A BIG thanks goes out to Liz for sending me this posting by Nate Milsham. Nate writes about the difficulty, pain and triumphs one experiences when trying to support someone with an eating disorder. (I’ll go on record and say it’s one of the most difficult disorders to support.) His wife has been battling ED-NOS for years, and in this post he details his sensitive observations of her and the how the outside world treats women.
I woke up this morning to a picture my friend had posted (mockingly) of a “Get Beach Ready!” article in some beauty magazine. In it, the first tip suggested,
“BAN STRETCH MARKS.”
and I say –
Go fuck yourself. That’s right. You heard me.
Stretch marks have nothing to do with beauty; in fact, I think they have a lot to do with skin elasticity. So stop trying to attach moral value to stretch marks.
Or anything else body-related for that matter.
Media, did you know eating disorders are the deadliest mental health illness? Bypassing alcoholism?
Well yes, they are. And you are contributing to many a woman’s death, on a daily basis, all for your love of money.
Stop trying to kill my sisters. Or my daughter, for that matter.
What if you, instead, chose to publish an un-airbrushed, average looking lady on your cover? Might that young pre-teen you’re selling to have not chosen to go on a 500-calorie a day diet? Maybe, maybe not. Even if you’re not the direct cause, you’re part of the equation.
And when the women who don’t kill themselves via starvation give up on attaining that perfect ideal, they swing the other way. They start binging, because they just as well might give up and “get fat because there’s no hope for me anyway.” You may have heard of an epidemic called “obesity.” You play a part in that.
They buy into your bullshit because you’ve inundated them with false truths since the moment they were born. Society’s values do a number on them too – “sweet, cute, Daddy’s little girl.” Pushed down by the patriarchy as soon as they can breathe air.
Oh, and stop trying to kill our mothers.
The other day, I heard a husband joke about giving his wife 6 months post-partum to appear as if she never had a baby. Behind the joking that made me want to stick a needle in my eye – there is truth. A million of your articles have been dedicated to women pretending as if they never took part in assisting the human race in surviving. Makes sense.
Keeping women insecure earns a lot of money for you. How do you sleep at night? How do you live with yourself?
Either way, it’s got to stop. You make my new-mother friend feel like she should weigh less, you make my daughter the subject of weight stereotypes, and you make me feel like my genetic spider veins are little spindles of evil on my pasty-white, untanned-and-therefore-unappealing skin.
(Another Piece of Cake realizes there are healthy ad campaigns out there, and applauds them! Another Piece of Cake also realizes men are hit hard by the media too, but Another Piece of Cake only writes about women because she’s, well…a woman.)
The idea that all of our bodies have their unique set point, a number, give or take 5-10 lbs, that our body likes to reside at when it’s healthy and we’re feeding it well.
One of the biggest breakthroughs I experienced in my ED recovery was accepting my set point.
(Which is a tall order, I do realize. Acceptance can be a bit of a bitch to work through)
And my set point is pretty average. Coming from a family of Irish-German “Campbell Soup Kids”, I realized I was never going to be 110 lbs soaking wet (sorry for the rare number), once I was able to see through the irrationalities of my eating disorder. It just wasn’t going to happen, unless I engaged in superhuman exercise and dangerous restriction every day. Which, was alarming to my ED at first. My ED wanted to fight my body. Screw you, it said to my body. I’ll show you. You can be different.
However, once I accepted it, set point theory was…relaxing, actually. It comforted me, because if I fed my body the way my nutritionist told me to, it would never screw me over. It would never put me at an obese weight I feared…it would put me right where I belong.
(But there was quite a fight to get to that acceptance. Think: A crying, binging sometimes, scratching, screaming fight.)
I still have to check myself fairly daily on this when my ED starts luring me into lesser-weight land.
What do you think? Have you accepted your body type, your set point? If not, what steps do you have to take to obtain that acceptance?
*What works for me may not work for you. Proceed at your own risk.
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.
So recently, Samoa Air introduced “Pay What You Weigh” pricing. Basically, each kilogram that you weigh costs 93 cents. So, if you’re an average-weight American male, you pay about 40 dollars less than the typical airline rate. So yes, a tricky way of both encouraging people to fly Samoa air and stay healthy. Mmmmk. A couple of things:
This is a Samoan airline. In Samoa, I’m willing to bet they don’t have the obesity and eating disorder problem that we seem to have here in the US; it’s been reported that the pricing seems to be going just swimmingly there.* I’m also willing to bet it would be met by cries out outrage here in the U.S. Some of those cries might be mine (see the next number).
What about people like my partner, who is gorgeous and tall and naturally weighs more because he’s tall? They have to pay more? That sucks. That’s where the motivation to be healthy doesn’t add up – you can be healthy AND weigh more.
