Guest Post: Carrots and (Candy) Sticks

WARNING: The following content may be triggering if you feel you are not at a good place to read about another person’s experience with their eating disorder.
A wonderful reader and supporter of this blog agreed to share her eating disorder story. She has her own great blog (Carrots and [Candy] Sticks), which I am constantly reading for her quirky insight and strong, brave thoughts through her struggles with food and life. Thank you, Florence for sharing more of your story here.
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It’s been about three years since my eating disorder began. I’ve always had a sweet tooth and tended to overeat especially at parties, but I was an athlete in high school and never worried too much about it. It wasn’t until I started drinking that my eating disorder began, because I would drunk-binge and feel terrible about myself. It lead me to gain a lot of weight right before college, which only got worse my freshmen year.
My first year of college I was stressed out, overwhelmed, and my eating was super unhealthy. I’d have dessert for dinner, drink too much on the weekends then eat lots of pizza, snack all day, eat lots of fried foods and no vegetables, plus eat way past the point of fullness. I thought the only way to improve my terrible eating habits was to go on a diet. I was sick of feeling lousy and being unhappy with my body and figured dieting was a step in the right direction.
Wrong.
I lasted three weeks on the Dukan Diet, which was majorly restrictive: no carbs or sugar, not even fruit or nuts. I lived off of soy milk, hard boiled eggs, and dry tuna. It felt good to be in control and I lost a lot of weight…until I snapped. I got so hungry in the dining hall one day and bored of the monotonous food that I binged on ice cream and cookies and bread with butter. Horrified at what I’d done and worried I’d gain all the weight back I thought I should throw up everything I ate. So I found a secluded bathroom and had my first bulimic episode. I joked about it with my parents and friends because I thought it was a one time thing and that there was no way I could actually develop an eating disorder. But over the next six months I was embedded in a terrible cycle of dieting, bingeing, purging, and starting all over again. I was vomiting two or three times a week and alcohol definitely exacerbated things. I was reluctant to admit anything was wrong because I still thought the episodes were sporadic. Plus I convinced myself that every time would be the last time and so I never got help.
Finally one day in October, after this had been going on for about six months, I realized I had a problem. When I tried to tell my parents they didn’t really understand (I had sheltered them from a lot of the disorder) and said that there must be something underlying my food issues, that eating wasn’t the real problem; stress was. And while that was true I really needed to talk to someone about my obsessive behavior around food (and find a way to stop vomiting). It ended up being my boyfriend who helped me with the vomiting. I would always confess after I vomited because I’d feel so guilty and so he asked me to start telling him before I wanted to. At first I couldn’t do it but after admitting to him once or twice that I wanted to he would sit with me until the feeling passed. He was like my buddy/built-in-babysitter.
Eventually I started realizing I didn’t have to give in to the urges to vomit. At that point I also went home for winter break. Since my house is small and my parents were home the whole time I physically couldn’t vomit anywhere. This two month span of vomit-free living was enough to break the habit for me and over the next few months I would vomit sporadically, maybe once a month, but in June I had my last spell and have not vomited in a year. Unfortunately that was not the end of my food issues. Over the next eight months I had an incredibly obsessive relationship with eating. I researched everything I could about nutrition, tried to stick to the paleo diet, but only ended up bingeing frequently (hence starting a cycle of dieting and bingeing with no purging). I tried gluten free and vegetarianism but ultimately I felt entirely lost. Every source had different information about what was “healthy” and I felt like nothing I ate was okay. That lead me to binge more, because I felt so overwhelmed and figured if nothing is healthy I might as well eat ice cream and cookies. This period of my life was terrible because I felt so confused and lonely and lost about how to nourish my body and the bingeing was uncomfortable and scary. I felt entirely out of control and really hated myself and my life. I convinced myself that the way I was eating was causing me stress and anxiety and literally making me sick, and if only I could find the “right” way to eat I’d be healthy and happy. It was so much easier to blame myself for my anxiety than admit I might have an anxiety disorder.
The turning point came when I read a book about eating disorders in the Barnes and Noble store and it said that any benefits of the special diet I thought I had to be on for health reasons were outweighed by the stress it caused my body. That really clicked for me. I was definitely doing more harm to myself by thinking gluten was evil (and then gorging myself on it after a week without it) than by eating it moderately and with a healthy attitude. And so that September I stopped dieting for good and took some time off from school. In that time I went to counseling and started an anti-anxiety medication and learned how to eat normally again without restrictions on any type of food. To give myself a little bit of structure I counted calories using an app and that was just what I needed to re-learn how to eat. Also not drinking for those few months that I was home really helped my stress levels and stopped binges prematurely (hang over binges were sometimes worse than drunk binges).
In the last six months I’ve been working to maintain a healthy relationship with food. I’ve stopped counting calories and am really trying to take it one meal at a time. I still binge sometimes, maybe three times a month, but I’m learning to eat intuitively. I wouldn’t say I have it all figured out but food no longer runs my life anymore and I’m so grateful for that. I also go to therapy twice a week which is the anchor I need, and am still on anti-anxiety medication. I also meditate and believe this combination is bringing me to my healthiest place yet. I don’t recommend the way I went about recovery. It was lonely and prolonged and I know I should’ve sought professional help awhile back. I urge you if you’re struggling to ask for help and keep asking until you find someone or something—an inpatient/outpatient support group, a mentor, anything, that helps you achieve a relationship with food that you’re proud of.
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Guest Post: Laura Burkett & Intuitive Eating

