My Best Friend and Worst Enemy

Around 4:00pm this afternoon, I got hungry.

Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve developed a distorted relationship with food, and as a by-product, a distorted relationship with hunger.  I love feeling hungry because I’ve taught my brain to respond with “this feeling means we’re doing the right thing (avoiding food)” but I also hate it because it’s only a matter of time before I “fail (eat something).” Hunger has become my best friend but my worst enemy. 

Hunger and satiety are constantly coming and going.  Constantly trading off with one another.  As much as I want to, I can’t bottle up one of these feelings.  I can’t maintain a feeling of satiety in order to keep myself away from food.  I can’t maintain a feeling of hunger to trigger positive self-perception.  This is because hunger and satiety are cues from my body not indications of my value or worth.

By about 4:05pm I realized that I had a choice that was merely physical.  I could nourish my body or I could engage in a war with myself.  I could eat something healthy and satiating, something that would give my body the calories and nutrients it needs, or I could scold myself for having these caloric needs. 

So I had one of these. 


And a scoop of this.


And I moved on, satiated and happy because at the end of the day, and — even more — at the end of my life, it won’t matter how many days I hung onto my hunger and deprived my body.  My hunger is not a gold star, it’s not a prize or a reward.  It’s a signal that my body needs something. 

Today I listened to my body and I want to remember forever how free it makes me feel.

Alton Brown Live: The Edible Inevitable Tour

On Sunday night, Mark and I had the absolute pleasure of attending Alton Brown’s live show at the Benedum Center right here in Pittsburgh, PA!  Image

I absolutely love the Food Network and my DVR is always packed with episodes from my favorite FN personalities.  It’s partially about learning tips and tricks from the pros, but there’s so much more to it than just that.  On the Alton Browncast, he often discusses with his guests how food is a nondiscriminating international language.  Everyone eats, regardless of religious views, polticial opinions, ethnicity, background, worldview…every human is interested in food on some level because of our basic need to eat. Food bridges gaps between humans in a unique way.

It’s not just the universla language factor that draws me to the FN; it’s also the comfort factor.  There’s something so comforting about watching Ina make a lobster bisque in her idyllic home in the Hamptons.  Watching Giada ride the waves on the Pacific, then get off her surfboard to go make lunch for her family and her friends…I want that life.  And I think we all do.  It’s a form of escapism, like watching a good novel being played out.  Over time, we feel more and more familiar with these TV personalities and we start to almost feel like we know them in real life, just like a character in a novel.


Alton Brown has an additional appeal on top of all of this.  He’s a nerd.  Oh such a lovable, hysterical, relatable, totally-cool nerd.  The live show is all about embracing his nerd-dom.


The set is surprisingly flashy enough to catch the eye of audience members, but simple and functional enough to avoid distraction.  The large screen was essential for catching Alton’s expressions, close-ups and odd angles.  It added an element of the television viewing experience to the theatrical experience.

Alton began the night with his “10 Things I’m Pretty Sure I’m Sure About Food,” a hysterical and at-times-serious examination of the gems of wisdom he has discovered over his many years of culinary experience.    It was clear from about 30 seconds in to his first “Thing” (“Chickens Don’t Have Fingers”) that there he is much more than a chef.  Alton is a comedian, an actor, and a raconteur.

The live show included original musical selections from multiple genres, including the heart-rending “Airport Shrimp Cocktail,” a ballad of love gone wrong, “Easy Bake,” a punk-y tirade against THE MACHINE – er– Alton’s parents who refused to give their young boy a feminine toy such as an Easy-Bake Oven.  Alton got the final word though, because he constructed a Mega-Bake and brought it along on the tour with him, a beast of an oven capable of cooking a pizza in just 10 seconds.

Of course, he was hilarious when interacting with his audience volunteers, keeping the floor as the comedic center of the show but sharing just enough of the spotlight to embrace all opportunities for comedy brought into action by audience volunteers.

I never got bored for the 2.5 hour performance (including a 10-minute intermission).  The entire evening was incredible, start-to-finish and I’d recommend the show to anyone who loves food, comedy, music, and some good ol’ laughs.


Favorite Good Eats episode?

Anyone else seen the live Edible Inevitable show?

We’re Moving! And I have the evidence….

The weekend has been busy but refreshing and exciting at the same time.  We’re packing up our apartment and getting all ready to move to our new home!  Our closing is currently set for March 13, so things are happening quickly. 

