Monday, November 30, 2009

Basic Training

What causes a person to develop an eating disorder? Many factors may be involved in the development of an eating disorder, some being genetic/biological, and some being environmental/cultural. Dieting is the number one factor that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Weight loss in general is the dangerous component in this scenario. For every person there is a point where their body will shift into 'starvation mode' due to lack of nutrition. When this happens. the likelihood that an eating disorder will result is very high. The state of 'starvation' causes a person to become more anxious, obsessive in thought and action, fearful and cognition may be greatly impaired. All of these play right into the rigidity and fears of the eating disorder mindset.
There are also certain personality characteristics that may exist before the development of an eating disorder, but that may become more intense with starvation. These include perfectionism, obsessiveness, depression, anxiety, a need for order and/or control, fears of change, and perhaps the most common, low self-esteem.
People who are suffering with an eating disorder often display certain other common characteristics, some of which include, fear of failure, suppression of emotions, or an extreme desire to please.
It's not always clear if these characteristics are present before the onset of an eating disorder, or if they may be the result of the development of the eating disorder. Nevertheless, because of these numerous and complex accompanying 'properties', treatment for an eating disorder must be unique to each individual and complete.
There are certain environmental factors that may also contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. These may include a history of being teased about shape or size, growing up in a controlled environment with little choice allowed, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, trauma (which includes abuse), pressure to perform, little or not emotional expression allowed, or if there is dieting behavior in the family, i.e. mother has an eating disorder or is excessively weight conscious.
Much can be said for the powerful effects that the dieting industry has on society's weight obsession. This in itself is a factor that may contribute to the onset of an eating disorder, but even more, it is likely to play a role in the maintenance of the eating disorder, especially if treatment is not sought.

Monday, November 23, 2009


So, I'm being asked this question more and more often these days. My daily life basically revolves around communication with those who are suffering with an eating disorder, in recovery, and researching articles and situations in society that involve or relate to eating disorders. How do I do it?
The question is not how I DO it, but how am I able to walk, talk, write and read about eating disorders almost 24/7 and not be triggered?
Even a year and a half ago I probably couldn't have. The groundwork started being laid many years ago, maybe before I even realized it.
Being a caretaker at heart, then becoming a nurse, was like water and fertilizer to that invisible seed. I naturally want to help, provide answers, education and support to those who are suffering. But I never could envision that I could be instrumental in the area of eating disorders until I knew I was REALLY going to recover. I knew that even before it happened. I knew I would recover when I was told it was possible. I knew I would recover when a professional looked me in the eye and told me it could happen. Because at that time, at age 45, I knew I had survived to that point for some reason. Had I not been a fighter, a survivor, I would have succumbed to my disorder by that time.
How do I do it?
My body and brain are now well fed. Therefore, my thoughts about eating and food are not irrational or distorted. I don't adhere to my own (or anyone else's) established 'food religion' anymore. My emotional state is not linked to how I feed myself.
I am not triggered because those old thought patterns are no longer deep ruts in my brain matter. They have been filled in with FOOD and a lot of self-respect and acceptance.
The 'things' that use to be triggering for me are no longer because I am no longer looking for validation from external forces or by proving myself. I now have the tools I need to survive. I am not on a search for the unknown any longer.
Does this mean my life is perfect? Not at all. What is perfect?
But it does mean that I know that whatever happens in my life I will survive. I have tools and people in my life who I know will be there for me. I know I am not alone with anything that may happen. I have chosen not to life a solitary lonely life.
I am not perfect. I make mistakes. What a relief to not have to live up to someone else's 'expectations'.....the beauty of not having an eating disorder anymore!!
That's how I do it...........

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tips For The Holidays

For anyone who is dealing with an eating disorder, or who is still in recovery from one, the Holidays can be a very difficult time. Holiday time may mean spending time with family members that you may not see frequently, plus the focus on an endless variety of foods and eating traditions.
Ask yourself, what kind of Holiday do you want to have? What would you like to be different this year from in the past? Who are the people in your family or gathering who will leave you with positive and energetic feelings? Focus on how YOU can positively affect your Holiday experience!!Here are a few basic suggestions to keep in mind during the Holidays:
**Consider times and places that may cause you increased stress. Remember you can make choices about where you will go ahead of time. Stick with your plans.
**Decide on a friend or family member who can be available to you if you are feeling stressed. It's important to have a plan so that you can prevent self-destructive behaviors.
**Be sure to get enough sleep. The Holidays bring extra activities and much hustle and bustle, and if you deprive your mind and body of adequate sleep it can create an unhealthy balance and leave you less prepared to handle the added stress.
**Plan to eat three meals a day to help prevent the urge to binge or added focus on food. Stick to your 'recovery' routine as usual.
**Plan time for self-care. You need time every day, even if only 15 minutes, to regenerate and relax, and refocus on recovery. This could be seeing a movie, calling a friend, meditating, or something that you know works for you.
**Make sure that there is food available that you feel comfortable eating. The best way to do this is to offer to bring a dish that you know you are comfortable eating. The goal is to decrese your anxiety around food as much as possible.
**Allow yourself some 'treats'. Deprivation is not self-care and is more likely to lead to resentment, binges or further restriction. Being judgmental of yourself for allowing yourself to eat some 'different' foods is only detrimental to your feelings about yourself and your recovery.
**Think about any boundaries that you may need to set with others...including food boundaries. If someone makes a comment about your weight or what you are eating, you can kindly reply with thanks for their concern, and assurance to them that you are taking care of yourself. If someone persists, you have every right to remove yourself from the situation or ignore them.
**Use positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are in control of your choices, that you have the right to say 'no', that you are honoring your recovery by making a certain choice, and that you do NOT have to be perfect!!Follow up each day with a gratitude list for the things you are grateful for, including YOU!!
**Enjoy yourself! Step back and look at the bigger picture. Take time to enjoy your family and the essence of the Holiday season. Try to create memories and special moments instead of wishing things were different.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

