Thursday, June 28, 2012

ED Talks #8: in the thick

Disclaimer--this portion of my story is very detailed and humiliating to share.  I do not share these facts for shock-value.  I share them to paint an honest picture of what this hell really was, and where I really was.  I do this with the desire to instill hope for change, no matter how low and miserable the circumstances.  These actions were a part of my life, but they were never a part of my soul.  



Nine years in the thick of bulimia.  That is over one third of my life to date.  And you don't want the gory details.  Or do you?

It's a long time to have your mind on food.  There is a good chance if you are reading this that you can relate to much of what I experienced.  However, there is a good chance that you don't understand what it is like to have your mind on food the way that I had my mind on food.  Like any junkie (and I don't use this term lightly) every waking moment was laced with thoughts regarding my next fix--when (was the soonest I could do it), what (would I binge on), how (would I get the money or means of acquiring it) and where (would I vomit afterwards?)  

When gave me something to look forward to.  In my teen years, before school started, during lunch, and between sports and drama, you could count on it.  My mother was an incredibly light sleeper, so midnight binges were always risky and even a little exciting.  I became very good at being very sneaky.  In college it was between classes and whenever I could fit it in.  Every party or social event where there would be food was the same.  Sometimes I would try making rules for myself about what I would or would not eat at these functions.  I broke all of my rules all of the time. 

Anxiety time became prime time.  During theatrical performances in high school and Divine Comedy (a sketch comedy group I was in) shows at college there was always a surplus of snack food on hand accompanied by ample anxiety.   I tried to be "good" but it just didn't work.  I would binge before shows and purge before shows--walking past excited fans lining the halls of the Joseph Smith Building and waiting for the show, returning their expectant smiles with a weak one of my own as I made my way to my old porcelin companion.  I could throw up quite soundlessly.  I'd put toiletpaper in the bowl first so others couldn't hear the plop of the food.  Don't think, Dana, and certainly don't feel.  Just do what you always do.  What you'll always do.  I'd throw glow sticks, perform in a few sketches, and repeat the process when I had a break.  

"Dana!" kind and true friends and acquaintances alike would exclaim, "You did such a great job!  I loved the moment in that one sketch where you..." fade out.  Yeah, yeah.  Blah, blah, blah.  I thought of my body on stage and dreaded the pictures that I knew would be up on facebook that very Monday.  Was I going to the cast party?  Was I going home?  What would I binge on next?  When, how, where?

What.  Oh what DIDN'T I binge on?  I tried to include something to make it come up easier.  Dairy was always helpful.  It balanced the acid, and made it less painful on my throat.  I would pick up a bag of chips and a can of whipped cream at the BYU creamery and sit in the laundry room at the bottom of Heritage Halls.  There was a bathroom conveniently located close by, for visiting members of the opposite gender.  I used it more than all visiting men combined that year.  I would binge on junk, but not just junk.  I'd binge on salads, soups, cheese, bread, fruits and vegetables as well.  I'd binge on the very delicious and the very bland--from dark chocolate cheesecake to saltines.  Have you ever eaten an entire pint of icecream without thinking about it?  I have.  Have you ever eaten a whole pie, 20 full-sized candy bars, an entire box of pasta with sauce without tasting it?  I have.

How.  Here is where it gets shameful.  Bulimia is an expensive habit.  When one is consuming (and disposing) upwards of 10,000 calories a day, normal means of acquiring food doesn't cut it.  Frankly, any honest girl can't afford it.  So I stopped being honest, and I started stealing and lying.  I would steal money from parents, siblings, and friends.  In high school, I would steal food from the lockers and backpacks of friends.  I was incredibly bold, in retrospect.  I would raid the cabinets and freezers of folks I babysat for: their toddlers sitting, bewildered, on the carpet while I ate their snacks.  Nothing was off-limits.  The binge was frequently followed by a purge and then a workout video for good measure.  The juxtaposition of the scene would hit me from time to time--their innocent, perfect little bodies poised in my direction, in wonder.  Me--this strung-out food junkie, this thief, this...bulimic, stealing from their parents.  It wasn't so long ago that I sat where they sat.  Would they be here some day?

Things got messy when I went to BYU.  Stealing food from my full-time working parents in a family setting went, for the most part, unnoticed.  Starving college students notice when one piece of lunch meat is missing.  I stole from my roommates constantly and shamelessly.  I would drink their milk from the carton, eat their ice cream out of the tub, shove their pop tarts and candy bars in my backpack as I left for class, sneak into their rooms and steal away their chocolates to the bathroom, paw leftover pasta-roni out of the tupperwear with my bare hands late at night.  I burned bridges and lost the trust of many good friends.  I was able to regain some.  They each tried the best they knew how to help.

I didn't work at a job that I didn't steal food from.  In 2 out of 4 of them, I ended up confessing to my employers and leaving the jobs.  These things usually caught up with me.  Even in my deceit, sometimes I couldn't help but to come clean.  When I worked at McDonalds in Ireland for a summer (what a delightful and adventurous story that was!  I wish I was telling that one), I would sneak double cheeseburgers into my apron pockets and eat them in the toilet stalls, stuffing the wrappers into the little waste bins where women deposited tampon wrappers and used pads.  I would return five minutes later to vomit.  

Where was usually a toilet, but that wasn't always available.  Bulimia didn't take a vacation when I did. I purged in the woods behind my home in Washington, in the wilderness of Utah, on the beaches of Ireland and Scotland, behind bus stops in Russia, in bushes on the streets of Provo.  I could make a travelogue for my vomit.  There were a few times when a toilet was just too risky.  I vomited in the shower and squeezed and tore and crushed the food chunks into teensy bits that would go down the drain.  It felt downright barbarian when I thought about it.  So I tried not to think about it.  Even in the very act.  To throw up was to be numb.

* * *

I went to the hospital in 9th grade.  My mother thought I had mono (I was so tired all of the time) so I went in for a blood test.  That very week, some girls had ratted me out to the Tennis Coach.  Mrs. Smith came into classroom in the middle of the day to bring me to a small room where my mother and the school counselor were waiting.

"Dana," she started as we walked down the hall of blue lockers, "Your mother is here.  Your friends are concerned about your eating disorder."

Oh hell.

I began sobbing.  My mother knew.  The blood tests were back that very day.  I had deadly low levels of potassium and electrolytes.  I was bulimic, dangerously so, and there was no hiding it.

I went to the hospital where I spent the night with an IV in my wrist and had my blood drawn every three hours.  Well-meaning friends visited me with balloons and chocolates the next day that I would throw up only two days later.

I told my mother I would stop throwing up.  And I did.  Seven years later.

There are a few things worth noting about this time in my life.

First off, this was my absolute skinniest.  I spent all day throwing up.  I almost died.  I was as thin as my body was going to get before I destroyed her.  I was a size 6.  MAYBE a 4.  That is not THAT small.  6 is mentioned often as a "reasonable" "goal size" for women.  I nearly killed myself to get there, and I was never even there.  Wherever there was.  Healthy for my body never did and never will equal a size zero, or even a size 6 or 8.

After the hospital, something happened to my body.  She didn't want to die.  She wanted to live, contrary to my choices.  So she adapted.  From that point on, and slowly over the next seven years, I would steadily gain weight.  Bulimia stopped working as a means of weight loss.  But by that point, bulimia was so, so very much more to me than a weight loss method.

I want to share some significant experiences from this time.

* * *

My siblings knew (along with most of my home town--my mom can't keep a secret to save her or anyone else's life.)  But it was something they only knew of, and never witnessed for themselves.  Except for once.

Growing up, I had my own bathroom in its own corner of our house.  It was isolated, and quite freezing in the winter months.  5,000 square feet being heated by a wood stove, I remember blow drying the toilet seat on January mornings before sitting down to pee.

