30 Things That are More Important Than my Pant Size.

So yesterday, I reached a precipice:

I had an important meeting to go to… the kind that you can’t wear yoga pants or leggings to.  Which meant digging through my closet to find ACTUAL clothes.

Sometimes being a grown up isn’t fun.

Anyways, I found 3 pairs of pants:

  1. A pair of thai pants… anyone who knows what thai pants are knows that these gems, while super comfortable, make leggings look like business suits.
  2. A pair of sweats… a skip from casual leggings to the lazy Saturday, not-leaving-the-house wear.
  3. A pair of pants I bought around January/February of this year. Wrinkled, but nothing an iron wouldn’t fix.

Obviously, I had to go with the third option.  While to many, this is a non-stressful endeavor, for me, trying on clothes that I haven’t worn in a long time produces tons of anxiety.

Will they still fit?

Has my body changed?

I see fat accumulating on the daily, but they say it’s not an accurate perception.  What if this is my worst fear come true?  An enforcement that what I see is really what’s there?

If I do put them on, and they don’t fit, how will I react?

Will it be the start of more restriction?  A more intense exercise regime?  A reinstatement of my old eating disordered ways?

How will I cope with this?

Regardless, I had to put on the pants.  I built myself up while ironing them, popped a few benzodiazepenes (kidding), and tried to tell myself it would all be okay.

And guess what?

The stupid things didn’t fit.

Correction:  The stupid things didn’t fit the SAME as they fit at the beginning of January.

So let me clarify something… your brain doesn’t store useless information, or stuff that is deemed unimportant.  That’s why, if someone asks you what you ate on September 1st, the most likely response would be something along the lines of:

“WTF, I have no idea?!  Why the heck does it matter?”

And believe it or not, what your body looks like on a day to day, minute to minute basis is pretty useless information.  I mean, your brain is much more preoccupied with keeping your heart beating and remembering how to get home from work so you don’t end up half way to Alaska.  THAT my friends is useful information!

Hence, the argument of many eating disordered patients of, “I swear my stomach has grown two inches since the last time I looked in the mirror!” is pretty unfounded.  The brain plays tricks, the disorder plays tricks, and creates a fictional perception of what you looked like before based on what you BELIEVE you looked like before, and what SEEMS logical in your brain.

Regardless though, the facts lie in the fabric:  my pants were tighter in certain places.  While I can’t remember EXACTLY specifically how the pants fit, because again, useless information, I remember them being a touch looser around my thighs, and butt.

The argument of me is instantly:

The argument of the boyfriend is: “It FITS you, instead of being baggy.  They look good!”

It’s not a drastic change, but it’s a change nonetheless.

In ED recovery, one of the hardest things is coping with a changing body, even if its changing for all the right reasons.  There’s the constant comparison between where you were and where you are now.  You have to make peace with yourself, inwardly and outwardly.  That includes accepting that your body wants to be a certain size and shape, and you have very little control over that if you want to live life as a normal person and not as a crazy food-and-exercise obsessed control freak.

That also includes accepting that the clothes you had when you were disordered, or the clothes you had even before your disorder might, or more likely than not, won’t fit.  AND knowing that that doesn’t mean you’re ballooning, anymore than it means you’re fat.  And even if you are, is that the worst thing you could be?

You also have to decide what you’re willing to give up to create the life you want.

In a world of people telling you to never give up, to push yourself to the limit, and to strive for nothing short of perfection, I am your antithesis.  It is impossible to create a life that is filled with everything.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  Something’s gotta give.  _______ (Insert other overused historical/film quote here).

The same thing applies to eating disorders, or rather eating disorder recovery.  If you hope to recover, you have to be willing to let go of things.  I know this seems like an obvious statement, but when put into practice it’s actually quite a difficult thing.

So what do you have to give up?

Is it the idea of a lack of cellulite?

A thigh gap?

The ability of the ED to act as an excuse for putting life on hold?

Is it exercising when you’re really anxious about moving?

The idea that health = thinness?

All the food rules and judgements you hold in the name of “health”?

Is it the need to feel in control and right/perfect all the time?

For me, it’s all these things and more.  AND it’s the idea that a certain arbitrary label sewn, probably haphazardly, into an article of clothing has the right as well as the power to determine my worth, value, beauty, and integrity as a human being.

Because in your everyday life, do you look at a woman next to you on the bus, who society deems as “overweight” but who also has volunteered countless hours at the local homeless shelter, and say, “You have less value than the thin woman next to you who has fundraised more for the SPCA than anyone in the town.” ?

Do you say to an “overweight” woman breastfeeding her newborn that because she’s “fat” her breast milk is worth less to the baby she’s feeding, than the thin woman doing the same sitting next to her?

Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.  And whether or not you can fit into a size 2 or a size 14 is hardly the most important thing in your life.

At some point, we have to make peace with our changing shape.  With everything in our lives, we have to decide whether it is something that is important, or whether it’s something that is preventing us from creating the life we want.

We stand at a crossroads, or a fork in the road as obvious as the fork dividing your left pant leg from your right.  We can put on our pants, suck in our guts, and do up the button, all while lamenting the loss of our willowy frames, our high school bodies, our 25 year old stomach, or our grey-less hair.  We can beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like crap for changing.  And we can choose whether the things we have given up or lost, are things that we still want to hold on to or get back.

As my pants hugged my thighs, and caressed my hips and butt, I felt like a failure.  I felt panicked.  I felt as if my world was ending and my worst fears were being realized.  I felt like the person I was was gone, and I could never get her back.

All because denim is unforgiving after a trip through the laundry machine.

But I had a choice.  I could continue to hate myself.  I could cut out sugar.  I could decrease my portions.  I could skip a few snacks.  I could exercise for just 10, 15, 20 minutes more.  I could bust out the screwdriver and put the treadmill that I dismantled because I didn’t want to be chained to it, back together.  I could find the person I was, and bring her back.

I’ve done it before.  Enter relapse, again.

Or I could decide that there were other things that I valued MORE than the person I was, or the size of my pants.  I could be uncomfortable, unsure, unsteady, and exposed to the harsh realities of limited motion fabrics, and not change a thing.  I could move on with my day, and my life.

I could set my priorities… and I did.

30 things that are more important than my pant size:

  1. I can go out to whatever restaurant my friends, family, or boyfriend pick without having a complete mental breakdown, ordering a salad, or looking up the menu/calories ahead of time.
  2. I have a latte every day, and it is 100% delicious and a very normal, enjoyable part of my morning.
  3. I’ve had a few cocktails, a couple slices of cake, and made memories to last a lifetime.
  4. I’ve had cookie crumbs fall into my bra, and lost a drop or two of ice cream in there as well.  I remember a time neither of those would touch my lips or fingers, never mind get up close and personal with my feminine features.
  5. I FINALLY learned to bike, and I bike… a lot.  And have increased the strength and musculature of my legs, as well as my genetically crappy knees.
  6. I’ve spent more time with my friends and family than I have on a treadmill or yoga mat.
  7. I have the strength to go up stairs and hills without getting winded.
  8. My energy level is much more consistent and I have more get-up-and-go than I have had in my whole life, even before the ED.
  9. I have learned to relax my standards a bit more, even though it is uncomfortable to do so.
  10. My hair is crazy soft… and not brittle at all.
  11. I’ve spent less time at home, and more time exploring the world.
  12. I frequently have conversations that don’t revolve around food, weight, or shape… and I can pay attention and remember having them.
  13. I can have a bite of pizza without counting it as a snack or meal.
  14. I have more patience and more compassion for those around me.
  15. I’ve stopped mumbling, “Fuck you!” under my breath every time I saw someone genuinely happy.
  16. I’m not trapped in a specific exercise cycle, with a specific route, for a specific amount of time, EVERY SINGLE DAY, until I die.
  17. I can’t remember the last time I specifically set my alarm clock earlier to fit in a work out.
  18. I can’t remember the last time I did sit ups, weights, or pilates at 2 am.
  19. I’ve carved out a niche and found a great love for blogging, which I never could do when I couldn’t sit long enough to open a browser window.
  20. I’ve fostered relationships that fill the gap in my spirits to replace the one in my thighs, and that never would have had a chance to grow had I not stopped moving.
  21. I have a figure that allows my boyfriend to hold me without fear of breaking me.
  22. I can wear shorts again.  Both in terms of temperature, and in terms of acceptance.
  23. I’ve begun to view my “unforgiveable” past choices, simply as choices.  They don’t speak to who I am now, or who I will, or can become.
  24. My body does not determine my worth, value, or integrity as a person.
  25. I’ve begun to do things regardless of the fear there is in doing them.  I push myself to not stand in my own way.
  26. I don’t take life so seriously.  One choice, one day, one hour, one meal, or one conversation does not a life sentence make.
  27. I’ve shared my deepest and darkest secrets… and was met by only love and support.
  28. I’ve become more literate on the many ways society is more flawed than I am.
  29. I’ve laughed more, seen more, and done more than I ever did when my pants fit.
  30. Basically, I’ve learned how to live, and lived a life worth living.

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And that is worth so much more than my pant size.  So in the end, it really comes down to:

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The Face of Functional Anxiety

I remember when I was first hospitalized, my favourite high school teacher came to visit me.  She came several times over the months that I was in there, but I remember that first visit specifically.

She hadn’t seen me in years.  Not decades, but it had been a solid two years.  And two years before, I was graduating high school, and looking towards a bright future.  I was heading off to university for the first time, and I had enough scholarships to cover my expenses for first year for sure, with the possibility of a good number renewing the next year, so long as I kept my grades up.  I had a 96% average (stupid physical education just kept bringing me down!), and was looking towards a science degree in veterinary medicine.  I was the class valedictorian.  I had a plethora of extra curricular activities. The skies were nothing but bright for me.

Except for that dark cloud… the one that no one ever noticed.  The one that had been there for so long that it was simply a part of my normal, when in reality it was anything but.

When she turned the corner into my room and laid eyes on me for the first time, I remember the shock.  I remember the look of dismay and fear in her eyes.  The look that was initially there, but quickly covered up by professionalism and compassion.

She wasn’t expecting to see a human skeleton.  She wasn’t expecting to see a shell.  She wasn’t expecting to see a broken person, whose future had once been so bright, now just scrambling to hold it together and stay alive long enough to put together all the pieces.

I remember talking to her.  I was too sick to retain a lot of memories at that point.  There are large chunks of my life that I to this day don’t remember…  I can pinpoint a moment, usually an ingrained memory of this time period that is only recognizable by the emotion I was feeling at the time: terror.

I remember that I went to my Grandma’s right before I was hospitalized, but I don’t remember being there.  It’s a black chunk of space.  It’s like I can remember up to a certain point, and then it’s as if someone just used a ____________ and wiped the slate clean.  The only thing I remember is the terror that struck me when I stared at the menu selection of split pea soup.  I remember I was there because I remember reading split pea soup on the dinner menu at the retirement home.  And I remember the terror I felt because she didn’t have wifi for me to calorie count.  That’s it.

I remember staying at my aunt and uncle’s just before that because I was too scared to be home.  I have photo evidence I was there from a selfie I took, although I don’t remember taking the selfie at all.  But I do remember the breakfast before they drove me to Grandma’s.  I remember 5 cheerios, a peach, and a handful of almonds.  I can picture the plate perfectly in my mind, and the terror I felt while staring at it.  Just as perfectly as I can remember myself scraping the whole thing into the trash can and covering it up with tissues (save 3 cheerios.  I ate three cheerios), when no one was looking.

So I don’t remember everything.  But I remember the terror on her face when she saw me.  And the shock.  And I know that I told her everything.  I know I told her how difficult it had been, all the crap I faced growing up, the late nights staying up till 4 in the morning when I had to get up again at 7.  The fact that school was my sanctuary because I dreaded going home at the end of the day at 3:30.  The fact that the only thing that got me through some nights was some intense prayer, and the reality that I got to escape again for 7 hours the next morning.

I don’t remember telling her, but I know I did.  Because I remember her response:

“I had no idea.  You always seemed to have it all together.  You had everything figured out.  You were so together and collected.  I had no idea all the stuff you were dealing with.  I had no idea you eventually weren’t even living at home for the last couple years of high school.  I guess it proves, you can’t judge a book by its cover… I just can’t believe that underneath the exterior, the inside was so torn up.”

The amount of times I’ve heard it:  I had no idea.  You never told me.  You had everything so together.

It’s the face I deal with every day.  It’s the untold story that lies beneath.  It’s that dark cloud that seems invisible to everyone else.  That dark cloud that only I can see, but is so normal that I forget, it’s not supposed to be there.

Functional Anxiety… or rather High-Functioning Anxiety.

I read an article that explains it all so much better than I ever could, but regardless I’m going to try.  I do however, urge you all to give the article a read, because it is SO enlightening, and so relatable to so many people, if you struggle with any kind of mental illness.

I’ve had so many conversations, in which when I finally let down the wall a little bit, it’s perceived as a relapse.  It’s perceived as a greater amount of struggling, or like the therapy and recovery process is not going well.  It’s perceived as not working.  The reality is, perhaps it IS working, because I’m finally getting too tired to hold the wall up.  My shell is cracking, and I’m allowing myself to trust you enough to let you in.

