I Think (insert relation) Has An Eating Disorder

I cannot speak for everyone on this because this is strictly just my opinion. I am NOT an expert so please do not assume what I am saying will work for everyone. Also if you enjoy this post please share this with others. You never know who it could help. 

We never know for certain what someone else is going through. This is a challenging part of life. When someone we care about is hurting we want to do anything to take the pain away. We say things like, “I know how you feel.” But do we really? How can we feel the pain for someone else when we have no idea what their inner demons are like.

It is no different when it comes to eating disorders. People need to understand that EDs are not a phase. It is not a diet or a lifestyle choice. Eating disorders are a serious disease.

Eating disorders affects more people than most of us are aware. Your neighbor, friend, child, the person you sit next to every morning on the train could all be suffering and not even be aware of it. Those fighting with an ED do not know how disordered their relationship with food truly is- and that is what makes this so dangerous.

Only a trained professional should diagnose someone with an ED, but that does not mean you cannot intervene and help this person get the attention he or she needs.

Before you intervene, it is important to ask yourself why. Why do you think this person may have an eating disorder? If your response is “because they just LOOK anorexic” maybe reevaluate and think about more behaviors/symptoms. SKINNY DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL EATING DISORDER.

Maybe you notice at meals they push their food around the plate or always try to avoid eating in public. Maybe they go to the bathroom immediately after meals or you see them working out constantly. Overeating or eating in secret. Obsession with numbers, wearing baggy clothes, becoming less social. Always cold and tired and losing motivation to do things that used to bring so much joy. These are the things to look for- not just the size of the body.

If you notice these behaviors it is important to take action. I try to think back to when I first got help. I had teachers in high school invite me to eat lunch with them. My friends would try to get me to go out with them. No one forced me to eat- it was just encouraged. Sometimes the best way to help someone is to get them to realize on their own that a problem exists. Granted it is much easier said than done, but I was the one who eventually realized that I needed to seek treatment the first time I really began to struggle. Having coaches limit my playing time in games and close friends casually asking me if everything was alright began to help me realize something was wrong.

Sometimes it is okay to be assertive. Sometimes the person suffering may need this more intense wake up call. During relapses I certainly received some lectures that at the time made me so angry. But now I look back and I am so thankful it happened. They may be “mad” at you during that time, but it doesn’t last; soon they will be immensely thankful. I put mad in quotations because it is not your friend that is mad- it is the eating disorder. You acknowledge she exists and she is not ready to lose control.

Eating disorders are a touchy subject, but there is not nearly enough awareness on them. Early intervention can save so many lives. So if you think someone may be struggling try and get them to talk to a professional. Do whatever it takes to get them to be aware that they are sick. It is so important. It is life altering.

He or she may be upset with you at the time, but I would rather have a friend be angry with me for acknowledging they had a problem than dead because the eating disorder won.

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Body Shaming Goes Both Ways

This is controversial so I will probably get some hate for this one, but this is something we do not talk about enough.

The other day I went to a party with my best friend. A comment I heard someone say about me, really stuck with me and I cannot seem to move on from it. It was something that I heard adults saying about my body.

We were going to a twenty-first birthday party and when we got there, they were grilling out. I ate dinner before I got there so when I was asked if I wanted anything I politely declined.

They told me to let them know if I got hungry later and if I wanted a burger. I let them know that I am a vegetarian and allergic to gluten. They just looked back at me and said “wow that must be a horrible diet to live on.”

I hear that a lot so that part did not bother me. What bothered me was what I heard when they thought I could not hear them. I heard them talking about my body.

The wife turned to her husband and said something along the lines that he should try being a gluten free vegetarian as well so he could lose a couple of pounds. The husband chuckled and responded with the remark, “well, I certainly do not want to whither away and be as skinny her. I could break her in half”

Normally when I hear comments about me looking skinny I feel good. It fuels Ana. But this time it made me feel sick. I am genuinely trying my hardest to gain and maintain my weight. The past couple of days I have been feeling pretty comfortable with the way I look, but when people point out that I look too skinny it really bothers me.

This is normally when a lot of people roll their eyes at me and say something like. “Oh boohoo, someone called you skinny. Such a horrible thing for someone to say.” But they do not get it. I do not go up to people and say, “Wow! I should eat like you so I can be fat!”

Society is so aware to NEVER call people fat, but we throw around the term skinny all the time.

I need to give my mom a quick shout out here: so Hey mom I know you are reading this and you’re probably so confused because I always try to get you to validate whether or not I look over or under weight. By feeling this way toward the remark I overheard, I know it is a way that I am recovering.

