How Reading Fiction Helped me with Recovery

Reading Fiction and Eating Disorder Recovery

A big part of recovery for me was finding activities that I enjoyed doing simply for pleasure on my free time. Hobbies that had nothing to do with weight loss, food, dieting or appearance. It was difficult at first – because I had been so focused on productivity, improvement and perfection – but with time I was able to find a few things that I did purely for joy and relaxation.

An important hobby that helped me with recovery and my overall happiness was: reading fiction novels. Reading simply to get lost in a good story. Prior to this, I was reading non-fiction, self-help or diet books, constantly trying to learn or find some sort of hack to make my life better.  

Fiction helped me escape and take a break.

There was also a very healthy element to reading stories where I couldn’t see what the people looked like. I wasn’t constantly being bombarded by unhealthy body image standards but instead being able to imagine and create my own make believe world. It’s an unfortunate truth that we don’t have inclusive messaging within the media, so reading helped me get away from all of that. It was a gift that helped me tremendously during recovery.

Here are some of my favorite fiction books that I read during this time. Some of these books are light-hearted women focused novels, some are more dramatic and serious, some are fantasy sci-fi novels, but they were all chosen from a place of wanting to read a fun, pleasurable story that completely transported me. If you’re looking for a great read, I am sure you will find something good in this list! Here they are:

Dune by Frank Herbert

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

The Power by Naomi Alderman

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Is your Wedding Day the best day of your life? An exploration...

Lisa Simpson Marriage

I have a lot to say on this subject so I will be breaking it up into multiple parts

Part I

A few years ago, a friend was upset with me when I was not able to attend her wedding. She was so upset that she stopped speaking with me and eventually told me that she had decided to give up on our friendship. She felt that I showed her that our friendship didn’t matter to me when I decided to not attend her wedding, as this was supposed to be “the best day of her life.”

I was surprised to hear that because:

  1. I do not share that same opinion

  2. I didn’t know it would be such a big deal, and

  3. I wasn’t expecting such a drastic response

I didn’t realize that a friendship could be terminated over not attending a wedding, so this got me thinking – is your wedding day really supposed to be the best day of your life? Why do so many people, particularly women, have this belief? And what are my views on it? 

Where I am from, which is probably like most places in the US, having a lavish, over the top wedding has become a show of status and wealth. I feel like people are trying to outdo each other and there is something about it that doesn’t sit well with me.

The number of destination weddings requiring you to travel to fancy far off places, spend a lot of money, and take days off of work for something that isn’t of your choosing just baffles me.

You’re asking me to use my vacation days and extra hard earned money to go to a place that I didn’t choose, and do a bunch of events and activities that I didn’t agree to do, for you? We are all adults now and I choose to do what I want.

None of it feels authentic to me and to be extremely honest, it feels like a meaningless display of pretense. What are people trying to prove? This is a special event for you and your husband-to-be and your close families to celebrate your love for each other, why are you asking people to travel across the world to a place where you don’t even live to do this?

Another element of this that makes me uncomfortable is when you put a lot of pressure on an event to live up to something huge - aka the best day of your life.

I have had multiple experiences in my life where I have big expectations for a certain day or event, and then it just doesn’t measure up and I am left feeling really disappointed.

For me these were things like: graduation, getting into and attending my dream school (Stanford) – this was a huge let down, getting into the sorority I wanted, my first job after college, or having sex, none of these things ended up being that great and they left me feeling low, so I shifted my perspective.

I have realized that things that I don’t make a big deal about, but instead simply enjoy and appreciate the moment, end up being some of my best days.  Like: meeting a new friend, going on a hike with them and then having a lovely glass of wine and conversation. Or a normal day that ends up being amazing because you slept well, wake up feeling good, have a delicious cup of coffee, go on a nice walk and read a good book - I have chosen to enjoy savoring the simple things.

To me, these big events are so done up and seem to be a bigger source of stress and anxiety than enjoyment, and I guess I don’t put that day or even romantic relationships on as huge a pedestal as it seems that most other women do.

In Part II I am going to dive into the history of marriages/wedding ceremonies and explore the feminist perspective on these topics.. Stay tuned!

LG Faves: April 2019

LG Faves - March 2019

Hi friends! I am sorry I have been so MIA this past month. Things have been busy and I haven’t been able to sit down, settle my thoughts and write something out. I have gotten out of the habit, but I really miss it. I will be writing more soon, I promise. In the meantime here are some of the things I have been loving in March/April!