It’s like in Harry Potter ( 🤓🙌🙌), when unless you’ve witnessed death, you can’t see the threstrals.  Well, up until now you haven’t seen my head, so you can’t see my cloud.  But if I remove the veil, you can see just how dark of a place it is.

What is functional anxiety?

It’s a mask.  It’s an illness that is so pervasive and sneaky.  It’s a shroud of diligence that keeps you alive and moving in your life, treading water, not sinking but not swimming.  In limbo… but limbo appears normal.

What does it look like?

It’s in my movements.  You see it as productivity and energy, a strong sense of drive and priority.  You see it as high standards, and dedication to getting jobs done to the T.

What you don’t notice is those subtle movements that give it all away.  The shifting of my feet as I stand.  The wiggling of a foot as I’m sitting down.  The plethora of scars that litter my legs from picking at nicks and scabs.  The amount of times my hands wander up to my hair, and how often I have to wash it because the constant swiping makes it oily.

It looks like me holing myself up in my room when working on coursework and staying up until all hours of the night to study or get a project done.  It’s reading and rereading every page, every note, and trying to commit it all to memory.  It looks like studiousness.  In reality I remember nothing, because all I can see in those moments of trying to learn it all, is my inevitable failure.

You can see it in my words… in my frequency of using “…” to end a thought.  Unwilling to commit to a period (“.”) because of the finality of it, the inability to change your mind.  Because, what if that thought was wrong?  The amount of times I say, “I don’t know.”  The amount of times I commit to something with, “maybe”.  My initial excitement over something spontaneous, the invigoration in my whole body and soul, shrouded by a flash of panic in my eyes when something out of the ordinary changes my plans.

It looks like me standing in front of a coffee shop or ice cream parlour menu for inordinate amounts of time, because for these two things that I enjoy so much it isn’t a simple decision.  My brain is confusing choosing an ice cream with buying a car.  The commitment is unequal, but it must be just as perfect.  Every decision I makes dictates my fate, not my moment.

It looks like busyness.  Always doing something.  Refusing to rest.  It looks like a lot of yawns, covered up by diet coke, from a 4 or 5 hour sleep.  It looks like a bike ride, or four.  Racing, running.

What does it feel like?

Filling my life with breaths of fresh air as my feet or my wheels pound the pavement, and feeling the rejuvenation that each blast of air circulating through my body brings.  Racing, running, flying, always moving because it feels that by moving I can outrun my thoughts.  I can leave them behind me in the dust.

It feels like a progressively worsening throb right between my eyebrows. Like shackles and chains holding me down, pinning my arms and legs to the place I’m in, both mentally and physically.  It’s the claws of a lion digging into my shoulders and neck, slicing further and further into my muscles and nerves while I try vigorously to free myself.  Constant rotation of my head, rolling of my shoulders, massaging them with one arm, or both.

It’s a sinking rock suddenly falling into my stomach, and subsequent trembling of my arms and hands when something changes the plans.  When I’m put on the spot.  When I’m surprised.

What does it sound like?

A sudden shift, a dramatic outburst.  A cloying frustration with a simple question.  A nasty sneer, with an occasional swear word.  As if I’m arguing, but with an unknown person.  A calm conversation that suddenly becomes heated.  As if you’re interrupting a conversation, but I’m not talking to anyone you can see.

You are interrupting me.  You’re interrupting the train of thought in my cloud.

It sounds like nothing.  The world is quiet.  I am quiet.  I am silent and non communicative.  You hear nothing.

I hear:

You are nothing.  You are worthless.  You are pathetic.  You are lazy.  You are a pig.  You are a terrible friend.  You’re a terrible girlfriend.  You’re selfish.  You don’t deserve to be loved.  You are unloveable.  You are going to mess it all up.  You’re going to fail.  You’re a mistake.  You’re a waste of space.  You’re a waste of time.  Why did you say that?  Why did you do that?  You’re so stupid!  They’re going to hate you.  What if they hate you?  He’s going to leave.  Why should he stay?  Why would he want to?  You’re boring.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  You should be ashamed.  You should feel guilty.  What if it hurts them?  You’re going to get anxious… and then you’re going to quit.  You let everyone down.  No one loves you.  No one likes you.  You bore everyone.  You ruin everything.  You deserve to be alone.  No one wants you around.  They’re just saying that.  They feel sorry for you.  You’re too needy!  You’re immature.  You’re useless.

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It’s a run to the mailbox.  It’s two trips to the basement instead of one.  It’s a way to channel your thoughts and energy and try to burn them out.  To wear yourself out so much that you don’t have the energy to think.  To wear yourself out so much that the cloud will turn foggy and the thoughts will be quiet.  They’ll turn to a mush instead of such distinct statements about yourself and your worth.  It’s a constant attempt to be better and do better to try and prove them wrong, but their volume never lessens, and their requirements just get higher.

It’s running the line between being productive and procrastinating.  The unimportant things get done because they don’t matter, and it doesn’t matter if they’re done wrong.  The important things don’t get done because you can’t risk doing them wrong or making a mistake.  It’s one extreme or another.

It’s waking up in the middle of the night with your thoughts racing, your chest constricting, and if you’re going through something particularly stressful, feeling your heart racing and wondering if you’re having a heart attack (but it’s just a panic attack).

It’s never admitting to being overwhelmed because it’s a sign of weakness.  It’s never allowing them to see you sweat because it ruins the exterior appearance of control and dedication.  It’s not being able to communicate what is wrong for fear of judgement, and for fear of proving the judgements of yourself to be true.  It’s not being able to admit to how you’re feeling because you don’t want them to see you crack.  And if you voice your feelings out loud, and own them, they become so all consuming and real that you can’t cope with them.

It’s avoiding discussions and arguments because you don’t want to be put on the spot.  You want to have all the answers, and maybe, just maybe, you won’t have one.  You don’t want to seem foolish.  You don’t want to appear uneducated.  You don’t want them to see you fumble.

It’s either telling yourself, “You’re a complete mess!” or to “Suck it up, whiny baby!”

It’s constantly invalidating your struggles by telling yourself to, “Get off your high horse! So many people have it worse off!”

It’s being in a crowd of people but not feeling connected to anyone.  Feeling like everyone would be happier if you weren’t at the party, or at the event, or that they only asked you to come because they felt obligated to.  It’s not answering a text message because you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to appear boring, because you don’t want to lose one of the few people that you feel like you have on your side.  And then feeling like you’re a terrible person for not replying.

And it’s when things that are insignificant everyday occurrences to many, are the world’s biggest victories to you:

1:  Drinking a latte, and allowing yourself to enjoy it.

2: Saying that you’re frustrated.

3: Taking a break from exercise when you’re sick.

4: Taking on a new responsibility at work, even if it’s just to carry rags to the back room.  It doesn’t matter how small.

5: Only biking for 10 minutes instead of 20.

6: Sitting down for your lunch instead of standing in your kitchen.

7: Laughing instead of crying.

8: Talking instead of isolating.

9: Admitting you made a mistake.

10: Moving on after making a mistake.

11: Eating an ice cream cone instead of a peach.

12: Going out with someone new.

13:  Talking to someone on your lunch break.

14: Admitting when you want to eat out, not waiting for someone else to want to.

15: Showing up for something, regardless of how much you’re shaking at the time, or how much terror you’re feeling.

16: Watching a movie.  And actually WATCHING it, not just going through the motions while your head is elsewhere.

17: Deciding your remote control is more friendly than your tennis shoes.  Or that your tennis shoes are more friendly than your remote control.  It depends on the day.

18: Only skimming the pages instead of reading them.

19: Going out on a Friday night instead of studying all weekend.

20: Allowing yourself to cry on another’s shoulder.

And it’s functioning.  It’s appearing okay, to have it all together.  To be at peace on the outside when the tornado rages within.  It’s not productive.  It’s not powering through.  It’s not MANAGING your struggles.  It’s not even coping.

It’s surviving.  It’s not living.

It’s not being happy.

It’s not being content.

It’s not being at peace.

It’s grasping at moments, at split seconds when the tornado dies down, when the winds aren’t quite as gale-like, and then realizing you can hear the birds chirping.  And taking that moment, that second to exhale.  And to smile.

Because you, unlike those around you, realize:

You’re not at a safe harbour.  You’re just in the eye of the storm.

 

 

 

 

Normal is Disordered: Reframing the Size Bias

Hello all!  How have you been?

My week has been crazy.  It’s the middle of summer, and we’re approaching a long weekend where I live, which is typically the busiest two weeks of the year here.  It’s great for our economy, as I live in a tourist town that relies on the sizzling hot summer months to survive, but it makes work a gong show! Plus, we’ve been having so many issues with people calling in sick, breaking ribs, altering schedules, etc in my department, that that just adds to the hectic nature of summer, and not in a positive way.

I’m one of those people that, when I decide to do a job or am employed to do a job, I do it to the best of my ability… call it my perfectionist/fear of making a mistake or failing bias, but it works quite well in the workplace.  I mean minus the fact that it usually stresses me out more than it should.  The boyfriend always says to me, “You did what you could, and honestly they don’t pay you enough to care the amount that you do.  The way you worry about things is the equivalent that the manager worries about things… and they certainly don’t pay you the same.  It’s not your job to worry about all these things, and it’s not worth the amount that it stresses you out.”

True.  So true.  But I have such a perfectionistic bias!

AND, it translates to my mood, because I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember.  The idea that you only half-assed do things just doesn’t compute in my brain, so when I go to work and see people putting in minimal effort, calling in sick when they are NOT SICK, and/or just not giving a shit or dogging it, it pisses me off.  Like, ridiculously so.  You can ask the boyfriend about this… he’s experienced it personally.  And in his oh-so-logical mind, he says to me, “You can’t let other’s emotions, actions, or sentiments influence you so much.  Just because they’re not doing something doesn’t mean that it needs to impact you.  No one will come back and attack you for not getting something done… it’s their head on the line, not yours.  THIS is why you are so stressed all the time!”

Oh, rational brain, why do you not function so simply!  These things logically make sense, but they still do not compute.  I have a bias… and it is a blessing and a curse.  I find myself SO OFTEN lately playing this game:

Okay, rant over.

At least on that guy… but I’m here today to talk about another bias that’s been getting on my nerves lately.

Yeah… you know the one I’m talking about.  That whole size bias thing.

Side note:  This movie is the best!! I mentioned in my last post how this was and still is my favourite movie of all time.  I’ve seen it a million times and I never hesitate to see it again.  And it’s just so great for those moments where you just need a good quote 😉.

See, I’ve started this new body image/self esteem coaching program, and while I’ve been so reluctant to do MORE therapy, I new I’d hit a wall.  You can’t be okay with listening to your body to tell you what you need in terms of food and exercise unless you trust your body.  And you can’t trust your body until you believe your body is worth trusting.  And you can’t believe in your body’s own worth until you believe in your own self worth.  And you can’t have a sense of self worth until you start to have some self esteem and respect for yourself emotionally and mentally.  And you can’t do that until you believe in yourself enough that you give yourself permission to take up literal/physical and mental/emotional space in your own life.

Long story short:  You can’t hope to be intuitive and move past an eating disorder until you believe you are enough, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  You have to accept your existence not as a hindrance to the world but rather as an asset.

Anyways… it’s pretty intense.  I’m spending more than an hour every day actively writing and working through my thought patterns and body image issues.  And while I’m still trying to get the hang of putting new neural pathways into action and remembering to do things differently than my current rut, at least this delving into exploration gets my brain going and thinking about things both in my past and in my present in ways I haven’t really examined before.

I’m basically one step away from growing out my armpit hair and living in a tree, one with nature…

Actually not really.

But it’s gotten me thinking.  A lot of this work has to do with reframing the way you look at things.  Not stopping thoughts, not judging yourself for having thoughts, but also not giving your thoughts the power to shape who you are and how you live your life in a day to day fashion.  I don’t remember the context, but in my first therapy session I was asked a question to which I responded quite simply, “because normal, nowadays in modern society, is disordered.”

How true is this?  And how screwed up is that?

And by taking a step back from my own life, and my own head, I’m able to observe this more objectively and see this truth in action:

  1. A non-eating-disordered woman I know, talking to my boyfriend who was frustrated with my obsession with thigh gaps, said simply, “I don’t blame her.  I’d love to have a thigh gap.”

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    image source (side note: it’s actually brilliant!)

  2. They build strollers SPECIFICALLY for running with your baby… as if running around looking after your baby was not enough activity for a woman.

    bugaboo-ad-main

    image source (side note: who the HELL dresses like that to go for a run, much less with your baby?!)

  3. Recipes are no longer focussed on flavour but rather on numbers:
    recipetitlescrewy

    Before —-> After

     

  4. An Oreo is no longer a mid-afternoon treat, but rather a workout guideline:

    bwjrypdieaegb0y

    image source (Side note: Who, in their RIGHT, RATIONAL state of mind, eats only one oreo? Unless you’re pairing the oreo with a golden oreo…)

  5. Witnessed personally: A starving hospitalized non-eating disordered woman who hasn’t eaten in over 24 hours refuses to eat food unless it is one of her packaged diet foods from the current crash diet plan being followed.