I do not want this validation. I do not want people telling me that I am a “skinny mini” anymore. Because I am more that. In reference to my post “I am more than just a body” being defined by looks is not how I want to be remembered.

I know I am not alone in this. I have friends that share with me how frustrated they get when they hear from people “wow teach me your ways so I can look like you!” or the common “what’s your diet? How can you eat that and NOT gain weight” Some people are just born with faster metabolisms.

Body shaming goes both ways. Body shaming affects all body types. So while some may think it is a compliment to point out how skinny someone is, sometimes its better to say nothing at all.

Why I Will Never Buy a Fitbit

Fitbits are the latest trend. EVERYONE seems to have a fitbit or at least something that tracks his or her steps.

I think fitbits are an awesome idea, but I will never buy or use one.

For my 19th birthday I got a Nike fuel band. It is essentially the same thing as a fitbit. I loved my fuel band. I had goals to accomplish everyday. It is a really good idea to motivate people to be healthy.

However, in my case, my fuel band was counter-productive for me. I began to compete against myself.

“How many calories did I burn yesterday?” “I burned more calories yesterday I must do more today.” “I already went on a run today but I still need 500 more steps to reach my goal, better go workout again.”

I am obsessed with numbers. To me it did not matter that I met my goal, what mattered was that I did more than I did yesterday. Yet again, I began abusing my right to workout in a whole new manner. The worst part is that to me I did not recognize it as unhealthy or abuse; it was just a game between myself.

I got my fuelband in May and wore it everyday over the summer. I have memories leaving my dads apartment in California at 10pm to walk up and down the stairs until I achieved my goal. I remember doing sprints back and forth in the apartment when he was not home to hit that number.

I would run to summer camp, work for like 7 hours, and force myself to walk/run back even when my body was begging to stop. These are NOT healthy behaviors.

Before I transferred to Drake University, I made the decision to not rely on my fuel band anymore. I gave it to my mom to wear because I knew that my obsession was not healthy.

When people now talk about fitbits, I find myself wanting one BADLY. But I know, that no matter where I am at in recovery, I do not need this. I need to focus on being in the present and not focused on how many steps I had yesterday or how many I will get tomorrow if I run this far.

People talk about their fitbits all the time and how many steps they have. I feel happy for my friends when they achieve their goals- and I also feel jealous. I wish I could be able to wear a fitbit and not become so obsessed. It is silly to think that I can let a small piece of technology control me so much (similar to my number obsession with the scale…)

Fitbits are great, just not the right thing for me. I can’t speak for all survivors, but for me they are a trigger.

Exercise

The other day I went on my first run since before I went inpatient in February. This was a big deal for me because I LOVE running, but I was not allowed to run for a while. I had to miss out on participating in intramurals at school and for awhile I could not even go to the studio that I practice ballet at. It was so embarrassing for me to explain that I could not do these activities because I simply could not take care of my own body.

There are many reasons why I could not exercise. It is very common for people suffering with an eating disorder to suffer problems with their heart as a result of malnutrition. Along with that my body was also extremely dehydrated/still is from refusing to put anything inside. And yet with all the nasty side effects, people still glamorize this disease…

One of the biggest reasons I could not exercise was because I would have blacking out spells fairly frequently (as I fuel my body they start to decrease). In April I was hooked up to a 24-hour heart motor to see what was causing these constant blackouts. Turns out my resting heart rate averaged at about 35 beats per minute. I have bradycardia (abnormally low heart beat) but this was about 10 beats lower for me than normal.

This sucked. I spent the majority of the month of April having to take breaks walking up stairs because my body physically could not handle it. I went from running 5 miles to hardly being able to walk up a flight of stairs.

I kept telling myself I need to do this for the boys I watch. I love to run around with them, but my body was starting to not be able to handle it. It was not fair to them if I couldn’t race around the block anymore because I could not get myself to eat lunch.

This was and still is my motivation. I know I should aim to recover for myself, but the boys I nanny and the kids I work with really is what gets me out of bed on rough days. They are my happiness when I cannot find happiness within myself.

So going on this run the other day was monumental. The best part about recovering is when I am allowed to do the things I used to enjoy so much again.

There is only one thing that scares me about being able to exercise again. I am afraid I will lose control again. I am afraid that I will start to abuse my running. I over exercised to the point of exhaustion far too frequently. I used to not let myself get off a bike or elliptical until I hit my “perfect” number. Even when my body was begging me to stop I would not do it. I am hoping that by being aware of this problem that I will not take advantage of it again. Running makes me happy- it should not be making me sick.

