Wednesday, 27 August 2014

'Do no harm': ED Prevention Strategies in Schools

From my own school experiences, there is much emphasis on healthy eating and controlling weight. I am sure you can think back to your own (or your children's, friends', etc.) school experiences and pinpoint a time when 'healthy eating' and weight was discussed. In my case, the focus on weight and eliminating 'junk' food led me to become more entrenched in the eating disorder. So, how do schools 'prevent' ED through their education programs? One article focussed on just that:
http://www.ocoped.ca/PDF/ODea_2000.pdf.

Not surprisingly, the authors found that programs that focussed on obesity were unsuccessful. This makes think when we think about it: if we are telling kids that they shouldn't enjoy chocolate because they will become obese, what does this say about being overweight? It makes children feel that being overweight is equal to being inferior, lazy, or sinful. Furthermore, it makes students feel nervous about food and their weight, opening the door for negative thoughts and emotions to occur - about themselves, and about food. In addition, speaking negatively about certain foods (ex. chips, bread, juices, candy, etc) makes students think in an all-or-nothing manner: 'if teachers say that candy is bad, I am bad if I eat candy. So, I cannot eat candy at all - not even a little bit'. Students fail to see that moderation and enjoying all foods is encouraged. To add to that, the emphasis on food and weight makes students become easily influenced by the media and other sources, and this makes them believe that eating is all about appearance:. For example, students will come to view eating not as a necessary component for health, bur rather, as a means of looking tall, beautiful, thin, attractive, sexy, etc. Instead of helping students understand that all food is needed and acceptable for a healthy body and mind, schools pressure students to see eating as a competitive activity, one in which the 'best' and 'healthiest' eater has the 'best and fittest' body. Without a doubt, this can lead to serious mental and emotional issues....and eating disorders.

I highly recommend that you read this article - it is easy to understand, and also has great information not only for schools, but also for us in our everyday lives. The authors note that rather than presenting food in a negative manner, schools (and you, as a member of society!) should speak about food in a more positive light. We need to acknowledge our dependence on food for energy and sustenance. We ought to be mindful that all foods are perfectly acceptable in a healthy lifestyle. We need to stop seeing weight and calories as dictators of health and happiness. We must not be swayed by images and media pressures that tell us that beauty is only a matter of weight and appearance. Focussing on strategies to improve self-esteem and confidence are essential, as this helps students understand that their self-esteem and appreciation for themselves should not be based on what foods they eat or what the scale says. Food and eating should be presented in a positive manner that allows students to feel safe and comfortable. Eating ought to be viewed as a fun experience that allows for creativity, adventures, social time, enjoyment, and even learning (ex. trying new foods, other cultures, nutrients and vitamins, body processes that depend on nutrients, etc.).

As a member of society, this article has implications for you too, not only teachers. If you are a parent, this article can help you understand how you can teach your children about food and health. In the workplace, at home, or even when you are out with family and friends - you can be a positive role model. You can approach food and health in a positive manner and you can demonstrate that food is to be enjoyed, celebrated - not despised or feared. You can illustrate that health comes in all sizes and is not dictated by a number on the scale. You can model that healthy eating means being able to eat a variety of foods, even sweets/desserts/salty chips/fats/carbohydrates (and other foods!) without
feeling guilty. If you can do this, you will see that others will learn from you. That will see your positive approach to food and health and they will adopt this in their lives as well. Soon enough, more and more people will begin to see the truth: that food ins a necessary, and not evil, part of life. And that beauty doesn't come from a mirror, body shape, or clothes size. This will help you and others live happier, healthier lives...and will likely reduce the prevalence of eating disorders.

I challenge you today to look at how you view food and health, and to reflect on how you can change your actions and thoughts to model positive and healthy relationships with food. You will see and feel the difference - and others will, too. And you will be helping to spread a very important, but often neglected and hidden message: that health is more than just a number on the scale, that food is necessary and life-saving, and that we ought to focus on living HEALTHY, BALANCED, and HAPPY (not thin, muscular, miserable, etc) lives.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Featured on CBC!

