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.”

    3296f38500000578-3511376-image-m-13_1459089189433

    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?

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.

Guilt vs Shame Pt 2: Shame-A Lethal Apology For Existence

Happy birthday to all you people born on April 24th! If I could,  I would make you all cake.  I’d say cupcakes so you can be all individual and have your own personal sized cake with exactly one candle because it’s super cute, but apparently those don’t count as cakes ::rolls eyes at recent argument had over a lack of birthday “cake”::…

How was your week?  Mine was pretty stellar… do people say stellar anymore?  Did I just date myself?

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Moving on…

Yeah, I had a pretty amazing weekend last weekend…Two weekends ago?  You know what I mean.  My sister came to town, who I see like once a year, and we got to spend some time together which was really nice.  This also meant a pretty hefty dose of eating out and eating well, which is on one hand the funnest thing ever, and on the other super challenging.  But, I made it through, with only mild panic attacks, and purposely limited body checking.  All in all, a success.  And I went to a bar, and I got ID’d which is a nice little morale boost because it doesn’t always happen anymore.

It’s funny, because when you first start going to bars and you’re ID’d before you make it two steps in the door every time, it is such a drag, but then when that starts to happen less and less and less, you kind of miss it.  It’s like, man, do I have to start dying my grey hairs yet?

Then again, with that current fashion trend of dying your hair grey, that might not be a solution to any problem.  Or did that trend pass already?  I’m not sure.  I never understood that one anyways…

So you all remember my last post?  You know, the one where I found out that my guilt is a blessing if I choose to look at it in the right light?  Easier said than done, but a good reminder that there’s always a silver lining.  Anyways, it actually said Part 1 on it… as in therefore there’s a part 2, or Part II, or el numero dos, or whatever you please.  Point is, something is supposed to follow it.

I’m like the worst for these types of things.  I even hesitated to title the post “Part 1” because I know myself… I get all gung-ho for something, and I’m über inspired in the moment (because I’m mindful like that), and I’m all like, “Pssshaw, of course I’ll make the next part that logically follows!  Of course I’ll finish my thoughts!  This is like, my current maxim and my level of inspiration and expression will continue to abound for weeks to come!”

Yeah, okay.

I know myself, hence my hesitation.  Some people take lessons from their parents, and learn through the wisdom of age… I don’t do that.  Apparently, I take lessons from this guy:

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And to quote my boyfriend, this guy is “a special kind of stupid”.  So while he can teach me some valuable things, like loving unconditionally (man’s best friend literally), or living in the moment and for the moment (hence the stolen ice cream cone from the coffee table), or life without regret (he had no regret for the ice cream cone, or for the piece of parchment paper that had lined the cheeseburger pan that he stole from the garbage and tore up during the night), he can teach me an infinite number of unnecessary ones as well.  Those are the ones I seem to follow:

  1.  How to do the same thing multiple times, and expect a different result (AKA the definition of insanity, most demonstrated by his persistence of begging for food from me when he never gets any).  My argument is that this could also fall in line with being eternally optimistic… maybe.
  2. How to walk into things that are so blatantly obvious that you never should have walked into them (doors, cupboards, other people).
  3. How to have a remarkably short attention span, get bored easily, and have an inability to focus.

Yeah, that third one.  You know when you throw a ball for a dog, and he’s all excited, but then you bring out a frisbee, or a treat or something, and then the ball that was the best thing in the world is forgotten?  Yeah.  Either that or something like this:

 

See unconditional love, and completely distract-able all at the same time.  Story of my life.

So, I knew I’d get distracted, hence my reluctance to post a Part 1 and commit to a Part 2… and here I am, distracted.  But sometimes, you can turn distraction into a roundabout point, so we’re going to try.

I had a Skype session with my dietician the other day, and we were talking about my levels of guilt.  I had a few challenges for the week last week, and while I met them (mostly), there was incredible levels of anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, and an overall sense of FML that can be surmised in the phrase: “I just wanted to crawl out of my skin constantly.”  Anyone with an ED knows that phrase all too well.

