Self-care in the time of COVID-19

How are you holding up?

I want to reflect on (and try to remember!) a few things that I’m trying to do to keep myself grounded in this weird and unsettling time. Caveat – this is just me, your mileage may vary :p

Self-Care List

  • Check in via text/call on all the people that I’ve been meaning to reach out to in a long time. It is a safe and easy gesture that can help to combat loneliness/isolation.
  • Get my blood pumping at least once a day – preferably via funny dancing.
  • Find ways to laugh – for me this has been 90% youtube and 10% spouse.
  • Cleaning has been extremely therapeutic. It’s embodied and rhythmic, it feels productive, and it’s satisfying to see things shine. Also, hygiene!
  • Acknowledge my anxiety and stress, rather than try to shame it away.
  • Jaw and head/neck massages.

What does self-care look like for you? <3

Urinary Tract Infections: Mistakes & Tips

It’s a typical weeknight and I’m about to fall asleep. “What’s on your mind?” asks the husband. We have some of our deepest conversations in this precious space between waking and sleeping.

“My urethra,” I reply. And then I get up to go to the bathroom even though I went about two and half minutes ago.

I have been on a long and winding journey in the past year in my battle against UTIs. Just like with everything else, there is a ton of misinformation floating around the internet. Even healthcare professionals can, in their haste, prescribe antibiotics that will wreck your gut flora and still fail to address your infection appropriately. As a disclaimer, if you are experiencing UTI symptoms (burning, urgency, frequency, cloudy urine, etc), I think you should 100% consult a medical professional and follow their directives. This is not medical advice. This post is solely intended to help any sufferer navigate their care process with eyes WIDE OPEN. Plus, hopefully you’ll find some practical tips to save you time and money because isn’t that what we all want??

Despite being rather proficient in scouring the internet for evidence-based research and recommendations, I’ve made several mistakes in my attempts to cure my UTIs. Hopefully you can avoid these mistakes, enjoy these tips, and get on the fast track to a symptom-free, happy, and healthy bladder!

Mistake: Diagnosing and treating without a urine culture

A UTI is an infection of the urinary tract that is caused by bacteria. 80% of UTIs are caused by the bacteria known as E. coli, but there are several other kinds of bacteria that can give rise to an infection as well.

It is important to know what type of bacteria you have, because different bacteria are susceptible to (i.e. can be attacked by) different types of antibiotics. The only way to find out what strain of bacteria is affecting your urinary tract is to get a urine culture (different from a urinalysis) done at a lab.

Moreover, antibiotics aren’t really a neutral medication that you want to be taking willy-nilly. They disrupt your gut (hello diarrhea!) and cause resistance when they are taken without need.

AZO test strip fail

The first couple times I suspected a UTI, I decided to purchase these UTI test strips made by a brand called AZO. Who wants to go to the doctor when you don’t have to? Unluckily for me, they have always been negative — even when I have definitely had an infection. The strips aren’t always reliable, and in my mind they aren’t worth the $10 because if you do have an infection you’ll want to go to the doctor, and if you don’t, it could be a false reading and you should still go to the doctor. What the negative test result ended up doing for me is delaying my trip to the doctor because I wasn’t convinced I had an infection.

Lesson learned: Don’t bother with at-home test strips.

Christmas Eve Telehealth

It was Christmas Eve, I was in the airport, and I couldn’t get a hold of my doctor. Our flight was delayed, and I had maddening UTI symptoms. What did I do? I took advantage of a tele-health service provided by my insurance company. For $30, I talked to a doctor on my laptop for four minutes and ended up with a prescription for an antibiotic named Bactrim.

Unfortunately, Bactrim did nothing for me. A few weeks later, when I was able to get a urine culture done, I found out that I had Group B Strep bacteria – which Bactrim isn’t generally very effective against (source). My doctor then started me on a course of amoxicillin (penicillin), which cleared the infection right up.

Tip: How to get a urine culture

Hopefully your physician will be able to do this for you. You might have to ask for it. But if you’re in the US and you simply can’t get a hold of your doctor soon enough (been there), you can order your own culture via Walk In Lab. You can go to any LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics location near you. The results should take a couple of days to come back, and will include information about what type of antibiotics are likely to be effective against the bacteria found (if any).

