Posts Tagged With: body image

A Gift Of Freedom Gold Can’t Buy

october15     October 15th is always a day that carries with it the light and dark of so many past Octobers. It’s a day that He makes all things new, a day of beginnings, of healing, of fulfilled promises, and of learning what it means to be held.

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

-Natalie Grant “Held”

Ten years ago today I left the hospital after a two-week stay, and my Dad boarded a plane with me to Wickenburg, Arizona, where he dropped me off at an eating disorder treatment center in the middle of the desert. Even though this was just one of several places that came to be a temporary home during the roughly four years of my treatment, it was the most significant. I walked through those doors in fear, feeling as if I’d made a huge mistake in agreeing to go there, and begging my Dad not to leave without me. But during my almost 3 month stay, while I did not find an immediate cure, I did come to 3 new and very important things: hope for a life beyond my illness, a personal relationship with Jesus, and the choice to live. It had been years since I’d dreamed of living past my 20th birthday, and a life of freedom was completely incomprehensible.

I had left college two weeks before arriving in Arizona, when I finally realized that if I stayed any longer I was going to die. But being scared of dying, and choosing life are not mutually inclusive thoughts. I lingered somewhere in the middle where I could no longer handle the miserable existence I was creating for myself, but the highest my aspirations went was for an existence more manageable and just slightly less miserable.

I was devastated that my choice must include abandoning my Big Ten college volleyball team in the middle of the season and walking away from everything I had worked so hard for for years. Even though I told my coaches I’d be back in the Spring, I think I knew deep down that I had played my last game, that I was surrendering all my dreams. But I also knew that I couldn’t hope to play professionally overseas after college if I couldn’t even make it through college. And if I was really being honest with myself, playing wasn’t even fun anymore. After all, I was at that point a state and national champion, and a starter on my college team as a freshman, and I couldn’t even enjoy that because I was too busy berating myself for any imperfections. I couldn’t enjoy the sport I loved because I was too preoccupied in my own head in this other game that demanded all my attention and energy. It was devastating. And being in treatment, living amongst strangers who knew nothing of my athletic pursuits was the first time I had to actually find an identity in something other than being an athlete. I didn’t know who I was, or what my likes and dislikes were, or strengths and weaknesses outside of sports. As uncomfortable as shedding that persona was, it was time to find out who I really was, and who I was to my Creator.

grain of sand

That time in the desert was the biggest turning point of the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life- recover. Every single day was like visiting the battlefield in my civil war of one. But when I got back on a plane to head home in January, I was unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15th.

This is where the healing begins,
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark

-Tenth Avenue North “Healing Begins”

That was where my healing began. That was where His light met my dark.

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October 15th is a day of beginnings. A day to cherish life and health and new chapters, and a day of promises fulfilled.

Four years ago today I met the man that is as much of a soulmate as one can be, if that kind of thing even exists. He fulfilled a promise made to me by God. You may think that sounds silly. How could God have promised such a thing to me? I’d argue that God made promises to those in the Bible who were also just ordinary human beings, and he made promises to humanity as a whole. He’s the same God today as He was then, so why wouldn’t he still be in the business of making and fulfilling promises? If you’re curious, you can visit the link above and discover what I am referring to, but if not you’ll just have to trust me.

Nonetheless, October 15th once again was a turning point in my life. It was the first day of the best 4 years of my life thus far. I am so blessed and grateful to have a partner in life that was seemingly appointed by heaven itself. Someone who anchors me, encourages me, challenges me to grow continuously, and loves me without condition.

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October 15, 2011 found me unrecognizable from the person I was on October 15, 2005. And while October 15, 2015 carries with it my resemblance to the person from 2011, I am once again not the same. This year finds me stronger, braver, and with a bit more wisdom after a few more years under my belt.

