Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014

Ever since I began my road to recovery, this week has been a very busy one for me. Awareness week is a specific week out of the year that I am able to use the voice that I was given to speak out to a large audience–and I couldn’t be more thankful. It is an honor to speak among the survivors, and encourage others to seek recovery and gain back their lives like I have. It is truly amazing to write an emotional piece, later to find emails by others who found my work of some help to them. I love this week, but this year it is very different for me.

 

Since November of last year I have been struggling tremendously with my health. It seems as thought I cannot catch a break, and once I seem to get one illness under control I am presented with another. My health issues are not only relentless, but each instance is more painful and scarier than the one prior. The past few years I have started awareness week sitting on my bed, writing a cool piece that could be seen by many. Like I said, it is one of my favorite weeks out of the year. This year however, I started out my awareness week in a hospital bed. To be honest, I actually missed the start of awareness week–my curtains were drawn and I was unable to tell that the day had changed and it was Monday. Although the circumstances are different, I find myself fighting like I had been just those few short years ago when I was plagued by eating disorders. Although the circumstances are different, I am fighting my way towards an uphill battle which is relentless.

This week is awareness week, but I think that it should be more than that–I want to call it freedom week. I ask for those who have recovered to reflect on the freedoms they have gained since recovery, those who are in the process to acknowledge the freedoms that they have gained, and those who are still suffering to look towards what they would like to reclaim. This year, I am seeking to gain patience as one of my freedoms. Although things may be difficult, there are still so many freedoms that I am able to enjoy, and I must be thankful for them! Although keeping up with class while suffering from chronic illnesses is difficult, I am still able to be around my friends out in California. When times get difficult, it is important to deep deep. We are in control of our happiness–we are worth it!

 

Recovery is by no means a clear-cut process, but you have to put trust in those who love you whether it be your family, doctors, friends, or support systems. Some may cross the recovery line earlier than others, and that is great for them, but the only way to win the race is to finish.

 

In order to make it to the end of the race, you must have the courage to start, strength to continue, the patience to persevere, and the heart to celebrate. Lets all continue racing–there will be more from me tomorrow.

M

Ban Thinspiration Posts on Twitter

Hey guys! A friend of mine showed me this awesome petition put on by a girl named Torri who is working towards banning pro-anorexia/bulimia hashtags on twitter. I think that this is a WONDERFUL cause, and something that most certainly needs to be addressed. Join me and sign her petition!

 

http://www.change.org/petitions/twitter-restrict-use-of-thinspiration-language-and-hashtags

New Articles for Proud2Bme

I got the chance to write two articles for Proud2Bme! One is interviewing Lauren Myers, a high school student who created Project Beautiful, a positive body image activist in her school. I also got to write up another article on my tips to be a body image activist and start a movement in your school. Check them out if you get a chance!

 

Interview: http://proud2bme.org/content/proud2bme-rock-star-lauren-myers

 

How to start an activist movement: http://proud2bme.org/node/522

Day Five: Awareness Week 2013

Happy Fifth Day of Awareness Week! Tomorrow is wear purple Friday, so if at all possible, wear purple tomorrow to remember all those who lost the battle to their eating disorders! Today’s post is something that I have been looking forward to writing for sometime. Last year during awareness week, I got the privilege to right an article on Body Snarking for Seventeen magazine. If you would like to read that article, here is the link: http://www.seventeen.com/health/peace/eating-disorder-awareness-day-3. In that article I talked about the harmful effects of negative body to and about others may cause, but today I am going to talk about negative body image and personal body snarking.

Personal criticizing and comparing ourselves to each other is something everyone struggles with. It is through these acts of skepticism that we can do the most damage to ourselves. Many when asked who their worst enemy is, reply with themselves. We are our own worst enemy. We hold ourselves back, tell ourselves we are undeserving, and not good enough. It is this type of behavior that leads to unhealthy thinking, and by default, unhealthy actions.

While writing a post a few days ago, I remembered a particular moment when my body critiquing was at an all time high. When I was at my worst, I remember the negative thoughts being such an integral part of my every day life. These thoughts were so consuming that I failed to acknowledge each time a new negative thought sprouted. I was so use to thinking poorly of myself, that I never even noticed if I were to come up with an additional negative thought of myself. This example demonstrates the danger of this type of thinking. Someone once told me that negative thoughts are dangerous and powerful because they are untrue and “like any good lie, the more you tell it to yourself, the more you begin to believe it”. We put ourselves into a position where we truly believe these negative thoughts about ourselves because we have told ourself so many times that they are true. The trick now is to acknowledge the negative thoughts, remind yourself of why they are lies, and replace those thoughts with positive ones. I’m going to give you a personal example from yesterday:

Yesterday, I put on a tank top that I did not believe fit me properly. As I was staring in the mirror I caught myself beginning to give in to the negative thoughts in my head. After I recognized my thoughts beginning to drift in the wrong direction I re-directed them. I told myself “Yeah, these shirts aren’t my favorite. But I really like my hair today”. Something as simple as redirecting your thoughts and replacing them with something positive can make all the difference. Although this example may seem a bit silly, I hope from it you are able to draw the message I am trying to portray.

Another thing I want to talk about is the tendency some of us have to not take proper care of ourself. At some point, we all have done it.  When we become stressed out, we often times tend to neglect our bodies. We don’t get enough sleep, don’t give our body the proper fuel it needs, don’t allow the down time that we deserve–basically we run ourselves into the ground. This practice of depriving your body of the things that is deserves is becoming more and more common and society, and it must be acknowledged. In order to perform properly, we must listen to out bodies. Acknowledging hunger cues, getting an adequate amount of sleep, and getting some fresh air/exercise are all things that our bodies as for. I know at times we feel as if we can bypass the needs of our bodies in order to complete a task, but it is these sorts of tendencies that get us into trouble. It is the action of depriving our bodies that leads us to these negative mindsets.

Right before I entered treatment, my whole life revolved around my eating disorder. I had gotten to the point where I had starved my brain for such a long period of time that I had lost my ability to rationalize. I was unable to understand, or even acknowledge the damgage that was being done because I was: 1. So engulfed by the negative thoughts of my disorder, and 2. I had starved my brain so much that is was practically incapable of rationalizing a life without an eating disorder. This stage I refer to as the “disorder ditch”. The disorder ditch is a hole so deep that there is no way to possibly visualize a life without the it. I remember this place being terrifying, and the thought of taking away the deadly disorder that I had been living with for many years was even more scary. It is this point of self incurred fear that I felt the most hopeless, but alas, 2 and a half years later I am able to talk about how I made it through, and how my suffers reading this can too!

I would like to wrap this post up providing everyone with what I believe to be the tools to acceptance. In order to be happy, you must first accept yourself–your imperfections, your struggles, your accomplishments, and everything in between. We must be able to pick ourselves up after a bad day, and continue fighting. That being said, we must also be capable of acknowledging our feelings. Whenever we feel happy, sad, stressed, excited, ect. we must acknowledge it. Experiences the triumphs and the devastation are what allows us truly live. I am a strong believer that you have a better appreciation of your happiest, grandest moments after you had previously suffered. It is all of these components that allow us to live our healthy lives.

I asked one of my friends and role models to compile a little paragraph on how she approaches health, happiness, leadership, and overall peace. Although she has not suffered from an eating disorder personally,  she demonstrates how I would like to live my life. She is always happy, encouraging, and an excellent person to look up to . So without further adieu, here are her thoughts on the subject:

Self-confidence is one of the most vital qualities that a woman can uphold. Without having assurance and courage to live in your own skin, you cannot devote yourself to other aspects of life. From my experience, it is essential to empower women to be proud of themselves for all of the great things they accomplish, but also to be proud of their bodies.

