NEDA Week Campaigns

 

This is my contribution to NEDA week on my college campus. Props to Allison for being such an excellent person tracer.

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My History with Pro Anorexia Websites

This is kind of a rough story for me to share, I guess just because I’m so embarrassed of it. I look back now and I can’t believe that I actually did some of this stuff that I’m so active about speaking against now. I guess I feel like that kind of makes me a hypocrite, but at the same time, I think this is a really important story to share because it really has the potential to help people and serve as a lesson. I also am embarrassed about this story because I feel like it can kind of serve as an example of how eating disorders are “vain disorders,” but I’ll try to explain how that isn’t true.

I’m going to start off by first saying that this is my personal story. The things that happened to me most certainly do not apply to other people. Everyone else didn’t develop an eating disorder from reading pro anorexia websites and people that read them will not necessarily develop an eating disorder. I just want to share what happened with me. Also, I want to point out that I’m NOT pinpointing pro anorexia websites as the cause of my eating disorder because eating disorders are really complex things. All I’m saying is that they contributed significantly in pushing me over the edge from disordered eating to eating disorder. I’m also not blaming anyone in particular that I mention in this post. These are just some memories that especially stick out in my mind. Like I said, I’m going to try to bring everything together and show how my eating disorder developed and that it wasn’t the cause of one particular event. I think because I’m trying to do that, I’m going to start at the very beginning, rather than just skipping to the part where I was reading pro anorexia websites.

I guess I was kind of a socially awkward kid. Not an especially bad case, but enough to be a little bit different from other people. I can remember sometime when I was in the third or fourth grade, reading an article on why knuckles crack and I just thought it was absolutely the coolest thing ever. Later that week I was riding home from school with my neighbor and her two kids. Someone cracked their knuckles and I immediately started explaining why it was happening, so excited to share this information with everyone else. Before I could even really get started, my neighbor’s son turned to me and said “Savannah. Just shut up. No one cares. Why are you so weird?” Looking back I can see that I wasn’t being weird, I was just being an interesting person concerned with the world around me.

I also went to private school for a very long time. And with a class size of 10 people, I understandably didn’t get a whole lot of socialization. On top of that, I was just a really high achieving, responsible kid. I never had to be told to do stuff and I was really self motivated to do well in school. This was a recipe for disaster when I switched back to a public school (shortly followed by a switch to a different private school) in the 8th grade. Kids in public school were quick to call me a “goody-goody” for not sharing my homework and letting people cheat off of me. I just hadn’t been taught to do things like that. I was just so innocent compared to all of them. Everyone else in public school was already drinking and talking back to adults. Not something that I was used to participating in. Not that I think that’s a bad thing, middle schoolers nowadays are honestly just terrifying. I’m glad that I came out like I did, rather than like some of them. But even after switching back to a smaller private school, I was the “new girl” and I was invading the already close-knit group that they had formed. So I began to try to be the “smartest” to prove that I was worthy of being liked. Unfortunately, we were still in middle school and that just made everyone more upset with me for being such a high achiever. It wasn’t until the end of the year when another girl transferred to the school that they finally began to accept me into their group.

So as you can imagine, by this point I had pretty low self esteem. I had received a lot of messages about how I wasn’t “good enough” and I had learned to tune out the messages that said that I was enough. And then I started high school. I switched to another school with another new group of people. And as much as I ended up loving the high school I went to, it was like a petri dish for growing low self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I love my school, I’m SO glad that I went there and I know I wouldn’t be at the college I’m at now if I hadn’t gone there. The high school I went to was very small and very academically advanced. It took the most advanced students from all over the county and held all of our classes at the local university. I took my first college course when I was in the 9th grade. But so did everyone else at my school. Using academics to show that I was “enough” was no longer a reasonable expectation because I was taking classes with the smartest people around me. I just couldn’t compete with some of them. There was no way. But I tried. You guys, I did a shit load of work in high school. I always had homework to do. And I put all of my effort into that during the beginning of 9th grade, because I wasn’t used to having to actually work to make good grades. I guess like most other high schoolers do, I lost my sense of identity. I didn’t know how to identify myself. I wasn’t the “smart” one anymore. Everything I could do, there was someone at that school that was better.