I would vomit freely in my toilet, assuming I could always hear if anyone were coming.  One afternoon I was throwing up when suddenly there was someone right outside my door.  Terrified I quickly pulled my pants down and sat, feigning using the restroom.  Little Monika (all of seven years old) came to the doorway with tears in her eyes.

"Dana.  What are you doing?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I heard you.  You're throwing up.  Why are you doing this?"

I just sat there and cried with her, whispering "I'm so sorry, Monika.  I'm so so sorry."

* * *

Please don't take advantage of the piece of information I'm going to share next.  I absolutely cannot lie right when I wake up in the morning.  It just isn't possible.  My mom found this out quickly and when she wanted to get an honest answer about my eating disorder, she would wake me up at 5:00 a.m. and ask me if I was still purging.  She always got her answer.

Usually she would get angry at me, but once when I was visiting from college, she just started crying.

"Why are you crying, mom?"

"Oh Dana.  If I had known my problems would become your problems..."

What did she mean?  My mother had never had an eating disorder.  Then I understood.  She hated her own body, and that was where it started.  That is what she taught in spite of her efforts to empower and affirm me verbally.  Her self-loathing spoke louder than her compliments.

* * *

Freshman year, I lived with a great group of women (one who remains one of my best friends to this day) who tried so hard to support and help me.  One night, near the end of the year, I remember going through Jessica's cupboard and binging on her food.  She came into the kitchen and there I was.  I quickly mumbled some lie about looking for some spice, but it was a bad lie and I was caught.  She got some water and wished me a good night.  An hour later I was doing the same thing when she came back again.  Hand in the cookie jar.  Really?  Twice in one night?

"Jessica...I'm...I'm sorry."  She just smiled with so much kindness and forgiveness.

"Come on, Dana."  She said, putting her arm around my shoulder and walking with me out of the kitchen.  "Let's go to bed."

* * *

"I know!  I get it, okay?" I practically screamed through frustrated tears and smeared mascara--a familiar sight.  "It's dumb, and it's dangerous, and I'm hurting myself.  I might lose my voice, my teeth, my ability to have children, my very life.  And I still do it.  I'm just a mess.  A hopeless mess."

"Oh Dana." Casey said, so calm.  "You will live to see your days fulfilled, my dear.  This is not you."

"I want to stop, Casey.  I want to stop so much it's making me crazy."

"Of course you do!" he said in nothing but sincerity.  "You just, at this current time, want to keep throwing up more than you want to stop.  But you'll see, Dana Rose.  One day your desire to stop will be stronger than your desire to hold on to this.  That is the day you will stop."

* * *

The first five years were rough emotionally, but nothing compared to the last four.  Why?  Because I wanted to stop the last four.  So many priesthood blessings received, so much help from so many people, so many counseling appointments, so many moments of hope and power.  So WHY THE HELL COULDN'T I STOP?  For four years I wanted to stop.  Why couldn't I make it go away?  It became pure insanity at times.

"I just...I could just give up.  What hope do I ever have of stopping?  After all this?  After all the help I've been given."

"Dana," said my wise district president (and home teacher) in Limerick, Ireland.  "You are close.  Just don't give up."

"I feel like a hypocrite even trying." I said through the tell-tale tears of frustration and despair.

"And that is okay!  You are addicted, Dana.  It takes time.  So FEEL like a hypocrite for a while.  When you throw up, pray right there and then.  And ask for help.  And forgive yourself.  And try again.  And you'll throw up again.  And pray for strength again.  You aren't strong enough yet.  But you are getting stronger.  Don't give up, Dana.  This will not be in you forever.  I can feel it.  Can't you feel it?"

I could feel it.  And he was right.  I would know it that very fall.

part three  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Future of Beauty--Anonymous


The problems with my body started because of my mother's problems. 

There, I said it.

However, that is not to say that she is not the most wonderful, amazing, and loving person that I know. It just means that what she thought of her body rubbed off on me. The little comments that she would make on a daily basis, the new diets that she would try every week or so; things like that eventually embedded itself into my brain as a child, and then as a teenager, and even now as an adult. She didn’t do it on purpose. My mom is too wonderful to do that. She just didn’t realize that what she thought of her body would eventually affect what her children thought of theirs.

I work with kids now. I’m a preschool teacher to 12 wonderful, challenging, energetic children. Their bright futures and complete lack of concern for anything body-related is so refreshing. They run and laugh and play and eat whatever they want, whenever they want to. Their favorite color changes before they can finish the picture they’re coloring, and (most importantly) they love without worry. The thought of them, of those beautiful children growing up worrying about whether they’re beautiful enough, or good enough, makes me hurt.  It’s made me realize how important it is for us (as adults) to preserve that part of their childhood. Children are our future, and if we want to change the way that the world sees beauty then we need to teach them a different definition of what beauty truly is.

Christ often taught about the benefits of becoming more like little children (Matthew 18:3), and being a preschool teacher has completely converted me to this concept. I wish more people could love like these children do. I think the world would truly change if that happened.

Monday, June 25, 2012

ED Talks #7: Running on Empty--by Thessaly N.


I dont even know where to begin. I guess the beginning is a good place, but where is the true beginning of an eating disorder? I guess the first time I remember loathing my body was in 4th grade during class pictures. I was wearing what I always wore to school, a t-shirt from arizona that my mom got while on business, and cargo pants from goodwill. My classmates made fun of me for not dressing up, but all I remember was feeling ugly because I didnt have a pretty dress, and I remember feeling fat because I had gained weight over the summer. Soon thereafter, I began a babysitting job where I watched two kids, an infant of 6 months, and a 3-year-old boy (I was 10!! this woman had to be crazy!), every friday night for $10 a week. They had so much snack food, and I came from a home in which there was little food, much less yummy treats like fruit snacks and cookies. I remember one night that I ate and ate and ate, then decided to make myself throw up due to the uncomfortable fullness I was experiencing. Thus began a lifetime of disordered eating and self hatred.

Somewhere in the midst of dieting and purging I also began experimenting with cutting. I was in 6th grade! Even to my own mind this seems unfathomable, yet I recall finding a box cutter in our bathroom and dragging it across my hands to make tons of shallow cuts. When asked  about it at a parent teacher conference, I told my mom and the teacher that I had fallen into my neighbor’s rosebush. Why they believed me, I don’t understand. Obviously if that had happened, Greg, our neighbor, would’ve told my mom, and there wouldn’t be such uniform cuts. Furthermore, there would have been scrapes on my arms as well, but I digress. That just goes to show how not present my mom was in my life. The cutting was a common theme throughout middle school, and resurfaced again during my sophomore year of high school. Then, though, it progressed into making much deeper cuts, mostly on my arms and legs, and burning my hands, wrists, and legs. Also I started chocking myself with the chords from the blinds in my bedroom, which left marks that lasted for hours, but were not permanent. What does any of this have to do with having an eating disorder, you may ask. I shall explain.

Throughout the entire time I was self-mutilating, I was also binging and purging, as well as dieting. I tried every fad diet out there, much to the pleasure of my mom. She also thought I was fat, and never failed to tell me so. I clearly remember making bacon one day in 6th or 7th grade, and my mom saying “suck in your gut, thessaly, that’s disgusting!” Similarly, I recall having a bowl of chili with 4 slices of bread one night, and my mom commenting on my meal. “4 slices of bread is 400 calories, thessaly, plus a can of chili, you are such a cow.” Needless to say, I promptly threw away my dinner and went to my room. Whenever I would embark on any kind of weight loss effort, my mom would be my
“cheerleader” and would encourage my dieting by joining me. In 7th grade I lost a little weight due to having PE class daily rather than once or twice a week as we had in elementary school. My mom comment on my legs looking slimmer, and told my sister I looked good. While in school, though, classmates would make such hurtful comments. Harley, a boy that sat behind me in 4th period English, would often whisper, “thessaly’s fat” randomly. This was especially saddening since I had a crush on him. He wasnt the only one to make such comments, though. I was often told of my hefty stature by classmates and friend’s parents throughout my young life. Such comments are taken quite seriously by a young girl, especially one that had no real affirmation or love at home, and craved the approval of anyone and everyone at school, church, and in the community.