Anyways, we were talking and she said something along the lines of “Well, you gotta ask yourself why that guilt is there.  Why are the food rules still there after so long?  Why do you have the guilt, fear, and need to keep those rules in place?  What are you afraid of?”

“Of becoming huge… and it’s ridiculous, stupid, and pointless. It shouldn’t matter to me!  I mean, WHY does it matter to me?”

And the infamous psychological technique response she gave- a classic answer-a-question-with-a-question.

“Why DOES it matter to you?”

And it’s those annoying questions that frustrate me to no end…  Because I have no freaking idea!  It’s funny how you possess your brain, you’ve lived with it for 24 years, you’ve gone through moments of sadness, moments of joy, birthdays, deaths, weddings, parties, everything, and you’ve done everything in your life with the same brain… and yet a large chunk of the time you still have no idea how it works.  There’s still 3 million crevices left unexplored, places where you’ve stored ideas, beliefs, values, memories that shape you but are enigmas to your conscience and comprehension.  Sometimes your own head is as much a stranger to you as the guy sitting at the next table in a coffee shop.

Why do I have the guilt, the fear, the rules?  Why am I scared to become huge?  Why do I think this is important?

Well, we ended up at the same point as I came to in my last post, which was kind of ironic. The conversation kind of went, “Hey Tiffany, maybe you should write a blog post or something on guilt and how it connects to your values?” To which I responded,”…Um, I kind of already did last week…”

Awkward silence.

Actually no, our conversations are like never filled with awkward silences.  Usually we’re laughing about something ridiculous that happened related to food, like driving backwards  through a DQ drive through, taking an open flame to a nutrition label, or making a YOLO pizza and topping it with rice.

Then we get serious(ish), and back to business.  Such as her next point, “Okay, great! Part II then (haha, it’s a roundabout pun), define your values.  I mean if you value thinness, like you realize you do, look at why, and decide what you’re missing out on if you make it that important.  Hopefully you realize that you don’t have time for that shit.”

I attached a link for her related blog post, because why not explore it with me right?

So, why do I value being thin?

Do it with me: loooooooooong sigh.

I don’t know.  I wish I didn’t.  I think it’s a plethora of things:

It’s that kid that went to family get togethers, and felt isolated because she wasn’t an athlete, or sports-minded.  Whose coordination sucked so much that it wasn’t fun to play baseball, or basketball, or tennis, because really, yes you can have fun sucking if the people you play with aren’t too serious but sometimes you just get tired of not being able to do things.  You just want to make a basket, you just want to rally a ball.  And also being a kid with a ridiculously different body type, but not realizing that it was because of this difference in body type that she looked different from the rest of the people in the family.  I mean, I have a DD cup, and I have curves.  Compare that to an A or B, long and lean. You can’t.

So when the other girls my age could trade clothes, or fit into a size 2, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t because my breasts wouldn’t fit into a small shirt, or a medium sometimes.  and my curves in my thighs ad hips wouldn’t fit into a size 2 pant, or often a size 4.  Usually it was a six.  And when you’re young, things are simple and you don’t understand the complexities of body type, of genetics, of all the fine print.  So if my cousins could fit into a 2 or a small shirt and I couldn’t, there must be something wrong with me.  Just like if they could hit a tennis ball and I couldn’t, there must be something wrong with me.

I didn’t know how to ride a bike, or swim,  but they did.  There was something wrong with me.

I was the quietest.  The shyest.  The most introverted.  A lot of them were extroverted… they were comedians, they made people laugh.  They thrived being with others, and had lots of friends.  They were social and always on the go.  I wasn’t.  There was something wrong with me.

I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and oftentimes ate more than the rest of them (hello fast metabolism I now know I have thanks to my Dad).  But they thought about sugar grams, and ate smaller portions.  If I didn’t do these things, there was something wrong with me.

