Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NEDA week.

this week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

i hope that no one will consider his or her self exempt from acknowledging the vastness of the effects that eating disorders and the pressure to be thin truly have on our culture.

although my heart truly connects with those who have experienced diagnosable disorders, this post goes out to women anywhere who have or are currently approaching food and their bodies in a disordered way.

that being said, in the spirit of awareness, i interviewed my wonderful nutritionist, Suzanne Eleazer, about some common misconceptions women have about their bodies and food. this woman truly knows her stuff, and has played a huge part in my recovery. (not to mention, if you could see her in person you'd want to do exactly what she says because she looks AWESOME)...

1. if you could pick only one thing you want women to know about food and exercise, what would it be?

That food and exercise are intended to add your quality of life, not steal your quality of life. Both are intended to add nourishment and strength, not add or subtract weight. Food is fuel and exercise is strength to life a long and physically active life!

2. what is the biggest misconception you feel that women as a whole have about their bodies in regards to nutrition?
"The more I restrict, the more weight I will lose." Nutrition is so much more than numbers on a scale and the size of our jeans. Nutrition is meant to fuel our individual bodies to maneuver through the life that we were created to live to carry out the purposes that only we can fulfill. Without nutrition, you slowly kill everything that makes you alive! If used in moderation and viewed in a positive perspective, food is simply a way of giving your body the fuel it needs to carry on day-to-day activities, as well as, uphold physiological functions. Food was never meant to be directly related to weight. But just like everything in this world, once its taken to one extreme, only negative results show.
3. what's your opinion about dessert?
Dessert is good for the soul. There should never be a food that has enough power in your life to determine your emotion or perspective about yourself. Food was created for use to enjoy. I encourage people to have dessert in moderation (2-3x/week) in an attempt to keep "restrictions" at bay. Food should never have the power to determine what you can and cannot do! It is what it is... another simple pleasure in life!!
4. why are carbs important?
Carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel. Our bodies count on carbohydrates to fuel physiological functions necessary in keeping us alive. Carbohydrates are also needed to keep our blood sugar level which directly affects our moods, food cravings, and ability to think clearly. Without proper carbohydrates in your daily intake, the body seeks out nutrients by tearing down your very own muscle which over time will decrease lean muscle tissue and increase fat tissue.
Suzanne is a licensed and registered dietician here in birmingham. she has helped make recovery possible for countless individuals who struggle with eating disorders and disordered eating. to soak up even more of suzanne's wisdom about nutrition and exercise, check out her blog here.
i hope that you found suzanne's wisdom helpful.
please do not think that social, cultural, and personal pressures to be thin are something you can and/or should live with, just because you do not have a diagnosable disorder.
you are beautiful, and you live inside a body that needs to be fueled, that needs to be rested, and needs to be loved.
happy NEDA week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

lessons from a sick little boy.

i hope that no one minds if i take a little break from the body image posts and talk about something that's pressing on me today...

...the little boy i babysit is one of the most intelligent 10-year-olds i've ever met. he taught me to play chess, he wrote a poem the other day about poverty in Africa, he even invented his own continent with it's own animals and language.

that being said, he is still 10 years old, and in spite of his superior intelligence, his age shows.

the other day when i knocked on the door, he dragged his feet through entry way, pausing to wipe his nose from his forearm, all the way down to the tips of his fingers.

he opened the door and drooped his eyes as he said, "i'm sick. i stayed home from school."

"ahh," i said, "i'm so sorry. so no soccer today?"

"no soccer."

to his grave disappointment, i suggested that he start some of his make-up work. when he was finished, we started a game of chess.

a few moves in, he pulled the blanket that was over his legs up and around his neck. struggling to balance, he stood up and tottered his way into the kitchen. i heard a few drawers open and shut before he returned with a thermometer in his mouth.

he took it out, glanced it over, and wordlessly held it straight out, just level with my eyes. it read 100.1.

"is that a fever?" he asked excitedly.

"it is," i said.

he drooped his eyelids a little more and tightened the blanket around his shoulders. he looked like a child eskimo.

the game of chess continued in similar succession. we'd play a few moves, he'd recheck his temperature, place the thermometer's evidence of his rising fever in my face and shutter and tighten his blanket when i nodded that 100.1 was still a fever.

it made me think about being a kid and loving being sick. there was something about missing school and having even more of my mom's attention than usual (not that she didn't pay me enough attention when i wasn't sick. she most assuredly did) and getting the couch and the remote and soup with crackers and a real coke with a neon straw in it that made fever and chills somewhat bearable.

it was like an excuse, a break from life, a free pass to exist with no responsibility.

i can also remember that first day back at school. my mom prying me off the couch and into the shower and into my school uniform and into the carpool. after only a couple of days gone, it was utterly terrifying to throw myself back into the rhythm of school. the gym seemed bigger, the mean kids seemed louder, and my teacher seemed a little less friendly.

