Category Archives: Eating disorders

Why I Stopped Trying to Have Another Child

IMG_9846
Time to rest.

Last night, for the 414th time, I heard it again:

The unintentionally-offensive-you’re-lucky-you-only-have-one-kid remark.

You know the kind.  It also comes in the form of, “Is she your only?” and “only children are so lonely and spoiled” and “I would never do that to a child, have them be the only.”

This time, instead of a meltdown, it was nothing a knowing grimace from my husband couldn’t fix.  This time, instead of letting it stab me like a knife, it was a momentary wince and I moved on.   I watched my daughter trot from house to house, collecting candy gleefully.

*****

Today, I was thinking about how much I’ve had to fight.

First, I thought about how much I’ve fought to have a second child.  I tried for two years.  My husband and I tried having sex every other day, at points.  We got pregnant – to have it end in miscarriage, and to have a D&C I had to fight for because it was a holiday and no one wanted to stay late at the hospital.  I paid $1600 for acupuncture that wasn’t covered by health insurance, took herbs and stopped running.  A family member paid $500 for a failed IUI that wasn’t covered by health insurance, and since we don’t have 7,000 extra to spare, an IVF or even extra IUI’s were out of the question.

Second, I thought about how much I’ve fought in my life thus far.

In early school years, I fought to understand why the students at school hated me because of my weight, and I fought to understand why I was being touched by a classmate inappropriately in the fourth grade and why no one was doing anything about it, even though I told them.   I fought to understand why drug paraphernalia was in my house at a young age.   I fought to understand why people wouldn’t just leave me alone as I became smaller and smaller, since it solved everything anyway.

I fought harder still in college to understand why I couldn’t drink like everyone else, why guy friends had to carry me home after I insulted or hit one of them.  I fought to understand why my father refused to accept that I had an eating disorder, as a social worker confronted him in treatment.  I fought to educate family members, close ones, that I needed to eat at certain times during the day right out of treatment, and that I just wasn’t trying to be a nuisance to older family members.  I fought to stay sober, one day at a time, and fought to make family members understand that my sober anniversaries were actually a big deal and something I wanted to be recognized for.

I unsuccessfully fought to have extended family members unconditionally love me after I spoke my truth about our family, and fought to have in-laws see me as something more than “that antisocial girl who’s too serious”.  I fought to understand how the bomb near the finish line my husband stepped on somehow didn’t detonate during the Boston Bombing.  I fought to get my dad’s brain researched after he died, just like he wanted, packing ice around his head.  I fought back snarling insults as I felt others’ judgment about choosing to live with my mother and bipolar brother.  I fought tooth and nail to climb in my chosen career, only to live paycheck to paycheck.  I fought for my marriage in couples therapy as it floundered.

So yes, I guess you could say I’m tired of fighting.

And I’m good with fighting anymore, for anything else, including a child.

In fact, I’m all set.

If you want me, come and get me.

*****

I’m gonna go ahead and liken infertility to a regular old loss.  It doesn’t hurt any less as the years go on; you just get more used to dealing with it.  You get used to the remarks, seeing bright, shining pictures of families with at least two siblings beam at you from Facebook, and you feel that old, familiar pain.  But this time, it’s in the rearview mirror.

I have a family.

And I have me.  And I tell the truth.  And a lot of people don’t like that and never will.

And despite what a lot of people think, I’m fucking remarkable.

 

Pretty

momdadfionaThe sunset was pretty tonight.  It’s always pretty to me.  Halloween night, the sky was patterned with spotty white clouds, one perfectly like the next.  Tonight, there was a tinge of yellow and pink on the horizon.  Nothing spectacular, but enough to remind me of one of the perks of being alive.

I was told twice this weekend I was pretty.  I’m not sure if that amounts to a hill of beans, but it’s always something I “had”, at least since I stopped being an overweight pre-teen.

I’m fairly sure half of my readers just gave up on this post; I wouldn’t blame them, for thinking I’m vain.  I am.  I can be.  I think we all can be, at least most of us.

My father always talked about sunsets.  And so the sunset made me think of him, which made me think of time.  Because it’s almost been a year since he died.  And how time can strip you of many things – people, energy, health, looks.  Time is frightening.  Pressing, like a weight on your chest until there isn’t space anymore.

