NEDA Week 2019 – old post reposts

It’s technically after midnight here and already tomorrow, but I still wanted to get in a quick post before I head to sleep! I have had a super long day, so rather than write a longer post I decided to instead share links for all the NEDA week posts I’ve ever done! I promise to have new content tomorrow since I am oh so slightly less busy 🙂

NEDA week 2018 – Introduction & past posts

NEDA Week 2018 – Treatment myths and truths + an overview of options

NEDA Week 2018 – my anorexia struggle (it’s not what you think)

Also, bonus post that wasn’t NEDA week but is super relevant: Boycott the Before – Why transformation posts aren’t all that helpful

NEDAW 2019 – Come as you are

Header_Come As You Are

As you may know, today kicks off National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) week! I have been a huge fan of this movement since I first learned of it, because this is the one time a year I feel a little more justified spamming everyone with eating disorder aawareness info 😉

This year’s theme is “Come As You Are.” Here’s a blurb from NEDA about it:

Our 2019 theme, Come as You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and our goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. In particular, Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid. We invite everyone, especially those whose stories have not been widely recognized, to have the opportunity to speak out, share their experiences, and connect with others.

We aim to start conversations with a variety of communities that struggle at comparable rates to those traditionally thought of as struggling with eating disorders. We hope to offer them an opportunity to share their stories, see themselves in others’ stories, and recognize that their experiences are valid and welcome, no matter where they are in relationship to food or their bodies.

So this NEDAwareness Week, come as you are, not as you think you should be.”


Given the theme, I thought I would start off the week by being vulnerable and honest about where I am in this moment. I would love to be able to come here and share all the amazing things I’m doing for my recovery, but that simply isn’t the case. I have felt a lot of shame in that. After over 5 years of treatment and more struggling, shouldn’t I just be healed already? I always imagined that answer to be yes for myself.

Right now I’m in a bit of a slump, maybe leaning towards relapse at this point. Okay it probably is relapse… My old friend excessive compensatory exercise came back after a pretty long hiatus. Along with it, I’m restricting food intake and excluding all but my safe foods. This has lead to my weight dropping from where it was stable for many months and implementation of the dreaded “weight gain protocol” whenever I have a dietitian/therapy appointment. (I’ll spare you the details on that one, but essentially it means lots of Boost/Ensure if my weight isn’t doing what it’s supposed to).

I am struggling. It’s many of the same issues I’ve been through time and time again, yet this also feels so new. I feel almost like I have forgotten how to get from here to a better spot, and even if I did know I have little motivation for follow-through.

One thing that has been super frustrating is all the medical knowledge (and treatment knowledge, too) that I have. I know what happens when you exercise without fueling your body. I can list off all the medical complications. I have experienced them in the past and now even. I know what kind and how much nutrition I need. I can tell anyone else how xyz is going to harm your body. I am so close to becoming a nurse, but I am an almost-nurse who wholeheartedly goes against what she knows to be true. I feel like a hypocrite and fraud all at once.

In this season, I am trying to be more gentle with myself because I deserve it.

This disorder has unfortunately been a big part of my life for many years. The fight isn’t easy at all. I am still here, though. I go to my appointments and do hard things. Being here now doesn’t mean I’ll never recover.

I wish my story was a bit different right now, but I truly feel sharing as I am is truly embodying what NEDA week means: ALL parts of your story, even these messy parts, are accepted here. Come just as you are. You’re all welcome here.

We do not use “this is a good/bad food” here.

I’ll admit it, I was super pessimistic and anxious going into today. I was 110% certain I would be writing a post that pretty much said the opposite of this, but here we are instead.

I’ll have more on my experience in clinical this semester soon, but I’ll explain a little context for now. We are back, for the next 6 weeks, in the same community I was at for half of fall semester last year. It’s truly been incredible so far. One of the many projects we’re working on involves a teaching program for nutrition. It was developed to be used at different faith-based settings like one in our neighborhood. All I knew heading into today was that we were going to help teach these people about healthier eating and spending patterns. I think I probably took in a big gulp of air at that point and didn’t release that tension until the last three minutes of training today.

I was so very stressed about the program because I have seen how diet culture leeches into any and every single health-based program I can think of. I remember watching as (unknowingly) a classmate ended up teaching on something that sounded like it came from a dieting 101 class. I’ve seen materials for children more focused on saying what you should and shouldn’t eat or how bad fat is rather than promoting a picture of trying to choose more nutritious foods. I could go on, but essentially I just assumed I would be semi-forced to follow a curriculum that I cannot fully support.