As I struggled with ED for much of my life, I never thought that one day, I would end up in the ICU with organ failure. I never thought that I would eat again. I never thought that I would be where I am today, living healthily, eating well, and strong as ever. Nor did I ever think that I would have my own blog, let alone publish a book. And even when my book was published, I never thought it would gain so much positive reception and interest.

And yet again, I am blessed to say that my story has been featured by another organization. This time, I saw down with the CBC Hamilton and did an interview on what led up to the eating disorder in my life, what my book is about, and more. You can read the story here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/mcmaster-student-pens-book-after-nearly-dying-from-anorexia-1.2739812

Who would have ever thought that someone so thin and so sick would ever make it to this point in her life? Who would have thought that at 21, my journey with ED would be famous worldwide, and helping others to learn more about ED, mental health, and more?! I certainly didn't! I feel so blessed - and I am. Not only am I healthy and fully recovered, but my story is being used to help others and make a difference. Thank you to all my readers, family, and friends. Not many people have the courage to tell the world about their illnesses, especially when it comes to ED and mental health. Not many people experience a near-death situation and survive to tell the tale of recovery and hope. But I did - not because of my own strength, but because of God's grace, love, and plan for me. And because of all the support and care all of you have shown me.

Remember to never give up. Strive for health, happiness, and success. And do not let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving your dreams (provided they are safe and wont harm anyone!). And don't forget: we often don't understand why we are experiencing challenges and obstacles along our path. We get angry, tired, and sad - and rightly so. But do not lose hope, because one day, you will realize how that tough situation worked out for the good. And you will see that despite the tears, there were smiles. Despite the challenge, there is success. Despite the weakness, there is strength.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Telling my story to many more people: Made4More

I was contacted a while ago by an organization who had read my story in the Mississauga News and wanted to learn more about my story. Made4More Ministry is an organization dedicated to helping individuals see how special and unique they are, and that miracles really do happen. While some content may be directed towards females only, a lot of the stories and hope shared there is geared towards helping anyone find faith and overcome challenges.

Made4More approached me and asked if I could write something about my experiences with an eating disorder and my recovery, as well my faith in Christ and how I learned to appreciate and love myself. You can read the post here: http://made4moreministry.tumblr.com/post/93245216866/my-battle-with-anorexia-with-god-all-things-are. This is similar to one of my previous posts on how with God, all things are possible. It is a really personal post, as it even details how depressed, tired, and hopeless I became in the ICU. But God used it for the good...look where I am today!

Thank you to all my readers and supporters. It is amazing to see how many different organizations and paced have asked me to write for them and share my story. Also, special thank you to NEDIC, who has shared my story on their site and continues to help others around the world with ED. http://www.nedic.ca/news/book-chronicles-young-woman%E2%80%99s-battle-anorexia (Look at me! I'm all over the internet, sharing my story with others and making a difference! Isn't it amazing how God works all out for the good?!)

 It is unreal to be able to use my experiences to reach out to others and give them hope and strength. I pray and hope that my journey will continue to help others and educate society. To all those who read my work, support me, or even pass this blog/my book to others, thank you. It is time that we share stories of hope, strength, and faith to the world. It is time that we see that our challenges, though difficult, truly make us stronger. My experience with anorexia was a blessing in disguise. It was the hardest thing I ever went through....but it made me who I am today. And for that, I am forever thankful.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Read about my story in the Mississauga News Newspaper!

Are you ready for my next BIG news?

I am SO blessed and still shocked that my book was chosen to be covered for a story in the Mississauga Newspaper. I was contacted by the paper, who was interested in writing a piece about my journey, accomplishments, advocacy, and book. The piece is available online and in the actual newspaper! http://www.mississauga.com/community-story/4644242-book-chronicles-young-woman-s-battle-with-anorexia/

This is such a huge accomplishment and success! Not only is it an opportunity for others to know my story and read my book, but it also a chance to spread the message that true recovery is possible and that eating disorders are real, mental illnesses. It is amazing to think that at only 21 years old, I am a famous blogger, successful author, and now...being asked to do interviews for newspapers as well! God is so good to us. He used all my struggles for the good. He allowed me to suffer pain and to endure hardships in order to spread the message that hope, faith, prayers, perseverance, and strength are the key to overcoming obstacles in life.

