Posted in anorexia, binge eating disorder, Body Image, Bulimia, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Recovery, Renfrew, Social Media

What Kind Of Eating Disorder Do You Have?

Theres a huge lack of awareness around eating disorders. I do see a shift, however, happening in the media. Celebrating all body types has been a wonderful, much-needed new fad (hopefully one that sticks around).

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Even some professionals lack awareness.

Ideally, all doctors/counselors should be educated on eating disorders, but I understand that they have a heavy caseload: dealing with limitless medical issues.

However, specialists in the field have no excuse, and one should not say they “specialize,” unless they have adequate knowledge and experience.

It takes years to become a specialist and you are directly affecting the lives of those suffering from the mental illness. That is a lot of pressure and I admire the individuals who choose to pursue it.

They know how fragile and complicated eating disorders are. They encourage and challenge, and they put up with a lot. They seem to also be constantly learning from patients and evolving themselves as therapists.

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(To make a shout out, my life has been forever changed by the professionals at both Mount Laurel Renfrew and Ridgewood Renfrew.)


However, there is one person that did not have such a wonderful impact on me. She was a therapist in a group setting. She was constantly lecturing and not listening to the very crucial things—we as patients—needed to say.

When other therapists/counselors sat with us in a session, I felt as though they were sitting BESIDE us.

This particular woman seemed to sit above us, looking down at her ‘specimen.’

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No matter how educated a person is, they cannot possibly understand the ins and outs of an eating disorder unless they have experienced it themselves OR are open to continuously learning from those directly affected—which she wasn’t.

During one of her spiels, she listed symptoms of our eating disorders. As she said “binge” she pointed to the heaviest girl in the room. I saw my friend’s face fill with embarrassment as she realized the therapist was pointing to her. The therapist then mentioned “resticting,” and her finger went to the tiniest person in the room.

Needless to say, this seemingly innocent action followed my friend out the door, as she cried to me in the parking lot. And I’m sure it followed her into the next day as she chose what to (or to not) eat.

That therapists enhanced her feelings of inadequacy. She also validated the impulse to compare herself to others. And she was unknowingly supporting the restrictive mindset. “You aren’t good enough, unless you restrict. And you’re absolutely worthless, unless you LOOK like you’re restricting.”

I wish I was in charge that day, I would have blindfolded everyone, INCLUDING the therapist. Then I’d have everyone list the complex thoughts we have around food. No one would’ve been able to tell who said what. A body type does not define what kinds of urges you have or the symptoms you use. 

Blind-folded, we would have all admitted to skipping meals because we didn’t think our bodies NEEDED or DESERVED any more food. We would have all agreed that food is the predominant thought in a day. I’m sure all of us have either experienced vigorous exercising, taking laxatives or attempting to throw up because we couldn’t stop thinking about the calories we consumed. And I know none of us feel completely comfortable eating in public–fearing judgment from others.

No eating disorder can escape restrictive behaviors.. We all feel the same self-loathing shame that comes from eating.. And most eating disorders involve purging (which is not  always in the form of vomiting, as we were taught to associate with bulimia).

I am very transparent with my eating disorder. This doesn’t mean I lack embarrassment with all the thoughts and behaviors I share. I am actually highly self-conscious about the things I’ve exposed. But I choose this way of life for a reason. I can’t complain about ignorance, while doing nothing about it.

A common question I get upon revealing that I have/had an eating disorder

(I still have no idea if I consider myself “recovered” or ”in recovery,” that’s a question for another day)977dada99a6acfbc50670fed98b01163

..But everyone wants to know: what kind of eating disorder I have.

People are very kind and always include, “if you don’t mind me asking.”

I absolutely don’t mind discussing anything eating disorder related. If a question is triggering, I would actually like to answer it and let the inquirer know WHY it is so triggering. Or why, perhaps, some others wouldn’t want to talk about it.

I was formally diagnosed by a psychiatrist at 18 years old. I went to him because I wanted to stop binging and purging. He diagnosed me with bulimia. 

