Sunday, 28 September 2014

EDs are NOT a Passion!

There was a recent article released by Western University that claims that anorexia nervosa, or eating disorders in general, should be called a 'passion'. According to the authors, a passion is something that one finds enjoyable, but can be destructive in excess. (See
http://www.exchangemagazine.com/morningpost/2014/week33/Thursday/14082209.htm for details).

Teen Mental Health Statistics [INFOGRAPHIC] | Paradigm MalibuNow, allow me to tell you what I think about this 'discovery'. EDs are mental illnesses. Some people think of ED as an addiction in that it becomes obsessive and difficult to stop or control. This I understand. My issue with defining ED as a passion is that a passion denotes something positive, something we love and strive to always follow. Now, EDs do become obsessive, and patients always strive to focus all energies and thoughts on the disorder. However, EDs are in no way, shape, or form enjoyable. ED is not something the patient loves. It is not fun, exciting, or life-enhancing. Calling ED a passion makes it seem that the patient enjoys the ED. But this isn't the case at all.

EDs are destructive. They are the number one killers among all psychiatric illnesses. They can cause severe organ damage, emotional pain, and other complications. Patients never choose to have eating disorders. But we can choose our passions. For example, I may find that I enjoy writing and am good at it. I make this my passion by constantly writing, looking for ways to improve my writing skills, etc. But no one ever chooses to have ED because it is fun or because they are 'good at restricting and losing weight'. There is a big difference between the two situations.

I also don't particularly like how the authors state that labelling ED as a passion will change the way we treat these serious illnesses. The authors say that thinking of EDs as a passion means that we see that patients can make decisions about the passion - the ED. But is this true? Not really. In most cases, the ED, as a mental illness, takes over the patient. The individual with ED is not able to make decisions on when to restrict food intake because it is not them in control, but the ED. The person with ED doesn't make a decision to binge, purge, or restrict. It is the ED. Likewise, the patient with ED cannot always make the decision to start eating and to recover. This takes time, and in many cases, treatment must start even when the patient doesn't fully accept or appreciate it. But if we called ED a passion, we would be saying that the person can make decisions on when to engage in the ED, when to stop, etc. And we know that this isn't true at all. We have seen time and time again that brain changes, along with hormonal and chemical influences, change the way a patient with ED thinks, acts, eats, etc. So really, the patient is under the control of the illness. It isn't a passion. It is an illness.

Why do we have to come up with different words to describe what an eating disorder is? Why cant society just accept that ED is a serious and deadly mental illness? Why do we need to bring in incorrect terminology and false ideas around this issue? It is enough to say that EDs are mental illnesses - and life-threatening disorders. This alone should be enough to make us understand that treatment, identification, and prevention need to start as soon as possible. Would you tell someone who smokes or drinks alcohol obsessively that they have a passion for smoking? No. Would you tell someone who has depression that they have a passion for feeling sad? No. So why is it alright to label ED as a passion? It isn't.

Perhaps instead of wasting research dollars, time, and effort on
finding new ways to label EDs, we should instead focus on why they occur, how we can prevent them, and the best ways to treat them. We should focus on how to support patients and their loved ones.
That kind of research and initiative is worthwhile. That's what will make a difference to the thousands of people living and battling eating disorders daily. Prevention, identification, and treatment. Not labelling. We all need to work together to make these changes - every little thing you say or do can make a big difference. Remember this quote on the image to the right - be kind. You never know what each person you meet is dealing with. Don't judge, don't blame, and don't stereotype.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I was on TV! Watch my feature on CBC News!

Three weeks ago, I was contacted by a reporter from CBC Toronto, asking me if I could do a story on the increase in eating disorders that is occurring. Wanting to help, I readily agreed...not realizing that they wanted me to do the story the next day! Needless to say, it was a last-minute request. But being featured on TV AND raising awareness about ED and mental health? Who could say no?!
 
This news story is highly relevant to society and what is happening in our world today. Although short, the feature highlights the fact that there has been a staggering increase in the prevalence of eating disorders within the past few years. Unfortunately, this has not been met by an increase in treatment. Perhaps even more frustrating is that there is still a lack of knowledge and awareness on eating disorders, prevention, treatment, recovery, and mental health. There still exists stigma around issues such as mental health. My hope is that by speaking out, we can make a difference.

Please take time to watch this segment - it is only about five minutes long: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu3TcyjgQ5w. (Please note: this aired two weeks ago on the CBC Toronto News at 6 and 11 pm, but the video was just uploaded - thanks sis!).

But the impact of the segment is not in its length. The impact lays in what we do after hearing the story. Do we go out and make a change? Are you willing to reflect on your own beliefs and knowledge around eating disorders and mental health? Are you prepared to educate yourself and others around you? Are you willing to help raise awareness that EDs are REAL, MENTAL, and SERIOUS illnesses?
 
I hope that you enjoy this little feature I did with CBC news Toronto. More importantly, I hope that it helps you and others learn about ED and mental health, and it makes a change. There is a lot of awareness on many physical health issues, but awareness of mental health issues is lacking. Why? Because we don't want to talk about our feelings and emotions. We don't want to appear vulnerable. It is easier to suggest physical treatments for heart conditions, cancer, etc. than it is for mental health issues, where treatment options may not be so obvious. Everyone, regardless of what health/other issue they are dealing with, deserves treatment, help, and support. They deserve to be cared for, to be empathized with, and to be understood.

Thank you, God, for giving me the courage and strength to speak up about my battle with anorexia. Thank you for showing me that every struggle, every tear, and every hurt happens for a reason. Thank you for using my struggle to raise awareness, and hopefully, to continue to help others. Thank you for never leaving any of us alone, for giving us hope and success. Please strengthen us to continue trusting You, even when times are rough. Please give us Your peace and allow us to see that though we may not understand what is happening now, we will one day. And then we will see that '...in all things God works for the good of those who love Him' (Romans 8:28).

And thank YOU to all my friends, family, and readers. I would not have been here if it were not for all of the care, love, and encouragement you always provide me with. The time each of you takes to motivate me, to read my blog, to pray for me, and to help raise awareness makes a HUGE difference. I am so blessed to have all this support around me.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Writing Goals Down: The Key to Success?

What is the best way to ensure that your goals will succeed? How do you make yourself believe that you will accomplish your goals and have success, as well as feel accomplished? Is there a relationship between goal completion and satisfaction?

There is no doubt that setting goals makes life easier. If you want to get a promotion, what do you do? You take the time to think about what steps you must take. Maybe you need to finish your next assignment on time. Maybe you need to get to work on time, and be more optimistic. If you are trying to improve your health, maybe you will drink more water, eat a variety of foods, enjoy an active lifestyle, reduce stress, etc. Whatever your goals are, the key is to make a plan of action. But how do you 'make' this plan?

I personally love to write things down. I find that when I do this, I see an organized plan for what I have to do, what I need to accomplish, and where I am going. It also helps me look back and see what I have done, what I still need to do, and what I have succeeded in. Interestingly, there appears to be evidence that supports that writing out goals does indeed have an impact on overall life satisfaction, task completion, and even stress levels. In one study, writing out goals and accomplishments decreased people's negative thinking and low moods (http://www.cog.psy.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/papers/2013/Teismann_WritingAboutLifeGoals_JHealthPsychol(2013-e-pub).pdf - I recommend that you take the time to read this study, if interested. You can skip to the results section if you want the quick facts about the implications!). It also reduced cortisol levels - the 'stress' hormone that is released when we are stressed. This hormone also has negative effects on our bodies when released in excess, including depressed immunity, irregularities in hormone functioning, poor concentration, and more. Within just three days of writing out goals, participants felt happier, more confident, less stressed, and more optimistic about their lives.

What is the lesson here? Writing out goals and accomplishments really does seem to make a difference on our health and emotions, as well as the perspectives we take about our lives. Of course, this doesn't mean that if you don't write your goals out, you will be depressed and unsuccessful. It also does not mean that writing out goals and successes are the ONLY ways to be happy or satisfied. However, if you should take something away from this, it should be that looking at your life with a plan or with optimism can really change the way you live. Being positive and organized can help you become more successful and relaxed.

Writing things down provides you with a plan, but also with a reference on what you have to do, as well as what your next steps are. Then, when you are done, you can refer back to what you wrote down and see what you have accomplished - and this helps you feel good about yourself, which can improve your mood and confidence. If you haven't completed all you wrote down, looking back at it will help you see what you can improve the next time around, or to see whether or not your goals were realistic and doable. Does this mean you have to start writing everything down now to be successful and happy? No. But I will ask you one thing: the next time you have a lot of tasks to do in one day, or when you have a major project to accomplish, try writing the steps or tasks down on a piece of paper, on your phone, etc. Then, refer to your list during the task, as the day goes by and you complete the things to do, or after you are done what you needed to do. And let me know how this makes you feel to see what you have
accomplished, or to see your goals achieved. I guarantee it will make a difference. You will feel better about yourself, you will feel and become more productive, and you will be more enthusiastic and positive about life. Try it, and let me know what your thoughts and experiences are!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Published again: Beauty, Uniqueness, and Feeling Needed

Once again, my work has been published by Made4More, an organization dedicated to helping others live through everyday challenges faced in the world. This post is about true beauty, and what it means to be 'beautiful', and how this relates to our needing to feel loved, special, and unique: http://made4moreministry.com/2014/08/18/you-are-beautiful-and-i-mean-it/

Looking at this way, we see that beauty doesn't only to women. Nor does it mean how we dress, what our bodies look like, or what make-up or watches we wear. That is what the world wants you to think beauty is all about. Why? Because the world lives off of this misconception. The media and companies fool us into thinking that we need the latest brand-name clothes to look 'cool', or that we need to have that designer-brand watch because it shows others that we can afford it. For women, there is the pressure to be thin and tall. For men, there is the pressure to be muscular and strong. All around us, we see ideas of what the world wants us to think beauty is about.

But beauty really is much more than the outward appearance. We are all made to be beautiful because we are created in the image of God. You are beautiful inside and out - whether you are male or female, young or old, short or tall, etc. It is not about how you dress or what you accessorize with. It is about your heart and your mind. Do you wish others well? Do you strive your best to keep your heart, mind, and actions pure? Can others look at you and see Christ? Do you use your talents and words to help others and give them strength, hope, or encouragement? Do you realize that you are special, loved, and needed?

Something that I have learned along my journey is that I need to stop thinking of beauty as being something I see in the mirror or on the scale. I had to learn to reframe beauty as what God intended it to be - my actions, thoughts, and words. My beauty and my self-worth are defined by these qualities, not by my appearance. I am beautiful because God created me, and He doesn't make mistakes. I am beautiful, unique, and needed because I strive to use my actions and words to help others. I am beautiful because God gives me the strength to endure hardships. And the same applies to YOU. Yes, YOU. You are beautiful too! I know males may feel uncomfortable with this wording, so to all the males out there, you are special and attractive because you are made in the image of God, too! Remember not to let the world trick you into concentrating only on the outward appearance. You are beautiful. You are special. You are needed. You are loved. (P.S. Look at the image and quote above about people being like stained glass windows. This is an amazing analogy, and so encouraging. Challenges give us strength and teach us many lessons!)

P.S. I love this quote about beauty and Oreos. Not only is it true, but I love Oreo cookies...so this quote is awesomely true and delicious at the same time!