From a young age in our family we were told of the importance of exercise, of getting outside on a daily basis.  Of not drinking juice until we had at least one glass of water.  And many family activities during our get togethers were focussed around hiking, or walking, or running, or biking, and if we didn’t participate in these things, we were guilt tripped.  We were told how it was “good for us”, how we were “being lazy” if we didn’t.  We were shamed.

My parents didn’t have rules like this.  My parents didn’t withhold food from me until I ate something “healthier” or drank some “clean water”.  They encouraged me to follow my own passions, decide for myself what I wanted to do.  They were okay with me being the artist always scribbling in her sketchbook.  They were fine with me being the academic, with her nose in a book.  And they were equally fine if I decided I wanted an ice cream cone in the afternoon, or a soda with my dinner.  They allow me to decide.

And let me be clear.  I was never “overweight” because of it.

But my cousins were everything I wanted to be, and they were my role models.  They were happy, beautiful inside and out, had tons of friends, and were coordinated.  They were confident.  That was a big one for me.  Confident.  That’s all I really ever wanted to be.  Happy and confident in who I was.  And I was bombarded by messages.  And in between hearing the food rules that they had set out for them, in between watching them eat smaller portions, and only eat certain things at certain times, in between watching them thrive at sports, and obey their parents/aunts/uncles with the “get outside and get moving” mantra, and then see them in their long and lean body types, the solution seemed clear.  Somehow their external appearance and their driven, always keep busy attitudes, were the key to happiness, confidence, and love both inside and out.

There was something wrong with me, and this was the way to “fix” it.

Add to it the rest of the environment.  The environment that all of us face every time we set a foot outside our front doors:

The NIKE labels branded across thin, muscular people, coupled with their slogan, “Just do it.”  Like, it doesn’t matter if you’re tired, or sick, or not happy.  Do it anyways.

The distorted yoga movement that is meant to encourage mindfulness and self acceptance, but is now branded with ridiculously hot rooms, a hierarchy of praise and respect for those who practice the more intense power and vinyasa styles, and an average calorie burn next to videos and course descriptions.

The amount of times you go out for lunch with people and see thin people overeat or eat a “unclean/yolo/cheat” food (brownie, burger, pizza, ice cream, etc) and be praised or appreciated for “not being anorexic” or for “being normal”, for eating for enjoyment, or for being indulgent because they “deserve” it.  Meanwhile, a fat person orders the same thing and is condemned for eating past full, or for just eating for enjoyment… because they DON’T “deserve” it.  They, controversly, are expected to be constantly proving to the world that they are actively trying to be “normal” by working as hard as they can to not be fat.

I’m sorry,  not sorry, but that is fucked up.

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Image Source Recovery Warriors

In what world is it okay for one person to eat a cookie, but another not, based on the amount of adipose tissue strapped across their midsection or thighs?

In what world is it acceptable to have a second slice of pizza based not on hunger or enjoyment, but rather on whether or not you hit 5k on your morning run this morning?

In what world have we replaced the unacceptable racism, sexism, and ageism, with an apparently “healthy” and acceptable size-ism and shape-ism?

Why do I value thinness? Because I am disposed to believe that just as I am, there is something wrong with me.

Or rather, because I grew up believing that there is something wrong with me, as a result of values others hold. I may have contorted them in my own head, but they are a result of nature and nurture, things seen and heard. Because I have never felt like enough, and I just want to feel okay. Because I am ashamed of myself, and I don’t want to add any more shame to the equation. And because in this day and age, the ultimate shame is to be fat.

Which brings me to Part 2! YAY FOR ROUNDABOUT POINTS!

Part 2 of that duo, and that Brené Brown quote:

I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.

Shame is the partner in crime to guilt, but whereas guilt is kind of like a nagging mother (a pain in the butt, and you don’t want her to be right, but her goal is to protect and to help you know what is really important), shame is just the grade 2 bully, or the devil on your shoulder.

The, “I made a mistake” (guilt), versus the “I am a mistake” (shame), if you will.

The reality is that shame does nothing helpful.  It doesn’t encourage you to make amends or point you toward your values.  More often than not, shame just encourages you to give up, leads to despair, and is, as Brené pointed out, “more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behaviour, than the solution or cure.”

