Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Eating Disorder: How it started and how it ended

In high school, I was a kind, polite, introvert who was everyone and no one’s friend.  I perpetually felt like an outsider and wanted to belong to a group.  But in reality, I desperately wanted just one friend whom I could spill my guts – talk about anything and everything until the wee hours of the morning.

I was quiet.  I was compassionate.  I was a good listener.  On my forehead, I wore a sign that read “tell me all your problems”.  I had no boundariesI internalized everything I heard.  I was moved with pity for the human race.  Overtime, I had a lot of pent up emotion because I rarely shared my own soul with another person.

In the 6th grade, I started running and quickly realized it was a good stress reliever for me.  During high school, I was a four year member of the cross country team.  Surrounding the sport was a lot of focus on weight and such.  I was/am a perfectionist.  So in the name of health, I went on a diet.  I thought that if I lost weight I would be a better runner.  Because I was so rigid with rules, that diet eventually turned into an eating disorder.

I am not intending to put the blame on one specific thing or say “ha” that’s how it started.  I believe my eating disorder resulted from a bunch of unfortunate situations put together.  Also, my perfectionist personality, my desire to fit in, and my ignorance of health led me to use food to deal with my problems.

The thing was – no one stopped me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to hide an eating disorder.  But, for me, I think it was easy because no one knew the signs and signals of an eating disorder.  And I wasn’t necessarily quiet about it in the beginning.  I read everything I could about health and nutrition and shared my knowledge at home like the know-it-all-oldest-child I am.

None of my friends and family thought this was a problem because I was surrounded by a weight loss environment.  My mom was constantly trying to lose weight.  We would talk about food and calories on a regular basis.  Once I started severely restricting my food intake, my mom made the comment that maybe we should all eat that way.

It wasn’t just my immediate family.  My aunt was on a diet and, when I was 12 years old, I remember that she told me I could eat all the chips and salsa that I wanted because it had minimal calories.  My other aunt was on a never-ending Atkins diet.  I saw her eat the weirdest combinations of things because it was “good for you” and that made it OK.  My grandma continually commented on weight and appearance.  My brothers, sisters, and I knew that the first thing our relatives said to one another was either, “You look great” or “Did you lose weight?”  So from a young age, I picked up on the belief that being thin was important or, at least, losing weight merited attention.

I picked up on everything little comment, joke, reference, and insinuation about appearance.  EVERYTHING.

The people with the greatest influence on me, however, were the spiritual directors I had going through junior high and high school.  Their intentions were to teach about fasting and sacrifice.  For me this meant a new measurable way to calculate how perfect I was.  And as far as food goes, now, not only were there good and bad foods nutritionally, but also sinful foods.  I not only worried about whether or not a certain meal would make me fat, but I also worried about whether or not it was pleasing to God.  My motto was, when in doubt, just don’t eat anything at all.

In college, I confirmed my beliefs losing weight was everyone’s priority and that the way you looked merited attention.  I skipped class to work out.  I tried to see how little I could eat.  I fasted in the name of sacrifice but secretly knew that it would mean weight loss.  I became very good at not eating.
But there was always more weight to lose, fewer calories to eat, and smaller pant sizes.

After several years of purposely starving myself, my bodily instincts kicked into survival mode and I began eat a little more.  I did NOT like this at all.  I counted calories obsessively.  If I ate more than 700 calories, I make up for the extra calories by starving myself for however many days that it calculated out to be.  Eventually, the math got complicated and I would be “behind” 9 or 10 days worth of food.  It was overwhelming, so I began to make myself throw up, abuse laxatives, or exercise for three to four hours at a time.

I wrote the calorie numbers on my hand in units – one through seven.  Not a day went by where my hand wasn’t scribbled on.

After college, I got my first job at a school in Cincinnati.  My schedule was: eat 200 calories for breakfast, teach all morning, 200 calories for lunch, teach all afternoon, work out for three hours at the gym, sit in the sauna for 30 minutes, shower, do my hair, 200 calories for supper, lesson plan for the next day, 100 calorie snack while watching Gilmore Girls, then cry myself to sleep.  I only lasted six months at the job.  However, this routine went on for several years.

I was so out of energy that the other teachers thought I had a terminal illness like cancer.  I did have an illness; I had an eating disorder and severe depression. 

Lucky, the disease didn’t take my life.  I started seeing a counselor and really tried to recovery on my own. 
Unfortunately, I was still using food to cope with my difficult emotions because I hadn’t yet confronted the baseline issues.  So...I started binge eating.  I have to say that, during this part of my life, I felt the most ashamed, the most disgusting, and the most unworthy of life.  At this point, my depression was extremely severe.  I could not stop counting calories.  When I would get up into the 9-10 thousand calorie mark, I wanted to kill myself and thought about ways to do it.

