So, I had the honor to be on the Keep Health Alive podcast with Justin Manning from Cavemanning.com, and I really wanted to share this episode with you. We discussed some pretty important topics around eating disorders, disordered eating, exercise … Continue reading
One of the biggest blessings of this summer (and my injury and the resulting confinement to the couch) has been the time to sit and learn. I’ve spent the last three months investing in and expanding my knowledge about eating disorders, as well as fitness and nutrition. I’m doing my best, now, to filter the information, make connections, and use it to improve my own life–and hopefully my readers’ as well.
The more I write the more I realize that ED cannot be explained away as simply as I believed. It’s not just the “media-made-me-do-it” mindset inspired by stick-thin fashion models and celebrity gossip rags. Nor is it just the time-my-mother-told-me-I-was-fat childhood traumas that we discover and work through in therapy. It’s all of that and so much more:
ED is about appetite and addiction. It’s about obsession and ritual and anxiety. It’s about unfilled holes and un-whole foods. It’s about willpower–too much and not enough–and controlling the uncontrollable. It’s about recovery and relapse and habits and cycles. It’s about negative self-talk and negative self-image. It’s about twelve steps and baby steps and one step forward and two steps back. It’s about bad science packaged by the media and the government, meant for quick consumption but never proper digestion. It’s about fad diets and magazine models. It’s about binging and purging and why it feels wrong to feel. It’s about hours on the treadmill, running nowhere except into the ground. It’s about calories in and calories out and calories counted but not understood. It’s about sexuality and psychology, sublimation and restriction. It’s about fear, disgust, shame of the body, of its presence, of its weight, of its needs. It’s about wanting and not wanting to want. It’s about competition and perfection and idealism. It’s a cry for attention, a cry for help, a cry for the sake of crying, I’m crying, look at me, dammit! It is about silent screaming and weightless bodies, and a kind of loneliness that only the self-isolated can feel.
It’s strange: I originally started this blog with the simple intention to write about how unlearning nutrition helped me start to conquer ED; instead, it has shown me that the dragon guarding my tower has more than one head, and that no one tool is sufficient to slay the whole beast.
So I apologize in advance if this blog gets a little heavy with information in the coming days. I want to share with you everything I’m learning about how ED came to be and how it operates, and where it’s taking you, me, us on this journey.
That means I’m going to look at food science and psychology, addiction and recovery, history and theory, fitness and nutrition, and everything in between.
And I’m doing it all from the perspective of what I’ve learned and experienced. Which means that it may not jive with your personal philosophies and ingrained habits and things you’ve learned about the world through your experiences. I’m open to hearing your perspective, and I ask that you please share it–and allow me to share mine with you.
There is a study making the internet-interpreted rounds, which states that Pro-Ana websites (websites that are ACTIVELY PROMOTING & CELEBRATING ANOREXIA) are actually good for people who are trying to recover from eating disorders.
I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the B.S. about “[belonging] to a safe community of individuals with similar experiences.” And while I’ll concede that this “community” may at least give these girls the desire to stay alive longer than if they were suffering alone, that doesn’t change the fact that anorexia is still one of the most deadly psychiatric diseases–or the fact that staying alive and in the disease is about as useful as being dead from it.
Look, I went through my period of “recovery,” where I still read orthorexic health blogs–you know the ones: women posting pictures of their daily food plans along with their macros*, celebrating their “days off” with “active recovery”**, and posting progress pictures to keep themselves accountable. And during that period, I didn’t get better. I thought I had figured out my relationship to ED, but really I was just seeking a community of women in the same frame of mind who would justify that relationship. I imagine this is what it’s like to be stuck in a codependent and abusive relationship only to have your friends tell you that all is well and good because their boyfriends beat them too.
I’m glad that these girls are seeking something outside of their ED-constructed towers to help them cope, but until there’s a way to make them understand that there are coping mechanisms outside of the disease, they will never heal. And pro-ana (and pro-mia and thinspo/fitspo) are just more ways for ED to keep us from escaping through the window.
Please, if you’ve ever gone online to seek solace (or justification, or tips, or self-medication) through pro-ana (whether you’ve been diagnosed with a disorder or just have disordered eating/body image), please, please, please seek help. Even if it’s as simple as calling a friend or reading a good book whenever you have an impulse to feed the disease, as simple as finding a funny website that isn’t food related or following some inspirational quote-er on Twitter. Whatever it takes, get out of the disease.
And shame on those who seek to justify pro-ana as anything other than a harmful drug. Maybe we can’t regulate it, but that is no excuse to try to justify its use.
…end rant. (For now. And for more on fitspo, check out my earlier post today.)
*Macros are the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate, and fat, which make up all of the foods we eat (with the exception of alcohol). When people say they are concerned with “macros”, it means that they are concerned with the ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in relation to the ratio of each macronutrient they strive to eat each day. It’s taking calorie counting to the next level, because not only do you have to worry about restricting the total number of calories you put in your mouth, but also making them fit into perfect ratios to support whatever goal it is you think X amount of fat and Y amount of carbohydrates will achieve.
**Only a two hour bike ride up a mountain instead of going to the gym and doing fasted cardio followed by weights!
Before I go on, I wanted to say a few thing about recovery:
I am not recovered. I am closer to serenity now than I have been for many years, but I am not recovered.
When I first started out on this path toward recovery, I was thwarted by myself. I wanted a magic pill to erase the years of hurt. I wanted to wake up and say, “Today, my ED is gone, and I am all better.”
I’ve tried diets; I’ve tried overdoing “fitness.” I’ve hidden in academia, and I’ve run away from my dreams. I’ve picked up my life and moved across the country. But always I have forced myself in the direction of “being all better.”
But I’m learning that recovery doesn’t work like that.
ED is like a virus–once it’s in your system, it imprints itself on your DNA, becomes a part of you, changes you in subtle, but insidious ways. You can “get better” when you have a virus, sure, but “better” doesn’t mean that the virus is gone. It stays in your bloodstream, waiting for a moment to flare up and attack your immune system again.
All you can do is build up that immune system and learn how to fight through the symptoms.
I’ve known this fact for years, and yet I’ve spent those years trying to disprove it. Knowing that I will always have an ED was incredibly depressing to me. And yet the more I sought to control the virus’s symptoms, the sicker I got.
Today, I’m throwing my hands up and waving a white flag of surrender. Not because I give up–far from it. But I am giving up the control.
I will always have an ED. I accept that I am powerless.
Now, instead of fighting, I can focus on building up my immune system instead. By being powerless, I become powerful.
To those of you who are out there who struggle to fight off the symptoms of their own ED virus, just know that you are not alone.
Build up your immune system by reaching out and talking to others who suffer. Take time to meditate. Find a support system. Engage in positive self-talk (even if you don’t believe it) or find someone who will help you see the truth behind ED’s lies.
We don’t have to suffer forever. There is hope.
I’m not perfect. I’m not recovered. But if you ever need me, I’ll be here. And together, we can fight.