If someone believes they are not enough, they are unworthy, or unloveable, it is hard to remain connected to others.  It is hard to remain connected to others because it is actually PAINFUL to remain connected.  The constant reminder of your own inadequacy is one of the greatest emotional pains you can experience.

One of the biggest problems that comes with shame is that the “I am a mistake” mentality is usually related to something about yourself that is unchangeable.  I can’t change my body type, my personality, my introverted nature, or my natural talents.  So if I’m ashamed of any one of those aspects, I can attempt to do something about it (diet/plastic surgery, be false, throw myself into an extroverted group/club/etc, try over and over again to be good at something else) and while it might work for a bit, eventually I’m doomed.   You can’t change the type of person you are.  You can’t change your natural talent for English, or your quiet personality any more than you can change your skin color.  It’s a part of you and you will naturally always fall back towards what is uniquely and inherently yours.  This is the same thing with your body shape and set point weight, and the reason why when you diet eventually you gain the weight back.  It could be slower or faster but your body has amazing control mechanisms to keep you where it is designed to be.

So when you’re shamed by something that is unchangeable, when you can’t change it no matter how hard you try, you just feel like a failure.  You feel unworthy of love, connection, and belonging.  And as those are the basic emotional human necessities, you suffer.

Nowadays, as a society in general we are more bombarded than ever by messaging and fat shaming.  A greater and greater emphasis is being placed on external appearances and physicality, and now that medical professionals and governments have waged a “war on fat”, those who naturally have more voluptuous frames are facing a greater pressure to fit into a mould that only a small percentage of the population is designed to fit in.  Larger women who go to the doctor for an ear infection are told to lose weight.  If a thin woman went to the doctor for the same thing, they would be given antibiotics.  Does the larger woman not deserve the same courtesy minus the extra shame pill thrown in?  Shame isn’t a vitamin, and it doesn’t enhance the antibiotic’s effectiveness.

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Image Source BuzzFeedLife

Here’s the reality:  Just because you’re thinner, DOES NOT mean you are healthier.  Likewise, just because you’re fatter, DOES NOT mean you are UNhealthier.

Just because my thighs have cellulite, DOESN’T mean I’m less deserving of a third slice of pizza than my thinner cousin.

Just because my stomach rolls when I bend over, DOESN’T mean I can’t enjoy a latte with my scone instead of black coffee.

Just because my hips don’t fit in a size 4 half the time, DOESN’T mean that I should walk more, or add in a 5k run to my exercise regime.

AND, if I lost weight, if I changed my body’s natural shame, it DOESN’T mean I would be happier.  I think we’ve beat that one to the bush enough times.  Or does another relapse need to happen?

Just because we’re fat phobic, doesn’t mean we need to fat shame.

Just because shape-ism and size-ism is different than racism or sexism, doesn’t make it right.  Why is my adipose tissue any different than my skin color?

Just because we’re all different, doesn’t mean we’re wrong.  Stop being ashamed.  You are not a mistake.

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Image Source Recovery Warriors

 

Mind the Gap

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not up on the A-list celebrity knowhow.  My television choices are limited in the first place because I watch very little tv, but when I do I tend to pick Grey’s Anatomy over Etalk, or Masterchef over Survivor.  Even on those days where you need to watch something completely inane (because we all have those days), you’ll find me watching a pointless TLC show (My Crazy Obsession, anyone?) instead of Jersey Shore.  And in terms of reading material, I don’t think anyone has ever seen me with a People or Vanity Fair, whereas nearly everyone has seen me with a Bon Appétit or Martha Stewart.  Actually, EVERYONE has seen me with a novel, or a book of New York Times Crosswords.  Yep, even my Bon Appétit-dom is limited.

So when my dietician gave me a homework assignment to write a roast, I was a little thrown.  I mean, if we talk about a pot roast, or a roast pork loin, I follow you.  I breathe you.  I eat you…

Sage.

Garlic.

Olive oil.

