Monday, 15 September 2014

The motor effect.

Nut butter.

I've heard and read good things about it, plus it looked good on instagram, so I figured why not.

First world problem number one was choosing which nuts to make into butter. (Apparently any of them work.) I decided that I couldn't decide, which is often a problem for me, in life, in general.

Indecisive individuals everywhere - rejoice! For when making nut butter, just use nut mix!

Once the selection was made, next step was blending. I knew it would take a while to reach the nut butter end point. I was prepared for the wait. Brought a book to the kitchen and everything.

This was actually the reason for first world problem number two. I was reading while the nuts where whizzing around, so I didn't notice smoke emanating from the food processor until my nose kicked into gear. Smoke! The motor! Burning! HALP!

Luckily all is ok. I did not burn down the house. I've taught the food processor two important lessons - life is not to be taken for granted, and don't smoke (it's bad for you).

Saturday, 13 September 2014


For a couple of days last week, I stopped eating bread. 

I'd like to talk about why. 

Objectively, I know bread isn't bad for me. I know that for the majority of the population, the gluten-free paradigm is an unnecessary dietary constraint. I also know that the most extreme version of gluten intolerance - coeliac disease - occurs due to an abnormal immune response to gluten, which is the protein in wheat. And I'm not coeliac. So come at me, bread.

And yet, something about not eating bread made me feel better. 

Based on the stories you have shared with me over email (and thank you to everyone who has - you are beautiful, brave people), I know I'm not alone in this. It's interesting that in all the emails I read, the same themes keep cropping up over and over again. Diet modification is definitely one of them.

So it goes like this:

You're doing fine. Things are flowing as they should, your job is going well, kids are doing great, the weather's nice this week.. etc. 

And then, you disappoint a friend. You miss the turn off and rock up late to a meeting. Your child acts out and you don't respond in a way that you're proud of. You wake up too early one morning because the neighbours are making noise, and then you can't get back to sleep.

So you think: well, shit. Life really isn't going well right now. And I'm not comfortable with it. But it'll all be ok, because if I just eat healthier, I'll feel better and everything will work out.

You begin making changes. Missed desserts, carbohydrate cut-backs, and advocacy for the I Quit Sugar movement become the focus. Everything that was going wrong seems less dire, because at least "I'm doing the diet bit right! Go me!"

Over the past couple of years, I've had lots of appointments with highly qualified people who have helped me unpack behaviours like this. I have found it extremely helpful overall, but there is one thing that never works:

The bit where people, in trying to fix me, accidentally lead me to believe that something is wrong with me.

Let's look at this more closely.

I have had anorexia. This is no secret. At its worst, my life was in danger and if someone else hadn't intervened, I wouldn't have lasted much longer. Extreme cases of diet control warrant serious treatment, and clearly, doing something for me then was critical. 

Thankfully, I'm much better now. I eat regularly and normally (whatever that means), I'm not afraid of friands, and I genuinely enjoy life most of the time.

But I do have quirks. Residual effects. Behaviours that come out when I'm stressed, or angry or upset. I don't look forward to them. But if they do surface, I'm the first to notice, and it doesn't take me long to figure out that they can't promise me the life I want.

Here is the important bit.

Regardless of whether I was sick, well, or somewhere in between, dietary control was never actually "wrong". To label it as such is unhelpful (in my opinion), because to the person who is controlling their diet, control gives them something in return, so it is therefore the right thing to do, according to them. Otherwise they wouldn't do it. They'd be off eating a delicious toasted cheese sandwich.

Last week, if I had told myself that cutting out bread was wrong, bad, and stupid, I would have felt wrong, bad, and stupid too.

So what can we do about this?

I can't really say; I'm not a psychologist. And what I think might not work for you, because we're different people. But here is what I do:

Something. And nothing. At the same time.

To me, doing something means being aware. It's noticing when stress bleeds into completely separate aspects of my life, and brushing up on things that help me let go of behaviours that aren't "me".

Doing nothing is just as important. To me, this means I try not to read into things to the point where it becomes a destructive thing in itself. So I try to realise that I'm... ok. I don't need to worry. What is happening is not a bad, bad thing. It's just how it is at the moment. It will pass. I'm well enough to trust that when the source of stress is removed, the coping mechanism will calm down again too. There is nothing more I need to do except to keep on being me, and know that this is enough.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Now presenting...

It doesn't matter which city you're in. All over the world, interesting people are giving interesting presentations, and if you take the time to find out about them, they can be quite helpful.

Last month, I attended a talk about a topic I'm keen on.

It was a great talk, so I'm really glad I went.

But I almost didn't go.

To give you some context, the talk was to be given by a super successful entrepreneur in Sydney. I knew I was going out on a limb by RSVPing "YES", because I'm not an entrepreneur, and I nobody close to me knows much about business.

I was pretty nervous on my way to the venue. I was worried I'd have to explain why I was there. I knew I wouldn't have a punchy, 5-star answer if anyone asked. I even thought some people might look down on me for rocking up in the first place. I didn't know anyone else who was going, and I had no idea what it would be like. For someone with a history of controlling things, it's still not easy to go in blind.

So I get there. Randomly, I become cripplingly shy. Normally if I'm out of my depth, I can still put on a brave face and talk to people. But it was really hard this time.

I noticed everyone around me was being so friendly to one another, which just made me feel super awkward. I sat in a chair to one side, so that I would be out of the way. I had told myself that I would try my best to appear open, but that all went out the window as soon as I walked through the door.

Unpacking it later, I realised that I was probably just daunted by so many new faces. I have a small network of people who get to put up with me each week (thanks guys - love your work), and I don't venture outside of it very often. So when it feels like I'm basically breaking up conversations between the oldest of friends by joining in uninvited, I'm even less likely to go there!

And yes, everyone was chatting like old school friends. People visibly moved in and out of conversations with enviable fluidity. I became anxious. I might be speaking for a few people when I say that anxiety makes me do things I don't really want to do. Things like sit in the corner and pretend to check my phone. To everyone else, it screams "don't talk to me". It's the ultimate way to communicate an antisocial vibe. But really, I was just anxious about talking to people. They just didn't know it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

That time when we all bought bananas.

Today something really cool happened.

I went to Coles. I bought bananas, among other things. I brought the bananas home and placed them in the fruit bowl. They like it there.

Then my dad came home. He had stopped by the shops on the way back from work to pick up some bananas, thinking that we were fresh out.

"But dad, I already bought some!"

And so we had two bunches of bananas.

About an hour later, mum walked in the door, with, you guessed it, BANANAS.

What is wrong with us?!

We must be going bananas.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cats and door jams.

Ok so it's lunchtime, and the weather is great in Sydney. It is the kind of sunny day you want to soak up for longer than your skin cancer awareness will let you.

I finish my lunch, and come inside. I go to close the door, but there is a cat sitting there. In the door jam. 

I'm wondering what to do. The cat is most welcome to sit in the door jam, I mean there's no jam-free movement going on. To close the door would require me to make the cat move, which is a little bit unnecessary. 

I decide to let the cat stay in the door jam.

And I thought, you know what? Door jams are actually a really good place to sit!

When you're unsure about which environment is the best one to be in, making a snap judgement isn't always the best thing to do. The luxury of waiting, seeing what comes up, and choosing when you're more confident, is more attainable than I've been thinking it was.

It's the old "wait and see" regime. But with cats.