Monday, May 18, 2015

What Am I Waiting For? (Or: The Time Michelle Obama Crashed My NEDAwareness Week)

Hello everyone and welcome to another infrequent post on this blog. Once again I’m sorry this one isn’t very active but I find myself thinking less and less about recovery stuff as time goes on. (If you really miss me that much you can check out my tumblr. I go there to make arguably silly and/or stupid posts. And some important ones not related to recovery. I come here to make arguably less silly and/or stupid posts. The frequency of each should tell you that I am an arguably silly and stupid person.)

Something happened to my TV in February. During (or the day before, not 100% sure of the date) NEDAwareness week, actually, if we want to get the complete picture of how messed up the situation was. 

Michelle Obama appeared on the screen and started telling me to get off my butt and change the way I eat, as part of fit February. (Or some such thing. I’ve learned by necessity of my own survival to tune these kind of things out when I start to hear them.)

For the purposes of this post I’ve looked up the original video. I am not going to link it because that would be counterproductive. It was “Fit Kids February.” I even watched the damn thing twice to make sure I got it right, so no one can say I only ever do things I want to do.)

Anyway, she then asked me, “What are you waiting for?” to which I provide this answer (strap in, it’s long):

(And “you” is now a general “you,” as I would like to address the general population and not just the First Lady.)

What am I waiting for? I am waiting for the pain of years of overexercise and malnutrition to leave my body. I am waiting for my body to be whole again. You think my pain is brought on by not being active enough, no. It is the opposite.

What am I waiting for? I am waiting for a genetic sequence that doesn’t make exercise and starving myself both 1) correlated, and 2) addictive. You ask why I don’t exercise (because obviously if I don’t then I am not healthy), well here is your answer: I can’t stop myself. You think my lack of exercise is a lack of willpower, no. It takes everything in me not to do it, you know why? Because when I do it I honestly do get addicted. And you can’t question the validity or healthiness of my actions unless you’ve been in this place. If you think you can guilt me into diet and exercise then you can sit your ass down, because no one does that better than my eating disorder, and I’ve come this far and I’m sure as hell not going to let you knock me back to square one. If I exercise, I will get out of control, and I will start starving myself in addition. It is not a choice, nor is it my fault. It is the love child of my genetics and the society I live in.

What am I waiting for? I am waiting for you to acknowledge that my mental health is more important than what you want me to look and act like.

I am waiting for you to acknowledge my genetics. That they exist. That I exist.

I’ve given a lot of thought to eating disorder prevention. Sure, you learn about them in school. I learned about them in school, hell I even wrote a freaking paper about how to prevent them in 10th grade. (I am trying so hard not to curse in this post, I really am.) Guess what I suggested? Targeting childhood obesity. So I get it, it makes sense, if they don’t have to go on diets they’ll never get addicted to them. (I repeat, it is an addiction.) But the problem is that it does not stop there. It never stops. Never. Big or small, man or woman, there will always be pressure to go on a diet.

And for all that education about how eating disorders are horrible and you should always be careful never to get one, I still got one. So you see, words and facts are really no match for my genetics.

We are not talking about a logical illness here. We are not talking about something that is “caught” and “cured.” We are talking about something that potentially damages you for the rest of your life, so why aren’t we taking it more seriously?

The answer is what I see every day. Diet foods, diet ads, people talking about their diets, people going on diets, people complaining about their diets, people complaining about falling off their diets, people refusing a gift of food because they are on a fucking diet, dammit, did you not hear the tenth and eleventh and twelfth time?

And I look at it, and I think, surely I’m not the only one who sees this. This obsession with diets is something I saw as “normal” and “healthy” when I was at my sickest, and now it is something that I cannot take part in if I want to live, and therefore my only logical conclusion is that it is, on some level, disordered. And no doubt the rising percentages of restrictive eating disorders contribute to my perception.

(Hello, you, if you think you’re immune it’s really just a genetic crapshoot. If you think your children are immune it’s really just a genetic crapshoot. If you think obsessing over diets when your kids are growing up and telling them this food is bad and go exercise won’t harm them, it’s really just a genetic crapshoot. I have a theory that kids are the only ones anymore who are actually in tune with what their bodies need, because your body is very efficient at communicating with you—even on a subconscious level—until you start tuning it out. See “eating whatever you want,” below.)

So, although of course awareness is important, I don’t propose teaching the evil of eating disorders. I propose not teaching young kids and teenagers to care so much about what they eat and whether or not they exercise.

(As always, I will tell you to Google “set point theory” and, as always, I will tell you it’s a scientific, proven thing.)

As a kid I was told that being free with food is bad, and I was told that eating disorders are bad. And now I am still told that being free with food is wrong and eating disorders are wrong, and somehow I am wrong for getting an eating disorder despite my education telling me not to, and I am also wrong for trying to keep myself free of that disorder by being free with ALL food.

A funny thing happens when you eat whatever you want: You don’t eat everything. Nobody told me this. They told me I have to be careful or I will eat everything.

I call bullshit, because I have lived enough bullshit and I think I know what bullshit is.

And, if I am wrong for not living “correctly”—then I am wrong for living at all.

I don’t know what is wrong, but I know it’s not me.

I am waiting for society to make up its damn mind.

And if the majority of you want to keep indulging your non-fatal obsessions at the expense of the increasing number of us, then I can’t change your mind. And in however many generations, congratulations, you will have eradicated us, as Darwin dictated—the “weak” shall not survive—with no regard for the fact that my genetic “weakness” is the reason humans survived famines during the hunter-gatherer times. When you were all feeling shit because you didn’t get your food, it made me more alert and energetic, and I found food and I fed you. And then, when I had done my genetic duty and you were satisfied, you fed me. Had you not fed me we wouldn’t be here. Can you not feed me again?

And while we’re on the subject, I would like to point out the logical conclusion (don’t you love logic?) that can also be drawn from Darwin, which is that future generations should develop a defense mechanism against chronic underfeeding (I’m talking about diets again), and so what you see as an “epidemic” (I’m talking about “obesity” now) might actually be better classified as something called “evolution.”


Something else happened to my TV last night. The BBMAs were on. I make no secret of the fact that I don’t consider myself a “fan” of very many female artists. Probably like two, and the less I know about them the better.

(Except Mary Lambert is awesome, just saying.)

So you can go on and say that makes me a horrible “woman” or whatever you want, but I have never felt represented by them or their music. They are makeup and short dresses and thinner than average—everything I am not. And this is what you’re feeding me, that I am not attractive or successful unless I am something that I cannot be if I want to survive.

I also have this radical idea that to exist—no, to live—is more important than to need a man (oh, of course it has to be a man, god forbid it should be a woman because to be loved and to be in love is such a horrible thing unless it’s a man) to tell me I’m pretty or hot or fit or what the hell ever because of how I look and act and what I wear. Because not only is that pretty sexually exclusive (again, Mary Lambert is awesome), it’s also a pretty narrow view of what a woman is.

So look me in the eye, and tell me all these things, and then tell me that we need to do more to treat and prevent eating disorders. Yes, we do. That’s what I’m asking. I can’t do it alone—and I have, I have forgone doctors because they have invariably told me to eat less and get my ass on a damn machine that makes me walk but takes me nowhere, even knowing my medical history. I need you to see what I see. I need you to see that you’re not helping me. I need you to see that I could be your kids or your grandkids or your husband or your wife or your brother or your sister. I need you to see what is happening, because once it starts no amount of education or logic will stop it.

Do you not see it?

And so, to (finally, right!?) conclude:

I am waiting for you to stop trying to kill me while asking me why I can’t get better.

And since my attempt to keep the language PG failed, I feel totally fine saying this: I don’t care what anyone says, if you read this far you’re fucking awesome.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hey, WeightWatchers (Re the new WeightWatchers ads)

Hey, WeightWatchers, I think you have “lack of willpower” confused with the set point theory, which is an actual, scientific, documented thing.

I also think you have “lack of willpower” confused with the body’s natural response to starvation.

And, finally, I know for sure that you have “thinner” confused with “healthier.”

A “coach” isn’t going to change any of the above.

And, people at WeightWatchers, if you feel like expanding your horizons, look up the Minnesota Starvation Experiment (and feel free to Google set point theory). I know you won’t, because your profits depend on science not existing. But I mean, it’s out there for anyone to find and your entire weight-loss industry has done a fantastic job so far of convincing people it doesn’t exist, so what’s the worst that can happen?

Weight loss has a 95% failure rate, at best. You can bet your booty if that was a prescription drug no one would prescribe it and no one would take it, given the side effects.

Hey, people at WeightWatchers, if you don’t want to read the whole thing then at least read the last paragraph of that link. Here, I’ll even quote it for you:

“If your doctor told you that she was going to prescribe you a medicine that worked for Sally, but that she was legally required to say that Sally’s results weren’t typical, that you probably wouldn’t experience Sally’s results, and then told you that it was more likely to leave you less healthy than more healthy would you take it?  If Viagra failed 95% of the time would we blame guys for not trying hard enough or would we say that the medicine didn’t work?”

To say nothing of Viagra making men’s hair fall out, making their bones brittle, causing them to lose their menstrual cycle (just go with me here), and leaving them tired and irritable and miserable. How many guys would take it if those were the consequences? (Just to be clear, they’re not, or maybe some of them are, I have never read the side effects of Viagra, for various reasons.) I am obviously not a man, so I don’t know if an erection is worth all those things, but I know for sure fitting into society’s arbitrarily tight little knickers is not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make myself a large flask of hot chocolate using heavy whipping cream instead of milk. (Gasp! Milk, not water!) I might even put some peanut butter in. Because, you know, you’re allowed to eat whatever you want.

And one last thing, people at WeightWatchers.

Have a nice fuckin day.

[I’m not back for good and please don’t expect frequent blog posts from me. I’m just dropping in as this time of year is really rife with diet ads and general fodder for disordered thoughts. I hope this post finds all of you well :) ]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I Sing Like I Can Actually Sing

First off this was the most fun writing that I’ve had in a long time.


You can’t know exactly what it

s like to have an eating disorder until it's happened to you. It's like dying. It's worse than dying, because all you're thinking at the bottom is “when can I die already?” There is no point to life, it's all calories and making it to the end of the day only to start it all over again tomorrow. It’s like the darkness is the light. A fun house full of evil clowns.

It is an abusive relationship. A monster inside of your head. A man that demands his version of perfection and, every time you think you've satisfied it, pushes for more. Be smaller. Be the smallest. Disappear. And you think, this could be paradise, this could be a good life, if only you could escape.

And you can either give in and die, or you can break away. You can break away. Because you’re a fighter. You deserve to break away, because you’re beautiful, even if you don’t know you’re beautiful. Never forget that you’re worth it and I’m here for you cheering for you every step of the way because you can do it.

It’s not easy, in fact it sucks. You know you’re doing the right thing but it’s like you’re falling to pieces because you don’t know what you stand for and the future is unknown and you don’t know who you are without the disorder.
But you’ll figure out that you’re not broken, just bent.

And then you start to feel again. You’ve gone so long without proper emotions, so long living a monotonous specter of a life that it all hits like a tidal was drowning you and you start to wake up and realize that everything has changed.

Except music. Music is still there and music will always be there. And music puts into words what you cannot. Through it, you can express your emotions. Like somebody takes your hand and leads you through the maze of highs and lows and simultaneously laughing and crying, terrified exhilaration, and soul-rending love. A whirl of colors that has stopped spinning so you can finally see them for what they are, and mix them and complement them and swirl them into a beautiful portrait of life. It’s hard to remember the people we used to be, but the music helps us remember.

It gives you hope, it makes you sad. It takes you to new places and gives you new inspiration. It makes you think of seasons or dreams or friends or family. It makes you laugh and cry and grin like an idiot.

So yeah. I roll my windows down and sing to my steering wheel. Really loudly. Because everything that is bottled up inside me, everything I don't know how to release, finds voice in the lyrics and the beat and the (bad) dancing I do while I sing.

Because my recovery is a series of songs. Beautiful, dark, haunting, sad, joyful songs and combined together they make the best song ever because they tell my story, the story of my life. And I wouldn’t know how to describe it any other way.

Do you see what I did there? ;)
(Click the links)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Eating Disorders and the "Obesity Crisis"

Yep, they’re related.

First let’s define this obesity “epidemic.” The words “epidemic” and “crisis” hinge upon the belief that if you are obese, then you are on your deathbed. You will develop any combination of a plethora of deadly diseases, directly caused by obesity.

Let’s ignore the fact that obesity rates have actually held steady for several years now.

All right. Take diabetes as an example. (Because isn’t that the first thing you think of when you see a fat person? ...of course it is, thank you very much mainstream media.) There are diabetic people who are within the normal BMI range, and diabetic people who are obese, and diabetic people in between.

There are people who are optimally healthy at an obese BMI and people who are optimally healthy at a normal BMI, and people who are optimally healthy in between.

Weight is a genetically inherited trait. Remember the set point theory, which says that every body has its optimal weight range, which it will maintain with no diet, no exercise regime, no conscious effort. (This is a horribly oversimplified definition, but it will do for now.) Contrary to popular belief, the theory in set point theory is not whether this “set point” exists, but how the body maintains it.

Height is also a genetically inherited trait. And guess what, we’re getting taller on average. OH NO GUYS THERE IS A HEIGHT EPIDEMIC!!!! We better start squashing ourselves under huge boulders and see if it will make us shorter. And if it doesn’t, well, that is pretty much the long-term outlook for any diet.

So I’d like to redefine the “obesity crisis” as people making a huge deal out of something that is not in itself deadly, and consequently obsessing endlessly over diets.

If you look at the increase in obesity and the increase in eating disorders, the eating disorders win by a mile. The number of hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 increased 119% between 1999 and 2006. That’s only children under 12, and eating disorders are far more common in teenagers. And only those hospitalized; so many never are. That is far more disturbing than obesity rates staying the same for most of those same years.

Eating disorders are genetically based. We react differently to restriction than someone without that gene. Calorie deficit makes neurotransmitters start misfiring, food becomes misidentified as a threat, and BAM. Eating disorder.

So all it takes in some cases is a calorie deficit to trigger the dormant gene. What do I see when I turn on the TV? What does a teenager see? About a billion diet ads, especially after the new year. And exercise equipment. People bragging about how much weight they lost. Because, duh, smaller is always better.

You’ve got a group of friends -- I don’t care what age. One of them is bound to try a diet because of this ever-present message pitched to us by diet companies that there is something wrong with you the way you are. You need to be skinnier. If you are skinnier, you will be happier and everyone will love you and your life will be amazing!

Peer pressure. How many of those friends will try that diet? Or any sort of food restriction, just because they saw their friend become more “socially acceptable” and they wanted that, too. That’s every person who diets potentially exposed to an eating disorder, and whether or not one surfaces basically depends on genes. Imagine, if we weren’t so obsessed with depriving ourselves of food, how many people wouldn’t be hospitalized with eating disorders.

Food is misidentified at a threat, and we become afraid to eat, but our logical, conscious brains can’t “define” that, much like extreme hunger during recovery. Our digestion is slow and our stomach feels full before our body gets all the energy (calories) it needs, so we eat even though we feel full. Our brain rationalizes this as eating because we are bored, have BED, whatever -- because those are ingrained into us by our culture’s thinxiety. Similarly, “I’m afraid to eat” just doesn’t make enough sense; it becomes “I’m afraid to gain weight.” The classic mark of an eating disorder.

The thing is, people were starving themselves in the Middle Ages, too. There is actually a name for it: anorexia mirabilis, or “miraculous lack of appetite.” And it’s similar to anorexia nervosa, except that these people did not starve themselves to be thin, they starved themselves for religious reasons, to be holier. That’s the reason their logical brain came up with.

That article states that “Joan Jacobs Brumberg, (Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa) suggests that anorexia mirabilis no longer exists not because the motives of those who starve themselves have changed, but because the paradigms for coding these behaviors have shifted. If a young woman were to make the decision to self-starve as a means to communicate with Christ, healthcare professionals would code her as anorexia nervosa regardless of her motives.” So, basically, today we recognize wanting to be skinny as a legitimate reason and condone it.

And if that’s the environment we are trying to recover in? Where someone who starved for religious reasons got treated more readily than someone who was afraid to gain weight, even though they had the same underlying disease -- fear/refusal of food, malnutrition as a result? What are your odds of getting over your fear of gaining weight when the world is saying “Don’t gain weight! Don’t get fat! Don’t eat this and that!”

According to ANRED, the recovery rate is 60%, for people who get treatment. (For those who don’t get treatment, 20% die.) They define “recovered” as “They maintain healthy weight. They eat a varied diet of normal foods and do not choose exclusively low-cal and non-fat items.” I infer two things from this definition: they do sometimes purposefully choose low-cal and non-fat items, which I would consider disordered in anyone who has such a history; and they eat a normal diet according to the standards of our previously mentioned thin-obsessed society. The number that I would consider fully recovered -- in remission -- is probably even less. And then, if are one of these 60%, your relapse rate is 35-60%.

So your odds? Not so great.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

If I Lose Myself

** Yes, I did name this post after the OneRepublic song. Like I said, I love music now. **

It’s hard when you lose someone you’ve known for years. There is a hole that is left behind, and life takes on a surreal quality until you come to terms with the fact that they are never coming back, and you get used to a routine that doesn’t include them anymore.

Which I think is the crux of the recovery process. Once you’ve gotten over the food and come to terms with gaining weight and your life doesn’t revolve around exercise or numbers or meals anymore -- then what?

Yes, losing someone is hard, and losing yourself is harder.

When I went back north in September, my sister said recovery must be like getting my life back. I said no without even stopping to think about it.

It’s not the same at all. I lost myself, the person I was before any of this started, and I will never get that back. I know that. Especially for me, as someone who never really “grew up,” it was like emerging into a tornado and I didn’t know which way was up.

I think some of us go into recovery expecting “to get the old me back.” I’ve realized that it just isn’t true, at least not for me. I’m not going to be the same. And that’s OK. It is a growing process. No one is the same as a grown adult than they were as a child. The things I have been through have changed me.

I’ve felt that hopeless “I have no idea who I am, what am I going to do, what is my life?” in recovery. I’ve wanted countless times to be that girl who didn’t care what food went in her mouth again. But it’s not going to happen. My life now is different and it always will be. But that doesn’t mean it will be bad. I have fond memories of that time, but I’ve realized that I don’t want to be that girl again because that girl fell into ED’s trap.

So, we are different, but that doesn’t mean we have to be alien. We are just versions of ourselves who have seen the worst of the world, and we will carry that knowledge with us forever. It doesn’t have to bring us down; in fact, it should hold us up, because we are better for it.

For every person who walks out of your life, someone else walks in. They are never exactly the same. But after a time, you notice that the hole is filled.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Apologies and I have a Tumblr now

I hope the year is starting out well for everyone! Apologies for being absent lately. My brain is trying to process many things at once and it is taking a lot of energy. But regarding recovery, I am in a very good mental place right now. I do not question my hunger, I do not question what I want to eat, and I do not hesitate to go out to eat after a day of eating and order whatever the hell I want off the menu.

I went to the Cheesecake Factory for the first time ever.

I ate deep-fried s’mores on a stick and French fries at First Night Raleigh.

So that part is good.

Also, I have a Tumblr now. My thoughts are coming in short random bursts lately, so that platform seems to suit me at the moment. It’s Check it out and follow me if you want. Ask me stuff if you want. :) It’s somewhat about recovery but also Sydney. And music. Lots of music, because I have been listening to a lot of music lately. It helps.

I also did my first freehand drawing since probably middle school today. I was nervous about drawing a person, because I never draw them. I think this was the second time?

And of course Sydney is always my buddy! :)

Hopefully I will have something up in the near future. Until then, maybe I’ll see you on Tumblr!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Supersize Me...Or Not

I’ve been picking apart Supersize Me (obsessively, it’s been on my mind for the last few days) and honestly, I take issue with the conclusion they draw. The whole thing just sounds similar to what happens in recovery and of course any movie trying to make a point will skew the facts in its favor.

I know there are people out there who believe it (I’m ashamed to say I was one of them) and are set in their ways and nothing I say here will change their minds. You might think I’m reaching, or trying to make everything fit when it obviously doesn’t. But that’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and this just happens to be mine, based on my experiences and beliefs and the set point theory.

So we all know Morgan Spurlock ate three McDonald’s meals a day for 30 days, gained about 25 pounds (24.5 to be exact), and all his doctors were freaking out about his horrible test results. In light of set point theory, however, I would contend that fast food is not the demon the documentary makes it out to be.

So, consider:

1) Was he at his weight set point to begin with and was his metabolism normal? We don’t know. He had a vegan girlfriend who cooked his meals, which is a form of restriction. So yeah, I kind of doubt whether he was coming from a place of unrestricted eating. So gaining ~25 pounds in a month, like we do in recovery when we let go of all food rules, I don’t think can be attributed solely to eating fast food.

Also, the gain was about 13.5% above his starting weight, which is assuming that it was his set point. So let’s assume that he was at the lower end of his set point range (since he had an exercise regimen and “healthy diet”), and say that range is ~10 pounds. Then he gained about 15 pounds above his set point, or 8% overshoot. Which really in the grand scheme of things I have trouble taking his accusations at face value since so many of our overshoots (mine included; yeah, I don’t really feel that sorry for you buddy) are far greater and we don't eat McDonald's every day.

This is all assuming that it's actually possible to gain 25 pounds of actual tissue in a month, which I don’t believe it is. The week-by-week gains make me think it is some water. There was one week when he actually lost a pound (but of course it was chalked up to lost muscle mass, which I don’t know if I buy either).

2) When he started eating a less-restrictive diet (although I suppose quite restrictive in a way, but not from an “only eat healthy food” orthorexic-type standpoint) his liver got messed up and of course everyone was freaking out. Guess what? When I started recovery (i.e., gave up a very restrictive diet and exercise routine) my liver got messed up and everyone said, “Oh, that’s normal.”

3) I was reading an interview where he was asked about the lasting effects and he said he gained weight so much more easily now, like 5 pounds in a weekend. (Again, I would guess water plays a part in that big of a gain in a couple days, but anywho....) He blamed it on the extra fat cells he gained when he was doing the documentary. But looking at how he lost the weight...his girlfriend put him on her “detox diet” (don’t even want to know the details of that) and he now reads every label and “exercises like crazy” (his words). So I think it could be totally possible that his metabolism is suppressed from all this “healthy eating” and crazy exercising and yeah, (as we all know) when you do shit like that it messes up your body's ability to regulate itself.

4) He was deemed “addicted” to the fast food because he said that his “depression, lethargy, and headaches could be relieved by eating a McDonald's” (according to Wikipedia). Assuming that he is telling the truth (not just trying to support his hypothesis that fast food is our worst enemy), it sounds fairly normal to me...when you are restricting, “[the body] starts an almost voracious desire for high carb and high fat foods,” [ -- note: I mostly agree with this site but not completely] which we also know most people would interpret to be an addiction. And fast food is of course both of those ^ things. I have also been hit with extreme lethargy, headaches when I eat less than my body wants or wait too long between eating for my body’s liking, and at least episodes of extreme emotion which, depending on your tendencies, could be construed as depression. It’s all a normal part of recovery.

5) Never mind that his experiment is way extreme and eating nothing but McDonald's for 30 days is not representative of a normal person eating fast food, because a normal person would get sick of it (and he did, but he kept going). You would be extremely unhealthy if you ate nothing but vegetables for 30 days straight.

Conclusion: I still don't buy into the “bad foods,” and I still believe much of the public is sadly misinformed on diets and food choices. Eating whatever you want, when you want it, does not equal terrible health. And I feel that a lot of blame was placed on fast food when it doesn’t kill the average American.