Then I started having unexplained problems with my stomach. It started bloating after I ate anything. At first it was over a span of several days. My stomach would keep getting bigger and bigger for about three days, then it would go down in my sleep and the cycle would start over. You guys, I was never, ever even close to being a big child. I don’t think I was ever even technically a “healthy” weight. I was small. But when my clothes were suddenly not fitting and my body was doing all of this weird stuff, I didn’t know what was going on. I guess I thought I was actually gaining weight at first. I can remember listening to two teammates at volleyball practice complain about how they were having a “fat day” and it just made so much sense that I was experiencing that. My stomach felt larger some days and smaller on others. So I cut back a little bit on what I was eating. As my stomach began to bloat and go down each day, rather than over a span of several days, I realized that by skipping breakfast, I could keep the bloating away for a little bit longer. Therefore my clothes would fit and I wouldn’t look as “fat.” I wasn’t at a level of full blown eating disorder by this point, just at a level of disordered eating. But I felt good. I felt better about myself as a person. Even though I couldn’t have the highest grade or the most friends, I felt like I was doing something right by dieting.

I’m going to take a short pause here to explain the difference between disordered eating and eating disorder in case anyone doesn’t know exactly what that means. Otherwise I’ll totally forget to ever bring it up again.

Eating disorders have clinical criterion that must be met in order to be diagnosed. For someone to have an eating disorder they would fit under the category of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, ED-NOS, and soon to be (thankfully) Binge Eating Disorder.

Disordered Eating is a much more broad term that includes a wide range of abnormal eating patterns. If you have an eating disorder, you have disordered eating patterns. You can have disordered eating without having a full blown eating disorder. BUT disordered eating CAN (definitely not always) lead to eating disorders. An example would be something like chronic dieting or eating only at a particular time of the day. (on a slightly unrelated side note, I have seen magazines RECOMMEND chewing and spitting food as a way to lose weight. Society is ridiculous) Disordered eating can cause tons of emotional and physical problems and should not be messed around with (oh hey, remember this shit later because I will probably bring it up like 12 more times).

So then I started doing some research online. About how I could lose more weight and feel even better about myself. And I eventually stumbled across these pro anorexia websites. I don’t remember my initial reaction when I found them, I wish I could. But the pictures of the girls that were posted on there looked so great. They didn’t look scary like the media usually presents anorexic skeletons. They looked like models, like movie stars, like Victoria’s Secret angels, like people that people love. And the people online made it seem so ok to be doing these things to their bodies. Like it was their business what they did to their bodies and that made it perfectly acceptable. And they made it SO easy, by openly providing different “diets” to try, different exercises to do, ways to lose the most weight, how to convince people that you had already eaten. They posted pictures of “thinspiration” and participated in group fasts to see who could lose the most weight. And I became hooked. I felt like I NEEDED to look like those women, I NEEDED to be able to control myself and be good at something, otherwise no one would ever like me.

I continued reading these sites for probably about a year. In this time I just kept getting sicker and sicker. So many of the ideas/thoughts/methods that I found on those websites became engrained in my brain. Slowly I kind of tapered off of them. I didn’t need these websites to “trigger” myself anymore. I think that was when I began to realize that this had become a problem. That I couldn’t stop what I was doing like I always thought I would be able to do. I always thought that when I reached a certain weight, I would be done, I would be content. But it had gotten out of control. I didn’t really start thinking about what exactly had happened until much later. When I was still reading the sites I was very supportive of them. I thought that it was my business and I could choose to do whatever I wanted and nobody had the right to stop me or tell me what to do. But looking back, I can say that I was sick. And I’ve changed my mind. I’m so glad that I was able to move away from them so early on in my disorder, because I can only imagine that it is even more difficult to beat this when you’re less than willing to do so.

