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National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Three. My Basic Rundown on How to Help a Friend

February 28, 2012

This post is a part of a week long series in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. If you have any requests or comments, please feel free to comment below. Also, I reserve the right to have typos and have weird sentences, because I hate proofreading.

Once people know that I have gone through eating disorders, the most common questions I get are about helping. Which is so wonderful because it means that there are actually good people out there who care about their loved ones and don’t think about them as freaks. That’s good news for those of us struggling as well. Chances are, most people don’t think you’re a freak. But I get these questions because, yes, and unfortunately, it actually is REALLY hard to support and help someone with an eating disorder. In fact, I may decide that I don’t like the word “help” because my belief is that friends and family members (who aren’t trained counselors….and even then that could be a problem) aren’t the ones who actually do something to make a person recover. Here’s the first thing I always tell these wonderful, beautiful, caring souls: It is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS the eating disordered person who has to decide to, and ultimately, recover. Sure, there are things that are helpful and not so helpful along the process, which I will get into below, but keep in mind that what you say, or don’t say, is not going to make or break a person in the end. So, now that I have put out that disclaimer, there are a few things that you can do as a friend, mother, brother, or mentor that actually are nourishing and loving, even if the person doesn’t respond right away.

1. Let your friend/loved one know that you care about him/her as a WHOLE PERSON, and not as just an eating disorder. Ask your friend how he/she is doing or feeling. Ask her what is going on in her life. Ask her about life events. Ask her about EVERYTHING. Asking a person simply about her eating disorder does a disservice to your friend in a few ways. First, and possibly hidden and insidious, is that people with eating disorders are quick to equate that disorder with their identities. What I mean by this is that if you continue to reinforce that the eating disorder is the only (and biggest) part of her life, she will start to believe it. I understand that you are worried about your friend’s health, but in order for your friend to get healthy, she needs to know that you love her and understand her for much more than what she is struggling with on the surface.

2. Be a good role model. This one is really, actually, very difficult. Everywhere I turn I hear women, and often men, talk about their bodies in negative ways, talk about food in a good/bad binary, and bash certain areas of their body as “problems.” I don’t know what your experience is, and maybe I’m sensitive to it because of my history, but I literally cannot go a day without hearing it (or, watching in 10 times on TV). But, I think that one of the biggest way you can help a friend or loved on is by actually being sane around food and loving your body. By this, I mean not counting calories, eating what you want when you’re hungry, and being alright with how you look. If a friend with an eating disorder sees you being obsessive about food and calories and weight, then she may not think her behavior is actually hurting her. Also, how do you know you’re behavior isn’t hurting you?

3. Take good care of yourself. This could fit under #2, but I think it deserves it’s own point. Being friends or loving someone with an eating disorder is INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT. People with eating disorders commonly lie, ditch you, yell at you, or may make no sense at all. While you still love them and understand that it’s all a part of the disorder, oftentimes this makes it no easier. And that’s why sometimes you need to take a break. Actually, first and foremost you should be taking care of YOU because here’s the honest truth: no one with a problem wants anyone else with a shit ton  problems trying the help them out.  Think about it: If you came to me and told me that you had an eating disorder, but I was worried about my own body and food, plus school and my boyfriend and life (and etc.), you would DEFINITELY want me to give you advice or soothing words would you? You’d want me to take care of my own shit so that I wouldn’t be so distracted listening to you. Right?

And let me make a distinction about taking care of yourself and self-care. I know a lot of you reading this blog take care of other people because you’re good at it (you  may be an RA or you may just be a fucking rad listener). Self care, to me, is not enough. In the world of an RA or a giver, self care means going on a run or sitting in your room for 15 minutes so that you can “recharge” and take care of more people. In my experience, this still led to burn out. Taking care of yourself involves every choice you make. It means saying no to a good friend and rescheduling when you’re exhausted. It means knowing what you need. It means being who you are. All you givers out there: try that on.

4. Research research research. Find out all you can about eating disorders. Read about potential causes, resources, and therapies. There’s no way you can go into helping a loved one blindly on this one my friends. It’s too hard, and you might make a mistake (which, as I said earlier is not the end of the world, but people with eating disorders are actually fragile).

