Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Tyranny of the Sexy Mom--submitted by Rebecca

So.  All you moms out there.  You were bikini-ready about six weeks after giving birth, right?  I mean, I've never given birth before, but I'd imagine after such a profound experience, your first priority would be lookin' smokin' hot.  But what do I know?  Tell me what you know.

Read this

The Tyranny of the Sexy Mom

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fat quote by J.K. Rowling--submitted by Adele

“Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’
‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.”

― J.K. Rowling

Saturday, July 28, 2012

another post on that topic--anonymous

this was written in response to the recent post on vaginismus, here

I am going to say this is one of the weirdest things I have ever done but I am so impressed with your blog and the stories you have shared. I have never been sure how to contribute but I thought I could give a response to today's post, or at least a different point of view. As it is a very personal issue I would prefer to remain anonymous, should you chose to post it. Sorry it isn't more eloquent, it isn't a story I have ever thought about sharing before.

First I want to say that I am truly sorry for what the author and his wife have gone through. From my small experience with vagismus I know that it can be a very painful and incredibly frustrating experience. You begin to question what is wrong with you or why you can't be normal. 

Next I wanted to share my own story.

I was lucky, I guess as lucky as once can be given the circumstances. I went in for a premarital exam about 10 weeks before the wedding. Thank goodness I was assigned a good doctor. She was friendly and welcoming and in an appointment that can be awkward and embarrassing she helped me feel at ease (a task I originally viewed as impossible). At one point during the visit I remember her turning to me and saying, "it doesn't look like you are going to fit much more than a tampon up there." Tampons had seemed uncomfortable at times but never had I dreamed that it was anything more than an annoyance. She went on to explain that I needed to get started on vaginal dilators immediately and if I didn't see improvement in the next two to three weeks we could look at other surgical options before the wedding. She didn't make me feel like there was anything wrong with me and was sincere when she explained that if I had any questions I could give her a call.

So the dilators began. Suddenly I was embarrassed. Using the dilators was a bit awkward and I dreaded ever leaving them in a place where a room mate might see them. But I was faithful at using them, there were days I had to tell myself how much I loved my fiance in order to do so, but I did it. And things did improve, so I worried less, and finally told my fiance about the dilators the week of the wedding. Better late than never, right? The doctor acted like everything would be fine and I didn't want him to worry about hurting me, and I certainly didn't want to admit that there could be something wrong with me.

Without going into too much detail the first few weeks of our marriage were filled with ups and downs. Times where everything would go "normal" and other nights filled with tears and frustrations. When you see other newly wed couples and the joy they are having you wonder why you can't experience the same. Why isn't my body working how it should? What have I done wrong mentally or physically to cause this? The worst came when I could see it affecting my husband. He was incredibly patient and loving through this whole ordeal. He would sit with me and we would pull out the dilators, hoping that things would improve. But there were certainly times when I could see the frustration on his part. As a girl I interpreted this as disappointment and therefore disappointment in me. Those were the nights with the most tears and luckily the most discussion. I knew how much he loved me and that things would be okay. I promised him that if things didn't improve over the next few weeks I would contact my doctor to look into other options.

Luckily things did improve. Actually, things got way better. By month two I can say we were having minimal problems. And the times with pain became few and far between and have become even more less frequent as time continues to pass. It was hard and painful, at times mentally and physically exhausting. But we did overcome it. And in the end you accept that everyone's body is different, it isn't necessarily right or wrong, just different.

In the end I am grateful for my body. I am grateful for a body that was able to adjust and change, for a body that has always been able to do that.

Friday, July 27, 2012


We discovered that my wife had vaginismus about six months after we were married. Starting on our wedding night, we had been unable to achieve "normal" intercourse and every subsequent attempt resulted in tears, pain, and humiliation. 

My poor wife had no idea why she could not have sex. She knew that it could be painful, but nothing like this. When she went in for a pre-wedding exam, the doctor was cold and impersonal, traumatizing her and frightening her with how painful it was. He mentioned something about stretching in preparation for the wedding night, but gave no practical advice.

Her friends were worse. For months before the wedding, she was bombarded by stories about how painful it can be. Nothing about pleasure, nothing about being comfortable with the sexual experiences. Just stories about pain. Jokes about pain. My wife was convinced that the wedding night would be an exercise in torture.

And so it was. Not only was attempted intercourse painful, but her vagina was actually closed off due to extreme muscle contractions. Those first six months were incredibly trying for us. How could we enjoy married life if we couldn't have sex?

My wife blamed herself, and felt like she was totally alone. After all, her friends had survived their own painful wedding nights with only a minimum of trauma. 

I was extremely motivated to do some research and discovered vaginismus. The term is so unknown that the spell check in this email is flagging it. Basically, vaginismus is a real condition wherein women are unable to have intercourse because of pain and tightness. Many unconsummated relationships (and I expect many LDS divorces after the first year) are due to this condition, even though the people usually do not realize it.

What does this have to do with the body? Well, vaginismus can be caused by physical issues, but most often, it is mental. The anticipation of pain and suffering will cause an unconscious reaction that persists as vaginal tightening and pain. This condition is much more common in women from religious backgrounds who have not mentally prepared for the sexual experience and feel shame about their bodies.

Even though my wife and I spoke frankly about sex before our wedding, my wife's body issues (she is incredibly skinny, but filled with shame about her small breasts) and stories from the most unhelpful friends ever caused fear and anxiety.

We are one of those cases where the Vaginismus seems to be permanent. Even after five years of marriage, we have not had regular intercourse. We do have an active sex life, but it is not what most people experience. We have even had children, working around the problem as best we can.

I love my wife, and at this point, it is not even an issue for us. My only wish is that more people avoid this problem and those who suffer from it educate themselves. There are informational websites, like www.vaginismus.com that are a huge help and share stories from many women who suffer from this condition. I feel that LDS women in particular are vulnerable to vaginismus and it is never talked about. (I am posting anonymously because my wife would never forgive me if anyone ever found out.)

