something sweet. But this was different. I didn’t just want it. I needed it. Badly. A craving for sugar would come and I’d ignore it for a while, but then give it and allow myself something sweet. Usually I go for chocolate or Ben and Jerry’s because that’s the only sweet thing available in the house. However the thing was even though I had already let myself have that something sweet, I needed more. Like more of it. And I couldn’t stop thinking about just wanting to have all the ice cream in the world and just continued sitting in the kitchen and having that ice cream and the next thing I know, I had finished half almost half the carton of ice cream. 

Bugger.

This happened again on another 2 separate occasions. I’d eat as per usual, but by the time I’ve showered after my evening run I find myself battling this strange craving for something sweet. I’d fight it for a while, but then I gave it and go back to the kitchen for the same carton of ice cream and smother my tastebuds with that sweet relief until I’d say only a few spoonfuls of that milky goodness was left pooling at the bottom. 

And I just didn’t know what was going on. I was so confused. I was eating normally and running as per normal so why was it that I started battling the urge to eat more at night. It was only when I lay in bed at night and reviewing what I ate and did during those couple of days that I realized something. All throughout day, I had been doing nothing but clean eating. No sweets, no sugar, no cookies, no ice cream, no nothing. I had almost completely cut off sugar from my eating during these 3 days and eating, as much and best as I can”, whole unprocessed foods – wholemeal bread, tuna, chicken, fish, peanut butter, broccoli etc, though with the exception of rice as its a staple in the Asian diet. I’ve been eating very clean without eating a single cookie or chocolate during these 3 days. 

I suspect that in my zealous pursuit to become healthy and get my eating habits back on track, I might have taken it a little bit too far, focusing only on clean eating and cutting out sugar in its entirety without realizing that doing so might have led my body to become deprived of energy. These 3 days I became so dedicated to healthy eating that I forgot that doing the exact same thing in the past had contributed to my obsessive behavior with rigid dieting, cutting out food groups and punishing myself every single time I had a slip up. 

First of all, I really do need to take a step back and congratulate myself on actually not punishing myself for eating all that ice-cream because I know that 3 years ago, I would probably hastily made my outside and run for 2 hours for even start a torturous round of fasting the next day to balance out the calories. Well OF COURSE I felt guilty for eating all that ice cream and OF COURSE I started panicking a little and questioning where and why I went wrong. But it was only after I reassessed what I had eaten during the day that I realized that okay maybe I had been too strict and obsessive with eating clean because I wanted to eat right and not eat junk food the way I did when I was struggling loads with my ED. I couldn’t really do anything about that ice cream anymore could I? So I just went for a long walk round the block, came home, read Harry Potter and went to bed determined to start afresh the next day. 

And it was better. I allowed myself sugar during the day, ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full and also allowed myself Ferrero Rocher at night. Never once during the day did I obsess about sugar and cravings. 

I’m sure some of you going through recovery have been through this. In your quest to relinquish your bad habits of overeating junk food or for those not going through an ED/recovery and simply wanting to clean up your diet and reduce sugar from your diet, there’d be times when you pushed it just a tad too far – eating nice and clean the entire day, feeling extremely pleased with yourself and going “Yeah this isn’t so bad I can do this healthy clean eating thing for days” and the next thing you know, you’re scoffing down cheese fries and a bacon cheeseburger and wondering where in the world you went wrong before vowing to start over the next day, only to find yourself making the same mistake again in the week.  

I’m no nutritionist and I’ve no clue how body cells work in response to the food we eat, but I suppose this is what happens when we start a phase of eating “too clean” and not allowing ourselves a little sugar in our diets. We become rigid in our thinking and are determined to only eat certain foods that are whole and unprocessed: brown bread and rice, lean chicken and fish, low fat milk, salads and hold the sauce please but I’ll just have one piece of crouton thanks. No cookies, no chocolates, no muffins, no ice cream, no dessert. Nada. You become so conscious of the food you way that you reject foods that don’t fit into what constitutes clean and healthy eating. As humans we’re programmed to enjoy the taste of sweet foods and sugar cravings are a natural thing to experience and so when we ignore our cravings for far too long, we end up binging on the sweet stuff that we’ve been ignoring. 