5. Listen. Learn Empathy. Two things here. Listening, and not talking, when your friend is telling you something is so important.  A lot of people think they need to have all of the answers when it comes to eating disorders, and if they just tell their friend “something” then he/she will snap out of it. Sorry, that’s never going to happen. What you really need to do is just ask a question and listen (awkward silence is to be expected and even encouraged. Trust me). Second, cultivate empathy, which means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, or feeling his/her emotions. People know you really care when you are able to feel what they feel. And believe me, it helps so much.

 

Now, hopefully you have enough information in the above paragraphs to do a pretty decent job of being a loving friend to someone struggling. Those are the things you really should focus on. However, if you need more of a list of what NOT to do, then I’d like to make a quick paragraph on that. Because there are things that are not helpful and you should try to avoid.

Quickly:

Don’t be the food police (watch over every bite your friend eats/how much she exercises/what her weight is). I promise you this tactic will NEVER EVER EVER help. Don’t blame your friend or tell her she is selfish. Don’t think she just wants attention (this is NOT TRUE). Don’t EVER say “if you love me (or your parents) you will recover.” Don’t raise your voice. Don’t take what your friend says personally, because sometimes it might be offensive, and that is usually the disorder talking.

Okay my friends. That is my short rundown on how to help a friend. I know a lot of you out there have more suggestions, and I only touched on a few of mine. So, please comment if you would like to add something! Also, please don’t be afraid to ask questions on here as well! I’d be happy to answer them.

As always, love love love.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day Two. What I Learned at the Hospital

February 27, 2012

This is day two of a week long series in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which began yesterday. If you have any requests of what you would like to see this week, or have any questions, please feel free to comment below.

Today I would like to talk about a few of the awesome epiphanies and words of wisdom I learned during my time both with my first therapist T as well as my two months during my second stay at the hospital. Before I start though I’d like to remind all of you of a few things: first, just because you haven’t “been to the hospital” or “been diagnosed” or “your weight isn’t ___” DOES NOT MEAN that you are free of disordered eating. Please remember to give yourself a reality check if you start comparing your story to mine. That is not what these posts are meant for.

That being said, because list form is the easiest and most fun way to get this information out, I’d like to do my classic list, which I shall title “AWESOME THINGS I LEARNED DURING MY FIRST ROUND OF RECOVERY”

1. Perfect is boring. Kudos to the long, gray haired worker at the hospital for giving me one of the most memorable pieces of advice I could ever remember and pass on. Perfect IS boring. Many people with eating disorders and eating issues often feel a great need to be “perfect.” You know, possible things like getting straight A’s, always being in control of emotions, always saying the right thing, being the best at sports…the list could go on and on. And while most of society thinks these are all awesome things, how many real friends do you have that are actually perfect? I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t stand being friends with a “perfect” person. Who would go out with me on Friday nights and do stupid things because my “friend” can’t drink too much/say the wrong thing/be dumb? Who would talk to me, be able to actually empathize with me, and then share him/herself with me so that the relationship grows mutually? Who would be able to put their own accomplishments away for a second to recognize how I have been successful too? The problem with being perfect is that (first of all it’s impossible) perfection leaves no room for complexity, love, emotion, growth, and life. So let go of trying so hard!

2. When you 80 years old, do you want to look at your life and say “Well, at least I was thin!” Thanks to another worker at the hospital. I’m sad we only really saw her on the weekends because her frankness coupled with wonderful advice was so refreshing. And the above, well, might be enough said. When you look back on your life, what do you want it to look like?

3. You have to be your own #1 fan. One of the most valuable lessons T could have ever taught me. Here’s the deal. There is absolutely no one on this earth who can measure your worth or give you enough self-confidence so that you can be yourself and live on your own. There is no boy, girl, friend, parent, grandparent, cousin, or lover who will ever be able to give you enough in order to feel fully wonderful, self-confident, and beautiful. Let me repeat that: NO ONE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE THAT. And here’s why: each and every one of us is a human being. We are fragile, emotional, and imperfect (which is kind of awesome if you think about it. See #1). The only person who knows you, and who can find out more about every corner of your heart is YOU. The only person who can fulfill your needs (eat when you’re hungry, cry when you’re sad, ask for help when you need it, etc.) is YOU. And you are also the only person who can love yourself like you deserve to be loved: fully, wholly, and with all of your ripples, differences, and ruts.

