Archive for Food

Reality of Recovery

There are so many people still suffering in silence. That’s more astonishing when you consider how many people use the internet every single day and have access to knowledge and support and help, yet it does not always seem like enough.

One of our aims with Don’t Lose Your Grip is to give others who are going through or have been through the struggles that we are facing a platform to speak openly and honestly and most importantly in a judgment free environment. Our weekly #TopicsToDiscuss does just this.

Tonight we back to our routes a bit and reminded our followers that we do these discussions because we have been there… It really is that simple, we have been in similar situations and we want know how much opening up about these issues that are considered taboo has meant for our recovery.

From a personal perspective: I haven’t really been eating in a healthy manner and I can feel it throughout my body. I can feel my energy levels dwindling and my control slowly dissolving. I know that this is not acceptable and that I can’t go back to the beginning of my eating disorder struggle. I can’t go through all of this pain and loneliness again. I can’t start all over again. I can’t give up all of my triumphs in one foul sweep. I simply can’t! For the last week I have been eating only my 3 favourite foods. And only eating half portions… This scares me. I know how hard I have worked to get to this point of not allowing my eating habits to control me; I know how many times I cried and begged for help without anyone being able to read the signs and I don’t want to go through it again; I don’t want to go back to that lonely place where I hate myself.

By now I’ve realized that I am not alone in my struggle and whatever I’m going through, there is probably someone else out there who feels to same. So we asked our followers to share their recovery fears with us. These were some of their fears 

–          Not knowing when you will relapse

–          Fearing the relapse

–          Not knowing if it will ever happen again

–           The fear of losing my strength

–          That doubt in my mind that I never did fully recover and it will happen again

–          The fear that I’ll never actually beat it, that it’ll just be sitting there waiting for me to mess up again

It comes down to realizing that there is still so much about eating disorders that people have not been able to articulate or understand. These are all things that you won’t find on a recovery pamphlet. People don’t talk about the reality of recovery openly enough. This sets us up for a dangerous fall because we have no idea what to expect and that builds so much anxiety and fear. We need to talk about these issues more openly! We really need to get to a stage where people do not judge you for the label of your disorder.

And then, as soon as you open up about your disorder, everyone wants to ‘fix’ you. And as they through their ignorant comments about, they don’t realize that they are actually hurting you a lot more. This is why we asked our followers what the worst advice was that they have received regarding their eating disorders. This is what they shared

–          “You’re doing it for attention; you’re being so selfish”

–          “Just get over it”

–          “Just eat one”

–          “you need to get some chips inside you”

–          “You’ve got to have SOMETHING!”

–          “When you’re at work, leave your issues outside”

–          “Go on a diet”

–          “your being pathetic now, grow up”

–          “you are too fat to have had an ED”

There were a few extra implying that you can just switch your disorder on or off whenever you feel like it. Plus a few where they were told that it was their choice to suffer from an eating disorder. These ignorant comments saddens me… if you do not understand what someone is going through, don’t patronise them by spewing out the first phrase that comes to mind. If you really want to help, give them a hug and tell them the truth: tell them that you don’t understand and that you just don’t get it. At least that way we have the opportunity to give you more information and let you in on the other side of ED; the side that no one really talks about.

One of our followers commented that some think we do it for attention. So when people die from EDs, is that for attention seeking too? It really hit home how much these simple little phrases can affect our choices and lives. Simply by allowing an ignorant and negative comment in, we’re placing ourselves at risk. Going on a diet to reduce the amount of food intake or your weight can result in an over correction and lead to anorexia or bulimia and all the way back to over eating again. Finding a balance is hard under any circumstances but when you have this shadow of an ED constantly following you around; it makes the subject a lot more sensitive. When someone mentions food, your mind automatically races to figure out what they are implying about you; how this mention of food will affect you and what everyone else expects you to do about it or how they expect you to react to it… That is a lot of thought that goes into just one bite. There is a lot more to an eating disorder than just eating.