Mistake: Buying a $10 bottle of organic pure cranberry juice

The cranberry juice is still sitting in the fridge.

There’s no solid evidence that drinking a few shots (or even ‘chugging’) cranberry juice can help either flush out or prevent a UTI.

However, there is some good science and anecdotal evidence to suggest that a compound found in cranberries called D-Mannose can be effective for both treating and preventing UTIs — wow! Even the New York Times ran a piece about UTIs and mentioned D-Mannose. Could it be true?

Side note: D-Mannose is not the same as Cranberry. If you go to your pharmacy, you might see bottles labeled ‘Cranberry’ or ‘Cranberry Extract’ — you can still try them, but they aren’t as potent.

Mistake: Buying D-Mannose

A few weeks ago, I went to see a urologist because my infections kept recurring. She recommended taking 1,000mg of D-Mannose a day. Eager to supplement my infections away, I purchased a ton of D-Mannose powder from vitacost and started dutifully dissolving suspicious-looking white powder in my morning glass of H2O.

I was reluctant to admit it, but it didn’t help.

Tip: D-Mannose is the miracle cure – but only for some

Back to the internet. My research told me that D-Mannose was only effective against E. coli bacteria (source), which I have never had in my urine. Thanks, urologist.

If you do find that you have E. coli bacteria in your culture, look into pure D-Mannose powder. Some people say that the powder is more effective than the pill form, though there aren’t studies to back this claim up.

Gram positive vs. gram negative

The Gram classification of bacteria (positive vs negative) tells you what kind of cell wall structure the bacteria have. E. coli is classified as a gram negative bacteria, whereas the type of bacteria I had – Group B Streptococcus – is classified as a gram positive bacteria. This distinction is part of the reason why some treatments are effective with some types of bacteria and ineffective with others.

Since, D-Mannose is ineffective in the treatment of gram-positive bacteria, what am I supposed to do???

Potential Tip: Lauricidin/monolaurin for other forms of bacteria?

I haven’t tried this yet (still on its way), but some studies have shown that Monolaurin, a compound found in coconut, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can effectively work against gram-positive bacteria (source, source). Coconut oil has been touted as a home remedy for UTIs, but honestly, you’d have to consume nearly a whole jar to get the equivalent of one serving of monolaurin. The brand that was recommended is called Lauricidin.

Potential Tip: Invest in a good probiotic?

I have no idea if taking a probiotic has helped me with my UTIs, but I think it’s important, especially with all the antibiotics I’ve taken. Some people say to avoid taking the probiotic and the antibiotic within an hour of each other so they don’t ‘cancel each other out’. There’s some controversy about whether probiotics need to be refrigerated, so I just err on the side of caution and purchase Garden of Life Raw Probiotics – Vaginal Care which comes with an ice pack.

There’s evidence that two probiotic strains are particularly beneficial for UTIs: Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. reuteri (source).

Tip: Don’t overthink hygiene

More than 50% of women will get a UTI at some point in their lives.

You can have excellent personal hygiene and get UTIs all the time. You can have terrible hygiene and never get UTIs. Of course, use your common sense and please wipe from front to back. However, both my urologist and the internets agree that showering too frequently and washing down there too often (especially with soap) can actually be counterproductive (source). This is because soap can get rid of your body’s natural micro-organisms that help your body to defend itself against bad bacteria.

Tip: Take a deep breath

Having recurrent episodes of urinary tract infections has been very stressful.

When I have an active infection, I’m anxious all the time about whether and when I’ll be able to use the restroom. This makes being out in public or being at work very difficult. Some nights I am so uncomfortable that I start crying out of frustration. When I don’t have an active infection, I am always on the lookout for any signs of a UTI.

My urologist has suggested (and I think she’s right) that anxiety and stress can contribute to UTI-like symptoms, especially a sense of urgency.

So if you have a UTI and are stressed out about it, hi five. Take a deep breath. Identify one small step you can take towards better health, and focus on that.

Tip: Maybe it’s your pelvic floor muscles

At some point a few months ago I noticed how tight my pelvic floor muscles were feeling. No surprises there — I was constantly clenching and guarding against having to pee. (I have my yoga training to thank for helping me with my pelvic floor awareness). As it turns out, UTIs can really wear your pelvic floor muscles out, which can in turn mimic symptoms of a UTI (source). I spent some time working with a pelvic floor physical therapist, who taught me some useful breathing and relaxation exercises.