Education is key, as is loving yourself and being comfortable with sexuality.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ED Talks #14: I don't want to lose weight--by Taylor

Last week I sat face-to-face with a BMI chart in a small, cramped exam room of the OB’s office.  I’m expecting my beautiful second child.  I studied it, even though it told me what I already knew.  Before I was pregnant, I was 50 pounds overweight.  I am overweight.  I’m pregnant now, and I’ve made a personal promise to myself that no matter what happens, I will not think, worry, or obsess over my weight while I’m pregnant, no matter how many times they tell me that because of my BMI I cannot gain the standard one pound a week from here on out.  I’m going to have to gain a less than that per week.  I hear it, but I can’t let myself hear it.  In the past five years I’ve heard a lot of well-meaning advice.  After training for and finishing a half marathon (I did not lose any weight, by the way, nor was that my intention. In fact I gained weight) someone offered that I read an inspiring book about a losing weight. I thanked them, but I didn’t have the heart to tell them that losing weight was not on my radar at the moment. Not even close.  When you’re overweight, people assume that you want to lose that weight.  Here’s why I don’t.
I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2003, a surprise to me and my family since I had grown up in ideal circumstances in a loving and safe environment.  What was there really to be anxious about?  Over the years my understanding of anxiety has grown and I understand how incredibly na├»ve my assumptions about the condition were. Looking back I can see that I’ve been anxious my whole life and a chronic overachiever, which incrementally contributed to my body-image issues over time. I have a wonderful family.  Eight siblings, all fantastic.  I come from a family of beautiful people inside and out.  My four sisters are confident, accomplished, and—well—thin.  Quite thin, actually, and naturally so.  I always knew I wasn’t built like them.  The comparison was never verbally made, but it was there.  It was obvious.  I was taller, broader, and in general more athletic.  I would have never called myself “thin”.  As a teenager I swam and played basketball (the only of my sisters to do so) and I liked being a part of sports.  But when I decided to quit due to an overly busy schedule (there’s that overachiever again), a well-meaning but misguided father asked me, “What are you going to do to stay in shape now?”  Me, a vulnerable teenage girl heard, “You can’t just not workout like the rest of your sisters… what are you going to do so you don’t get fat?” I was devastated.  That question stayed on my mind.  What are you going to do so you don’t get fat?  I covered up the insecurity about the way I looked with a sense of humor and tried to pretend I didn’t care.  I was above it.  And because I loved food, I’d never be “thin”.
 In 2003 my anxiety got so bad that eating made me nauseated, so ate very little.  I lost a lot of weight.  That summer, my mom was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer, now terminal.  I lost more weight.  I didn’t care about the weight either way; I was too busy worrying about everything else.  In the mirror I still saw me:  broad, big, and anxious beyond belief.  But the switch flipped when the attention and approval started pouring in.  A woman at church, “Look at you, you skinny mini.” They guy at the cashier’s desk flirting with me (that didn’t happen before).  The comments about clothes I’d worn for years but were now for some reason, “So, so, cute!”  And the biggest compliment from my dad, “You’re looking great.”  What was happening?  It was so different.  I wasn’t used to it, but I thrived on the attention I got.  It was the perfect storm. At a time when so many things were out of my control—my anxiety and the continued worsening of my mother’s health—I found ultimate control and sense of approval in controlling my intake of food.  I put all of my remaining energy into the one thing I had control over and I took it to the extreme.  I stopped eating entirely. 
It was easy to fool people.  I was now 20 years old and on my own for much of the time.  I could go several meals without having to keep up appearances and eat when other people were watching.  I thought I was fooling everyone.  I started lying, telling people I’d eaten when I hadn’t, throwing away food when people made it for me, buying enough groceries so as to not raise suspicion from my roommates but never eating them. And I kept losing weight. A lot of weight.  Too much weight.  My hair fell out.  I was constantly exhausted.  My concentration suffered.  I fell asleep during class, and while driving.  People would ask me how I stayed so skinny.  I’d lie and say it was in the genes.  Then I’d go right back to starving myself to be that way.  I did a lot of lying just so I could fit into a body size that seemed to give me the approval I craved.  I starved myself for four years.  My mother passed away.  The anxiety never healed.  Life was turned inside out.  I avoided eating to avoid feeling. But I was very thin, so everyone thought that meant I was happy. 
I met my dear husband and I got married.  I was so good at hiding my starvation that even he didn’t know.  After a few months, however, I saw him losing weight too.  We were both very busy, and he just didn’t pay attention to eating regular meals.  But I knew what was happening.  If I didn’t eat, he didn’t eat.  I was making myself sick by starving myself, but I couldn’t watch him go hungry.  So I prepared food and ate with him to make sure he ate. 
I slowly started eating again.  My starved body rebelled, went into survival mode, and I gained weight so fast it was noticeable to everyone. The anxiety returned with what seemed like a new power over me.  I cried all the time.  People started commenting and even worse, started giving me advice about how to lose weight. My dear husband did neither, but instead thanked me for all of the nutritious meals we now had.  I was so grateful for him.  But I had a decision to make.
I decided to push back my obsession with food, and focus on getting mentally healthy.  I pushed aside all the thoughts about starving myself again only to put more energy into working through my never ending anxiety.  I ate healthily, I started running and training for a half marathon, which ironically had nothing to do with weight.  I continued to gain weight.  But I also gained a better understanding of what it means to live with and overcome chronic anxiety.  I was feeling better each day about who I was becoming.  But without that outward manifestation that people use to gauge happiness, in this case I mean being thin, people still expressed their sympathies, and worse, their advice.
Now, when I look at photos of me as a teenager I see a happy, healthy girl.  In fact, can you believe it, I was slim and fit, not big at all.  And when I see that, I realize I was seeing myself through someone else’s ideal, not mine.  Over time I’ve discovered that my ideal is not “thin”.  I've been thin, really thin, and it didn't make me happy.  My ideal is “healthy”.  Healthy can mean a great number of things at different times in our lives.  It can change with our changing circumstances.  While my weight and mental health are challenges I’ll likely be fighting my whole life, I’m grateful for the healthy things in my life.  And as I sat there nodding to the doctor as she explained what my weight gain should be over the next few months, I silently thanked God that I was able to have children at all, and I thanked my body for doing such a good job.  I have a beautiful two-year-old daughter and another wonderful little baby on the way.  I am healthy.  My children are healthy.  My husband is healthy.  And that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The False Idol of Body Image--by Brooke Walrath