I find it frightening that I once was 15 and could operate on six hours of sleep with no problem, and now it’s twenty years later and sciatica is a common word in my vocabulary.  I find it frightening that I once had a tiny five pounder, and now I have a three year old who acts twenty-five and regularly asks me what words “In Spanish” are.  I find it frightening that a year ago, my father existed, as emaciated and twisted as he appeared at the end, and now…he just doesn’t.

Eating disorders are a good distraction from the real issues at hand.  Want to avoid your feelings?  Eat only raw vegetables and protein during the day for prolonged periods of time.  Want to forget that you’re a living breathing human being who will one day, too, stop breathing and stop existing?  Fixate on the fact that you’re becoming less pretty.  It’s a nice “smoke and mirrors” to the friend who you’ve lost from your life, or the brother that just won’t get well.

That’s where I’ve been lately.  Pulling at my jeans because I have gained weight, and I’d rather focus on that than on the fact my Dad’s been dead for a year.  Looking at my growing-out hair, and grimacing, because it makes me look old and fat.  Rather than think about the fact that some of the friends I had in my life last year aren’t here now.

Change: it’s a real ball breaker.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the compliments.  But it always gets my disordered brain thinking, “what if I wasn’t?  Would they still like me?  Would they pay as much attention to me?  What will happen when I’m old, saggy and grey?  Will I ever be able to let go of this attachment of self-worth to appearance?”

I’m sure this all sounds remarkably self-involved; I don’t know what to say.  Parts of me aren’t pretty on the inside.  It’s just the way it is.

“Mama, Will I Take Pills Too When I Grow Up?”

prozacThe complexities of raising a child when you have a mental illness

Every morning, my daughter and I have breakfast together.  It’s imperative to me that she has it every day; studies have touted the multiple benefits of having breakfast.  Plus, she’s honestly Linda Blair from the Exorcist when she doesn’t have it.  That’s an added incentive.

I either have oatmeal or cereal mixed with yogurt; she often has cereal, fruit, and yogurt.  She drinks milk and I drink my coffee, just with cream.  And beside my coffee lay my two magnesium pills (for my migraines) and my tab and a half of Prozac.

We are not a house who hides things.  We burp loud and have loud emotions and make big mistakes and both the parents and kid say sorry in our house.  We also don’t hide the fact that Mommy takes two different kinds of pills in the morning: one for her muscle health, and one for her brain health.

The learning process started slowly.  My daughter first noticed the black and white pills on the table, and exclaimed as any three-year old would, “Me have!”  I then proceeded to educate her that she cannot just pick up any pill and take it; that these were for adults, and if kids had to take them, adults would inform them what and when.

She then asked, “What dat do?”

“One helps Mama to have less headaches.  The other helps Mama’s brain to work well.”

This was followed by a few days, where on the playground, or after nap time, my daughter would trot up to me and ask, “Where is my brain?”  And I’d point to her head, and she’d remember, and trot off.

I was fully confident in the way I was handling things until a few days ago, when bleary-eyed, I turned to my daughter at breakfast, and she asked quizzically,

“When I’m an adult, I will take pills?”

I wanted to choke on my cereal.

In the sentence she uttered, I felt the judgment of a million anti-medication people yelling at me, thinking I’ve set my kid up for a life of drug addiction.  I felt the despair of a mother who, having her own mental health struggles, was worried she was raising a child who had to be on medication to be happy.  I felt the uncertainty of my daughter, who knew that these “pills” held some importance, and, was it something desirable?  Something to be scared of?

I knew this wasn’t true; that one day, she’d have the cognitive ability to wrap her mind around the fact that I’d made a healthy decision for myself, but for now, it stung.

Even in today’s somewhat-enlightened society, being a mother on medication is not something you yell from the rooftops.  There are the types who believe that everything can be solved through the chiropractor and through organic, gluten-free food, but that is simply not true.  And those types feel free to pass judgment on those who actually have experience with mental illness.  There are cases, cases like me in which the person feels suicidal unless they are on the correct dosage of medication.

More power to the people who can solve their depressive episodes with a change in exercise routine.  I cannot.  More power to the people who can take away their anxiety by practicing mindfulness skills.  I cannot.  People like me are wired differently, perhaps by biological makeup, or perhaps by early trauma.  There is nothing worse about us.  We haven’t tried less or made less of an effort.

