Meghan Trainor Part 1: what i think about her interview comments on “trying anorexia”

To those of you who aren’t entirely kept in the loop about this situation, Meghan Trainor has unceremoniously rattled some cages because she had made some comments about body positivity and anorexia in an interview with Entertainment Tonight which might not have been the most sensitive towards those struggling with eating disorders and body image issues. They say that pictures speak a thousand words, so in a nutshell, here was what went down:

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Question. Why would you “try” anorexia?

I agree with what Demi Lovato and many other angry individuals have had to say in response: that anorexia, or any other eating disorder for that matter, isn’t about strength. From this comment, Meghan glamorizes eating disorders such that eating disorders are something that require strength and willpower; something that not all people achieve; that only the strong, mighty and powerful will get because they have “what it takes” to get an eating disorder. In another strange perspective, the end goal is something that’s supposedly glamorous and worthy only of the strong. Like Thor and that unearthly hammer of his.

To those who took offense at Meghan’s comments. I understand. I really do.  When I read “tried being anorexic”, I was like ” What do you mean try anorexia. You can’t try anorexia. Anorexia is a lifestyle choice that SHOULDN’T be made at all in the first place. No one just wakes up one day and goes I think I should like to try surviving on 500 calories a day, weighing yourself obsessively and losing your hair and muscle mass? ” Anorexia can kill people. People can spend hours agonizing over whether an apple will make them gain weight, exercise excessively, weigh their food, cut out entire food groups and count calories. You don’t just try anorexia. It is not a dietary option. 

But then I thought, does she even know what it means to have anorexia? Where did she get her information from? Where does her current perceptions of anorexia and eating disorder come from?

She’s actually not the only one…

 You know, I myself made a silly comment once by saying something along the lines of “if you were strong enough to restrict your food intake, then you are strong enough to fight for eating disorder”. Clearly I didn’t know that the word “strength” was inappropriate in that particular context even though I myself was restricting and bingeing.  I thought I was helping others and frankly speaking, didn’t really think my words through because what was on the forefront of my mind was wanting to help somebody. Plus, I was just fresh into recovery myself. I didn’t understand what was happening with me, let along any other eating disorders for that matter.

You know what I think? I think that Meghan probably did have good intentions when she made that comment; intentions that just came out sounding wrong because she, like so many other people, just don’t fully understand what it means to have an eating disorder. They know that an eating disorder is awful, but just don’t know how ago about telling it to another person because they’ve never personally experienced it.

When I started becoming slightly more open about my eating disorder and relayed my experiences to some people, I’ve had some them tell me “Whoa, I can’t be like you, I’ve never really had the willpower to go on an extreme diet like that. Not strong enough”. Seriously. They likened going on an extreme diet to willpower and strength. But I didn’t get offended at that. How could I, when I knew that they really didn’t mean it because they don’t understand something they’ve never personally been through? Well sure you need willpower to go on a diet, but not willpower and strength for anorexia or other eating disorders for that matter. The outstanding difference between the former and the latter is that in the former, you can stop dieting anytime you want, and diets as we all know, are prone to failure. People go on diets almost all the time and they give up almost all the time as well. When they reach their goal, they either stop dieting, or maintain their goal weight by sustaining their diet but less than before. When they don’t reach their goal weight or lose motivation, they just give the diet & go back being happier than surviving on salads but hold the mayo thanks. But eating disorders? It can be addictive. You don’t just stop being anorexic like you stop dieting. Its more than the visceral. Its the mental. People with eating disorders tend to have distorted perceptions about their body. They believe their bodies to be wrong and ugly and needs to be changed. Its about control and perfectionism and the need to coform to a particular standard of beauty than it is about health. People can die from anorexia mind you.

Like many people, their understand of eating disorders come from the media: movies and Hollywood and the like. We read about celebrities struggling with anorexia and bulimia and other forms of disordered eating and we read their accounts of their ordeals and the changes their bodies go through. We read about Mary-Kate Olsen telling us her scary diet she was on & we’ve seen Nicole Richie’s skeletal frame in a bikini. On the surface, we know what involves and will list off things such as “severely underweight”, “think that they are severely overweight when they are actually very thin”, but many of us tend to take it at face value as opposed to truly grasping its meaning. Just like myself and my understanding of gambling addiction. I know the symptoms. I studied abnormal psychology and studied the DSM. I can tell you what is symptomatic of anxiety disorder, but I will not ever truly understand the impulse that comes with it. I won’t ever truly understand the anxieties they feel when they don’t gamble. I won’t ever fully understand why they break therir promise of not going gambling ever again. I won’t ever fully grasp their thought processes. I am not them, and they are not me.

One won’t ever fully understand the journey of another person, unless you are walking on the same path. 

That’s why Demi Lovato is a role model for so many people struggling with eating disorders, self harm and body image issues. She’s been there. She knows what we are going through. She can find words the things we don’t know how to express. But Meghan? Probably not so much. Which is why even though Meghan sings about body confidence, I’d rather turn to Demi because the girl gets me. And I her.

So back to Meghan

Neither you nor I know Meghan personally. I don’t know the extent of her disordered eating or the extent to which she attempted eating disorder. As of now I do know she doesn’t completely understand the complexities of eating disorders as much as other people who’ve struggled with it for years, who’ve read up lots about it, who’ve shared their personal stories, who know how to speak about it & approach sensitive issues because they’ve been speaking about it for a long time to others. Miss Trainor’s been on the scene a few good months and I don’t know this for sure, I highly suspect that she wasn’t fully prepared for this interview and probably might not have bargained on sharing a lot of details about her personal life, including the “trying out anorexia” bit. So in all honesty, she probably just should have just kept quiet about EDs because she clearly isn’t sufficiently educated about eating disorders to make a comment. I mean its pretty straightforward. If you know nada about an issue, then don’t comment on it, or throw in a disclaimer: “I don’t claim to know much about eating disorders” or ” I’ve never had an eating disorder so if my comments offend anybody, forgive me.” etc. Communication skills, girl. Communication.

So why is she getting so much flak when she’s not the only one?

For the record, Meghan isn’t the only celebrity who actually said she tried being anorexic:

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That’s right people that’s Kat Dennings.

