Tag Archives: eating disorders

overeating – a neglected eating disorder

unhealthy habits and demographic changes are combining to place an unprecedented burden on the health-care system that may not be manageable, the heart and stroke foundation said in its 2010 annual report on canadians’ health.

so says the CBC about an alarming increase in heart disease and the potential for heart disease, adding `most of this is preventable.” the solution is

encouraging canadians to be more physically active, eat a healthy diet and be aware of their risk factors for heart disease.

“we all eat from stress, or because we don’t have time to prepare things,” said cheryl shapiro, a heart patient in toronto who was diagnosed with high blood pressure eight years ago.

she encourages people to read labels. “we don’t realize what we’re putting in our bodies.”

it is difficult to fit in the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least three times a week, shapiro said, but she does walk her dog regularly.

part of the solution is to create infrastructure to make it easier for people to walk to the store rather than driving everywhere to avoid exercise, abramson said.

“it’s easy to take shortcuts,” abramson said. “but in the long run, those shortcuts will be disastrous for our health.

there was a bit more about this on the radio but the gist was the same. what i found interesting – always find interesting about such news stories – is that obesity and being overweight is almost exclusively seen as a lifestyle choice. the equation of overweight = fat = out of control, unattractive, lazy, weak-willed etc. is not made explicitly but it’s really just three letters away. indeed, when i looked at the first five or six pages of the comments, i saw the word “lazy” six times. neither in the story nor in the comment pages did i see the word “eating disorder” or “addiction”.

i often get the feeling that in the world of psychiatric diagnoses, anorexia is much more noble than overeating. the overly thin person who uses her will power to deny herself a piece of broccoli is so much more appealing in our culture than the slob who sits in front of his TV, gobbling ice cream. of course both are caricatures and tell only a very, very thin slice of reality (for example, you could have two very similar looking people side by side, one of them struggling with undereating, the other with overeating. it doesn’t always show in the body size.)

there is controversy in the psych community over whether overeating is an addiction. i must say that i find NEDIC‘s approach in can i be addicted to food? just as naive as the above article. it ends up saying “once we begin eating in a normal, healthy way again, we won’t have the same desire to eat as much high-calorie, high-carbohydrate food, or foods we think are “bad”.” that sounds really easy, doesn’t it?

now of course “addiction” is just a label, so let’s not split hairs here (although personally i am firmly on the side of gabor mate’s definition of addiction, which would agree with the use of the word in connection with overeating). rather, let’s be clear on this:

there are many people who eat much more than they want to and are unhappy about it. they try and try and try and nothing seems to work. they experience things like this: they cry during binges because they hate that they are eating non-stop. they go to bed night after night with terrible stomach pains because they have eaten too much. they eat out of garbage bins, eat frozen and spoiled food. they go to great pains to hide their eating from others, often ordering nothing but a little salad when they go out with others. they go from macdonald’s to burger king to wendy’s, pretending they are buying for a family. they spend thousands of dollars on diets that work for a while and then go back to bingeing. they commit suicide over the shame they feel over their out-of-control eating.

this is not a little lifestyle problem that will go away with a bit of education and an admonishment to use more willpower. many people who overeat know a lot about nutrition already and know they should exercise more, just like many people who smoke know what their lungs look like. they are deeply unhappy that willpower doesn’t seem to work. my best friend’s mother, an astonishingly intelligent woman, died of lung cancer, greedily sucking on a cigarette just before she went into her last coma. while not every person who is overweight suffers with such intensity, there are nevertheless similarities. overeating, for many, is a disfiguring, depressing, despairing dis-ease that is difficult to fight. i wish that this will be acknowledged more in the coming years. come to think of it, MentalHealthCamp, our second conference on the intersection between social media and mental health, will be a great way to address this.

(this is another post for national eating disorders week)

eating disorders, depression and perfectionism

by now you must have cottoned on to the fact that i really like therese borchard’s beyond blue: surviving depression and anxiety and making the most of bad genes.

one of the things she talks about in that book is her run-ins with eating disorders. in the chapter BMI (body mass issues) – depression in my thighs she mentions a number of writers in the field. for example cherry boone o’neill and her book starving for attention

in my early years i equated my worth as a person with the level of my performance and i felt that the love and approval of other people would be conditioned upon my perfection. therefore, i expended every effort to be the best i could possibly be in any given area of endeavour, only to repeatedly fall short of my goals and risk losing value in the eyes of others. trying even harder, only to miss the mark again, resulted in compounded guilt and self hatred.

therese then draws the connection between eating disorders and depression, citing dr. raymond depaulo from johns hopkins who observes that young women with eating disorders also tend to suffer from depression. it’s interesting to hear therese compare the two experiences:

i asked a veteran nurse which illness – an eating disorder or a mood disorder – is harder to overcome.

