Friday, December 24, 2010

As 2010 Draws to a Close.....

You know when you put something off for so long, it gets harder and harder to go back to it? Well, here it is, Christmas Eve, and I haven't written here for way too long, but it's time for an update, so....
My life has changed dramatically even in the two years since I began writing this Blog. Wow!
I started off, still 'in recovery', but wanting to write about my own experiences, with the hope that others would find hope and believe in recovery for themselves. I hope that has been the case. As I have read my posts from the beginning up to the ones more recently (well, not so recently! :), I can see that much has changed, and even more so, 'between the lines'.
For a while, I thought about closing out the Blog, but I don't want to do that, and I'm not sure that anything on the Internet disappears anyway! ♥
Today I'd like to reflect and share about some of the truly unbelievable things that are happening in my life, and how every day is still such a special gift.
My perspective on my life comes from a new place now. I don't think in terms of 'being recovered', even though I am, but I am simply living my life, fully and with abundant energy.
My years of 'experience' of being ill or in recovery have definitely played a huge part in who I have become, but I truly don't focus on that so much anymore.
I value that part of myself, and I have no shame or reluctance about sharing it when appropriate, but I have moved on. I am in an entirely new place in my life, and I am loving every minute of it!
Because I am working at The River Centre Clinic now, putting in about 50 hours a week at the least, my life revolves around this, which continues to amaze me!
My days fly by, with duties ranging from Nursing, coordinating the admissions, doing all of the assessments, and having patients of my own to follow while they are in treatment, not to mention all of the 'in the moment' things that come up. My point? I could NEVER have imagined being able to do what I am doing, let alone working alongside the very professionals who helped to save my life. Yes, I am 'disclosing' some things here, but not much that most of you reading this don't know. This is a Blog, right?
The fact that I had an eating disorder rarely comes up. I use to think that recovery would be my only identity....because I myself could not identify with anything but the eating disorder, treatment or recovery.
I am thrilled to tell you all that there is life beyond an eating disorder, and even life beyond recovery...if that makes sense!
I love to write, but for a very long time it was also my only outlet. I wrote to process, and it was a very integral part of my recovery. Now? I find that I don't NEED to write, and I often am at a loss as to what to write about unless I am answering a question, or responding to a need expressed on the support site that I monitor.
I don't see a therapist because I don't need to! Imagine that ♥
I remember almost nine years ago, after I had been in treatment for a while, I made the remark (and was totally serious) that I would meal plan for the rest of my life if necessary to be 'well'. At that point I had no idea what 'well' meant. Hindsight has revealed to me that I probably said that because I believed that I would have to meal plan for the rest of my life in order to not be be 'well'.
I don't meal plan anymore, and I don't think about calories, in any respect. Many people believe that using a calorie based meal plan system will only cause one to become more obsessed with calories. For a time, that may be true...but being obsessed about eating ENOUGH is much different from being obsessed about not eating, or because one is literally starving.
The need to count calories will 'die a natural death'... in a good way, if a person doesn't stop meal planning too early.
Again, my point, I could never have believed that I could 'just eat', and my body would be healthy. It is true, a healthy body will protect it's set point.
I trust my body now. Whoa! I never thought I would think or admit that!
I also truly get hungry, and I don't feel guilty about it. I crave french fries of all foods!
And I eat them often :)
Not only am I no longer 'planning' my food intake, but I no longer need to plan my daily life, as a way to be in control. Yes, I need to be organized, but interruptions or spontaneous decisions are quite nice in my opinion. Life is not meant to be controlled to the point that there is no room to LIVE! Think about it.
What does 2011 hold for me? I do not know it all, but I do know that I will continue to live each day that I am given to the fullest, be it spending time with my dear husband, working to help others find their lives without an eating disorder, or chilling to the tunes of the Eagles with my cat on my lap....
Without apology ♥

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Four Phases of Recovery +

Being given the opportunity once again to attend the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Conference for 2010, was quite an honor.
I'd like to share some insight that was emphasized once again for me while I was there.

Recovery from an eating disorder can be broken into four main phases, which of course, look and play out differently for every individual.
#1) The Turning Point: this is a subjective response to having 'enough', being tired of being sick. This phase may require multiple 'moments', each of which builds strength upon strength, until the person makes the decision to get help. One must decide to move beyond the state of arrested development that an eating disorder often signifies. This phase marks the beginning of a process (recovery) that may take years to complete.
#2) Treatment: this phase is mandatory for FULL recovery. While treatment can't 'cure' an eating disorder, it can help a person develop the self-responsibility that is necessary to complete the process.
#3) Restoration: this is the phase during which physical health is restored. A person who became ill at age 14 may need time to 'catch up' developmentally. They have experienced 'delayed adolescence' in a sense. This is an involved, yet exciting time of exploration. This is also when a person begins to restore a core sense of self.
#4) Discovery: an exploration of one's major life goal, moving toward a mature sense of self. A person's individual character and personality will begin to bloom, which leads to a level of empowerment and self-directedness never reached before.

THE BONUS PHASE: The Wise Mind: This is when trust in recovery develops, fears disappear, and the former shame and stigma that may have been felt about having an eating disorder morphs into a new freedom and a deeper understanding of self.

Without apology ♥

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Exchanges vs.Calories

So what is wrong with the 'exchange system'?
Unless you have an eating disorder.
I don't know the history of the 'exchange system', which is often used in the field of nutrition. I don't doubt that it's been useful for many people who may need some structure for eating, due to any number of medical illnesses.
What I DO know is that it's likely the worst possible approach to meal planning for someone who is in treatment for an eating disorder.
If you are reading this, you likely know that the mindset of someone suffering with an eating disorder is not usually rational. This in itself is due to malnutrition and [likely] being in a state of starvation. Even people who struggle with bingeing and purging are starving. Their bodies are being deprived of consistent, adequate nutrition.
The eating disordered mind thinks in terms of 'less' and 'smaller' and often classifies foods as good or bad.
With the exchange system of tracking food intake, you have four or five major food categories which make up your recommended daily intake. Within these categories you may have numerous choices, which are supposedly interchangeable. The truth is, when you compare nutritional value (calories), these choices could vary up to 50-75 calories among items in a certain category. What do you think the person with the eating disordered mindset is going to choose? Naturally, they will always pick the lower calorie item. Don't doubt for one minute that they don't know which item that is.
For example, apples can vary greatly in size, and up to 50 calories based on their size. The same goes for a slice of bread. Different types of bread can also vary at least this much.
If you consider a person's intake for an entire day, and they have made these choices with an eating disordered mindset, they could end up eating several hundred calories less than if they had made different choices within those food categories.
If you don't have an eating disorder, and never have, I can't begin to explain or help you comprehend the power of that eating disordered mindset. The person cannot help but choose according to their eating disordered beliefs.
Precise calories is the only sure and safe way to develop a recovery meal plan. Unless you know the precise and exact calories that you are eating, there is no way to know how your body will react to food and calories. This is also the only way to challenge the fears that a person with an eating disorder has about food. There is a science behind this, in terms of using this concept in treatment. I am not a scientist, nor do I claim to be. But I do know, without a doubt, that this works. Otherwise, I would not be alive tonight to write this.
Counting calories can be a healthy thing when used for recovery, and it's a way of maintaining control, while learning how to let go of unnecessary control of other areas of your life.
Meal planning and counting calories is necessary for effective treatment, but it doesn't have to last forever.
Believe me, it's much better than living [or dying] with an eating disorder.
Without apology....♥

