In Which Ella Is Weak at the Knees

I was standing on the stairs this afternoon, looking at a photograph of my grand-mémé from 1905 when I suddenly felt like my knees had become very weak. And I’m not talking about that I’m-overcome-by-emotion idiomatic sense of the phrase–my knees truly felt weak, almost as if they were going to bend at any second and force me to land very hard on the ground butt first.

Now, I’m not unaccustomed to this feeling, so I wasn’t too alarmed. I just sat down and looked at myself in the mirror at the bottom of the stairs and grimaced because I know what this knees feeling means.

I’ve lost weight.

To be fair, this isn’t let’s-count-my-ribs-without-using-an-x-ray weight loss. I don’t look the way I did when I was sixteen, but I am feeling fatigued and weak.

I short, I could use to gain close to ten pounds.

I’d propose turning this into one of my big regiments where I track my every move and turn it into a spreadsheet, but we all know what happens to people like me when you bring numbers into the mix–I panic.

So here’s to counting grams of protein, reintroducing dessert into my daily diet, and eating more dried fruit and nuts than any good rabbit should.

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Explorations in the World of Ella’s Nutrition

Winning the reader-selected topic poll with an impressive 33.33% of the vote, I thought I’d talk about nutrition and body image today. However, instead of focussing on my own nutrition and body image, I thought I’d talk about some of my second-grade students and how the girls are already beginning to perceive themselves as fat and unattractive.

I was standing in the hall today, while the students were lining up to go to the bathroom, and one of the little girls came up to me and gave me a hug. It was incredibly sweet, and as I untangled her arms and sent her back to her place in line she said, “Wow. You’re so skinny. I wish I were thin like you. You ate a huge bowl of soup at lunch, and you’re still soooooooo skinny.”

(Necessary background information: I am currently around five foot four and around 104 pounds. In short, I am underweight and probably look it.)

I was shocked. Sure, I get bizarre questions and comments from kids all day long (Today, one of the boys wanted to know if the carved wooden monkey bead on my necklace was a real monkey that I had trained to stay still, and another boy is convinced that jalapenos don’t actually exist.), but I’ve never heard anything like this. It certainly would have been easy to laugh it off with a “thank you, that’s very sweet,” but I do not want to become another member of society telling these girls that in order to feel good about yourself, you have to be underweight.

While I stood there trying to come up with an appropriate response, other girls started to chime in as well, making comments about the small size of my waist and wrists. If I wasn’t teaching second-graders, I would have loved to be able to have a frank talk with the girls about body image, but seven-year-olds aren’t ready for that. Instead, I pointed out that my mother is also quite thin and that metabolism and size are often hereditary. I told them about my frequent bike-rides, and pointed out that while I did eat a lot of split pea soup at lunch, it was low in sodium, organic, and homemade. My entire lunch was well below four hundred calories.

I tried to emphasize that being thin doesn’t mean that you are healthy and that you do not need to worry about being thin while you’re seven. I have absolutely no idea if any of it sank in, but I’m glad that I did not allow myself to become part of the silent majority that urges girls to be thinner, thinner, thinner and makes them feel bad about themselves if they don’t look like the ideal girl that the media portrays.

I know that it is impossible for a world to exist where people never worry about body image, but I do know that if whenever possible we all take a stand and model healthy body-image and food relationships, we can create a world where I don’t have seven-year-old students obsessing about their weight. As a still recovering anorexic who started down that path when I was eight (if you want my anorexia story, click here), I know that it is imperative for girls (and boys) to have healthy role-models in their lives if they want to prevent themselves from falling down the rabbit-hole of eating disorders.

You can also find me collecting lovely images and words on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/. I’d love for you to follow me on my trek into the wilds of tumblr.

In Which Ella Consumes Red Meat, Hangs Out with Cecelia, and Watches Comedy

Today has been one of those dreary tired days. I woke up at half past noon and felt ready to take a nap some ten minutes later. While the humidity and drizzle is godsend for everyone suffering from allergies, I can’t help my complaining. It’s spring, and it should be gorgeous out.

