my food journey: week two (I have so much to tell you!)

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I have so much to tell you!! Every session with my nutritionist, Dana James, has been a lesson in awareness. Although it’s only been two short weeks since I made the choice to be completely present in my life, especially with regard to the food I put in my body (nourish versus numb, remember?), I feel as if every day is, at turns, an awakening and another bandaid being ripped off.

Rather than rehash the past four years, and why I made the choice to stay in an environment that bred competitiveness, insecurity and self-contempt, I’m focusing more on repairing the damage that was done as a result of walking into an office every day, knowing that every hour spent was an hour stolen from me. Over the past year I’ve returned to former self, have reestablished a confidence that had been trampled upon, and have set mindful boundaries when it comes to achieving a balance between the work I do and the art I create. As such, I am meticulous and methodical when negotiating contracts with new clients, being really specific on the time I devote to a project and the what will and won’t be achieved within those defined hours. I think this self-care was really the impetus for me seeing Dana, because I started to feel that something wasn’t right with my body when everything else in my life was right.

After my weight, water, BMI, PBF, and muscle composition readout (and yes, I’m losing weight, steadily), Dana talked to me about the damage I’ve done to myself at a cellular level over the past four years. And that damage, surprise, surprise, has contributed to a host of food sensitivities, mainly gluten, mostly carbs. Let’s chat about the below image:

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Part of my weekly meetings with Dana includes an analysis of my body composition, body water balance, and segmental lean analysis. We talk about the weekly results in the context of my food diary and my emotional state. What you see here is today’s Segmental Lean Analysis, which is a measure of my muscle mass (weight and % to ideal for my height, age and body type). Ideally, you want to be over 100%, although for a woman, that’s challenging in your trunk area unless you are ripped. You’ll notice that I have a very strong upper body, an almost-there lower body, but the trunk, the trunk is interesting.

I’m not ripped, people. I once had a tiny waist, but we won’t dwell on that. WE WON’T. Comparing this number (101.1%) to my water % numbers (which have gone down minimally, interesting since I’ve taken gluten out of the equation), and a gently feel of my midsection, Dana suggested that I’ve accumulated a considerable amount of yeast buildup in my gut over the years, which has made me constantly bloated. I have a great deal of muscle all over, but it’s literally covered in carb-induced fat and bloat. As a result, we’re trying an experiment where I’m swapping out my morning probiotic in favor of taking Candida Control six times a day. We’re looking to dramatically reduce the amount of candida in my gut. The combination of taking these supplements + being mindful about my diet will make a significant change in my body over the next month.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to hear that the issue has nothing to do with my workouts. The muscle is there, the strength is there–it’s just covered in waste accumulated over the course of four years living a life of extreme stress. Are you skeptical that stress doesn’t have an impact on your health? Well, hello. I’m Felicia, your case in point.

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After, we dove right into my visual food diary, which I’ve come to realize, is a document that makes me more accountable to myself than I initially thought. On paper, my meals sound fantastic, however, in practice, I’m still not incorporating enough veg in my diet. Look at you, covering your large portion of legumes (good carbs, but carbs) with kale (Exhibit A: the steak with roasted chickpeas and kale). I see what you did there, was the gist of my chat with Dana. The tacos + rice gnocchi (bottom corner image, at right) were fine since that was my splurge meal (but even so, can you throw in a salad beforehand?). While the chicken + beef koftas on greens were a win, I could have added more color to the plate.

I can’t explain to you enough how seeing what’s on your plate makes you more aware of what you’re actually putting in your body.

Oh, maybe that potato was kind of big. Maybe I’ve been dialing down the veg thinking I’ll make up for it in the next meal. Life doesn’t work that way. You never make up for it. You need to practice this mindfulness when you sit down at your every meal.