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Setting Personal Boundaries

Many of us have real problems setting personal boundaries, with others, ourselves, and yes, an eating disorder!
Here are a few things I have learned along the way in my own recovery, that have proven to be true and helpful....
**Establishing boundaries helps to keep you safe. Others know they cannot take advantage of you. Your messages are clear. We have a right and a duty to protect ourselves!
**If you don't set boundaries, you could be giving yourself away. YOU are in control of how much you give, and also how much you keep of yourself for yourself.
**Setting boundaries with others can actually help THEM grow. It helps to make them conscious of their own behaviors which may allow them to change as well.
**Setting boundaries may allow you to get more of what YOU want and less of what you don't. You can protect yourself from unwanted behaviors, and encourage the behaviors that will empower you.
**Effective people set boundaries. You are more in control of your time and efforts, and this can greatly increase the positive feelings you have about yourself.
**Stand up for yourself-don't back down! In order for this to work for you, you must develop a commitment to uphold what is right and true for YOU. Be consistent!
**Practice makes perfect! This is new behavior, and it will FEEL awkward, and maybe not GOOD, but the more you practice it and experience the rewards, the better it will FEEL. It will become more automatic and comfortable in time.
Some examples of personal boundaries:
People may NOT:
**Criticize me.
**Humiliate me.
**Invade my personal space or belongings.
**Lie to me.
**Make derogatory comments about my appearance.
**Take advantage of me.
**Take their anger or frustration out on me.

Put this into practice and see how it affect the relationships you have with those around you, and with yourself!

Without apology..... ♥

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Society's Confusion

Or perhaps a better title could be 'our' confusion, meaning those who have suffered, or are battling with an eating disorder, and searching for truths within their own eating disordered mindset.
The irrational 'balancing game', as I refer to it often, seems very logical to the person who thinks they have control over their behaviors vs. eating. Looking deeper, I seriously doubt that many could truly say that it's 'working' FOR them.
I see a major part of the problem in the multitude of recommendations (the dieting industry) out there, that only confuse the mind of a person with an eating disorder even further.
The most effective approach is to seek the guidance of a professional, who truly understands and is experienced in treating eating disorders.
The information available to the average 'consumer' is misleading and downright dangerous.
*Dieting is dangerous and does NOT work.
*Dieting is the number one cause of obesity, AND eating disorders.
*If you are struggling with the eating disorder 'rules' and feel confused, do NOT look for answers on the Internet, or on the shelf at the pharmacy containing diet products.
Food is our energy to live, to laugh, to bear children, and to be free....from the prison of an eating disorder.
You will always find another 'scheme' to which you could follow, but the best way to proceed in a healthy direction is to eat well, and to seek the guidance of a good therapist.
Chaotic eating, restricting, and any compensating behaviors (purging, laxative abuse, exercising, etc. ) will only leave you with a greater chance of having to accept (or fight) a higher body setpoint weight. It happens.
In my opinion, the most important concept is to embrace that your body serves you in many amazing ways....any attempts to make it other than what it is will only lead to you being shortchanged from the benefits of YOUR body.
Without apology....♥

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Diet Myth

Most people think that dieting is a simple process, and in theory it is. To lose weight, you simply have to eat less, right?
However, in reality, dieting is not a simple task and much of the time dieters do not eat less than do non-dieters. Research reveals a great discrepancy between what people 'think' dieters do and what dieters 'actually' do.
Many studies have found that across a variety of conditions, dieters typically eat more than do non-dieters. Maintaining control of eating for dieters is rare. A variety of 'diet disrupters' or triggers of overeating have been revealed by numerous laboratory studies. These same 'triggers' are shown to inhibit dietary intake by non-dieters. These may include situations where the person is anxious, distressed or depressed.
Dieting has been proven to be the #1 factor in the development of an eating disorder. The myth behind dieting is not only misleading, but may also be dangerous and even fatal in some instances.
Over time, dieting most often leads to binge eating, which along with the resulting decreased metabolism, will lead to unnecessary weight gain. So even if one who is caught up in the yo-yo dieting cycle does stabilize their eating, they are likely to maintain a higher weight, on much fewer calories than ever before.
The 'non-diet' approach to living is the healthiest one. Eating according to body cues and hunger, instead of social or cognitive factors is the best way to go. Also, having no foods that are 'forbidden' will eliminate the psychological frustration that is associated with dieting.
It's important to remember that we are not numbers...although society will attempt to make us such. Our bodies are truly meant to be vessels of strength, to allow us to live our lives fully, love unconditionally, and to BE FREE.

Without apology....♥

Saturday, August 28, 2010


NOTE: This is a rather long 'post;, but it explains some of the most valuable information pertaining to the effects of starvation on human behavior. Please take the time to read the entire writing.

The following is an adaptation of "Handbook for Treatment of Eating Disorders" p. 145-177 by David M. Garner, Ph.D., which describes a study performed by Ancel Keyes at the University of Minnesota.

The short version: Physically AND mentally healthy MEN were given a diet of about 1/2 their normal intake for about 6 months. Almost all of the men began to show symptoms and behaviors identical to those seen in people with EDs. Then, when the starvation phase was ended, the men continued to show drastically unhealthy behaviors regarding food and overall mental health.

One of the most important advancements in the understanding of eating disorders is the recognition that severe and prolonged dietary restriction can lead to serious physical and psychological complications (Garner, 1997). Many of the symptoms once thought to be primary features of anorexia nervosa are actually symptoms of starvation. Given what we know about the biology of weight regulation, what is the impact of weight suppression on the individual? This is particularly relevant for those with anorexia nervosa, but is also important for people with eating disorders who have lost significant amounts of body weight. Perhaps the most powerful illustration of the effects of restrictive dieting and weight loss on behavior is an experimental study conducted almost 50 years ago and published in 1950 by Ancel Keys and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota (Keys et al., 1950). The experiment involved carefully studying 36 young, healthy, psychologically normal men while restricting their caloric intake for 6 months. More than 100 men volunteered for the study as an alternative to military service; the 36 selected had the highest levels of physical and psychological health, as well as the most commitment to the objectives of the experiment. What makes the "starvation study" (as it is commonly known) so important is that many of the experiences observed in the volunteers are the same as those experienced by patients with eating disorders. This section of this chapter is a summary of the changes observed in the Minnesota study.

During the first 3 months of the semistarvation experiment, the volunteers ate normally while their behavior, personality, and eating patterns were studied in detail. During the next 6 months, the men were restricted to approximately half of their former food intake and lost, on average, approximately 25% of their former weight. Although this was described as a study of "semistarvation," it is important to keep in mind that cutting the men's rations to half of their former intake is precisely the level of caloric deficit used to define "conservative" treatments for obesity (Stunkard, 1993). The 6 months of weight loss were followed by 3 months of rehabilitation, during which the men were gradually refed. A subgroup was followed for almost 9 months after the re-feeding began. Most of the results were reported for only 32 men, since 4 men were withdrawn either during or at the end of the semistarvation phase. Although the individual responses to weight loss varied considerably, the men experienced dramatic physical, psychological, and social changes. In most cases, these changes persisted during the rehabilitation or re-nourishment phase.

One of the most of the striking changes that occurred in the volunteers was a dramatic increase in food preoccupations. The men found concentration on their usual activities increasingly difficult, because they became plagued by incessant thoughts of food and eating. During the semistarvation phase of the experiement, food became a principal topic of conversation, reading, and daydreams. Rating scales revealed that the men experienced an increase in thinking about food, as well as corresponding declines in interest in sex and activity during semistarvation. The actual words used in the original report are particularly revealing and the following quotations followed by page numbers in parentheses are from Keys et al. (1950) with permission of the University of Minnesota Press.

