Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why I haven't been blogging much lately...

I haven’t been blogging much lately because looking at the computer screen makes me nauseous.  And I’m nauseous because I’m pregnant.

We’re very excited to take on this new adventure in our lives.  Of course, I’m scared out of my mind, anxious about the future, and terrified to gain weight.  I’m at no shortage for blogging material – as soon as the morning sickness subsides, there will be an avalanche of posts.  Take this as your formal warning.

But before I embark on the pregnancy hormone journey, I would like to write first about loss, grief, and the pain of not being able to have a child when you so desperately want to have one.

Many people have trouble conceiving or trouble keeping the pregnancy to full term.  I, myself, had two miscarriages so far.  I’m not ready to write about those experiences, yet I do want to say that it has greatly shaped who I am now as a woman, mother, and wife.

I always knew that a child was a gift from God.  But now I know that a baby is nothing short of a miracle sent from Heaven personally delivered to you from God to take care of for however long or short of time He decides.

The suffering that incurs from wanting to have a baby and not being able to is far greater than any other suffering I’ve ever encountered.  Even more so, the loss of a child brought on so many “Why God?” pleadings that I became resentful of God and of suffering.

The emotions, the grief, the unanswerable questions are sometimes too much to handle.  I can see how the experience can tear people and relationships apart, not to mention one’s relationship with God.

The phrase “It was God’s will” really bothered me.  I realized that it was unsettling to me because I was thinking of God’s will in the wrong way.  He isn’t some sadistic being waiting for just the perfect moment to make our lives sad and miserable.  No, God does not cause evil to happen; He can’t because He is all-good, perfect, all-powerful.  He only allows evil to happen because in His all-knowing mind He sees that a greater good can come from it.  We often don’t see what He sees right away – we might not even understand completely until we’re in Heaven.

When tragic things like infertility or miscarriages happen, God grieves with us and weeps with us when we are in such inconsolable pain.

Instead of thinking what happened was “God’s Will” per se, I think that He only allowed the tragedy to happen because a greater good will come from it.

It’s common these days to ask recently married couples if they are expecting, if they are trying to have a baby, or if they even want kids.  After our experience, I won’t ever ask anyone those questions again.  Often times, as people of faith, we can err in the opposite direction and judge someone for not having a lot of kids.  When in reality, we have absolutely no idea what is going on in their lives.

My heart goes out to everyone who is having a difficult time having a baby.  I pray for you and hope that God answers your prayers.

If anyone has any thoughts or prayers to spare, please say a few for us too.  I am about 11 weeks pregnant.  It’s the farthest I’ve made it out of the three pregnancies so far.  Everything seems to be going well – we’ve already had three ultrasounds and heard the heartbeat every time.  This last time, Junior was wiggling around and didn't want his picture taken.  (We probably won't find out the gender, I like the idea of the suspense.)

I’m glad the news is finally public because it’s been hard to write about anything else.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

“If I was skinny, I would…”

A while ago, I found a recommendation – an artistic exercise – that offered to help my body image and eating disorder perspective.  I’m not sure where I found the suggestion.  I’m thinking it was from the blog Weightless, but now I can’t find it, nor can I remember what it was called.

Anyway, I remember thinking it was a bit silly at first, kind of like one of those fifth grade homework assignments.  You know…the poster board, the glue sticks, and having mom run to the dollar store to get your supplies because it was the night before it was due.  I wasn’t going to do project – I was just going to read through it, but something inside pushed me to just give it a try.  What did I have to lose?  No one would have to see it anyway…just me.

The task was to take a manila folder, and on the cover, write the words, “If I was _____, then I would...”  In the blank you were to fill in what was holding you back from life.  For example, you could put “confident”, “smart”, “assertive”, “pretty”, or in my case, what I thought I had to be before I started living: skinny.  In my mind, I wasn’t thin enough to do all the things I wanted to do.  So, I was putting my life on hold until I looked the way I wanted to look.  Then, on the cover of the folder, I drew a locked door.

On the inside of the folder, you were to make a collage.  You could glue magazine pictures, draw things, color, and create the life you would have if not for that “thing” that was holding you back.  I put many beautiful pictures inside that folder for there were many things I wanted to do.

I wanted to travel, to visit the rest of the 50 states.  I wanted to make Craig and I pancake breakfasts on Saturday mornings without feeling guilty for eating carbohydrates and sugar.  I put pictures of people smiling because I wanted to be truly happy.  There was a picture of a pregnant woman because I wanted to be a mom someday but was deathly afraid of gaining weight.  Inside, I put famous paintings and drawings because I wanted to create with confidence instead of not painting out of low self-esteem.

The folder began to fill with fun things, places I wanted to go, career goals, lofty dreams, ambitions, and desires – all things that I was putting on hold because I wasn’t perfect yet.  I didn’t think I could do those things until I was skinny enough. 

As I was looking at my primitive creation, I realized that it looked like a scrapbook from someone’s wonderful, fulfilling life.  Would I be able to look back in the years to come and feel as much joy from a life well spent?  I thought about all the years I focused only on losing weight instead of working toward my dreams. 

On the back of the folder, I wrote the words, “I will no longer let this expectation stop me from living my life.”

The exercise re-awakened dreams I didn’t know I had anymore.  My life had been so concerned with being perfect.  Was I going to let my ridiculous expectations keep me from living life?  And what if I never did feel good enough, if I never did feel thin enough, then what?  I thought about the empty manila folder that my life was shaping out to be.

This experienced helped me realize that there were things in life I wanted more than an eating disorder – even if I couldn’t remember that fact all the time.

There is more to life than being thin.

Friday, April 4, 2014

How to stop using food, eating, or not eating to cope with your emotions

It is possible to stop using food to cope with your emotions.  But before I talk about how to do that, I want to first lay some groundwork.

Food is nourishing in more ways than just physical.  Food can be intellectually nourishing, spiritually nourishing, and emotionally nourishing.

We can’t forget that eating is, or can be, an emotional experience.  It can be nostalgic in the way that you remember your childhood when eating certain foods.  It can be comforting when you have a nice, hot bowl of soup on a cold, blustery day.  It can be fun and happy when you’re at the movies with popcorn and jujy-fruits.

It is impossible to completely separate your emotions from food.  If you try to do so, you will only end up grumpy, cynical, and, to speak plainly, no fun to be around.

If you find that you are constantly turning to food (or restricting your food intake) in order to cope with every strong emotion, you might want to reexamine your relationship with food.

The goal should be to have an appropriate relationship with food.  Eating has an important place in life, and it is not just to keep you alive.  However, if you find that you have an inordinate view of food, if it’s taking up too much space in your life, or if it doesn’t have enough space, then you could benefit from these tips below.

Become self-aware.  The first step in all types of healing is to become aware of your habits, inclinations, and reactions.  It could be helpful to keep a diary for a few weeks while you are trying to evaluate your eating habits.  First, write down your emotions, what’s going on in your life, how you feel, etc.  Then write down what you did, or are going to do, to help you deal with those emotions.  Look back on the week and see if you notice any patterns.

Educate yourself of what an eating disorder is.  You may find some concerning behaviors while you are doing your self-examination.  If you can see correlations to anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, then you should seek professional help, or at least counseling.

If you don’t think you have an eating disorder, or you are not yet ready to get professional help, then acknowledge how you are treating yourself.  Be honest with yourself and your habits.  Get rid of the denial.  Look your faults in the face and bring them into the light.  You will see that they are not as scary as they were when they were lurking in the shadows.

Get rid of the rules.  You might have been living by a certain set of rules or expectations that you’ve imposed on yourself.  Think about these rules and evaluate whether or not they should stick around.  Things like, “Carbs are bad. I have to eat dessert last. A Pop-tart is not a good breakfast. I’m a bad person if I eat sugar. I can only eat 11 chips because that’s what the box says.”  Most people who struggle to have a good relationship with food also struggle to keep up with the regulations they’ve put on themselves.  It only promotes a vicious cycle.  If you can’t keep up with your ridiculous rules, you feel like a failure.  That strong emotion can trigger one to continue to turn toward food to help them feel better.

Give yourself permission to have a healthy relationship with food.  Give yourself permission to eat when you are hungry and to stop when you are full.  Allow yourself the option to leave food on your plate, throw it away, or save it in the fridge for later.  Or allow yourself to eat a little more because it was really good or because you’re not quite full, no matter what the serving size says.  Allow yourself to eat today with the knowledge that you are allowed to eat tomorrow too.  And most importantly, give yourself permission to feel.  It is OK to have emotions.  It is OK to cry, feel mad, feel hurt, or feel happy.  You are allowed to have ups and downs – it doesn’t mean something is wrong.

Listen to your needs.  Once you recognize that you are using food to cope with your emotions, pay attention to the emotions you are experiencing.  If you are sad, try to understand what made you sad and figure out what could possibly help.  For example, if you are angry with a friend after an argument, don’t react right away, allow yourself to experience that emotion for a short time.  Then, think of ways to help you cope with the emotion.  Maybe taking a walk to think of how to resolve it or calling her to say what you’re feeling.  If you use eating, or not eating, to deal with all your emotions, you are neglecting your true needs.  If you take time to think about your real needs, you will make better choices.  And if you take care of your needs, you will be less likely to compensate with food.

Take care of yourself without guilt.  Seriously and honestly, take care of yourself.  After you figure out your needs, give yourself permission to follow through.  Remember, you cannot give what you don’t have.  You will be a better person if you take care of your needs first.  It is not selfish, self-centered, or un-saintly to take care of yourself.  Remember that post about being a reservoir?  Of course there will be times that you can’t.  It’s not a perfect world.  But, if you make taking care of yourself a priority, you will notice a huge change for the better.

Employ other effective coping skills.  When I was first trying to figure out my needs, the coping skill I used the most was talking.  I needed to talk a lot.  I had a lot of counseling sessions.  I spoke with my husband about anything and everything that was bothering me.  I told him about all my food problems, anxiety, depression, and social insecurities.  Over time, I could trust him to help me and keep me accountable.  I also began to talk to other friends and family members.  Even if I didn’t solve anything, the human interaction brought me out of my own little pity party.  If I couldn’t talk to anyone, I would write a blog post.  I figured out that what I really needed what to express myself instead of keeping things all bottled up inside.  Besides the depression and the eating disorder, I also realized that I had a lot of anxiety, so I needed to address that as well.  Sometimes, I would use relaxation techniques or audio mediation clips to help me calm down, especially at night.  Everyone is different.  Figure out what you really need and find something that helps you.  And remember, it will take practice – a lot of practice and patience.

Post reminders where you can see them.  The positive reinforcement can help you get through the tough times, especially if you are home alone.  Carry encouraging quotes in your pocket or purse.  Put up your favorite lines on the refrigerator.  “You are worth it. Feelings are not facts. You don’t have to earn the right to eat. You are beautiful. You are loved. It’s OK to take care of yourself. You are not just your body – you are also mind, spirit, and soul. No one has power over you. You are strong. You are more than what you believe about yourself.”

Be compassionate with yourself.  Talk to yourself positively.  Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes.  Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.  Remember, you are human and you are not perfect.  Yet, despite it all, God still loves you and wants you to be happy.  It might take a long time to change some habits, but it’s worth it, it’s possible, and you deserve it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Getting to the root of the matter; it’s all about food and never about food

When I find myself incessantly worrying about my weight or trying to restrict what I eat, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on in my life.

Sometimes, a slip back into eating disorder behaviors is strictly the result of addition.  Addictions are very powerful.  When you have a major addiction, you have very little control over whether or not you choose it.  Depending on where you are in recovery, you may have no control over your addiction whatsoever.  The very nature of an addiction is that it has the control over you.

These days, however, I’ve made a lot of progress overcoming my eating disorder.  For me, a minor relapse probably means there is something else bothering me, messing up my balance, throwing me off-kilter.  If I am struggling more than usual to stay on the straight and narrow, it’s not because I’ve been lax in my commitment to recovery.  It’s because there is probably a root cause at the bottom of all the rubble.

So, when I am tempted to give in to my addictions, I stop and think about the “why”.  Instead of getting down on myself about being a failure, I need to be more compassionate and figure out what changed.

I realize now that I use my eating disorder to help me cope with difficult emotions, situations, or environments.  In the past, I’ve beat my head against a wall, trying and trying and trying to stop my eating disorder behaviors.  Instead of trying harder to defeat the disorder, I’ve learned to try to face whatever is really, truly causing me to turn toward it.  Then, as a result, the unhealthy behaviors subside.

It’s like trying to weed your garden.  You could cut off the weeds at ground level leaving your soil looking good for a day.  Yet, day after day, you would grow weary from the constant battle with those persistent fellows.  You might even give up, thinking that it is hopeless and that there will always be weeds.  It might not be as obvious to you as it is to others that the weeds will continue to grow back unless you pull them out, roots and all.  This job might require better tools, weed killer, and possibly even professional help, depending on how bad your weed infestation is.

Trying to fix my eating habits is a very good short term fix, and might even help create good habits in the long run.  Yet, if I want to get to the root of the problem, I’ve got to look deeper.  Eating disorder behaviors are symptoms; they are the surface manifestations of a bigger problem underneath.

Possible underlying sources of tension could be: having your feelings hurt, experiencing loneliness or fear, feeling like a failure, having low self-worth, being taken advantage of, feeling rejected, finding yourself in a chaotic place, having a long to-do list, facing financial stress, not being able to say no, receiving blunt criticism, being misunderstood, or feeling like a burden.  Or it could even be from physical problems like having a stomach ache, headache, having a cold or the flu, or not sleeping well.

Once I take a step back and remember it’s not about the food, I can better deal with the real problem at hand.  Usually, if I think about it for a few minutes, I can pinpoint the issue.  Sometimes, talking to someone else can help me realize what is going on – the bigger problem is usually the thing that makes me cry or gets my blood boiling.

After the issues have been identified, if I need some coping skills to help me deal, I can proactively choose healthier ways to handle it.

It’s all about getting to the root of the matter.

Here’s to a weed-free garden this summer!