Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The famous 'baby bump'

If you have been following the news lately, you might have heard that the Duke and Duchess (Kate and William) had their first baby about a week ago. Needless to say, this has been long anticipated. The media was going crazy with this story - what would the baby's name be? How much would Kate spend on her hospital bill? How long would they stay in the hospital? The list goes on and on.

Finally, the adorable little baby boy was born. And do you know what many of the media companies began to talk about? No, not his name. Not his birthdate. Not the hospital bill, either. Rather, they focussed on this one minor topic: how would Kate lose her 'baby bump'?

SERIOUSLY? The woman just had a baby! Do we really need to know about her baby bump? It is a well-known fact that when you get pregnant, you gain weight. You need to gain enough weight so that both you and your baby will be healthy. Yes, it might not be exciting to see this weight go on. Bur reality is, most women do not really care because this weight is what is making their baby healthy. After they deliver, most women lose the weight with a little bit of work. But it is not enough of an issue to discuss publicly on the media. Let me repeat: Kate just had a baby; therefore, she has gained weight. I am sure the first thing on her mind is now how to take care of her baby - not how to lose the weight that she has gained during her pregnancy.

This is just sad, and it goes to show us how much our society today is focussed on weight and body image. It is not wrong to want to lose the weight after pregnancy, but that is what most people in the media seemed to care about following the baby's birth. Mnay women found this disappointing because the famous 'baby bump' is a part of pregnancy. It is not the mother's priority to lsoe the weight, nor is it adbolsutely the end of the world if the mother has a visible bump. In fact, all women will noticeably have this bump for some time after. And why not? It is a reminder of their pregnancy, not to mention a NORMAL part of the life cycle!

It is sad that our world puts this much focus on weight and bodies. Some reporters even lashed out and said that Kate was being unprofessional by going into the public without losing the weight first. How rude! The bump after pregnancy is not something to be ashamed of! Nor is it something to be loathed. It is normal, and quite insignificant for that matter. To mother's everywhere, let me make this message clear: BABY BUMPS ARE NORMAL! There is no shame in having one! It is really sad how the media has nothing better to focus on but Kate's little bump right now. I can think of a lot of other more important and news-worthy things to talk about. It goes to show you how much the media affects and influences what we hear about in the news, as well as what we as humans focus on. What if the media started to praise Kate for going into public with her bump and being an excellent role model for all mothers? Now that would be nice. But the truth is, even if some minor companies do this, most will not. Why? Because they think that they will make a better story if they can talk about her baby bump, then get some 'expert' to talk on the show about how to lose a baby bump, then advertise about a diet/excercise program that helps you lose the bump, etc. It is all about the money and viewers. The media, sadly, knows how to make money and business. And as long as they believe that weight loss and body image is so important, that is all we will hear about in the news.

What can we do about it? I suppose just being aware is sufficient. Be aware that the media is doing this. Without us noticing, they are programming us (so to say) to pay attention to what THEY want us to pay attention to. They are filling our ears and minds with what THEY believe is important and true. They aer dictating what we care about, what we talk about, and how we think/feel about things. Do not be a mindless viewer or reader. Be informed and stay alert. Baby bumps are normaly. Weight gain and weight loss are usually normal parts of life. There is more to life than weight and our bodies.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

ABCs of Actions

ABC - three simple letters that we all know. These three letters can be helpful in deciding on a plan of action, and also when reflecting on our decisions and seeing whether or not we acted in the right or most helpful way. It may seem silly to some people, but I find that by planning out my actions and reflecting on them, I can make better decisions in the future. Try this out and see how it helps you!

A) Antecedent - this is what happens before, or the situation that you are in. This is important because it determines what is going on around you. It could be anything - good or bad. Maybe you have revived a bad mark on a test, or perhaps you got into a fight with a friend or loved one. Or perhaps work is stressful, or you have too much to do. On the other hand, it could be something good, as is the case when you hear good news. Whatever happens, this determines your feelings or reactions. How do you feel about this situation? What is going through your head? What has happened that made you feel this way?

B) Behaviour - this is actually what you do, and it is guided by what occurs (the antecedent). What are you going to do about the situation? What actions will you take? Maybe you are so stressed about your job that you accidentally take it out on your spouse and kids. Or maybe you are hopeless because of your marks so you give up studying for the next test. Perhaps you feel happy about your promotion and you celebrate with your family and friends, or you are thankful to God for being with you so you donate some money to the needy. Do you see how this related to the situation? The behaviour, while it may seem easy, is difficult at times to control. We need to think about what we are going to do because it had implications for the future. Sometimes, we make good choice, but at other times, we don't. We may be impulsive and do things that we regret. Our behaviors at times might surprise us because this is not what we are used to. At other times, we may make decisions that seem to be right, only to learn that they were not the best choices we could have made.

C) Consequences -  this is what happens when you actually do what you have decided to do. What happened after you acted? Was it what you expected - good or bad? Did anyone get hurt or bothered by what you did? Are you pleased with how you handled the situation? This is important because reflection allows us to realize what we did wrong and what we did right. By weighing out the pros and cons of what we did, we can begin to see what we would do the next time and how this will be different than how we acted before. We learn this way because we can analyze our actions and the consequences they have for our lives. What would you do differently the next time? What did you do that you would do again? How was it helpful, or not helpful? Reflecting like this also helps us make decisions for the future. It allows us to learn from our experiences so that tnext time, we can remember how our actions impacted us and decide if this is what we will do again.

Give it a try! You will be surprised by how much you learn about yourself, as well as from your experiences. You may begin to see a pattern in how you make decisions, and this can help you make wiser or better choices in the future. It can also help you learn what you value, what tyou believe in, and what your priorities are. Now you know your ABCs - next time won't you decide with me?! (okay, so that was SO cheesy....but it rhymed!)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

ED and Fasting/Feasting

I have received some suggestions asking me if I could post about how one can handle the balance between ED and religious customs, such as fasting and feasts. Although religions may differ, there are some similiarities in that they fast or abstain from food for certain reasons (for example, to remember an event), and this is often followed by a big feast to celebrate. I will talk about some of these issues and how one with ED can try to balance all of these situations. I pray that this helps!

1) FASTING. In my religion (Orthodoxy), we fast for many reasons: Christmas, Easter, etc. These fasts can be as short as three days to as long as three months! The absolute strictest sense is fasting without food from the morning until around 6 PM, which is when the Liturgy is held and we can take communion. If one cannot fast without any food, milk/dairy products as well as meat are withheld instead. In some cases, fish is allowed (depending on the fast occasion). I know what you are thinking: how does someone with ED do this? Well, it all comes down to the person. God does not desire for us to fast and hurt our bodies in the process; rather, fasting is seen as a way for humans to realize that they need to control their wordly desires. For example, the point of fasting is to realize that as humans, we need to control our habit of sinning. By not eating, we are showing ourselves that if we can stay for a while not eating and feeling hungry, we can most definitely take the steps to stop commiting wrong deeds. However, I want to make a distinct and important point here: GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART. Thus, for someone like me who is recovering, I can make a plan with my Father of Confession (a priest at my church) and decide that instead of fasting, I will (for example) memorize a Psalm every week and take the steps necessary to stop being rude to others. If I can fast without harming my body, I can. But sometimes, fasting for an entire day might be hard for us, especially for someone who is recovering from ED. Keeping in mind that God looks at the heart, we realize that it does no good if someone is fasting all day, yet they are lying, rude, mean, and sinning. What good, then, does fasting do? Nothing. Thus, each to his own. If you can fast, then go for it. If you cannot, do not fear that God will be harsh to you or that you have failed; rather, realize that it is your actions that is most important. "It is not what goes into a man's mouth that harms him, bur rather, what comes out of it" (Matthew 15:11).

2) FEASTING. So, the church has been fasting for a month now, and everyone is ready to eat some good chicken, cheese, milk, and chocolate. These feasts usually occur late in the day (around 11 PM or midnight) because that is when the Liturgy for that occassion ends. Typically, people have no problem eating this late because they just want to taste some of the good food that they have not eaten for a while. But, what is someone with ED to do? Do I eat at this occassion and feel guilty, or not eat enough? Or can I not eat and hope that people will understand? The most important (and best) decision that I made about feasts was this: help people to understand what you are going through, what you will do, and how they can help. For me, this means that I usually do not eat during feasts at around midnight. Why? Pay attention to this, because this is important: IT IS NOT THAT I AM RESTRICTING. Rather, I typically do not feel hungry at times when I need to eat, so, I will definitely not be hungry at midnight since I will have eaten a meal a couple hours ago (bedtime snack). At first, I would be really worried about how I would handle these feasts. Then, after talking to my family (my biggest support system!), I realized that I do not need to worrry about these events. Getting together with my family to celebrate Easter or Christmas is wonderful, but it is NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. If we were getting together at around dinnertime (ex. 6 pm), I would definitely eat because that is when I would need my next meal. But, I could not skip my dinner at 6 pm just so that I can eat a bigger meal at midnight - in recovery, I need to keep my meal times consistent so that my body is assured that it is going to get what it needs. From another perspective, knowing what is going to be served at these celebrations helps me plan my meals. If we re going to eat a mealtime that is consistent with my lifestyle, maybe I can try something there. If not, then I will bring my own food to ensure that I am eating what I need. Maybe this sounds weird to people - to be honest, it does not matter to me. I am at the stage in my life when I really do not worry what others may think or say, because I know that my health and happiness depends on my recovery being solid. I need to do what I need to do to keep myself healthy, strong, and happy. If that means bringing my own food to celebrations or eating at my own mealtimes to ensure I am getting enough, so be it.

These were the major two issues that people asked me to talk about. NOTE: this is the way I handle things. If you have ED and have a team, maybe they will suggest something different to you. Do what works best for YOU, not what others say is best for them. Although recovery from ED is working towards similar goals (ex. to eat wel, to be healthy and happy, to have less ED thoughts), there is not ONE WAY to do things. I learned what works best for me, and this is what I do. I let my loved ones know how I am handling situations so that they can support me and realize that I need to do wht my health depends on. And to be honest, if you have people who love and care for you, they will not care about when you eat your meals and what you eat (as long as you are eating enough and what you need) - they will just be happy and thankful that you are present to celebrate an event with them. Remember, God does not want us to hurt ourselves by fasting or feasting - these are meant to be times of joy when we come together with others and celebrate our faith.

"Don't judge by appearance or height...The Lord doesn't see things the way [humans] see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the HEART." (1 Samuel 16:7).

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Body 'exposure'

I've struggled with accepting my body the way it is now, and I still do. It is hard for someone with ED to see and feel their body getting bigger. This is made worse when I feel full after eating, if I wear clothes that feel a little too tight, or if I am having a bad day and look in the mirror.

'Body exposure' is a term used to describe the process whereby patients with ED learn to accept their bodies. If you remember, I wrote a post about how I do not LOVE my body - I simpy accept it. This is normal for many people, but more so with those with ED. We do not need to love our bodies, as this is highly unlikely. However, we need to accept our bodies as being healthy and appreciate how much they enable us to do. Patients with ED, myself included, struggle with this acceptance. It is made worse when we try to avoid our bodies. For example, some do not wear swimming suits so that they do not see their bodies or skin. Others avoid mirrors, or dress in the dark. It sounds drastic, but this goes to show how extreme this hatred or fear of the body might be.

Body exposure can be done in many ways. Some suggest staying in front of a mirror and staring, while avoiding making negative comments. To be honest, this does not work for me. A mirror should ONLY be for looking to check how you look before going out, nothing more. So, staring in front of a mirror actually makes me a lot more uncomfortable. However, this leaves me stuck without a solution to my body image issues.

One way that has helped me tremendously is massage therapy. I absolutely LOVE getting massages, as they really make me relax. It makes my muscles feel calm and it helps me to forget about all the troubles in this world. Interestingly, research acually shows that massages are helpful in the treatment of EDs ( The reasons for this may vary, but generally, massages help a person relax. For me, this makes me appreciate how tired my body is and it helps me understand just how much my body has done for me throughout the day. When I get a massage, I do not feel pain like before when I was too thin and all my bones ached as people touched them. Now, my muscles and bones are strong. It also helps to take my mind off the day and it puts me in a calm mood.

Why is body exposure important? Technically, I can live my whole life hating my body. And a ttimes, I really DO hate the way it looks and all the weight I have gained. I do not know if I will ever truly LOVE my body, but I am trying to make myself become used to it. In other words, I am trying to desensitizze myself to my new body. Massages are a great way to do this. Different people may find that other things work for them; for example, swimming, using their bodies to excercise, stretching, yoga, etc. What is amazing is when I was too thin, I could not do any of this. People(family, mostly) did not allow me to move/excercise/stretch because they were so worried that any extensive movement could hurt me. Now, with my body back in shape and my weight healthy again, I can safely do anything I want! I can run, jump, skip, hop...I am free. Recovering from ED has therefore not only helped me get a healthy body and mind back, but it has also helped me to do more with my body than ever before. I do not need to worry anymore about hurting myself beacuse of my small size - my muscles and bones are strong again and they help me do wonderous things. So, I might not always love my new body, but I certainly love the amazing things it helps me do. I suppose it is, again, like other things in recovery: it is so hard to get used to, and often, I want to give up. But the more I work at it, the easier it becomes. And sometimes, I can see the positive side of things. I can see how much recovery has changed my life and has helped me to grow - physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

ED hates change

I'm usually a very flexible person. I'm not one to insist that things go my way all the time, nor am I the type of person that can't adapt to circumstances. In fact, I'd say that I'm pretty good at making changes and getting used to them.
Then came ED.
With ED, I always feared change. I could not stand a change in my 'normal day' because that meant that I had to find a new way to avoid eating. It meant that I had to figure out how I would excuse myself from all the food at parties, get-togethers, etc. I would get anxious when these events would come up because I'd have to put in the extra effort to avoid eating.
Now in recovery, things are a bit different. I no longer have to think of ways to avoid food. But I'm still not great with change. I need to plan all my meals: what I'll eat and when I'll eat it. I can't spontaneously eat if it isn't 'the time to eat' because I don't really ever feel hungry. And I can't not know what I'll be eating because what if ED tries to trick me?
You don't like the food here - and you don't have your own food to eat. I suppose you can't eat anything!
It's past the time you should have eaten. Guess you can't eat!
You don't feel hungry now and there's too much food at this event. Too bad - you can't eat!
And it goes on and on. To some, it may sound silly that I 'can't' eat outside of my meal plan. Some people might not understand how uncertainty about the types of foods and meal times would make me anxious. But they do - because ED will try to deceive me. And I don't want that to happen again. I can't put my life in jeopardy again.
Even if it means that I'm planning all my meals and eating by the clock. It is what I need right now. I don't trust ED anymore because I know that he will try everything to get me to restrict. So for now, I'm planning every bite that I eat. I'm checking the clock to know when I need to eat. Sounds crazy? Maybe. But I'm recovering, I'm getting better, and it's working.
Take that ED!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Listening and Responding to Emotions

I'm blessed to have people in my life who are always ready to listen to me. I have days when I'm tired and angry, and all I want to do is scream. It's nice to know that there are people there who can lend a listening ear. What's important to me is not that this person gives me a solution - sometimes all we need is someone to listen to how we feel. These are some of the things that I find helpful. Let me know if they are helpful for you as well!

1) when I feel 'fat'. If someone I know tells me that I have not gained weight, I'll stare at them because I know they are not telling the truth. I have gained weight (a lot) and I know it's obvious. So telling me that I don't look like it will only make things worse. What WILL help is for the person to listen. I want them to know that this feeling is very real. I feel fat and big and ugly. That's part of my illness. It bothers me because it makes me feel like a failure. What would help is for the person to understand that feeling fat (to me) is distressing and angering. I need that person to know that even if I don't look fat, I feel that way. What is helpful is for the person to say 'yes, you gained weight. But you are not fat or overweight. If you were, I would be honest and tell you because I care. I would not tell you you weren't overweight if you really were. I would tell the truth'.

2) when I feel sad. Sometimes I'm tired, sad, and frustrated. I get so busy with all my work and recovery that I'm irritable. At times like this, I want someone to understand how hard my life is. Yes, some people have worse conditions, but I've been through quite a lot. I don't always want to hear 'it will get better'. Sometimes, I want to hear 'I know that you have so much on your mind right now. And I can't even imagine how tired and sad you must feel. If I can help with anything let me know. If not, I'll pray for you. We all have days when we feel irritable or tired - this is normal. You have the right to feel this way. But remember, you are able to do whatever you put your mind to. Right now things may seem tough, but I know how capable you are of achieving things. For now, express how you feel and let me know if I can help. But I will give you your space'.

3) when I'm not hungry and I'm tired and frustrated with recovery. These are the hardest times because I'm full and I don't want to put anything into my mouth. But I know that I should eat, even if its something small. Sometimes it's helpful to tell someone how tired I am of eating all the time when I don't feel like it. But I don't like it when all I get for an answer is 'well, you are recovering from ED. Remember that!'  Not helpful at all. What IS helpful is something like: 'no one can make you eat. If you don't want to eat then you don't have to'. WARNING! THIS DOES NOT WORK FOR EVERYONE! The only reason this works for me is because I am at the place in recovery where I can make myself eat, even if I really don't want to. When someone reminds me that no one can make me eat, I reflect and remember that recovery is for me - not for anyone else. If I don't eat, I will get tired and maybe end up in the hospital. I will suffer - no one else. On the other hand, if I decide to eat, life goes on and I can do whatever I want. So in the end, I obviously will eat. But telling me that I must eat never helps. It makes me feel as though someone is forcing me into recovery when I've already decided to recover on my own. Of course, other victims need someone to force them to eat. Some people with ED cannot decide to eat in their own, so this does not apply to everyone. But if you are able to eat on your own, taking control of your own recovery is worth it.

4) when I'm angry and wonder 'why am I here?!'  These days are tough because they make me question why I survived my fight with ED. Why am I still fighting? Why do I still have to be a victim of ED, be busy, stressed, etc?! We all have days when we wonder what our purpose is, why life is tough, etc. I find it helpful when someone listens to me and let's me know that I'm not alone. 'Marina, some days I feel the same way. I wonder why life has to be so hard and why I'm still here. But then I think back to all I've done and everything ahead of me. I remember that although now I feel like this, there are some good days when I feel happy and content. It's normal to feel like this. If you want to talk, I'm here for you. But remember how amazing you are, how successful you have been. And you have much waiting for you. You are a child of God and He never leaves you alone. Talk to Him and complain, and tell Him know how you feel. You will find comfort in knowing that we all feel this way sometimes'.

And this is how I usually answer people who tel me the same thins. It's nice to have someone who can listen to how you feel, but not necessarily give a solution. Sometimes we just need assurance that someone can listen to our emotions and problems. Not always to give a solution. Sometimes we don't need heroes, we need supporters. I hope this was useful for you - either when answering others or when thinking of how others can help you.