Tag Archives: spirituality

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.

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.

Blissful Body Fridays: How Being A Kid = Loving Your Body

Me, before I cared.
Me, before I cared.

In case you didn’t know, Good ol’ New England is having a heat wave; the temps are expected to hit 93 before the end of today.  So naturally, I went to Revere Beach this morning with my 17 month old daughter.  It was 85 degrees by 9 in the morning.  Crazy.

I grew up overhearing tales of the old Revere Beach from my mother; she regaled us with stories of cotton candy and vomit-inducing roller coaster rides with her cousin.  It’s nothing like it used to be; it used to be a resort area filled with amusements and fast food.  Now, after a couple of conspiracy-story fires that were set, it’s just quiet.  Which is fine.

I camped out right where the dry sand met the wet, mushy stuff.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with the cold, rolling waves, but loved the sand.  So she literally bathed in it.  While I was leaning over to make a sandturtle, she had dumped a pile of sand on her head.  A thick layer of sand coated her scalp.  I groaned inwardly, but laughed to myself.  Because the best thing that’s ever been taught to me was by my daughter – the art of letting go.  The art of getting messy and not caring what things look like.

Before I had her, I would spend 20 minutes on my eye makeup.  I would have long pedicures at home and just curl my hair for fun sometimes.  Now, I don’t have time for that stuff.  Which sucks, sometimes, but it’s great, in another way.

Why?

When you are eating a mud pie and smooshing it all over your face, you don’t care if your blue veins are showing through your pale Irish skin.  You’re having fun and marvelling at the fabulousness of having mud pie ALL OVER YOUR FACE.  When you’re throwing sand in the wind, you don’t pay attention to the cellulite on your thighs because you’re jumping in big, funny lunges to avoid getting sand in your eyes.  And when you’re picking up shells, you’re not caring about your untoned tummy, because you are collecting little magical treasures, one at a time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have control problems; you’d probably all laugh at my nighttime routine, which is OCD-esque and consists of this strange “sweep-the-entire-house-feed-the-cats-change-their-litterbox” routine.  But spending time has done wonders for my body image; I use my body in way more fun ways now than I ever did.

Do you remember that time?  Before you hit puberty and all hell broke loose?  When you made soup in the ground with sticks and leaves?  When you rode bikes just as fast as the neighborhood boys?  When girls were equal to boys and just as capable?

It’s still there.

You can still have it now.

Have a blissful Friday.

 

My Body!

Media Mondays: My Body Gallery

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.

 

So click away!

 

Have a great Monday, folks!

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Recovery Tip Tuesday: Spirituality

Welcome to Recovery Tip Tuesday, a weekly update about a skill that’s worked for me in ED recovery.*

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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.

(Image provided by adaliaconfidenceandsuccessblog.)