Friday, 18 December 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Best Christmas Quotes Famous One's



Well, the season is officially here and approaching quickly! Next week is Christmas!

I've been so caught up in school lately that I truly need a break. I need time away from all the hustle and bustle of studying, reading, memorizing, and critical-thinking. Don't get me wrong - I love what I study, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But there is no denying that this term has been super busy. To have some time off means that I can rejuvenate myself. I can relax for a week or so and not feel the need to study for an exam. I can finally finish the novel that I began reading last summer. I can catch up on some advocacy work that I've been doing. I can watch a couple of movies, go shopping, connect with friends, pamper myself, and more. In reality, there is probably much more that I want to do during this break than what I will actually get done. But, at least it is a break...and for that, I am SUPER thankful!

You know what's interesting? I've never been crazy about the gift-giving part of Christmas. I mean, I LOVE getting gifts and surprises. That is truly a fun experience. But it was never about the presents for me. And the same goes with the food. Although there is lots of great food during the holidays, this is just one part of the season as well.

So, why is Christmastime so wonderful? To me, it comes down to the feelings and emotions we have during this time. I love being able to spend time away from work and school in order to actually relax with loved one. To be able to have even just one day with my family - a day when we can spend time with each other and take a break - means a lot.

My Wishes For You ChristmasOne special thing about Christmas, to me, is that it allows me to reflect on the entire year. It marks the end of one year and the start of a new one. It marks a special time in my spiritual life when Christ is born - an event that signals how much God loves us. Jesus came down to earth and was born in a manger, even though He is a King. This has a message for us all: humility is important. Outer appearances and circumstances aren't nearly as important was what is in our hearts, actions, and words. This has a special significance during this season as well, because it prompts us to think of those who are less-fortunate than ourselves, and to share with them.

Regardless of whether you celebrate the spiritual side of Christmas or not, I hope that you enjoy this holiday season. I hope that you can take some time to relax, to spend time with loved ones, and to refresh your energy. I pray that you find comfort, hope, strength, and love from all the season has to offer. I hope that you have an opportunity to reflect on your year, to make goals for the new year, and to count your many blessings. I wish that we can all stay safe, happy, and healthy.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! It is a time that only comes once a year - so please cherish and enjoy every moment of it!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Tis the Season!

It's nearly December! You know what that means?

CHRISTMAS!

I love this time of the year. It truly is magical, for so many reasons. For one thing, I love hearing Christmas music on the radio. I love seeing lights and decorations. I love the Christmas shopping you can do in stores. The list goes on and on.

But do you know what is super special about this time? The feelings of joy, comfort, solidarity, and compassion. It is amazing to see so many charitable initiatives that occur around Christmas time, such as donating toys to the Salvation Army, helping people in need, joining soup kitchens, finding clothes for the homeless, and so forth.

Christmas is about Christ's birth. He came into the world to save us. He gave Himself for us. Welcoming Christ in our world means that we need to be humble. We need to open our arms and homes to Him. That is what Christmas is about. And that is why helping others, especially during this time, is so precious. 

We are so fortunate to be able to afford our basic needs, and even luxuries at times. Others are not so fortunate. But keep in mind that during this season, you need not feel PRESSURED to 'be better' than everyone else by donating the most. In fact, you need not donate money or toys. You can donate your time to listen to someone in need. You can donate a helping hand and hold open the door for someone. You can donate a caring heart and contact someone who you haven't seen in a long time. You can smile at someone on the street. You can be extra patient at the morning coffee shop you visit.

This season, let's all try to spread some Christmas cheer - in whatever way works for you. Remember that being kind is the best way to spread love and comfort. There is truly nothing more special and magical than feeling that you have helped someone, that you have made a difference in someone's day. That is the gift that keeps giving back - and doing it can be completely free. But the reward is priceless.

 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Remember the GOOD stuff in the world!

There is so much going on in the world today. From political issues to world hunger, from cancers to illnesses, from human rights to tragedies, from income disparities to unexpected losses...

It can get quite depressing, to be honest. I mean, when was the last time you heart some GOOD news on the TV or radio? There is not much to go around, it seems.

One thing that I wanted to highlight, however, is that there is a lot of good going on in the world today. There are neighbours who help their friends pay their debts when they cannot afford it. There are random strangers who pay for the coffee for the person ahead of them in drive-through. There are happy stories where a lost child is once again found. There are cases of human rights prevailing, of cancers being cured, of countries supporting others, of people going into rehab and feeling better, and so forth.

