Fighting Relapse

It’s been about two weeks that I’ve been gluten-free – or at least attempted to be. At first, my diagnosis of Celiac Disease was a relief, but now it’s a reality and more than ever I need to fight relapse from my eating disorder.

Also when I received the diagnosis, I was in the midst of becoming an intuitive eater. What’s that? According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of Intuitive Eating:  A Revolutionary Program that Works, “Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body. You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant ‘food worry’ thoughts. It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labeled as ‘bad’ or ‘fattening.'”

I bought the book after hearing about this amazing concept, not diet, and started to go through the steps. I was getting good at it! I was eating what I wanted WHEN I wanted. I felt great. I had overcome and recovered from anorexia AND orthorexia, now I was an intuitive eater. I was kicking my eating disorders’ ass! I even coach others through my job’s employee assistance program to become intuitive eaters as well! I have two clients so far and so far they’ve reported doing well.

But then this diagnosis came along… It’s been MUCH harder to eat WHAT I want… There are some alternatives to my favorite foods, like pizza, frozen yogurt, bread. The pizza is disgusting and the bread will take some getting used to.

The symptoms I’ve been experiencing have gotten worse too — not sure if it’s the process of going gluten free or if I’m already more sensitive to gluten than if even a little bit is in some foods I’m getting sick. The symptoms I’ve experienced that are heightened include:

  • Brain Fog
  • Bloat and stomach pain
  • Gassiness
  • Fatigue (it’s been much harder to get out of bed…)
  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness
  • Weakness

I’ve had these symptoms for a few months now, but they’ve gotten worse over the past couple weeks.

Another concern is relapse. I sought out a new psychiatrist, mainly because the one I’ve been seeing since I was 12 wasn’t working for me and I didn’t feel like he really listened. So, I actually went to a Board-certified advanced practice psychiatric nurse practitioner recently and truly felt like I was heard. Meeting with him was when I truly realized the possibility for relapse. He recommended I see a psychologist there that sees patients with eating disorders. And I agreed. I also agreed to see a nutritionist who can help me go through the process of being totally gluten free.

That was another moment of relief. I don’t need to go through all this on my own. I have GREAT support from family and friends, but it’ll be even better with professional support.

I have been an advocate and spokesperson for eating disorder recovery and prevention for years now. I can’t let myself slip back down the hole — it’s not just for me, but for the others I advocate for. I’m not super human and I need to take care of my physical and mental health.

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Maybe I will relapse, though I will fight to prevent that from happening. But, if it does happen I’ll have people there by my side.

I spoke with a friend from college the other day who was going through relapse to her eating disorder. Talking to her too made me realize that it is real. Relapse CAN happen. But, she is proactive. She reached out to me to talk and see if I can offer advice as to what I do and sought professional help as well. Talking to that great friend gave me the courage to seek help myself. We were both going through some transitions that have sparked a possible relapse to our past eating disorders — I am SO glad she reached out to me when she did, because it not only put her mind at ease but mine as well. THANK YOU, friend. You know who you are. 🙂

As always, I’ll keep this blog up to date with my road to recovery.

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So You Think You Know What Eating Disorders Are? Do You?

Listening to the radio the other day, I got pretty heated. Y’all probably heard that the popstar Ke$ha admitted herself into treatment for an eating disorder. Well, this radio talk show host was reporting on it and made a VERY ignorant statement. It went something like this: “I don’t know why she has an eating disorder. She’s always been really hot and skinny.” REALLY?!? If this is WHY people think people get an eating disorder, then there needs to be more education on this mental illness…

So, instead of throwing a hissy-fit, I decided to write a blog post to EDUCATE people on what an eating disorder really is, its contributing factors, signs and symptoms, as well as what to do if you have a friend who you think has an eating disorder. I know, I know, a lot of you are all like “Pshhhhhh, I know what an eating disorder is!” You probably do not… So read on my friends! 🙂

What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is defined by the Encyclopedia as, “any of several PSYCHOLOGICAL disorders (as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior.” See, eating disorders are severe mental illnesses.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “Eating disorders — such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder – include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences for females and males.”

In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) (Wade, Keski-Rahkonen, & Hudson, 2011). For various reasons, many cases are likely not to be reported.

A new study estimates that approximately a half million teens struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating.

Despite the prevalence of eating disorders, they continue to receive inadequate research funding.

Illness                                            Prevalence                    NIH Research Funds (2011)
Alzheimer’s Disease                        5.1 million                     $450,000,000
Autism                                            3.6 million                     $160,000,000
Schizophrenia                                3.4 million                     $276,000,000 
Eating disorders                             30 million                      $28,000,000

Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81. For Autism $44. For eating disorders the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93. (National Institutes of Health, 2011). Doesn’t make sense does it?

Types of Eating Disorders

((Information gathered from NEDA))

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.  Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition.

Symptoms

  • Inadequate food intake leading to a weight that is clearly too low.
  • Intense fear of weight gain, obsession with weight and persistent behavior to prevent weight gain.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image.
  • Inability to appreciate the severity of the situation.
  • Binge-Eating/Purging Type involves binge eating and/or purging behaviors during the last three months.
  • Restricting Type does not involve binge eating or purging.

Eating disorders experts have found that prompt intensive treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery.  Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the warning signs of anorexia nervosa.

Warning Signs

  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
  • Denial of hunger.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

Health Consequences of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which mean that the heart muscle is changing.  The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
  • Muscle loss and weakness.
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
  • Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common.
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.

Symptoms

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food followed by behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge-eating episodes.
  • Self-esteem overly related to body image.

The chance for recovery increases the earlier bulimia nervosa is detected. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the warning signs of bulimia nervosa.

Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the compulsive need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area.
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
  • Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.
  • Continued exercise despite injury; overuse injuries.

Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa can be extremely harmful to the body.  The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles can damage the entire digestive system and purging behaviors can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.  Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death.  Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
  • Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
  • Gastric rupture is an uncommon but possible side effect of binge eating.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.

Symptoms

  • Frequent episodes of consuming very large amount of food but without behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting.
  • A feeling of being out of control during the binge eating episodes.
  • Feelings of strong shame or guilt regarding the binge eating.
  • Indications that the binge eating is out of control, such as eating when not hungry, eating to the point of discomfort, or eating alone because of shame about the behavior.

Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder

The health risks of BED are most commonly those associated with clinical obesity.  Some of the potential health consequences of binge eating disorder include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Musculoskeletal problems

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder

Formerly described at Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-IV, Other Specified Feeling or Eating Disorder (OSFED), is a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder.