Who knew this whole dissection of my food diary was a segue to the big news I received today: Dana and I work to slowly wean me off carbs over the next month. This isn’t complete or extreme elimination, this is more about allowing my body to repair itself, overcome my extreme sensitivity to gluten (I finally get my detailed blood work next week and I’ll post it here!), and allow myself two wonderful carb meals a week. Granted, fruit is still in play — we’re just talking about my predilection to reach for rice and potatoes. Notice that in this week’s food diary? Dana sure did. And I kind of did, too.

Here’s to a second week on this incredible journey.

Key Tips:
* Nixing my probiotics for two weeks. Instead, I’ll be taking 6 aforementioned Candida tablets a day.
* Take two tbsp of chlorophyll in the morning (I love this brand), with my smoothie as a chaser. I really love how chlorophyll makes me feel. The smoothie + shots are a one-two punch, and I’m actually finding that I don’t need coffee in the morning because I have so much energy.
* My snacks don’t need to be so rigid — they can be meal leftovers. Dana loves the adage, make once, eat twice.
* I’ve devoted 2 hours on Sunday to massive meal prep. I have tons of tupperware and labeled Ziploc bags for salad starters, meat seasonings and easy meals that I can put together quickly. Now, I have lunch in 3 minutes and my dinner takes 30 minutes, flat.

Note: My journey (and FOOD DIARY) are meant to inspire you, not as a means for you to directly emulate. My supplements and food plan have been completely customized for me, my body type and my health goals. In short, what might work for me may not make sense, or work, for you.

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Great interview with my food coach on belly bloat (eh-hem, Felicia)!

savala island, fiji

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There’s a scene in the movie Psycho where Janet Leigh’s character makes small talk with Anthony Perkins. Perkins asks, Where are you going? I didn’t mean to pry, to which she responds, I’m looking for a private island. After a time, after the rain has receded and the parlor where they make this exchange is cold and damp, he says, You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and, and claw, but only at the air, only at each other. And for all of it, we never budge an inch.

I think about this scene often. I think about Perkins’ eyes, wide and black, his face merely a mask, a ruse, obscuring something darker. A daguerreotype of a seething. In the film, he moves as we imagine a bird would — calculating, sharp and violent — and I think about how we are sometimes content in being comfortably uncomfortably. We accept our lot as it is; we leave comments on blog posts coveting the things we want, the things our eyes see. We have our excuses filed away and logged, pulled out like sheets of looseleaf paper at the ready. We say we have these obligations; we blame our fear of pursuing something other on time.

It seems to me that nobody ever has time.

Really? We have time watching and live-tweeting those television shows. We have all the time in the world anesthetizing ourselves over a meal we conveniently call brunch, but really it’s a means to mask getting drunk during the day. We make time for our disquiet because it’s familiar. We can navigate it. But imagine if we made time, if we made it our business to experience our own private island, albeit for a day.

Today I spent the day on an island the size of a New York City block. When we arrived, it took me all but five minutes to walk the perimeter of it — we were literally miles from civilization. Seven hours on an island without a book, a task, or something to occupy my time. It’s a strange thing, this time, how we try to make such efficient use of it. We’re machines that way, I think. And this puts me to thinking of the opening scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and then I settle into the fact that it’s okay to be alone. It’s okay to settle with yourself, in your thoughts. It’s perfectly fine to be as you are.

So I passed the day sleeping under a hut fashioned out of coconut leaves and trees. I sampled local barbeque. I kayaked out into the ocean against some pretty rough current that had me scared for a bit, but then I returned to my breath and everything was set to rights. The shoreline came into view. I swam in salty water and made small talk with the two people who live on the island, and I envied them their quiet. Only for a minute. And then I suddenly became grateful because I’ve spent this year, perhaps so many years too late (!!!) making time. Trading in handbags never worn for experiences. Making less to feel more. Focusing on the content of my character rather than how my jeans fit.

Admittedly, this is hard as I live in New York, and it’s a city that isn’t always kind. I used to know a woman who said to me once (after I had gained a little weight), nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I think about the woman now, and how she’s frightened of her own solitude. How she’s the master purveyor of things, and instead of thinking something negative (which is so very easy to do), I silently send her the strength that she will one day find her own private island.