As starvation progressed, the number of men who toyed with their food increased. They made what under normal conditions would be weird and distasteful concoctions, . . . Those who ate in the common dining room smuggled out bits of food and consumed them on their bunks in a long-drawn-out ritual, . . . Toward the end of starvation some of the men would dawdle for almost two hours after a meal which previously they would have consumed in a matter of minutes, . . . Cookbooks, menus, and information bulletins on food production became intensely interesting to many of the men who previously had little or no interest in dietetics or agriculture. [The volunteers] often reported that they got a vivid vicarious pleasure from watching other persons eat or from just smelling food.

In addition to cookbooks and collecting recipes, some of the men even began collecting coffeepots, hot plates, and other kitchen utensils. According to the original report, hoarding even extended to non-food-related items such as "old books, unnecessary second-hand clothes, knick knacks, and other 'junk.í Often after making such purchases, which could be afforded only with sacrifice, the men would be puzzled as to why they had bought such more or less useless articles". One man even began rummaging through garbage cans. This general tendency to hoard has been observed in starved anorexic patients (Crisp, Hsu, & Harding, 1980) and even in rats deprived of food (Fantino & Cabanac, 1980). Despite little interest in culinary matters prior to the experiment, almost 40% of the men mentioned cooking as part of their postexperiment plans. For some, the fascination was so great that they actually changed occupations after the experiment; three became chefs, and one went into agriculture!

The Minnesota subjects were often caught between conflicting desires to gulp their food down ravenously and consume it slowly so that the taste and odor of each morsel would be fully appreciated. Toward the end of starvation some of the men would dawdle for almost two hours over a meal which previously they would have consumed in a matter of minutes. . .they did much planning as to how they would handle their day's allotment of food. The men demanded that their food be served hot, and they made unusual concoctions by mixing foods together, as noted above. There was also a marked increase in the use of salt and spices. The consumption of coffee and tea increased so dramatically that the men had to be limited to 9 cups per day; similarly, gum chewing became excessive and had to be limited after it was discovered that one man was chewing as many as 40 packages of gum a day and "developed a sore mouth from such continuous exercise".

During the 12-week refeeding phase of the experiment, most of the abnormal attitudes and behaviors in regard to food persisted. A small number of men found that their difficulties in this area were quite severe during the first 6 weeks of refeeding:

During the restrictive dieting phase of the experiment, all of the volunteers reported increased hunger. Some appeared able to tolerate the experience fairly well, but for others it created intense concern and led to a complete breakdown in control. Several men were unable to adhere to their diets and reported episodes of binge eating followed by self-reproach. During the eighth week of starvation, one volunteer flagrantly broke the dietary rules, eating several sundaes and malted milks; he even stole some penny candies. He promptly confessed the whole episode, [and] became self-deprecatory". While working in a grocery store, another man suffered a complete loss of will power and ate several cookies, a sack of popcorn, and two overripe bananas before he could "regain control" of himself. He immediately suffered a severe emotional upset, with nausea, and upon returning to the laboratory he vomited. . .He was self-deprecatory, expressing disgust and self-criticism.

One man was released from the experiment at the end of the semistarvation period because of suspicions that he was unable to adhere to the diet. He experienced serious difficulties when confronted with unlimited access to food "He repeatedly went through the cycle of eating tremendous quantities of food, becoming sick, and then starting all over again". During the refeeding phase of the experiment, many of the men lost control of their appetites and "ate more or less continuously".

Even after 12 weeks of refeeding, the men frequently complained of increased hunger immediately following a large meal.

[One of the volunteers] ate immense meals (a daily estimate of 5,000-6,000 cal.) and yet started "snacking" an hour after he finished ameal.[Another] ate as much as he could hold during the three regular meals and ate snacks in the morning, afternoon and evening. Several men had spells of nausea and vomiting. One man required aspiration and hospitalization for several days.

During the weekends in particular, some of the men found it difficult to stop eating. Their daily intake commonly ranged between 8,000 and 10,000 calories, and their eating patterns were described as follows:

Subject No. 20 stuffs himself until he is bursting at the seams, to the point of being nearly sick and still feels hungry; No. 120 reported that he had to discipline himself to keep from eating so much as to become ill; No. 1 ate until he was uncomfortably full; and subject No. 30 had so little control over the mechanics of "piling it in" that he simply had to stay away from food because he could not find a point of satiation even when he was "full to the gills.". . ."I ate practically all weekend," reported subject No. 26. . .Subject No. 26 would just as soon have eaten six meals instead of three.

After about 5 months of refeeding, the majority of the men reported some normalization of their eating patterns, but for some the extreme overconsumption persisted "No. 108 would eat and eat until he could hardly swallow any more and then he felt like eating half an hour later". More than 8 months after renourishment began, most men had returned to normal eating patterns; however, a few were still eating abnormal amounts "No. 9 ate about 25 percent more than his pre-starvation amount; once he started to reduce but got so hungry he could not stand it".

Factors distinguishing men who rapidly normalized their eating from those who continued to eat prodigious amounts were not identified. Nevertheless, the main findings here are as follows: Serious binge eating developed in a subgroup of men, and this tendency persisted in come cases for months after free access to food was reintroduced; however, the majority of men reported gradually returning to eating normal amounts of food after about 5 months of refeeding. Thus, the fact that binge eating was experimentally produced in some of these normal young men should temper speculations about primary psychological disturbances as the cause of binge eating in patients with eating disorders. These findings are supported by a large body of research indicating that habitual dieters display marked overcompensation in eating behavior that is similar to the binge eating observed in eating disorders (Polivy & Herman, 1985, 1987; Wardle & Beinart, 1981). Polivy et al., (1994) compared a group of former World War II prisoners of war and non-interned veterans and found that the former prisoners lost an average of 10.5 Kg. They also reported a significantly higher frequency of binge eating than non-interned veterans according to a self-report questionnaire sent by mail.

The experimental procedures involved selecting volunteers who were the most physically and psychologically robust. "The psychobiological 'stamina' of the subjects was unquestionably superior to that likely to be found in any random or more generally representative sample of the population".

Although the subjects were psychologically healthy prior to the experiment, most experienced significant emotional deterioration as a result of semistarvation. Most of the subjects experienced periods during which their emotional distress was quite severe; almost 20% experienced extreme emotional deterioration that markedly interfered with their functioning. Depression became more severe during the course of the experiment. Elation was observed occasionally, but this was inevitably followed by "low periods." Mood swings were extreme for some of the volunteers:

[One subject] experienced a number of periods in which his spirits were definitely high. . . These elated periods alternated with times in which he suffered "a deep dark depression."

Irritability and frequent outbursts of anger were common, although the men had quite tolerant dispositions prior to starvation. For most subjects, anxiety became more evident. As the experiment progressed, many of the formerly even-tempered men began biting their nails or smoking because they felt nervous. Apathy also became common, and some men who had been quite fastidious neglected various aspects of personal hygiene. During semistarvation, two subjects developed disturbances of "psychotic" proportions. During the refeeding period, emotional disturbance did not vanish immediately but persisted for several weeks, with some men actually becoming more depressed, irritable, argumentative, and negativistic than they had been during semistarvation. After two weeks of refeeding, one man reported his extreme reaction in his diary:

I have been more depressed than ever in my life. . .I thought that there was only one thing that would pull me out of the doldrums, that is release from C.P.S. [the experiment] I decided to get rid of some fingers. Ten days ago, I jacked up my car and let the car fall on these fingers. . .It was premeditated.

Several days latter, this man actually did chop off three fingers of one hand in response to the stress.

