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.

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    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:
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    Before —-> After

     

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

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    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)

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    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?

25 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

Sometimes you just need to take a break from thinking.  I mean, it’s not like I don’t have a plethora of other things to write about, but a good friend of mine once said, “Write the blog you would want to read.”  And while I enjoy writing and reading about serious things, there are SO MANY OTHER THINGS that are just as fun to read.  One is “day in the life” posts, where you talk about what you did in a day, and/or what you ate in a day, another is recipe (YAY!) posts, which will EVENTUALLY make their way on here.  #pipedreams.  Yet another is just plain and simple, get-to-know-random-facts-about-me-style posts that make the faceless person behind the pen (or keyboard) less of an enigma, and more of a real person.  Although being both an enigma and an unreal person is fun at times too.  I mean this morning I took a quiz that told me that instead of being a person, I was a chioggia beet.  Win.  Can’t get to be more random or more of an enigma than that.

This idea was stolen from Jillian, and I had so much fun reading, and relating to hers, I decided to do one of my own!  Let’s see how well you know me!  Peanut butter brownie points to the person who knows the most things!

25 things you probably don’t know about me:

1.) I’m happiest when… I’m drinking the perfect iced latte and am creating something in my kitchen.  Fill my nose with herby smells, and my mouth with the perfect ratio of coffee, to syrup, to soy milk. You got the bestest.

2.) …especially if it … adds in my boyfriend making me laugh at the same time or sneaking up behind me for a hug and a kiss… well, now.  That just takes the happiness up another notch.

3.) I’ve always wanted to… travel to Ireland and rent a little cottage in the country.  Then I’d explore the GREEN and the coastline either on foot or by bike, and sit and enjoy the view from the quiet cottage by night.  Perfect.

4.) My family and I… are super close on my Mom’s side, and are also RIDICULOUSLY competitive and game orientated.  Dutch Blitz, Settlers, or Pick Two anyone?  Just don’t let Aunt Yvonne play Dutch Blitz, Uncle Dave play Settlers, or me play Pick Two… you’ve been warned.

5.) I was a terrible… soccer player.  Dear sweet heaven.  Ball comes at me —> I stare at ball —> I see people running towards me—> I panic —-> Split second decision time results in A) me kicking the ball any which way in order to get it away from me (even if I score on my own team) so they stop running towards/chasing me (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP!) or B) me attempting to kick the ball in part A, missing completely and tripping, falling, and/or spraining something.  Yep.  Gym class in a nutshell.

6.) My first job was… cleaning my grandmother’s house on Saturdays.  When I got tired of NEVER “doing it right” and the process of going INSANE, I got a job as an ice cream server.  I actually loved that, and did it for seven years.  Yes, seven.

7.) I could probably eat baked oatmeal every day. With peanut butter and banana inside, and vanilla greek yogurt on top, please.  Thank you.  12 times a day.  ALWAYS!

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8.) I wish I could… not be afraid of things.  I limit myself so much because my fear always gets in the way.

9.) I was born on the same day as… Cassey Ho.  Back in my stuck-in-the-ED days this would have been pretty cool, because I used her exercise videos CONSTANTLY.  Now, it just annoys me because that time was NOT FUN AT ALL. Plus all her “clean eating” stuff is ridiculous.  No such thing as good and bad foods!!  Ah well, I’m sure she’s a fine person in real life.

 

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Yeah, okay.  Even if this has SOME truth to it, my abs still want cookies, and a slice of pizza or two.  And that’s okay.  Just saying… image source

10.) My all-time favorite films are… The Devil Wears Prada.  Hands down, Meryl you are legend.

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Also in the mix of pretty close but not quite are Leap Year (for all of you with an Ireland/Irishman crush), The Help (Although not as good as the book), and Finding Nemo  (SO CUTE!).

11.) I do a pretty mean… Steve Martin in The Pink Panther impression.  I also can immitate his clumsiness quite well at times.  And I TOTALLY mean to be doing it at the time… ahem.

