Cover Your Mouth!: Disordered Eating is a Communicatable Disease

Cover Your Mouth!: Disordered Eating is a Communicatable Disease The seasons are changing, and it’s that time of year when we have to start being extra-careful about our immunity. And I’m not just talking about the flu--I’m talking about body image issues. In case you weren’t aware, disordered eating is a communicable disease--or, perhaps I should say it’s a communicatable disease. It’s not the kind of disease that’s spread by hugging--on the contrary, hugs are an essential daily vitamin that can help you build your immunity. It’s the kind of disease that spreads from person to person through negative self-talk, marketing ploys, and cultural habits. Every year during this time our attention turns to America’s favorite past time: coming up with an excuse for eating and then coming up with an excuse for punishing ourselves for eating. And every year during this time, our TVs, radios, blog feeds, and social media networks turn into a giant discussion about how to binge, how to stop bingeing, and how to make up for bingeing once the season is over. This is the time of year when it seems like you can’t have a conversation about anything without bringing up who’s eating what, where, and when, and how you’ll be doing penance for it. It’s in the national media, and it’s also close to home. For example, just two days ago, during my 2 minute savasana at my yoga studio, one of the newer yoga teachers said in her soothing “savasana” voice (and I’m loosely quoting, because I wasn’t taking notes while lying in corpse pose), “The holidays are coming. And you’re going to eat a lot. But you will come back to yoga, and you will get back in shape.” [Insert sound of a record scratching here.] Um, what? How about, “The holidays are coming, and you’re going to spend lots of quality time with people you love. Food and exercise may be involved, but they’re not all that important in the grand scheme of things?” Or, “The holidays are coming, and if you do choose to fixate on food, know that you’re not alone, and that you don’t have to punish yourself with exercise to make up for it. Throw away your scale and do yoga because it feels good?” Or even, “The holidays are coming, and it can be difficult to be around food and family members and stressful situations. Keep coming back to yoga because it will give you the tools you need to stay mind-full and avoid stuffing yourself belly-full out of frustration or stress?” Look, I know that there’s little I can say in this one blog that’s going to get the Today Show to stop showing you segments about how to cook a 5000 calorie Thanksgiving and then burn off a 5000 calorie Thanksgiving, or TV commercials to stop glorifying disordered eating behaviors (like fixating on or sneaking food), or the inevitable “January 1 is coming so eat while you can but save your money for a gym membership” magazine ads. [source] That said, change has to start somewhere--and it can start with YOU. If you want to have a happy and healthy holiday season, then it’s up to YOU to start changing the way YOU talk about food with family and friends. No, you may not be able to get your yoga teacher to keep your savasana sacred, but when the ladies in the locker room are talking about how fat they already feel because they’re anticipating the holiday binge, you can choose not to participate--and, even better, change the subject by asking them who they’ll be celebrating with or where they’ll be traveling. As soon as food or exercise comes up as the topic of conversation, YOU have a choice to change the channel, leave the room, or redirect the conversation. And if you’re stuck on your yoga mat, you can choose not to listen--or, do what I did, and focus instead on the upcoming asanas (or yoga poses), which you want to try to work on. Whatever you do: Don’t feed the negativity about feeding! Even if you don’t have an eating disorder, if you’re a member of the western culture and even marginally exposed to our cultural practices around the fall/winter holiday season, then you have plenty of opportunities to be exposed to the communicatable disease that is disordered eating. Just as you can spread a cold when you forget to cover your mouth when you cough, so can you spread disordered eating and exercise behaviors when you choose to indulge in the negative body talk about indulging during the holidays. Build up your immunity now by practicing the following: Worried about bingeing on once-a-year foods? Cook a dish or two now, and enjoy it on a random week night so you can remember that Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whatever holiday you’re celebrating) is not the only time you’ll have access to that food. Make a list of non-food or gym-based activities that you’re looking forward to participating in from now through January. Use that list to redirect the conversation when friends or family (or you!) start fixating on food. Get a notebook or a piece of paper, and put a check mark every time you catch yourself saying something negative about your body in anticipation of the holiday season. About the chime in on that “I can eat less and exercise more” conversation with your girlfriends? Check it off. Mind racing with anxiety when a stuffing commercial comes on? Check it off. The benefits are two fold: over time, you’ll be able to start unconsciously making the catches, AND you’ll be able to mindfully redirect your thought process with positive self-talk. Be honest with friends and family: ask them not to make a big deal about food and exercise in conversation. You’re allowed to set healthy boundaries, and as long as you’re being respectful in how you ask (i.e. don’t attack them for bringing up the leftover situation), you can help condition those with whom you spend your time to notice when they’re engaging in triggering conversation as well. Remind yourself that a holiday feast is just another meal. Allow yourself to savor the foods you don’t normally eat, but remember to spend time savoring the company you’re in as well. You’ll spend less time gorging (or restricting but fixating) on the sweet potatoes if you’re having a great conversation with your family and friends. You don’t have to worry yourself sick over your food and exercise situation this holiday season. Change the way you communicate, and in turn, those around you might follow suit. And, just in case, make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin H* in the meantime. Stay hungry, @MissSkinnyGenes *Hugs, obviously.

The seasons are changing, and it’s that time of year when we have to start being extra-careful about our immunity. And I’m not just talking about the flu–I’m talking about body image issues. In case you weren’t aware, disordered eating … Continue reading

Fitness Friday: Oxygen Magazine is Coming Back…and I’m Not Happy About It

oxygen-magazine-oh-yeah-nutrition-ad

Before I even start this post, I just want to say something to all of you who are going to get offended/upset by what I’m about to write: this post isn’t about you, the end user, and your choices. I’m … Continue reading

Trigger HAPPY Thursday: Public Gratitude [VIDEO]

Happy Smiley Face

While my battle with ED began 13 years ago, my real journey began in May of 2011.

I’ve written before about my ankle injury/surgery/pain, so I won’t bore you unless you want to go and read about it, but the gist of it is that, on Monday, I was diagnosed with Stage I Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.* I could sit and cry about it, but I already did that, and I’m not going to anymore. The unexplained chronic pain, swelling, and other bad juju has led me to a better mental place, even though my physical place is sometimes hard to live in.

All of this to say that I’ve learned a lot about acceptance–and about the power of positive energy. I’ve learned that if you put positive energy–and gratitude for the positive parts of your life–out into the universe, the universe sends it back.

I’ve been tweeting my gratitude daily, and it has helped me shift the focus from my ankle to the amazing and beautiful people and events and opportunities in my life. I’m not always positive, I’m not always perfect, but I am always working on my gratitude.

So I’ve decided that it’s time to start a new chapter of the In My Skinny Genes blog: a weekly video called Trigger HAPPY Thursday, where we’ll talk about all of the positive ways to trigger happiness in our lives. Today’s trigger is public declarations of gratitude:

So what are you grateful for? How are you going to publicly declare your gratitude today? What else do you do to trigger HAPPY?

Stay Hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

(By the way–George, the “Civilized Caveman” whose amazing post on battling male bulimia was featured on the blog a while back, has a huge sale on his Caveman Feast Cookbook. If you’re A) Paleo and looking for some inspiration in the kitchen or B) NOT Paleo and looking for some inspiration in the kitchen, then you must must must check this ebook out. And if that’s not enough to tempt you, perhaps this is:

Bacon. And chocolate. Baconandchocolate.

Seriously. Check it out now!** Enjoy!)

*CRPS, formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD, is a chronic, potentially degenerative pain syndrome that can occur for a number of reasons, all associated with some sort of trauma to the nerves (whether over time or all at once). You can tell CRPS from a number of symptoms, like the foot being “dusky” or a different temperature, and if things get really bad, deformed and sweaty. I’m only Stage I, which is, thank goodness, potentially reversible. I am so, so incredibly lucky. I’m not off the hook though, because it’s only reversible if, A) I break the pain cycle and B) work my ass off to increase range of motion. So I may have to start taking pain meds, which is exactly the last thing I want to do. Between my “paleo” eating and my aversion to Western medicine in general, the thought of flooding my body with an anti-seizure medication that may cause such wonderful side effects as adverse skin reactions and ataxia….well, I’m not happy about that. But I guess life is about making compromises and choices, and sometimes the best way isn’t the way you’d planned on traveling. So I don’t know. We’ll see where it goes. I’m going to heal–I’ve already decided. I don’t need pain to be a badge of honor–I want to enjoy my life to the fullest extent that I can, and I want my body to be as whole as it can be. I’ve beaten it up enough. Time to show it how grateful I am that it’s stuck with me through the worst.