Standardized personality testing with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) revealed that semistarvation resulted in significant increases on the Depression, Hysteria, and Hpochondriasis scales. The MMPI profiles for a small minority of subjects confirmed the clinical impression of incredible deterioration as a result of semistarvation. One man who scored well within normal limits at initial testing, but after 10 weeks of semistarvation and a weight loss of only about 4.5 kg (10 pounds, or approximately 7% of his original body weight), gross personality disturbances were evident on the MMPI. Depression and general disorganization were particularly striking consequences of starvation for several of the men who became the most emotionally disturbed.

The extraordinary impact of semistarvation was reflected in the social changes experienced by most of the volunteers. Although originally quite gregarious, the men became progressively more withdrawn and isolated. Humor and the sense of comradeship diminished amidst growing feelings of social inadequacy. The volunteers' social contacts with women also declined sharply during semistarvation. Those who continued to see women socially found that the relationships became strained. These changes are illustrated in the account from one man's diary:

I am one of about three or four who still go out with girls. I fell in love with a girl during the control period but I see her only occasionally now. It's almost too much trouble to see her even when she visits me in the lab. It requires effort to hold her hand. Entertainment must be tame. If we see a show, the most interesting part of it is contained in scenes where people are eating.

Sexual interests were likewise drastically reduced. Masturbation, sexual fantasies, and sexual impulses either ceased or became much less common. One subject graphically stated that he had "no more sexual feeling than a sick oyster." (Even this peculiar metaphor made reference to food.) Keys et al. observed that "many of the men welcomed the freedom from sexual tensions and frustrations normally present in young adult men" (p. 840). The fact that starvation perceptibly altered sexual urges and associated conflicts is of particular interest, since it has been hypothesized that this process is the driving force behind the dieting of many anorexia nervosa patients. According to Crisp (1980), anorexia nervosa is a adaptive disorder in the sense that it curtails sexual concerns for which the adolescent feels unprepared. During rehabilitation, sexual interest was slow to return. Even after 3 months, the men judged themselves to be far from normal in this area. However, after 8 months of renourishment, virtually all of the men had recovered their interest in sex.

The volunteers reported impaired concentration, alertness, comprehension, and judgment during semistarvation; however, formal intellectual testing revealed no signs of diminished intellectual abilities. As the 6 months of semistarvation progressed, the volunteers exhibited many physical changes, including gastrointestinal discomfort; decreased need for sleep; dizziness; headaches; hypersensitivity to noise and light; reduced strength; poor motor control; edema (an excess of fluid causing swelling); hair loss; decreased tolerance for cold temperatures (cold hands and feet); visual disturbances (i.e., inability to focus, eye aches, "spots" in the visual fields); auditory disturbances (i.e., ringing noise in the ears); and paresthesias (i.e., abnormal tingling or prickling sensations, especially in the hands or feet).

Various changes reflected an overall slowing of the body's physiological processes. There were decreases in body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, as well as in basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the amount of energy (in calories) that the body requires at rest (i.e., no physical activity) in order to carry out normal physiological processes. It accounts for about two-thirds of the body's total energy needs, with the remainder being used during physical activity. At the end of semistarvation, the men's BMRs had dropped by about 40% from normal levels. This drop, as well as other physical changes, reflects the body's extraordinary ability to adapt to low caloric intake by reducing its need for energy. More recent recent research has shown that metabolic rate is markedly reduced even among dieters who do not have a history of dramatic weight loss (Platte, Wurmser, Wade, Mecheril & Pirke, 1996). During refeeding, Keys et al. found that metabolism speeded up, with those consuming the greatest number of calories experiencing the largest rise in BMR. The group of volunteers who received a relatively small increment in calories during refeeding (400 calories more than during semistarvation) had no rise in BMR for the first 3 weeks. Consuming larger amounts of food caused a sharp increase in the energy burned through metabolic processes.

As is readily apparent from the preceding description of the Minnesota experiment, many of the symptoms that might have been thought to be specific to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are actually the results of starvation (Pirke & Ploog, 1987). These are not limited to food and weight, but extend to virtually all areas of psychological and social functioning. Since many of the symptoms that have been postulated to cause these disorders may actually result from undernutrition, it is absolutely essential that weight be returned to "normal" levels so that psychological functioning can be accurately assessed.

The profound effects of starvation also illustrate the tremendous adaptive capacity of the human body and the intense biological pressure on the organism to maintain a relatively consistent body weight. This makes complete evolutionary sense. Over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, a major threat to the survival of the organism was starvation. If weight had not been carefully modulated and controlled internally, early humans most certainly would simply have died when food was scarce or when their interest was captured by countless other aspects of living. The Keys et al. "starvation study" illustrates how the human being becomes more oriented toward food when starved and how other pursuits important to the survival of the species (e.g., social and sexual functioning) become subordinate to the primary drive toward food.

One of the most notable implications of the Minnesota experiment is that it challenges the popular notion that body weight is easily altered if one simply exercises a bit of "willpower." It also demonstrates that the body is not simply "reprogrammed" at a lower set point once weight loss has been achieved. The volunteers' experimental diet was unsuccessful in overriding their bodies' strong propensity to defend a particular weight level. Again, it is important to emphasize that following the months of refeeding, the Minnesota volunteers did not skyrocket into obesity. On the average, they gained back their original weight plus about 10%; then, over the next 6 months, their weight gradually declined. By the end of the follow-up period, they were approaching their preexperiment weight levels.

Providing patients with eating disorders with the above account of the semistarvation study can be very useful in giving them an "explanation" for many of the emotional, cognitive and behavioral symptoms that they experience. This as well as other educational materials (Garner, 1997) is based on the assumption that eating disorder patients often suffer from misconceptions about the factors that cause and then maintain symptoms. It is further assumed that patients may be less likely to persist in self-defeating symptoms if they are made truly aware of the scientific evidence regarding factors that perpetuate eating disorders. The educational approach conveys the message that the responsibility for change rests with the patient; this is aimed at increasing motivation and reducing defensiveness. The operating assumption is that the patient is a responsible and rational partner in a collaborative relationship.

NOTE: This final chapter is one that we at The River Centre Clinic put into practice regularly, in our attempt to provide the very best, specialized treatment to those who are suffering from an eating disorder.

Without apology....♥

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Insurance Woes?

What is it that is preventing you from getting help to recovery from an eating disorder?
Based on what I encounter on a daily basis, I would expect that for most people, it involves lack of insurance, lack of adequate resources, and/or the fact that if they do have insurance, coverage for eating disorder treatment is limited, if offered at all.
As we all are aware, many changes are occurring on the National scene in terms of healthcare, the details of which none of us knows for certain.
I am interested in any experiences YOU have had with insurance, where you were denied treatment, or adequate length of treatment, which could have helped you to fully recover.
Insurance companies often develop their own criteria, which may or may not be [loosely] based on the APA guidelines for eating disorder treatment. Sadly enough, THEY get to decide how much, and how long they will provide coverage for treatment. And the 'professionals' who make these decisions are often not educated, or interested in becoming educated about what type of treatment works, or why the treatment is vital for someone to recover.
Would a person being treated for cancer be told that insurance would cover 5 doses of chemotherapy, when a regimen of 10 treatments is the proven course to take? Maybe, but not likely.
I hear repeatedly that a person is not 'sick' enough [paraphrased] to be in treatment, unless they are medically unstable, or suicidal.
I suspect that any of you who are reading this realize, that an eating disorder is complex, and involves much more than reaching a stable 'medical' status. Sigh....
What is YOUR experience? How can you fight for what you need?
If you would like to share, please leave a comment, or feel free to email me at
Never give up!!
Without apology....♥

