“Write hart and clearly about what hurts”

– Ernest Hemingway.

It is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I would like to use this as a cue to contribute my part towards starting up an open dialogue on anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. You don’t always see when a person next to you is hurting. It’s not always visible, not always tattooed on their forehead, not always noticeably covered in a bandage or supported by crutches. Often, people with eating disorders feel ashamed to speak up. We don’t blame people getting cancer but we do assume that it is a personal choice to go down that spiral of starvation or overeating. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2012) clearly states that “eating disorders are the most fatal mental illnesses. (…) In the United States alone, more than 20 million women and 10 million men have suffered from eating disorders that are clinically significant.
Hence, it is safe to assume that everybody knows somebody!

I knew somebody who suffered from an Eating Disorder and I would like to share her story with you on her behalf:

“The truth is, I had always been very critical of myself. Having never really fitted in anywhere during high school, I soon blamed the reasons for that entirely on myself. My body. My mind. My goals. Nothing in me seemed good enough or why else would no one ask me out, why else would the cool kids in school avoid me?

During college, things changed to the better but I also very much suffered from the Freshmen 15 phenomenon and gained almost 30 pounds. Long long months of working out and self-restrain followed. I started obsessing over the number on the scale and I let my weight define my perceived self-worth.

Then, a little over a year ago, I did something really stupid. I made myself throw up. And that changed my life, my mindset, my happiness. I entered that cycle of bulimia. I started living for the Highs I got from skipping meals and yet I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror after a purge. I was disgusted and ashamed of myself, of this girl that was clinging to the toilet and then hanging over the sink crying. So yes, I was hurting but it wasn’t visible to anyone until I decided to tell my closest friends- which are amazingly helpful and supportive to the day. It is because of them that I didn’t give up.

Now, a year later, I am ten times happier. However, the bulimia story in my life, is not entirely over. Your body gets into a certain rhythm, a habit of craving food- and masses of it- at any occasion. I haven’t purged in a long time but eating healthy still requires so much more self-control these days because it takes me twice as much willpower to stop eating after a healthy amount. I need to avoid binging because I know that it would lead to feelings of regret which would then trigger a burning urge to get rid of all that food again. Eating has become something that needs to be scheduled, very consciously controlled, debated with myself over every bite. It is still a battle. One that I think I am fighting quite well and very strongly but one that will probably also still go on for quite a while.

Everybody has chapters in their lives that they would rather keep unpublished and my darkest one is based on the destructive assumption that unhealthy measures could actually make me happy over the long run. It didn’t make me happy, it just trapped me in, what sometimes seemed like, a neverending, cycle! And although it was hard and cost courage at that time, opening up to my friends was the best decision I could have made. “

It is never to late to offer a hand, speak up or ask for help. My friend got better and so can you! For more information, please visit the website of the National Eating Disorder Association!

If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it!

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All the world’s a stage…

Breathe in, breathe out. Stay calm. You got this.

It was a Friday evening. I was backstage of the Palace of Fine Arts SF getting ready to go on stage and take my role as the host of my university’s talent show. The PoFA is pretty impressive. You might even use the word intimidating. It fits 900 people and we had sold over 500 seats. It was the biggest audience I had ever performed in front. The whole thing was pretty big…or at least felt like it.

Palace of Fine Arts at dusk

Palace of Fine Arts at dusk

When my school called for auditions for the talent show, I didn’t really consider it. I have always loved acting and being on stage but somehow, over all the marketing in the past months, I had pushed it back into the very back of my head. But then, a friend signed me up to audition for the role of the show’s hostess. I didn’t wanna go. However, due to a bit of pride, ambition and curiosity, I auditioned nonetheless. Plus, Judith (yes, my long-distance roommate) had given me a challenge book for SF as my parting gift and one of those challenges was “Go do some acting on a stage in the city!”
And what better stage than the biggest of them all, right?

I was picked as a host and the show took place last Friday. And it was absolutely amazing! I could notice how the stage transformed me, gave me security and strength and the feeling to belong. I wasn’t the weird gal that randomly started singing or beat-boxing in the hallway. I was the girl who was brave enough to invent weird dance moves in front of 500 people. Alongside my two co-hosts, I cracked jokes, made the audience laugh, clap, even give me standing ovations. And I finally remembered that theater makes me feel alive.

