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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: What is hunger/fullness?

February 27, 2013

This post is a part of a series I am doing this week for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. While I am currently in graduate school for mental health counseling, these blog posts are my own opinions, and should not be used in lieu of counseling or therapy. While I have struggled with eating disorders myself and have done a lot of research, I am neither an expert nor a healthcare professional.

When I was struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, I can honestly say that I had no idea what “hunger” or “fullness” actually felt like in my body. The eating disorder scaffold I had created around my life and my eating did not allow for any deviations from what I cognitively thought my body needed. In diet books, diet testimonies, and in using food to alleviate my pain, there was no concentration or emphasis on actual hunger or actual fullness. The books I read told me to eat a certain amount at certain times, and that once I did that, I would be totally fine and I shouldn’t feel anything else toward food, emotionally or physically. Diets told me exactly how to live, which was safe during the times I did not believe that I could trust myself.

However, the problem with diets is that they do not actually know your body. They MAY know something about some statistic of bodies, or they may know something about the author’s body. But in reality, diets do not know when YOU get hungry or when YOU get full. They have no idea how much food YOU need to eat in order to maintain your sense of satiation and contentment. Diets, like the scale in my previous post, are mechanical beings that we use to tell us who we are and how we can act.

In a way, diets and scales are easy tools to use to live our lives. If we look externally to machines and inanimate objects to tell us who we are and how we should continue living, then there is no need to go inward and feel emotions that are scary or to deal with any pain we might have. We also don’t have to make decisions that are wide open, grey, and scary; we simply make decisions that “should” work. When those pre-packaged decisions don’t work for us, it is easy to self-blame and shame, which as I know from eating disorders, is a familiar and safer path than making decisions we think could work, but fail in the end.

It is radical to listen to your body’s cues of hunger and fullness. You become radical when you decide to stop listening to what you “should” do and who you “should” be, but instead decide for yourself what your body needs and when your body needs it. Physical hunger looks a lot of different ways and has a lot of different feelings for people. Some people describe feeling pangs in their stomach, growling, cravings, tiredness, headaches, or physical emptiness. Likewise, physical fullness looks and feels different for different people: when the hunger goes away, a pit in the middle of the stomach, or a feeling that food just won’t taste good anymore. I believe that everyone experiences hunger and fullness differently, and that at some points in our lives we live in a way in which we are more hungry at times or more full at times, either because our body needs it or because we are trying to cope with something. Either way, it takes a lot of experimenting, struggling, and trial and error to see what your body (and mind) needs at any particular time period.

For me, hunger and fullness can change with different seasons of my life. For example, right now I am overloading credits in graduate school due to a pre-requisite necessity, and I work a part time job. I don’t have much time to do my usual regular exercise routine, and I also don’t have time to buy or prepare a lot of homemade nutritious meals (which, if you know me, I don’t really enjoy cooking in general, even if I’m not busy). My hunger and fullness preferences and feelings have changed this quarter because I am eating different types of foods, and I am often eating while checking my email so that I can be productive. I know that this phase will not last forever, nor is it healthy for me to last much longer than this quarter. Sometimes I zone out and eat too much and sometimes I zone out and eat too little because I forget. For me, I am still living within my hunger/fullness boundaries because I am taking care of myself as best I can, and I continue to check in on what my body needs, either physically or emotionally.

I know that this post does not give much clarity. I am not saying hunger feels exactly a certain way and you should DEFINITELY eat then. I’m also not saying fullness feels exactly a certain way and that you should DEFINITELY stop eating then. Hunger and fullness are physical sensations that are unique to every body and person, and they are not separated from emotional needs. Sometimes your body will need more, and sometimes your body will need less, and that can take a long time to figure out. I do want to give you some hope though, that finding this balance and this place of being in relationship with your body rather than demanding what it should do is much more rewarding, beautiful, and satisfying than any diet will ever be. I acknowledge that it is scary to discover, and for me it took years to figure out, and my hunger/fullness levels that I need and the amount of food I eat is constantly changing due to my life circumstances. Be patient! It’s worth it.