Examples of OSFED Include:

  • Atypical anorexia nervosa (weight is not below normal)
  • Bulimia nervosa (with less frequent behaviors)
  • Binge-eating disorder (with less frequent occurrences)
  • Purging disorder (purging without binge eating)
  • Night eating syndrome (excessive nighttime food consumption)

The commonality in all of these conditions is the serious emotional and psychological suffering and/or serious problems in areas of work, school or relationships. If something does not seem right, but your experience does not fall into a clear category, you still deserve attention. If you are concerned about your eating and exercise habits and your thoughts and emotions concerning food, activity and body image, we urge you to consult an ED expert.

Orthorexia

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”  Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”

Do I Have Orthorexia?

Consider the following questions.  The more questions you respond “yes” to, the more likely you are dealing with orthorexia.

  • Do you wish that occasionally you could just eat and not worry about food quality?
  • Do you ever wish you could spend less time on food and more time living and loving?
  • Does it seem beyond your ability to eat a meal prepared with love by someone else – one single meal – and not try to control what is served?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways foods are unhealthy for you?
  • Do love, joy, play and creativity take a back seat to following the perfect diet?
  • Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
  • Do you feel in control when you stick to the “correct” diet?
  • Have you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how others can possibly eat the foods they eat?

There are other eating disorders out there – but the ones listed are the most common. If you want more information on types of eating disorders, please visit the National Eating Disorders Associations’ website by clicking here.

What Causes an Eating Disorder?

I hear it ALL the time. The answer to WHY people, especially young women, form an eating disorder is because of the media and our society’s impeding expectations of how our bodies should look – THIN. Nope, no prize for you! Cultural expectations may CONTRIBUTE to a possible eating disorder, BUT only when other factors are already there, such as having a family member who suffered from an eating disorder (eating disorders are genetic like many other mental illnesses).

So, saying one single factor causes an eating disorder many be incorrect. X does NOT = an eating disorder. X + Y + B + D + C may CONTRIBUTE to an eating disorder.

Shoot, if our culture’s expectations of our bodies were the only culprit contributing to eating disorders, EVERYONE would have one. But that’s not the case, fortunately.

Below are factors that CONTRIBUTE to an eating disorder.

Psychological Factors that Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
  • Depression, anxiety, anger, stress or loneliness

Interpersonal Factors that Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Troubled personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
  • History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
  • History of physical or sexual abuse

Social Factors that Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” or muscularity and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
  • Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
  • Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths
  • Stress related to racial, ethnic, size/weight-related or other forms of discrimination or prejudice

Biological Factors that Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be unbalanced. The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remain under investigation.
  • Eating disorders often run in families. Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes. Once started, however, they can create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction. Successful treatment of eating disorders requires professional help.

I Think Someone I Love May Be Suffering from an Eating Disorder…

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, there’s help!

What to Say—Step by Step

  • Set a time to talk. Set aside a time for a private, respectful meeting with your friend to discuss your concerns openly and honestly in a caring, supportive way. Make sure you will be some place away from distractions.
  • Communicate your concerns. Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your friend’s eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention.
  • Ask your friend to explore these concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to help your friend make an appointment or accompany your friend on their first visit.
  • Avoid conflicts or a battle of wills with your friend. If your friend refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned, restate your feelings and the reasons for them and leave yourself open and available as a supportive listener.
  • Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt on your friend regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements such as, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”
  • Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!”
  • Express your continued support.Remind your friend that you care and want your friend to be healthy and happy.
  • After talking with your friend, if you are still concerned with their health and safety, find a trusted adult or medical professional to talk to. This is probably a challenging time for both of you. It could be helpful for you, as well as your friend, to discuss your concerns and seek assistance and support from a professional.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please call the National Eating Disorders Association’s Helpline

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Eating disorders are SERIOUS, LIFE-THREATENING mental illnesses – not to be joked about or taken lightly. I encourage you all to further educate yourself on eating disorders and be an advocate for positive body image.

Health at Every Size: Why Being “Obese” Is Not the Issue

There is A LOT of focus in today’s society on this “obesity epidemic.” Plenty of doctors and health professionals focus on reducing the  35.7% statistic of Americans who are obese. HOWEVER, there is little to no research backing up that obesity actually CAUSES heart disease, certain types of cancer and early death.

Now, stay with me, OK? I know this will offset A LOT of criticism, I’m asking you to keep your mind open and think. It’s about being a critical reader and viewer – questioning the validity and reliability of research studies done in the past. There is actually a plethora of research out there over the past 20 years that go against what is so popular today about obesity. Studies that found no relationship between weight and health, or those correlating a high weight with height, far outnumber the thinner-is-better studies.

“The Body Wars industries simplify and scapegoat the issue of weight in order to promote dieting, but the myths they have promoted are from from the truth.”

“The evil view of obesity has come from four places: the insurance industry, the medical moralizers, the drug industry and the docile, unquestioned nutritionists who are too often dupes of faddists and hucksters.” – George Mann, Physician

According to Rothblum, E.D., Studies to determine the causes of obesity are often based on limited research and a blindness to obvious factors. For example, socioeconomic status (SES) is rarely examined, despite that obesity and poverty are closely linked in the US. Non-obese Americans tend to be in higher economic strata, and are more likely be more educated and have greater access to dietary and health information, while obese people from lower SES groups have less access to such information.

“The establishment clings to the belief that weight causes disease and death just as people once insisted that the world was flat.” – Susan Woolsey, Co-editor, Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders

As described in her book “Body Wars: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies,” Margo Maine, Ph.D. said “one powerful stereotype implies that all obese people causes their own “weight problems” by uncontrolled eating. Research over the past 30 years has not confirmed this… In 12 of 13 studies reviewed by one author, obese people ate the SAME amount or less food than non-obese people. Other studies have examined more specific eating habits and found NO major difference in food choice, the amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, or fat consumed, or other food-related behaviors.”

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….Obesity myths ignore genetic contributions. Genetics affect weight, distribution of body fat, frame metabolism and appetite. Contrary to popular belief, weight is NOT a reliable measure of mortality or character strength. It is a complex mix of biological, social and psychological issues as well as lifestyle influences (Maine, 2000).”