And that’s what happened to me. A fair number of times I should say before I realized how my restrictive eating was contributing to this problem. I didn’t allow myself a treat when my body craved it. If you’re a Harry Potter junkie like I am, think of it as a Howler – if you don’t open it soon, it explodes. Similar principle: the more you try to control the craving and your body, your body will rebel. 

Such experiences always bring me back to the one important principle my online ED support group told me: always listen to your body because it knows what it needsThere is nothing wrong with having ice cream and chocolate but to cut it out completely from your diet and remaining determined to eat only certain types of foods instead of eating flexibly can be harmful, both physically and mentally. In the long run and if taken to the limit, your body might start breaking down due to its receiving nutrients from a restricted set of foods,  you start developing rigid and obsessive thinking patterns (e.g. I can’t eat this, I can only eat that) and it might also impinge upon your lifestyle (e.g. unable to eat out without worrying about whether a restaurant serves food that you deem acceptable). Its really a very real thing and really incredibly scary because I myself have been through that – eating only brown bread and maybe potatoes but not rice, only chicken and fish but not beef and pork, only salads without dressing. I didn’t like going out to eat because I hated how I couldn’t predict what foods a cafe would serve and it was a hassle to have to look at a menu online and decide I would only eat the rice and chicken when what I really could try was a creamy pasta even though I’m not a fan of pasta but I had deprived myself of creamy sauces for so long that I just wanted to taste it again.

At the end of the day, your body knows what it needs to eat. You can’t be on a diet forever because you’ll end up miserable. Its all part of mindful eating. Listen to your body because it knows what and when it needs to eat. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full stop. Eat chocolate and sweets if you want, but keep it in moderation (though I sometimes I find hard to do that) and if you end up overeating. Don’t punish yourself. Drink tea and go for a long walk and start again tomorrow. 

It takes effort to do something like that I know especially because you’ve been eating in disordered patterns for so long, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t get results if you’re not willing to put in the effort to changing your habits. Tell yourself that you are stronger than your old habits, and you are. If you’ve had your share of sugar and find yourself wanting more, get up and walk away instead of giving in again and again. 

You can do it, you may encounter setbacks but you will get up again and you will try again.

You will make it. 

We will all.

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Embarking on Self Acceptance and Embracing my Body : The “I Am What’s Underneath” Movement

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I was the the girl who started dieting when she was 16. I was the girl who changed dieting methods every 7 days. I was the girl who weighed herself at least 5 times a day. I was the girl who religiously counted calories every single day. I was the girl who exercised obsessively because she wanted to lose weight. I was the girl who flipped through magazines wondering why I wasn’t born with the looks and the body of a supermodel. I was the girl who hated her body so much she would cry in shame in her room. I was the girl who wished she was born with bigger eyes, sharper nose and slimmer cheeks. I was the girl who was embarrassed to go shopping with friends because she didn’t want to be seen browsing the racks of clothings in size L.

I saw myself being too big and fat my skin and height & truly believed I was ugly.  I wanted to be thinner, taller and prettier. I never understood the word “self-acceptance”. It didn’t feel right on my tongue; strange and foreign. A key that didn’t fit into a lock. I knew what it meant, but to internalize that trait required strength of a different kind. Moreover, I wanted to be in control. Control meant power. It meant I could be whatever I wanted, as long as I tried hard enough. I was wrong.

Unlike many other individuals, my journey of self acceptance wasn’t completely not motivated by my struggles with body dissatisfaction and my eating disorder, but rather a somewhat disempowering event that made me lose sight of who I was. In an effort to rediscover myself, I decided to focus efforts on rebuilding my identity. Moreover, having been blinded by the pursuit of attaining a thin body, I damaged my body so much for about 6 years in return for a peace of mind I never got. I needed to heal myself.

