Friday, April 8, 2011

Lessons About Eating From the Big Apple Circus

Beyond popcorn and cotton candy.

Thanks, Ethan and Sherrie for tolerating my need to photograph!

Controlling popcorn portions? Canning the cotton candy? No, this post isn't going there. Rather, last Sunday's clowns, contortionists, jugglers and acrocrobats  at the Big Apple Circus unexpectedly provided great blog material. I had no plans to do a circus post. Really. But I did take my camera. 

Truly the greatest show on earth!

It raised smany valuable and truly essential lessons about eating and eating disorder recovery, I simply had to share. Yes, much more critical than guidance on high sugar, high salt snack control!

Sticking to your plan 100% versus being flexible depends on your situation.
I'm not into extremes. I'm sure you've guessed that by now. But if you're the trapezist or high wire act, there is no grey area. You've got to get it right, or else there are serious consequences. If the risk of a hospitalization is looming near, there's little wiggle room regarding staying on track. But if you're the juggler and you drop the cones or batons, life goes on, with less impact. The sooner you pick them up and move on, the less damage will be done. The longer you wallow in your disappointments, the harder it is to get your act together.

And after you slip, remember to pick your self up, with grace.  Slips happen!

And, you'll still get applause. Yes, even metaphorically, in real life.
The sooner you get back on track, the easier, both physically and psychologically. If you see your slip as an irreversible failure and give up, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The acrobat who repeatedly messed up throughout the first half was clearly losing faith in himself. And as a result, I had come to expect him to fail. But he started the second half with a restored confidence and was amazing. Believing in himself allowed him to turn things 180 degrees. And rather than dwelling on his slips, the audience praised him with the loudest applause at the end.

Be flexible, within your limits. 
Simply awesome!

If you are new to being flexible, don't start with a split! It may be enough of a struggle to take in all that you need to eat, even if you need to stick with only foods that feel safe. As long as you are medically safe, try one small change at a time. For some, flexibility comes more naturally, like for contortionists. Truthfully, no amount of practice and stretching will enable me to put my torso between my legs. But be patient. Learning to eat, sometimes for the first time, really takes time. Even breastfeeding has a learning curve you realize! 

Use your supports

Hooray! I got to chat with Grandma, aka Barry Lubin, my favorite clown
who in spite of all he's gone through continues to make us all smile!
There was such a clever, yet simple, most touching act. One of the clowns, seemingly lacking confidence, pulled out a small box which fit in his hand, with a hinged cover. Whenever there was enthusiastic applause, he'd quickly pull out the box and open it. Through his pantomime, he'd encourage more applause, and when it reached its peak, he'd abruptly close the cover. He had stored the applause, the positive reinforcement of cheers of support in his little box to carry with him. I loved the concept. 

How can we carry the positive messages, the counter to our negative feelings and discouragement when we are away from our treatment team, or our friends and supports? Maybe we could find our own symbolic hinged box.

Set realistic goals
Think tortoise. Sometimes progress is being stable or very slow moving. Sometimes you have to accept that it was enough to give yourself permission to respond to your hunger. But perhaps including new foods will take awhile. Goals will vary with where you are in recovery, how long you've been working at this, and if you've got a tiger mom on your team!

It's ok to be real

Reason to be pleased with himself!
Less sad about his mess-up then his fnger!
Not only is it okay, but to me it seems essential to cry when you're hurting and beam when you're proud of your accomplishments. And sometimes it's necessary to laugh at your self and the absurdity of your thoughts. We need to do a lot more of that.

Expect the unexpected 

A goat riding a horse was a new one for me. Shouldn't rock anyone's boat, so to speak, but neither should adding a serving of carbs or fat, when you come right down to it. Sometimes you'll need to make changes that you never expected to have to make. Like giving yourself permission to enjoy (yes, enjoy) a piece of cake!

Personally, I'm glad I allowed myself to to go to the circus for my own pleasure, even at 48 years old without a toddler in tow! (although I did feel compelled to bring along my baby, now almost 20 years). And the Big Apple Circus is just as fun and meaningful as when you're very young.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the Big Apple Circus. I haven't been in years but reading your descriptions made me want to go again! Great metaphors! Enjoyed this read!

  2. I seem to be an "all or nothing" type of a person- either I restrict myself or I overindulge. I've had to work a lot on moderation and a lot on not letting guilt run me over. I'd like to say that I'm doing better with it, but honestly it depends upon the day, sometimes the hour!

  3. Try to appreciate the move in the right direction! Grey is much more difficult than black and white, but when you see that it serves you better, you will begin to trust it and continue on that path.
    Good luck, and thanks for reading!

  4. This is such an amazing post Lori! I'm definitely going to always imagine myself as an acrobat everytime I face a challange from now on!!! (I love the line 'and you'll still get applause' - made me smile!).
    And I'm working on a way of carrying positive messages with me when I'm away from friends - will keep you posted :-)