The end…not

This isn’t one of those stories that ends with “…and I have been UTI free for five years now!”. I’m still in the thick of it, but I feel like I have learned a lot (and also spent a lot of money). I’m extremely grateful that I have access to healthcare and the internet and can get fancy supplements shipped to me.

Here’s hoping that I’ll be writing a post in 5 years that will declare me UTI-free.

Body Respect & Codependency

What is codependency?

I’m a few years late, but I finally started doing some research on codependency and what it actually means. It’s definitely become somewhat of a buzzword, but I think it describes a very real phenomenon. The slightly less ‘pop psychology’ term for codependency is enmeshment, or a lack of differentiation. In simple terms, your sense of self is bound up in someone else. You are an overlapping venn diagram. When the other person experiences a failure or makes a mistake, you feel implicated. When they are hurt, you feel responsible for healing them. Codependency can be quite subtle, but telltale signs are feelings of clinginess, neediness, constant insecurity, and an inability to set boundaries (either positive or negative ones).

But isn’t that the point of being in an intimate relationship??? I know, it took me a while to start believing that codependency could be a negative thing to begin with. Especially because I grew up steeped in biblical language such as “two becoming one” and of course the wonderfully delicate topic of biblical submission (which I will not get into…for now).

If you are curious about codependency and its healthier alternative, interdependency, here’s a great video by a licensed marriage & family therapist.

A void in one’s sense of self

One of my lightbulb moments in understanding what drives codependent behavior is that it stems from a void in one’s sense of self. In my mind, it helps to think of this ‘sense of self’ in three stages:

  1. Knowing myself: my values, interests, goals, and needs
  2. Respecting myself and the values, interests, goals, and needs that I have
  3. Committing to pursue those interests & goals, staying true to my values, and fulfilling my needs

It was dumbfounding and a little embarrassing to realize that even in my mid-twenties, I was still stuck at stage 1. I didn’t know what my hobbies were. I didn’t have goals (I just made them up for job interviews). I absorbed the values of the people around me or perhaps worse, people on the internets.

It seems logical to me that when a person doesn’t know, respect, or commit to their sense of self, they will naturally turn to their relationships – especially intimate relationships – to feel fulfilled, happy, and even just okay. There is no shame in codependent behavior. It is an adaptive behavior that becomes maladaptive. However, I think it’s important to address the root cause of codependency rather than just trying to force non-codependent behaviors. It doesn’t make any sense to tell someone to start saying ‘no’ to what they don’t want and ‘yes’ to what they do if they don’t even know what they want to begin with.

Body image and self-worth

Alright, so there’s a lot of stuff written on the internet and in books and podcasts about codependency and I don’t need to belabor it. What I’ve been getting curious about in my own life, however, is how body image relates to our sense of self, and therefore, our relationships with others.

But first: did you know that 90% of American women are dissatisfied with their bodies? (source). That is heartbreaking.

For better or for worse, our body image – how we perceive our flesh and its shape and texture – is a big part of our sense of self. When I was single, I remember having loud voices in my head that said, “Your body is unloveable. No one will ever love you because no one will ever love your body.” Yikes. Sadly, I don’t think these thoughts are that uncommon. And of course, beginning to dismantle such ugly lies that were etched so deeply in my psyche was a lot more complex than just reading some article or blog post.

However, I think a big turning point for me was to realize that the next step after body hatred is not usually body love. Instead, body image is a spectrum:

body image spectrum
Source: Courage to Nourish

It was encouraging to know that it’s okay (and very normal) to I feel like I will never love or feel confident in my body. BUT, disliking my body’s appearance and respecting my body are not mutually exclusive. You might have to figure out what body respect means to you, but for me it means certain non-negotiables like: I don’t skip meals, I don’t cut out food groups, I am intentional about putting an end to critical body thoughts, I am intentional about putting an end to body checking or comparisons, I take care of my personal hygiene (including teeth), I don’t exercise if it doesn’t feel good, etc.

I might still wish my body were different. But practicing body respect is an enormous step towards liberation, even if it the process feels wobbly or slow.

Body respect & codependency

To put it all together, how we feel about our bodies is a part of our sense of self, and our sense of self affects the way we show up in our intimate relationships.