This is my problem with the pro-anorexia sites. They weren’t really a support system. I see a lot of people argue for keeping these sites because they provide people with a place to express themselves and be understood by fellow strugglers. Particularly with the new policy from Tumblr. I understand the need for that. Totally. But there is a huge difference between seeking support/understanding from people and encouraging people to become sicker by participating in group fasts, posting thinspiration, congratulating someone on weight loss when you know they have a problem, etc. Obviously I was slightly predisposed to having an eating disorder (through genetics, environment, my previous experiences) but who the hell else would be attracted to eating disorder websites other than someone predisposed to having an eating disorder? So did these websites cause my eating disorder? Absolutely not. Did they encourage it? Yes. Did they OBJECTIVELY  help me in any way? No. And while I’m at it, can I just say that you can absolutely find support sites that don’t glorify eating disorders, trivialize them into disorders of vanity, and create competition among members at the same time.

Also, I know that a lot of websites are all like “well we post resources for people if they want to recover.” And, yea, sure, but can we be serious for just a minute? Those resources become just a little bit invalidated when basically all the other posts are about needing to lose weight/eat less/exercise more/etc. Those resources are not going to really do anything. People are on pro anorexia sites for a reason, and that reason probably isn’t to recover. The thought is nice though.

This will probably sound bad and I don’t intend for it to, but from my experience a lot of the people on those sites were not actually anorexic. Let me explain. Yes, there were DEFINITELY people on there that were actually anorexic and were still really really struggling. But SO MANY of the people on there were like me. Young. Innocent. Not yet fully eating disordered. So many of them were looking for a quick fix weight loss. There was always this mention of upcoming prom, or spring break, or summer, or whatever. There was a focus on only seeing the part of anorexia where people want to be thin, not seeing all of the internal struggle and self-hate that accompanies/precedes/follows/whatever eating disorders. It was so common for people to encourage each other to “stay strong” in their eating disorders. Interestingly enough, many of my friends and I now have to remind each other to “stay strong” AGAINST our eating disorders. So many people on those websites appeared to be still in the “disordered eating” phase, like me. I have no clue where any of them are now, but it would not surprise me if many of them ended up very sick.

I don’t know. I just can’t imagine actually experiencing an eating disorder and then encouraging someone else to do the same thing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

For a while now I’ve felt like I should have been “smarter” than that. That I should have “known better” than to read these websites because, objectively, I can say that I was a relatively smart kid. But eating disorders aren’t about being “too dumb” to lose weight the right way. I hear people all the time say that people with anorexia are “stupid, because that’s not how you lose weight.” It’s not about not understanding how the human body works. It’s about the emotional and psychological things behind the curtain of the eating disorder. I wouldn’t say that anyone viewing pro-ana sites is “dumb.” They’re struggling with their own issues, just like I was. And the appeal of pro anorexia sites can just suck vulnerable people in. It can make anorexia seem so safe and harmless and like the answer to all of my problems. I don’t know that I wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder if I had never visited those sites. They definitely weren’t the only thing that caused my eating disorder. But I might have gotten help sooner in my disorder, or maybe I wouldn’t have learned several of the “tricks” I learned. While the amount of harm that they actually caused is debatable, I know is that I can objectively say that they did not help me in any positive way.

This turned out a lot longer than I was expecting it to be. Sorry. But I felt like I really needed to share my history with pro anorexia sites and how exactly the affected me and what I think of them now. I think this is probably the final post on this for right now, but don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts come up later.

My History with Pro Anorexia part 3

Don’t worry you guys, Buckbeak approves this message.

I continued reading these sites for probably about a year. In this time I just kept getting sicker and sicker. So many of the ideas/thoughts/methods that I found on those websites became engrained in my brain. Slowly I kind of tapered off of them. I didn’t need these websites to “trigger” myself anymore. I think that was when I began to realize that this had become a problem. That I couldn’t stop what I was doing like I always thought I would be able to do. I always thought that when I reached a certain weight, I would be done, I would be content. But it had gotten out of control. I didn’t really start thinking about what exactly had happened until much later. When I was still reading the sites I was very supportive of them. I thought that it was my business and I could choose to do whatever I wanted and nobody had the right to stop me or tell me what to do. But looking back, I can say that I was sick. And I’ve changed my mind. I’m so glad that I was able to move away from them so early on in my disorder, because I can only imagine that it is even more difficult to beat this when you’re less than willing to do so.