Music: Gabrielle Aplin

One of Gabrielle’s songs came up on a Spotify playlist I was listening to and I loved her voice and the song lyrics. I looked her up and then fell into a rabbit hole of her pretty, girly music. My favorite songs have been: Waking Up Slowly, Miss You and Nothing Really Matter.

TV shows: Shrill & Broad City

Shrill has been an incredible, refreshing show i have watched. i talked about how it has made me feel and why I’ve loved it here.

Broad City is a hilarious quirky show I can watch at any time of the day. I love seeing Ilana and Abbi’s ridiculous antics and how they are there for each other no matter what happens. The show always makes me laugh out loud and leaves me feeling good.

Food: Sweet Potato Crust Quiche

I love making this quiche at the beginning of the week and having it for brunch or lunch throughout the week. It is a nice way to switch up what I usually eat but I am still getting some great protein and vegetables. It is satisfying, easy to make and delicious. I loosely follow this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen but I make it in my own way — I don’t use the vegetable suggestions in her recipe, but instead my favorite combination is: red onion, spinach, zucchini and red bell pepper. I also love mushrooms instead of the zucchini sometimes. And, I don’t use egg whites, like the recipe suggests, but instead use about seven eggs, and I use whatever cheese I have on hand which has been: goat cheese, feta cheese, Daiya cheddar or mozzarella cheese.

Nonfiction Book: Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

My best friend HIGHLY recommended this book and I absolutely see why. It is a book that discusses attachment theory and how by understanding your attachment style you can navigate relationships more wisely given your style and that of your partner. It is “an insightful look at the science behind love, [so readers can have] a road map for building stronger, more fulfilling connections.”

Fiction Book: The Bell Jar

I started reading this classic novel and am enjoying it so far. I want to make my way through reading classic feminist texts so I knew this was a must read. The themes of mental health and feeling stuck in a patriarchal society always hit home for me so I am excited to continue reading it and sharing my thoughts.

Cool Things I've Seen Recently

Cool things I’ve seen recently

I’ve read/seen/listened to some interesting stuff on the inter-webs recently that I wanted to share. They have been thought provoking, inspiring, and fun. Hope you enjoy!

Inspiring

New York Times Article - Jenna Wortham on the Exhilarating Work That Leaves Her ‘Naked and Shivering’

TED Talk - Multipotentialites: Why some of us don't have one true calling | Emilie Wapnick

Thought-provoking

New York Times Opinion Piece: Don’t Let Sex Distract you from the Revolution

Pardon My French Podcast — Escaping Expectations with Hayley Quinn

TED talk — Searching for love to escape ourselves | Hayley Quinn

Giggles

Lets end things off with a good laugh — here are two videos that made me LOL:

SNL Weekend Update: Pete Davidson & John Mulaney Review Clint Eastwood's The Mule

James Corden: The David Beckham Statue Prank

Spring Playlist - Pretty

Spring Playlist - Pretty

Pretty melodic songs that lift your spirit and remind you that colorful spring flowers are starting to bloom. These are delicate fun songs that build as you listen to them — so they go from softer, more atmospheric to stronger, poppier sounds. They will leave you feeling empowered and energized.

It’s a pretty eclectic mix — there’s some indie pop, hip-hop, pop, electronic, alt pop — but it’s a great combination and it’s all the stuff I’m loving right now.

Hope you enjoy!

LG Faves: February 2019

LG Faves February 2019

It’s time for some February favorites. Since I have been following my February intention of read more, stream + read online less, I have two books and no TV shows, lol! A big part of being able to read more is to not be addicted to a TV show. Anyways, I hope you find something interesting to check out below.

Food: Lavva Coconut Yogurt

Oh Lavva how I love thee! I have finally found a dairy free yogurt that I actually enjoy, doesn’t have tons of sugar, and the ingredient list is normal. I had been missing dairy yogurt because I grew up with my mom putting a dollop of yogurt or cottage cheese on so many things: fruit salads, oatmeal, granola, toast, etc, but as I got older I started having skin issues on my arms and we found out that it was linked to dairy so the yogurt had to go. I had been searching for a replacement but I didn’t enjoy the flavor of any of the ones on the market – until I found Lavva! It is delicious and the ingredient list and sugar content is amazing. I highly recommend checking it out if you have to find a dairy free yogurt alternative.

