this is the second interview for this blog’s very own eating disorder’s weekmonth 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!
welcome to the 24th edition of the carnival of eating disorders! blog carnival has been really problematic for the last few months. so instead of struggling with the blog carnival site, i just went back and looked at some posts from the past that i really enjoyed. here they are:
for the buddhist carnival, i always start with a poem. let’s do that here today, too, with an excerpt from a poem by clinically clueless, expressing the challenge of wanting to talk and at the same time wanting to hide the struggles with an eating disorder:
don’t touch this subject because it is mine
i have control and will be just fine
i’ve surrounded it with good defenses
no one will know the self-hatred and the rages
i’m really okay and can handle it on my own
with this i just want to be left alone
finally talking after all these years
makes me feel all my fears
yet, comfort in finally sharing
with someone loving and caring
no matter my weight the feelings and thoughts always there
i think, all i ever wanted was someone just to hear
no one really knows what goes on in my head
starting to talk is what i know i need to do instead
body image, men and women
hugo schwyzer talks about male and female body anxiety in glorious me:
it’s a classically masculine anxiety: the sense that the body is a “performance machine” threatened by sloth and by ageing, always in need of vigilant monitoring.
here’s a LOUD contribution. i won’t comment on it because, well, nancy hayssen says it all:
today at the gym, i was noticing how many women love to tear themselves apart.
too fat, too old, too big, too much cellulite, butts too big . . . and the best one of all is: “if only i could get FLAT ABS” …
women are NOT made to have flat stomachs!
it’s NOT truly feminine.
women’s bodies are made to have babies.
women are not naturally supposed to have:
* barbie doll fake breasts
* rock hard anything
* plastic injections of God knows what
* fake boobs, fake butts, fake ANYTHING
. . . . INCLUDING rock hard flat abs which serve NO purpose whatsoever!! except to feed into the media hype, sell more ab machines, make plastic surgeons money and fuel the economy some more!
get over it!
a real woman has full hips to give birth to babies, nurtures and comforts others with her soft skin (and YES! some FAT on her body), feeds her young milk from her breasts . . .
and isn’t so self-absorbed that the only thing that matters the most in life is getting her stomach to look like someone flat ironed it to death!
maybe it’s time for women to wake up and know it’s OKAY to be a real woman. fat butts and all.
in this powerful post, dr. susan gregg talks about the difference between domination and dominion:
society is based on domination. the way our mind thinks is most often based on domination: black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, positive emotions and negative ones. symbolically this is represented as a line. as we deepen our connection with our spirit, with our true nature we move into dominion. symbolically dominion is represented as a sphere.
after explaining this concept a little more, she then posts a video that illustrates her thoughts in a deeply moving way. everyone who has ever had any issues with body image or any other feelings of “otherness” will know what susan is talking about. please visit her post, judgment, domination and the line.
and here is a video clip of the film shredded submitted by daniel lafleche. it provides an unusual glimpse into the problem of body image for teenage males, and warns about steroid use.
sacha brings us body hate at her blog that is so queer… she talks about the dieting experience, something that many of my readers will be very familiar with:
a room full of women that got fat, not because they’re stupid, not because they like chocolate and not because they have no willpower. it is a room full of women who are doing everything they can to get through each day. … and sometimes that means 15 oreos.
therapydoc, witty as always, has a very good suggestion for what to do when overcome by cravings or assaulted by the mounds of food we’re dealing with this time of year
the problem: tis the season to eat like crazy. i understand that starting october 31, eating season begins. most of humankind gains a few to a thousand pounds by january 2. in the northern climes it’s fatten up to melt the snow …
the solution: let us consider the nap. the nap is perhaps the most under-rated, yet effective way to stop a binge, and it need not be a cat nap (short) or a sexual nap (preferably long). it can just be a nap. and you can reach for the sack in a minute, seriously, crawl right under that afghan and close those baby blues, refresh your rhodopsin and reboot your head. and it costs nothing.
i remember listening to lectures about anorexia athletica and the “female athlete triad.” i remember seeing team-mates sneak back to the gym after practice to do extra elliptical workouts. i remember looking on their plates and seeing only peas and sprouts there. i remember diagnoses of anemia, bulimia, and stress fractures.
jolynn braley from the fit shack talks about some interesting research conducted by dr. theron g. randolph:
his article correlates to what i have been writing about sugar (that it is a drug), and he specifically points out that corn is the leading cause of chronic food addiction in this century. high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, these are all sugars made from corn and are main ingredients in most processed food and fast food.
i also learned that corn is the most prevalent ingredient in alcohol manufacturing, and that it is corn sugar that is used in cigarettes (i thought it was cane sugar)
fascinating stuff! read on in her article can food addiction lead to drug addiction?. i’m not sure that i would 100% subscribe to the “one addiction leads to another” theory but randolph’s research is most definitely worth pondering. he also talks about the connection between food allergies and food addiction, a topic much discussed by the 12-step recovery community.
let’s follow this with a post from sizenet, a fat acceptance site, which looks at BMI (body mass index) as a measure of fat distribution across the body. it does this from an engineer’s point of view. a great fan of interdisciplinary research, i’m happy to post this here.
BMI is weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. a person five feet tall and weighing 128 pounds is 1.52 meters tall and masses 58 kilograms, yielding a BMI of 25. according to the BMI charts, this person just misses being “normal” and is at the bottom end of the “overweight” range.
if we scale that same person up to six feet tall and keep all proportions the same, then height increases by a factor of 1.2 (20% higher), and so does waist, arm length, inseam, and every other linear measure. so volume and mass increase by 1.2 cubed, or 1.728. the six-foot tall (1.83 m tall) person of the same proportions weighs 221 pounds (masses 100 kg), and so has a BMI of 30. so, this person just misses being “overweight” and is at the bottom end of the “obese” range.
something’s not right; the taller person comes out “fatter” even though he/she has the same proportions as the shorter one.
is that almost no research has been done on the broad societal implications of this type of nutrigenomics-developed products including their impacts on consumer’s perception of official dietary patterns. what about its impact on captive audience in lower socio-economic population in the north and in emerging countries? will they being able to buy these new superfoods? would this bring a more fatalistic attitude towards eating unhealthy food?
can be thought of as a beacon of light, much like a lighthouse beacon that warns sailors that they are entering dangerous waters and guides them on course … pay attention! look! listen! … the precepts are offered and received as tools to help free us from domination by the ever-changing stream of thoughts, feelings and sensations.
in observing the sixth precept, the lay buddhist eats one or two simple meals between dawn and noon and avoids taking food beyond that. this cuts down the time spent on meals and allows him more time to spend on meditation.
yes, what do you want to spend your time on? no matter how we look at time, we only have a limited supply of it. come to think of it, do we want to “spend” it or do we want to “use” it?
watching TV and mindlessly crunching potato chips would definitely fall under the “spending” category. it goes into the “expenses” column – and not an expense in the form of investment. actually, it’s an investment in liabilities.
lola snow has a thoughtful post on the notion of being special, something very important for a lot of people who are in the throes of anorexia. some would say that being anorexic is about being special, about showing the control that results in standing out. in 12-step circles, this attitude is referred to as “terminal uniqueness”, a sometimes literally life-threatening attitude of being different: needing to be different, suffering from being different and the “no-one understands me” syndrome. there are a lot of interesting conversations about what it means to become less terminally unique and still remain the unique one-of-a-kind specimen that each and every one of us is. here’s lola’s contribution to that conversation: becoming unspecial.
and a very controversial issue: pro-anorexia mothers. ex-model, ex-anorexic “mamavision” refers to a group of mothers on livejournal who are practicing anorexics:
there is no way in hell a mother can be pro ana, and be a healthy positive influence on her child. it’s impossible. these women who are are choosing this selfish, dangerous, vain lifestyle shouldn’t be parents. i believe if a social worker were to see their online behavior, their parental ability would be in jeopardy.
since i see eating disorders as a mental health issue, i have a hard time thinking of these mothers as “choosing a lifestyle”. just like people who are living with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and even addictions don’t choose to live like that. in many situations they might tell themselves that it is a choice; it makes us feel more powerful if we think we choose something. – but i digress; that’s material for another post.
at any rate, mamavision’s opinion is worth noting. at the other end of the spectrum, we find a very well put-together video by laura collins, who interviewed a number of eating disorder specialists on the question of whether parents are the cause of eating disorders.
the article on orthorexia at every woman has an eating disorder is interesting because of the many comments contributed to it – from people who suffer from it, from health professionals, etc. definitely worth a read.
adventures in reading reviews a book about – well, about women like me, i guess
the thirteen stories scrutinize mostly middle-aged-women’s relationships with food, body image, aging and family.
anorexia and men
at the new gay, an insightful 2-part series on the experiences of a gay man falling prey to, and then recovering from, anorexia: i was a full-on feminist in every sense of the word – save one. my unrelenting best friend, who always kept me in check, fiercely and consistently pointed out how hypocritical i was being in obsessing over my body. one day she put her foot down. she demanded that i sit and not get up until i had read an essay titled the body politic in an anthology of writings by third-wave feminists called listen up: voices from the next feminist generation. i acquiesced, annoyed. i was never the same
i recently observed how food and credit products are similar to each other as i was watching a paid weight loss program on TV. it also reminded me how lucrative it must be for companies to sell us more of both food and credit products and then come to our rescue by offering us other products like diet and debt consolidation programs to resolve the problems that resulted from over consuming their products in the fist place.
tiernan o faolain from american red tory has an interesting list on the connection between obesity and poverty, another issue that is often overlooked. here are some points:
# supermarkets and grocery stores move out of poor neighborhoods; “convenience” stores and liquor stores move in.
# sometimes when you’re down on your luck, you just say, “screw it,” and indulge.
# for those of us working two or three jobs to stay afloat, whole foods and PCC aren’t open 24/7, while 7-11 is.
# and even if they were, who can afford them?! health food is more expensive than the crap.
# as the salon article points out, high fructose corn syrup and other bad things are federally subsidized, holding down their cost. (talk about gummint programs!)
# historically speaking, before the enclosure of the commons forced many of the poor to work for wages in the cities’ industries (owned or invested-in by their rural landlords!), they had family farms they worked, with all that physical exertion and relative self-sufficiency to boot. here in america we never even had a chance!
because of the difficulties with the blog carnival site, i’ll have to rethink hosting carnivals. maybe i’ll keep going, maybe i’ll do something else. if any of you have any ideas, let me know. perhaps a group writing project a few times a year instead?
unlike other addictions, anorexia is something you don’t do. to be an alcoholic you have to find alcohol to drink. drug addicts have to buy drugs. anorexics just stop eating. you can stop giving your body nourishment and get high.
body image the body image project is an online project searching for women and girls of all ages to share their individual experiences and feelings about their own body image perceptions. the goal of the project is “to have women and girls take that brave step to share their stories, break the hold these perceptions have and ultimately reveal to those who share and to those who view this site – you are not alone. to share your story, simply email your words to email@example.com. an example of such an entry is that of a 51-year-old woman who says
gravity and hot flashes have begun to take their toll, but i still love my body. it is strong and healthy, hasn’t failed me yet and has given life and nourishment to three wonderful children.
Q: bulimia is not something often discussed in the african american community, at least to my limited knowledge. what was your purpose in having gayle afflicted with this disorder?
A: we are always interested in exploring health issues, particularly those that supposedly don’t affect “us””the african american community. also, eating disorders are typically thought of as affecting teens and young women, but there are a growing number of more mature women, dealing with the pressures of family, career and staying youthful and slim, who are affected. whether it is bulimia, or binge eating, there are a lot of us who use food emotionally. food abuse is an issue that donna has struggled with during her life”at least since fifth grade, when she started hiding boxes of drake’s cakes in her desk drawer at home so she could eat them without anyone knowing. our aim is always to get people talking, particularly about issues that make us ashamed. shame keeps us silent, and silence makes us powerless.
in gotta keep on tryin’ we had gayle use food to “choke back” her emotions, to stay in control. but she had always been slim”she used to tease pat about her weight. she has no interest in appearing fat, so the binge and purge cycle began. bulimia fit the character, so we went with it.
the article on orthorexia at every woman has an eating disorder is interesting because of the many comments contributed to it – from people who suffer from it, from health professionals, etc. definitely worth a read.
eating disorders – a cultural view
the graham menzies foundation presents an article with very strong feelings about the cultural aspect of eating disorders. (i’d be interested in hearing what therapydoc and laura think about it).
because of their remote location, the fiji islands did not have access to television until 1995, when a single station was introduced it broadcasts programs from the united states, great britain, and australia. until that time, fiji had no reported cases of eating disorders, and a study conducted by anthropologist anne becker showed that most fijian girls and women, no matter how large, were comfortable with their bodies. in 1998, just three years after the station began broadcasting, 11 percent of girls reported vomiting to control weight, and 62 percent of the girls surveyed reported dieting during the previous months.
eating disorder bloggers survey
are you actively eating disordered or eating disordered recovered? do you have a blog in which you address your struggles with an eating disorder? then rachel from the f-word wants to hear from you.
what prompts people to be “yoyo” dieters? yoyo dieters are successful dieters; they can lose weight on just about any diet you can throw at them! but at some point in the weight loss process, they begin the process of undermining their protocol. most recognize the earliest signs that the process of sabotaging their diets has begun; those in therapy may have gained insights that explain why they’re defeating themselves; yet – once triggered – it’s as if some kind of “doomsday” machine has been turned on. this article (part 1 of 2) suggests that the reason persons repeatedly embark on diets with hope and enthusiasm has to do with the attraction to entering a state of enchantment.
and while we’re on the topic, the weight loss dude has a perfect rant, entitled why don’t you just eat less? as is so often the case, this rant applies to all eating disorders. why don’t you just eat? why don’t you stop purging? you don’t need to exercise 5 hours a day! as james says, geesh, if it was that simple, we would have done it a long time ago! at any rate, his post is a great description of what happens with yoyo dieting.
that, my friends, concludes this edition of the carnival of eating disorders. if you have or know of an interesting article on eating disorders, please send it in, using this submission form. the next edition will be out on april 30, 2008.