 

12.) I’m still mad… that Rory didn’t choose to marry Logan.  Seriously, it just wasn’t right.  Add it to the list of things like Christina leaving Grey’s Anatomy, and Dan being Gossip Girl.  All so wrong.

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13.) I met my husband… someday.  We’ll see when.  Knowing me though, it’ll probably be whilst I was doing something ridiculously accident prone and clumsily.

14.) I always knew I wanted… To live by the ocean, and in a city.  I haven’t gotten there yet, other than a brief stint in Vancouver, which only served to strengthen this desire.  I am THE HAPPIEST person when I’m near the ocean and can hear the earth breathe and the sea sigh.  Not to mention for some reason it soothes my anxiety, and the abundance of fresh shellfish and seafood to cook with is AMAZING!

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Gah… I miss it!  And I need it one day again!  I’ve had a vision of my dream house since I was 10 or 12, and not only are a few rooms very specific, but also it involves french doors leading to a deck with a view of the ocean.  Yep.  I know what I’ve always wanted.

15.) I’m not afraid to… change my haircut, length, style, or color.  I get super bored with it super easy, and while I’m not too impulsive with much else in my life, I tend to always decide on my hair the moment I sit down in the chair and run with whatever sounds good in that second.  It’s super fun, creative, and even the worst ones aren’t permanent.

16.) I make the best… oh dear!  This is a tough one!  I’ve heard I make the best buddha bowls, and those are 100% my own creation the vast majority of the time.  I also have a knack for making Middle Eastern Irani/Jewish food… a lot of that is recipe work and spins on recipes though.  My buddha bowls are often spins on their types of spice mixes and herb combinations.  LOVE MY CUMIN, CILANTRO, AND ZA’ATAR!

17.) I have absolutely no patience for… people who slack at a paid job when there’s work to be done.  You can ask my boyfriend, he’s seen it.  I CAN’T STAND the knowledge that there’s something that needs doing, that you’re getting paid TO DO, and you’re standing around.  If you want to know how to get on my bad side, that’s one of the number one ways to do it.

18.) I always cry when… honestly I have no idea.  I’m not un-emotional by any means, but it takes a lot to make me cry typically.  The easiest answer would be when I feel emotionally attacked and as if my character as a person is being questioned.  Even then I don’t always cry, but that’s the one I’m most consistent at.

19.) I’m a morning person, completely and definitely but I still don’t go to bed before 11.  I mean, for many people that’s early too, but 98% unless I’m totally exhausted I just can’t fall asleep before then.  However, you want to know a surefire way to MAKE me fall asleep, and it’s putting me in a moving vehicle.  I don’t know why, but it can be like 3 in the afternoon and there’s something about it that makes me sleepy.  It’s SO HARD to stay awake for a 2-3 hour car ride!

20.) I spent two years… wearing glasses.  Or rather, it was around two years.  They were really just for reading and when my eyes felt tired, which between grades 10-12 was OFTEN.  AND the unfortunate thing was that this was around the same time that I had long hair and a strong affinity towards headbands, and scarves.  And then I’d tend to match my glasses TO my headbands, which resulted in an apparently old womanly look, revealed to me by my Calculus teacher who one day decided to call me “Aunt Jemima” when I was answering a question.  This doesn’t totally make sense, I just realized, because Aunt Jemima never wore glasses…

But regardless, yep.  After that day, I never wore headbands and glasses together again.

It was actually to correct an astigmatism, but miraculously about a year after graduation I went to the eye doctor because I thought I needed new glasses since the ones that I was wearing were getting so hard to see out of!  Here I thought I was blind, but the optometrist checked my vision and thought I was lying because my answers to all the lenses etc revealed 20/20 vision.  Somehow my astigmatism miraculously corrected itself!  Not complaining!  The other interesting thing is that I can often tell when I’m getting low in Magnesium (ED side effect I’ve battled on and off with) and might need some injections again, because my vision will start to go blurry just like when I needed the glasses.  Found out from the ED specialist that was a slightly rarer but blatant sign of Magnesium deficiency!  So cool!