As found in much research, “extra” weight can actually be an advantage against the onset and mortality associated with some diseases (Margo, 2000). Larger men and women have have a lower risk for lung cancer (regardless of smoking) and osteoporosis.  Studies repeatedly demonstrate that underweight people are most at risk for health problems. The American Cancer Society found in 1969 that weight loss, whether voluntary or involuntary, dramatically increases the risk of premature death by heart disease or stroke. This study followed 800,000 mean and women ages 40-79 for six years and found no connection between weight gain and mortality. Only weight loss was associated with mortality (Garner & Wooley, 1991).

“The kinds of disease we see in overweight people are the same diseases we see in sedentary and unfit people of EVERY weight. How can we be so sure it’s weight that kills? Maybe it’s just inactivity.” – Steven Blair, Epidemiologist and Exercise Physiologist

Dispelling the Obesity Myths (Maine, 2000):

1. Weight is NOT a reliable predictor of health and health risk.

2. Being slightly above average weight does NOT put you at health risk.

3. There are no found significant differences between the eating habits of “normal” and “obese” people.

4. When it comes to weight, genetics is more important than environment or learned behavior.

5. Being underweight DOES present health risks.

6. The health problems associated with obesity actual are a results of dieting.

7. The weights recommended by the Metropolitan Tables are unreliable, non-universal standard for people.

8. Weight should NOT be stable after the age of 25. Especially for women – women gain more weight upon menopause.

9. Fat on the body is NOT always a predictor of dangerous fat in the body, such as clogged arteries.

Health at Every Size

This brings me to a pretty new public health philosophy, Health at Every Size (HAES). It’s considered the new peace movement. HAES is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:

  • Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
  • Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
  • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.

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Here is another excerpt from the HAES website:

Let’s face facts. We’ve lost the war on obesity. Fighting fat hasn’t made the fat go away. And being thinner, even if we knew how to successfully accomplish it, will not necessarily make us healthier or happier. The war on obesity has taken its toll. Extensive “collateral damage” has resulted: Food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health… Few of us are at peace with our bodies, whether because we’re fat or because we fear becoming fat.

Very simply, it acknowledges that good health can best be realized independent from considerations of size. It supports people—of all sizes—in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors.

– An excerpt from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Linda Bacon, PhD

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Once I found this philosophy as well as read Maine’s book, I decided that I will not only be an advocate/activist for body acceptance, but also for the push for the incorporation of HAES in EVERY health setting. I am starting training and one-on-one coaching at my employer with our clients.

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It’s time we stop being so obsessed and preoccupied with diets, “fatness,” self-hatred, and striving to be the “thin ideal.” Of course you still want to encourage eating fruits and vegetables and getting enough protein and being physically active – it’s a matter of doing away with discrimination of size and start accepting our bodies as they are. Because, in reality, they’re pretty darn amazing! So let’s start treating them so.

 

An Injury as a Blessing in Disguise

It’s been a total of 51 days since I last ran. And guess what? I’m still alive and mentally stable! As a recovering Orthorexic, this is what I would have thought last year if I hadn’t ran for that long. Going 51 days without running, I would have relapsed and started limiting my food intake and restricting what I ate and only ate what I deemed “healthy.” But, as a recovering Orthorexic and Anorexic, that did not happen and I couldn’t be prouder of myself.

I hurt my knee back in early August due to a nasty fall, which caused a sprained MCL. I was running with Blake and our two dogs in our development on some uneven sidewalks. I wasn’t paying attention to the change in elevation and fell. It didn’t help that my dog Miles was pulling me forward during my fight against gravity and we were going DOWN hill… Despite the blood and bruising, I finished my run. And the next day, instead of icing my sore knee and resting, I went on a “long” run. My knee started to hurt really bad around mile four, but I was supposed to go 16 miles, so I pushed myself to go at least seven… Silly me… I took a DAY off and continued on my regular training schedule. I had not let myself enough time to heal, so it just kept getting worse.

I was scheduled to get in a 20-mile run a few weeks later, and BARELY got in 10. The week after that, with a FULL week off of running (still biking and swimming), I went out to get in that 20-miler and barely made it five and was limping… RUH ROH…

So, with two weeks until the Akron Marathon, I headed to the Orthopedic who took XRAYS and said there’s nothing wrong with the bones, I must have either a sprained MCL or a bone bruise. We would have to do an MRI to get the exact diagnosis, but he said both are treated the same – ice, rest and elevation – so he didn’t want to waste my money, or his time… He wasn’t very helpful. So, I took those two weeks off of running. I biked a few times, but even that made it worse… So no biking either!

So, I ran the Akron Marathon on September 28th. And that was the last time I’ve ran…

I did not anticipate on finishing. I thought I would barely make it to the halfway point of 13.1. Blake ran the half so we stayed together. I had a knee brace on and it actually seemed to help! I felt little to no pain during the run.

Blake and Colleen

Once we neared where the half and full marathon split I told him I wanted to go a little further and possible stop at an aid station around mile 16 or 18 and have them drive me back to the finish line and not finish.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Around mile 18 my knee did start to hurt, so I did stop at an aid station, with the mindset that I was done. The nurses gave me some Icey Hot and Advil. Then one nurse asked if I wanted to finish. I was surprised that she even asked and to have FINISHING as an option, I took it!

So, off I went with even more motivation to finish because of those amazing women at aid station 18!

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com

Though I had to walk a few times and went A LOT slower than my original intended pace and time (before the injury), that was still my proudest and favorite marathon yet! I had not had all the training I needed and my longest run was 15 miles. So that made it even more rewarding.

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com.

Courtesy of RunPhotos.com.

Plus, I LOVE the Akron Marathon – it’s such a spectacular marathon. So much better than the Cleveland, which I’ll NEVER run in again. I am SOOOOOOOOOO happy I was able to EARN that beautiful medal and jacket!

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I haven’t ran since that day… And I stopped biking, because it was making my knee hurt more. I rarely swim anymore either. So, I’ve mainly been walking and lifting, doing upper body workouts. And I’m OK with that.

I wouldn’t want it to be like this forever, but I’m OK with allowing my knee to fully heal.

And I’m OK with still eating. I still have a cookie or chocolate here and there too! Oh, and for lunch after the Akron Marathon I ate Little Ceasar’s pizza for the first time in YEARS! The deep dish is sensational! I’ve have a few other times since then. 🙂 And may I add, without an ounce of guilt!

So, this injury has been sort of blessing in disguise… It’s tested my will power. It’s shown me that even without running and doing extraneous exercise I still love my body and will treat it right.