Plus the fact that yes, it could be embarrassing, humiliating, or triggering to some. Weight is a private issue for some people. I do think that airlines need to collectively come up with a solution to seating obese individuals, but I’m not sure weighing them is the answer. That’s usually reserved for a doctor’s office or the Ground Round circa 1985, during their “Pay What You Weigh” dinner era (shudder).
Aaaand…is it proper to basically financially penalize someone because they weigh more than the next passenger? Isn’t that insulting? Isn’t that basically shaming people for weighing more?
What do you think?
(Image provided by gizmag.com)
* Those flying Samoa Air are always weighed before boarding because the planes flying there are so small.
So, I have to confess, I’m annoyed on a daily basis.
Every day, I hear about another celebrity or friend or whoever getting on a new, fad diet.*
And it’s so frustrating because I know – this person will come back to me a month later, discouraged, saying, “Why did I end up binging? I just can’t eat healthy.” Or we’ll see the celebrity have a lifelong struggle with rollercoaster weight gains and losses after 305 Jenny Craig trials. And I get mad – because I know my dear friend – or even this celebrity that’s been hounded by critics and paparazzi and assholes – CAN eat healthy. It is easily within their power. If only they’d stop dieting!
The thing I find especially crazy about diets is that a great deal of them these days ask you to cut one, or two food groups out of your nutrition.
The Paleo diet advises that you eat only what hunters and gatherers eat (meat, nuts, vegetables – this means NO dairy and NO sugar except fruit). As a mother, this is crazy to me – I’m not going to stand in front of my kid and say, “You drink your milk, honey, but Mommy doesn’t drink any or eat any dairy!” Also, it doesn’t encourage oatmeal, which would probably be a good idea to eat when you’re only eating meat, as it scrubs cholesterol from your body.
Let’s look at the popular South Beach Diet. Ah, the land of no carbs. This is also bullshit, because there are good carbs, like whole grain bread and fruit. I’ve tried this before – WHEN I WAS ACTIVELY ANOREXIC. It’s not sustainable. Healthy carbs keep us full until our next meal. Also, can you imagine not eating a piece of cake at your son or daughter’s birthday? I can’t. I might even eat ANOTHER piece of cake 😉
Can I even talk about cleanses without rolling my eyes? This, to me, is idiocy. We don’t need anything to clean our body out – our body’s organs do it naturally. I contend that people do it to “feel” thin in the same way they claim they can “feel” fat – they want to feel pure because nothing is going into their systems. Well, except for cayenne powder and tabasco sauce or, whatever. So, great, you’re going to starve yourself, and set yourself up for a binge, and deny your body what it needs to function. Good for you.
You know who doesn’t recommend any of these methods? Nutritionists and doctors. When I was in treatment for my ED, I was advised to have three meals and three snacks a day, complete with whole grains, meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and – god forbid – dessert! Now, the portions have to be reasonable, and you’re not generally advised to consume soda or corned beef hash on a daily basis – but you can eat or drink everything once in a while.
Is it that people are looking for the next quick fix? Is is that they can’t sit with uncomfortable feelings when feeling full? Is it that, in our extreme-based country, we feel the need to meet obesity-causing McDonald’s food with anorexia-causing cleanses? Why do we need to cut something out to be healthy? Isn’t health about balance? Incorporating everything within reason?
You tell me. I need some feedback. Why do we diet?
*Please note this is not a personal attack on anyone. I realize diets may work for a few, and not everyone succeeds doing things my way. I get annoyed because I get triggered by diet talk, and because I watch people try something that doesn’t work over and over again, at the cost of their mental and physical health. I get annoyed because I want to change it.
You know that weight I dropped after delivering Fiona? The freakish amount I blogged about in a previous entry? The weight loss that everyone commented on positively?
I hadn’t weighed that little since I was sick. I only knew this because I fit into clothes I hadn’t dared to try on since then, such as dresses I couldn’t let go of for sentimental reasons.
So, what that comes down to is –
Everyone told me I looked good at the weight I don’t get my period at.
Now THAT is fucked up.
Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t judge the people who complimented me – I blame society. There were several times in history when Rubenesque women were believed to be the highest standard of beauty. We forget that, in this angular, both-ends-of-the-extreme, carb-obsessed world we live in.
So, if we are to take my personal example, society endorses a woman’s beauty when she is at the weight where she is unable to reproduce.
Is this is end of feminism?
No, really – what this says to me is that we are rejecting a woman when she is healthy enough to do the thing most unique and miraculous about being a woman (in some opinions); bearing children.
And if you want to take it a step further, society is rejecting reproduction, thus, the end of society.
You may laugh, you may think my analysis overdone, but I know better.
I once heard at a self-help group, “When I look the best on the outside I’m usually doing the worst on the inside.” How true.
