A part of this place we hold dear

What is it about a place that makes us always want to go back? Is it the way we feel or the way the light captured a moment like a flash on a camera? Is it the way nostalgia possesses us and makes us certain that things used to always be better? Is your place a physical location or is it a state of mind, or a glimpse of time that you want to return to?

In my mind, I can hear the eerie whistle of the wind in the sail masts of boats. I can see the silver gulls circling before they glide downwards to land. I can feel the wrinkles in my grandfather’s hand as he holds my own small untouched hand of youth. I can see the ducks waddle down the path towards us and greet us with soft quacks. They gather around us and stretch their necks upwards so they can reach us. Food. They want the food. But there’s a few that just want our attention; to be talked to, to be picked up, to be gently touched on the tops of their delicate heads.

They follow us to the gate and I say goodbye individually to each one. They each have names. Silly childlike names like Lunchbox and Ducky. We walk down to the pier. I lean over the rail and stare into the emerald coloured water. I’d just seen Jaws. I wondered if there was a Great White Shark in that emerald depth. I thought it would be neat if there were.

Flash forward twenty years and I know there is. The same six-metre Great White Shark has been spotted numerous times at a few places over the years. I ran into a surfie buddy a few weeks ago and he said he saw him at a spot called Forrest Caves.

‘Awesome!’ I said.

‘Nah,’ he replied, shaking his head. ‘Not awesome. I shit meself! Never paddled so quick into the bloody beach!’

But we admire that shark all the same. We’ve even called him Hugo for fun. He comes by Forrest Caves and Flynns Reef looking for food (or a girlfriend; who knows). He’s even been spotted off a pier in the bay, thirteen kilometres from Seal Rocks. He’s pretty cool. He’s just a local islander hanging out; a part of our place that we love.

We need to look out for big guys like Hugo. He is a protected species but it doesn’t stop him taking a bit of a munch out of somebody. Two days ago, up north in Byron Bay a swimmer was tragically killed by a shark smaller than our Hugo. As a surfer, I accept I’m fair game. If Hugo or his buddies ever decided to take a chomp of me, I wouldn’t blame him. They’re a predator. They’re not malicious. Humans are uncomfortable whenever we’re suddenly not at the top of the food chain. These are animals that need to be protected, not culled or hunted or even demonised.

Try and remember that they’re a part of this place we also call home. They are part of this special place we hold onto: the Earth. Let’s look after it.

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What’s in my “toolbox”…er…”lunchbox”

My emotional state is connected to how much or what I’ve eaten. The body is our vehicle, our instruments, our temples – however you’d like to describe it – it’s a thing that we are in. As an eating disorderee, I often find myself unable to join body with self. My body is a thing; a thing I can either torture or nourish.

So I need tools to find ways to connect what I feel to what I see. One is obviously surfing. I metaphorically paddle, get up and enjoy the ride (or the hold-down). But another tool in my toolbox is particular foods.

Food. Sometimes I question why I need it when it just seems to cause me so much heart ache. There are days I am voracious and days when you can’t convince me to eat a vegetable stock cube diluted with hot water. Emotionally and physically, I enjoy the numbness of emptiness and the lack of pain it allows me to feel. But what kind of food can make me feel good about myself? Good food. Here are four foods from my toolbox – food that can cheer me up and that I’ll never let my disorder make me resist again.

1. Bananas. Most eating disorderees* that I’ve met in support communities have the good old banana down as what we call a “fear food”. I’ve never allowed bananas to fill me with anxiety. They make me feel good. Unwrapping them is like unwrapping candy. Phallic symbolism and all, I enjoy eating bananas. I believe it stems from my mother giving me mashed banana whenever I was ill. It’s the Australian equivalent of the “chicken noodle soup”.

2. Pineapple. Pineapple is sweet and brightly coloured. Yellow! Come now, who doesn’t feel happier even just looking at a pineapple with its funky “hairdo”?

3. Oatmeal. I must have been the only kid in the world that couldn’t wait to have oatmeal for breakfast. Monday mornings were oatmeal mornings. I’d wake to the sound of my mother stirring it in the pot, the flame hissing as it licked the edges of the pot handle. I couldn’t wait for my next bowl even as I was finishing it.

4. Tomato sauce on a slice of bread. Since returning to vegetarianism, it’s come to my realisation that perhaps I never liked the Aussie traditional “snag in a bidda bread” (aka sausage in a bit of bread) for the sausage. I think it was for the tomato sauce with the bread!

