21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH JANICE

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder, and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Q:  How old are you?
A.  34
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Q: Male or female?
A.  Female
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Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A.  I’ve had issues with food for as long as I can remember.
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Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A.  Compulsive overeating, then bulimia, then exercise bulimia.  Somewhere in EDNOS category now.
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Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A.  Family, therapist, 2 close friends, masseuse.
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Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A.  I’m still recovering, but I’d have to say my therapist. She was originally my familly therapist, but then my therapist quit on me, and I was lost for a couple years.  When I found the strength to reach out again, I initially contacted her for references, but she offered to be my therapist and hasn’t looked back since. She puts up with my issues and fears of being abandoned and is helping me.
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Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A.  My old therapist. I didn’t expect her to quit on me after 7 years.  Also, my parents were really supportive surrounding the time I was really sick and got put inpatient, but it’s like they’ve forgotten I have issues with food or need support or role models for healthy eating. But it’s hard if they obviously have some of their own issues with food, too.
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Q:  Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A. Therapist, doctor(s), social worker, nutritionist, trainer, energy healer (two), family therapist.  Inpatient, which was a crappy, world-renowned program, which was only geared toward anorexics, and I think made me fester longer in developing unhealthier thoughts.
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Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A.  Having the support at the day treatment place with all that staff after my inpatient stay.
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Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A.  Severe, chronic depression.  Feelings of unworthiness and not being good enough.
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Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A:  My parents?  I honestly don’t know or think that my eating disorder affected anyone.  I think the self-injury issues I struggled with scared the bejesus out of my parents.
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Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  Hard to pinpoint.  Probably when I started to see that the behaviors I was choosing to engage in weren’t satisfying to me any more, or I could rationally see that ‘doing XYZ is not going to fix what hurts’.
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Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  That I have to change the way I think, to see myself as worthy.
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Q:  If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A:  Not sure.
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Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  Don’t hide with it.  Be open.  Confide in people you trust.  Realize you deserve better.
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Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A:  Just be there; don’t judge them.  Be open to what they need.  Don’t be critical.
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Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A:  I used to be active at an eating disorder site during college.  It helped so much to connect with people going through the same thing, and I met some great friends I still keep in touch with.
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Q:  If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A:  My triggers are all around.  I think I’m blindly thinking I’m further in recovery than I actually am, but I think I’ve just swapped back to my eating disorder roots, and it’s a trigger to see myself gain weight.
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Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A:  I don’t think anyone is ever going to find me attractive enough to date, so I’ll be alone for life.  But if I ever do find someone, I’m terrified to have kids.  I’m certain they’d be fucked up, and I’d be too scared to pass along things or scar them for life by doing/saying the wrong thing.
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Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A:  Not really.  I don’t think reading eating disorder books helps recovery.
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Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  I like a lot of alternative music, like 30 Seconds to Mars, One Republic, Guster.  And then there’s show tunes.  Nothing is more empowering than blasting “Rent” or “Rock of Ages” and singing at the top of your lungs.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

FORK YOU: PUBLIC FOOD SHAMING & HOW TO FIGHT BACK

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There are a lot of “shame” related phrases and hashtags floating around these days, including “fat shaming”, “body shaming”, and “slut shaming”.  One of the newest terms gaining momentum affects a lot of people, primarily women, and often takes place in public.

Food Shaming.

Food shaming is the act of making direct comments to or about a person that show the speaker’s disapproval of what that person is eating.  The food is often high in calorie or fat content (or perceived to be), and the message is that only thinner people have the “right” to eat it.  Sometimes it’s a friend accompanying you on a trip to the grocery store who criticizes an item you put in your cart, informing you that there are fat-free options available.  It might be your spouse sitting across from you at the breakfast table, telling you the food you’re about to enjoy is “bad”.

More and more these days, it’s a perfect stranger who believes she or he has been designated a valued member of the Food Shaming Police.  Women, in particular, are reporting in growing numbers that a passing individual or group of people feel it’s their place to verbally chastise the food choice the woman has made.  How sad is it that a person cannot enjoy an ice cream cone while standing on a street corner, lift a forkful of a luscious pasta dish in a restaurant, or take a free sample from a grocery store display without risking a member of the Food Shaming Police issuing them a verbal citation.

Public food shaming might come in the form of an obvious slur from some frat boy type who yells out to a woman that she is “fat enough”, and has no business enjoying dessert at a sidewalk cafe.  It might be an older person emitting a “tsk-tsk” when the person in front of her in line at a coffee house orders a drink with whole fat milk.  It might be a group of friends who make mooing noises, perhaps leaving their victim not even knowing which cretin belched out the insult.

Food Shaming in Social Media

Food shaming often takes place in social media, when some jerk thinks he’s dispensing bon mots by leaving derogatory comments for a picture of a person eating something besides a piece of lettuce.  People often feel comfortable snapping a quick picture of a stranger with their phone and posting it to Facebook or Instagram, all with the intention of ridiculing the subject of the photo and what she or he is eating.  Too often, people believe it’s their birth right to food shame others, and the trend seems to be growing.

Instagram now has a page called You Did Not Eat That, which features pictures of mostly models and celebrities posing with non-diet food.  The idea is that these people are presumed to have tossed that gooey slice of pizza or over-sized cookie into the trash once the photo shoot is over, and are merely pretending they eat like everyone else.  While eating disorders are prevalent in the entertainment industry, it’s rather presumptuous to assume no one in the photos could really eat the food they are posing with (even Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher don’t escape condemning comments left by followers).

One particular place that people – again, especially women – experience food shaming is on public transportation.  It’s become so prevalent that there is even a group addressing it on Facebook called Women Who Eat on Tubes (the “tube” is the London subway system).  Their goal is to “celebrate and encourage women eating food on tubes”, and not to marginalize them.  I can’t speak to how the women who are photographed might feel, since clearly many of the pictures seem to be taken without them knowing, but I appreciate that the group is trying to normalize what doesn’t need justification in the first place.

The Fork Whose Ass You’ll Want To Kick

Have you heard of the Food Shaming Fork (its creators prefer you call it by its official name – the HAPIfork)?  This new invention is a fork with attitude.  It measures how long you spend eating a meal, the amount of times you put the fork in your mouth, and how long between each mouthful.  The information is then digitally tracked via USB or Bluetooth to monitor if you are eating in a way that will help you lose weight.  The fork lights up and vibrates when it wants to let you, and anyone near you who must be wondering why your fork has taken on a life of its own, know you are being bad and need to correct the way you are eating (I cannot make this stuff up).  Jessica Roy wrote a funny article detailing her week of using the HAPIfork you can read here.

Fighting Back

Hollaback! is a non-profit organization, with groups in 79 cities and 26 countries, that offers ideas and support in helping people deal with street harassment.  The group defines such harassment as pertaining to things like sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic comments and actions, but also includes those who are “sizeist”, which is discrimination against people based on the size of their bodies.  The Boston branch of Hollaback! was showcased in a CBS news feature about food shaming, and encourages anyone who is a victim to stand up for themselves through a variety of channels.

In a Huffington Post article about public food shaming, nutritional coach Isabel Foxen Duke attributes the reason behind this phenomenon as being related to women’s perceived traditional societal and gender obligations: “Women are supposed to be trying to lose weight or maintain their figures at all times. So if you’re [eating in public], you’re basically saying, ‘Hey, I have a right not to diet,’ and you’re going to get backlash. At the end of the day, not trying to lose weight is counter-cultural for women.”

Sometimes fighting yet another attempt to shame us as individuals is tiring, but it’s beneficial to take a stand both outwardly to others and within your own head. Talk to your friends about why it’s important to combat food shaming.  Take a stand on social media, when you see someone in public being victimized, and if you find yourself under attack. Don’t offer excuses for what you’re eating and end up food shaming yourself. Food is not deserving of shame, and neither is anyone who consumes it.

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of Sylvar.

 

DO YOU BELONG TO A PRO-EATING DISORDER WEBSITE? SPEAK YOUR MIND.

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Grace on the Moon is looking for people who participate (or did in the past) in pro-eating disorder (pro-ana/mia) websites.  We are conducting interviews with current or former owners, moderators and members of pro-eating disorder sites, particularly those with forums.

The point of the article is not to judge anyone, or focus on any perceived dangers of such sites, but rather to better understand what attracts a person to these sites, how they participate, and what benefits they feel they get from them.   We are hoping to speak to a mix of people, including those who defend their participation in such sites, as well as those who have mixed feelings or regrets.

All interviews will take place via email, and first names only will be used (or an alias if preferrred).  If you would like to express your opinions and thoughts about what you get or used to get out of being involved with a pro-eating disorder website, please contact us.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of williamhartz

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH MANDY

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder, and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Interview with Mandy:

Q: How old are you?
A. 25
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Q: Male or female?
A. Female.
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Q. How long have/did you have an eating disorder?
A. 3 years.
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Q: Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A. EDNOS and then Emotional/Compulsive Overeating.
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Q: Who in your life knows about it?
A. My friends and family. I don’t keep it a secret.
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Q: What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A. God.
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Q: What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
A. My mom.
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Q: Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A. Yes. I’ve had counseling, gone to a nutritionist, support group, psychiatrist, inpatient.
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Q: What was most helpful to you about that help?
A. My support group and counseling helped me the most.
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Q: What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A. Growing up being called fat and ugly led to EDNOS; after escaping an abusive relationship and going through severe depression, emotional overeating developed.
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Q: Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A. My fiance, or anyone in a relationship with me who cares about me.
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Q: What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A. That God loves me as I am, and I should accept myself and care for myself as his precious daughter.
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Q: What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A. I needed to be a parent to myself and practice self-control.
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Q: If you could be eating disorder free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A. I wouldn’t worry about calories!! I wouldn’t even think about food as being an issue. I’d live without that worry.
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Q: What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.  There is hope, and you need to hang on to that hope, especially when it is hardest to keep on.
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Q: What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A. Don’t pressure them or come down on them for their issue, instead put an emphasis on making positive remarks about healthy habits.
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Q: Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A. I don’t.
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Q: If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A. I still go back, and it’s my emotional problems.  When I feel depressed or “empty”.
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Q: If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A. I am hoping I will be in a healthier place then.  Kids pick up on things, and I know it will affect them.  I’m hoping I can teach my children self-love, and to take care of themselves.
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Q: Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A. “Real Gorgeous” by Kaz Kooke.

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Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A. Icon For Hire “Get Well”.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of Paco CT

 

TOP 10 BROADWAY MUSICAL LYRICS TO KICK-START YOUR RECOVERY

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I’m an unabashed theatre nerd.  I’ve seen a lot of plays, including comedy and drama, and a growing number of musicals, ranging from those done in hole-in-the-wall spaces to touring Broadway productions.
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I compiled a Top 10 List of songs from musical theatre that provide a well-turned lyric that can be applied to recovery from an eating disorder.  I decided not to go with the Captain Obvious choice for each play, although some are too perfect to pick any other tune (like a certain show-stopper from a green witch).  Which ones ring true to you?  Which song lyrics would you add to reflect your own recovery mantras and choices?  Here they are, numbered only for sequencing, rather than which ones I like best:
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 10. Rocky Horror Picture Show “Over at the Frankenstein Place” 
“The darkness must go
Down the river of night’s dreaming
Flow morphia slow
Let the sun and light come streaming
Into my life, into my life”
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Indeed, we must let go of our pain and our pasts in order to make room for the light and the future.
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9. Wicked “Defying Gravity”
“And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who’d ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am defying gravity”
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It can be painful to leave behind people, places, and situations that kept us feeling earthbound for so long, but we all have wings, even if we’re scared to test them.
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8. Jesus Christ Superstar “Strange Thing Mystifying”
“Who are you to criticize her?
Who are you to despise her?
Leave her, leave her, let her be now
Leave her, leave her, she’s with me now”
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Our new recovery voice can speak for us, whether in simple acts like repeating affirmations or making long overdue declarations to those who would judge us.
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7. Rent “No Day But Today”
“Forget regret or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today”
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We really do have a limited amount of time to get things right.  Every day that we think “tomorrow I will begin”, we surrender another day to regret.
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6. Hedwig & the Angry Inch “Midnight Radio”

“And you’re shining like the brightest star
A transmission on the midnight radio
And you’re spinnin’ like a forty-five
Ballerina dancing to your rock and roll”
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Be sure to incorporate music, dancing, art, writing or other creative elements into your recovery.  Don’t worry if you aren’t “normal”.  Be a rock-n-roll ballerina, if that’s what blows your tutu up!
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5. Chicago “Mister Cellophane”
“Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Should have been my name
Mister Cellophane
‘Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me,
And never know I’m there”
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This attitude can be relegated to the garbage can, and a new way of letting others see us can set us free.  Don’t assume you’ll always be invisible or that you deserve it.  Stake a claim for just who you are and who you want to be, and act in ways that allow the right people to see just how fabulous you are.
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4. Tommy “Pinball Wizard”
“He ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear no buzzers and bells
Don’t see no lights a flashin
Plays by sense of smell”
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Not all moves we make in recovery have clear directions.  Sometimes the biggest steps we take are done in what feels like the dark and the silence.  Develop your intuition, and learn to trust the healthy voice that is reemerging.  You can master the game this way.
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3. Cats “Memory”
“Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory, too
And a new day will begin
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The bedraggled old Grizabella is right.  No matter how dark the night, dawn always comes, and you can ascend to the next level of recovery.  Do not give up just because it’s dark right now.
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2. Spamalot “I’m All Alone”
“Each one of us is all alone
So what are we to do
In order to get through?
We must be lonely side by side”
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Not only does no one recover alone, but we all benefit from having positive friendships and romantic relationships that lift us up throughout our lives.  Even when we are walking through a dark time that only we can truly experience, the journey is always easier when we know others who have gone through their own struggles are walking beside us, offering encouragement and love.
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1. Scrubs – “My Musical” episode “What’s Going to Happen?”
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“What’s going to happen?
What does the future hold?
So many things that I put off
Assuming I’d have time
Assuming I’d grow old”

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While this is an episode of the tv medical comedy “Scrubs”, and not an actual musical, it counts (the episode was almost entirely Broadway type songs). A woman facing her mortality came to a stark realization, just as so many in recovery who face a health crisis do, too.
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While we cannot control everything, we definitely can map out a plan to do our best not only to live a long healthy life full of bucket list items crossed off, but we can truly want this for ourselves.  Not just existing, but living with joy and appreciation – embracing the comedy, the drama, and the music that life has to offer.

Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of Garry Knight

21 QUESTIONS: INTERVIEW WITH CHRISSY

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21 Questions is a series of interviews with people who currently have an eating disorder or have recovered from one.  The same 21 questions are asked of each person.  Each interview sketches a picture of someone who has been in the depths of the reality of an eating disorder, and is either still working on blazing a path out of it or has gone on to recover. Some of the names used have been changed at the request of the interviewee.   If you would like to be interviewed for this series, please contact us.

Interview with Chrissy:

Q:  How old are you?
A:  42

Q:  Male or female?
A:  Female

Q:  How long have you had/did you have an eating disorder?
A:  23 years

Q:  Which one do/did you have, or has it been more than one (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, EDNOS, compulsive exercising)?
A:  Bulimia

Q:  Who in your life knows about your eating disorder?
A:  Sister, mother (now deceased), college roommates.

Q:  What person in your life was the most helpful and supportive during both sickness and recovery?
A:  My mom, sister and support groups, both online and in person.

Q:  What person that you might have wanted or expected more from was the least helpful and supportive?
AMy father.

Q:  Do you or have you ever sought professional help, such as a therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist, doctor, support group or inpatient treatment?  Specify which kind of help you had.
A:  I have been in group therapy, private therapy over the years, along with mild medication for bulimia (low dose)

Q:  What was most helpful to you about the help you got?
A:  Over the years, the support and therapy helped very much.  However, I would go some time, months and even almost a year, and then slip up for a bit and start binging and purging.  Setting boundaries, learning to accept myself, waking up a half hour early to meditate and get my thoughts together – these helped tremendously.  Also, having the guts to remove myself from toxic people in my life.

Q:  What issue(s) do you feel affected or influenced developing an eating disorder?
A:  Being a chubby kid who was teased, along with a home with a very dysfunctional and alcoholic father, was a lethal combination.

Q:  Besides yourself, who in your life do you think is/was most affected by how your eating disorder hurt you?
A:  My mother.  She was so pained about my bulimia and wanted to help in so many ways.  She also felt guilty because she dieted her whole life, sending the message to me unintentionally.

Q:  What was the first major breakthrough you had in recovery?
A:  Like I said before, daily work.  Balance, making sure I go online every other day, reading books and blogs on the subject, church, exercising and enjoying it, Not getting too busy or comfortable and thinking, “Oh, I am all better. I don’t have to go online and read those recovery boards.”

Q:  What is/was the hardest truth to accept about what you have to do in order to recover?
A:  The hardest truth that FINALLY put me over the top where I do not binge and purge anymore was medication.  I was always resistant to antidepressants, and only took a low dose.  However, almost every month around PMS time I could not control my binges and would overeat.  I started thinking that I was doing all the work, spiritually, mentally, etc., but kept resorting to these uncontrolled binges.  I started to think maybe my brain is really unbalanced and I should give a higher dose of medication a chance.  I was always embarrassed, and felt weak that I could not control my brain by myself.

I increased my dose to the recommended amount for bulimia sufferers, and my life has changed dramatically.  I have not purged in several months, and the cravings are there, but not as intense.  I have not felt the need to purge at all.  I think the medication part was the last piece of the puzzle I was resisting.

Q:  If you could be eating disorder-free for a day, what things would you do?/If you are recovered, what things do you do now that were very difficult when you were still sick?
A:  I am in a good place now.  I am engaged in conversations with my sons. We can take road trips, go out to eat, and my mind is actively engaged in the moment, rather than thinking about food or where a bathroom is to vomit.

Q:  What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to admitting they have an eating disorder?
A:  Each person is different.  I firmly believe that it is a combination of things that have to be done to reach full recovery.  For me, it was balance with God, exercise, myself, medication and relating with others in my situation.

Q:  What one suggestion would you give to a loved one trying to support someone with an eating disorder?
A:  It takes a long time.   I relapsed on and off for 20 years.  Finally, I got the right balance of medication and working all the parts of myself to become whole on a daily basis.

Q:  Do/did you seek support online?  If so, what kind of support and did it help you?
A:  The Something Fishy website was my first online group, then I read bulimia help method blogs, and now Grace on the Moon.  They help so much relating to others who are going through similar thoughts and actions.

Q:  If you are sure you will not go back to your eating disorder, what gives you that confidence?/If you are scared you will relapse, what is your biggest trigger?
A:  I have the confidence for the first time in my life because for the first time I have not had “out of control” cravings since I have been medicated.  I was doing all the other work, but the physical part was out of my control, and I am so happy I finally feel 100% on top of my plan.

Q:  If you have children or plan to in the future, are you concerned about how your eating disorder may affect them?  If you recovered before you had kids, do you think your experience with the eating disorder will help you to better guide your child away from developing one?
A:  I have two boys who are not affected at all by my eating disorder.  I have been a mom who has made sure they are not boys who tease.  Maybe I am a little overboard and sensitive about the issue.

Q:  Did you read books or workbooks to help with your recovery?  If so, are there any specific ones you recommend?
A:  I have read them all.   Any personal recovery stories have helped.  “Goodbye Ed”, “Learning to be Me”,  “She’s Come Undone”.

Q:  What song, album or musical artist comes to mind when you think of good music to listen to while trying to make positive changes in your life?
A:  Pink.

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account
of becca.peterson26

DO YOU PARALLEL YOUR INNER & OUTER WORK IN RECOVERY?

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Today’s blog is a guest blog written by Joanna Poppink, MFT, a psychotherapist and author.  She discusses the parallel lines of work that need to take place in recovery from an eating disorder.

Ever focus on your food only to find you are hit with an irresistible impulse to act out? Ever ignore your food and focus on your emotions and life goals, yet get waylaid by that same irresistible impulse? Yes?

Breathe and know this is normal. You just need to put balance in your way of living and recovering.

“I can’t do it all. It’s too much,” you may think or cry out. Pause and breathe again. The “it” is your picture of a much more vast territory than you can handle.

All of us have imaginations that reach beyond what we can attain in the time we allot for success. Our imagination motivates us, gives us a goal to stretch for, work for and be creative about. Our self awareness and thinking abilities help us shape our vision into manageable portions. We give ourselves the tools and resources we need for the immediate tasks, and gradually move along toward milestones as we follow our path.

If you have an eating disorder, parallel recovery work can bring you to your recovery path and support you as you heal and develop by meeting your challenges. I invite you to approach your weight and eating issues using the parallel method I’ve found successful with eating disorder patients for over 30 years.