Demi Lovato opens up about her eating disorder and how it is related to her loneliness on her documentary here. As a side note, I am a HUGE Demi fan, and feel weirdly connected to her (we are the same age~). Anyway, the whole documentary is worth watching, but I am always impressed by how honest she is – both with herself and publicly – about her struggles with food and body image. Recognizing where you are on the body image spectrum can be really difficult. Taking the next step in the direction of health and wholeness can be utterly overwhelming. Is it worth it, though? 100%, I say. If you struggle with this is any way, I hope that you find this to be true for yourself too <3

On the grief of miscarriage

This is a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. In January 2019, a little over a year ago, my husband and I miscarried twins at 10.5 weeks of gestation. Going through the nervous excitement of early pregnancy, absorbing the shock of sudden loss, and then wading sluggishly through the Grief that followed has fundamentally changed who I am and how I move through life. I eventually want to tell the story of how everything unfolded – the nitty gritty stuff like ultrasound anxiety, phone tag with the midwives and Husband’s Choice maxipads – but for now, I want to ruminate a little on grief and share some thoughts about how to be a friend to someone going through this poorly-understood but utterly devastating loss.

When I found out I was pregnant in November of 2018, I was fairly clueless about the whole process – I didn’t know the difference between a doctor and a midwife, for example. I knew what a miscarriage was, but I had no idea that approximately 1 in 4 and maybe even 1 in 3 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. Even if I had known that, it never occurred that it might happen to me.

Having the miscarriage was an awful, isolating kind of grief. We couldn’t think of any friends who had been through this. Most people felt awkward around the subject and/or offered unsolicited advice that really stung. And for the most part, I could understand – I would have been the same way before my own loss. I believe everyone had the best of intentions – but good intentions can still hurt. Here I want to share some thoughts about how (in my opinion) to support a friend who has gone through a pregnancy loss. In other words, what makes a response helpful or unhelpful?

The Journey of Grief

grief journey

Copied from

I’m going to backtrack a little and talk about grief first. This is an illustration of the grief journey that I’ve found to be extremely helpful. When someone experiences a crisis or a huge loss, there are two paths they can take. Many of us start out on the false bridge, looking to bypass the unpleasant villages of denial and anger and no hope. These so-called negative feelings feel icky and endless, make us feel unproductive, and make it hard to pretend that everything is ok. Unfortuntely, the false bridge doesn’t go anywhere – it’s a dead end.

The only way to get to the village of new beginnings is to take the long, winding road – the road of life, which means spending significant time camping out in denial and anger as well as no hope, sometimes even making a second or a third visit.

I think that everyone’s specific ‘road of life’ will look a little different. For me, I had to ask for some grace at work and at school so that I could take a break (and be okay with taking a break). I was kind to myself whenever I started crying in public because I saw a pregnant woman or even a baby. I swore at God. I worked to accept over and over again that I couldn’t control how long the sadness or anger would last – but I committed to feeling my feelings (most of the time, anyway).

Now, to some people, this might seem self-indulgent, irresponsible, and immature. In fact, I sometimes felt guilty for feeling so sad, and habitually tried to invalidate my pain. I had a strong internal voice that yelled at me constantly: But I have this, and that, and a roof over my head, and a loving husband, and therefore I shouldn’t feel this way, other people suffer so much more, etc, etc, etc. I want to gently challenge that voice. Gratitude and grief can co-exist. It’s also ok not to feel grateful/happy for a while. My own personal experience is that the best way to heal from pain is through. It might take longer than you want, but the village of new beginnings exists, and you will get there.

So what does this have to do with helping my friend?

In a nutshell, some of the most unhelpful comments are ones that try to hurry a grieving person onto the ‘false bridge’. Some examples (most of which have been said to me):

“Oh, it’s more common than you think.” – no big deal, your pain is unwarranted, you should get over it

“At least you’re young.” – again, your grief is unwarranted

“You’ll get pregnant again.” – well, losing a baby isn’t the same as losing a sock…

“I was sad too when my dog died, but ____ helped me.” – our grief isn’t the same, and your solution isn’t what I need right now

“God is so sovereign. He will comfort you.” – this is called spiritual bypassing, and is just as common as it is unhelpful and even toxic

“Just enjoy the time with your husband.” – I will…thanks

“At least you weren’t showing yet.” – placing conditions on when a lost pregnancy is allowed to be mourned

“At least you won’t have to deal with a baby yet, they’re so exhausting!” – err, why did you have one?