As a student at the University Southern California, there is continual pressure to maintain exemplary body image, and there are high, and even sometimes unrealistic, needs to present ourselves on a daily basis. With all of this in mind, it is not only about looking good, but about feeling good in your own skin and being confident in what you have to offer as an overall person.

As a leader of my Greek community, I am constantly striving to find ways to educate and empower not only the women of my own chapter, but of my entire Panhellenic Council. This council is comprised of young, college-aged women who are all experiencing transitions. Fortunately, as a leader in the Greek community, I have the opportunity not only to influence the 200 members of my specific chapter, but to collaborate with other chapters to positively impact over 3,000 women in the Greek community on a whole. Together we have done consistent programming on educating women about what it means to be healthy, how to feel good in your own skin, and how to be confident in yourself.

I think it is essential to love yourself everyday. If you wake up every morning and tell yourself one good thing about your body, you will provide that self-assurance that is so vital in life. One quote that resonates with me by Oprah is that “it is confidence in our bodies, minds and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures, new directions to grow in, and new lessons to learn – which is what life is all about.”

Everyone is unique in their own way. What makes a confident individual stand out from the next is if she is able to embrace that unique way and take pride in herself. That is why I think self-assurance is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Without this confidence, we lose the sense of our being, and we are not able to progress as individuals.

I hope you all enjoyed her insight as much as I did! Thank you again for all of your continued support, and I hope you all wear purple tomorrow in support of those who lost their battles.

 

Day Four: Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013

Happy Third Day of Awareness Week! I have been overwhelmed with joy from all of the responses and number of views I have been getting each night from everyone. It is an amazing feeling to know that I am able to reach such a large audience globally while sitting in my dorm room. That being said, I want to talk a little bit about growth in recovery and recovery tips. Everyone experiences growth and recovery differently, and I believe that it is important to be aware of this. So many want to put their recovery on a timeline. Many desire to restore their weight in x amount of months, discharge from treatment in x amount of months, and be recovered in x amount of time. I personally do not feel that recovery can be quantified. It is a ongoing process that takes years to reach, and even more to complete.

I discharged from treatment over two years ago, and I still believe I am in the process of recovery. Even though I no longer engage in disordered behaviors, I still have my days where I may slip up. Every once in a while I catch myself engaging in an unhealthy behavior, but the difference is, now I recognize that action as being detrimental to my recovery and I respond to it. I think one of the most crucial steps to recovery is recognizing a disordered thought and responding with a healthy one.  No one is perfect, and recovery is an imperfect process. It’s important to acknowledge a disordered thought or action, but it is even more important to forgive yourself. I believe that the most difficult part of recovery is the middle ground–when the disordered thoughts are just as loud as the recovery thoughts. This is the crossroad where you must recover for yourself, and yourself only. Eating disorders have one of the highest relapsed rates, and most of this comes from 1. An underlying issue that was not addresses during treatment/weight restoration and 2. An eating disorder voice that grew stronger than the recovery voice.

I want to make a clear distinction really quick–sufferers of eating disorders do not actually hear a disordered voice, but recognize disordered thoughts. One of the first steps of recovery is to remove your identity from the disorder,and by referring to the thoughts as a “voice” you are able to begin to remove yourself from the disorder.  In treatment we often referred to our eating disorder as “ED”. This is yet again another step in removing the disorder from a part of the sufferer’s identity. I know so much of my personality and identity came from my disorder, and as I slowly was able to remove myself from it, I was able to discover who I am, and who I am becoming.