This is my problem with the pro-anorexia sites. They weren’t really a support system. I see a lot of people argue for keeping these sites because they provide people with a place to express themselves and be understood by fellow strugglers. Particularly with the new policy from Tumblr. I understand the need for that. Totally. But there is a huge difference between seeking support/understanding from people and encouraging people to become sicker by participating in group fasts, posting thinspiration, congratulating someone on weight loss when you know they have a problem, etc. Obviously I was slightly predisposed to having an eating disorder (through genetics, environment, my previous experiences) but who the hell else would be attracted to eating disorder websites other than someone predisposed to having an eating disorder? So did these websites cause my eating disorder? Absolutely not. Did they encourage it? Yes. Did they OBJECTIVELY  help me in any way? No. And while I’m at it, can I just say that you can absolutely find support sites that don’t glorify eating disorders, trivialize them into disorders of vanity, and create competition among members at the same time.

Also, I know that a lot of websites are all like “well we post resources for people if they want to recover.” And, yea, sure, but can we be serious for just a minute? Those resources become just a little bit invalidated when basically all the other posts are about needing to lose weight/eat less/exercise more/etc. Those resources are not going to really do anything. People are on pro anorexia sites for a reason, and that reason probably isn’t to recover. The thought is nice though.

This will probably sound bad and I don’t intend for it to, but from my experience a lot of the people on those sites were not actually anorexic. Let me explain. Yes, there were DEFINITELY people on there that were actually anorexic and were still really really struggling. But SO MANY of the people on there were like me. Young. Innocent. Not yet fully eating disordered. So many of them were looking for a quick fix weight loss. There was always this mention of upcoming prom, or spring break, or summer, or whatever. There was a focus on only seeing the part of anorexia where people want to be thin, not seeing all of the internal struggle and self-hate that accompanies/precedes/follows/whatever eating disorders. It was so common for people to encourage each other to “stay strong” in their eating disorders. Interestingly enough, many of my friends and I now have to remind each other to “stay strong” AGAINST our eating disorders. So many people on those websites appeared to be still in the “disordered eating” phase, like me. I have no clue where any of them are now, but it would not surprise me if many of them ended up very sick.

I don’t know. I just can’t imagine actually experiencing an eating disorder and then encouraging someone else to do the same thing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

For a while now I’ve felt like I should have been “smarter” than that. That I should have “known better” than to read these websites because, objectively, I can say that I was a relatively smart kid. But eating disorders aren’t about being “too dumb” to lose weight the right way. I hear people all the time say that people with anorexia are “stupid, because that’s not how you lose weight.” It’s not about not understanding how the human body works. It’s about the emotional and psychological things behind the curtain of the eating disorder. I wouldn’t say that anyone viewing pro-ana sites is “dumb.” They’re struggling with their own issues, just like I was. And the appeal of pro anorexia sites can just suck vulnerable people in. It can make anorexia seem so safe and harmless and like the answer to all of my problems. I don’t know that I wouldn’t have developed an eating disorder if I had never visited those sites. They definitely weren’t the only thing that caused my eating disorder. But I might have gotten help sooner in my disorder, or maybe I wouldn’t have learned several of the “tricks” I learned. While the amount of harm that they actually caused is debatable, I know is that I can objectively say that they did not help me in any positive way.

 

This turned out a lot longer than I was expecting it to be. Sorry. But I felt like I really needed to share my history with pro anorexia sites and how exactly the affected me and what I think of them now. I think this is probably the final post on this for right now, but don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts come up later. Also, I’ll be making a post right after this one combining all three posts into one, just in case anyone wants to share my story.

My History with Pro-Anorexia Part 2

Oh shit, it’s like the Chamber of Secrets up in here you guys.

 

So as you can imagine, by this point I had pretty low self esteem. I had received a lot of messages about how I wasn’t “good enough” and I had learned to tune out the messages that said that I was enough. And then I started high school. I switched to another school with another new group of people. And as much as I ended up loving the high school I went to, it was like a petri dish for growing low self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, I love my school, I’m SO glad that I went there and I know I wouldn’t be at the college I’m at now if I hadn’t gone there. The high school I went to was very small and very academically advanced. It took the most advanced students from all over the county and held all of our classes at the local university. I took my first college course when I was in the 9th grade. But so did everyone else at my school. Using academics to show that I was “enough” was no longer a reasonable expectation because I was taking classes with the smartest people around me. I just couldn’t compete with some of them. There was no way. But I tried. You guys, I did a shit load of work in high school. I always had homework to do. And I put all of my effort into that during the beginning of 9th grade, because I wasn’t used to having to actually work to make good grades. I guess like most other high schoolers do, I lost my sense of identity. I didn’t know how to identify myself. I wasn’t the “smart” one anymore. Everything I could do, there was someone at that school that was better.

