Fixing a broken mirror: Competitor stares down body dysmorphic disorder

Sadie and Jeremy

Sadie with her husband Jeremy, at a bodybuilding show in April 2015.

Before Sadie Tyler ever stepped foot onto the stage at her first bodybuilding competition, she had already faced her harshest judge: herself.

And she was an unforgiving critic. She scrutinized herself for any possible imperfection in her body, skin, hair or nails. It wasn’t that she was shallow or superficial. It was because she suffers from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), an anxiety-related condition that causes a person to focus on real or perceived flaws in their appearance.

I’ve known Sadie, 27, of Winterport, for more than a year now and I’m proud of the progress she has made in battling BDD, and I’m even prouder of her courage in talking about a misunderstood disorder that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

In fact, knowing how private Sadie is, I was kind of shocked when she approached me about spreading the word about BDD.

I’m also guessing that the “old” Sadie of a couple years ago would also be shocked at the things the “new” Sadie is doing: getting ready for her fourth bikini competition (a division of bodybuilding) and teaching BodyPump – on a stage! In front of people! – at Bangor-Brewer Athletic Club.

“I believe most people go through times in their lives when they have issues with their bodies or appearance, but it’s the level of severity that differs. I want people to know they aren’t alone in feeling that way and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. And the good news is there are ways to overcome those feelings,” she says.

The onset

Looking back, Sadie is sure she suffered from BDD for years, but it didn’t become disruptive until she started to overcome some nagging long-term issues: PTSD, a brain injury and a rare seizure disorder.

“That’s when the symptoms of my BDD became more apparent and really started to take over my life,” she explains.

On paper, her life looked great. She was happily married to her best friend Jeremy, had a lovely home and was building a successful career in insurance. But when she looked in the mirror, she only saw flaws, and that made her feel like hiding.

“I was constantly comparing myself to other woman, including celebrities, critiquing my features, feeling anxious and anticipating how I would appear to others,” she says. “I would pick my nails and my cuticles to the point of drawing blood, and then cover up my nails by putting Band-Aids over them.”

Getting ready to go out at night was exhausting – finding the right outfit was almost impossible, and then getting her hair and makeup right would be another huge task.

“If I did end up going out my heart would race all the way to the destination and I would be thinking of all the worst-case scenarios. What about if someone looks at my husband and thinks, ‘Why is he with that?’ What if they noticed my irregularities and defects?” she remembers.

She studied the mirror for any small rashes or defects in her appearance. And if she found any, she tried to fix them by exfoliating, hiding, scrubbing or picking at them, which often made whatever small imperfection she believed she saw even worse.

It turned into a self-perpetuating cycle.

For example, BDD-related anxiety took away her appetite and she lost 11 pounds. That made her underweight, which caused her hair to thin. So she got hair extensions to make her hair seem fuller, but having hair extensions only reminded her that her hair was thin, causing even more anxiety.

By confronting her BDD anxiety head-on, Sadie has found balance in her life.

Diagnosis

She had no idea what was “wrong” with her until her therapist suggested she had BDD.

“The fact that I could work a 40-hour-plus week in an office with no problem, but getting ready to go out for a night was almost impossible, didn’t make sense to me and I was beyond frustrated,” she says.

“I mean I am not a superficial person and was always taught it was what’s on the inside that truly matters. I knew it was irrational but my emotions were so strong that it took over my mind.”

Since beginning treatment, she has uncovered some clues as to what might have laid the groundwork for the disorder.

“As far as what caused my BDD I now have a good understanding how some childhood events, how I was raised and being bullied from grade through high school might have laid the groundwork. All those factors contributed to an extreme lack of confidence and unhappiness with myself. At this point I can’t go back and change it. I am not mad and I don’t hold grudges so I will not allow it to continue to control my life. I have overcome many things to get to a good place I refuse to let this keep me down,” she says.

Enter bodybuilding

For years people had been telling Sadie she would do well in natural bodybuilding competitions but even though she had a lifelong interest in weight training, she always found an excuse not to give it a try.