I mean, perhaps I wouldn’t experience depression or anxiety if I didn’t work full-time as a therapist and mother, and didn’t owe thousands of dollars in student loans.  My life simply doesn’t afford me time to spend at a Zen Buddhist retreat for weeks on end.

So what do I want my daughter to know?  When she’s grown and ready to handle this information?

I want her to know her Mama spent years trying to self-medicate her depression and anxiety through alcohol and numbing eating behaviors, and that during that period, her cholesterol went up and her blood pressure reached dangerously low levels.  I want her to know she tried exercise as a form of endorphin release, but that it ended up becoming obsessive.  I want her to know that once Mama took those prescribed-by-a-doctor pills, she was able to stop screaming and she was able to be a good Mama.  I want her to know that her Mama finally realized her therapist was right about it being ok to rely on something to feel like she wanted to live on this planet.  I want her to know her Mama chose life, and not being a martyr, and not suffering.  And I want her to know it’s ok to rely on something, if need be, too.  That it wouldn’t be something she did wrong; it would be an act of bravery to admit she needed help.

Most importantly, I want her to know:

Just because Mama takes pills, doesn’t mean you’re going to.

And that’s what I told her uncertain, quizzical face that morning.

“No, your brain works great.  You might not ever need pills honey.  Mama’s brain just works a little different.”

And at that, she grinned and burped loudly.

 

I Just Don’t Think It’s That Simple

Today it was painful to be alive.  Every fiber of my being was uncomfortable; I couldn’t stand the weight of my body today.  It hung on me.  I felt it in my jeans and felt every bite in my stomach.  If you think I’m being dramatic, I’m not; this is how I experience things sometimes, as someone in recovery from an eating disorder.   Ask someone else you know who’s in recovery from one.

I have days like this.  Bad days.  Days when I envision myself swinging into a binge cycle again.  Days when I envision swinging into a restrictive cycle as a result of the aforementioned binge cycle.  And I went into recovery ten (!!) years ago.  Sad and destructive?  Hardly.  Realistic, I think.  Given the other comorbid diagnoses I’ve dealt with.

I’ve talked about the “once you’ve recovered, you’ve recovered!” camp for a long time.  The people who claimed they had a “lightbulb” moment and never turned back, never put their body down again, never consulted with ED once more.  OK, being a bit (a bit) more humble now, I’ll bite (no pun intended): I bet there are a select few who’ve had this experience.  Perhaps the same amount who’ve married someone they’ve never fought with, or who had a mind-numbing spiritual experience and never craved a drink again.  But for most of us bozos on the bus, I just don’t think it’s that simple.

(Speaking of that, I really wanted to drink today.  But I didn’t.  Whoop de frickin da.)

For most of us, we wake up and don’t have time to meditate for twenty perfect minutes, and no, we weren’t going to wake up twenty minutes earlier, because we were up tossing and turning/up with our kids and needed that extra 20.  For most of us, we’re shot out of a cannon when our kid peels our eyelids open with their fingers/when our cat meows in our face.  We then head downstairs to find cat puke right in front of the bathroom doorway, and in between reaching for the bathroom cleaner, silently bemoan the fact that we still owe 25,000 in student loans and will never be able to afford a house – now, now we are judging ourselves for not being mindful and worrying senselessly, and our daughter is yelling for the TV to be turned on, that ever-destructive-causer-of-doom TV, and we’re reminding her to use her manners.  And that’s only the first 5 minutes.

That is how most of us go through our day.  Well, you’ll have to excuse me.  That’s how I go through it; I can’t speak for all of you.

That’s why, when I hear people speak of “never turning back” on recovery and being “free of ED”, I am skeptical.  Did never turning back account for those six weeks post-birth when you couldn’t exercise because your body was healing and your mind when nuts because of it?  No, it didn’t.  And did being “free of ED” chide you relentlessly when you decided to restrict your eating when your father died because it was the only way you could cope?  Yes, it did, because wasn’t I supposed to do this recovery thing perfectly?  And here I was, nine years in, having a small relapse?

Being perfect at recovery doesn’t work for me because being perfect was the essence of my life-killing eating disorder.

