Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone loves self-help support groups. Everyone loves crawling on hands and knees out of their isolation and entering a room of strangers only to immediately become vulnerable.
But if this introvert could do it, so can you! I promise!
If you are lucky enough to live in Massachusetts, MEDA is a fabulous ED resource center that has weekly support group for a range of ED behaviors and a range of ages. If you click here you can view the list of groups they currently run.
If you live in the NYC area,NEDAnow hosts support groups. Find out how to attend here!
And last but certainly not least, they do have Eating Disorder Anonymousmeetings, albeit in limited locations. Find out if they have one near you here! (And if not, they have online meetings as well!)
Seriously. Even if you don’t make any lifelong friends (I didn’t, to be honest) you will at least be getting out of your house for the night, perhaps preventing binging behaviors. So try it!
I’ve spent a long time thinking about how I can market this blog, make it bigger, more accessible, increase the traffic so it can reach more ED sufferers and those in recovery (from bad body image or an ED), and I’ve concluded –
This blog will never be popular.
This is not pessimistic, this is a realistic viewpoint.
And these are my reasons why:
1.Some readers think I’m pro-fat. I’m not. I’m pro-health. And sometimes being healthy also means being overweight. Given that the current trend is panicking about any “bad” foods or “bad” eating patterns, this “grey-area” blog is not going to go viral anytime soon in this all or nothing thinking world. (“Either you’re fat and unhealthy or thin and healthy!” Nope, nope, that’s just not true. And what about emotional health?)
2.People LOVE trends. LOVE. What’s more appealing than a new quick fix all the cool kids are trying out? Let’s take an example – Paleo. (Just using that because it seems to be the “trendiest” right now.) Can some people turn this into a permanent lifestyle? Very few, I think. The thing about trends is that they’re never sustainable. History has proven it. Powdered faces with the hairline shaven back? Gone with the medieval times. Or something. White lipstick? My mother dabbled with it in the sixties. Paleo? Probably gone just as quick.
Now, is Paleo healthy? Absolutely, parts of it. But it’s the fact that it’s a trend that will ultimately be the demise of it. Something else will come along that people will latch onto and try. and it will be left in the dust.
My blog doesn’t focus on trends – it asks you to do the longterm, day-at-a-time work. The internal work, not the “change your outsides so you have a temporary high” work.
3. Diets Make Money. I could google it, but I’m going to assume that the diet industry makes millions of dollars each year off of people buying into their particular cookbooks, their programs, and low-carb cheesecakes. So, when I say they’re bullshit, this will obviously earn a quick snub from most viewers. Why? They invested money in a product and they don’t want to be told it was for nothing, or for little, or for temporarily. They want that investment to mean something. And I’m threatening that.
So, that’s part of why I think this blog will never be popular.
(Like not being popular has ever stopped me before….)
And an anecdote to finish this off. Recently, I was sitting with my therapist, and said, “You know, I think I’ve found the secret to a healthy weight and healthy life.”
Happy Monday! I’m gonna take a break from my “media watchdog” status and post something from the media that is BODY POSITIVE – or at least, I think so. My fabulous friend Liz let me know about the My Body Gallery, a site that is dedicated to portraying an accurate depiction of what REAL women look like. The coolest part, in my opinion, is the place where you can type in your height and weight and see pictures of other real women. For the women I spoke to, this was a wakeup call – as in, “Hey I look better than I thought!” Why? Because often we view ourselves more negatively than we do others. However this could be a trigger for some – so you have been warned.
I’m looking to link a bunch of Recovery Blogs on my “Links” page. I’m all for the ED Recovery community connecting and supporting each other. So, if you want your link on my page, you should meet only a few requirements:
1. Have a pro-recovery blog (no pro-ana or mia sites, please)
2. On this blog entry, submit your blog URL. I will post it!
3. Comment on another blog that’s linked on my “Links” page.
Welcome to Recovery Tip Tuesday, a weekly update about a skill that’s worked for me in ED recovery.*
Spirituality. Why is everyone so afraid of it? Maybe because we’ve seen those religious extremists who’ve taken it way too far. Or maybe it’s because the word “God” (Dun-dun-DAH) is involved in it. Or maybe it’s because self-help groups which claim spirituality as its base struck us as cult-like. Either way, I personally find it unfortunate that some shy away from this, because your spirituality or God could be a can of tomato soup.
What do I mean? Well, let me give you an example. Right after treatment, I worked a job in Harvard Square at an upscale boutique. I took the T home daily, and got off at Davis Square. I had been feeling pretty lonely, and fairly lost, because of my recent necessity to quit my regular job to attend treatment. One day, I had gotten off the T, and all of a sudden, time seemed to slow down. I noticed everyone around me, walking, running home, all doing and participating in the same thing. All humans, just trying to achieve the same simple goals, of making enough money to survive or thrive and to be able to enjoy life with their loved ones.