something i've noticed (in myself as much as anyone else) is that so often, we find our identities in the things that are wrong with us, because these things are just comfortable.

it's a growing trend among so many girls and women to openly admit their struggles with working themselves too hard, finding their security in productivity, not sitting down, not stopping and yet never doing anything about it.

i think that so often, we admit our issues because we find our identity in them, not because we're seeking accountability or to get them out in the open so we can work them out.

it's the same as being sick as a kid. there is something about knowing that we need to fix something, that we deserve to be taken care of in order to "get better" that makes us want to stay in whatever is wrong so that that feeling doesn't go away.

even though i finally (after 5 years) decided it was time to stop living this way in regards to my disorder itself, there are underlying behaviors and mindsets of which i'm afraid to let go, because i just don't know who i would be if those things weren't wrong.

i am not saying that we need to try to be perfect. in fact, what i'm saying is that we need to try not to be perfect, by letting go of those flaws that we think make us better.

the weather yesterday was just too beautiful to stay inside. i decided to go for a nice, easy run on the trail across from campus to enjoy some endorphins and fresh air. i'm not going to compete with anyone, i told myself. nope, i'm just out here to enjoy God's creation.

i started at an easy pace, and found myself grinning a little at just how much i love to run on the trail. all was well until a decently athletic looking man ran past me.

my head split.

it would be really good for you to let him go on ahead of you. just stay at the pace you planned on and try to let go of it.

really? you're going to let him beat you? of course it would be good for your recovery to work on not comparing and competing, but do you really want to let go of that? it's who you are.

i ended up passing the man and having the same experience with three or four more individuals throughout the course of my run. and running is only an example. in my head, i turn everything into a competition. my eating disorder was my own game, and i was beating everyone i knew.

i'm not saying that competition and drive are not important and often times necessary. this part of my nature is what's allowed me to push myself into recovery, and will likely allow me to push myself into successful endeavors in the future. but it's something i have to reign in, to stop putting on each morning as the pair of glasses with which i view the world, and to allow God to make me who i'm supposed be when i use it for His glory and not for my own.

what i'm saying is that it's so important to go beyond recognition of our struggles. just knowing that we need to work on something can be even worse than not knowing. just like the boy i babysit basking in the glow of 100.1, it's when we sit in our own recognition of our struggles, talking about them, thinking about them, but not doing anything about them, that we allow them to become a part of who we are, rather than a pathway to who we'll become.



Thursday, February 10, 2011

part 2 {survival}

in my first post on body image i recounted my experiences of enslavement to bad body image. here, i explain how i moved from enslavement to survival by a fairly unlikely means.

about a year ago, i began watching season 1 of grey's anatomy.

all of my friends were participating in a campus wide tradition known as step sing [it's a song and dance contest between campus organizations]. i was still gaining weight and attending roughly four therapy/doctors appointments per week. when my nutritionist told me we'd have to up my meal plan in order for me to participate, i promptly erased my name from the list.

my friends were all in the show and constantly in rehearsals and then performances. consequently, i found myself left with a lot of alone time for the first three or so weeks of the semester.

one late afternoon, my best friends along with 65 other chi o's participating in step sing exited the house in a whirlwind for their first dress rehearsal. their streaming chatter and noise no longer resonated between the house walls. it was filling the crisp air between sorority quad and the auditorium with visible breath and chi o cheers and laughter.

the house was completely quiet, but the stabbing, deafening thoughts in my head were just getting started.

i looked in the mirror and shook my head at the husky girl who stared back. i was angry at my body, i was angry at myself.

i tried to reason with the thoughts, but for every successful cognition in which i told myself i was seeing distortions, my disorder fired a hundred flaming "you're fat and disgusting" arrows back.

i couldn't be in my head any longer. i wanted to escape, to stop feeling like a punching bag for my disorder. i knew exercising would help, but i also knew that somewhere deep inside me wanted to recover, and that exercising would only eventually make things worse.

i sat, slightly dazed, on my bed and wrapped my hand loosely around the bed post. i glanced around the room for something, anything that might give me a break from my thoughts. my eyes stopped on my roommate's collection of grey's anatomy seasons. i took out disc one of season one, slid it into my computer, plugged in my ear buds and left the world outside seattle grace hospital in a foggy distance.

it was utter bliss. it took less than a week for me to finish season 1, and i immediately began season 2, then 3, then 4, then 5.

i was living and loving life, but when i couldn't fight off my thoughts any longer, grey's anatomy was an escape, a numbing agent.

in the past, when bad body image has attacked, i've jumped straight back into my disorder. even when i truly wanted to recover, the pain of hating my own flesh was too much, and i knew no other solution for ending it, besides my age old pattern of restriction.

at first, i felt guilty for how much grey's i was allowing myself to watch. but then i considered the fact that i had an eating disorder for five years. my mind was finely trained to replace discomfort with numbness via starvation. this time around, i was escaping the excruciation of bad body image with something that might leave me temporarily mush-brained, but most assuredly wouldn't kill me.