When I am not eating, or conversely binging on pastries, when I am not exercising because I’m stressed out by motherhood, when I am forgetting to take my vitamins because I’ve let my self-care go to shit, when I am not connecting to people and isolating, that is when people tell me I look good. Is it the circles under my eyes that make me look sexier? Is it the way my clothes droop off me because none of them fit me anymore? Is it the fact that I don’t get my period and am basically androgynous now? Or is it my hair that’s falling out at a rapid clip? Tell me which one.
When I am taking my vitamins, eating my daily breakfast of peanut butter oatmeal to keep my cholesterol down, when I am eating three meals and three snacks a day, when I am exercising regularly – that is when nobody comments on my weight because it is simply and humbly normal, a weight that rests between bone-thin and overweight. It doesn’t look spectacular in a swimsuit, but it doesn’t look half bad in an evening gown either. It’s so in-between it’s almost mundane. Maybe that’s what our problem is. We’re all afraid of not standing out, of being just another worker among workers. We don’t have the courage to be normal.
This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, I was distracted by the story on the Today show. Paul M. Kramer, an author and self-publisher, recently wrote a book called, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”. (It should be noted that the book’s intended audience is 4-8). In it, the main character is overweight, and is ridiculed by others at school. So, she decides to do something about it, and loses weight. As a result of her safe weight loss, she becomes popular and joins the soccer team. She is also very proud of herself.
Do I think this is necessarily “anorexia bait”, as others have said? Not necessarily. Do I think this is quality reading for a four year old? Not at all. Like I have stated numerous times before, I don’t believe ED’s happen because of 1 triggering factor. However, OVER MY DEAD BODY would you see me reading this to my soon-to-arrive baby girl.
My first problem with the book is that it addresses happiness from the outside in. The message “If you want to have internal happiness, you must change the external first.” Any buddhist or meditation flip-through book will tell you that you can achieve personal happiness at ANY moment, regardless of size or financial status or hair color. Changing your weight can potentially do nothing for your happiness, and all the temporary external gains Maggie received from weight loss (popularity, etc) would eventually fall away.
My second problem with this book is that it does place the anorexia-predisposed young lady at risk for a major trigger. Let me tell you a story about a young 12 year old girl. The young lady in question was an intelligent, compassionate girl who loved to sing and help others. She was teased relentlessly by peers in school about her weight, until she decided to do something about it. She decided to lose 60 lbs in 5 months, until her period stopped and she grew a fine layer of hair on her arms due to temperature changes in her body. She began to believe that her new, beautiful, waif identity was all she was good for, and she genuinely believed this until her mid-twenties. But man, were those compliments from the popular kids good.
Amanda went on a diet, and it sucked.
And it turned into an eating disorder.
Third, I just don’t think any 4-8 year old needs to have “diet” in her vocabulary. A balance of healthy foods? Sure. In an interview on Fox news, Kramer contradicts himself and says he believes no child should ever go on a diet. Moments later, he acknowledges that Maggie does indeed go on a diet.
I truly don’t think this guy had the worst intentions – I really don’t – I just think he’s stuck in the trance that the rest of the country is, the trance that says “LESS WEIGHT MORE HAPPY”. I think he was poorly informed.
And, this book sends a message that says, “Hey bullies! Keep doin what you’re doin! The victims of your words will change themselves so you can keep being an asshole!”
And one last question…why is the central character of a weight loss book a GIRL?
One of the best things about this blog are the comments and questions I get from my intelligent and insightful friends. Recently, a friend of mine sent me the following question via Facebook:
“eating disorder awareness week: does this include obesity?…given that it at least appears to be an eating disorder, as well as the impact it has on American health and well-being, i thought it might qualify…………”
So, is it?
Currently, the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, aka the therapist’s bible) lists 4 eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Rumination Disorder (a disorder I actually was completely unaware existed and involves regurgitation in infants and young children) and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (otherwise known as ED-NOS; this is diagnosed when an individual meets some of the criteria for both Anorexia and Bulimia but does not meet all the criteria for one or the other. I was diagnosed with this.)
The fifth edition of the DSM, which is coming out in 2013, is considering making Binge-Eating Disorder a separate diagnostic entity. So, to answer my friend’s question, it is being considered an eating disorder, if one assumes that binge-eating is the precursor to obesity.
And to shock the pants off of all of you, I have an opinion about this.
When my friend first proposed this question, I immediately became very protective and defensive of eating disorders as separate from obesity (hello?! terminal uniqueness.). I shot from the hip with the response that obesity is touted in the spotlight constantly as “bad, disgusting and ugly”, while stick-thin celebrities, models and athletes promote an image we are supposed to lust after. One extreme (thinness) is idolized while another(obesity) is frowned upon. That’s fucked up, because eating pickles and fresca daily can stop your heart quicker than years of binge-eating can. So, shouldn’t we, as a society, categorize mental illness as a pattern of behaviors that mirror an unhealthy balance in society that society itself can’t recognize? (In other words, it can recognize obesity is bad, but cannot recognize being too thin as unhealthy. Thus, disordered.)