Let me reiterate: I honestly believe that almost all of these comments were made with the best of intentions, but I think we can and should want to do more than being well-intentioned.

Here are some responses that made me feel heard, loved, and supported:

“That is so devastating. I am so sorry.”

“I don’t know what to say, but know that I am here to support you.”

“I love you.”

“How can I help?”

“How are you coping?”

“I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

“I don’t know much about this, but if you want to share, I’d love to learn.”

See? Simple, sincere, honest. When in doubt, you can even express your doubt – that will be far more appreciated than ignoring your friend or dodging the subject entirely.

This might sound surprising, but I really wanted to talk about my miscarriage. I wanted to process what had happened, how much pain I was in, how scary the blood was, how lost I felt, everything. But I rarely felt like it was okay to impose on a conversation, even with my close friends. I was waiting for some kind of signal from them that they were willing and able to listen to me. Please don’t worry that bringing it up will somehow upset someone – they’re already thinking about it all the time, and probably about to burst from keep all their raw emotions and thoughts bottled up inside.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful! I’m happy to say that I have found my village of new beginnings, and no longer feel the daily sting of loss, even though I still think about my babies every day. As always, please reach out with thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear them!

Summer ’19

The temperature today will hit a mere seventy degrees*, which I am going to celebrate by walking everywhere. This summer has felt endless, and it feels like a relief to be finally entering FALL.

*= 21.111°C for Celsius friends




It’s been an odd summer. We attended five weddings, of which four required significant travel. We settled into a new apartment, only to make plans to move again shortly. We both left and started new jobs. I planted flowers for the first time and they’ve since shriveled up in the heat. I suppose if I had to put a word to it, I would describe summer as a time of limbo. Endings and beginnings. In-betweens.


Also, Paris Baguette opened up two new locations in Philadelphia 😛

Body weirdness

Summer has been slower. It took a while for me not to feel as anxious or panicky about having more free time. Sadly, it feels like I haven’t been able to make the most of this short-lived restfulness, partly due to the fact that I’ve spent a lot of time (and money!) dealing with a string of random health issues — the most vexing and recent of which has been a cracked tooth. No kidding, I have been to four dentists/endodontists this summer. Other fun issues have included a UTI, testing positive for tuberculosis (it was a false positive), knee problems, debilitating jaw pain, etc.

I find it interesting that all these ailments started popping up once I started to sleep more and rest more in general. My inner hypochondriac was freaking out a little all summer. As someone who came of age at the same time as search engines, I have fond memories of googling diseases and feeling utterly convinced that I had all of them.

Seriously, though, bodies are a mystery. On the one hand, they are so prone to disease and decay (and bug bites). But on the other hand, they have such an incredible capacity for healing and renewal.

Sleep quality

I’m truly grateful for what feels like a level-up in my quality of sleep. For the first time in ten years, I am sleeping ‘normally’ — for me, that’s about eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye. I struggled with insomnia and waking up early (3-4am) for a long time, and to be honest, I can’t pinpoint what exactly has shifted. I suspect that not being in front of a screen for 12-15 hours a day has something to do with it. Having much less day-to-day anxiety is great and not being hungry all the time helps. But I think the final piece of the puzzle for me has been having a consistent bedtime routine. We learn that routine is critical for kids to thrive, but I wonder if adults are that much different.

I don’t know right now and that’s OK

Existential questions stop when you graduate college and/or get married, right? WRONG.

There are so many aspects of life that feel like shifting sand. Questions surrounding vocation, where to live, family, faith, friends, money, identity, etc. abound and can feel exhausting and overwhelming. When those feeling arise, I’m getting in the habit of saying to myself (sometimes out loud), I Don’t Know Right Now And That’s OK. Sounds a bit crazy, but somehow in our Cartesian minds we have an expectation that we ought to have it all figured out by now.