4. Don’t put your thermometer in other people’s mouth in order to check your own temperature. Okay, I understand this sounds funny, but bear with me. You know those times where you look around and ask those questions like “should I be crying? No one else is crying,” “Should I eat this pizza? No one else is eating pizza!” And of course, when you ask all your friends “Do I look okay? Am I okay? Is this alright? Should I be doing this?” Maybe there is something to be said to get extra opinions on difficult choices, but really? Let me tell you something: only you know when you are sad. Only you know when you are hungry (or just really want a fucking piece of pizza). Only you know if you are okay, and, as I stated in number #3, no one can tell you enough that you are a good enough person. Your thermometer is your thermometer. It’s just wrong to stick it in other people’s mouths.

5. Emotions are really important. Emotions tell you all the shit that’s going on inside you. To cry, to laugh, to be angry…all of these emotions direct us to take action and to be true to ourselves. Sometimes we spend so much energy in keeping emotions down when in order to embody our whole selves we need ways to express them. One therapist told me once that bulimia makes sense…it’s one way to stuff down all of your emotions and then express them all without actually feeling them. It’s explosive. And after awhile, it doesn’t work anymore.

6. Finally, eating disorders actually do serve a purpose. The most common thing that people who haven’t had an eating disorder say is “that doesn’t make any sense. I like to eat. You need food. Why doesn’t he/she just eat?” Or, “throwing up is disgusting. I don’t understand. I could never do that.” Or even, “How can someone eat that much? Just push yourself away from the table?” The problem with all of these statements is that they fail to acknowledge what eating disorders actually do for people who have them. Eating disorders are like the logs you grab on to when there’s a raging river rushing around you. There’s so much going on, so much shit happening, and you have to grab onto SOMETHING in order to survive. And for awhile, you do survive. Eventually, it’s time to let go because you’ve found another (less insidious and healthier) log, or because the waters have calmed.

Those are some of the most important lessons I learned during my first years of recovery. Let me know what you think. My hope for all of you today is that you feel what you need to feel, do what you need to do, and always, always, have grace, forgiveness and love for yourself.

Love love love.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Day One

February 26, 2012

Today marks the beginning of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which if you know nothing about or would like to somehow have more information, check out this link. And in honor of this special week I’d like to do a series of posts that reflect the seriousness of eating disorders as well as the inspiration and hope I have found in recovery from my own illnesses. To start, I’d like to talk about my own experiences. Normally I am involved in campus-wide events and speak on a panel about what I have gone through and what recovery was like for me, but this year I regret to no longer be running those events. Ah the shitty parts of graduation.

Before I go on, I’d like to say to my Whitworth people working on the beautiful projects and events at the university: you know who you are and I am so thankful for all of you.

Rather than telling my entire story from start to finish I would like to highlight a few things I have learned on my journey and how important those things were to my recovery as well as my life as a whole. So, if you’re missing some details feel free to ask in comments. And as always, when someone is telling his/her own story be wary of what your trigger points are. Make sure that if you are currently in the throes of an eating disorder, or even if you are susceptible to comparing yourself to others and their experiences, be cautious with this post. Please remember that you are beautiful and whole without needing to do ANYTHING to “fix” yourself.

So, when I was thirteen and in eighth grade I thought it would be a good idea to lose 20 pounds. I had always been self conscious of my weight, and was constantly the “bigger” girl of all of my friends. I certainly have painful memories of peers calling me “too fat to date,” and family members calling me “cow,” or asking me if  I “should be wearing that shirt/eating that peanut butter/watching TV.” Also, I was painfully self-conscious. I even believed that all of my “thin” friends couldn’t have any problems because, if you’re thin, then really, how could you have any problems?

I believed that my weight was the cause of boys ignoring me or making fun of me, for my friends ditching me and talking behind my back, and even for my family’s disappointment in me (whether real or imagined). And, weight had always been an issue ever since I could remember. I don’t know how many people know this, but I constantly thought about committing suicide in fifth grade mostly because I felt like such a failure and walking through the world so unloved.

And so, with some crazy ass conviction I lost the weight. And then some. It’s not important what I ate or how much I exercised because, as I tell everyone who wants to know about eating disorders: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD. Yes, I was very very dizzy and constantly tired and cold. I began to wear a coat 24/7, even indoors. After I lost the 20 pounds, it didn’t seem like enough so I decided to keep going with my routine.  Some friends noticed. One friend said something. The others didn’t say anything. Here’s a piece of advice: SAY SOMETHING. Please, I beg of you, say something and let the person know you care, even if they blow up in your face and almost punch you. He/she really needs to know someone out there notices and ultimately cares.