My sweet and helpful mother came over yesterday and gave up her Saturday afternoon to help me empty this:


And this:


We filled all of the empty boxes we had, and I promptly felt like COLLAPSING.  Needless to say, today will be fueled by a couple o’ these.


We’re off to do the church thing, then the laundry thing, the gradebook thing (mindless data entry is perfect for Sunday afternoons, right!?) and the fitness training studying thing:


and then later tonight….we have tickets to THIS.  That’s right folks Alton Brown Live! 


It’s the hubs’ turn to pay me back for all the concerts he has dragged me to.  😉


What are YOU up to this Sunday!?



Attention-Grabbing vs. Dependence on Support

One week ago today I was caught in a tailspin. That morning I opened my news feed page to find story after story about Rachel from the Biggest Loser. For some reason my husband and I had been following this season more than ever before, and although I would have placed my bets on Rachel, I was stunned to see exactly what she looked like in the finale.

Enter the tailspin.

As soon as I saw the photos and the numbers my mind started to race. Do my bones stick out as much as hers? Does my face look as gaunt as hers? What do I have to do to reach and maintain her weight?

But the most blaring thought in my mind, like a siren drowning everything else out: If I can make myself look like that, will I finally get everyone’s attention?

Because there she was, on stage in front of America, being applauded. Winning a quarter of a million. Winning a title. And the news stories haven’t stopped since then. The commentaries on whether it was too much weight loss too fast, whether she really should be applauded, whether the competition itself is fundamentally flawed.


I do so much to get the attention of others, rather than simply asking for it.. Simply asking for love and support, instead of subliminally showing my family and my friends that I need love and support. It’s time to address the issues. Time to address the loneliness and purposelessness instead of letting it drown me until someone notices and reaches a hand out to me.

Because the support is there. So many people in my life love me and want the very best for my future. I’m ready to start asking for and welcoming their help, being honest about my struggles and welcoming support. The support from others is a beautiful gift and I’m ready to accept it.

Perception is Everything and No Longer at War with Myself

The mind



Our minds are like a rudder.  I challenge you to find one single area of your daily life that is not controlled by your perceptions and thoughts.  But do you realize that you can change your thoughts?  We humans form and change habits rather readily.  We are able to adapt our perceptions and attain completely new patterns of thought.  The past few days, I have been struggling in my thought life.  I let a deceptive thought creep in and I get tired of fighting it; tired of telling it to leave.  I just grow accustomed to letting that thought become a pattern. 

I’m fat and I embarrass my friends and family by eating.

People don’t need food and if I were strong enough, I wouldn’t need to eat.

Eating is a sin and God will punish me for everything I’ve ever consumed.

These distorted thought patterns invade my mind until they eventually transform my behaviors.  Robyn has been telling me to remember my values.  The things that I want to accomplish; things that I know I cannot accomplish unless I let go of my tight grip on my eating habits.  So Mark and I made a list today: my Values and Future Goals.  It’s written out and hung on the wall right at the kitchen sink so it will literally be in my face as I’m preparing my meals. 

It’s a mix of short-range resolutions (behavioral changes) and long-range goals, but it’s :

1.  Become a mother

2. Finish my PhD

3. Become a certified personal trainer (possibly AAAI to start; NASM down the road)

4. Reach and maintain 115 pounds

5.  Increase body fat percentage to a minimum of 15%

6.  Earn an income from blogging

7.  Become a published book author

8. Become homeowners

….and the most specific short-range behavioral changes….

9. Spend an entire week (7 days) eating 1800-1900 calories per day

10. Spend an entire week (7 days) exercising a maximum of 5 days per week, 60 minutes per day.  This means 2 rest days this week and rest days will be total rest (no yoga practice; no elliptical sessions). 

The reason I’m telling you is so i have accountability; somewhere to come back and check in.  The internet has been notified so now it’s a real committment. 

Any change worth making is going to be scary. 


Praise God for (Re-) Direction!

Every single session with my therapist is just rich with wisdom.  She listens tirelessly and then she just bubbles over with biblical, straightforward, encouraging, uplifting support.  Yesterday was just especially so.  She started by asking me about work, and allowed me to just dump all of my stress into the space between us. 

It seems that every time I tell someone I’m in grad school, the response is always a well-meaning “Good for you!” or a “Keep it up!”  And then when I say the magic word chemistry, cue the “You must be so smaaaaaaaart” comments.  It’s encouraging, and that type of support does give me a push.  I find that encouragement to be useful fuel at times.  But for the past two years or so, those comments have contradicted everything I feel inside. 