Moving on…

Needless to say, this wasn’t the roast she was talking about.  You know the kind?  The one where you make fun of something, or rather someone.  And she said to me, look up a roast on Youtube, and watch some of your favourite celebrities to get inspiration.

And cue an hour of my life last night, attempting to find a roast to watch online.  See, my logic is that something really is only going to be funny if you know enough about the thing they’re talking about to understand the jokes.  There are surprisingly few that I was able to find that fit the bill for me.  Actually, there were virtually none that fit the bill because this sums up my knowledge:

  1. Pamela Anderson:  Has boobs and was on Baywatch.
  2. Justin Bieber:  A dark period in Canadian history with a voice and song collection that makes my eyes and ears bleed
  3. Bob Saget: Full House Dad and AFV host.  This ALMOST got watched because I was an avid Full House-er… but still when you only know him as Danny Tanner the subtleties would get missed.
  4. Drew Carey: The most boring part of Whose Line is it Anyway?
  5. Charlie Sheen:  The reason I could never watch Two and a Half Men.  And he snorts Coke.
  6. Joan Rivers: So many plastic surgeries her face doesn’t even move when she talks.  But as to what she actually did, I have no idea.
  7. Hugh Hefner: Who is that?

Yep, that about sums it up.

So by the time I picked something, it was getting late, and I was tired and frustrated.  I settled on Donald Trump, mostly because he’s pretty current right now.  But, once again, my knowledge was limited.  I know he’s running for president, has (had?) a show called the Apprentice, has hair that moves in disturbing ways, and that he reminds me for some odd reason of an equally obnoxious version of Don Cherry minus the awful wardrobe.

Am I the only one that sees a resemblance?!

Side note: a line in the roast, which was from 2009, was that “it is pronounced I am delusional, not I am running for president“.  This one actually made me laugh.

Anyways, I got 20 minutes into the roast.  And I fell asleep.  Maybe the rest was funny… we’ll never know.  I woke up at some point during the night and Joan rivers was talking to someone.  Perhaps if I had woke up more than just enough to slam my laptop shut, I would have learned something about what she does.

Oh well, I guess I’ll never know that either.

So I’ve kind of given up on watching a roast, and I’ll stick to the edible kind.  Unless anyone can find one of Julia Child, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, or Joe Bastianich, because I might just know enough about that to get into it.  Side note: I didn’t even have to look up how to spell Bastianich.  Word.

On to MY roast.  And guess what I’m roasting?

That’s right. You guessed it.

My number one “fat” marker.

Even as I type that I’m ashamed… but not because I don’t have one.  Or at least that I pretty much don’t have one anymore.  Rather, I’m ashamed that I can say something so cruel, so blatantly.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you’re fat.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you don’t work out enough.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you’re not skinny.  If you don’t have a thigh gap you’re unhealthy.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you eat wrong.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you’re wrong.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you’re unworthy of love.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you are worthless.  If you don’t have a thigh gap you’re not beautiful.  If you don’t have a thigh gap, you’re nothing.

It’s something I would never say to anyone else, yet something I say to myself day in and day out on a daily basis.  On a minute to minute basis.  On a mirror to mirror basis.  It’s something that is a mathematical equation in my head.  No thigh gap= fat.

And I try to combat it, as hard as I might, but it’s there.  That desire for that unattainable ideal is there.  Because let’s be clear I HAVE HAD the coveted crevice, on three occasions:

  1. When I was a kid, no where near close to puberty.
  2. When I was first admitted to hospital, severely malnourished, underweight, and near death.
  3. During relapse recently, when the doctor seriously threatened re-hospitalization if I didn’t turn things around.  AKA, I was almost, but not quite at the aforementioned point.

That’s it. I’ve come close a few times… yep, the circumference of my thighs begins to decrease and I almost, ALMOST, achieve the great divide and then…

I lose my period. Whoops.