Then I started having unexplained problems with my stomach. It started bloating after I ate anything. At first it was over a span of several days. My stomach would keep getting bigger and bigger for about three days, then it would go down in my sleep and the cycle would start over. You guys, I was never, ever even close to being a big child. I don’t think I was ever even technically a “healthy” weight. I was small. But when my clothes were suddenly not fitting and my body was doing all of this weird stuff, I didn’t know what was going on. I guess I thought I was actually gaining weight at first. I can remember listening to two teammates at volleyball practice complain about how they were having a “fat day” and it just made so much sense that I was experiencing that. My stomach felt larger some days and smaller on others. So I cut back a little bit on what I was eating. As my stomach began to bloat and go down each day, rather than over a span of several days, I realized that by skipping breakfast, I could keep the bloating away for a little bit longer. Therefore my clothes would fit and I wouldn’t look as “fat.” I wasn’t at a level of full blown eating disorder by this point, just at a level of disordered eating. But I felt good. I felt better about myself as a person. Even though I couldn’t have the highest grade or the most friends, I felt like I was doing something right by dieting.

 

I’m going to take a short pause here to explain the difference between disordered eating and eating disorder in case anyone doesn’t know exactly what that means. Otherwise I’ll totally forget to ever bring it up again.

Eating disorders have clinical criterion that must be met in order to be diagnosed. For someone to have an eating disorder they would fit under the category of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, ED-NOS, and soon to be (thankfully) Binge Eating Disorder.

Disordered Eating is a much more broad term that includes a wide range of abnormal eating patterns. If you have an eating disorder, you have disordered eating patterns. You can have disordered eating without having a full blown eating disorder. BUT disordered eating CAN (definitely not always) lead to eating disorders. An example would be something like chronic dieting or eating only at a particular time of the day. (on a slightly unrelated side note, I have seen magazines RECOMMEND chewing and spitting food as a way to lose weight. Society is ridiculous) Disordered eating can cause tons of emotional and physical problems and should not be messed around with (oh hey, remember this shit later because I will probably bring it up like 12 more times).

 

So then I started doing some research online. About how I could lose more weight and feel even better about myself. And I eventually stumbled across these pro anorexia websites. I don’t remember my initial reaction when I found them, I wish I could. But the pictures of the girls that were posted on there looked so great. They didn’t look scary like the media usually presents anorexic skeletons. They looked like models, like movie stars, like Victoria’s Secret angels, like people that people love. And the people online made it seem so ok to be doing these things to their bodies. Like it was their business what they did to their bodies and that made it perfectly acceptable. And they made it SO easy, by openly providing different “diets” to try, different exercises to do, ways to lose the most weight, how to convince people that you had already eaten. They posted pictures of “thinspiration” and participated in group fasts to see who could lose the most weight. And I became hooked. I felt like I NEEDED to look like those women, I NEEDED to be able to control myself and be good at something, otherwise no one would ever like me.

My History with Pro Anorexia Part 1

I’m not quite done typing up this post, but so far it is longer than many of my papers for English classes. So unless anyone objects, I’m going to break it up into several posts instead of one enormous one. I’d like for people to actually make it all the way through the post. I will probably try to consolidate everything later for Pinterest and sharing purposes. Don’t worry; this will be just like waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out at midnight.

 

This is kind of a rough story for me to share, I guess just because I’m so embarrassed of it. I look back now and I can’t believe that I actually did some of this stuff that I’m so active about speaking against now. I guess I feel like that kind of makes me a hypocrite, but at the same time, I think this is a really important story to share because it really has the potential to help people and serve as a lesson. I also am embarrassed about this story because I feel like it can kind of serve as an example of how eating disorders are “vain disorders,” but I’ll try to explain how that isn’t true.