Looking back, I can see that all along, I was being held. There were times in the Arizona desert and throughout my treatment that I felt the miraculous presence of God, receiving immediate undeniable answer to prayer, in a way in which no mere “coincidence” could provide explanation. And there were other times of prayer throughout the years when my knees hit the ground and I felt largely unheard. But some of those times, I found in His time, not mine, that he did answer after all. He always answers. We just aren’t always patient enough to listen.

One day I asked God for a sign. As I was driving, I asked Him to give me the biggest hawk I’ve ever seen as I round the next curve on that 2 lane country road. To just place one right in the middle of the road as I come around the corner, as confirmation that I was on the right path. I didn’t get my hawk that day.

image source: ejphoto.com

image source: ejphoto.com

A year and a half later I went home after taking my College Algebra final exam, evidence of tears of joy still glistening on my cheeks as I secured an A in the one subject that challenges me, and the one class I didn’t dare believe I could get through without damaging my GPA. I immediately jumped out of the car, changed shoes, and jumped on one of my horses bareback, feeling a rush of peacefulness and pure joy wash over me. I took him into the woods, and rounded a curve just beyond the mouth of the trail. I had to hold in a gasp that almost escaped my lips before I could catch it, because a dozen or so feet in front of me, perched on a branch jutting out over my path was a red-shouldered hawk- by far the biggest I’ve ever seen in person. He turned and looked at me, his steel gaze piercing right through me, and held it for what seemed like an eternity. Time stood still. He stayed for probably no more than 20 seconds, but 20 seconds in a staring contest with a bird of prey, close enough to count his feathers, while sitting atop a large animal who doesn’t want to stand still is a really long time.

It was one of those moments in my life many would chalk up to coincidence, or not even think twice about. But for me, in that moment I just knew. I knew God was finally responding in a way that He knew I would recognize. It was just an acknowledgement of what I at times have begged Him for- confirmation that I’m doing okay, that I’m moving in the right direction, that He is still holding me.

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Why do I share all this? Why do I publicly reflect on the meaning of landmark Octobers and answered prayers? Why take you back a decade to a different lifetime that seems more like memories of a movie I watched about someone else’s life, than the one I actually lived myself?

Because I feel the responsibility that comes from having known darkness, yet finding redemption. The responsibility to be a voice and an example. If one person might see this and may find hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that things really can get better then I need to be here to say it.

Because there is hope. Because you’re not alone. Because after 7 years of being recovered, I can tell you that my absolute worst day, amplified, is still worlds away from my best day with anorexia and bulimia. Because even though sometimes choosing life is the hardest thing you will ever have to do, it is worth every single second.

Maybe you’re struggling with that choice. Maybe you’ve made it but don’t even know how to start picking up the pieces. Well know this: I found my life when I laid it down. Maybe you can too.

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

image source: spiritualgym.tumblr.com

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Body, My Instrument

This was a guest post I wrote for a long-time friend, former teammate and fitness coach, Rachel Ngom, posted on her website on February 13, 2014. I wanted to share it with all of you as well!

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Do not be afraid of it, or what other peo­ple think of it. It is the great­est instru­ment you will ever own.”

–Baz Luhrmann

Jana and Rachel- 2005

Jana and Rachel- 2005

I met Rachel a decade ago (whew, time flies!) on a court of blood, sweat and tears. Ok, maybe not the blood so much, but lots of sweat, and occasional tears, plus the scent of dreams in the making. Method of choice: volleyball. We became friends at a point that was pivotal for Rachel in her pursuit of health and wellness and I was able to watch her grow and learn how to take good care of her body.

It was a pivotal time for me as well, but I was on a completely different path where my health was concerned. Rachel was one of the first people I told that I was struggling with an eating disorder. She was the first to know outside of a couple close friends from school. Despite my urging for her to keep quiet, her decision to speak up and get adults involved led to the treatment journey that eventually gave me my life back. She fought for my health back then, and now she’s still fighting for health, this time with all of you.