21.) I wish… I had an unconditionally free pass to all David’s Tea.  Seriously, I spend SO much money there because I’m a tea addict and they make the best and only ones worth drinking to me.  Likewise, an equally fervent desire would be for a Starbucks where I live.  The closest one is an hour away by car, and they’re literally the only ones that make my latte’s and frappuccinos EXACTLY how I like them.  Although, I feel like if that happened I would probably spend WAY too much money there too, so perhaps it’s a good thing…

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22.) At age five, I was deeply in love with… fashion design.  I would draw the most elaborate ball gowns on construction paper (of course right in the middle of the page so you would waste a TON of paper) and then cut them out and scotch tape them to my Barbie dolls.  Two dimension was where it was at!  Then, when I was in the bathtub, I would steal all the washcloths and elastic bands, and wrap them around my Barbies while using the rest of the elastics to create intricate seaming.  You have no idea how many hours my Mom spent brushing out all of the Barbie’s hair after each bath because the water made it all tangled and knotted.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a mother’s love.

23.) I believe if people were able to cut out JUDGEMENT and ACCEPT DIVERSITY of race, age, culture, size, shape, appearance, language, opinion, and religion, the world would be a better place. Honestly, what other people do/think/say/feel, etc, is none of your business, and it’s their right and privilege as human beings to be exactly who/what/how they are.  If they’re not doing anything that causes harm to others, or things that are morally wrong, it’s not your place to judge or condemn.  Simple.

24.) I can’t stand… baths, saunas, or anything else that involves being submerged in a hot steamy place.  I don’t know why, but it makes me SO ANXIOUS, I feel like I can’t breathe, and I panic.  It is seriously THE WORST thing for me!

25.) Whenever Grey’s Anatomy is on, I watch. This is the closest I get.  For one, I BARELY watch TV… like we’re talking a max of 1-2 hours a week typically, and the idea of going more than a week without TV doesn’t phase me at all.  Honestly, I literally NEVER, even with Grey’s, watch something when it’s first airing.  I think it’s a side effect for not having cable for so long.  Even now that we do, I always just wait a day and watch it online without the ads.  Grey’s is really the only show that I will diligently watch the next morning.  Downton Abbey was kind of the same in its time too.

Hope you enjoyed learning 25 random things about me!  I’m curious to know which ones you knew already, and which ones were like, “Well, you’re special… I do mean, stop eating the paste, special.”

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:

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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

 

Guilt vs Shame Pt 1: Guilt-The Blessing in Disguise

Ciao!  I woke up this morning, and I was feeling super awesome.  Hence this selfie (I don’t do selfies…):

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This tends to happen when I know I’m going out for a morning at the cafe to write… I can’t help but get excited and bubbly.  Then I walk there whilst I listen to some solid beats on my phone, and because I’m feeling awesome I have some upbeat tunes (my walking groove that always makes its way onto the “feeling awesome” playlist) on that I can strut to.  And I coordinate my footsteps with the beat… And then I realize that I’m singing outloud and getting entirely too physical with my movements and have to tone it down because people are looking at me as if I’m having a spasm…

Uncoordination at its finest.

So I got to the cafe, and it just so happens that the best seat in the cafe is open!  Right by the open sunny window, view up the street, and in the corner so it’s private.  The awesomeness continues, and my face be like:

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AND then… my boyfriend shows up by surprise and he’s like my favourite person.  The awesomeness continues, and my face be like:

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After a visit, I get down to business, start writing, feeling good, on a roll… so on a roll that lunchtime creeps up on me, and I don’t want to stop writing so I decide to finally try that roasted mushroom sandwich with hummus that has sounded so good…

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And in making that decision, in two seconds my awesomeness went to anxiousness. Anxiousness, guilt, and shame, for being seated, in a cafe, ordering lunch when I could be up moving, or making something less intimidating for lunch at home.  All that awesomeness, shot down in an instant.  Bummer.