 

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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Short Post on Why I Don’t Weigh Myself

February 26, 2013

This post is a part of a series I am doing this week for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. While I am currently in graduate school for mental health counseling, these blog posts are my own opinions, and should not be used in lieu of counseling or therapy. While I have struggled with eating disorders myself and have done a lot of research, I am neither an expert nor a healthcare professional.

Hi everyone. Tonight I have got to write a shorter post due to graduate school issues, and also because even though I love writing during the week, we all can’t forget the lesson that TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES is important. So, I’ll be watching TV and snoozing away pretty soon after this post.

That being said, I’d like to talk about my decision to not weigh myself as a part of my recovery process. I think that whether you have anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, EDNOS, or you have a poor relationship with your body and body image, weighing yourself can be detrimental to your happiness, progress, and overall health.

When I was 14 years old and anorexic, I stepped on the scale at least three times a day. I would go to my parent’s closet where the scale was, and I would step on after eating, after exercising, or even after I had just been sitting on the couch for five minutes. The number on the scale told me whether or not I was okay for that day or that moment. The scale had the power to tell me whether or not I had done a good enough job, whether or not I was in enough control, and whether or not I could still be considered a good person. I was so obsessed with that scale that a .1 of a difference could throw me into a tailspin of needing to control my calories and exercising more, just so I could keep the scale going in the direction I wanted it to go.

One therapist suggested to me that I simply don’t step on the scale anymore. If I did not even engage with the scale, then there was no way it could tell me something terrible about myself. For so long I had been asking a number in a machine what my worth was as a person.

I decided to try it, which is a testament in of itself because when you trust something for so long to tell you who you are, it is not easy to give up. I stopped weighing myself at home,  I asked my doctor to no longer tell me my weight, and I opted to turn around on the scale at her office. For the next few months it was an incredible challenge to not look at the nurse’s charts when she left the room, or not to go into my parents bedroom to find that scale. Those numbers were so important to me that I tried to sneak a few weigh-ins. I learned quickly that as soon as I weighed myself I immediately felt worse, and I realized that not weighing myself freed up so much thinking and time in my day so that I could focus on developing who I was rather than relying on a scale to do that for me.

My story is an extreme example with a relationship with a scale, but I see so many women constantly talking about their weights, stepping on the scale at the gym, and starving themselves for a day when the scale jumps up a few pounds. The practical  problem with scales is that they are not always reliable (they mess up too), and that simply drinking more water than usual can affect your weight. Whether or not you’ve had a good poo that day will affect that number! You can’t manipulate every part of your day simply to please the scale, which may be wrong in the first place. And with so many women (and men) stepping on the scale and having even just a mini freak out and guilt-fest, there’s something wrong with our relationships with this machine THAT ONLY SPITS OUT A NUMBER.

I have not weighed myself in 7 years. I could maybe guess what I weigh, but I have no idea if I’d be anywhere close. I think that I am at a point where if I did know my weight I would not be devastated or have strong emotions about it, but for me I choose not to chance it. Until the scale becomes a simple machine in society without such loaded value, then I don’t think I can ever know my weight. And it doesn’t really matter that I know my weight because it’s JUST A NUMBER. I’ll let my doctor worry about that number for medication amounts or whatever he/she needs it for.

If the number on a scale carries so much value for you that an entire hour or day can be ruined, then my suggestion is to stop weighing yourself for a little while. See how much more time you have on your hands without thinking about your weight or how you will manipulate it. Let your hunger and fullness decide what you need to eat next, because no scale actually knows you or what you need. I don’t know if not weighing yourself will work for you the way it did for me, but not knowing my weight has given me freedom to focus on developing a relationship with myself, rather than developing a relationship with an inanimate machine.

Marilyn Wann, a wonderful fat activist and author of one of my favorite books Fat!So? has developed what is called a Yay! Scale. You should totally check them out if you haven’t seen one before. She makes them, but you can also create your own by replacing the numbers with positive and affirming words about yourself. Pretty cool idea.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2013: Binge Eating Disorder (it’s not just a “willpower” thing)

February 25, 2013

This post is a part of a series I am doing this week for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. While I am currently in graduate school for mental health counseling, these blog posts are my own opinions, and should not be used in lieu of counseling or therapy. While I have struggled with eating disorders myself and have done a lot of research, I am neither an expert nor a healthcare professional.

