Using a Paleo Template for Eating Disorder Recovery–on the Livin’ La Vida Low Carb Show!

I can’t tell you how excited, proud, and grateful I am to have had the opportunity to speak with Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb on the air about how moving toward a more Paleo/ancestral diet has helped facilitate my eating disorder recovery.

livin-la-vida-low-carb-jimmy-moore

Jimmy Moore, as you may recall from the Finding Our Hunger podcast episode, had a huge impact on my own recovery–and my desire to get into this whole health coaching business–and he is someone I feel blessed to be able to call friend.

You can listen in on our podcast episode HERE!

And don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post about the “sobering” connection between fitspiration and addiction, as well as my post in Paleo Movement Online about Paleo Perfectionism & Orthorexia.

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

PS I’ll hopefully have a “Tune Up” update for you soon…now that my voice is finally returning after my fun little illness…

Disgust, Body Shame, and Fitspiration: Why We Care About Maria Kang

you-are-beautiful

TL;DR: Fitspiration sucks. Stop fat-shaming/fit-shaming yourself and others, kthx.  Strong is the New…? I just want to take a brief interlude and ask a question, because it’s something that’s been weighing on me pretty heavily. How many of you out … Continue reading

Fitness Friday: How NOT to Exercise When You’re Injured

pain is a sign that something needs to be changed

Last month, Abel James, aka the Fat-Burning Man, wrote a really great blog post about using an injury to your fitness advantage. After hurting his shoulder doing Krav Maga, he was faced with the difficult decision: do I give into … Continue reading

Sex vs. Sexy

Dying to be a bikini competitor. Literally.

So let’s bring this sexuality thing home: If I’m not mistaken (and I’m pretty sure I’m not), part of the reason that fitspo has gained so much traction is the concept that we’re all looking for motivation to help us … Continue reading

De-Motivation for the Former Fitspo Follower

"I don't always laugh out loud, but when I do, I'm reading the Bloggess"

Ladies and gents, this may be the funniest post I’ve read all year. (Shut up, I know it’s January 3rd.) Seriously–whether you love Fitspo or hate it, I think you’ll find the Bloggess’s anti-pinspiration absolutely hilarious. Enjoy your Friday, friends. … Continue reading

Searching for Help

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.

-K.

*Search Engine Optimization

And now for your daily dose of media-inspired insanity:

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.

Um…

WHAT?

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.)

– K.

*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!

The Skinny on “Strong”

Today, I just wanted to say a few words on the “strong is the new skinny” phenomenon, since it seems to have popped up in my life multiple times over the last few days.

And I know that the following is out of context if you don’t know the rest of the ankle-and-ED story, but bear with me, since it’s what I’m dealing with right now:

Right now, I am not strong. Right now, I can barely stand on my own two feet. Right now, I literally have no balance.

The infection in my ankle, the synovial inflammation, the atrophy of the muscles, the months of poor, compensating movement patterns–all of these things have kept me from pursuing my “strength” and “health” goals.

I am not fat, but I am not muscular. I am not large, but I no longer wear my “skinny jeans.” I am not unhealthy, but I am not fit.

HOWEVER: I am deconditioned, but not decommissioned. 

I am no longer able to do what I used to do, but I have been given a new agency: the power of acceptance. I have let my ankle be an excuse for why I couldn’t achieve the aesthetic goals I thought were so important, but in the end, it became an excuse for me to tell ED “no.” I can’t do hours of cardio. I can’t even go swimming. There is no outlet for my obsession, and so I have had to learn instead how to cope.

And in learning how to cope, I opened my eyes to the Monster in the Mirror who was terrorizing me with images of fitness models and unrealistic goals. I opened my eyes and looked at some of the women who are competing and realized how thin and sickly they look. They are “strong” and they are “skinny,” but I know all too well that somewhere, gestating inside of them, are the seeds of malnutrition, adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance, and mental/emotional disorders such as BDD and ED.

I know, because even though I never had the chance to compete, I was there with them. I have all of those problems because I allowed myself to believe that I had to fit an ideal–not of the waif-like skinny models of the 90s, but of the 0% body fat fitness models of the millennium.

Yes, strong is important. But strength has nothing to do with an aesthetic ideal. Strength–and health–can happen even without fasted cardio and tupperwares full of boiled chicken and steamed broccoli. And, yes, I still think muscles are sexy; however at this point, I’ve been forced to accept that it’s not about body fat levels or lack of cellulite, it’s about nourishing my body enough to survive until tomorrow, and as many tomorrows as I can after that one.

I also opened my eyes to the “regular” women (and men) I know, who post and tweet and talk about eating less and exercising more and how fat they think they look. All of the negative self-talk, all of the unnecessary worrying…wouldn’t life be so much better if they could learn to appreciate, nourish, and augment the strength they are already capable of?

Yes, being strong is an admirable goal, but what is strength without balance?* What is weight loss/gain without confidence? What is life without happiness? Where is the strength in a world dedicated to ED?**

I spoke to a woman the other day who couldn’t understand why I was against the fitspo images of “strong is the new skinny.” She is strong, and she is proud of her muscles. And she has every right to be. But for her, muscles are a means to improving athletic performance, not augmenting the clothes she wears. She is concerned with how many pounds she can lift in so much time, not by how much her triceps “pop” in a sleeveless shirt. She uses her abs instead of looking at them. Every person should be so lucky to have that kind of relationship with his or her body. “Strong is the new skinny” makes us want to get fit because we want to look a certain way; the athletic/muscular performance is considered only a side effect.*** But right now, “strong is the new skinny” is something I am not and cannot be–and I am not alone in this.

Letting go of the look and striving for the be is the only cure. And that means letting go of the have to and the should. It means investing in a strength other than the one that ED offers–call it a spiritual strength, call it an emotional strength, but call it anything but “strong is the new skinny.”

With my injury, I have lost the ability to train the way I used to. Even the basics are less available to me as I try to keep the inflammation in my body down (and let the antibiotics do their work). It has been a long time since I have been able to devote hours to the gym, but I have made do. And I am still strong.

No, I can’t do a pull up, but I am still strong enough to chin. No, I can’t run a mile, but I can hold a plank for 2 minutes. I will celebrate whatever strength my body will let me have while I heal, and I will be gentle with myself until I can get my ankle strong again.

That’s the kind of strength I can believe in–and skinny be damned.

Happiness, Choice

Happiness is a choice, and today I choose to be happy.

-K.

*And I’m not just talking about being able to do an overhead press while standing on a bosu ball…

**Even if you don’t have a clinically diagnosed ED, by continuing, spreading, and promoting the negative self-talk, the abnormal and unattainable body ideals, and transmutation of health and wellness into aesthetic goals, you’re helping keep ED alive–even in your own life.

***I’m sure if personal trainers+ had a dollar for every client who came to them seeking to look better and then complained about having to work out, training would be a much better paid profession. If you go to the gym because you want to look a certain way but hate every second of it, there’s something wrong. Find a way to be active that makes you happy, and the aesthetics will follow.

+To clarify, I’m talking about general population trainers, not specialized trainers like strength coaches, athletic coaches, physical therapists, etc.

Pain Is Weakness [Entering] the Body

To the squeamish or the faint of heart, I apologize for following (especially since I count myself among your numbers):

Cellulitis is a really serious skin infection that, left untreated, can cause blood poisoning and death.

And I had cellulitis. For the second time in a matter of months.*

Cellulitis, infection, knee

Day one

My immediate concern was to get my fever down, get the swelling down, and get my knee back to working order. I had to explain to ED that, while I couldn’t work out, I was at least benefitting from my bed rest because I wasn’t in the mood to eat. It was lose-win, but ED would have to deal with it.

Now, I know it comes as a surprise, but I didn’t die. The antibiotics did their job, and I was back on my feet…foot…in a few weeks.

Cellulitis, Infection, Knee

The worst of it

My ankle still felt weak, but I figured that weakness was just a signal that I needed to start getting it back into shape. (All of those fitspo pictures telling me that “pain is weakness leaving the body” couldn’t be wrong…right?) So I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, since traditional footwear had failed me, and I got myself back into the gym and back on the road.

Vibram, Five Fingers, Running, Barefoot

Monkey shoes

I will say that I really love those shoes. There is something magical that happens when you can actually feel the road under your feet, and when you can include the earth as an ally. You feel balanced. You feel reactive. You feel powerful.

Unfortunately, I took that feeling as a green light for pushing harder. My runs increased again in time and duration, and I started going back to the gym. On days when I wasn’t lifting weights, I was performing plyometric exercises like burpees and box jumps until my ankle literally gave out.

I was unhappy at home, I was unhappy at work, I was unhappy in my body, but I had the earth under my feet and so I had hope.

And hope is a beautiful thing–except when the higher power in which you’ve placed it is an utterly controlling disorder that’s seeking to do nothing but ruin your life. And my hope, no matter how I tried to explain my way around it, lay directly in ED’s hands.

I consigned myself to getting fat. I had, after all, a chance at getting that promotion at work. My roommates were still talking to me. I had a pair of really cool shoes.

Maybe ED would let this one slide.

Foam rolling

Foam rolling my unhappy muscles

– K.

*I have the world’s driest hands, which, when confined to the frigid, tundra-like environment of the air-conditioned mall for 9+ hours a day, crack with even the slightest movement. And I work with these dry, cracked hands all day in a very public environment, where I am forced to shake hands and share various pieces of technology with hundreds of people a day. If ever there were a case for wearing gloves to work, this would be it: I ended up with a cellulitis in my right middle finger in the early spring due to circumstances unknown but pretty much easily inferred. The good news was that I could practice a little covert passive-aggression by keeping my middle finger raised throughout the day.+

+I’m kidding. ++

++Sort of.

A Brief Thought

I’m out of town visiting family, so posts may be a bit more sporadic this week. However, I do have this to say regarding the following picture:

An acquaintance of mine posted this picture on Facebook the other day, and I immediately felt my stomach drop. As much as I can appreciate how “fitspiration” can keep a person motivated to reach his/her goals, I think photos like this one show just how thin the line between fitspiration and triggers like thinspo and pro-ana* (and other damaging self-worth-denying impulses) can be. The second you start to predicate your own happiness on the enjoyment of your fit body by others is the second you completely devalue yourself as a human being. In essence, you’re opening the door to ED and practically begging him to come in and judge you. Please–whether you’re male or female, fat, thin, athletic–whatever–please stop letting the idea of other people’s acceptance take the place of your own self-worth. Be fit because you want to be fit–not because you think it will make someone love you. You have to love you first. And you are worth that love.