My moment of grace came when I ran a marathon last fall.  My reasons for training for the marathon were probably rooted in eating disorder motivations.  Still, God used the opportunity to reach out to me.

Throughout my training processes, I also had been going to a very good counselor.  And on top of that, I started taking anti-depressants.  So things were coming together slowly.

During the marathon, about half-way through, I realized that I was still counting the calories I was eating that day.  And then it hit me, “I was running a freaking marathon and I was still concerned with how much I was eating!”  I was enlightened and, for the first time, realized how unrealistic I was being.  I laughed...and mile 14 or 15 I was laughing out loud.

That moment, that wonderful moment of grace, I saw that my obsession with counting calories was controlling my life.

I thought I was in control; I thought that I was the one doing the counting.  Yet, if I was still counting now, during a marathon, then I will never stop; nothing will be good enough.  There was no realistic basis for me to be counting calories.  Twenty-six-point-freaking-two miles of running and I was still counting calories!  This was the finale.  “When I crossed that finish line”, I thought, “I am going to end this obsession once and for all”.

Of course, it didn’t stop overnight like I wanted it to.  Like any bad habit, it took time, practice, and patience to beat.  However, I am happy to report that I have not written on my hand for one year.  I have been binge free for 11 months.  And I have not counted calories for almost 9 months.

I could not have recovered on my own.  I needed hospitalization, counseling, medication, coping skills, and a great support system.  In case you are a doubter, eating disorder recovery is possible.

I am living proof.

If you liked this article, see below:
To read more about how my marathon experience contributed to my recovery, click here.
To read about my first real run which was months after the race, click here.
Also, if you’d like to read about some ways to stop binge eating, click here.
Check out - 8 Practical Ways to Stop Emotional Overeating, click here.
And....Dieting: What I mean and what I don't mean and 10 reasons to give it up, click here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Twisted World of Eating Disorders

Did you know there is a hierarchy in the twisted world of eating disorders?

Binge Eating Disorder is a legitimate type of eating disorder.  However, the people who have it rarely ask for or receive proper recovery treatment.  Most people who don’t struggle with it don’t understand how painful it is.  And those who do have it don’t feel like they deserve official eating disorder help.

In the twisted world of eating disorders, Anorexia Nervosa is considered the “highest” and most d coveted level of eating disorders.  Bulimia Nervosa is second place, leaving Binge Eating Disorder somewhere among the peasants.

I was never as “successful” at my eating disorder as some people.  At least, that’s what I felt like.  I never thought I was bad enough to deserve to get help. 

I guess I was classified as having ED-NOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) because I oscillated between all three.  So I definitely didn’t feel like I was allowed to ask for help.

Even today, after learning all the facts and realizing that ALL eating disorders are equally dangerous, I still find myself questioning whether or not I really deserved any help.

Even now, when I am at my lowest moments, I feel like the E.D. still has power over me and still has to run its course.  Part of me wants to revert back to my old E.D. ways so that I can prove to myself and other people that I really did have an eating disorder.

It is so difficult for me to stand next to someone really thin.  Even if I know they also struggle with an eating disorder, I can’t help but feel inferior.  I feel like I am an eating disorder failure.  “They are obviously better at their eating disorder than me.  Maybe I should take it up again and prove to myself that I am good at it too.”  I know, twisted.

The past few months, I have had really normal eating habits.  However, I am still afraid that this is all a show, that I’m just pretending, and that it will come back.  I think a part of my fear is coming from the fear of losing my E.D. for good.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s the goal!  However, I feel like I am being tempted to revert back to some of my old ways so that I don’t lose my “skills” completely.
I am tempted to give in to "little" things.  I've been cutting back my calories here and there.  I've been exercising a little more than I want to.  And I've been trying to cut out complete food groups, like grains and sugars.

I bet part of this internal struggle is because the enemy wants to have control over me through this eating disorder and he’s scared to lose me to full recovery.  So, in a certain sense, I must be doing something right because I am being tempted.  If I wasn’t close to letting go of it for good, then I probably wouldn’t be tempted so bad.

If you could follow me up there, great!  If not, that’s OK.  I feel like my brain just thinks differently than other people’s brain.  Or do you think this way too?

Someone at a party:  You’re so skinny. How do you eat so much and stay so thin?
What I hear:  Why are you still eating?  If you keep eating that much you won’t be skinny anymore.
My thoughts:  I don’t eat that much, do I? …and I’m not skinny!  Look at these thunder thighs!

Someone at the dinner table:  You must be really hungry! You’re plate is full!
What I hear:  You’re a pig!  Save some for us.
My thoughts:  It’s not that much food, is it? …it’s a small plate.  It just looks full.  I’ll just take one bite of each thing and throw the rest away.