The first time I went to the hospital I stayed for  a week. I missed one of the biggest horse shows of the year. My heart rate in the 30’s when I was sleeping, and I could have died. You know something? That hits me now. Back then, I didn’t give too shits because the nurses, my family, and everyone didn’t understand that I wasn’t thin enough to be there. But now I realize that if I had gone a few days later to the hospital, I really could have died in my sleep. Eating disorders are REAL.

Needless to say, I left the hospital and set up a treatment plan which I thought I didn’t need back in my hometown. I was fourteen by this time. I had the most wonderful therapist in the world who showed me so many things about myself that I will never ever forget. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here, nor would I be able to show you my true self whatsoever. She was the one who taught me that I had to be my own #1 fan, that people saying crap is always about THEM, that I really wasn’t an introvert and that was a story I was telling myself, and that recovering from an eating disorder would be the hardest most beautiful thing I could ever do. Thank you, thank you T.

And while I am indebted to T for her amazing work in actually helping me build some self confidence, there’s something about eating disorders that make it excruciatingly painful to give up. Like, the fact that an eating disorder you’ve had for three years is a part of your identity. Or the fact that you still don’t quite feel good enough or that you measure up. Or the fact that you’re in the midst of puberty, you have no friends, or family shit is going on. Eating disorders are coping mechanisms, and they are really good ones at that. They help you forget, focus on one thing, be obsessed, be perfect in your own little world, and not have to deal with messy emotions or relationships. Eating disorders are not about eating or not eating, as I would like to repeat as often as possible.

I went to the hospital again. I had no friends, had no way of coping, and my anxiety and depression were through the roof. Not to mention my heart rate was incredibly low again. And with this I would like to lead into another point: EATING DISORDERS OCCUR AT EVERY WEIGHT/SIZE. This is the first and only time I will put a weight number in this blog, because I think it might help with this point. A lot of people think anorexics are people who are 70-80 pounds and look like a skeleton. My lowest weight was 109 pounds. One worker in the hospital asked if I was bulimic or an exercise addict because I didn’t “look” anorexic. My official diagnosis was anorexia even though some girls can be healthy at that weight. I almost DIED at that weight.

Again: eating disorders can occur with any size or weight. Someone can be anorexic even if they’re 250 pounds. Someone can be a binge eater at 85 pounds. Anyone can have an eating disorder at any time. Please remember that.

This time I left the hospital after two months. I came home, and realized that while the hospital program turned out to be a pretty good one, I never, ever, wanted to go through the pain of anorexia again, nor did I want to put my parents and family members through that pain again. And, as I emphasized earlier, eating disorders are fucking HARD to get rid of.

I started to binge eat again 9and by again, I mean that I used to “overeat” and sometimes binge when I was younger). At first it was okay because I still needed to gain back enough weight to get my period and be healthy again. But a binge for me quickly turned into 3000-4000 calories at one sitting. All of the emotions and insecurities I starved away with my anorexia was replaced with stuffing them down instead. I would sneak food late at night. I would hide food in my drawers. And of course, the guilt of my rising weight only made me eat more to forget: to forget that I was a loner, that I had no friends, and that I had a billion emotions I couldn’t express. To forget that I was gaining more weight when I was so recently THAT anorexic girl.

And here’s what I learned: often times anorexics who “recover” turn to binge eating and bulimia because it’s the opposite side of the coin that is already so comforting. Therefore, in order to not become anorexic again, and also to maintain some sense of control, I began to vomit every time I binged.

Bulimia for me didn’t do anything except fire up my eating disorder and make me more guilty. I still continued to gain weight. I still felt like shit. Only this time I had MORE hiding to do. Throwing up isn’t exactly discreet. I hid more from my parents, felt more distant from every single person I knew, and was once again, so lonely.

Towards the end of my senior year of high school, after many epiphanies, journal entries, inspirational songs, quotes, and a wonderful therapist, I finally decided to go to one more recovery center and BUST MY ASS. I was going to do everything I could in order to recover this time because I had finally hit the point where my eating disorder didn’t do anything for me anymore. It didn’t lessen my emotions. It didn’t give me any more control. So I went to a wonderful center where I tried my best to do what I could.

Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t something you can do by following a step-by-step process. It’s not like you do exactly what someone tells you and BAM! you’re done and alright! I found quickly that in order to recover I was going to have to do some deep digging into my beliefs, values, past experiences, and finally figure out the person I wanted to be. I actually had to listen to my emotions, my intuition, and my body: all things I had distrusted my entire life. The problem with eating disorders also is that you can’t just abstain from food like you can with alcohol or drugs (which, I do not want to minimize. Recovering from any addiction is incredibly difficult and I understand that many people cannot). Eating happens at least three times a day. And unless you want to get caught up in dieting and counting calories/points/shit (which sparked my eating disorder in the first place), then there’s no way you can just eat perfectly so that you recover with no guilt or ambivalence about the food you’ve eaten.

To end my story, I recovered. As I always say, however, I still struggle daily with thinking about my weight and food choices. I am at the highest weight I have ever been. I eat pizza and I drink beer ALL THE TIME (p.s. alcohol and pizza were my two biggest fear foods ever ever ever during my eating disorders) without guilt and without thinking too much later. People may look at me and think I’m “overweight” or see my cellulite or even my huge muffin top. But all of this flesh on me is a sign that I have survived. I have survived.

That’s my very bare bones story of my eating disorders. I could have included a lot more like my family history, my running career, exercise, etc. and blah blah blah. But what I want to leave you with is a few things I hope you always remember about eating disorders:

First, eating disorders can happen at any weight, and at any size.

Binge eating disorder is incredibly serious, and is one of the most common eating disorders today. The fear of fat and food in our society only fuels this incredibly insidious disorder.

Friends are crucial in helping. Please say something if you notice something. Eating disorder victims won’t hate you forever, I promise, even if they do freak out and get angry.

We NEED to create a society where EVERY BODY is valued, no matter what weight or size. I don’t give a shit if you’re six hundred pounds or eighty pounds. How can we expect anyone to avoid body dissatisfaction when it’s taught to our children at every corner and to adults in every advertisement or bathroom/gym chat?

And lastly, the first step always begins with you. Loving yourself and your body, as well as forgiving and understanding that food choices vary daily are the beginnings of a revolution. A truly revolutionary act in our society is to stand up and actually say “I am okay.”

If you can, please wear a purple ribbon this week in honor of all survivors, those in the throes, as well as those who have passed away from these terrible diseases. And, again, look forward to other material each day this week here on my blog to keep you going and to keep you fighting.

Love love love.

Special K Commercial: Why Friends Always Hear Me Say “GAHHHHHHH”

February 15, 2012

I’m sure a lot of you have seen the new Special K Commercial that shows a bunch of women before they step on a scale. And after standing there for a minute, a bunch of words pop up like “Joy” and “Pep.” And if you haven’t seen it I invite you to go here. I have sat down with many friends and family members watching TV, and this continually sparks conversations between us, especially when I let out a huge “GAHHHHHHH” or “DAMN IT ALL” or “WHAT THE FUCK?” Given our weight-obsessed society and the fact that Special K has been involved in this weight-obsession for like, forever, they do not necessarily see a problem with an advertisement like this. After all, aren’t people happier when they lose weight?

Obviously, you know my answer.

So, in case you need my argument about why this ad is bullshit, please attend to the following:

The commercial starts with a bunch of women who stand before the scale. You only see their feet. You may think I’m going to far with this, however, as a critical feminist, the practice of just showing women’s body parts serves to cut them into pieces, and therefore objects. At least we’re not seeing the woman’s ass or something cut off from the rest of her like a lot of beer commercials. However, with this “cutting” of the women, we do not see her whole self: her face, her body, her emotions. We therefore only see an object: feet. This cutting of women into pieces also serves to place all women in the category of “wanting to lose weight.” Every pair of feet is standing in front of the scale, which means of course, that every woman must or should want to lose weight.

