eating disorders & the paradox of controlling our food

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There’s something involved in eating disorders that play an incredible important role in recovery, and also serves to intensify out eating disorder exaggerated – control.

When my eating disorder was a lot worse, I was trying to control just about everything. Calories in and calories out, food groups, amount of exercise, time to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack, fat and muscle percentages & weight I was trying to achieve. I was trying to pinpoint everything to to reaching that unachievable numeric goal. And the more I tried to control, the more my own intentions backfired me, making my eating disorder even worse and delaying recovery.

Why? Because I refused to surrender myself to my body’s needs. When I wanted rice I forced myself to eat brown bread instead. When I wanted white chocolate I forced myself to go guzzle a load of water. When I wanted curry I reluctantly chose clear soup. When I wanted cheesy pizza I unenthusiastically chose salad without dressing. Not just once, but as many times as I could.  I pretty much was denying my body what it needed and what it wanted.

Here’s the thing: when we enter a relationship with food with the aim of controlling the amount of food we put into our body, the (not-so) funny thing is that it ends up controlling us. When I was dieting and restricting my food I was in control, but when I binged, I felt like I had lost control of what I was doing. When we restrict ourselves so much to the point that our body rebels. We don’t make leeways for desserts, mistakes or one-off occasions. Everything must be followed according to the book and when we deviate from our rigid rules, we end up punishing ourselves.

We binge, because our body is starving. A binge is our body’s natural biological response to what we are doing to our body. 

And let’s be honest. For how long can we “control” ourselves? Do we want to control ourselves for the rest our lives, telling ourselves to choose option A over option B because option B might make you fat?

Your relationship to food is a reflection of your relationship with your life.  What is it in your life that you are trying to gain control or change that is making you restrict? A fear of loneliness that makes you binge to feel better? Trying to get a thin body & obsessing over your food intake? Wanting to get more attention and praise & so obsessively exercising to get a ripped lean body that those fit chicks on Instagram?

In my opinion, an important key to recovering (and deriving happiness from it) is this:

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Whenever I find myself obsessing over calories and getting anxious about my weight, I force myself to sit down and think “Why am I wanting to restrict my food and lose weight?” My answer? I wanted to be thinner; I wanted to lose weight, get attention and seek praise.

And then I think back to what I did to achieve that and what happened when I lost the extra weight: constantly watching what I eat and constantly wondering what I can and cannot eat to lose weight, exercising more and even comparing myself to pictures of thin women and using that as motivation to lose weight. Needless to say, my emotional wellbeing took a dip. When I chose to let go (difficult but I still chose it), I was so much happier. I was less stressed about food & wasn’t beating myself up over that bite of chocolate.

That’s the paradox of control. You can be in control of your life ONLY when you stop trying to be in control of every single aspect all the time. Maybe that’s a lesson that is also involved in eating disorder recovery:  that it’s okay to not be in control at all timesThat its okay to be imperfect. That its okay to overeat on some days. That its okay to not have a meal plan or if you do, to not follow it 100% all day everyday. That its okay to not an itty bitty waist or the body that some celebrities have.

When we stop trying to control our food, we start:

  • Really listening to our body and eat what our body tells us it needs
  • Allowing ourselves sweets and chocolate and cake and ice-cream when we want it without feeling guilty.
  • Removing any emotional associations with food.
  • Finding out that we don’t crave “bad” foods as much as want
  • Choosing to eat foods based on what our body feels it needs at that moment

We can’t always control what we eat, how much we eat and how much we exercise. The thing we can control, is how we choose to respond to a situation. The more we try to control what/how/when we eat, the more emotionally distressed we feel (anger, sadness, self-disgust). But if we choose to change how we perceive food, our relationship to food, and displace our self-worth from our weight, the less our food will control our mental wellbeing

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Perfection doesn’t exist and we are all flawed so let’s just learn to accept that we are flawed human beings just wanting to survive, wanting to pat the dust off our shoes and work on recovering from our disordered eating patterns and just be the best person in recovery that we can be.

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Happy 2016!

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Happy 2016! I can’t believe how fast time has gone, that a year has gone by in a flash, that so many events have happened in the span of a year but it seems like it all happened within months instead.

I haven’t blogged in the longest time ever. I usually need bursts of inspiration to be able to chug out a meaningful post and I suppose I’ve been going through some events with regards of eating and body that have sucked up my writing juices.