Today, so many messages we hear tell us we need to lose weight AT ALL COSTS. We hurt our bodies and minds in the pursuit of thin and lose the point along the way. Sometimes we even lose ourselves. The point isn’t thin, the point is health and a full life.

Rachel always emphasizes, “You must eat, even to lose weight!” And I’m  here to reinforce that today, especially with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaching February 23rd to March 1st. I didn’t eat enough for years, and I NEVER got skinny. I maintained a normal weight throughout a decade of fighting anorexia and bulimia. But on the inside, it was a different story. In my quest for thin at all costs, my internal body screamed for help. At times my kidneys showed beginning signs of failure, my cells started breaking down and releasing CO2 into my body, poisoning me from the inside as if I were sitting in a closed garage with the car engine running. Heart palpitations became normal and a random blood test showed my blood sugar level so low, I should’ve been in a coma or dead. Somehow my amazing body remained resilient and kept me alive so I can be here today to warn you of where that path leads.

For the body, depending on gender and weight, we need a minimum of 1200 calories per day just to have enough fuel to sit and do nothing! When we eat too little, our metabolism slows down to hang on to every bit of fuel it can. If you aren’t eating enough, your body doesn’t know there are fast food establishments on every corner and a fridge stocked full of food. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it voluntarily, your body will go into starvation mode. This is the nature of self-preservation.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.38.58 AM

What happens if you don’t eat enough?

  • -increased depression

  • -increased anxiety

  • -increased irritability

  • -social withdrawal

  • -problems with memory (not enough fat in the diet)

  • -decreased libido

  • -decreased concentration

  • -decreased judgment

  • -increased food preoccupation

  • -increased binging

  • -muscle loss (muscle cells break down to feed protein to the body)

The human body is truly amazing in how it heals itself and fights for self-preservation. After years of not adequately feeding myself, my body took over and fought for itself. I started sleep-eating. I would sleepwalk and eat in my sleep, with no memory of doing so. My evidence was missing food, empty containers on the counter in the morning, and sometimes remnants smeared over my face, pillow and/or clothes. Of course I’d want to compensate the following day for all the calories I ate during the night, so I’d undereat more, and the next night the cycle would start all over again. This went on for many months, sometimes several nights in a row. It drove my roommates crazy as their food disappeared and I was terrified of keeping food in the house. I was disgusted with myself and felt completely out of control. My quest for control over food and my body rendered me powerless.

In the midst of an eating disorder, I didn’t care what smoke signals my body sent me. I still thought nothing truly bad would ever happen, and even if it did, once I got “thin enough” I’d be able to stop. That’s not true at all, I wouldn’t have been able to stop. And life doesn’t magically get better because you reached your goal weight. If there are underlying mental issues, no “magic number” will cure them.

Once I healed enough in my heart and mind to be able to see things rationally I learned to see my body in a whole new light. My body is a machine. It is an instrument. It is an instrument, rather than an ornament. It’s amazing and it’s a gift and I only get one. Just like a car needs fuel and an instrument needs tuning, my body will perform when I take care of it. The more fine tuned, the more beautiful the music.

My body allows me to run, jump, play with my dogs, ride my horses, hug my parents, kiss my boyfriend, sing horribly to myself in the car, taste delicious food, remember my best friend’s birthday, and laugh. I laugh a LOT now.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.39.22 AM

In 24 hours my heart beats 103,689 times, my blood travels 168,000 miles, I breathe 23,040 times, move 750 major muscles, and exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.

How amazing. How stunning. How beautiful.

As you read this, may you remember: your body is the greatest instrument you will ever own. There is only one you, in all of history. You have talents and purpose all your own. You are not just some body, you are somebody. You are not a number, and you have a heart and mind and no scale can measure their size. Take care of your instrument. Treat it kindly. Exercise. Eat well. But don’t deprive it. It’s not a slave to be chained and controlled, it is a partner and friend to be loved and listened to. You deserve to be loved and listened to.