“an eating disorder, hands down,” he said. “because you have to eat to stay alive, and so it’s always there. you are always confronting your behaviour.” butter, flour, and friends are always at the table sprouting horns.

depression has bullied me much more than an eating disorder, and i’d take anorexia or bulimia any day over the intense suicidal thoughts i experienced for eighteen months later in life. but before giving birth and whacking out my brain chemistry, i did get to enjoy several years symptom-free of depression. there were many days i didn’t even think about my mood! but to this day the eating disorder is still there. at every meal.

in the next chapter, she talks about the perfectionism that we mentioned earlier.

like practically every other depressive i know, perfectionism can cripple my efforts to live freely and happily, not to mention plague me with writer’s block. left unattended, perfectionism will build a prison around me so that every shot at expressing myself is thwarted by the fear of not getting it right.

one of the people who helps her with that is her editor. she reminds her of something that goes for all of us, whether we’re depressed, deal with eating disorders, are writers, or whatever else. she constantly reminds her to

to write from wherever i am, not from where i want to be, because the journey – full of backward steps – is what makes material real and most helpful.

finally, she quotes anna quindlen:

perfection is static, even boring. your unvarnished self is what is wanted.

a song for anorexia

this week is eating disorders week.  to start it off, here is a song one of my twitter contacts wrote for someone who was struggling with this difficult, often life threatening disorder (the fourth song, “you are not alone”)

and the lyrics:

you are not alone
music & lyrics by bob gray © october 22, 2003

there is a light, beyond the darkness
there is pain, inside us all.
sometimes we trip, on the roads we travel
as we reach up, sometimes we fall
and though sometimes, i know you’re lonely
with all my heart, i need you to know…

chorus:
you are not alone… i stand by your side.
with so many others, who hide, as you hide.
with all my heart, i hope you will hear me
you are not alone… you are not alone…

there is a peace, that you can get to
it will be hard, but you’ll be fine.
i’ll walk with you, in case you stumble
reach out your hand, i’ll give you mine
and though sometimes, you may be frightened
with all my heart, i want you to know…

repeat chorus:

bridge: (with choir)

but, beyond the hurt… beyond frustration…
beyond the mountains, we all must climb
there is the dawn, of a new tomorrow
the dawn of hope… i hope we find…

repeat chorus: (with choir)

self esteem: the thread in the quilt of recovery

a quilt in the makinghere is another interview with someone recovering from an eating disorder. this person used to eat too much, and has been and still is dealing with it by going to overeaters anonymous.

isabella: “you’ve come a long way, baby” – how long HAVE you come? what’s changed?

OA person: how long have i come? i would say the longest i have come is out of isolation. i am very aware of the benefits of talking/writing/meeting with others to discuss what is a core weakness in my life with people who understand. i carried the burden alone in my childhood. i am no longer a silent-suffering victim. i am an active participant in my recovery. so i am greatly empowered.

isabella: what’s the most important thing in your recovery?

OA person: the most important thing in my recovery is: hmm…self love

isabella: how would you characterize your relationship with your body?

OA person: my relationship with my body is greatly healed but there is still some ‘disconnect’ and i still need to ‘care more’ for self (especially losing weight). i am grateful for my body. it is relatively healthy. again, it is an improved relationship, big time.

isabella: self esteem – how does it fit into the quilt of your recovery?

OA person: self esteem is like the threads in the quilt of my recovery. i have to think i am worthy of a better life before i can embark on one. the more i use and grow the threads, the bigger and stronger the quilt!

isabella: any other comments or suggestions for someone with a story similar to yours?

OA person: just keep coming back. don’t give up. try something new in recovery. allow yourself to feel like crap if you do. but then move on. feel the feelings and then let them go. break out of isolation and start talking to people, sharing at meetings, phoning or emailing or whatever you can do today to get out of yourself. my biggest ‘trap’ is self.