Yep, I lose my period, my body’s definitive way of saying, “Hey you, I’m not healthy anymore so I’m going to turn off your ability to reproduce because it’s too dangerous to carry a child,” and I STILL don’t quite have a thigh gap.  You hear me, STILL HAVE TOUCHING THIGHS AND MY BODY ALREADY SAYS YOU’RE SICK!

The thigh gap is one of those things that seems to be making headlines on a daily basis. Just typing in “thigh gap” on Google, you come up with thousands of articles from “6 steps to a thigh gap”, to “the miracle thigh gap diet”. It is a feature in such high demand, that numerous “fitness experts” are making work out videos geared specifically towards achieving this oh-so-desirable chasm, and countless magazines tout it on their cover stories. It has become the definitive test to show whether you are a physically desirable woman, among women that is (because they’ve done surveys and apparently men don’t find this near as appealing as we do).

Is it a new phenomenon? Not really. It was something that existed in the modeling industry for years to determine whether or not you were a thin enough frame, but here’s the thing: like all crazy fashion epidemics, from bell bottoms to shoulder pads, it eventually spread to the general public. Now, everyone HAS to have one.

But the reality is: naturally, healthily, only a small percentage of the population can achieve this ideal. And these people are not anorexic, they’re not eating disordered, and they probably don’t think twice about it. It’s just part of their make up. They’re perfectly healthy individuals.

To have a thigh gap, naturally, you pretty much have to have a specific bone structure. AKA: you have to have wider hips, you have to have a specific angle created between the pelvis and the femur. Or you can look at whether you’re a mesomorph body type (tend to put on muscle), endomorph (tend to carry more muscle and have a higher body fat percentage naturally), or an ectomorph (have trouble putting on muscle or fat in general- aka most likely to have a natural thigh gap). Or, you can look at the muscles in your thighs themselves, whether your adductor muscles are located higher or lower on your thigh (http://www.jensinkler.com/close-thigh-gap/), or even how muscular you are in general. I mean, chances are, if you do a lot of lower body work and as such have really strong leg muscles, that muscle mass has to go somewhere. But would you tell that same person that they are unhealthy and fat because their thighs touch? To put it in perspective, another dietician once said to me, “You want a definitive way to get a thigh gap? Just develop Rickets!”

So, the obsession has to stop.  But how?

Honestly, I don’t know.

My thighs are my everyday reminder of my own imperfection, but not the human sort, the hideous unforgiveable sort. I will do whatever I can to avoid 360° mirrors and not have to face my backside. I walk up the street and scrutinize every woman’s thigh’s that I see, not so much to bring myself up, but to find a way to knock myself down and show myself that flawless thighs are a reality and an achievable one. I’m just not good enough, not disciplined enough, not worthy enough to achieve it. I breathe a sigh of relief when I pass a woman wearing baggy pants. The scrutiny is so automatic, so engrained, that I don’t even realize I’m doing it until I feel my self-esteem plummet. I can’t wear jeans because their inflexibility makes me feel like my legs are rubbing together more than normal and that I’m gaining fat and cellulite by the minute. I never have owned, though I’ve envied and admired them, a pair of shorts that are shorter than mid thigh, and even then feel unworthy and uncomfortable of even wearing those.

Apparently it’s not enough to fear the food, to fear the food, to fear the scale… now I’m literally afraid of the clothes in my closet too. Win.

Walking to work, even before the eating disorder, was hell because I almost walked into posts or people… I was never looking up but rather looking down at my thighs as I moved, trying to tell if they were jiggling slightly more, or slightly less than the day before. Now it’s a sin for them to jiggle at all. My thighs fuel my exercise addiction. I fear to add more bulk in muscle in the off chance that that might make my thighs touch more, or add on the pounds on the weigh scale, but I’m terrified to stop to only see more cellulite appear, or have my thighs get even closer together to mock me because, get this, it never was muscle build up in the first place. It was fat. It was cellulite. Surprise!