“The biggest reason I gave myself was there was no way I had the confidence to pull off being a competitor in a competition. I mean for goodness sake I can barely go out on a date fully dressed and feel confident. So to willingly open myself up to judgment and quite literally bare myself to an audience full of strangers who are actively watching at the time seemed impossible,” she says.

Plus, she worried competing might mean she wouldn’t be taken seriously at work.

Then she realized those were only excuses and that competing might actually be beneficial for her.

“I have always felt the ‘rip-it-off-like-a-Band-Aid’ mentality works for me so I decided the only way to overcome something so severe was to immerse myself in a situation that forced me to focus and work on building myself inside and out,” she says.

So she hired a trainer, Sean Soucy at Bangor-Brewer Athletic Club, and was all-in.

But she admits being terrified at her first meeting with him. After Sean outlined her program – from the workouts and diet to the level of commitment and costs – she told her him her biggest worry was her lack of confidence, and she remembers him being dumbfounded.

“I didn’t want to scare the poor guy the first day so without going into all the details of BDD, I simply told him it’s just the way I feel and that’s why I am here,” she says now.

Sean recalls the meeting, too. “I didn’t get it,” he says. “She was one of the most genetically gifted and full of potential female athletes I’ve seen.”

She started training 5 days a week and following a nutrition plan, which for her (unlike many competitors) actually meant eating more food than she had been before.

In the past year she says she has gained about 12 pounds of muscle, her hair is thicker, her nails are almost fully recovered and her skin is no longer reactive.

The hardest part of the program was working on stage presence and posing because it meant she had to rely on pictures and the mirror, two of her old nemeses.

Having her picture taken caused instant anxiety and she also had a complicated relationship with mirrors. In the past, she either avoided them altogether or she spent hours staring into them, critiquing everything she thought was wrong with her appearance.

But in bodybuilding, pictures and mirrors are important tools. “I knew I needed to learn how to display my body in the best way on stage, so it had to be done. At first it was like a form of torture,” she remembers.

She says Sean focused on building her confidence. “We had lots of hearts-to-hearts during my workouts trying to work through the inner battle I was having with myself. He would tell me that when I go into the posing room I was not allowed to say or think anything bad about myself. That was very hard and I found myself having to stop or change my inner critic a lot,” she says.

Her husband and a few close friends who know first-hand her struggle have always helped shore her up during her periods of insecurity. “Through being at the gym I’ve also met some amazing and positive people that I surrounded myself with,” she says.

The show

“The days before my first competition (in September 2014), I thought, ‘What did I get myself in to and why am I doing this?’” she said. “Getting on stage for the first time was terrifying and at the same time was one of the best experiences of my life. Once I was up there I put all the hard work together and stayed in the moment. The world didn’t come to an end, no one threw rocks at me, and I survived.”

She also brought home two trophies: a 2nd and a 4th place. She has moved up the rankings ever since.

“Invisible illnesses like this one are hard to diagnosis and understand,” says Sadie. “That is why I feel it is so important to educate and build awareness surrounding them. I was fortunate to have a few people around me I could confide in and also wouldn’t judge me or hold it against me. It is very easy for people to assume you’re seeking attention or being vain when it is far from the case.”

For Sadie, who is getting ready to compete in another show, the OCB Natural Yankee Classic in Newburyport, Mass., on July 25, every step onto the stage and into the spotlight is another chance to put BDD in its place.

I am killing my workouts. Why aren’t I losing weight?

You're working out and eating healthybut

Dear Wendy,

I have been working out really hard for the past couple months. I have been getting in at least five workouts every week with a mix of cardio and weights. I feel awesome and so much more energetic but the only thing is, I haven’t lost a single pound.

When I was in my 20s working out like this always helped me lose weight but it doesn’t seem to work any more. I don’t understand this because I am eating very healthy and have cut out all sweets, sodas, junk food, etc.

I am trying not to get discouraged but I’d really like to lose a few pounds. OK, I probably have more like 20 pounds to lose but at this point I would settle for any weight.

Why aren’t I losing any weight? Am I turning my fat into muscle because of the weight lifting? I know that muscle weighs more than fat. Am I going to end up being bulky? What is going on?

Thank you.

P.