With the summer camp I work at starting up soon it is so important that I am taking care of my body. My work hours are going to be long and I NEED to be healthy to do a good job. I owe it to my coworkers, the kids, but most importantly I owe it to MYSELF.

Small Step Upward

Something wonderful is starting to happen. After weeks of feeling in a slump without progress, I am starting to notice some positive changes in the way I view myself.

I love taking pictures, being in pictures, having my picture taken… I just love to be on camera. I have a lot of pictures because of this. I like to look back on pictures just to see how much I have experienced in the past years. For a while I was looking back at these pictures and comparing my body weights. I would look at a picture and remember my exact weight at the time. I would look at a picture and I would know if I was in a relapse or recovery stage. I was looking at the pictures to compare and contrast my body. I would make side-by-side collages of how I looked before and how I looked now to check for differences. These are not healthy behaviors.

However, the other day, I noticed that as I was scrolling through my copious amounts of pictures, I was not paying attention to my size. I was looking at these pictures of me with my friends and remembering the memories. I remembered the laughter, the inside jokes, and just all the great times I have had with friends old and new. It was a great feeling to look back on my past with pride and not disgust.

I then started to look at these pictures and started to realize how distorted my vision is. I analyze myself and other things way too much. I have trained my eyes to pick up the slightest change in something. I was finally looking at these pictures to make myself happy; not sick or sad.

I want to be happy and healthy. Critiquing everything about my appearance is not a way to be happy and healthy. Comparing myself to others and “skinnier” pictures of me is not going to get me there. Pictures lie. Pictures can be touched up, slimmed down. The angle someone stands in a picture and the brightness can alter everything. These pictures are JUST pictures. They are just frozen memories for me to look back and reminisce- they are not meant to destroy me.

Media really does not help much with recovery. Everyday we see hundreds of ads with a set idealization of perfection. But let me just ask you, would you rather push yourself too hard trying to obtain this unattainable idealization of perfection? Or would you rather live in the moment and enjoy all the pure, natural, goodness around you?

The Return

One of the hardest things for me to get used to about the weight restoration process is the return of Mother Nature’s monthly gift. Well, I guess it is more like mother natures sporadic gift for me because she still does not visit me too often. Regardless, each time she comes it sucks.

I know it is a sign that I am getting better. I know it is normal to get my period but for some reason every time it comes I am filled with stress.

To me, getting the period means that I have enough fat on my body again. I do not look on it as a good thing. I do not think about how normal it is.

If there is one thing that I can count on to bring me immense amounts of joy it is working with kids. I LOVE to work with kids and when I am older and ready I hope to start a family of my own. I cannot be a mother if I am malnourished. I need to be healthy for the sake of my future family. No, I do not want to have kids right now- that is the farthest thing from my mind, but eventually that is all I want. I need to start taking care of my body now so that I can have kids one day.

So yeah, getting my period is a good thing. It means I am getting better. It means my body is getting more nutrients. It means one day I might actually be able to have a family of my own.

Ana likes to look at it as failure. She tells me it’s bad; that I am a failure. But who I am failing? I certainly am not failing myself, which is what the most important thing is. It is a sign that what I am doing is working. I cannot stop now just because my ED is upset that she is getting weaker. I need to embrace how much stronger I am getting. Hopefully soon I will not have to drink ensure plus. Hopefully soon my lanugo will stop growing. The side effects of ED are not pretty. And it certainly is not worth not being able to accomplish my dreams.

So to all my friends recovering from an ED (except if you’re male because well the return of a period does not really happen to you, but still you guys can relate to other things returning!) embrace the signs of getting healthy again. Do not let your eating disorder convince you that it is bad. The sign of normal body functions returning are a good thing. Yeah, it is hella scary after not experiencing it for so long, but it is truly for the best.

Eating at Home vs. College

I recently started blogging for NEDAs youth outreach website, http://proud2bme.org/. The first post I wrote for them was about how to cope with moving back home. I gave some pretty good coping skills that I use; yet here I am not following them.

Being home is so much harder. Being home feels like everyone is secretly monitoring your food. Constantly being asked, “what did you eat for lunch today?” Not to mention being back with friends who want to go out to eat to catch up. I haven’t even been home for a week and I already am feeling STRESSED OUT.