I am good at many things but there are very few things in life in which I both excell and find pleasure. Theater is that! Leaving my own self aside for a little bit and  bringing a different character to life instead is amazing. Theater smell is the best smell in the world. Being passionate about something is awesome. And the best part comes at the end. When you get to mingle with the audience after the show and you can tell how people look at you a little different. You showed a glimpse of your happy place, you let that wild extrovert peek through that is otherwise so carefully hidden behind a studious mask. People tell you “Great job!” “Wow, you were so funny, I couldn’t believe that was you!” “Amazing, I could never do that!”. And knowing that it was you who gave all these people an enjoyable evening, it was due to you that 500 people cracked up and laughed tears and left the theater with a big grin in their face is the most amazing feeling I have yet experienced.

People grow up and exchange their childhood career dreams for more realistic life goals. In real life, I am so so excited to dive into the field of marketing and advertising. But, in my dream world, I am holding on to the idea of becoming an actress. Nothing makes me feel more alive. And nothing else gives me the feeling of actually having an impact on other people’s lives.

I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because…”

Cheers,

Ari

 

Reluctantly Vegan

Peeps, I know nobody said it was easy, but being vegan is really tough for me. It frustrates me because my boyfriend breezed through those 30 days, and here I am not even two weeks into it and already struggling. This morning, as I grabbed my vegan spreads from the refrigerator, there was my boyfriend’s mom’s smoked salmon right next to it… and goat cheese. COME ON.

If I didn’t have that stuff in my refrigerator, would life be easier? (Well probably, because it’d mean I’d have a place of my own.) I don’t know, really, I think the cravings would still be there.

Also, for three consecutive nights now, I had nightmares in which I was either at school (?!), out in the city, or at an assessment center (!!) trying to find some vegan food and failing, and just being so hungry and stressed. It really was no fun at all, and today I woke up frustrated and annoyed. Then the salmon and goat cheese temptation happened, and at breakfast I said to my boyfriend, “I don’t think I wanna be a vegan.”

“You don’t have to”, he said. “If you want, you can have some of that cheese.”

“No, I can’t. I promised I’d do this for 30 days. If you can do it, I can do it.”

“Okay then.”

“But… but I want cheese.”

“Well, maybe you’re just one of those people who can’t say no to those evil foods”, he said, knowing full well that hitting my conscience is pretty much the only thing even more effective than hitting my pride.

“Cheese is not an evil food”, I mumbled, but without great conviction. I know cheese production isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for cows, even though it’s not necessary to kill them in order to get the cheese (actually that would be kind of counterproductive, with the exception of rennet production, but that’s so gross I don’t even want to get into it).

Spoiler alert: I didn’t cheat. I ate my vegan breakfast and later my vegan lunch (which was actually delicious). Yet the cheese cravings didn’t go away, so I told myself I should maybe figure out where to get non-evil cheese from. And I did some research on milk production and dairy cows.

Another spoiler alert: Don’t do that unless you’re prepared to feel more than a little sick. I really had no idea about a lot of this, and I’m starting to think it may be easier to find meat from (formerly) happy animals than milk from happy cows. Really. Wow.

My cheese craving is not fully gone, but it’s definitely less than it was this morning. I realise there’s much I don’t know, and most of it I don’t know because in the past, I often chose not to be informed. I chose not to watch Food, Inc. or Earthlings, or any other documentary dealing with where we get our food from and what processes are involved. Why? Because I figured once I knew, it’d be tough to eat meat without a bad conscience.

Well, damn it, maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen. Because the more I realise how little I know about where my food comes from, the guiltier I feel. I can be informed, but I often choose not to, because it’s just way more convenient that way. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had no idea what I was eating? I mean not just in terms of animal cruelty, but also food additives and things like that. Wouldn’t it be nice if I went through life never wasting a thought on that? Too bad I started thinking about it… and I’m beginning to feel like there is no way back from that. So at least for the next two and a half weeks that are left of the challenge I’ll be, however reluctantly, vegan.

After that, who knows? I really cannot picture myself as a vegan full-time. I also really cannot see myself going back to never thinking about where my meat or my dairy comes from. My aunt has a few chickens and occasionally brings by a carton of eggs. I know those are happy animals, but does that mean that those eggs will be the only animal product I can eat? What am I going to do about my conscience? What about the fact that (damn it) I love the taste of cheese but I now know a whole lot about the dairy industry that makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it?