And I, suddenly, felt connected. Because I was doing the same thing: I was part of a whole.
And that’s spirituality to me. That feeling of connectedness that hits you unexpectedly, rendering you ever so present, aware, mindful, and humble.
And connectedness kills eating disorders. EDs thrive in isolation.
That day was groundbreaking to me, because it reminded me I would never be alone, even if I was alone. Who knows why it happened – maybe it was some higher power, or maybe, because I was finally feeding my body, my mind was able to be totally and beautifully present.
And I now attempt to utilize it daily. I’m not perfect, but I try. When I try to make the right choices about food, I remind myself I’m not alone. That if others who went before me could trust that eating full meals everyday worked and didn’t make me fat, so could I. I remind myself that if I need to stop a behavior, I can call someone or pray. Yes, that scary word, pray. (To me, prayer is as simple as a dialectical skill, a pause between a feeling and an action, so it’s not that scary anymore.)
What is your form of spirituality, if you have one? Is it connecting to nature? Is it healthy exercise? What other recovery strategies have worked for you?
* What worked for me may not work for you! So proceed at your own risk.
It’s in your kitchen. It’s speaking loudly to you. It arrived yesterday along with your child’s well-meaning Grandmother. Encased in tupperware, its delicious morsels are of the chocolate kind, and are drenched in a sweet icing glaze. Even worse, there are 20 of them.
(Cue Jaws music*)
You go to the kitchen. “I’m going to have some yogurt and fruit,” you say nonchalantly to yourself. You go to the fridge, and eye the tupperware. “I’ll just have a bite,” you think. “It’s so much easier than cutting the pineapple up.” You take one out.
And then you binge, or emotionally eat. They’re all gone in a matter of minutes.
Bingeing, or emotional eating, is one of the most shame-driven behaviors, in my humble opinion. Not that many people talk about it, or when they do, grimace and look to the side as if to apologize for themself. I think it may be harder for SAHM’s or for individuals who have little structure during the day. What else are going to do during the day? What other escape do you have while your 2 year old is taking a too-short half hour nap? So you binge.
Well, I’m here to talk about it and to deflate the secret: I’ve done it. It’s gotten a LOT better than it used to be, but it still happens from time to time. What has changed is the POWER food doesn’t have over me as often. When we are stricken by an ED or emotionally eat, food has legitimate power over us. So the goal of this post is to make brownies your bitch, not vice versa. Or donuts, or frosting straight from the can.
Now this may sound like I want you to get to the point where you say, “Mwa ha ha! I will never eat brownies again! They are evil!” This is not what I’m after. I’m after you eating brownies when you want, and then having the power to put them down when your body tells you you’re full. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
Call someone. Shameful behaviors thrive in isolation. It may be the last thing that you want to do, but calling a trusted someone and divulging that you’re about to binge will probably take the power away from the donuts you stashed away in the cupboard. And hell, you may even get a chuckle from hearing your friend’s last dating escapade. I guarantee you, if you can connect with someone, you will probably not want to binge at the end of it.
Freeze any binge food. I once heard about this trick from someone I was in treatment with. If you couldn’t resist the urge to buy binge food, stick it in the freezer once you get home. That way, if you really want to binge, it’s gonna take a lot of effort to do it. And knowing that the average urge to binge or drink lasts 30 minutes from start to finish, you may have beaten your urge by the time you defrost it.
Go for a walk. It may seem counterintuitive, but healthy exercise can fight a binge or purge feeling. If you’re addicted to exercise, I don’t recommend using this. But if you are able to curtail the amount of walking you do, it may help. Endorphins rush out when we exercise, making us happier and usually less likely to utilize harmful behaviors.
Take up knitting. Or embroidery. Or checkers. Or anything that makes your hands work! I’m not exactly sure of the science behind this, but when we use our hands to produce or make something, a different part of the brain is activated and it takes us out of that “swirly-racing-thoughts-head-space” and into the present. And when we are in the present, we are calmer, less anxious and less depressed.
Keep a journal. Document the times you are most likely to binge. Do you see a pattern? Is it before your therapy session? Is it only at night? Finding out the trigger for your binges may help you to fight them better. For example, if it is at night, perhaps you can find an out-of-the-house activity that takes place in the evenings.
I hope some of these help. For me, using some of the simple activities gave me the space to examine what my core emotional issues were behind the food. And once I discovered those, I realized that food was just a symptom of the problem, and the power was driven out of it. Food didn’t serve the purpose it once did.
And then (at least 80% of the time), brownies were MY bitch.
*Don’t take this cue as me saying that food or sweets are evil; this post is about bingeing, and what I mean to say that bingeing can be harmful.
