Posts Tagged With: food

Coming Full Circle

image via Shutterstock

image via Shutterstock

Food and eating is a prominent occurrence in our human lives. We come across it daily and is an unavoidable force behind life, human and otherwise. Food has held not only this inevitable prominent position in the course of my life, but a highly controversial one. For many years the kitchen symbolized more of a war zone than a place for nourishment, the path to the fridge more of a green mile than an eternal spring.

My relationship with food has covered the spectrum. I’ve been secretive, obsessive, compulsive, binged, purged, avoided, starved, refused, feared, indulged, dismissed, misunderstood, and then learned, appreciated, valued…

A very powerful realization comes when seeing the circle complete itself. For years I had an ED NOS- eating disorder not otherwise specified. I did it all. The anorexia, bulimia, over-exercising, excessive diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, even poison to make myself vomit, and more, all wrapped up into one person. I was addicted to eating, I was addicted to not eating, I was terrified of food, and I couldn’t stop.

Then I got better. I recovered. And I realized I loved food. It tasted good and I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted with no guilt or shame or a single care in the world really. I finished my meals and didn’t think anything of it until the next time I was hungry and would eat whatever I wanted all over again. I didn’t really think much of nutrition, because hey, I was young and didn’t feel any urgency to worry about it yet. I just wanted to enjoy the freedom.

The problem was, I gained a lot of weight. And ironically I didn’t even realize it because I was happier with my body and more comfortable in my skin than I could ever remember. As my mind recovered and the mental illness dissipated, I started to see my body without the skewed image distortion in the mirror, and I after gaining all that weight, I saw my reflection as smaller than what I saw with an eating disorder. When I was sick, a private session with a body image therapist in residential treatment revealed that I saw myself as 150 lbs. heavier than I actually was. I gained a ton of weight, but I hadn’t gained 150 lbs. About half that, in fact. So in the mirror, my brain processed my image as smaller than I had been for years, now that I finally saw myself clearly.

I didn’t even realize how much weight I had gained, since I hadn’t stepped on a scale since recovery, and stepped on backwards at the doctor’s office because I didn’t want to know, nor care. I figured, what good would it do? But after accidentally seeing my weight and vitals written on a printed invoice after leaving a regular check-up one day a few years ago, I realized if I didn’t change things, I’d be headed for big trouble with my health. I had no idea it had gotten so bad.

I started paying a little bit of attention when I ate, and stopped getting fast food every single day, and things slowly started reversing. But it still took a few years for me to really commit mentally and find the motivation to dig in and do better.

Reaching that point is amazing. Granted, it’s an imperfect process, but so what? That’s what this is all about. Learning and improving and just enjoying taking care of oneself. I can’t believe the passion I am gaining for good, whole food. I can’t stop reading about the effects of sugar on the body, and the science behind it, or the same with gluten, or what is really driving heart disease and cancer and how badly we Americans lack omega 3’s in our diet to help fight these problems.

 

image via Consumers Health Forum of Australia

image via Consumers Health Forum of Australia

This is full circle. Finding the place where I am happy and comfortable in my skin, and also aware. Where I can check my weight without any emotional attachment, to track progress along the way to figuring out true health. I try to get in extra exercise most days (about 30 mins.) to keep my heart and muscles strong, but beyond that I am not a slave to the treadmill or a gym rat, and I have an active job where I walk all day long so that’s enough. I know when to lay on the couch and veg out and that it’s okay to do that too. I don’t need miracle formulas or calorie counting, but rather the understanding of real food vs. processed food, of what my body needs in a day, and the eye to estimate portion sizes. I’m finding simplicity in lowering refined sugar and refined flour and multiplying vegetables in my diet. I’ve found a passion for cooking and planting and creating nourishment with my own hands, and am excited at learning more about what these creations actually do after they are put in my mouth. Most importantly, I can tell that even doing this imperfectly, while I’m still learning, I have so much more energy and a better mood. I just plain feel better. Food is supposed to give you energy and make you feel good, not make you feel like you need to take a nap or give you headaches.

I love my life. I really do. And this is just the next step in learning how to take care of myself, learning to thrive, and giving myself my best chance each day.

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**If you struggle with food and your body, an eating disorder, or just aren’t very happy with yourself… just know that doesn’t have to last forever. Change is possible, freedom is possible. You, too, can find peace from the inside out, a truce and partnership with your body in place of war. But it starts within, it starts with knowing your worth-something no scale can measure.

 

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Categories: Mental Health and Recovery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

beyoutiful

Dear Rachel,

I didn’t even know who you are until yesterday, when your name blew up social media in response to the Biggest Loser finale. I don’t watch the show. I think the show stands for a lot of good, for the war on obesity in this country. But I also think the extreme approach, borderline torturous style of exercise, and inevitable shaming when a contestant is not working hard enough or losing quickly enough, isn’t the healthiest way to do it. I think it’s dangerous. I know the show has medical staff constantly present along the way, but I’m speaking of dangers mentally as well. And I’m sad that this show has been such a big source of entertainment for 15 years, because while on the surface it provides inspiration against the obesity problem and gives people at home the hope that they too can get their lives back, it points to a much larger problem- the American relationship to food, one of extremes. We have fast food establishments on every corner and eat ourselves to death. We have 24 million people in this country with eating disorders (the biggest killer of all mental illness), and 4 out of 5 women unhappy with their bodies. We have a booming diet industry with a revenue of $20 billion per year. We are killing ourselves with food, whether in one extreme or the other, while we sit on our butts on the couch and watch a TV show of other people going from one extreme to the other in a competition for $250,000.