Dear P.,

Wow, that’s a lot to cover! But if it helps, (although I’m guessing it won’t), you’re not alone with all those questions because I get asked them all the time. It’s not fair: You work out hard, you clean up your diet and still the weight doesn’t come off.

First: awesome job on the workouts. Second: two thumbs up on the healthy eating. However, the best thing is that you’re feeling better than you were before.

If only we could drop weight the way we did when we were in our 20s. Le sigh. As you’ve noticed, as we get older, we burn fewer calories. Our metabolism slows for a variety of reasons, including the fact we tend to lose muscle and move around less (when we aren’t working out) than we do when we’re younger. So, boo.

As for whether you have “turned fat into muscle” I am guessing that maybe you have gained some muscle and perhaps lost some fat, especially if you’re new to weight training. However, I don’t think that’s the reason the scale hasn’t budged. Strictly speaking, fat loss and muscle building are two different phenomena. Building muscle is a slow process and chances are that in two months you haven’t gained enough muscle to offset any significant weight loss.

And no, unless you are training specifically to get “bulky” you likely won’t gain enough muscle for that to happen unless you have a genetic predisposition to gaining muscle quickly, and for women, that’s a rarity.

And maybe it’s a point of semantics, but a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat — they both weigh a pound. The muscle just takes up less mass, so it is possible to get smaller and still weigh the same as you did when you had more body fat.

There are a few things I’d recommend to get the scale to move.

First of all, make sure you’re drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day.

Also, if it’s possible, try to make sure you’re getting some activity outside of your workouts. The amount of movement you do over the course of a day has a huge impact on your weight.

Then, even more importantly, we need to evaluate your portion sizes so that you aren’t mistakenly eating “extra” calories, because even healthy foods add up. A lot of times when we ramp up our activity we inadvertently eat more fuel to power us through the workouts.

As we age, we have to be even more diligent about those “extra” calories. Again, #unfair.

If you are on any medications, have a medical issue or any specific concerns/limitations, check with your physician or a registered dietitian for their input before changing up your diet. Ask them about any vitamins or supplements (such as fish oil) that you should be taking.

If you are otherwise healthy here are some guidelines you can use to  help determine your portion sizes for fat loss.

If you don’t want to keep a food journal (and I know a lot of us balk at that because it’s a time-consuming pain in the butt although the people I know who use one get more consistent and better results), I’ve found a good guide, which is below. And if you DO want to use a nutrition tracking app for a few days to see what’s going on, try myfitnesspal. Or if you use an electronic activity tracker like the FitBit, you can always use the nutrition app that comes with it.

(NOTE: I highly recommend using a food journal at least for a short while!)

Portion sizes using a portable portion-size gauge (your hand):

Protein: have a palm-sized portion with every meal (men get two).

Vegetables: have a fist-sized portion at every meal (men get two).

Starchy carbohydrates or fruit (rice, pasta, grains, etc.): have a cupped-palm size portion at several meals (men get two). Yes, this seems like very little pasta/etc., I know. These foods tend to have a lot of calories for the amount of bulk they contain.

Fats: Have a thumb-sized portion of good fats such as avocado, oil, olives, nut butters, nuts, etc. (again, men get two) at a couple meals.

Here’s a link to a page with a graphic that is close to the above.

All that being said, we are all a little different in our fuel input/output needs/configurations, so this might need some tweaking.

If you get too hungry/tired/drop weight too quickly, add another meal or a little more carbohydrate or fat to the mix.

Likewise, if the weight loss is still stalled, try eliminating one of the portions of starchy carbohydrates.

And in the meantime, try not to obsess about the scale too much, especially on a day-to-day basis. It will naturally fluctuate so the best bet is to look at the weekly trend.

Does this help? I hope so!

Let me know how it goes!

Wendy

Do you have a question? I’d love to hear from you … hit me up with a comment or an email to the address in the top menu!

 

Controversial (and cheap) ways to stick to your diet

Controversial (and cheap) ways to stickWe spend an awful lot of time thinking about food.

I mean, a lot. And by a lot, I mean: A LOT.

Mention anything having to do with recipes or “clean eating” or diets in the women’s locker room and all conversation stops, because everyone wants to hear what’s being said.