Second, all of the women who stand in front of the scale are clearly anxiety-ridden about what their weight on the scale is going to be. What is so sad about this is that ALL of them seem to be nervous about a number that has the ability to define them. How many times have you stepped on the scale thinking “Oh fuck, I gained two (10, 20, 30?) pounds! This must mean x, y, and z (I’m a loser, I haven no will power, I’m dumb, I have no worth, blah blah blah). I get it. I’ve been there. But the HUGE problem in this type of thinking which has practically been ingrained in all women since they were born is that a NUMBER gets to define YOU. Being anxious before getting on the scale, watching your weight go up and down, and thinking that a certain number “means” something, are all traps.

(I have a tip for number two: DON’T WEIGH YOURSELF. That’s what a doctor is for. Not to brag, but I haven’t weighed myself in six years. I also turn around at the doctor’s office. I know how easily that scale can suck me back in and how just a number can “mean” something about me.)

The third problem with this advertisement is that when all of the women step on the scale they see words like “Calm,” “Laughter,” “Nerve,” and “Freedom.” When I first watched this advertisement, I thought it might be reminiscent of Marilyn Wann’s Yay! Scales (look these up if you haven’t seen them or buy her book! I highly, highly recommend it). It would be awesome if all of our scales gave us encouragement each day. But then as soon as the Special K logo came up, I realized that they are talking about what you will *supposedly* feel when you lose weight. Then they end it with the cherry on top: “What will you GAIN when you LOSE?”

Maybe you will feel something if you lose weight. Like more energy or something. MAYBE. Maybe you’ll feel more confident and fit into more clothes. MAYBE. I’m not here to tell you what you can and can’t do.

But I am here to tell you that losing weight doesn’t solve any problems. At my thinnest, when I was in the hospital with near heart-failure I felt none of those words that the Special K scales say. I have been in a 50 pound range since then due to my recovery, and right now I am considered to be “overweight.” I’ve never ever been happier, and I feel “Calm” and “Freedom” and all of those other fucking things.

The thing is, those words, those feelings, are not based on or linked to your weight. They come from within you. Sometimes you gotta choose to say “fuck the world, I’m hot as hell,” and move on with life. Maybe by society’s standards I’m not “bikini body ready,” but, and I have another blog to thank this, which I will post as soon as I find it, the only thing that makes you “bikini body ready” is having a fucking body. I think you all of bodies, therefore you are able to put on a bikini. Or go on a trip. Or flirt with that guy (or girl). All of it, you are already ready to do.

You don’t need to lose weight in order to feel what Special K (or any other diet company) promises.

Love love love.

 

Thoughts on Health At Every Size (HAES)

February 10, 2012

If you haven’t heard about Health At Every Size, then let me tell you a little bit about it. The HAES principles were developed by Dr. Linda Bacon, a nutritionist, because she wanted a new paradigm at which to look at health, especially in our thin-obsessed society. According to her website, Health at Every Size encourages:

“Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes,

“Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite, and

“Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”

Over the years, and since I first learned about HAES during my senior of high school when I was recovering from a combination of binge eating and bulimia, I’ve had a lot of mixed thoughts about HAES. First, for anyone who has been wrapped up (or, let’s be honest, just living in this weight obsessed society), the HAES paradigm of honoring your hunger, fullness, and need for physical movement without regard to size is incredibly refreshing. You mean I can weigh 300 (200? 400?) pounds and still be HEALTHY? Why yes, yes you can. I won’t go into all of the research, as you can find a lot of it through Dr. Bacon’s website as well as through other links I have posted on this site. You CAN be healthy even if you are fat. This post isn’t arguing about that, even though I’m sure many readers would like to.

Instead, I want to talk about the small insidious feelings I sometimes get when I’m trying to “follow” HAES principles. I really do feel better when I listen to my hunger and satiety cues (i.e. eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full), and I also feel better when I exercise regularly. However, I’d like to remind everyone that I am a human being. Which means I mess up all the time. Sometimes I overeat. Sometimes I don’t have time to exercise. A lot of times I don’t give a shit about vegetables (I think my days of anorexia have turned me off of vegetables for a little while). I like to go out and have fun with my friends and order a huge ass pizza and drink a lot of beer.

And I think there is room in HAES for being a human. HAES isn’t talking about living perfectly between the lines of hunger and fullness. Because if it was, it would be like another diet, where you’re supposed to feel “guilty” every time you mess up. Instead of feeling like a “good” person today because I only ate “good” foods, with HAES, sometimes I only feel like a “good” person (or even an eating disorder survivor) if I can eat according to hunger and fullness.