This injury has also allowed me to let my body heal and get me even more pumped up for next year’s races! AND, it’s taught me more about my body and to listen to it when it’s hurting.

My Story on Why Indoor Tanning Beds Are Evil & Why You Should Quit the Deadly Habit Too

We all know it’s bad for us, yet on an average day in the United States, more than 1 million people tan in tanning salons.

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I too was one of those people who visited tanning salons on a regular basis. From my junior year in high school well into my senior year of college, I was an infrequent user. I would sign up for a tanning package before a big dance, graduation, or randomly during the winter months to mask my paleness.

It was the summer before my first year of graduate school when I stopped going completely. Of course I always KNEW how bad tanning was for me, but it was my insecurities that led me into the salons every time. My excuses were that it helped my complexion, it made me feel better about myself, and the oldest one in the book, that it helped with my depression.

The truth is that the tanning beds just dried up my skin and made it darker, so blemishes were less noticeable (not like I ever had acne anyways), and tanning never really made me feel 100% more confident with my body – it was just a cop out. And yes, it does give off some vitamin D, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “studies showing links between vitamin D and other health conditions are inconsistent. Although it is important to get enough vitamin D, the safest way is through diet or supplements. Tanning harms your skin, and the amount of time spent tanning to get enough vitamin D varies from person to person.”

According to the CDC, “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer.  Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from indoor tanning equipment is the most important preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Indoor tanning before age 35 increases a person’s risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent. Sunburn indicates too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation.”

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Yet, nearly 28 million American tan indoors annually (AAD). Nearly 70 percent of tanning salon patrons are Caucasian girls and women, primarily aged 16 to 29 years.

That summer when I completely stopped going to tanning beds was when I decided to have my first visit with a dermatologist. It was the least I could do for my poor skin that had suffered from hours of “fake baking.” The dermatologist said that I had a TON of moles, and even deemed me the “Queen of Moles.” That first visit I was told I needed to get five of my moles removed because they were abnormal and would possibly be cancerous.

Tanning-Bed2

A couple weeks later, I came back and had them removed. It was fast and easy – slightly painful. They numbed the area around each mole with a shot and then scraped them off with a knife – I’m sure there’s a technical name for the device, but we’ll just call it a knife. The shots were what was painful, and especially in some of the particular areas of my body. Some of the areas where I had moles removed were places where the sun has never shined, but the tanning bulbs had!

Having those moles removed and the assurance from my wonderful dermatologist on how bad tanning is for people made me never want to tan again.

A couple months ago one of the assistants found an abnormal mole between two of my toes on my right foot. That was a bad sign. My dermatologist went on to tell me that moles that appear in places like between the toes, fingers, or on the soles of your feet are more likely to be melanoma… So, I had to go see a surgical dermatologist because it would be more difficult to get to and they would need to go deeper to remove the mole.

After waiting a couple months to get the surgery, since I was in the midst of training for triathlons and a marathon (the surgical dermatologist assured me I’d be OK to wait a little longer), I was FINALLY scheduled to have it removed and biopsied. LUCKILY, they came back negative – NO CANCER. ((whewwww)) But, because of my risk factors, keeping track of my skin and moles is something that I need to take seriously.

Debunking the Myths (from the CDC and my Dermatologist, Dr. Cohn):

“Tanning indoors is safer than tanning in the sun.”

Indoor tanning and tanning outside are both dangerous. Although tanning beds operate on a timer, the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can vary based on the age and type of light bulbs. You can still get a burn from tanning indoors, and even a tan indicates damage to your skin. Tanning beds cause about 1,800 injuries requiring visits to the emergency room every year.

“I can use a tanning bed to get a base tan, which will protect me from getting a sunburn.”

A tan is a response to injury: skin cells respond to damage from UV rays by producing more pigment. The best way to protect your skin from the sun is by using these tips for skin cancer prevention.

“Indoor tanning is a safe way to get vitamin D, which prevents many health problems.”

Vitamin DExternal Web Site Icon is important for bone health, but studies showing links between vitamin D and other health conditions are inconsistent. Although it is important to get enough vitamin D, the safest way is through diet or supplements. Tanning harms your skin, and the amount of time spent tanning to get enough vitamin D varies from person to person.

“My dermatologist prescribed me to tan for my acne.”

You probably want to go see a different dermatologist if they’re telling you this. My dermatologist is 100% against tanning beds and says that those dermatologists are wrong and putting their patients in danger. The truth is that yes, the bulbs in the beds dries out your skin, so there’s less oil, hence less pimples. The darker your complexion, the least likely you are to notice blemishes. So tanning for acne or other skin conditions is purely for cosmetic reasons. If your dermatologist prescribes you with tanning, he or she is just looking out for your appearance, not your health. Tanning will not cure your acne or other skin condition, it is just downright incorrect and dangerous

Risks of indoor tanning  (AAD)

  • The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency of Research on Cancer panel has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogens (cancer-causing substances).6
  • Indoor tanning equipment, which includes all artificial light sources, including beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, etc., emits UVA and UVB radiation. The amount of the radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to the sun, and in some cases might be stronger.7,8
  • Studies have found a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma in those who have been exposed to UV radiation from indoor tanning, and the risk increases with each use.9,10,11
  • Evidence from several studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.1,2,10,12
  • Studies have demonstrated that exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning damages the DNA in the skin cells. Excessive exposure to UV radiation during indoor tanning can lead to premature skin aging, immune suppression, and eye damage, including cataracts and ocular melanoma. 1,13-16
  • In addition to the above mentioned risks, frequent, intentional exposure to UV light may lead to an addiction to tanning.17
  • Indoor tanning beds/lamps should be avoided and should not be used to obtain vitamin D because UV radiation from indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer. Vitamin D can be obtained by a eating a healthy diet and by taking oral supplements.
  • In a recent survey of adolescent tanning bed users, it was found that about 58 percent had burns due to frequent exposure to indoor tanning beds/lamps.18
  • The FDA estimates that there are about 3,000 hospital emergency room cases a year due to indoor tanning bed and lamp exposure.19

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Schedule a Full Body Check with a Dermatologist, TODAY!

Everyone, regardless of age or skin tone, should visit their dermatologist for a full body check once per year. However, If you are at a higher risk for development of skin cancer you should visit the dermatologist twice per year (like me). You are considered high risk if you have a fair complexion, freckles, red or blonde hair or you have been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past,

And remember, between visits it is important to be familiar with your own body. Know every mole or freckle, so if it changes you will notice and can get into your dermatologist to get it check out.