This is my Dad and I at a St. Patrick’s Day party last night. Before I ramble on about my latest food thought, I feel the need to introduce him, because he’s led a pretty amazing life. Born before the Great Depression (83 years old), he was a pilot in the Air Force (I got to go up in a Cessna with him when I was 10), an actor and theater critic who hung out with Charlton Heston pre-crazy-NRA-ness, and a member of the crowd who saw John F. Kennedy before he turned the street corner in Dallas and was shot. It is hard to see him in the later years of his life; his speech, hearing and eyesight are severely limited. Through the crap, I occasionally see glimpses of his old self: stubborn, curious, spirited, strong-willed, adventurous. In other words, a whole lot of me.
Another way we are similar is our enjoyment of sweets. Ha. Which leads me to the thought I came up with running today. Long story short, I did not hold back with the food and/or desserts last night. (Which honestly, I usually don’t at holiday gatherings, because, it’s one frickin day). And I felt it this morning. My stomach was a little messed up from the sugar, but nothing bad. It was like a little reminder from my body – “Hey, don’t do that again anytime soon.”
That led me to thinking about feeling badly in general. Emotionally and physically. In life, there are natural ebbs and flows to our moods – some days we’re feeling pretty damn confident, and some we’re feeling pretty insecure. Doesn’t the same go for our bodies? Can we really expect our physical bodies to feel healthy and toned and “just full enough” 100% of the time? No. Sometimes, we’re going to feel physical pain due to an ebb and flow in lifestyle. Now, I’m not recommending we all binge on sugar every night because it’s an “ebb”, but I think it happens because we’re human. We’re not perfect body robots.
I have noticed, as of late, that our society tends to not want to feel bad at all. We don’t want to sit with pain or discomfort. Like my friend Alexandra said, there are diets that promote quick fixes (read: you don’t have to sit with the pain of your real, emotional food issues and instead get a band-aid fix), there is airbrushing that takes away anything that isn’t perfect, and there are eating disorders to numb out the root issues that fuel it. We all produce and run at an insane pace everyday, and in turn avoid sitting quietly with ourselves for two minutes, paying attention to what we’re really feeling.
Anyway, I’m getting a little vague, but I’ll explain what I mean this way. My Dad always told me, “We (my mother and he) will love you no matter what wrong you did in life.” I’m gonna treat my appetite and body the same way. Because it isn’t perfect but it usually hits the mark when I listen to it and treat it right.
I had an epiphany in the shower this morning. (Don’t all good ideas happen there?) I had just tried on a dress for an upcoming wedding, and as I gazed at my figure, I felt the old familiar self-hatred creep in. Mostly for my stomach. I realized, that while most other areas of my ED recovery were solid, my self-hatred for my stomach was high and still existed. Why? Because my unconscious coping mechanism, until now, was ignoring it and pretending it wasn’t there. Because I have so much shame attached to my stomach. By society’s standards, it’s not just imperfect, it’s not desireable.
If you think about it, isn’t ignoring someone a horrible thing to do to anybody? And if we are, in the interest of self-love, going to treat our bodies with the same compassion as we do to other human beings, isn’t ignoring a body part just bad for its self-esteem? Why not radically change the way we think about a certain body part (even if we don’t believe it at first) and send gigantic amounts of self-love towards it instead?
So that’s what I am doing.
I am launching the “30 Day Tummy Love Project” – a project designed to increase my awareness, cognitions, and compassion towards my tummy. I will:
blog once a day (I will! I will!) about the self-love activity I did that day for my tummy.
engage in strengthening activities for my core muscles (note: in the means of taking care of it, NOT in the means of shrinking it. My recovery has always included healthy exercise)
read “tummy love” literature
engage in meditations which allow me more presence with my body/tummy
and other inpiring shit I haven’t thought of yet.
Check if I lose inches or pounds
aspire to 6 pack abs (like Peyton Manning once said, no one can really get those)
compare my tummy to Kate Moss’s, or someone else’s
Change my diet (except, perhaps ADD in healthy food in addition to the christmas cookies I consume during this month.
And my last plea is, PLEASE, join me and love your body or body part you’ve ignored because of years of mistreatment. And, if you have any suggestions for self-love activities, PLEASE share them.
My eating disorder hates that I’m telling you this, but I have high cholesterol.
(It tells me that I’m lazy and disgusting because of this.)
When in reality, I run once a week (good for a new mom), eat numerous small meals for the most part, maintain a healthy weight, and am constantly on the go. Sure, ED, I’m lazy.
So when I found out recently that my cholesterol was high again (read: should have had a heart attack yesterday cholesterol), I initially freaked and reviewed all the foods I couldn’t have. Pizza. No more chicken. Only vegetarian options. No occasional omelettes. Ice cream…no more ice cream??
