Tag

eating disorders

Sensitivity

I cried on my drive home today. 

I knew it was going to happen. 

I picked up the baby from my parents’  house because they have her on Thursdays and I couldn’t believe another Thursday has come and gone, wasn’t I just there yesterday, and my beautiful baby girl will be 5 months old tomorrow and it seems like  just yesterday that I was newly pregnant, and I love each moment with her but am I enjoying it enough? And time is flying and that is so scary and I try to live in the moment but it’s so hard and how long will I have with my loved ones and what if something happens to them, I will not survive it, what ritual or compulsion can I do to protect them, there isn’t any, I know this, and how do I just freeze everything so I don’t have to worry, and am I a good enough mother and wife and daughter and sister and friend and are my coworkers sick of me and is my boss mad at me, and my heart hurts for the world and for everyone else hurting and lately I’ve been feeling it all (again), feeling everyone’s feelings and feeling consumed by what doesn’t even belong to me and every sight has a feeling and every smell has a memory and there was a dead squirrel on the road and that did me in, and I am happy and sad and overwhelmed and stressed and tired and there isn’t room for all of those in my body and it feels like a million pounds weighing on me, and this is me and this is what happens from time to time but it’s a lot and I couldn’t reign it in. 

So I cried. 

This is part of why I used to not eat, or do other not great things around food. Because everything is scary and hard and I’m the epitome of a hypersensitive person and when all of those feelings and worries and questions became too much and the world was too big I could make it smaller by making it about food and calories and my weight. I could have that to focus on instead of gun violence and cancer and dead squirrels and anxiety and worry thoughts about my loved ones. Food and weight I could solve. Food and weight I could manage. The rest? Not so much. 

I remember how, as a young child, I had all of these same worries and fears and moments but I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I felt scared and overwhelmed and heavy and I didn’t know it was because I was so sensitive. I just thought something was really wrong with me. 

Nothing was wrong with me, though. I just didn’t know it. Glennon reminds us, right – “you are not a mess. You’re a feeling person in a messy world”. 

Right. 

But feelings hurt and worries are scary and everything IS hard when you’re wired this way. 

So sometimes you just have to cry, release the pressure valve, wipe your face, take a breath, and wait for the shift. 

When “strong is the new skinny” becomes a problem

More and more recently, the phrase “Strong is the new skinny” has been circulating. At first, I liked it. Yes! A push for women to be muscular and strong, and not a focus on losing weight! Awesome! This is how we should all think! This is going to make us all feel great about ourselves! But as time has gone on, I’ve seen that phrase go two different ways.

The first path that phrase can take is a healthy one. I have many, many friends who love exercising. I know people who lift weights multiple times each week, who run marathons each month, who practice yoga on a daily basis. These people love to exercise, love how it makes them feel. And I am all for that. As a (related) sidenote, I highly recommend the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John C. Ratey. It completely changed how I view exercise and enlightened me on the physiological, brain/body connection between exercise and various physical and mental disorders and syndromes.

The people who walk this path exercise for fun, for a hobby, and as an added bonus, it makes them feel strong. The people on this path tend to not run/lift/go to yoga because they feel lazy or worthless. They do those activities because they love them. They feel the pumping in their heart, they feel how capable their bodies are. These people might miss out or feel disappointed when they skip exercising because they are sick or injured or tired, but it doesn’t ruin them.

The second path the phrase can take is the one that is concerning. Sometimes we trick ourselves, convince ourselves what we want to believe. We tell ourselves, “I’m not focused on losing weight anymore! So I’m healthy!” And sometimes, that’s true. But sometimes? You’ve just swapped one addiction for another. Maybe once you spent hours at the gym trying to burn calories and lose pounds, and now you spend hours at the gym trying to gain muscle and get to a higher weight on the bench press. Yes, you can tell yourself that you’re “healthier” because this time you’ve eaten enough calories to sustain your workout, because you’re not trying to lose weight, because your heart isn’t as likely to stop. But the bottom line is that if you still have that underlying panicky feeling if you miss a workout, if you can’t run, if you can’t lift, if you can’t get stronger, it might still be the same issues morphed into another form, hidden behind a cute little, “strong is the new skinny” mask.

Exercise can be a fine line between healthy and obsessively unhealthy. And I think it’s a line we all struggle with to an extent – I certainly have questioned my motivations for going to the gym before. The way I try to think about it, is: are you are exercising (in any form) to make your body feel good, to feel your muscles contract, to feel the blood pump, to enjoy the endurance and strength? Or, are you exercising because if you don’t, you’ll be anxious, feel disgusted, feel weak, and just in general feel negative?