I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. If I’ve learned anything from my decade long struggle and several years in and out of hospitals and rehab and therapy, it’s that our problem with food is just the visible symptom of a much larger issue, one of the heart. Eating well and exercising will make our bodies healthy, but not our minds. And I think there needs to be more TV shows addressing the underlying problem and changing the way we Americans think about food and our bodies.

That being said, obviously social media has exploded with the talk of you being anorexic, and with discussion picking apart every aspect of your journey and appearance. There are even pro-eating disorder sites with young teenagers praising you for your “sagging knees” and looking to you as their starvation thinspiration, saying they want to be just like you.

I don’t ever want to look at someone and assume they have an eating disorder. There is more to it than appearance. The vast majority of the time I spent sick I was at a normal weight. You can’t always look at someone and tell, and I so desperately want to give you the benefit of the doubt to slow the cracking of the break in my heart upon seeing your pictures and video of the finale. I think, maybe you really are just being healthy and trying to eat right and find a balance as you claim. And maybe you’ll gain some weight back now that the finale is over, now that you’ve secured the win for $250,000. Maybe you’ve been able to heal the mind that led you to become overweight to begin with over these past months.

I hope so.

But just in case….

I may not want to make assumptions on your mental state, but what I can say are the things concrete. I know the audience cheered, but then gasped, during your reveal. I know the looks on trainers Jillian Michaels’ and Bob Harper’s faces spoke more of horror and concern than celebration. I know your BMI is below what is considered healthy for your body. I know nutrition experts have noted physical signs of dehydration. I know people watching the finale had to look away, or shed a tear, while you were on stage. Many people say you just look sick, and that NBC should never have allowed this to happen.

If this is all due to your body desperately trying to adjust itself after such an extreme loss of weight in such a short time, then what I want to tell you will just serve as a positive reminder while you go through these changes.

But if there is more, if you have found yourself on a slippery slope, one where dieting leads to eating disorder as it does in so many cases. If you aren’t as free and happy and confident as you claim. If you feel like all your joy in life is now wrapped up in being thin, and that everything will be better if you’re skinny. If you find yourself obsessing over the weight and the reflection in the mirror. And if you think for a second, ever, that you need to lose more than you have already….. I want you to know:

“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

You are not a number. You are somebody, not some body. The number on the scale can never define you or the worth that is inherently yours. You are a soul and a heart and your body is only what gets you from point A to point B. Take care of it, it’s the only one you will ever get. It is a gift from God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the devil uses our bodies against us, makes us hate them. If we are constantly looking at ourselves, we aren’t much use out there in the world. If we shrink all our energy in, we can’t shine outward and make a difference for others. You now have a platform and with it an opportunity to be a positive influence to women and men of all ages and sizes, and with that comes great responsibility.

I’m sorry that we use your weight loss journey as our entertainment. I’m sorry that we’ve sold you the lie that if you just lose weight everything will be great, with the promise of a quarter of a million dollars and the fame that comes with being a winner of a reality show. I’m sorry that we fellow humans failed you, that something wasn’t done sooner. I’m sorry for the culture that we live in that tells you if you’re fat you should lose the weight at all costs, the same culture that celebrates thin as if it is a goddess that will teach us how not to need.

You said at the finale that you know now you can take control, and do anything you want. But control is where eating disorders thrive. It’s not about controlling your body, it’s about partnering with it. It’s about a loving relationship with your self and your own body, one where it can be honest and tell you when it’s hungry and what it needs and you can tenderly respond, helping it to grow healthy and strong. There is no master and slave, but instead a close friendship. When this relationship is working, you will have a glow on your cheeks and a light that shines from behind your eyes.

You are worth it. You are enough. You matter. Not because of your weight or what you look like, but because you, Rachel, are beautiful. You are made in the image of God, a Father who knew your name at the dawn of time, knows every hair on your head, and has all your days written in his book before a single one happens. You are loved, beyond what you can begin to fathom.

If you have slid down that dieting slope into eating disorder, there is no shame. There is no blame. There is only a need for each other, for fellow human beings that can lift you up again. You said, “You learned you can ask for help.” That’s still true. It was true at the beginning of the Biggest Loser and it’s still true now. Secrets keep you sick, but letting other people in is the first step to pulling yourself back up.

Rachel, if you are struggling, there is more help available. There is hope that you can truly find the balance you say you’re looking for, that you can truly find joy. I hope you find both. I hope you can embrace your worth because of who you are, not because of what you see in the mirror, and I hope you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you.”

I think it’s obvious that a lot of people want to see you be happy, want to see you rise above the prison of food and weight, no matter the size of the bars. You can do it. I’m rooting for you. We all are.

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