Acid reflux and coldbrew coffee

French press, heavy cream, Wawa pumpkin spice coffee

This is why I’m a morning person. And if you don’t know what Wawa is… I’m sorry ūüė¶

So as any regular reader of this blog knows, I got some health problems. Nothing disastrous, just annoying. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is my chief annoyance, followed by clinical depression, OCD, and generalized anxiety (mood disorders are frequently symptoms of PCOS).

But there’s only one condition I take medicine for, and that’s GERD: gastroesophageal reflux disease.

I was first diagnosed with GERD in college, though I’ve had heartburn almost as far back as I can remember. I remember complaining about heartburn to some mom involved with my Girl Scout troop back when I was a seven-year-old Brownie.

“You can’t possibly have heartburn,” she said, MOCKING MY PAIN. “You’re too young.”

Bullshit, I thought, as my seven-year-old esophagus burned to the tune of that Girl Scout mom’s fiddling.

Anyway, a dozen years later, my doctor told me I had reflux and handed me a pamphlet with a list of foods to avoid (note: ALL THE DELICIOUS ONES) and other general tips, like to lose weight (I guess skinny people don’t get reflux, and little brother has been lying about his heartburn this whole time [note: my little brother is quite thin and has just recovered from Barrett’s Esophagus, which means his GERD was so bad it turned his esophagus into scar tissue]) and not wear tight pants (over my dead jeggings!). He also suggested I take omeprazole (Prilosec).

I’m not into taking pills, wearing loose pants, or not eating delicious foods, so I ignored all that advice for years. It’s just heartburn, I thought. My menstrual cramps are worse, and you can’t pill-food-pants those away, either.

Besides, I thought,¬†I’d rather die than live without coffee.

A few years later, my wanton esophageal abuse/neglect had caught up to me. My thrice daily post-meal heartburn had turned into a persistent nausea, a feeling like I was on the verge of vomiting all day long, the sensation that there was food lodged in my throat for hours at a time. With hearburn on top. My appetite dwindled. I had problems focusing. I had to do something.

I started taking omeprazole.

After two weeks, my GERD was still nasty. I knew I had to take drastic measures. So I declared a moratorium on cumin, chili, and ALL THE TASTY SPICES, and quit coffee.

That last one hurt.

I have very strict dietary restrictions due to PCOS. I’ve elected to manage my hormone imbalance using nutrition. I haven’t had bread, pasta, or potatoes in over a year. No pizza, no beer, no burritos. I’ve been eating huge quantities of food, but I’ve also given up all my favorite foods because my ovaries are little shits.

And so far, it hasn’t been a big deal. I eat pork rinds in place of chips. I make taco shells out of cheddar cheese fried in butter (okay, probably not the best for my GERD, but STEP OFF). I wrap things in bacon instead of bread. I make pancakes out of almond flour (and it’s fucking delicious). Life isn’t bad.

But giving up coffee was infinitely harder than all those things, caffeine addiction aside.

Apparently, I have a connection to coffee that runs deeper than my love of any other victual. Even after a few weeks of no caffeine intake, I found myself pining for that bitter flavor (with sweetener and cream, because yum). Autumn rolled in, and everyone started talking about pumpkin coffee, and I felt like my true love had just left me for literally everyone in the world who had a functioning esophagus.

It became intolerable. And then I found coldbrew.

Cold brewing coffee reduces a lot of the acid content of coffee. If you drink decaf, it’s even better for your esophagus. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it was my last shot (ahaha, shot! get it? like espresso shot? I AM SUCH A CARD). It was my last shot at happiness.

So I bought a French press at my local Marshall’s for $20, and picked up a bag of pumpkin coffee.

Making coldbrew coffee is literally the easiest thing you can do. I really mean, literally. Not figuratively. All you do is put some coffee in your French press, add water, add sweetener if that’s your bag, stir, and put the lid on (but don’t press down on the antenna jawn). Stick it in your fridge overnight.

Wake up the next day, press the little antenna jawn down, pour, drink. Bam. Delicious.

What sucks about coldbrew coffee is that it’s starting to get cold outside, so I sit in my apartment shivering while I drink it. What rocks about coldbrew coffee is that it doesn’t jack my esophagus up, even if I haven’t taken my omeprazole yet (I, too, like to live dangerously).

So I’ve been reunited with my long-lost love. It actually makes me so happy that I go to bed excited to wake up the next morning and drink my damn coffee. On the days I don’t see my fiance, my coffee is actually the best part of my day. On the days I do see my fiance, it’s a very close second.

So there’s a little life hack worth trying if you have acid reflux. You can thank me later.

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Advanced etiquette: Don’t comment on someone’s weight loss (unless they ask you to)

A wheel of brie, beset with sunflower seeds, framed by gorgeous pink spirals of prosciutto and mozzarella

Did weight gain stop me from eating ALL THE BIRTHDAY PROSCIUTTO? No. Not even briefly.

It’s very tempting, even socially expected, to reward somebody’s recent weight loss with a compliment, or at least an audible observation. But here’s something new to try: don’t.

My radical notion? Complimenting someone’s weight loss, at least unsolicited, is as invasive as asking if they’re pregnant — and I’ve written about the pregnant thing before.

A lot of people have been commenting on my weight loss recently. This is ironic for three reasons:

  • I regularly blog about fat acceptance
  • I haven’t lost weight in over half a year
  • I’m actually gaining weight

You heard that right, cats and kittens: I have gained weight this past month. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 lbs. Without changing how I eat! This is something that happens. It could be hormones, it could be a change in my metabolism, it could be PCOS. Who knows.

Still, someone who hasn’t seen me in months would still see a thinner me than what they’re used to, so it’s understandable that they don’t know I’ve recently packed on a few. However, if I were really cruel, the exchange could go thus:

Well-intentioned person: Hey Natty! You’re looking quite svelte! You must have lost a ton of weight!

Me: THANKS FOR REMINDING ME, I ACTUALLY JUST GAINED WEIGHT. *hysterical sobs ensue* You know, I better get used to these compliments on my figure WHILE THEY LAST. I hope you still love me. Please don’t stop loving me just because I’m getting fat again. *blows nose* FUCK, I KNEW this would happen. 95% of people who lose weight gain it back. I’m fucked.

Well-intentioned person: …

Me: Thank god I only buy waterproof mascara.

So I actually have enough restraint not to pull such hysterics, however amusing they might be, but seriously. Complimenting someone’s weight loss can go wrong in all sorts of ways. Here are just three:

  • It’s a conditional compliment on what is likely a temporary state. Bodies change. When you fawn over somebody’s new thinness, you are saying, “This is a new, superior state.” Then, if and when they gain the weight back, they have lost that feather you put in their cap. It can make somebody, especially somebody with body issues, very anxious. That said, if somebody makes it clear that they want¬†positive feedback for their weight loss, you can frame it thus: “I have always thought you were beautiful, and it looks like you’re achieving your goals, too. Kudos.” No value judgments, no unsolicited feedback.
  • Not everyone who loses weight wants to. Don’t put yourself in the awkward situation of saying, “Oh man, you look so great! Look how thin you are! What’s your secret?” only to hear one of the following responses: “Chemotherapy.” “Crohn’s disease.” “Anorexia nervosa.”
  • It’s kind of weird to comment on other people’s bodies to begin with. Body auditing, even when it is positive, is still rude at worst and kind of weird at best. I have friends I’m close enough to for them to say, for example, “Holy crap, Nat, your booty should win a blue ribbon at the county fair.” But statistically, you’re probably not one of them.

Bodies are highly personal, highly complex things. They’re not just things we own, they’re things we are. So try withholding comment, and just let people be people.

And eat all the prosciutto. Always eat all the prosciutto.

I am not shedding for the wedding, and my friends are incredible

The cutest cat ever, depositing the cutest fuzz

Pictured: My cat, Chad, shedding all over my pillow

First of all, I’m not even having a wedding. Secondly, shedding is what my cat does all over my comforter and black jeggings, not what I do, on purpose, for some event.

I’m at that age where everyone is getting married and/or forming babby, myself included. Off the top of my head, I can name at least a dozen of my friends who are currently engaged, including four of my former roommates.

One thing about engagement is, the spam is incredible. My Facebook ad bar has populated exclusively by wedding shit ever since we made it Facebook official (which, honestly, is preferable to all the egg-selling ads I used to get. Look, people. Unless there is a market for discounted, “who knows what you’ll get!” ova, you do¬†not want my genetic material.)

One of my engaged friends, a tall, very thin, absolutely gorgeous lady, recently got some wedding-related weight loss spam. (Curiously, her very male fiance did not. Hmm…)

She responded by writing the company a “nasty email” (her words) admonishing them for body-shaming women who are already stressed out about the wedding planning process. She also noted that our fiances actually probably love us just the way we are¬†(see also: What my fiance really thinks about my stretchmarks.)

That is what an ally looks like.

Of course, when I heard the story, I made some silly comment about how I’m surprised I, the heaviest fiancee in our group of friends, didn’t get any such email, and how my blog and activism must be succeeding in scaring the body shamers away (if only!). But beyond the humor, I felt fucking grateful. Because not everyone has awesome friends who get it.

Thanks, Katie.

Why Generation Y is really unhappy, and it’s not our WONDERFUL SELF ESTEEM

A beagle named Roxie

This beagle is sad for my generation

Lately, it’s been trendy to bust on my generation — Millennials, or Generation Y, those of us born in the 80s/early 90s.

You see, we have a fertile crop of differences compared to previous generations. We live with our parents longer. We marry and have kids later. We have a harder time finding jobs. We don’t buy houses as early, if we buy them at all. We don’t save or invest enough.

You see, it might seem simple, intuitive really, to blame The Great Recession, which hit many of us just as we were graduating college. It might be easy to pin these differences on exploding student debt that provides a shittier return on investment than we were promised. In fact, it might be worth considering that maybe owning a home isn’t as necessary as our parents were led to believe, especially considering that real estate hasn’t exactly proven to be a profitable investment these past few years. It might be worth considering that not all of us need (or want) to get married and/or have kids. Maybe the white picket fence, Golden Retriever smiling in a uniform emerald lawn, is a dream worth reevaluating for some of us.

But no. Economy be damned, our problem is that we like ourselves too much. Our self esteem is too high. We got too many undeserved trophies as kids and some assholes had the nerve to tell us we’re special.

Which brings me to this latest piece of garbage, Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.

First, let’s unpack the title. Yuppies? When I picture a “young urban professional,” I picture some meticulously coiffed 80’s era WASP wearing an expensive polo shirt to the tennis courts, not a debt-laden, ramen-munching contemporary 20-something barely able to pay the rent for the shitty flat she sublets above a vacuum cleaner store.

And unhappy? Who the hell said we’re unhappy in the first place? Can I get a source on that?

Full disclosure: I fit few of the millennial stereotypes. I’m steadily employed in something I enjoy, and have been since I graduated college. I have no student debt, because I was fortunate enough to land a scholarship to my alma mater. I share an apartment with a very nice guy I met on Craigslist who happened to a) not be an ax murderer and b) like my cat, but I’m also getting married relatively young (25). I never got any sports trophies for participating, because I never participated in sports. I played piano recitals — no trophies for that.

I may buy a townhouse or condo someday, if it makes financial sense, but I’m in no rush. I have no interest in having kids. I have a decent emergency fund saved up and I contribute to a 401K.

So I don’t fit neatly into the sweeping generalizations. Funny thing about sweeping generalizations — they tend not to be all that accurate.

Yea, most of my friends aren’t where they imagined they’d be right now. I have a couple of friends who ducked into graduate programs specifically to delay entering into the unemployment/underemployment epidemic. Many of my friends are entering careers that have nothing to do with their college career trajectory simply because they need something to start paying off those nasty student loans.

My music education major friend, who can rattle off the biographies of composers as fluently as people yammer on about Breaking Bad, couldn’t find a job among massive teacher layoffs, got his MBA, and now works as an administrative assistant. My biotechnology major friend couldn’t find a job in her field, taught English in Korea for a year, and is currently interning pro bono at a lab while working toward a grad degree. I have countless post-grad friends who work in retail. And you know what?

They’re not whining about it, so back the fuck off.

When I tell people what I do for a living, they respond in awe. You know what I get a lot? “My god, you’ve found a career in your major!” You see, that’s kind of a rarity these days. The one thing that shitty article gets right is that we¬†have been sold a lie. We were told that we must go to college, that a 100k investment in our education would eventually pay dividends, that we could be whatever we wanted to be. We bought that lie, signed our lives away, and ended up picking up what scraps we could from the floor of an economy our parents’ generation tanked.

So if some of us want to be upset about it — and like I said, I got lucky, so I’m upset for my peers — fucking let us.¬†

And don’t begrudge us of our self esteem, if that’s even a thing (how about you check up on these eating disorder statistics and then report back to me on how great our self esteem is). This is some victim-blaming bullshit. It’s not enough that we were fed a lie, handed a shitty economy, and told to make due, but we’re not supposed to like ourselves in the meantime? We’re not supposed to feel special?

Put me on the record as saying this: we are fucking special. You are special. I am special. There is nobody in the world quite like me, or quite like you. We’re all unique. We all contribute something unique to this planet. We are worthy — of being respected, loved, cherished. What the fuck is wrong in saying that?

Oh, I know what’s wrong with that. If we value ourselves, we’ll start getting ideas. We’ll start wanting things — you know, that nasty “entitlement” everyone refers to. Well guess what? I¬†am entitled.

I am entitled to dignity. I am entitled to respect. I am entitled to truth — I deserve better than to be lied to, to be sold a fiction. I am entitled to be regarded as an individual, not as a sweeping generalization.

Some of my generalization realize this. And it’s making a lot of Very Important People nervous that the little guys are getting ideas, so they’re chomping at the bit to write shitty articles about how selfish, narcissistic, and entitled we are.

Sweet xoJane article about PCOS!

Dude, I LOVE it when people talk about polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). And Shafiqah Hudson did just that on xoJane last Friday: I Was Diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Two Years Ago, and Much of What I’ve Learned Since Then is How Little We Know About It.

It’s beautifully written, and describes the fear and uncertainty surrounding the condition:

In the span of approximately five minutes, I had been diagnosed with a scary-sounding condition, informed that I was probably functionally barren, and instructed not to care. The year was 2011. It was early summer. I looked out the window at the enclosed garden near the clinic, where all of the trees that had shaken off their lush and fragrant blossoms in May now sported shiny, emerald leaves. It was a beautiful day – a regular Philadelphia summer day, unremarkable in every way, save for the fact that I had just learned that I’d never be a mom. I was 33 years old.

I was diagnosed in 2011, too, and my doctor had terrible bedside manner — didn’t tell me much about PCOS, just that the diagnosis was consistent with my symptoms, and that if I didn’t menstruate soon, I WOULD GET CANCER. With a nice grim face. Thanks, doc.

He didn’t tell me I would never have kids, though. Neither did my next endocrinologist. Neither did the ultrasound tech who counted all of my little cysts. Neither did my primary care physician, who also has PCOS.

But that’s what a lot of women with PCOS experience — they’re told they can’t live normal lives, can’t have kids, can’t ovulate, can’t do this or do that, period.

But as Shafiqah points out in the title of the article, they just don’t know a lot about PCOS. All that infertility stuff? Possible, but not definite. Two years ago, I only ovulated once or twice a year. Now, I ovulate every damn month. Doctors, stop being fear mongers, and start studying. There are options out there.

I also related hard to this bit:

Basically, you wind up knocking back a whole bunch of prescription shit that works, doesn‚Äôt work, works at first but then inexplicably STOPS working, works but makes you throw up, works but only in combination with a magic ritual… you get the idea.

This is my relationship with hormonal birth control. It was necessary, for a while, to shed my built-up endometrium and prevent cancer. But then I started ovulating again. And once that happened, my twice-yearly periods came twice-monthly. ON BIRTH CONTROL. My periods are now more normal than they’ve been since I was in high school — and I’m not on the pill.

Birth control evened out my moods for years. Now, it only intensifies the depression that accompanies PCOS.

And then, there were doctors who prescribed me androgenic birth control pills. My acne was bad enough before I added Lo-Ovral. And then my acne got acne.

Seriously guys, read her article!

Things I learned by not watching Miss America

So I’m not into pageants. (Fun fact: I was in one once, in high school. I was basically peer pressured into it, and I did surprisingly okay [top 5] despite playing an original piano song in 11/4 time as my talent and dressing like the goth kid I was.)

I’m not into the notion that beauty is one monolithic thing, and that this one monolithic thing (with the addition of, um, baton twirling?) is the ONE THING worth aspiring to as a woman, and that the name of the nation ought to be represented by the one woman who best represents this monolithic, uniform thing.

But this year, something slightly different happened.

We got our first Indian-American Miss America, Nina Davuluri.

And suddenly, I gave a shit about Miss America. Because Miss America does, in some way, represent what the United States is: a nation created by immigrants, full of diverse backgrounds and cultural traditions. This Star Ledger quote (see link above) puts it succinctly:

Bollywood made the broadcast as Davuluri performed the dance style, which was integrated with classical Indian dance, alongside Irish step dance (Miss Connecticut), a high-flying baton routine and plenty of singing.

Indian dance alongside Irish step dance — this is what the United States is, people!

But you know what else this nation is? Fucking racist.

I’m not going to reproduce some of the horrible comments made about Ms. Davuluri, but feel free to be shocked — or not. Because you know what I learned by not watching Miss America?

Nothing.

I didn’t learn that people are racist. That I knew. If you expected an Indian woman to win Miss America and¬†not hear a bunch of racist backlash, you are¬†not paying attention.

I’m just glad we have social media to make this shit a little bit more difficult to deny, because let’s face it, people aren’t ignoring reality — they’re willfully denying it. When a black man is murdered, it’s never about race. When a famous person unabashedly slings racial epithets, it is never because she’s racist — she’s just an adorable relic of a bygone era.

And when people tweet deplorable racist shit, it’s never because our country has a racism problem — it’s always “a few bad apples.” Which is an easy thing to claim — when you’re white.

Try this: find the beauty in every person you see

I started this exercise as a teenager, back when I used to draw portraits of people’s faces. I became infatuated with features. All kinds of them. I loved how different different people looked, how every face and every body I saw was something new for me to recreate.

I really wasn’t much of an artist — sketching was kind of something I did to pass the time. But it really helped me to find the beauty in people.

We get hung up on Beauty. Everyone wants to lay claim to what it is. Some people will say that Science‚ĄĘ tells us that beauty is about symmetry. But a bunch of screaming Beatles fans would beg to disagree.

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney: Hardly symmetrical, hardly ugly.

Society tells us that Beauty is monolithic. If it be female (and it must be either female or male, because CLEARLY the world is binary! /sarcasm), Beauty must be thin, lithe, European, long-haired, long-legged, rosey-cheeked, full-busted (but not TOO full — let’s not get too crazy).

If Beauty be male, it must be tall, broad, rugged (but not TOO rugged), European, with big hands, washboard abs, and that V-shape thing that dudes’ hipbones sometimes do.

These things are often beautiful! But how boring would the world be if everyone looked like that? Thankfully, beauty comes in many flavors, kids!

When you start seeing beauty everywhere, your world becomes more beautiful. It’s a simple equation, really. Look at someone who might not immediately strike you as conventionally attractive, and look for what makes them look different from somebody else.

Maybe their mouth is a weird shape. That’s a good start. Now, think about that word — “weird.” “Weird” can also be “cool,” because it essentially means “different.” “Unique.” Look at that mouth again — maybe it’s crooked, maybe there are a few teeth missing, maybe the teeth are especially big. What would that face be like without that mouth? Would you pick it as readily out of a crowd?

Think about that mouth until you start to see it. It was there all along, but you had to peel back some curtains, didn’t you? Something was occluding your vision — I mean, you’ve been told all your life that a mouth has to look a certain way, but this one doesn’t. This mouth is different. And it’s — you’re beginning to see it,¬†how long has it been hiding? — it’s beautiful.

Now look at everyone around you. They all have it hidden somewhere — something that makes them so¬†them, so undeniably different. Give thanks for that.

Maybe try your hand at drawing, even if you’re not that great at it. Fall in love with every feature you draw. Here’s some fan art I did of Mikael √Ökerfeldt, the frontman of my favorite band, Opeth:

Mikael √Ökerfeldt

Opeth. Because nothing says “body acceptance blog” quite like death metal.

The whole time I was drawing Mikael, I was focusing on conveying the emotion in his face — the same emotion that is impossible to ignore in his soulful guitar playing and expressive voice (capable of everything from deep, Hell-rattling growls to folksy balladeering).

In a way, when he performs, that face is part of his art. A live musician is an actor as well as a purveyor of melody. That emotion is beautiful.

The wrinkles framing the smile of a world-weary, but kind old woman? Beautiful.

The rough, pock-scared face of a tough, but gentle man? Beautiful.

Thick thighs on a sashaying body? Beautiful. An arm covered in nautical tattoos? Beautiful. The thick white curly hairs on the back of a brown neck? Beautiful.

Maybe seeing beauty is a choice. Maybe it is the choice to appreciate what is in front of your eyes, whatever it may be. In that case, I choose to see the beauty in everyone, and I choose to appreciate all my eyes have to feast on.

Oh, and here’s a bonus: once you’re done finding the beauty in the people around you, look inside and find the beauty in yourself.