But we don't hear about them often...and remember that the news picks and chooses what news they actually tell us. For example, turn on the TV news. You will hear tragedy after tragedy, problem after problem. Maybe one good story...but not much more than that. Don't be a passive consumer or viewer - know that this is not the only news in the world. The media chooses what - and HOW - they portray things to us.

Get the whole story. Do not settle for what the TV or radio tells you. Because this can be biased, despite all the work done to make is 'standard' as possible. For example, a story on the news might tell you that a new study found that 90% of flu-shots are not effective.

But really...where did this come from? One study? One study IS NOT enough to support not taking a flu shot. One study presented on the news is not enough research or evidence to combat all the issues one might acquire if you DO NOT take the shot and end up getting the flu. One story about someone who had complications from the flu shot does NOT mean that everyone will. (Note: I am using the flu shot as an example. There are many, many more!).

So, remember not to be a passive consumer of the news - both in terms of negative things portrayed (ex. tragedies, accidents, and so on) and 'evidence' or 'research studies'. Be an ACTIVE consumer and individual.

And remember the good things that happen daily, the things NOT included in the news. Remember how kind people can be to one another. Remember that miracles happen everyday, that people get cured from their illnesses, and that genuine kindness and love exist in the world today. This will make you feel a lot better about life in general, and learning to be positive is just one way to do this!

P.S. Try to find the not-so hidden message in the picture below (HINT: It says more than 'Believe there is good in the world'!)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is Thanksgiving in Canada today!

While we really should be thankful each and everyday of our lives, today is a special day to take some time to actually THINK about what you are thankful for.

A lot of times in our lives (let's be honest...), we become caught up in our worries and struggles that we fail to realize how much we have to be thankful for. We truly are blessed in so many ways...but it is hard to remember when we are frustrated or experiencing troubles.

Please take some time today to relax and be thankful! When I think about how many blessings I have, it makes me happy. As I thought today of simple things, I realized that I am simply thankful for even the sunshine outside - it lightens up my day. Or to have a house to sleep in at night, to protect me from the rain or cold. Or to have enough food and water - which many people lack. To have family and friends who truly care about me and are there to support me. To be able to study what I love best and to feel that I can use this to help others.

There is A LOT to be thankful for! I hope this Thanksgiving (and everyday!) brings you all hope, love, comfort, and peace. Thank you so much to all my readers and supporters - I am definitely thankful for how far I have come, for all your support and love, and for always showing me how far I have come. Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings and for your guidance.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

POP Part Two: Using Positive Statements


Last time,we talked about the importance of positive thinking. This post will be about specific thoughts or strategies that we can use to think positive or be optimistic.

Of course, some of us have difficulty imagining that we will be 'talking positive' to ourselves. But it really isn't all that strange - you need not say these things out loud. Sometimes, even silently thinking to yourself can be a major mood-booster.

I'll give you an example. Last week, I was extremely frustrated and overwhelmed. I was busy with exams, classes, gatherings, friends, meetings, and more. And I wanted it all to just STOP. I wanted to run away from everything. For everything to just stop being loud, busy, and hectic all the time. I wanted to quit everything.


What kept me going? After I vented my feelings to my family and close friends, I realized something important: I was busy. Yes. But I was doing what I loved. I was busy with things that I loved. I was busy achieving my goals and dreams. Despite the challenges, I knew that I was working hard for a purpose. And I realized that I was not alone. I had support. I had love. I had passion, strength, and motivation. I had dreams. I had hope.

The next thing I knew, I was saying positive thoughts to myself in my head.

'You can do this".

"You have done hard things before".

"You are strong. You are not alone. You have the love and support of family, friends, and God".

"You will get through this, just like you have done before. And this will make you stronger. You will learn so much. You will look back at this and see how much you have achieved".

"This is hard. But it will end. Tough times never last".

And so on. At first, I did not feel significantly different. But after a couple of different thoughts, I felt...motivated. I felt less stressed. I felt like a small burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt as though I could do this. I could survive. I WOULD survive.

And I did. I am still super busy. And sometimes, I still get overwhelmed and feel stressed all over again. But thinking the positive thoughts make a big difference. They help me realize that tough times truly never last, and that I will get through them. Positivity reminds me that life is not all negative, that there are happy moments full of smiles, dreams, and hope. Optimism reminds me to slow down, to take time to breathe.

Try it out! Think positive thoughts when you are feeling down. Allow yourself to express your difficult emotions, but then talk to yourself - help yourself see what is good about your situation, you support, your personality, or your strengths. Remember that you are not alone. You WILL get through this. Think positive....that is POP!

 

Monday, 7 September 2015

POP! Part One: Think like a proton and stay positive!

This post is going to be the first post in a series I've decided to call 'POP' - The Power of Positivity.

Why POP? Well, honestly, it's an easy acronym to remember. But let's just say that when you think positive, you'll feel more happy and motivated - and this will make you POP with energy, ready to face whatever life throws your way!

(Corny? Yes. Catchy? Yes. Will you remember it? Yes. I rest my case).

"Be positive! Think positive!"

Two commonly said phrases that are meant to encourage us to remain optimistic as much as possible. I'll let you in on a little secret: when I feel down and hear these sentences, the last thing I can ever do is think positive.

Imagine this: you've had a long, tiring day. You are behind on so much work. You had a fight with someone you care about. You feel a cold coming on. Your bills need to get paid, your laundry done, food cooked, and house cleaned. And now you have a headache starting. Oh, and tomorrow, you have an important event/test/presentation that you haven't even started preparing for.

Now imagine that you decide to confide this to someone close to you. And all they can say is, 'hey! It could be worse. You just gotta think positive!"

As helpful as they are trying to be, that isn't the solution - well, not immediately, anyways. If we are simply told to 'think positive', we cannot do it in the face of adversary. Actually, it isn't right to ignore our emotions and frustrations, and to try to crowd them out them with apparent 'happy thoughts'. Does this sound opposite to what we are commonly told? Perhaps. Let me make it clear: It is one thing to ignore your emotions and convince yourself that you are actually quite happy, when inside, you are on the verge of breaking down. It is quite another thing to acknowledge your emotions and express them, and to then begin to see what optimism you can infuse into your life.

Alright, now, let's get down to business: why do we even need to worry ourselves with thinking positive thoughts?

Let's continue with the above example: the tough day. What if you've just expressed your emotions - to yourself or to someone you love; Then, after thinking for a while, you realize that though things area tough now, they really could indeed be worse. You're behind on work - but you have a job, and you are quite good at it. You may have had a fight with someone you care about - but you know that they care about you too, and that your relationship is much stronger than this disagreement. You feel as though you are getting sick - but generally, your health is in good states. You aren't prepared for tomorrow - but you either have time to do some work now, you can talk to your boss/teacher/supervisor about getting an extension, or you'll learn a valuable lesson about time-management.

Not bad, huh? Now: did thinking positive magically change the situation and make all your problems disappear? No. And this is a key message I want to get across, regardless of how blunt it may seem: thinking positive or being optimistic isn't a miracle-worker: it will not make problems vanish. It will not solve everything. It will not make us invincible. BUT, thinking positive will....

-help you see things the way they are, and not get caught up ruminating about the challenges you are facing
-aid you in making a plan of action to get started on solving your problems, becoming more productive, or developing your character and maturity
-motivate you to count your blessings and realize that despite the bumps along the way, life truly is full of little shining moments

The benefits of positivity extend beyond that. One study study showed that the more you think positive (and train yourself to try your best to stay motivated and resilient, despite challenges), the easier it becomes in the future. I love this quote from the article: "The psychological broadening sparked by one positive emotion increases the odds that an individual will find positive meaning in subsequent events and experience addition positive emotions. This upward spiral can, over time, build psychological resources and optimize people's lives" (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2001).

Simply put: think positive today = build strength and motivation for tomorrow. Transforming your thoughts of pain, misery, and hopelessness into something positive will allow you to build up strength for tomorrow. It will help you realize that though this present moment (or day, week, year, etc) is challenging, good thins have happened to you before. And they will continue to happen, You have the strength and power to do something - anything. And you can get through this obstacle, just like you have done in the past. You WILL make it through this tough day - look at it this way: the days are passing by anyways. You can live with them with negativity and anger, resentment and fear, sorrow and hostility. OR, you can face everything head-on with an open mind, loving heart, motivated will, strong stamina, perseverance and hope.





  

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Publshed again! Laziness, Busyness, and Rest

Have you ever felt so tired and frustrated, wanting only to get away from everything and relax - and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?!

Have you ever felt lazy, unable or unmotivated to get up and get your work done...despite being incredibly busy? 

I'll let you in on a secret: I have a love/hate relationship with being busy. I hate being busy because then I feel overwhelmed, tired, overworked, and exhausted. 

But I also love being busy - because at these moments, I feel productive, motivated, and energetic. 

Weird, isn't it? I'm certain we've all had similar experiences at times. 

So...what's up with this paradoxical love/hate with laziness, busyness, and rest? Why is it that we can feel so angry with being busy...but when we are suddenly free, we feel irritated with nothing to do? On a similar note, what's the deal with laziness and rest - are they ultimately the same thing - or are they different?

Head on over to Fr. Anthony's website, where my my writing on this puzzling topic has been featured (thank you, God, for Your blessings!); please take a look, and feel free to comment there and let me know what your thoughts and experiences are on this! 

Laziness, busyness, and rest: three related, confusing, but ultimately, normal parts of life. They must be balanced delicately: out of balance, they make life hectic. Kept under control, life becomes manageable.

In itself, laziness implies a lack of will or motivation to do things, to use our time and gifts wisely. Laziness sets off a nasty cycle: we feel lazy and we don't do anything - and this makes us even MORE lazy.

It is good to be (moderately) busy - this keeps us using our minds and bodies, and it keeps us energetic and motivated. But it is also critical that we rest, because overworking ourselves will surely led to fatigue and a myriad of other problems. Allow yourself to be productive, to set goals, and to accomplish them. And then reward yourself with rest, and feel proud and satisfied with what you have accomplished.



Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Taking Risks

I'm going to share a secret with you: I'm not the craziest and wildest person out there.

Sure, I love trying new things. But I become skeptical. If it's dangerous, I would rather not do it. If I can die, I'll pass. If it'll make me wish I had never done it, I won't even try it. 

I suppose this isn't a bad thing. After all, it keeps me from getting hurt, from taking dangerous risks, etc. But I've come to see that sown times, I can have my own kind of 'adventure' or new experience without making myself completely uncomfortable or unsafe

Like last week. I actually drove a Segway for the first time in my life. I've seen those things on TV and always thought that it would be awesome to ride one, but when would I ever get that chance? Well, when I finally got the chance last week, I nearly backed out. I got onto the Segway and felt horrified. I was going to fl off, break my bones, and regret the decision. 
But something inside of me told me that I had to give it a second chance. I had to try it for at lest ten minutes, in the safety of the trainer's supervision. And I did. I was scared, but not 'deadly scared'. After about fifteen minutes, I was okay. I could drive the Segway properly and I was having fun! Around me, however, were people who were riding their Segway super fast. They were doing tricks, speeding up, and riding around obstacles. This is where I drew the line. For me, even riding the Segway was a huge deal. And now that I was comfortable, I was happy. I was proud of myself. I didn't need to ride super fast or try doing flips of the Segway in order to have fun or challenge myself. This was good - actually, excellent! - for me. 

I've come to realize that each person is different in the risks they can take, and this doesn't mean that I am less fun or brave than anyone else. Sometimes, society tells us that we always need to take huge risks to be 'cool'. Or, that by being safe, we aren't going to have fun. While I agree that being over-cautious and constantly worrying is crippling, I don't believe that we need to risk our safety to have fun or be adventurous. I also think that having good support around us encourages us to try new things and to feel comfortable doing so. 

After all, we are all mature adults here. There is no benefit to making a silly decision in the name of 'fun', nor is there any purpose to tease others because they are scared to do a new activity. Each person is different. Part of growing up and maturing is knowing when we can challenge ourselves, and far we can push ourselves. When we, or others, pass this limit, we get uncomfortable and tense. But, when we can safely try something new and allow ourselves to make mistakes - in a safe environment - we can experience the power of learning and doing new things

We may find that we really liked the new experience - like myself with the Segway. Or we may find that we hated it - and that's okay too. I have definitely learned that challenging myself, although difficult to do and follow-through, is an amazing experience when I feel safe, supported, and encouraged. I think we're all like this. Taking risks doesn't have to mean putting ourselves in danger, or doing something crazy and 'wild' in order to impress others. Take risks and try new things for yourself: to learn something, to try something new, and to have fun!

 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Why doesn't medicine always work?!

All of us, one time or another, have had some kind of illness that we've needed treatment or help for. Remember when you had that nasty cold and that tiring fever? Maybe your doctor told you to take some Advil to calm the fever down. Or what about the time when your knee hurt like crazy, and you simply needed some ice to soothe the inflammation?

It's great when prescribed treatments work, isn't it? But what about when they ARE NOT effective? What happens then? We get frustrated, angry, and feel helpless. We don't understand how or why the treatment isn't working. What happens now? Well, usually the doctor will tell you to try something different. Maybe the Advil didn't work for the fever. Maybe a cold cloth will do. Maybe the ice didn't help your knee - maybe some Tylenol will work. Maybe none of this work, and you'll need to try something different yet again. 

Why does this happen? Why can't we just seek treatment for a health issue; and get it right from the first time? I'll let you in on a little secret in the world of medicine - there isn't an end-all-be-all cute or modality of treatment that works for everyone, 100% of the time. Why? For many reasons. Firstly, every patient is different. For example, we have different biological responses to medicines because of our genes, metabolism, hormones, etc. Secondly, we have differing symptoms and signs that may need specific interventions. For example, two people with asthma may complain of different symptoms - one may have wheezing each night, while another may have a cough each morning. This means that each patient may respond to a medication in different ways or to different extents.  

 
So, what are doctors supposed to do? There are published guidelines that help physicians follow a set of evidence-cased statements or suggestions for treating, diagnosing, and following-up with patients and their conditions. These are compiled after much evidence is reviewed; many professionals give their unbiased opinions, and the guidelines are tested to be effective. Are these guidelines perfect? No. Of course not. They ant be perfect - medicine is a puzzle. There are so many pieces to account for, so many factors to consider. But, these guidelines are the best resource physicians can use to help their patients. They are what normally works - and is highly effective - in many (if not most) patients. Plus, guidelines have clear instructions: physicians aren't to use guidelines without considering patient-specific factors, such as finances, genetics, motivation, presenting signs and symptoms, insurance coverage, degree of impact on daily activities, and more. Simply put, physicians  and healthcare providers are to use guidelines as one piece of a puzzle, alongside the patient's needs and abilities and resources. In this manner, physicians can ensure that patients are receiving the best care possible, the type of care that promotes their health and well-being in the most holistic sense possible. 

What can patients do? Ensure you are informed. Ask questions and help your physician understand exactly what is concerning you, what you need help with, and what your goals and resources are. Work with your physician, knowing that your physicians  and healthcare team work WITH,  and not FOR, you. And don't expect a magical cure quickly. Remember that more often than not, treatment wants need experimentation. But you can, or should be able to, depend on your physician to provide you with patient-centered, evidence-informed care. Remember: medicine and health aren't always 'textbook' cases in real-life. You aren't the same person as your neighbour, and thus, your treatment plan and prognosis (and timeline!)  might or might not be the same. But with open communication, honesty, patience, knowledge, cooperation, hope, and motivation, you and your physician and healthcare team can create a plan that suits you. This is what patient-centered care is all about.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Watch and read my latest interviews!

I'm very blessed to have graduated a couple of weeks ago with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing! What a fabulous day!

On top of that, I was chosen to be Valedictorian! (This is basically a position or title where you represent the graduating class, have high academic achievements, extensive extra-curricular involvements, etc. The Valedictorian delivers a speech during the ceremony that is meant to inspire others). You can watch my Valedictory address here!

When McMaster University's online newspaper, the Daily News, asked me to state my biggest accomplishment source of pride, I replied that it was my book, Recipe for Recovery. This prompted them to inquire about what it was about, which led to my sharing my story about ED. Soon enough, they wanted to interview me for the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Achievements page. They then shared my story with local media...and before I knew it, I was asked to do a TV interview, a radio show, and a newspaper interview!

You can read the various interviews I have done (please note they are all different): The Daily News (McMaster University's newspaper), The Hamilton Spectator (Hamilton's primary newspaper), and McMaster's Faculty of Health Sciences Achivements Page.

You can also listen to my CHML Hamilton News radio interview, in which I talk more about my journey thus far, and provide some insight and education about eating disorders and recovery.

As I mentioned, I was also interviewed by Hamilton CHCH TV. The segment appeared on the 6pm and 11 pm news. You can watch the short clip here!