Nonfiction Book: What Made Maddy Run? by Kate Fagan

Oh this book! I have talked about it a lot now – you can read my takeaways from it here. I can’t recommend it enough. No matter who you are you will learn something and gain some empathy and understanding reading this powerful book.  

Fiction Book: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

This book is so much fun. It’s all about entering into a different magical world surrounded by magicians, kings, dragons, fairies, and I just loved it. It was a nice change from such a serious book (Maddy) and you find yourself falling into a wonderful fantasy hole that sweeps you away. If you’re looking for something fun this is the book for you. 

Music: Lizzo

Lizzo’s music is upbeat and empowering. She has an incredible voice and her music reminds me of powerful woman’s voices from the Motown, soul, disco era. It immediately puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance, and I love that most of her lyrics focus on loving your body, embracing who you are, and strutting your stuff. It is refreshing! She just came out with a new song called Juice and her new album – Cuz I Love You – is coming out in April.

Clothing: Girlfriend Collective Bodysuits

I have been wearing these bodysuits for a while and can’t believe I haven’t mentioned them before! I love them. The brand – Girlfriend Collective – is amazing. They believe in slow fashion and only use ethical manufacturing and recycled materials for their clothing. The body suits are so soft and comfortable. The Lily bodysuit is my favorite so far, and I love that theres button snaps at the bottom so you don’t have to take the entire bodysuit off to go to the bathroom, makes life so much easier! They’re soft, comfortable, and flattering.

Movement: Running

I started running again after many years of having to avoid it because of recovery and it has been so special. I can’t believe how much I have missed it and am so grateful I was able to reintroduce this movement back into my life. I am going to write a longer post about this because there is much more tied with running and my eating disorder, but for now what I want to say is that I feel so profoundly happy that I have reached a point in my recovery where I can enjoy running again in a healthy way.

 Movie: The Boy Downstairs

I have always liked Zosia Mamet from her days on Girls and the column she wrote for Glamour. I find her very interesting and thoughtful so I enjoy following the work that she does. I recently saw this cute rom-com she did on HBO and enjoyed it. It was a quirky indie film but a nice light watch with a different storyline than the typical rom-coms and takes place in hipster Brooklyn which is always fun.

Content Diet

Content Diet

The things you read, people you follow, and the content you watch have a big impact on what you think and how you feel. It is the fuel you are putting into your brain, and just like the famous Buddha saying goes, “what you think, you become.”

An important part of self-care and recovery that isn’t discussed enough is the impact the information you are consuming is having on your wellbeing. Because we are living in an era of relentless connectivity and social media saturation, we need to protect ourselves, and an important way we can do that is by being very conscientious about what we are following and reading.

Content Diet

When I realized this I took a deep look into how the content I was consuming on a daily basis was making me feel, and then cleaned out all the junk I didn’t want making it’s way into my head.

I wanted to expose myself to things that lit me up and inspired me, not things that made me criticize myself or brought me down.

In my opinion, the only types of “diets” we should be talking about are: CONTENT DIETS. Just like if you eat nourishing foods you are going to feel energized, if you consume thought-provoking interesting content you are going to feel expanded.

For our mental health and well-being, it is very important that we be aware of how certain content makes us feel and to remove things that don’t align with our goals or help us feel our best.

Here are some of the tactics I have applied to my life to remove negative content that was making me feel good:

Social Media:

  • I don’t follow people that make me feel bad about myself

    • This can be someone I knew from college, a toxic friendship, or a wellness influencer – anything that makes me feel less than or that my situation just isn’t as good as theirs — is an unfollow.

  • Bloggers who are “super healthy” restrictive eaters

    • Nothing against them but that content isn’t healthy for me and it makes me start questioning what I am eating and I don’t need that — I want Recovery :)

  • Skinny models or photos posted with beauty/body ideals that aren’t aligned with what I want to believe in

    • I am working towards believing in beauty standards that are more realistic and accepting of all body shapes and sizes

    • Therefore models, especially VS models or bathing suit company models, are not the types of beauty ideals I want pushed upon me

  • Any accounts that I have found to be triggering, crude, or inappropriate

    • Sometimes these don’t even make sense but if the content feels triggering, gross or cruel in some way, it isn’t something I wan to be exposed to

Media/News:

  • I don’t follow any news outlets on social media and am not subscribed to any of their email marketing lists

    • I don’t want information pushed upon, rather I want to go to the websites and choose what I want to read

    • I pick the articles that I want to be reading

  • I don’t read the news every day

    • I know some people might find this irresponsible but my first priority is to take care of myself and A LOT of what is in the news is triggering and upsetting for me, so I choose to protect myself and not read this content every day

    • I will read the headlines every other day to be aware of developments, and then I will choose which stories look interesting to me

    • I listen to the NPR Up First podcast frequently because I find that way of consuming the news better for me.