It wasn’t until later that I realized I had also experienced “anorexia,” in the years prior to that diagnosis.

My junior year of high school, I started dieting with the intention of getting “bullies” off my back.

I wanted to feel better about myself and I didn’t want them to have a reason to make fun of my body. 

I counted calories, fasted occasionally and weaved out any “unhealthy” foods I read about. This continued for a while–waaaaay before I binged and purged the first time.

My eating habits were viewed as “normal” by most in high school. (To this day, I see other people engaging in these habits. I don’t have all the answers, and I often wonder: do they have an undiagnosed eating disorder or are they simply missing that addictive gene that I unfortunately have?)

Many of my close friends and family have apologized for not catching onto my eating disorder at that period in time; acknowledging now, that it was disordered.

None of my thoughts/urges or behaviors were actually labeled as disordered—until I made myself throw up.

“Binging and Purging” are the actions that solidified a problem. Now, suddenly, my so-called dieting was labeled as restricting. Because no one can turn a blind eye to self-induced vomiting.

I learned about the negative side-effects of ‘not eating,’ so I slowly replaced my goal of ‘restricing’ with ‘clean’ eating. All of my therapists supported this mentality shift.

Obviously, they were not specialists.

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For that reason, I understand why none of them were able to point out how helplessly I clung to a restrictive mindset.

I still counted calories, even if my goal wasn’t to eat as little as possible. I occasionally replaced meals with bars and smoothies. I only ate organic and non-gmo foods. I needed the control of knowing every ingredient going into my body. And I exercised much more often to compensate for the increased intake. 

I also lived somewhat of a double life: the foods I ate in secret during a binge and purge episode. And the everyday foods I ate when I was “being good.” I loved myself when I was working out and I loathed myself if I didn’t have the energy for it. My thoughts were so vastly different depending on which version of myself was in control. 

That stage lasted for 3 years (until I entered treatment).

Knowing what I know now, the proper therapist would have explained how I was merely finding loopholes in the ‘anorexic’ and ‘bulimic’ illnesses I learned about. My eating disorder was still in full control.

And since I was not seeing a specialist, no one was catching on to these new, sneaky methods. 

These behaviors are most commonly known as orthorexia.

However, treatment taught me that the diagnosis doesn’t matter. It is an irrelevant, outdated, and often inaccurate category to place us in.

It has taken many years to put an end to the self-induced vomiting. I live with health issues that can make my urges feel unbearable. Things such as acid reflux and a slow digestive track add to the difficulty of keeping down my food. But I can never use those obstacles as an excuse to purge.

I am very proud of my progress. However, without purging, I’m sometimes left sitting with the embarrassment and discomfort of binging. 

Binging has been the last symptom to leave me. And sometimes I feel it’s the most shameful. It’s wrongfully associated with lack of discipline. And I think most of us have heard the VERY ignorant and appalling comment: “I wish I could throw up after eating all that.” 

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Which leaves someone in recovery wondering, “why on earth would I stop myself now that I’ve binged.. even if it does mean i’m going backwards..”

So now, for me, is the most accurate diagnosis binge-eating disorder?

I don’t want another label. Another diagnosis. Yet another phase of my eating disorder.

But the only way out is through. 

Do you see the problem with grouping eating disorders into 3 or 4 various categories?

All eating disorders overlap. There is no prototype. There is no specific code of symptoms that each type of diagnosis engages in. We have ALL been there.

Walk into a treatment center and look around. Most “anorexic” women/men will not show the body type of the actress in “To the Bone.” 

Painstakingly OBVIOUS (as the media portrays it) ^

Tell me, is it really that obvious?..^

(Sidenote: I am not against the movie, To The Bone. I support the idea of spreading awareness, but they DID indulge a pretty bad stereotype during casting).

The diagnosis is irrelevant. Even the symptoms themselves aren’t a priority. Dig up the emotions. Find the solution.