I often would make drastic resolves to finally lose weight once and for all during my first 16 years of life. I would start a diet, then lose willpower. I would throw away all of my candy and unhealthy food and survive on a ½ can of tuna that I shared with the cats for a week or so, then give up my attempts at weight loss. This yoyo dieting led me to steadily gain weight. My freshman year of high school I weighed 149lbs. Then, the summer right before my senior year, I was babysitting at a house that had a scale. I  had often weighed myself there since we didnt own such a luxury as a bathroom scale, and they asked me to babysit 2-4 times a month, on average. I slowly watched the numbers creep up throughout the summer. At the end of August when I was at their house, I weighed myself, as was common practice. I cried and cried that particular day because after seeing that you weigh 175 pounds when you are 17 years old and 5’4”, what else is there to do? I’ll tell you, you start a diet, with firm resolve to not give up again.

It started slowly. I incorporated more real food in my life, and I made myself go on a walk every day. I read more than ever about diets, and healthy food. I had a bowl of oatmeal with flax seed every morning for breakfast, and got by on as little as possible for lunch at school. I bought loads of diet pills, and started logging everything I ate. I also continued hanging out with a boy that was a terrible influence on my self-esteem. He made such derogatory comments about girls’ weights, and though he never directly called me fat, his comments about skinny girls being hot didn’t exactly make me feel attractive. As I started losing weight, he noticed, and once in awhile would make comments that left me in a deliriously happy state that would remind me that this weight loss thing was worth it. As my senior year progressed, I kept track of my food, water, and exercise. I religiously tracked and recorded everything. By the end of my senior year, I had surpassed my original goal to weigh 135 (the weight of the boy I spent all of my time with, and the weight of my best girl friend). I weighed around 125 pounds by the time I started college.

College is where things started getting a bit out of control. For the first time in my life, I had unlimited access to a gym. I discovered the eliptical, and fell in love with my daily routine of watching tv (the only time I ever did so for those 4 months was when I was exercising) and burning calories. I also continued doing 20 minutes of ab work in my dorm room every morning and every night (something I first started doing in my room at home the spring of my senior year), and taking numerous supplements and diet pills. During my first week at school, I found out that I could have a free fitness assessment, and get my weight and body fat analyzed at the fitness center. My first weight in told me that I weighed 120lbs, and had a body fat percentage of 20%. I also gained an inch of height, putting me at 5’5”. I asked the fitness director what these numbers meant. He said I was in the normal range, and could stand to lose a little body fat if I wanted to. I was mortified! NORMAL? how could I be just NORMAL? I wanted to be EXCEPTIONAL, or athletic, or anything; but normal??? This was a horrific word to my perfectionistic ears.

I went research crazy. I looked up how to lose body fat. The most doable thing I read about was eliminating my intake of foods with more than 30% fat. I wanted to turbocharge my fat loss, so if I ate anything with any fat at all, I would purge. I also continued exercising vigorously, and ate a high protein, low fat diet. Likewise, I took laxatives and other supplements and diet pills daily, which would sometimes cause me to throw up due to an upset stomach.  A few weeks later, on October 12, 2008, I went back to get reweighed and have my body fat analyzed again. The result? 112lbs, with a body fat percentage of 14. Success!! I was thrilled, and the fitness teacher commended me on my progress.
In 2009 I was back in Spokane, due to lack of financial aid, I could no longer afford going to ISU. I was living with roommates, and dating the boy in which I had longed for for quite some time. I still purged, but my exercise wasn’t quite as rigorous since I didnt want to lose spending time with him. He left on a mission, and I lost it. I took classes and discovered that my enrollment entitled me to the use of our school’s gym. I lost the weight I had gained while dating him, and was semi-dating someone else. During that summer, I was at the healthiest I have been since this eating disorder took over my life. I gained back some weight (129 at the highest), I exercised when I could, but didn’t obsess as much as I had during the previous two years. I did normal things like weekend camping trips, game nights, and spontaneous fun activities with roommates and other friends. I still purged sometimes, but only when I was really hating my weight gain. That fall, I buckled down and decided this fat thing wasnt going to work. I had some spotting (I haven’t had a period since January 2008), which scared me more than it should have. In my mind that was failure. I was going to get fat again, and lose control of my weight and all of my efforts for the past two years would be lost. The job I had that fall was a nanny job for a family that had a treadmill. I also had a gym membership at a facility about .5 miles from my house. I would run at work when the kids were napping, and then go to the gym after work religiously. I also played weekend soccer games, and went on sunday walks with my roommate (impressively I never went running or to the gym on Sundays unless there was a race). I was eating restrictively, and discovered chewing and spitting to control cravings.

That October I contacted my dad who lives in Houston. We hadnt talked since I was 5 or 6 because my mom didnt allow contact. There was a brief correspondence during my sophomore year, but that quickly disintegrated when my sister told my mom about it. I went to visit his family for Thanksgiving, and then again for Christmas. I decided to move in with their family two weeks later, in January 2010. There, I had a gym membership, and no friends. My eating disorder went from bad to worse that April (I was in school and worked as a receptionist for the first 3 months of being in Houston, but school ended and my job was a temporary position, so that spring and summer I had nothing by time on my hands). I started my daily regemine of breakfast, gym, and binge/purge for the remainder of the day. I also started counseling, which one may think would be helpful. Wrong. It was a rather unsuccessful attempt at healing, as I picked up tips of how to binge and purge better from my counselor. I sort of look at that year as a wasted year of my life. The next year I started work at a daycare, and loved it. I was still practicing restrictive eating behavior, going to the gym every day, and purging, but at least I had a way to fill my  days. I still had no social life due to my need for sleep, and forcing myself to wake up early so I could work out before work. I started seeing a new counselor whom I adored, and a dietician, but after a couple months of being asked to eat too many things that I was uncomfortable with, I stopped seeing the dietician, and continued with the counselor but stopped progressing. In November, I went to live in a house in Monroe, LA, for girls with a myriad of issues, from drug abuse, to anger problems, to eating disorders. This was a tragic month. I was told I could not exercise more than walking 60 minutes a week (don’t worry, I somehow sneaked in much, much more), and was forced to eat WAY more than I was comfortable with (don’t worry, I’m a sneaky little bugger and threw away food, watered down my milk in the cereal, and feigned lactose intolerance so I wouldnt have to eat cheese). After Christmas break in Spokane, I decided I had had it with Mercy Ministries, and wanted to move not back to Houston with my dad, but back to Spokane. So I did.

And here I am, after almost 6 months of being back home, living with a gracious family that allows me to have a room sans rent, and working as a nanny. I am still (shocker) extremely restrictive with my eating, with the majority of my food intake consisting of vegetables. I purge when I eat too much, or when I eat frozen yogurt (my ‘sin food’ of choice). I run 15-18 miles daily (still impressively not on sunday, unless I have a race), and have decided to finally start tackling races that hold merit, (two marathons in the past month) since I’m good at running and need some form of concrete, recognizable validation in my life. My weight has hovered around 100-107 for the past 2 1/2-3 years. I still hate myself. I am not good at being social, and I keep a strict schedule so I can incorporate running every morning before work. If I dont run, I hate eating, but still get hungry. Sundays are hard, since I can’t run, but still must eat. I am trying to recover, but not whole heartedly. I am scared to get better, in all honesty. I dont want to be fat, and dont want to lose my athleticism. In my mind, gaining weight would be failing, and I dont want to fail at something that I’ve dedicated most of my life to, even though I know Heavenly Father must be heart-broken to see one of his children inflicting so much avoidable pain on herself. I hate to disappoint him, but I dont know how to escape this self-inflicted torment without hating myself more than I do now. So, I guess that’s where I am. Miserable, and floating along in life, with no conceivable escape.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Don't Know How I Feel About That--Anonymous

Let me preface this by saying, I have always been quite skinny. I'm 24 years old, and I still sometimes buy shorts in the little girls' section because they're cheaper and more modest. However, I have felt uncomfortable about my body since I realized I had a little bit of a gut in the seventh grade.  As much as I hate to admit it, it bothers me that I don't still weigh 110 lbs. like I did in high school. Basically, I am very critical about my body just like any other girl.