She’s our feisty Max Black in 2 Broke Girls and she herself had said that she had “tried being anorexic for 4 hours” before needing some bagels in her interview with Philadelphia back in 08’ which you can read here. I tried Googling to see I there was the same kind of public outcry that Meghan is now receiving, but I didn’t. No blog posts, none on message boards. Her’s quotes been immortalized on Pinterst and Tumblr though. So why Meghan and not Kat? Why didn’t anyone glitter bomb and throw roaches at her? I don’t really know. My guess is back in 2008, she wasn’t a very well known celebrity, and campaigns for body positivity and eating disorder weren’t the rage and nobody really paid any attention to mental health and body love. That is until celebrities started singing about it. Mary Lambert and Selena Gomez and Colbie Caillat and John Legend and Nicki Minaj all started singing about being beautiful and embracing your beauty and curves and all your imperfections. Only then did the world start paying more attention to self-love and our distorted perceptions of beauty.

Meghan sung a song about body positivity which has gotten super popular and she’s got many people loving her right now. She’s a media figure. A public role model for everyone everywhere. Her songs are playing everywhere. On the radio, in the supermarkets, even in my gym. Everyone’s just listening to what she has to say. And sing too. Her words are in the spotlight and because of her role as a celebrity, this means whatever she discusses and sings will be scrutinized and/or taken as inspiration. My own momma herself called me stupid for getting an eating disorder and commented that only stupid girls get eating disorders because they only care about themselves, but since she’s not a global media icon, her words went unnoticed except by me. So unlike my mum, Meghan has to be extra careful and sensitive about the things she says and sings about because everyone is listening.

So what now?

Well I don’t really know what now, but based on the comments I’ve read on message boards, blogs, Twitter & Instagram, you have people who continue seeing her as a role model, people who request that she retract her statement & issue an apology for her comments, & also people who just don’t care about her. My opinion? Like I said, she probably shouldn’t have said anything about eating disorders to begin with since she hasn’t a clue about the intricacies of eating disorders. But let’s also throw in some sympthaty and think about the fact that she was affected enough to actually not want to not eat to lose weight. She’s similar to many of us who are struggling with body image issues and eating disorders. She just hasn’t a clue how to go about discussing it. So I suppose an apology or a clarification would be sufficient to appease our angry souls. We want her to admit she’s been careless with her remarks and promise to never cast eating disorders in such a casual “oh let’s give this a shot its like a challenge” manner. You know, when I’m told, or hear of comments about body image and/or eating disorders that are just a little misguided, I post something like this:

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Yeah so follow me on Instagram too ? 😀 😀 

 So, maybe Meghan could do just that. Selena Gomez does it. When the media glamorizes eating disorders or focuses on unrealistic beauty standards, she tweets informational things or posts motivational messages on Instagram. Awareness & education are key, ladies and gentlemen. In the mealtimes, hating on Meghan won’t really do anything really. Sure, you can boycott her music but let’s give just a teeny bit more time and see how her approach to issues body image and eating disorders to develop. People make offhand comments without meaning to so all right I do think it’d be appropriate that she issue an apology; a clarification of sorts to explain herself because after all, she still is somewhat glamorizing eating disorders and making them out to be a fad diet with no negative repercussions.

If she continues making the same crazy remarks of anorexia as some diet fad, then by all means, I’ll join you in sending her cockroaches in her mailbox and glitter bombing her. You and I are aware of it, but we can’t be sure of other women, men & young adolescents and children who are unfamiliar with eating disorders & eventually end up thinking that eating disorders as “something that you can try”, only to find out that “trying” to eat ice and vegetables was just what it took to set the path for more disordered eating in the future. Meghan, honey, if you ever read this, and the other blog posts out there discussing this, you might want to do something about it.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know.

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on fear of fullness

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With anything in life, recovering from ED comes with its own fears, and recently I’ve experienced a type of fear that I’ve not really had before that’s made me question the types of thinking I still hold on to that impede recovery.

I love running. And dancing. And basically physical activity that makes me sweat. I like working out, period. And obviously when you work out, you need more energy to be able to work out. And more energy means you might need to eat just a bit more to give your body the energy it needs to move.

Recently however after eating I started becoming scared of feeling full.  It makes me think like I’ve done something wrong and that this will impede recovery. I start panicking. Additionally, I almost immediately start thinking that I’ve eaten too much, and you know what that sometimes can lead to. For me, it led to thoughts like “I’ve eaten too much this isn’t good” or “oh I’ve eaten too much I’ve failed I might as well as stuff my face since it won’t make a difference anyway“. The feelings of anxiety and guilt start settling in like unwelcome house guests and I start thinking of whether or not I should work out extra hard the next day just so i can alleviate my guilt.

I spent the next few days in introspection, assessing my thoughts and emotions and why I was thinking and feeling the way I did, and I suppose still do. And I came to this conclusion: my body is signaling for food but my mind is ignoring this call. On the days that I start to run and work out more intensively (e.g. going for spinning classes oh my goodness have you tried that?), I start to eat more, but I am somehow refusing to give in to this physical need.

Why

It seems that I am holding on a somewhat inflexible thought: that my body by right needs a certain amount of food and I’ve been consuming that particular amount since I started mindful eating. It’s as though I’m (not deliberately of course), keeping a mental log book of the amount of food I’ve consumed as I practice mindful eating and telling me that I should keep to eating this amount of food. So as I begin to run more and my body demands more energy, my mind rejects it.

I know I know. This completely goes against mindful eating because one of the principle notions of mindful eating that I’ve been trying to follow is to eat when you experience hunger and stop when full yet here I am, displaying such erratically contradicting behavior and not even wanting to eat despite my body’s call for food.

I think this happens because some part of my mind is maybe holding on on to the thought that eating more food will make me gain weight, and that is something that my alter-ego simply wouldn’t allow. After all, she’s been in control for the last 6 years and even in recovery, there are times when she sneaks in and calls the shots and makes me question why I’m even eating in the first place. She’s terrified that I’d gain weight.