It’s funny how quickly emotions can shift.  How one day you can look in a mirror and see huge, and the next day it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.  How one second you can be feeling amazing, and then next second you can feel like crap.  And it’s not just those who suffer from eating disorders that experience this.  Its one of those side effects of being human: having somewhat unpredictable emotions.

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Two overriding emotions in eating disorder recovery, as well as a vast majority of mental illnesses are guilt and shame.  They act as a wall that puts an invisible, but solid barrier between us and the rest of the world.  They separate us, segregate us, and silence us.  And they take the awesomeness out of your morning in one smear of hummus…

I was listening to a podcast the other day, during one of my more anxious moments, and they were discussing one of the most talked about names in the world of self help and discovery: Brené Brown.

Undoubtably, you’ve heard of her.  Author, scholar, and speaker, she is well known for her renowned TEDtalks, and her growing collection of self-help books, among which are the bestsellers Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection.  While I can’t personally attest to their brilliance, as they’re both still on my reading list, I know many people personally who have claimed their ability to impact and change how you view the world and your place in it.

Anyways, in this podcast, they were discussing the difference between guilt and shame, and how both emotions play in when it comes to eating disorders and eating disorder recovery.  I know for me, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, as they are distinct but often intertwined.  They mentioned a quote from Brené’s book, Daring Greatly, that struck a note for me:

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.

At first glance, I didn’t agree with this at all, but mostly because of the guilt portion of the quote.  In my own experience, guilt has rarely been helpful, but rather harmful in my day to day life.

I mean, after all,  I feel guilty about eating a piece of cake, so I go for a 3 hour run the next day.  I feel guilty about eating three meals a day, so I skip my snacks.  I feel guilty about leaving university, and so I hole myself up and don’t go to family gatherings.  I feel guilty about choosing the easier yoga video instead of the longer more strenuous one, so I do an extra hour the next day, or miss another meal.

Whichever one you pick, it all leads/has lead me to the same place:  alone, lonely, sad, depressed, anxious, on my death bed…

How can an emotion that has produced so much heartache and emotion, mental, and physical deterioration possibly be adaptive or helpful?  Clearly guilt is a negative emotion, and one to be avoided at all costs!

Yeah, it appears that way at first glance.  And it’s a much easier way to look at things:  my situation is a result of my emotions.  I can blame the things that have held me back and shoved me down on my feelings.  And since we’re supposed to feel our feelings, and not stifle them, I’m completely justified in my behaviours.  Or, if I’m not completely justified in my behaviours, I am at least completely justified in why it’s taking so long and is so impossible to change them.

Except it’s not entirely true… because the emotion itself doesn’t control the behaviour.  An emotion is simply a cue as to what is going on in your internal experience.  The reality is that your situation is not a result of your emotion, but a result of your REACTION to your emotion.

So what is guilt then?  Brené kind of hit the nail on the head here:

…it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

Key: Something we’ve DONE or FAILED TO DO up against our VALUES and feeling PSYCHOLOGICAL DISCOMFORT.

Hence, this is why a most classic example of guilt shows its helpfulness and healthfulness:  You lie to your best friend, you feel guilty because it goes against your value of honesty, and the psychological discomfort you feel (AKA your conscience) pushes you to “right the wrong” in order to realign with your values.

BUT when the experience of guilt results in a harmful behaviour, such as restriction, overexercise, purging, binging, self harm, or the like, does this mean that it’s no longer helpful, healthful, or fitting with its definition?

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No.  Not at all.

I know, shocking.  But remember what guilt does: it points to how we’ve gone against or neglected our values.  So guilt in this scenario, the scenario of feeling guilty over a brownie or a hamburger, or a slice of pizza, points to a value that we must be brushing up against.  If nothing else, guilt is a great little tool to use to tell you what it is that you truly value in your life.

Now for me, the realization of guilt being helpful in this way is a new one.  And as awesome as it is that an emotion I feel a bisquillion times a day is secretly an ally of mine, it is also incredibly humbling and more than a little depressing.  Here’s the crux:

What on earth do I value so incredibly that it results in me feeling guilty about eating these “forbidden/cheat/unhealthy” foods?