  6. You can’t walk into a restaurant without being blatantly greeted by nutritional information, that was unsolicited by you in the first place:
    gtres66

    image source (Starbucks… it wasn’t even on the leaflet, but displayed instead)

    breakfast_sandwich_board-490

    image source (Side Note:  This was Panera… and the funny thing was the website the image came from titled it “I’m on a diet and I can’t have a bowl of soup!”.  #modernlifeinanutshell)

Man I could think of so many more options, but this just gets too lengthy.  The funny thing is modern society is screwed.  This is DISORDERED!  I gave you six plus examples of these things that are considered “acceptable” if not “healthful” practices in modern society, WHICH, if I personally engaged in any one of them, would be told I was engaging in eating disordered behaviour.

I’m sorry, but if it’s DISORDERED for me, is it not DISORDERED for everyone?

And where do all these things come from?  It is often lumped under the assumption that you are engaging in these behaviours in an attempt to be “healthier”, but then what is your definition of “healthy”?

If a person who is naturally built larger, whose body wants to be what society would normally deem “overweight”, engages in all of these behaviours, chances are eventually, their weight would still be “overweight”.  Because that is where their body naturally wants to be according to set-point theory! And that person goes to the doctor, for a bladder infection… and the first thing the doctor says is, you need to lose weight if you want to be healthy.

Excuse me, but how is this related to the problem at hand, a bladder infection?  The person didn’t even come there for weight loss advice!

The person says, “Look, I run every day.  I eat lower calorie foods, whole grains, low sugar, and vegetables.  I count everything and make sure that my calories in equal my calories out, but I can’t seem to lose weight.”

Without even running blood tests, or cardio tests, or what have you to determine the actual “health” of the body, we’ve already determined that the person needs to lose weight.

When you yourself go to the coffee shop and order a skinny, or fat-free latte, and claim that you’re doing it for “health”, ask yourself, what does “health” mean?

If you can close your eyes and picture yourself at your healthy self goal, what does that self look like?

Does your “healthy self” equal ripped abs, and a long and lean physique? Do your thighs not touch?  Is your cellulite gone?

Yep.  So let’s stop the delusion.  The issue is not “health”… the issue is SIZE, WEIGHT, and the associated bias that goes along with it.  The idea is that you are worth more if you take up less space.  The idea is that skinny > fat, that skinny people are happier, healthier, stronger, more driven, more desireable, more attractive, more loved, more accepted… basically they’re just more.

They are more, because they are less.

What an oxymoron?!

I remember when I was little, I always had a large appetite, but I was never overweight.  I was always pretty lean.  I used to eat the same amount as the hockey jocks in high school, and one slice of pizza was never enough to satisfy me, even when I was 6 or 7.  People would joke that I eat SO MUCH, and I used to feel pride and joke right along with them.

I used to be a size 0 or 2, and then when I became a 4 or 6, I was actually proud that I was growing and becoming less of a child and more of a woman.

Somewhere along the line, this changed.

Somewhere along the line, whenever I ate as much, or more of than my boyfriend it became less of a joke, and more of a source of guilt, shame, and anxiety, because a rule was created that girls should not eat as much as guys.

Somewhere along the line, if I ate 2 or 3 slices of pizza, it became not about satisfying my hunger and cravings, but rather about eating the lesser amount because a rule was created that girls should (based on observation of others) only eat one slice of pizza, and pair it with a salad.

Somewhere along the line, advertising and the bandwagon taught me that a latte had to be skinny, and that I should feel guilty for enjoying my coffee with a non-sugar-free flavour shot and actual milk.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that cake and cookies should be enjoyed in secret, and that the 8th deadly sin was a love of peanut butter cups.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that “healthy” people swapped their pasta for zoodles, and their rice for cauliflower.

Somewhere along the line, I no longer felt proud of my size 4, or more often 6 frame that was curvy and womanly, but ashamed because it wasn’t closer to a negative number.  Somewhere along the line, I threw out the notion of womanly curves in favour of the teenage boy gangly look that accompanies a restrictive diet and the loss of body shape and boobs… all because somewhere along the line I accepted the notion that two became the new four, and zero became the new two, and six became the new fourteen.

 

We’re a generation that is expected to be able to DO more, while running on LESS.  We’re supposed to get more in touch with our “hunter gatherer roots”, and serve it with an aspartame filled fizzy drink.  We’re confused.  We have too much knowledge, and too little perspective.

Because if we stopped with the high powered craziness for ten seconds, and stopped running a mile a minute, accepting ideas willy-nilly because we don’t have the time to stop and think about it before internalizing, we would realize that none of this makes sense!

You cannot do more while taking in less.  I cannot be on my feet at my job, for 8 plus hours, come home and make dinner, and go for a bike ride afterwards while eating zoodles and diet coke.

You cannot compare the amount of satisfaction you get from a real chocolate fudge brownie, with the “healthy” plant-based black bean, Splenda sweetened 56 calories a piece one.  Yep… one pan later, and I’m just as lethargic as before and my chocolate craving is still there.

An oreo is not equal to 1200 jumping jacks any more than a romance novel is equal to a llama, or my left butt cheek is equal to my elbow.  You can’t equate two totally different things!  Plus, imma enjoy my oreo, but I’m not gonna enjoy 1200 jumping jacks.  That pleasure factor is significant!

You’re going to make more memories playing peek-a-boo with your baby and hearing him/her laugh, than you will jogging with them in a bikini. AND if you’re like me you’ll be much less likely to end up with road rash from tripping over something… although, you might accidentally poke yourself in the eye.

We talk about health in terms of weight… but we seem to not notice that the size bias that is running rampant through all our heads, and the associated disordered notions that accompany it, is making us the most miserable and habitually depressed and unsatisfied generation ever.

We have less patience/tolerance of others, less connection to our hunger/fullness cues, less connection to other people (because we’re too obsessed with diet/exercise/technology), less sense of belonging, drive, motivation, contentment… all because we’re HUNGRY.  And I don’t mean hungry just for food, but hungry for balance and a sense of calm that you can only get when you stop trying to be MORE, and do MORE all the time.  Hungry for all the connection with others and relationships that you’re missing out on because you are never stopping.

And it gets us into a vicious cycle… because we’re bombarded by this size bias and are convinced that we would be happier by being thinner.  We’d be more accepted, more loved, more driven, more motivated.  But trust me, if thinness made you happier when I was literally lying in the hospital on my death bed I should have been the happiest person on earth.  Needless to say, I’ve never been more miserable in my life… except when I was trying to RUN while in this deathly ill state.  I was more miserable then because I was in more physical pain than you could ever believe.

It’s time to address the real issue, which is not your weight, shape, or size.  It is your relationship with yourself, and the world around you.  It is your need to fill only one facet of your life (diet/food, body shape/fitness), and ignoring all the rest.  It is a lack of balance.  It’s the acceptance of all of these DISORDERED notions, as NORMAL.

It’s the fact that you’re allowing zero to be the new two, two to be the new four, and six to be the new  fourteen.  It’s the fact that you’re allowing the calorie count to be the deciding factor rather than your tastebuds, and the treadmill to dictate whether you can spend time with your friends at a coffee shop later.  It’s not make you healthier, and it’s not improving your value or worth.

It’s time to stop buying it.

It’s time to go back to your roots and reframe the bias that you’ve been trained to accept.

It’s time to look in the mirror and instead of condemning your love handles, appreciating your womanly curves.

It’s about making the choice when buying new clothes and having to go up a size, to allow it to be the beginning of a new relationship with another stage of your life instead of the beginning of another crash diet.

It’s about eating an oreo for a snack without reading the label, and then eating another if you weren’t satisfied.  And trusting that eventually you will be, and your body will let you know when you are.

It’s about going for coffee with a friend and ordering a cookie to share, even if you’ve already eaten, because it ADDS to the experience and the memories, not to you your hips.

It’s about changing your vocabulary when it comes to food, taking out all the “skinnys”, “cleans”, “cheats”, or whatever other judgements you make, and allowing only flavours, textures, and cravings to make your decisions.

AND it’s about doing all these things and not thinking you’re being LAZY, LACKING WILLPOWER, or being a GLUTTON for doing them.  

Because normal is disordered… but who ever wanted to be normal anyways?

Currently: Our Thoughts are Not Our Stories

Hello everyone!

Guess what else says hello?

IMG_4369

Yep… my breakfast.  You guys, it was so good.  So good that I had to include it in this post.  I did something totally different today and decided to bike to the cafe and have my weekly Skype session with my dietitian over breakfast.  I’ve never done that before and I kinda really loved it.  I’m one of those people who dreams of breakfast… it’s the best meal.  I mean nine times out of ten if you asked me at the end of the day what was the most satisfying thing I ate that day, it would be whatever I decided to have for breakfast that day.  My boyfriend, as well as a plethora of people in my family, are not breakfast people.  Or rather, they simply can’t eat right away when they get up.  I don’t get it.  It kind of makes me sad because I can never share my oatmeal love with people.  Or pancake love.  Or various “for one” crumbles, muffins, and latte loves.  See, the moment my feet hit the floor I’m starving… so waiting more than 45 minutes to eat is SO not happening!

Anyways, I dream of breakfast.  I was lying in bed watching “The Revenant” last night, and my thoughts were drifting to the breakfast I knew I’d be eating in nine hours, and trying to figure out what I felt like making.  It’s actually not disordered… it’s me being super excited about breakfast!  And I mean, you have to plan ahead sometimes because if you have a feeling like you’re going to want overnight oats, or a soaked oat and chia smoothie, you gotta get those goodies in the fridge ahead of time!  And I knew, I KNEW, that I felt like an iced latte and a fresh blueberry muffin.

You remember my muffin issues?  Yeah… it’s not as much of a struggle anymore, but I still really really suck at having them for snacks without a breakdown.  But I also discovered that if I truly honour my cravings, I generally only ever want muffins once.  MAYBE twice, if you’re super lucky.  I’m seriously the most diverse person you’ll ever meet… I hate eating things more than once, or twice in a two or three day period and CRAVE that variety.  Like this week we made pulled pork… yeah, it’s good, but that always makes a TON, and after eating it twice it was like, “GIVE ME ANYTHING ELSE!”

So I live off A LOT of single serving recipes, or rather a combination of recipes and creations I make myself.  It totally feeds my diversity and allows me to eat whatever I truly want in a given moment.  But muffins are one of those really tough ones… there honestly are not that many single serving muffin recipes out there!  I mean, unless you count microwave mug cakes… but those are NOT the same as a freshly baked muffin from the OVEN!

Admit it.  You know it’s true.

And sometimes you want a blueberry buttermilk muffin, but if you’re me you DON’T want to eat twelve of them!  It was super easy when my Dad was around… he was the quintessential normal intuitive eater.  He had absolutely no food rules (🙆🏻!!) and had the metabolism of like a hummingbird.

Side note: Hummingbirds apparently have the highest metabolism of any animal… it kind of makes sense with their speed and ridiculously high heart rate. #gottalovegoogle.

Anyways, I think I get my breakfast love from him.  The first thing he did when he got up was walk into the kitchen and put two slices of bread in the toaster.  He was also a morning person like me… A couple of genetic tics that I’m not hating!

Double side note: Do you even know how many toasters we went through when he was around?  No joke, I swear we went through one every year, or maybe every two years.  SO MUCH TOAST!

Moving along… it was easy with him around.  He ADORED baked goods, and still does.  Give him anything with a bit of sugar and some fluffy floury substance, and he was all over it like white on rice (which by the way is a really odd expression…). So if I felt like muffins, I could make 12 and know that if I had one, or two, he’d easily take care of the rest.  Same with cakes, pies, cookies… actually when it came to cookies, you were lucky if you even got one of those before they were gone.

Now it’s not so easy… if I bake 12 muffins, chances are we’ll only go through three, maybe four before they’re all mouldy, and that’s only if I have help eating some of them.  And don’t give me the whole freeze the rest thing… there was a time when I made like 4 dozen muffins because I felt like having different kinds available.  And then a whole shelf of our freezer was taken up for over a year.  At the moment I have some banana walnut ones in there that I think I made 4 months ago… I’m pretty sure there’s still 10 of them.  The only exception to this was my grandma’s banana bran muffins… man I could easily pound through 3 of those a day.  Once again, just like her cinnamon buns, we’ll never know exactly how she made her little paper-lined cups of heaven.

Long story short:  it just doesn’t work.  So when I felt like a blueberry muffin for breakfast today, I knew the only logical plan was to go to the cafe and buy one.

So I hopped on the bike.  Usually I walk there, but I’ve been craving a bike ride recently because I haven’t had the chance to go, and I FINALLY bought a bike lock, so I can chain it up.  And being relatively new to the biking game, I am of course super nervous about biking to somewhere busy simply because I haven’t done it before.

It went fine though!  And it was WAY faster… like ten minutes and that was a leisurely pace, AND with walking across crosswalks (because I’m not comfortable biking across them, and lets be honest: you ARE supposed to walk your bike across anyways), AND going the longer scenic way that takes like 25-30 minutes to walk as opposed to 15-20.  AND, I managed to figure out the bike lock… I think.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling like you did something wrong, because you weren’t totally confident in what you were doing?

I have this urge to check but I don’t want to pack everything up… so I’ll hope for the best.

Moving along… so I walked into the cafe, first thing when it opened, and you could smell the fresh baked goods!  And I’ve been in a “I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD EAT EVERYTHING!” phase constantly the past few days (so scary!) so I was more than ready for my muffin.  And I walked up to the counter hoping for a blueberry filled fluffy pillow of muffin top joy… and was greeted by raspberry chocolate chip.