How do you see your body? Do you think of it as an instrument to be tuned, a partner to be loved? Or do you see it as clay to be molded and conquered?

Today I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. I love myself and I love my life! I never thought I’d find such freedom and joy regarding my body or life in general as I experience today.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.40.24 AM

Original Post:  http://www.fitwithrachel.com/body-instrument-guest-post-jana-wojcik

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Message to Women Everywhere

Image     On this relaxing Sunday, enjoying what is usually my only day off each week, I’ve found myself contemplating the sad messages women and young girls are inundated with daily in our culture. This realization is not new for me, it’s something I’ve previously thought about many times, and something that was once included in therapy years ago when I was in treatment for an eating disorder.

I consider myself lucky, for being able to gain a perspective on these messages that many other women don’t see. I’ve learned to see beneath the false veil that distorts reality, leading young girls and women to compare themselves to ideals that don’t actually exist, or to get wrapped up in obsession over a health craze or diet, because in their minds, this is the one way they have found where they can strive to measure up, to be good enough, to be thin enough.

Women are raised in today’s America to see food as bad, whether we realize it or not, whether it’s blatant or more subtle.

We learn this from our mothers, who tell us fat is bad, and critique their appearance in the mirror, lamenting over their love handles and scowling at the scale. We don’t get it. As young girls, we look at our mothers and see beauty, see perfection, see life. Our mothers teach us what it means to be women, and so we come to understand that to be a woman is to find an enemy in your body, to not be able to trust yourself, your hunger, your cravings. To be a woman is to learn to suppress those things. And unfortunately now we have little girls as young as 5 years old refusing ice cream at birthday parties because they don’t want to be “fat.” This makes my heart break.

We learn this from society, from the inundation of diet ads and commercials and billboards. We see ice cream commercials with a sexy woman dressed in lingerie is sneaking around a quiet, dark kitchen, leaning against the fridge while seductively sucking ice cream off a spoon, licking her lips in sinful satisfaction. Somewhere along the line it became a marketing scheme to equate food with sex, but as young women, deep down we begin to become ashamed of them both. As a server, I can’t tell you how many guests I have throughout the week that respond to my description of the dessert options with a comment like, “Ooh that sounds sinful.” And if it’s a woman, this remark is usually followed with, “No, thank you, I’ll pass, though it sounds wonderful.” I smile, because it’s all I can do, it’s my job, but it makes me sad. Sad, because “sinful” is hardly a reasonable response for food. Yes, the abuse of food can be turned into sin, can be used for gluttony, but one dessert after dinner on a night out hardly makes the cut.

My take is everything in moderation. I think anything taken out of moderation becomes unhealthy. Even eating healthy, eating wholesome food, becomes unhealthy when our minds obsess over it and we can’t allow ourselves a single “unhealthy” bite EVER, even if it means a whole lot of inconvenience to avoid it, or not eating at all, or if we can only allow ourselves a few bites of “junk food” if we justify it by making it sugar-free, fat-free, all-natural, then we deem it “safe.”

I get eating healthy, it’s something I’m currently striving to do more of in my own life. But when you go from making food choices to feel good about yourself and honor the instrument of your body that God gave you and owning that, to those food choices ruling you, your mind is no longer free.

I came across an article the other day that I really enjoyed. I got a chuckle out of it but also felt it was very insightful:

http://impruvism.com/clean-eating/

The blog is titled “Why ‘Clean Eating’ is a Myth.” The writer argues that yes, while foods can impact your health and performance, your body doesn’t see certain foods as “good” and others as “bad.” It’s all about calories in versus calories out, and the nutrients your body breaks your food down into. Yes certain things, like sugar, can lead to problems like diabetes, but back to my comment on moderation, this is when overconsumption comes into play. Even sugar, in moderation, is okay. You just have to eat a little here and there, not overdo it.