When I am on my own at college, I am able to control my meals, I see my friends all the time so I do not feel bad not going out to eat with them. I have nobody asking me what I ate for every meal or secretly monitoring every bite. Just because I have anorexia does not mean I need to be force fed like a baby. This is my internal battle. I need to know people trust me.

Now I keep my food diary for my therapist, but that’s the only food monitoring required. I no longer have to have someone sit with me for every meal or be banned to use the bathroom for a set period of time after meals/snacks. I need people to just trust me at home. I am eating. Please do not pressure me- it s t r e s s e s me OUT.

I knew being back home would be challenging especially because I have some over protective people here. My house is filled with delicious foods that I normally do not keep with me at school. We have ice cream in the house…the temptations are too high.

I know it is good to be challenged like this, but sometimes I just do not feel like I am ready. I have the skills to cope and I have great support, but inside I am petrified. Food is still something I think about daily. My last article I wrote about the scale living upstairs. I have not been good at avoiding the scale. I have weighed myself EVERY DAY. I need to find my strength. I cannot succumb to the scale. I cannot let my ED ruin my summer. I do not want to go residential. I want to LIV{e}.

This is what I need. I need to feel supported but not on a tight leash. I need to challenge myself and go out and enjoy life. I need to wean away from the scale. I will admit, I am scared. I do not feel strong anymore. However, I do not want to miss out on more events because I am too malnourished to participate. This is a hard transition for me and I am petrified.

I am lucky to have great support. I need to utilize what I have learned in treatment. I need to fight- but it is so much easier to say than do.

The scale

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I stand on a scale and let it determine my worth. I stand on a scale and let it determine my happiness. I stand on a scale and let it determine what I will do for the day. I stand on the scale and become obsessed. I stand on the scale and lose control.

My relationship with the scale is definitely not healthy. I always think about when I can stand on the scale again in secret. I dread the weekly weigh ins because I want my weight to be only something I know. The person who weighs me in is not allowed to tell me what I weigh, but I always find a way to figure it out.

The scale now lives in my house. He lures me upstairs all the time. Trying to get me to check my numbers every hour. Scale, why do you control me so much? All you tell me is a number- my relationship with gravity. Why am I so obsessed with having to know this number?

One of my long term goals is to not longer be so reliant on the scale. I want to be able to get through the day without obsessing over when I can recheck my weight. My short term goal until then will be to practice mindfulness activities to stray me away from the scale upstairs.

So hey, mom. I know you are reading this. Do not read this and hide the scale from me. That wont work well with me. Yes, I know, the scale is toxic for me. However, this is something I need to work on myself. If you hide the scale at this point now, I will find ways to obtain a scale. If you get rid of the scale, I will sneak one into the house. Right now my ED is so focused on the number. I need to prove to myself that I can live without the scale. I need to fight this alone because when I live on my own one day, it will be up to me if I buy a scale.

I need to work on becoming stronger than this puny piece  of technology. I need to work on defining my worth by who I am as a person- not by the number I weigh. This is something that only I can fix.

The scale drives me insane. I probably think about the scale 15-20 times an hour. Short term goal, to think about this object less. Long term goal, to not think about it at all.

I know I am stronger than my scale.

You will not be my obsession much longer.

Fat is NOT a feeling

These past couple of days I havent been too good. The main reasons are because well I am “feeling” fat. I keep thinking about the food I indulged in and the drinks I drank- how disgusting. Why is it so hard for me to enjoy food. Why cant I eat chipotle and not feel guilty for days after. I am so sick of this feeling that every bite of food I eat will make me gain 5 pounds.

I used to think that I would rather be dead than fat. How awful is that? There is so much negative connotations around being fat that the idea made me sick. But honestly, why is it such a big deal if someone is fat or skinny? Shouldnt we be striving to be healthy? Shouldnt we be working on loving the person inside our skin?

We are so used to hearing that fat is bad and being too skinny is bad. Nothing ever seems good enough. One day they say “love your curves” or the next day its all about the flat stomach. Some people are just not born to have curves or flat stomachs and thats okay! So can we stop making these things we try to obtain? I know for a fact that I will never have normal posture because my legs are extremely hyper extended. There is literally no way to fix this, so instead of feeling ashamed of the weird bend in my legs im going to embrace it. The media is constantly putting people down for the way they look, but why? This is just making people critique their own body and others. Nothing will ever be perfect. Perfect is unattainable. I like to make my life look perfect, but its just a facade. Thats all perfection will ever be.

So right now here I am hungry and afraid to eat. I have made too much progress to obsess over eating chipotle. Yes, this past week I indulged more than I normally do, but who cares. Moderation is key. I need to enjoy life not hate on it. If my friends want to get froyo, I am getting froyo. If my friends want to grab a drink, I will grab a drink. My anorexia already took away so much from me, and I am sick and tired of it. She does not get to take anything else from me.

I am a firm believer in practicing what you preach. I will not be a hypocrite. I  will try to enjoy food. It wont be easy, but I need to make the effort. I am not feeling fat, I am feeling upset. FAT IS NOT A FEELING. It is sayings like that that make people ashamed of how they look. So lets refrain from saying, “omg i feel so fat now” because all we are doing is making people even more self conscious. Fat is not a word to describe feelings, nor is skinny.

So bye, I am going to go get froyo with my bff now.

The first step (and my story with recovery)

By far one of the hardest thing I have ever done to date was admitting that I had an eating disorder and needed help. It was hard to admit to family, close friends, but most importantly it was hard to admit to myself.

There is such a negative stigma for eating disorders. I did not want to be labeled as “starving for attention” or that it was “just a phase.” But, i realized living was more important than surviving so i choked up the tears and went on. I did not want to believe i had a problem. It was pretty obvious that i suffered from bad body image, but i always thought that was it. I thought my attitude with food was normal.

I started therapy around the age of 15 but not for my ED. My parents got divorced so my mom thought it would be good for me to talk to someone. It was my therapist who helped me acknowledge that I had a problem. Coaches and teachers noticed- along with friends. I still managed to keep it secret from family though. I guess none of us wanted to admit that I was sick.

I can vividly remember the day I told my mom. It is easier for me to put my thoughts on papers so i wrote a letter. I wanted to just give her the letter but my therapist encouraged me to read it aloud. I remember crying my eyes out with each word. My best kept secret was leaving me. Ana felt like my closest friend- i was getting rid of her.

Once the secret was out my mom and i began exploring places to go for treatment. Nothing was taken seriously though. I was still dropping, i was still manipulating.

Years went by with poor treatment and i was not getting better. If anything my ED was just getting stronger. I had to leave the therapist i felt comfortable with because she was not trained to work with EDs. I did not want to leave her. I still hate that i dont see her anymore. This was one of the few therapists that i managed to have an incredible bond with. I wanted to go back to her so i would try anything to get what i wanted.

It came to a point where it was getting out of control so i was taken for an assessment at Linden Oaks. This was my senior year of high school. IOP was what we agreed on. IOP stands for intensive outpatient. I was taken out of school and would go to LO every weekday for 4-5 hours. It began to help. It helped a lot. I was doing pretty good. But relapses are inevitable.

First semester at college ended in a relapse. A bad one. I left school to live with my father in California. I just worked for a semester and focused on myself. I was in group therapy. I began eating. I was weight restored and at this point I was at my highest weight ever.

I was happy and healthy so i began to train. I would run a half marathon i decided. However, my body was destroyed for how i treated it. My body could not handle the running. It still sucks explaining to people why i cant always participate in old activities i used to love.

In the fall i started at a new university where my sister went to. I joined a sorority, fell in love with the campus, made some amazing friends, and i was feeling good. I would have these crazy high amounts of energy. I am a pretty outgoing person so it was assumed normal. No one would have ever guessed that I have Bipolar 2 disorder that went untreated for YEARS.

I lost it again- and had another bad relapse where i was basically on my death bed. I started to assume i would never get better. Every time i felt good, i relapsed and got WORSE. I realized it wasnt the therapy that was the problem. The problem was ME. I was not actually trying to recover. All this time i was just doing what people wanted me to do. I didnt take anything seriously.

My second trip to LO in February was not intended, but i could not be happier that it happened. I was inpatient for a week and kind of went off the charts. However, for the first time i was surrounded by people who understood me. I was getting treatment that worked. I wasnt being judged for not eating. I was with people who I could trust and wanted me to get better. I wanted to get better.

This post got a little long, but i cannot stress enough how important it is to take therapy seriously. These are trained professionals working to help you. Once you take that step towards recovery you have to work at it everyday. This is your life- not your EDs. Do not let them win. Trust your therapist and dietician. They just want whats best for you. Therapy is hard, admitting you have a problem is hard, but its worth it. Living life in the shadows of your ED is not life. Being consumed with the thoughts… there is so much you can accomplish! So please, seek recovery, take it seriously. The future is bright and you can accomplish more than you know. I believe in you, please believe in yourself too.