I have worshiped plenty of false idols in my lifetime. Some of my favorites have been the false idols of Netflix, cell phone (iPhone kicked up my worship a few notches), Old Navy (don't judge me!), computer (facebook anyone?), and back in my teenage years - boys. My false idols are not unlike the false idols you worship on occasion.

I know the leaders of the LDS Church and sometimes even our parents have been pretty good steering us away from false idols, but the biggest, ugliest, and most tempting idol worship is one I'm sure at least 99% of us are guilty of worshipping over and over at some point in life. I have had little to no help from anyone in quitting this most fatal idol I worship.

It's body image.

My visiting teachers came over yesterday. I love getting visit taught. I love being in a ward where I am involved in visiting teaching. Mostly right now, I love one thing that one of my visiting teachers said regarding body image. Paraphrasing advice from her Women's Health teacher:

Look in the mirror and think about yourself all you want in the morning. Make yourself pretty, do your makeup and whatever it is that you need to do. But once you get out the door you stop thinking of yourself: you think of everyone else.

Rewind, let me get you up to speed so you understand where I'm coming from.

I was reading a talk given by David A. Bednar at a CES fireside in May of 2009 for my Religion class up here at BYU-Idaho. It's called Things as They Really Are, and the talk took its title from Jacob 4:13, "The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls."

Okay, so we know this is heavy stuff, right? The Spirit tells us the way things truly are so that we have a chance at salvation. Kind of a big deal.

Neal A. Maxwell gave a talk based on the same scripture back in 1979 and I'm going to use both talks because they both make great points. Maxwell emphasizes Jacob's text by quoting Christ, "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come." (D&C 93:24) He goes on to say, "No therapy or counsel will be lastingly successful which does not turn upon the truth or which does not recognize reality..." (emphasis added).

Bednar pulls the conversation in a complementary direction, saying, "A truth that really is and always will be is that the body and the spirit constitute our reality and identity... when they are separated, we cannot receive a fulness of joy." (I'm beginning to feel like these two talks were intended to be studied together...)

Maxwell says, "A society not based upon key values like loving our neighbor will inevitably subsidize selfishness; it will also place a premium upon an apostate form of individualism at the expense of community." (Emphasis added.) Sound like any societies you know? Individualism in and of itself isn't bad; it's the selfish individualism where we forget about our surroundings and our neighbors in need that dump community and create a bad society and a worse situation. Continuing, "If we do not see ourselves as more than temporary, biological brothers [and sisters], our behavior changes... Once society loses its capacity to declare that some things are wrong per se, then it finds itself forever building temporary defenses... but forever falling back and losing its nerve.

Trying to remember now that we are not temporary, Bednar gives a warning, "The adversary attempts to influence us both to misuse our physical bodies and to minimize the importance of [them]... Heavenly Father's children misuse their physical tabernacles by violating the laws of chastity, by using drugs, by... defacing themselves, or by worshipping the false idol of body image, whether their own or that of others... [this is] a denial of our true identity as sons and daughters of God." In case you got lost in some jargon there, Bednar puts worshipping body image (either our own or of others) on the same sinful level as premarital sex and drug abuse. This is no small thing.

We are not temporary beings. If you think you are temporary and that nothing matters in this life, then you should reevaluate the way you live your life. If you think of yourself as an eternal being waiting for blessings and glory, you will think of yourself in a completely different way. Counsel takes root, changes take place. If you think of yourself as a temporary being floating through life, then who cares? "Nothing really matters."

At the end of Bohemian Rhapsody Freddie Mercury sings that great line: "Nothing really matters, anyone can see..." How does it make you feel the way he sings it? Freddie may not have had much of an eternal perspective (but who am I to know?) but when I listen to that song, after all the powerful movements and solos, I can't help but feel like he is lamenting how little he has to live for. It doesn't matter because life is temporary (and in the case of the song, life is soon to be expunged). So the solution to the temporary quandary isn't just learning to like the temporary, it is appreciating the immortality within ourselves. Maxwell said, "If we could but get it through our heads and our hearts that God loves us perfectly, then we would have ultimate security and recognition and could ride out the proximate snubs and the mortal slights." In layman's terms: If you work to realize that God loves you unconditionally, you will have an easier time of loving yourself.

I recently posted a status on facebook about how all the thinspiration and fitspiration on Pinterest has been driving me crazy. What's okay about staring down a dehumanized feminine pack of abs? Just because it has an inspirational quote attached to it? Because it gives you something to work towards? I don't think it's okay. I don't think that pack of abs makes me feel better about myself--I highly doubt it makes you feel better about yourself. I'd be willing to bet it makes you feel like you're not good enough. I'll bet it makes you feel like you haven't done enough. I'll bet it makes you feel just a little worthless. I'll bet that quote that says you should run until you don't "jiggle" anymore makes you feel like any movement makes you jiggle. Makes you feel like you haven't tried hard enough yet. I'll bet there are girls driven to the edge if not the heart of eating disorders by this drivel.

These images presented to us as desirable. Images of women that somehow lose tons of weight while gaining tons of muscle (physically impossible), who can have their cake and eat it too, are unattainable. Impossible. Without a lot of money and disfiguring surgeries, it's not going to happen. If we can somehow pull out of the downward spiral we're in and forget these ridiculous ideals then just maybe, we can be happy.