Really, I can DO any kind of muffin (I may not be craving it, but I can eat it) EXCEPT one with chocolate chips.  NO.

 

Chocolate chips do not belong in breakfast, and they DEFINITELY do not belong in muffins.  They have made me gag for as long as I can remember.  Not an ED thing either.

So… disappointment.  Because there was no way I was getting a muffin today to attempt to assuage my muffin craving.  But, you can always go back to old faithful: date squares.  I LOVE date squares…. like LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  And ED hates them… but that’s a moot point.  I haven’t had one probably since September or October, so I was long overdue, and while it was no blueberry muffin it was just as good because I love, love, love them.

Side note: Is this a Canadian thing?  When I was talking to my dietitian, she mentioned that she loved them too, but that they’re near IMPOSSIBLE to find other than at their Whole Foods.  Around here, you’re actually more hard pressed to find a cafe that DOESN’T sell them, thank heavens, because once again, it’s really hard to find a single serve date square recipe too.

So my breakfast was delicious, especially the date square, which I hadn’t tried at this particular cafe before.  I think it’s the best one in town, and it will be a thing again for sure.  And, as far as I know, my bike is still tied up outside.

Win.

Man I get on tangents.  I haven’t written in so long because I’ve had this MASSIVE case of writer’s block… and while I really had an aim at the start of this post, I’ve long since gotten derailed and I’m already 1500 words in and have reached a point where going into ED stuff might make this WAY too long. I guess we’ll just see where we end up at this point…

So guess what!!! It’s my man’s graduation today!

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And while he’s all nonchalant about it, I’m super duper proud of him because I know what he’s gone through to get to this point, and how long he’s been waiting to be able to say, “DONE!”  Plus, yesterday we went to an awards ceremony (which he is also all nonchalant and humble about), where he won three amazing awards that he totally deserved.  And yes, I’m gushing, but it’s totally true and while it might not be a big deal to him, I get to celebrate it and totally brag because that is my job.

#girlfriendrights.

In addition, he’s starting a new job today that is totally more in line with his interests, passions, and hobbies, and while I’m kind of down because I won’t see him as much as a result, I’m also so happy for him and excited for his new opportunities.  Dialectics at its finest.  Truly, the feelings are mostly happy ones.

So the past few days have been pretty full, with today being the fullest I’m guessing.  And it’s funny because you’d think that with all the hubbub and ado, I wouldn’t have time for ED crap.  And yes, this is true, but only partially.  See, I have less time to OVERANALYZE, and limited time to ENGAGE in harmful behaviours, but as a result, or perhaps as a side effect, I have more of an urge to?

It is a well known fact that stress is one of the biggest eating disorder footholds:  the eating disorder thrives on higher levels of anxiety, as well as tensions regardless of whether they are internally or externally driven.  It bases itself on that sense of a lack of control that one has when there is stress in life.

So when my man is stressed because he is struggling with work-related issues, and I can’t do anything about it, I feel powerless, and out of control.  I internalize it, and grasp at strings to try to find something that I can be in charge of and take the reigns on: my weight, shape, and food.

When I have less time to fit in exercise, still have a meal plan, and still want to fully engage in other aspects of my life, I feel like I’m bound and chained to complete the time allotment by any means possible.  I internalize, and I plan.  I set my alarm an hour earlier and sacrifice sleep to “get it all in”.  I eat my lunch super fast at work to maximize time so I have an extra fifteen minutes during a break to shave off of my walking time.

When I have goals to honour my hunger and my cravings from the dietitian for the week, but I’m unexpectedly blindsided by incessant unrelenting hunger for a few days, I panic.  I should jump for joy because, hello, I’m actually getting a clear message from my body, a rarity in a skeleton that has gotten all too used to hunger silence.  On days when your physical hunger signals are ACTUALLY there, it makes identifying cravings so much easier, so this “assignment” would have technically been a piece of kale (I meant to write cake, but I was going fast and that is actually what my fingers typed… I kind of liked it, so I left it 😋). If it involves eating MORE than the meal plan, my brain does not compute.  I internalize, I try to calculate, I make external rules (“If I allow myself to eat now, I cannot have a snackor y, later”, or, “If I have 3 snacks in a day, that’s the same amount I have on an exercise day, so I have to go and do exercise at some point”).

When I honour my hunger and cravings, and it results in me eating scary foods, AND I’m feeling stressed because I’m busy, I experience MORE body dysmorphia and MORE intense body hatred, as well as even HIGHER levels of urgency to engage in old behaviours.  I find myself comparing my plate with those around me, leafing through the paper shredder to find the nutritional info for the Rice Krispie’s, and in my head trying to validate my own consumption based on what those around me eat- regardless of the fact that we are incomparable having different bodies, genders (at times), metabolisms, activity levels, and never being entirely sure what someone else eats as you’re never with someone for a full 24 hours.

I feel as though I am losing “willpower” and as if I am out of control, and by extension gaining weight and fat.  Not that this is would be the end of the world, remember.  But the reality is, I am not losing control and/or gaining weight:  the only thing I am LOSING is ED’s grasp on my reigns and connection to the diet mentality, and the only thing I am GAINING is freedom to make my own decisions and a greater sense of intuition.

But in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to remember this.  It seems like a moot, if not ludicrous point.

And if you’re bombarded by all these things, and your “feelers” are going crazy, you grasp at straws.  You try to maintain composure and stay on the recovery track, you try to appear okay, when a large chunk of you is desperate to go back to that sense of control, to the unsafe place that felt so secure.  You get confused.  You get complacent.  You find yourself at an awards ceremony, bombarded by memories, some good, and others not so much so.  Celebrating someone else’s successes, reminds you of your own, when you sat in a similar situation.  But it also reminds you of all of the times things didn’t go as you thought they would.  It reminds you of where you thought you’d be at this point in your life, versus where you actually are.  And while you’re happy, and while you wouldn’t trade your path or current situation, you play the “what if” game:

What if I’d stayed on?

What if those who know me are disappointed in me?

What if I have climbed as high as I will ever go?

What if I knew then what I would become?  Would it have made a difference?

And all too quickly, these “what if’s” give way to other, even more dangerous ones:

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I’m destined to never recover?

What if I’m too stupid to know how to feed myself “properly”?

What if I’m too lazy?

What if I’m too fat?

What if I should add in more exercise?  You know… tone up, be healthy…

What if I really do need to lose a few pounds?  Five?  Ten? Twenty?

Would I feel better if I did?

And suddenly you’ve lost touch with the reason you’re there.  Suddenly, you are no longer rejoicing in the successes of those around you receiving awards, but instead waiting eagerly for the next woman to be called to the stage, so you can scrutinize.

Is she more put together than me?

Is she prettier than me?

Is she thinner than me?

Does she have less cellulite than me?

If yes, the anxiety and urges climb.  If no, phew… but she’s still probably smarter, has her sh** in order, and will amount to more… to “better”…

I don’t know about you, but last time I checked we were at an event that celebrates academic achievements, not at a bikini contest.

And in this whirlwind you find yourself planning your next opportunity to run a mile, or sneak out for a 15 minute walking session.  Or figuring out which item on your meal plan you can “conveniently” and “uncontrollably” skip.  Or planning your next late night McDonald’s run, or what brownie recipe you will make to stuff your face with at 2 am in a dark corner when no one is watching.

You do you.

Only, not your best you.

Not your real you.

Your ED you.

The difference is, as much as you’re an old hand at slipping into eating disordered behaviours, you’re also dealing with a growing arsenal of tools in your toolkit.  Did you notice that I wrote PLANNING, as opposed to ACTING?

There’s a difference.  And it’s significant.

How many of you were reading this and as it got further along thought, “Damn, that’s it.  It’s the beginning of the end again.  Another struggle, another forced meal, another skipped meal, another relapse.”?  How many of you were foreshadowing my demise?  How many of you were getting anxious thinking, “NO!  But you were doing so well!”?  How many of you were getting anxious thinking, “This was me last night!  You hit the nail on the head!”?

Yeah, you’re right.  It’s a fine line, and a dangerous one.  And it’s one that I’ve been headbutting against a bit more often than I’d like the past week or two, or three.  BUT, remember I mentioned those tools I was talking about?  Yeah, see I’ve been stressed and busy.  Yeah, some days I’ve slipped into old routines, but 98% of the time I haven’t.  Because you can read this and see all the negatives, all the toxic thinking patterns, all the loss of direction, all the steps backwards that take me farther away from recovery as opposed to closer to it… OR you can look at all the amazing positives that have equally come out of the past few weeks:

  1. I have honoured my cravings more in the past two weeks than I have in the past six years.
  2. I took an exercise slip, BUT I admitted it promptly to my dietitian and didn’t hide it.  I lost privileges, BUT have subsequently slowly gained them back.
  3. I have stopped counting my crackers.  It was always 9 or 10 depending on size, or 5 if they were huge… but now it’s a solid reach in the box handful take it or leave it.
  4. I have had three snacks a day some days, even if it almost killed me because I didn’t do exercise that day.
  5. I have been more spontaneous in my free time than I have been in years, and have as such had so much more fun in my relationships with people rather than being in my own head.
  6. I’ve actually drank drinks with calories… a lot of them.  And allowed myself enjoy them.
  7. Although I set my alarm for earlier to exercise… I hit the snooze button.  More than once.
  8. Last night, after all that comparison at the awards ceremony, I built up an ice cream craving, felt really physically hungry again, honoured it even though it killed me to do so-

Side note:  Anyone who knows me well knows that if I have a craving for a restaurant/not make at home food, I NEVER bring it up to others.  I always feel like a glutton and a failure when I crave restaurant or take out food.

  -and ended up buying celebratory DQ Blizzards for myself and my loved ones:

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AND I was hungry so I got a larger size than ED wanted me to… and I ate it.  And it was perfect and delicious.

See, therein lies the difference.  Someone very close to me said, “I just don’t want you to get triggered.”  What she meant was, “I don’t want you to get triggered INTO a relapse.”

See, it’s not about if you’re triggered, or if you have these thoughts.  It’s not about if you really had a difficult time, were under a lot of stress, or even if you goof up a couple times.  We HAVE to be triggered, because being triggered lets us know where our boundaries and limitations are, and give us insight into where the happy medium lies.

For me, the happy medium lies somewhere in between my first bite of my peanut butter baked oatmeal, and the last.  Man, the last bite sucks… until 24 hours later when you can do it all over again!

The difference is, now I can be triggered, but I can act independent of the trigger.  Or at least most of the time.  Our thoughts are not our stories.  They’re not mine, and they’re not yours either.  They’re not who or what or where you really are.

So the next time you find yourself in a whirlwind, ask yourself, “What tool in my toolkit will be the best for me in this situation?”

Sometimes the tool will be a DQ Blizzard.  Sometimes it will be a walk in nature.  Sometimes it will be a spew of verbal diarrhea to get it all out of your head.  Sometimes it will be a list of all the amazing things you’ve done despite being caught in a whirlwind.

Or you can be like me and combine all of them!  You can get a DQ Blizzard, watch a movie, go to bed, wake up, go for a cycle, spew some verbal diarrhea with a dietitian/therapist, and then dispel some more in a ridiculously scattered blog post.

You do you.

The real you.

And now, the real me is hungry… Again.

So imma go find a snack.  Peace.

*PS:  My bike was totally still there! #nailedit. *

**Double PS: Not really… I apparently broke the little thumb lever that releases the lock from the bike frame.  But I just did that to make boyfriend laugh… totally planned it.  And the lock itself still works. So I stand by my #nailedit. **

 

 

A Cliff Notes Version of Escaping Rock Bottom

So what happens when you get stuck?  We’ve all had those moments of feeling completely defeated.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re suffering from an eating disorder, or whether you simply feel lost and directionless in your life.  Whether you’re struggling to get back on track after a relapse, or whether you’re simply just drained- emotionally, physically, mentally, whatever it may be.  You feel, for one reason or another, like you’ve hit rock bottom.  You’re at the foot of a wall, and you can’t figure out quite how to scale it.

It sucks.

And we’ve all been there.

One of the things you notice, especially in an ED recovery world, is that many times people fall.  A recovery that is relapse free is a rarity, not a norm.  It’s normal to struggle.  The defining part is what you decide to do when you find yourself once again back at the bottom of the Totem pole.  The amount of times I’ve seen cries out into the blogosphere, after extended periods of inactivity, saying, “I don’t know what to do!  I feel so defeated, so enchained once again in the ED grasp!  Therapy isn’t working for me, I’m scared to start eating normally again, and all I can see when I look at myself is huge.”… yeah, it’s more than I can count.  And my heart bleeds every time I see this.  I’ve been there.  I know what it’s like.

For me, relapse was worse, or at least harder MENTALLY, than the first time around.  When you enter recovery for the first time, it’s kind of a Chucky version of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.  Yes, you’re terrified, but you don’t know what comes out of recovery because you’ve never been through it.  You get to the point where the professionals take everything out of your hands, and you have this obscure promise of normalcy.  Something like, “Oh thank God, they’re going to show me how to eat, exercise, AND be normal, AND maintain my weight, AND not go through this hell ever again.  And then I’ll be able to leave it all behind me.”