What I want to get away from is that FOOD IS NOT A MORAL IMPERATIVE. You, and I, are not good people because we can eat like however we’re supposed to eat, whether that means only vegetables and diet foods, or whether we can follow our inner hunger and fullness cues. And while HAES would never ever subscribe to this type of thinking, or categorize people into “good” or “bad” categories, I think that those of us with eating issues can still feel like these guidelines are doing that.

What’s my point? Well, a couple of things: First, if you haven’t checked out HAES or don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, do some research. Dr. Bacon’s website is great for the basics, Wikipedia now has a site up, and some new books like the Fat Studies Reader have some pretty good articles about it. Make up your own mind.

However, and second, I’d like to offer a few of my thoughts and how I get through the whole eating food thing with regards to HAES and living in this fucked up society:

1. You, and only YOU have decide what you eat, how much, and what you do afterward. No one (not diets, not nutritionists, not HAES, not doctors, not your mom) has any right to tell you what you can and cannot eat. You are an adult. You can make decisions.

2. According to above #1, if you binge, overeat, or just eat something that somehow someone in your life told you isn’t “allowed” LET IT GO. I promise you that within the next hour or the next day your body will digest it.

3. NO GUILT. It is my personal opinion that guilt and shame are the emotions, especially when it comes to food, that separate us from ourselves. Guilt grinds and grinds and grinds against what I know to be true about all of us: that we are, and always have been, whole and beautiful human beings. If you made a “mistake” according to whomever, acknowledge it, acknowledge yourself, and move the fuck on. You’re going to be okay.

4. Finally, if for right now you are healing from food and body issues, then do what you want for awhile and realize you aren’t going to die. If you had crazy parents who made you go to the gym daily, or if you’ve denied yourself sugar for the past month or year, or if you really just want a fucking tub of ice cream but think you “shouldn’t” then just take a day where you do whatever the hell you want with food. If you eat a tub of ice cream, or go a year without exercising, or don’t eat vegetables for a month YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE. Diet companies and obesity “experts” make a lot of money telling you that you may in fact drop dead from one of the above things, but I promise you that you won’t.

5. Follow your heart. As always. Also, as always, you’re going to be okay if you gain ten pounds from the above exercises. Your friends will still love you. Your family will still be crazy.

And, as I like to remind everyone: take or leave whatever I just said above. The journey is about YOU and not about what I or anyone else tells you to do. But, if you need permission from me to know that you are okay whether you weigh 100, 200, or 500 pounds, you’ve got it. YOU ARE OKAY.

Changes Changes Changes!

February 9, 2012

Hi friends! Most of you are my actual friends, but if you are here for the first time, then welcome. And be my friend!

So, some big stuff is going on in my life at the moment. Bear with me, as it’s mostly just boring facts and feelings about my life rather than an opinion on some public event and/or fat acceptance talk. Move on to some of my older and better posts if you’re bored already.

That being said, I’ve decided to move back to Washington. I have been in Colorado for a grand total of a month and five days, and after week one I knew this wasn’t the right place for me. Of course, during this learning curve I had all of those self-conscious thoughts that happens to people who are, you know, predisposed to low self-esteem. Such as:

“Chelsea just tough it out. So many people are in way worse situations than you are.”

“You knew it was going to be like this, and now you want to move already because you miss your friends?”

“Lots of people move to new cities knowing no one. Suck it up!”

But in the end, these are just thoughts of my inner critic telling me I should be someone (mostly disciplined, independent, clean, skinny, blah blah blah) I’m just not. Let’s be honest. College is the first time I’ve actually had REAL REAL friends. Like, friends who know I’ve had eating disorders, and that I have stinky feet, and that I like movies with kissing in it. All my friends in college knew that I still struggled with body image, that I am an uber feminist, and that I fight for what I believe in. And despite all of my flaws, they still loved me.