I would like to share with you my biggest recovery tips, and things that have helped me get through some of my darkest days. I hope you find them helpful:

1. Try to get back into a normal routine. Treatment isn’t the real world, and going from constant meal support to a very minimal amount of support is an extremely difficult transition. For me, treatment became almost a safety zone. I was removed from a significant amount of stresses and triggers that had put me into the position in the first place which was extremely beneficial with starting my recovery. That being said, treatment can also be very isolating. I remember feeling as if I was never going to leave the center, and I was so preoccupied with the changes that I was making in treatment that I almost forgot about the real world. I felt hopeless. After I discharged and began to get myself into a routine I was able to see what I was working towards. When I was able to be around my friends and loved ones, I got a better understanding of why recovery was important. My advice would be to try to get back into a normal routine after discharging from treatment so you can be reminded of what you are working towards.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This one is really important. Recovery is not something that one can do by yourself. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of people who were willing to help–and did help me–during my recovery process. These people were my rocks and I can never thank them enough for what they have done for me. I hope that some day I will be able to help someone as much as they have helped me.

3. Forgive yourself. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to be exhausted. But just keep working! Recovery is probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and even when I slip up or make a mistake, I have to forgive myself. We must forgive ourselves, and get back up. Recovery is worth it!

4. Recognize what triggers you, and stay away from it. Triggers are one of our worst enemies in recovery, and they threaten to destroy all of the hard work that we have out into recovery. Recognize what triggers you, and get away from it. For me, I was extremely triggered by indoor gyms. It has taken me years to be able to go back into indoor gyms, and I have finally gotten to the point where I can work out in an indoor gym without being overtaken by disordered thoughts. While in your initial stages of recovery, remove yourself from triggering environments. You need to look out for yourself!

I hope you find my recovery tips and my thought on growth useful. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, thoughts, anything! I am always here to help! Have a wonderful rest of your night!

Day Three: Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013

Hello! Happy third day of awareness week! Today I thought I would write about the media’s role in the portrayal of eating disorders and unhealthy dieting. I rediscovered a video I had seen a while back that depicted young girls asking about modifying their bodies and asking the viewers if they “think they are fat”. I obviously was extremely disturbed by this video–the mass media is so powerful that it has projected these disordered concepts of beauty to our children. 90% of women suffering from eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. With these messages being projected to a young and younger audience these age numbers are going to continue to drop–and they have. I was treated at the Children’s Hospital, so I was able to get an even better insight into the severity of the issue. I was surrounded by children who weren’t even in high school and were battling this devastating disorder. The media’s glorification of “thinness” and dieting has got to stop, and it starts with society standing up to it. Here is the video:

Despite the headache that the media is causing all of us activist, there is also a new movement going called “strong is the new beautiful”. Instead of emphasizing stick thin bodies, this new movement focuses on not only healthy figures, but a healthier over-all self image. This movement highlights a healthy relationship with your body inspiring confidence and a happy persona. Demi Lovato is one of the driving catalysts of this movement, and has done a number of campaigns to try and reinforce the benefits of healthy living and eating. These type of messages are what our youth is desperate for. 51% of nine and ten year old girls stated that they feel better about themselves when they are on a diet.

Dove came out with a wonderful commercial a little while back that demonstrated the volume of unhealthy messages the media exposes young children too. This video (which is also included in this post) reveals the brainwashing that occurs at such a young age. We as a society strive for this unattainable goal of perfection, and this is getting picked up on by our youth. The only way to prevent or reduce negative body perception is to start modeling healthy behavior for our youth.

There is a whole movement going on online known as “pro-anorexia” or pro-ana for short. Members in this community believe that anorexia is a lifestyle choice, and unite together in a common goal–to starve themselves. This type of activity disturbs me. Anorexia is not a choice, it is an uncontrollable, all consuming, mental disorder. This type of “pro-ana” movement encouraging unhealthy eating habits to young children worries me. Pro-anas like to motivate themselves with something call “thinsporations”, which are images of emaciated women serving the purpose of an inspiration to those attempting to drop weight. This type of behavior sickens me. I was researching the “pro-ana” community for some statistics to put into this post, but I didn’t make it even five minutes without being deeply saddened and triggered by these images. Proud2Bme and other sites help serve as a positive online community to counteract the negative behavior conducted on these pro-ana sites.

The bottom line is the only way to help address the negative messages portrayed by the media, we must encourage healthy body image, live out “strong is the new beautiful”, and put ourselves in postive environments.