At this point, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen after day 30. I’m not an animal rights activist, I don’t believe all animals are smarter than us and I really just don’t see myself as one of those people that try to make others feel bad about what they’re eating. I just wanna be normal. But how can being normal entail shutting yourself off from a lot of really bad truths?

Any thoughts are much appreciated, of course – from vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and omnivores alike 🙂

Great, it rained. Happy?

Last weekend something weird happened in the Bay Area. The clouds in the skies would get darker and darker, the fog wouldn’t roll out but become a thick cover and wet stuff was falling from the sky. People called it rain. I called it Armageddon.

After California had been heading towards a serious drought for the past months, this past weekend brought a temporary relief in the form of inches of precipitation for San Francisco and its surrounding. I should be happy but, of course, it was the one weekend of the year I had a friend visiting from Germany, which called for lots of sight seeing. I learned several things over that past weekend:

1.) I am not equipped for rain. Neither mentally nor actually. How did I survive three years in a city with more rainfall than Scotland?! Last weekend, my so called “water resistant” shoes proved the salesperson wrong within minutes and my mood dropped to below zero before sunrise.

2.) Avoid malls during rainy season. Or shiny grounds in general. Trying to lift myself up via retail therapy, I marched into a mall and…fell face flat to the ground. After stumbling embarrassingly for a good couple of steps. When I stood back up, EVERYBODY was starring at me- sales people in the stores, shoppers on the escalators, bystanders. I bowed and ran away but it definitely taught me a lesson.

3.) Rainy season means survival of the fittest. Or of the ones with the biggest umbrellas. Suddenly, people forget how to live the California way and start pushing their way through the streets instead, as if their amount of pushing could limit the amount of rain drops that would fall onto them.

4.) Avoid public transport. Because that’s where you’ll find them. The inhabitants, the tourists, the homeless. Don’t take the F train because the first few ones will pass by your stop due to overcrowding and when you finally do get on one, it will smell like wet dog. You will be equally wet if you simply walk.

5.) Netflix. Day in, day out, without having to feel guilty about it. Finally.

6.) No Wharf. Because, at the wharf, you will be surrounded by water from all sides and it just leaves you with a very…watery…feeling.

7.) If you do decide to take a break from Netflix to go out (crazy much?!), don’t bother trying to combine clubbing outfits with rainprofability. It probably won’t work anyways and also, nobody cares. After a whole entire day of sightseeing in my hiking boots, my friend and I went barhopping in the castro (yes, in hiking boots and rain jackets). Nobody noticed. Nobody cared. Instead, we got props for daring to go out at all.

8.) Once it stops raining, the city finds itself in a state of rebirth. The air is fresh, the streets are clean and clear and people walk around in a state of astonishment. The world did not end, the sun came back, the temperatures rose. Faith in California restored. I know that it would have to rain a whole lot more to diminish the fatal results of a drought and I know I should be happy that it did rain. I should stop being naive and foolish and selfish and turn into a responsible, conscious citizen of this region by praying for more rain. But I am still in shock and so I am praying that this end-of-the-world-scenario will not repeat itself anytime soon. Between rationing water usage and heavy precipitation, I’d take communal showers anytime!

9.) A rainy day in San Francisco is still better than a rainy day anywhere else in the world.

 

But, just to make sure that my spoiled body gets its’ monthly sun intake that it has become accustomed too these days, I will be going on a roadtrip down to L.A. this weekend. Next blog posts with awesome photos and tips coming soon!!

The Vegan Experiment

In December, my boyfriend randomly said, “You know, next year I’ll eat only vegan food for 30 days.”

I must have just stared at him blankly. “Why?”

“I dunno. ‘Cause I can. I just think it’d be interesting.”

“Well… uh… have fun with that?”

I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see how one could possibly be vegan and happy at the same time. And yet he did it for 30 days, and that impressed me so much that I decided to follow suit. I’m on day 5 and I’m fine. Well, I mean, my friends just ordered pizza and of course there’s no vegan pizza at the takeout, so I’ll be sitting here with my hummus and crackers and stare longingly at their cheesy pepperoni pizza slices… but apart from that, I’m totally fine.

