Friday, September 28, 2012

Ignoring Eating Disorders in Boys and Men

I thought this was an important article about how for a long time (and to some extent still today) we have thought of eating disorders as virtually solely a women's issue. While my understanding is that women are affected by eating disorders more often than men, as this article points out there are a lot more men than one might think that are in the same boat. The end of the article raises an important question: how much does our desire to think that men and women are inherently different blind us to problems that actually harm both genders significantly?

What thoughts do you have? I've certainly appreciated that the posts on this blog about ED have included a few from men.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Liz Hurley accused of sexualizing youngsters with new bikini line

THIS really gets my blood boiling. 

But.  I'm open to hearing different opinions.  What do you think?

Go HERE and checkout the swimwear lines for kids--for a first hand account.  They have two age groups--under 8 and 8-13.  I am sure this is not the ONLY line of swimwear like this out there for teens and I'm not trying to demonize Elizabeth Hurley.  I just find so many things wrong and disturbing with these images.  I'll express my feelings below soon. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mormon Modesty: We have to do better.

It's a popular topic, but I never get tired of thinking/talking about it.

read this.

Thoughts?  Discuss.

ED Talks #19: It's Not Really a Problem?--by Erica

It probably started after Matt broke up with me in 2010. Wow, that's almost two years ago... a lot of time and baggage since then. I had been so confident that this was the relationship that was going to make it. He fit the bill in so many ways that I ended up overlooking some important character traits that were even more important. I am a loyal person. I am also dedicated to success in whatever I pursue. This was not a recipe for success in this relationship. I also had a special communication with the Lord earlier that year. I embarked on some life changes for me and I had the distinct impression that if I implemented those, essentially this would be my year (2010). You know, to finally get married. It was not. And I think what made the breakup truly devastating was realizing that what I had felt to be a significant promise in my life - one I could rely on - completely disintegrated in the breakup. For the rest of that winter, I was pretty darn depressed on a fairly consistent basis. It's something of a miracle that I managed to complete my thesis, teach, and work my other job too. I know that some of those people really helped me pull through and keep slogging forward, especially my sister in law. I spent many a morning watching kids at her house while she slept (night shift nurse schedule). Those sweet kids were a therapy for me in many ways, and the sisterly talks she and I had together also helped keep me glued together.

That summer I took off for my dance tour, finally feeling back to normal with my life, emotions, goals, and future. I graduated with my Master's degree and went to the temple to receive my endowment. I moved away from Provo to SLC and began looking for a job while living with my grandparents. It was a great and exciting time. I loved getting to know my grandparents better and I liked being in a new environment. I went to the temple weekly while searching for a job. I was definitely on a spiritual high. I made a few initial friends, got a job thrust into my lap (something I will not take in the future ... jobs require some time to consider before diving in), and felt very productive and useful. People needed me, I'd moved beyond the concerns of the previous year, or so I thought, and I soon settled myself into a new home in South SLC with fun roommates. It was about the time of the move that things began to get interesting again.

1. Let me go back a little for this first thing that got interesting: food. While dating Matt, I learned that he was extremely image conscious. Since we were a couple, that image now included me. It was his influence that got me to buy $80 jeans from the Buckle. Granted, I love those jeans and think they were totally worth it. But.... It was because/for him that I  bought my first bottle of real perfume. I thought about whitening my teeth because he'd commented on my funny white spot in one of my front teeth. And for whatever reason, the semester we dated was one where I lost a fair amount of weight. I ran with my roommate fairly consistently and was eating more protein (thanks to him feeding me!) and for one reason or another, I lost a few pounds and some flubby inches. I wasn't trying to lose weight or achieve a certain look... it just happened. Matt noticed and said something to the effect of "keep it up." That was all. But that was all it took, I guess.

During the stressful moments of my life, I have taught myself not to turn to food. Did that one summer, gained weight, immediately vowed to not be so self-indulgent. So when we hit a rocky patch in October? Didn't eat very well. Not that I avoided it, but the anxiety left me in knots and I had no desire for food. A friend mentioned that I looked too skinny and we went out to dinner. Things worked out with Matt (for a bit longer) and I regained my appetite. Then we broke up. I honestly don't recall food being a thing at that point, although I remember not indulging in a pint of ice cream like many recommended. The ensuing "dark months" included me eating fairly regularly (I think). That was another benefit of tending my niece and nephew-- lunch! And sometimes I ate breakfast there too. I doubt my own meals were particularly healthy or interesting, but I don't recall that being part of my breakup process. I was nominally exercising through the occasional dance practice or extremely sporadic run. The dance tour happened and I felt pretty normal, if not even a little flubby, but that's just because we usually dance so much we lose weight on tour. We didn't that year, but it wasn't a big deal.

