Heaven knows how many times we hear that phrase as children: whether it’s Mommy urging us to put a spoonful of veggies into our sealed-shut mouths, or the kindergarten teacher attempting to introduce fractions in a positive manner, we are always being asked to step outside our comfort zones, to open our minds, if temporarily, to something we aren’t sure about.
I had to do this earlier this November, when it was time to board the plane for Colorado. I’d only been there once as a young child, but now I was returning with my family to celebrate my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. It was an occasion I’d been dreading since the date was announced. Not because I didn’t want to enjoy and experience this milestone with my cousin… because I dreaded the feel of Denver in November.
Temperature is no joke for me: if it drops below about 69, I’m miserable, shivering in my winter coat. (Keep in mind that I am a spoiled California kid.) On the flip side, let the thermostat break 85 or so and I’m like the Wicked Witch of the West, slowly melting (and not playing the silent stoic about it either.) We’d read a forecast that Denver was supposed to be relatively temperate that weekend. We’d also been warned that the weather in Denver is as faithful to the predictions as a butterfly to his mate, and as reliable as the elevator in an abandoned building. It might rain, or snow, or hail, and then the sun could beam down and taunt us with its fickle warmth before retreating to be replaced by more hail, or snow, or rain. I expected the worst possible weather: a freezing, hailing snow kingdom, in which I would be ensconced in an air-conditioned synagogue, catching my death of pneumonia in the treacherous air.
It turned out, we were blessed with relatively beautiful weather. No snow, no hail, just temperatures barely above freezing in the early morning – but that I found I could deal with, thanks to our hotel lobby’s real fireplace. The afternoons were sunny, and I insisted upon exploring Denver a little bit while not engaging in the Bar Mitzvah celebration.
cannon monument near state capital building
art museum – look closely for broom and dustpan outdoor art
Both the family time and the interesting things we saw in the city were memorable experiences. When it was time to return home to temperate Southern California, I wished we could have stayed a little longer to explore more… but as it turned out, the day after we left Denver it snowed.
At any rate, I was glad I tried spending some time in a new environment. I ended up liking it!
Liberty Bell replica near state capital
Cherry Creek State Park – we were delighted to see prairie dogs and what looked like magpies along the trail!
These black bean brownies with berry and mint ice cream are another thing I tried this month with good results. I was afraid this flavor combination would be a little weird, but it forms a perfect harmony.
The rich, soft gluten-free brownie is complemented by a sassy berry kiss and covered in a cold blanket of ice cream – much like snow on the ground in mid-winter, concealing the future fruits of spring buried in the soil. And the cold temperature wasn’t all that reminded me of Denver – like that visit, it was a new and positive experience.
This holiday treat is for those who aren’t afraid to savor something cold this time of year – either because you live in paradise (like me) where it’s sunny year-round, or because you’re just brave and hard-core like that. Enjoy this surprisingly scrumptious red and green flavor fusion. Find the courage to try something new – you just might like it!
Sometimes a song starts playing on the radio that’s uncannily perfect for that moment, to describe my current mood or a recent occurrence. Example: a few days before I left for Israel this summer, I was sitting in the car with my dad and the song “When I’m Gone” from Pitch Perfect came on, reminding us both, “when I’m gone, when I’m go-o-o-o-one, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone…”
Occasionally I notice some songs that really strike a chord with my ever-evolving recovery from previous eating issues. Today I have compiled 13 for you, with links to Youtube videos of each song. (Links open in a new window/tab.)
Since I have an anti-discrimination policy with regards to music selection, the songs range in genre from country to pop to foreign, ensuring there will most likely be something here that’s your jam. And I imagine they can be applied to a lot of other life issues apart from recovery from an eating disorder, such as relationships, addiction, depression, or just being in a certain mood and needing a certain song to cheer you up. Give them a listen. Try one, several, or all 13. And if you have any other songs in mind that might aid in or relate to eating disorder recovery, please mention them in the comments!
This first couple parallel the eating disorder itself, when it is reigning wild over a victim’s life and in full destructive, crazy-behavior mode. They reflect the helplessness one might feel during this time, before recovery has begun to take shape.