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Independence vs. Dependence

While thinking about the differences between independence and dependence, memories of feelings (can you have memories of feelings? I think so...) while growing up come to mind.
My desire to be independent was always diluted with feelings of obligation to conform to what was expected of me. This was not so much about not wanting to grow up, but more about not wanting to grow up and fit into the mold that was being prepared for me. That 'mold' never felt like it fit. Maybe losing weight was an attempt to make it fit? I don't know. But it didn't work. I know that I did want to grow up and become independent of those expectations, but at the same time, the guilt I felt associated with disappointing others or doing something 'wrong' was stronger.
Looking back now, I can see that as I attempted, in the only ways I knew how, to become independent and to take control of my life, I ended up being more dependent on others to guide me and take care of me due to the eating disorder. In reality, the eating disorder did not grant me greater control, but actually less. And as time went on, and I became weaker and more enmeshed in the psychological traps of the eating disorder, I depended on others to take care of me. I couldn't see it at the time, but it was that dichotomy that I have written about before. The push/pull dynamic....I was screaming for others to help me, while always pushing them away.
Not only was this an unhealthy way to be in relationship with others, it fueled the confusion caused by the eating disorder. I never learned how to be in an honest mutual relationship, and the concept was impossible for me to grasp.
While I believed and claimed that I wanted and needed to be left alone, the thought of being independent and self-sufficient terrified me. I had no trust in my ability or strength to take care of myself. Historically, the eating disorder had made that impossible. Hence, I became dependent on others for many things, but in a very unhealthy way. This also made it very easy for some of those people in my life to enable me, out of their own lack of knowledge of the disorder and the situation.
Independence means responsibility. I felt unable to handle the responsibilities that life hands us as we move forward. The terror kept pushing me back. Like so many other fears, I found that the ONLY way to get past is was to walk right through it.
Surrendering to recovery made me stronger, not weaker, and more confident to face new challenges.
I found myself at age 47, totally responsible for myself, for the first time in my life! I had to keep going and trust that I could do it with the healthy advice and support from others. I did, and I have....and I am now confident and afraid of very few things in life.
Asking for help and accepting help from others is completely different from dumping everything in someone else's lap to 'fix'. It feels a lot better too!!
Independence for me means I am my own person, which allows me to be in true, loving and honest relationship with others, without feeling compromised or diminished.
Without apology...♥

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Broadening your Horizons

An eating disorder, and the fears that accompany it, can and will narrow your world to the point of isolation, and cause you to feel alone and hopeless.
I grew up feeling unacceptable, by my peers, my family and most everyone else around me. Some of this was due to direct criticism, but the type of controlled, black/white environment that I was raised in was also a contributing factor. My future was dictated to me, and I see now that much of my resistance was based on my internals opposition to this. Yet, I felt unable to express my own desires, and I feared upsetting those around me. So I went along.....on the outside..until I could no longer.
That is when I began to seek acceptance by achieving a lower weight, which I was told, would make me a 'better' person. This message was not conveyed directly, in a verbal way, but by the way that I was encouraged to 'conform'.
My environment also portrayed a very dangerous and 'bad' world, which led me to believe that I was not safe unless I was 'hidden', or unless I remained submissive to the forces around me.
As I became more and more ill with an eating disorder, my world continued to narrow. My view of the world narrowed, and my fear increased. I truly saw no way 'out', so controlling my weight, and what I ate felt like my only source of safety, however convoluted that was.
During my treatment and recovery at the River Centre, I began to see how much more there was to the world, and how my fears were holding me back.
After my weight was restored to a healthy point, where I could fully engage in life and make my own choices in a safe way, I started to challenge my old beliefs, the beliefs that had been instilled in me, in a way that enabled me to know myself and become more independent.
My eyes are wide open in a way I have never known before. I see all experiences as a chance to grow, and I am not afraid.
My world have become so much larger, so much more fulfilling, and the relationships I have with the people around me are mutual. What a concept!
I can now see that as my body diminished in size, the world around me did also. My options were limited, my fears seemed insurmountable, and the walls were closing in.
How narrow is your world? What is holding you back from being fully alive each day?
The truth is, we each determine how we will live our lives. Sometimes we need help to break free from old limitations. No one needs to waste even one more day with their eyes half-open.
Without apology.....♥

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

River Centre Clinic: What was different?

At least twenty people have asked me this question over the past few years, once they learn of my long struggle with Anorexia, and that I am now recovered. After hearing that I was in some very prestigious treatment programs, multiple hospitals (multiple times), and have now recovered fully after being treated at River Centre, I suppose it's an obvious question.
I could elaborate (as any of you who have read my writing know ♥), but I can make this pretty simple.
The treatment provided by the professionals at River Centre is evidence-based, which is critical for the complex nature of eating disorders.
I was seen as a person, not a dollar sign, and my treatment was based on MY needs, not what was convenient in the moment.
Hope was the first gift offered to me, upon my first visit to River Centre for an assessment, in November, 2001. NO ONE had ever even hinted to me that full recovery from an eating disorder was possible, let alone, possible for ME.
The professionals who worked with me understood, offered me compassion, but also held me accountable as I moved along the rocky road of recovery.
I knew right away that I could trust the 'team' to do right by me, to help me begin my life over without an eating disorder, and I knew that I would not be left 'undone', before I was ready.
The program at River Centre offered (and still offers) the perfect balance of accountability and independence for adults in recovery.
This is what made the difference for me. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, in treatment, or considering treatment, think about your present situation. Is it working? Are you getting the help you need? Each day belongs to YOU. You will never have that day again. NEVER GIVE UP!!
Without apology...♥

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Closing the door.....forever ♥

Recovering fully from an eating disorder, for me, and I believe anyone, means that you have to close and LOCK that door forever. I do not believe that anyone has to suffer, even just a little bit, for the rest of their life.
I hear people refer to 'always having to deal with it (IT being the eating disorder), as if it will always be a part of them. I don't buy it. I am living proof that this is false.
The concept of full recovery, complete, without 'residual' thoughts, fears or behaviors, is a very difficult one to grasp, especially if you are still in the midst of working recovery.
It's not a fast process, nor an easy one, but I found that once I truly closed the door, and turned my back on it, it is no longer a part of my any way. I continue to be amazed by this, as I live my life in total freedom.
What did I do that finally allowed me to 'close the door'?
I stopped being dishonest..about my feelings, about my behaviors, and about WHO I am.
I embraced my meal plan for as long as necessary, and allowed it to be my anchor. No diet, low fat, or fat free foods are allowed in my house-at least for my consumption.
Now, I make sure that I eat WELL, which protects me from any of the old mindsets. I will NOT allow myself to procrastinate about things. I don't always have to make the prefect decision. I can change my mind, and move on. Life is too short to spend my time on things that I can't control, or that don't matter in the larger scheme of things.
I think more about 'the moment', what I want, what my body and mind need, and then I act on it.
I'm not ashamed to ask for help, to admit that I don't know everything, and I accept that I make mistakes.
Pleasing others is a nice bonus, but pleasing myself first is more important, and more powerful in the long run.
Closing the door to the eating disorder took a lot of hard work and time, but keeping it closed is much easier than I would have thought.
What is holding the door open for you? How can you close it once and for all?
It's not only possible, YOU can do it!!
Without apology...♥

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Are You Seeking Treatment?