Latin: “Cura the ipsum.” English: Take care of your own self. 

I’m only 23, but now that I’m growing older, becoming more knowledgeable, experiencing new perspectives in life and trying to find my place in society, I’ve realized that I don’t have the time to hate and destroy my body through the neck-severing pursuit of a getting supermodel body by starving, bingeing and compulsive exercise. I have so many other important things that I need to do, like graduate and establish a career, and other things I want to do: dance with traveling gypsies in Romania, get married in Italy, make love in Venice, have a baby (maybe 2), and maybe attend the Burning Man Festival in Las Vegas. Hating my body and ruining it has prevented me from living the life I should have lived when I was growing up and I don’t want my eating disorder to ruin my life anymore.

That’s why I started my self acceptance journey through the use of pictures. To capture my body and my looks just the way it is and to make me come to terms with the fact that this is who I am. This is who and what you need to accept. I’ve accepted that I’m bigger and I suppose in some way, curvier than my friends but I’ve not fully accepted some of my physical attributes: the broad shoulders, the wide calves, the chubby cheeks. But that’s who I am. And I need to accept it. I love dance, I have my quirks, and I like making people laugh, but underneath that exterior I’m also made up of these physical attributes. And I need to slowly learn to accept that its part of me.

I now know that society’s standards of beauty are warped. I’ve learned that being slim is beautiful, but being curvy is also beautiful. Beauty can’t be quantified. It has to be accepted and embraced in whatever form it comes in.  I can’t shrink my shoulders nor undergo dangerous knee surgery to lengthen my legs. Sure I still work out about 5 times a day and try to eat healthy (and mindfully) as much as I can, but the main goal now would be to maintain optimum health instead of trying to sculpt unrealistically supermodel features because I still want to be the best I can be to my capabilities.

To embrace self-acceptance, I stand behind the project: I Am What’s Underneath – True Style is Self Acceptance, a kickstarter program founded by Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum. It is a global movement calling for self-acceptance that aims to raise funds to a feature-length documentary and start a conversation on self-acceptance, society’s standards of beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Like many people who have taken part in this movement (via social media or through donations), I too have experienced many own forms of negativity and now want to take the steps of rejecting the socially constructed notion of “thin-is-beautiful” and embracing my looks and my body for what it is to empower myself.

 I used to wish I were the love child of James Marsden and Jennifer Lopez. Now I just want to be someone who accepts and loves herself so that her journey in life will not be tainted with memories of self-hatred fueled by unrealistic body expectations and disordered eating, & also so that I can eat that extra piece o’ pie without any guilt.

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Be part of the self-acceptance movement and stand against unrealistic beauty ideals that force you to be something or someone you’re really not! One of the ways you can do so is reading more and donating to Elisa and Lily’s kickstarter program here: , and/or post a picture of yourself with #iamwhatsunderneath on Twitter or Instagram (Elisa & Lily can be found on IG at @stylelikeu)!

With the glorification and idealization of thin models, the fashion industry is unwittingly molding us into something that we are not, and to be yourself in a world that is trying to fit you into something else is one of the greatest and most courageous accomplishments you can ever achieve

P.S. I’m on Twitter and Instagram!

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I contemplated wearing something more stylish for these photos, but then I decided on just being myself and showing the real me. Underneath the girl who loves dresses, high waisted jeans and stud earrings is one loves to laze around at home, reading books, watching Julia Roberts movies and blissfully makeup-free in her jammies. My bowler hat is my spark. Nothing wrong with a bit of sparkle right? 🙂

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  1. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be? Levitating objects, like Magneto
  2. If you were reincarnated as an animal or ice cream flavor, what would it be? Wolf or dark chocolate with rum
  3. What was an experience that made you a stronger person? Getting heartbroken
  4. If you had to work on only one project for the next year, what would it be? Learn a local dance in every country that I visit
  5. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? Carmen or Riley