Because my reality — what I feel so deeply inside — is that science research is isolating and depressing.  The number of times my reactions and experiments fail so greatly exceeds any expectation I ever had previously.  The number of times I go back to the drawing board to think up Plan B, C, D, E… exhausting.  I know every job has struggles, and I know that the results and the outcomes of our work is never a guarantee.  But in a research lab, I swear it’s different.  There’s a grand canyon of uncertainty between the hours I put in and the outcome I hope for.  And all of this is done as a solitary researcher.  Alone, isolated, with no one and nothing to “blame” for experimental failures except myself.

It’s depressing me.  It’s like taking a bucket to the seashore every day in an attempt to empty out the ocean.  I’ve come to see no connection between the work I put in and the outcome I receive. 

Instead of telling me to just keep going and I’m so close, she said the words that I’ve been yearning for: You don’t have to keep doing this forever.  It’s OK to redirect.  I’ve discovered such a love for teaching and communicating over my time at the Univ of Pittsburgh, and when I think of filling all of my work day with tasks surrounding teaching I get a little giddy from excitement.  For years, I thought that research was my end-game, but it’s OK to change that plan! 

I’m taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time when I need to.  I have a committment through the end of this semester, and then I’ll re-evaluate.  If what my advisor says is true and I really can graduate in December 2014 or shortly thereafter, then of course I’ll stick it out and finish.  But if 2014 ends and I find myself exactly where I am now, it will be time to move on and that’s OK.  Life is about people — my sweet husband, our future children, and the students I will eventually be able to impact.  It’s not about accomplishing a goal out of sheer compulsion once the passion and the purpose has waned and the direction has altered entirely. 

Praise God for a sense of purpose and a change in direction!

What Are You Running From?

I think of myself as a pendulum.  Are we all this way, or just me?  I dive into something head-first, and we all know what happens when you dive into something.  You lose yourself, bury yourself, surround yourself and you forget about everything else.

Sixteen months ago, my research advisor (Read: boss) made the announcement that contrary to all expectations, he was being denied tenure by the Pitt chemistry department.  Read: losing his job.  And you know what happens when your boss loses his job. Yeah, you’re probably not lasting too long either.  My situation is/was a little different from a classic employee’s situation because I have a contract with the Department of Chemistry, independent of my research advisor.  So, I knew I would be able to finish my degree somehow, under the advisement of someone, but the road would be bumpier and less clear than usual.

And the road to PhD is usually neither clear nor bump-free.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it drove me to dive into something (really anything) head-first.  Because it’s easy to ignore how scared you are of the future when you’re constantly distracted.  For me, the something that I dove into was a restrictive, disordered way of eating and exercising.  I cut my calorie intake much too low for my metabolism to be sustained, let alone for my exercise to be fueled.  I completely cut out starchy carbs, fat sources and all sweets/treats/desserts.  I used my less-than-sane method of working out every day and just “running till I can’t run anymore” rather than creating an exercise plan.  I remember bursting into uncontrollable tears one Friday evening when my husband told me his parents invited us over for lunch the next day.  I started to dread parties and get-togethers because I knew I wouldn’t be able to control all of the food being served.  But of course, I would usually not eat any of it, mastering the art of subtly picking at food without actually putting anything into my mouth, and throwing away the food on my plate.  Restaurants menus were like landmines to me; I started refusing to go anywhere that didn’t have an option for a plain salad with nothing but vegetables and protein.  And if it came with dressing on the salad instead of on the side, I immediately sent it back.  Most nights for dinner at home, I ate nothing but cucumber slices, spinach and scrambled egg whites.  And I became so very unhappy.

The driving force behind my behaviors was a desire to distract myself from how scared I was of the future.  It became a way to mask my unhappiness, to mask my uncertainty, and to mask the fact that I was increasingly unsure that I even wanted to get a job in chemistry research even after (Read: if) I got my PhD.  As long as my face was buried in my calorie tracking app, and my brain was constantly racing through “What have I eaten so far today?” and “What will I eat next?” and “What can I eliminate from my next meal in order to cut my calorie intake?” I didn’t have to face my fear of the future.

Now, with the help of so many amazing prayer warriors in my life, nutrition counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy, I’m recovering.  It’s a process, it’s a journey and it doesn’t happen overnight.  But I believe I can find freedom for disordered eating behaviors.  Because I’m never too far gone for God’s redemption!


What are you running from today, right now, in this very moment? 

What behavior are you using to distract yourself?  To hide from reality and the truth?