I waiting for any of many disappointing phrases all session, until this one made me smile: “we do not use language like ‘this is a good/bad food’ here.” I could have hugged her, I swear. She went on to explain that the goal is to encourage nutritious choices, such as whole grains, but to avoid language that insinuates it is bad if you eat xyz. They don’t believe that causing people to feel guilty about their food choices is a good tactic (ESPECIALLY in our mostly low-income/homeless population). I could not agree more, and I am excited to reach these people in a way that can teach nutrition without it sounding like a guide for weight loss.

I often struggle deeply with believing that I am bad for what I do or do not eat. The ED thoughts scream if I even think about enjoying something that’s off limits. While this is not a “practice what I preach” scenario yet, I am grateful that I can promote a healthy relationship with food to some of the most vulnerable in our community. Maybe along the way I can re-learn a little, too!

I gave in.

I sit here, pushing aside the shame I feel in order to be honest, because maybe that honesty will help someone else.

On the outside, oh how I try to fight diet culture any chance I get. I wear my “No one cares about your diet” shirt with pride, share at least one or two posts a week, follow all the right body-positive Instagram accounts. I can explain how most diets are garbage and either don’t work long-term or lead to eating disorders.

I continued with this facade for the first two weeks of this year, when I had actually dove head-first into exactly what I stood so firmly against.

It was the day before New Year’s eve. New year, new you, or so they say. Somehow, our culture has decided that January 1 is the perfect time to start a new diet or “lifestyle change.” If you have a TV, social media, coworkers, etc I’m sure you’ve heard and seen a million options out there. As I sat on Facebook, yet another diet ad came onto my screen. I usually am so great at ignoring them, but not then.

Soon, I was interested enough to take a short quiz. I didn’t find anything wrong with the curiosity. I think part of me believed it would be obvious BS and I could move on. I finished the quiz and got the good news: I could reach my goal – and only by February with the app’s help! It hurts to admit how much that excited me.

When the app offered me their services free for 2 weeks I jumped on it. I imagined how much happier I would be after I dropped some weight and got to that magic number. I felt excited for an opportunity to transform the negative view I’ve had of my body since my most recent relapse and journey back to recovery.

This past Thursday marked 3 weeks since I sat in my therapists office and deleted the app with her. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to do it alone, and considering they offered an additional 3 weeks when I tried to quit, I’m glad I had support. I have managed NOT to download or sign up for it (or a program similar) since that day. Let me tell you, that has been a whole lot harder than I ever imagined.

Since I’ve been away from this program a few weeks, I feel in a much better place to critically analyze some aspects of it. Some are simply a byproduct of diet culture, but a few were pretty significant in my opinion.

  • Separated foods into good, okay, and bad categories while also giving limits to amounts of these foods. This is pretty typical when it comes to weight loss websites/app/diets. The thing that bothered me the most about theirs is that nearly every carbohydrate choice I could think of, even things like whole grains were in the “bad” category. Essentially they were asking me to avoid carbs unless they were included in fruits or veggies.
  • Set my daily caloric limit to the same nutritional requirements of a toddler (and added exercise on top of that). I completely get that this is a weight loss thing and they wanted me to hit this magical goal in x amount of time, but most calculators I have seen before wouldn’t go for this amount. It just surprised me in a not so great way.
  • Had a real person following along and praising me for completing less than the above amount some days. Honestly this may have been the most shocking part of it all. I was really starting to struggle with restriction at the time and she actively encouraged it. To top it off, she wasn’t a dietitian, nutritionist, etc. If I had a patient who told me they had that amount I would definitely be concerned, because it honestly wasn’t safe.

I see the ad for this specific app at minimum once a day, or more depending on how often I get on my phone. Sometimes I can ignore it, but often I think of the “benefits” and wonder if my team was truly just overreacting. The way it would reward me for avoiding specific foods, exercising, or staying within calorie limits filled me with pride. That truly was a huge positive for me and maybe the thing I miss the most.

These people who make different diet programs know exactly what they’re doing with marketing. They offer amazing results, use guilt and rewards (sometimes at the same time – “you’re doing SO much better than last week”), and convince us that changing our appearance is going to make a difference in our lives. Anyone can fall into the trap.

What I’ve realized through this journey is the praise I received still didn’t get rid of that negative voice. Losing weight and essentially ramping up ED behaviors only has set me on the path to relapse, not happiness. I am working to get back on track and away from all of the BS diet culture throws at me.

*Note: I do not feel like actually naming said app is helpful to anyone. I definitely wouldn’t want to see more people fall into it like I did. 

Hello again.

I feel like I blinked and January is 2/3 of the way over and my interim class ends tomorrow. I have had so much (too much?) free time, and yet haven’t been able to write a single blog post this year. I’m hoping that the rest of 2019 is a whole lot more prolific post-wise than the first 22 days have been.

The lack of posts isn’t due to having nothing to write about. There’s always at least 5 ideas running through my head. Instead, I once again have this perfectionist voice that is loud every time I’ve sat down to write. It whispers (or sometime screams) things like: you aren’t that interesting, you’re not doing well enough in recovery, that story doesn’t matter, this would show how broken you are, what if there’s a typo and you sound stupid. Having to fight these thoughts quickly kills my interest in blogging. My drafts are filled up with more half written posts and the blog stays stagnant.

One intention of the new year is to treat blogging differently. I want to be able to share again about what’s going on without freaking out too much if I have minor grammatical errors or if a post doesn’t do so well in terms of views/comments/likes. I hope to be honest about where I’m at because recovery and life in general is not perfect. My ultimate goal is to have blogging as an outlet again because I miss it.

I will be back soon, I really do promise this time 🙂

Waiting

In just 30 short minutes, you’ll have the letters you’ve been waiting weeks for: Fall 2018 grades. You’ve calculated and hoped and prayed that things will turn out how you want (and feel need). You have all sorts of thoughts on the “what ifs” surrounding these final marks. There are plans if you don’t make a certain GPA and what punishment you then deserve.

Please, take a deep breath. I know this seems like the bet way possible to measure your self worth, but I promise you it isn’t. This time next year, when you’ve graduated and found your first nursing job, not a single soul will look back on these numbers. They’ll be far more interested in the fact that you graduated, passed the NCLEX, and have stellar recommendations. Who you are and the amazing nurse you’ll be isn’t based on how well you studied for med-surg.

Instead of clinging to these letters and GPA, I want you to focus on what truly matters: you made it. You fought hard to get through this semester, and that work shows. Look at the evaluation from clinicals. If one class or number has any meaning, it’s that one. Your professor sees something in you, and told you herself you’re making progress every single day. Think about all the patients who said you made a difference for them with your compassion and care.

No matter what you learn at 5 pm, be sure to show yourself grace tonight. That you do deserve.

Love,

Emily

Three potatoes.

*Quick note: this post will go more into ED thoughts and behaviors than I typically have. Please do not read on if that sort of talk would trigger you.*

I have been eating with my therapist every single Monday this entire semester (and twice a week for the last month). The point of these meals is for me to challenge myself in an environment where I’ll have support and, hopefully, be able to handle it better. That definitely has not been the case every week. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that the meals have including pleading, justifying, a few flat-out refusals, lots of bargaining, and supplementation when I just couldn’t handle the challenge.

I look back and wonder why I would spend so much time fighting my therapist rather than just doing what I’m supposed to, but it really isn’t so simple. The eating disorder is manipulative and it will find any opportunity to take over, even if it’s a seemingly minuscule way. That brings us to yesterday.

Like every other Monday, I had my dietitian check my meal before our session ended, then spent the next 30 minutes trying to focus on anything but the food I had to eat. This meal was still a challenge to me, not in content so much as amount. I felt semi-okay about it at first. I managed to eat a pretty good portion before something in my brain flipped. Suddenly I needed to stop, throw the rest away, and run out of therapy. While that didn’t happen, I did do something I’m not the most proud of: when R wasn’t looking (or who knows, maybe she could have been?), I quickly covered up the three pieces of potatoes I had left and continued on to a less scary portion of my meal. I still had more to complete after that, but it was like a calm came over my thoughts for a little while. I had gotten away with restriction right in front of my therapist, a huge win for ED.

It wasn’t those three tiny potatoes. It had zero to do with the negligible difference they would make in my life had I consumed them. It was solely about control. I am certainly not able to flat-out refuse meals when I’m in treatment, but this felt almost the same high as if I had. Another recent example was choosing not to try a new yogurt that sounded good because it was a whopping 10 calories more than my “safe” choice. Is that honestly going to do a damn thing?

While the glaring, logical answer may be “heck no!”, I’m not convinced. Part of me still believes these lies that the ED shouts at me each day. Life seems easier/”better” when I follow ED rules.

Some behaviors such as these ones trend towards being a bit ridiculous. They in no way will end with me magically staying thinner or losing weight or whatever other promise ED makes up. I can often notice my eating disorder manipulate other people, but truly isn’t it just doing the same to me?

I’m not sure if I want to change things, even knowing that I am the one being manipulated, too. For now I will keep fighting, and try to eat those potatoes next time.