As I've begun to work more closely with people who are seeking treatment to recover from their eating disorders, I realize that the answer to this question can vary greatly.
The reasons that people seek treatment are varied, and not always for their own well being. Some are seeking to make someone else happy. This goal in itself speaks to a dysfunction, whether it be well intentioned or not.
I am not against getting help because of outside pressure, because if you need it, your need it. My concern is that along the way it is vital that the person in treatment, embrace it for themselves, and not for someone else. Also, this points to a deeper need to walk away from the need to always please learn to make your own choices and to be responsible for your own life.
Many people are simply 'tired of doing it'..the eating disorder is not serving them anymore, or they are experiencing the negative and life-threatening affects that the eating disorder is having on them. Fear is also a strong motivator.
Regardless of the reason, and the strength of a person's resolve and determination, recovery is hard. The process is likely the most difficult journey a person will take in their life. It is also the most rewarding. The personal awareness and strengths that one builds along the way is beyond any other.
A person who has recovered from an eating disorder is by far, much healthier in an emotional sense, than the average person walking down the street.
Are you seeking treatment, or working on recovery for yourself? Are you doing it because you want a better future? A family? Or do you want freedom from the rules and the prison that an eating disorder becomes?
What has led you to the point that you are reading this, seeking help, or searching for answers?
Without apology...♥

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is the Treatment for Eating Disorders Specialized?

The following factors have been determined to contribute the most to the quality of treatment provided by therapists treating eating disorders. (Adapted from Rie et al., 2008, International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41, 307-317)

-Being respected
-Learning to take your own responsibility
-Learning how to eat normally
-Focus on recovering weight
-Focus on improving your body image
-Being taken seriously
-Trust in therapist
-Explanation of information on EDs
-Keeping a(n) (eating) diary
-Being able to talk about eating behaviors
-Treatment that addresses the person
-Being able to talk about feelings
-Focus on self esteem
-Being able to talk about thoughts
-Addressing underlying problems
-Being accepted as you are

When these specifics were ranked by both therapists and patients, the results showed that therapists placed the highest priority on behavioral change and eating disorder symptoms, while patients stressed the importance of the therapeutic relationship, and the need to address problems underlying the eating disorder.
I plan to write more about the important 'specialities' of working with eating disordered patients.

(Garner, D.M. & Keiper, C.D. (in press) Eating Disorders. In: J.Thomas & M. Herson (Editors). Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies (volume 3), New York: Springer.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fear of change, or fear of NOT changing?

We all know the intense fear of change and the uncertainty of new situations and routines. When I suffered with an eating disorder, I was immobilized by my fears of taking risks or making changes, even though I was told I would 'feel' better. The uncertainty of life without an eating disorder, seemed worse to me than the perceived safety of the eating disorder.
Even though the eating disorder, and the affects it had on my life frightened me, the idea of changing, and the uncertainty associated with that, prevented me from taking risks to recover for many years.
The changes necessary for recovery will not get any easier by waiting. In fact, they are likely to become more frightening, as the obsessions of the eating disorder grow stronger (and they will). I can now see that my life became more and more 'narrow', the longer I was ill, and the sense of safety seemed stronger.
Becoming less afraid of change required me to walk right into it, to trust that it could not be any worse than my present situation, or what I perceived to be safe. I had gotten to the point where I knew I would die if I continued in the pattern I was caught in.
Very much like 'exposure therapy', the more I risked doing the things that scared me the most, the more safe I felt about change. I realized that change was my only way out, and as time went on, I found that those changes were actually freeing me!
This process is unique for every person recovering from an eating disorder, but I think the fact that doing what you are most afraid of, i.e. eating, not bingeing or purging, not exercising to extreme, or whatever happens to maintain the eating disorder for YOU, is the key to true recovery.
As I began my final treatment (and recovery!) at River Centre, I was certainly more afraid of NOT changing. The eating disorder had already taken more than 35 years of my life. Regardless of the fear I felt, I was ultimately more afraid that I would not change.
Where are YOU in this process?
Without apology....♥

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Juggling the Numbers

The 'balancing act' with numbers, in terms of weight, calories, amount of exercise, etc., is a very confusing and obsessive aspect of nearly any eating disorder. It nearly drove me insane, quite literally, during the long years of my own illness.
I wanted things to 'balance out'. I wanted symmetry in my life, in ALL areas. I wanted control. None of these desires were truly possible nor rational in order to live life as a human being. Life is imperfect, as each of us are, but that 'need' felt real and very overwhelming.
This speaks directly to the common black/white thinking that many people struggle with who also suffer with an eating disorder. Living in the 'gray' area, with any level of uncertainty can literally cause feelings of desperation and doom.
I am speaking from my own experience.
While meticulous meal planning is a vital step in recovery, it will die a natural death as a person continues to practice consistency and balance in their eating, and follow their treatment recommendations. The time it takes is different for everyone, but getting to the point where one can trust their body (and their mind) to be accepting of food and their natural, healthy weight is critical.
The numbers will never 'balance', because in reality, life is not balanced, nor is it possible to balance that 'scale' (no pun intended).
This need speaks to a deeper insecurity and desire for safety and predictability. During my treatment and recovery, I managed some pretty dramatic 'gymnastics' in an effort to beat the natural tightly control. But eventually it all came back to simple honesty, and my ability to trust myself and those around me.
I am not a good juggler when it involves manipulation, which in this case, it did.
The freedom I enjoy now, with numbers not playing a role in how I live my daily life, is truly a miracle to me.
As always, I encourage all to stick to their treatment plan, meal plan as long as necessary, and you will know when you have developed the needed trust to test your 'wings'....always with professional guidance.

Without apology...♥

Monday, July 5, 2010


A very important tool throughout the main part of my recovery, was daily journaling. I was encouraged from the very beginning to write 'stream of thought', and to share my writing. I found over time that this served to 'empty' my mind somewhat of the thoughts that were constantly swirling about. My daily writing also began to help increase my awareness of myself, which was key for my recovery.
I continue to write a lot, but not in the same fashion. I no longer 'journal' as a means for personal growth, however I have learned that verbal expression works nearly as well for me....most of the time.
Today I need to write. I need to get some things 'out'. I need to process.
I am afraid. I have had a weekend of 'moments' and circumstances that have brought my own mortality and that of those whom I love, into very clear view. As a Christian, I don't doubt the afterlife, but I am afraid to die. Does this mean I don't really believe? I don't know. Is it fear of death, or fear of losing the life that I am finally able to live? Am I being too worldly? Do I treasure 'Earthly' things too much? I say no, but.....
Going to my hometown, where I lived the first 45 years of my life, always causes me to mourn my Father and my dear son Timothy, in a more 'real' way. It just does. I see my Mother growing older, slower, and unable to do many of the things she use to do. Time is passing, for her and for me. For all of us. In some ways this frightens me.
This weekend I learned of a tragic boating accident which took the life of a woman I knew in High School, and one of her grandsons (one of a set of triplets). These kinds of tragedies leave me angry, unsettled and fearful. The fear is similar to the feeling that surrounded me for months after Tim was killed. Life is unfair. We don't know what the next day or even hour will bring. We take far too much for granted.
The love of my life, my dear husband, has been struggling with health issues for about six weeks now. Strange symptoms that are not responding to medication, and that continue to worsen. He is not bedridden, and is obviously functioning, but something is wrong, and I am becoming more and more concerned, and yes, fearful.
I no longer have the extreme need to control, or to 'fix' things that I use to. But these situations are ones that are tugging at me, and I am unsettled. I can go on with my routine, laugh, enjoy my life, but I am questioning if I should be more prepared, put my life in order, so to speak, or is this simply the result of being a bit over tired and emotional?
While riding home last night I felt a heaviness. I sobbed through the song, "I Can Only Imagine" (I always do, but it was more intense), with images of myself being taken from this life....and then what?
I know I will get back into my daily routine, laugh, be in the moment, and life will go on, but, I don't want to miss anything. I don't want to lose an opportunity to tell someone I love them.
Thank you for reading.
As always, without apology...♥

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Dark Side of Vegetarianism

I believe this article presents a fair picture of both sides of this issue, especially when we are searching for truths regarding eating disorders.
For what it's worth:

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter by Steven Reinberg

(HealthDay News) -- Despite its proven health benefits, a vegetarian diet might in fact be masking an underlying eating disorder, new research suggests.
The study, in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that twice as many teens and nearly double the number of young adults who had been vegetarians reported having used unhealthy means to control their weight, compared with those who had never been vegetarians. Those means included using diet pills, laxatives and diuretics and inducing vomiting to control weight.
There's a dark side to vegetarianism, said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. He had no role in the research.
"Adolescent vegetarians [in the study] were more prone to disordered eating and outright eating disorders," Katz said. "This is not due to vegetarianism but the other way around: Adolescents struggling to control their diets and weight might opt for vegetarianism among other, less-healthful efforts."
Vegetarianism, or a mostly plant-based diet, can be recommended to all adolescents, Katz said. "But when adolescents opt for vegetarianism on their own, it is important to find out why because it may signal a cry for help, rather than the pursuit of health," he said.
Katz said he thinks a balanced vegetarian diet is among the most healthful of dietary patterns, and the study suggests some of the benefits.
"Adolescents practicing vegetarianism were less likely to be overweight than their omnivorous counterparts and, were the measures available, would likely have had better blood pressure and cholesterol, too," he said. "Eating mostly plants -- and even only plants -- is good for us, and certainly far better for health than the typical American diet."
The study's lead researcher, Ramona Robinson-O'Brien, an assistant professor in the Nutrition Department at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in St. Joseph, Minn., agreed.
"The majority of adolescents and young adults today would benefit from improvements in dietary intake," she said. The study found, for instance, that the vegetarians among the participants generally were less likely to be overweight or obese.
"However, current vegetarians may be at increased risk for binge eating, while former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors," she said. "Clinicians and nutrition professionals providing guidance to young vegetarians might consider the potential benefits associated with a healthful vegetarian diet, [but should] recognize the possibility of increased risk of disordered eating behaviors."
The researchers collected data on 2,516 teens and young adults who participated in a study called Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens. They classified participants as current, former or never vegetarians and divided them into two age groups: teens (15 to 18) and young adults (19-23).
Each participant was questioned about binge eating, whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits and whether they used any extreme weight-control behaviors.
About 21 percent of teens who had been vegetarians said they used unhealthy weight-control behaviors, compared with 10 percent of teens who had never been vegetarians. Among young adults, more former vegetarians (27 percent) had used such measures than current vegetarians (16 percent) or those who'd never been vegetarians (15 percent), the study found.
In addition, among teenagers, binge eating and loss of control over eating habits was reported by 21 percent of current and 16 percent of former vegetarians but only 4 percent of those who'd never followed a vegetarian diet. For young adults, more vegetarians (18 percent) said they engaged in binge eating with loss of control than did former vegetarians (9 percent) and those who were never vegetarians (5 percent), the study found.
Young adult vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese than were those who'd never been vegetarians. Among teens, the study found no statistically significant differences in weight.
"When guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it is important to recognize the potential health benefits and risks associated with a vegetarian diet," Robinson-O'Brien said. "Furthermore, it may be beneficial to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet and ask about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors."

Without apology....♥

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Does 'Obsessive' Really Mean?

Have you ever referred to yourself or some particular behavior as 'obsessive'?
It seems that this term is being used more loosely than ever before, to describe certain characteristics, or attitudes which interestingly enough, are closely related to perfectionism.
If you consider this in terms of personality type, what does it really mean?
Does the word 'obsessive' resonate in a positive or a negative way for you? Or neither?
Some common behaviors for those who may be labeled 'obsessive' include:
-Being so worried and anxious about making the 'right choice' that you have difficulty making even the simplest decisions....usually the ones involving pleasure or relaxation.
-When your mind is so hyperactive that you become a 'thinkaholic', unable to turn off the worry and rumination.
-Inability to commit to any long-term relationship for fear that it's not the 'perfect' person.
-The workaholic who works long hours and has cut out most other areas of their life to the point that they know no other way to live.
-Procrastination or laziness? Are you unable to take on tasks or responsibilities because you know that it is impossible to complete them flawlessly?
-Equating productivity with intense need to fill every minute with activity.
-An intense need to be above scrutiny: moral, professional or personal.
When does such obsessiveness become a problem?
When the obsessions become so dominant and inflexible that every minute of every day is controlled by them.
The core of obsessiveness is an exaggerated need for control. This stems from the irrational belief or conviction that if one has 'perfect' control, it will ensure safety. This applies also to the obsessive-compulsive person who repeats certain patterns in an effort to feel safe or in control.
Many of the above mentioned characteristics or behaviors are common among people who suffer with an eating disorder. I know them all very well, and can relate to the manner in which they can control one's life and become a prison.
I have learned that this is one prison that is self-induced, however unintentionally.
The beauty of this is that it also means that we each hold the key to our freedom.

Without apology....♥

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I am reminded continuously of how little I truly 'experienced' in my life up until the past few years. With all my focus and energy devoted to the eating disorder that nearly killed me, little was left for 'experiences'.
My life was so narrow, my vision so dull. Today, I am like a sponge, constantly soaking up information and looking for opportunities to LIVE, which is much different from just being alive.
Dave and I attended a great concert last night at the Fox Theater in Detroit. Driving up, in a mess of traffic, I was calm, excited (is that possible?), and looking forward to the experience of hearing The Moody Blues. Just a few years ago, I would have been unable to do that. Being out late made me anxious...a change in my schedule. Fear of crowds of many fearful thoughts that would have caused me to shrink back from going. I would have dreaded the night for weeks before.
The theater is old and beautiful. I was enamored by the elaborate decor, and felt a thrill from just being there. Very different from my past.
I waited in anticipation for the concert to begin, and I wasn't looking at those around me, focusing on the size of their bodies', comparing myself in every way to how others were living the evening. I didn't feel afraid. You know, that fear that we might get caught in traffic, and heaven forbid, get home late and, and, and, my routine be DIFFERENT!!!
I was IN THE MOMENT, entirely. I screamed my primal concert scream (yes, I do that!), jumped up and down, danced at my seat, and didn't even consider what anyone else was thinking. I was there for my own enjoyment, with my 'man'.
I didn't run out of energy. Imagine that! We had to run back to the car, in the pouring rain, about 3/4 mile away. By the time we got to the car, we were both soaked, and I was laughing so hard I was nearly crying!! In years past, I would have been falling over, angry and I probably would have ruined the entire night for both of us with my negative attitude. The concert? I would have sat through it with my thoughts someplace else completely, wishing over and over that I could be home and done with the night.
This morning was a bit lazy...I slept in later than usual, and it was OK! We had a great time last night, making more memories to share and laugh about in the coming years we have together. And me? I smile and feel extreme happiness knowing that each day holds more true experiences for me.
Without apology.....♥

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Pain of Perfection

For many people, the desire and commitment to do their 'best', can easily morph into an obsessional attempt to be 'perfect'.
'Perfectionism' is often one of the major maintaining and controlling factors for a person who is suffering from an eating disorder.
'Perfection' is an impossibility, but it is a often believed to be THE goal to aspire to reach. This belief will only result in failure and probable exhaustion from attempting to reach this impossible state of being.
The pursuit of perfection may result in a number of situations. A person may realize that they are aiming for the impossible, and simply relax and enjoy a more attainable goal.
What may also happen, which may not seem obvious at first, is that the person who has been the 'high achiever' will begin to feel depressed and hopeless, and be unable to accomplish much of anything in their daily life. They may consider themselves lazy and depressed, and have considerable problems doing even the most simple things. They may reach a point of apathy.
Could this be a result or an extension of the 'perfectionism'? I think it may.
Because it is not possible to be perfect, for any of us, the pursuit is not only exhausting, but obviously, unrewarding. A lot of physical and emotional energy is likely to be spent on
this unattainable goal.
A feeling of failure is another likely result, which will add to the feelings of depression and hopelessness. This can also leave a person feeling empty and useless, with a sort of loss of identity. Who are they if they are not that 'perfect' person they have been striving to be?
I don't believe that anyone strives for perfection because they believe they ARE perfect, or that they are better than anyone else. More than likely, it's just the opposite.
The expectations of society and the world around us may 'sound' like rules for how we 'should' be. Such a vicious cycle....
My conclusion is that the impossible pursuit to be perfect may lead to depression, apathy and much less motivation in the end.
Let's all strive to do our personal best and be proud of it!
Without apology....♥