So I started thinking about how I could just make some new friends in Boulder. The thing is, I had no where to start. High school sucked ass for me, especially in the friend department because I was so god-damned shy and insecure. The nonprofit I was going to work for really had no opportunities to meet or interact with other people, and I sat at my house trying to work while being so lonely I reverted to Facebook in order to fulfill my social needs. The one person I got to know was a ten year old girl I babysat, and she was LITERALLY the highlight of my day because she was sassy, and simply, someone to talk to.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I can accept this part of me that exists right now: that I really NEED a social network in order to be survive (or maybe just be happy). I remember how difficult high school was for me, and how my eating disorder was so much worse because of my lack of social networks. I remember how lonely and depressed I was because I had no one my age to encourage me, distract me, or just talk to me. It’s kind of like how I remember what anorexia felt like: the emptiness, hollowness, exhaustion, and obsession. Because I have such vivid memories of what that was like, and I now know how life full can be at this “overweight” weight, there’s just no way I can go back despite how thin I want to be. So no matter how much I want to live in Boulder and be a part of a huge social change right now, I also remember all of my years in Boulder that were so empty, and I just can’t be here right now.

I think it’s just a testament to my recovery that I can even be in Boulder without bingeing or purging. I’ll be honest and state that I could be doing “better” with food and alcohol consumption, but at least I’m actually DEALING with feelings of loneliness, sadness, and (sometimes) anger with the parentals. I cry, I call my friends (let me remind you: I NOW HAVE FRIENDS TO CALL!!!), I collage, or I just zone out in front of the TV. That’s light years away from being so depressed and anxiety ridden that I either couldn’t leave bed or I couldn’t sleep all night. My mental health is in a much better place.

But, because my mental health is in a better place, I am able to make decisions that continue to be in the best interest of that mental health. Like living in a place with a friend support system. I think I owe that to myself if it’s feasible. As a dear mentor told me the other day: “You have the rest of your life to change the world. It’s okay to not want to do that all the time.”

I’m now moving to where J is. After almost two years of long-distance we shall be reunited in our fun, crazy-ass, disorganized relationship. Watch out those of you who live in the area: party time, good beer, and good laughs are in your very near future. The dream team is back.

It’s really interesting to be the one graduated where most of my friends are still in school and complaining about homework. Yes, I’ve been living with my parents, I don’t pay rent, and sometimes I don’t even pay for my own alcohol, but my days aren’t scheduled, and there aren’t Whitworth people to always pat me on the back and show me the next rainbow and pony around the corner.

So lovely friends, those are my thoughts.

New Thoughts on Taking Care of Yourself

September 30, 2011

This past week I’ve been really sick with a cold. I’ve been sick with colds before and been just fine to continue working out, going to school, and generally doing all of the crazy shit I do all the time anyway. However, this time it just didn’t seem like I could do ANYTHING at all. I was tired, dizzy, and groggy, and to top it all off I got ear infections in both of my ears in the middle of the week.

During the week, people asked me, “so how sick are you?” and I would reply “oh, don’t worry. I’m just a baby when it comes to being sick because it doesn’t happen that often.” While truly, I don’t get sick that often, I’m looking back on my responses and realizing that I was putting myself down when telling other people that I was “a baby” or essentially “weak” for not being able to do all of the things I normally do.

One of those bigger things I guess was not working out. When I got a pretty bad cold in high school, and I was in the middle of my recovery from anorexia, I still had to swim EVERY DAY for 30 minutes (30 minutes and  swimming being the only time and activity I was allowed to do at all, prescribed by my doctor). I remember snotting up the pool, coughing my lungs up every five minutes, and most of all my mom saying “shouldn’t you just take a few days off? You’re really sick!” Yet in the throes of my disease, there was no way I could comfortably skip a day of exercise.

Yet this week, I didn’t work out once. It is now Friday, and the only thing I did this week was 20 minutes of a slow jog on Monday (which made me feel terrible by the way). For me this is absolutely HUGE. For all of the advocating I do for loving your body, not counting calories, and eating intuitively, the exercise piece is still really hard for me. Sometimes I still feel the need to workout every day for a certain allotted amount of time, because if I don’t I’m not “perfect.” If I don’t, then I can’t be “superior” to others in a way. I know it’s sick and twisted, but I’m trying to let you into an eating disorder mindset.

But all I really did was sit on my ass and sleep. And I don’t think I would have gotten better very fast if I had tried to go to the gym every day and depleted my immune system when it was already working its ass off to try to get me healthy. And in reality, I wasn’t a baby at all for sleeping or not going to school because it was truly an act of strength to actually take care of myself instead of trying to do it all like I usually do.

Yay for me! You can all pat me on the back now 🙂