I won’t lie to you and tell you just because I’m in recovery means I’ve totally abandoned all thoughts of wanting to be thin. Here’s my deal: I work out not because it makes me feel more active, but I do also want to be slimmer. The only difference between the old me, and the present me is that the old me was completely bent on being skinny. Exercise served only one purpose. Her self-worth was defined only by her weight and body shape. The present me is, however, understanding that there is more to her life than body weight and she no longer wishes to be trapped by the mentality that being thin will make you the happiest woman on Earth. Exercise now serves more than that one purpose and she exercise less to be skinny and more to be strong.

I’ve always been talking about my journey with mindful eating and how it played a  helped me regulate my eating and hunger signals at the beginning of last year. I don’t always practice what I preach in the most perfect of ways; I go through ups and downs and am trying to find the right balance that works for me. But ultimately, if your body is signaling hunger, then feed it. You don’t need to experience anxiety, panic or guilt when you feel hunger because it means your body needs to eat for energy. And that’s normal for everyone.

 I think one of the things that can help if you see food as fuel instead of fat. If you don’t eat, obviously your body will start breaking down because you’re not giving it the energy it needs to function properly. If you see food as fat, you’ll start avoiding it and fear feeling hunger. Probably another thing that will help is to actually acknowledge that there is a change in your lifestyle which requires that you consume more energy. I’ve probably been denying that I need to consume more food even though I work out more on some days. And one more thing that just crossed my mind, eat instead of diet. When you think about dieting – or at least when I do – I think of cutting out calories and eating less and eating a specific way. When you diet, your end goal is mind is to be thin. When you eat, you allow your body to eat whatever it needs. When you eat, the end goal is nourishment and satisfaction. Focus on the latter instead and you’ll think less about dieting.

Recovery means learning to trust your body, so learn to listen to your body because it knows what it needs. We don’t act what it tells us right, because for so long we’ve been listening to our ED instead. But the important thing is that you’re making an effort to create change and that’s already something.

Have you experienced a fear of hunger or fullness, and if so how did you go about changing that? 

(too) clean eating

Last week for a few days I’ve been noticing a pattern. I’d eat regularly as I always do, but then at the end of the day, I find myself just wanting to have something sweet. Now that pretty much sounds normal, to end of the day with something sweet. But this was different. I didn’t just want it. I needed it. Badly. A craving for sugar would come and I’d ignore it for a while, but then give it and allow myself something sweet. Usually I go for chocolate or Ben and Jerry’s because that’s the only sweet thing available in the house. However the thing was even though I had already let myself have that something sweet, I needed more. Like more of it. And I couldn’t stop thinking about just wanting to have all the ice cream in the world and just continued sitting in the kitchen and having that ice cream and the next thing I know, I had finished half almost half the carton of ice cream. 

Bugger.

This happened again on another 2 separate occasions. I’d eat as per usual, but by the time I’ve showered after my evening run I find myself battling this strange craving for something sweet. I’d fight it for a while, but then I gave it and go back to the kitchen for the same carton of ice cream and smother my tastebuds with that sweet relief until I’d say only a few spoonfuls of that milky goodness was left pooling at the bottom. 

And I just didn’t know what was going on. I was so confused. I was eating normally and running as per normal so why was it that I started battling the urge to eat more at night. It was only when I lay in bed at night and reviewing what I ate and did during those couple of days that I realized something. All throughout day, I had been doing nothing but clean eating. No sweets, no sugar, no cookies, no ice cream, no nothing. I had almost completely cut off sugar from my eating during these 3 days and eating, as much and best as I can”, whole unprocessed foods – wholemeal bread, tuna, chicken, fish, peanut butter, broccoli etc, though with the exception of rice as its a staple in the Asian diet. I’ve been eating very clean without eating a single cookie or chocolate during these 3 days. 

I suspect that in my zealous pursuit to become healthy and get my eating habits back on track, I might have taken it a little bit too far, focusing only on clean eating and cutting out sugar in its entirety without realizing that doing so might have led my body to become deprived of energy. These 3 days I became so dedicated to healthy eating that I forgot that doing the exact same thing in the past had contributed to my obsessive behavior with rigid dieting, cutting out food groups and punishing myself every single time I had a slip up. 

First of all, I really do need to take a step back and congratulate myself on actually not punishing myself for eating all that ice-cream because I know that 3 years ago, I would probably hastily made my outside and run for 2 hours for even start a torturous round of fasting the next day to balance out the calories. Well OF COURSE I felt guilty for eating all that ice cream and OF COURSE I started panicking a little and questioning where and why I went wrong. But it was only after I reassessed what I had eaten during the day that I realized that okay maybe I had been too strict and obsessive with eating clean because I wanted to eat right and not eat junk food the way I did when I was struggling loads with my ED. I couldn’t really do anything about that ice cream anymore could I? So I just went for a long walk round the block, came home, read Harry Potter and went to bed determined to start afresh the next day. 

And it was better. I allowed myself sugar during the day, ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full and also allowed myself Ferrero Rocher at night. Never once during the day did I obsess about sugar and cravings. 

I’m sure some of you going through recovery have been through this. In your quest to relinquish your bad habits of overeating junk food or for those not going through an ED/recovery and simply wanting to clean up your diet and reduce sugar from your diet, there’d be times when you pushed it just a tad too far – eating nice and clean the entire day, feeling extremely pleased with yourself and going “Yeah this isn’t so bad I can do this healthy clean eating thing for days” and the next thing you know, you’re scoffing down cheese fries and a bacon cheeseburger and wondering where in the world you went wrong before vowing to start over the next day, only to find yourself making the same mistake again in the week.  

I’m no nutritionist and I’ve no clue how body cells work in response to the food we eat, but I suppose this is what happens when we start a phase of eating “too clean” and not allowing ourselves a little sugar in our diets. We become rigid in our thinking and are determined to only eat certain foods that are whole and unprocessed: brown bread and rice, lean chicken and fish, low fat milk, salads and hold the sauce please but I’ll just have one piece of crouton thanks. No cookies, no chocolates, no muffins, no ice cream, no dessert. Nada. You become so conscious of the food you way that you reject foods that don’t fit into what constitutes clean and healthy eating. As humans we’re programmed to enjoy the taste of sweet foods and sugar cravings are a natural thing to experience and so when we ignore our cravings for far too long, we end up binging on the sweet stuff that we’ve been ignoring. 