The emotions that are involved are far more powerful than the physical aspects. The scars that we hind behind our ED are the ones that last the longest and you can be on the healthiest eating plan in the world but if you do not take care of the emotions behind it, you cannot succeed. We asked our followers which things have resulted in their relapses. These were just a few

–          SCALES!!!! They always renew the obsession with getting on multiple times a day

–          Magazines like Vanity Fair which forces the idea that being super, dangerously skinny is beauty

–          Too many bills to pay and pressure of everyday life

–          Normalisation of junk food always tells me I’ll be able to eat it this time… because other people can

Realising that the things that most people do not give a second thought to affects you this much is tough… Trying to remove them from your life or finding ways around the pressure is just as tough and when you have to do all of this while being judged, it a hundred times worst. That lead us to ask what has helped our followers find the strength to keep fighting and we got two very clear answers

–          Support from friends or family

–          Music

Having someone who can remind you of all of your strength and beauty when you cannot see it, is extremely powerful. Having someone to go to when nothing makes sense is very useful and knowing that you can build up a relationship of trust where they see you for more than just your diagnosis, is truly amazing. Support is a big part of recovery.

We have been big advocates of the power of music from the get go. We have always believed that music is just one more way to express how you feel and remind you that someone else has also been there and experienced the same trials and emotions and they made it… If they can do it, so can you. Music gives hope when words fail. Also the reason we’re dedicating our #InspirationalSongOfTheDay competition to #20DaysOfRae by Rae Earl.

So what did this 2hour conversation between friends in a safe environment mean? Well, maybe nothing to you… But for me, it was great to talk about the things that society tells me to keep secret and it is nice to be reminded that you are not alone every once in a while. It validates the feelings I have by showing me that I am not the odd one out. It reminds me that I have a lot of support.

Ok, so it’s not exactly a world changing event but it’s a start… It’s a place for people to express what’s on their mind without being afraid of the judgement and everyone is welcome.

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Food Makes Fools Of Us All

This weekend we were at a birthday party. There was a lot of laughter and good company and of course food.

I’m not a fan of the judgement that comes from public eating but I applaud the social aspects and on occasion it is this social aspect that has helped me regain control over food. On this occasion, I have to admit that I actually stood up against social convention and to an extent the essence of my culture and ate what was appropriate for me. Which I’m actually rather proud of… However, one of the guests at the party did quite the opposite or actually the same… it’s a bit confusing.

She suffers from diabetes. Social convention says to limit your sugar intake. She did not. Not only did she ignore the general consensus and advice of several medical professionals around the table, she also fought back with ignorant comments like “It’s ok; I will just increase my insulin tomorrow”. By anyone’s standards, she over indulged in all things sugar related. How can we be intelligent beings in all other aspect of our lives and yet be so illogical when it comes to food?

My biggest problem is that she seemed really happy. She seemed to be enjoying herself. And what did we do? Nothing. We commented from our own perspective and pointed out the dangers but ultimately we respected her choice to risk her life for another bite. Do I believe that feeding sugar to someone with diabetes is reckless? Most definitely. Do I believe that over indulging is bad for you, no matter what the circumstance? Yes, I do. Do I believe that all of us have to take responsibility for our actions and that we are entitled to make these choices? Absolutely. Does this make me feel any less guilty for ‘letting it happen’? Not even close…

So, what is the point of this post? Well, I just wanted to point out (and remind myself) that food can make us act like fools. It is so easy to judge from a distance and know what is right and logical but when it comes down to taking that bite: logic leaves us. So we really need to stop judging each other based on these logic-resistant choices.

One bite away

I have a medical excuse not to exercise and I have a medical excuse not eat. It would be easy for me to go back to not eating: no pain, no nausea, no internal fight with me… But I can’t do it. I know it is bad for me not to eat and I know I can’t put those who care about me through it.

Besides I know if I stop eating for 3days, it will take me 3months to get back to eating 3 meals a day and 6 more to get back to the much healthier option of 6 meals a day. It’s not worth it. Why would not eating cause that much chaos? Well, that’s simple: I have Gilbert Syndrome and basically it comes down to my liver not being able to do all it is suppose to, resulting in a constant state of nausea and generally a lot of pain too. There are pills I could take but I’d have to take them forever and that is not an option I’m willing to consider. The bodies of 92% of the world’s population sees food as a nutrient but my body sees food as toxins it needs to get rid of. So for me the rest of the 8%of the population, eating is not exactly a fun past time.