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Posted in anorexia, binge eating disorder, Body Image, Body Positive, Bulimia, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Orthorexia, Recovery, Self-love, Social Media, Writing

Eating Disorder Declarations

Today I reflected on the disordered declarations I used to make every morning while in my eating disorder.

I would spend hours scrolling through fitness instagrams. Updating myself on the latest health trends, finding exercise gurus to follow, and pinning vegetarian recipes.

I would go to sleep with all this newly-found inspiration on how to be thin and active.

It felt exhilarating to create a flawless routine for myself. Thinking: “this time it will work. If I follow this plan, I will never have another unhealthy craving. And I will never want to stop exercising.”

Oftentimes, I fell short of my goal. My motivation to work out would inevitably dwindle, and I’d eat things that caused severe guilt.

I failed yet again. Somehow all these beautiful women I read about could do it, but I wasn’t good enough to keep up.

My personal eating disorder often included binge/purge cycles that crept in about a week after I implemented my strict diet and exercise regimens. And I aways wondered, with such intense self-loathing, how could I allow myself to get to this point, again? What am I doing wrong?

“I just have to try harder,” I would think, as I scrolled though more Pinterest pages and found new ideas on how to tighten the reigns on myself.

I’d spend a long time reading and pulling tidbits from everywhere: what women ate, how they exercised, how much water they drank, how they kept their motivation.

Another night’s sleep would pass in anticipation that… “tomorrow I’ll be good.” and “this is the last time I’ll have to start over.”

Years later, in an eating disorder treatment facility, one of the first steps I took was deleting all accounts that fueled my desire to be thin and fit. I could not allow myself to look at anything that made me feel as though image was ‘all-important.’ This even meant unfollowing certain friends. I made a conscious effort, which was very difficult, to not indulge in the health/fitness and diet culture. I had to be really serious about it.

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Two years later, I hold true to this. However, I still see fitness models and seemingly flawless women all around me. I do not seek them out, but it is truly unavoidable (especially with social media.)Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 3.00.55 PM

I do not speak about it, but I overhear conversations pertaining to the subject. How people plan to lose weight. I hear many people confidently boast about their work out routines, and others “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” at their “dedication.”

I know the truth: coming up with ways to change my body is an absolute waste of my energy and time. I am a better person when I am not trying to be like others. I am proud that I want to obsess over the beautiful/unique aspects of myself, and not pick apart my flaws. My core belief is that self-love is all-important.

But that doesn’t change how hard it is to deal with the fitspo pictures that pop up and conversations surrounding food and body.

When ‘Jill’ talks about how many miles she ran today: I hear the remanence of my eating disorder telling me how flabby I’ve become since I stopped putting so much energy into working out.

When my eyes graze the cover of Women’s Health and I see that another actress dropped ten pounds and gained lean muscle, I wonder: why the hell would I give up focusing on what I’m eating everyday.

I noticed today that my declarations, although lessened, have not stopped completely. They are not as loud and intentional, but they do remain in the back of my head. It’s the little voice that says: “maybe I’ll just give up my mac and cheese.” IMG_8912

or “I have to start using my pull-up bar again.” or “no more desserts for the next two weeks.”

I made a couple of these subtle declarations in therapy.

My therapist stopped me. She reminded me that focusing on food is my way of regaining control in some area of my life. And although my eating disorder isn’t as obnoxious as it once was, it’s still successfully convincing me that I have an inadequate body and I need to change.

If that little voice starts to plan anything related to food or fitness, shift my thoughts and start planing other things: such as what do to with my free time. Start imagining the canvas I plan on painting when I get home from work. Or what facial mask I’ll wear while I pick out a color to paint my nails.

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Declarations aren’t quite as bad as I once thought they were.

I can still wake up exhilarated to start or continue something. But, let your declarations be constructive and worthy of your time. Let them be soulful and artistic. 

Look forward to your current life, do not plan on changing yourself.