  • Read more books & magazines

    • I have been going back to reading hard copy books and magazines because I am tired of how much of my time and attention can get hijacked by advertisements or various things popping up online

    • When I read a magazine article, I can sit and read the magazine article in peace and then move on and do something else without finding myself down an internet rabbit hole two hours later

    • I have a New Yorker subscription which I love — that is my favorite form of reading interesting, well-written articles

Favorite 2018 Articles

TOLG Favorite 2018 Articles

I wrote up my list of 2018 favorites but as you might have noticed, I did not include my favorite articles in that list. The truth is that I had too many to choose only one or two! I knew I would have to dedicate a full post to the subject so I could share the variety of great articles that I read this past year.

As you will see in the list I like to read different topics from a few different sources. My favorite outlet would be The New Yorker though because in my opinion they have the most interesting well-written articles. Plus my brother has a subscription that he always lets me use :)

So without further ado, here they are in no particular order. Hope you find something interesting to read this weekend!

Profiles:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Acts Out – The New Yorker

Riz Ahmed Acts His Way Out of Every Cultural Pigeonhole – The New York Times Magazine

Nicole Holofcener’s Human Comedies – The New Yorker

Donald Glover Can’t Save You – The New Yorker

Feminism:

Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story (and Country) Is This? – Literary Hub

Rebecca Solnit: Protest and Persist: Why Giving Up Hope is Not an Option – The Guardian

Lena Dunham on Her Decision to Have a Hysterectomy at Age 31 – Vogue

Social/Political Issues:

When Deportation is a Death Sentence – The New Yorker

The Birth of a New American Aristocracy – The Atlantic

Why Are the Poor Blamed and Shamed for their Deaths? By Barbara Ehrenreich – The Guardian

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, In Her Own Words — JACOBIN

‘Our Minds Can Be Hijacked’: The Tech Insiders Who Fear a Smartphone Dystopia — The Guardian

Spirituality & Health:

When Anorexics Grow Up — The New York Times 

Mama Medicine: How Deciding I Was Enough Transformed My Life — Well + Good

Why Perfectionism Is On The Rise and How To Overcome It — Goop

The Recovery Diaries: Self-Acceptance

Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance – what does that actually look like? And how do you get there? I’m no expert on any of these things but I think it’s an ever-evolving process that we are constantly working on as we go through life. We will continue to have situations that show up that we have to work through regarding how we feel about ourselves. It might be dealing with something that has come up around how we perceive ourselves or how others perceive us, or ways we behave in a relationship or tendencies we have – the possibilities are endless because there are so many layers to self-acceptance.

The self-acceptance I am going to be talking about here is the one that frees us from beating ourselves up over things that we cannot change about ourselves, and instead helps us embrace all the parts that make us who we are. Stopping the fight and criticism of ourselves and deciding to let it go because there truly is nothing wrong with us.

I know this sounds vague, so the easiest way for me to explain is to give an example from my life and hope this helps you identify similar tendencies in yourself. Then you can apply this to your situation and work on releasing it as I am working on doing this as well.

Self-Acceptance

So here it goes:

For as long as I can remember I have been a small person. When I was in elementary school and you had to line up according to height I was usually the first person in line. When someone would say we need the short people in the front, everyone would immediately say – “where’s Lili?”

I didn’t think much of it when I was young, I simply accepted it as the way it was, and went on with my life. I was short, my mom was short, my grandma was short, and that was that. It wasn’t until I started getting older that so much started to become attached to it. One of the biggest things this created was being perceived as younger than I actually was, which resulted in people treating me like a child, and wanting to take care of me.

I started to feel insecure and bad about this, and would blame myself for it. If anyone ever told me they thought I was younger – my first thoughts would be: What was I doing that was making people think I was younger? What was I doing wrong? Was I not acting assertive or mature? Did I act like a child? Why did I have to be so child like?? All of this started snowballing into me believing that there was something wrong with me.

I had a college professor and a boss both tell me that I was smart but I would have an uphill battle being taken seriously in the professional world because I was a petite woman. They suggested that I should practice behaving and speaking more authoritatively.

I remember when my college professor pulled me aside and told me that, I felt ashamed and angry with myself. I hated myself for being short and for not speaking in a more scholarly way or something.

It didn’t cross my mind that MAYBE some of these things were simply out of my control. These were things that were part of who I was and what made me unique.

I turned 30 this year and this story has still been triggering for me. Something happened just last week around this that made me feel uncomfortable.  

But then I had a moment of awareness where I stopped and questioned it, and I thought to myself – why am I blaming myself for this? Why am I making this a bad thing?

I know that I am a responsible, competent woman who gets her things done, and just because I am perceived as younger, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is neither good or bad, it just is what it is, and beating myself up about it is unnecessary.

My body, my height, my voice, my spirit – they are doing nothing wrong. I am doing nothing wrong. This is simply who I am, and if I happen to have a lighter, youthful energy then I am just going to accept it as what it is.

If there are things about yourself that make you insecure, stop and think about them and ask yourself if there is actually anything bad about them? Is there really something wrong with it or is just that you think there’s something wrong or because people make you feel weird about it but it’s actually not good or bad, it just is what it is? If that’s the case let’s release it, we don’t need to be carrying around that negativity anymore.

So yeah – I am short, and will always be small, and might always look more like a child than a commanding voluptuous woman, and you know what I am learning to accept it. I’m done with criticizing and picking myself apart. It’s time for some loving self-acceptance and to start believing that there is nothing wrong with me - and I hope you start working on doing the same too.

You Don't Always Have to Be Nice

You Don’t Always Have to Be Nice

I recently had a very insightful moment with my therapist. I was talking to her about an annoying situation I had found myself in that I wished I didn’t have to deal with. It was something silly but it made me uncomfortable and the root of what was bothering me was that I didn’t want to seem rude or unpleasant to someone.

I was telling her my concerns and going down a list of what if this happened or what if that happened, and how I didn’t want to hurt their feelings but I wished this wasn’t even a situation in my life.

Then she said, “you have done nothing wrong so you have nothing to feel guilty about, and if you’re not interested, you’re not interested. Lili, you don’t always have to be nice.”

That was a huge lightbulb moment for me: I don’t always have to be nice. When she said it I realized that it was a box I was always putting myself in and it was exhausting. She continued on to explain that it doesn’t mean I am impolite or hurtful, but that I don’t have to be overly nice to people — I can be neutral and I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I can simply say — I’m not interested, thank you. Or a simple: No.

You Don’t Always Have to Be Nice

I know this sounds like common sense but many people, ESPECIALLY women, have been conditioned to be people pleasers. We are afraid of letting someone else down at the expense of doing what is best for us. Or God forbid we come off as selfish, assertive, or having a strong opinion – women have been so trained to be agreeable, sweet, quiet, and putting others needs before our own.

I will admit it, throughout my life I have been a people pleaser. I am sensitive and I would take it personally if someone didn’t like me. Where do you think the perfectionism came from?

I wanted everyone to like me, not have one bad thing to say about me, and think I was important. And where did that leave me? Depressed with an eating disorder.

Trying to be sweet and nice to everyone has put me in many situations that I didn’t want to be in. I would force myself to do things that I knew intuitively I would rather not do. I didn’t know how to say no or was afraid of seeming rude or difficult, and then I would find myself wishing I was never tangled up in that situation to begin with.

Why do we sometimes think NO isn’t an option when it is 50% of the option – there is the yes option or the no option – and we should start giving the no option just as much weight as the yes. They are both equally valid.

As I get older and move into the new year, I am going to continue to work on releasing these habits of being a people pleaser and always being nice if it isn’t authentic. I am making it a priority to develop strength in setting boundaries, learning to simply say no, and stick up for myself and my needs. All of these practices are incredibly powerful and help you get to know and trust yourself better — because what matters most to me is that I like me.  

We shouldn’t be wasting any of our precious personal time doing something we don’t want to be doing because we are afraid of coming off rude or unpleasant in some way. Having the strength to simply say — No thank you — and not worry about having to be nice all the time will save us a lot of energy to do things we want to do and show ourselves the ultimate kindness and care.