Now, in my mind, there’s only a couple possible things that could actually result in food guilt:

  1. I feel guilty about the food because I fear being unhealthy.  I value having a healthy, strong, body and treating my body in the best possible way.
  2. I feel guilty about the food because I fear what the food could do to my outward appearance. I value having a beautiful/thin/fat-free/slim/toned/whatever-adjective-fits-for-you appearance.

And because the guilt is so pervasive, so all-consuming, so strong that I’m willing to push other things aside such as meaningful relationships, spending time with those who matter to me, doing the daily activities that need to get done, just to “right the wrong” and attone for my “gluttonous sins”, it really points that I value one of these things incredibly highly.  As in whatever I value takes priority as one of my chief values in life.

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And that’s where the depressing and humbling part comes in, as well as sadness and anger.  Regardless of whichever element it is (and for me I think it’s both: perfectionism and orthorexia valuing having a perfectly healthy and clean body on the inside, and the having a fat-free, slim, toned, and beautiful outward appearance), I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that I clearly value that so much more than some of the other things in my life.  Like, if it was my funeral, would I really want to be remembered as the “girl who had the perfect/healthiest body” or the “girl who took every opportunity possible to laugh”.  “The girl who put others before herself”.  “The girl who was always up for some quality time with her friends and family.”  “The girl who was not afraid to be completely real, and totally herself”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, every option sounds better than the first one.

But this realization, as sad as it is, and as infuriating as it might be, isn’t a pointer that you’re conceited, self-absorbed, trivial, or whatever other adjective that puts you down says.  The fact that you might value your physical appearance or your fat-free body quite(too) highly isn’t a death sentence.  It isn’t yet another redline through your despicable character that you’re convinced (by the eating disorder) that you have.  Because, there’s always a silver lining…

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YAY!

Okay.  So realization, confession, acceptance:

My name is Tiffany.  I hold no grudge against people who are larger.  I hold no misgivings over someone who has fat, or cellulite, and I think no less of them as a human being.  I do not believe that anyone’s outward appearance has an impact on their worthiness, worth, or value as a person, or their worthiness of love, care, compassion, or happiness.  And I would NEVER, EVER, say that I am better than anyone else based on my outward appearance.  However, for some reason, I do not hold myself up to the same standards.  I value my outward appearance highly.  I value what I physically look like too highly.  And as much as I do not judge others for how they appear, I am terrified of appearing larger, or with more fat, or less tone.  This value interferes with my life.  It gets in my way because it results in me missing opportunities and not being present in my relationships in the ways that I want to be present in them.  And because I value this so highly, it often results in me putting my outward appearance ahead of a lot of other things in my life that it should not, that I do not want it to be ahead of.

Phew.

And it angers me.  And I’m working on the acceptance part.

HOWEVER, here’s that part where I luck out at having guilt as my ally!  Guilt has helped me by pointing out what I value… let’s add to the Brené Brown quote:

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.  Guilt acts as a lighthouse guiding you home to both your true values AND your MISPLACED values.  And as a result, you can work on changing them for the better.

Mind blown.

Yes, just because you hold something as a value, doesn’t mean it needs to stay a value.  Just because it’s engrained into your psyche as something of critical importance, doesn’t mean that it’s a part of you.  Your values are not your genes: they’re not a special CATGGATC (isn’t that the four nucleotides?) sequence that can’t be altered without some fancy GMO.  If you change your values, you won’t create cancer or suddenly grow 12 arms or bananas with breasts…

I don’t even know where that came from.  Moving on…

It takes work, it takes conscious effort, and it takes immersing yourself completely in new ideas and ideals to change your values.  But it can be done.  And you’ll know when you’ve achieved it:

You’ll eat that brownie without a second thought.

You’ll go out for pizza with your friends and then eat breakfast the next day. And snack.  And lunch. And dinner.

Your burger will come with a side of fries instead of a side of guilt.

Your blessing in disguise will be your guide.