I want to take this time to thank you all. Thank you to my family, friends, and community. Thank you to my readers - online and those who purchased my book. Thank you for your love, care, and support. I would not be here without you. and my story would not be so well-known if it were not for all the wonderful and caring people in my life. Looking back, it was only two years ago when I was dying in the ICU. Today, I have my own book, and my story is being read by many others as proof that true recovery is possible - and that faith, strength, and commitment will help you get through any challenge. Remember to stay strong and never give up. Life will always bring challenges - but know that you are stronger. One day, you will see how this challenge taught you something or helped you. It may not be right away...but one day, you will look back and realize that every experience has made you the person you are today. And you will be grateful for every tear, every battle, and every difficult moment. For now, stay strong and keep your head up high. It will get better ...I am proof of that.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Vitamins 101

I've gotten many questions asking me to give some advice or information about nutrition, along with other health inquiries. While I am not your family doctor , I am studying to become a nurse and have a few months left (I am so excited!). I am not in any position to give you direct medical advice, but I am willing to share what I know and have studied in order to help you! As such, this post will be dedicated to discussing some vitamins, their functions, and interesting information on them. If you have any other topics about health or nutrition (including mental health, eating disorders, medications, food, exercise, etc), feel free to comment and let me know. Again, I want to stress that I am NOT giving medical advice here - it is simply my way of relaying my knowledge thus far to those who request it, or to help you understand difficult concepts that perhaps were not well explained to you by other healthcare members, etc. Before we get started, let me warn you that this post will be LONG. I suggest that you read it in two parts: fat vs water-soluble vitamins. As long as this post is, however, it is a great summary of what you need to know about vitamins!

So, let's talk about our vitamins! First, let us separate the vitamins by what they are soluble in. It is easier to remember which are fat-soluble, as there are only four: vitamins A, D, E, and K. That means that everything else - the B vitamins and vitamin C, are water-soluble. This means that the fat-soluble vits (vitamins) need fat to be absorbed into the body. Thus, a deficiency of fat may result in deficiencies in these vits. Now that we know which are fat vs water soluble, we can learn a bit more about the vitamins and what they do in the body, as well as some notable pieces of information.


FAT SOLUBLE

1) Vitamin A: this is needed for vision (yes, your mom was right about carrots and vision!). Deficiencies can result in night-blindness, which, when detected early, can be restored with sufficient vit A intake. However, too much vitamin A is associated with many problems, such as birth defects in pregnant women.

2) Vitamin D: yes, what you heard about bone health and vit D is right. Vit D helps the body absorb calcium, which we know is needed for bone health. Our skin can convert a compound into vit D when exposed to sun, but this isn't enough for our needs. This is because we use sunscreen and do not get enough sun exposure. As such, we need enough vit D in our diet, which is also limited in foods (fish, fortified diary products, etc). Over the age of 50, it is recommended that all adults take a supplement of vit D. Remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any medications or supplements!

3) Vitamin K: This is mainly needed for blood clotting, although it also has a role in maintain strong bones. A deficiency is uncommon, but can occur if the diet doesn't have enough fat in it. Newborns don't have enough vit K at birth (some if made by bacteria in our gut), so we give them an injection within 6 hours of their birth. If you are taking blood thinners, you will likely need to ensure that you do not consume foods high in vit K, which can interfere with the medications.

4) Vitamin E: this is an antioxidant. This means that it helps to decrease or neutralize the toxins that enter our body, which can be from food, metabolic processes, smoke, etc. It is remade by vitamin C.

WATER SOLUBLE
Before I start, let me warn you that there are 12 B vitamins. Most of these function as cozymees, which meant that they are needed for certain processes in our bodies to function normally. For eample, to metabolize foods at the cellular level, our enzymes and proteins need these vitamins to work properly. I will not go into detail about all of these B vitamins, as most of them function in similar ways. I will simply focus on the main ones you should be aware of: folate (vit B 9), and vit B 12, as well as vitamin C.

1) Vit B 9 or FOLATE: this is VERY important for pregnant women because it is needed for DNA synthesis and also for closing the neural tube. The neural tube is part of the brain: it needs to close early in the first trimester (around week 6). If it does not close or does so partially, this results in a neural tube defect (NTD), including spina bifida or ancephaly (a baby without a brain). If born, the baby will have many difficulties and health challenges. Because most women don't even know they are pregnant in the first trimester, folate intake BEFORE pregnancy is essential. Generally, it is recommended that any female who is thinking about pregnancy begin to take folate supplements a year or more before pregnancy, and continue to do so during pregnancy. Note that males, while they do not get pregnant, also need folate bvecause of its role in DNA synthesis. In addition, a defiency of folate in men or women results in a type of anemia in which red blood cells are large (macrocytic). The red blood cells do not divide, so they remain big, which means that there are less of them in the body, resulting in anemia (often called megaloblastic anemia).

2) Vitamin B 12: this is VERY important as well! Vit B 12 is needed for the synthesis of the myelin sheath, which is a coating on our nerves. Without it, changes begin to occur, including tingling in the body and memory loss.  Also, vit B 12 is needed to remake more folate, so a deficiency of vit B 12 can actually result in a deficiency of vit B 9 (folate) as well. Vit B 12 needs enough stomach acid (pepsin and HCl) as well as intrinsic factor (a compound made in the stomach and released by cells in the stomach). As we age,  our stomachs make less of both these, which puts the elderly at an increased risk for vit B 12 deficiency. The recommendation is for all adults over 50 years old to take a vit B 12 supplement. Vegetarians or vegans may also need to take a supplement, as vit B 12 is mainly found in meats.

3) Vitamin C: this is an antioxidant, like vit E. In addition, it is needed for collagen, a protein that holds our skin together. Without enough vit C, we can get symptoms of scurvy, which include loosening of teeth from the gums, open cuts and poor wound healing, etc. Have you heard that vit C can prevent colds? This is a common myth. While it hasn't been found to prevent colds, studies have shown that taking vit C BEFORE a cold may help to shorten the duration of a cold. Also, as vit C is acidic, it enhances (helps) iron absorption. This is why you may have been told to take iron with vit C or with a cup of orange juice.

I hope that was informational! I realize that it is a lot to take in at once, so if it feels like too much, read it in two parts: fat vs water-soluble vitamins. What I love about this topic is that it shows how amazing our bodies are - look at how much goes on inside the body! It also helps us realize why sufficient and healthy diets are important. Without a good, healthy diet, we cannot get all the vitamins and minerals we need to be well. A healthy diet is truly the best way to prevent illness, be healthy and strong, and maintaining a high quality of life. I never thought that I would ever say this...but food is really, really important....and good. Poor food intake and insufficient quantities can result in many problems. Aside from being delicious, look at how food provides us with what we need to be healthy!


Monday, 14 July 2014

Published again! 3 Phrases to Keep You Going

Yet again, blessing upon blessing, I am honoured that my work has been published on Fr. Anthony's site. This time, the topic is on three phrases always said by the late Pope Shenouda III, may he rest in peace. Even if you are not Coptic Orthodox, I strongly encourage you to read this post on these three phrases. I guarantee that you will feel at peace and will draw upon these sentences in times of trouble or distress. http://franthony.com/the-three-phrases-of-pope-shenouda/#disqus_thread

What are the three phrases? Simple: “’this too will end soon”, “God is here”, and “all is for the good”. We all have times when we want to give up. We all have moments when we are frustrated, angry, sad, and tired. And although it is at these times when we least feel like calming down, this is when we need to take a moment to breathe. And when you do, think of these 3 sentences. They have always brought me comfort and peace when in despair. If you can meditate and think of these phrases, you will see how much truth is in them. You will see that this challenge and obstacle will pass; there cannot be a rainbow if there is no rain. The sun comes out after the darkness.
So, please read my post and if you desire, leave me a comment on Fr. Anthony's site and here. Thank you once again to all my readers, supporters, family, and friends. Taking a look back to my blog...it was two years ago when I was just starting up this site up. I was beginning my journey of recovery. And now...wow. I have this blog, I've done interviews, and now, I have my own book. God is good. For all of you who are suffering, tired, or feel like you are fighting a heart-breaking and endless journey - do not give up. Every challenge you face makes you stronger and teaches you a lesson. If it were not for my journey with ED thus far, I would bot have had all these amazing opportunities to use my experiences to help others. So, whenever you feel like giving up....remember: “’this too will end soon”, “God is here”, and “all is for the good”.



Monday, 7 July 2014

The 'Dr. Oz' Controversy

Before I start this post, let me put a disclaimer: I am not shaming Dr. Oz as a person or professional. I am simply retaking the facts and weighing in (haha - weighing in! Did you catch that pun there?) on an issue that must be discussed.

You may be familiar with Dr. Oz. We seemed not to know this doctor until he appeared on the Oprah show one day. Since then, he has become quite famous. From books to a show to online, everyone speaks about Dr. Oz. His show speaks about new 'miracle weight loss' tips and solutions. He promotes certain diets or herbs or pills that apparently are going to revolutionize the way we can control our weight. And there is no end to those who idolize him. The common love for him goes something like this: 'Dr. Oz says something, and the world responds. He can say nothing wrong. If Dr. Oz says something, it must be true. I must go out and buy this miracle pill because Dr. Oz said that it works'.


So can you imagine what happened when the world is told that Dr. Oz was challenged just two weeks ago. It was found that some of his statements and claims were false; they are not based of scientific evidence. He then admitted that 'there is no magical pill that will help you lose weight without diet and exercise'. In the end, it seems that Dr. Oz's claims about weight loss miracles are simply not true or accurate. They are misleading. (See
http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/dr-oz-effect-celebrity-doctor-scolded-for-pushing-miracle-weight-loss-aids-1.1873171) for details. And sadly, his position as a doctor, one also loved by Oprah, makes this even more tragic. People believed in him. People believed that as a 'doctor', whatever he said was correct. People thought that since he appeared on Oprah, he must be right. Media claims about Dr. Oz's wisdom filled society with the idea that whatever Dr. Oz said was right. And now, we are told that this is false. Society is now (finally) hearing the truth: Dr. Oz is not always right. Not very grunt he says must be true.


I've personally never been a fan of Dr. Oz. For one thing, I know that a pill or food alone cannot help control weight. In all my nursing studies, I'll tell you the basic notion: weight control comes from eating a balanced diet and exercising. Secondly, Dr. Oz's 'advice' never comes with scientific articles that have proven to me what he is saying. I refuse to accept his claims without studying the evidence behind them. Third, just because he is a 'doctor' doesn't mean that he is always right. I'm a nursing student, soon to be a nurse. If I said that you can grow wings by eating purple broccoli, would you believe me?

Perhaps the hype around Dr. Oz come from the desire of society to refuse to accept responsibility for our health. We don't want to be told that eating a variety and balance of foods in moderation is the best option. We don't want to hear that exercise is needed. Society wants to hear that there is a miracle for being healthy. We want the easy way out, so to speak. It's a lot easier to buy a pill and hope that it will speed up my metabolism than it is to actually our in the effort of eating well and controlling my stews. But what society needs to know is that there IS NO MIRACLE. THE MIRACLE IA BALANCE: balance in eating all things in moderation, sleeping and exercising, and controlling stress and risk factors. We also need to begin to realize that we can't believe everything we read or hear. We need to learn to search for the evidence and to see that simply being someone in authority and prestige, such as Dr. Oz, doesn't make someone the wisest person alive.

Will everyone stop listening to Dr. Oz now? Sadly, I don't think so. People who love him will refuse to believe that his claims are fake and wrong. Or people will soon forget about this when he comes on TV the next episode to talk about some other miracle solution. What needs to change is society. We need to become smarter receivers of information. We need to stop consuming information without stopping to see if it is credible. We need to start taking charge of our health and seeing that our bodies are not experiments. Our bodies need care. That means a balanced diet, physical activity, and rest. No miracle pill can give your body this. Once we learn to stop taking advice from sources that aren't reliable, we can begin to take steps that will truly promote our health. And once we stop paying attention to false source of information that claim they have found 'miracle solutions and magical life savers to the weight/body size/(whatever problem the world faces), we can ensure that these sources do not continue to fool people. Please, be aware of what you listen to and what advice you take. Do not simply listen to advice because someone is in a position of authority or because everyone else is doing it. Be smart and informed.

And just to lighten things up a bit, here is a comic that both brings this message across...and makes me laugh each time I read it.