this may sound silly, or even a little a scary, but i allowed grey's anatomy to stick to as closely to me as i'd allowed my disorder. my therapist and i agreed that when i was ready, i would separate from grey's and find my thoughts manageable on my own, but until then, grey's would keep me safe and grey's would keep me eating.

i think this concept could be helpful for anyone struggling with a maladaptive behavior from which they seek comfort. it's nearly impossible to "just quit"an obsession without replacing it with something harmless. the idea is to try to live life as naturally and normally (no one is normal) as possible until the temptations/thoughts become too much to bear. each time the arbitrary replacement is selected over the maladaptive behavior, the ties between the maladaptive behavior and person on whom it preys are weakened. eventually, the ties become weak enough that the individual is free, and strong enough to fight and to sever the remaining ties on his or her own.

by May, i had watched every episode of grey's anatomy, including those from the current season. my second night at home for summer, i watched the season 8 finale with my mom.

this past fall, i watched the first episode of season 9, but i couldn't tell you anything that's happened since.

life has been too much fun for grey's.

part 3{truly alive} coming soon.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

body image {part1}

body image is a struggle for everyone.

but for those of us with eating disorders, body image and the struggles that accompany are magnified a million times in every direction.

when what we see is good, what we see is really good, and consequently, so is everything about us and our day and our lives; when what we see is bad, it's excruciating, and everything about everything follows suit.

i haven't any numerical or real evidence of this outside of my own experience, but i firmly believe that body image distortions are one of the top reasons that recovery rates from eating disorders are not higher than they are. many of the times that i attempted to recover in the past, it was the sheer excruciation of hating my body that drove me back into my disorder. the searing, exasperating pain was simply not worth it.

when i first went into recovery, it was almost physically painful to look at myself in the mirror. i saw huge, monstrous shoulders on either side of an expansive chest with oversized arms and a ballon-like face.

on terrible days, the above upper half sat atop a pair of thundering thighs. i remember walking to class one day last spring, imagining the pavement crumbling beneath each of my steps.

i sucked in heavy, shaky breaths as i walked, biting my lips and scrunching my nose in attempt to squelch the flow of tears that welled behind my eyes.

i approached the psychology building and took straight, zombie-like steps towards my classroom door. i got there and i reached for the door knob, but as soon as i started inside, an uncontrollable sob burst forth and i made sure to disappear before anyone could see.

i somehow ended up in a courtyard behind the building. i dropped into a flower bed, curled up against the brick behind me and allowed the sobs to take over me. i hunched over my notebook and shook, scratching tearful prayers for mercy across the wet pages. when i finally regained some composure, i walked back to my dorm, put on my shoes and ran myself numb on the trail across the street.

although i struggle with body image daily, every so often i find myself amidst an exasperating bout like the one above. it's like a bad dream in which i want nothing more than to run away, to escape, but i can't make my legs move. the pain, the self-loathing, the harsh downpour of lies (or are they real?) surround on all sides, arousing a desperate desire to escape a thorny maze of circular thoughts with no way out.

after about 10 months of recovery, though, things began to improve. i remember on halloween, getting ready to go out with my friends and thinking, "wow. i guess i kind of like my body tonight."

i expected things to tumble downhill from there, but they never really did. i had bad days here and there, but nothing that left me reeling, dazed and drained the way it had before.

i don't think the truth and i have reunited completely. in fact, in the next paragraph, you'll see that we have not. but since october or so, the gap between the truth and me has undoubtedly narrowed, and i've deeply enjoyed and rested upon the peace that's resulted.

i thought that i'd finally escaped the painstaking battles of body image described above, but from sunday evening through yesterday afternoon, i found myself taken over with self hatred once again. thanks to God's strength, and my wonderful support system and my own desire to recover, i'm feeling much better. and thanks to the battle itself, i've decided to attack body image head on in upcoming writings.

these next couple of posts will be a continuing discussion of body image, and how i'm journeying from enslavement, to mere survival, to true life in relation to the way i view my body.

have a beautiful day, love your beautiful self.



Thursday, February 3, 2011

yesterday's lunch.

only taking 12 hours this semester has already proven to be a beautiful decision (it actually wasn't so much a decision as it was that i only needed 12 hours to graduate).

not only do i have tons more time to do the things i love {creativity} but i also have time to delve into complete restoration of my relationship with food.

i'm fully aware that i will undergo many more seasons in my life that won't allow for as much food exploration as this one does, but i think that these extra hours i have each day are right on time for what the things on which i need to be working....

...things like this sandwich:
tuna salad with hummus on whole wheat bread and some roasted zuccini (both grilled in my george foreman.) i also ate a swiss miss pudding cup afterwards !

have a beautiful day.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011





and i am still the same me today.

that's all.