I am still amazed at the way things have turned out. I am extremely grateful to God for making me healthy and well, for giving me another chance to live, and for allowing me to use my experiences to raise awareness and hopefully help and inspire others. I am also beyond appreciative to my friends, family, community, and readers for all the support and love you all provide me with. I could not have come so far without you all...thank you. You all mean so much to me.

Once again, it is clear that every experiences and every obstacle has a purpose. We may not understand it at the time, but we will one day. Our struggles fill us with stamina, strength, and wisdom. They shape us into the people we are, they help us mature and develop, and they teach us valuable lessons. May you all find the strength to persevere despite hardships, the courage to stay optimistic during rough times, and the peace to remain calm when overwhelmed.

Never give up. Today may be a tough day. But tomorrow will be better. And never lose hope. We may lose everything else, but if we have hope, we can carry on regardless of our circumstances. Hope may not always change the circumstances, but it will change you in the circumstances.


 

Monday, 1 June 2015

A little update! :)


Canadian weather has me confused. Two weeks ago, I was boiling. I was eating ice cream as fast as I could before it melted in the sweltering heat. I had my air conditioner on, and I was pulling out my capris and t-shirts, fully prepared to wear summer clothes from now on. It was around 37 degrees Celsius one day...quite hot!

Then, this past weekend was chilly. As in, the temperature was only around 10 degrees. EXCUSE ME?! I had to reluctantly turn off my air conditioner, and pull out my spring coat. What is going on here? What happened to the warm weather?! I mean, it is June 1st today...shouldn't it be hot outside already?!

Well, regardless of the weather, at least the 'season' of summer is here. That means no more school...for now! My graduation is coming up next week, and I am super excited. I cannot believe that I have completed my degree.

I think back to my first year of university...when I thought that I might never make it alive. I didn't realize how ill I was...but I was pretty sick. Things got worse before they got better, and soon enough. I was on life-support in the intensive care unit (ICU). I did not think that I would ever complete my degree, or live a happy life again. And at times, I didn't want to live, anyways. I wanted to die. I had no reason inside of me to live...the illness had taken everything joyous out of my life.

Then I became determined to get better...but this alone was more difficult that I had imagined it to be. Eating again seemed strange to me...I did not know how I could sit at a table multiple times a day and look at food...and then eat it. And honestly, I don't know how I did it. The support and love of all my friends and family certainly encouraged me to fight. The strength of God helped me find courage in the face of obstacles. You, dear readers, helped me stay strong, even when I wanted to give up.

Fast-forward to today, when I am graduating in a week. I still cannot believe how far I have come. God is so good. He used my pain for the good. I have learned so much about myself throughout this journey. I have become wiser and stronger. I have learned to accept challenges as they come, knowing that one day, I will realize how they have helped me become a better or stronger person. I have learned to keep my body healthy, and my mind comfortable. I have learned to cherish every moment with my friends and family members. I have written a book in hopes that it will help others who are struggling. I have tried my best to become a better person, one who embraces life with optimism, strength, motivation, and love.

One thing that still makes me anxious is the future. What will it hold? What will happen in my life? Will I find a job? Have my own family? Make a decent amount of money? Continue to help others? Feel happy and content? Travel the world? Learn new skills? Take up new hobbies?

I don't know what the future holds. But I know who holds my future: God. And He has never left me...my past is evidence of this. I know He has my future planned...and His plans are always the best. And I know that regardless of where life takes me, I have the support and love of my friends, family, community, and readers...and that's all I need. I am confident that whatever path my life takes, it will work out for the best. All I pray for is that I can use my knowledge, skills, and experiences to help others, to give back to all those who are in need. To continue to learn and develop into a person who can truly make a difference.

I don't know what my future holds...but I'll find out one day! Life is like a roller-coaster - it has ups and downs. I might as well enjoy the ride!

 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

BB - Brain and Behaviour: How the Brain Can Predict ED Behaviours

Remember this post that summarized some things I have blogged about on ED and brain changes or findings? Well, now we have a new addition to the list. This study, recently published, explored the relationship between the loss of a certain gene and similar 'ED-like' behaviours that follow. (For those interested in scientific terms, the loss of a gene is also known as a mutation). See
this link for a summary of this study.

The researchers looked at mice and an estrogen-related receptor alpha. or ESRRA. By the way, don't worry about the name of the gene - that's not as important as the results of the study. The loss of ESRRA caused the mice to have less motivation to find and consume high-fat foods, despite being hungry. In a previous study, researchers found that individuals with anorexia also show decreased levels of ESRRA in their brains. What does this tell us?

Well, think about it. Low ESRRA caused mice to not have enough motivation or desire to seek out and eat high-fat foods. What would this mean for individuals with low levels of ESRRA? The same thing! This may help to explain why people with anorexia don't want to - or are not able to - eat when hungry. Their brains literally aren't allowing them to, their brains aren't giving them the normal 'signal' or motivation to look for and eat food.

But wait, there's more. The study also found that the levels of ESRRA are controlled by caloric intake. In mice, eating less than 60% of normal calories over a few days significantly decreased ESRRA levels in the brain - even in normal nice. What does this teach us?

Eating low calories = less ESRRA levels. So, applying this to people, even those without ED may develop ED-like symptoms if they reduce their caloric intake over a delayed time period. Now imagine someone who is already predisposed to ED because of a variety of other reasons. If this individual reduces their caloric intake, their risk for developing ED may very well be increased significantly. Usually, less nutritional or caloric intake causes humans to seek out foods, especially those that are high in calories. But low levels of ESRRA seem to make that response not work as well. The mice in the study weren't just not motivated - they actually put in much less effort to even get food, despite being hungry. Isn't it striking how similar this is to a person with ED: they are hungry. They feel hungry. Their stomachs are growling. And yet, they do not - cannot - eat.

Of course, it would be wonderful if we could say: 'low ESRRA cause theses behaviours. Let's just give patients with ED some ESRRA and then we would sole their problem!'. Well, it isn't that easy. Firstly, more studies need to be conducted to see who this applies to - do ALL people with ED have low ESRRA levels, or just some of them? Why? What are ways in which we can reverse this? Will a medication work? Does recovery restore ESRRA levels? What about people with low ESRRA that DO NOT develop an ED - why does this happen?

The thing with science is this: one question opens up a million others, and one answer does the same. While as of now, we don't have a 'cure' for anorexia (such as a magic pill or procedure), studies like these help us learn more about factors that may lead to the development and maintenance of ED. AND - one of my favourite things - these studies illustrate that EDs are a lot more complicated than we may want to believe. Patients aren't making up their symptoms, nor are they trying to be difficult. It is a mental illness, mediated by many factors, several of them perpetuated by changes in the brain, hormones, genes, and neurotransmitters.

For now, it is safe to say that there are some key things needed for recovery from ED: FOOD, enough calories, weight gain, therapy., and treatment of comorbid illnesses. This may mean using medications to control anxiety, depression, OCD, and more. It may also mean meal-planning, restricting activity, attending family-based therapy sessions, using cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)  techniques, expressing emotions, and making a relapse-prevention plan. Oh, and we cannot forget some KEY things: time, patience, love, support, dedication, perseverance, and strength. And hope that recovery truly is possible.




Friday, 24 April 2015

Watch My Latest Presentation: What Future Doctors Need to Know About ED

One of my greatest blessings is being able to use my story to help others. My hope is that my experience with ED can teach others about mental health, ED, treatment, prevention, and identification. My book and blog have been instrumental to this, as they allow anyone all over the world to learn about my journey. The interviews that I do are another way to advocate. And a few months ago, I was asked to give a presentation to medical students at McMaster university. (Note that this presentation occurred in November 2014, but I have only just now had a chance to post it!) The focus of this presentation was to share my journey and shed some light on EDs.

This was a wonderful opportunity. It strikes me how sparse education on EDs is in the healthcare field. In my presentation, I highlighted the signs and symptoms of ED, diagnosis information, treatment goals, and the process of supporting recovery. Although I have this presentation to future physicians, the information in it is also extremely valuable for all doctors, nurses, etc to know. It's also good information for anyone in general to be aware of.


I hope you enjoy this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r8yiFVLxF4)! I received feedback from the medical students that this presentation was very helpful for all of them to have - some even told me it was more meaningful than other lectures on ED because it came from a survivor of ED and as a nurse...someone with personal experience with ED - as well as someone who is the healthcare field! It's a blessing to be able to use my journey not only to advocate, but also to educate others. This is proof that recovery is 100% possible. If you or anyone you know can benefit from the education in this video, please watch it and pass it on. Knowledge is power - learning about ED is the first step towards raising awareness, preventing ED, and supporting others.  I hope you enjoy it!