Again, like everything, generalizations don’t fully work, and I am certainly not claiming to have “figured it all out” or that everyone fits into one or the other group. Exercising a lot isn’t always a bad thing, exercising a little isn’t always a bad thing. Heavy lifting can be healthy or unhealthy, running miles each day can be positive or negative. It all has to do with each person’s individual situation; we know this. But I would encourage everyone (myself included, always) to examine their motivations for trying to be strong and fit. Because I am willing to bet that one or two people will realize it’s simply a set of addictions, of negative beliefs, of obsessions that have shifted form.

As always, I welcome thoughts, opinions, anecdotes, and stories – please share!

Body Shaming

These thoughts are spinning around in my head and I wish I could create an organized computer program that would efficiently extract the thoughts and put them into a coherent essay. (Maybe some day one of my students will invent such a thing…?!)

So, rather than wait for a perfect beginning that won’t come, I’m going to start in the messy middle.


It’s not okay to skinny-shame someone. Or fat-shame someone. Or shame ourselves. Shame is rampant in our environment. We shame ourselves, for our pasts, for our experiences, for our choices. We shame others when we’re feeling bad about ourselves. There is so much shame around that we don’t even realize it. We don’t realize that we’re shaming whoever it is that we’re shaming.

The world is focused on losing weight. The world praises individuals who lose weight. Tabloids and magazines have headlines titled, “20 pounds lighter: how she did it!” and “5 tips for shedding those extra 5 pounds.” The focus is always on losing weight. And yes, of course, there are individuals out there who physically need to lose weight, from a health standpoint. For their organs to better operate. For their physiological system to function better so they can breathe and pump blood through their bodies and think and live. And those who are overweight are overweight for a reason. Maybe it’s lifestyle choices, maybe it’s binge-eating disorder, maybe it’s a thyroid problem, but guess what: it doesn’t matter. No matter the reason, the person doesn’t deserve shame.

There are also individuals who physically need to gain weight, from a health standpoint. For their organs to better operate. For their physiological system to function better so they can breathe and pump blood through their bodies and think and live. And those who are underweight are underweight for a reason. Maybe it’s anorexia, maybe it’s a metabolic disorder, maybe it’s due to a medication. And it also doesn’t matter.

And then there are the rest of the people. Who are physically stable. Whose organs are operating, whose physiological systems are functioning, who are breathing and living and thinking. Who don’t need to lose, or gain, any weight.

An individual who gains weight, who physically needs to gain weight, is accomplishing something healthy for her body. Similarly, an individual who loses weight, who physically needs to lose weight, is accomplishing something healthy for her body. And an individual who maintains her weight, who physically needs to maintain her weight, is accomplishing something healthy for her body.

We all have different needs. I know people in my life in all of those three categories. But the messages we receive, from the media, from each other, from ourselves, make us forget that. We sort ourselves into the wrong category, the category we hear so often: fat is wrong, skinny is shameful, everyone should lose weight, skinny people have no reason to ever be anything other than happy. And we lose touch with reality, with who we are, what our body is like, what our body needs.

Body image is about how we perceive ourselves. Not how others perceive us. Which is why we might not see ourselves as how others see us. Which is why, if someone talks about disliking their body, saying to them, “Omg no, you’re so skinny” or “Please, you have nothing to complain about, I weigh so much more than you” isn’t helpful. It’s not about how you see them. And it’s not about YOU! All you’re doing is invalidating their feelings, their struggles. Reinforcing the shame that they feel for themselves. Essentially, telling them, “You have no right to feel that way, you shouldn’t be allowed to have those feelings and emotions, I have no compassion for you.”

When a person is being critical of their body, the last thing they want to hear is more criticism. Of anyone. They want to hear compassion. They want to hear, “I understand. I get it. I’ve felt that way. I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m here. What do you need from me? How can I support you?” Because ultimately it’s about the underlying feelings. The fear, the shame, the disgust, the anxiety, the sadness. Whatever it is, for whatever reason it’s there. The more you continue focusing on their body, and shaming them (even if you don’t realize you’re doing it, even if you’re well-meaning), the more it reinforces the negative beliefs they have.

Also? Skinny does not equal happy. Fat does not equal depressed. Feelings, in general, happen independent of one’s body. And if they are happening because of one’s body, that’s a distortion.