It’s important that I can screw up at this thing, and know that it’s still ok.  That it doesn’t mean this time I lose my job because I’m too weak; that it just means I go to more meetings and therapy.  I think, unfortunately, this is a chronic disease, and that’s not marketable in the field of recovery.  It’s not marketable to say, “You’re going to deal with a little of this for the rest of your life.”  But that’s how addiction is.  You have to keep an eye on it.  It’s always in wait.

And keeping an eye on myself everyday?  Is that a tedious thing?  No, it’s actually a beautiful, heartbreaking and staggering undertaking that has only served to better me as a person.  I’ve heard people in self-help meetings claim they are grateful for their addiction, and I jive with that.  The things I’ve discovered about myself due to this journey.  And, I think it’s really healthy and humble when one can name all the parts of themselves.  The addict, the fighter, the daughter, the singer, the crier, the writer.  To dismiss one part of yourself, even a dark part, would be doing a disservice to yourself.

Don’t get me wrong; I hope to God I wake up tomorrow and magically have the hypomanic get-up-and-go that I usually have; I hope I go for a run and get those wonderful ol’ endorphins rushing.  I wish I could have someone else’s brain.  But I don’t.  I have an eating disorder and I can’t drink and I have depression.  The grace in all of this, the marker that tells me that I’m growing, is that I now know this too shall pass.  I didn’t always know that.  And that’s a gift that didn’t magically appear to me one day.  It came to me after years of hard work on myself that really wasn’t all that simple.

The Only Kind Of Bad Fat You Can Be

I love Jewel.  Go f$%6 yourself.  I love running to Jewel at the end of my workouts, cooling down while simultaneously basking in the imperfections of her folky, yodel-y, touchy-feely birdvoice.  And I love the song Goodbye Alice in Wonderland; it is my story.  As my bad knee started to kick in at the end of my run, and I rounded past the cemetery back to my apartment, her voice warbled into my ears,

Fame is filled with spoiled children
We grow fat on fantasy

And internally, I stopped;

because that was the story of my food addiction.

******

I grew up with big dreams.  I dreamt of becoming a musical theater star, and of falling in love with the perfect man at 25 and having this perfect family that would make up for any trauma I experienced.  I dreamt of leaving the little town I grew up in and never fit into, and moving to the big city and showing everyone that I was really meant for something bigger.

The problem with big dreams and being a big dreamer is that you often live not in the real world but inside your head, and you don’t seek outside help or opinions and ideas.  You rely on magazines and images and other people’s injured self-esteem to tell you what is right and standard and spin a world so small that you can’t see outside of it.

Translation?  I thought I had to do it all perfectly, and look like the 113 lb, 5 foot 11 chick in People (yes, they used to post their weights in the 90’s, and yes, I remember it because I will always have an eating disorder I am grateful for).  And I did it!  I lost 65 lbs in five months, because that’s what it took to fit in and be beautiful and be happy.

You see, I was “fat on fantasy”, just like Jewel said.  Because things were sad, and disappointing, and just plain tragic growing up, I escaped into fantasy.  It’s all I had, before I realized I could escape into food.  I escaped into the glamorous life I would lead someday, being successful and perfect and beautiful and therefore worthy of some man’s love.

And in that fantasy, I despised fat.  Fat meant failure and disappointment and wanting too much and loss.  But I was wrong; physical fat isn’t bad; it’s just fat.  Yellow, squishy fat.  But what was bad and what was hurting me was the fat fantasy I lived on.  I didn’t live in reality.  Into my twenties, I lived in a world where I rehearsed social situations and scenes that never took place because I was scared shitless to step outside of it.  Things were dramatic and romantic and dreamy in my head, and messy and unpredictable and scary outside of it.  And the more I expected my reality to be like my fantasy, the more I starved and binged.  It isolated me from that messy, unpredictable world – when I used behaviors, I didn’t have to feel anything.

I think I’ve gotten better.  I know I’ve gotten better.  When I first put down unhealthy behaviors, I could barely carry on a conversation for fear of what others thought of me; now I can banter a bit better.  But my “fat fantasy” still remains in bits and pieces – it’s there when I expect my relationship to be perfect 24/7 in order for it to be long-term, or when I think everyone should act perfectly at a party I host.  The fantasy still bugs me.