Wow, I can’t believe my last post was a whole year ago, and it was during this week. A quick update for those of you who don’t know: I’m currently in graduate school, I love it, and I’m really busy. While these posts may be difficult for me to write this week given that I am coming to the last few weeks of the quarter, it is important for me to write during NEDAW and I’m glad to be back to a bit of blogging.

I’d like to start my first post of the week by talking about Binge Eating Disorder (BED) especially because it is finally being added to the newest addition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which comes out in May. Why BED has not been there before  blows my mind, considering that it seems to be one of the most prevalent eating disorders, but the purpose of this post isn’t to get all social justice-y angry (you can read earlier posts if you’d like some of that).

There are a lot of misconceptions about Binge Eating Disorder. I’ve heard some people say it is not really disorder, and that people should just “watch what they eat” and they will be fine. I have heard people say that all fat people have BED, or that all people with BED are fat. I’ve seen a lot of books that tell you they have the “overeating cure” which usually boils down to another diet that doesn’t work. When I start talking about BED to other people, I get confused because people try to joke around with me saying, “hah! I binge all the time! I TOTALLY have that. I LOVE cookies.” The thing is, BED is not something to be taken lightly, or something that everyone has. Overeating sometimes is not BED.

BED is close to my heart, because although anorexia was the disease that sent me to the hospital and almost killed me, binge eating seems like the disorder I have always carried with me, starting in elementary school where I would steal a whole box of Honey Buns from the pantry, sneak them to the basement, and devour them one by one.  Anorexia became a temporary (well, 3 year) fix to something I always believed about myself: that I would never be able to control what I ate, and because of that fact I was a terrible, horrible person.

I’d like to share my experiences with BED for a few reasons: first, I want to share what I went through so that those still struggling know that they are not alone, and that there is hope for recovery (even if you do think your binges are the WORST). And second, I want to show those who have no idea what BED is like how devastating and dark it can be, so that the misconceptions stated above can’t grab hold when BED so desperately needs awareness and compassion.

Like I said, I believe that BED started for me when I was in elementary school. For some reason I went through a lot during that time, feeling very depressed, unheard, and unappreciated. I was told by many peers that I was fat, or that I was “undateable” because I was fat (I know, dating in 5th grade, please), and that I should be compared to a cow because that’s how large I was. The funny, or ironic, part about this time is that I really wasn’t fat. Not that it matters because bullying is ALWAYS unacceptable. But with the teasing, I truly came to believe that I was less-than because of my body size. There are a lot of reasons I probably started eating: to cope with the comments, to feel something good when I felt so bad, to hide and become more invisible so I could escape the comments, or so that I could become more visible when I felt so ignored. I didn’t really have a good sense of what was going on then, but what I knew was that I always felt empty, and I tried desperately to fill that hole with food.

In middle school, the harassment and comments about my weight died down, but the damage was done. I already felt like nobody could ever really like me because I was  too fat. I had one best friend who was my rock in sixth and seventh grade (thanks L) but I was so incredibly shy and scared  that I ceased to talk to anyone I thought could hurt me, which was almost everyone. I knew that I was fat, and because I was fat I was a bad, unlovable, and stupid person, and therefore no one could ever really like me. The shame cycle continued when I went home after school and tried to squash my feelings of self-hatred with any food we had in the pantry. Breakfast and night time were the hardest, and while I’m not an alcoholic, from what I’ve heard it seems similar: I needed a binge at night to zone out from a terrible, self-loathing day, and I needed a binge in the morning because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the day ahead of me. And throughout the day I was so ashamed of bingeing that I would binge some more just to get away from the shame.