On a lighter note


At the beginning of the summer, I started swapping out some of our cleaning and personal hygiene products for more “environmentally friendly”, “less toxic” ones (in quotes because it’s hard to believe or trust these claims sometimes). My parents gifted me with a Target gift card for my birthday in May, so I decided to splurge invest in new shampoo, conditioner, facewash, deodorant, and detergent (laundry + dish). I have mostly enjoyed the new products, though I’ve run into a few issues here and there. The most interesting outcome is that my menstrual cramps have progressively become more and more manageable over the summer — from debilitating to a slight annoyance. If that sounds odd, one of the main reasons people switch from their regular beauty/personal products is that they contain chemicals that mimic our hormones (even the ‘good’ brands like Dove!). Research is still not conclusive, but the according to the theory, being exposed to these chemicals disrupts our hormonal balance. Some people argue that the vast majority of our exposure to environmental toxins is well beyond our control (e.g. toxins in the air), so using a different shampoo isn’t going to move the needle…but again, this is my highly unscientific personal experience & experiment.

Happy Fall!

Right, that was a monster of a post. Happy fall & go enjoy a pumpkin spice latte if that’s your thing!

Two years out: thoughts on work

Bay Area crew <3

A little over two years ago, I became a Xoogler. My friends threw me a party to celebrate the momentous occasion of quitting my first job. Obviously I’m not the only person in the world who has opted to leave Uncle G, but unlike other Xooglers I didn’t have a gig lined up at an oddly-named-but-edgy-sounding startup in San Francisco. In fact, my cushy six-figure salary dropped to a single figure: $0. Over the next few months, I fielded a wide range of responses, such as:

“You’re so brave!”

“You’re throwing away the resources and blessings you’ve been given.”

“But you just got promoted?? I don’t understand.”

“It’s cute that you want to do more ‘meaningful’ work, but you’ll soon grow out of it.”

I felt guilt. A lot of guilt. I struggled with my sense of ‘indebtedness’ to Karl for making him the main breadwinner, and we struggled to navigate roles and identities within our newly-minted marriage relationship.

But today — two years out — I am grateful and confident that I could and did make the choice that felt right for me.

I have the utmost respect for software engineers. Truly. Three out of six of my bridesmaids were (and still are) kickass female engineers. And I’ve learned how to say: that’s so wonderful for them, and it doesn’t have to be for me. I’m not a bad person for quitting, or for feeling like it was too hard, or that I was a square peg in a round hole.

However, I’ve noticed some of the old guilt resurfacing lately. For the past year, I’ve been a full-time student and also working part-time, mostly in childcare-related settings. Now that classes are on hold for the summer, I’ve been struggling with and being ashamed of the fact that I ‘only’ work two or three days a week. Am I productive enough to be a person? All my friends are working normal jobs. I’m not running a side business, I’m not a mom; I doubt that I’ve earned the right to work only three days a week. Am I a slacker? Am I just coasting?

I fully acknowledge that having the option to work part-time is to be in a position of immense privilege. But I think I’m also learning that having a door open due to privilege (rather than being ‘earned’ — whatever that means) doesn’t mean you are obliged to take it.

If I’m honest, I really enjoy working part-time. In fact, I don’t think I would be healthy for me to be working my current job five days a week. I’m completely spent after a full day of pouring all my energy, attention, and (tough) love out to dozens of small people. My heart is full, but my head hurts, my feet ache, I wasn’t able to fuel myself adequately, I didn’t have time to poop. On my off days, I love that I have time to take things slow, handle all our mail/travel plans/life logistics, go to the gym, read, write, bake banana bread, go to the dentist, listen to podcasts, take long walks, poop twice (sorry).

It’s fairly socially acceptable for us to talk vaguely about the importance of self-care, but what if self-care — for me in this specific season — means saying no to a 40-hour work week? That’s still difficult for me to accept.

Why having an eating disorder sucked: Part 2

I’m just gonna say it: Constipation.

As someone who grew up listening to Avril Lavigne, I learned at around thirteen years of age that the correct way to sing the chorus for ‘Complicated’ is, in fact, “Why’d you have to go and make things so constipated?”

Yes, eating disorder, why??

Because of my irregular eating habits, I was severely constipated for years. As you can imagine, this was incredibly uncomfortable. I had no idea that it was related to under-nutrition — in fact, I was convinced that I needed to eat even more kale and drink even more black coffee to get things moving (for the record, this didn’t work). Not to get into too much detail, but sometimes I went over a month without a poop.

…Yeah, not good.

I was drinking dandelion tea every day and trying all kinds of laxatives — nope.

The other gastrointestinal symptom that bothered me was getting full very quickly. I remember going to lunch once and being full from exactly 1 piece of sushi. Even when I tried to re-feed myself by setting calorie minimums for the day, I would get nauseous and be unable to take in more food. This inadvertantly fueled my eating behaviors, and helped me “prove” to myself (and concerned others) that I simply wasn’t hungry. I’d snap defensively, “I don’t want to eat because I’m honoring my natural hunger cues!” True, but my hunger cues were no where near natural or healthy – they had gone into hiding, defeated by years of being ignored. (This doesn’t mean I was never hungry: sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night with unbearable & piercing hunger that I can only describe as ‘primal’ – and I don’t mean paleo).

So, what the heck was going on body-wise? It turns out that a condition called gastroparesis that can help to explain things. Gastroparesis literally means “paralysis of the stomach”. It is also known as “delayed stomach emptying”. It’s a major traffic jam. Gastroparesis is practically universal whenever there is severe caloric restriction (source). As your body tries its best to conserve energy, your digestive system starts slowing down. Moreover, since food intake is inadequate, your wonderfully smart body holds on to whatever food there is for longer, so that more nutrients can be absorbed.

The fallout: unpleasant GI symptoms.

Gastroparesis can make recovery very difficult. For someone who has an eating disorder, the idea of eating more is already terrifying, and having GI discomfort can be a big roadblock. This was the case for me. Shortly after I started working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specialized in eating disorder recovery, I started feeling sicker. I was nauseous and bloated and all kinds of miserable and absolutely convinced that I needed to STOP recovery and go back to my restrictive diet, which involved staying under the daily nutritional requirements of a toddler. I’m grateful that I had the professional support and medical monitoring from a specialized PCP to keep going in a way that was safe for my body.

The good news? Full nutritional rehabilitation usually results in 100% restoration of normal bowel moments. My husband and I often compete for the bathroom in the morning. When I struggle in recovery and start to miss my smaller body, I think about how my GI system lets me know (in no uncertain terms!) that it is thriving and happy now that it is being fed appropriately.

I’m not even touching on the very trendy ~gut-brain connection~ here because I don’t have anything definitive to share, but it wouldn’t shock me at all if it turned out that major disturbances in the gut and disturbances in mental and emotional health were intertwined. One more reason to prioritize (or be grateful for) a happy gut 🙂

Why having an eating disorder sucked: Part 1

Hi again! I’m writing a several-part series on why having an eating disorder sucked for me. I don’t know how many parts there will be (because it sucked in so many ways), but here is part 1 🙂

Disclaimer: this was only my experience; everyone’s lived experience is different. However, I think it’s safe to say that eating disorders universally suck! Even if you don’t feel like you have a clinical eating disorder, one study showed that sixty-five percent of American women report disordered eating of some sort (source). Having an unhealthy relationship with food is practically the norm. I hope that sharing my experience helps to shed some light on how devastating and completely un-glamorous it is to struggle chronically with food and body image.

With that out of the way, here’s the first thing that came to mind when I thought about why having an ED was horrible: Being freezing cold all the time.

For years, I had ‘ice fingers’ – even in the heat of summer. It wasn’t very nice to hold hands with me either on a date or if you were next to me in an awkward group prayer. I remember crying in bed one night because I was just so cold in spite of my ensemble of Uniqlo Heattech gear and duvet covers.

When your body isn’t getting enough fuel, your brain goes into survival mode and tries to figure out how to conserve energy so that your body can continue to support vital functions – like keeping your heartbeat going. One major way to save precious energy is by lowering your core body temperature. That’s why you can feel abnormally cold all the time.

For the most part I dismissed this as a sort of personality trait of mine – “Oh, I’m just constantly cold.” But what really broke my heart was when I noticed that babies would recoil from my touch and cry when I held them. Yikes! Poor babies. When I nannied, I would try to blow on my hands before touching them. This made me realize that something was a little off – bodies are supposed to be welcoming and nurturing and safe for little ones.

When I went through recovery and starting eating much, much more (like 5-10 times more) my body actually started radiating heat – the air around me would feel warm! I felt like a furnace! After several months, my metabolism calmed down a little and I’ve noticed that my body hardly feels distressingly cold anymore (except in a Philly sub-zero snow storm).


On wasting

I’m feeling anxious about waste. In this season I cannot help but think: I am wasting so much time, I’m not doing anything, I need to justify my existence, I feel incredibly guilty, etc. In reality, a constellation of random, unfortunate, and unforseeable events is preventing me from having anything to ‘do’ right now in the way of work or formal study. I’ve been ‘idle’ for a week, and even though most of the week has been spent in various types of physical discomfort, my level of anxiety is HIGH.

Then I start worrying existentially about all the things in my life that feel wasted. Did I throw away my expensive computer science degree? Why did I undergo a yoga teacher training?! Shame on my millennial soul.

When I was going through a crisis earlier this year, one of my dearest friends texted me a Kings K lyric: “None of this is wasted / Still becoming who we are / Ordinary people / Extraordinary scars”. I cried. I dearly want to believe that, but I am hell bent on efficiency.

It’s hard to receive these words: It isn’t a waste for you to be & to keep being. You don’t need to justify your existence. You are okay.

Celebrating convenience foods

I used to be a huge food snob. In particular, the kind who insisted on making everything from scratch. I would make my own bread and my own butter — yes, butter. Marinara sauce, pesto, almond butter, granola, pasta, you name it. This came partly from a good place: being curious about the science/craft, wanting to save money and reduce packaging waste. But mostly it was because I had been brainwashed to believe that in order to be a healthy (or even a ‘good’) person, I needed to avoid processed food like the plague. I’m not saying that processed or ‘junk’ foods are always the #1 most nutritious choice, but here’s something to think about: constantly stressing over food is so much worse for your health than having a non-organic meal with refined carbohydrates. Ironically, those moments of panic/indecision while placing your order at a restaurant and feelings of post-meal guilt can cause stress-induced inflammation, the very thing you are probably trying to avoid.

All that to say: I empathize with anyone who is trying to be healthy. Mental health is a huge component of our health as well! Personally, I’ve found that frozen and convenience foods have been a total game-changer. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon baking muffins or cooking an elaborate meal — it just doesn’t stress me out anymore if I don’t have the energy or time to do that.

Some of my favorite frozen/convience foods:

Trader Joe’s Gyoza Potstickers

These are the real deal and a total steal at $2.99 for 23 dumplings (yeah, we buy them so much that I know how many there are off the top of my head). We like both the pork and chicken ones equally. I’ve tried the newer salmon potstickers as a sample and they didn’t taste as weird as they sound, but I wouldn’t purchase them….because we love the pork and chicken ones SO MUCH!!!! Note that this is coming from an Asian person who has made hundreds (maybe thousands) of dumplings. No exaggeration, these potstickers make their way to our dinner table about once a week. I follow the instructions on the package and serve them up with an obnoxious array of sauces and chillis, plus maybe some veggies if we feel like it.

Trader Joe’s Party Size Mini Meatballs + Tomato Basil Marinara + Frozen Brussels Sprouts

Easy peasy. I love buying frozen brussels sprouts at TJ’s — they’re smaller and so they cook up more quickly. I put them in a sautee pan with some water, let them boil/steam for a while, and then add some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt so they can glaze/char a little bit.

Box Mac & Cheese + Canned Tuna + Frozen Broccoli

Thisssssssss. Boil the broccoli for a few last minutes with the pasta and add the tuna to the drained pasta/broccoli mixture. If I have time, I will transfer to a oven safe dish, add MORE cheese, and then bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. Also, always add the butter!

Van’s Power Grains Frozen Waffles

Waffle…toaster…butter…peanut butter…cinnamon. I like this kind because they feel a little more hearty/substantial.

Trader Joe’s Frozen Almond Croissants

These are actually the best almond croissants I’ve ever had. Almond croissants are one of my favorite foods, so I’ve had a lot of almond croissants. They’re so good probably in part because you’re eating them fresher than you’d ever get from a café — the frozen dough is left out for some hours to rise and then baked. They come with the almonds on top, but I added the powdered sugar :p

That’s it for now! I now realize that we have disproportionate representation from Trader Joe’s, but hopefully that means you can find and enjoy some of these items if you are in the US.