That being said, a friend called me the other day and asked if he could take a few "glamor shots" of me. He said he was working on publishing a book and he, "Thought it would sell better if there was a pretty girl on the cover." Despite the fact that I didn't like the idea of him using me for sex appeal, I admit, I was flattered. He's also a friend, so I figured I'd be supportive and help him out.

I went to his house and did the little photo shoot. Afterwards, I stayed to talk to him and his roommate, and while we were talking, he was editing the photo he had chosen. I just assumed he was cropping out the background and touching up a bit. Eventually, he turned the computer screen and showed me what he had been doing. After a moment, I realized everything about me had been changed at least a little: my jawline, my eyes, my nose, etc. But the worst part for me was realizing he had flattened my stomach to the point that I was half the size I actually am, and my breasts were twice as large as they actually are. My first reaction was just, "Wow."  Then it sank in, the realization that what he had just unknowingly told me was that my body wasn't good enough and it never would be. When he said he wanted a pretty girl, he wasn't talking about me; he just needed an inadequate body in the picture in order to make it "pretty". I managed to sputter out, "I don't know how I feel about that...." I have never felt so degraded, so dirty and gross in my life. I felt downright awful, and that was what made me realize I did know how I felt about that; I didn't like it, I didn't agree with it, and I wouldn't let it be put anywhere where people would be be able to see. I wasn't going to contribute to the idea that girls needed to meet a standard of looks that isn't real or even possible. When I told him I wasn't okay with it, his response was simply, "That's okay, it doesn't have to be you."

I want to share this experience because of what I learned; not because I want people to judge my friend in any way. He is a victim of the media as much as I am. The point is, I've never felt more sympathetic for models and movie stars. I can't imagine being told everyday of my life that I'm not good enough in the way I was just told. I've also learned to love my body a little bit more because I realize now that I never want to look like that; I'm happy with who I am--in fact, I think I look better this way. Along with that, I've learned to respect my body a lot more. I can't say this experience has changed my life--I definitely still feel self-conscious about my body, but it has definitely changed my perspective. I hope some other women can learn something from experience as well.

Friday, June 22, 2012

ED Talks #6: Whatever It Was, It Was Awful--Anonymous

I don't know if what I had can be classified as an eating disorder. I just know it was something wrong. When I was 11, I had an awful case of stomach flu. I puked for 3 days, and my little child body had never been through such trauma. After that my mom couldn't get me to eat for a couple of days. It was either the shock of the sickness on my body, or my newly acquired anxiety that appeared when my hormones kicked in before puberty, but it was all I could do to drink water. I was terrified of ever throwing up again.

I was beginning what has been a lifetime battle of anxiety. EVERYTHING made me anxious. If my stomach had any food in it at all when anxiety hit, I would feel instantly nauseated. My fear of vomiting like that horrible-awful flu, spiraled out of control. So I started controlling the anxiety-nausea with starvation. YOU CAN'T VOMIT WHEN YOU HAVE NO FOOD IN YOUR STOMACH. I was already tiny. My body fit right into my family genetics, we are thin people. I would've been thin anyway, but I starved myself. If I had to eat anywhere that wasn't my home, I refused to eat a thing. I went to a few restaurants with my family over the next few years and would trigger an anxiety attack, and I would end up vomiting ANYTHING I had eaten for dinner at the restaurant, in the restaurant bathroom. And thus created a fear of all restaurant food. (Funny thing is, when I ate alone, there was no fear, and no vomiting occurred.)

My fear of public eating began when I was in 6th and 7th grade. I don't know what it was. I can't say if it was an eating disorder, or severe anxiety with a food/vomit phobia. NO IDEA what it was. All I know is, at least every single one of the people in my life, have witnessed me feeling sick after I eat. My parents thought I was anorexic. I would refuse to eat more than a scoop of mashed potatoes sometimes because I didn't want to puke. There were times in Junior High, and High School that I ate nothing more than a piece of bread one day. On my prom date, I ate lettuce, at the nicest restaurant in town. All the girls were curvy and scarfing down steaks. And I was nibbling lettuce because I was so nervous, I didn't want to puke and be embarrassed. Those were the days my anxiety was around every minute of every day. The weirdest thing is though, I was 4.0 student almost every quarter of school. Our bodies are amazing things, they are resilient and keep going even when they have nothing to use. This is why I think eating disorders last as long as they do in some people. We can really hold it together and think we appear just fine when EVERYONE knows you have a problem.

I never thought I was fat. I hated how thin I would get when my already skin and bones frame was being starved. I played volleyball my freshman year of high school, and I survived practices but sometimes I'd go home and just feel like I was going to pass out. I didn't have enough fuel in my system to to be an athlete. I became a cheerleader, and sometimes my anxiety lessened, but I had a major anxiety attack during a weekend away game and my cheer advisor was worried. I wouldn't eat, and I kept puking, and crying. I was so ashamed when people saw me like that. To see how worried they were for me, made it even worse, so the panic of getting sick in public formed. I controlled this even more by starving myself further.

This continued up until about 2 years ago. I thought I was fine all through college, but every time I went on a date, I either pretended not to be hungry (even when they could hear my stomach growling) or I ate potatoes and veggies. You can't get sick off of those things. You just can't. All of my dates worried about my health. Some became my boyfriends, and either loved how thin I was, or worried a lot. They had no idea that I pigged out in solitude at home. Home was a beautiful place for me. It was a place where nothing triggered anxiety.

The worst of this food problem came when I sunk into a pit of depression after a breakup 3 years ago. Normally my anxiety would go away once in a seemingly secure relationship, but when a breakup hit, it would go nuts and I wouldn't eat much at all for a few weeks (one time I blacked out on the stairs at my college and caught myself from falling down them.)  This particular breakup had been a relationship that had taken me to the extremes of what I had experienced of "love". We talked about getting engaged. And then he left. I think he knew I was too sick still to be in a healthy relationship. Things would appear in how I handled life, whether I knew I showed that I was mentally ill or not, people always saw that I was unhealthy in someway. The day he said "we need to talk, I'll come over later" I panicked the whole day, and by the time he showed up at my house I was vomiting. I was so ashamed. I knew I looked awful to him. A big mess of a person. He told me we just weren't right for each other, even though I was amazing. I didn't eat for 2 days. Then for the next 3 weeks I emptied my body of all of it's nutrients from 5am until 7am... every single day and then went to work. I lived off powerade, mashed potatoes, and soup. And each day I would start over so empty and frail. I couldn't even smile. I didn't have enough energy.