Anorexia, for me, was a way to prove to myself that I was not a bad person because I could control what I ate. The whole three years of me in and out of the hospital with anorexia, and constantly seeing therapists, nutritionists and psychiatrists just so I could keep my heart rate above 35 beats per minute was in part because I believed that if I ate too much I would spin out of control again and become a terrible, disgusting, horrible person. Ironically, when I “recovered” from anorexia, I did spin out of control and I did binge all day.

A day for me, at my worst, looked like this (possible trigger warning for those currently struggling). I woke up immediately ashamed of my body, the binge the night before, and what that meant about me as a person. I started my self-talk, mantras, and my attempts to be “good” for a day, saying “I’m an idiot for last night. How could I do that to myself? I will only eat 800 calories today. I should not need more than that because of yesterday. I will only eat fruits and vegetables and healthy items. No ice cream. I can do this.”  I would eat a bowl of cereal, usually Special K, and told myself that I had to stop there. That bowl was never enough, and sometimes I would have one or three more, despite my plan. I packed my lunch the night before, and during my free period at school, at 9:30 or 10:00 am, I would eat it all, trying to convince myself that I was hungry and that I wouldn’t eat until dinner that night. Then the lunch period would come and I couldn’t handle my loneliness, so I would buy a huge bag of pretzels and some peanut butter from the cafeteria. By this time I HATED everything about myself, and there was no way I could convince myself that I was still “good.” I was bad, and bad people fuck everything up, and if I fucked everything up already, who cared if I ate so much? I would buy a  2 packs of M&M’s. Sometimes I skipped my afternoon classes to go to the bagel shop and get a huge bagel with cream cheese, and then stop by Jamba Juice for a huge smoothie. At night I would eat dinner, but after dinner was when there was no semblance of control. I literally could not stop after three Clif Bars, three yogurts, a plate of leftover dinner, half a pint of ice cream, and two packs of pop tarts. My binges always took place by myself, and I could never let anyone know what was going on. My parents knew that I was bingeing, but I would wait until they went to bed. Considering the stigma that comes with overeating or being fat (when the two are not really related), there was no way I could let anyone into my world. It would be elementary school all over again.

A lot of people don’t understand that I never really tasted any of the food I ate. People think that the food just really tastes so good and that’s why bingeing is hard to stop. But for me, binge eating was not about tasting or enjoying food. It was about numbing myself out to the pain I was experiencing, and destroying the awful and terrible person I believed myself to be. There is no enjoyment to that.

For someone who has never felt it, the shame and self-loathing that comes with binge eating is devastating and unimaginable. A lot of people think that if someone with BED just develops different coping skills, or just pushes away the plate, or just stop feeling ashamed. The problem, as we have learned with all eating disorders is the “just do this” attitude. And the problem with our society is that we believe that being fat is something that is easily controlled, and that if people just had enough willpower, or “just do this” juice, then everyone would be okay. However, the deep wounds, cuts, and scars that are created from such self-loathing and shame are never healed by a simple fix. Eating 5 servings of vegetables per day will not mend years of deep bleeding inside.

Help IS out there, and I am proof that you can heal from BED. I, like everyone, overeat sometimes. I also know when I am hungry, and when I am full. I taste food, and I am not afraid of derailing my day with one extra bowl of cereal. Recovery doesn’t come from mere “willpower” in my opinion, and it takes time.

If you want some book ideas, here are some that I found helpful:

  • Eating in the Light of the Moon, Anita Johnston
  • Don’t Diet, Live It!, Marcus and Lobue
  • When Food is Love, Geneen Roth
  • When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, Hirschmann and Munter

Please comment here! I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss more. Also, let me know what you would like to learn/hear about during this week. I have ideas, but I want to know what would be important for others to know.

 

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Seven. LOVE.

March 4, 2012

Today is the final day of my National Eating Disorders Awareness Week series here on this blog. It has been a joy to write this week and to have all of you read. If you have any questions or suggestions for future posts, please do not hesitate to comment below!

If you read about one thing this week on my blog, or if you took one thing in, I honestly hope it is this.

One of the most powerful quotes I have ever read was from one of Geneen Roth’s books titled When Food is Love. She says “Love and compulsion cannot coexist.” Basically, if you are feeling terrible about yourself, your body, or your food choices, there is no room for love.