One thing I really liked is how it showed that different people have different ideas of what “bad” food is. Vegetarians think animal meat is bad. Vegans feel that way about all animal products. Bodybuilders stay away from milk, fruit, and white bread. The USDA cringes from saturated fat, cholesteral, red meat, etc. There were a few others listed, but you get my point, to read the full article, click on the link above. Labeling certain foods as “good” and others as “bad” rather than seeing them for their composition and taking things in moderation, is unscientific and unhealthy. I guarantee you, if you go eat a doughnut right now, you will NOT blow up into 1000 lbs., ruin your entire future, or drop dead. None of those things will happen. Now, if you went and ate 17 doughnuts, then yeah you probably just gained a pound, because you will have reached the caloric content of one pound. Again, I’m talking about moderation here. Moderate exercise can be looked at through the same lens, but that’s for another discussion.

Our media continuously throws false pictures at us, whether it’s a thoroughly photoshopped magazine cover so that the celebrity staring at us is nothing of what that individual looks like in real life, or a perfect face of a model gazing at us through the pages who doesn’t even exist. Yes, it’s been done, a selection of a set of eyebrows, a nose, a pair of eyes, all put together to grace a cover with perfection, so that women everywhere can hope they look as good as this magazine model who was just created by a man sitting at a computer.

Here’s another I just read this morning that shows one way diet products keep their industry booming, giving us skewed promises and false promises:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-dixon/weight-loss-secrets_b_3643898.html

I am not saying that people don’t have incredible transformations by working out and eating healthy, because yes, those stories are out there. But this DOES show, that with professional lighting, a different stance, some professional tan, a smile….those before and after pictures that get us hooked on a workout plan, diet pill, or other weight-loss product, can be concocted in as little as 5 minutes if you know what you’re doing. And the people that do have transformations, often other things can be involved, such as starvation diets, or cutting out entire food groups, or intense exercise other than what is pushed for whatever the product may be. Believe me, I’ve taken diet pills. I’m not proud of it. All they did was make me sick. They didn’t work because I didn’t change all these other things about what I was doing. They are a waste of money, yet I chased that ever elusive end goal. There is no miracle pill, because weight loss and gain is simply calories in and calories out. Yes, there can be foods that can help our metabolism work more efficiently, but it is never going to be some miracle, too-good-to-be-true ploy.

It saddens me that weight and how we view ourselves, our self-image is such a struggle for women, and increasingly men too. As a woman though, and a Christian woman, I’m not the least bit surprised. There is a reason the most common issue women have with themselves is their weight and their appearance. Satan knows this is our biggest weakness and he takes full advantage. It’s kind of ironic, yet not purely circumstantial, that the one thing he used to tempt Eve with in Eden was food. An apple. Food. She fell, humanity fell, because of a woman being tempted with food.

Satan hates beauty and life and his mission is to destroy it. Satan was beautiful, gorgeous, when he was the angel Lucifer. He was the most beautiful angel. And it was his downfall, he fell from grace because he became arrogant and self-centered, and he lost his beauty. So he hates women, especially, because we were created as the “beauty” of the two genders, and the life-givers. If he can keep us down, insecure, wrapped up within ourselves and focused on our bodies, then we are a lot less apt to be able to look up and look around and make a difference in this world. It’s how he keeps us in chains, in bondage. By telling us we are fat, or ugly, or not good enough. That we don’t measure up. If we don’t think we are good enough, and we don’t measure up, then we are going to hide our light, not let it shine.

So my prayer for you reading this is that you may discover your worth, your beauty, from the inside not the outside. That you may eat healthy and take care of  your body, not to measure up to Hollywood’s standards, but to respect the one body God gave you to care for and enable yourself to better live your life because of it. May you stop relying on the scale to weigh the immensity of your heart, or your jeans size to determine the width of your smile.

May you find purpose and identity because of who you are, not what you look like, for this is where true beauty is held. Know you are worth it, you are enough, you are irreplaceable, you are loved. Let your light shine, the world is a little darker without it.

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Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments