NEDA Week: Celebrate People

February 22nd marked the first day of the National Eating Disorder Awareness week. Each year that passes, the meaning that this week has for me grows. It marks another year when I can say that “I made it”. Although there are still times when I struggle, I know that I am “on the other side” of my eating disorder. Sometimes, I still hear that disordered voice in my head – however, I am now able to listen to it, acknowledge that it’s there and then let it go. It’s not my -TRUTH- anymore. I’ve learned to detach from it and come back to myself.

About a month ago I met Jessica Raymond. She is the face behind Recovery Warriors, a site with tools that help girls during their recovery from eating disorders. She also lives in San Diego and it was great to connect with someone else who fought her eating disorder and is now giving back to society and the community. I heard her say that recovery is like surfing. You can have periods of time where you are just patiently sitting on your board, waiting for the waves in peace. A period of time where everything feels steady. Then there’s times when the waves hit you and you just have to ride them, not knowing the outcome, unaware if you’re going to make it out “alive”. She said she’s learned to treat emotions like waves. You have to acknowledge that they are there, you have to ride them to realize that they are fleeting. That they are not permanent. That they will pass. If you think about it we all pretty much go through a sort of “surf recovery”.. our lives are filled with steady moments that sometimes change into a set of crazy waves.

I know that sometimes it’s hard for people to talk or think about eating disorders. I also know that more people than you think you know, struggle with them. So I don’t think that talking about them is in vain. Now that I have a daughter my priority is to raise her with a high self esteem and self love. I want to celebrate her for who she is. I know that a big part of this is the example that I set for her, in how I treat myself and how I treat others.

This year for NEDA week my goal is to celebrate people and I want to invite you all to do the same.

I come from a family where friendly “banter” is part of the dynamic. Mexicans love speaking their minds and although the intentions are never hurtful I’ve noticed it’s easier to laugh at people than to compliment them. We love instant gratification and it takes way less time to find something on the outside of people that you can talk about than actually taking time in getting to know people, asking the right questions and finding something lovable/admirable inside of them. It takes work. It takes dealing with feeling vulnerable.

We reap what we sow. This is what I want to teach my daughter.

Find time. Learn to love people for who they are. Don’t be quick to judge strangers. Know that how you treat other people is only a reflection of what is inside of you. Love yourself. Ride the wave. And to all my fellow recovery warriors: I love you all! We are doing this – we are living life freely!

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Eating That Ice Cream Cone

Perfectionism and the need for control are things that I have struggled with for years. I’m learning to live in that “grey” area of life as I’m more used to the “all or nothing” type of living which is, frankly, quite unrealistic.

Two years ago when I checked into an outpatient program at an eating disorder treatment facility; I told myself that I would be the perfect patient. I would learn the tools that I needed to learn to get rid of this monster and finally get better. Easy peasy. .

It took me a while to even accept that I needed help. In my mind, I was never sick enough. I wasn’t skinny enough to where people were worried, I was a functional person with a life that wasn’t falling to pieces (clearly on the way though). I always thought there were sicker people, that I didn’t even deserve to go to a place like a recovery center as it wasn’t that bad for me. I was so sick and out of love with myself that I didn’t even think that I deserved to get help.

So, like at school, I quickly became the perfect student during therapy. I did all of the exercises, I read all of the material. Easy peasy.

When I finished treatment it was definitely an adjustment. I left this place where everyone understood what I was talking about, a place where my meals were portioned (they promised me I wouldn’t gain weight if I just learned to eat my portions), a place where I didn’t feel alone in my madness. And although I had all the support in the world from my loved ones, deep down I still felt so ashamed. I always thought that I had an amazing life, so why did I even get sick? Why couldn’t I just be grateful for what I had and stopped doing all these stupid things to myself? Shame is the worst feeling.

Because I felt so bad about this still, I wanted to have a perfect recovery. I can’t afford to need help again – I would think. I can’t afford to hurt my family again. So I of course pretended like I was 100% cured and was doing perfectly fine again.

Recovery is not a straight line. It’s hard and it sucks. The eating disorder beast is hard to tame and if I’ve learned something this entire time is to just keep moving forward. Recovery from an eating disorder has a lot of definitions – it’s not like recovering from alcoholism where you completely go sober. You need food to live so you can’t “sober” yourself from it. So for some people recovery means simply eating, for others it means not eating compulsively, not weighing themselves… but it never means that you will automatically abstain from all disordered food behaviors because that is impossible. This was very hard for me to accept as any time I had a behavior (ie. overeating, restricting or using food to numb feelings) after being at the treatment center I felt SO guilty. I’ve always been hard with myself so I got so angry every time I had a “slip”… why can’t you just be RECOVERED? You know what to do, why don’t you just do it.?

I think that after all of the life changes that I’ve had recently with having a baby and such, I finally arrived at my own definition of recovery and I am at peace with it.

change

Recovery to me means working each day on listening to my body. It means recognizing those patterns in my behavior when I am more prone to engage in an eating disorder conduct and why I react in a certain way. There is always a feeling behind that eating disorder impulse – and my goal is to identify it so that I learn how to deal with it instead of numbing it. Recovery means forgiving yourself after having a bad day in which you overate due to anxiety… it means knowing that although it happened, you are still walking in the right direction. Recovery means listening to the voice inside my head that tells me to -restrict  because I am not good enough- and telling it to shut up instead of making it my “truth”.  Recovery means living in that grey area, being patient, eating that ice cream cone. Recovery means telling myself out loud that I love myself so that my baby daughter can hear it.

Recovery to me means Eating Intuitively, this takes times and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I’ve been trying to abide to these principles (sharing them with you below as I think they’re a good reminder to everyone) as much as possible and although I am not 100% there yet, I know I’m on the way. After all, slow and steady wins the race 🙂

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating via intuitiveeating.com  

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality
  2. Honor Your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police (crazy voice in your mind telling you food is “bad”)
  5. Respect Your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
  8. Respect Your Body
  9. Exercise (not obsessively but just being active vs sedentary)
  10. Honor Your Health

PS:  Since this post is about food and fueling our bodies, I wanted to end this post by sharing this with you guys: The Definite Guide To Healthy Eating. I love Sarah’s blog and this made me laugh.