Dermatologists suggest using the ABCDE rule.

 A – Asymmetry: One half is different than the other half

B – Border of Irregularity: The edges are notched, uneven or blurred

C – Color: The color is uneven. Shades of brown, tan and black are present

D – Diameter: The diameter is greater than 6 mm

E – Evolving: The mole is changing or growing

abcde-300x195My hope in writing this post is for everyone who reads this (no matter how small the number) make an appointment to see their dermatologist for a full body scan. It may be embarrassing at first being completely naked and have a doctor check over every part of of your body, but it’s worth it… It’s worth it to save your life.

It’s also worth to cancel your tanning package and stop putting your skin through the ultimate torture. There are plenty of ways for us pasty people to get a “glow” through lotions and, if you’re so inclined, spray tanning.

So, please stop burning your skin and show it some love! You’re beautiful just the way you are!

My Battle with ‘Pro-Ana’ Sites & What ‘Ana’ Did to Me

You’ve most likely heard of them, Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites. Pro-ana refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It is often referred to simply as “ana” and is sometimes personified by anorexics as a girl named ‘Ana’. The lesser-used term pro-mia refers likewise to bulimia nervosa and is sometimes used interchangeably with pro-ana.

As a recovered(ing) anorexic, these sites absolutely disgust me… It is known through research that Anorexia nervosa is a VERY dangerous and serious illness, and has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder.  However, a majority of these sites claim that this disorder is a “lifestyle choice” that should be respected by doctors and family…

The presence of these sites is EVERYWHERE from Tumblr, Facebook, to even personal blogs. I came across a Pro-Ana site this morning and it literally made me sick to my stomach, I shook with anger and even teared up. Knowing that there are people out there promoting this disease obviously really upsets me.

The list below is what the sites/members promote – which was compiled on Wikipedia: ((Yeah, I know it’s not the most reputable resource – but all are supported by research.))

  • Endorse anorexia and/or bulimia as desirable (84% and 64% respectively in a 2010 survey).
  • Share crash dieting techniques and recipes (67% of sites in a 2006 survey, rising to 83% in a 2010 survey).
  • Coach each other on using socially acceptable pretexts for refusing food, such as veganism (which is notably more prevalent in the eating-disordered in general).
  • Compete with each other at losing weight, or fast together in displays of solidarity.
  • Commiserate with one another after breaking fast or binging.
  • Advise on how to best induce vomiting, and on using laxatives and emetics.
  • Give tips on hiding weight loss from parents and doctors.
  • Share information on reducing the side-effects of anorexia.
  • Post their weight, body measurements, details of their dietary regimen or pictures of themselves to solicit acceptance and affirmation.
  • Suggest ways to ignore or suppress hunger pangs.

And just because a site doesn’t outright call itself a Pro-Ana one, or try  to promote and eating disorder – sites and posts called “Thinspiration” or “Fitspiration” are just as dangerous. A BEAUTIFULLY written blog post was written by a man named Kevin Moore on his blog, Reembody Me, titled “The 6 Most Shockingly Irresponsible ‘Fitspiration’ Photos.” He goes through some of Fitspiration photos and dissects them and discussed how they are dangerous and irresponsible. Seriously, you NEED to read his post – just hover over the title of the blog/post and click!

Why I’m Anti-Ana – I HATE Ana, She’s a Life-Ruining Bitch: This is What Ana Did to Me

I write this blog to aid me in writing my book, “My Marathon 2 Recovery.” I also have been going through my old journal entries from 10+ years ago. And in doing so, I’ve come across some very depressing entries. I did not boast about losing weight or write down tips on how to burn more calories. I was angry, sad, and ultimately sick.

I really didn’t like what I was doing to myself, or I should say, what my disease was doing to me. I did it because I was ill, because it’s what my disease, or as the pro-ana sites name it, Ana, was telling me to do. I would have never promoted what I was happening to me among others. I wouldn’t share my “tips” – I wouldn’t wish such a disease on my worst enemy!

Now, while these pro-ana sites promote eating disorders, I’m going to share some excerpts from my own personal journals while under the cold, hard grasp of the hands of my disorder as well as an essay I wrote in high school about my struggle… Be prepared, you won’t want to be anorexic after reading these – this is what “Ana” did to me…

“I had lost over 15 lbs in a very short period of time. My Pediatrician dually diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He wrote a note to my school making me sit out of Physical Education and made me quite soccer and softball until I had weighed gained six more pounds. This was not as easy as it sounds. I struggled with the consistent low weight from November of 1999 to March of 2000.

Hair falling out constantly. I was so weak, I could barely scrub my scalp in the shower.

One day as my mom combed my hair after a shower (too weak to do it myself), she noticed how dirty my hair still was even after a shower. I couldn’t properly clean my own hair I was so weak!

I started developing peach-like fuzz on my face – my bodies response to the lack of body fat to keep my warm.

My mom noticed a fruity smell to my breath, which was my body breaking down fat and producing acids known as ketones. This is called Starvation Ketosis, which is a natural metabolic process which helps the body survive during times of starvation.

I remember the arguments and fights with my family. Being so angry and annoyed.

My mom ended up quitting her job so she could make it to all my doctor and counseling appointments, as well as accompanying me in my 5th grade classroom during lunch to assure that I would eat. Yes, we had to eat lunch in our classroom.

I remember becoming so weak and tired. In the car, I remember not being able to hold my own head up – I had to lean it all the way against the seat.

I had stopped following my food plan and became worse than ever. I’d suffered from malnutrition, my hair would fall out in the shower and in my hair brush, my clothes appeared baggy on me, I became so weak to the point that I could barely keep my head up when I sat down.

I’d gone three days with only one cup of chocolate milk (plus the weeks of self-deprivation). I was so weak that I just lied on the couch the third day not able to move. That was when my mom took me to Rainbow’s Babies and Children’s Hospital.

I was so weak, that I didn’t even fight my mom as she drove me to the hospital.

Drawings from my journals(sorry they’re a little blurry):

RIP drawing

“Here lies Colleen Beth Fitzgibbons. The girl who wouldn’t eat.”

grave

to eat or not to eat

hospitalized

At the hospital the doctors weren’t as lenient as my past doctors I’ve dealt with. I had to eat according to their meal plan, three full coarse meals and two snacks a day, other wise they would feed me through a Nasogastric Tube – Gastric incubation via the nasal passage. They would have to stick the feeding tube up my nose through my sinuses and into my stomach. Not wanting the painful way, I ate as they told me and stayed overnight for three days. Those three horrid days really got me thinking. I decided that I wanted to get better and be healthy. I didn’t want to suffer like this my whole life. But, it wasn’t easy…

I relapsed.

