“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” -Virginia Woolf

I am notorious for eating out for most of my meals. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some healthy and from Earth Fare or Whole Foods other times it’s the Chick-Fil-A drive thu. I do try to change up what I get at CFA. Sometimes because the backed-up drive thru and having to order before I can see a menu stresses me out to the point of just shouting out the first entree I can think of. Other times it’s because I’m afraid they will start to recognize me and my “usual”.

My lack of cooking skills has even gone as far as pretending to cook for someone, but it was really a meal from Earth Fare that I put into my own pots and pans to make it seem as though I’m a chef (still sorry for not giving you that “super secret” recipe you asked for). I thought I hated cooking. I thought I was bad at cooking.

Except for breakfast. I can make a mean breakfast sandwich. This perfection has come from the mere fact that it was the only thing I knew how to whip together.

I always thought I didn’t know how to cook and the only things I knew to make were ones that only needed to be microwaved in under 60 seconds. I don’t think we’ve ever used the oven in our house and I’m not even sure if it works. When I do eat at home it consists of snack foods and my parents compare it to how a child would eat. Normally healthy, but your basic banana and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, mixed nuts, etc. I love smoothies but never take the time to cut up fresh fruit. It’s always canned or in the freezer.

As a twenty-two year old, I can read. I can read and follow a recipe. Cooking isn’t hard to do if you’re following a recipe. The steps are laid out for you. And numbered. So if you can count and you can read, you can cook. I say that, exclusively, because I have a few friends who are actually fantastic at cooking. I’m not talking about making ramen noodles or following steps, but they actually take fresh food and create flavors and pairings I never would have thought of. That kind of cooking is not what we are really talking about today. Today is all about beginner cooking. Cooking 101. Cooking as in “I just figured out how to grill a chicken without it being raw on the inside or burning it”. Kudos to my higher level friends and please, take me under your wing.

Recently, I’ve been on an endeavor to eat more creatively. I’ve started to take the vegetable cans I’ve been saving for an apocalypse and actually cooking with them. I’ve been using the cutting board and spending time chopping my fresh vegetables instead of letting them go bad sitting in my refrigerator or just snacking on them with hummus or ranch. I’ve created real, healthy meals, people. This is big. And you know what I’ve discovered?

I love it.

There’s something special about listening to some music , drinking a glass of wine, and cooking dinner for yourself.

Or cooking for someone else. One of the most satisfying moments I’ve had recently has been to cook dinner for someone and watch them enjoy it. I made a point to write down what I had put together (so I could make it again if it was successful) and actually gave this recipe away. I didn’t have to call the guy at Earth Fare and ask him what was in my dinner, but I knew for myself and it was something I could be proud of.

Something else cooking helped me remember?

It’s so much better for you. Knowing what is going into your food dramatically has helped lower my A1C number (my blood sugar). I’ve created substitutions for myself so I’m not always using butter or drowning my food in various sauces. There are actual ingredients and spices you can use to find these flavors that are significantly better for you.

Of course, Chick-Fil-A sandwhiches with American Cheese and (extra) CFA sauce will always hold a special place in my heart. But my all day, slow cooked, sweet potato crock pot recipe or my stuffed avocado is taking a close second. It also creates leftovers for lunch the next day and less insulin to be measured in a syringe.

Growing into adulthood relies on the small successes. Cooking myself dinner is a victory.

Open Your Eyes You’re Alive

*PSA This post is long and very personal. It’s something I’ve always wanted to address but needed to wait for the right time. It’s gone through numerous drafts at different stages in my life and one day when I’m courageous enough (or had enough wine) will be published. It’s scattered thoughts and has just been added to, never re-read. I didn’t want to edit each section, as I wanted my raw thoughts just to come out. *

If you read my last post (or know me in the slightest), you know that I began training for a half marathon back in August. I was excited and nervous but mostly determined to run 13.1 miles and focus on overcoming the challenges associated with diabetes. Unfortunately, that half marathon did not happen due to two foot surgeries that I inevitably had to undergo later in December.