This is the yoga, I think. Cultivating experience that you wish onto, and bring to, others. This is the work, and it’s constant.

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there is so much magic in the world, still!

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The clocks are sometimes tricky, always cruel. Sometimes they’re fakirs, whispering about time, how much has passed, how much of it is running out, and you start to believe the voices in your head until it’s all you hear. And then you succumb to the fiction and live your life trapped by voices that convince you that as time passes the magic fades. All the beauty of roots breaking ground, of water getting caught in our eye, of tumbling in the green with the one you love, of the we’ll never know another day such as this, of watching pink skies settle into the ocean, of tickling feet, of singing from the rafters — all of this, we’re told, suddenly dulls as we grow older. It loses its luster, becomes grey and cold, a photograph worth shredding. But I’m telling you that it isn’t. Whether you’re five, thirty-five, fifty-give, one hundred and five, there is magic in the world, still. You just have to open your eyes to it. You have to find it.

Two years ago I stood in front of the Indian Ocean and took this photograph. Back then I was obsessed with doing the maths. How much time I spent grieving a mother who was my first love and hurt, how much time I lost trying to ruin everything it was that I had, and so much time, so much of it, trying to figure out who that woman was — that woman who kept staring back from looking glasses each and every day. I was a house of regret, and all the while I was fixated on the losses that had been mounting, I didn’t open my heart to all that I had gained. In front of ticker tape of blue, grey sand and billowing trees, I could only see the magic, partially. All because I was determined to keep some of the dark in the kaleidoscope that was my heart, my life.

Funny how time sorts things. Undoes it, rips it apart, builds anew.

Today I found myself hugging my friend, telling her that she deserved this great happiness, this great life after so many years of loss and heartbreak. You deserve every moment of your happiness, all of it, I said. I thought it was a common thing to say, until I looked at my friend who blotted her eyes with tissues. Here was my friend, weeping with joy, and I was present to witness it. This is magic and a few simple words, unbeknownst to me, created it.

And I found myself coming back to this photograph and I can finally see it. Thirty-seven years later and I can see it as if I were newly born.

Two months ago I resigned from my job, and I don’t know what’s ahead of me, But I know this — I can finally see.

love.life.eat. of the week: inspiration, everywhere

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Can I tell you that it feels as if I’ve been in a deep sleep from which I’ve only just woken up? All bleary-eyed, arms outstretched and groggy, I’m feeling my way through this new, strange world, trying to make sense of it. Trying to bring it all into focus. So imagine the magic that I’ve recently uncovered only because I’ve open my eyes to it.

When I was small my world was the anthesis of magic, so I would close my eyes and try to knit together a fantastical world that inspired. From Canadian pen pals to collecting colorful Lisa Frank stickers to writing stories likening my mother’s voice to thunder, magic was solely of my invention. I had to seek it out. Decades later I’m realizing that this is true too. You have to do some of the work to ferret out beauty, but when you find it, it’s truly a site to see.

love.: I always complain about going “uptown”, but I shut my trap and made the trek to the MET, and it was worth it. From the Matisse and George Bellow exhibits, to marveling over digital photography, my day was an invigorating one, and today’s post has a few of the photos from my visit.

Inspired by these 10 Essential Feminist Texts (Maxine Hong Kingston’s classic is a must-read). Friends have also recommend Karen Russel’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman, and Sheryl Sandberg’s much-hyped Lean In. Forever an ardent evangelist of literary fiction, I’m starting to creep out of my comfort zone by tackling smart non-fiction (btw, Reading Going Clear {an expose on Scientology} is infinitely more frightening than any horror movie).

life.: Karina’s simple + vividly fashioned post on taking risk; Frankie’s glimpse into the magic that is Marrakech; Windward’s post on magic, visualized; and the journey of one lawyer to travel writer and nomad is awe-inspiring.

eat.: My doctor gave me some woeful news: I have to cut down on carbs. But! But! What will I eat? How will I live? He responded to my usual dramatics with reasoning. Don’t cut them out completely {of course!} but just balance. A coworker pointed me to this yummy Turkey Quinoa Meatball recipe. I’ve also learned about Underground Eats {exclusive haute dining experiences}, City Grit {a store that converts to a culinary pop-up} and Cook + Go {culinary classes for the newbie cook}. This is what happens when I open my eyes and my heart to new friends and experiences.

