Dr. King’s Words Put into Action

So, this post is a little off topic of what I normally post in this Blog, but that’s ok. It’s my blog and I’ll write about whatever I want to. ūüôā Expect a lot more of these kinds of posts.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I’m feeling a little nostalgic, a little… Emotional.

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I’ve been reading a lot of quotes by Dr. King – of course I’ve read many of them – but today I’m looking at how I can take those words that wise man once spoke and use them in my everyday life. I do in fact believe and express the same beliefs as Dr. King. It’s just in the past year or so that I have discovered how much I encompass those qualities Dr. King emphasizes and that those are the qualities that I like about myself and hope to utilize to build a career, a life off of.

Dr. King was a man of caring and advocating for others. He believed that all ¬†human beings deserved the to be treated with DIGNITY and RESPECT. That is what I believe. No matter a person’s path, everyone is still human.

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So many humans have been discriminated against and deprived of basic human needs. Look at where we are now in 2015 compared to 1900. We’ve come so far. Women couldn’t vote 100 years ago. People of color couldn’t go into the same restroom as white people. Coming out of the closet was not an option for our LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, there is still HATE and DISCRIMINATION out there in the world by those who refuse to move forward, by those who refuse to chose LOVE and ACCEPTANCE.

My mission in life is to HELP, LOVE, RESPECT, and CARE for others. Doing a kind thing for a complete stranger gives me such satisfaction, so much… Happiness. I was driving on the freeway today and there was an accident on the side of the road. I was in the left lane and the man in the semi truck in the right lane near the accident. The man driving the semi truck noticed the accident last minute and turned on his blinkers. I slowed down and waved the man over. Once we were passed the accident and he returned to the right lane, as I passed him he waved at me in thanks. That SIMPLE kind gesture (as well as for safety purposes) made my day. It’s not so much that the man noticed what I did, but that he recognized that I did it out of his and the people on the side of the road’s well being. I didn’t have to let him over and he didn’t have to wave at me to show his appreciation of what I did. The entire sequence of our interaction was out of kindness and caring for other people’s well being. That’s the kind of world I want to live in, those are the kind of people I like to me around.

Also like Dr. King. I believe in the power of knowledge. The power of a good education. Education that doesn’t teach one WHAT to think but to give the skills of HOW to think. Ignorance is poison. Ignorance creates hate. And hate develops so many scary, ugly things. And my job is to spread knowledge, to educate others. And mainly on STIGMA – something that not only hurts people’s feelings, but creates oppression and discrimination in our society. I go into schools, jails, residential treatment centers, churches and all over the community to educate about some of the most discriminated topics – MENTAL HEALTH.

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Just like race, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, people are discriminated against because of their diagnosis with a mental illness. That stigma and fear of judgement can shield a person from getting help and treatment. Not getting treatment can make life ever so difficult to function, to perform essential everyday activities such as grooming, going to school or works, eating, etc. A mental illness can be just as or more disabling than cancer and paraplegia. If one cannot not function enough to go to work to earn money to pay for their house, care, clothes, and food they lose all of that. As of¬†January 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. That’s HUGE!

Now, this post is just a beginning of future posts to come about this topic of stigma, helping others and everything in between. I have a new vision of what I want to do with my future career. It involves a lot of what I’ve posted about today, giving people and animals second chances. ūüôā More to come on that vision later. Until then, be kind to others and most importantly, be kind to yourself.

TheWholeStaircase

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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.

 

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. ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúfat‚ÄĚ or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being ‚Äúfat.‚ÄĚ
  • 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 ‚Äúburn off‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúslowing down‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúburn off‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúunhealthy obsession‚ÄĚ with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from ‚Äúorthorexia nervosa,‚ÄĚ a term which literally means ‚Äúfixation on righteous eating.‚Ä̬† 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 ‚Äúslip-ups.‚ÄĚ

Do I Have Orthorexia?

Consider the following questions.¬† The more questions you respond ‚Äúyes‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď one single meal ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúcorrect‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúthinness‚ÄĚ or muscularity and place value on obtaining the ‚Äúperfect body‚ÄĚ
  • 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‚ÄĒStep 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúyou‚ÄĚ statements such as, ‚ÄúYou just need to eat.‚ÄĚ Or, ‚ÄúYou are acting irresponsibly.‚ÄĚ Instead, use ‚ÄúI‚ÄĚ statements. For example: ‚ÄúI‚Äôm concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.‚ÄĚ Or, ‚ÄúIt makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.‚ÄĚ
  • Avoid giving simple solutions.¬†For example, ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôd just stop, then everything would be fine!‚ÄĚ
  • 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.

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 ‚Äď 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!