And poor fat!  I projected all of this fantasy onto fat, this morally-meaningless substance and made it bad.  When you know what?  It never was.  It just sat there.  And it sits beautifully on me and others today.  Today, I understand that a size 14 woman who is honest with herself is way better off than a size 2 who isn’t.  It may sound trite, but it took me a long time to get there.

So to those who get annoyed by my truth-telling; I do it because it’s hard and because I can’t afford to grow fat on fantasy again.  I do it because I see the world as it is, not as it should be or how my partner wants to see it or how it might look with an Instagram lens.  I do it because it’s how we move forward.  I do it to survive.

And I keep running.

Getting Out of Your Head

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One of the biggest traps I used to (and occasionally still do) fall into with my eating disorder was getting stuck in my head.  What do I mean by that?

Well, it’s sort of like when something not-so-great happens to you, or is brought up, and it triggers a downward-spiral pattern of thinking that leads you nowhere good.  And since cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us that thoughts affect feelings, and in turn, affect actions, this kind of head space can lead to a behavioral disaster.

You want an example?  Today, my daughter was having a rough day (I can take a couple of guesses why, but it’s probably because she’s an almost-two-year old), and I internalized it.  (Which is an irrational, easy trap for parents to fall into.  But I digress.)  I started thinking, “Maybe she’s acting funny because I didn’t get her up early enough and her sleep is off.  Or maybe I’m not doing enough structured activity for her.  Or maybe because we haven’t gotten out of the house today because it’s cold outside.  I must be a bad parent because I haven’t gotten her outside today.  I’m also a bad parent because I don’t have enough money to enroll her in some toddler gym where, on days like this, she could get out and interact with munchkins her age.  Yep, I suck!”

Yeah, that sounds productive.

Luckily, I haven’t acted on it, but it led to some pretty crappy feelings.  But instead of using an unhealthy behavior, I decided to type.  Because typing organizes my thoughts and gets me out of my head.

One of the  best things you can do for yourself (if you’re in recovery from addiction or in that awesomely-fun head space) is do something that involves using your hands.  OK, get the dirty jokes out of the way.  No, but really!  Performing such tasks as sewing or building something uses a different part of the brain than circular thinking does.  It’s why you see knitting so often at eating disorder treatment centers.  It’s an activity that you have to focus on, but it’s repetitive and soothing.

The same goes for painting, and coloring, and embroidering, and typing.  You can even integrate this DBT-esque skill into your beauty routine.  Painting your nails is a great way to get rid of that negative mind space.  Self-care and DBT rolled into one.  What’s not to love?

Check out my favorite color line, Sonia Kashuk’s at  http://goo.gl/SB1Qy6.  My favorite for fall Grey Matter, but to each his own.

What activities do you use that are distracting and soothing?

 

#TargetBeauty

#BH

Self-Care: Buying into Society’s Lies, or Taking Care of Your Spirit?

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I love makeup.  I do.  I don’t always have enough time to always put it on the way I want to, with a child in tow, but I do love it.  It’s artistic and fun and character-changing, at least for me.  I’m sure it sounds corny, but I feel like a different person when I go to a wedding wearing smoky eyes or bright lipstick I normally wouldn’t.  I guess it comes from my theatrical background; when I would do shows, I would love tech week because we finally got to wear our makeup and costumes.  I like playing another character, sometimes.

It’s also the act of taking the time to put it on and take care of your appearance.  Most mornings, I slap on foundation and blush and run out the door so I don’t look like an Irish ghost.  But when I have the time to get ready for a wedding, I feel…luxurious.  It’s hilarious what motherhood renders delightful when it’s probably the norm for everyone else!

My dad, the guy you wouldn’t guess would be a feminist, used to yell at me every time I would put makeup on as a teen and young adult.  “You’re buying into a product,” he’d remark.  “Women don’t need makeup to look beautiful – they already are.  You’re letting companies tell you what you should look like!”

He was right, sort of.  He’d be surprised that his words would echo in my mind a long time after he said it.  Did putting on makeup lower my self-esteem?  Did it mean I was an unaware robotic consumer like everyone else?  And worst of all, was it part of my bad body image?