But this post isn’t really about that. A few weeks ago was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. A week that usually goes by and the majority of us don’t think too much of. Ever since our pre-teen years, we have been warned of disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. We’ve been taught the signs and know the damage that they cause. But what if you know someone that eats whatever they want (pretty much constantly because they will always feel hunger) without ever secretly going to the bathroom afterwords, such as a bulimic would?

Okay, let me clarify that. They will not go to the bathroom afterwords to purge their food but inevitably they will end up going to the bathroom constantly to urinate. This is a sign you have never been taught in health classes and one that easily goes unnoticed.

This person will rapidly lose weight, as all the sugar they consume is excreted through urine or still in their blood stream. Their muscle mass will decrease even if they are working out. They will be extremely thirsty, tired, and frail. Not to mention, this weight loss happens very, very quickly.

Now, to stop beating around the bush, this is called “diabulemia”, an eating disorder you’ve probably never heard of. In a sense, it can seem like a dream, “What do you mean you can eat whatever you want, be as lazy as you want, and still lose weight?” In reality, it is a nightmare. And it is something I have continuously struggled with for a few years.

That’s actually the first time I’ve put that into words: that it’s ME who’s had this problem. But, fortunately, it has been me that has conquered it and to be honest, conquered it almost only by myself without saying the words out loud and without help. For a while, it was me ignoring that I was diagnosed with this disease and hoping that if I pretended it didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t. Then, it spiraled into something much more.

I’ve always been average. I’m average shoe size (9), height (5’4″) and now average weight (125 lbs). Now, some people would argue that I’m smaller than average, and if you can image that then you can imagine that only a few months ago or over a year ago when I was only a couple pounds over 100. It was the “dream diet” that I didn’t even have to think about that got me there. Some might not have ever noticed thanks to my many Comfort Colors large t-shirts, but those that saw me in less than a t-shirt down to my knees noticed. But let me tell you, both of the times I got to that point, I ended up in ICU fighting for my life.

I would like to take this chance to personally thank the one true friend I had come to me with concern. I wasn’t taking care of myself and she knew this. Diabetes isn’t a disease many people know how to handle, but that aside, this person knew how to flat out just be a good friend, and that was good enough. The letter you wrote me was the first and only time anyone (besides my very concerned parents, who flat out told me I “looked like I just came from a concentration camp”) expressed real worry. (You know who you are: that letter is still in my room and I thank God everyday for you and your friendship.)

Even though this friend and my parents saw a quick physical difference, no one knew the true reasons behind it. Yes, I wasn’t taking my diabetes seriously and I would less than frequently check my blood sugar or care enough to take insulin. But there was more to the story than just that: it was on purpose. I knew the consequences, I could feel them in every inch of my body. But as the story goes, you don’t think it will happen to you. You don’t think you’ll be holding onto your heart telling your parent that “this might be it, my heart and my body are going to stop any second if I don’t get back there” in the waiting room of the emergency room.

They say that about 1/3 of female diabetics engage in this activity in some way: manipulating their insulin amount. And it is the most dangerous thing you can do to yourself. When you’re faced with the task of constantly thinking about what you’re eating, the amount of carbohydrates, calculating how much insulin you need, what emotions you’re feeling, and the amount of exercise you’ll be undertaking later in the day to stay at a constant blood sugar level of between 75 and 130, it is no wonder that so many people go through this. It is all you’re thinking about.

I think that for me, it was being diagnosed so late. I never had to think about it and all of a sudden I was faced with college (and bolton) and having to think of all of these things 24/7. There’s never a second of the day I’m not thinking about it, you don’t have a choice.

But it has taken me until this point that even though I’m thinking about this continuously, it is my choice and it’s my life on the line. Diabetes affects your mentality, your kidneys, eyes, heart, nerves, feet, pregnancies, and life. I had so many medical professionals pushing this down my throat numerous times and for a long time, I brushed it off and didn’t think it would happen to me. But people die from this, every day.

I thank God everyday for another opportunity to realize that even though this is a disease, it is something that I can manage, and live a fulfilling life. It really is up to you and I encourage anyone reading this to take that into your own life. Everything you do is going to affect you later and that took me a long time to realize.