So why am I doing it?

Curiosity. Sheer curiosity. My boyfriend loves a good steak or pizza as much as the next man. And yet, on day 31, when he had his first slice of cheese, he pulled a face and said it wasn’t as great as he remembered – and proceeded to steal bites of my tofu scramble. The next day, he drank one sip of coke zero and said he was certain it must have gone bad. It tasted like it always did, but cooking and eating vegan means he barely ate any artificial flavours or flavour enhancers for a month – somehow that seems to have shifted his taste. He hasn’t tried steak yet because he’s worried he won’t like it anymore. And he still experiments with tofu, almond butter and amaranth. I want to know how that could happen. I want to see what happens if I do it for 30 days.

But what about meat?

Well, I’ve never really been much of a meat eater. I went vegetarian once and stayed that way for two years. Well, pescetarian – I was convinced I couldn’t live without fish. Apart from bacon and, occasionally, meatballs, I didn’t miss anything. I don’t even really know why I started eating meat again – I guess I became bored. It was also a period where I worked out a lot and that made me start craving red meat. Maybe a protein thing? But really – I’m the pickiest meat eater ever. I can’t handle bones in my meat, or fatty bits, or anything that is not the tenderest of tender filets. Even before this, I often went for the tofu option in asian restaurants. So meat’s not the issue.

Okay, what about eggs?

Eggs, okay. I love me some breakfast scrambled eggs. And no, we haven’t managed to make tofu taste exactly like scrambled egg, and I don’t think it’ll happen either. But the thing is that breakfast eggs are easy, which is why I eat them often. Now that they’re out of the equation, I usually go for oats or whole grain cereal with a milk substitute. Or tofu scrambles. Or both. It’s really not a big deal that I can’t have eggs – at least not for 30 days. It’s a bigger deal that I can’t have any cake because of that – but you know, cake’s not that great for you anyways.

So then – milk products?

Yeah, those. Cheese in all its variations is the main reason I was convinced I could never, ever, ever eat vegan. I LOVE cheese. Cream cheese is a staple in my diet, and really delicious smelly cheese is one of my favourite indulgences. But again, that’s what I ate and it was easy and convenient. Now I get creative with what to put on my bread. Hummus has basically replaced cream cheese as my go-to spread. I may not like that I can’t have cheese, but I love that I get to discover what else there is. I mean – I just had no idea about all the things vegans CAN eat. I’ve already expanded my horizons a lot – plus, I now read labels, and that means I just will not be eating some things again – not even after the 30 days. Do you have any idea what’s in our food sometimes? Wow.
Also, milk itself: I never need that back. I definitely prefer almond milk or oat milk in my cereal – I never really liked the taste of milk. In my coffee, I just really don’t care. Soy is fine, I don’t taste a difference, and in chai latte, I actually much prefer soy milk. So that’s not something I miss. At all.

Well, what DO you eat?

More vegetables than I did before. More fruit. More oils, I think, but of course no fat from red meat or butter. A lot of whole grains, creative dips and spreads that often contain almond butter and soy yogurt, and, of course, quite a bit of tofu. But not just tofu and not all the time. So far, eating vegan is definitely making me be healthier. Almost all takeout food, pastries, chips, pretzels and other snacks contain at least some egg, lactic acid, buttermilk, powdered milk… you get the idea. (By the way, did you know the water in olive jars often contains some lactic acid?) Chocolate contains milk, unless it’s the really dark kind. The bag of chips my brother bought the other day had 2% buttermilk in it (?!). Gummy bears contain gelatine, which is… well… not made from plants. So what being vegan means is that I usually just say no to junk food. Mostly because I know there’s something in it that I’m not allowed to eat. Sometimes because have no idea what’s in it at all.

No matter how I feel about vegan food after the 30 days are over, there’s something I do know: I want to keep this way of looking at food – checking labels, being conscious about what I eat and when I eat, rather than absent-mindedly nibbling on salty pretzels (there’s egg in those, by the way). And until I get to decide, there are still 25 days of meat and dairy abstinence. I’ll keep you posted!

#Instalicious

Ok, everybody freeze! This has to go on Instagram!