——–

a note from isabella: “keep coming back” is a phrase often used in 12-step meetings. it means don’t give up, keep trying. it can also carry the meaning of “keep remembering who you truly are, in all your beauty and health.”

image by open threads

beating ANA – one relationship at a time

women singingrelationships replace eating disorders. period. the end.”

this is the central message of beating ANA – how to outsmart year eating disorder and take your life back by shannon cutts. it’s a book i’d recommend to anyone who wants to work their way out of an eating disorder.

the more loving, supportive, therapeutic relationships that exist in your life, the more the odds of recovery shift in favour of a return to health.

what kind of relationships are these? for shannon cutts, these are mostly mentoring relationships.

a mentor is a trusted guide who has knowledge and experience in a certain area, and is willing and able to share it.

a mentee is a person in need of guidance and instruction, and is willing to receive it.

shannon describes how being mentored made a huge difference in her life, helping her turn away from anorexia and bulimia to a place where she says

i sing again
and i speak
i speak out against some
but mostly towards all of us
who have splintered off our hearts and souls
from our minds and bodies …
who have forgotten that we are all whole by design
and that whole is the only way.

whole is beautiful.
whole is worth living
and loving.
whole is exquisite – utterly unique.
whole is believable – the only believable you and me.

and most of all, whole is the only thing worth dying,
living and fighting for … do we ever really realize –

you are the only you who ever was, is, or ever will be.
and i am the only me.

TRUST. HOPE. FAITH. LOVE. LIVE. TRIUMPH. BELIEVE.

more at her web site, key to life.

this is a great book, and i’m hoping to speak more about it in the coming months.

image by thomas hawk

the helping hand

the helping hand - bloggers helping each otheri am way, way, way, waaaaay overdue in passing along sojourner’s helping hand emblem to others. first of all, sojourner, you honour me with this. one of the reasons why i am so passionate about blogging is that i believe we are truly building a community of the future here. a community of a better world. you and all the other helping handers are actively working on building this world. thank you, thank you, thank you!

the idea behind this emblem is to think of 5 bloggers you consider your blogging helping hand. then you “pay it forward” by extending your helping hand to another 5 bloggers in support and encouragement for their efforts.

i have been helped by many, many bloggers. today, i will just name 6 (sorry, i just have to do it a bit differently : )

  1. hummingbird 604 has been an inspiration from the moment i first met him (yes, i still remember that evening in january 2008). enthusiastic, helpful, terribly smart, and the generous co-organizer of our mental health camp
  2. everyone needs therapy is simply the best therapist in blogtown! there is so much i can learn from her.
  3. liz strauss is the grande dame of social media. her generosity, creativity and deep understanding of human nature continue to lift me up.
  4. netchick brings social media to life here in vancouver. her online meet and greets and question and answer games are light and fun and connect people in a really easy-going way.
  5. wellbeing and health is probably my most frequent commenter. his comments are always not only thoughtful but thought-provoking. my blog would be empoverished without him.

and here are some bloggers to whom i would like to send encouragement. in keeping with our main theme right now – remember, this is change therapy’s eating disorders week month spring – they all blog about eating disorders and haven’t been blogging that long. i’ve never met them before but i’d like to extend a greeting to them:

keep going, you’re doing awesome work!

  1. inside i’m still dancing
  2. live.life
  3. recovery from bulimia. maybe
  4. just for today in OA
  5. losing waist!
  6. body image council

if you’d like to pass on the emblem of the helping hand, sojourner asks you to do this:

1. select 10 bloggers: 5 you consider your blogging helping hand then “pay it forward” by extending your “helping hand” to 5 additional bloggers in support and encouragement for their efforts.

2. in passing on the emblem, each recipient must provide the name of blog or blog author with a link for others to visit. each recipient must show the emblem and put the name and link to the blog that has given it to her or him.

3. link the emblem to this post: helping hand: much obliged and paying it forward so that others will know its origin and impetus.

4. if you have not already done so, show your recipients some love by adding them to your blog roll, technorati favorite list, or in any other way to further let them know that their blog voice is important to you and being heard.

5. add your name to the helping hand meme and don’t forget to leave a comment as a permanent record of all helping hand recipients.

6. display the rules.

and here is the list of those who are part of the helping hand community so far.

