Posts Tagged With: health

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

A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

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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

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

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Today is the last day of eating disorder awareness week 2013, and before it passed, I wanted to do my own small part for that awareness. We’ve all heard the term “eating disorder” but that doesn’t mean we all know what it really means, and even fewer actually understand it. Some may think eating disorders are about self-centered, vain girls and young women that just want to be skinny, think they have it bad in life, and are oblivious to what goes on in the world around them. The truth is, that obsession with food and weight are a coping mechanism to deal with, avoid, and distance oneself from painful emotions and experiences. It can be the one thing a person may feel like they have control of in their lives, being what they put in their mouth. But the problem is, they lose all control, and the disease takes control of them in turn. People use drinking, smoking, cleaning…many different things to cope with life circumstances, but many of these coping mechanisms are seen as societal norms and are even idealized and celebrated at times. A 21 year old going out drinking each night doesn’t seem all that odd, but a 21 year old starving themselves is a lot less understood.

The worst part about having an eating disorder is how it takes over absolutely every single aspect of your life and your being. It consumes your identity. You lose who you are, you eventually forget what your likes and dislikes are, what your passions are…you lose everything. You end up pushing away anyone and everyone that cares about you. You lose the possibility of accomplishing your dreams, and eventually the ability to dream at all because all you can think about every moment of the day is how you look or how people view you or how many calories you are burning or what the number on the scale was that morning, that afternoon, one hour ago. It’s all that matters anymore. It is a monster inside your own mind that grows and grows and fights for all control. It’s like a demon inside you that takes your spirit and crushes it without any care for the person you used to be, were created to be. A civil war of one.

But today I want to tell those struggling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Healing is available. Redemption is possible. Full freedom is reachable!

I know this because I’m living proof. I struggled with eating disordered behaviors, anorexia and bulimia, for nearly a decade, and now have been fully recovered for almost 4 years. Fully as in, it’s not even a passing thought through my mind. Fully as in, I can eating whatever I want and enjoy it and not think twice about it. Fully as in, I look in the mirror and just see me, not extra fat, not anything disgusting or gross. I just see my reflection and then I turn and walk away and carry on with my day. Fully as in, I can deal with stress as it comes, with the frustration and bumps in the road in daily life and just deal with it, rather than let it overwhelm me and cower to it. Fully as in, I’m free.

It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, recovering from your eating disorder. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. But all the therapy, and all the pain, and all the treatment and hardship, it was all worth it. I got my life back. And you can too. And I promise you, it will be worth it!

“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

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