At a restaurant:  (When offered dessert) I’m full.  I can’t eat another thing.  You want dessert?  You’re still hungry?
What I hear:  You fat slob.  Why are you still eating?  You should be on a diet because I am thinner than you.
My thoughts:  Never mind.  Forget the dessert.  Forget eating anything from now on.

It stinks.  It’s twisted.  It’s so difficult to overcome.

How can I ever expect anyone else to understand this different world?  I know I get all fired up about eating disorders and having a poor relationship with food and such.  Why am I that way?  I don't know.  All I know is that it really bothers me, because I know what twisted lies it feeds, and because it’s a huge part of my life.

E.D. triggers are everywhere.  Food is “the enemy” in our country.  The other day, I had to leave the room when people start talking about diets and weight.  I can’t go a single day without encountering a conversation about food and appearance.

I know I can’t solve this food-hate problem myself.  It’s deeply ingrained in our culture.  It’s going to take generations to fix.  But just because I can’t beat ‘em doesn’t mean I am going to join ‘em.

If you liked reading this article, check out these similar posts:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I hope this is just a phase. I hope this is not a relapse.

Recently, I’ve been very down.  The old depressive feelings are, kind of, coming back.  Feelings of worthlessness, what’s the point, the world is a horrible place, and I guess I’ll go eat dirt.

Because I am sensing more depression lately, I am scared this is the beginning of a relapse.  In addition, I am completely off the anti-depressants, so that’s another reason for me to be worried about returning symptoms.

I was supposed to monitor how I’ve been feeling since coming off the medication, but the extra attention to my moods isn’t exactly helping my cause.  I’ve been putting too much focus on how I feel which is resulting in finding problems where there aren’t any.

The good thing is, however, I am still functioning.  I am still getting out of bed in the morning (11:55am counts), I am still eating (even though I don’t want to), and I am still taking care of myself.

I am hard on myself because I am not yet perfect.  I want to get up at 5:15am every day.  I want to eat healthy and exercise moderately.  I want to paint every day.  I want to be a good friend, sister, and wife.  I want to fill my schedule with volunteer work.  I want to be able to say “yes” when asked a favor.  I want to go to daily mass.  I want to achieve great things.  I want, I want, I want …in reality, I just want to be perfect right now.

Because I am not yet where I want to be, there must be something wrong, right?

People who struggle with depression and anxiety have common “all or nothing” characteristics.  It is either black or white, right or wrong, all or nothing…  We can’t see the gray area, and we have a difficult time with compromise.  But only when it comes to our own lives are we that strict.  We are rarely that hard on other people, especially loved ones.

So, this bad week is, in my mind, a relapse.  I am not good, so I am bad.  I am not healing, so I must be hurting.  I am not happy, therefore, I am depressed.

Luckily, this past year, I’ve learned healthy coping skills to deal with situations like this one.  And I’ve also learned how to stop the snowball of negative thoughts before it turns into an avalanche.

How do I do that?

First, I have to be my own best friend.  Since I have a difficult time loving myself, I treat myself as I would treat a loved one – with compassion and unconditional forgiveness.

Second, I have to remind myself of my “all or nothing” tendencies.  Just knowing that I am typically unrealistic can help me calm down.

Third, a relapse is NOT a do-over.  I am much better equipped to handle a fit of depression this time around compared to the last time.  So, even if I do have a relapse, I will be OK.

And last, but not least, my symptoms are nowhere near as severe as last summer.  I know this is true because my husband, Craig, and I made a list of warning signs so he and I will know when things are getting really bad.  Bad as in “relapse” bad.  Bad as in “need to re-evaluate the whole no more medication” bad.

My Early Warning Signals:
Emotional Isolation
Practicing Eating Disorder Behaviors
Crying myself to sleep every night
Obsessive list making
Avoiding going places out of fear
Obsessively Exercising
Drinking Alcohol
Staying in bed all day

The last two would merit a trip to the hospital.  The other six warning signs need to happen frequently over an extended period of time to cause any alarm.  For example, the other day I made a wicked unrealistic list of, at least, a hundred things I wanted to do in one day.  But, with Craig’s help, I was able to throw that list away.  We talked through it and I was reminded that I don’t want to go down that road again.

Comparatively speaking, I am actually doing really well.  I may not be where I want to be, I may not be perfect, but that shouldn’t stop me from giving myself some credit.  Perfectionism is a dangerous things and it can hold anyone back from living a fulfilling life.

I don’t have to wait until I am perfect to start living.

If I look at things under a positive light, I can allow myself some praise for my accomplishments, however small and minuscule they seem to me.  This practice is crucial part of seeing the value in your own life.

If you want to get over your paralyzing perfectionism, don’t be ashamed of giving yourself praise, compliments, or a pat on the back for your achievements, even if they are minor successes.

Sometimes, we fail to recognize the good in ourselves because we are afraid of appearing vain or big-headed.  On the flip side, if we constantly berate ourselves, we will have a difficult time finding value in our lives, which can sometimes have worse results than having a bit of self-worth.

My prayer is to see myself as God sees me, to love myself as God loves me.

I am proud of myself for coming off my medication.
I am happy that I finished a difficult painting recently and it turned out great.
I am pleased with myself that I tried a new recipe and it was a hit.
I give myself a pat on the back for regularly posting to this blog.

If I can find some good in me, instead of just focusing on all my flaws, I will have a greater chance of overcoming this depression.  I am not at the beginning of a relapse.  I am doing just fine.

If you liked this article, check out these posts:
All or Nothing Drama
Paralyzing Perfectionism
Tapering off the Medication

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to pray when you don't feel like it & 7 Great Prayers

Sometimes, when you need it the most, you just don't feel like praying.
When my depression is really bad, I have a very difficult time with prayer.  I feel like I don't deserve to be talk to Our Lord.  I feel unworthy.  I also feel like my prayers are not effective.  I did this or that so I deserve to be depressed.  I don't deserve happiness.  Why then should I pray for healing?
I found these words on Beliefnet:
"When you're depressed, you may discover that the shadows and tempests of that depression alter the way you look at God and the way you believe God looks at you. When you pray, you may be unable to sit still or to keep your mind focused for more than a few moments. Everything may appear to be a huge gaping hole of silence--all so useless. God may seem to be mocking your attempts to pray."
The unfortunate truth is that the very nature of the disease is hopeless.  The main symptoms of depression are feelings of worthless and uselessness.  So, of course, it would seem that anything, including prayer, would be in vain.
However, even though it seems fruitless, prayer is so important.
I think that when I became depressed, I stopped praying becasue I didn't know how to pray anymore.  Depression changes things.  When you are suffering with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses, your life changes immensly.  Hence your spiritual life will change as well.  Don't make the mistake of chucking it out altogether.  You just need to tweek your style.
The key is to remember that it won't be perfect, don't be so hard on yourself, and keep going and NEVER give up!
How to pray when you're depressed (from Beliefnet):
Find a quiet place, put on soothing music, or go for a walk.
Remember others who are hurting in your prayers; there is strength in numbers.
Hold onto the crucifix, a rosary, the Bible, or another physical, tangible sign of the faith; even if you don't say anything, just close your eyes and hold tight.
If your mind is racing, repeat one phrase over and over again.  For example, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".  Or if you need something shorter, "My Lord, and My God".
If you find yourself in church and you can't "pray", just be in the presence of the Lord.
7 Wonderful Prayers for Dealing with Depression
The Courage Prayer
Dear Jesus, lay Your Wounded Hand
Upon my weary head,
And teach me to have courage
In the paths that I must tread.

Bless me, and bless those whom I love,
And give us grace to see
These crosses bravely borne by us
Will keep us close to Thee.

And if at times a shadow falls
In unexpected ways,
Put Your gentle Hand in mine
And guide me through the days.

So bless my people, one and all,
With Thy protecting grace,
And impart to them Thy Wisdom
Ere they meet Thee face to face.

Prayer Against Depression -By St. Ignatius of Loyola
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love and strengthening power
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand, Your purpose,
Your will through all things. Amen.
Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Prayer for Acceptance of God's Will
O Lord, I do not know what to ask You. You alone know my real needs, and You love me more than I even know how to love. Enable me to discern my true needs which are hidden from me. I ask for neither a cross nor a consolation but simply wait in patience for You. My heart is open to You.  For Your great mercy’s sake, come to me and help me. Put Your mark on me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I silently adore Your holy will and Your inscrutable ways. I offer myself in sacrifice to You and put all my trust in You. I desire only to do Your will. Teach me how to pray. Amen.
The Serenity Prayer (Original Form) -By Reinhold Niebuhr
God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Prayer for Those Coping With DepressionDear Lord, you are our refuge in good and in bad times. In your infinite mercy, bring peace and comfort to those of us who face days sometimes filled with pain and depression. Help us to realize that through you there is joy and the promise of lasting peace. Help us through the rough times. Walk before and beside us so that we may walk in your footsteps and reach out to you in our journey on this earth. Help us to focus on our blessings rather than our misfortunes, dear Lord. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. Amen

Friday, July 19, 2013

Abraham Lincoln had Depression

"I am now the most miserable man living.  If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on earth.”  - Abraham Lincoln

Lots of people struggle with, or have struggled with, depression in the past.  Even really famous people, even people you would have never thought, and even people who have gone on to achieve amazing feats have struggled with a mental illness.

For example, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Carrey, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Winston Churchill are all know to have struggled with depression.  Click here for a full list from Wikipedia.
No one likes to talk about depression.  No one likes to admit that they are taking an anti-depressant.  And I’ve never met a person who was not deathly afraid to even begin taking a pill such as an anti-depressant.  So, we don’t know the reality of the extent of this disease in our world today.  But, my guess is many people suffer with depression.

Still, despite the widespread epidemic, depression has a social stigma.  It’s a mental illness.  When people think “mental illness” they think about hospitals, the white van, strait jackets, and ruined lives.

It is true, and very sad, that many have suffered severe mental illness that merits them all the horrors listed above.  Some mental illnesses are life-long, and some are terminal.  We have not yet found a cure for mental illnesses like, schizophrenia and extreme bi-polar disorder.  Living with these illnesses takes constant vigilance, maintenance with medication, and medical monitoring for the patient to have a seemingly normal life.  It breaks my heart.

But depression is NOT one of those mental illnesses.  Depression can be temporary.  If treated correctly, you can be cured of your depression.  It’s like comparing the flu with HIV.  They are both viruses, right?  They both cause pain and suffering.  However, you are more likely to recover from the flu then from HIV.  HIV has no known cure yet.  Depression has a cure.  Comparatively, you are more likely to recover from depression than schizophrenia.

I am not trying to devalue the pain of depression.  I almost did not survive it myself.

Depression is terrible.

The worst part was that I felt like I deserved it - I deserved to suffer from depression.
A few years ago, I didn’t think I had any reason to get help for the anxiety, despair, and worthlessness I felt on a daily basis.  (This response is pretty common among depression patients.)  I didn’t feel like I deserved to be happy.  And, I couldn’t go to the doctor because, what would I say?  It is easier to pinpoint on your body what hurts to a doctor.  But, with depression, it was just an overall sense of “______”.  I still don’t know how to describe how it feels with just one word.  I couldn’t describe my depression or anxiety to anyone else close to me, let alone a stranger or a doctor.  So, because of these two reasons, I put off seeking help for my problems.

What does depression feel like?
Depression and Anxiety (two sides of the same coin) kind of feels like you’re walking down a long, dark, never ending, descending corridor, there’s no sunlight, no way back, and no way out.  You have 100 pounds of pressure on your shoulders pushing you in the opposite direction and weighing you down constantly.  It is too difficult to get out of bed in the morning because you know what you have to face.  Nothing eases your pain.  You used to cry multiple times a day but now you just feel numb to everything and have stopped caring.  You might have occasional bursts of energy but they are always accompanied by a lower low than before the high.  So you are either spending each moment searching for that next thing that will give you a high, or you are scared to feel anything at all because of what you might do (i.e. harm yourself).  It’s terrible.

I didn’t know that this condition wasn’t normal.  And I didn’t know that I didn’t have to live with it.

Guess what?  If you struggle with anxiety or depression or both, you don’t have to live with it either.  Making the first step toward getting help is the most difficult.  But it is the most important step.  As long as you never stop seeking help, you will make it.

Know that there is help available.  And there is HOPE.

Depression is not a terminal illness.  It can be if you don’t get the right kind of help.  It would be like dying from the flu – tragic because treatment is so common and widely accessible.
“If depression had no termination, then suicide would, indeed, be the only remedy. But one need not sound the false or inspirational note to stress the truth that depression is not the soul’s annihilation; men and women who have recovered from the disease—and they are countless—bear witness to what is probably its only saving grace: it is conquerable.” (By William Styron, “Darkness Visible”)
I've quoted that paragraph before.  You can find it here.
How do you know if you have depression?
According to the DSM-IV, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms at the same time:
  • A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
  • A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • (information taken from wedmd)
  • take this test to see if you have depression
The causes of depression are not yet nailed down.  It can be hereditary or genetic.  And it can also be the result of your circumstances.  If you are under extreme amounts of stress and anxiety over an extended period of time, you are more susceptible to getting depression.

How do you treat depression?

I call it “The Tripod”: Medication, Counseling, and Self-help methods (or healthy coping skills).  These three aspects of recovery are all necessary and required to achieve mental health again.  Just like a tripod, you can’t have only one, or even only two legs, because it will fall down.  All three legs of the tripod must be equally balanced.

Medication helps bring your emotions and feelings to a stable level.  Without doing this, you won’t be able to hear or absorb the information that will get you better.  Click here to read more about medication.

Counseling with a professional helps because they can guide you in the right direction.  They’ve seen it all before.  And they know what they are doing.  But be careful, no counseling is better than bad counseling.  So pick your mentor wisely.  Click here for more info on how to find a good counselor.

Self-help methods or healthy coping skills are the third leg of the tripod.  After taking medication and getting good counseling, you have to decide whether or not you want to get better.  If your medication is working and your counselor is helping, then this step shouldn’t be a problem.  You have to put in the time and the effort and the practice if you want to have a successful recovery.  Before I started taking medication, of course I wanted to get better.  I just didn’t know how.  It was not for lack of desire that kept me from getting better.  After taking the meds and taking to a professional, I was able to see more clearly.  I was able to make better decisions that would help me on the road to full recovery.  Click here to read more about self-help methods.

Keep in mind that everyone is different.  You cannot compare your recovery rate to anyone else’s.  Just because so and so recovered in two years doesn’t mean you will too.  It might take 10 years, and it might take 10 months.  But nonetheless, you WILL recover and have a wonderful life again!
Have a Nourishing Weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eating Disorders via Pinterest

You only need to be on the Pinterest website for 5 minutes to encounter countless negative-body-image messages and way too many harmful E.D. temptations.  One is too many in my opinion.  However, there are millions of wrong messages.  (Not to mention the millions of airbrushed models that you can't help compare yourself to.)

In this post, I am going to show several images that I found on Pinterest and tell you why they contribute to eating disorder tendencies and why they are very destructive to your overall mental health.  (Literally, I found these images in less than 5 minutes.)

*Important note: If you struggle, or have struggled, with an eating disorder, and you do not feel that you are ready to approach this analysis without risking a relapse, then, by all means, please skip this post.  If you find that after reading this article you are tempted to revert to old E.D. behaviors, then I beg you to seek help.

Personally, I could not have read this kind of post two years ago without experiencing severe set-backs.  Any encounter with E.D. information would have set me off because I didn’t have proper help.  Even though this article is written with the intention to help, I understand how it can be harmful if you aren’t in the right place.

Why should you guard your body image?
You need to protect your positive body image because how you view yourself on the inside can be greatly effected by how you view yourself on the outside.  If you are not content and do not accept how you look or appear, then you will struggle to love yourself as a whole person.  In our world today, the human person is under many forms of attack.  One of those ways is through “self-hate”.  It is impossible to love properly if you don’t love yourself first.  Your body, your being, your life, and your talents are a gift from God.  He wants you to love yourself as He loves you: unconditionally, mercifully, compassionately, and without reservations.  He wants you to see yourself as He sees you.  You are beautiful, and you are Loved!

Also, your children, nieces and nephews, and the future generation will learn how to treat themselves (and others) by your example.  If you do not have a positive body image, then it is highly likely that your children will struggle with depression, anxiety, and eating disorder tendencies.

With that said, let’s dive in.

Caption: 67 ways to lose weight
What is wrong with this message:  In case you weren't successful in believing that your body is flawed, here are 67 more ways to bring you down.  67 ways to develop and eating disorder.  67 ways to make you believe that you must change in order to be loved.  This picture alone should tell you that dieting does not work.  Wouldn't you need just 1 way instead of 67?
Caption: Lbs and Calories, 0.1lb = burning 350 calories, 0.2lb = burning 700 calories, 0.3lb = burning 1050 calories...............1.0 lb = burning 3500 calories
What is wrong with this message:  Food in does NOT equal calories out.  First of all, every person is different.  Your stress level, amount of sleep, overall health, and many other factors contribute to how much food you need on a daily basis.  This picture is a result of a lab experiment NOT real life!  This chart is highly technical down to the 0.1lb.  If you are spending your time figuring out how to burn X amount of calories to lose X amount of pounds, you have exercise-obsessive eating disorder tendencies.
Caption: I may not be skinny, but I'm freaking awesome and that's basically the same thing.
What is wrong with this message: are trying to sound like you don't care about your weight.  In reality, you've just told us that you believe being skinny is awesome.  Being skinny is NOT more awesome that being comfortable in your own skin.  Being skinny will NOT make you happy.
Caption: Make Yourself Proud
What is wrong with this message:  This picture says "make yourself proud" but it has an airbrushed picture of an angry model showing off her flat stomach.  This picture says, if you go through life and spend all your time and energy trying to have the "perfect" body, you deserve to be proud of yourself.  Wait...huh?  No. No. NO.  Don't waste your life trying to have a flat stomach or thin thighs or toned arms.  I guarantee you will not be proud of yourself at the end.  On your death bed, are you really going to think, "Gee, I am so glad I spend all my time and energy trying to be thin"?
Caption: Sweat Everyday
What is wrong with this message:  Why do you want to sweat everyday?  Because you "should"?  Because you'd be a bad person if you didn't?  Because you'll die?  I don't get it.  Does a sauna count?  I like to exercise because it feels good and enhances the quality of my life.  Do I exercise everyday?  No.  Three days a week is good enough for me.
Caption: What you eat in private you wear in public.
What is wrong with this message:  Ohhhhhhh soooooo many things!  I don't even know where to begin.  First of all, this sentence is intended to shame a person into not eating in private.  Let me make one thing clear.  It's OK to eat by yourself or in private.  The situation they're alluding to in this message is binge eating.  Binge Eating Disorder is a REAL eating disorder.  If you are struggling with B.E.D., then you need to get professional help.  Shame and threats do not work.  Compassion and patience is the only way to recover from such illness.  Click here to read more about B.E.D.
Caption: Would you rather be covered in sweat at the gym or covered in clothes at the beach?
What is wrong with this message:  Again, this is a similar message like the one above.  The tactic is shame and threats.  What is wrong with wearing clothes at the beach?  Nothing.  Nothing, I tell you.  Modesty is the best sign to tell if someone has a good body image or not.  If you feel like you have to wear bikinis at the beach in order to be accepted, then you've got a distorted view of self-love.  Click here for more on this modesty/body image topic.  Want modest swimwear?  Click here.

My point of showing all these images is to make you aware that we are bombarded with extreme body image negativity.  We see it so much, everyday, every time we're on the computer, every time we look at a magazine - we are de-sensitized to it.  It’s a part of our culture now.  But we don’t have to put up with it.  We must seek to rid our lives of this poison.
I am sorry to be dramatic.  Look at it this way; the enemy wants us to hate ourselves.  If you do not love your body and do not treat it with respect, then you will be more likely tempted to sin.  If you have no self-respect and no boundaries, then the enemy can convince you it doesn’t matter, when it does, tremendously.  Your body image is important.  Don’t let the enemy win the battle that easily.

Monday, July 15, 2013

8 Practical Ways to Stop Emotional Overeating

{Photo credit to Craig Borchers}
I love to eat ice cream with my husband.  There is nothing like s’mores around a campfire.  And who doesn’t love a good steak dinner every now and then?

Eating is an emotional experience as well as a physical experience.

However, if you use food to cope with all your emotions, food will begin to take control of your life instead of enhancing the quality of your life.

Do you feel like you have a good relationship with food?

Do you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, or eating to until you are uncomfortably full?  Or do you eat too little when you are stressed out or anxious?  Do you taste your food, or do you eat without thinking?  Do you ever regret eating something?  Do you beat yourself up for overeating?

First and foremost, it is OK.  It is OK if you eat too much sometimes.  And it is OK if you eat too little sometimes.  We are human; we’re not going to have perfect eating habits.

Second, because food is such a big part of our lives (we eat three meals a day, we need food to live, and food often brings people together), I think it is important to have a peaceful relationship with food.

I want to have a normal, healthy view of eating.

For me personally, a normal relationship with food is all about peace and compassion.  It is about feeling good about my food choices and not obsessing about right and wrong.  And just as important, it is about being kind to myself when I do make mistakes or feel bad about what I ate; whether I physically feel bad, or I mentally feel guilty.  I don’t want to be anxious around food.  I don’t want to miss out on parties and gatherings because I am afraid to eat in front of people.  I don’t want to use food to comfort all my feelings.  I don’t want to eat in secret because I am ashamed of eating.  And I don’t want to let my fear of food stop me from having a fulfilling life.

Sometimes an unnatural relationship with food can lead to an eating disorder.  Not all eating disorders are characterized by starvation or purging.  Click here and here to read more about Binge Eating Disorder.

Many people, including me, use food to cope with difficult emotions, because, well, eating is an emotional experience.  Food nourishes more than just your body.  Eating food can nourish your mind, your soul, and your heart.

On the flip side, keep in mind that you can nourish yourself in many different ways.  Food is only one way we nourish ourselves.  Exercising, reading, conversations, work, prayer, creating, and other things nourish the whole self as well.

With this preface in mind, keep reading to find out 8 practical ways to stop emotional overeating:

1. Become self-aware.  Figure out your needs.  If you are feeling anxious and a little unsettled, close your eyes, put your hand over your heart and ask yourself what you truly need right now.  Maybe you need to have a conversation with your significant other.  Maybe you need to say “no” to a favor asked of you.  Maybe you need to go to bed early or take a nap.  Why?  Well, by taking a few moments to become self-aware, you might understand why you are upset or angry or scared, and you won’t immediately turn to food to comfort those uncomfortable emotions.  A lot of times, if you use food to soothe your feelings, you end up feeling worse than when you started.  You didn’t take care of your true needs so now you feel defeated because of overeating and you still feel unsettled with whatever emotion is bothering you at that time.

2. Eat with your five senses.  Eat slowly, take small bites, smell your food, notice the colors, textures and flavors.  Use all your five senses in your eating experience.  Whether you are eating a meal or a snack, you can use this technique.  Look at your food – look at the bite you are about to take, notice what it is, and ask yourself if it looks good or bad or neither.  Smell your food – smell the aromas of your plate and your surroundings, does it smell good or bad to you, ask yourself what it reminds you of because smells contain powerful memories.   Feel your food with your fingers if it is finger food – is it hot to the touch, is the steam rising up in your face, does it feel squishy or hard, do you like the way it feels in your hands?  Listen to your meal – maybe your meal is sizzling hot, and also listen to your surroundings, maybe the environment is noisy and chaotic or maybe it is completely quiet.  Last but not least, taste your food – really taste your food, ask yourself questions about it, savor each bite slowly, chew slowly and thoroughly.  Do you like it, or does your meal not taste as good as you thought it would?  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.  If you love it, you have permission to eat a second helping.

3. Eat without distractions.  That means no iPad, computer, TV, phone, etc.  Even put down your novel.  If you want to stop emotional overeating, then you must be present each time you eat.  Mindless overeating happens most often when you are distracted by something else.  In our current society, it is really difficult to eat alone, especially in public.  I am guilty of pretending to be on my phone or my computer when I eat, because I am afraid of what other people will think of me.  Remind yourself, that you have a right to eat, and you have a right to enjoy what you are eating.  If you are distracted when you eat, then you won’t be able to recognize when you are full.  Also, you won’t be able to remember the experience of eating; therefore you are more likely to eat more and more frequently because your emotions aren’t satisfied.

4. Make yourself delicious and nutritious meals.  You don’t have to do this every day because it might get you stressed out.  However, from time to time, take the time for yourself and make a meal you love.  Maybe you don’t even know what you love.  Figure out what your favorite foods.  What are you craving right now at this moment?  Do you want a hearty, home-cooked beef stew?  Or does a cucumber salad sound good?  When I first started “intuitive eating”, I was afraid that I would like everything.  I was afraid that, if I gave myself permission to eat, that I would eat everything in sight.  Well, I was partly right because I discovered there were few foods I wouldn’t try at least once, but I don’t like everything.  I don’t like some things some days and other things other days.  And I don’t eat everything in sight either.  Because I am aware of what I need and aware of what I eat, I am satisfied and can move on to other things.

5. Remind yourself that you do not have to earn the right to eat food.  We eat food to live and to enhance the quality of our life.  It’s a necessity and a pleasure.  You DON’T have to exercise first, you DON’T have to skip a few meals in between, and you DON’T have to “make up” for the calories you eat.

6. Give yourself permission to eat ANY food.  Food is good.  There are NO bad foods.  Remind yourself as often as it takes that you can eat later if you get hungry again.  You will not eat the whole batch of chocolate chip cookies tonight, if you have permission to eat some again tomorrow.  You are allowed to have food preferences.  And you NEVER have to apologize for what you eat.  There are no set rules that everyone must follow.  When it comes to food, you have to figure out what is good for you.

7. Take time for yourself.  Take a bath or a shower, get a massage, curl up with a good book, or listen to classical music.  Go to a local cafĂ© and sit on a sidewalk seat with a cappuccino.  If you tell yourself that you do not have the time then you will believe that excuse.  But if you make yourself a priority, you will magically find the time.  No need to feel guilty.  Taking care of yourself will make you a better person.  If you take time for yourself, you will be a better wife, friend, mother, worker, giver, teacher, etc.  If you are having a difficult time taking care of yourself first, treat yourself like your own best friend.  Imagine you are on the outside looking in on your life.  Be kind and compassionate to yourself.  Treat yourself with the love you would show to another loved one.

8. Practice relaxation techniques.  Slowing down is one of the most effective ways to stop emotional overeating.  Stress does crazy things to our bodies.  It messes with our hormones and brain chemicals and makes us do stuff we wouldn’t normally do.  Relaxing for only 20 minutes a day will help you make better decisions not only about food but also about life in general.
The bottom line is to remember that life is not perfect.  You are not perfect, and I am not perfect.  We are human - we’re not going to have perfect eating habits.  But if you follow these steps, I guarantee you will have a better relationship with food and a more nourishing life.

If you liked this post, check out these articles with similar topics:
Relaxation, the Remedy for the Modern World
10 Reasons to Give Up Dieting
Intuitive eating - One Way to Stop Emotional Overeating
How to Stop Binge Eating