2014 Hurdles Have Made for Some Strong Legs

What a year 2014 has been thus far, and we still have a few months left of it! It’s been filled with ups and downs. The ups: landing my first big girl job and LOVING it. Buying our first house and new car.

But, the downfalls have made me a stronger person. Metaphor time: all those hurdles have made my legs, my body stronger to move forward and to prepare for the next hurdle.

I love metaphors. And running. So that analogy suited me well.

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First, let me start off saying that I know people who have been through some far worse “hurdles” this year. I was not diagnosed with incurable cancer nor did I lose someone I love. I feel for and empathize for people who have gone through those and similar experiences. But, these are my hurdles of my year. I am thankful for my health and family.

So, let’s start with my Celiac Disease diagnosis. How has that made my “legs” stronger? Well, now I know why I’ve had stomach issues all my life! Though I’m not 100% better after a few months of being gluten-free, I know what I need to do to keep my body healthy. I’ve already started improving my times in the races I’ve done this year too!

Next…. I’ve been on Celexa for well over five years and it decided to stop working for me. My anxiety and depression increased. I would break down in tears randomly, not want to get out of bed and felt alone (no matter how many people were around me). On top of that I starting feeling this strange sensation in my head that I describe as brain zaps. This usually happens when one is having withdrawal from an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressant (such as Celexa). But, I was still taking the highest dosage of it.

So, after consulting with my doctor, he switched me to another SSRI, telling me that after being on certain SSRI for a long period of time they just stop working. The brain zaps were still there, and one day at work, they intensified. As did my anxiety. I couldn’t think straight, felt dizzy and shaky. Not knowing what I should do, I went into my supervisor’s office (who thankfully is wonderful person – and counselor!). When I started explaining what was happening I began to hyperventilate and cry. I had my first, and hopefully last, anxiety attack. And at work… Again, THANKFULLY my boss is super understanding and took me to the ER. During the anxiety attack, I had no idea what was going on with me.

How has an anxiety attack made me stronger? Well, I think it’s helped me see just how real and scary a panic or anxiety attack really is. This increased empathy towards those who go through this will make me a better instructor of Mental Health First Aid and as a person in general. Since then I’ve been on two different medications and think I’ve finally found the one that works for me.

I also have turned to the wonderful practice of yoga due to my anxiety as well as the pain from my scoliosis. I’ve been doing yoga for about a month now and can already feel the difference not only in the physical sense, but the mental and emotional sense as well.

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Lastly, my computer’s hard drive crashed and I wasn’t smart enough to back up my files… This means that my book I was writing “My Marathon to Recovery” that I’ve been working on for 2-3 years now is… GONE. I’ve looked through my e-mail accounts, old flash drives and asked around to see if I’ve ever sent a copy. Zero, zip, nada… All those years of putting my heart and soul into that book is gone, disappeared into nothingness.

“You’re boyfriend is a computer geek though.” Yeah, I know, he tried EVERYTHING he could. The hard drive was dead…

I wouldn’t say I got “stronger” at first from losing my hard work. More like infuriated, upset, feeling hopeless. Later, I took this as a challenge. This just means I need to revisit those thoughts, those memories I once had about my struggle and triumph over my eating disorder. Gotta strengthen those fingers through LOTS of typing!

Again, this post isn’t to ensue sympathy, but about how we can turn our downfalls or hurdles into something positive. It’s about being optimistic.

One of my favorite quotes, and another great metaphor,  by Jimmy Dean demonstrates just that, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

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We cannot change the things that happen to us, but we can adjust how we deal and see these things. Instead of struggling with the change, we need to just adjust our sails, whether it be our diet due to a diagnosis or our mentality about something that we cannot change. We need to stop fighting against a powerful force that will simply not letup, and adjust our sails.

Back to the hurdles metaphor… We will always be presented with hurdles on our path. The more hurdles we jump over, the stronger we become. Don’t let a hurdle, no matter how big or small, stand in your way of your happiness, health, or your goals.

 

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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Just Another Obstacle on the Road to Recovery

I just received a call from my doctor on some lab testing I had done last week. I tested positive for Celiac Disease…. It’s something I’ve thought I may have for years, but didn’t want to face it. Don’t know what Celieac Disease is? Well here, let me quickly educate you!

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide.  2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.

When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.

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Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning that it runs in families. People with a first-degree relative with celiac disease (parent, child, sibling) have a 1 in 10 risk of developing celiac disease.”

My sister was just recently diagnosed with Celiac too, so my risk was pretty high already!

Long-Term Health Effects

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

Well I definitely got the short stature part, standing at a mere 4’11”!

There are two steps to finding out if you have celiac disease: screening and diagnosis. I’ve had the blood test done, now I just need to meet with my doctor to see what the next steps are…

Just Another Bump in the Road

As you all, at least those who’ve been following my blog or even just on Facebook, know, I have a history of two eating disorders: Anorexia and Orthorexia. So, having Celiac is going to be hard for me to avoid triggers – but I know I can do it!

Through my eating disorders over the past 15 years or so, I’ve gone from restricting calories and basic nutrition to my body to restricting taste and foods that I love. Now, I have to go back to restricting foods that I love, bread, pasta, bagels, GLUTEN, due to the autoimmune disease… Of course the reasoning for the restriction is totally different, but to my mind it almost feels the same.

BUT, I’m a fighter, a survivor, and this disease is just another bump in the road on my journey through recovery, through life.

I’ve always been one of those people who thrive on chaos, big deadlines, and stressful situations. Heck, I wanted to be a journalist for the longest time – even went to college for it! I love staying busy – challenges make me happy. So, I see this as another challenge. And yet another disease that I can speak on and shed light on/bring awareness too.

I think going gluten free will also help me in competing in marathons and triathlons! I’ve always had terrible stomach issues, especially when competing. Hopefully dealing with this disease the right way will improve my performance as well!

More Stigma to Erase

Also, this gives me another disease to break stigma on! I hear A LOT of people going gluten free for diet, weight-loss purposes… So, when people hear about others going gluten-free, there’s a stigma that they’re doing it as a fad diet, the weight-loss purposes. Not many people know what Celiac Disease is, just like most people don’t understand mental illness like eating disorders.

 

I see my doctor next week to find out the next steps. I’ll share more on my journey of becoming gluten free whilst also avoiding triggering myself of my eating disorders.

Erasing the Stigma

Mental illness. Two words that make a majority of people uncomfortable. Two words that 1 in 5 Americans experience.

People are more likely to talk about their physical ailments than their mental. Even though, mental health problems are more common than heart disease, lung disease, and cancer COMBINED. Then why do so many people cringe or judge over someone with a mental illness?

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It’s called STIGMA. As those who have been following my blog over the past couple of years know, I am VERY open about my mental disorders. From the age of 11 I was dually diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I also have General Anxiety Disorder, have had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, recovered from Orthorexia and depression. But you probably wouldn’t have guessed it if you knew me in high school or college. I’ve always been super involved in school and sports. But, the fact is, the happy-go-lucky girl has always been battling some sort of inner battle. I’m no longer ashamed of my disorders, I know it’s just part of my makeup and I’m proud of the woman I’ve become.

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” – Former President Bill Clinton

Here’s some statistics on mental disorders. A national survey of Americans found that 19.6% of adults (18 or older) experienced a mental disorder in any one year. This is equivalent to 45.6 million people.

Percentage of American Adults with Mental Disorders in Any One Year

TYPE OF MENTAL DISORDER

ADULTS

Anxiety Disorders

19.1%

Major Depressive Disorder

6.8%

Substance Use Disorder

8%

Bipolar Disorder

2.8%

Eating Disorders

2.1%

Schizophrenia

0.45%

Any mental disorder

19.6%

I think it’s important to note here that these statistics are based on REPORTED mental disorders. The percentage of people who go undiagnosed and untreated are unknown. I truly believe all of these numbers are much larger. But, what’s reported is still very significant and alarming.

So, I make it my mission to erase that stigma of mental illness, educate others and put a face to the disorders I’ve gone through in my life.

Mental Health First Aid

Last week I went through Mental Health First Aid training (MHFA). I’m sure a majority of you have taken CPR and First Aid Training to be able to assist a loved on or stranger in a physical health crisis. But, did you know you’re more likely to encounter someone experiencing a mental health crisis over a physical one?

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Mental Health First Aid is just like First Aid training, it aims to teach members of the pubic how to respond in a mental health emergency and offer support to someone who appears to be in emotional distress.

“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentional words.” – Rachel Naomi Remen, Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of California

Those eight hours of MHFA training were so worth it. And I truly believe EVERYONE should go through the training! I thought I was knowledgeable about the subject going into it, but coming out of it I had learned SO much more and made me feel more powerful and confident in assisting someone going through a mental health crisis.

Here are some facts that might help your decision in getting MHFA trained too:

  • Did you know 1 in 5 people experience a panic attack?
  • Untreated depression causes an average of 5 hours per week, or more than 3 days a month of lost productivity in the workplace.
  • One person dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes.
  • You can assist someone going through a mental health crisis get the appropriate care.
  • YOU can save a life.

Now let’s dispel some common myths:

“Mental disorders are signs of weakness or personality flaws. If someone wants to be happy, they simply can be happy. If you ignore the problem and use willpower, the problem will simply go away.”

These beliefs are inaccurate and hurtful. Mental disorders cannot be willed away. Ignoring the problem typically makes it worse. Treatment strategies will differ for each individual, but professional help is the first step. Depression and other major mental disorders have nothing to do with laziness or lack of willpower.

“People with mental disorders are violent.”

Individuals living with mental disorders are no more likely than a member of the general population to commit a violent act. Research shows that as a group, people with mental disorders are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. More than one quarter of persons with severe mental illness had been victims of a violent crime in the past year, a rate more than 11 times higher than the general population. Put another way, research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent DO NOT suffer from mental disorders. The truth of the matter is those people we hear about on the news who’ve brought a gun to a school or committed some other form of violence and were said to have had a mental illness are the exception. 

“‘Healthy’ people aren’t affected by traumatic events. If they are, it’s because they really do have a mental health problem.”

Trauma can affect anyone, regardless of how strong or psychologically healthy.

People with psychosis usually come from a dysfunctional family.

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It’s important to educate yourself further on mental disorders. It’s also just as important, if not more important, to become Mental Health First Aid trained as it is First Aid trained. Click here to visit the MHFA website and learn more!

Not only do I feel more educated and skillful in helping someone else with a mental health crisis, but I also feel more apt to take better care of my own mental health. I’ve gone to counselors and psychiatrists since I was probably about the age of 10. But, lately I’ve been experiencing more of my anxiety symptoms and have been shoving it off, taking care of my physical ailments such a sprained ankle and shoulder bursitis. I ice and elevate my sprained ankle, but I wasn’t doing anything to help with my anxiety issues. So, before I made this post, I scheduled an appointment with a new psychiatrist, since I’m not a fan of the one I’ve been seeing since I was 12. I can’t just tell people how important their mental well-being is and then overlook my own. That is just too hypocritical of me and just not healthy.

I tried to make this blog post as short and to the point as possible – so y’all would be more apt to read the whole thing. 🙂

Take care of yourselves, physically and mentally.

(Much of the information here was found in the Mental Health First Aid USA Manual, 2013)

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!

akron mary

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 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.”

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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!

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. 🙂