Step a few months forward to SLC. I loved living with my grandparents and eating 3 regular meals with them. I even whipped up some grub once or twice! There was a time when cooking was a relaxing and fun outlet for me. For whatever reason though, once I moved to my new apt in South SLC, food changed. Part of that was practical: I was about drowning teaching 1st grade and spent my lunch hour working on grades or lesson plans or preparation of some kind. For a while I packed a sandwich to eat.... as time progressed that dwindled. I also stayed up late working on class stuff, so I'd sleep in and hardly ever ate breakfast in the kitchen. It was always a car meal. For a great portion of the teaching year, my typical breakfast was however much cereal I could stuff in my mouth during the 12 minute commute, a granola bar for lunch. I brought fruit snacks or a cheese stick or a banana or an apple to help supplement lunch, but my meager desk treats didn't do much to bump up the caloric intake. Dinner was my only real meal and to my credit I generally ate well. Or at least a good portion. Like a box of Pasta Roni. Or a lot of homemade stroganoff. Or.... well I still wasn't cooking a lot, but I always ate dinner. I also ate out more during this time (fell in love with the Cafe Rio Pork Salad). The stress of teaching and the lack of nutrition made me shed even more weight and inches, so much so that I could tell I was wasting away a bit. I like being skinny. But I like being healthy too. And I knew I was flirting with danger.

I tried talking to people about it a few times. But I also rationalized that since I knew what I was doing, it wasn't really a problem. I just needed to work on being better with my diet. I never felt bad about eating a lot of calories in one sitting and I didn't avoid foods. I just didn't eat much while I was at school. I remember consciously choosing to stop and buy hamburgers before my weekly dance practice, though, so I would have protein and energy to get me through the night of rehearsal. Thanks, Sonic.

I didn't exercise particularly much while teaching school. I didn't have the energy. Aside from my relatively easy dance rehearsals through December, I did virtually nothing. I would have rather been working out and eating more to keep balance that way, but my way was easier and fit better into my stressful job. I also started dating someone at the start of the new year. He thought I was great as I was. I mentioned this food thing to him once or twice. He'd had friends with eating disorders in the past and was pretty caring and concerned. I made more of an effort to do better, since I felt like he cared and was holding me accountable a little bit. But in truth, things didn't change all that much. And then we got engaged. I'll admit, I worried when I heard a side-effect of birth control is weight gain. I didn't begin a wedding dress diet - I'm not stupid! that would have been a bad, dangerous idea - but I was very aware of what I was eating and what I looked like. I wasn't eating enough still and I was too skinny to wear several of my work pants anymore. The ones I did wear all looked baggy on me. I felt a little bit sad thinking of my lost leg muscles. I've always liked my lovely dancer calves and knew they weren't as strong as when I'd been working out and keeping them up. A friend at work mentioned my weight loss, but it was mostly a comment in passing.

And then he called off the engagement. (So much for all those things he said in the past about love and etc....) I did not want to eat, but I had immediately camped myself in my other brother's house and his wife made sure I ate. She even sat by me and talked to me... although I think that was more to monitor my eating than anything else. I distinctly remember when food finally tasted good again. It was about a week after the pronouncement. I never went back to sleep at our apartment again, just to pack it all up and move it out. I can't imagine what would have happened if I hadn't been around people. Still, I got a flu bug within a few days and that sure doesn't help you with food. I literally languished on my grandparents couch, with not so much energy to even sit up properly. It took supreme effort to get up and move around. My sis in law stopped by (the grandparents were out of town traveling) and made sure I had some good sick food. But aside from expelling most of it, those 24 hours marked a huge decline for me. Didn't hardly eat, had a lot of liquids, but my body was wasted. I returned to finish the last week of teaching and felt utterly lackluster. I remember being outside one morning in the heat for quite a while... I hadn't eaten breakfast that day and there were a few moments when I thought I would pass out. My body was physically and emotionally spent.

Returning to my home (out of state), I remember feeling weak for a while. A jug of milk felt heavy to me. I'd feel shaky after hefting it. I didn't trust my ability to lift heavy objects or perform much actual physical labor. Meals at home are delicious and guaranteed to make you feel better. Those worked their magic after a week or two. I went walking with my mom some mornings and recall progressing from feeling weak the first few days, to gradually feeling almost normal. Since then, you ask? I still don't work out much, if at all. Okay, I don't work out. I love eating a nice big lunch and small supper with the grandparents. Breakfast is still a struggle for me, but that has more to do with planning my wake-up times better. I think I have put on a few pounds... being at home definitely added 2 or 3. Interestingly, though, when I went to visit a dear family friend I hadn't seen for about a year, her first question was, "Are you eating?". The answer today? Yes, I am eating. But the last many months are a different story and I wonder if their effects are permanent or not. Or if they're good or not. This is one thing I have dealt with the past year on my own. These are the facts, not even the psychological exploration of the issue. I'm not really sure what to think or do, but I feel different -- better-- since writing all this down.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

P.S. #8: Isn't it supposed to be better than this?--Anonymous

I'm glad that Dana has decided to do a postpartum series on her blog, as it has given me a much-needed place for an outlet for my feelings on my personal pregnancy and postpartum story.

I had expectations of what a pregnancy should be like. I had created an ideal scenario in my head of what being pregnant should be like based on movies and books and stories from my friends and family. I wanted my time to be happy and joyful and radiant. I wanted the bad times to be like a comical downside that was not ideal, but what are you gonna do right? We'll laugh at it later. I wanted people to see me and give me attention and treat me differently, as I hear most people complain about in a lighthearted way. I wanted my husband to dote on me and never take his hands of my tummy, for fear of missing all the cool stuff that was going on in there. I wanted the world to revolve around me. And why shouldn't it? I was doing something unique and wonderful and above all hard. Everyone told me that it would. Everyone told me that there is no greater happiness than bringing new life into this world.

They lied to me. Everyone lied to me. Being pregnant wasn't the most beautiful, spiritual experience of my life. It sucked. Being pregnant sucks. At least it did for me. I was sick and hungry and hurting and when I told people that I couldn't be pregnant and carry on with my life the same way that I had before, they told me that I just had to suck it up, that I didn't get any preferential treatment just because I was pregnant. Everyone else who gets pregnant can still work and clean and take care of everyone else and I should be able to as well. It's all in your head, they said. Nothing you're feeling right now is valid because it's all just hormones and as soon as that quiets down you'll see how much of a baby you're being. Then you'll know what a wonderful time you had being pregnant. I hated being pregnant. Maybe I would have hated it less if someone had just told me it was okay to hate being pregnant.

No one said these exact words to me. They said it in nicer ways, in gentle voices. But they still said it. They still made me feel like I didn't matter. I felt like I was ruining it for them. They knew what I was supposed to be feeling like, and since I didn't feel that way, there must be something wrong with me. I tried desperately to get them to understand what I was going through, how I was different from everyone else. They didn't take me seriously. You'll get over it soon, they said. You won't feel this way forever.

Once before I was pregnant, I asked my husband what he would do if I did get pregnant. He said he'd probably come home every day and put his hands on my tummy, and we'd sit quietly together, and feel our baby grow. He lied. He never once voluntarily put his hands on my tummy. I always had to place his hands there myself, and he would take them away again as soon as he could. I don't know why he did. I don't think he was trying to hurt me. More likely he was afraid of hurting our baby somehow. But it did hurt, and I felt alone for 9 months.

Because I hadn't been able to sleep a full night for about two weeks, my doctor recommended we induce 2 days before my due date. Finally! I was going to be not pregnant again! I was so excited. I couldn't wait to see my baby and be done with having her in my tummy. My husband was as excited as I was. Soon we'd be a family of 3! I was in labor for a day and a half. It was painful, and it was long. A lot of the time it was boring. My husband tried to be supportive, but it seemed like he was always in the way. The nurses were in and out every 15 minutes doing something to me, and my husband just seemed to always be exactly where the nurses needed to be. I think he just gave up after a few hours. He walked me around the ward when I wanted to walk, and helped me take baths, but at other times, he took out his phone or his laptop and ignored me. He can't give an accurate account of my daughter's birth story because he wasn't paying attention most of the time. It wasn't all his fault. Sometimes there just wasn't room for him to hold my hand. But he could have at least payed attention. Why didn't he want to know what was happening to me and and his baby? I feel cheated out of my happy birth story. I wanted a story that I could share with everyone else, just like they all shared with me. I don't have one.

It has been a year since I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. I don't hate her. I don't regret carrying her for 9 months. I love her more than life. I would not trade her for anything. I don't remember the physical pains of pregnancy and labor. I don't remember what it was like to have a baby growing in my tummy. But I do remember how I felt; how they made me feel. I am angry, because it was supposed to be better than that. I spent 9 months of my life miserable and depressed, and I can't get that back. I do not look back and think how wonderful it was to be pregnant. I do not look back and laugh and think how silly I was being. I still hate being pregnant. I will never do it again.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

P.S. #7: My Mom and Me--Anonymous

My mom and I have had very different postpartum experiences. Despite my baby’s stressful diagnosis with a rare genetic condition, my post-partum months were void of the baby blues. My mom experienced differing levels of deep depression after the births of all five of her children. The worst was after the birth of my younger brother. It is a story that my sister told me, and one that I was too young to remember.

My dad was working hard and traveling internationally for long periods of time. My mom was the mother of three little girls and a brand new baby boy. Pregnancy and her body never seemed to get along well. There were several miscarriages, hormone therapy, and every successful pregnancy ended via C-section (despite all of her efforts to avoid them). The postpartum period never was smooth sailing either but this time was the worst. My sister (who was six at the time) remembers hearing mom crying at the top of the stairs. When she got there she saw mom holding a gun and rocking back and forth sobbing. My sweet sister says that she sat beside our mother and patted her back as she exclaimed through her tears “my kids deserve better.”

Eventually the gun was put away and my mom, with her small daughter’s help, came down the stairs. I don’t think my dad ever knew about the gun, but from long-distance calls home he realized things were falling apart. I will forever be grateful that he risked his job and came home.

As you can imagine the thought of post-partum depression terrified me as I approached the birth of my son. However, as the months passed by following his arrival I realized that I was escaping that particular demon. I remember literally breathing a sigh of relief. Now as we are pondering adding another little bundle to our family I find myself comparing my experience to my mother’s. Why did she get hit so hard with postpartum depression several times and I never got so much as the baby blues? Will it be different this next time around? Pondering these questions has given me some insights that I think might be useful to others as well as myself. There is no sure fire way to prevent postpartum depression, (the contributing factors are a mix of the chemical, emotional, and physical) but I do feel strongly that the expectant mother and her loved ones can do something to prevent it.

The main difference between our experiences is that my mother was alone, emotionally and physically, and I was not. I realize that a new mother can be surrounded by family and loved ones and still experience terrible depression. However, I strongly believe that the absence of a good support network makes any hard time worse. For months after our son’s birth I was blessed to have steady support from family who would, from time to time, do our laundry, invite us to dinner, or hold our baby so I could nap. They gave an abundance of emotional support with the trials of breastfeeding, and other new baby struggles. I wasn’t forgotten and they showed it. Never was a negative comment made about my ever changing body shape, or my disheveled look. There was no pressure for me to be anything but healthy and happy. My sweet husband and I became more of a team than ever before. He made it clear that this new little baby was his responsibility too, and that he didn’t expect me to do it alone, emotionally or physically. He never made me feel bad that my emotions were unpredictable. I felt the freedom to walk this new path as I felt best, with the support of others but never with their judgments. It also helped that I had an outlet in the form of an enjoyable class a few hours a week. It wasn’t anything stressful but it gave me a time to think about a subject I was deeply interested in outside of motherhood.

I admit that it seems ideal and that not every postpartum situation can be that way. My mom had had few if any mental breaks during any of her postpartum times. The stress of running a small sheep farm plagued by coyote attacks and caring for several young children weighed heavily on her. Furthermore her perfectionist nature prevented her from seeking help or allowing herself to be satisfied with less than “the best.”

My plea is that women will realize that it is good, sometimes even needed, to ask for help and let people see us in our most tired, spit-up covered, and frazzled state. And that an abundance of love and support would be offered to even the most seemingly strong and put-together of new moms. In doing so we will not only help carry a burden but we will also make room for an increase in the joy that is so unique to that time.