It was almost like I had guilt for expressing myself, and that’s when I realized makeup and feminine things like jewelry and eyeliner were part of my self-expression, not part of a covering-up scheme I concocted to hide my true self.  So, my dad was right – ads for things like makeup and clothes CAN affect your self-esteem, but different triggers affect different people.  For me?  I know I can’t read beauty magazines – I know I’ll feel like reducing my caloric intake after reading those.  But makeup?  So much fun.  And I’m not going to feel guilty for my self-expression – that was part of my eating disorder, right?  Reducing myself down to nothing so I didn’t have a voice.

And, being a cheap savvy mama, I shop at Target every weekend with the fam.  This past weekend, I noticed the Sonia Kashuk line when I was glancing through the beauty department.  I was excited to pick up a new shade of foundation which would highlight my  Irish ghost  fair fall look that I sport, and Sonia Kashuk had every shade imaginable.  Check her out at  http://goo.gl/SB1Qy6.

I’m excited to hear what you think about feminism and your self-care – does your enjoyment of “the extras” contribute to a positive body image or does it hurt it?  Let me know.

#TargetBeauty#BH

 

A Thank You Note To My Bullies

You know, I’ve been rude.

And it’s time I apologize.  I’m sorry.

I never thanked all the bullies at my high school for the wisdom they unknowingly passed on to me through their years of emotional and physical abuse.  I never expressed gratitude for the lessons I was lucky enough to learn early on in life.

So, if you were one of the people who hurt me because you were probably so cruelly abused and hurt yourself, and you’ve been waiting for a nod of recognition, here goes.

To the little boy down the street who was friends with me when my mother was around, but refused to sit in a chair I sat in at school, exclaiming, “I won’t touch it if fatty sat there!”, thank you.  Not only did you teach me that the separation between “pretty” and “ugly” starts early, but you taught me to pick my friends as carefully as one balances on a tight-rope wire.  You taught me to beware of people’s masks, and that some are really good at hiding their true selves behind that mask.

To the boy I had a crush on who wouldn’t clap for me when I got a music award in the seventh grade because I was simply, “Amanda Bruce”:  thank you.  You taught me compassion.  Why?  You were nice to me when it was just you and me at our lockers, but ignored me when you were around your friends.  In the end, I felt bad for you, because it was probably really hard to be a nice, popular kid who felt pressured by his friends to do what they did.

To the girl who called me “Turtle” since I appeared slow to her because of my size, I bow in gratitude.  First of all, you made me hyperaware of my size and lack of coordination.  I bought into the belief that I couldn’t do anything athletically for a very long time.  So much so that I developed an eating disorder because I was ashamed of my body’s appearance and what it couldn’t do.  And then, years later, I would have to go into treatment and take a very hard, long look at myself and those beliefs.  It would take awhile, but I would then realize they were bullshit.  I would start to run.  I would start to love it.  And finally, I would run for not what my body looked like, but for my internal sense of peace.

There’s a second part of my thanks to you, Turtle girl: thank you for calling me “a slut” and “too fat to wear leggings” at a school dance.  That night, I came home from the dance and cried.  My mother cried too, for a long time, because her baby had a horrible time at one of her first junior high school dances.  That night, the bond between my mother and I became stronger than ever.  I wonder if you ever had a night like that with your mother.  I’m grateful I did.  And you know what?  I hate the word SLUT because of you.  I won’t call another female it because it’s an incorrect, stereotyped, misogynistic word.  Thank you for inspiring the power of feminism in me.

To the boy who invaded my boundaries and tried to touch my leg repeatedly in music class: many thanks.  Because you viewed me as beneath you due to my weight, you felt you could attempt to harass me.  And you did, then.  But now?  My boundaries are rock-solid.  They were too solid for awhile, and I didn’t let many people in.  But now people can’t take advantage of me even when I share things like this.  Why?  Because I know how to take care of myself and defend myself.  I have turned the ugliness into beauty, and into love, and no one can take advantage of that.

To the adults in my life who didn’t stop the bullying when it happened:  I am grateful.  Because of you, I am the fiercest mama lion to my beautiful daughter.  You showed me exactly how not to be around children who are victimized.  When you forced me to stand up to eat lunch because you wouldn’t consequence the kids who wouldn’t let me sit with them on a field trip, you saved another kid from being bullied on the playground twentyish years later.  Because even on a nannying job in grad school, I kept my eye out for the kid on the playground who wasn’t treated fairly.  And you’ve also taught me to take a step back and let my daughter defend herself when she needs to.  You’ve taught me to not be an over-involved parent who screws up her child.