My friends all worried and told me to go to the doctor. I denied all their claims of being unhealthy, but we lived together. They would find me in the bathroom every morning, looking defeated and hopeless. One night I attempted to drive to my parents' house. I had reached the lowest point of my depression. As I got on the freeway to make the 200 mile drive, I knew I should not attempt it. A voice was screaming in my head to get off the road. But my depression took over and I kept driving. I had to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom. I would pee about 3 or 4 drops, I had nothing left to let out. For the past 3 days, (forgive me for being so open)... I had clear water coming out of me instead of poop. It looked like clean water. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't admit I was hurting myself. I had to alternate driving arms because my arms kept going to sleep from holding the steering wheel. At about mile 160 I stopped and looked in the mirror. I looked like a zombie. My skin was gray, and my eyes looked black. They are normally blue. My hair was a freakish mess from having the window down the whole time. The air flow kept me awake. I didn't see myself anymore. I tried to cry, but I was too dehydrated. I said a prayer to God to not let me die that weekend, I really thought I was on my way to death's door. I walked back out through the gas station and people looked at me with shocked faces. And then I got back on the road. 40 minutes later I got to my parent's house. My mom took one look at me and said, "YOU DID NOT TELL ME YOU WERE THIS SICK."

I fell on to her couch, and immediately fell asleep in all my clothes and shoes. I woke up the next morning and she made me drink a quart of water with salt or something in it. Homemade Gatorade. Then she took me to the doctor. He took one look at my face and said, "I don't even need to test you to see if you're dehydrated." And then he gave me 2 IV's. I was so ashamed of myself. But I knew the only person who wouldn't judge me was my mother. I felt safe with her. When we left the doctors office my cheeks were pink. After that I spent 3 months pretending I was better. I was eating, but not much. But I wasn't emptying my body. However I was crying at least once a day, and miserable. I felt like I would never be normal again. I finally sought out a therapist. When I first visited her I weighed 108. I am 5'7", so that is NOT a healthy weight for my frame. We spent 2 years together changing the way I think. I still see her because I love her, but I don't need to go anymore. She has given me a clean bill of health. But still lets me come because she knows I want to. I now weigh 130 lbs. I have never weighed this much in my life. But I also haven't had an anxiety attack in 8 months. Apparently everything I eat now, stays on me. And I eat regularly, and I eat anything and everything. I LOVE FOOD SO MUCH! I love to cook now too. My favorite is spicy food, I never used to be able to hold this stuff in. It's so amazing to see what our bodies will do if we stop hurting them.

I don't know if it can be classified as an eating disorder, but I'm sure it was something terrible. I am so thankful now that I despise the feeling of hunger, instead of feeling like hunger means I'm in control. I'm in control now because I can talk myself off the emotional ledge before I ever get into anxiety attack mode. I have never felt stronger, and more healthy in my entire life. It's sad that it took being almost 30 years old to become this way. But I'll take it. I am never going back to that girl. I refuse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ED Talks #5: the first time--by Dana

Hunched over the toilet in the girls bathroom at Jenkins Middle School, bottom floor, very southeast corner of the building, stall furthest from the door,  knee pads by my ankles.  7th grade, before my JV volleyball game.

How did it come to this?  

It should never have come to this.  

It was going to come to this.  

But you never would have guessed it--rewind just five years ago and anytime before.  

To say that I was a gregarious child would be a gross understatement.  I lived for human relationships further back than I can recall.  My parents kept a book where they sporadically wrote entries about my progress and development as an infant, toddler, and young child.  Entries like "Dana is a social baby, and enjoys the company of other babies immensely." or "Another mother came up to me and shared all that she's heard about Dana from her own child.  That Dana is magical."  I brought My Little Ponies, Amy Grant, and Foursquare to my world of peers.  Sure, I had my diva moments (like the time I was cast as the Inn Keeper's wife in our elementary school Christmas pageant.  She had like, two lines.  I was pissed.) But overall, I loved life and every last human in it, with great passion and fervour.  

As a military brat, saying goodbye to friends was never easy, but military kids are used to the turnover. We made new ones fast.  Friends would go (and this was ever-tragic to me), but new friends would always come--easily and swiftly.  

Until my dad got out of active duty.  

And then we moved to Chewelah.  A small town that received one new kid a year.  I was it.  

The summer before we drove a lot and I ate a lot of cheeseburgers and french fries at Denny's (or diners like unto it) in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington.  I gained about 30 pounds that summer and zero inches in height.  But I didn't notice--I was smart, and lively, and funny, and made friends easily.  These things really mattered. 

And then we moved to Chewelah.  

I'll never forget the first day walking into Mr. Harting's 4th grade classroom.  It was November, I was nine years old, and I was late.  About nine years late.  Immediately I felt distance and coldness.  I heard whispering, saw whispering, and for the first time in my life, I couldn't stand right.  I couldn't breath or lean or look right.  I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  It was all chillingly novel and certain.

I became depressed.  I gained more weight and wore baggy clothes.  I intentionally left my hair down and in my face all of the time (I still don't like wearing my hair back).  I began failing classes (I had just left and advanced placement class and scored incredibly well on the IQ tests they had my brother and I take in Texas only the summer before).  I would walk around the playground during lunch and recess kicking rocks and wishing I was in class.  Not so I could learn, but because my loneliness wasn't so painfully obvious back in our desks.  

A few girls took my pitiful self under their wings.  Felicia, Mollie, and Alyse would always encourage me to walk with them, but I would refuse, always about four or five steps behind them.  I would push them on the swings and they would offer me a turn, but the idea of anyone seeing me swing, my body free and moving, my face expressing joy and the assumption of friendship, was horrifying.  I couldn't risk it.  Don't ask me why these things were.  I don't understand.  They just were.  

I went on my first diet that year, before I turned ten.  A woman on Oprah lost weight by counting calories and was lauded for her success.  I counted calories for a few weeks, staying under 1,000 as best I could.  I lost weight but put it right back on.  Because I got hungry.  

In fifth grade I found a niche in community theatre and began to gain some confidence.  My grades went up and I found myself in elementary school academia and competitive over achievement (Kaleena!  My nemesis!).  I won a state-wide essay contest that year, and the next I beat Brittany (who was far more popular and a year older than I) out for middle school ASB Secretary because I wrote a good speech and perhaps the novelty of a pathetic 6th grader trumping a cool 7th grader.  I won.  But I was still fat.  Still chubby.  Brittany wasn't.  Brittany won.  

I would come home after school, after drama, and make myself five or six quesadillas and watch Gameshow Network.  I buried my sorrows in cheese and Match Game.  Weight was up and down, but I hovered around fat.  

Then something happened the summer after sixth grade.  My dad took me biking, and we began running together.  I grew six inches, and Mollie got me hooked on veggies.  I lost weight.  

And everything changed.  Because EVERYTHING changes when you lose weight.  And this makes me angrier than I can express today.  

Suddenly I had friends.  Suddenly I was funnier, and more people listened to the words I had to say.  I had a voice again.  Suddenly a few boys (not hordes mind you, but a few) began to look at me differently.  I got asked to dance at dances.  

Volleyball came early in the school year.  While I had grown to love long bike rides and runs with my father, any sport involving a ball and coordination was (and remains) foreign.  (Anyone who has witnessed my glowstick throwing skillz in Divine Comedy shows can attest.  It was borderline humiliating...even in a sketch comedy setting.) But I happily suited up and played JV games without any qualms.  

October.  I don't remember which day.  Huh.  I quit throwing up in October.  Nine years later.  Five years this fall of being clean.  Is this the same girl?  I think it is.  I have her memories at any rate.  Like this one.   

It was October and I had some time before the game.  Kristen gave me a bit of her spring roll with sweet and sour sauce.  It was processed and greasy and I wanted more.  I went to Safeway and got my fix, complete with an order of jojos.  I stuffed my face behind that grocery store like a man looks at porn in his closet.  In compulsion.  In secret.  In shame.  Not tasting or feeling, just consuming.  

The grease on my fingers whispered of the girl who had left me this last summer.  She was dead.  I KILLED FAT DANA.  And she was NOT coming back.  Not an option.  Because being thin meant attention from boys, and more friends.  Being thin meant people liked me.  In my mind, in that moment, being thin meant being loved.  And I couldn't risk it.  Gosh, it felt so good to have friends again.  It felt so good be heard.  What would I do without these human connections?  I would become what I was in fourth grade.  Miserable.  I was fat then too, wasn't I?  Fat must equal miserable.  