This month’s guest post is by Laura Burkett, a holistic nutrition counselor and eating psychology coach in West Michigan who works with local and national clients. I actually met Laura the summer I was learning and first experimenting with raw food. She came to speak at a nutrition workshop/seminar at Gazelle Sports in Grand Rapids, and I met her in her office a few months later to discuss holistic nutrition. Even with the very few times we talked, I was very interested in what Laura did for a living so I hope you all can learn a bit about what she has to offer about intuitive eating.

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Hello friends.  I am happy to be here with you. Thirteen years ago, I sat on the bathroom floor of my college dorm bathroom alone, bawling, stomach distended, after having binged, and knew deep within myself that part of my soul’s journey would be learn how to heal eating struggles with the deepest of integrity and would teach others to do the same.  I was certain we were still in the Dark Ages when it came to how to thoughtfully and elegantly work with the areas of eating, weight, and health.
Let me begin by saying I am not posing as a physician or psychotherapist, but as a big sister on this path and woman who struggled intensely with binge eating and compulsive exercising who happens to work in the healing profession now.  Rachael has asked me to speak to this thing that’s called “intuitive eating.”  Let’s begin.
content-page-devready-02The Paradox of Intuitive Eating
For many, intuitive eating can sound like a distant land. – a place we’ve heard of, imagined, but have little personal experience with. Watch a 3-year-old approach food, and you get a glimpse of this place.  The little one gets distracted and fussy when she is hungry, eats, and minutes later is ready to move on to the next thing (both mentally and physically) when she is satisfied.  There is no overthinking.  Intuitive eating, of course, happens in the body, not the head.
The problem is, over time, we learn that the body is not a safe place to live in.  The body, after all, is the place where intense feeling takes place.  A person who feels deeply without the inner or outer resources to navigate this will surely learn SOME WAY to create order for this inner chaos in the body. The psyche finds ways to take care of itself.
Thus begins the journey of meticulously trying to manage the body, eating, appetite, or weight.  And it works.  Kind of.  Something feels “better.”  And then it doesn’t.  We get attached to our “highs” and try to re-create them again and again.  But at least pain and struggle are now on our terms.
All this pulls us further and further away from the body.  We become spilt in two.  The mind calls the shots, runs the show, and makes all the decisions.  The body simply acts as a vehicle to transport the head from place to place.  We dis-connect.  We stop listening. We live in management of the body instead of engagement, collecting all sorts of nutritional information, creating rules, without ever getting the body’s opinion.
It’s helpful to examine the collective strategies we champion when it comes to eating.  Most people exclusively rely on left brain strategies.  These include: willpower, discipline, lists, rules, variables, numbers, weight, comparisons, logic, exclusion, control, things that are measurable.  “If I can measure it, I have a way of gauging that I’m still okay.”  Energetically this is more of a Masculine energy, which has very little to do with gender and more to do with the deep roots of inner and outer patriarchy that span across generations, for both men and women.
Then there is the medicine – the Feminine.  The Feminine is an energy that can be described as matter itself, the physical form, the human body, Life.  The Feminine includes: appetite, pleasure, nature, cycles, matter, feelings, inclusion, change, SURRENDER, receiving, Life.
Intuition is an inner knowing, commonly described as a gut feeling.  Intuition happens IN THE BODY.  Intuitive eating essentially teaches us to eat in response to the changing needs of the body, and to let go of nutritional “rightness” or food moralism that happens in the head.  It takes quite a bit of courage to do this work!  But like most things that help us heal and grow, a good amount of courage is involved.
This is the paradox of intuitive eating for anyone who typically employs masculine strategies. One cannot will oneself into intuitive eating.  The past strategy of forcing, muscling, or controlling does not work.  Intuitive eating requires a heavy dose of The Feminine – of surrender, of self-trust. With surrender we are able to receive the messages of the body.  We begin to learn the lost language of the body.  This surrender can be painful and, yes, can literally bring us to our knees.  We mourn the loss of a past way of being and have to call upon new ways of relating to ourselves and the world around us.  But with any surrender, there is softness – and the deep reservoir of emotion begins to bubble up from below the surface – a process where deep healing can take place.
This is the sacred journey of intuitive eating.  If it feels hard or overwhelming, it’s because it’s new.  Then it becomes easier and eventually becomes a way of life.
Where to begin?
Bear in mind, going from a rigid diet to one that is entirely “intuitive’ is too far of a leap for most initially.
First, the mental patterns and beliefs around nutrition and eating must be unraveled.  This is when we call on teachers, mentors, coaches, and therapists to safely deconstruct counter-productive food beliefs and offer support to what arises in the process.
In the beginning, the eating needs to have a familiar rhythm and routine.  In fact, eating disorder or not, all of my clients feel much, much better with rhythmic, balanced eating throughout the day.  The body is inherently rhythmic and naturally craves balance.  Like responds to like.
After a supportive foundation is in place, we begin to take baby steps feeling into the body.  Reminder: Being in the body is messy.  People often desperately try and control this naturalness.  But it’s part of the contract we signed when we came to this planet. So be gentle with yourself.
I will ask you, dear reader, if the time is right, to begin with a baby step:  softening and noticing.  Simply notice how your body feels in a beautiful place, like a favorite place in Nature, or in bed as you wake up in the morning.  Then move on to food.  How does your body feel when you have eggs for breakfast?  What about a smoothie?  All you have to do is notice.  Noticing a large part of royal road to intuitive eating.  Keep track.  Stay curious.  And rally a network of allies in this process.
I can assure you that the journey in intuitive eating is the journey back to yourself.  It is a rich and soulful journey.
To learn more about Laura and her work, visit www.realfoodwellness.com and www.facebook.com/realfoodwellness/
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A Father of Food

My dad loves food. Like, loves it. He has encouraged this same love for food in our family by cooking us meals and taking us out to fancy, unique, and cultural restaurants. Thus, going on my raw diet and eventually telling him about my eating disorder probably wasn’t his idea of a fun relationship with food with his daughter.
But, my dad has prevailed. Our relationship is still strong, if not stronger–and it is thanks to him and his support. I have every reason to celebrate this wonder Father’s Day with him, but since he is out of town today, the blog will have to do–as well as a nice phone call this afternoon.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
Our relationship is a great one. No wait, it’s fantastic. But the eating disorder stuff? He doesn’t get it. He tries, I’ll give you that—he certainly tries. But it is no easy task. I had a long conversation with him about it last summer, in fact, which didn’t particularly get us much anywhere, but it was a good effort on his part and a good way for me to practice being more open with him about it.
Eating disorders are just simply tricky if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Before I even had an eating disorder I viewed it as a selfish, self-absorbed act. I even thought people with eating disorders were just lazy and were going the “easy” way out by purging or just being “stupid” for not eating enough. Why couldn’t they just eat healthy food and exercise?
My dad has a good sense of humor.

Eating the bed? My dad has a good sense of humor.

My dad has always encouraged our family to eat heartily growing up. He encouraged us to eat slowly and enjoy our food, had us sit together as a family for dinner each night, and never said no to going out to eat. He made it something of a contest between my sister and I to see who would choose to try the “new” food at the table—and whoever did, received praise. He also encouraged us to help him cook dinner, cooking up dishes like pasta with tomato and cheese sauce, angel-hair pasta with chicken, broccoli, and carrots, or chicken with vegetables and biscuits.
“Is this a good food or bad food?” my sister and I would ask our parents.
“Anything is bad if you eat too much of it,” they’d say. “Everything in moderation.”
Ah, everything in moderation—my dad’s life quote. Even as I dove into my fruit diet later on, my dad continued to preach moderation. “Cafeteria style,” he calls it—a little bit of this and a little bit of that to enjoy life. This, I feel, has made him a healthy man. While he may not eat all of the healthiest foods, his healthy mindset, healthy portions, and love for food keeps him healthier than anyone with the “purest” diet. This, I believe, shows the importance of having a healthy mentality with food that I never understood or believed in until now.
My dad means the world to me—and I hope he knows and understands that even through the struggle these past few years. It has been difficult to connect with him and help him to understand the eating disorder, but at the same time he makes an effort to understand and that’s all that matters to me. He has always been there to support and love me, and sometimes that’s just all I need.
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Are You Ready to Go Boldly?

My newest friend and great writing/creativity partner is Bri Goodyear Luginbill, starter of the Go Boldly campaign in Grand Rapids, Michigan! She agreed to guest post below about her newest campaign to encourage people to embrace their bodies.
Rachael and I recently met through her sister, Angela. Angela introduced us because she thought we would get along well. And, we did! Rachael is passionate about body image, writing, and running. Well, you all probably know this since this is HER blog and you are HER readers. ;)
I asked Rachael is she would pose for me for my project Go Boldly, Love Your Body. She agreed wholeheartedly.
RACHAEL
Go Boldly is a positive body image campaign. It first came about as my response to some billboard advertisements I saw along the highways of Grand Rapids. The ads seemed to play off of women’s (and men’s) insecurities as to advertise for plastic surgery. However, Go Boldly has developed into more than a response. My intention is to have it be a positive body image movement that extends past Grand Rapids. So far I have had people contact me from West Virginia to Israel.
A few emails I received:
“Dear Ms. Luginbill,
I just read your article in the Rapidian about this campaign and I want to congratulate you. Much like the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” you highlight a big issue and use your skills and job to do something about you. Thanks so  much for doing that- I know it speaks to me about civic initiative, going against the flow and standing up.
Keep up the good work.
Regards,
Martin S.”
“Hi, 
I came across your work and I was wondering if you know how I can find a similar type of photographer in Israel. 
Thanks
Ora P. Kalfa, BSW, MSW 
Academic Guide, Editor, and Translator 
www.criticalwriting.weebly.com
“What you are doing with the go boldly photos is pure awesome.
Keep it up- I hadn’t heard of your company and am now a big fan!  :)
 Allie”
My next goal is to develop a book that contains photos and stories of each person who was photographed for the campaign. Everyone has their own body image journey. Sharing that journey helps all of us to relate to one another and share positive messages!
This is the design for each page will look something like this:
RACHAEL2
I’d like the page next to each full-page image to contain a collage of at least 4 photos from that person’s photo session to show more of their personality and what makes them who they are.
Rachael will be one of the many among the people featured in the book. I am ecstatic for this project and cannot wait to meet more people willing to share their story along the way. I am honored that Rachael is a part of this. Her mission with her own book parallels many of my same goals for mine.
Rachael and I will be meeting more often to become writing accountability buddies. That’s one of my biggest struggles with anything creative. Sometimes I hit a wall and it’s hard to keep writing, photographing, etc. An accountability buddy helps inspire and motivate me when I feel drained and burned out.
Go Boldly continues to grow. Our Facebook group page has 121 members. I’ve photographed over 50 people so far and shoots continue to be scheduled. I love that things continue to progress because time I photograph someone, the movement reaches more and more people. We need positivity and love for our bodies.
One a side note: a few new happenings include an event to honor all those involved and to invite all those who wish to come to celebrate positive body image. The event will take place on Monday, June 2nd from 6-9pm in Grand Rapids, MI. The venue for the event is still being determined.
Ways you can get involved in Go Boldly
1)   Visit our website: www.goboldlygr.com.
2)   Join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/475444875917252/
3)   Subscribe to our e-newsletter: http://eepurl.com/S_S6P I will be sending out weekly emails of positivity to your inbox titled “A dose of positivity.” You’ll also be kept in the loop of new developments and Go Boldly events.
4)   Tell your friends and family!
Thank you, Bri! And readers, please feel free to comment with questions if you have any. We are also hoping, if you are in or near Grand Rapids, to start a group body image gathering to discuss disordered eating and/or body image issues. Please let me know if you are interested in doing this!
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For the Skeptics and Naysayers of the Body Image Movement

I am excited about what social media is doing to help people speak up and love their bodies. The Body Image Movement is gaining momentum, what with blogs of the voices of bigger men and women, photoshopping revealed in videos, and Facebook groups encouraging people to eat and love their food (see “Eating the Food!”). An especially powerful video was seen here.
But something stopped me after watching this video. I had expected to see comments full of joy and empowerment for a video like this, but most of what I saw was hate:
“To go from being dedicated and having good work ethic to being gluttonous, lazy, and satisfied with below mediocrity is not something that you should encourage on others. This woman compared losing a breast, for removal of breast cancer, and cerebral palsy, to being a lazy fat piece of shit. Absolutely disgusting and insulting.”
“This is fucking terrible, teach your kid healthy eating habits and make it a lifestyle for the poor girl. Shame on you you lazy bitch.”
“Lol at how stupid this video is. Not the idea cause everyone should love his/her body but changing the ‘body image’ isn’t the way to go. Hard work / healthy food is. Only retarded womyn can be sitting on their fat asses the whole day and expect to be seen as sexy ?
Oh and you think cause you went healthy for 1.5 years you know everything about diet and workouts ? Guys have to work out 3-5 years to look good and yet I don’t hear them complain.”
“I agree that you shouldn’t be ashamed of your body, but you should always strive to change it for the better. If you’re fat start dieting, go to the gym, don’t just sit around chugging food down your throat and then say “this is who I am and I am not ashamed”, that’s just bullshit to console the weak minded with. Same thing applies to every aspect of your life.”
What anger, what rage! It is the comments like these and the people like them who perpetuate the hate we have for ourselves—no matter how big or small we are. These are the voices that scream in the reflection when we look in the mirror. We let some angry person who thinks they know our lifestyle dictate our happiness.
But let me clue you in on something: hate does not lead to change. Body shaming makes us hide our food, makes us fear to be seen eating, and makes us silent. It does not empower us to “eat less and exercise more.” You could eat the healthiest food on the planet and still be unhealthy with a controlling, hateful mindset (see more on this with food psychologist Marc David). You could be eating the purest food on the planet and still not give your body exactly what it deserves and needs so desperately—
Love.
Hatred for others shows hatred for oneself. I know that when I was at my thinnest, I judged others because I thought myself superior and stronger; but this was out of discomfort and fear of weight gain. I grew up scorning larger people in my mind not only because I observed my own family doing it through their words (“they need to stop being so lazy.” “Just eat less and exercise more.”), but because deep down I feared becoming fat and being ridiculed just as harshly. I feared even the smallest amount of “fat” I saw on my body, feared it meant I was larger than I should be, and that I would be judged for it.
As we seem to have to learn time and time again, looks do not tell the full story. Some people may be bigger because of genetics or environment, medication, hormones, and of course, past traumas such as abuse or depression. I for one know I am “bigger” because I denied myself food in the past. I know I am bigger because my body fears falling into “starvation” again. I know a craving so unbearable that it keeps me awake at night until I eat exactly what I crave. I know a body that resists the smallest bit of hunger by fighting back after so much past denial of food. And I know I am the one who chooses to eat when I do, but I also choose my freedom by doing so. And by learning to love my body, I sit down at last and enjoy my food. I sit and listen to my body instead of bingeing in front of the TV—and that is because I love and respect myself enough to do so.
The comments posted below the Body Image video suggest that once someone changes how they look, they will be happy. But clearly what the commenters fail to realize is that the woman who changed her body for the body competition still did not love her body. It was not about physically changing her body, but learning to love herself as she was—no matter where she was on the scale.
At a smaller weight, when I was eating “clean,” I would not receive ridicule because I “looked” the part, even though I hated my body, binged in secret, and felt worthless without being the fastest runner.
That, my friends, is not the definition of health.
When we face ourselves in the mirror, and hate what we see because of what has become of our bodies out of anger or abuse or hurt, we have to come to accept our past and the strong people we are today because of it. We may be bigger because yes, we may have binged or ate poorly, but if we learn why we did this, and how to love ourselves and find peace within, we will want to eat healthier as well. Acceptance is not about saying “hell with it” and stuffing ourselves with junk all day because we now have an “excuse” to be “lazy”; it is allowing ourselves to accept where we are, and be willing to feel just as happy with ourselves if we always stay this way (physically) even if we do eat healthy food. But healthy eating habits, healthy exercise routines, will not come as easily until we are more forgiving of ourselves and loving of our bodies.
THIS is why we must love our bodies first. THIS is why we need the Body Image Movement. THIS is why it is not as simple as “eat less, exercise more, eat healthier.” The binger binges because she does not love herself. The purger purges because he does not love himself. The anorexic restricts food because she does not love herself. You want to tell these people to “just eat healthy” or “just eat less and exercise more”? The answer is not so simple. Because no matter who we are or what we look like, just as “just be happy” will not cure depression, “eat less and exercise more” will not fix our body image.
True health is not perfecting our food choices or embarking on a regimented exercise program; it is learning to love our bodies enough to respect what we put into them, cherish the food, and exercise because we desire to move and feel the burn of incoming strength. Who is to say these people cannot love their bodies here and now because they don’t fit what YOU say is healthy?
The true disease that our nation faces is not obesity; it is the shame, hate, and ridicule that perpetuate it.
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Mother-Daughter Dynamic

I feel that it’s fitting to write a post about my lovely mother just in time for Mother’s day. I’m of course not going into what she did “wrong” in “contributing” to my eating disorder, as obviously that would not be quite a great mother’s day gift, and also because any of the comments she’s made over the years–especially before she even knew what I was dealing with–were mostly only harmful to me because I interpreted them that way. In other words, as my therapist would say, it was the eating disorder talking when my mother made a seemingly insignificant comment (to the non-eating-disordered listener).
Months ago I watched a video clip on YouTube of an anorexic being interviewed by a reporter. When the anorexic revealed her daily food intake, the reporter mistakingly commented by saying, “Well that’s actually more than I thought it would be!”
I stared, shocked. The reporter had no idea what she had just done, but I knew instantly how the girl must have felt hearing that. I knew the girl’s internal thoughts, but I also knew that the reporter had expected to see something like only a half an apple a day, instead of the (still) measly portions the anorexic was allowing herself.
There is a love-hate relationship between the eating disorder where you don’t want it, but all the same you hold it dear to your heart–and even though you know you must eat more or eat less. hearing a comment about food like that is gut-wrenching.
Do I really have an eating disorder? If she says that, I must eat less. If this looks so “normal,” then I’m not doing enough.
I could already hear the thoughts going through this girl’s head the moment I watched the scene unfold. And yes, just as the comment was uttered, the girl, looking stoney-faced, stood up abruptly and left the room.
“Did I say something?” the woman had asked, her eyebrows raised, worried. “I thought that was helpful to say!”
Just as I would not dub anyone who might comment on my food as “cruel,” any comments my mom made about my food would not be considered cruel either. It was how my eating disorder interpreted it and warped my beliefs–just as this scene with the anorexic girl illustrated. And since you can’t prevent everyone from making innocent comments like this and completely remove yourself from the world, I’ve learned to take the random comments I hear that might harm me and reassure myself of their true meaning. This is tough work, and sometimes these innocent comments feel like a slap in the face, but I know the logical side of Rachael must take them with a grain of salt and move on.
This is part of recovery.
MOM 2

Special thanks to Peter Draugalis

The Best Mom I Could Ask For
I would like to highlight what my mom has done for me–because after I explained everything about my eating disorder, after I told my mom what bothered me most, the innocent but eating-disordered-bully comments have died down. She knows what not to say around me–again, not because the comments are inherently cruel, but because they trigger me. She has been the most patient, caring, loving mother I could ever ask for through all of this. In fact, she was one of the first people I told about my eating disorder. We were both just as inexperienced and confused about what an eating disorder meant, so it was hard to know where to go after I confessed.
My mom, besides offering to weigh me (we laugh about this now, although at the time it was one of the worst things you could do–she simply did not understand), offered all the help she could give–including seeking help, which I at first refused. One of the greatest things she could do for me was listen, and she definitely did that. But she has gone above and beyond, as well–she has listened, researched, gone to parent meetings, and agreed to read some of the eating disorder books I’ve suggested to her to help her understand (including, recently, a graphic memoir called Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder by Nadia Shivack, which I highly recommend). My mom has listened hours upon hours to my questions and insights, has allowed me to open up more than ever before. I have become more of myself through this whole journey and it’s a huge thanks to her. In a way I am thankful for my struggles because they have allowed me to be as truthful as possible about my feelings–something that I’ve done for the first time in my life. I have never felt more like Rachael, even as uncomfortable as I am in my own body.
Our parents are not perfect, but mine are pretty darn close. I do believe that family dynamics can be part of triggers of eating disorders, but that comes with a combination of many outside factors–personalities, mass media, and simply who we are as people. There are parts of the relationship between my mom and I that have been strengthened because I finally told her exactly how the comments she made made me feel–because her comments, although harmful to me, did not make her a bad mother. They just allowed me to open up to show her how I really felt, which in the end only helped me. I have become more myself than ever before not only because I allowed myself to speak, but also because my mom allowed herself to listen.
That, I believe, makes her one of my greatest heroes.
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Guest Post: Lize Brittin’s Journey Part 2

(See Part 1 of Lize Brittin’s journey here).
After 20 years of struggling, my life started to feel different. Over time, I was able to find joy again. I could run again without having to force myself to be at the top.
During this transition, I noticed a strong correlation between my thoughts and my speech and how I was feeling. The more I switched my focus away from food, calories and miles, the more I could allow myself to be in the moment, and this was a way for me to temporarily forget that I was anorexic. I aimed at avoiding triggering statements like, “I feel fat” and instead tried to uncover what this symptom meant. Was I tired, afraid or lonely? Did this translate into feeling uncomfortable? Digging for the cause of the symptom rather than focusing on the symptom itself was essential to my recovery.
Over time, the thoughts that were so oppressive started to abate and move to the background. Before long, I started to notice that those thoughts would completely disappear for short periods. Soon, the periods of time without the distorted thoughts stretched into longer and longer segments until I was more focused on living and less obsessed with what I was eating, how I was exercising or how my body looked.
There’s a saying in AA that goes something like: First it gets easier, then it gets harder. After that it gets really hard. Then it gets easier again, and then you start to live.
This is exactly what happened for me. In the beginning, the thought of change brought some hope, so it got easier to leave old patterns that no longer serve me behind. Then I realized that a lot of emotion and feelings were coming up when I was no longer disassociating through the illness. After that, I had to move through the challenging emotions and address past traumas. This was the hard part. Fortunately, I started to get the hang of it, and before long, I noticed that I had suddenly become a participant in the world. The nightmare that was my life was in the past.
When people were concerned that my illness would come back, I was reassured that I now have the tools to stay one or even two steps ahead of it.
If I could give only one piece of advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it would be to hold on to the belief that a full recovery is possible. You may not know what that looks like, but the more you can imagine how you want your life to be, the more you can strive to make it happen.
I want to thank Rachael Steil for her efforts in raising awareness and supporting other runners who battle eating-related issues. Knowing we are not alone is a comforting thought, and feeling supported can push us to make the changes we need.
I am absolutely honored to have had Lize Brittin guest post on my blog. To read more, please visit her blog, Training on Empty. Make sure to view her book posted there as well, as it is an insightful, powerful read.
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Guest Post: Lize Brittin’s Journey Part 1

When I first got the offer to write a guest post for the blog Running in Silence, I was both excited and honored. There are so many topics I would like to address, but I feel I should break the post down into a limited number of points I believe will help others most. Since I have already shared my story in my book, Training on Empty, I decided to give only a brief history of my career as a runner. The reason why I feel this is necessary at all is to show not just what I have survived but how my past played a role in both the eating disorder and my recovery.
In exploring what led to my eating disorder, I discovered that, like many others, I used eating or not eating as a way to cope with uncomfortable situations and my feelings. I was a sensitive child and got overwhelmed easily. Given my tempestuous living situation with an alcoholic father and peers who constantly criticized, it’s no wonder I had a hard time self regulating as a child.
At first I over ate, stuffing my hurt feeling down as far as they would go, but by the time I was 13, I started restricting, which brought about a false sense of control. I couldn’t control what was going on around me, but I could force myself to eat a certain way, taking my attention away the chaos in my life. In the early 80′s, anorexia wasn’t well understood, and it certainly wasn’t discussed. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was experiencing until a few years after I started my extreme diet and exercise regimen.
Shortly after I started losing weight, I found running. It was an exercise I used primarily to keep myself thin, but I was also instantly successful when I entered races. Within a few years, I became one of the top mountain runners in the world, setting records on nearly every course I ran, including the grueling Pikes Peak Ascent. I also had tremendous success in road races and cross country in school, and I was only 16.
But my career was cut short due to my ever worsening disorder. I was plagued with illness and injury despite some outstanding showings in races. Eventually, before I hit my mid twenties, I was forced to give up running altogether. At one point, I was so weak, I could hardly stand on my own two feet.
Since numbers related to weight can be triggering, I won’t mention them in this post. Instead I will say that during the throes of my illness, I was having seizures and headed for disaster. One night, I was rushed to the hospital with chest pain, and doctors predicted I had only hours to live. My health had gotten that bad. The main doctor in the ER told my family to prepare for my passing and stated that I probably wouldn’t make it through the night.
But I did, and I went on to recover.
There is no secret formula or pill that will cure an eating disorder. Everyone must find his or her own way out of the illness. There are, however, key factors to address during recovery.
Unfortunately, a lack of food contributes to an increase in distorted thinking. Re-feeding and stabilizing the body is an essential part of recovery from anorexia, but it is only one aspect and can’t be done in isolation. A person must be seen in a whole way. One must address the emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual bodies together.
Diane Israel, a former elite runner herself, makes it clear that there are four main points to consider in regaining health.
1. Reclaim the self/Identify the self.
2. Heal the family/Move away from the family (if healing can’t occur)/Heal or address past trauma
3. Community support/community involvement
4. Give back/Charity/Service to others
I want to focus on number one, because for athletes, this step, while being probably the most important, can be the most difficult. It’s bad enough that eating disorders cause us to lose ourselves, but for an athlete, finding your true identity can be complicated by the fact that athletes so easily define themselves through their sport. For me, I was so overly identified as an elite athlete, I didn’t know how to exist without running. Worse, I felt tremendous guilt and undeserving when I didn’t run.
Naturally, when I couldn’t run, I lost myself completely in the eating disorder. I didn’t know who I was apart from both the illness and the running. I was either Lize the runner or Lize the anorexic. At times, I was even Lize the anorexic runner, but I was never just Lize. I didn’t even know who Lize really was anymore. In order to recover, though, I needed to find and reclaim myself, and that was not an easy task. Most of us are not taught that we are OK just as we are, and we are not taught how to truly know who we are. In this society, we are what we do instead.
So what does it mean to reclaim yourself? It means learning to appreciate who you are and your physical body apart from anything else. It means being comfortable and secure in your own skin and balancing all aspects of yourself.
This doesn’t usually happen overnight. For me, I had to start with the basics. Rather than focus on what I was eating or how much I was running, I had to turn my attention inward and ask myself what my passions were. I needed to rediscover what I liked and disliked, what my beliefs were and what stirred my emotions. In doing this, I started to better understand how I could move away from the labels that had bound me for so many years. I had to fight the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones too. My mantra became, “I am OK and everything will be OK,” because I had so many fears and old beliefs that things would never be even close to OK, let alone good, especially if I couldn’t run.
Breathe.
Take time to analyze your specific set of circumstances and explore activities that you were forced to give up due to the illness. Ask yourself how this disorder has served you and how you can replace the harmful behaviors with healthier coping strategies. Tackle new experiences and prepare yourself for change. Allow yourself to FEEL and know that strong emotions will pass.
Once you take a leap of faith and start on your recovery path, it’s not so much that you can’t turn back; it’s more that you probably won’t want to. You’ll become too aware of the contrast between merely existing and actually living.
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Eating Disorders Prey on Males, Too

If you can imagine how tough it is for women to be open about their eating disorders, just imagine how tough it is for males! I had a friend who I asked to share his experience here on the blog. I encourage anyone who struggles with an eating disorder or disordered eating to speak up when you feel ready–even if it’s just by letting it out through this blog.
If anyone else would like to share their story, please comment below or message me on Facebook. You do not have to be extremely sick to feel “valid” in sharing your story. Everyone’s struggle is their own and just as difficult–and as one commenter stated, it should be treated with as much love, care, and respect as any other.

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I found Rachael and her blog a year ago, and every now and then we’ve talked about our eating disorders, specifically in the realm of raw food & bingeing. Like her, I don’t particularly fit the descriptions of bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating. At this point in my ED, I sway between binge eating & orthorexia. The 80-10-10 diet is always my fallback after a long 1 or 2 week bingeing episode. It all started when I was prescribed the stimulant _____ when I was 14. Before then, I never really thought about my weight. Because of its appetite suppressing effects, I lost 10 pounds within a week, effortlessly! Plus, because of its energizing effects, I felt great while doing it!
Being a musician, I started to glorify the “skinny rocker” image we all have when we think of Mick Jagger & Marilyn Manson. Now I had a goal to attain this. I started counting calories, going hard on the protein, working out all the time, all of the precursors of anorexia (Pro-ana websites for males didn’t help either). At 15 years old I reached my lowest weight–but this is when I experienced my first binge. It was a reaction from all the starving I had been doing, and after it happened, my behavior became more erratic. The bingeing continued, it was something I started to love and think of as a drug… and it became a vicious cycle: Binge. Abuse my medicine to suppress my appetite. Stay up for days. The medicine would wear off, I would sleep for a day and binge once again. I was going through my medicine so fast that my month’s supply would last me only a week. And I was doomed to binge intensely for the rest of the month, until receiving my new prescription. It was hell. I would even binge on the medicine. It was many addictions wrapped in one. Marijuana gave me relief from the depression I fell into, but would make me hungrier. So to counteract the marijuana I would take more stimulants. However, my ED was never about the drugs. The drugs helped aggravate it but my addiction was first and foremost restriction and food.
The day I found about raw food was life changing. This was my ticket out of this cycle (or so I thought). The gurus looked so happy and energetic, youthful and lively. I tried it and 2 weeks later, all of my physical/mental ailments seemed to dissolve. I was a new person.
But not for long… Fast forward to college. I am still going in and out of raw food. I was buying _____ from college peers, stealing it from friends. It wasn’t only about the appetite suppression anymore, I just wanted relief from how shitty the junk food was putting in my body. The stimulant gave me superficial energy that my nutrition wasn’t. If things got too heavy, I would switch to a raw food lifestyle and detox a little bit before my next toxic splurge. At 21 years old, you would think I would learn, but I the same behaviors are stuck with me.
I’m more aware of my “cycles” now. Right now, it’s been 2 weeks binge-free. I’ve only eaten fruit and potatoes. I feel great. If you asked me 3 weeks ago how I felt, I was completely different: McChicken wrappers stuffed in my desk drawers, eating cheap donuts at the self-checkout at Meijer–I was a ball of shame. It’s funny. Right now, I wouldn’t touch a burger or even a roasted almond. I’m orthorexic for the time being, until I decide to “flip the switch” and lose control. I know my choices of restriction probably make the binges worse, but to me this is completely normal. It’s become my normal.
Oh yeah. Did I mention I’m a GUY? Rachael is one of the only persons I’ve shared my ED with, because I feel there isn’t yet a healthy landscape for guys to talk about this kind of stuff. It’s embarrassing. Women are constantly called strong for sharing their ED with the world, but I don’t see the same with men. It’s not masculine, it’s not desirable for men to be this way. I’m convinced so many others like me struggle with this, but are too afraid to share. Even after years of my family finding half-eaten Chef Boyardee cans in my bedroom & diet pills in my drawer, I refuse to acknowledge to them that I have a problem. It’s engrained in me that no matter what, nobody can ever know.
The fact that I’m male makes the problem 1000x harder, too. I also wish there was more open discussion about this in the 80-10-10, “30bananasaday”, and raw food communities. Eating this way can worsen disorders in people who already have them, but the perfection-seeking quality of their adherents makes the subject completely untouchable and taboo. Part of what draws me to 80-10-10 is I can still binge, but it doesn’t effect me like eating junk food. So, I’m never not bingeing. Just bingeing on different foods.
Rachael is an amazing soul & has done excellent things with this blog. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!

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I just gotta say, I appreciate the kind words, but again, this blog and allowing myself to be as vulnerable as I am would not have happened without YOU ALL.
Thanks again for the support and keep winning your battles. And men, get the word out! Men get eating disorders, too.
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Facebook Group Page

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I have a Facebook page for Running in Silence now. If you could “like” it, that would be great! Please share it with others as well if you would like, as I think spreading the word will help more people to open up about their own struggles, or help those who don’t understand eating disorders to gain more insight and perhaps be led to the blog. I can’t stress how helpful it has been for me to know that more people deal with eating disorders than I ever thought, and I’m sure it could help others. While it is disheartening to know so many people suffer, it is good to know you are not alone.
I will be posting videos, updates on the manuscript, inspirational quotes, and perhaps get some topics started on this Facebook page. I will continue with this blog of course, but I’ve been told it would be good to have a Facebook page, too.
I hope everyone is doing well–keep winning the internal struggle and find ways to open up to others.
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