After I shuffled my way downstairs, I made bacon and stayed in my pajamas until three. However, once my mom discovered that I hadn’t eaten lunch, I went to go get dressed so my dad and I could go get burgers. Somehow showing up at a restaurant in a pink bathrobe with hearts on it that I only properly fit when I was nine did not seem like a good idea. As we drove through town, I remarked on the newly painted lane dividers and strained my eyes to see the city, but all there was was a mass of mist, almost like the city and valley were shrouded with a cloud.

Sitting in a corner of the restaurant, I ate a thick chocolate milkshake with a spoon and listened to my dad talk about success in the modern world. He’s always right about (nearly) everything, and I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that following a conventional path is not a necessity anymore, because goodness knows I’m rarely conventional. Then, we went back home and framed pictures that had been taken of me all the way back in September. My legs look very big, and my sweater makes it seem as though there is fat above the waist of my jeans. But other than that, I like the pictures.

At around five, my dad drove me to Cecelia’s. Now, one of the best things about hanging out with a close friend is that you don’t have to do anything. You can just lounge about and talk for hours not worrying about boring the other person to death. I told her how I had lost nine pounds, and we planned for our trip to the beach. Biking is in and cooking anything with meat is out. It was all too short: she had to go babysit, and I had dinner to eat.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of trouble gagging while eating. I’m a champion gagger already, having once thrown up on a chair in the doctor’s office after a strep test. I’ll spoon food into my mouth, start to chew, and then fight the urge to throw up. It’s monstrously unpleasant and not helping the gaining weight cause. In fact, eating normally is going so poorly that I’m seriously considering creating a soda and cookies diet where I drink one can of soda and eat two cookies everyday. It seems doable and could be effective.

I finished off my day by watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail with my father. Ever since I’ve seen Spamalot, I can’t stop mentally inserting the musical’s songs into the movie. It’s a major distraction. But the movie is still hilarious, and I will never fall out of love with the French knights.

So there you have it: my day.

Cups and Cups and Cups of Joy and Laughter

Tens of types of frozen yogurt. Big paper cups. Rows of toppings, sauces, and fruit. And one very happy me.

I had cake batter and chocolate, swirled on top of one another. The big bowl made it difficult to judge how much I was getting. And then I found the fruit. There were kiwis, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and oranges. I dumped them all on top, plus some mochi berries for good measure. And I placed the whole cup down on the scale next to Clara’s. Then I sat, squished in on short stools and a L-shaped sofa with Tal, Cecelia, Audrey, Clara, and other theatre friends. We bumped into Micah and his friend and sat with them until they left. More people we knew kept arriving and the whole placed seemed like a microcosm of joy. There were retro pictures and posters on the wall, some classic movie playing on a big TV above my head, good rock music that was not-too-soft, but not-too-loud either, and so many people moving in and out, walking down the assembly-line, making their own perfect yogurt sundaes.

And when Clara, Cecelia, and I were walking back through the parking lot to climb into Jeff-the Volvo and head home, Cecelia said, “Cups just makes everyone so incredibly happy!” And she’s right. Frozen yogurt just does. It made me happy when we were driving home. It made me happy when Cecelia and I were watching Gilmore Girls. And it made me happy when Cecelia and I were going through hilarious old home-videos. Then, Clara came over and we had dinner, and I filled up on merriment all over again. There’s just something about the sense of community and bliss that one gets when they’re sitting around eating good food and talking with people they love.

We talked, baked brownies, watched John Oliver’s stand-up piece (There is still 3/4 of a pan sitting on top of the stove, all warm and enticing.), “Terrifying Times,” and talked and laughed and smiled even more.

It’s times like this afternoon that I’m reminded that it’s worth it to be alive. So incredibly worth it. Now, if I could just come to terms with the fact that I don’t weigh too much and know one, that my doctors, nutritionist, and therapist aren’t going to let me gain any weight outside of my healthy range and two, that I can obviously trust my metabolism because I have never in my life gotten anywhere close to being even a pound too much, I’ll be a pretty content gal. (How’s that for a run-on sentence? I think it wins this week’s award.)