And that hope pushes you through.  But when you go through it, you realize it’s its own kind of hell.  And when you climb so far up the ladder, only to find yourself once again at the bottom in the depths of a relapse, it is 100 times harder to find the oomph and the drive to try to climb back out again.  You’ve seen part of the other side, and it wasn’t as sunny as you thought.  The grass wasn’t necessarily greener, but rather just a different species of grass.  When I got down to the bottom again, I didn’t know if I wanted to climb back out again.  I didn’t know if it was worth it.

But if you send out that plea into the blogosphere, that cry for help, it’s because you haven’t completely given up hope.  You acknowledge that it might not be perfect, but it has to be better than what current is.  You just don’t know where to start.

It’s been years.  YEARS for me.  And I still struggle, on a day to day, minute to minute basis.  But as I have read these cries for help, I find I’m often asking myself:

If I was there again, what are the most important things I wish I would have known? When it all comes down to it, what are the bare essentials that would have really and truly helped me to get out on the right foot?  What would have made that wall a little easier to scale?  Where would I have liked to have started?

Hence, I decided to make this list.  This list is for anyone.  Of course, it is tailored for someone who struggles with self acceptance, anxiety, and an eating disorder, but really I believe it’s a list that anyone who feels defeated could use from time to time.  The points in it are things we all should bear in mind.

So here we go:

Drumroll please…

THE CLIFF NOTES VERSION OF ESCAPING ROCK BOTTOM

1) TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR OWN SANITY.

This one is a huge one for me.  I truly believe that every situation can be a learning experience, but sometimes the learning is brief and to the point.  How many times have you made a mistake, quit, or “failed” at something, and then been asked by someone else (in a condescending “I know better” way, or a truly compassionate loving way) “What did you learn from this experience?”.  Stop looking at all those things that didn’t work out perfectly as mistakes, or failures.  Realize that it served a purpose, and sometimes that purpose wasn’t to teach you what you WANTED, but rather to show you what you DIDN’T WANT.  I choose to look at recovery the same way.  Relapse is a chance to let you know what doesn’t work for you, and show you that whatever process you were following before doesn’t click with you in one way or another.

I’ve worked with a number of therapists, a number of doctors, and a number of dieticians.  Some of those meetings and sessions were complete and total busts.  Some of them caused more problems than they solved.  And some of them worked for a bit, but then they didn’t work anymore.  And all of that is okay.  All of them taught me one thing or another… either a skill set, or a mindset, or simply showed me what I DIDN’T want my recovery to look like.  They key thing was, I refused to settle for something that only kind of worked, or for something that didn’t work at all.  I didn’t look at the passing of another dietitian or doctor as a failure on my part, or a sign that there was something inherently wrong with ME.  There is nothing WRONG with ME.

What’s your drink of choice?  Mine’s a grande Starbucks iced coffee frappuccino, half sweet with cinnamon dolce flavouring, soy milk, no whip, and a sprinkle of cinnamon dolce spice mix on top.  Say it five times fast, and try to get all components of that right when you’re ordering it (or rather when they’re making it).  My mom’s is a grande half-caf americano, non sweet, with just a bit of room for a a touch of cream.  My boyfriend doesn’t even like coffee, save Tim’s iced caps, but you’ll often see him with a Dad’s Rootbeer.  None of us are the same, and we all have our own unique brews.  If we’re allowed to have our own unique favourite drinks, we’re also allowed to have our own unique mixture of treatments that work for us.  And you’re worth enough to keep looking and looking until you find what works for you.  Play around, and don’t look at another ended session as a failure… look at it as an opportunity to identify the things you don’t want.  Look online, find in person sessions, but also find other’s who are willing to work via Skype from all parts of the world.  Look for discounted rates, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  A lot of people are willing to work with you and work around you.  You do you.

2) COME TO TERMS WITH YOUR CATALYST.

This is a mixed one, because everyone’s experience is different.  I’ve met so many people through my recovery, and no two descents into the diet/self hatred mentality look the same.  Some people have had a messed up relationship with food, exercise, and/or their body for as long as they can remember.  Some people can’t actually remember a time when they weren’t trying to look different than they naturally did, were dieting, or actually felt comfortable in their own skin.  I feel like I can relate in some way, shape, or form, to this, as I grew up always thinking I wasn’t good enough, or that I could do and be better.  This wasn’t always food or body related for me however, but I was never comfortable in my own skin.  From the moment we had to start changing for PE class in school, somewhere around grade 2 or 3 I’m guessing, I remember consciously sucking my stomach in so that I would have the illusion of being slimmer than I was.  I don’t know what spurred this, I honestly don’t.  But even then, it never really impacted my eating, or my exercise.  My love of food, and hatred of exercise still trumped that.  Regardless of what you can or can’t remember, I’d venture to say that everyone does have a definitive moment that sticks out in their mind as the time a “switch” went off.  It might not be the first moment, but it’s a moment that took you from being somewhat okay, or functioning, to NOT functioning, NOT being okay, and being DESPERATE to change.

For me, this was when my best friend in high school came over to my house a year or so after graduation with a Christmas present.  We’d always been the same size (minus my D cups to her I’m guessing B’s), and the whole time I knew her, I always thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever known, inside and out.  I opened the present alone in my room later, and it was a gorgeous red dress.  I hastily took off my clothes and tried to shimmy into the little number, and suddenly it didn’t fit anymore.  We were no longer the same size.  I couldn’t wear the same size dress as her.  At the time I was already feeling low, depressed, and down on myself for other, non body related reasons, but for me, this event sticks out in my mind as the catalyst, the “switch flipped” moment where I decided to actively instead of passively loathe myself, my body, and do everything in my power to change it.

After YEARS of work, and YEARS of struggles, I am now starting to come to terms with my body.  I’m starting to be okay with it.  I’m not yet at the point of loving it, and at times I’m far from it, but I’m now at a point where I can look back on that catalyst, that moment in time, with something other than anxiety, guilt, shame, and regret.  For once in my life, I can look back on that moment and not wish to change it, but rather I can feel sorrow and compassion for 20 year old me.  I look back, I accept that it happened, I don’t long that it went differently, but I want to wrap my arms around my former self, hug her, and tell her that it sucks that you feel this way, but it’s okay.  You’re okay.  You’re fine.  You are worth more than this moment and this dress.

I have finally made peace with this moment, and most of the other moments in my life that I blamed, or looked back on with guilt, shame, and regret for where they got me.  I’ve made peace with the people that have impacted my life in a negative way.  I’ve made peace with my mom’s alcoholism, my dad’s dementia, the family members that told me I wasn’t good enough, the people that made me believe that my only value was my smarts, or my body.  I don’t love those moments.  I don’t necessarily forgive them.  I just accept them, and leave them where they are.  They shaped me, in good ways and bad, but they don’t need to be rehashed any more.  They don’t need to be a part of my current or my future.

Clean the slate.  Feel the pain, grieve a little, then find acceptance and compassion for that moment, or those moment(s) that stick out in your mind.  The catalysts.  The memories.  And then leave them behind.

3) SEPARATE YOUR FEELINGS FROM YOUR FLAB.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not much for fluff.  I gag at “You can do it!” type mantras, and things that fall along the lines of sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, and perfect realities.  So the idea of writing an acrostic of feelings was a little too Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse for my liking…

Side note: To all those I offended by insulting either Hello Kitty or Minnie Mouse, I apologize.  I assure you no bobble-heads, keychains, or stuffed animals were harmed in the making of this post.

BUT, I reluctantly listened to my dietitian because she and my ideologies of what recovery should look like are THE SAME, and I have massive amounts of gratitude and respect for her.  I did the acrostic.  And I instantly shed my diet mentality, loved my body, and have a new lease on life.

Burst! 

Peanut butter brownie points for anyone who can pinpoint what awesome book that’s from!

Okay, no.  It didn’t work like that.  No sunshine and rainbows remember.  BUT, it did remind me that when I claim, like many others, “I feel FAT!” or “All I see is CELLULITE”, I am quite possibly and probably equating my feelings with my physique and flab.  FAT and CELLULITE, are NOUNS, not adjectives.  You feel EMOTIONS, which are ADJECTIVES.  You don’t feel fat.  You feel something else, which is making you SEE fat, cellulite, or whatever else makes you feel uncomfortable.  Take a few minutes out of your day, ideally when you are in the midst of a triggering/stressful situation, and check out what emotions are actually coming up for you.  A neat way to do this is to use your “word of choice” which for many is FAT, or CELLULITE, as the basis of an emotional acrostic.  It’ll remind you of reality as opposed to the probably screwed perspective of yourself you’re experiencing.  Mine turned up something like this:

IMG_4120

4) FORGET THE BURN.  FIND THE FUN.

A list of sayings I once felt guilty to hate, but now unapologetically loathe:

  • Just do it.
  • No pain, no gain.
  • If you’re not first, you’re last.
  • Strong is the new skinny.
  • Sweat like a pig to look like a fox.
  • That’s not sweat on your face, it’s fat crying.
  • What you eat in private, you wear in public.
  • Sweat once a day.
  • You’re not going to get the butt you want by sitting on the one you have.
  • Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do.

Don’t get me wrong, moving your body is important.  Using the muscles you were born with, giving them the chance to engage and disengage, and literally carry you through your life, is something we all need to do.  BUT, there is a difference between moving your body because it’s important TO YOU and because you FIND JOY IN IT, and moving your body out of a sense of DUTY, GUILT, and OBLIGATION.  Because believe it or not, if you’re doing something that causes you mental and physical anguish and stress, you’re probably overriding the health benefits of it.

Take me for example.  When I was in the depths of anorexia my heart rate was predictably and expectedly low.  Too low.  I went through the process of weight restoration and once I was, from a strict weight and BMI standpoint “healthy”, my heart rate was no longer low… in fact, at times it was quite high.  Higher than it should be at a resting state.  Many doctors said that it was a complication from a strain on my heart because the muscle had been so weakened.  I’m not negating this possibility, but I will say that their solution, exercising the muscle to strengthen it, was UNPREDICTABLY unhelpful.  I got to the point where I weighed more than I had ever in my life (still a “healthy” weight by all generic means), and I was exercising for at least an hour or two a day, plenty of cardio AND strength training, yet my heart rate was still higher than you would expect given my level of consumption and muscle at times.

What was going on?

The prescribed solution?  Keep up the sweat.  What solution actually worked for me?  Relapse.

Haha.  Kidding. But that is what eventually happened.  The “healthy” lifestyle I had cultivated was completely UNSUSTAINABLE.  Why?  Because I LOATHED every minute.  I spent my time obsessing over getting the food I needed to prevent a relapse, struggling to cultivate a body shape that I was not meant to have, and exercising for ultimate “health”, all while waking up in the morning anticipant of bedtime in 16 hours when I would again have reprieve from the hell I was in.  I laced up my gym shoes for hours a day, sweated it out, pushed myself harder and harder, all while staying under the quoted “13 hour a week” maximum for “health”, but I wasn’t experiencing any of the health benefits I was striving for.  Mentally, mind mind was constantly racing, and I wasn’t present or in the moment with my life.  Physically, my muscles were toned and strong, but they also ached and at times spasmed when I got up from a resting position to the point where I almost/did fall over.  Emotionally, I was drained and dreading every minute.  And my heart rate spent a good chunk of time higher than it should have been.  Why?  STRESS!

And then I gave up.  I gave in.  Anorexia was easier.  Deprivation caused pain, and anguish, and suffering, but so did this.  And what I found, upon relapse, and then recovery again, was that when I was relaxed… mentally and physically, my actual level of health and wellness was far better than it was when I was “sweating it out, and making the fat cry”.

The truth is:  you don’t have to have sweat, feel the “burn”, or put yourself in aerobic states and pain to achieve HEALTH.  Your mental AND physical health depend greatly on your level of psychological wellness, and if your “exercise” is impeding that, you’re probably doing yourself a vast disservice.

But like I said, movement is still important.  I’m not calling out here saying that it’s perfectly healthy and fine to lay around on the couch all day.  No.  You were gifted with the muscles you have, and you owe it to them to allow them to do their jobs.  BUT, that doesn’t mean you have to go through hell.  If exercise is HELL, then STOP.

Take a breath.

Pain DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL gain.  Sweat DOESN’T NEED TO HAPPEN for exercise to be worthwhile.  Sitting on your butt DOES NOT MEAN you’ll store fat there.  Exercise IS NOT WORTH your quality of life and mental wellness.  AND if you’re exercising, to achieve a certain body type, weight, or shape, realize that your goal is thinness, not health or wellness.

So what should you do?