When your body knows that everything that goes into it will make it feel ill, your body starts saying “don’t do it! Don’t bring that stuff near me! Stop poisoning me, just stop eating” and over time it gets harder for your mind to fight this logic. When you feel like crap all the time, it is hard for your mind to argue with the logic of your body. It takes a lot for me to eat even just one bite. And I think one of the most painful things about that fact is that most of the people around me will never be able to tell… I have a very strong hold over my gag reflex. I can control it and prevent it from throwing out the food I try to eat but all it takes is one moment where the pain and discomfort over rules the logic and my body overpowers my mind and I… well, you know. It’s sort of scary knowing that you are only one gag reflex away from involuntary Bulimia. And when you have to fight this hard just to get through a plate of food and you’d rather just stop it all together, that’s when you realize just how close you are to Anorexia. And these 2 diagnoses are both daunting. They are scary and overwhelming and when you don’t really suffer from either and the fear of almost suffering from either is not enough to get you treatment, it makes it harder to stay strong.

So here I am, stuck with a non specific eating disorder… every bite a victory lap and simultaneously a painful reminder that my body and mind have to keep fighting a daily battle just to keep up the pretence that I am normal and that everything is ok. So when some random walks up to me and says “Oh, yeah you are getting fat” it takes all of my strength and patience not to blow up at their ignorance.

As much as I hate GS and the whole over-thinking-everything-I-eat-thing, it also affords me an understanding that most people will never have. A sort of compassion and empathy because I know there must be others like me out there… And in some way that makes up for some of the discomfort and confusion. I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than me.

Just sharing my view…

Just one more bite

I’ve been having food issues this week. It’s not that I dislike food; I just don’t like how it makes me feel. Do I have bulimia: definitely NO, I’m nauseas every day of my life but throwing up is not something I even consider to be an option so purging is definitely out of the question! The loss of power over my body is just way too much for me to fathom. Do I have anorexia: no… I don’t think so… but maybe…

 

I use to define Anorexia as an eating disorder that stems from wanting to be thin or seeing yourself as fat. I have discovered that this is only a tiny part of the definition: like most eating disorders it’s all about control. When you’re young and you have parents and teachers and sometimes even friends telling you what to do and the media telling you what is expected of you, it’s easy to feel like you have no power or control over anything in your life, which is frustrating considering the most important word in that sentence is ‘your’. One thing we can all control is what we put in our mouths… of course there are other things we can control like our attitude or how hard we try or our dreams and pretty much every other action but when you’re 12, you don’t really see it that way, all you can think of is your mother telling you to eat your broccoli. So taking control back by not eating or over eating or pretending to eat (purging afterwards) seems like a good idea that will prove to yourself that you are not worthless or just a bystander in your own life… This lie is what makes anorexia, all eating disorders in fact so dangerous.

 

Anorexia has a bit to do with the media image that tells us anything above a size zero is ‘plus size’ even thought they completely forget that zero is not a real number, it’s just a place holder… But that is a whole new conversation. This messed up media image we are so eager to follow has resulted in anyone who thinks they are fat actually seeing 25% (that is a whole quarter) of yourself more in the mirror and thus fuelling the notion that they are overweight. Not eating also has the added long term effect of messing with your biology so that your body starts rejecting food and making it physically difficult for you to eat nutritional portions. It gets to the point where scare tactics like ‘when your body runs out of fat and food it will feed off your muscles’ doesn’t even help even though most of us know that our biggest muscle is our heart and is also the biggest target aka causes death. It’s easy to say just eat your food but when your head is telling you that your body has enough food and anything else you’re eating will just make you feel ugly, it is really not a convincing statement. It’s easy to say that someone is not fat but when you look at yourself and all you can think of is every single bite you have ever eaten vs. every step you have taken and the pile of food in your head seems a lot bigger than the footsteps you took, it’s not a compelling argument. It’s easy to say that it’s all in your head or just get over it, but it really is a lot more complicated than that…

 

The strangest part about Anorexia is that the signs are not always as obvious as everyone thinks they are: you do not have to be skin and bones in order to be anorexic; you do not have to talk about fashion or your weight in order to be anorexic; you do not have to know the calorie count of a piece of lettuce to be anorexic; you just have to allow food to control you once… Recovery is even more confusing to those around you because you might be within your weight limits and eat every meal or at least those that people see and you might even eat more than your friends can fit onto a plate but that’s all because you’re terrified of slipping back into that place where food controls you…

 

So my story is a little complicated: not sure if I have anorexia or not, what I do know is that I hate food. I love cooking it and smelling it and the social factor that goes with it but actually eating it annoys me because I know that it will make me feel bad and not just emotionally because I let food and social pressure and my past control my choice to eat rather than be strong and say that I’m not in the mood for that particular bite at that particular moment, all because I’m afraid, but also physically. See I have this little excuse that can be blamed for my physical feelings. The thing that’s so frustrating is that I allow this little syndrome that is not even worth more than 2 lines in a medical dictionary determine how I live my life.

