I do have to warn you: today’s Trigger HAPPY Thursday may contain some triggers. If you aren’t ready for this, that’s okay. Just come back when you’re ready to have it out with the ED in your head. Today’s happiness … Continue reading
Before you read today’s post, go download Finding Our Hunger Un-Podcast Episode 006: UN-Lived and leave us a review in iTunes! I’ve been having difficulty sitting down to write this post, probably because my day job involves sitting down to … 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.
So, if you’ve been hanging out with me on Facebook, you know that I’m having a fun time playing with WordPress’s web analytics tools and seeing where all of my readers are coming from and how you’re finding me.
It is honestly so amazing to see that so many people can at least identify with my story, whether they’re a long-lost friend from high school or an internet stranger from the Republic of Malta. (Seriously, according to WordPress, people from more than 60 countries have at least clicked on my page. To me, that is incredible.)
On the flip side, however, it’s heart-wrenching to see some of the Google search terms that people have used to find my blog. (Don’t worry–it’s 100% anonymous, so not only don’t I know who typed those terms in, I also don’t know where they came from or when.)
Sometimes the searches are benign: “bikram yoga 30 day challenge.” “are organic apples healthy.” “bikram yoga fall over sweat.” Others, however, are heartbreaking: “friend looks emaciated exercise bulimia.” “is my body fat or skinny.” “hiding exercise bulimia.” “thinspiration i can’t do this help me.”
It’s heartbreaking, because I know what it feels like to type those words.
I know what it feels like to hear those voices in my head.
I know what it feels like to watch friends and family cry out with similar problems through social media.
I know what it feels like to search for a website that will justify the behavior, reinforce the stereotype, explain away the pain.
And I just thank god that the people who typed those queries found my blog instead.
There is so much damaging media out there–whether it’s the pro-ana thread tucked away into the deeper folds of the internet or the major news sources posting disordered behaviors (and tips on perpetuating them) on their front page. There are so many ways to starve yourself and feed ED, and they’re all at your finger tips…but then again, there is nourishment for your soul just a few search terms away.
I wish there were a search engine that could flag cries for help, disorder detectors that could crawl the net. And instead of bringing up the content that can cause more damage, this search engine would bring you here. And here. And here. And here and here. (I could go on and on…) And show you only a world behind your computer screen that could reflect how beautiful you really are.
I want this for you, just as much as I selfishly want it for me. I’m tired of reading articles that talk about the ways in which we use the internet to hurt ourselves. Even when we’re not searching for negativity, it pops up in our Facebook feeds. There are apps dedicated to quantifying our worth in terms of calories and pounds. Well, where are the recovery venture capitalists? I have an idea for a new business model, and when it saves us from starving ourselves, it will be sure to go viral. I call it:
SEO* for the soul.
There may be no immediate return on investment, no quick way to build the network, no surefire way to hide the self-hate and the negativity from the top web hits, but if enough of us take to the web demanding websites tagged with self-love and positive reinforcement, I think we can make it happen.
Until that day, I just hope against hope that the internet keeps bringing you back to me. Because I promise that here you will never need to hide. Here you will never need thinspiration. Here, you can do this–because we’ll get through it together.
Please reach out.
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!
Not feeling particularly inspired to write this morning, but I did want to share a little Friday inspiration with you anyway:
I found this over at Happy is the New Healthy, along with a really great post about why “strong is the new skinny” may not be the best way to shift the paradigm (in other words: it’s thinspo in disguise).
So, head bravely into the weekend, and I’ll see you on the other side!