Anyway, before I embark on “welcome to the new year” reflection post, I’m entering 2016 dressed in an outfit inspired by the fashions of the 1950s. That era showcased women with swishy swing dresses, full skirts, pin up dresses, cropped tops, cigarette and capri pants & for some strange reason, bullet bras (think Madonna’s cone bra that John Paul Gaultier made for her).

I love how feminine the 50s fashion looks and I so decided to pair these cropped jeggings with my green halter and blue cardigan. I threw the bow-tie headband at the very last minute and I think it brings out the feminine playful vibe of the era.

I never thought I’d do cropped/capri pants as I thought I’d emphasize my muscular calves which gave me second thoughts but hey hey after months of learning to restructure my negative thought patterns, I just decided to f*** it and wear it because I like the overall look of it. The only drawback I have about the pants is that they are jeggings, are slightly tight at the waistband, but a good comfortable fit around my thighs. One size up and the jeggings hang loose on me. UGH. Frustrating. I’m now on the lookout for cropped jeans because I think I prefer a stiffer fabric so if anyone in Singapore reading this can recommend places to get good cropped pants or jeans ending above the ankle, HELP A GIRL OUT THANKS.

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I’m not going write a long-winded post elaborating the events that happened in 2015 and detailing the lessons I’ve learned, but I do want to list down some of the events I’ve experienced that, looking back, seemed quite significant

  • Performed at the Singapore International Latin Festival 2015.
  • Took not 1, but 2, solo trips to Japan (Osaka & Kyoto) and Thailand (Bangkok)
  • Got my first tattoo.
  • Graduated with 2nd upper class Honors.
  • Got to see Yanis Marshall perform live.
  • Taught Introductory Psychology to secondary school students as part of a temporary work stint at my former school.
  • Got into 2 performance teams (Ladies’ Junior Styling & Alma Latina)
  • Finally forgave myself for my a past mistake that I didn’t realize had been emotionally and mentally weighing me down.
  • Re-discovered my self worth by choosing to walk away from a casual relationship
  • Stepping out my comfort zone more and experimenting with more makeup and clothing choices
  • Wore a swimsuit (a monokini) for the first time in years. 
  • Going on more informal photoshoots.

 What seemed like negative events which I wished had never happened had strangely enough, turned out to be blessings in disguise. Not only did some (1) give me more time to be able to pursue and train more in dance, (2) grant me more time to establish closer bonds with my family & (3) allow me to make more new friends in the dance scene – some of whom have been unlikely sources of wisdom and helped in personal growth, some have also tested my character and pushed me to become a stronger, better and wiser woman more cognizant of what she is worth, what she deserves and what she should and shouldn’t do in similar situations.

I’ve also been going through episodes that continue to challenge the way I think about my body that is pushing me to alter my thoughts about my body shape. I’m continuing to try and make peace with my body and being less critical of it and am realizing that its getting slightly easier to reframe my negative thoughts into more positive one.

Additionally, I’ve been thrown into a couple of phases during which I abandoned mindful eating and started overeating, causing weight fluctuations and mood swings which have definitely made me realize that I need work more on body acceptance and what it really means to eat mindfully and healthily.

I don’t have resolutions for 2016. Instead I have goals. Intentions. Positive calls to shift and grow and make me a better empowered person. Some of which include:

  1. Training and improving my dance
    • Get better at chaine turns (traveling spins)
    • Work on musicality
    • Find my personal dance style
  2. Read 2 books per month
  3. Continue working on self-acceptance and mindful eating because recovery is a lifelong journey with unexpected paths, twists and turns.
  4. Be a more conscious shopper and purchase clothes that are versatile as opposed to buying many one-off statement pieces.
  5. Blog more about my journey toward body positivity and eating disorder recovery!
  6. Take more risks & learn from them.

I realize the last listing may not be considered a goal, but more of a challenge. But I do think risk-taking is an essential element to growth. A friend wisely told me: ” Taking risks is so fundamental to human nature. Curiosity and exploration is what makes us human. Closing ourselves off from the possibility of experience because of fear/worry, would lead to many paths untaken.” No risks = no journeys taken = no lessons learned.

Also, I really do I gotta blog more about my body positivity journey and the triumphs, challenges and lessons of my eating disorder recovery. I realized there was a burst of posts about body image earlier this year, which slowly faded off as the year came to an end because I was going through some personal work-related issues that drained the life out of me. Hopefully this year things will be better and I can spread more messages about body love and acceptance ❤

Happy New Year all! What are your goals for body positivity and ED recovery in 2016? Let me know I wanna hear them! Til the next blog post (soon I promise!)

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