And also: if you have been shaming yourself, or others, and are only now realizing it, you get to NOT use this as an excuse for further shame. Don’t let this spiral into, I’ve been shaming others, oh gosh I’m an awful friend, I am an awful person…...

[Edited to add: Moving away from shame does not mean that you can never dislike your body. It means that you feel the dislike, you acknowledge it, but you move on without shaming yourself for those feelings and for having those feelings. It doesn’t mean always loving yourself or always feeling confident and beautiful. It means being compassionate towards yourself, with whatever it is that you’re feeling.]

Feel compassion for yourself, and push the shame away.

Please. You deserve it. We deserve it.

Conversation

“I love gymnastics,” she says, out of nowhere. “I want to try it again, I quit last year. It was too late at night.”

“I get that,” I say. “I get tired on school nights too. What is your favorite part of gymnastics?”

“The exercise,” she replies. I nod my head. “You like to be moving?”

“I want a flat stomach,” she responds. My heart skips a beat. No no no no. Please, no.

Tread carefully, I remind myself. “Hmmm” is all I can manage. She continues, lifting up her shirt an inch and pinching her stomach. “I do not want this icky fat on me,” she declares.

I think. She’s a wonderful, insightful, unique, verbal, chatty girl. She’s also 15. And a teenage girl. And on the spectrum.

I choose empathy. Even if my words are not processed, I know the feeling will be.

“I get that,” I say. She looks at me. “But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if there is fat on your stomach, or anywhere else.”

She is listening.

I continue. “I sometimes have thoughts like that. Many people do. But I remind myself… ”

She interjects, “It does not matter! You are beautiful! It is what is on the inside that matters!”

I know it’s a script. I don’t care. The fact that those are the words she is pulling, in this moment, means that hope and belief and self love are all what she is trying to convey, and convince herself of.

“YES” I answer. And she moves on to a different topic, done with this conversation.

It’s a start.

Body shaming and fat talk: they need to stop.

As always, this is a post that’s been brewing in my head for some time. 
No time like the present to babble, right?

So here’s the thing. Body shaming and fat talk NEED to stop. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who would disagree. But there’s a problem, a disconnect. Because despite everyone agreeing – it’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. Fast. 

I could get into the statistics of eating disorders, of body image issues, I could tell you real-life stories and point you to news clips and articles. And every single one of you will nod your head, agree that this is a huge problem, that it needs to stop.

But very few of you will do anything. The majority of you will go to work tomorrow and talk about how many “points” you’re eating during lunch. You’ll talk about how you want a piece of candy mid-morning but that you shouldn’t. You’ll compliment your co-worker on how she looks, which will make you think about what you don’t like about yourself, and more likely than not, she will dismiss it with a, “yeah right, I wish.” You’ll then start the back-and-forth of well at least you fit into a size ___ and well that’s only because I went to the gym last night and yeah, I wish I could eat anything I want. And the funny thing, that’s not so funny? It’s pointless. It will leave you feeling worse than you did before. And maybe you’ll realize that, maybe you won’t. But it fuels the fire. And my god, this fire has got to be put out.

Now. That’s a huge generalization. I realize that. I’m trying to make a point. And yes, there’s commiserating. There are absolutely days that I complain to a co-worker or a friend about how I’m bloated or don’t love my outfit, or just feel uncomfortable in my body. I might make a comment and move on. Because I’m human. And in that case, it’s beneficial. But the opposite? Where that turns into the constant back and forth that truly is less about comfort and commiserating and more about who has it “worse”? Pointless. Ineffective. Makes everything worse.

Ask yourself. When you’re sitting at lunch with your co-workers, does it REALLY make you feel wonderful inside to engage in 20-minute conversation about who ate more or less, who is or isn’t losing weight, who has the worst body image, who has or hasn’t gone to the gym for how many hours? Really? Or does it make you feel better if you have a pleasant lunch, talk about work or your families or the news or LIFE, and allow the food to go into your body to nourish it without consciously or unconsciously making yourself feel guilty for it?

Body shaming and fat talk need to stop because they don’t accomplish anything positive. And, they need to stop because as they continue to be present in our day-to-day interactions, they’re ruining our relationships. Sometimes if I’m around certain people, I almost feel like I can’t contribute to their conversations unless I engage in body shaming conversations. It’s all people talk about. I’ve sat at lunch before, silent, because I have absolutely nothing to say other than “for the love of god, PLEASE stop talking about this.” Somehow, our relationships have become largely about competition, about dragging each other down, about focusing on flaws and negativity and spiraling it further and further for each other. 

I know this isn’t going to change anything. You’ll nod and silently agree. And then, most likely, nothing will change tomorrow. But maybe? Just maybe…you’ll hold back those comments tomorrow. Maybe you’ll talk about the weather, about work, about a book you’re reading. Maybe you’ll notice what someone else is eating and silently acknowledge it without focusing on it. Maybe when you find yourself wanting to tell someone how “lucky” they are, for whatever body/food reason, you’ll let that thought float out of your head. And maybe you’ll realize – you’re happier that way.

“Biggest Loser” rant.

Is anyone else sick of the latest news from “The Biggest Loser”? 

I’m not even going to bother posting links to the articles because there are a million tweets, facebook posts, tabloid articles, interviews, and magazine articles about it. Do a Google search and you’ll have enough to keep you busy for days.

The gist? A woman named Rachel was crowned “winner” of this season, for losing the most weight. But, people have a lot to say. The gist of the comments being that she lost too much weight, that she looks unhealthy, that she shouldn’t have lost as much as she did, that she now has an eating disorder, etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

And what’s the problem with this all? She went on a show to lose weight (which I won’t comment on) and is being criticized for doing exactly what she had signed up to do. The goal of the show (I think) is to lose the most weight. So, she did it. Regardless of whether or not she lost too much, the point is that it’s very confusing. To her, to viewers, to everyone. It teaches that nobody is ever satisfied. You weigh too much and you’re criticized. You way too little and you’re criticized. 

Tabloids are now ripping her apart, throwing “eating disorder” and “anorexic” around. And this is what makes me want to scream. Magazines have a field day over posting pictures of who is fat, who weighs too much, who could “stand to hit the gym.” So celebrities listen. And lose the weight. And then magazines turn right around and post pictures of their ribs, who “needs a cookie”, who is “unhealthy.” THERE IS NO WAY TO WIN. It’s a constant battle with the ultimate lesson being, you can’t ever be happy with yourself. There is always something you must change.

I am not someone who believes that eating disorders and body image issues are caused 100% from the media. I strongly believe in a genetic component and a neural wiring towards anxiety and obsession and things of the like. But do I believe that the media exacerbates it? You better believe it. Do I think that it makes a difference for a child to be in the checkout line at Stop and Shop and see one magazine with headlines about how “fat” people are, and then one saying how “disgustingly thing” they are? Absolutely.

I wish I had a solution or a word of wisdom. But for now? Just a rant.

Eating Disorders + Sensitivity

I have been diving headfirst into the incredible world of quantum physics, of understanding why “intuition” isn’t some idealistic, pretend, mystical thing, but it exists, for scientific reasons. I’ve been learning about my own sensitivities, how physicists can now explain how and why I feel the feelings, worries, thoughts, of others. My whole life I thought it was just me, just a weird thing. Now, quantum physics has been born, and BOOM, there’s an explanation for why I am the way I am. And I cannot even tell you how validating it is. I could say so much on the subject, there’s so much I want to talk about. But not yet.

Right now, I’m diving into another piece of the puzzle. Eating disorders. In the work I’ve been doing with intuition, quantum physics, quantum medicine, etc., eating disorders are still in the back of my mind. How do they fit into this all? Besides the cultural component and the genetic component, where are they coming from?

And I’m wondering. Maybe it fits into all of this.

So what I am asking of you, is to please, PLEASE answer the following questions. You can just answer them in the comments section, anonymously or not. I think I may be onto something and I’m very excited. But I can’t do anything about it without data, however informal it may be. (Yes, I am only doing this for my own benefit. It’s not a research study, it’s not documented. But sometimes, we just need self-validation, you know?)

Here are the questions:

1. Have you ever had an eating disorder? (Yes/no/not sure/etc.)

2. Would you consider yourself “intuitive” or “sensitive?” (Do you feel others emotions, feelings, and worries just as they are feeling them, do you feel emotions super strongly, does music/nature/art move you in ways that they don’t seem to move others, do you sometimes think you know what is going to happen or what a person is thinking, do you experience ‘deja vu’ often, etc.)

3. If yes to both questions: how, if at all, do you think that your sensitivities/intuition/etc. might have been linked to your eating disorder — either the development of it, or the return to it, or the perpetuation of it?

That’s it. One-word answers are fine, any information is fine. Please pass it along, please get the info out there! I SO appreciate it.

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