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.