I am getting better at remembering that I have coping skills and enjoyment in my toolbox, I need to also remember that I have foods that I can eat without fear of a binge. The psychologist tells me that I have nothing to fear from having comfort foods, even though comfort food is a huge aspect of my Bulimia. Refusing myself the foods I feel safe and loved eating is not an affective way to battle through my issues. So I thought I’d share some foods that I love to eat.

What are some of your favourite comfort foods?

*My own personal term. We are all different.

For all those little piggies

I’ve been an animal lover since I was emancipated from the womb. My parents’ dog used to snap at me. My neighbour’s pony used to double-barrel (kick with both hind legs) my pram as a baby. I’ve been bitten, kicked, stomped on and charged at for as long as I can remember. Yet I love them with all my heart.

I was a vegetarian for about a year and a half when I was 11-12. I just got tired of arguing with my parents over what I wouldn’t eat. But I remained firm on two things: I would not eat pig, nor veal. And I didn’t. I haven’t eaten pig or veal since I was about ten-years-old.

There was also a refusal of rabbit and duck. I had pet rabbits and pet ducks (“pet”: ducks at the Newhaven Marina that I used to name and feed with my grandfather) as a child so I never ate those animals. This refusal also applied to goat. I could never understand why people would eat animals that are often pets, just like a dog or a cat.

I refused fish for many years. I had an anaphylactic reaction to medication while I was eating fish. It took many, many years to work up the courage to try fish again.

Last week, I had a nightmare. Which is common, sure.

Do you know how pigs are castrated?

I never knew, until I dreamt of it. In my dream, I saw the after-effects of this horrid process and one little piggy full of agony and misery. A calf was there. So was a lamb. A man told me I had to choose which one was to be killed. I chose the pig, because I don’t eat pig and he needed to be put out of pain. I woke up screaming and sobbing. How dare I have that responsibility on my shoulders; then immediately I realised that I make this choice on a menu, or at the supermarket. “Would you like the chicken or the beef, milady?” No. I decided then at a God forsaken hour that I would return to vegetarianism.

I feel better already.

Then I watched a video; forced myself to watch it because I was sick of lying to myself. I won’t detail it. It was too horrific. Let’s just say, my dream of the pig’s castration came to fruition. It was bad enough for me to think about suicide after I watched it.

Veganism. Veganism is the only way I can think of to cope with the guilt of contributing to the cruelty, and for lying to myself for so many years that the meat and dairy industry had regulations and are humane.

So I’ve become vegan. I’m not sure how long I can be vegan, because it’s a full-lifestyle change. Once I get over the shock and the trauma of what I saw in that video, maybe I’ll return to vegetarianism.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this week; a lot of crying and moping for animals and deciding to overhaul my lifestyle, for the better. Wish me luck.

Post-Christmas blah?

I hope everybody had an enjoyable Christmas and you embraced the love of family and friends (and Jesus if you are Christian).
There were a few news reports stating that the average Australian consumes more than 7,000 calories on Christmas Day. That sure is a lot!
But it’s Christmas! It’s the one day of the year where we take it as a personal challenge to eat every chocolate or cherry in sight.
There are healthier options to “binge” on for such special occasions. I made huge bowls of garden salads and a quinoa salad and also a natural coleslaw (no dressing, just cabbage, carrot and spring onion). I filled my plates with these before I even looked at the naughty (tastier) stuff like sausages and roast potatoes.
Yet despite eating mainly salad, two lamb cutlets, two sausages and a glass of lemonade, my weight still rocketed upwards to the extent that it was just plain cruel and I wanted to murder my bathroom scale. Maybe it was a bad idea to weigh myself the day after eating so much because of water retention but it was the best way to kick my butt back into gear.
Experts say not to weigh yourself every day. They do have a credible point because our weights do fluctuate, but for accountability reasons, I think weighing every 1-3 days is a good thing. You can easily eat junk one day and be too worried to weigh-in the next day so without that shock factor (be it water retention or not) you might just keep eating junk. Of course, it’s a personal choice. Weighing-in regularly keeps me focused. If measuring or fitness levels is your choice, by all means. Whatever works for you is what will work best. Although, my weight went up by 3.4 kilograms so weighing-in may be a little distressing for those who are overly sensitive! (Don’t worry, I’ve lost all that now plus more so it can be rewarding too.)
Finding the motivation to eat healthily, or work out or even just go for a walk is probably the hardest thing to find at this time of year so my advice is to just find something that is going to remind you of your goals and keep at it because no diet deserves to die just because you’re having a great time.