I walked out of the gym, through the halls, and towards the bathroom as the sound of sneakers squeaking on the gym floor grew dimmer.  

Making myself throw up would take little effort.  That little flap at the bottom of your esophagus?  (I never did learn what that was called.)  Mine doesn't close all the way, and hasn't since I was young.  Sometimes food, especially ice cream, would come back up after I ate anyways, and I'd just swallow it down.  To vomit, all it took was flexing my abdominal muscles in a certain way, with a certain force, while assuming a certain position.  I knew I could do it before I did it.   

A perfect storm.  

"Just this once.  Cover up this one mistake.  I'll get on track tomorrow.  I'll never do this again."  

I remember the fluorescent lights and pieces of spring roll and potato swirling in bile and ketchup.  

Some things just stick in your mind.  

The very next day I began what would be nine years of purging on a daily basis multiple (sometimes dozens of) times a day.  

It took me about a year to realize it was bulimia, and another year to call it that--when I ended up in a hospital with and IV pumping potassium and electrolytes into me.  Exposed.  I could admit it then.  



Did I mention that I'm a recovered bulimic?  I did, in this very entry.  Five years this fall.  But that's another story.  Stay tuned.

Part Two and Part Three

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ED Talks #4: The Story of My Body--by Adele G.


I went on my first diet was when I was eleven years old. I was tired of being the “chubby one” in the family. Tired of having a pot belly that I hid underneath baggy sweatshirts, and short legs and thick thighs that couldn’t get comfortable in jeans. Tired of being the only girl among my friends that didn’t have a space between her thighs.

With my parents’ workout videos, and a self-created low-fat, smaller-portion meal plan, I began my quest - to look the way “normal” girls my age looked. I don’t even remember how long it took for me to lose weight - the calendar where I wrote down my weight each day has long since been thrown away. What I do remember is that I didn’t even realize how much weight I was losing until I went to a family reunion and everybody - okay, maybe not EVERYBODY, but quite a few relatives - commented on how much weight I’d lost. I thought that they’d just heard that I’d started working out, I didn’t think that my efforts were that visible. To me, I was the same girl who still had to wear baggy shirts to hide her less-than-desirable shape.

But before long, I grew accustomed to the changes with my body. And with my “new body” I actually started liking the way I looked in pictures again. Before I lost weight, the last pictures of myself I could really stand to look at were taken when I was seven years old. From that time when I was eleven and through the years that followed, I noticed a trend: when there was less of me, I liked myself more.

Fast-forward twenty-five years:
In 2008, I’d just finished serving a full-time mission and had transferred to school out west. The future was uncertain, but one thing I was sure of - I needed to lose weight. Hard to believe that after 18 months of experiences that went beyond the superficial things in life, I thought that I needed to be skinny to be “accepted” in the world - or at least to be considered desirable by guys.

Wherever I looked, I saw girls that I thought had thinner legs, flatter stomachs, and no Jell-o arms. And there was no way I could compete with them, unless I lost weight.

Being a poor college student with no car and not much money for groceries makes for a quick diet. Add in the school’s free gym, and in six months I’d lost twenty pounds (or maybe more, I didn’t weigh myself, as my years of dieting had made me terrified of scales). Pursuing the guy I thought was The One was added motivation to look perfect so that I could be the Perfect Girl.

By the time he finally got around to kissing me, I weight 100 lbs. At 5’0, this was always an “ideal goal weight” for me, ever since I read it in....something, somewhere. I FINALLY, for the first time in so long, really liked the way I looked.

And everybody who knew me wondered if I was sick.

The scary thing is, I was. I just didn’t realize it. I was too busy loving being able to fit into the small clothing sizes at stores and admiring how long my legs looked. I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with the fact that I ate by myself. All the time. And mostly salads. No, not salads - lettuce. And there surely wasn’t anything wrong with running every day - hey, I was being healthy! Ok, so I would freak out or feel like crap if I didn’t get my run in....but that was because I loved the endorphins, right? People didn’t know what they were talking about when they called me too skinny.

I wasn’t going to gain weight. Not even the stress fracture that I got in my leg that forced me to quit running was going to cause me to gain weight. There was no way I was ever going to go back to my heavier self. Because if I did....well, I was pretty sure that everything short of me getting voted off the planet would happen. Certainly the Guy of My Dreams wouldn’t want me anymore. And when he became the FiancĂ© of My Dreams, the fear only escalated because how could I stay at this weight once we were married? And if I gained weight, he probably wouldn’t love me as much.

But a funny thing happened - one month before our wedding, he called it off. At that time, I weighed around 100 lbs.

I’d thought I’d known pain before, but that experience crushed me, devastated me. Slowly, very slowly, pieces of my life began to come back, and with it, so did some weight.

I was scared. I’d already lost so much; I didn’t want to lose my body, too. When my wedding was called off, I felt like the World’s Biggest Reject Loser, and I thought that gaining weight would just bring more rejection into my life. I didn’t want to be the girl that goes through a horrible break up, gets all fat, and then has people whispering behind her back, “Ohmigosh, did you SEE her?” But as much as being thin was important to me, healing my heart and living my life took priority. It had to take priority if I was going to move forward with my life.

And here I am, three years and twenty-eight additional pounds later. Back at a weight I said I’d never let myself reach again, feeling like a failure at times despite the college diploma and other accomplishments that have occurred. No matter the good things that happen in my life, my weight seems to always find a way to pull my focus and convince me that it alone determines my self-worth.

I wish I could say that I am 100% happy with my body now, that I love the way I look, that the number on the scale doesn’t terrify me sometimes, that I don’t look back at pictures from the days when I was at my thinnest and wish I could look like that again. I wish I didn’t worry so much about what I eat, how much exercise I get, or what people think of the size of my thighs and my butt. I wish I could be one of the people who can say they’ve beaten this once and for all, and because I have, so can you. I haven’t reached that point yet. Right now, I still feel like I’m bigger than I should be, and I would like myself more if there was less of me.

All I can share is an experience I had a few months ago. Around Christmastime, I was going through boxes of old family photos at my dad’s apartment. First I only looked through the ones taken from my birth through when I was seven, but then I made myself look at the ones from the years following - all the years of pictures I hated because of the chubby girl in them. What happened surprised me. I didn’t feel loathing and disgust for the chubby little girl in her awful late-80s-early-90s clothes. I didn’t think she looked fat and ugly. I thought she was beautiful. And I thought that I would be incredibly proud if she were my daughter. But she’s not my daughter - she’s me. For the first time, I saw beyond the imperfections I’d seen for years and saw a beautiful, compassionate, smart, brave girl. A girl who battled insecurities and worries about herself and the future, but always did her very best. A girl who spent her teenage years beating herself up because she thought she wasn’t thin enough, but she actually was at a normal weight. A girl who didn’t know her own beauty and strength. As I looked at the girl in those pictures I’d avoided for years, I felt an overwhelming love for her. I wanted to tell her that she was ok, that she was enough, and to share some of the things that I’ve learned --

That there are people who will hurt you no matter what you look like, or how much you weigh.
That there are people who will love you, no matter what you look like, or how much you weigh.
That being skinny won’t keep bad things from happening to you.
That being heavy won’t keep good things from your life.
That joy, success, love, and happiness have really nothing to do with the number on the scale.

I’m not completely at peace with my body, and I also love myself. It’s a strange place to be, but it’s where I am.

Monday, June 18, 2012

ED Talks #3--by Jesse P.