And while cellulite is my prime concern, it is rivaled (coming in a now perilously close second) only by the thigh gap. For me, this ideal didn’t even come into fruition until I was already so ensconced in my eating disorder and at my worst. Actually I don’t remember ever thinking about a thigh gap, or examining other women’s bodies for one until ironically I was in recovery and away at residential treatment. Not until I had reached a point where, after a considerable amount of time that I maintained a weight less than healthy, I suddenly became aware of the fact that my thighs were touching as I stood in the shower one morning. And I panicked, and I freaked out!

Is this normal?!

Did my thighs touch before the eating disorder? I can’t remember!

And if they did, why does it feel so uncomfortable now, so wrong, so… unhealthy?

And now I can’t escape that one either. I can try to quote my old therapist’s phrase that she coined when I erupted in our session that same day, saying “Your thighs aren’t touching… they’re embracing one another.” I can try to say that until the cows come home. They say that if you say something enough times, you eventually get to believe it.

Well… it has been pretty much 2.5 years since she said that, and I don’t believe it yet. Shall I keep telling myself?

No.  But what else do they say?  I heard somewhere that laughter is the best medicine.  Perhaps something becomes less serious, less overwhelming, less consuming, less foreboding if you poke fun at it.  If you roast it.

And I’m a perfectionist, so I’m of course all like: “I have to do this RIGHT!”  So… I googled. Yes I did:

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And one of the warnings was to consider the personality of the one you’re roasting, because you want to “poke fun, not mortally wound”… BUT, for us because the mortal wounding of the thigh gap wouldn’t be such a bad thing, we can be uncensored. WIN!

So here goes nothing:

So, thigh gap, we’ve been together a while, and now that you’re going I figured it was a good idea to look back on all the good times we’ve shared.  You know, all the times we’ve gone out, shared a pizza, picked up ice cream cones… Oh wait, we didn’t do any of that.  Your aversion to cheese, cream, and anything containing fat kind of put a damper on things.  But we did stand in front of a mirror and bend over to check the space between our legs.  That was a good time!  Totally just as good as a pizza…

Yeah, you’re kind of neurotic and all-consuming.  No, no, don’t get me wrong it’s a good thing!  I mean, we all need that refreshing burst of insanity to spice up our daily routine.  Your insanity actually took up a significant portion of my brain waves, and what else was I going to use that energy for?  Hanging out with friends?  Solving world hunger? Oh wait!  You already did that one, by elevating hunger to a celebrated state of being!  If only everyone was as smart as you we would have realized decades ago that famine isn’t actually a shortfall, it is a heroic circumstance that we should all strive for.  Yeah, it comes with a rather high mortality rate, but come on.  YOLO. Living on the edge!

Yeah, for such a daredevil, you are a bit high-maintenance.  I mean, who else starts their day with 200 lunges and 300 squats?!  Not to mention your expense. I mean I guess I could have gone the cheap route.  You’re one of those friends whose love I apparently can buy for 16.95 plus shipping and handling, in a moisturizing, firming lotion.  But you know me, I go all out.  That treadmill in the back room… yeah, that must have bought ALOT of love from you.

And your frugality… it’s something of legend.  With you, my budget looked great!  I mean when you can cut out 3 of 4 food groups, your grocery bill goes WAY down!  And you taught me to really appreciate the little things in life.  I mean REALLY appreciate the little things… because that’s all I ever had on my plate.  Little things.

But one quality I will always value about you is your honesty.  I always knew where I stood with you.  Somewhere between not good enough, pathetic, and dreadful, and you never were afraid to let me know it.  Sure, maybe it resulted in a few tears, and a few meltdowns, but that is true of any relationship, right?  And we always worked it out, and stayed together for the kids.  You know our daughters, Osteoporosis and Amenorrhea, and our son Bradycardia.  I remember when you suggested we try for a fourth, but we could never decide on a name so we never went there.  Yeah, I could never get on board with your pick of Suicide.

Anyways, the end has come.   I’m sad to see you leave, but my vagina is getting cold.  It’s been a slice.

Wow, that was a little inappropriate.  Ah well.  #sorryI’mnotsorry

And in other news, check out some awesome commentary on the thigh gap trend:

And on a slightly inappropriate, but equally true note: