Body image

self obsessED

Life has been a whirlwind since I last blogged. Lots of life has happened. Since my last post, my husband and I go had three weeks to move from TN to OK. I have been in OK a little over a month and I have been busy! My goal to work in a yoga studio has happened. I am slowly meeting people and still trying to find a way to dance. I have been to the ballet, sipped coffee in new coffee shops, and tried some new things. While life has been good-I am thriving professionally and loving the city life-I have also been relapsing.

This relapse has been slightly different than previous ones throughout my years of recovery. As one continues in recovery, relapses take different shapes and forms (see my other post Rabbit Hole Relapse). This little set back has been triggered by the move. Which makes sense because I am not in control, I am new to a foreign place (even though OK isn’t too different from TN, the parallels are quite spot on), trying to get my ducks in a row, and my workout schedule has changed quite a bit–more on this next week. On top of all of this my GI Phantom has reappeared and we all know how that goes…

 

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Obviously one must restrict calories and find the control through food manipulation when one is going through an uprising. However, I cannot restrict food because it makes me even crankier, so I just obsess about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I secretly count calories, have marathon worry sessions (to bad these marathons don’t burn calories!!!!), eat lots of fruit,  and the worst part of all: I become selfish.

Those of us who suffer from ED’s have one thing in common-we are selfish. When we are in the depths of ED despair all we can think about is ourselves: what we look like, what the number on the scale says, if our food choices are healthy, asking our safe person five hundred times a day if we look fat/have our thighs turned dimply/do we look any different, all we can talk about is food-exercise-body image. We aren’t aware of those around us and how they feel, we can’t see how we are bringing them down, we aren’t content, we see the worst in everything, and most importantly we forget to look around and see the beauty in life.

 

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For the past month, everyday I have been negative about my body. Asking Jeremy every hour on the hour that he is home “how do I look?”, “are my thighs turning into cottage cheese?”, “I haven’t exercised today because my schedule is crazy, is that ok?”, “can you tell that I haven’t worked out?”, “am I still pretty?”. Everything is revolved around me, me, me. Even though he is stressed and could use some comfort I cannot see it or give it because all I care about is what I look like. These thoughts not only cloud our head and thought processes, they cloud our vision. We cannot see things for how they really are. We cannot see who we really are. It isn’t until someone calls you out on your selfishness that you can begin to make a change.

This is precisely what happened with me and Jeremy. One day this past week I spent over the half the day not talking about anything but food and my horrible body. I guess (I guess, hah, I know!) that Jeremy had had enough and he said to me, “I know that what you look like is all you care about but….” I can’t really remember the rest but that statement “all you care about” was enough to knock me back to Earth because I DO care about other things. I care about my family, my dog, my husband, being a good yoga teacher, art, helping those around me, spreading smiles and happiness to those who seem a little sad. That statement helped me to back off a little bit, instead of 500 questions a day about my body I’ll ask 490, and focus on my relationship with Jeremy–because my relationship with him will always overcome and be priority over my relationship with Melvin (my ED).

While I’m still coping with my body and not very happy with it, I am trying my best to be less self obsessED and more content(ED).

 

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Rabbit Hole Relapse

I’ve written about relapse before but this topic is always worth coming back to. Especially when you write about your experiences, need something to write about, and just had your first relapse in quite some time. Relapse isn’t scary for me anymore. When you first start recovery you are scared of relapsing. You are scared that you will loose the progress you made or that you are…what your ED tells you…”a failure”,”worthless” or my favorite, “you really are fat”.  I have been in recovery for almost six years and I will say relapses doesn’t happen that often. After you’ve been around the block a few times you  begin to notice when a relapse is happening or when you approach food or exercise the wrong way. I pull the yoga approach and just acknowledge it. Recognize that it’s there but go on my merry way. I do not sit down with it and have a cappuccino, or better yet a binge induced vegan affogato with the new Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream.

When I relapsed recently I actually found it intriguing. Why? Because I went through a dance concert a few months ago, where I was in multiple numbers and didn’t restrict food. I for once ate a lot, kept myself healthy and sane. I use to do the opposite. So obviously you would see why I was confused with this relapse. I didn’t do my yoga techniques or recovery techniques, I instead sat down and had 2 TBSP pistachios, 1 cup of soymilk, blueberries, and fiber pills. Or I would have measured out cereal, measured out oven fries, measured out everything. I was angry, I was hungry (I think it’s called hangry), I was checking for cellulite, I was hating my body (more so than usual), everything sucked. I think I said “I hate everything” with a few expletives more than once.

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That’s what a relapse does. It makes you angry because 1) you gave in 2) you fall back into old habits that were coping mechanisms for your insecurities/control that exacerbated the problem. Relapse is also a “rabbit hole”, just like Alice in Wonderland. You go follow the white rabbit, usually it is a thought put in your head like “I’m not the skinniest girl in the room anymore, I’m fat”, “My muscles are different”, “Why doesn’t my top quad stick out as much anymore?”. You take the bait, or should I say pill to stay with the Alice theme, and BAM! you are in a hole that you can’t get out of-only if you want to.

If you want to…If you want to…If you want to. Relapse is a peculiar thing, it’s comfy and constricting. You can easily get out of it-work your steps, call a sponsor, do some yoga-but it is comfy, like your favorite hoodie. The hoodie that is worn in, holds special memories, the perfect fit and smell. It keeps your warm and protects you from the rain. However, you still get wet from the rain. The hoodie has holes. The hoodie has its fair share of bad memories. Just like a relapse. Relapse has it’s good memories (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours) but it also has it’s bad (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours BUT couldn’t sleep because you were starving?). Relapse constricts you because you haven’t been in for awhile, so you’re a little bigger and it has to work harder to tighten you up, makes you pull the hood over your head and pull the string…tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter.

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After a few more rabbit hole trips and not being able to  breath due to the hood over your head there are two options. 1) stay in and go back to your old ways or 2) make the decision to stop the relapse. Option one is definitely easier but it sucks because your anger is making life difficult. Option two is more difficult but makes life easier. Which one do you think I chose?

Two. I definitely like to be comfy and cozy, but my ED doesn’t make me comfy and cozy anymore. My dog and husband make me comfy and cozy. I do like rabbit holes, but only when I watch Alice and Wonderland or am on a Parks and Recreation Netflix binge. I am trying to choose two every day. I haven’t been perfect, but as yoga teaches us, there is no such thing as perfection and just be OK with the process.

 

In Response to: Teaching With An Eating Disorder

The other day I read this great article about a dance teacher Hannah Maria Hayes and her experience teaching while being under the influence of her eating disorder. It really touched me and made me think about how eating disorders can influence teaching. I wrote an entry on a similar topic a few years back when I was co-directing The Nutcracker. It was about how I viewed myself as a hypocrite because I tell my dancers one thing and think/do another. I recently came back to this when I noticed one of the girls check out her stomach in the mirror before ballet class.

Bam! It hit me, like how one hits the floor when they slip out of a pirouette. All the words my director said to me, “you know these girls look up to you”, made sense. I have never been a role model or in a position where young girls want to dance like me.  Sometimes these young dancers copy my dance style (clothes or movement quality) but it is so much  more than that! They can copy my attitude, mannerisms, and drive. Some specific dance mannerisms are, checking out their profile in the  mirror or standing in front of the skinny mirror. Ask any dancer and they know all about that one mirror that makes you look good, how to pick out the slimming leotards. Better yet, ask any dancer about how often they check themselves out in the mirror and criticize what they look like. I don’t want that for these girls. I don’t want them to fight each other for the skinny mirror. I don’t want them them to give into the pressure of “the dancer body”, to feel as if they must make themselves smaller to “make up for their lack of ability” or to “make themselves stand out”. I starved myself because I felt inferior to other dancers. I felt as if the skinnier I was, the more fit, the stronger I was, the more people would want to work with me/hire me.

I loved how in the article she wrote, “Thinking about stepping into a dance studio to teach ballet makes me panic, even though I have a dozen years of experience. Being trapped in a mirrored room and seeing how out of shape I am, compared to when I was a dancer myself, makes me feel claustrophobic. I assume my students will judge my figure”. I can relate. There is a panic, especially when you are in a relapse or feeling down about yourself. Lately, my self esteem/ED talk has been on the loose. My body has begun a dreaded change and my GI issues are rearing their ugly head and all I want is to cover up. But I am wearing a leotard (still as covered as I can get without being in modern dance attire) because these girls look up to me. I am trying not to profile check myself. I feel as if the more I do things that are positive for aspiring ballerinas/dancers it will help me separate from my ED.

Maybe dance teachers with eating disorders do need more attention, and more mental work. Hayes quotes a NYCB consultant,

” ‘Though most of us associate eating disorders with students and professionals, unresolved body issues and controlled eating patterns from pre-professional training can follow you into adulthood. “You are still the same person,’ says Hamilton. ‘And under extremely stressful situations, old habits come back…’Dance teachers need more attention than they get,’ says Hamilton. ‘You’re a role model, and if you are not able to approach eating in a healthy way or if you think you’re never thin enough, it’s going to come across to your students. We don’t need to pass this on from one generation to the next.'”

Which is so true! How can we as teachers, be a true role model if we cannot approach body image in a positive way? How can we demonstrate the love one needs for their own body when we hate ours? I try so hard to not pass on my disorder, my disgust, and everything that I did wrong in my heyday to these girls. I don’t want them to go through what I went through or what I am currently going through. How can I effectively do this? Maybe it is to get more help. To continue this things called recovery. Maybe it is to show these girls what an ED fueled life can do.

For my educators out there, dancer or other forms of athletics, how do you handle this? What has worked for you? How do you struggle? Is it even a trigger?

Ch-Ch-Changes Pt.2: Boobs

Short and sweet…..follow up to last weeks entry….until next week, Sat Nam and Namaste.

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Boobs are weird. Well as least I think so. Maybe it is just mine. Anyways we are going to talk about most guys’ favorite topic: boobs. Sometimes called breasticles, tat ta’s, lumps, pillows, or any other name for them. Well the male species likes boobs; most females who have suffered from ED’s hate them. It isn’t because they hurt during exercise; it is because they are a sign of womanhood. A sign of maturity. A sign of change.

Usually boobs are the first things that begin to change as one goes through recovery. As weight is gained or evened out they will start to take shape. Maybe they are round or maybe they are pointed. Regardless, they appear. In recovery we are learning to accept bodily changes but when a body part you have refused to let grow and mature starts to grow it is mentally devastating. Your boyfriend may like the new boobs but you hate them. They are a reminder that you are no longer who you were. It is also a struggle for control. As humans we hate change by nature. Take that and add an ED to it you get insanity. There are fights with your recovery plan. It is a battle on the home front. You are battling for your life while your ED is battling for you to come back to the dark side.

Eventually you get use to your new boobs. You can wear cute bras (if you like regular bras). Certain shirts and dresses actually look better on you. You may even enjoy how your other half looks at you now. But most of all, you enjoy how you are overcoming your disorder one body change at a time.

Ch-Ch-Changes: Pt.1

I am baaaacccckkkk! Since Yoga Teacher Training finished I took some time off from yoga and blogging because I had a lot to process. Not just mentally, but physically too. 9 months of training finally ended and I was tired yet refreshed. So much started to fill my head after I got my certificate that I couldn’t sit down and write a weekly blog entry. I couldn’t practice yoga physically because my body was tired. I had to practice mindfulness, appreciation, gratitude…..all of this lead me to the idea of doing a few series sets for my blog. I had a slight set back with my ED not too long ago and I became fixated on a body part—my usual. Then the lightbulb went off! Here was my first series set for imageoftheheart. I wanted to write about how a survivor feels when their body begins to change during recovery. How horrifying, how liberating, how it can lead to relapse.

With all of that said, here ya go!

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The thing about those of us with eating disorders is that we are very vain. We are also very controlling. We are controlling about a wide variety of aspects in our lives but we are mostly control our looks. Each and every one of us has a different fixation on a specific body part and we do certain rituals to ensure that it stays to our specific (mainly our ED) look. Some of us like the thigh gap, some like rib protrusion or scapular protrusion, some are about the belly, some are about the clavicle, or even the chest. Sometimes it is more than one. I had multiple body parts I would obsess with: the belly, clavicle, and my top quad, how muscular I was. Like most things about an eating disorder it is ritualistic and tiring.

Every day I had my routine of body checking. Upon waking I would check my belly in the mirror from all sides to make sure I had not gained a belly (still do occasionally unfortunately) and put my hands around my waist to make sure I could still have a curvature and it “feel right”. I would then step on the scale (which I had to sneak around to get to because it was in my parents closest) and check my weight to see if it was within the appropriate range. Throughout the day I would check my clavicle-I was proud to have “clavicular cleavage”. And then I would check out my legs to see my definition and to make sure that above all else, I had no cellulite. Let me just say short season would be ultra tiring.

Anytime I passed a mirror or a reflective surface I had to take a look. I would check out my legs, my butt, and my side profile. I also had to check my hair and makeup. Melvin’s #1 rule: always look presentable. And if one thing would have changed (and usually it would because I had eaten something and Melvin made me see a dimple on my thigh, or my clavicle instantly went away) it was time to restrict, lift, or run many miles. Better yet all three! All of this to make sure I looked presentable, I was skinny, I was fit, to be well liked, and please those around me. The list could go on and on.

The moment recovery happens, your body begins to change and sometimes the body parts you constantly check are the ones that change. When the change happens a part of you feels great but mostly it feels horrible…..and this is what I am going to write about.

birth controlled no longer

For many years I have not only struggled with an eating disorder but I have also struggled with amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation brought on by low body weight, low body fat, over activity, disordered eating, and sometimes non-functioning hormonal related activities. In my case it was everything but the non-functioning hormonal activity. I haven’t been really open about this because I feel embarrassed. Not only do I have an eating disorder that I cannot control, I can’t have a period. Having a period is what makes a woman a woman not a child. Sometimes I felt/feel less than because I have to rely on medication to make me “function”.

As long as I can remember I haven’t been regular. I started way late and top that with taking ballet classes five days a week for years that can do a number to a young girl.In high school they came and went, not regular but ok. It wasn’t till I really drank the anorexia Kool-Aid that my little friend left me completely. When I was in my senior year in high school and starting Freshman year in college I dropped a lot of weight and no more monthly visits. I didn’t think much of it until I went a year without seeing my friend. I had to tell my mom, go to the gyno, then out comes of the beans of my eating habits/low weight/have to gain weight (sorta did) and the dreaded birth control. I remember saying I would rather eating bread (which I didn’t eat at the time) than take the pill. I didn’t want to gain weight, get boobs, and all the other junk that came with it. But, I had to. It wasn’t just any regular birth control, I had to take progesterone for a while then move onto regular birth control. I remember the first time I had to go pick up my Rx at the pharmacy and a friend of mine was working the counter. I was sooooo embarassed because “what would he think?”.  “Would he know that I can’t have a period? Or would he think I was taking it for acne? What would this say of me?”.  Luckily he never mentioned it and it was a huge relief. But that still didn’t make me feel better about taking the pill.

As time goes on I kept trying to get off the pill. Take a month or two off….nothing happened. I would go back on the pill and get very sick. This was my situation for at least two years. Couple this with increasing anxiety, small bouts of depression, a bad relationship, Melvin (my ED) was at an all time high and even birth control stopped working. I had to get the strongest stuff. I longed to get off the pill but I refused to gain weight. I refused to stop exercising. I refused to do anything healthy. I knew better but in typical ED fashion, I thought I was in control and the fear of weight gain was worse than anything else in the world.  Years go on and it is the daily cycle of white pill, light blue pill, dark  blue pill, green pill. Weeks became white week, blue weeks, and green weeks. My morning routine was birth control, asthma medicine, fiber pills/laxatives, calcium supplements, ibuprofen or what other NSAID I was on during the time.

Eventually I got so tired of this way of life, I had a great boyfriend who helped me get treatment and life began to change. During one of my first therapy sessions I made a list of things I want to accomplish during recovery. Little goals. Number one was to get off birth control for good…..

Fast forward five years later and I can say I am off birth control. It happened unexpectedly. A few months ago I ran out of my Rx refills and I didn’t want to go get it renewed. Also, I would be turning 26 and getting closer to the age where the pros of birth control are outnumbered by the cons. With all that in mind I just decided to go off it, and if  I had periods fine, if not fine. It was nice to not measure my days and weeks by the colors of the pill. Recently I had a visit from a little friend and it was the most amazing thing ever. Most people would not understand the enjoyment out of having a period, but when you realize that your body healed itself and your wish of not being medicated came true….I will admit I did have some not so great thoughts arise, “you got fat”/”you are ugly”/”you let yourself go”…..while I am still battling those thoughts, I do enjoy taking one less pill in the morning.

Yoga and Eating?—why yes and it is not what you think!

When I first got my yoga teacher training book list I saw a book I was scared to read/thought it would be triggering….Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein. What I thought would be another book on how to eat like a yogi, or another “diet” book, I wanted to avoid it. I have a hard time reading anything that has to do with eating or “dieting” because of my own issues and how I am navigating my own recovery. I heard from my peers how great the book was, even from one who was in ED recovery too. So I decided to give it a whirl. Boy, was I surprised! This book is great for ED’s. It isn’t about what to eat, but how to eat better with where you are in your “diet” or lifestyle.Eisenstein breaks up the book into a variety of chapters addressing willpower, breath, personality and food, karma, fat, sugar, different kinds of diet, food preperation/cooking, and so much more. He dives deep into each subject and relates it all to his idea of Yoga of Eating. Take mindfulness and love of food and you got Yoga of Eating!

Yoga of Eating has definitely helped me navigate this world of ED recovery and how to approach my lifestyle with happiness and food appreciation. I believe that those of us in recovery and professionals who work with ED patients need to read this book. It can definitely help with perspective and break down some barriers ED sufferers have with food.

Here are some nuggets of food wisdom I found worth sharing:

*”Self-improveent is an appealing but malignant idea, a poignant rejection of our innate goodness. It means that we have accepted and internalized those messages of deficiency, laziness, and sin. Sometimes people take up a strict diet in hopes of therefore being good, deserving, or pure, thus establishing a tendency to withhold from themselves what they really want or need. Even without this tendency, because our conventional dietary recommendations are a confusing mish-mash of shoulds and shouldn’ts that seemingly have little to do with our desires as expressed in the body, a diet of self-improvement inevitably becomes a diet of self-denial. ” (12)

*”You are a symphony of vibrations that encompasses every thought you think, everything you do, everything you eat, everything you are.” (20)

*”The idea of deep breathing is not to impose upon the breath, not to direct it or control it in any way; rather it is the opposite–to liberate the breath, to free it of the constraints already upon it. That is why the foundation of deep breathing is what I call natural breathing…The same joy of liberation applies to diet as well, and equally it requires a release of physical habits and mental habits such as belief systems.” (32-33)

*”The central practice of the Yoga of Eating could not be simpler: to fully experience and enjoy each bite of food.” (41)

*”The benefits of the Yoga of Eating come not from self-denial, but from uninhibited enjoyment of and delight of food. nonetheless, the practice I have described may seem demanding and extreme. Meals, after all, are our main theater of social interaction. Who wants to spend every meal in silence? It would seem that the Yoga of Eating take all the fun out of eating…Why do we use meals for social interactions; for dates, for instance? One reason is that without distractions–such as a meal, a view, an activity, at least a cup of tea–interaction with other people gets uncomfortably intense. True intimacy develops under conditions of silence or joint creativity–and true intimacy is scary and uncomfortable. So, we use various means to keep intimacy at arm’s length, interposing small talk, glances away, facial masks, insincere remarks, little jokes changes of subject, sips of tea…or bites of food. Eating helps us maintain a comfortable distance from one another. Any time things get uncomfortable, you can escape into your food. Moreover, the acts and sensations of eating themselves dull one’s awareness of other presences.” (49)