Do you know what that means? There can be no love when there is obsession. I’m pretty sure you can’t live in love if you are constantly thinking about how you aren’t good enough. You know, a lot of people think they will fall in love or find love, or love themselves if they just lose weight (or get perfect grades or get the perfect job or have a lot of money, etc.). And in my personal opinion, I think we are moving throughout our lives and making decisions in order to find love. Love, to me, is the point of living life. I don’t just mean “falling” in love with a person, but living in love.

But here’s the deal: Love doesn’t come in a package after you lose weight or get something that society seems worthy. You may be proud, or esteemed, or popular, but none of those things are actually what you’re heart is yearning for. In my opinion, love comes before any of that. The love part is what you work at. Not all of that other shit that everyone thinks is important.

Right now, right this second, you are deserving and worthy of love. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday, how much you ate today, what job you have, what your past was like. You are worthy and deserving of love because you are a human being. You are alive, and you therefore deserve love.

During my first post, I told you all that I decided to bust my ass that second time in therapy. What that means is that I didn’t follow a step by step program, or follow a certain path to “recovery,” but that I did the extremely difficult work of love. You may have noticed that I haven’t given you a concrete definition or even what loving yourself looks like. That’s because there isn’t a picture of it that is the same for everyone. For me, loving myself meant buying new clothes in my size, constantly telling myself that I was pretty and deserving, and appreciating all of my personality traits and weird quirks. It meant touching every lump and bump in my body and speaking a kind and loving word to it. It meant writing on my mirror (and it’s still there in my childhood room): ‘The most BEAUTIFUL girl in the world.”

I also think that the love thing is one of the hardest principles of recovery, and life, to keep up. There are so many people, advertisements, and societal rules that tell you it’s not okay to love yourself, because there is always improving to do. Which is bullshit.

So, what I do is continue to think daily about what it means to love myself. Maybe it means sleeping all day (which is basically what I did today). Maybe it means doing my make up differently. Maybe it means taking an extra fifteen minutes in the shower. Or not doing all of my homework. Maybe it means getting all of my stuff done early because I know I will enjoy the difficulty and pride that comes with it. Or maybe it means waiting till the last minute. There are so many concrete things that can go into loving who you are and being loving toward yourself, but there is no concrete way that it looks to anyone one person. Every person is a human being and deserving of love, but every person is also a completely unique and different human being. Love is different and looks different to everyone.

So, the reason I put “love love love” at the end of a lot of my posts is because love is the true thing that helped me recover and which also allows me to actually live my life with joy and integrity. Love is the purpose to my life and why I continue to do the things I do.

That being said: love love love.

Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, everyone.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Six. Your Life Story

March 3, 2012

This post is a part of a week-long series during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Today I’d like to talk about one of the most essential parts of recovering from an eating disorder, as well as understanding yourself and your behaviors in general. Your life story, including all of your beliefs, accomplishments, messages you’ve received, and the relationships you’ve had are so important to acknowledge and understand in order to see where you are and where you want to go.

When I was in the hospital the first time for only a week, I was given a huge binder with a bunch of recovery tools that I was supposedly going to use when I actually stayed for the entire program. If you missed day one, you probably missed that I left the hospital at that young age of 14 because I convinced my parents that I didn’t have a problem, and I therefore didn’t do anything in the notebook. I was encouraged to start on my “Life Story,” which was just a whole section in the binder with lined paper. Being 14, and also having no other direction than writing my story, I wrote down what I thought “counted” as a good life story.

It went something like this: “My name is Chelsea Rowan, and I am fourteen years old. I have a twin brother. I grew up in Boulder, CO, and I rode horses and played basketball all of my life. Now I’m in a fucking hospital and I don’t know why.”

I had no idea how in the world this was supposed to help my recovery until I finally went to therapy with T, the psychotherapist I have mentioned in earlier posts. You see, all of the things I wrote above were facts about my life, but each fact also had so many meanings, messages, and feelings attached to it.