The only fitspiration I want to see is the type that just says, "Do it!" "Get out there!" "Have fun while you're at it!" I don't want to encourage unhealthy habits one way or the other. I'm not saying it's okay to eat all you want until you have diabetes. I'm saying be healthy. I'm saying be happy. I'm saying love who you are. Don't hate yourself because you've "put on a little weight since high school." Don't bash your own body because having a baby was hard on it. Love those scars, those new marks on your sides, the love handles, the jiggly parts, everything.

Worshiping the false idol of body image is a terrible thing. It's not just something sweet and innocent we do, looking in the mirror, pinching our fat and thinking, "I'd look soooo much better if that part would just disappear!" It's not okay. It's not loving yourself, it's not appreciating the body God gave you, and it's definitely not part of a healthy lifestyle.

Maxwell delivered this anti-selfishness inspiration: "I cannot see selfishness in myself or others without thinking of Satan who is truly swollen selfishness."

I am repenting of my addiction to body image. I am working to overcome that sin. Who's with me?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Being nude

I just wanted to share a great website that I've found, through a friend Jen who blogs here. She shared the website of a great project, (warning naked women with pubic hair) the Nu project. I think there is definitely something about being comfortable with yourself naked, even if you're not willing to have it posted on the internet. Can you really say that you've accepted yourself if you only accept yourself wearing your really great clothes?

There are a few things I would like to discuss about this website:

1) The idea that all nudity is not pornographic. I've come to reject the idea that a naked woman is inherently sinful when viewed by anyone but her husband. Plenty of really great cultures and artists have understood this for a long time.

2) I could never imagine a website like this with men. Partly because there is a much bigger push among women to "love your body" that inspires this website than there is among men. I think it is true that women's bodies are objectified more than men, and so there exists a greater need for outreach among women. Also, it seems that while men are less objectified, their sexual organs are not. Even in "Game of Thrones" (which is one of my wife and I's guilty pleasure), where female nudity is frequent, full male nudity is non-existent (as far as I've noticed). I'm not really sure why this interests me so, but I think there is something deeper here.

But overall, hooray for this website. If you disagree with me about such a website to be useful, feel free to say so in the comments (as my mom did when this site was linked to on my Facebook). But it's about bodies, so I'm posting it here.

Katie Makkai - Pretty--submitted by Bonnie Belle

some of you won't mind, but if the others of you can get over the swear (trust me...you won't miss it) this is so amazing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

four chocolate chip cookies. not two. four.--by Portia

I wouldn’t say I have an “eating disorder.” Whatever that means.

 I’ve read a lot about eating disorders, and I’ve worked with men and women that have eating disorders. To this day I would never consider myself to really have one. Maybe I just have an altered view of food. Maybe I’m in denial.

 At about the age of 5 I started stashing food in my room. I would sneak downstairs to eat cookies and frozen pepperoni in the middle of the night so that no one would know. I would hide food in my room and eat it when no one was looking, or stash it away for later. Why had food become so shameful?  I grew with a chef for a father, he made amazing food. And we never once talked about people being overweight or underweight, so that wasn’t it.

 Step back a year or two earlier.  As a child, around the same age as my food hoarding skills began, I was molested by a friend of the family. He was maybe 8 or so and lured me into a closet to see if he could stick his penis in me. At that age he couldn’t figure it, out so he left me all alone in the dark closet as I tried to understand what had happened. The day after that I was spanked until my butt was a deep shade of red. I thought it was because of what had happened in the closet. It was my fault I thought. I was stupid. I am bad. After that I kept secrets and lied a lot. I hid things that I thought were shameful, like test scores from spelling and history. I lied about food that had all of the sudden gone missing. I lied about little stupid things that really never amounted to anything important.  I always got caught for the lies (not the food) and was always spanked. Sometimes I was spanked so hard that my butt turned black and blue.

 I was first raped when I was 18 years old. I was a virgin. He was my boyfriend at the time. He locked me down and wouldn’t let me get up or leave. I found out later he had been cheating on me the entire time.

 I was raped the second time by some guy I barely knew. He told me I was selfish and worthless.

 During the next couple of years and into my early twenties I would eat a lot, not really thinking about why. I was never “fat,” just off and on a little curvier than the average woman. Maybe I was fat, but my positive attitude wouldn’t let me think that. Boys still liked me; I always had plenty of friends and had a job to keep me busy. I over compensated for my sadness with friends, food, drugs and sleeping around. I ignored any feelings of sadness and made fun of my past. I would make jokes like “I’ve always loved sex! I tried to have sex when I was like 5 years old!”

 I was in denial about the things that had happened to me up until I was in my twenties.

 I block out some of the details from my early adult years with food. I’ve gotten better, but I still wake up in the middle of the night to eat food when I’m sad or don't want to think about things. I still eat past the point of being full. I still lie about food. I’m working on being honest about my past and me. I’m working on not using food as a crutch for my sadness and hurt. Starting today. This morning I told my husband I ate 2 chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the night, when I really ate 4.

 I start therapy for PTSD next month. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

a struggle with pornography: part two--anonymous

head here for part one

I've been home from my mission for a few years now. Recently I've been doing better (and not just saying that this time) by setting goals to gradually ease myself out of addiction--I can't tell you how many times in my life I have promised myself and God that I would never look at pornography again; it never worked (for long). But this slow progress has been measured and successful for the last six months. I hope that it will continue to be so, but even if there are setbacks (and being a pretty pragmatic person, I'm sure there will be), I know that I can overcome it. My last singles ward had an addiction recovery program group that met every Sunday night, it was great to be with other guys (most of whom were struggling with the same problems) and get support and unconditional love and understanding.

But beyond how I'm doing now, I wanted to share a few other thoughts that I've had over the (too many) years I've been addicted to pornography.

I've at times hated God for not cursing me. I've been pretty successful in school and church and life: I did well in undergrad, I'm in a great grad school where I'm doing well; I had a great mission where I was fortunate enough to baptize people and serve in leadership positions; I have an awesome family and friends. I think I wish God would compel me to be humble, in the words of Alma 32. I know nobody "deserves" to be blessed, unprofitable servants and all that, but it's been hard for me to see why of all people God didn't punish me (in a more overt way--there's certainly been plenty of inner anguish). My experience with pornography has made me hate the "prosperity gospel" doctrine (the idea that if you're righteous you'll be blessed with riches and other material things) because in my life the converse has not been true at all.

I don't know how to determine "worthy" in regard to this sin. I've felt the spirit strongly while giving blessings or passing the sacrament even if I had recently slipped up in this regard. That could have been in spite of my unworthiness or it could be that I had been forgiven more quickly than I thought/feared. Sometimes I took the sacrament when I shouldn't have (social pressure is terrifying) but when I'm doing really badly and feel like I'm not even trying to be better, I generally don't. Like I said, the last few months have been the best in recent memory in this regard, so that has been much less of a problem.

If you've attended Priesthood Sessions of General Conference, or read the talks later, you probably know that general authorities speak out very strongly against pornography as a serious and destructive sin. And they're absolutely right. However, I sometimes wonder whether treating this more like an eating disorder, as a disease, might help--at least sometimes or in certain contexts. Trust me, I hate myself for being addicted to pornography. I know it's evil. I don't like it. Telling me how abominable it is, at least without pairing those remarks with softer rhetoric, makes me sink deeper into despair. It's when I accepted that yes, it's bad, but it's not the end of the world that I've made progress in battling it.

I mentioned being in a singles ward. I'm very afraid of how a pornography addiction of over ten years is going to affect my future marriage. Or of even whether a woman would want to marry me when I tell her about this (I don't think it would make much sense or be fair at all to keep her in the dark). That feels like something that will be following me around even after I kick the addiction. Which I know is unavoidable and of my own making, but it's a fear that makes it that much harder to make progress.

Another thing that has helped me to want to get over my pornography addiction is remembering that pornography is not just something that's harming me or the other men addicted to it. It is hurting women, whether because they are addicted to it (an even less-discussed problem), whether they are victimized by the vicious industry, or whethery they are harmed indirectly by their partner becoming more distant, isolated, and/or depressed (not to mention the inevitable questioning of "Am I not physically attractive enough?" -- a thought process that certainly does not deserve any further feeding). I don't want to contribute to the harm pornography inflicts on women. (Of course, the flipside is that when I fail to get better, it's easy to hate myself more.)

So that's my experience in a nutshell. I know that I can be forgiven of my sins. I know that I can be free of this addiction. I know that God loves me. But it's been a very long and difficult road, and I have no reason to think it will get much easier. Most days, though, I have hope.

If people have questions, thoughts, or reactions, I'm willing to respond anonymously in the comments section.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Practically Perfect--by Erik W.

Practically Perfect

Baby toes are the most intricate, fascinating things I’ve yet to discover. These magical hinges can wiggle, stretch, curl, and fan. Baby toes are perfect, beautiful little things.

Here’s to you Joe DiMaggio

I first recognized perfection in a hospital in Miami. We were visiting a little girl in the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Every single day of that two-year-old’s life her body had rejected and tried to destroy itself. After numerous operations and transplants she was surviving, living a difficult half-life supported by machines. Imprisoned in a hospital crib and shackled with tubes and wires, I was sure this little girl had nothing to celebrate in life.

Then she smiled at me, and wiggled her toes.

This little girl had the courage and audacity to enjoy her life and her body.  Surely she was miserable, I thought. Surely she hated her body. Surely she had nothing to smile about.

In that moment I saw what a perfect little girl she was. Her sweet personality was nothing like her sick, struggling body, and yet that sad little body had defined and created her. She was so beautiful. Her body was immeasurably imperfect, the perfect capsule for her mortal voyage.

Making a Human

It took me a full week to discover my daughter’s toes. They’re amazing. I can’t stop playing with them. It’s getting in the way of work. I may have a problem.

Where did those sweet little toes come from? My wife made them.  That’s right, she made them herself.

Building a human body isn’t an easy process, just ask my wife. The last nine months have been challenging for her. She was hungry all the time, she didn’t want to eat anything, she slept all the time, her body changed its shape from one day to the next.  But at the end of nine months, we had a tiny little human.

Without any real thought on her part, my wife completely built a brand new human. What a wonderful thing! What a strange concept. I doubt I will ever be able to fully contemplate how the right molecules arranged themselves to become my daughter.

Nothing went the way we planned, but the process was perfect.

After almost 30 hours of labor, our midwife finally told us that a cesarean section was probably a good idea. My wife agreed, and our daughter was finally born, cut out of her mother’s body.  My sweet wife suffered through that process.

Though we were both happy and grateful to have a healthy daughter, my wife felt great sorrow. She had worked so hard for a natural, vaginal birth, and her body did not give her what she desired. That experience with her body is now a part of who she is. Her body has changed her. Her perfectly imperfect body.

Listen, Learn, Love

My daughter’s body does not function perfectly, but it is perfect. My wife’s body did not perform the way she expected, but it is perfect. My gangly, skinny body has driven my personality and decisions throughout my life. My body has made me insecure, frustrated, proud, and capable. Regardless of its imperfections, my body is perfect for me.

Although our bodies are full of imperfection, they are perfect.  Our bodies create us. Our bodies teach us. Listen to your body. Learn from your body. Love your body. It is more perfect than you know.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Average Girl--by Sadie

What’s my story? I’m not sure I have one that’s of much value to others out there. I’m just your average girl. Really. I’ve discovered that about myself. Over time I’ve learned to embrace my averageness. However, the world we live in, you are either above average or you’ve got problems. On the ACT, I got an average score. I’m average looking, not gorgeous, but I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily ugly either. And, as you might have guessed, I’m an average weight.

My perception of my body has changed over the years. When I was a kid, I was a little on the skinny side. I thought I was invincible. In junior high I was a late bloomer. I didn’t start my period until I was 14, and didn’t really worry about it too much. In high school, I was still waiting to blossom. 

Then, my junior year, I bloomed. I inherited some nice curvy hips. This was the first time I had been dissatisfied with my body. Finding jeans that fit, was all but impossible. I would leave the store discouraged and a bit depressed. I still had a small waist, so if I got a bigger size of jeans, I had a hoola hoop around my waist. If I got a smaller size of jeans, I would not be able to get my jeans on past my hips. I always say hips, but really it’s my thighs. I just don’t like that word, so I say hips.

It was about this time I noticed I had cellulite on my hips, booty, and thighs. While changing for basketball practice, I noticed my teammate had nice smooth skin that lacked the white cottage cheese look I was sporting. I started to get self-conscience. I would change into my shorts as quickly as I could.

In college I continued to be dissatisfied with my hips. I remember in one class, sitting on the edge of my chair to see how thin I could make my legs/hips look when everything would hang down out of my view. Looking back, I wonder if anyone noticed. I always wanted those long thin legs, the ones that were strait down from the hip. No curve.

I got married. My sweetheart regularly told me I was beautiful. I’ve had three babies. He still tells me I’m beautiful. He is an honest man, but there are still times when I don’t really believe him. I look in the mirror and can’t understand what he finds so attractive. I think he must be confused. Maybe his perception of beauty is skewed. Then I realize, maybe my perception is the one that is skewed.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to get really skinny. I’ve wanted to have an eating disorder. I know that probably sounds horrible. It is horrible. There have been times where I’ve thought through how I could become anorexic or bulimic. It went sort of like this… “I can’t be bulimic. I hate to puke. I cry every time I do. How about anorexia? Maybe I can just stop eating. No, that won’t work either. I don’t have enough self-control. I guess I’ll just have to get by with this body.”

I’m thankful. I still have moments where I don’t feel pretty. There are moments where I notice a little fat that I wish would leave. But mostly, I’ve come to accept that average is not ugly. Average is finishing a marathon, after months of preparation. Average is having three babies and wearing a size 10. Average is looking in the mirror and seeing me, not some model from an airbrushed magazine cover. Average is enjoying life, despite a few insecurities. Average is loving those around me. Average is being loved.

Friday, July 13, 2012

ED#13: The Elephant in the Room

I don’t quite know how to share this story because I don’t want to dismiss the experience of others. But I can’t invalidate my own experience to validate someone else’s. Having an eating disorder is painful and intensely difficult. So is having a sister with one.

My sister and I are the same age; we grew up together from day one. It’s had to describe what that is like; we were always together. We played together, had the same friends, took many of the same classes. For a large part of our lives we did literally everything together. We shared clothes, jewelry, books, even crushes. I considered her my closest friend. I looked up to her; she was the confident, friendly, outgoing one. Most our mutual friends were her friends first and I just tagged along. She’s extremely talented; I quit playing the piano and switched to voice lessons because I couldn’t compete with her. She was who I wanted to be in so many ways.

When we were juniors in high school, a mutual friend told me my beautiful, talented, intelligent sister was making herself throw up. I sat in a practice room off the choir room, sobbing, almost screaming, through the hour long class period. I couldn’t believe she was doing that to herself, that she felt she needed to. That night I asked her point blank if she was making herself throw up. She said no. She lied to me; she looked right into my face and lied, and we both knew she was lying. After sharing everything, this lie was the ultimate betrayal. And it began the hardest years of my life.

I was told by a religion teacher she had confided in not to tell my parents, because he was handling it. He seemed to know what he was talking about and had religious authority, so I didn’t say anything to my parents. (To this day I hate that man for believing he had a right to interfere in something he had no training in, and hate myself for giving him that authority.) A few months later my parents caught my sister binging and purging on Easter candy, woke me up and asked if I knew why. I had to admit I knew and hadn't told them. They took her to the hospital and I spent the night sitting up waiting. The next morning I went to school on no sleep and pretended nothing was wrong.

This was the pattern my family followed: we pretended nothing was wrong. It was the elephant in the room. We all loved my sister, wanted her to be healthy and happy, and knew she wasn't. We couldn't fix the problem by talking about it, so we didn't. We heard her throwing up in the bathroom and said nothing. We saw her eating nothing at the dinner table and said nothing. She was baking constantly and eating none of it and we didn’t ask her to stop. She went from the silent treatment to screaming abuse at me and my parents. My parents just took it and did not back me up when I reacted to her attacks. I love her and was deeply hurt by her screaming insults at me out of blue. I love my parents and was furious to hear her blame them for what she was going through.But we lived with this elephant in the room, we never talked about the pain we were in. Even when I demanded we talk about it, we did not. I could not express my feelings of terror, rage, betrayal and pain, so they ate me alive and destroyed the things I loved the most.

I was a theatre nerd in high school (and still am); I acted in school plays and competed in regional competitions. I worked incredibly hard to get to the state drama competitions my junior year. I got through one round of competitions and was one of three to qualify to go to state competitions. In one of my rounds, a girl performed a monologue about having bulimia. It took everything in me to not burst into tears. For the next two rounds, I could not concentrate and my performance was weak. It showed in my scores; after the months of work I had dedicated to something I adored doing, it all fell apart.

My senior year of high school was… difficult. I was depressed, and did everything I could not to be home. I had breakdowns at school, sobbing in classrooms and hallways. My parents felt responsible for my sister’s disorder, even though they knew they had done nothing wrong. They put pressure on me, unintentionally, to prove they were good parents. So as I was trying to escape being home and the elephant in the room, they wanted me to continue to live normally. Our relationship became extremely strained as we all tried to cope in ways that were counter to each other’s processes.

It’s been almost ten years since I spent choir sobbing over my sister. We have both since graduated from college and gotten married. Our relationship is still a bit rough, It has improved, but we still have screaming matches about various subjects, and I still struggle with how she treats my family. I still find evidence that she has been throwing up when I go into the bathroom at my parents, still watch her eat next to nothing, and still see my parents blame themselves for her struggles.

I realize that to some my experience may seem petty. I know my sister had, and still has a difficult time. I know she has tried to get treatment, in some cases unsuccessfully. I also know that her eating disorder caused me and my family extraordinary emotional pain. I know that my relationship with my sister will never be the same. Eating disorders hurt everyone; the ones who struggle with them and the people who love them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

ED Talks #12: Recounting Bulimia--Anonymous

This is the first time I have tried to pinpoint the length of time I had an eating disorder. I believe it was at least two years because I remember that the day I watched Princess Diana’s wedding I was already suffering with the habit. The day I heard Karen Carpenter died of complications of an eating disorder was the first time I became aware it was a dangerous practice. It was the first time I had the thought that I should stop. Up until that time I thought I was the only one in the world who did it. I thought I made it up. I did not suspect it was dangerous at all. I didn’t even know it had a name. Bulimia.

I remember the exact day I started on the road to the habit of bulimia. Once, when I over ate ice cream and then bent over, some came back up my throat. At that time I had been feeling guiltily disappointed about everything I ate after negative attention had been drawn to my body for the first time. Between the summer of my 5th and 6th grade years I grew from a little girl’s size 14-16 body to a 5’8” size 9 frame. My miniscule ballet teacher noticed and told me, and another girl, that we were too “big” to go enpointe with the rest of the tiny class. This had been my heart’s desire since I was five and first started lessons. Until that day, I cannot remember having consciously thought about the size of my body before. Then, soon after, my tiny grandma came to visit and pinched a roll of fat on my side, saying, “What is that?” with a laugh. She talked about what I was eating and exercise, and that was a pivotal moment. All of a sudden I was picking myself apart standing naked in front of full length mirrors, noticing all that was not skin and bone. So the day of the ice cream I thought, “Hey, I can just throw this up, and it is like I never ate it.”. Like it never happened. A quick, lazy fix to what I thought was a problem of being “too fat”. I never ever had to gag myself. My natural reflex just worked easily.

Too easily. Soon it would come up anytime, anywhere. I was aware when, where, what, and how much I was going to eat at all times. I was aware of where all bathrooms were located wherever I went. I knew all the ways to get it to flush, and how to do it silently. I chose to eat things that were easy to throw up. I threw up in the toilet, sink, shower, and outside. Anywhere no one would notice. I ate huge amounts of food that I never tasted. I remember going to a buffet once, and after several trips to the restroom, wondering how no one noticed. My family was really struggling financially at this time, and I can remember the guilt of eating so much food, just to waste it. I thought of my mom and dad and how hard they worked, but I cared more that it would make me skinny. It must have been such a hardship on my family.

Ironically, I never lost weight being bulimic. My face became puffy from swollen glands, and I actually gained weight- probably because I was still a growing young girl and my body was in starvation mode. I can remember my frustration and anger and humiliation when I couldn’t shop in the 5-7-9 shop at the mall anymore because I was now a size 11.

Two events prompted me to try to stop. The first was when, after attempting to just quit, I realized it was a habit. I looked into the mirror and thought, I cannot be still doing this when I am a mother- what kind of example would that be to my children? I was in junior high. The second event happened after I had convinced myself that bulimia was nowhere near as dangerous as anorexia, and that I would be fine. I was visiting my aunt and her family during summer break when she called everyone in to the dining room for dinner. I stood up to go in and the next thing I remember is lying on the floor in the kitchen looking up into everyone’s questioning faces. No one pressed the issue when I said I was fine, and must have just gotten up too fast. It was never mentioned again, because our family never talked about things.  It was then I became aware that the head rushes and blackouts I had been having might not be normal. This was the point where I decided seriously that I needed to stop, NOW.

I was exhausted all the time. I don’t know how I made it through school. I fell asleep in class. I remember it coming up in my throat in class, at church, everywhere, and just swallowing it back down if it wasn’t a convenient time. I was used to the taste. I am sure I had extremely bad breath, but was oblivious to the fact. My fingernails were all peeling and weak, and my hair changed and was very dry. My gums bled profusely and I had sores in my mouth. I never suspected any of this might be an effect of what I was doing. I just thought it was normal.

I was still trying to quit. I was asked by a science teacher to do a report on refined sugar. I loved researching and writing this report, and he asked the class to give up refined sugar in everything for two weeks. I did it and for the first time I felt good-disciplined-in control. I looked for sugar in everything- even minute amounts in bread. I was successful for those two weeks. Then I heard a statistic that if you did something for 28 days it would become a habit.

This was the beginning of my success. I went cold turkey giving up bulimia. I gave in to the habit several times, but each time I would start the 28 days over. I have always prayed. I have always known there was someone listening to my prayers. I knew God did not want me to do this any longer, and that if I asked Him, He would help me. I prayed- I begged Him for help. The help came not with a magical cure, but on the day I realized that it was my own choice. That I could make the choice to break this habit. But it would be one day at a time. After struggling with the decision to stop each time I ate something, I realized that I had already made the decision to stop and that I didn’t have to make it each time. I remember the exact day I ate ice cream and chose not to throw it up. It was a HUGE physical, mental, emotional and spiritual struggle. It had been such an easy thing to throw up. It was so hard to finally take responsibility for what I was putting into my mouth. It was so hard to imagine it staying there, and traveling my body. But when I did it, I was freed. I finally knew I could conquer bulimia completely.

Here was a pivotal moment. I could have easily become anorexic. Addictions are easy to replace with other addictions, unless you replace it with a positive habit. I did not know this at the time, and was doing it completely on my own because I was ashamed to tell anyone and I had no clue I could get help.  When I realized I could have self-control I went on to give up chocolate completely, and became obsessive about avoiding fat and sugar. I read everything I could find on eating healthfully and exercising.  There was a fine line of balance where I became obsessed with eating healthfully and running and exercising. I was not bulimic, but I still had an unhealthy body image and was obsessed with it and food in a different way. I drove my family nuts because this was not a secret obsession like the bulimia. I wanted everyone to know and do what I was doing. I can remember telling a good friend not to dip her carrots in salad dressing because it had fat in it. I knew I couldn’t throw up anymore, and I still had a huge fear of taking something into my body that would cause it to be “fat”.

Bulimia is an addiction. Everyone struggles with different temptations. What tempts someone else may never be a problem for me, and bulimia may never be a temptation for them, but we overcome addictions in similar ways. My goal, as I grew up and continued to educate myself, was to be able to eat all things I enjoyed in moderation. I realized that my body was a gift from God. It was a tool that if I took care of, could be used to do much good work in the world.  I remember learning to taste food again. Being so amazed at the miracle of it. I remember eating an orange, biting one cell at a time and being amazed at the burst of juice and flavor in something so tiny.

The end of my senior in high school was the first time I met someone who admitted they struggled with bulimia. She confided in me during a P.E. class, and I shared my struggle with her. I shared all my limited knowledge of how deadly it was and how I kicked the habit. I instantly cared for this girl. I thought of my young, teenage self and said what I would have told myself if I could go back in time. Coincidentally, her mother was a ballet teacher, but she had her father’s body. She was beautiful and valuable and interesting. I hypocritically told her to go tell her family, which she did, and I was grateful to hear she received help.

During my first semester of college I met a girl who was recovering from an eating disorder. She was under a doctor’s care, and her mother was helping her. I learned from her to sit down for three healthful meals a day. I had not done this since I started the habit of bulimia. I didn’t have much money for food. I copied her and usually lived on oatmeal or cereal or toast with skim milk for breakfast. A bagel or sandwich and veggie or fruit in my purse for lunch between classes.  A potato or rice or soup with veggies for dinner. I ran everywhere. I used the weight room for the first time and loved feeling muscles develop under my skin. I loved how I felt. I still had a very mixed up view of my body.

I was married before I became completely comfortable with my body. For some reason I was lucky to marry a man who liked my body just the way it was. I was scared when I became pregnant that he would feel differently, but he didn’t. I was afraid I would throw up with morning sickness and the whole hellish cycle would begin again, but for some reason I was lucky, and did not. I remember standing naked in front of a full length mirror the day I realized that my body was a tool and that for the first time I was eating for someone else’s health. I was given the gift of liking my body for the first time in years. This was the first time I consciously chose not to care anymore about my body size. Just about my health. I concentrated on choosing food that would nourish someone else’s pin size brain, heart, and body. I wanted that baby to feel it was perfect, just the way it was. I was responsible and eating for unselfish reasons.

I was ignorant to the fact that bulimia ate away at my tooth enamel and caused deadly imbalances in my body. I was pregnant with my second baby when a doctor first noticed I had heart issues. He had me wear a Holter monitor for a day, concerned my heart would not be able to handle the pregnancy. Afraid, I made sure I was completely inactive that day. Finding nothing, he figured it was a fluke and planned no follow up. I still have those issues, today. When I was 28 a dentist first commented on my tooth damage. He told me it looked as if I had previously burned my gums and that the enamel was worn away. He was puzzling so much about it that after he brought his assistant and others in to look, I asked if it could have been caused by bulimia when I was a teenager. All of them looked surprised, but a light went on in his eyes as he agreed, and he promptly changed the subject as the others all quickly left the room. I have noticed that people who have suffered, or love someone who have suffered with this eating disorder desire to talk about it with others who have struggled. But people who haven’t usually want to avoid the subject.

If I could go back in time, I would tell my teenage self that I was normal. To switch ballet troupes and become a dancer! Teenagers are so ego-centric by nature. I would tell myself to look around(not at air-brushed magazine models) and see that everyone has differently shaped bodies. To serve and volunteer and get my mind off myself. To remember that I am a daughter of God, and everyone else is also His son or daughter. I can remember being shocked and so angry at my ballet teacher when a few years after her comment I saw a 6’, large framed ballerina, enpointe. I realized she had not told me the truth, just her opinion. And when my grandma, as an 85 year old, was still dieting, I realized how skewed her view of her body was. I loved Jamie Lee Curtis’s brave magazine spread of herself, a few years ago, without makeup and photo touch up.

Dana, your last question made me laugh. “What disordered eating do you still struggle with?” I avoid the candy aisle at the store. If I don’t see it, it isn’t a temptation. I have a big family, so there is no chance to be left alone with a quart of ice cream-which I am sure I could polish off in a sitting if it was a flavor I really liked! However, my weakness is cheesecake. Really delicious, high quality, New York cheesecake. If it is my fridge, which is rare because my family is not a fan, I can finish a whole one by myself over a period of a week, savoring each and every bite, with no guilt. I am sure there must be something disordered about that!

I still do not enjoy shopping for, or wearing swimsuits, but I bite the bullet and do it. I love swimming more than I hate being in a swimsuit, so I do it. When at the store with my best friend last week, she asked me if I wanted a candy bar. I had to mentally force myself to stop the old “fat” tape that started playing in my brain.  I loved enjoying that time (and candy bar!) with my friend. I cannot keep a scale or full length mirror in my house, or I find myself obsessing. These are truly not problems compared to the delayed physical issues I have with my teeth and my heart because of bulimia as a teenager. I wish I could go back and educate myself sooner. Thanks for asking, Dana.