“… You don’t look like you have an eating disorder.”

If you have never seen someone suffer at the hands of an eating disorder or if you have no prior knowledge or understanding of how eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia affect the individual; if you yourself have not experienced an eating disorder and have therefore not experienced the fluctuations in weight that the individual experiences, then it is understandable that you may have thought or perhaps even uttered these dreaded words from your very own lips. I’d like to clear a few things up – a myth or two, and hopefully shed the light on eating disorders a little more.

Let me make one point very, very clear with you – a healthy body does not necessarily equal a healthy mind.

Let me say it again, in Caps lock this time.

A HEALTHY BODY DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUAL A HEALTHY MIND.

I apologise for yelling, but I just wanted to emphasise this – someone suffering from anorexia or bulimia can appear to have a healthy or “normal” body shape (whatever the hell that is) yet still be well entrenched in their eating disorder. An anoretic can gain a third of their body weight back, be within a healthy weight range for their age and height and yet still engage in eating disordered behaviour or have a completely negative self-image. A bulimic might look okay, but you have absolutely no idea of what is going on behind closed doors. And so at the risk of sounding rude and harsh, please stop assuming someone is well or recovered from their eating disorder simply because their body shape appears to be healthy.

Eight kilograms underweight and dealing with anorexia for twelve months, I finally disclosed to someone from my church of my eating disorder. “An eating disorder? I thought you had to be really underweight for that.”

Comments like that only fueled my refusal to maintain a healthy body weight – it made me feel like I had something to prove to people around me. And after gaining fifteen kilos, people finally got off my case about my exercise and food regimes. Little did they know I was embarrassed of the weight gain and was continuing to overexercise, binging and purging. You cannot take eating disorders at face value – they are a psychological issue, not just physiological.

And another thing, just while we’re at it – if you know someone who has gained weight in their recovery from an eating disorder, I beg of you not to mention to them that they’re “looking well.”

Please. Someone who is still thinking in an eating disordered way will use this as an excuse to spiral down back where they came from, and there goes much of the progress they may have made in their recovery. Somehow, “you look well / healthy” etc translates into the anoretic or bulimics biggest fear – namely, “you look fat”.  I know you mean well and all but maybe save it until the individual is nearly recovered, or completely recovered. Thanks. That would be great.

It’s okay to misunderstand – but please, please, please – don’t walk around saying things such as the title of this post – it is seriously, very unhelpful and if you want your friend or your family member to one day be recovered to full health – spiritually, physically, emotionally – then it’s extremely significant to be careful of things you say that may be triggering to the eating disordered mind.

If you want more info and to see more rants about this sorta thing, check out this brave woman’s blog post.

B xxxx

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10 Things Makin’ Me Cheery.

1. This woman’s blog post today. Have a read for yourself – I’m sure it will make you smile as much as it did me.

2. I’m wearing one of my “brave dresses’ as I have so fondly named them – it’s featured in this blog post. I wore it to the doctors (ear infection), Shellharbour Square, the IGA and the chemist. Soon I shall wear it to Kiama, which brings me to my next point…

3. Kiama High are running a program for young girls called ‘Shine’. It’s basically a program to teach girls how to love their bodies, treat their bodies right and honour God with their bodies – emphasis not only on the external, but also (and  more importantly) the internal! So I’m going to an information session about it. Watch this space. Could be speaking to girls about body image one day! Funsies.

4. L purchased me a new toothbrush today. Colgate. One whole dollar. Bargain. It’s green.

5.  Having coffee (and raisin toast with marg!!) with this boy tomorrow. He’s a top bloke.

6.   Seeing them on Thursday. Seriously jumping out of my pants with excitement.

7. I have a unit to rent! But it won’t be happening for another 6 weeks or so, so need to keep considering where I shall live after the 18th December. So currently acquiring many goodies (dining table, fridge, lounge etc) for my own place – so much excitement and fear of change – but mainly excitement.

8. Ate my first eating disorder recovery lamington. Discovered I like them. Must be truly Australian.

9. Stopped biting my fingernails. Painted them red. nail polish chipped. Decided nail polish sucks. I have bitten them for almost 10 years – about time I quit, I say!