1. black woman blow the trumpet
2. hagar’s daughter
3. yobachi
4. vanessa
5. shiela
6. sj p
7. mimi lenox
8. danielle vyas
9. rawdawgbuffalo
10. janet shan
11. c.s. stone
12. amy- happy momma
13. mac daddy
14. clnmike
15. keith
16. dee
17. s ha e- s ha e
18. roschelle
19. isabella mori from change therapy
20. villager
21. marvalus
22. revvy rev
23. uglyblackjohn@ att. net
24. running mom
25. pjazzypar
26. miles per hour
27. sista gp
28. kim (bk86queen)
29. sylvia washington
30. shawn williams (dallas south)
31. sharon brumfield
32. regina
33. mista jaycee
34. jessie
35. denise
36. [ fung’ ke] [blak] [chik]
37. donetta at a life uncommon( medical provision)
38. tracy @ thirsty for him
39. keith
40. gail w.
41. mizrepresent
42. alicia benjamin
43. irene@ the green greek
44. alex
45. jennie
46. hagar’s daughter (1/ 5/ 09)
47. allison @ simple christian living
48. curvy gurl
49. lorna
50. jodi
51. larie
52. vikki @ molding a lump of clay
53. maria wilson
54. jennifer
55. whiteshadow
56. christina
57. believer 1964
58. curious
59. silverhartgirl
60. angel
61. darla

eating disorders: learning to let go

this is the second interview for this blog’s very own eating disorder’s week month spring. the first one was a three-part series on eating disorders and relationships. here is an interview with a vancouver woman who has struggled with recurring eating disorders, including anorexia, orthorexia and bulimia, and is currently maintaining a healthy weight with a healthy diet.

isabella: you say you’ve learned to stop obsessing about food. do you find that stopping that obsession is absolutely crucial for recovery, or does it just happen to be a tool you find useful for yourself?

vancouver woman: i’ve not been witness to anyone who’s recovered the same way i did. most people i knew who were in recovery were as obsessive as me about their diets; they were being told to eat more calories but they were still being tallied.

for me, letting go was critical. my ED phased between bulimia and anorexia with orthorexia; the orthorexia was very obsessive because it wasn’t just thinking of fat and calories but also the quality of the food and pesticides and additives, etc. i was vegan for a time too, which added yet another layer of concern and guilt. (now there’s the carbon footprint to worry about too!) it got so extreme that when i went into market there would be barely a half dozen items i was “allowed” to buy. that restrictiveness spiralled, i was vegan too and there was hardly anything i “could eat.” so i had to eliminate all restrictions and learn to get over the guilt and self-monitoring and calculating. to eat naturally again i had to start letting myself eat *anything* and not measure consequences.

do other people need to do that? i would say it depends how deeply obsessed they are.

isabella: can you give a “before and after” example of a particular type of food or behaviour around food?

vancouver woman: i had a small handful of recipes i made all the time because i knew what the calories and fat were thanks to online calorie counters; tally up the ingredients then divide and plan meals. that meant fewer and fewer convenience foods. might sound great, right? ultimately i was eating only homemade vegan soup with few ingredients because otherfood was too hard to make, to control and justify with all my rules. i never ate out, either. the more spartan and virtuous my diet became, the more rewarding it was (so was the weight loss) which kept it going.

now i don’t consult calorie counters at all, and don’t follow diets that require it. i admit i still look at labels when shopping but it’s for general quality info (like avoiding MSG).

isabella: “letting go” sounds so simple – and can be so difficult to do. do you have some tips about how to let go of the obsession about food?

vancouver woman: i had to stop all forms of restricting. all at the same time i stopped counting calories, stopped being vegan, stopped buying organic-only food. all the rules and barriers i’d created to keep myself from eating.

but the disorder wasn’t just about food, it was obsessing over my body too, so i also stopped weighing and measuring myself. all the numbers, conditions and pre-requisites had to go.

from there it was a matter of being mindful of having chosen to remove those restrictions. reminding myself again and again not to feel guilt or fear about food. “no guilt” became a mantra.

isabella: having learned how to let go of the obsession with food, do you find that this letting go is helpful in other areas of your life, as well?

vancouver woman: i can’t think of anything, no. my mindfulness skills were acquired before my recovery (independently of it; i never had a therapist work with me on my ED, nobody covered by insurance had special training) so i was already practicing.

isabella: is there anything else you would like to add?

vancouver woman: i do have a small regret about giving up veganism, because i support it in principle and have friends who are vegan (some people judge me for it now, not knowing my history). i don’t often eat meat beyond seafood, but fear that if i relabel myself i’d go back to scanning ingredients for reasons to put food back on the shelf (eggs are in so many things) and it could be a slippery slope.

i do choose healthy food a lot anyway. i genuinely prefer the taste of tofu!