And that’s what happened to me. A fair number of times I should say before I realized how my restrictive eating was contributing to this problem. I didn’t allow myself a treat when my body craved it. If you’re a Harry Potter junkie like I am, think of it as a Howler – if you don’t open it soon, it explodes. Similar principle: the more you try to control the craving and your body, your body will rebel. 

Such experiences always bring me back to the one important principle my online ED support group told me: always listen to your body because it knows what it needsThere is nothing wrong with having ice cream and chocolate but to cut it out completely from your diet and remaining determined to eat only certain types of foods instead of eating flexibly can be harmful, both physically and mentally. In the long run and if taken to the limit, your body might start breaking down due to its receiving nutrients from a restricted set of foods,  you start developing rigid and obsessive thinking patterns (e.g. I can’t eat this, I can only eat that) and it might also impinge upon your lifestyle (e.g. unable to eat out without worrying about whether a restaurant serves food that you deem acceptable). Its really a very real thing and really incredibly scary because I myself have been through that – eating only brown bread and maybe potatoes but not rice, only chicken and fish but not beef and pork, only salads without dressing. I didn’t like going out to eat because I hated how I couldn’t predict what foods a cafe would serve and it was a hassle to have to look at a menu online and decide I would only eat the rice and chicken when what I really could try was a creamy pasta even though I’m not a fan of pasta but I had deprived myself of creamy sauces for so long that I just wanted to taste it again.

At the end of the day, your body knows what it needs to eat. You can’t be on a diet forever because you’ll end up miserable. Its all part of mindful eating. Listen to your body because it knows what and when it needs to eat. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re full stop. Eat chocolate and sweets if you want, but keep it in moderation (though I sometimes I find hard to do that) and if you end up overeating. Don’t punish yourself. Drink tea and go for a long walk and start again tomorrow. 

It takes effort to do something like that I know especially because you’ve been eating in disordered patterns for so long, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t get results if you’re not willing to put in the effort to changing your habits. Tell yourself that you are stronger than your old habits, and you are. If you’ve had your share of sugar and find yourself wanting more, get up and walk away instead of giving in again and again. 

You can do it, you may encounter setbacks but you will get up again and you will try again.

You will make it. 

We will all.

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Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 (Feb 23 – Mar 1)

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Am doing another post for Eating Disorders Awareness Week, this time its one hosted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the USA (the last one I did was the week for Canda) and the theme that NEDA has for this week is “I Did Not Know”. On social media, individuals are encouraged to post anything about eating disorders, from facts to struggles during recovery to their personal triumphs over their eating disorders to raise awareness about what the mental illness is and the damage it can bring to one’s physical, mental and emotional health.

For this post I thought I’d take a leaf out of many people’s books and share with you a list of things that I myself, based on my personal journey with my eating disorder, did not know about eating disorders. I do believe that some people are under the impression that people who develop eating disorders did so out of choice because he/she wanted to achieve only a certain type of body

She wanted to be skinny so its her fault she got an eating disorder. That’s all she can think about: getting thin, so she has no one to blame but herself. Look at how skinny or how fat she’s become from starving/binging, that’s what you get when you start dieting. She should have known. She could have stopped dieting but she chose not to. That’s what you get when you’re obsessed and self-centered. 

Eating disorders don’t develop out of choice. I most certainly did not wake up one fine merry morning and go “Oh let’s get an eating disorder today, that should be jolly fun” or “Let’s get thin today, and never mind that I’ll lose my hair or lose my muscle mass or develop ulcers or start thinking about suicide” Yes, in my mind, I had a goal of becoming thin, but I most certainly did not bargain for my behaviors to spiral dangerously out of control due to my dissatisfaction with my body that was compounded by my lack of knowledge of the dangers of extreme dieting, the idealization of thin women in society and

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I DID NOT KNOW THAT…

  • What started out as an introduction to meal replacement drinks would start my eating disorder journey
  • I would no longer look at food something to enjoy, but something to fear and even detest.
  • I would start obsessively counting calories and punishing myself by not eating the next day if I exceeded my self-imposed limit of 1400 calories a day.
  • My hair would fall out in clumps and would never grow back the same way again.
  • I would develop ulcers on my lips
  • I would start “diet-hopping”
  • Losing 5kg in a matter of a week wasn’t equivalent to fat loss, but muscle loss.
  • I would become so secretive with my eating
  • I would no longer be able to identify what feeling hungry meant.
  • Loving, hating and feeling scared of eating was a feeling that actually existed
  • I would never eat another single burger for 7 years.
  • I would hate looking at my reflection
  • Binging would bring me comfort.
  • Self-harm would become a coping mechanism
  • My menstrual cycle would be irregular for approximately 4 years.
  • My love for dance would be sacrificed
  • Drink diet coke all day just to feel full
  • I would become addicted to exercise
  • “Normal eating” no longer meant anything to me
  • I would start to abuse laxatives
  • I would develop depressive thoughts when I entered college.
  • I would develop suicidal thoughts in my sophomore year and see death as the only way out of suffering
  • I would develop a self-imposed curfew to get home by 9pm just so I could go running because if I missed a day’s workout, I would start getting anxious.

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I’m 101% positive and if you ask anyone on the street, whether they’d choose to endure any of the above, even for a few days, they’d give you a resounding “no” in your face. All these physical, emotional and mental consequences were outcomes that I did not bargain for nor expect. I went from a confident carefree girl to an insecure and crumbling mess of a person who had no idea how to navigate her way through life and who actually thought that what was happening to her was a phase that would pass without incident if she “just went back to normal eating”. Sort of like the awkward phases of puberty – you have to do your time with the acne, the braces and the social awkwardness before you emerge out of it into a better person. Only it wasn’t. It persisted for a long time and I was just about ready to give up.

I think I understand why people don’t treat eating disorders as seriously as they do with other conditions, such as depression. Its to do with eating, something that’s a normal process in people’s life. Just eat normally. I know that. But its hard to do that when you’ve lived a long time restricting and bingeing and reading up on ways to lose weight by eating all sorts of strange foods at odd hours. Normal is relative, and its hard for people to believe that something as normal and simple and innocent as eating can be so harmful. There is nothing glamorous about eating disorders. We don’t end up looking like Hollywood actresses. This is the price many of us pay.