I’m going to start off by first saying that this is my personal story. The things that happened to me most certainly do not apply to other people. Everyone else didn’t develop an eating disorder from reading pro anorexia websites and people that read them will not necessarily develop an eating disorder. I just want to share what happened with me. Also, I want to point out that I’m NOT pinpointing pro anorexia websites as the cause of my eating disorder because eating disorders are really complex things. All I’m saying is that they contributed significantly in pushing me over the edge from disordered eating to eating disorder. I’m also not blaming anyone in particular that I mention in this post. These are just some memories that especially stick out in my mind. Like I said, I’m going to try to bring everything together and show how my eating disorder developed and that it wasn’t the cause of one particular event. I think because I’m trying to do that, I’m going to start at the very beginning, rather than just skipping to the part where I was reading pro anorexia websites.

 

I guess I was kind of a socially awkward kid. Not an especially bad case, but enough to be a little bit different from other people. I can remember sometime when I was in the third or fourth grade, reading an article on why knuckles crack and I just thought it was absolutely the coolest thing ever. Later that week I was riding home from school with my neighbor and her two kids. Someone cracked their knuckles and I immediately started explaining why it was happening, so excited to share this information with everyone else. Before I could even really get started, my neighbor’s son turned to me and said “Savannah. Just shut up. No one cares. Why are you so weird?” Looking back I can see that I wasn’t being weird, I was just being an interesting person concerned with the world around me.

I also went to private school for a very long time. And with a class size of 10 people, I understandably didn’t get a whole lot of socialization. On top of that, I was just a really high achieving, responsible kid. I never had to be told to do stuff and I was really self motivated to do well in school. This was a recipe for disaster when I switched back to a public school (shortly followed by a switch to a different private school) in the 8th grade. Kids in public school were quick to call me a “goody-goody” for not sharing my homework and letting people cheat off of me. I just hadn’t been taught to do things like that. I was just so innocent compared to all of them. Everyone else in public school was already drinking and talking back to adults. Not something that I was used to participating in. Not that I think that’s a bad thing, middle schoolers nowadays are honestly just terrifying. I’m glad that I came out like I did, rather than like some of them. But even after switching back to a smaller private school, I was the “new girl” and I was invading the already close-knit group that they had formed. So I began to try to be the “smartest” to prove that I was worthy of being liked. Unfortunately, we were still in middle school and that just made everyone more upset with me for being such a high achiever. It wasn’t until the end of the year when another girl transferred to the school that they finally began to accept me into their group.

Lent Laments

In case you missed all of the facebook status updates, Lent starts today. I’m not exactly religious, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I understand about the concept of Lent, it isn’t supposed to be about dieting. Yes, I understand that Jesus went without food for 40 days, so I see where the connection between giving up a food and becoming closer to God could be made. However, I don’t feel like anyone that I know actually sees it this way.  Just from listening to people around me, I have ALWAYS associated Lent with giving up candy or soda or chocolate or something that society has labeled as a “bad” food. I understand that you’re supposed to give up something that you like, and that most people like dessert. But I legitimately enjoy broccoli, and I have never, ever heard of anyone giving up broccoli for Lent. I’m just saying.

It just is interesting to me that every single person seems to cut out foods that would be cut out of your diet if you were dieting. Like the ulterior motive is to become closer to God, BUT to lose five pounds while doing so. I just don’t feel like anyone actually thinks of Lent as being about God except for like the first few days.

I’ve seen so many status updates today about how people are “giving up junk food” for 40 days and will be “going to the gym.” Is that how Lent works? Because maybe I don’t understand this correctly, but unless you spend your gym time praying, you’re probably not a whole lot closer to God.

I had a great conversation with a friend this morning and she told me that instead of giving something up for Lent, she tries to do something to help others. I think that’s such a great idea. Or maybe instead of giving up cookies, give up some of your free time and spend an extra 15 minutes every day devoting your time to God. Again, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong because I could be misinterpreting the entire thing. But I went to a Christian school for a good while, so I don’t exactly think I’m being completely ridiculous. I could be wrong though. And I’m absolutely not telling people that they are “wrong” about their religion. I love freedom of religion. Do what you want as long as you aren’t hurting others. I just feel like the point is being missed a little bit.

And I’m not bashing on religious fasting. People do that, and that is totally their business. And I understand the purpose that it is meant to serve. But religious fasting should probably not also serve as a weight loss tool. If it’s doubling as both, I’m not going to take you seriously about your devotion to your religion. This need to diet is so engrained in our brains that it is interrupting something that people consider as important as religion.

 

 

*also, I’m just going to throw this out there because I’ve had several people mention to me that they’d love to leave comments. You can leave a comment on here even if you don’t have a blog! All you should need is your email address.

Self-awareness

There have been times in my life where I loved my eating disorder. It made me feel powerful and capable and loveable and I know that it served a purpose for me. But looking back from where I am today, I can definitely say that I hate it. I would never wish this kind of experience on anyone.

But at the same time, I’m almost thankful that I’ve had it. Well, thankful is probably the wrong word. Slightly appreciative of it maybe? I’m not really sure how to categorize the kind of feelings that I have towards my eating disorder. I don’t exactly look back on my worst times as fond memories, but I’m thankful for everything that I’m learning in recovery and none of that could have come without the struggles that I went through.

I feel like I’ve gained so much awareness about myself within the last few months. Awareness that I know I never would have gained had I not gone through the process of treatment and recovery. I feel like I would have stayed in the dark about myself forever. Even before my eating disorder ever started, I wasn’t really happy with myself. I was still very perfectionistic and such a people-pleaser. I still looked entirely to other people for affirmation that I was an ok person. And even though so much time of the last five years was absolutely miserable, I would rather have gone through that and emerged better than to have never experienced it at all. I’m starting to almost feel whole, rather than just like an empty, emotionless shell.

Even now, not yet fully recovered, I think I’m a lot happier and more understanding of myself than I ever have been. Even if I don’t get any better than this, I’d rather stay here than go back to what I was before the eating disorder. I don’t think I would have ever really realized that anything was wrong, or that life could be so much better than it was. I don’t know. I guess a large part of that is that I was so young when my eating disorder started and I probably wouldn’t have had much self-awareness at that time anyway. But I still don’t feel like I could have ever reached this level of awareness without everything I’ve been through. I’m not there yet, but I can see myself developing into a very whole hearted person. I understand the reasoning behind a lot of my emotions. I have a pretty good grasp on what my eating disorder did for me and why I used it. This makes me want to tell everyone to go talk to a counselor or read some self help books or do whatever just for the hell of it. Even if you don’t think anything is “wrong” with you. You might be surprised what you find out. It’s a shame that seeing a counselor comes with such a stigma because I feel like I’ve learned so much.

As much as I hate my eating disorder, I’m starting to accept the fact that I can’t change that it has already occurred. All I can do now is move on from it and turn such an awful experience into an experience of growth and learning. And if I can help other people to find that same growth within themselves then it will have been worth it.

Also, if eating disorders are going to affect a certain percentage of the population anyway, I would rather it be me than some other innocent person. Like I said, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Trusting My Body

I’ve been stuck for a while now, in a place that I think a lot people can relate to-eating disorder or no eating disorder. I’m definitely moving forward with the mental aspect of my recovery, I’m slowly learning to like myself more, I’m letting myself enjoy life. But I’m still having some trouble with the physical aspect of it. And by that I mean the weight gain, the eating foods outside of my “safe list,” eating more calories than I allowed myself to in previous years, giving up “punishing” myself for eating by exercising or restricting. I haven’t worn jeans in months. Or been swimsuit shopping without having a meltdown. I’m eating a relatively normal amount of calories now, but I still feel so restricted and limited in what/when/how I am allowed to eat. And I KNOW all of these are things that people without eating disorders struggle with too.
The biggest hurdle for me to overcome is learning to trust my body. Learning to let it decide what is right for it and NOT letting my eating disorder decide that. I’m scared that if I eat what I want, I’ll just never quit eating. I’ll become enormous and society will label me with all of their derogatory labels for fat people. That I won’t be able to control myself at all. And from what I hear other people say, this is not really an “eating disorder fear” at all. So many other people are too afraid of their bodies to give them any trust. Years of having dieting, exercising just to look a certain way, plastic surgery, photoshop, wearing makeup, whatever thrown at us has taught people that we CAN’T trust our bodies. That all bodies are naturally wrong.
But I think I’m getting to a point now where I’m realizing that all these years I’ve been trusting the media, advertising, the public, etc. and they really have shown me no reason to. I’m starting to understand that I would much rather trust myself and my body than other people. And seriously, where did all those years of not trusting my body get me? Sure, I guess I technically met a lot of the beauty standards, but even then, I still thought I was ugly. So I couldn’t even see the results of all of my effort. There was always just something else to fix.
So I’m getting there. But it’s a process. And it isn’t going to happen overnight. I know I tell people all the time to just let their body do what it wants, but it really is harder than just “letting” that happen. I would love to just let myself love my body. But it takes a lot of effort. And I think it makes it even harder when it seems like the whole world is against you. I’m trying to feed my body what it wants, but at the same time I’m constantly bombarded with messages that tell me otherwise.
And a lot of the work is really actually motivating yourself. My treatment team calls it “faking it until you make it” and it is really helping me. I’ve been surrounding myself with body-positive images, reading books about self-love, bombarding my brain with the opposite messages from what it was previously bombarded with. I read this book when I was in a pretty bad place, and it pretty much did nothing for me then. I think probably because the book is targeted more at compulsive dieters than eating disordered individuals.  But I think that in the motivated mindset where I’m actually willing to try loving my body, it could be a lot more helpful.
Body love has to start with someone. Just like you won’t wake up one day and love your body, the rest of the world won’t either. It has to be taught and practiced. But at the same time, people do have to take some responsibility and actually make the effort to change their self image. But I don’t think it’s a completely lost cause. I mean, some people love their bodies right? They couldn’t have all always been that way. And maybe a year ago I would have told you that I would never, ever love my body. But now I’m at least almost apathetic towards it. I don’t sit all day thinking only about how I hate my body. I can at least only have those thoughts a few times a day now. The hatred has significantly decreased. And right now, I don’t plan to stop until it goes away. I’m determined to actually like myself.

Fat Shaming

I’m sure most people have already seen or heard of Strong4Life’s campaign against childhood obesity. But I just recently actually watched several of the videos and I felt like I needed to comment  on it.

I don’t think being fat really sucks all of the fun out of being a kid. Maybe the people that are mocking her and making her life hell are sucking all the fun out of being a kid. Why are we telling this little girl that she needs to lose weight to fit in instead of telling the kids that are bullying her that they can’t treat people that way? I’m sorry. But I would rather my child be fat than be a bully. Any day. I’m way more concerned about the fact that people are letting other people treat people meanly. Maybe we should have advertisements telling people to treat each other with respect and kindness. Maybe adults should be stopping this kind of bullying in younger kids instead of plastering pictures of overweight children on billboards and making them examples of what not to be. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and stuff like this impacts mental health negatively. Need I mention that tons of research has shown that the development of eating disorders is often linked to teasing and bullying? But don’t worry, this little girl isn’t the only victim of weight bullying.

If you want people to be healthy, encourage healthy attitudes towards food and exercise. Target the actions of people, not their appearances. I won’t make everyone read yet again why you can’t judge someone’s health by how they look, I feel like I’ve definitely covered that by now. But seriously. The thousands and thousands of kids that are getting “excused” from these advertisements because their bodies just naturally maintain lower weights despite the fact that they don’t exercise and only eat junk food is just unfair.

How do people think those poor kids and parents that were used as models feel? Those parents have probably been called “awful parents” or “child abusers,” neither of which can be proven by the size of their children. That’s really great. Now they will probably be made fun of at school/work/life even more because the entire country has been told that these children are too fat to be happy. It will be interesting to see how their eating and exercise habits change because of all this. Sorry, but fat shaming is not exactly a new concept. I’m sure pretty much everyone has been made fun of because of their weight before, underweight, overweight, whatever. And quite frankly, it clearly isn’t causing everyone to reach their “ideal weight.” So maybe we should stop trying to pretend that it will.

And what kind of message does this send to everyone else? If you do something wrong then you will be publicly humiliated? Obsessing and worrying over trying to please other people will get you absolutely nowhere, and will make you more miserable than being fat ever will.