Wellness Wednesday: My Saladdiction
I haven’t known really how to share this. It’s a hard thing to talk about. It’s hard because not only do I have my own struggles with the shame and embarrassment but because I am often met with incredulity and dismissal. Okay here it goes.
I have an eating disorder.
When I say that the immediate assumption is that I am talking about anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
I am not.
I am a compulsive binge eater. I don’t purge. I don’t starve myself. I have the opposite problem and certain foods can trigger it. In high school I saw my weight go up because I would have late night sessions with my Dungeons and Dragons group where the snack food never stopped. I’d treat buffet restaurants like it was my job to eat at least two of everything there. There was never a time where I could open a bag of potato chips, no matter the size, without finishing the entire bag. I never understood growing up how people had them as snacks in their cupboards. I’d get up in the middle of night, pace the kitchen, hating myself for every time I would eat an entire loaf of bread in about five minutes. I am not kidding. I timed myself. Then I would look at myself in the mirror and tell myself how utterly stupid and worthless I am because I know, I know, that it’s not something anyone should do.
Whenever I do open up and talk about this, do you know what I hear so often?
“Oh my gosh but you’re so thin! You’re so lucky you must have a great metabolism. I wish I could do that.”
That is quite possibly one of worst things anyone could ever say to me. I want to scream every time I hear it. Would you tell a meth addict who still has all their teeth in spite of their addiction that they are lucky? Ooh you can take drugs and you don’t look like a train wreck! SCORE!
First let’s deal with the preoccupation about my weight. I am on the slender end though I still have, when you really get to it, rather generous amounts of what is definitely not muscle on my thighs. But thinness does not equate to healthiness. Thinness does not mean that I am either physically or mentally well. Those suffering from serious compulsive eating habits will eventually deal with a slew of health problems. Diabetes, heart disease, pancreatitis, kidney stones, physical injuries brought on by obesity…and let me tell you the day after a binge you feel sick all day long. As a kid I ate enough chocolate until I’d vomit and then I’d be able to go right back to eating it again.
And let’s talk about the mental health side of the problem. Telling me I’m “lucky” –well it completely dismisses what is a very real struggle with a very real disorder. Anyone suffering from a compulsive addiction is a slave to their compulsion. It is at times completely terrifying. It can disrupt your entire day. You avoid social situations where anyone would see you eat. Binging is a very lonely, private thing. It is something you hide, something you feel like you have no power over while it’s happening and after the fact you are filled with intense feelings of self-loathing, hatred and depression. It’s wasteful. It’s disgusting. Serious bingers will do it with literally anything. Bag of plain oats? If that’s all that’s around…..It is very similar to, though obviously not nearly as immediately dangerous, as a drug habit. There’s a game in improve where one of the actions is to mime “eating and crying into your food.” I don’t find that particular one very funny.
I was not always this thin. In high school I was downright chubby. My mom will protest at this statement but I have the pictures, I know what eating 2 bags of microwave popcorn, a box of Debbie oatmeal cookies and a pint of ice cream every other night does to your body. You can’t eat like that and NOT gain weight. I also did not exercise at all in high school. I was constantly sick with bronchitis—I missed over a third of my junior year. Compulsive binge eating also fed my body dysmorphia which only made me want to eat more. Eating more would make me more depressed and sugar binges made me more susceptible to my recurring infections. A cliché cycle but clichés exist for a reason—they come from truth.
But then I did finally start to find a balance. I started to learn to control myself. I don’t always win. I joke about eating a half a jar of peanut butter but the truth is that I actually DO that. The only difference between who I am now and my teenage years is that I found Bikram yoga–which taught me self control and started my recovery from my chronic bronchitis. Getting my body healthy allowed me to start doing other forms of exercise which not only combats weight gain, but provides me with more mental healing. The days I can resist binging and go for a 3 mile run instead? I feel so damn good.
I try to avoid triggering foods. I started learning more and more about my food, where it comes from, why I should eat local and sustainable and to forge a healthy relationship with good food. I have a simple rule: I avoid eating anything baked that I didn’t make myself. Learning to love cooking helped me with this because when I am making the food myself I take far more pride in it, I care about where the ingredients come from, and I usually try to share it with people. Since binging is a solitary activity and eating with others is not, it keeps me from going off the deep end.
I also really, really LOVE salads. I actually love them. This isn’t some sort of bullshit. I will genuinely crave a well-made salad. A good salad will have the right balance of salty, sweet and earthy flavors. Salads don’t trigger me because they make me feel so happy about what I’m putting into my body I want to keep it that way. Mind you salads at restaurants mostly depress me. It’s usually a few vegetables given no thought or care, tossed on some lettuce, smothered in dressing and then the only real interest is in the meat and cheese. Take away the meat and the cheese and it’s just an attempt to hide raw veggies in enough dressing that you still end up consuming a ton of sugar and saturated fat. So here’s the kind of salad, it takes only a little imagination, I like to make for myself instead. This makes enough for 4 small salads or 2 large ones depending on your appetite.
Pomegranate Butternut Squash Salad
- 2 cups cubed butternut squash
- 1 small red onion, cut into ¼ inch wedges
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced into ¼ inch slices, reserve fronds
- 6 cups loose packed bitter mixed greens and/or arugula
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- ¾ cup toasted walnuts
- 1 cup garbanzo beans
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 3 Tbsp chocolate balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp walnut oil
- ½ tsp freshly ground cracked pepper
- 2-3 Tbsp water (as needed to thin to desired consistency)
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tinfoil.
Toss the squash, fennel slices and red onion with the olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-35 minutes until lightly seared. This brings out a lot of sweet flavors you lose from the raw veggies. **you can do this a day ahead of time**
If you need to toast your own walnuts spread these in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at the same temperature for about 10 minutes. Be careful, watch and make sure they don’t burn.
Let the roasted vegetables cool slightly so they are just above room temperature. Toss with the arugula, garbanzo beans and walnuts. Lightly dress and then sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds on top.
To make the dressing: whisk together the molasses and oil. Slowly pour in the oil and soy sauce whisking vigorously the entire time. Season with salt and pepper as needed and thin to desired consistency with water.
Salad (no dressing) 325 cal | 30g Carb (8g Fiber, 2g sugar) | 19g Fat| 10 g Protein
Dressing(1 tbsp) 43 cal | 3g Carb | 2g Fat