First of all: Hello again. I have not written about anything for a rather long time, and now I want to do something different. Here is the story.
About one month ago, I was sitting in the office of the dietician in my local hospital in Kilkenny. It was not the first appointment I have had with a dietician, with the purpose of trying to get good advice for how to gain weight. I suffered from anorexia when I was seventeen and eighteen, and the experience left my body depleted in lots of ways, and it has been consistently difficult ever since to gain and maintain my weight at a healthy level, even though I don’t really suffer any more at all from food-related anxiety, and generally eat very well – at least, I feel I am eating well, I never go hungry if I can help it at all, and I love my food. (Thinking about it takes up quite a significant amount of my time, maybe too much!)
I have read some other accounts of people who have suffered in the past from eating disorders having similar experiences; it seems for some people, their bodies simply have higher calorie requirements.
This might sound like everyone’s favourite dream, but it is not so simple. I can never really relax about food and just eat what I feel like, because I know that that will rarely be enough. For a long time I’ve swung back and forth between very strict calorie-controlled diets, and periods when I just can’t be bothered and I let go and eat what I want.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when the dietician in the hospital was not quite singing my song. I found myself wanting to cry as I heard her saying things like “More milk, fewer vegetables and fruit, and just normal carbohydrates – sliced pan, white pasta – stay away from these more whole grains.”
I could see her point, but this not only went against everything I knew about nutrition (and I’m not totally ignorant, I’ve quite an interest in the area as you might imagine) but more importantly seemed to be working absolutely against my own intuition, my love of cooking and my need to be creative; to make food interesting for myself.
I thanked her, and left feeling utterly demoralised. I didn’t have any clearer sense whatsoever of what I should do.
Sitting on the train on the way home, I looked at the fields spinning past me and gradually began to feel calmer. I knew I did not want to take the dietician’s advice – I would never last that way by denying myself what gives me joy on a daily basis. It’s the equivalent of asking someone who wants to lose weight to survive on only cabbage soup (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.)
Instead, I thought perhaps I could fulfil two coinciding needs in myself – the very practical imperative to take care of my body, and the yearning I’ve been feeling to express myself creatively somehow. I wanted to take this challenge on as a kind of creative project.
Hence this blog post, and future blog posts in a similar vein. I want to have a kind of food diary and talk about new things I’ve tried, as well as ways that I have to keep myself sane and happy while trying to do so many things at once!
I’m not a great cook of chef, and I do not have very much time for recipe development, so if I do share any recipes they will be very simple, and, I think, pretty approximate. I will in each blog post share some resource that I have found helpful, or link to a recipe I’ve enjoyed recently.
If you are someone who has trouble putting on weight, maybe you might find these interesting or useful somehow. But mostly at least at the moment, this is just a space for me to watch myself, to hold myself accountable, and to give myself a bit of a routine to keep to. I’ll publish blog posts on Tuesdays and Saturdays. (Hopefully.)
For the moment, some guidelines I am laying out for myself:
- This week’s resource is Nutrition Stripped’s guidelines on how to gain weight healthily. I found this really sound advice, and I’ve printed off the “High Calorie Add-Ons” sheet and stuck it on my fridge.
- I’ve been taking nutritional supplements for years now, and to be perfectly honest, I’m thoroughly sick of them. I’ll use them when I’m rushed or have nothing in the fridge or stuck for cash, but mostly I think I will stick to real food.
- I have been vegetarian for year, and vegan for the past few months: I fear this is unsustainable while I am trying to gain weight. My body needs calcium and iron and lots of protein to build muscle. I will therefore include occasional carefully-chosen animal products – at the moment it’s just free range organic eggs, and homemade goat-milk kefir; I am also considering including occasional fish if I can find some locally and sustainably caught.
- I’ll eat little (not too little though!) and often – I’ve always found this easier, to have smaller meals, with large snacks between them (I usually eat 5-6 times a day, less only if I have to work.)
- Always carry extra food with me to add extra calories to meals or snacks: dark chocolate, Bombay Mix and nuts are my favourites.
- Eat real, whole foods that my body craves. Follow my instincts. Trust the wisdom of my body, do not try to work too much against it.
- Exercise a bit every day, because some weight bearing exercise is good for muscle mass – mostly yoga, because it keeps me sane, and a weight-training routine in the gym once a week (up this to twice once I’ve gained 2 kilos)
- Keep to the big picture and be kind to myself. Don’t EVER beat myself up if it’s going really slowly.
I do feel better having written these out. I’m looking forward to sharing more stories – I think the next one is going to be about the practice of baking, (specifically baking sourdough bread) which is gradually turning into something almost akin to a ritual for me. More on that later. For now, some photographs from my last visit home to the countryside, reminding me of beauty and stillness.
And these are all self explanatory.