“I declare that I will use my experiences to write more” …

Posted in anorexia, Body Image, Bulimia, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Orthorexia, Recovery, Self-acceptance, Self-love, Social Media, vision board

The Dreaded “Tagged” Photo

I preach about self-love.

But let me just say–right now I’m having a very hard time accessing that part of my brain.

So, to begin I’ll let you know my rule when taking pictures: either don’t take them at all, or be prepared to take about twenty until I find one I am comfortable with.

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I want to love my body, whole-heartedly, I really do. But, having body dimorphic disorder challenges that ideal constantly. Generally speaking, I am doing a great job working towards my goal though.

I have a meal-plan, guidelines about what to eat and why. And I am learning more and more about intuitive eating. I try to listen to, and not judge, my cravings and hunger cues.

I am damn proud of all that. I like that I am no longer afraid of bagels in the morning. I love that I can have dessert during celebrations. And I absolutely relish the fact that I never read the nutritional facts of ANYTHING I eat anymore. I look at the ceiling when the doctor weighs me. And I am making great strides in ED urges–haven’t had a lapse in a while. I should be a bundle of positivity and righteousness. Everything has been going splendidly, right? I should have my socks and shoes off and be chanting in front of a mirror about peace and self-love.

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ENTER: FACEBOOK.

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Omg. I look disgusting.

I thought about the night that photo was taken. I was so naive. Seriously, how pathetic? My arm looks fat. My checks are so chubby. Ugh.

I mean, maybe others thought I liked nice. People were talking to me a lot. The important part is that I danced and laughed the entire night—

**looks at picture again**

Oh god, no. I don’t want anyone else to see this picture. I hate it so much. Why can’t I be cute in candids.

Why can’t I be cute like I used to be in photos?

…Like I used to…

^Of course, I’m referring to when I was stuck in my eating disorder. Under complete control of ED.

Do you see how quickly ED can be missed?

My mind immediately thought of an old photo… around a fire, someone took an unexpected shot of me laughing—I was doing the same exact face, scrunched nose, huge smile—but ED made me look so much cuter. And “recovery” now makes me look fat.

These are my harsh words. I feel tempted to erase them. Why would I want to expose such negativity about myself? Especially when I work so hard to show the power of self-love.

Honestly, because it is human to feel this way. It’s human to have moments of insignificance or unworthiness.

But, I also want to share what happens when you face these thoughts and work through them…

I could have easily shut down my laptop. It’s my first instinct. I’m so disgusted with social media sometimes. I could have just said “I hate this stupid photo. Whatever. I just wont look at it again.”

But, what happens when I do that? That image will linger. I’ll be going about my business and I’ll get a twinge of disgust when I look down at my thighs. My body will suddenly be so pronounced, I will feel like the blueberry girl in Willy Wonka. And my urges to eat in order to cope with embarrassment will subconsciously surface. And I’ll binge. Or the pressure to work out will be hovering over me. So I will purge with over-exercising. The point is, without facing these ED thoughts about the picture, he’s going to hang around until I give into his urges.

So I looked at the photo.

I’m laughing, I thought…

YES, and I wish I didn’t crinkle my nose like that. (ED chimed back in).

But, when I crinkle my nose it means I’m admiring the people I’m with. 

And that’s what I was doing. I was soaking it all in. MY cousin had just gotten married to a girl that makes him so happy. It was a magical (Disney themed) wedding. My aunt, uncle and mom had been dancing all night—I have never seen them so happy. Rob was with me. He was getting along with my entire family, and everybody loved him. He was looking at me so adoringly. He loves me. He was slow dancing with me, which does not happen often. I was really enjoying my sister’s company—I felt like we were 15 again. I was seriously, genuinely smiling the entire time. In fact,  there was another candid taken of me that I actually liked. Probably hours in between both photos being taken and I was still making that same adorably happy face. At least I liked one of them.

OKAY! we are making progress. I am saying kind words about myself.

Alright. Now we can close up the computer.