  • Change your vocabulary.  Remove the word EXERCISE and replace it with MOVEMENT.  Think about it… what emotions do you feel when you hear the word exercise?  What emotions do you feel when you hear the word movement?  Is there a difference?
  • Set yourself parameters.  Are you a paid athlete?  Do you do this for a living?  If not, you don’t need to exist at the gym, or spend hours pounding the pavement.  You have more important shit to do.  Believe it or not, even ten minutes of activity still has a positive affect on your body.  I’m sick of those people that state you MUST do x amount of activity for it to be worth it.  If you do two minutes of yoga and feel like a rockstar, then I’d say you’re two minutes richer than you were before.
  • AND THE MOST IMPORTANT:  FIND THE JOY.  I have spent… hang on, I’m… 24. Okay, 23.9999999 years of my life thinking that this was a sort of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow kind of concept.  A fantastical ideal that doesn’t actually exist for me.  I was CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt, and ashamed to admit, I FRICKEN LOATHED ACTIVITY.  I could not find anything that was movement that I could do that I didn’t feel obligation in doing.  Everything I did, I did because I felt like I SHOULD do it, and the activity that I have gravitated to in this second attempt at recovery was those things that I didn’t hate as much, or that in a moment of inexplicable clarity found a sense of calmness doing, even though it was only for like 2 minutes out of 30.  AND THEN… about a month ago my boyfriend decided he was going to help me learn how to ride a bike.  Yes, laugh.  24 and I had no idea… even I laughed at that.   But I’d tried stationary bikes and that was just as much, if not more hell, than a treadmill… so I hadn’t exactly been chomping at the bit.  My expectations were low.  The first two weeks of constant start-stops and bails, complete right leg bruises, and one internal contusion on my ribs later that I apparently still have to wait another 4 weeks more to heal and be severe pain free… yeah they were disgruntling.  They were hellish.  They were frustrating.  BUT one day… I flew.  That’s the best word I have for it… I felt like I was flying.  I felt overcome with legitimate joy as I sped down the street.  And now not a day goes by that I don’t want to get on the bike… and while ED likes to try to stick his claws in, the initial desire is 100% me.  I couldn’t go yesterday and I actually MISSED it.  It’s possible to find JOY IN MOVEMENT! And that’s the movement you want to stick to.

5) TEMPORARILY REMOVE THE WORD “BUT” FROM YOUR VOCABULARY.

A little act of self care for yourself.  This kind of goes along the lines of the “Just Do it” mentality.  How many times have you had someone say to you, “You did a great job, but if you just worked a little harder you’d be perfect!”?  How many times have you received a compliment, and said, “Thanks, but I could have done better.”?  How many times did you get second place, BUT instead of rejoicing in that followed it up with, “But it wasn’t first.” ? It’s important to not be arrogant, self righteous or conceited, but a lot of the time the so called “positive” quality of “being humble” is a breeding ground for self depreciation, shame, and negativity.  This step is all about being grateful for the good things, and allowing yourself to take credit for the positives and things you have achieved.  Remove the word “but” from your vocabulary.  It works in so many situations!

  • I made it three days without restricting/binging but then I ate half a cheesecake
  • A coworker gives you a compliment on how well you did training a new employee. Your response: “Thank you, but it’s no big deal.”  Just say thank you.
  • I exercised for twenty minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
  • I had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the first time in years, but it had way too many calories.

You get the idea.  Stop discounting the positives.

6) BE REAL, GET ANGRY, AND SWEAR A BIT.

I’d have to argue that perhaps the number one way to guarantee your own unhappiness and lack of fulfilment is to pretend to be different, or be apologetic, for who you inherently are.  This is about all those times that you said to yourself, I have to dress a certain way, act a certain way, or think a certain way, to be accepted/not mocked by others.  It’s about all those times that you forced yourself into a mold to “fit in”, and all the times you felt ashamed to be different than others. Why? Because it’s unsustainable, and eventually something is going to give- either it’s you deciding it’s not worth it anymore, or it’s your mental and emotional wellbeing.  It’s like asking a cat to be a dog, although cats are not that stupid as to even try.  It just doesn’t work.

Speaking of cats, if you asked a cat to be a dog, chances are the cat would look at you in that way that you are 100% sure says, “Screw you.”  Cats are good at getting testy.  Whatever struggles you are going through, be it an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, or simply not feeling good enough, it is important to get testy yourself sometimes.  Get angry at your struggles rather than be consumed and defeated by them.  Your mind is you, and therefore you are the master of your own mind.  It kind of goes along with the idea of my last post.  Screw you.  Do you feel like a brownie?  Did you eat a big dinner, but are still hungry?  Does the eating disorder want you to eat an apple instead, or stop eating?  If it does, get angry.  Say, screw you!  Did someone tell you you should lose a few pounds?  Screw you!  Did someone try to give you “advice” because they care about you, that instead made you feel unworthy, unloved, or not good enough?  Screw them!  Are you tired of listening to all these external rules about how you should look, or who you should be?  Screw the rules!  YOU are in charge of YOU.  No one else is, and nothing else matters.  If people can’t accept you for who you are, YOU deserve better.

And that last one… nope, I’m not joking.  I am 100% literal here.  I come from a religious family, and I grew up with my grandmother who, if she heard you utter a foul word, was not hesitant to stick a bar of soap in your mouth with a vengeance.  And I still don’t swear as a general rule in most situations, but sometimes the best way to release things is to utter some choice expletives.  Now, I don’t necessarily mean go up to everyone that has ever said something hurtful to you and wail on them.  No.  I also don’t mean forget all sense of public decency and start rattling off the expletives willy-nilly.  Be sensitive to others, and respectful that not everyone wants to HEAR that kind of language.  However, a well placed curse word, often if only uttered to yourself, has the potential to trigger a great sense of release and empowerment.  And it also helps with that, get angry, bit. 🙂

7) STOP SEARCHING FOR LOVE.

This is an odd one, especially since we’re in the age of online dating, blind dates, and Dr. Phil.  Stop jumping from relationship to relationship.  Stop basing your worth and value as a person on whether you have a significant other.  Realize the power, and liberation, of being alone.  Realize that you don’t need to be WITH someone, in order to BE someone.  And most importantly, don’t let the fear of never finding someone keep you from being your true self, or keep you stuck in toxic relationships, be it friendships or romantic relationships.

When you’re seeing someone, be you.  Don’t be the person you THINK they want you to be.  It might work in the short term, but a relationship based in smoke and mirrors isn’t sustainable and will eventually have negative ramifications.  When you are you, when you are unapologetically real, the right person will find you.  I truly believe that love finds you when you stop looking and start living.  And if you’re not in a relationship at the moment, it means it’s not your time to be in one.  You find love in unexpected places, at unexpected times, and if you’re being real and true, you’ll be rewarded.  Stop searching, start living.

8) DETOXIFY YOUR LIFE.

Seriously though, I hesitated to tell you about this because it kind of goes against everything I said about food freedom… but I found this miracle detox plan that literally is the bee’s knees.  No I’m not kidding!  It’s a relatively new detox program that helps you shed pounds and cleanse your organs from all those evil little carbohydrate and fat monkeys that are wreaking havoc internally from your unhealthy food and lifestyle choices.  It’s an extract that they’ve taken from the knees of bees, specifically a species of bee indigenous to South America… see I said literally!  They’ve put these extracts into these smoothie-like drinks that you consume for one week straight.  Nothing else!  Just these smoothies, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They’re a miracle cure, with relatively low incidences of complications, and only 3/10 chance of fatality!

… Yeah.  Screw that.

Did I have you going there?

NO!  I will NEVER recommend a detox cleanse, unless it is MEDICALLY PRESCRIBED by a doctor on an individual basis.  BUT, I’ll definitely speak volumes on social media detox and cleansing!  It sounds corny, but I swear to you it works.  Detoxify your social media, and remove all accounts that you follow related to “Thinspo”, “Fitspo”, unrealistic (AKA typical) body ideals, specific diets (yes paleo, yes gluten-free, yes vegan, yes raw- unless you are medically required to eat this way, you don’t need this), and any other feeds that cause you shame, guilt, anxiety, or a desire to manipulate or control your weight, shape, size, or personality.   You don’t need that shit.  Instead, fill your feed with images of REAL women/men, REAL people…

Side note: Some people are NATURALLY slim, toned or what have you. I’m not implying they’re not real. I’m simply saying don’t buy into those things that are completely digitally altered and airbrushed.

And fill your feed with other ideas- places you want to see, things you want to do, inspiring quotes, balanced food and exercise examples (i.e. everything, no rules), HAES (Health at Every Size), etc. The more you expose yourself to the things that matter, and to health and wellness ideas, the less the other stuff will matter. It really does work.

The same goes for your relationships. Go through your Facebook friends, and delete people you haven’t talked to in twenty years, or those people who make you feel like crap about yourself. Stop spending time with those who are negatively impacting you, and who don’t value you for who you are. It’s not a contest. No one has 700 actual friends, online or in real life.

 

9) GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE UP SPACE

In all manners of the word.  Being smaller doesn’t make you worth more, any more than being larger makes you worth less.  I know for me, there’s a sense of unworthiness, a lack of value, and it makes me feel like I need to be smaller.  I don’t feel like I deserve to take up emotional space- I don’t want to share my fears, my problems, my worries, and take up others time.  I don’t feel like I deserve to take up airspace.  Another one of those toted “positive” qualities of ALWAYS putting others before oneself… yeah, at times, it’s bull.  You deserve airspace.  You deserve to be listened to, to sometimes get to pick the activity, to have wants, desires, cravings.  You deserve to come first at times.  You deserve to have a day to yourself where you do exactly what YOU want and need to do for your own health and wellbeing.  If you don’t allow yourself to take up space, if you constantly squash yourself for others, or allow others to squash you, you will eventually crumble.  And perhaps, this sense of being small, this sense of being not worth anything and being half a person, will translate to you literally starving yourself to be ACTUALLY half a person.  Who knows.  Just a thought.

You’re allowed to take up space, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Your curves are allowed to exist, your cellulite is allowed to exist, and your mind is allowed to exist.  Allow yourself to take your rightful place in the world.

Exercise or Exorcise?

Hello from a rather comfortable table in a very crowded cafe!

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So I’m feeling kind of guilty.

I mean I haven’t written in a while, which is an issue of itself. But it isn’t for lack of attempts… if you could log on to my laptop you would find at least 15 or 20 partially written and scrapped blog posts. I just didn’t know what to say, what to write, what I wanted to focus on. Two hours of work… then two seconds to the trash can. Nothing was coming together.

I recently got back from two days of travelling, eating out, and drinking enough Starbucks to get my fix before we headed back home to the blasphemous land lacking the famous green siren.

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Aw, yeah.

Yeah, we have no Starbucks at home…  and a bunch of coffee shops that literally sell the most disgusting coffee (as in brand of coffee) known to man.  And the ones that don’t use the most disgusting coffee, use the most disgusting soy milk.  It’s a real struggle.  Anyone who is bound to the land of non-dairy milk knows the issues.

Reality: 98% of non dairy milk tastes like the inside of a garbage disposal.  Or a spoiled can of refried beans.  And most coffee shops elect to use the cheapest soy milk because they want to maximize profit.

The cheapest soy milk tastes about as good as my dog’s breath smells.

Just so you know, my dog has had ongoing dental issues and almost all of his teeth pulled out.  Aka: his breath is NOT pleasant.

I mean come on, you already charge an additional 50-75 cents for the soy milk in the first place.  Which means that after anywhere from 5-10 lattes you’ve paid for the cost of the milk.  Perhaps even less if you’re using the cheap stuff.  At least give us something that tastes good.

Hint: You’d probably sell more of the soy lattes if they didn’t taste like underpants.

#petpeeve.

Moving on.

The aforementioned coffee shop I am sitting at now is an exception to this generality.  They make a better ICED latte than Starbucks.  Win.

Get me out of this town.

Or buy me a Starbucks.  A personal one that makes me lattes and double smoked bacon breakfast sandwiches, but doesn’t charge me a dime.

I’d be fine with that.

So, back to this guilt thing.  I’m trying this new thing with my dietitian to address my sitting issues, mainly being my inability to do it.  And combining the sitting issues with my food issues, and my exercise issues, to like hit the trifecta of my issues.

I totally used trifecta in the wrong sense of the word… but I get tired of using words like plethora and gamut.  So I no longer care.  It sounded cool.

So I have to walk to the coffee shop, once a week, and walk home, which assuming I don’t take detours is somewhere between 20-30 min each way, unless I’m doing my speed demon old tempos.  And I’m trying not to do that… minus the first time.

So the amount of exercise is contained. Check.

And since my old exercise routine was incredibly predictable I have to keep changing it up. I can do one walk a week.  That’s it.  Add one yoga session a week, maximum half hour.  That’s it.  Add another random exercise session, maximum half hour, that is neither a walk nor a yoga session.  And that is not running, HIIT, or pilates because, guess what, those are my old obsessions and 7 hours a day in a nutshell.  There you have my weekly exercise regime: three times a week, three different activities, maximum 30 minutes a session.  And if any component is not met, the alternative is doing nothing.  AKA, that regime is my maximum, not my minimum.

Cue me this week, trying to come up with a third activity when I don’t know how to bike, swim, roller-skate, skateboard, completely lack hand-eye coordination (or just coordination in general), and don’t have money for a fitness class, but damn it, I’m going to come up with something because the part of me that is still obsessed has to maximize on exercise time not minimize it.

Perhaps one day I won’t feel that urge.

Perhaps one day I’ll discover my inner Michael Jordan instead of my blatant Jim Carrey/Snooki sans alcohol klutziness.

Don’t crush my dreams.

And then there’s the whole food=exercise=calories=food=exercise=calories=… you get the idea, thing.  So when we exercise, or do activity, we make up for it.  I add food to the meal plan.  So I walk to the coffee shop, and I have a snack.  Latte, muffin, loaf, lunch, whatever it may be.  As long as it has an additional component to what I normally have.