I’m not fully recovered. I still struggle with normal eating at times. I battle fears and anxieties with food and a part of me still wishes I were thinner. But I’m still fighting.

It’ll take a longer time for society to fully grasp the seriousness and ramifications of what an eating disorder really is. I can’t possible change the mindsets of everyone but I hope that every little thing I do in my way contributes to raising awareness and increasing understanding in what other people as to what really happens when one person experiences an eating disorder because we are such misunderstood people. Its not just about eating. It extends into your health, your emotions, your happiness and your lifestyle. Eating disorders rob a person of that and here’s hoping that this post will be one of the many that will change your “I Did Not Know” to “I Now Know” or ” I Now Have a Better Understanding”

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Thoughts? To those going through an eating disorder and/or recovery or if you’re an advocate for raising awareness about the dangers of eating disorders, join the online community and share your stories or facts about ED and recovery on social media! I’d love to see them.

Enjoy the weekend guys!

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  Here are some videos that I’ve been watching over and over again the past couple of days:

I must have watched this trailer at least 10 times and I don’t know what it is about the storyline that attracts me but I definitely am catching this when it gets released AND HOLY SMOKES THE GUY PLAYING YOUNG HARRISON FORD – THE BOY ON THE BIKE. THOSE CHEEKBONES.

ADELE IS PERFECT END OF STORY I WANT HER AS MY CELEBRITY BEST FRIEND.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015 (1st – 7th Feb)

So this week (1-7 Feb) is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and the primary aim of it involves raising awareness and understanding of eating disorders. I initially thought of writing a piece to raise awareness about eating disorders for the purpose of education with a “coming-out” piece. Or rather, the “ED story” in which I tell you all the details about my eating disorder, starting from what I believed started it, to the disordered eating patterns I engaged in, to how I am faring during recovery. But I decided not to because (a) I still don’t feel fully comfortable with that and (b) I thought of providing a different perspective to help raise awareness and understanding by providing but brief snippets of what I personally went through. The questions below are, again, taken from the 30 Day We Bite Back Challenge organized by @webiteback on social media that I think paint a picture of what my journey was like since recovery. As I mentioned before, this post doesn’t speak for every other person struggling with an eating disorder, going through recovery or have recovered. This is but my way to help raise awareness about eating disorders by showing you a brief snippet about the experiences of a 24 year old girl to hopefully, help you understand what people who are going through/have gone through an eating disorder and the recovery journey a little better.

What motivates you to recover?

Reflecting on the life I had during the height of my ED days. I was depressed and shit-miserable and incredibly obsessive. I was jumping from counting calories to cutting out food groups to just fasting the entire day then bingeing at the end of the day, followed hours of running. I once ran for 3 hours nonstop after what I believed to be a binge and it was perhaps the best and worst feeling in my entire life. I remember crying in bed after that. Trust me, you don’t want to be doing that. It takes time and energy away from other things you could be doing, like dancing and going out with friends and doing all the fun stuff you should be doing when you’re 20.

Does your family support your recovery? How do they help or hurt your efforts to recover?

The only people in my family who know about my eating disorder are my mum and maternal aunt. In fact, the first relative I told to was my aunt who isn’t even living in Singapore, but in the UK and she was the one who offered to tell my mother on my behalf. My mum then told me she would bring me to see the clinic for help via text message. Yeah you heard me right. A friggin’ text message. But that’s actually how my family works. We’re not that close. We don’t talk. We text.  My mum wasn’t very supportive of me in the early phase of recovery actually. She believed me to be seeking attention and after our first argument, I truly believed her to be disappointed that I turned out to be like my big sister, who also was sent to a therapist for her anorexic-tendencies. I think she was hoping that I would turn out to be the “better” daughter.  It kind of sucks to keep your recovery and ED a secret from your family but I’m used to not relying on my parents when it comes to such personal matters. They didn’t know I was depressed, didn’t know I was cutting, nor did they suspect that I might have an eating disorder because I managed to hide it so well. I went to my first consultation with the psychiatrist with my mum but she left even before I got to see her because she had to go pick up my brother from school. So…yeah.

Do you have a turning point or a certain moment that made you decide to want to recover? Or was it a decision that happened over a long period of time?

Being suicidal. I was at the lowest point in my life and really believed that if I didn’t end this on my own terms, then my ED would. My weight was fluctuating like crazy, I stopped indulging in my favorite hobbies, I had mouth ulcers, I was depressed, my hair was falling, I was losing muscle mass, my concentration was badly affected and I feared my grades would be affected and I no longer knew being hungry felt like anymore. When I realized I didn’t have the courage to take the next step, I decided that it was either going forward with my plan or getting better and since I had already backed out the former, the only option left was to go for choose the latter.

What part of your eating disorder is hardest for you to overcome or let go of right now?

Still wanting to be thin instead of being healthy. Its not as intense as before, but its definetely a significant factor in my ED that affects the recovery process. I admit that there’s still a tiny part of me that still wants me to be a certain body shape and body size, that there are times when I feel too big for my skin and start thinking that I need to eat less and exercise more. Am I the only one in recovery still holding on to this kind of thought?

What are some things your eating disorder has taken away from you? 

  • Dance. With the amount of time I spent starving and bingeing, I would sometimes skip dance lessons just so I could go jogging to burn off whatever I ate. Yes, dance is a form of cardio, but I didn’t want people to see me in the body I had. During dance practice and lessons I had to look at myself in the mirror and all I could see what a big lump of mass moving very ungraciously on the floor. I hated my physical appearance so much, and the fact that there were so many other dancers who were skinnier and leaner than me made me so self-conscious and made me feel unworthy of being a dancer. I felt like I didn’t have the right body to dance hip hop and street jazz and so I gave up dancing for 2 years at the age of 20. I did go back to dancing when I was 22 when I was in New York, but it was Latin dance instead of street dance since the school didn’t offer street dance. No regrets and its given me a new perspective on dance and I am fully intending to try and go back to the street jazz scene again this month.
  • My confidence. I was still a big girl even before I developed my ED, and some of them immature bratty boys made fun of how I wasn’t skinny like the other girls in my class. Here’s thing. It didn’t bother me at all. Not one friggin time did it bother me. It didn’t affect me and I honestly just let their comments slide. I wore whatever clothes I wanted without a heck in the world; I threw on sleeveless tops and shorts skirts and I didn’t even think about how my arms or calves looked like. I can’t begin to explain to you just how I did not care at all. All that came crashing down with my ED. I started hiding my body and crumbled at comments about my body. Even the slightest things like “you’ve got a curvier body” made me hate myself more because I wanted a thin body. I equated curvy with big, and that was something my mind refused to accept. I hated shopping for clothes and moped at how I couldn’t wear whatever I wanted without feeling like a big lump of mass and ended up living in jeans, shorts and dark colors. I wanted the world to notice me, but I wanted to disappear at the same time because I was ashamed of how I looked.

What do you want your life to look like when you’ve recovered?

  • Not obsessing about my body parts
  • “You look so beautiful!” instead of thinking “I wish I looked as beautiful as her”.
  • No longer be afraid of eating
  • Accept compliments without rejecting them and thinking that the person who said them is lying.
  • Not getting anxious should I miss a workout.
  • Eat that extra cup of Ben and Jerry’s and saying “f*** it” instead “no more ice cream for 2 weeks”
  • “My ass looks good in these jeans” instead of “I wish I had a bigger booty”
  • Smile and truly mean it
  • Like what I see in the mirror instead of avoiding it.
  • Carefree
  • Empowered
  • Self-confident
  • Self-accepting
  • Free
  • Secure.

What is something you learned about yourself in recovery? 

  • That what is killing me isn’t just my disordered eating patterns, but my desire for acceptance and approval from others & my desire to live up to a certain beauty standard.
  • That whatever negative thoughts that consume my mind will control me and therefore, I need to learn to change my thought processes – something which I never did before.
  • That my strength did not emerge from a particular conspicuous instant, but during repeated trials and failures during which a pattern emerged that revealed my determination and refusal to give up.
  • Putting myself first isn’t egotistical. Its necessary.
  • That I am a f****** fighter.

 

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Eating disorders claim the lives of many and its a disorder that isn’t just about wanting to be thin and pretty, but more about fighting inner demons everyday that tell us we aren’t beautiful. Yeah, everyone wants to be beautiful, but to have a voice in your head telling you that you are ugly and that you need to go on a diet for the rest of your life by counting calories and exercising hours and hours a day all day every day is definitely not what everybody goes through.

 

what scares me about my eating disorder and recovery

I realized I haven’t been talking a lot about my ED and my recovery experience, probably because I’m not sure exactly what to talk about and also because I’m not sure what my boundaries are or should be when it comes to talk about my eating disorder. I’ve written about my experiences with eating disorders in some previous posts, though they’re but brief snippets of the entire experience. I admit, as much as I would want to raise awareness about the perils and dangers of eating disorders, there is a part of me that is afraid to tell others exactly what are the disordered eating patterns I have gone through and/or am going through. As of now, only 2 or 3 friends, my therapist, psychiatrist and dietician know the nuts and bolts of my eating habits. I’ve actually also submitted an essay to a project on raising awareness of marginalized eating disorders in which I talk about a particular eating habit that I was, and I admit, still am a little embarrassed afraid shy (something) to talk about.

Anyway, I’m following an Instagram account called “@webiteback” and they are currently hosting this online campaign called “We Bite Back 30 Day Recovery Challenge” in which the @webiteback posts a  “challenge” or question for each day related to eating disorders/recovery and have IG users leave their answers with #wbbchallenge to facilitate interaction among the users and read each other’s responses. I’ve responded to quite a few on IG but I thought I could also share some of the challenges here on my blog to raise awareness on EDs as well.

So the challenge, or rather challenges –  since I wanted to talk about them both and found them both to be related – I picked out for this post is this:

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I picked this out because I think a lot of people assume that people going through eating disorders are scared about these few things: weight, body size and food. These 5 are I suppose, the ones that impact me most, though of course there are many other things I experience in my struggle that I’m afraid of but I thought I’d share the first few that really bothered me since Day 1. My answers don’t speak for others because as I always emphasize, each journey and circumstances is different, but I merely wanted to highlight that there are other types of fears that go deeper than just eating and physical appearances in an eating disorder.

That if I have children in the future, they might develop an eating disorder as well. Especially if I have daughters. There’s empirical evidence that eating disorders can be genetically inherited from family members, yet genes don’t always account for the incidence of disordered eating. Mothers are role models for their daughters and when they themselves disordered and/or unhealthy eating patterns (e.g. picking at food / skipping meals / unhealthy eating), daughters can unwittingly pick up these patterns, especially when they are at a young age. Of course I hope that 10 years from now my disordered eating patterns would have been suppressed to the bare minimum and no longer control my life, but the fear of one day going through an unexpected relapse going back to starving, bingeing and throwing up my food might affect my children’s relationship with food. I may not be a mother, but I definetely don’t know my own children to go through the same struggles I did because I cannot even begin to tell you the amount of physical and emotional pain I went through, and am still going through fighting my eating disorder. I don’t want my boys and girls growing up obsessively counting calories, cutting out entire food groups and think that if they should overeat one day, they will become fat the next day

InfertilityAccording to amount of research and reports I’ve read, there seems to be a link between eating disorders and a woman’s menstrual cycle. There isn’t a clear cut explanation but one speculation I’ve read is that dysfunctional eating wrecks your body’s metabolism and this results in suppression of normal functioning in the brain that releases hormones. Release of estrogen, needed for ovulation, therefore also becomes suppressed and therefore a women doesn’t ovulate and have her period. My own periods were oh-so incredibly irregular during the height of my eating disorder. I’d miss a period for 4 months, and after that miss it again for another 5 or 6 months. I always hear girls telling me how uncomfortable they feel when they were on their periods and I remember always sympathizing with them whenever they relay they discomfort and annoyance but the truth was, I wanted them to shut the hell up. I wanted to tell them that yes, your uterus is bleeding a crimson tide and yes, you get cramps but I sincerely hope you know that this means that your body is functioning normally and that your body is capable of releasing and egg and holding a baby. My period was irregular for 3 years and when my period didn’t come each month, I got so frustrated and upset and this only added to my worries that I’d have fertility issues in the long run. Yes, I want to be skinny but I still want to have a normal functioning reproductive system capable of creating and sustaining life.

RelapsePerhaps nothing frightens me more than the possibility that I might go back to the days of starving and bingeing and purging after my efforts and trying to recover. Now that I’m recovering and finding a life from my eating disorder, and also knowing what kind of a horrible life I had when I was struggling with my eating, I know that I definfelty don’t want to go back to the latter. I don’t want to lead a life of intense insecurity and fear where I count calories, cutting out carbohydrates, binge and then purge in shame, crying whenever I overate, surviving on liquid meals and once, even taking diet pills because I hated my body so much I resorted to doing that.  I was normal on the outside, but on the inside, it was a disgusting chaos. I’m frightened that I will experience a situation that may cause me to relapse. 

Changing my eating habits but still hating myself, especially my looks. I afraid that even though I’m eating better by not restricting and engaging in mindful eating, my mind will not accept my current body size and that I will still exhibit disordered thoughts about my body. Eating disorders and poor body image are not independent of each other mind you. For me, it was because I was disgusted at my body that I developed an eating disorder. I hated being a big girl and wanted to be as skinny as possible. I once went through 2 weeks of eating nothing but an apple and a ham sandwich 3 times a day. I lost so much weight but it came with terrible consequences. I lost muscle mass, my concentration was so affected that I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork and my hair was falling out. I remember being so frightened of combing my hair because I didn’t want to see how much hair I was losing. Thinking about this still makes my heart beat very fast because it was a traumatizing moment for me. Anyway, even now as I’m learning to engage in mindful eating, to not restrict myself and also not freak out when I overeat, I still have problems with accepting my body because I’m not skinny. As much as I preach about body diversity and acceptance, there is a part of me that is still fighting to embrace my current physical appearance and not succumb to the pressures of being thin. To recover from an ED is one thing. To fight body image demons is another thing as well, and til this day even though I am practicing mindful eating & reminding myself of the health consequences of restricting and bingeing, I still ook at some girls and think that I need to go and eat less and become thinner so I can have a better body (I’ll talk about this next time). The struggle is intense and I get so tired after it all. This is probably why I love sleep. Sometimes. You forget about struggles and problems after you wake up, or rather, it becomes minimized and it takes up less space in your mind and for some reason it doesn’t seem so bad after that 3 hour nap. So in a way this relates to relapse. I’m afraid that my disordered eating patterns will go away, but that my negative thinking patterns about my body and what is considered beautiful might lull me back to a “get-thin” induced disordered eating patterns again

That I will never get better and will live the rest of my life thinking about food and fearing weight gain. As much as I’m eating better now, I still have slips every now and then. And that sucks. Recovery doesn’t happen in a snap and you need time to alter eating habits that have taken years to develop, but sometimes I wonder how long I will need to come to the day when I no longer worry about food or whether eating this will make me gain weight or how much I should eat at a given point. I don’t want to be 30 years old and still getting anxious about little things, especially things like food when its supposed to bring joy and not worry and panic. I thought about this point for a long time and finally, I decided that I won’t worry too much about the future, because what’s more important is the effort I’m making to eat properly. Every positive action I take towards recovery minimizes the potential long-term effects in the future. Just like quitting smoking. Stop smoking for a week and your life expectancy increases by this much. Stop smoking for a month and it increases even more. Same with my own eating disorder. The more I engage in positive eating habits, the more I minimize the urge to engage in disordered eating. Sure, right now its still there, but its much less than before and occurs in times of really bad stress or when I really just didn’t eat enough during the day (oops). Focus on reovery on the present and spend less time worrying about what could go wrong is what I tell myself. And also, focus on the awesome kick-ass things I can do when disordered eating doesn’t rule my head and my life. 

What are your fears with regards to your eating disorder and/or recovery?

I’d want to end this post on a nicer note, but I’m too exhausted. So if you spotted any spelling or grammatical errors, sorry (not sorry). I had 3 hours of dance rehearsal today and yesterday and I am aching. One of the moves was so fast that my fingers smashed into my partner’s hand and the pain was so bad I thought I was going to pass out. The joint of my fourth finger hurts. Don’t be all “its only a finger” ERM. It is not JUST a finger. I can’t bend or straighten it fast without it aching which might be a problem because I need to use my hands a lot for salsa and bachata styling. Please please please let it be better by tomorrow morning because I still have rehearsals tomorrow please kay thanks.

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Went shopping for wedding dresses with my sister because she’ll be walking down the aisle! Apparently the dresses are “reserved” only for brides and so I wasn’t allowed to try on any dress. BUGGER.

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I’m actually okay with being an Asian woman without the supposed “hairless Asian skin” and that I’m oddly proud that I have US 8.5 / EU 39 size feet which is considered big in Asia, but no I wouldn’t want to have hips of a 9 year old boy actually.

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NOTICE DAT ABNORMAL RED SWELLING ON MY FINGER? I CAN’T STRAIGHTEN NOR BEND MY FINGERS WITHOUT A STABBING PAIN DO KIT KATS COUNT AS PAINKILLERS?

body image woes: commenting on weight loss doesn’t always make me feel better.

In the past few weeks that I’ve been out and about I’ve met people, both friends and family and I have received comments that I look different. More specifically they tell me I’ve lost weight: “Your face looks slimmer!”, “You look different!”, “You lost weight!”, “You look prettier!” etc etc. And there I’d go stammering away and mumbling “oh its just the eyeliner and the bronzer, I mean have you tried bronzer and blush? They do some pretty amazing things to your cheeks” or “Peplums are very forgiving”

Here’s the deal. I probably have lost a bit of weight although I wouldn’t know for sure because I haven’t weighed myself in the past 2 years ever since I started recovery in December 2012. I’m not in denial. Its more of a need to maintain my sanity and the fact that a number on the scale is definitely a trigger for me, considering how I used to obsessively weigh myself at least 5 times a day (kudos to successfully avoiding a trigger now). Since the start of last year where I’ve actually been able to practice better eating habits, mindful eating and understanding body positive mantras as I wasn’t in and out the country, I’ve been starving and bingeing less and my weight has stopped fluctuating, so the weight that I put on from my constant bingeing has probably fallen off from my face (which is a good thing though somehow the weight doesn’t seem to come off from my tummy) and my weight is currently more or less in a stable zone. However, it doesn’t mean that I’m still free from body insecurities.

I feel good when people ask if I’ve lost weight, I mean, people are noticing something different about you and come on, who doesn’t like receiving compliments? I don’t people to tell me I’m ugly, for Christ’s sake. “Oh my god Serene I haven’t seen you in so long, don’t you look just fabulously ugly?” That’s just lame. You know what I mean right. We all have self esteem needs and as much as people say we shouldn’t get validation from others, deep down in our yearning souls, our need for acceptance from others means that a little praise from them wouldn’t really hurt. We really do want some praise. Or at least, I know I do once in a while.

Anyway. Problem is, when I got home, I actually became a lot more conscious about my body. Like a lot. I know my body. I know that there is a little flab here and there that I wish could make its way to my boobs and my butt. There are still some parts of my body which I wish could look a little taller, a little leaner and little better though last year I’ve been learning to try and accept my body more and focus less on weight loss and more on getting my eating and hunger back on track. However, the fact that some people have actually noticed a change in me and that actually was enough for them to give positive comments was not only inherently rewarding, but also initiated a different set of thoughts. For instance:

1. “Oh my god now that people say my face looks slimmer. I better not gain any more weight and better stay at this size for good. “

2. Oh my god people say I look prettier since I “lost weight”. Does that mean that I was hugely fat years ago when they saw me? Jesus, I must have been fat and ugly back then! How fat was I then?! I can’t gain weight now. Gotta lose weight now!

3. Oh my god I still have flabby arms and a nonexistent ripped stomach. Those have GOT TO GO. UGH.  

 Here’s why many individuals with body image problems have low self esteem: in their minds, and also sometimes in my still-slightly-perfectionistic mind, somehow, losing weight = looking better = getting people’s attention = getting compliments = feeling like Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

Somehow, our weight is intricately entwined with our self esteem, and in a thin-obsessed society, losing weight equates to being beautiful. So when we receive compliments about weight loss, it reinforces the notion of “losing weight = look prettier” Its only natural that we want to continue receiving compliments. I guess for the average individual not overly plagued with body image woes and confident enough in their skins, they’d graciously accept the compliment. But not for someone like me who’s struggled with normal eating and body image problems since she was 16. That’s when the motivation for weight loss can become seriously out of control and all sorts of disordered thoughts and eating patterns manifest. Not good.

I’m not 100% recovered from my ED and/or body image issues. I still have days when I don’t engage in mindful eating, days when I (subjectively) binge and get incredibly anxious and start thinking about eating less and skipping meals, but I’m learning to overcome them. I don’t hate my body as much as before when I see pictures of thinner friends, but yes there are times when I would think about what I should do to lose more weight. And therefore in a way, as much as I try to practice loving my body more, I’m not 101% immune from such tendencies.

This experience actually came as a bit of shock and I wasn’t prepared for it. Its usually me gaining weight and trying to figure out ways to lose weight or trying to accept my body at its natural size, and also wondering why people don’t say I look pretty and getting jealous at my friends. But now having some people tell me I’ve lost weight and having these kinds of thinking come up really threw me off the edge and challenged me. I got a little freaked out and paranoid for a little quite a fair bit quite a reasonable amount a hell lot until finally I had to sit down and remind myself of my main objective: health, and not getting skinny to gain approval

I actually felt a need to maintain my current weight because I didn’t want the blow of accomplishing something, having gain recognition for it and then having it blow up in your face again. I guess for a few days I stopped wanting to get healthy to get my body back to pre-ED mode and instead wanted to lose weight to continue getting praise and feeling good about myself. But reality check came in when I started craving more food and thinking about food more and more and whether I should to shouldn’t eat this or that.

I guess it seems okay to ask: “have you lost weight?”, instead of “have you gained weight?” I mean hell I don’t want anybody to come up to me and ask if I’ve gained weight. The latter somehow just very insensitive and in society, weight loss equates to looking good while weight gain typically isn’t so, unless the person in question was seriously bone-thin and desperately in need of more meat on his/her bones. However, the fact remains that in society, weight loss is seen as something that is positive and recipient of praise and its kind of demoralizing to think that because of this, many women (and also men) have allowed themselves to equate being thin with beauty.

So in the end I asked whether I wanted to go back to the old ancient days when I was struggling with food, obsessively counting calories and weighing myself 5 times a day (sometimes even more), cutting out food groups and exercising til I died just to get skinny at the expense of the many health complications I had as a result (of which I’ll detail another day). Sure I’d still want to lose some weight and of course I still go running. If I lose weight, then okay. If I don’t lose weight, then, okay too. I know what my body can and cannot do now even if it can be mind over matter because when it comes to my eating disorder, I don’t really want to mess with the devil and relapse. I had to remind myself that what was more important now was my heath: to regulate my eating cycle again and minimize as best as I can alls sorts of dieting and self-hate mentality for my sake.

Thoughts?

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Attended a dear old friend’s wedding yesterday. We were debate teammates in secondary school some 10 years ago and now *gasp* she’s getting MARRIED. Here are some shots that were taken for me by my plus one. The wedding was held at an Indonesian restaurant by the seaside and the weather was perfect for an outdoor wedding.

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She was FLAWLESSLY GORGEOUS.

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That’s where the bride and groom would sit and pose for pictures with guests!

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Getting her makeup touched up by her friend before the groom comes

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❤ Mai, you’ll make the most compassionate and quirky wife. HUGS

(P.S. My thighs are aching like mad. My mum had me attend a session with her personal trainer last week to figure out what types of exercises I can and cannot do, given that my knees are aching and also because of my tailbone problem – for some strange reason my tailbone curves out slightly. Like a tail. Yeahhhh. So there are certain things I can’t do because my lower back will ache like hell after a while. He made me do these exercises that didn’t involve excessive running and pretty much gave me a good workout. I woke up the next day with a sore body. Hello I mean I am aching in muscles I never knew even existed. Which is a good thing I guess because I wouldn’t have shaved my legs to go see a personal trainer who wouldn’t give me a workout that didn’t involve knee and back pains)