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prepare yourself for the giant…

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Do you know who I am? I’m alive you understand, the life, the life, the life…Are you prepared for the atom bomb, are you prepared for my aching arms? Are you prepared, are you prepared? Are you prepared for serenity, are you prepared to disagree? Are you prepared, are you prepared for meThe Bird and the Bee’s “Preparedness”

We were a family of lottery players. We sharpened our pencils, selected numbers at random, and stood on a line that snaked the length of a city block, because we believed that all we needed was a dollar and a dream. Come nightfall we’d sit on the stoop, still wet from the johnny pump and the spray of Colt 45 that matted our hair to the backs of our necks, listening to the elders trade stories of what they’d do if they hit it big. Sadie said she was going to buy me a house where all the white people lived. Promising us that she’d stand on her lawn, defiant, knowing that they couldn’t get rid of me, even if they tried. Some mused about giant boats settling sail in a blue ocean. No one had ever seen waves swell, seen the beauty of them rise up and warble like a long note held. No one bore witness to the descent, to the waves crashing onto the shoreline. Back then the only water we’d seen poured out of spigots and sprayed out of pumps on the street.

Others hatched plans about taking a trip around the world although they secretly knew that the whole of their world would always be Brooklyn. Their prison was a ten-block radius, yet once a week they’d shuffle to the market with their dollar in tow, plotting escape.

Back then we were naive to believe that money bought you freedom. Back then we wanted the life we saw on our black and white television sets; we raged war with the wire rabbit ears to bring this life into focus. Back then we wanted the giant.

Recently, someone upbraided me for my decision to abandon a comfortable life. Think of all the money. Think about what you’re walking away from, she warned. Shaking my head I sighed and said that what I was running toward was infinitely richer. It was the ticking that was the bomb. Granted, I’m being smart about things. I’m squirreling away as much money as I can. I’m buying only what I need. I’m ridding myself of the unnecessary, the things that only bring me anxiety rather than sustenance. I’m making my preparations for the day when I’ll walk away from security to something other. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t worry about it, fret over my decision, a little. I’m pragmatic, cautious, but then I recall a conversation I had with my friend Kate a few years back. I considered renting a more expensive apartment than the one in which I’d lived, but worried that I wouldn’t have the money to pay for it in the long run. Kate told me that I should always bet on myself. I was my biggest investment and that I should nurture myself. The rent line would be stable and my potential could only grow — all things being equal, of course.

Ever since then I try to remind myself to bet on myself. To believe in myself. To know that I am the ticking that is the bomb. To know that money is actually the prison, not the thing that sets you free. To believe that I can break from third person and rush to first. That I can be the giant.

All this while having lunch at Campo de Fiori.

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love.life.eat. of the week

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love: Alexander Stille’s take on memoir writing: After all, in writing about my parents, wasn’t I something of a body snatcher? | The world through a child’s eyes: Bianca Giaever asked a six year old friend what her movie should be about, and this is the result | Alice Munro’s heartbreaking, soulful story collection, Dear Life | The glee I feel embarking on a book-buying blitzkrieg: Lawrence Wright’s exhaustively researched book on Scientology, Going Clear (read his New Yorker article, which was the impetus for the book), Matthew Sharpe’s You Were Wrong, because Matthew is our new Don DeLillo, and Ali Smith’s There but for the, because her writing is surprising and always puts me on pause.

life: my extraordinary life change | Discovering Frankie Thompson’s blog, an ex-Londoner who decided to leave it all and travel the world | Design Sponge’s really smart round-up on social media etiquette, do’s + don’ts.

eat: chocolate profiteroles with passion fruit | brown butter rosemary sage cornbread | white chocolate coconut banana s’mores