And the third component of the trifecta: that sitting.  I have to sit, in the cafe, until lunch working on the blog.  Which is important because I really do love to blog.  And that’s one thing I really struggle to do standing up: it’s hard to concentrate.

But after all of my travelling the past couple days, I wasn’t feeling coffee-y.  But I still wanted to do my coffee shop, blog, and walk day yesterday, because it was gorgeous out and I actually was feeling inspired to write.  Carpe diem and all that jazz.

But what do you do when you’re craving just tea and a pear for snack, but you have to go to a cafe that doesn’t sell fresh fruit?

Answer:  You sneak a pear in, buy a tea, and most stealthily eat it in the corner facing away from the cashier.

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Cue the guilt.

You’re so not supposed to bring outside food into a restaurant.  But I did buy a tea!

It wasn’t exactly the most mindful of practices… every time someone came near my table, I threw the pear into my lap on a napkin.  Don’t do as I do.

Anyways, moving on.

You all know about my sitting problems, right? As in I can’t do it. As in I found ways to knit standing up, almost figured out knitting on a treadmill, figured out how to mount a laptop to my treadmill so I could watch Netflix without guilt, and will purposely do the laundry in as many trips to the basement as possible to maximize walking and standing time. As in, I have rules about what time of day I’m allowed to sit, how long for, and if you try to get me to deviate from this I’m an inconsolable ball of nerves ready to bite your head off. As in people have had to wrestle me to the ground mid-afternoon. Seriously.

I have issues.

And it’s an issue I haven’t been too keen to address, because the very thought of sitting for extended periods of time, as relaxing as it sounds in some distant corner of my mind, fills me with as much dread as eating Chinese food… no. It fills me with more dread than eating chinese food. Yep, sitting is potentially more terrifying than eating at this point. That kind of says something. Unless you combine sitting and eating. Mind blown.

I see dead people.

Okay no, I don’t. But it’s like the equivalent level of fear. Where is that line from anyways? Some horror movie…

The Hills Have Eyes?

Moving on.

So anyways, this issue pervaded through hospitalization. I finally was well enough that they were convinced I literally wasn’t going to just drop dead on the floor at a moments notice, so they started to give me passes from the hospital for a snack, or a meal, or to get a coffee, or to simply move beyond the jail-barred (literally) eating disorder ward door. And there’s a bus stop right outside the door. And I’m supposed to take the bus.

Yeah… that never happened.

I walked. I maximized time. I had half an hour, or two hours, or whatever it might have been. I knew I needed to do the food related task they assigned, and perfectionist that I am, I would do it. But I would order the coffee, the sandwich, the scone, etc to go. And I’d wind along side streets. I’d google-map my trip in advance, add 5 min to the walking times in case I happened to be slow (which let’s get serious… maximizing time here. I wasn’t slow.) and then when I got close to the hospital again, I’d pace back and forth along a nearby street until it was time to return. Food eaten, and hopefully appropriately compensated for. As much as possible anyways.

Then I went to residential. And they took away my movement. Completely. Bed to chair to table to chair to bed. That was it. For a week. And I was going stir crazy. But I hid it well… so well that after the first week was up, I could claim that my bowels were not working (which was somewhat true… when you starve yourself they stop working. Before I was hospitalized I hadn’t had a bowel movement in at least a month… I can’t remember. I mean, there’s nothing in there to process. TMI? Perhaps, but it’s the truth. No shame.), and that I needed to go on “poo-walks” to get them moving. I appeared solid, I appeared resolute, and I appeared outwardly calm. And those bowels weren’t working, so it was a half truth as opposed to a whole lie. One week of nothing, but then that was done. Back to the movement, to the lack of sitting. Check.

I left residential, four months later, completely entrenched in the movement and obsessive exercise portion of my eating disorder, but oblivious even to myself that this was a problem. This was “healthy”! Movement, moving, is “healthy”! And all the way through I never gave it up. Outpatient: sure, I was eating enough, but I was exercising again for hours (or hour if it was extremely high intensity… really I had a minimal supposed “calorie burn” which was a ridiculously high number… that was the amount of formal exercise I had to have) And then in addition, I had my time rules that allowed me to sit at certain hours of the day. All the time in between, I was ate least standing, ideally walking. I developed ways to incorporate otherwise relaxing activities into the activity grind so that I no longer actually had to relax while doing them. Because that would be the worst, laziest thing in the world. Obviously.

All my favourite activities suddenly became a part of my prison. Drawing? Either at certain hours of the day or not at all. Netflix/television? Only on the treadmill. Knitting? Standing up at the kitchen counter. Reading a book? Between my toes as I did crunches. Piano? No bench required. Everything that used to remotely bring me any kind of joy I found a way to make torturous. I found a way to suck the happiness out of every simple pleasure constantly, and the only thing that made this existence bearable was the anticipation of the incredible high that denial, restriction, rules, and following them to a T gave me. Somehow you can tolerate a lot of physical pain, a lot of emotional turmoil, and the incredibly quick deterioration of relationships if in the end you know you’re going to get the greatest high. Unfortunately, the high lasts as long as it takes to realize that you’re denying yourself something. Which is literally as long as it takes to read that sentence.

So what… three seconds? Maximum.

And then you’re on to planning the next denial, awaiting the wave of the next high, and the literal second of relief you experience when you realize that in that moment, literal moment, you have done enough to stop the whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, and pain, and simply exist for a second. You’ve done enough to stop and feel yourself inhale, or exhale, before moving on to the next thing. The next skipped meal, the next set of 30 reps, the next light-headed footstep.

There were of course the other times where I just existed for a second.  Where all the thoughts stopped.  Where my world for a second was silent.  I imagine they would have been somewhat relaxing had I been awake for them…

Oh, right.  I forgot to mention those times were the times I blacked out.

Once it was mid run on the treadmill.  I fell forward and slid back, waking up in a crumpled pile between the the door and the edge of the still-running treadmill, a pile of blood on the floor coming equally from my completely skinned chin, and even moreso from my gauged kneecap that almost cut through to the bone.  I still have rather evident scars from both of those, and I don’t expect them to ever disappear.

Fun fact: I started my current job about four or five days after this.  I remember going to the interview, my chin shredded, and being asked, “Did you fall off your bike?  That’s an impressive case of road rash!”  I went with whatever anyone said to avoid admitting the truth.  “Actually, I’m close to death and I passed out while exercising on my treadmill because my body can no longer handle the physical exertion and it’s just trying to preserve itself by FORCING me to stop.  But please hire me for a job where I’m walking around and on my feet for eight hours a day!”  Yeah, I knew that wouldn’t fly.  Plus, I totally didn’t have a problem…

Another time it was mid walk with my dog on Main Street.  I tore up my exercise hoody and skinned my hand and elbow as I fell forward against a cement garbage can.  Or at least that’s what I gathered from when I came to the realization of the cold cement against my blistered skin.  The crowd of onlookers who were very concerned thought I had tripped over my dog’s leash.

I’m fairly sure that’s not what happened, but then again I don’t remember it too clearly.

And the third time was simply getting up from my couch in the living room.  I got up, felt instantly light headed, and staggered forward into the television, slicing all four fingers on one hand on the sharp underside, and permanently giving our flatscreen a leftward tilt.

It’s funny how you wake up, and you kind of know how you got there.  It’s like you remember the start of the fall, and then next thing you know you’re in a pile on the floor.  But those few seconds after you wake up are remarkably calm too.  Calm and shaky.

But you know, it’s like another three second thing.  And then you’re back to planning your denials.

I remember the pain, vaguely.  When you’re that sick, it’s almost as if your body doesn’t have the energy to really allow your nerves to react to pain.  Either that, or you become so used to being in pain that you don’t recognize it for what it is, and it just becomes normal. But I do remember pain.  I remember the dread that came before every exercise session.  I remember my body screaming at me as I laced up my shoes:

Please, please, please don’t do this to me.

I’m so tired.

I’m begging you… I really don’t want to do this.  I really don’t know if I can.

I hurt.

And going anyway.  Every day.  Hours a day.  Pounding the pavement, and swearing, literally swearing out loud every time someone smiled at me, or said hello, or looked at me with any trace of happiness as they passed me on the street as soon as they were out of ear shot.  Swearing at any car or truck that was loud because it hurt my ears, distracted me, gave me more discomfort.  As if the noise was shredding me as much as the physical activity was.

Fuck you.

That was my favourite.  Every time they were out of ear shot, I’d utter it.  How dare you be happy when life is hell?  What is there to be happy about? This is hell.

I remember coming home from a session and going to the bathroom, gingerly peeling off my socks and applying a new bandage to my feet.  My feet were a mess of callouses, blisters, and gashes just from the wear and tear of constant exertion and bone on skin contact with no adipose tissue to cushion them.  Every single toe was swollen and tomato red, and eventually they were all covered in white bandages.  I ended up with pinprick pressure point sores that felt like bee stings every time you put weight on them along the soles of my feet.  They were so painful I even went to the doctor with them.  I remember the look on his face when I removed my shoes and he saw my almost completely bandaged feet, and then when he looked underneath and saw the bloody, blistered mess that lay beneath the surface.  I asked him what I could do to get rid of the pinprick sores.

“Stop exercising,” he said, simply but seriously. “That’s the only thing that will make them go away.  I know it’s hard, and I know you don’t want to, but it’s the only way to get rid of them.”

That wasn’t happening.  I resolved that clearly I was doomed to have to endure the pain.  Price you have to pay for being “healthy”.  “No pain, no gain.”

When you look back on it in your mind’s eye, everything is in this soft fog.  On some level, you realize how sick you were.  As you write it out, without all the frills, and just stick to the cold, hard, undiluted facts, you see how many times that blackout could have turned into a blackhole.  How many times could I have fallen and never gotten up?  How many mornings did I start my day trying to avoid sitting, when I should have been thinking, perhaps if I don’t sit, this might be the last time I ever do?  And then the fog comes in and softens that reality, smoothes it over and glazes it so it doesn’t seem that bad.

Even the memory of my doctor looking at me, tears in his eyes, saying “If you don’t get off the treadmill, you are going to die.”, is soft, fluffy, like a movie.  Somehow detached from my life.  Okay, maybe I’ll die, but then I can just reinsert the DVD and I’ll be alive again.

I can still hear his words in my head, “Yesterday I was with my other anorexic patient.  I saw her two days before and she was okay.  Yesterday she woke up in the morning and started her treadmill, and 20 minutes into the workout she collapsed.  Her heart gave out.  She had a heart attack.  And now she’s dead.  She was 16.”

“She wasn’t me,” I said, dark circles under my eyes, wiggling my feet on the bench to move something because I was forced to sit in his office.  “She wasn’t trying to get better.  She was probably eating nothing.  I’m still eating.  I’m trying to get better.”

“She WAS you,” he said. “She was exactly like you.  She was in recovery.  She was eating, probably around the same amount that you are.  She was trying to get better.  But she couldn’t stop moving.  She couldn’t stop running.  She couldn’t stop walking.  And she wasn’t eating ENOUGH.  Just like you’re not eating ENOUGH.  Her body weight was too low.  Her organs were failing.  Eventually, they gave up.”

He slid his chair forward, looking me directly in the eyes.  “If you can’t stop moving… if you can’t stop getting on the treadmill… if you keep doing what you’re doing, you WILL die.  I don’t know when… it could be a month from now, or it could be tomorrow.  But you will.  And that would be a tremendous loss.  I don’t want to bury another patient.”

That was last August.

Soon after I started working with my current dietitian.  That choice changed, and saved my life.  That choice, as well as the choice to stop getting on the treadmill, and it wasn’t an easy choice to make.  But eventually you get so tired, and I don’t mean physically, I mean emotionally.  Mentally.  You enjoy the highs, but you get tired of the unbearable pain and torture of the incredible lows for only 3 seconds of bliss.

So I stopped exercising.  Even now, just starting to add back in exercise after being off of it since August, I still have sores on my feet. The pinprick sores are still there, as well as a couple blisters that haven’t yet totally healed. That’s eight months. You know how bad it was, if after eight months it’s almost, but not completely healed.

I stopped exercising… but that didn’t mean I was sitting.  I was still standing.  For everything.  My rules about time were, and are still in place.  I can sit until 9 am, at which point I must be up.  Now, months and months later, I’m allowed to sit for lunch, and as long as it takes me to drink a cup of tea afterwards.  Then I must be standing again until 6 pm at the earliest.  If I work until 8, all the better.

Where does this come from?

Does it come only from the eating disorder?  Is it just a symptom and complication of the overall problem?

I’d love to say yes.  But no, it doesn’t.

How many times have you sat and ate a brownie, and felt guilty about it?

How many restaurants have you gone to with the girls, and then lamented how many hours on the treadmill you would have to do to make up for whatever you ate or drank?

Have you seen the episode of “That’s So Raven” where they decide to lose weight and walk to the mall?

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How many joggers have you seen on the streets and then immediately felt guilty because you weren’t doing the same thing?

Society hails exercise and movement as the be all that ends all.  With our society being habitually and epidemically fat-phobic, not just in nutritional content, but also from a physical perspective, we are now groomed from a young age to look at movement and exercise as a black or white concept.

Movement/Exercise= Good.  Important. A+.