The usual dilemma in attempts to free yourself from your eating disorder is that if you focus your recovery work on food, eating patterns, exercise and body shape, your emotional and mental patterns undermine your efforts.

If you focus your recovery work on your emotional and mental patterns, your relationships, successes and disappointments in life, then your patterns of cravings, and body shape and size concerns will undermine your efforts.

Putting your focus on one aspect of your life system is a lopsided approach that leads to what you think is failure. You feel worse about yourself because you failed. You might also feel relieved that you failed because it means your recovery work is over, and you can return to your familiar eating disorder ways.

You did not fail. The lopsided system you used failed.

Lopsided Approach:

  • When you believe your unhappiness and dissatisfaction come from your psychology, you focus on emotionally and cognitive healing efforts.
  • When you believe your unhappiness and dissatisfaction come from your eating, exercise and weight related issues, you focus on changing your eating habits and body care.

Parallel work brings both recovery aspects of healing together so you can make solid steps toward becoming healthy and whole. The process allows you to stop destructive behavior, and start a positive way of living, free from the domination of feelings and behaviors that plague you.

Your psychology affects your behavior.  Your behavior affects your psychology.

If you feel sad and lonely, angry and misunderstood, oppressed with no way out, stressed or frightened, you might eat for comfort, or exercise for flooding distraction.

If you bombard your body with sugars, processed foods, baked goods, fat and chemicals, your hormone, digestive and neural systems overwork to deal with the flood of material coming in that does not nourish the body. You will be tired, irritable, depressed, have foggy thinking and seek more food for comfort.

If you deprive yourself of food and you over-exercise, your body goes into stress. Your hormone, digestive and neural systems respond as if you are in famine conditions and running from mortal danger. Your emotions will echo that. Your thoughts will be distorted without your realizing that your fear, anger and terrific need to starve and exercise are based on a false sense of running for your life.

When you are flooded with such feelings and thoughts, you will attempt to escape by starving and exercising even more.

Parallel Recovery Basics

Gently and gradually moving back and forth, connecting your thoughts and feelings with your behaviors, and making small but steady changes is the essence of parallel recovery work.

Learning to accept, tolerate and then understand feelings, rather than act them out with food or exercise, is vital for long term recovery. Understanding how your body, mind and emotions respond to how and when you feed yourself, and how and when you exercise, brings clarity and the opportunity to make better choices.

How to Do Parallel Recovery Work:

  1. Work with a therapist and a nutritionist who understand parallel process.
  2. Keep a daily journal in which you describe to yourself your feelings and behaviors. (Later you will see connections that elude you in the present.)
  3. Learn what foods stress your body and what foods truly give you the nourishment you need.
  4. Discover what people and activities stress your heart and soul.
  5. Clear out toxic elements from your life, as well as from food and exercise patterns (people, places, activities, things).
  6. Discover and engage with people and activities that nourish your heart and soul.
  7. Recognize and remove or ignore seductive calls from people, restaurants, billboards, advertisements, food packaging, TV, magazines, movies, and videos that seek to convince you that what is toxic to you is healthful, fun and lovely.
  8. Spend time with people, books, classes and activities which show you a brighter, happier, healthier and more expansive way of being in the world.
  9. Make specific and committed moves to follow your dreams, e.g. take a class, start a career program, volunteer in the community, become financially self-sufficient, or plan and tend a garden.

Parallel recovery work leads you to balance and integration.

You lose your need or habit of involving yourself with eating disorder behaviors or toxic elements in life. You live your life as a whole and healthy person you have become.  In other words, in parallel recovery work you discover who you really are, what you really like and love, and how to respond and take action that truly benefits your mind, heart, body and soul.

It’s so lovely to go from living a life governed by an eating disorder to living a life of resilience and delight. This way of living can be yours in recovery.

joanna poppink  Joanna Poppink, MFT is a Los Angeles psychotherapist in private practice. She is the author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder, Conari Press. Visit her website at http://www.eatingdisorderrecovery.com

 Visit Grace on the Moon, a website for eating
disorders information and recovery:
http://www.graceonthemoon.com

Photo at top of blog is from the Flickr account of velocity635