And then I caught myself in the middle of my insanity. Cutting out anything would mean disaster for me. It’s quite a conundrum for people who struggle with eating disorders to lose weight, lower their blood pressure or cholesterol. “Will I start restricting again if I cut out saturated fats?” “Will I start binging if I stop eating salty foods?”
Then, a simple idea dawned on me. Add something healthy, you silly girl.
My cholesterol had been high once before in my life – and I had started eating oatmeal every day. Oatmeal is wonderful for high cholesterol – it scrubs it away. It also keeps you energized until lunch. And not just simple oatmeal – I added peanut butter and a bit of brown sugar to make it tasty. I resolved to eat it every morning, not change the rest of my diet and treat it as a scientific experiment.
Two months later, I had dropped my cholesterol by 30 points.
The moral of this story, my friends? If you want to change an unhealthy weight/food pattern, don’t think “cut food out”. Think “add healthy food in”. Think blueberries, jalapeno almonds, raspberries, oatmeal and avocado. Because cutting things out never worked long term for anyone.
For the past month, I had to take some time off from blogging to take care of something very important in my life. As I rearranged some priorities over the past month, I continued to be very cognizant of self-esteem-defeating magazines, body-obsessed blogs, and value-laden comments about food spoken by some supports very dear to me. (It was Christmas. Of course people would obsess about what they were putting in their mouths.)
During this period of quiet contemplation, one thing stood out above all the rest:
our society’s intense fear and hatred of fat.
Whitney Houston was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather be addicted to crack than be fat.”
Which supports my opinion that people are more terrified of being categorized as “fat” than a whole host of other afflictions.
Can I be completely honest here? I’ve never seen people more cruel than when they’re making fun of an obese person.
I’ve heard and seen countless things. I’ve heard people comment, “Jesus Christ, they need to get off the fucking sofa and stop eating cheetos.” I’ve seen peers call friends over to a window to guffaw at a fat person walking by. I’ve observed an individual chortle, “Don’t jump on the scale!” as their friends laughed at a kid on her way to get weighed in gym class.
I want to ask everyone, what the fuck is so scary about your relationship with fat that you feel the need to cover it up with an intense projection of hatred onto the person struggling with their weight?
Because when I see someone make fun of an overweight person, I don’t see someone who embodies health in all senses of the word. I see someone who is scared shitless. Scared of what fat means in their own life. So what does it mean in our present society? Let’s pick it apart.
Someone who lets themselves get fat represents sloth, someone who is disgusting and lazy and someone who doesn’t care about themselves. I liken people’s discomfort with obese people akin to burn victims; you don’t want to look but you’re just so amazed at how different they look than us. So why is it socially acceptable for individuals to label and hurt overweight people more than another stigmatized group of individuals? Why is OA scoffed at so much? Why are there no EDA programs as widely recognized as AA programs currently are? As Jenni Schaefer put it so eloquently when I met her last fall, she said, “I think there is still so much shame attached to food in general.” I agree.
Let’s look at dictionary.com’s definition of the word fat (as a noun). It reads:
“any of several white or yellowish greasy substances, forming the chief part of adipose tissue of animals and also occurring in plants, that when pure are colorless, odorless, and tasteless and are either solid or liquid esters of glycerol with fatty acids; fats are insoluble in water or cold alcohol but soluble in ether, chloroform, or benzene: used in the manufacture of soap, paints, and other protective coatings and in cooking”.
That’s all it goddamn is. Unused units of energy. And yet you attach moral value to it, make it into a reason to hate yourself when you look in the mirror. There is nothing inherently good, evil, lazy, jolly or bad about fat. It’s just goddamn fat.
I am willing to wager that the person who picks on fat people is someone who is terrified of their own propensity to fall through the cracks of their own self-care. So terrified, in fact, that they project it outward onto others in the form of cruelty.
Am I one of those pro-fat people? No. I am one of those pro-balance people. I am so grateful to have been overweight and to have had an eating disorder for this very reason: I now know there is no need to worry or obsess. We all have fat that sticks to us and no matter how much American society tells us to run away from it and numb out of our bodies, we don’t have to. We don’t have to live in this constant obsession of beating ourselves and each other up.
My therapist recently told me a story in which a client’s OA sponsor told her, “Your weight is not your business. Just do what your body tells you to.” In my eating disordered mind, this makes perfect sense. In my Amanda-willed-land-of-control, I would be 110 lbs if I could. But that’s not my business; when I am eating and exercising healthily, my body has an ideal body weight it resides at which is much higher than that. I can’t control that: it’s where my body wants to be, it’s what I was given, it’s what I was born with.
And that kid who was told not to jump on the scale? That was kid was me, circa 7th grade. I don’t say this as a means to hold a resentment against others; I use it to caution individuals in regards how they treat others. In the words of a very funny movie, “Be excellent to each other.”