Friday, July 6, 2007

Defining ED

On CookieGirl's blog, she brought up the debate about eating disorders as choice or as external force/cause.

Personally, I've always subscribed to the notion that ED behaviors are the symptoms. I used ED behaviors to numb myself when I felt overwhelmed by emotions. It used to be my coping mechanism of choice; leading me to believe that I was in control of at least one thing, when everything else felt like complete chaos. (Of course, that's a lie.) Through my recovery, I've learned to cope in other ways.

Does that mean that I've cured my illness?
No.

Are eating disorders curable?
I don't think so. And let me tell you why.

Even though I am symptom-free, I still have negative thoughts. I still have feelings that overwhelm me. I will always have these thoughts and feelings. This is the disease. I think of myself as in remission from my illness.

My medicine, which I take as often as needed, is to challenge those negative thoughts the moment they pop into my mind. To focus on the positive. To distract myself. If necessary, I pull out the other meds in my cabinet - deep breathing, stretching, walking, writing, talking - to keep my disease in remission.

Like the antihistamines for my allergies, I will need to take these medicines for the rest of my life. The dosages and frequency may change, but I will always need to be vigilant. As a person with cancer is reminded to continue screenings on a periodic basis to be sure the cancer remains gone, I too must continually screen myself for any hint of my symptoms returning.

And I do screen myself regularly. I take breaks during the day to breathe, to get up and move, to connect with another living being, to stretch. At these times, I take my medicine - I remind myself that life is about living, not numbers. That I'm not alone. That I'm beautiful and strong, intelligent and loving, caring and thoughtful.

So what's in your medicine chest?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Rebel Yell!

All right, I'm back again with an article by the Associated Press. "Review Finds Nutrition Education Failing."

The article starts by stating how the US government is spending a billion dollars (this year alone) on nutrition education - with most of the programs flopping like beached flounder. The article then proceeds to pull in expert opinions that there is nothing to be done. Kids will continue to choose donuts and "junk" food no matter what anyone says, especially after the age of 10.

What is never mentioned in this article (or any of the articles I find on child obesity) is any information on intuitive eating (the idea that one listens to one's own body for hunger cues and then acts upon those cues.)

When my son was born, I vowed to him that I would go with the flow - no pushing, no demanding. When he was ready, he was ready and I would support and love him no matter what. [The only thing was that he had to be potty-trained by kindergarden, but that wasn't my rule.] When he is hungry, I ask him, "Sweet or savory." And then list his choices from there.

Sure, sometimes he says "ice cream" or "cupcake" or "cookie," when he wants sweets. But almost as often he mentions "banana" or "apple" or "berries" or "oatmeal."

No matter what he answers, I either get it for him (or point the way to it.) His body knows what he needs and it's asking for these things for a reason.

Lately, (he's five and half years old now,) he's been asking often, "Mommy, are chips junk food?" or "Will this Hershey kiss make me sick?"

My reply is always, "If you eat too much of anything, it will make you sick. As long as you listen to your body, eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full, you'll be just fine."

But our conversation leaves me extremely disturbed and incredibly worried. I'm assuming that he is learning about these things at his daycare (or from the TV, which now has commercials about the dangers of "junk" food and being sedentary.) Which is all fine and dandy, except that since I had an eating disorder, that may predispose my son into having one as well. I have worked so hard for the past five plus years to instill in my son a sense of trust in his own body and I feel like all my effort is being flushed down the drain by all these agencies who are shoving "healthy" eating down our throats.

To me, "healthy" eating is where no food is forbidden. Where one eats when one's body says that it needs fuel, and feeds it exactly for what her/his body asks, then stopping when the body is full. All humans are born eating "healthy." All of us, no exceptions. But sometime during our formative years we are taught otherwise. Many are forced into the "clean plate club" and/or the "three squares a day rigidity."

I've spent the past three years struggling to return myself to the innocence, the naturalness of intuitive eating. I've fought to allow myself to enjoy cookies and cupcakes and cakes and ice cream and candy - whenever my body tells me it needs it. I'm now battling to add fat back into my diet.

I would never wish this war on ANYONE.

And yet, here are government-sponsored programs and classes countermanding everything that I'm fighting for.

I often feel like a lone crusader striking back at the infidels who want to mess with my child's innate sense of self-nurturing.

I invite all other crusaders to yawp a rebel yell!

AAAARRRRHHHHH!!!

Now, all we need is a catchy rallying cry. One that can be sung from the rooftops of the world to call the people to arms against those who are trying to confuse our babies into believing that there is one almighty structure for fueling our bodies, who are diverting our babies from the trust in themselves with which they were born.

How about:

Back off! My body knows what I need!

No, needs to be shorter... My mind is blank for war cries.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day

My Declaration of Independence

When a relationship becomes destructive to one of the members, the injured party has the right to dissolve all ties to the aggressor. It is her right as a human being to state the reasons which cause her to separate herself from the tyrant.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans have the right to live freely and happily. When someone obstructs a fellow human from achieving these ends, it is just and necessary to eliminate the despot.

ED has spent decades coming between Anne and true happiness to the extent that Anne's very life is in jeopardy.

The evidence is as follows:
 ED has thwarted every attempt by Anne to find true happiness.
 ED has repeatedly and inexhaustibly denied Anne one of the basic necessities of life – food.
 ED has stolen all emotions from Anne.
 ED has altered Anne's perception of reality so that Anne no longer is able to believe what is true.
 ED has ripped away Anne's ability to trust.

In short, ED has imprisoned Anne for over twenty years without trial and due process.

Often, Anne has attempted to confront ED and list her grievances. Her petitions were never addressed and worse, Anne received additional punishment for her courage. For these transgressions, Anne must view ED as the enemy.

Anne, therefore, solemnly declares her independence from ED. She is free and is absolved from all allegiances to ED. All connections to ED must be severed.

Anne is a free and independent woman – free to eat, free to live in peace, free to do and act as other independent beings do.

And for supporting this Declaration, Anne pledges her life, her fortune and her sacred honor to her family and friends who sign this petition.

***

I wrote this statement in 2005.

I offer it to you on this 231st Day of Independence (in America) with a challenge to those suffering and struggling.

How will you (or how do you) declare your independence from ED?
What wrongs has the ED tyrant in your life committed against you?
What do you want out of life?
And how will you make that happen?

Because the choice is yours and yours alone.
Choose independence.
Choose to live.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fork or spoon?

Tomorrow (here in the States) is Independence Day. "The Fourth of July."

The (disputed) day when the Declaration of Independence was signed (if not sealed and delivered,) declaring the citizens of the colonies of America to be free from (what they viewed as) the tyranny of England's rule.

In the summer of 2005, after reading Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer, I wrote a declaration of independence of my own. From my eating disorder. I even had the people in my life sign it in solidarity (as Thom Rutledge recommended in one of the exercise sections.)

For a while, I looked to that document for inspiration in my fight against this illness. I struggled to separate myself from the ED while simultaneously digging at the roots of my almost-non-existent self-esteem. I reached out for help, countless times.

And all through my inner battles, I made time to help others - mainly through message boards (like Something-fishy.) And all the time, there was a soul trapped that I couldn't reach. Anorexia had destroyed her body, but worse, it decimated her will to live.

My husband's cousin, Krissy would have been 28 years old today.

I remember the Christmas before she passed. I told her about my eating disorder; I gave her my phone numbers and email so that she could contact me if she wanted someone who would understand.

She never called.
Never emailed.

I had often thought about calling her, but never overcame my insecurities. (I hate talking on the phone.)

When she died, I had fleeting moments of regret, of guilt. I should have called. Why didn't I see beyond my own suffering?

I wasn't alone in my thoughts. In the aftermath of her passing, my husband and the rest of the family, and I'm sure, her friends as well, all wondered what they could have done to stop her from taking her own life.

I gently responded that there wasn't anything anyone could have done - she needed to want help. And when in the depths of an ED, there seems no way out. So dark is the depression, so suffocating is the despair. I understood. I had been there.

I understood, but didn't help her. I couldn't help her. I just wasn't in a place to help anyone then, not until I recovered myself.

A few weeks after her funeral, I asked my mother-in-law to take me to her grave. I stood near it and talked to her, like I was never able to in life. I thanked her for saving my life the year before (I had just begun to realize I was relapsing when her liver gave out. After seeing how devastated and scared my husband and his family was, I spurred into action to fight my own ED before I ruined my health forever.) I cried for her. I cried for me. I remember feeling envious of her - from my mid-recovery view, she had the liberty to choose death rather than continue the struggle. At the time, I was too blind to see that I did have a choice, lots of choices.

Now that I'm on the solid ground of "recovered," I see that she probably envied me. She probably thought how lucky I was to have choices, to have a child who needed me, to have a husband so in love with me (and I with him) that I never would consider death an option.

Amazing in its irony, isn't it?

We all have so many choices every day - so many forks (and spoons and bowls and plates) in our paths. The best thing is there is no Miss Manners to tell us which one we need to use. We are the masters/mistresses of our lives.

So, what choices await you today?

Which utensil will you choose?

How will you choose to live your life?

Monday, July 2, 2007

A different sort of message from John Edward

"If you meet with obstacles, you try to overcome them. You fix what you need to fix to reach what you believe is your goal. If you still can't fix it, if you're hitting a wall, it probably means you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing. Change careers. Change direction. You're meant to be doing something else." pages 27 - 28 Crossing Over by John Edward. (www.johnedward.net)

Right/Write on, John!

I've been re-reading Crossing Over since I haven't had a chance to get to the library to pick up some books I reserved. This book is about the journey John Edward took to get his show on the SciFi network. (For those of you unfamiliar, John Edward is a medium - a person who connects the living with the dead. Supposedly. If you believe in life after death. Which, honestly, I want to believe, but am skeptical. Just call me "Doubting Jeanne" and show me a sign (or two or three.))

Anyway, on a higher level (no pun intended,) I respect John Edward immensely - regardless of what I believe or hope. When something isn't working right, he changes it. He hasn't been afraid to try something new or different - even if there are cynics and others waiting to shoot him down. He believes in his message - which is that human consciousness lives on, that love transcends the physical world - and he will do whatever it takes to get his message through.

Later in this book, he writes,

"In any career, if you make it about the work first, the money will take care of itself. You don't have to be a spiritual person to embrace this ethic. And you don't have to be a Wall Street shark to lose sight of it. Especially if you also allow yourself to fall prey to some of the other human impulses: competition with peers, resentment at being left behind, the desire for control and power." page 51 Crossing Over by John Edward

This is not only true about careers/jobs, but also about life and choices. If you are true to yourself and strive to do the next right thing (whatever that next right thing is at any given time,) then everything else will fall into place.

It is when we compare ourselves with others, when we feel compelled to control anything and everything we can, that we fall. Countless times through my recovery, I've looked at the super thin models and actresses and wished for their bodies. I've walked into a room full of women and sorted them by weight and declared myself "fat." And then I'd take my "fatness" and starve and exercise - my attempts to control it, because I thought the rest of my life was spinning beyond my realm of influence.

I started making the biggest strides in recovery when I realized all this and relinguished control (if only for a while) to someone else so I could remain in charge. The best example is how I allow Mike, my personal trainer, to control the numbers in the fitness center (the number of pounds I lift, the level of incline I run, the speeds I move at.) But I remain in charge - I can take back control whenever I wish. I just choose not to. I don't need to. I trust Mike, so why tempt myself with numbers?

Life isn't a contest. There is no prize for the thinnest or richest or strongest. The prize is in the savoring of every moment.

Locker Room Chat

Why do many women feel the need to pray to the almighty scale??? And worse, go about exclaiming how much penance she needs to inflict upon herself to adhere to the scale's wishes???

I was in the locker room today, changing before a body sculpting class in the fitness center at work. A colleague in the IT department (who is also changing)remarks about how "bad" she was this weekend.
I asked her to define "bad," as I think about what she could possibly consider "bad."
She says, "I had a piece of fried chicken. And half a hamburger..." while camping.

8-O

I reassured her that she was not "bad."

She then said that it was "bad" because she didn't lose any weight last week. (Apparently she had been losing two pounds each week.) She then stated her hope of losing two pounds this week - to make up for last week.

Oh, and there's more!

She went on to tell me that it was easy losing weight the first few weeks.
I informed her that water weight was easy to lose, which is what the first few pounds on any "diet" tend to be.
I then said, "It's not about the number on the scale."
She replied, "It is for me."
Subject dropped along with my jaw.

My first reaction was to retort, "Yeah, well, it's your life. I'm recovering from an eating disorder and I'd rather not talk about things like this."

I didn't. Partly because I didn't want this woman to know. [Although, if she continues to discuss diets/weight/numbers/scales/etc., I will tell her to lay off and why.]

I pity this woman. Her self-esteem, her sense of worth is chained to the number on the scale.

I remember that life all too well.

After that conversation, I had fleeting thoughts about what I've been eating and how lazy I was this weekend (no exercise for me because I strained my neck on Friday. Note to self: I'm not a teenager who can do a headstand without sufficiently warming up. lol) I even had a flicker of guilt for my "glutteny" this weekend when I ate a few cookies.

But then, after a good mental shaking, I stopped. I don't want that life. What is so "bad" about enjoying a cookie?? (especially a really yummy one?) What is so "terrible" about a piece of fried chicken? What is so "awful" about a whole burger, let alone half of one????

Nothing.
There is nothing wrong with any of it.

I know I've written a lot about my favorite mantra - "It's not about the numbers." I've needed a little more reminding than usual myself about that lately, but I've also been hit with how big a hangup our culture has with numbers - weights, bmis, calories, paychecks, housing prices, etc.

I'm annoyed by it all.

Wouldn't it be great if life on Earth was similar to Star Trek: Next Generation's Earth? One big happy world family, no money, food for the asking, people encourage to explore new worlds and seek out new life... I wonder if that also applied to inner lives and the world of the psyche as well? Hmmm...