Looking back at the age of 15. I started menstruating at 12, but had suddenly stopped for a whole 6 months. When I saw my Pediatrician, he said I had Amenorrhea due to the lack of proper nutrition (starving myself) and over-exercising. I thought to myself, “Eh, whatever.”

It was when he told me that if I don’t start taking care of myself, eating, and listening to my body I would not be able to have kids one day.

That’s when it hit me. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I burst into tears.

What Ana was doing to me was about to ruin my future. I would not be able to conceive, to raise children of my own.

That was the biggest slap in the face and what motivated me to evict Ana out of my life.

After a while, and struggling with eating, I began to menstruate again and still do to this day. But, I’m still fearful that I may never be able to have kids for what that bitch, Ana, had done to my body and organs.

Know the Red Flags and DO SOMETHING

As a public health professional, I know that prevention is the best possible method. So, please, please please, if you or someone you know/love and notice any of these red flags, please seek help – IMMEDIATELY!

If you’re concerned that a loved one may have anorexia, watch for these possible red flags:

  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a few certain “safe” foods, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting rigid meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat
  • Repeated weighing of themselves
  • Frequent checking in the mirror for perceived flaws
  • Complaining about being fat
  • Not wanting to eat in public

Unfortunately, many people with anorexia don’t want treatment, at least initially. Their desire to remain thin overrides concerns about their health. If you have a loved one you’re worried about, urge her or him to talk to a doctor.

Visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s site for Help & Support.

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And if you come across a Pro-Ana/Mia site or Thin/Fitspiration post on social media, SPEAK OUT! Report the site or image to administrators and help put an end to this “trend” that is killing millions… Become an Anti-Ana/Mia Activist!

Loving Your Body – Embrace it for How it Looks Today

Body Confidence. It’s something we all want to achieve, but not always in the healthiest of ways.

A recent meme I came across on my Facebook newsfeed from the ANAD – National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders page inspired me to write this post. See it below:

body confidence

This statement is so true. The thing about the “perfect” body is that it really doesn’t exist. Yes, there are people out there like Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Matthew McConaughey, etc. who have pretty nice bodies, and faces. But, they don’t have the “ideal” body for everyone in the world. Everyone has their own preferences of what they find sexually appealing, but the westernized version of the “perfect” body is what we (Americans) seem to obsess over and will do ANYTHING to achieve it.

So, what if you did achieve the “perfect” westernized body? What would you do? What would you think of yourself? Would you be 100% happy with your life? Would all your hopes and dreams come true all because you have the “perfect,” lean stomach? No, you would not… But, yes, maybe you would be more confident in your body, you’d show it off, right? Probably not… You’d most likely obsess over another part of your body that’s not “perfect” and obsess over that too.

This is not my point though… The statement in this meme “Body Confidence does not come from trying to achieve the ‘perfect’ body, it comes from embracing the body you’ve already got.” This means to love, respect, and appreciate your body regardless of what the scale or tape measure tells you. It means to love your body unconditionally. Unlike a mother/father-child relationship though, the relationship we have with our own bodies is not always so easy to love unconditionally.

Loving our bodies unconditionally is not something that we learn to do as we get older, it’s something we unlearn to do as we grow with age… From the time we were born and into our pre-teen years, we already love our bodies. It’s a natural human instinct to obey our bodies natural rhythms and needs. But, we are conditioned (especially in our culture) to despise our bodies if they don’t meet a specific mold over time. Our parents, relatives, and friends (usually unintentional) teach us if we should or should not love our bodies.

How many times as a kid did you hear your family members degrade themselves in front of you for eating that extra piece of cake or put themselves down because their stomachs aren’t flat enough or their thighs are just too big? I heard it A LOT in my younger years… I don’t blame them – they too were victims to this vicious cycle of teaching our youngins’ to hate their bodies. Like I said, it’s more times than not, unintentional… And that’s the sad part, we, as adults, don’t realize what we are teaching the next generation. We don’t realize that a simple word or phrase that we think nothing of can be detrimental to that little one’s confidence in their own body. That someday, when they turn out to look just like you they too will turn against their bodies by being so critical of themselves and in turn keeping that same body-hatin’ term or phrase within the family for generations.

A BEAUTIFULLY-written letter from an excerpt from Dear Mum, a collection of letters from  Australian sporting stars, musicians, models, cooks and authors revealing what they would like to say to their mothers before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance. This one letter from an author named Kasey Edwards titled “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat” really outlines the effects a mother’s self-hatred towards her body can have on her children’s own relationship with her/his body. Edwards addresses the issue while also attempting to stop the cycle by not repeating her mother’s mistakes with her own daughter. It’s a MUST read – click on the link above!

MUMS AND DAUGHTERS: "I don't want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. ... We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are."

MUMS AND DAUGHTERS: “I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. … We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are.”

So, am I saying to stop working out and eating your broccoli and to just love your body? Well the latter is true, but I don’t think we should all stop taking care of our bodies. Exercise and proper nutrition is CRUCIAL. I am a HUGE advocate for an active, healthy lifestyle. BUT, there’s a fine line between being active and healthy and being obsessive and engaging in unhealthy behaviors to achieve a “perfect” body. Refer to one of my past posts Finding that Happy Medium. There’s nothing wrong with having a cookie, piece of cake, or cheeseburger every once in a while!

Now, do I always embrace my body? No, not always… I’ve found myself not liking the way my arms look in a picture and find myself criticizing my not-so-perfectly-flat stomach. I find myself bowing down to the westernized body ideal. BUT, then I remind myself of all the AMAZING things my body has and is doing everyday. My legs have taken me across three marathon finish lines and MULTIPLE other race finish lines, my arms and hands have helped me write some pretty awesome, and award-winning essays, my body has been through so much and endured even more. My body is pretty freakin’ amazing! And so is yours!