It's been a great day. I am not a superstitious person, but I do cringe when I realize that it's 'that day' again. Human reaction, I suppose.
I like to write things here that are informative, educational or helpful in some way. Today I just want to share.
I was more nervous about talking to students today than I was the first time. But it didn't last long. The school was much smaller, so the group of students was also smaller, and more 'intimate'. I want to present as credible, but also as someone who can identify with the students. I believe that I can. My involvement with Challenge Day and my support to the adolescents at River Centre while I was in treatment, combined, has given me some added insight that otherwise I wouldn't have. I really like those teens...especially before they reach 17 or so.
I realized today while driving home that I want more opportunities to speak to those who are in treatment. I would like to be able to show them that recovery is really a possibility, and reality.
The students in the schools are a great audience, but because the majority of them have never dealt with an eating disorder (thankfully!), I don't think they can comprehend the perspective I come from. That's OK. It's still worth my effort to try to touch at least one young person who may be struggling.
As I have said and written before, I believe my illness would have ended sooner had I been given the message that recovery is possible. If even one person had thought to tell me that I COULD recover, or that they believed in ME, it might have made a difference. That is why this is so important to me.
I continue to plant seeds every day. I am not in control of their growth, only to harvest if they produce. I am thankful that my days are full of various responsibilities. God willing, I will be ready when the harvest is ripe.
I need a couple of days to 'be broccoli'......

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Are you DOing or BEing??

For many people who have suffered from an eating disorder, or who are by nature, more anxious, somewhat obsessive, or perhaps have a tendency to be perfectionistic, their success (in their minds) may be directly linked to their daily accomplishments.
I know very well what it means to evaluate my worth by the quality and quantity of what I DO, how much I accomplish, or how well I perform. I have spent most of my life striving to be 'good enough', which translated into constant efforts to please other people through performance, and as a full blown attempt to make my body 'perfect', which nearly killed me. My days were spent always DOing, always searching for acts which would prove that I am acceptable.
Now that I am fully recovered from my pattern of disordered eating and self-deprecation in numerous other ways, I am much more focused on BEing, and actively living my life fully every day. I embrace every opportunity to be present for new experiences, and I look for ways to learn more about who I am. This doesn't frighten me anymore.
Of course, I still take pride in my accomplishments, but my value is not based on how much or how well I perform.
Changing my focus has brought new peace to my life. I am now able to determine if my efforts to achieve are based on what brings me joy, and if I am allowing myself to be fully present in my daily life.
I am choosing to BE today, alive and well, instead of hanging my head in consternation, in an endless and fruitless attempt to DO my way through life.
Are YOU DOing or BEing??

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fund Raising Event

The following information is in regard to a panel discussion on eating disorder recovery and an AED fundraising event that may be of interest to those of you from the Michigan area in the U.S.
Panel discussion: "Surviving an Eating Disorder: From Recognition to Recovery"
Featured speakers: Kirsten Haglund, 2008 Miss America
Kirsten's mother, Iora Haglund
Activist, Donna Friedman
Panel chair: Judith Banker, MA,LLP,FAED
Executive Director, Center for Eating Disorders
Immediate Past President, AED
This panel discussion seeks to raise eating disorders awareness, offer hope for recovery, and provide
useful tools for families and professionals. Kirsten Haglund and Donna Friedman will share their personal stories of recovery. Iora Haglund will discuss her experience as the mother of a teen with anorexia, including her ideas about how families can help. Panel chair, Judith Banker, will provide a brief overview of the etiology and current treatment of eating disorders. Q and A to follow.
Date/Time: Monday, November 9, 7-8:30 p.m.
Meet-the-Speakers Fundraising Reception to follow to raise funds to support the work of
the Academy for Eating Disorders
Location: Ellen Thompson Women's Health Center
St.Joseph Mercy Hospital
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Space limited. To pre-register: 734-668-8585 or