With more and more parents and grandparents joining Facebook to get closer to their friends and family members, a growing number of (US) teens is declaring Instagram to be the new IT online platform. Fair enough.

I got Instagram about six months ago and use it occasionally. However, when I scrolled through my uploaded set of photos today, I started to realize how Instagram is taking self-presentation to a completely new level. What are the things you instagram? I was very honest to myself and realized something: I take pictures of the cherry tree blooming outside my window and #valencia makes it look even brighter. I take selfies (yes, that happened) of me in cute outfits or of me in the sun laughing and #earlybird somehow eliminates the spots in my face and adds a glow to my smile. My food looks amazing with #sutro and suddenly I seem to detect art at every corner.

But let me give you the shocking truth: My hair is not always falling smoothly over my shoulders. I do not spend all day every day standing under palm trees holding a starbucks upwards to the sky. My life is not always #sflove #allnewfriends #yolo. There is also a whole lot of #studying #fml #midtermstress #shitimbroke and #worryingaboutthefuture going on. In fact, more than anything else really. People don’t instagram when they’re sick in bed with a fever- except when their bed sheets are really cute or their PJ’s say something funny. We don’t instagram our nights alone binging on ice cream and Dorritos or take selfies the morning after a rough party- except if we want to impress our followers with our #partyhard attitude.

I think Instagram has a lot of staged presence going on. Nonetheless, I use it. It makes life prettier. Makes me notice the little things in my everyday. I mean, it’s a whole platform full of awesome pictures of pretty landscapes, pretty jewelry, pretty people, mouthwatering food, joyous social events and more delicious food! And I am of that age where I can distinguish between the things people upload and the way they actually live their life. But I can imagine that my 14-year-old host sister might not be able to draw the same conclusions. So, I think it’s really important to keep one thing in mind: All is not gold that glitters!  Just like we shouldn’t get intimidated by what friends and ex-college companions post on Facebook about their glorious jobs, families and social lives, we shouldn’t get too caught up by beautifully arranged instagram pictures. After all, I bet even a pile of dog poop could look romantic with Amaro!

Caught on camera wearing summer gear in "winter" and looking for excuses to go outside #isitreallyjanuary #sunlover #goldenstate #sflove

Caught on camera wearing summer gear in “winter” and looking for excuses to go outside #isitreallyjanuary #sunlover #goldenstate #sflove

Why I love Americans

Well, there are countless reasons, actually. But this specific one derived from a phone convo I had had with my parents today.

I have been going running regularly for almost two years now. So, when my classmate told me she was training for a half marathon on Hawaii at the end of August, I started thinking. Wouldn’t that be a great goal to train towards, an amazing experience and a fun story to tell for the years to come?
“Aaah, back when I was 22 I went abroad for a while. Meditated in San Francisco, went surfing in LA (Tabitha, that has to happen!) and ran a half marathon in Kauai.” Sounds kinda badass, right?

I told my (American!) housemates about the idea and they loved it! Reassured me that it would be an unique experience indeed and erased my doubts of potentially not having enough time next to school to prepare for it. Encouraged me by telling me how well I was running distances already. Left me with a pretty good feeling.

Then I told my (German) parents. Their reply was a list of things I would have to consider if I’d actually pull through. “You should read up on how to train properly. And what if you get injured? Check with your health insurance, you know that the American ones don’t cover as much as the Europeans ones! Also, you need adequate equipment and it will require a consistent amount of energy. Adjust your food intake. And your water intake. Oh and by the way, how were you planning on even affording a flight to HAWAII in the first place?”

Now, notice how they never said “It’s a stupid idea”. But in all their Germaness, they pulled up an entire checklist that I’d need to fulfill to get the job done. I think Germans tend to strategize lots and lots before actually getting started on something to ensure that the outcome is not going to fail. Americans fail often and early. But if they fail, they try again. Not only do they possess the optimism to believe in their own ideas and potentials but also do they have enough positive thinking to trust in other people’s dreams too! I don’t know if I would actually pull through with the half marathon. But I do know that having people believe in me so purely and strongly motivates me on an entirely different level.

It’s not a matter of “in order to…I need to…” but rather a matter of “I believed I could, so I did!” that Americans tend to live by. And that’s the beauty of their thinking!

Nike Ad as found on Pinterest