 

I have Gilbert Syndrome and it’s not really supposed to be a big deal but I was diagnosed with it at the age of 17 and it did change a lot of things in my life. Basically it means that my body doesn’t produce the chemical that collects the toxins in my blood that goes to my liver to be disposed off so it just stays in my body and is sort of like a never ending jaundice just varied in ferocity. It’s not as bad as an actual liver condition; it is not lethal but there isn’t a cure just some medications I really don’t want to take every day of my life treating the symptoms. So I spend most of my time watching my skin to see when I need to lay off anything fatty or remotely sweet or that even resembles unhealthy in any way and drink a lot of water. Everything I put in my body gets stuck there until I flush it out so I have to be careful of what I put in. Most people will see this as a good thing since it motivates me to be healthy but when all of your friends are eating pizza and you have to say no because if you don’t you will feel the consequences for the next 3days, it sucks and most of them don’t understand it so they jump to the conclusion that you have an eating disorder so you end up trying to prove that you don’t by eating stuff that makes you feel bad and psychologically proves to you that food equals feeling bad… Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way trying to justify my choices by blaming my friends for not understanding something I had trouble understanding, I just want you to know that it wasn’t a choice I made overnight or that I actually sat there and decided to hate food, it just built up and now I feel like I am doomed whether I eat or not.

 

I can go days without eating and it won’t even phase me, most times I don’t even run out of energy… eventually I’ll get a really bad headache and be forced to remind myself that starving my body is bad and the headache is it’s way of telling me that it needs something, that it needs food and that I have to consider the consequences of not eating and how dangerous it is. So I eat… and then I feel bad and then we start all over again. So I originally made up my mind to only eat things that my body wants to eat. But here’s the thing, firstly sometimes your body can be indecisive or you just have no idea how to read it’s mixed messages or you just don’t have every single thing on the planet in your fridge and secondly it’s quite exhausting to envision how everything is going to taste and make you feel and calculate if there are other products you could eat or drink that might counteract the negative feeling. So you end up standing in front of the fridge to that point where you’re actually getting a chill and then giving up because you have no idea what you’re body wants you to eat… resulting in not eating. And after you’ve done this for a month or so only eating the odd bite here and there you realize how far you can push your body before it feels bad. And you keep pushing it. Also, feeling bad because you did not eat is so much better than feeling bad because you did: see, if you feel bad because you ate something then it is your fault for introducing the toxins into your body but if you feel bad for not eating it gives you hope that the next time you have a bite of food to eat it will feel better and you can still get control back from your body… it’s better than the alternative.

Before I go any further, I just want to point out that I am stating what is going on in my head and what I have been through, in no way do I recommend or even endorse any of this! In fact I would encourage you to not follow my example at all, a medical opinion or 2 is always the best way to go. If they are not giving you enough info or giving you help that is actually working for you, challenge them, it is your life after all.

 

So I hate eating food and on a daily bases I try to remember to eat at least 3 times a day just so that I can say that I am eating and have some resemblance of healthy and ‘normal’. Half the time one plate of food takes me 6hours to eat because I would much rather be doing anything else so I allow myself to be distracted. However when I get back to that plate of food I use the simple logic: have one bite to prove that you are still in control, just do it, just eat that one bite. And some days it really takes a lot of work and convincing just to not spit it out as soon as it touches my tongue but at least at the end of the day I know that I will be able to live a lot longer than if I did not eat and put my body through that kind of strain that destroys my muscles and organs.

 

I know this sounds very mixed-message-like but that’s pretty much the ongoing conversation in my head and I’m not sure it will ever really end, but for now I just want to make sure that I can get through the day. That I will live long enough to have this conversation again tomorrow… Ultimately the battle between food and how I physically feel is a daily challenge and when the psychological confusion is brought into it, it can get really complicated and frustrating. So do I have anorexia? Well some would say yes, I would say: I don’t like labels so no… I don’t think so… but maybe…