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The human body is AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL! That’s why we need to nourish it and take care of it. Don’t deprive it, harm it, degrade it, or belittle it. YOUR body is the ONLY body you will ever have! It’s OK to gain or lose weight, as long as it’s with healthy intentions. Our bodies go through some pretty incredible changes throughout the years – embrace them my friend and enjoy the transformations, and most importantly – love and respect your body each and every day. 🙂600

 

The Hills I’ve Conquered Thus Far

So, this past weekend I had an epiphany while running 10 miles on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was running up a rather large and long hill in my neighborhood. I felt very optimistic during that run that I ran up not just one rather large hill (of about half of a mile long!) once, but I ran up it AGAIN, and then I ran up another large hill and then ANOTHER! Whilst running up these gigantic hills I started thinking about all the other hills I have conquered in my life, metaphorically… I’ve overcome many obstacles in my life and it makes me proud to see where I was and where I am now. Each “hill” I’ve conquered has truly shaped me into the person I am today. So, let me share with you the many hills that I’ve had to climb. 🙂

The Failure (held-back) Hill

I don’t think many people know this, but I was held back in the first grade. My parents were going through a divorce and I didn’t take it very well. I also found out that year that I had a lazy eye and not only had to wear glasses, but a patch on my one eye (save the pirate jokes). That made it difficult to come into school, because I was afraid of being made fun of… Because my grades were slipping, my teacher suggested to my parents that I be held back in the first grade. I was devastated! I didn’t want to be held back from my best friend, peers, and be seen as stupid… That’s how I felt, stupid… I had FAILED a grade… What a loser I thought I was; a one-eyed, glasses-wearing, stupid, failure…

That was quite a challenging hill to climb. But, in the 5th grade I excelled in all my classes and was even tested for being gifted. From there on I had continued to slowly overcome the “failure hill” and not only made it to the top, but ran far, far away from it. In high school I was the editor-in-chief of our newspaper, won awards for my work as a journalist, swiped up pretty much all of the essay scholarships, made prom queen my senior year, and was accepted into Bowling Green State University.  I excelled in my program at BGSU and became very involved in the most amazing organization, the Student Wellness Networkwhich I became president of for two consecutive years and truly sparked my passion for health education/public health. I even attended and presented at multiple conferences and became a leader in everything I was involved in. Now, I’m about to graduate with my master in public health next Friday! I went from a shy, four-eyed, crooked-teeth, insecure girl to a confident, educated, leader. 🙂

The Disordered Hill

As I mentioned (several times), I have battled with multiple mental illnesses throughout my life. I was dually diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and obsessive compulsive disorder when I was 11. Later, once being recovered from anorexia, I discovered that I developed a newly found disorder, orthorexia (see some of my previous posts on more on this). I’ve also dealt with depression and have General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which I’ve taken medication for more than half of my life and continue to do so.

BUT, I am NOT my disorders… It’s true, they have shaped me into who I am, but they are not WHO I AM. I feel as though I am more in control of my disorders than I have ever been. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to finally recognize the “disordered” or abnormal thought in my head and be able to combat them. 🙂 I’d say I’m standing pretty tall on top of this hill now.

 The Ugly/Short Hill

I’ve had many body image issues from the time my age was in the single digits to my later years. I had crooked teeth (yes, I had braces!) and was actually made fun of for it a couple times in elementary school… It made me sad and I was always afraid to smile with my teeth from the fear of being made fun of. I also had a medium-sized birth mark on my right arm up until I was about 12 when I got it removed (for health reasons). I wouldn’t wear sleeveless shirts because I thought it was so grotesque-looking. I would even wear a band-aid over it when I did go sleeveless to hide it! Now, I have about a two-inch long scar where it once was. It’s a rather large scar, but it’s alright – I like my scar. 🙂

I developed insecurities with my body at a very young age as well. I wouldn’t wear jeans or certain underwear because I didn’t like hugged my stomach and thighs. I would actually stretch out the leg hole in my underwear back in elementary school so they wouldn’t cuff my legs because it made me feel “fat.”

Another insecurity I’ve had pretty much all my life too is my height. I’ve always been the shortest of my class and was often picked on for it. Throughout high school people would pick on me, not trying to be mean, but it would still hurt my feelings. I felt like short was ugly, that I was not as pretty or good enough as the taller girls. I always envied the taller girls in my class. I was always told I look younger than my age, even strangers would ask me for my age and would sometimes not believe me! This made me so insecure that I didn’t even want to get my driver’s license and drive a car when I was 16 because I didn’t want to have to explain to people that I am indeed old enough to drive…

That’s why I do what I do! It’s why I started this blog, started KSU’s Body Acceptance Movement, coach for Girls on the Run, and am so passionate about helping others with body image issues, because I was once at the bottom of that ugly hill too! I can’t necessarily say I’m over it just yet, but I’m getting pretty damn close! I still have my insecurities, but I am much more confident in my body than I ever was before and will continue to keep climbing until I am way over this hill!

Bring on the Hills! 

I feel that all those hills I’ve climbed, and am still climbing, have made me the person I am today – I must have some pretty strong legs! 😉 We’ve all had our hills we’ve conquered and are still climbing, and that’s OK! Life shouldn’t be just a flat, straight line. The hillier and more uneven the road is, the more fulfilling and invigorating life is. Not all our climbs will be enjoyable, or even comfortable, they will be rough, dirty, and may even seem impossible to get over, but YOU will conquer it! I know there are many more hills to come in my future. I may not know where they’ll be, how far, deep, or challenging they may be, but there’s one thing I do know about those hills I WILL conquer them. 🙂

BAM Makes Some Noise on KSU’s Campus on Body Acceptance & Eating Disorders!

The Body Acceptance Movement, the student organization I created as part of practicum experience for my MPH, planned and implemented programming for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 25 – March 1). As some of you know, I’ve done programming at my undergrad, Bowling Green State University, as president of the Student Wellness Network (SWN). SWN is an affiliate of the BACCHUS Network (a national peer education organization) and we attended the BACCHUS Network’s General Assembly every year and submit applications for recognition/funding of our programming at BGSU. I submitted an application for Outstanding Mental Health Program for our NEDAW, and guess what? WE WON! We were not only recognized at the national conference, but were also featured in their Peer Educator Magazine (see images of the magazine and article below)

EDAW 2010 coverBGSU's Student Wellness Network Receive "Outstanding Mental Health Program  from The BACCHUS Network  during the General Assembly in 2010.