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I still felt like a blueberry. But a cute blueberry, that’s recovering—and I’m going easy on her.

I suddenly realized something.

I opened pinterest and scrolled down to an old folder entitled “vision board.” This was created over two years ago. For those unfamiliar with vision boards, I basically pinned all the photos I wanted for my future. And they were chosen PRE-recovery, so some were quite triggering.

And there it was: the photo I remembered pinning two years ago…

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From my “Vision Board” folder

And I remember why I pinned it, too. These two girls are all dolled up at a party:

“I want to go out with my sister, and my friends. I want to be carefree and happy and positive.”

I scrolled down a little more and saw this picture:

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Another “Vision Board” photo

“I want to be genuinely happy. I want to smile infectiously.”

Well, hell, isn’t that what I’m doing in this photo? The one that triggered all these self-loathing emotions…

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The facebook photo I was tagged in earlier.

Oh, that’s right, I want ALL of those things (happiness, family, friends, laughter) but I really need to look SKINNY while doing so.

But ED has those values, not me. And ED was the one who choose those photos to pin for my future.

Tasha is the quiet voice underneath it all saying–“No, I really just want the happiness.” ED may have inspired that Vision Board folder years ago, but Tasha controls my actions now, and it was really Tasha who got motivated to write this article. Because I know it’s wrong to be mean to a girl who is experiencing pure bliss in perhaps a not-so-flattering photo.

(By the way, you may or may not agree with the way I looked at my tagged photo. It’s very exposing to announce the judgements I have over myself. Especially  when I want to be an example of self love. But the reason why I’ve exposed them is because people tend to judge themselves too harshly. It is human. But I wish it would stop. And if you experience body image issues, social media is a breeding ground for feeling bad about your “so-called” imperfections)

I have to take a deep breath while reflecting on all this.

I really want to love myself.

But It’s still hard to push out ED’s criticism.

However, I know I’ll get there. Because I want it.

I scrolled through instagram for some positive quotes (using social media powers for good instead of evil).screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-8-59-28-amscreen-shot-2016-10-29-at-9-03-45-am

It helped. But then I read an old text from a friend. I saved it because it initially made me cry, and I knew those beautiful words could help me in moments of self-doubt.

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I read it over and over. And then I remembered all the kind things other friends, my boyfriend, parents and supporters from Renfrew had said to me.

I felt better. I shouldn’t call myself a blueberry, that’s not nice. And I wouldn’t do it to anyone else.

I’m Natasha, and I work very hard in recovery. I work very hard to love myself. And screw anyone that looks at a photo and judges me for anything less than what I am. Including you ED.

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And I hope to look at that photo someday soon, free of ED, and admire my geniune laugher and beauty. Because that’s what I would see if this photo was of another beautiful, strong and happy woman.

Posted in Body Image, Body Positive, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Recovery

Taking Back July 4th

This weekend was so much fun for me. I did things that I was so proud of; things I had said no to in the past; things I was afraid to do because of my eating disorder. But, in the moment I thought the fun was worth the fear.

What could I possibly have to fear while doing a slip and slide, you ask?

Well, I was already experiencing a huge recovery win not only by publicly wearing my bathing suit, but also eating in my bathing suit.

“A slip and slide?” ED asked in disgust, “You’ll be running in your bikini? You’ll be jiggling everywhere, and not in the good places. And what if your top or bottom slide off? You think you’ve tricked these people into thinking your attractive, wait until they see your real body.”

I’ve heard this all before. Every time a fun summer activity was mentioned. Everyone around me would get so excited, and I would be listening to ED in a panic. The words would get louder and meaner as he relentlessly repeated them.

This weekend, when his horrid voice started, I shut him down. “I’m in!” I said with a smile. My best friend and I shot each other a supportive glance—an anxious but genuine grin, as if we were about to bungee jump (funny how ED can create such fear around trivial things, that’s why its important to have someone who understands the magnitude of these victories).