I love my twin brother and he is one of my best friends in the whole wide world, but having him in my life also meant I was always competing. Also, because I am a girl, I grew physically much faster than he did, making me at least a head taller and quite a bit wider than him for quite awhile. I can now talk to him about everything in my life, but the insecurities, comparisons, and difference we had growing up was difficult.

I grew up in Boulder, CO, which is one of the fittest cities in the United States. Some of the best marathoners and triathletes live there, and you can’t go a day without seeing at least ten bikers/runners on the road. And with my developing body, my hatred for running and exercise (unless it was basketball or horse back riding) made me feel absolutely inferior and strange in that town. I eventually joined Cross Country in high school and lost a bunch of weight mainly so I could fit in. I’m still trying to decide if I actually like to run.

I come from a family, on both sides, full of addictions and mental health disorders. I see alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression a lot.

A lot of my recovery has been to go through each of the facts of my life and process what it meant to me and what it taught me, whether true or not. I wasn’t actually inferior, but maybe some of Boulder taught me that. I wasn’t actually compared to my brother, but I sure as hell felt like I was inferior there as well. A lot of the relationships I had throughout my life weren’t healthy ones, starting in elementary school, and I never really got into what those relationships taught me (again, whether true or not) until I went more into recovery. All of the messages I received based on where I have grown up as well as my social position in society as a white, straight, female affected the growth and development of my eating disorder, and recreating “truth” for myself was how I finally escaped. Everything we believe about ourselves comes from our experiences, but those beliefs are simply that as well: just beliefs. Just stories. The stories we choose to tell about ourselves are the ones that come true in the end.

So, my challenge for you is to consider your life story. Consider all of your relationships with your parents, family members, and friends. Consider where you grew up, what was expected of you, and what you were “supposed” to do. All of these things will help you discover why you do the things you do. But also, don’t be afraid to write your own story. I literally felt inferior to everyone around me growing up. Anyone from my high school can tell you that I was very shy, and often turned bright red when I had to speak. I always felt like I had to say the right thing, and that I was inherently inferior.

Anyone from my college can tell you that they can’t believe I was the girl with bangs in my eyes never saying anything. They might also tell you I’m funny. They might also tell you I’m a bitchy feminist who won’t shut up. Who knows? The point is that I changed how I saw myself because I was able to acknowledge and see all of the fucked up ways I saw myself before.

Tomorrow I will be writing the final post to this series. I know I’m a day behind, and I sincerely apologize for that. BUT I promise tomorrow’s post will blow your socks off.

Love love love.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Five. “Fat” is NOT a feeling.

March 2, 2012

This post is a part of a week long series dedicated to the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. If you have any suggestions, comments, or questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Hi everyone! Apologies on this late post, but here’s the bright side: you get TWO awesome posts today! I’m currently in Portland interviewing for graduate school at Lewis and Clark, and I met some crazy rad people last night. After a few beers, I didn’t feel like I could give you all a good (and coherent post). So I’m sorry!

But, this morning I’d like to talk about feelings, and especially a particular feeling that I like to call “I’m focusing all of experiences and discomfort into one thing that I can (technically) control: FAT” Note: I was trying to come up with an acronym for FAT that would essentially embody the above, however acronyms are not really my strong point. So, enjoy that feeling.

Seriously though. How many women have you heard say “I feel so fat right now.”? Maybe it’s more common among those who have eating disorders or body image issues, but then again, isn’t that almost every woman? I won’t lie either. My poor boyfriend is often the one who has to hear me say these words at the end of the day when I come home from work. In fact, the other day he walked into a practical wall of word vomit of feelings: “I was so bored at work and I feel like I’m dying for eight hours, why don’t they give me more work? I hate driving that far I’m so tired and I feel fat. I didn’t workout and I feel fat.”

He  met me with: “Ummmm, what?”

At the end of our conversation he told me something that gave me a new angle on this “feeling fat” thing. He said “I don’t really know what to say to you when you wrap up everything into one big problem. You feel disappointed in work and then you “feel fat?” What do I say to that? You’re pretty, and at least you’re getting paid? I don’t really get it.”