We think and worry about food and diets so much that we get confused. Or we create a lot of conflict/drama surrounding food because we feel overwhelmed.

We forget what we already know and start to second-guess ourselves: What should I eat? When should I eat it? And how much should I eat? We worry about the minutiae – are carrots okay? Should I be eating fruit at night? – instead of the bigger picture.

Maybe it’s the fact that it is spring and we’re focused on getting ready for swimsuit season, but lately I’m getting a lot of questions via email, social media, text, in person and more. The bottom line is: HELP!

“Perfect” doesn’t exist

It is the rare client who doesn’t make a confession to me:

  • “My number one problem is my diet.”
  • “I eat too much.”
  • “I was so bad this past weekend.”
  • “I’m good all day but then at night, watch out!”
  • “I do great for a couple days and then it falls apart.”
  • “Sometimes when no one is looking I’ll sneak some candy at work.”
  • “I gotta get control of this thing.”
  • “I am so confused. I can’t get the hang of it.”
  • “Wine.” (Yes, generally these are one-word confessions). “Beer.” “Cookies.” “Ice cream.” “Chips.” “Pizza.” Or sometimes it’s just: “Carbs.”

Coaching clients about their diets is the single most confounding aspect of my gig as a personal trainer – and it’s also the single most important aspect of body transformation and overall wellness.

No one eats “perfectly” all the time. What does that even mean? Sometimes I feel guilty when I tell clients about my own occasional dietary “treats,” when I eat something like pizza or donuts. It’s as if I’m telling them the truth about the Easter Bunny – I’m letting them down and/or bursting their bubbles.

But for real: perfect does not exist. In fact, being “perfect” is an eating disorder and it’s called orthorexia.

Don’t eat this

Why do we get so confused? Because everyone has an opinion about what “works.” About what’s “right.” And they seem so adamant about those opinions.

I can pretty much guarantee you that no matter what you eat on any given day, there is someone out there who would find fault with it.

Our food beliefs can come from our family, religion and our culture. Many of us have control issues dating back to childhood (oh the stories my brother and I could share about dinnertime rules at our house!). Some of us are picky eaters, and others are used to the souped-up flavors found in restaurant food and also in fast food/takeout, and the very thought of eating fresh/whole foods/vegetables makes them gag.

And then you get the gurus who tell you to cut out all sugar, or animal products, or gluten, or fruit, or they say that you have to go low-carb, or that you need to eat for your blood type, or maybe you have food sensitivities, or you should eat 6 times a day, or they say that intermittent fasting is the way to go, and suddenly you don’t dare to eat anything.

Or maybe you decide to eat everything. Who could blame you?

(Seriously, I get at least 10 emails a day from various gurus telling me what/how/when to eat – or not eat. I don’t know why I don’t unsubscribe from their lists, but the truth is I kinda like knowing all the stuff that’s being shoveled online.)

Chew on this

What if instead of focusing on losing weight (or fat) you started thinking about something more positive – eating to improve how you feel? How is that for a controversial plan?

It’s a heck of a lot more motivating than grabbing your muffin top (if you have one) with disdain and viewing diet as a punitive method of correcting something you don’t love about yourself.

Beyond any fat-loss/muscle-gaining goals you might have, your nutritional intake has a major impact on your mood, energy, pain levels, your hunger and more.

We tend to have a major disconnect about what happens after we put food into our mouths. It’s like we expect a salad or sandwich to fuel us the same way an Oreo Blizzard or a meat/potatoes/veggie square-meal would.

Take a sec and think about you feel after eating each one of those things. I know I feel a heck of a lot better an hour after eating a salad than I do eating a Blizzard. And a square meal – protein, starch and veggie? That really makes me happy. (For more on this, check out this article.)

If you eat like sh*t you feel like sh*t

I know that to be a fact because I’ve experimented on myself numerous times. I’ve goofed up an otherwise energetic day by eating a big slice of frosting-slathered cake – it made me feel sluggish and bloated, and I needed a nap an hour later, and then I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Or how about eating too much while on vacation and needing almost a week back home before feeling strong and energetic again? Ugh.

I’ve also woken up feeling like I had a hangover because of eating too much before going to bed the night before. Blah.

And I’ve also had periods when I felt amazing, when I could jump high and run, felt positive about life, and had a ton of energy — and those times correlate with when I’m fueling my body with stuff it loves.

I know I’m not alone.

The magic formula

There is, in fact, a one-size-fits-all formula for weight loss. It’s really simple. If you create a calorie deficit – if you burn more calories than you take in – you will lose weight. Even if you eat crappy foods.

That’s how Weight Watchers and other calorie restriction programs work. They don’t restrict WHAT you eat, necessarily, and they do encourage healthy eating, but mostly they control your overall fuel (calorie) intake.

And that works for weight loss, pretty much every time.

I know a lot of people tell you that all calories are not created equal. And they are correct. But still, you will lose weight if you eat crappy foods as long as the overall intake is less fuel than you burn.

Maybe it’s not politically correct to write this, but think about the terrible ordeals suffered by people held in prison camps. They are stressed and starved – they clearly do not eat a vegan/paleo/pegan/40-30-30/macro/whatever buzzword you want diet. And they definitely lose weight.

But yes, they feel terrible and their weight loss isn’t the kind you would wish on anyone.

So what do you eat to lose fat healthfully? What diet will make you feel – and look – great?

This is where it gets kinda tricky and confusing. There is good (and evolving) science surrounding optimal diets, and we are learning new things all the time. Every time something new is uncovered, people start espousing why it’s so awesome, even as other people (coughTheGovernmentcough) push diets based on old science and beliefs.

That’s why it’s so confusing.

For instance, they used to say that to optimize your metabolism you should eat 5 to 6 times a day. Now, they are saying that might not be the case and for some of us, eating once a day is, in fact, enough.

But there are some basic truths about a healthy diet, and I am guessing if we sat down to talk about this you would outline for me the following as key points. And maybe you’d add a few other nuggets, too.

  • Eat less sugar.
  • Stay away from processed foods.
  • Eat protein at every meal.
  • Eat vegetables.
  • Get enough fiber.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.
  • Take a good quality multivitamin to fill in any nutrition gaps.

And then if you wanted to lose weight, you would figure out how much you’re currently eating every day (keeping a food journal) and then calculating how many calories you need, and then eat slightly less – say 500 to 750 calories a day – than you burn.

That’s really not so tricky, is it? And you pretty much already knew all that, right? Imagine taking back the power over your diet! Actually listening to your own body and finding out what works best for YOU.

I’m working on a few projects right now to help people stick with their plans, which I know can be tough until you find the groove that works for you (and that, for some of us, is a moving target). But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m really excited about helping people make that connection!

What’s your take on “diets”? Does it all confuse you, or have you found a plan that works for you? Let me know! I want to hear your thoughts.

I know I look good for my age. Now, why don’t you bite me?

Me, during prejudging during a figure show at the age of 50.

Me, during prejudging during a figure show at the age of 50.

The next person who tells me I look good for my age runs the risk of getting punched in the face. And maybe the person after that, too.

Seriously, I’m over it. Before you pass this off as some weird female midlife crisis thing, know this: hahaha!!!, the joke is on you! Odds are that I am well past the middle of my life.

My age is not a big deal to me personally. And except for a few of the rude things that happen after you hit the age of 50, I’m good with it. The only time I am at all aware of my age and the fact there is anything potentially “limiting” or maybe even “negative” about it is when other people mention it.

Maybe they mean it as a compliment when they say “for your age,” but it sure seems like a qualifier, as if the bar somehow lowers once you hit a certain age.

And maybe “for your age” doesn’t bother most people. Maybe I’m sensitive to it and its implications because I work in an appearance- and physical-performance-oriented industry. I don’t know.

I do know better than to let it get into my head, though. Even so, sometimes it makes its way inside. I can’t help it – I’m human. I try to stay positive and politically correct about “aging” and “ageism.” I try to keep it to myself and most of the time I walk it off.

Today, however, I’m not feeling politically correct. I’m not feeling motivational.

I’m feeling kind of pissy, to be honest. And tired of walking it off.

When you give air to things that feel disempowering they can actually become EMPOWERING. So maybe it’s time to talk about this.

I’m not a cougar. I’m a jaguar, son.

This whole for-your-age “thing” first erupted when I was in my early 40s, before I had any idea that “for my age” was even a “thing” or an issue. I remember the first time I heard it, because I was dumbfounded.

A guy in his 20s did that backhanded compliment thing that some guys do. He told me I looked good “for my age.”

WTF? Good for my age? WTF was he talking about?

I mean, I did look good for my age. But you know what else? Yes, I’m going to say it. I looked good for any age. In fact, not that it matters, but my abs were flatter than that punk’s abs.

Or how about the time just after I turned 50 when I competed in a figure show. Before my T-walk (when you walk onstage and do a little routine hitting various poses), the 30-something emcee told me to wait so he give me a special intro. Then he went on and on about what an inspiration I was, blahblahblah. How I was FIFTY YEARS OLD. Wasn’t it something that I was STILL competing? Wasn’t it SPECIAL?

I know he meant well, but I was like, WTF? I stood there listening to him, shaking my head. Seriously! WTF?

All I could think was: Why didn’t they just go ahead and get me a damn walker to make sure I didn’t break my hip while walking in my 5-inch heels?

And then I felt embarrassed.

For real, what had I done to be “inspirational”? Remain alive for 50 years doing the things I generally did as part of my normal everyday life? Was being one year older than I had been the previous year when I competed in the same show really THAT big a deal?

And then I thought: What was I supposed to do after an intro like that? March out on stage like Sally O’Malley and kick, stretch and kick? Uh uh. Not happening. Although I do love Sally.

I don’t plan to stop kicking ass. Or walking the talk.

Neither do the friends I’ve discussed this with. Because, trust me, when my friends find themselves entering this fun little circle, they express the same shock and dismay. I hope you haven’t experienced it, but if you have, high-fives to you. Welcome to the club.

I mean, what’s the option? Is there a viable option? It doesn’t compute. I’m not fighting my age. I’m just being myself. And I don’t want to be put in a “great for your age” box.

A few weeks ago there was a report circulating about how 60 is the new 40. Here’s a story about it. The more I think about it, the sillier “for your age” becomes, as pointed out in that piece.

Back in the 1980s, when my mom was 50, she played video games, loved to dance, wore acid-washed jeans, regularly received compliments on her great legs and she drove a turbo-charged Toyota Supra with the music up and the sunroof open. I think she even spiked her hair.

What was a 50-something woman supposed to be doing back then? Was it age-inappropriate for her to yell, “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” when she couldn’t see the TV past her college-aged daughter while playing Atari Shark Attack? (Honestly that was funny stuff. She loved that game.) Was it strange for a woman “her age” to blast a Eurythmics CD and sing out loud?

For my mom, that was completely normal.

What is a 50-something woman supposed to be doing in 2015? Tackle HIIT workouts and eat haddock, chicken, rice and veggies for a few weeks and then put on a bikini, get tanned and walk around on a stage wearing heels?

For me, that’s (kind of) normal. Competing is just part of the natural progression of my personal interest in fitness regardless of my age, and I’m sure that it’ll evolve into something else.

Like I said, “for my age” doesn’t compute. I don’t get it.

Energy deployment

One thing I have found myself discussing more often (and in fact I probably should write about) is the tactical deployment of resources and strategies – whether they are workouts and diet or money and energy.

My newest thing is focusing on the energy I allow to come in to or flow out of my life, through both my own activities and the energy of people around me. I am growing more sensitive to this and how it influences and affects me. Maybe that is a legit “for your age” thing, because the more days I am alive, the more I am aware that my physical energy is a finite (but renewable daily) resource.

Or maybe it’s the fact I’ve been battling some bizarre (minor) health issues all related to my body’s use and production of energy.

Anyway. Whatever.

I’m not gonna blow that energy on worrying about a bunch of bullshit limitations and qualifiers. And the “for your age” thing? It’s energy blocking AND it’s limiting. And, yes, it’s bullshit.

Judy Dench said, “One of the benefits of being a mature well-educated woman is that you’re not afraid of expletives. And you have no fear of putting a fool in his place.”

Fucking right, Judy. If you know me you know I am not afraid of expletives. And if you’ve heard me teach BodyCombat, you know there’s at least one “pity the fool” involved.

Or maybe to switch things up I should try a more elegant approach. My friend Laura has a pretty perfect response when someone tells her she looks good for her age (and as a 50-something ballerina, trust me, she just plain looks amazing).

“Thank you,” she tells them. “So do you.” She says it confuses the hell out of the 20-somethings.

What do you think? Is 60 the new 40? Does it even matter? Leave an comment and let’s talk!

 

Spinach Pumpkin Sausage Frittata — 200 calories!

This morning I woke up H U N G R Y and wanted a hearty breakfast. I looked through my cupboards and this is what I came up with — super yummy and, best yet, the recipe makes 6 filling servings at only 200 calories a whack!

Spinach  Pumpkin Sausage Frittata

photo (16)

Ingredients

10 ounce bag of organic chopped frozen spinach (I am all about convenience, hence the frozen)
1 can (15 oz.) organic pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!!!)
8 egg whites
4 whole eggs
1/2 cup 50 percent reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
1 package Fit & Trim Wildfire Buffalo Chicken Sausage

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thaw spinach in microwave.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites, whole eggs and pumpkin together.  Slice chicken sausage into rounds.

When spinach is thawed, add it and the sausage to an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. When warm, add egg and pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle cheese over the top. When the eggs start to settle (5 minutes?), put skillet in the oven to finish cooking — 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how done you like this. 🙂

Remove from oven, slice into 6 pieces, and eat!

Calories per serving: 200.  Carbohydrates: 9 grams. Fat: 5 grams. Protein: 25 grams.

Even the air is full

Maxwell
My dog Maxwell has degenerative myelopathy, an incurable disease that’s very similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). His back legs are pretty much useless right now. Sometimes he can walk, sometimes he can jackrabbit across a room, but mostly he falls a lot and has to drag himself around.

The disease is now working its way up to his front legs and it’s turning into a big struggle for him to pull himself up when he falls. His condition is degenerating a little faster than the vet had predicted, but we still have good moments. He still has fun.

When he was first diagnosed I put him in physical therapy and started him on some pain meds. We discontinued the therapy when he got worse. But he does get a lot of exercise and love, as he’s kind of a big deal at the gym where I work. He’s a boxer, 11 years old, and I’m his 3rd or 4th person (I’m unclear on the specifics of his early life) but once he was mine he was mine.

We’ve had some bad days recently. It’s been a lot of work for both of us. There are a lot of details but none of them really matter.

A few months ago I bought him a cart/wheelchair. I had visions of him tooling around the gym and going on walks but it hasn’t worked out that way. The cart itself is pretty cool, but as he’s a tall boy, it easily tips if he turns too quickly or leans over too far to sniff the grass. It also can tip if one of the wheels hits a doorway or the edge of a piece of furniture.

It is very bad when he tips over — we’ve had two rollovers, and both were traumatic. It can’t happen again.

So at first, he hated the cart, and he still hates it. But now that his legs are worse, he hates it a little less.

Yesterday I strapped him into his cart for a walk. He started off slowly, and when he realized he could move the pace picked up. It wasn’t long until we were jogging across a parking lot, going until the asphalt ran out and then we were on dirt, and we ran to the edge of that, until we hit some railroad tracks, where we stopped. On the other side of the tracks were trees and a bog. It was cool and breezy, a mild early summer morning.

He sniffed.

And in that moment, as he lifted his head, closed his eyes and  smelled all the smells, I was aware of all the layers of life surrounding us, the depth and the breadth of it all. Life blooms aggressively in Maine this time of year. Leaves are fresh and new, insects are feeding, and you can feel the woods teeming with birds and critters. Even the air is full.

Everything slowed down as the two of us stood there, breathing, listening, feeling the air stretch from here to the Atlantic, and then beyond, filled with life: things we’d never see, things we would never know.

We stood there quite a while. I thought about letting him go. I thought about the people I miss. He shook his boxer jowls, his legs wobbling beneath him, the cart catching his weight.

He turned to look at me, and we trotted back the way we came, a little more tentatively, a little more aware.