But, don’t I argue that this is a society of extremes, of all-or-nothing thinking? By that token, either extreme should be unhealthy, and perhaps considered a mental illness. One can drown their sorrows one of many ways – by starving themselves until they are a being that has no needs or emotions, by regurgitating unneeded feelings, or by bingeing on carbs until they can feel no more.
In the end, here’s what I think: it has nothing to do with the way people look or the weight they reside at. For a long time, bulimia nervosa was discounted as an eating disorder because many of the individuals who suffered from it maintained a “healthy” weight. Like I stated in previous posts, one can be 134 pounds (I hate using numbers, but I have to) and have completely sick, eating disordered thinking. So, with that thinking…yeah. Either end of the spectrum is an eating disorder. Perhaps eating disorders are more like substance abuse addictions than we think – perhaps they are more self-diagnosable than, say, the current four criteria that are required for a sound diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. Perhaps one doesn’t need to be at 75% of their ideal body weight to know their constant body-checking and weighing is getting in the way of their happiness. Perhaps one doesn’t need to be at the line of obesity to know their binge-eating is out of control.
Five years ago, I was a nervous wreck around food. When I first got out of treatment, I would obsessively cook the same meal for dinner over and over: tofu, parmesan couscous, and green beans. I would measure each portion, making sure the pasta grains didn’t rise above the 1 cup mark. I would sit in front of the TV and eat alone, methodically taking bites of each of the three foods in order, over and over again until nothing remained. There was no joy in this routine; I was simply eating because people told me it would help.
I did the same at breakfast. I ate strawberry yogurt mixed with granola at the same Au Bon Pain table every morning before I went to my “get-well” job at Jasmine Sola. I was terrified when Crystal took me that summer to Chili’s for my first “normal meal out”. I had ordered something safe, like salmon, after deciding everything else on the menu would make me gain five pounds instantly. I couldn’t sit still in my newfound fat. I thought no man would find me attractive, unless I was 110 lbs and waif-like.
If you would have told me then that five years later I’d enjoy a piece of pizza in the same day that I happily ate chocolate-chip pancakes at 4 in the morning after going clubbing, I would have laughed in your face. Which gives me hope for other things I am going through.
There is a school of thought that is currently passing through the eating disorder field: it is that one can be completely and totally recovered from an eating disorder. Jenni Schaefer, the author of Life Without Ed, and the spokeswoman for the Center of Change, is a major advocate of this school of thought. On her website, she states,
“I want people who struggle with eating disorders to know it is possible to move from being ‘in recovery’ to being ‘fully recovered,'” she says. “I want them to get into life and follow their dreams, not be stuck in or defined by an eating disorder.”
Now, before I go on, it should be known that I respect and perhaps emulate Jenni Schaefer; I had the pleasure of meeting her and briefly debating the why’s and how’s of why there are no eating disorder anonymous groups, akin to AA. However, I have to play devil’s advocate to this one.
I believe once you got it, you got it for life. Whether it’s alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, or OCD. And I think that’s a. too scary for some people to deal with, and b. not marketable to the general american public, who want a quick fix for everything. Which is why Aimee Liu and Jenni Schaefer’s new take on a terminable recovery process is so popular.
I know for me – I will always have to take care of my eating disorder. My therapist explained it the best back in 2005. She said, “It’s something that will always be there, but it will be louder at some points and quieter at others. When it’s loud, you take extra steps to take care of yourself. You go back to basics. Either way, you’re always going to have to take care of it.” I hated hearing this at the time – I didn’t like accepting the fact that there was something weak in me that I would have to watch out for the rest of my life. But I learned, after losing 15 pounds in two months last year without noticing, that it can sneak up on you without the slightest warning. The disease is sneaky, and I fear that a terminable outlook on recovery may be dangerous to those who think they’re out of the woods for good.
Perhaps none of us are out of the flawed or defined by their disease. Maybe it’s still possible to consider yourself permanently in recovery, AND to be successful and known in your chosen field. One can fill many roles at once – daughter, engineer, mother, woman or man in recovery.
I wonder if a desire to be “recovered.” indicates some level of hatred for the disease. And I can’t hate it. I used to, but now I’m grateful for it, for it’s given me a spin on food not a lot of people I know have. I don’t believe in diets, magazines, or value-laden food talk. In fact, I won’t stand for it. But I stay humbled, especially when others quizzically inquire about my natural instinct to tear up food to make it less scary, or when they notice my tendency to skip meals unless I push myself. It’s still there. It’s there when I stop in front of the mirror and robotically check to see how thin I look in the morning. It’s still doing push-ups in wait.
Which is why I’m a grateful recovering eating disordered woman, even though I do not appear it outwardly today.