And inversely: Resting/Inactivity= Bad. Hazardous.  Fail.

Treadmills and other exercise equipment are branded with giant, innaccurate displays of calories burned with no option to turn off the display.

Exercise is no longer about the joy of moving your body.  It’s no longer about being outside, breathing fresh air, and allowing your body to carry you physically through life and relationships.  That is secondary.

These positive and simple benefits of exercise and activity, the real reason we move- to relieve stress, to interact with people and the world around us, and to encourage mind and body connection and mental health- is downplayed as additional benefits to a much more “important” picture:

The Bowflex ad tells me I can go from a size 14 to a size 4 if I use their equipment.

The trainer tells me that I can add 6 inches in muscle size if I do these exercises.

And if I supplement this regime with the paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Vegan, Vegetarian, or what have you diet, I’m guaranteed to be beach body ready by summer.

And my doctor supports this because exercise is always good.  Weight must always fall in the BMI charts.  And because all the diet pills don’t work, exercise is the new magic bean.

Exercise is viewed by society at large as the optimal definition of health.  And by health, I mean weight and shape.  In other words, the main reason we exercise is to control our weight and shape.  And thanks to all the calorie counters out there (MyFitnessPal, exercise equipment, CalorieKing, etc), not only is exercise a means to control our weight and shape, it is also a way to justify or “allow” us to eat.

Suddenly our whole existence is consumed by our consumption and our calisthenics.  If I want to look like x, I have to eat y, and in order to eat y, I must do z.  The whole theory of eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full is shot out the window, and replaced by a simple mathematical equation.  And mindfulness goes with it.

And because we are all so fat-phobic, and so consumed with this “healthy” way of life, the idea of NOT exercising, NOT moving your body, and NOT following this Nirvana-esque equation is mind boggling to many, not just those with an eating disorder.

When I was forced to stop exercising, even at my lowest weight, when I was a walking skeleton and passing out, I was met with resistance.  Resistance in my own head, but even more frustratingly from those around me.  Family, friends, even health care professionals.

“Well, the dietitian has taken away exercise.  I can’t do anything.”

“Not even walk?”

“No.”

“But… that’s so unhealthy!”

“But… that can’t be right!”

“Maybe you should get a second opinion!”

“But… that’s not balanced.  You HAVE to exercise!”

“But… you don’t want to get FAT though do you?”

“If you stop you’ll get fat, and you want to be toned!  You should still exercise so it doesn’t all come back as fat!”

As if that was the WORST THING IN THE WORLD!?

Let me remind you all:  My heart rate is 40 something lying down, 150 something when standing, and I’ve passed out just trying to get up off the couch.  In what world is it still considered a good idea to strap on your sneakers when you’re like this?!

In what world is a pregnant woman praised in a yoga class for staying thin when they’re trying to bring another life into this world?!

In what world is it considered healthy when my feet are bruised, bleeding, and covered in bandages because of the extent of abuse they have suffered, in the name of “health” and “fitness”?

In what world am I praised for literally running to my deathbed?

In what world do I go to the doctors two weeks after stopping exercise, still totally entrenched and medically unstable, to be met with plans by the same doctor who begged me to stop, to reincorporate exercise again?  Albeit, it was in the distant future, but still.  It should not have even been on the table yet.

Something needs to change.

Movement/Exercise DOES NOT ALWAYS = Good. Important. A+.

And inversely: Resting/InactivityDOES NOT ALWAYS = Bad. Hazardous. Fail.

Exercise does not mean exorcism, and it doesn’t equal health or happiness.  It’s time to start shifting our perspectives as a whole.  Not just as an eating disorder sufferer, survivor, recovery warrior, or support person, but as a society.  It’s time to come back to the basics.

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Why do we do what we do?

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Why do we move our bodies?

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Why are we strapping on our shoes and pounding the pavement?

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Are we exercising, or exorcising?

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If it’s to influence our shape or size, why is that so important?

 

And if it is that important:

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Is it worth digging our own graves?

A Slice of Humble Pie: “But I’m Not Small (Sick) Enough…”

***Potential Trigger Warning: Anything and everything can be a trigger. But this is a forewarning, I do get into my own story here and there is as always the potential for comparisons.  It is up to you to decide if you are in a place mentally in this moment to be able to cope with this. If not, be gentle with yourself and respect that. I won’t be offended. There is no shame. ❤ ***

Happy (mirrorless) Monday everyone!

Oh wait, it’s Monday… ahem… I mean, it’s Monday, FML.

Isn’t that the general consensus?  Actually, for me, Monday isn’t horrible. Probably because for me, Monday is my Wednesday and not the start of the work week.  Ah, the joys of being an adult that doesn’t have a Monday to Friday work week!

So I got this really great response to my last post, and not only does that feel incredible and warm and fuzzy and fantastic, but it gives me great ideas for future posts!  See, collaboration, team work… all that jazz makes the world go round!

Or was that peanut butter?

Peanut butter makes the world go round… yeah, that was the saying.  Obviously.

Distracted… moving on.

So when I get positive feedback, I can never understand it.  Someone says, “Wow, your blog post was really powerful!  I learned so much!” and I’m honoured, truly I am, but I’m like, come on, it wasn’t that great…  Or someone says, “You articulate so well!  I’m touched!” and I feel super uncomfortable and squirmy because I don’t take compliments well, and as fantastic as it makes me feel, I’m like, I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish.

 

While some people might call this being humble or modest, it poses a problem. See, often we are taught growing up not to “toot our own horns”, for fear of being perceived as vain or arrogant.  Yes, repetitive self glorification is a problem in its own right if it results in the belief that you are ALWAYS right, or better than everyone else, or worst of all the purposeful diminishment of others.  However, to always take the humble road and not acknowledge your own strengths or accomplishments often leads to many other problems, such as a lowered sense of SELF worth, value, or significance.  AKA, low self esteem, but even more so, a sense of not being good enough or worthy enough of any type of positive reception or caring actions.

Ah, self esteem.

I love (hate) to always come back to you.

Let me translate:

Come on, it wasn’t that great =  I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise

I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish = I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego.

Need I mention that the whole first half of the sentence basically proves that the inflated ego part isn’t very accurate?

Now, it’s not a direct translation- I didn’t write a self esteem dictionary.  But if you peel back all the layers of crap that you’ve built on top of it, that’s basically where you end up:  your core beliefs about yourself.

I believe:

  • I am worthless
  • I am insignificant
  • I am not good enough
  • I am stupid
  • I am ugly
  • I am undeserving of love
  • I am boring
  • I am lazy
  • I am selfish

Whew! What a list.  Now, don’t go getting all concerned and teary eyed for me.  Do I believe all of these things at the same time?  No.  At least, not anymore.  But, do I still struggle with all these thoughts individually at one time or another?  Yes.  Do many of them come up on a daily basis?  Yes.

Do I let these core beliefs about myself dictate everything I say or do? NO!

Not anymore.

I can guarantee you for those who suffer from eating disorders, this list of core beliefs rings true on most if not all points.  You would be hard pressed, if not unable, to find an eating disorder sufferer with good self esteem.  Poor self esteem is like the eating disorder’s peanut butter: it’s what it lives off of, feeds on, and manipulates in order to get you to listen and heed its vicious call.

Except unlike peanut butter, it definitely doesn’t taste delicious.

Here’s the thing: when you feel like crap about yourself, things lose meaning and purpose. You no longer enjoy things you once did.  You want to run away and hide.  You want to cut yourself off from the world, and at the same time find something to fill the void where your positive self should be.  And you’re so desperate to find some way to make yourself feel better, feel happy, feel like you have worth.  You need that! It’s a basic necessity to feel a sense of value, purpose, and worth. The thing is that what enters to fill that space, while tantalizing and seemingly promising, doesn’t fit the bill.

Enter the eating disorder.

Not-Thin-Enough

image source Running with Spoons

I would feel better about myself if I lost 5 lbs…

It didn’t work.  I still feel like shit.  But I’m getting some positive feedback from other people, and that feels good.  So another 10 lbs will work for sure!

My pants just fell off.  But I still am worthless!  I’m still ugly!  If only I could get rid of my muffin top, then that will be enough!  Then I’ll be thin enough that everyone will love me and I will love myself!

What happened?  How did I end up on the floor?  I’m bleeding and I cut open my chin… I don’t remember falling?  Last thing I remember was being on the treadmill… Pinch an inch.  Shit.  That flab is still there.  I need to lose at least another 5 lbs.  5 more lbs and I’ll be done.

Hint:  It’ll never be enough.

I struggle with posts like this one.  I never know whether sharing my own personal struggle in detail will be helpful or triggering.  The eating disorder is based on comparison, and the reality is that comparisons, particularly from a starved and malnourished state are NOT ACCURATE!

Now, let me iterate, STARVED AND MALNOURISHED DOES NOT MEAN UNDERWEIGHT!

It can mean underweight.  It can mean having a body fat percentage so low that your brain can’t function properly.  It can mean that you have whole periods of your life that you don’t remember because your brain didn’t have the energy it needed to create a memory.

I don’t remember the week before I was hospitalized.  I have journals that I wrote that tell me what happened, where I was mentally, and the people that I was with that describe it to me, but in my own head, it’s a black void.  I remember the car ride to my Grandma’s house, and about three quarters of the way there, that’s where the memory stops.  The next thing I remember is lying in a hospital bed with a bowl of soup in front of me- A WEEK LATER!  A WEEK!  I remember nothing.

I don’t remember a few weeks this summer.  I managed to stay out of the hospital.  I remember what I did to do that, deceitful and tricky things before weigh ins that I WON’T list here because I am NOT PRO-ANA.  I remember working, but it’s a blur, a mix of fuzzy images that aren’t a total void like the first time, but still nothing concrete.  I remember using my breaks to exercise, and eating a ton of dry cheerios and carrot sticks.  That’s it.

But that’s me.

As I said, STARVED AND MALNOURISHED DOES NOT MEAN UNDERWEIGHT!

You can be a normal weight, and still be just as sick as someone who is underweight.  You can be a normal weight and still be not eating enough, or purging it, and your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function.

I repeat.  You can be just as sick as I was.

But regardless of whether you are underweight or overweight or normal weight, your eating disorder will always tell you you are not small, or sick enough to deserve help.

Remember, you are starved, you are deprived, you are malnourished, and your body and brain are not functioning properly.  Your eating disorder is feeding off of your low self esteem, throwing tantalizing, seemingly true ideas at you about the next 5, 10, or 15 lbs you can lose.  Your eating disorder is distorting what you think about yourself, inside, outside, and all over.  You are NOT seeing clearly, you are NOT thinking clearly, and you have such a low opinion of yourself that you take a slice of your humble pie and minimize your suffering.

Come on, it wasn’t that great = I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise

I’m just a nobody who wrote some rambles on some paper and hit publish = I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego.

Find your thesaurus:

I don’t have the skills or the smarts to create something meaningful or worthy of praise = I am stupid and insignificant I’m not enough = I’m not small enough = I’m not sick enough

I am insignificant as a person, and my thoughts are so small, foolish, and worthless that I can’t understand why on earth you are lying to me and just trying to stroke my inflated ego= I am selfish, insignificant, and worthless= I am ugly (as a person) = I’m not pretty enough (external/internal) I’m not thin enough = I’m not sick enough

It all comes down to the same thing. You have low self esteem, you believe the lies the eating disorder says, and you don’t want to appear vain or selfish by admitting that you have a problem or that you need help.  You don’t believe you need it because you can’t see it, because your eating disorder is showing you all the ways in which you are fine, by distorting your perceptions.

This was me, a week before I ended up in the hospital:

Photo on 2012-08-15 at 12.55

I didn’t believe I was thin enough, or sick enough.  I can’t remember anything starting the day after this was taken.

This was me the day I had the soup in the hospital:Photo on 2012-09-02 at 10.57 #2Side note: See those electrodes?  Yeah, they knew my heart could stop at any moment so they wanted to be on top of it.

Double side note:  I still didn’t believe I was thin enough, or sick enough.

This was me this summer:

Photo on 2015-06-14 at 12.34 AM

And believe it or not, there was only about 6, maybe 7 lbs difference between the top picture and this one… baggy clothes cover things up, but they don’t hide everything.

Again:  Still didn’t believe I was thin enough or sick enough.

This is me at this very moment:

Photo on 2016-01-11 at 9.46 AM

Almost weight restored.  Same sweater as above for the win!!

But yet again: Still don’t believe I’m thin enough.  But I do believe I’m sick enough to need help, and to pursue it.

Like I said, I struggle to be this overt with my own story.  I don’t want to encourage comparisons, and that is not the purpose.  The purpose here is an illustration:  It doesn’t matter what picture you pick above, what I see in the mirror is still the same:

anorexia_HR

And chances are the next time you look in the mirror, what you see is similar, and it’s not what is there.  It feels like it is, it looks like it is.  It’s as if I we were standing in front of a chair and I’m there trying to tell you that the chair isn’t there.  You don’t believe me, because you can see it.  Dear Lord, I know you can see it!  I can see it too!

But this is the one time that I’m going to be on this site and tell you not to eat!  DON’T TAKE A SLICE OF HUMBLE PIE!  Don’t minimize yourself.  Because you are sick enough. You are thin enough.  You are worthy.

And you’re enough.