BAM did a lot of the same programming at Kent State University, and we received a lot of wonderful responses! Starting off the week, I presented my Love Your Body Workshop to 22 students and faculty at the Student Health Center. My workshop addressed positive and negative body image, assessed attendees’ body perceptions, touched on some of the adverse health outcomes of body dissatisfaction, how different cultures perceive body image, the media’s role in body image in society, as well as how they can obtain a positive body image and help others. I used an evaluation to capture some data.  According to the evaluation responses after the presentation, one of the reasons why participants attended, 55 percent reported they attend in hopes of learning about to obtain a positive body image.

two ways share what learned feel betterfound out neg body image

The evaluation also found that 46 percent of participants found out through this presentation that they have a negative body image, while 81 percent of participants reported that they learned through the presentation at least two ways to turn their negative body image thoughts into positive ones and 68 percent reported that as a result of this presentation, they feel better about their body image. Seventy-seven percent of participants wished there were more events like this workshop offered on campus. Also, 82 percent of participants reported that as a result of this event, they are more aware of campus resources for body image related issues.

On the second and first day of NEDAW we held an outreach/informational table at the KSU Student Center. A visual depiction of the dimensions of what Barbie AND Ken Dolls would look like if they were real people were displayed, which received a lot of attention. Students were also asked to vent their frustrations to the scale, pick up some handouts and resources related to eating disorders and body image as well as an eating disorders awareness ribbon.

BAM TableSerena

Barbie and KenMesages to the Scale 2013!messages to scale

The table reached approximately 50 people through the two days.

 

On the third day of NEDAW we had TWO events! We held a panel discussion on eating disorders and body image. The panel included the Director of Women’s Studies who also teaches courses on body image, myself, and three other female students recovering from an eating disorder who are part of BAM.  The panel discussion had a total of 15 students and faculty in attendance, only 11 filled out the program evaluation.

Photo courtesy of Yolanda Li.

Photo courtesy of Yolanda Li.

As a result of the panel discussion, 63 percent of the 11 attendees who filled out the evaluation reported that they are more aware of campus resources for body image related issues. A common thread to why participants attended the event was because they or someone they know have an eating disorder and they wanted to learn more about the disease. Another common thread about what participants liked most about the event was the panelists’ stories and 91 percent of attendees reported that they plan on sharing what they learned to family and friends. The panel discussion was covered by KSU’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater and was featured on the front page the next day.

Also on the third day of NEDAW, BAM held a yoga session titled, Love Your Body Yoga. The emphasis during the session was to focus on the movements and appreciate all the things their body can do. The total count of attendees was 25, and all received a FREE yoga mat!! 🙂

instructor 2 Yoga Monica   ColetteYoga 8

 

All week students were encouraged to donate jeans that no longer fit to one of four drop-off locations for the campaign Be Comfortable in Your Own Genes. Wear Jeans that fit the REAL You! which was created by the National Eating Disorders Association. All jeans were donated to a local shelter, County Clothing Center in Ravenna, Ohio. We collected around 100 pairs of jeans!

The pretty boxes used for collection. :)

The pretty boxes used for collection. 🙂

 We were featured in the Daily Kent Stater THREE times in one week – twice of which was on the FRONT PAGE.

DKS

 

I was VERY pleased with the outcome of KSU’s NEDAW 2013!! I’m hoping my predecessor will continue with BAM’s goals and efforts to promoting positive body image. 🙂

I LOVE Chocolate… And I Can No Longer Lie!

Ok, if you don’t get my headline, it’s a pun from the song “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot! HEHE

So, the constant theme of this blog has been my journey through my recovery from an anorexia. One of my posts talks about how I try to treat myself once I accomplish something such a running longer distances with a cupcake, frozen yogurt, something that I wouldn’t have even touched a few years ago! Which is WONDERFUL! However, I would ONLY eat this treats because I expended an abundance of calories. There is still a sort of obsession/disordered eating behavior going with that… I was cognitive of that, but was still not ready to move beyond my comfort zone of eating sweets simply because I wanted some! Now, I KNOW the obesity rates in the U.S. are enormous (no pun intended) and that a many Americans eat sweets in excess. But, not EVERYONE abuses sugars and sweets and they can be good for you!

That is not my point – the point of this post is that I have FINALLY moved beyond my comfort zone of eating sweets on special occasions. CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!! YUM!! I’ve always LOVED this CHOCOLATE!! But, for MANY years I’ve actually lied to people who offer me this delicious food or when it’s someone’s Birthday and I don’t consume any cake, cookies, etc. I lie and tell them I don’t LIKE these foods.

My lie of LOVING chocolate was due to be OBSESSION with “healthy” foods. As I mentioned in my poem post The Beautiful Image in the MirrorI had Orthorexia – literally meaning the fixation on “righteous” eating. I didn’t want to seem weak, to love a food that was “bad” for you. I’ve learned that there are no such thing as BAD FOODS! ALL foods have calories, and with moderation all foods can be healthy! Chocolate has had a bad rep over the years. Cocoa is actually pretty darn good for you! It has healthy antioxidants and chemicals that have been shown to fight cancer, heart disease and aging, researchers say. But, even like carrots (since you don’t want your skin to turn orange) you should eat everything in MODERATION.

I have found the joy of BAKING. I LOVE baking cookies! Yes, they are a bit of a healthier version – I use whole wheat flour, coconut sugar, stevia sugar, egg whites, skim milk, and no butter, BUT I still use CHOCOLATE CHIPSSSSSSSSSSSS! NOM! I’ll bake these just because I feel like it! And you want to know what? I’LL EAT ONE (or two, or three…)!! And you want to know what’s even better, I DON’T FEEL GUILTY!! Oh, what an amazing feeling to eat something I’ve hidden my love for for so long, enjoy it, and not feel a tad bit of guilt afterwards!

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My homemade chocolate chip cookies!

Want to know what else I consumed without an inch of guilt?! CAKE!! My boyfriend, Blake, baked me what was supposed to be a RED velvet cake. He accidentally used purple food coloring instead of red. But, it’s OK, purple is one of my favorite colors! I had a piece of that cake on my Birthday! And then the next day, I had ANOTHER, and then the day after that guess what? I HAD ANOTHER!

PART of the PURPLE velvet cake that Blake made FROM SCRATCH for me. 🙂 It was in the shape of a heart. ❤

Between my anorexia with restricting myself of calories to my years with orthorexia of restricting myself of taste and proper nourishment, this is a pivoting moment in my life. It not only proves that I can finally say I have conquered my eating disorders, but that I am a survivor! Cue Destiny’s Child’s Survivor!

 

No longer will I deprive myself of a chocolate chip cookie, or two, because of my PAST disorders! I’m a survivor and I’m proud to have overcome such a long, torturous battle.