*”The good news is that when you practice attentive eating, even once a day or less, you progressively {instill} a habit of complete chewing and assimilation of nutritive energies. Eating becomes so enjoyable that it calls to you through the conversations and through the distractions. It is not willpower that draws you back to the eating sensations, but rather the sheer pleasure of the sensations themselves, which begins to overwhelm the allure of distractions. Just as meditation brings serenity and mindfulness to all of life, so also does a daily  practice of attentive eating.” (52)

*”Do not be afraid to let go of a diet when it no longer serves you.” (61)

*”Let your {food choice} be okay, no matter how {shocking} it violates your knowledge of nutrition and good diet and, with full attention, enjoy what there is to enjoy.” (67) (very important for us with ED’s!!!!!)

*Neither does “health worship” reflect a sincere love of the body. there are people, most notably extreme adherents of various dietary philosophies or exercise regimens, who worship bodily health, seeing it as an indication of virtue, and disease as a sign of, or punishment for, some impurity of diet practice.  According to this calculus, the healthy zealot of our scenario is superior to the sick people of the world. He is better than they are. He has found the True Gospel, and will not hesitate to prozelytize. Very often (as with anyone who clings to pride) the result is humiliation–and what could be more humiliating to the health zealot than a serious illness? But even if the health-worshipper never gets sick, what good does his health do? The body is our vehicle for living and acting in the world; it is meant to be used. There is more to health, to wholeness, than mere physical integrity. You have been incarnated as this body for a purpose, and to achieve it your body possesses tremendous strength, resilience, and resources.” (72)

*”Like a young child, your body loves you totally and instinctively. Like a faithful dog, it stays loyal even when you kick and abuse it.” (74)

*In regards to fasting…”It does no good to clean the body without doing any deeper spiritual work.” (80)

*”A healthy diet thus becomes a constant battle between or natural appetites and the received belief that fat is bad.” (89)

*”In Chinese the most common world for fat in describing a person, pang, is never used to describe fat, fei, piece of meat, and I’ve been told this is true in other languages as well.” (90)

* In regards to meat eating/veganism/vegetarianism…”In general, though, to sustain a state of being that is energetically involved in the world, and that is hale, hearty, and humorous, meat is necessary for most people…You may choose to ignore your body’s needs. That’s okay! If you have a physical need for meat but nobly chose a vegan diet out of compassion, that is fine–as long as you can accept with equanimity and without resentment the physical degeneration that may follow. I have known quite a few vegans who have developed some kind of chronic disease or degenerative physical condition…Physical degeneration is virtually assure if the motive for the diet is not entirely compassionate, but tainted with the kind of vanity–a factitious self-image of purity, superiority, or exculpation from the sins of industrial society. Self-righteousness and judgmentality indicate that vanity-love of an image, in this case the image of compassion–has supplanted compassion itself as the motive for eating a vegan diet…Of course there are people who thrive on a vegan diet–most often people who are well-nourished in the spirit, secure and generous, autonomous and nurturing of others. They do not take pride in their diet or derive self-esteem from it. They do not advertise it or urge it indiscriminately on on others; they seldom mention it. They are radiant people. But even these people usually do better with some amount of eggs, butter, milk, and cheese, unless they practice a very monastic lifestyle.” (99)

*”The Yoga of Eating is quite the opposite: that each is the ultimate authority on his or her bodily requirements, and that the body will reveal its requirements given sufficient attention and trust.” (100)

*”Closed off from the experience of sweetness in life, yet hungering for it to the depths of our souls, we turn to the imitation of this sweetness in sugary foods. Sugar does nothing to allay the essential longing, though; at most it temporarily distracts our attention from the soul’s craving for sweetness.” (104)

*”Perhaps sweet foods are here to remind us and reaffirm that yes, life is sweet.” (106)

*”For yoga means union, and the Yoga of Eating extends beyond bodily integrity to encompass every aspect of our individual and collective lives.” (130)

*”Thus the fundamental method and practice of the Yoga of Eating is to listen to your body-soul, trusting the tools of taste, smell, and intuition, not imposing any specific expectations, not expecting any specific results. The results will come themselves. Meanwhile, enjoy the delights so freely available from food, a gift that never ends.” (145)

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