10. Going out for afternoon tea with L & A. Makes me happier than custard and homemade apple pie, and that’s sayin’ a lot.

So – what are ten things that are making you cheery on this blissfully warm yet overcast day? Dare you to share ’em.

Byesies!

 

B xxxx

Treat Yourself Well!

Our bodies are amazing things. When we nourish them correctly, they yield good health. When educated, we can articulate thoughts, feelings and ideas. We can jump high and long and run fast and perform gymnastics skills and read and write. We can complete crosswords, debate, cook and knit. We can make things, draw things and write music. We can be witty. As well as this, we can smell, hear, see, move, taste and be. We can feel things – happiness and sadness and disappointment and relief and joy and fear. We have been created in such a wonderful way – and it’s only right that we treasure and treat our bodies accordingly.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 commands us:

“19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

So put extra jam on your raisin toast.

Allow yourself the privilege of having a hot shower.

Find half an hour to sit down and have a cup of tea (stop saying you can’t find time!)

Go walking barefoot.

Sit beneath your favourite tree with a good book.

Or find the time to read a good book in the first place.

Whatever it may be – watching a movie, painting your nails, walking the dog or buying Lindt chocolate – take the time out to remind your body that you actually really appreciate everything it does for you, and everything it cops from you.

B xxxx

How Does One Get From Recovery to Recovered?

6 months ago, if I had been out an event or party of some sort, I can tell you without a doubt that I would have eaten something, beaten myself up about it and hurried home first thing so as to rid myself of the food. I would panic if I couldn’t. Think of the panic you might feel if you were being attacked by a 5 metre shark. Or if you’re the clever type, failing your first ever exam. Or being chased by six balaclava clad men carrying torches, closely followed by a dragon freakishly similar to the one in Shrek. It’s sorta like that.

I’m rambling because I’m tired. And I just finished watching Shrek.

I think I should probably get to the point. Eating disorders ruin the social life. You decide to go out with friends. You take photos at the beach. You eat hot chips for afternoon tea. You laugh and be joyful and get home, only to hop in the shower and get rid of what you’d consumed. You go to a 19th. You eat almost the whole bowl of lollies. You panic. You lie and say you have to get home for a Skype date. Same deal. You have afternoon tea for your birthday and eat a piece of creamy chocolate cake. Make an excuse to get out of there. You drive to the beach, sobbing all the way there about what you’re about to do – you don’t want to, but you need to or else (somehow) your weight will change significantly overnight. You purge in a public toilet and cry the whole way home.

It’s irrational, I know. Unpleasant, to say the very least. But it’s the eating disordered life.

I’m so thankful to be past that.

Yesterday, I had afternoon tea with S & B – and it was cool. Maybe a little awkies ’cause it’s been a long while but mostly wonderful. We had coffees and ordered more food than was necessary and talked for a really long time about their European adventures and next year and just generally exclaimed at random intervals how strange it was to be in each others presence (like I said – it’s been a long time!) Then we stood in the car park in the drizzle and talked some more and made future plans for Thai and cheese nights and more catch ups! (and L and C and H to also be there!)

I cannot wait to be better. I cannot wait until I can say “I’m recovered from an eating disorder” not “I’m recovering from an eating disorder”. I think I’m almost there. I’ve had plenty of bad days, but good days too. The recovery path isn’t a steady climb upwards – it’s all over the place! My dietitian took the time to remind me of this lovely fact the other day. So I will not expect great things from myself, but I will dare to challenge myself – because “recovered” relies on the motivation to change.

Heating heat wheats. Sweet slumber awaits.

B xxx

“Just Eat!”

I only have 16 minutes to write this ’cause the final episode ever of Spicks & Specks is on. Also, just had a baked dinner and a glass of white wine and am ready for dessert (making an apple pie and A’s making custard (!!!!))

Here’s my ramble for tonight.

I read a book recently called ‘Goodbye Ed, Hello Me‘ by this wonderful, recovered woman called Jenni Schaefer. It’s pretty cool and full of motivating, encouraging and inspiring words – it’s about divorcing onself from their eating disorder and finding true freedom. One thing I found v. intriguing was a section in the book where she says that as annoying and seemingly condescending as it is when people tell you to “just eat” (because it’s obviously that easy! NOT), you gotta … Just eat! The world isn’t going to end if you eat a food you haven’t in a long time. It seems like a huge deal if you gain weight once you start eating regularly, but it’s necessary and usually unavoidable.

Check this video out.

I have found that I can eat food in moderation and maintain weight. If you are someone who has never experienced an eating disorder, this may seem a strange concept for you – but for me, it was nothing new to lose 5kg in 3 days after unhealthy eating patterns and crazy exercise regimes. And trust me – following a meal plan, maintaining weight and having energy is so much more wonderful than the eating disordered life. And so much happier.

Do it. Take a risk. You won’t be sorry.

P.S – 6 minutes until S&S! Win.

Control –

To the anoretic, real control means restricting and manipulating ones own diet, doing an excessive amount of exercise to counteract what she has eaten and continual weight loss. Feeling out of control comprises of exactly the opposite – too much food at the wrong times when she didn’t want to or it“wasn’t necessary”, not enough exercise, weight maintainance or weight gain. The anoretics life becomes solely about controlling these things – becoming “perfect” or “completely in control”.  Not only does the anoretic deny their need for food, but also for sleep, relationship, emotion, sex – they become completely immune and numb to the outside world.

Real control for me now is eating something when I feel hungry, even if it isn’t the normal time that I eat. It’s not overexercising or restricting what I eat or engaging in binge / purge behaviours.

I guess what I want to know is this: how does one give up the whole notion of “control”? How does one say “stuff it, it doesn’t even matter!”? To be well, I believe that is something the eating disordered individual seriously needs to challenge. I think that the control I was exerting over food and exercise has been transferred into other areas in my life and I’m not entirely sure how to give it up, let it go and allow God to be completely and utterly in control.

Here’s one example of me giving up control. It might seem completely stupid to you but eh – this is it for me:

See my right foot? The sock is inside out. Was completely unintentional and when I noticed, it bothered me an immense amount. Ended up wearing them both inside out to bother my perfectionist brain. It’s kind of liberating.

Go ahead. Walk barefoot. Wear your socks inside out (or odd socks!) Wear your jumper back to front. Step on cracks in the pavement.

The world isn’t going to end if you don’t feel in control.

Choices (and a Challenge! Weeeee)

Eating disorders are thieves. I’ve mentioned before a variety of things the eating disorder takes from the individual, such as friends, family, personality, confidence, appearance, health etc etc, but the one thing that I have been mulling over today is the thievery of choices.

The eating disorder doesn’t allow you such freedoms as choosing your own food, whether or not you go to a party, wearing clothes that aren’t baggy and hide every inch of your body, having relationships, being confident to speak to people, deciding how much yoghurt you can have for breakfast. You think about food all day. Adding calories, writing down what you’ve eaten in a little journal that you carry everywhere and the constant leg jiggling to keep moving and burning off the little that  you’ve consumed that day. The eating disordered life is riddled with compulsive acts – you don’t think about measuring your food, you just do. It has become the norm.

Freedom lies in challenging these behaviours. Now I have the choice to say: “No, I will keep that meal in my stomach and let my body use it for energy”, “I will not go for an extra long walk because I feel guilty about what I have eaten today”,”Yes I’m scared to let people see my arms when I haven’t worn a sleeveless top or dress for years – but I’m going to do it anyway.”

We create all these rules for ourselves, don’t we? That if we do this or do that, then we’re somehow better because of it. Or we make these rules and we follow them because they’re comfortable. It’s so skewed. We live in this society where we are free to do what we want and be who we want and wear what we want and eat what we please – but then we create this little box for ourselves and hibernate.

Here’s a little fun activity for your cloudy Sunday afternoon: grab a piece of paper and a pen and write a list of all the rules you have created for yourself over the years. Draw a big cross through them. On a fresh piece of paper, write a list of all the things that make you smile and are really worthwhile – things you truly value. It might look a little something like this:

Don’t let your life be dictated by ‘should’s’ and ‘have-to’s’. There are more valuable things to focus on.

Full Cream Milk.

This post shall be entirely dedicated to full cream milk. You may find it a strange topic, but nevertheless it is quite relevent. Let me explain further.

I grew up in a household where we didn’t drink full cream milk. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I never once saw a carton of the stuff in our house. It became pretty normal for me to go out for coffee with a friend and have “a cappuccino on skim milk thanks”. I ordered a coffee once on skim and the lady who took my order told me I didn’t need skim milk, that I probably wouldn’t taste the difference and she might mess with my head a little and put full cream milk in there. This implanted a small fear in me that people might actually do that – people might set out to make me have more fat or calories in my diet than I wanted or needed. It was one of those situations that perpetuated eating disordered thinking and behaviour.

Yesterday L and I went to Sydney for an open day at the college I intend on going to next year. Had a flat white from Campos and a pistachio and something or other macaron for morning tea- so delicious! And the coffee was on full cream milk. It’s the third one I’ve ever had in my life thus far, and I think it tastes a hell of a lot better! Lemme challenge you for a moment if you’re a no-fat-yoghurt-eater-lite-milk-drinker-99%-fat-free-cracker-eater-60%-less-saturated-fat-devourer: does it really matter? Does it really, honestly matter? Is your body shape going to change over night? Are you a better person because you have the “self-control” to eat frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream?

I agree that it’s all about balance – eating good and healthy food, with a few choccie bikkies here and there and a row of chocolate when you’ve had a bad day – but don’t go crazy. It’s not BAD to treat yourself every now and then. It’s actually perfectly healthy, and perfectly normal.

I’m discovering what my real values are – not the size of my hips or the circumference of my thighs or visible ribs – but meaningful relationships, contentment and aspirations. It’s being overwhelmingly thankful that I’m not so starved that I have to crawl up the stairs – that I can walk the dog every day and feel completely wonderful. It’s going out for coffee with a friend and not having to say “please make sure it has skim milk” because I don’t care if it does.

I value freedom – not numbers.

Bravery.

Some things never change…

But a lot does, particularly in a year. Somehow, one begins to eat normally again. One stops fearing food. One stops making themself throw up. One gains required weight and somehow learns to feel okay about it. She learns to enjoy food. She stops stressing about her weight 24/7.  She stops biting her nails. Food is no longer classed as good or bad.  She stops measuring things – measuring food, her body … She stops weighing herself every day. She somehow summons the courage to tell her brother she has an eating disorder. One week later, she tells her mother.

You read it here people! I went out with Mum today and as we were driving along I said: “Last year … did you know I had eating problems?”

The conversation went from there.

Real courage is this: using a tablespoon when every fibre of your being is scared of the consequences. It’s taking a breath and telling someone you have an eating disorder and want to help others. It’s saying “I feel mad/angry/sad”. It’s being honest. Bravery is doing the right thing, even though it’s hard. It’s wearing a dress and not caring what others think about your shape or weight. It’s feeling okay about yourself, and not conforming to what the world says you should be like. Bravery is in you and in me – we just suppress it far too often.

In the past, I’ve talked myself down a lot. Always telling myself I was stupid or fat or ugly – something negative anyway. I’m not. I’m brave. I don’t care if that sounds narcissistic or stupid, because it’s the truth. And I think maybe I’m not an awful person like I used to think. That I have a purpose in life and living, and that is to continue to live in and for Christ day by day, each day, for the rest of my life.

And I will.

Eating Disorder Myths

There are so many misconceptions about eating disorders, and the sooner that we recognise them for what they are – myths – the sooner we are able to understand eating disorders more and be in a position where we can reach out to those around us who also may be suffering.

Myth #1: People who are overweight or a normal weight cannot have an eating disorder.

False. At the height of my bulimia, I was within a healthy weight range for my age and height. I was regularly taking laxatives, throwing up and overexercising – all behaviours that point to an eating disorder. Bulimia does not cause one to lose weight, as such – it is how the bulimic comes to maintain their weight. In saying that, bulimia can result in weight loss – each body is different, metabolisms are different and therefore weight loss will vary between individuals.

Myth #2: Only women are affected by eating disorders.

False. Statistics show that 1/10 individuals affected by eating disorders are male. Despite the fact that it is primarily women who are suffering from eating disorders, men are also struggling with body image. Eating disorders do not discriminate – they can affect men and women of a variety of ages, ethnicities and cultural upbringings and shapes.

Myth 3#: Individuals only suffer with 1 eating disorder at any given time.

False. I first had anorexia. There was a transition stage between anorexia and bulimia where I was still underweight and still engaging in anorexic behaviour, despite also participating in bulimic behaviour. Then I only had bulimia. Then I had EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) – that is, I was engaging in both anorexic and bulimic behaviour; however, I was no longer underweight, nor binging and purging each week as often as the diagnosis of bulimia nervosa states.

Myth 4#: Laxatives prevent calorie absorption.

Well no. They don’t. Laxatives actually cause colon problems and rid the body of its essential fluids – that is, it dehydrates the body. Weight loss is primarily due to a loss of water.

Myth #5: Eating disorders are not life-threatening.

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders when you hear someone has an eating disorder – but as I mentioned in this post here, eating disorders have a number of health consequences. Malnutrition, dehydration and muscle atrophy are particularly serious – low potassium also has effects on the heart, which in turn, can cause cardiac arrest. Another of my friends who is also in recovery from an eating disorder told me that a girl from her therapy group had died from her eating disorder. She was young, and she was within her healthy weight range. Don’t think that an eating disorder won’t kill you, because it can. In my opinion, the individual either recovers from their eating disorder, or they are tragically killed as a result of it. It is impossible to live an entire life in this way, with these health problems. Choose life.

Myth #6: Only teenagers suffer with eating disorders.

Primarily, yes. 86% of eating disorder sufferers are teenagers. But that still leaves another 14% who are over 20 and still suffering in just the same way. I attended a day program in Glebe earlier this year to attempt to get my eating patterns back on track and one of the women there was in her 40s. I was actually the youngest of the group.

Myth#7: Eating disorders are primarily a problem with food.

False. It’s not as if once the individual starts eating properly, their problems will be solved. There are reasons why the individual started to use food in an unhealthy manner – the eating disorder is not the primary problem. Perhaps there is anxiety in social situations, or there has been physical or sexual abuse that has not been sufficiently dealt with. Maybe there are issues at home. I’m not going to sit here and list every possible issue there could be, but the eating disorder is just a response to a much larger trauma.

Myth #8: You can always tell if someone is anorexic by their appearance.

It may be clear to you, or it may not be. The sufferer goes to extraordinary lengths to hide their weight loss. They may not be significantly underweight – and because slimmer bodies are generally valued by our society, nothing may seem abnormal to you. We do need to be aware that eating disorders may cause manipulative behaviour, or behaviour that seems out of line with someone’s personality. Eating disorders change an individuals thinking – they are negative speakers.

Myth #9: Individuals with eating disorders are lazy.

Far from it. These individuals take their dieting behaviour to the extreme. It is not a “quick-fix” or an easy way to lose weight – it is a cry for help, a destruction of the body – an extreme hate of ones own self. Individuals with eating disorders are not lazy, they are desperate.

Myth #10: You can never recover from an eating disorder.

The biggest lie of them all. With a proper treatment team (dietitian, psychologist, doctor), as well as friends and family who support the individual and hard work, recovery is possible. It may take many years and include multiple relapses – but this is to be expected on a recovery path. It’s a slow climb back to normality, but the eating disordered patient needs to want to recover, needs to want to change and needs to be willing to trust that their body will once again function in the way it previously did.

There are many more myths or misconceptions held around eating disorders – have a think for yourself what beliefs you have for yourself about them. Are they true? Do they hold up? Do some research and find out your belief is accurate – sometimes we don’t know as much as what we think.