You see, I’ve spent years feeling tortured, controlled, and dominated by these memories.  Until I realized that a whole lot of love can emerge from hate, if we have the courage to stop and lead an examined life.

So on this Spirit Day, where we raise awareness for bullying, I salute you, bullies.  I acknowledge what you’ve been through and have compassion for it.  I can’t possibly understand the depths of your life experience.

I will, however, see your hate, and raise you with understanding and change.

Five Reasons Why BMI Report Cards Need To Stop.

BMISo, I’m a little late to the game.  Apparently, for a few years now, some schools have been including a BMI (Body Mass Index) score on children’s report cards.  In 2011, The Huffington Post reports that BMI scores are “the latest weapon in the fight against the growing obesity epidemic in children”.  I’m sure you can already guess my reaction to this, but before I get into the more objective reasons, I’ll include a little personal history.

You all know I was an overweight kid.  An overweight kid who carried a lot of shame about both her body and imperfections.  Those imperfections included my less-than-stellar grades in math.  Report cards, a necessary evil, filled me with anxiety and dread every quarter.  Why?  I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t a perfect student; I occasionally turned in homework late and periodically made careless mistakes on tests.  I held a deep level of shame due to these peccadilloes – I feared I was a bad person because of it.  I feared my parents’ reaction to it and hated myself around report card time.  “I should be doing better”, I would mutter to myself.

Can you imagine the amount of shame I would have had if BMI’s were added back in the 90’s?  Can you imagine the ridicule I would have gotten from fellow students?  Can you imagine the reaction from “trusted adults”?

“Well, your BMI is 4 points too high, and therefore, you need to lose weight, Amanda…”

So.  Here are my reasons for banning BMI report cards.

  1. Let doctors and nutritionist do their jobs, and let teachers do theirs.  Is it important that we model a healthy lifestyle for children in our schools?  Absolutely.  Teaching them to obsess about a number is not modelling a healthy lifestyle.  Especially when schools continue to pack their vending machines with candy bars and less-than-healthy foods.  Hello, mixed messages?  More importantly, who are the people who are trained to deal with an individual’s weight, activity and nutrition level?  Their PCP.  Their PCP can do a much more thorough job of determining whether or not a child is healthy or unhealthy.  Better than an index number.  And better than an untrained teacher or administrative personnel who is transmitting this information to a child.  (I’m not knocking teachers, I just think it’s clear kids’ personal doctors are probably better equipped to assess that stuff.)
  2. BMI’s can trigger, but not cause, an eating disorder.  I’m a firm believer that a multitude of factors need to be in place to cause an eating disorder.  But, an environmental trigger like a BMI report card can trigger a child who is already predisposed to having one.  Kids at school are already influenced by bullies at school telling them they need to weigh less, wear better clothes, or don more makeup.  But if adults told them this?  We may forget adults in our lives wielded an unusual amount of power, power that has the ability to influence us for decades and haunt us.  Some kids may not care two ways to Sunday if a trusted adult in their life tells them they’re fat.  But a vulnerable child?  A child who comes from a traumatic home or has low self-esteem to boot?  They’ll take that as truth, and they’ll run with it.  People vulnerable to eating disorders tend to be people-pleasers, and if someone tells them to lose weight, they’ll do it.  I personally know someone who has been triggered by BMI report cards.  This is no joke.
  3. BMI’s are not the most accurate predictor of fat mass.  In general, can it tell you if you need to lose weight?  Probably, I’m not a doctor.  But there are other scales – two are Body Fat Mass and Percentage of Body Fat.  It’s completely possible to have an obese BMI and a normal or overweight score for BFM or PBF.  I’ve also known people who weight train, lose inches from their waist, and watch their BMI scores rise.  Go Kaleo talks a LOT about this (she’s a WARRIOR, check out her blog/fb page).  And, here you can see how she’s clinically overweight by current indexes.  Ridiculousness.
  4. BMI scores are not going to change a perpetually unhealthy household.  I’m guessing that national health advocates are hoping that BMI scores will “wake up” parents who don’t keep a good eye on their child’s nutrition.  As in, maybe they’ll change their family food habits if they see their kid weighs too much.  Mmmmkay.  I believe this might work for a total of two weeks.  Why the cynicism, you ask?  Well, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the majority of households who constantly feed their kids donuts, soda and McDonalds may not have access to food that is healthier and therefore, higher-priced.  So, there’s financial blocks, and there’s mental blocks too.  I’m going to go a step farther – which may get me in trouble here – and posit that these same families may not be in the best place mentally or spiritually.  And the solution to this is not a number on a report card.  It’s a change in family communication patterns or beliefs.  You don’t work from the outside in and put a band-aid on it; you treat the actual wound.  Bottom line, NUMBERS NEVER HELP PEOPLE TO LOSE WEIGHT OR CHANGE LIFESTYLE BELIEFS.
  5. Isn’t the medical profession’s oath “Do No Harm”?  I can’t take credit for this one.  A couple of weeks ago, on Good Morning America, one of their medical correspondents “weighed in” on this subject.  GMA had interviewed several teenage girls who had communicated that the BMI scores ultimately made them feel bad about themselves.  The reporting medical correspondent insightfully noted the medical profession’s possible betrayal of its oath.  If GMA’s small-scale interview translates to the rest of the teenage population, then harm is being done.

Is obesity healthy?  No way.  But neither are eating disorders.  Our nation has missed the mark and swung the opposite way with food obsession.  We uselessly obsess about gluten and sugar and numbers.  And I’ve harassed you all before about the dangers of obsessing about food and numbers.  Obsession about numbers = obesssion about outside appearance = not solving your food issues.  But working from the inside out works every time. Building your child’s self-esteem through encouragement of esteemable tasks?  Works.  And modelling a balanced diet and positive self-esteem will protect your children from any imbalance.  But an index number?  No way.

Another Piece of Birthday Cake

Thirty-three.

YIKES!  I turned thirty-three!

And I was thrown a surprise (well, not-so-surprise-since-I-snooped-through-his-phone) party by my boyfriend.  What a lucky gal am I!

And, respecting my introvert limits, my bf invited a small, intimate group of people, including my parents and brother.  It was perfect, but can I tell you?  I still have trouble tolerating attention on ME.  Being a long-time caretaker, I have no trouble lavishing attention and care on others.  However, when it comes to me, it seems too indulgent and undeserving.  Inaccurate, isn’t it?  But it also reminds me of my old anorexic voice.  “Take up less space!”  “You don’t need anything!”  Which, of course, is so unhealthy.  So I gritted my teeth and accepted the best of the best of friends’ praise and presents.

So, I usually hate posting food, but I wanted to document the awesome spread that we had:

We had some raw veggies and veggie dip courtesy of a Pickety Place veggie dip mix:

 

veggies2

 

 

…And some delicious pumpernickel bread and dill dip which is a family recipe of my bf’s.  Yes, I eat bread.  It’s ok to eat bread:

 

bread2

 

Plus, some amazing salsa-and-cheese Mexican dip:

 

mexicandip

 

 

And let me go back to the amazing friends I have.  My best friend, Cory Norbutus, is the creator of Heart Healthy Tips.  I love her website and lifestyle because it encourages a balance of indulgence and activity.  She is a personal trainer who believes in both indulging in Chinese food AND doing a ton of burpees in the middle of a 3 mile walk.  We met at UMass in 2000 freshman year, and the rest is history.  I’d like to think our lifestyles complement each other.  Here is the two of us on my birthday:

 

corynme

 

 

I think, per usual, the challenge for me that day lay in a. sitting with being full, and b.  not taking care of others and enjoying my day!  Why is it so hard for some of us to accept love and praise?  For me, the whole role of perfectionism in anorexia lies underneath this issue.  For example – if I’m imperfect and make mistakes, then I don’t deserve love at all.  Which is so.  innaccurate.  In fact, I believe it’s a cognitive distortion called all-or-nothing thinking.  As I spoke about in a previous entry, we are all human and mess up from time to time.  It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love.

We deserve it just because we exist.

I will leave you with this beautiful bouquet of flowers I was given – perfect red roses and gladiolas, my favorite flower (and incidentally, August’s flower).

rosesandglads

 

Do you have trouble accepting love and praise?  What about it is hard for you to embrace?

 

PS:  The only shot I got of my birthday cake was messy, so that’s why you don’t see some cake up on this entry.