World Eating Disorders Action Day – 9 facts I want you to know about EDs.

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Its said that if you want to change the world, all it takes is one small act to initiate much more major differences.

Today (June 2) marks the World Eating Disorders Action Day. a day that encourages us all to promote knowledge about eating disorders and encourage those struggling with it to seek treatment. When I think of what I want to tell others about eating disorders, the first thing I think of is that eating disorders can be deadly. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder since the age of 17 and its been a tumultuous journey filled with days where I angrily starve myself, gorge on food with tears running down my face at times, obsessively logging calories in a log book, forcing myself to exercise every single day and cutting my forearm, all of which eventually led to suicidal thoughts.

While anorexia is what comes to our mind when we think of eating disorders, it doesn’t mean all women have them. In fact, anorexia isn’t even the most commonly diagnosed form of eating disorder.And because eating disorder are so heavily misrepresented and misunderstood, such as being a “rich white girl’s problem” it’s important for others to know more about this illness in order to gain a better understanding of what other people are going through.

I started my journey blogging about my journey recovering from an eating disorder in 2014.  I look at what others have done to advocate eating disorder awareness and recovery and I sometimes think that I pale in comparison. These amazing men and women have and/or  raise funds, initiate campaigns, maintain active blogs and social media accounts and write book and poems all to inspire and help those suffering from this illness, yet I’ve done nothing amazing that sparks a major change and when I think about that, I feel a sense of dissonance.

Here I am, preaching about body positivity and wanting to raise awareness about eating disorder recovery but I’m barely doing any amazing feats and barely inspiring people. So what exactly have I done?

  1. Started a blog about my journey recovering from an eating disorder and promoting body positivity
    • 2 posts of which are interviews done with women who I follow on Instagram
  2. Run an Instagram and Twitter account dedicated to supplement my blog
  3. Volunteered once at a women’s organization and provided suggestions on revamping their body image program.

But now that I think about it, all these little things are something. I’ve taken action to raise awareness in my own ways within the limits of the available time and resources I have. I may not have gather thousands of followers on my social media platforms, but I know that somewhere out there, there is one person reading something I’ve blogged about  and decided that he/she will choose to continue fighting another day instead of giving up.

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There are so many ways you can take up to show your support for people struggling with this illness. Help a friend, talk or listen, write an essay, donate some funds, take part in campaigns. We may not be able to change the world in a day, but all it takes is one small action which can make a big difference in someone else’s life.

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Do your part in raising awareness about eating disorders and helping to reduce and eventually end the stigma associated with it by taking the pledge here and sharing nine truths about eating disorders. Here’s my list of facts I want you to know:

  1. Eating disorders do not come in one size. They come in all shapes and sizes. I’m not skinny, but I have one.
  2. Eating disorders sometimes isn’t just about weight loss. Some people develop eating disorders in order to establish control over something negative in their life.
  3. The most common type of eating disorder affecting many people right now is called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. 
  4. Anorexia typically begins at or just after puberty. Bulimia occurs in slightly older females, typically around 18. I developed bulimia-like behaviors at the age of 20.
  5. People in certain professions, such as dancers and models are more likely to develop eating disorders as compared to others. 
  6. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. In other words, you are more likely to die if you suffer from an eating disorder than if you suffer from depression.
  7. Pregnant women with eating disorders have a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes. Their babies are also at increased risk of developing neurological impairments and neuropsychiatric diseases.
  8. A “wait-and-see” approach to helping someone with an eating disorder does not help. It only delays recovery.
  9. Everyone fighting an eating disorder is brave. 

 

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NEDA Week 2016

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As Eating Disorders Awareness Week comes to an end, I am taking the last few hours of this day to think about how my life has changed ever since I entered recovery.

At age 17, I started dieting to lose weight. When the weight refused to come off I went to more extreme and unstable methods to drop the pounds. I would skip meals, cut out for groups, count calories and run for hours on end. I was scared to eat out, refused to eat sweets and choose salads for meals, only to return home later and binge.

At 20, I began purging and I started getting depressed. I did my best to maintain my grades – which I did – but I was slowly drowning. I’d wake promising myself I wouldn’t binge, but I’d fail. I hated the way my body looked and refused to dress in anything other than black. I hated taking pictures. I wanted to lose weight. I was scared of food.

At 21, I became suicidal. I knew I needed help, but I was afraid of telling my mother. At 21, you’re supposed to be young and free, living your life with adventures and milkshakes, laughing at your mistakes and falling in love and traveling with friends. You’re not supposed to be suicidal at 21.

At 22, I started going for therapy, saw a dietician and trying to turn my life around. My psychologist stayed with me for 1 year to help me work on my issues but unfortunately, my eating did not get any better.

At 23, I doubled up my efforts in recovering. I was going through heartbreak and in an effort to reinvent myself, I focused on becoming a better person. Instead of focusing on eating, I focused on mindfulness and discovered the meaning & importance of self-love.

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Every since then my eating has slowly improved. I immersed myself in the eating disorder recovery and body positive community for support and am slowly emerging from my self-created prison. I’m learning to reject the standards of beauty society has, surrounding myself with people who encourage and support me throughout my journey & working on embracing my body for what it is. I’m learning to define myself in more than just physical looks. I’m slowly finding my confidence, becoming the woman I want to be, becoming more experimental with my clothing and style to express myself because my low self-esteem and self-hatred prevented me from embracing my identity.

I’ve been recovering for 3 years now, and I am still recovering. I don’t know whether I will fully recover in the future and I’m scared to think that one day I will relapse, but I tell myself that no matter how hard it is I will keep going. I will try to embrace every bit of my body and imperfections because I do not ever wish to return to the girl I was 5 years ago. I’ve tasted freedom and I want it. Sure there are days when I choose to eat less because I felt bloated and disgusting, and yes there are days when I hate my body and want to curl under my blankets, and yes I have moments when I compare myself to other girls wishing I had her body and okay there are times when I choose to exercise because I wanted to lose weight to be skinnier. But that’s ok because no one said recovery was going to be easy.

I’m not perfect and all that matters at the end of the day is that I choose recovery over quitting. 

I’m not fully recovered, but everyday I do my best to be the best version I can be and do my best to stick to the habits that promote recovery instead of those that support my disorder because I am worth, and deserve to live a life free from an eating disorder. I am not meant to be dieting and starving and crying. Life is not meant try fitting into a small size, gain approval and validation from others, & comparing yourself to other people wishing you were taller, skinnier, leaner and/or prettier.

I don’t want to be spending the rest of my life worrying about whether or not I ate too much, whether I’m skinny enough and pretty enough, how much exercise I should do to burn off all those calories. Instead I am meant to spread my wings and fly to live my life, gain experiences, make the  mistakes I’m supposed to make in my 20s so I can look back and laugh til I cry, go on whirlwind adventures, fall in love, dance to my heart’s content, wear my favorite outfits without shame or embarrassment, watch sunsets, dance in the rain (yes I love doing that), watch cupcake tutorials without feeling guilt and eat exotic food.

I am not meant to be defined by my weight, my size or my physical appearance. I am more than that. Ever since embarking on recovery I have started defining myself by my strength, my loyalty, my determination, my sass, my passion and the love in my heart.

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To all those out there on the path of recovery – you are worth recovery. You deserve to live a fulfilled life and you deserve happiness. It will be challenging, it will be difficult, it will be effortful and it will be painful, but you will find strength from your struggles and you will realize that the person that emerges from the ashes is one who is awesome and who is powerful, and you will begin to wonder why you haven’t met him/her sooner, and you will want to continue seeing how much this person will grow and see who this person will finally become. 

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Choose recovery. Choose happiness. Choose acceptance. Choose self-love. Choose life. 

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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mental health issues aren’t something to laugh at.

There is no circumstance in which one’s mental health is a laughing matter, nor is there a circumstance when people should downplay what a man or woman has to say when he/she reveals that he/she is suffering from poor body image and/or an eating disorder.

How is it funny when one is so depressed that he actually wants to end his life?

How is it funny when a woman looks at herself in the mirror then goes to cut herself because she isn’t thin like she wants to be?

How is it funny when one panics about weight gain and immediately thinking of crash-dieting?

How is it funny when one starts obsessively checking his body and doesn’t want to leave the house until he/she is thin?

How is it funny when one struggles to stop himself from cutting which results in such mental distress that he starts crying and hating himself?

I don’t speak for all men and women suffering from eating disorders but there are hundreds and thousands of men and women around the world facing terrible self esteem and terrible body image woes.  Can someone tell me if what you read above was remotely funny? How would you feel if you were to do any of those actions day in and day out? Did you know that there are hundreds and thousands of people in the world doing just that?

I don’t really know what else to say to convey the significance of this issues at hand, but its not funny to hate yourself so much that you want to die.

To all the people who think we’re self-centered narcissistic, egoistic, self-loving, attention-seeking people, think again. We may look happy on the outside, but trust me, on the inside, things are crumbling and you have no idea how hard we work to rebuild ourselves.

anxieties about eating when traveling abroad

Wow so its been a while since I last did a proper blog post. In between job-hunting & experiencing a quarter-life crisis trying to figure my life out, I’ve been feeling pretty zoned out and just felt a need to take a break from what I do on social media with regards to body image and EDs.

A few days ago I was just looking through the photos I took during my solo trip to Japan (Kyoto, Osaka & Nara) and found some pictures of food that I took. I’m by no means those people on Instagram with the compulsive urge to take pictures of their food before eating it. I’m more of the “can we just eat already?” kind of person. Anyway, I had taken the photos because I knew that when I got back, I wanted to do a blog post about the anxieties I always experience whenever I travel abroad and eateng.

Every time before I travel I’m always plagued by these questions

  • What if I can’t find food that’s suitable for me?
  • What kind of food can I eat?
  • Will the food I’ve been eating be available there?
  • What if I get fat?

In ED recovery, there is a “routine” of sorts that you become familiar with that is really important in  recovery, especially in the early phases. After spending so long eating haphazardly and bouncing from not eating to full blown bingeing, its important to establish a proper eating routine to help your body get its natural appetite and rhythm back and help you learn how and when to eat. At home (Singapore), I’m familiar with what types of food I can get, and where I can get them. I’d stick to certain types of food and avoid foods that I know will trigger unhealthy thoughts. I make sure that I eat something balanced at every meal (proteins/carbs/veggies) instead of just proteins orchards because I know I will start panicking if I eat only from one food group. Routine helps ease my anxiety because the predictability of knowing and being able to plan what food I will eat helped ease my transition into longer-lasting recovery. Routine also gives me something to rely on. Whenever I have a slip and mess up my eating, be in through overeating or bingeing from, negative thoughts, stress or boredom, I tell myself to just calm down and make a mental note to go back to my “routine” of my regular eating patterns that I’ve been adhering to (e.g. balanced meals, drinking lots of water etc). Routine also means that sometimes when I just don’t feel comfortable with eating a certain food, especially when I eat out, I’ll fall back on something that I know is “safe” for me.

While routine has its benefits, it also has its consequences in the long run. In the long run, routine means that we don’t learn to break out of our comfort zone. We end up eating the same type of food from the same places at every meal and may actively reject food that doesn’t adhere to our routine. We can’t possibly do that the rest of our lives? Are we going to reject cake at a best friend’s party because its not part of our routine, even if its just for one day? Are we going to refuse to enter a cafe or restaurant because it doesn’t serve the exact type of food you want? One can become bored with routine after a while. We need to practice flexibility and be willing to explore different types of food once in a while

The first few months of my recovery I spent a long time creating my own routine. I made sure to drink water before and after each meal because I know that when I don’t feel full, I may end up bingeing like I would in the past. I try my best to make sure I eat a balanced meal each time I eat and at the same time so that I wouldn’t panic at eating only carbs or only protein.

Before going to Japan (and also before my three trips to the USA) however, I spent about a week worrying about food. I’d be facing a totally new environment. I wouldn’t be able to go to a coffeeshop and order from a menu that I know. I don’t know what kind of food there will be. What kind of food am I going to be able to get? What happens if I have a slip? What if the food makes me fat?

After days of frantic anxiety and introspection, I came to the simple conclusion: I am going on vacation people. The point of a vacation is to see & experience new things. I’m not going to bring my alter-ego Snix along for the ride. I want to breathe in fresh hair, struggle to communicate with the locals, get lost in alleyways, watch the sunsets & walk all over the city. I don’t want to spent hours on end agonizing over food. I don’t want to go to a new country and eat food that I can eat back home. Heck I want to be able to try the local food while I’m there. That’s what traveling is about. Agonizng about food just robs you of the amount of joy & enthusiasm you will experience while on vacation.

Of course being on vacation doesn’t mean you should put your recovery on hold and take this as an opportunity to overeat every day. Yes, I was still worried & I wanted to enjoy myself without so I made sure to apply my own principles that I learned while I was abroad that: (1) eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full, (2) whenever possible try to eat balanced meals & (3) know your trigger foods but be willing to try something new. 

For instance, I typically have toast for breakfast in the morning, but I didn’t want to have plain ol’ toast while in Japan. In Japan, green tea and red bean go together like peanut butter and jelly. So every morning for breakfast I’d eat a different type matcha green tea pastry filled with azuki beans, topped with eggs…well, because I like eggs. One day it’d be a green tea danish pastry with red bean paste, the next I’d have a green tea choux puff with azuki beans and the next I’d have a green tea croissant topped with almonds and azuki beans. Its still bread, but just a different type of bread I always eat. When I ordered soba noodles from a noodle stand on the streets after visiting the Bamboo Grove Forest, I ordered extra sides as I didn’t want to eat only the noodles & wanted something with protein to satisfy my appetite.

What also helped keep me distracted from my worries about eating was that I was kept really busy with sightseeing. I was always seeing new things and taking in new sights and just the awe & excitement at being able to see beautiful world heritage sights was enough to take my mind off from food. Why worry about something like food when you can have a visual feast on breathtaking gardens, historic temples & magnificent mountains and lakes? When you’re treated to magnificent views, food becomes irrelevant.

To those of you with fears about how to continue your recovery journey while on vacation, give yourself a break and allow yourself in try some of the local cuisine there because you can’t do that often when you’re back home! Not only will trying the local food give you bragging rights (you guys had borsch soup? Sweet, did I tell you I had authentic borsch soup while I was in Russia), it helps you break away from your comfort zone and learn how to be more flexible with your eating and add more variety and fun to your meals. You don’t have to try something new for every meal time if it will make you panic, but do make the effort to try something new for at least one of your meals.

It can be daunting and scary, but the key here is to not think about dieting. Think about how you started your recovery and what steps you did to get your eating back on track? Continue to apply those when you are choosing the foods you eat and when eating them. For me, it was to have a balanced meal (I need to have a good mix of both carbs and proteins in every meal now and will feel weird if I don’t), eat til I’m full and drink water.

Now now to address the elephant in the room: as for your fear of getting fat, unless you’re in a tour group where’ll you’ll be sitting in a tour bus, think of all the walking and running around you’ll be doing. Some of the best sights in a new town are only discovered by walking so put on your walking shoes and go walk around! You’ll be getting in tons of cardio by all that hours of walking. I admit I too was afraid about gaining weight when abroad because I most certainly am not going to go to the gym when in Japan. But I was walking just about everywhere I went. I mean literally almost everywhere I went –  except of course when I needed to take the trains to other parts of the city – as it was just too far. I was walking along busy streets, “accidentally” walking into back alleys, strolling long pathways next to lakes and flowers & climbing up hills and endless stairs. Moreover, buses don’t really run in temples, shrines and gardens so there was a lot of distance that I covered on foot and I got to see lots of amazing sights that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I took the bus.

Finally, please remember this crucial thing: you are abroad. It can be for leisure or business, but the fact is: you’re going to a different country! That’s an exciting thing for anybody and you shouldn’t let your fear of food get in the way of discovering new and exotic places! Sure it might take some planning and some effort, but you’ll definitely enjoy your experience more so go ahead, bring out that wanderlust and treat yourself ❤

And now…PICTURES

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This is a traditional Japanese food called Okonomiyaki. It was 8pm by the time I got back to the Kyoto Station area where my guesthouse was and I was starving and simply decided to just go to whatever happened to be open at the time. It was my first day then and hadn’t really the chance to look around at the food places. I came across this in the menu and was about to pass it up, but decided that since I was in Japan, it’d be silly to not try a traditional Japanese food. It came with a choice of fillings so I had this with pork though I didn’t particularly fancy it as it was more wheat than anything else. I ended up dipping it in mayonnaise for added oomph.

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THIS IS SOYA DONUTS AND I HAD THE CHOCOLATE ONE AND IT WAS SO GOOD I WISH THERE WERE SOYA DONUTS IN SINGAPORE. Its more chewy and more doughy than regular donuts & oh my Lord I love soya donuts & I actually smuggled one home in my lunchbox & now I wish I had bought more.

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Some places do have English menus, but in other places, they don’t.. My friend, Mika read the menu for me but in the end I told her to order whatever she thought we should have.

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So Mika brought me to a place that serves kushiage – fried food skewered onto a stick! We ordered the set meal & we had fried chicken, fried salmon, fried sweet potato, friend green beans & fried cheese. YES. Fried cheese. I’m not one for fried food, and knowing that we’d be having a lot of fried food for dinner freaked me out. I ended up removing about 70% of the batter and eating what was underneath!

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This is the fried cheese! I was expecting something else to be honest, but it turned out to be a slab of regular cheese coated in batter. But still so cool!

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According to Mika, this delightful thing is called “monaka” which is actually azuki bean filling sandwiched between wafer slices, but the kushiage bar that we went to served ice cream instead of azuki bean filling. I initially didn’t want it as I don’t usually have a full desert after dinner but I’m so glad I ate it in the end because it was so nice to be able to eat ice cream after not eating it in months. AND it was so good.

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I decided to go and have McDonald’s on my last night because I really wanted to see how different it is in Japan. If memory serves me right, the menu for the outlet I went to in Gion only displayed, 5 types of burgers. No fancy Big Macs or special kinds of burgers whatsoever. No double chickens or fishes whatsoever. It’d either be simple chicken, fish or beef with their own Japanese dressing. Plus, fries, corn and some dessert or another. I decided to have the chicken filet burger because Singapore’s McDonald’s don’t serve chicken burgers.

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THIS WAS MAGNIFICENT I’M SO GLAD I BOUGHT THIS EVEN THOUGH IT WAS 2 BUCKS. It a matcha danish pastry with azuki beans I bought from the food department in Isetan (favorite department ever). You know how some bakeries rip you off by putting only a little bit of filling inside and selling it to you? This was different. This was filled with azuki bean paste in in layered swirls and topped with matcha green tea powder and it was just beautiful.

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I WENT TO HOGWARTS (okay Universal Studios) AND HAD ME A CUPPA BUTTERBEER. It was perfect to counter the sun beating down on your back!

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This matcha green tea macaron i picked up in Nara was amazeballs.

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Matcha green tea ice cream. Oh god. I couldn’t stop. Again, I didn’t want to get ice cream but I decided to just sod it because I wanted to have matcha ice cream in Japan. The matcha flavor was fabulously intense.

Now feast your eyes on a vast array of other types of food I saw whilst trawling through the streets of Japan.

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Convenience stores do sell ready-made bubble tea for you! Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how long they’re kept in the fridges and how fresh it’ll be. I’m thinking they bring in new ones every day and toss out unsold ones but when I first saw them I thought it was such a neat concept!

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Every time I enter a convenience store I’d always end up spending 5-10 minutes just looking at their drinks.

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You will see ice cream stands like this all over Kyoto.

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Some stalls along the street served free tea! It was cold, wet and raining and I decided to abuse that privilege for 10 minutes to warm myself up. Oops.

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I wish I had bought one back home 😦 I’m not a fan of cake but I can be partial to cream & the cream filling inside is just tempting me, even right now.

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Bento boxes!

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I came across this stall selling these spiral fries! I didn’t buy them though because I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for a proper meal later as it was already lunchtime then but it looked really interesting!

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Japanese curry is my absolute favorite Japanese food. I’m just sad that I only saw this restaurant on my last night AFTER dinner and on the way home and I couldn’t get to eat try it. I did have Japanese curry at another place, and also again in Osaka with Mika BUT STILL.

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I came across this sight while in Osaka and was curious to find out what it was. When I edged closer, it turned out to be a line of  business workers eating soba while standing up. Yep. In Japan, there is “fast food” places called Tachigui Soba – in which you literally stand up and eat soba when you’re hungry and in a rush and have time for a quick meal. They are mostly in train stations that serve commuters. Its fast food, not because its fried food, or burgers or anything. Its because…standing up and eating the soba like that without the need to sit down and wait is quick and efficient.

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Green tea popcorn! I contemplated buying one carton but it was so expensive! It was $7 so I just stood around staring at it for like 5 minutes before walking away and commiserating with that green tea ice cream.

The subsequent pictures below are food items from Nishiki Food Market – a market place that’s famous in Kyoto for selling traditional Japanese food at cheaper prices. Fish, meat, octopus, Japanese sake, wine, plum juice, traditional crackers, squid, clogs. You name it. Some say you might even spot whale meat but I didn’t. I thought I saw the Kanji character for “whale” but it turned out to be eel instead.

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Quail egg stuffed in the head of an octopus. Yeah I’m not sure I feel about this.

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Dried food

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That’s all folks! Shall post more pictures from my Japan trip in the next blog post!

wise words to think about when you have a major slip in recovery

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2 days I went through something that triggered a range of thought patterns and behaviors that were most prominent on the height of my eating disorder 3 years ago when I was 21. Usually when I experience a trigger, I slip and I take 2 or 3 steps back in my recovery, but then I’m able to bounce back from it within the hour. This particular trigger however, was much more severe. I didn’t take any steps back. Rather, I fell into a bloody pithole and I’ve been struggling to get out of it ever since.

Sharks are pulling at me. My arms are flailing madly. My mind is overwhelmed.

I was criticizing my body. I was in distress. I was thinking that I needed to lose weight by the weekend. I started thinking of restricting and going on diets, wanting to exercise a lot more, and even contemplated taking diuretics. I was almost tempted to do so yesterday; I was staring at the bottle that’s being kept in the kitchen, playing with it. fiddling it and reading the pamphlet over and over again. After about 5 minutes I abandoned it and went back to my room to continue packing. What’s scarier was that I never took diuretics and/or laxatives during when I was severely struggling. Never. In the past I never dared take diuretics and or laxatives yet now here I was, just suddenly picking it up and wanting to consume them. I had wanted to get skinny so much yesterday that I went to a new extreme of wanting to consume diuretics / laxatives after my meals. This was a new behavior. Very new. I myself was so surprised at how easily the thought of taking it came to my mind.

What had happened to me? Why am I becoming like this? This isn’t me. I don’t know this person. 

I lay in bed at night with my heart racing. I was panicking and thinking of how fat I was. My body felt incredibly big and I didn’t like it. On the one hand, I was attempting to reason the ED voice, but the other, Snix told me to just screw it and do whatever I wanted to get skinny.

I went from practicing mindful eating and learning to love myself to suddenly wanting to starve and restrict, wanting to take laxatives, fearing feeling full and exercising as much as I can to get skinnier.

Something had seriously gone wrong.

I tried changing my thoughts and reading self-affirmations online. It didn’t work.

But so so so thankfully, my bestie said something this afternoon that struck a chord in me, and I want to share some of her words with all of you:

‘What do you think you’ll achieve if you indeed become as skinny as you wanted to be? What is this thing that’s so important to you? You are everything great too, dear. You’ve got a family, a healthy body, a great exercise regime, freedom to eat whatever you want and go dancing whenever you want, so many coo ass friends to chat with, a spiffy blog, a sense of humor etc etc. Why, I don’t understand, out of all these things, being skinny is important to you? Is there something else that’s really the problem?  Do you want other people to smile at you, hiding their fangs, telling you you’re sooooooooo skinny, sooooooo pretty, soooooooo enviable? Because I don’t think you do. I think you’re happy with what you have, but the Devils are telling you you need more when you really don’t. “

If you’re struggling right now, ponder over these words.

What is this thing that is so important to you?

self-comparison: celebrities vs. peers

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I’ve been going through this phase recently where I started wanting to become thin. Or rather, thinner than I currently am right now. I know what has brought this on, and I can sense the disconnect between two opposing forces. One that pulls in the direction of dieting to lose weight and be skinny, and another force pulling in the opposite direction that knows the possible consequences of such obsessive thinking about weight loss and ideals.

One of the reasons that boosted this increased desire to diet and exercise (and not in the healthiest of ways) to get a skinny body comes from self-comparison. I read a few fashion blogs once in a while, and the reason I read these particular blogs is because the fashion bloggers have a body type that is more or less similar to mine. They’re not thin/slim (like many fashion bloggers I see online), but they’re curvier (though not plus size) & its actually always nice to look at fashion blogs by curvier bloggers because its always nice to look at the fashion choices of girls with body types similar to yours. It serves as a guides of sorts that gives you an idea of how to pull styles off that are suitable for your body type & inspire you to  wear certain clothing types, especially clothing types you never really dared to wear because I always found my body too flawed to wear it, such as sleeveless tops in my case as I’m usually quite insecure about my arms to wear them.

We all know what that is, but I think that many of us don’t truly understand what it really entails. Self-comparison is the thief of joy; Don’t compare yourself to others because we all have different body types. When it comes to understanding what self-comparison really means, we take its definition and understanding at but face value.  

In my sophomore year of university I did an independent research project entitled “Is Facebook Making You Feel Fat? The Effects of Facebook on Body Image Satisfaction”. Its well documented that many individuals who view images of thin celebrities and models experience a range of negative effects such as a decrease in body satisfaction and increase in the desire to eat less and exercise more. With the popularity of social media usage in today’s society, I wanted to extend this above mentioned finding to discover whether exposure to a thin peer on Facebook will lead to a decrease in body satisfaction as well.

Anyway, we all know that when we compare ourselves to celebrities or models with desirable body types, we sometimes tend to get jealous of them because we know we can almost never look like them even if we gave in our 110%. Since when can we afford to hire personal chefs and fitness trainers to give us the top-knotch body that we’ve had our eye on anyway? I admit to comparing myself to media figures in the earlier days of my eating disorder, but I also compare myself to other role models; in other words, the model of comparison is people who are more similar to me – friends, the average woman on the street with a regular job who isn’t a celebrity, the women I see on social media.

The other woman. 

Its well known exposure to thin celebrities can potentially decrease body satisfaction, but its also argued, and empirically supported, that people can a bigger decrease in satisfaction when they see a peer with a thinner body than theirs. Psychology purports that while we compare ourselves to celebrities, we actually sometimes prefer to compare ourselves to our peers. Why? Because we’re not celebrities. Its like comparing pasta to pizza. Celebrities don’t lead the same lifestyles as us. We know we can’t almost like them because they can afford to attain the body that they have. They are a standard that we can’t really reach and so instead, we turn to someone who is more similar than us to evaluate ourselves because being on the same level as us means that they are a standard that we can, and in our minds should be able to reach up to.

Do any of you ever feel envious of your friends at times because he/she has a body shape that you don’t? Studies have found for instance, adolescents tended to compare their weight & height to their peers instead of to models and celebrities. Participants had reported feeling worse about their body when they saw pictures of a thin peer as compared to an overweight one. I’ve experienced this myself pretty often. Take these fashion bloggers for instance, when I see at some are skinnier than me, or bustier than me, I get jealous, because being of similar body shape and body size, I expected myself to be able to look more like them. But I couldn’t. If they lost weight, I felt even more worse, because if she can lose weight, then I should be able to, and must lose weight to, because in my mind, we are more or less the same.

Humans have a natural tendency to compare ourselves to others because the information we acquire from self-comparison allows us to evaluate ourselves and check for the need for improvement if necessary. We all the best for ourselves. So do I. When I see that someone I know has lost weight I get envious, because if she can lose weight, so can I. But I’m not losing weight. Its not just fashion bloggers. Even weight-loss success stories of peers and other non-celebrities that I read of on social media; I get more jealous of them than those of celebrities, because celebrities are just so dissimilar to me and I live in a world quite different from them. But my peers, and the average non-celebrity out there on the planet are also struggling to get in better shape the same way I am. If they can lose weight, why the hell can’t I?! This most definitely stems from my competitive and ambitious streak. I don’t just want to get better; I want to be the best. I want to help people, but I also want to be better. Is that a bad thing? Well, I suppose in instances like this, it can be a bad thing. Honestly though it doesn’t mean I’m a Regina George who wants to put other people down. It just means I have incredibly high expectations of myself that sometimes overwhelms me and take control of me.

I am starting to mistake self-comparison for inspiration. 

Its not necessarily a bad thing, but when it starts to become overwhelming and motivate you to be skinny to be better and compels you to start thinking about unhealthy things such as crash-dieting, restricting and obsessive exercising, then something is wrong.

 This is what’s happening to me & this is where I sit down and think to myself like I always do when my mind gets too overwhelmed and I’m trying to find reasons for my thoughts and behaviors.

Am I comparing myself to my peers and other regular women? Yes. Does it make me want to be skinny? Yes. Can you please remember that every woman’s body is different and that comparing yourself only makes you more anxious about your body and given your past tendencies of disordered eating, do you want to risk a relapse? No. Do you know all these negative thinking and considerations about crash-dieting are incredibly unkind to your body? Yes. So now what?

Now I just need to just redivert my energies and change my thought patterns whenever I start thinking these kinds of things and whenever I start comparing myself to others. Do I want to get skinnier? I’ll be honest, a part of me does want to. But after going through recovery for a year, I’ve become smarter and stronger enough to know that I shouldn’t turn to all the negative things I did to my body. I need to continue to learn how to learn myself while becoming who I want to be. Its more important to be healthy than it is to be skinny. These women aren’t celebrities themselves but then they I have qualities & strengths that they don’t. If I start comparing myself to them, I’m just doing myself a disservice, disempowering myself even more AND making me feel even worse about myself.

Regardless of whether a person is a celebrity, a peer, a fashion blogger, a woman on the street, remember that everyone’s body type, metabolism and lifestyles are different & self-comparison is disempowering and robs you of your happiness & your individuality. The only thing I should be doing is focus on my own recovery & the only person that you should be better than, is the person that you were yesterday.

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