The game began.

In my friends words “it was one big blur.”

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One big blur of spraying water, sliding, falling and laughing, high fives, and checking to make sure my bikini was still in place (it was-so suck it ED), and then my only thought was to flip that solo cup as fast as I could so I could watch the next person slide.

I don’t know if I jiggled, if my rolls showed, if there was a wedgie while I was sliding. The videos taken showed me two things though: I flopped like a dead fish, and I was laughing the whole time. I was genuinely happy.

I wasn’t standing on the sidelines with ED hovered over both my shoulders. I was ME.

And then I played a water game of kick ball. Where I went sliding through oiled up tarps to get to our kiddy pool bases.

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The following day, July 4th was more mellow. I lounged by the pool with my boyfriend, again in my bathing suit. I say this with hope, and some uncertainty: it gets easier to fight ED’s negative voice after you’ve shut him down before.

Nonetheless, I still expect that his voice will sneak up on me occasionally—a lesson I’ve learned time and time again—so I do not let my guard down in situations that I know to be triggering. ED can be sneaky.

A few other friends showed up, and I kept a cool head while walking around in my bathing suit. As the evening BBQ began, everyone around me was eating grilled chicken. Here comes ED: he wanted me to eat the chicken because it is the healthiest choice. I wanted a cheese burger. “Of course you’re going to ask for the greasiest food, you fatso,” I was literally being made fun of before even asking the cook. It would be easier to have what he is serving, but in the past ED would be so excited grilled chicken was my only option and I didn’t like that ED was getting his way.

I struggled to work up the courage to ask for the burger. I even struggled with knowing if a burger was a good idea since it used to be a “binge-food.”

Binge-foods used to only be eaten in privacy, when I am alone and drowning in self-loathing. They are the foods ED deems off-limits when I am around others because they make me look fat and disgusting.

Recovery has proven that this way of thinking is a lie. No particular food can make me fat, and every food can be enjoyed in moderation. It is nonsensical to prohibit food from touching my plate while with others, knowing full well that the deprivation will cause binges later.

So today, during my July 4th barbecue ED has confused me. Am I eating my old binge-food just to prove a point that I can, or am I asking for it because I genuinely want it?

Seems so complex, right?

The sole question I need to ask when things get convoluted is: what does my taste prefer, and what does my ED prefer?

The decision was made for me because there were no burgers left, lol. But, I was proud of myself for asking, and  I did realize I didn’t actually want the chicken out of taste preference. It’s delicious, but grilled chicken is a safe food that I eat often. So, to spice it up I made myself a bowl of salad with some craisins and a little creamy dressing. In conclusion, I had an awesome dinner.

If it had been a cheese burger: I would have had it with ketchup on a white bun. Eaten slowly, and thoroughly enjoyed it. “Binges/binge-foods/fear-foods” are words from my past that ED likes to throw around and confuse me. I need to remember to trust myself.

A pretty victorious weekend. It was filled with all the things I’ve always looked forward to during my journey through recovery: saying yes, eating with others, asking for what I want, and finally instead of being stuck inside my head with insecurities and ED, I was able to really enjoy the people around me, the activities, the conversations and the laughs. These times don’t come completely free of anxiety, but I powered through it well and that’s all I can hope  to do.

Today is Tuesday, my first day back to the real world. I am alone in my room waiting for my work week to start and I am a bit nervous.

Coming down from a fun-filled and successful weekend of trumping ED, sometimes means he comes back swinging. I don’t have my supports surrounding me, or an abundance of plans to look forward to. I picture him smiling at me like Cheshire cat in Alice In Wonderland. He never really went away all weekend, but he disappeared a little and now he’s coming back to life with that little grin on his face, kinda following me around as I walk around my house.

 

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Things like journaling, art, Pilates, playing games usually keep him at bay. I just have to motivate myself to keep up the coping skills, and then the next day is usually easier. Today, I wrote this article, and hopefully there will be more to come.