1. Ellie Goulding – Lights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NKUpo_xKyQ
I remember hearing “Lights” a lot during my restrictive eating period, and felt I could relate to the character in the song, a frail, tortured creature reminiscing on better times…
I had a way then losing it all on my own
I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown
And I’m not sleeping now, the dark is too hard to beat
And I’m not keeping now the strength I need to push me
2. Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ez2_T10fr0
I know it’s about some kinky stuff, but when I first heard it it made me think of how those of us with self-destructive tendencies think we can escape from real problems by creating an alternate reality through disordered eating. The phrase “starvation high” also comes to mind.
Spend my days locked in a haze
Trying to forget you babe
I fall back down
Gotta stay high all my life
To forget I’m missing you
The next two songs deal with the beginning stages of recovery, and the dilemmas patients grapple with early on.
3. Pink – Sober – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANP53cXy_Jc
Being torn between the voice in your brain advocating health and change, and the voice wanting to pull you back into old habits, is a phenomenon affecting people from the start of recovery forward, but seems most violent at the beginning: is taking care of myself the right decision?
Oh, I am findin’
That’s not the way I want my story to end…
…I’m safe up high, nothing can touch me
But why do I feel this party’s over?
4. Martina McBride – Wrong Baby Wrong – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkkG1hGZaD0
This is the reassurance desperately craved by those beginning a new path, uncertain that it will lead them out of misery. It urges someone feeling hopeless after a breakup – which can be interpreted as kicking ED out of the house – to see a better future without needing the guy.
Come on now
Everyone falls down
Everyone crawls now and then
Then they get up again
You cry if you want to
That’s what we all do
But if you think you’ll never move on you’re wrong baby wrong
The realization that life is so much bigger (figuratively speaking) when one opens up to social connections, to achievement, through taking care of oneself, is uplifting. This realization takes place over time, and can hit a person at random moments of achievement in recovery. Here are some songs reflecting that optimism.
5. Kelly Clarkson – Break Away – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktWTvqdmH_o
Success comes with stepping outside one’s comfort zone and taking risks.
I’ll spread my wings, and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
6. Idina Menzel – Let it Go (Disney “Frozen”) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk
Sorry, Frozen non-fans… but seriously, this song is a great example of the battle between freedom and captivity, and reflects the moments of false hope that the destructive behaviors are freedom from pain, as well as capturing the joy of liberation from them.
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
When I had progressed somewhat in recovery, I looked back on the disordered eating of earlier days with regret, contempt, vengeance in my heart against the metaphorical “being” who had compromised my time, opportunities, happiness and health. Here are two songs to chew out “ED” when he comes back begging for forgiveness and a second chance at making you miserable.
7. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XFA3rI23zw
When ED starts acting lovey-dovey again, stay strong. Slap him in the face with a warning that his soul is cold as ice:
And who do you think you are?
Runnin’ round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart…
8. Sara Evans – A Little Bit Stronger – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22zB6Soc2Gk
A song about the slow but upward progress of moving on from a bad relationship, with a focus on realizing that it was dysfunctional.
I’m done thinking that you could ever change.
I know my heart will never be the same,
but I’m telling myself I’ll be okay.
Even on my weakest days, I get a little bit stronger.
Recovery is an ongoing journey, and some say you’re never completely “cured.” However, there comes a time when one can truly participate in life and feel happiness. Here are three songs to celebrate advanced progress, whatever that means to the listener.
9. Pharrell Williams – Happy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-GLuydiMe4
Apart from its appearance in Despicable Me 2, an irrelevant but great movie, I have always loved this song because the concept is simple, free of sex, and positive. It’s about being happy. Despite all the complications that try to invade one’s life, including eating issues, it’s important to take a moment to just bask in the sunlight of simple pleasure.
Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why: because I’m happy!
10. Nina Simone – Feeling Good – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHs98TEYecM
You will feel the liberation coursing through your veins at the end of this riveting song – there are many covers, etc. but listen to the original!
Stars when you shine, you know how I feel
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel
Yeah, freedom is mine, and I know how I feel..