You see, here’s what happens when you start saying “I feel fat.” You are putting all of the feelings that you think you can’t control into one thing that you possibly can control. Losing weight becomes the solution to all of your problems, because you have put all of your problems into the “fat” basket. Rather than sitting with my feelings of exhaustion, disappointment, and sadness (which are all intangible and complex), I decided to make everything simple: I just needed to lose weight and then I’ll be fine again.

If you look back at that last sentence, and really think about it, you can see how fucked up that is. I mean honestly, how is losing some weight going to automatically solve all of your problems? Sure, a lot of diet companies and commercials like to create the illusion of the perfect life after weight loss…but really? How does a loss of ten pounds from your body help you sift through complex feelings and problems? I’m just not sure how a physical change in your body automatically makes everything going on in your life simple and easy.

Here’s the point of this post: You can’t actually feel “fat.” You can be fat. You can physically feel full.  But feeling fat is actually a sign that something else is going on and that maybe you want to pay attention. Because I promise you that losing weight won’t fix anything.

What would you be thinking about if you weren’t thinking about food/weight/body image?

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Four. Food is NOT a Moral Issue

February 29, 2012

This post is a part of a weeklong series dedicated to National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. If you have any requests, comments, or questions, don’t hesitate to let me know on here! Again, I reserve the right to publish anything that isn’t perfect.

Today I would like to talk about an idea that I think is important to everyone. This post isn’t just for those with eating disorders or those just curious about eating disorders, or those just wanting to help a friend. It’s for all of us who eat (which is pretty much the majority of us…just saying).

Here’s the premise: Food is not (or SHOULD NOT be) a moral issue.

Let me explain.

How many times have you heard someone say “Oh, I really shouldn’t eat that slice of cake…it’s so bad.” Or, “I’ve been really bad today. Tomorrow I should only eat good foods.” Or, “This is so bad for me, but it tastes so good!”

What is the common thread in all of these comments? That every single food is placed in a category of either “good” or “bad,” which automatically makes food and food choices moral issues. In addition, categorizing food into good and bad categories often makes people categorize themselves, or other people, into those good or bad categories.

Generally, in our society, people associate certain foods with thinness and certain foods with fatness. Sure, there may be a correlation between certain foods and body weight, but in reality (and anyone who has ever taken a research methods class knows this) correlation DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION. People are fat and thin for a billion different reasons, and I talk about that in other posts. But the reason I am giving you this example is that because certain foods are correlated to certain body shapes, and because foods somehow fit into categories of “good” and “bad,” WHOLE PEOPLE are getting thrown into good and bad categories, based on nothing but food.

WHAT?

Did you get that? I don’t know if you ever think of yourself as a bad person because you ate two Reeses candy bars. Or if you think you are a good person because you eat nothing but carrot sticks. But somehow I think the general culture tells us that this is how we should we should think about the relationship between food and ourselves. Let’s be honest: the billions of dollars diet companies make are based on this relationship.

But here’s the problem. Or I suppose, here’s the question. How the fuck did food become frought with morality? How did a simple thing (by which we need to survive) become something so cerebral, so conflicting, even sometimes so heart-wrenching and terrifying?

All of you: food is just food. Reese’s, muffins, carrots, pizza, salads, eggs, milk, candy, coffee creamer…it’s all just fucking food my friends. Don’t worry so much.

(I do understand that there’s some messed up shit going on with our agri-business today, and that there are hormones in food, and that our meat is weird or whatever. But that’s for major activists in that field, and what big corporations do to our food DOES NOT define your morality. So if you want to make the vegan/vegetarian/environmentally friendly argument, be my guest. I’m just not talking about that here.)

As a closing note, I’d like to paraphrase one of my favorite authors (since I don’t have her book on me, I can’t quote it, but it’s from Geneen Roth’s When Food Is Love). When you eat an entire frozen pizza, it doesn’t mean that your mom was right about you, or that you’ll never be normal, or that you are a bad person. All it means is that you ate a frozen pizza. That’s it, the end.

Love love love.