I lived in Mexico for a spell when I was in college.  I forged some deep, endless bonds with the men and women I studied with and the experience changed me forever.  It not only changed me psychologically and emotionally, it changed me physically in a pretty drastic way.
I went to Mexico weighing 256 pounds.  I happen to be a tall and broad shouldered 5’9” but tall or short 256 pounds is pretty substantial.  I had been heavy my entire life.  I had been obese, in fact, for most of it.  I endured an onslaught of painful and derogatory comments about my body.  Interestingly enough there are only a few people in my life that I can’t remember harassing me for my body, two of them being my brothers.  One younger, one older.  I have never explicitly stated it but for never placing my value on my body I will be ever grateful to them.  It seems important to mention that.  It would be a long and self pitying diatribe to list off all the offenses against me over the years but I will expound on the one that forever changed me.
Within our group studying in Mexico I happened to be one of just a few that were in the advanced group.  We were upperclassmen, spanish majors rather than freshmen taking intro courses and seeking early immersion.  I already had a very firm grasp on the language as I was just a semester from graduating.  I was the only girl from Gonzaga in the upper division courses so when I went out to discos with the girls I was the one to hail the cab, order the drinks, figure out directions to the next bar.  Unfortunately, given my appearance, I also was the one the boys wanted to talk to the least.  One evening a few very charming, athletic Mexican boys had used whatever english they could muster and wooed the girls in my group.  We began to bar hop with these guys and as they walked on ahead of us I could hear them talking in very fast Spanish.  It didn’t take much for them to realize that we were silly white girls without much language experience.  They hadn’t taken the time to figure out that I was fluent and therefore could understand every word.  Their conversation was an ugly one, trying to decide how many drinks it would take to get each girl in the group drunk enough to make some bad decisions and they each took their guesses and placed their bets on who would be matched with who by the end of the night.  I was matched with no one and toward the end of the conversation one of them piped up with, “and Jesse, it would take a dumptruck to get that fatass drunk!”.  Cue the uproarious laughter.  
Something happened.  Something in that very moment happened to me and has been a force I contend with every day since.  That was the summer of 2007.  I quit eating.   I simply quit eating.  I put every single hateful comment and petty slur about my body that I had heard over the last 20 years into a drive to not eat.  I was punishing myself and rewarding myself all at once.  It is impossible to describe unless you’ve experienced a disordered relationship with food.  I ate an apple before school and an apple at lunch for the duration of my stay in Mexico.  I smoked cigarettes and chewed my nails and drank copious amounts of liquor to distract and self medicate myself.  My body did begin to change and I was starting to get positive reactions.  I was still mightily overweight but people were noticing weight coming off.  They didn’t seem to notice my destructive and erratic behavior.  
Back in the States, after my trip abroad, I sunk deeper into self loathing.  I had a scale in my room and would weigh myself up to 25 times a day.  I gave up on apples as they have too much sugar in them and I wouldn’t give up alcohol which is entirely sugar.  I began eating spinach.  Just spinach.  Spinach with mustard and Cholula on top.  A Special K bar for breakfast, spinach and mustard midday and liquor every night.  Weight continued to come off and I continued to get positive feedback.  Some close girlfriends commented on their concern with my eating habits but I didn’t listen, I was obsessed.  I recently found an old college notebook from my senior year and instead of notes there were pen drawings of fat people.  Stick people with big inner tubes drawn around their midsections.  Pages filled with the words, “every taste, lick, and bite.  Every taste lick and bite,” as well as tallies of calories eaten and calories burned.  I didn’t keep my smart phone in my lap during class to text, I kept it in my lap to go to CalorieKing.com, seeking validation, adding and readding my calorie totals for the day to be sure that I hadn’t exceeded 400.  400 was my magic number.  If I went over if I would take laxatives, diuretics, and force myself to throw up.  My gag reflex is hard to trigger so I would push hairbrushes down my throat.  I yearned for the hollow pain that accompanies going to bed hungry.  I would tug on and pinch at any excess skin all day to constantly remind myself of all the work yet to do.  It kept me distracted from how unhappy I was.  All the pain I had endured growing up feeling unloved and unworthy was more than I wanted to face.  So instead I kept on with torturing my body to make the rest of it go away.  Somewhere in between all this time I had moved home.   Without school to concentrate on, my frantic behaviors expanded to include frenzied workouts and constant trips to the gym so I had definition in my biceps, toned thighs, deep, bony collar bones and a flat, hard stomach.

I was back in the place where it all began and I was bound and determined to make these people see me for the body I had become and finally accept me.  Beyond their acceptance I wanted to be revered.  I was finally beautiful by nearly universal standards.  I was a size 6, tall, tan, leggy, blond with a very well put together face and big, memorable smile.  No one knew I had stopped having a period 6 months before, would become weak and have to sit down in the shower, had 2 teeth fall out and had makeup covering the peach fuzz on my face and flaky skin.  I intimidated men and women who were constantly surprised to find a nice, funny girl behind the beautiful facade.  I finally made it.  I finally was worth something to these people.  And all this time I never put together that none of these people matter.  Until I learned to love myself it didn’t matter who else did.
I didn’t have quite as striking of a realization that I needed to change as I had before.  There were no athletic Mexicans picking on me this time.  I started reading.  Blogs, books, essays.  I began learning of other women who told stories of living exactly like I had.  It was like they knew me.  They were in the same nightmare.  But they had woken up.  It’s not quite as easy as opening my eyes.  It is time consuming.  It is all consuming.  It is necessary to strip away all of the behaviors, triggers, habits, rules and regulations of living inside of an eating disorder and learn why I lived there to begin with.  And then start over.
I have bad days.  I have lots of bad days.  I have more good days than bad days.  I am more often in control of my brain than letting it control me.  Any addict will tell you that once an addict, always an addict but just for today I will choose to be clean.  For me choosing to be clean is choosing to nourish my body and not punish it.  Choosing to provide my son with abundant and rich breastmilk and not worry about the baby weight yet.  Choosing to let my partner love me for who I am and not constantly seeking validation that he finds be physically beautiful.  Choosing above all to love myself for my sense of humor, my ever ready smile, my ability to love.  Choosing to love my amazing body that stuck with me through all of it and still does what I ask of it and even created another life within itself, my son, who is 10 weeks old is a constant reminder of how perfect this whole mess is.  After all I put it through my body is still my strongest ally and gave me life’s most precious gift.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ED Talks #2--Anonymous

I come from a family of skinny minnies. Siblings who try to GAIN weight because people tell them they look sick. My dad never exercises, eats a quart of ice cream a night and looks the same he did 20 years ago. My sister now has three kids and probably weighs 30lbs LESS than me. I guess I haven't totally overcome the comparing. 


At 14, I would not have been considered fat or even chubby by any valid measurement tool. I was just a kid but puberty was changing my body and I freaked. Within a few months, I had bigger boobs than both my sister and my mother of four children. I played basketball and soccer but my eating habits struggled.  As many teenagers do, I  began to resent my body. Instead of resolving the crisis by finding normal coping mechanisms, I turned to what seemed logical at the time, purging. 

It started slowly. I would eat too much ice cream at night and head to the my bathroom shortly after. Maybe two or three times a weeks. Then the frequency escalated, every day and eventually several times a day. I feared being caught but not more than getting fat. I remember being at a cousins mission farewell in another state. I shared a bathroom with my entire family at my grandmothers house for the weekend. Vents in her house make every sound reverberate like thunder. I would wake up in the middle of the night to sneak to the bathroom. 
The thought processes were so incredibly distorted. I still have a hard time believing I wasn't stronger or more respectful of myself.  I should have been worrying about the cute boy who asked me to the sweethearts dance or the next episode of Gilmore Girls. Instead I was a calorie counting, daily weighing extremely sad little girl. I knew what I was doing was wrong but every time I tried to stop I found myself back on the cold, unforgiving tile floor. 

14? Really? Seriously?! That is awful. Where did these self depreciating thoughts come from? Definitely not my family. They have always been and will always be my greatest support. The great and abominable Media? Satan?  Whatever the source, I am grateful I was able to overcome.  I never told my parents and to this day they have no idea. My mom still describes me as her easiest teenager. I can't bring myself to tell her. Would she hate me? Would she blame herself? 

How then, did I do it? Well, I got scared when my period stopped. I wondered if this stupid thing was going to affect my ability to have kids in the future. That terrified me and I resolved to change. Where to turn? Who could I talk to? Not another soul knew this side of me. So, I turned to the person who my parents had taught me could help with anything. I  decided to pray. I was so ashamed with what I had been doing to God's most precious gift to me. I had been praying superficially for two years. I knew He knew what I was doing but I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud, to ask Him for help. After much too long, I took what I still consider one of my most courageous steps. I knelt in my room and begged for His help, to see myself as he saw me. I needed to hear that I was ok,  that I wasn't a terrible girl and that He still loved me. Needless to say that affirmation came. The feeling was too divine for words but I knew in that moment that if God could accept me, I could accept me. I hope that doesn't sound too preachy or churchy. For me it was exactly what I needed. The transition was slow and more of a weaning process than an instantaneous one. Old habits die hard right? Even if you are only 16.  Whenever I catch myself criticizing my chest or waist or arms, I reflect on that moment and still find strength and resolve. 

My teenage sister made a comment a couple of years ago about how she thought she was fat(she is the 3rd skinny minnie). I felt a rush of memories and immediately started talking to her about body image. She is smarter and better than me in so many ways so I don't think she will fall victim to the same patterns, but then again I played the perfect kid for so long without a single suspicion about how I really felt. I tell her every day how beautiful she is. I hope she believes it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ED Talks #1: I Belong To Me--by Monica L.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I first started becoming self-conscious
about my weight, it wasn’t really about my weight at all. In reality,
I wasn’t becoming self-conscious about my weight so much as I was
becoming self-conscious about myself. Feelings of inadequacy as a
daughter, a sister, a friend, and a person had set in pretty heavily
by the time I was 16. The constant feeling of not being enough for the
people around me quickly turned into feelings of not being enough for
even myself. I remember driving home from Ballet one day dreading the
fact that I had to go home and face the problems there. I stopped to
grab some food on the way and when I got home I locked myself up in my
room. I remember after seeing my mom when I got home, I felt too
emotionally drained to even eat, but I wanted to taste something. I
remember thinking, “You don’t have to eat you know. Just chew the food
and spit it back out.” So I chewed my food and spit it back out into
the bag. That was the beginning. I remember feeling a little bit of
relief, knowing that I was perhaps avoiding another comment or two
from my mother about how she was never as thick as I me when she was
my age (Mom at age 16 = 80 lbs., Me at 16 = 95lbs). This
chew-it-and-spit-it-out thing didn’t last very long, because of course
I got hungry. That’s when I decided that if I “messed up” and ate,
then I’d just have to “get rid of it” – which meant, either throwing
up, or starving myself for a few days while exercising like crazy to
make it up. I didn’t really admit to myself that I had a problem until
about a year later, because it was my source of comfort and my getaway
from the fighting and other problems at home, from feeling so alone in
life without a “family”, and from feeling like I was never going to be
enough.

The first time I tried to stop was when I was about 17. Even though I
felt a physical sustaining rush every time I threw up, and though the
physical emptiness I felt when I would starve myself somehow felt
satisfying, those feelings only lasted about an hour or so only to be
replaced by a feeling of emotional emptiness that consumed me. I was
tired of masking the issues around me. I was tired of having my
“secret”. I wanted someone to know and to care, so that maybe I
wouldn’t feel so empty and alone anymore. Even though I knew that
eating disorders were dangerous, I didn’t see my own struggle as being
dangerous at the time– I convinced myself, “I am even inadequate at
being sick – it’s not half as bad as other people’s”. So, I kept
going.

When I look back on what it was that I was afraid to let go of, all I
can remember was my daily routine. Wake up, weigh in, skip meals as
long as I could, and get rid of whatever I wasn’t “strong” enough to
resist eating. I enjoyed having something else to focus on other than
how detrimental my family situation was. In my mind at the time, if I
had let go of the eating disorder, I would have had nothing left. It
wasn’t until I saw a movie in which a girl with bulimia had a heart
attack while throwing up and died from it because she was too
malnourished that I stopped throwing up, but I was still starving
myself.  To be honest, I wanted freedom from the disorder, but even
more so I wanted freedom from what I was suffering through at home.
How could I get one without the other? In my mind those two struggles
needed each other in order for me to survive. In reality, when I
started towards recovery, I never really believed that I would be free
of the things that pained me; eating or otherwise. It actually wasn’t
until my mother kicked me out of the house when I was 17 that things
actually started to change. In the moment that she stripped every
material thing I had away from me – my room, my bed, my car, my cell
phone, my clothes, and my cat – I was forced to question, if all I
really had was myself, why was I trying to destroy myself? Why was I
punishing myself for what others said and did? Without all of these
“things” (including the eating disorder), who was I? It was a loving
friend and her mother who let me stay in their home that finally
pushed me to tell my mother about the eating disorder (which made
things worse). A year or so later, after my mother refused to support
me in getting therapy for it, a loving ecclesiastical leader who I was
very close to finally reached in and saved me from the flood I was
drowning in, and paid out of his own pocket for me to get therapy.

Stopping was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. There were
two parts to stopping; the physical aspects, and the mental aspects. I
couldn’t just start eating again and keep my food down for me to be
happy and healthy. To be free, I needed to stop in my head too – no
more obsessing over food and weight, or keeping an incredibly
meticulous food/weight journal, or skimming through pictures that
depicted what I needed to be to satisfy everyone. I was able to
physically recover within about 6 months (19yrs old) or so, but
mentally I continued to mull over the impact of the food I was eating
for about a year. In those times, I remember thinking, “will there
ever be a time when I don’t think about it!? Will there ever be a time
where I don’t worry about the aftermath of every piece of food I eat?
Will I ever feel like I am more than my body?” You see, it hurt too
much to acknowledge myself as a full being – with emotions, feelings,
thoughts, and desires. So I became nothing but a body for almost 4
years to get away from the pain of those other aspects. I wanted to
become a shell with nothing inside, because that hurt less.

I had to start filling myself with new memories; new experiences to
help me become who I wanted to be. I held onto a phrase my therapist
said often, “Food=Fuel=Good” I had to change my relationship with
food. When Food equaled anything other than food, i.e. Food=emotional
outlet, it wouldn’t equal good. I was able to start building myself
into a full human being and accessed my emotions and thoughts through
writing, art, and making music; by sharing and becoming my own story,
instead of just a bad memory with lots of baggage. That is really when
I started to recover and heal inside.

I’ve looked back many times since and imagined my now 25yr old
confident, self-assured, passionate, and strong-self taking care of
the little confused and pained 16yr old me. What would I say to her? I
would hug her tight and tell her that she’s enough – if for no one
else, she’s enough for me. I would tell her I love her and believe in
her. I would try to instill in her that she wasn’t invisible and that
she did matter. That is one thing that some people don’t understand –
eating disorders aren’t always about food, and weight.  A lot of
times, it’s about a void elsewhere in someone’s life. The eating
disorder often serves as an outlet for other issues (though I know
it’s different for everyone). But even though food and weight
dissatisfaction aren’t always the source of an eating disorder, food
and weight quickly become the focus of the eating disorder. That’s
what can be problematic with recovery attempts. Most often the focus
goes to solving the food and weight problem, while the source of the
disorder may not be food and weight.

But here I am. Despite the giant beast the disorder was to slay (and a
rather relentless beast, I might add), I did it. It’s been a little
over 5 years now and I know who I am, and I know my worth. I belong to
me; not to the world, not to my past, not to those who were too blind
to see my worth – I belong to me.