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me…And I’m feelin’… good.
11. Marc Anthony – Vivir Mi Vida – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYZBULGd7CU
The linked video above displays the lyrics in both English and Spanish. I find the Spanish more beautiful but I will only post the English snippet here for space’s sake.
And why cry, for what?
If it hurts bad, forget it
And why suffer, for what?
If it hurts bad, forget it
I’m gonna laugh, I’m gonna dance
live my life, la, la, la, la
I’m gonna laugh, I’m gonna enjoy
live my life, la, la, la, la
I’ve heard and seen so much chatter on the internet and in the hallways at my school – so many girls and women mistakenly believe that what men want is the skinniest sticklike female they can find. But an overwhelming number of healthy, respectful men prefer a healthy woman with real curves and, more importantly, the self-esteem to wear what she’s got with pride and style! To prove it, here are two songs extolling the virtues of loving what’s inside and appreciating one’s own beauty.
12. John Legend – All of Me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg
It’s impossible to really delve into relationships, whether they be with friends, family, or a significant other, if one’s mind is occupied by destructive behaviors and obsession. John Legend describes, and begs for, his ideal relationship: the opposite of what one would have with ED tangled up in it. A relationship where everything is shared and nothing is kept secret.
‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
13. Prince Royce – Corazon Sin Cara – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKrndpUqSns
In the video the Spanish and English lyrics are displayed.
And they tell me
You’re self-conscious of your image
And look at the mirror
How pretty you are without makeup
And if you’re fat or thin
None of this matters to me
And nor am I perfect
I only know that I want you like this (this way)
I wish you luck in your recovery (if applicable) and in all your endeavors, whether they be directed at helping yourself, others, or the world. Happy Thanksgiving, and may your days be seranaded with the best and most meaningful music!
Image credits (in order of appearance) :
On my Israel trip this past summer, one of the most ambitious items on the itinerary was the Masada climb. We rose at 3 AM – not hard to do when you’re sleeping in a tent full of bugs and bodies – piled onto the bus in a drowsy haze of yawns, sleepy greetings, and too-loud Israeli pop music, and pulled up at the foot of a mountain that seemed insurmountable, a menacing peak towering towards the dusky heavens. I was sure the task of hiking it was impossible.
But we did it anyway – all the way up, just in time to see the sun rise: a once-in-a-lifetime view.
The hardest part was actually climbing all the way down without slipping. Everyone in our group got a little ticked off when we reached the bottom – only to discover that the restaurant where we were to have breakfast was a little ways back up the mountain. We would have to fight gravity yet again if we wanted some long-awaited sustenance.
I told the group leader, truthfully, “I’m glad I climbed all the way down the mountain. It was an experience.” It so happens it was also very hot and sweaty. When we reached the restaurant, the last thing I was craving was a hot breakfast of cooked eggs and steaming scalloped potatoes. In fact, I stared perhaps a moment too long at the case of Magnum ice cream bars before getting in line for the buffet.
To tell you the truth, ice cream in the morning is nauseating. However, I think AM frozen yogurt is just peachy. And after conquering a seemingly impossible goal, after testing the limits of one’s own strength and physical and emotional endurance, a little bit of an indulgence is in order.
This treat fits the bill for an active morning reward: a delicious strawberry cheesecake frozen treat composed of ingredients which, each on its own, wouldn’t cause most health nuts a moment’s pause before consuming it for breakfast. Whole grain graham crackers, protein-packed light Greek yogurt, vitamin-rich fresh strawberries, peanut butter as a healthy fat and agave as a low-GI sweetener. A totally unobjectionable breakfast. That happens to look like an ice cream sandwich! A perfect example of why you can never judge a book by its cover.
Just freeze the yogurt for 45 minutes to one hour to achieve a soft frozen yogurt texture, rather than that awful rock-hardness that can result from putting regular yogurt in the freezer for two long. Then throw it all together and you’re set! Enjoy rewarding yourself.
Super Protein Breakfast Fro-Yo Sandwiches
makes 2 sandwich squares
- 2 honey flavored graham crackers
- 8 strawberries
- 1 container Dannon Light & Fit Greek 80 Calorie yogurt, Strawberry Cheesecake flavor
- 1 tbs creamy peanut butter
- 1 tsp agave syrup
Place container of yogurt in freezer for 45-60 minutes.
Cut up your strawberries – I did this with some variety, making some little diced morsels and some round slices.
When yogurt has become soft-frozen, break each graham cracker in half. Place two halves on desired serving bowl/plate. Top with diced strawberries.
Remove yogurt from freezer. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, spoon frozen yogurt on top of graham crackers and strawberries.
Top with remaining graham cracker halves.
Arrange remaining strawberry slices around sandwiches. Spoon peanut butter on top graham crackers. Drizzle agave over the whole mess.
And now, for the last and tastiest step – grab a spoon and dig in!
Yesterday I experienced a little post-Halloween horror. Pumpkins were involved.
It was late afternoon, and the sky was overcast, lending a dim grayness to the inside of our abode. Hearing an unfamiliar voice emitting from the back of the house, I wandered towards it, inexplicably drawn to the obnoxious sound.
It was emanating from my younger brother’s computer. On the screen was a virtual diner, where only one customer was seated at the bar. My brother gleefully informed me that that plump, squat, orange-faced customer was “The Hungry Pumpkin.”
The object of the game was to serve him what he demanded. He didn’t bother with politeness. If he drawled, in his strange mix-up of Bostonian and Midwestern dialects, “give me the salt,” and you instead presented him with the eggs or the soda, he shoved the offending grub into the middle of next week and barked, “no! I don’t want that,” before repeating his command. Since this game appeared to be intended for children, I wondered if the behavior of its star character was appropriate.
Hypnotized by the sheer weirdness of the game, I watched my brother play for a while. When a whole canister of salt was guzzled by the personified squash, followed by a glass of water which he easily crunched and guzzled whole, I wanted to leave. But I was paralyzed, fixed on the screen, wondering what this charismatically disgusting character would do next.
He requested the butter, in a smooth, seductive tone. When he popped the whole stick in his pie-hole, I wanted to bolt. I stayed just long enough to witness him munch a whole box of French fries, cardboard and all. Then I came to my senses and escaped, scarred for life by the image of such extreme digital gluttony.
I had to exact my revenge upon the winter squash whose memory haunted me. But how?
Let’s just say the next delicious baked good I pulled out of the oven was infused with the distinct flavor of pureed pumpkin.
Take this one piece of advice from my harrowing tale: don’t be like the hungry pumpkin, mindlessly binging on tubs of butter and cans of soda. Be mindful of your choices every day, and strike a balance between the delicious and the nutritious, so neither becomes overpowering.
To aid you in this endeavor, here’s a recipe for a lower-fat, naturally-sweetened, high-vitamin-A, whole wheat pumpkin carrot cake. With a one-ingredient yogurt icing and plenty of hearty shredded carrot, juicy dried fruit, and crunchy nuts mixed in, these little squares of heaven are tasty and healthy. You’ll need some fresh pumpkin puree for this recipe, so feel free to smash any obnoxious pumpkins who try to invade your diner.
Hearty Pumpkin Cake Bars
makes 6-12 servings
based on recipe from Allrecipes
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- generous dash cinnamon
- splash of nutmeg
- splash of ginger
- egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk of choice (I used plain almond milk)
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup organic honey
- 2 tbs organic blue agave
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 9 oz (several big handfuls) shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup Sun Maid brand Mixed Jumbo Raisins
- 2 tbs dried cranberries
- 1 container Oikos brand Pumpkin Pie flavored Traditional Greek Yogurt (or other Greek pumpkin yogurt of your choice)
- 2 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 tbs dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray a mini loaf pan generously with cooking spray (or try a 9″ square cake pan, as used in the original recipe.)
In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and spices. Mix.
Add egg substitute, milk, pumpkin puree, honey, agave, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
Add shredded carrots, pecans, raisins and cranberries. Stir.
Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 17-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool. Then, spread yogurt evenly on top as a frosting. Sprinkle on coconut and cranberries.