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dedicated to my 'boys'

My two sons are the greatest gifts of my life. The honor of being their Mother is one I never felt deserving of, yet I know in my heart and soul was meant to be. As any Mother knows, your child(ren) are gifts like no other, so no offense please to those who also mean the world to me, quite literally.
I would like to celebrate Matthew and Timothy today, with a few simple reflections, yet ones that I will forever hold in my heart.
Matthew, you were like velvet over steel, from the very first day I 'met' you, at only 8 days old. Strong in every physical way, plus with the gift of a very sensitive and giving heart, despite the struggles you have faced...we all faced. I love you with all my heart and soul, and I am proud of you for who you are, and for enduring what no person should ever have to witness. I am sorry that I was not able to give as much of myself to you during your growing up years, but I hope you know that I truly did my best. I am thankful each day that we are now able to have an adult relationship, where we can laugh and understand each other on a much higher level. I believe in you, and whether you understand or believe it, I trust that there are better things ahead for you, and I want to be a part of all of it! I love you Matt...♥
Timothy, I write this trusting that you know and see all that my life is today. I also believe that you 'walk' beside Matthew and I with your own magical way of inspiring us.
I miss you every single day. I imagine how your life might have been on this day, had you not been taken from this Earth nine years ago [on Monday]. That is not for me to know or see, nor will I ever have an answer as to why your life was taken, and then, in some miraculous way, I was given mine back. I would never have asked for that or planned it that way. But I am not the one in control. You know I cry for my own selfish pain, but that is also a testament to how much I love you. For as long as I live I will cry for you, and I also cry for the pain that Matthew continues to feel. But I am inspired and strengthened each day by the memories I have of your strength to endure what your short life gave you. You must also know that you touched the lives of many people during those 17 years.
Nothing will ever change the fact that you both made me a Mother. That is a 'role' that I am proud of, and thankful for.
My heart is full, my tears are ever-present, and I only hope that I can live my life in a way that makes you both proud. I love you, my sons.
Without apology....♥

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"People Watching", or Searching for ME?

After a busy day last week of various activities and intense focus, I walked through the local Mall with my husband, thinking about the variety of 'sights' you see in a public place.
'People watching' use to be a main pastime of mine, one I have come to realize was closely related to my search for 'self', and my need to determine who I was going to be. OK, I know that none of us can determine who we are going to be, but I never realized that until I stopped trying to do just that.
I grew up, given a very clear description of who I was 'supposed' to be, and from a very early age, knowing I did NOT want that, I began the search for who I wanted to be. I became very self-critical, always second-guessing my own words and decisions, because I feared criticism from others. Internal criticism became my only way to prevent myself from doing things 'wrong', or so I thought. I was actually tearing myself down, bit by bit, while simply trying to survive.
As my efforts to 'control' myself began to morph into a full blown eating disorder, my fascination with watching other people became more intense and obsessive in nature. I was hyper-vigilant in my focus on other people.
Everywhere I went, I needed to SEE everyone in my scope of vision, and often beyond. My focus was on weight, mood, dress and general appearance. I compared myself in each of these aspects, always seeking who I wanted to be, what I wanted to look like, and most of all, what weight I 'should' weigh. Yes, I watched people, but not for recreation. I watched them to compare, to take mental notes which might somehow lead to ME.
As you can imagine, I never found anyone who I could make myself into. I certainly tried. I continued to seek that 'perfect' description, the one that would finally fit. It almost killed me. I could not become someone else, and I had no idea how to be ME.
So, last week, as Dave and I commented about a couple of 'interesting' people we happened upon, I reflected on how little I take time to watch other people now. More than that, I realized I have no need to examine others to discover myself. I no longer compare the size of my legs or my body in general, to every woman I see. What I order for dinner is not determined after some complex calculation of what every other woman in the restaurant is eating.
I do truly love people, getting to know them and sharing experiences along life's way.
But, my need and desire to be around others is based on my daily pursuit of life, not a fervent pursuit of my identity.
Without apology....♥

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What 'Causes' Eating Disorders?

While I most like to compose my own posts, the following is too good not to share:

There are two distinct issues being conflated in this statement; A) What is the etiology, or natural history, of ED? and B) What is the internal experience of someone who has ED? The former deals with the brain, our most important organ. While our understanding of the brain is in its infancy, the BRAIN is without a doubt a physical, tangible object and we can describe brain structure and function with the languages of science and medicine. The latter has to do with the MIND, and that is a much more elusive thing. It's not tangible. It's mostly subjective. The nature of the mind is best described in the languages of philosophy and theology. And yet, our MIND is a function of the BRAIN. So we've developed the discipline of Psychology to bridge the gap between the tangible and intangible, the objective and subjective, science and philosophy and theology.

Eating disorders are the behavioral expressions of bio-chemical and neurological disorders of the brain. People who exhibit EDs were born with genetic traits that made them susceptible to developing the disorders if and when certain kinds of experiences occur in their environment. The genetics seem to express themselves as high levels of anxiety/social anxiety, OCD, perfectionism, conflict avoidance, and other related traits long before ED occurs. Common environmental triggers include conscious diets, strep infections, trauma or high stress, and incidental periods of insufficient caloric intake (like the kid undergoing a growth spurt, or the athlete whose training intensifies). It looks like, by and large, you need at least one ingredient from each the "nature" and the "nurture" columns to develop ED, and most people have more than one from each. Additionally, the developmental changes the brain undergoes during adolescence seems to play a key role, as the vast majority of EDs exhibit themselves at this stage. Since our social milieu also changes radically during this time, it is likely that the environmental triggers are stronger and/or more common at this stage.

Given the above, someone who has ED may well experience it as "a control issue". In fact, many ED sufferers report that they have (short lived) positive "control" thoughts when they don't eat, and negative "control" thoughts when they do. They also have a tendency to misinterpret other's actions as negative. And to think their own bodies as larger and shaped differently from how they actually are. But these thoughts are actually a symptom of the disease. This is similar to how people with the classic symptoms of schizophrenia (hearing voices, believing outside forces are controlling their actions, & etc) are having the symptoms because of the neurological imbalances of that disease. In both cases, the person is having real experiences inside their mind that have little to do with the outside environment.

And different still from the physical causes of a disease, or the mental symptoms the disease may cause in our thinking or our understanding while we are sick, is the MEANING we attach to things we experience. Our experience of "what does this all mean?" is ultimately completely subjective, and completely dependent on our belief systems. If we believe diseases are caused by voodoo curses, or cold unloving mothers, or imperfect faith, or a kind of test from a higher power, or none of the above, or all of the above, our understanding of the disease experience will be framed in terms of that belief.

So if someone states "I got ED because I needed more independence from my father", he's not "wrong", he's just talking about how ED fits into a larger meaning in his life. It also shows that that person is not being exposed to good clinicians who could tell him "Well, yes, you may have needed more independence. However, if you hadn't had the genetic makeup you do, the stress of the situation would not have triggered the development of ED."

You can read the full post here: