Who Decided Disordered Eating Was Healthy?

Who Decided Disordered Eating Was Healthy?

“Every Wednesday, she’d descend from her purple bedroom to weigh herself on a scale in the corner of the kitchen. It was a new ritual — along with recording the weight, weighing her food, and checking the calorie, carb, and protein counts in whatever she was eating.

Still, each time was nerve-wracking: Would the scale keep moving in the right direction? By how much?”
When you read that, what kind of person do you picture? Do you picture someone battling an eating disorder? Or someone happily on their new ‘lifestyle change’ journey? Maybe you could can see both types of people in that same situation… but for one of the people these behaviors are frowned upon, and for another person they are praised.
That paragraph was taken from an article my father sent me a few weeks ago about a girl who just received bariatric weight loss surgery in the name of ‘health’. The article was praising the girl for working through the hardships of surgical weight loss– and even mentioned that perhaps weight loss surgery is the best way to cut pounds for those who are heavily overweight. While reading the article, I had many red flags pop up, but this paragraph sent off the biggest red flag of them all.

I used to participate in those same behaviors, I thought. But I was told that they were completely wrong.

To be honest, when I was sitting face to face with my pediatrician who was telling me I had anorexia, I remember laughing at him, saying “No, no, no. I am SO HEALTHY!” Because I was just completing the behaviors that I had learned in school, seen online, and picked up on from others around me. In my mind, I genuinely believed that I was being healthy. But because I was at a lower weight, these behaviors were seen as harmful. However, if I would’ve been 50-100+ pounds more than the weight I was at when I was admitted to the hospital, the participation of these behaviors would have been seen as good, desirable even. In my mind, this is a major issue.

You can’t tell me that putting people who live in larger bodies on the same diet and telling them to use the same behaviors as a person who has an eating disorder is ok simply because they have “more reserves”. Eating disorders are so. much. more. than just the physical aspect. They BEGIN with disordered thinking patterns. So please someone explain to me as to why is it alright that we tell the entire population to create rituals of weighing yourself, weighing out food and counting calories and forget that these behaviors can land people in hospital beds with feeding tubes, crouching over a toilet, or laying in bed in agony over an overly stuffed stomach.

Now, I know that everyone who participates in these behaviors doesn’t develop a all the physical symptoms of an eating disorder. However, many of these people can develop disordered ways of thinking about food. You see, eating disorders and disordered eating lay on a spectrum;

In my mind, it is wrong to be promoting disordered eating behaviors to people based off of their size. It’s wrong to place people on semi-starvation diets (I’m looking @ you ‘Pinterest 1200 meal plans’), tell them that they need to ‘burn off’ what they ate, and restrict themselves of complete food groups (I’m looking @ you ‘keto diets’). We need to see these behaviors as what they truly are– disordered. They are not ‘healthy’. They are not ‘lifestyle changes’. And just because someone lives in a larger body, the nature of the behaviors is not changed.

How I Grew My Hair Long & Strong

How I Grew My Hair Long & Strong

So– I just chopped my hair in half.

I’ve been debating it for a little while now, but I was craving a big change, so to the scissors it went!!
But before cutting it all off, a lot of people have commented on my long locks, asking me how I got my hair to grow so long, and I just realized my KEY as I was deciding to cut my hair.
In high school, I wanted to grow my hair long so badly. I took a biotin supplement daily, did coconut oil hair masks a couple times a month, applied Moroccan oil on the ends after I would get out of the shower, didn’t use any heat on it… you know, all the things you would find on Pinterest (because that’s exactly where I found them lol). But my hair pretty much stayed the exact same length all throughout high school. My hair growth definitely took off between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I don’t believe that this hair growth was due to just some Moroccan and coconut oils. Instead, I think it was because my body was getting enough nourishment.
I was eating just barely enough to sustain myself without losing weight after my recovery from anorexia and into my first year of college. While I was more flexible with what foods I would eat, I had a certain amount of calories that I didn’t allow myself to eat past, a number that was definitely lower than what my nutritionist would recommend. So, I didn’t start to eat more than JUST the necessity until I started binge eating. Besides the re-feeding stage of recovery, this was the first time in years that I was eating an extra amount of food that would allow me to build (while yes, including fat, also including LOTS of muscle, and hair). While I would most definitely NEVER advise bingeing in order to grow you hair, I would recommend ENOUGH NOURISHMENT for your body in order for it to have plenty of fuel to spend energy on things like growing hair.

 

Right after getting released from the hospital from anorexia, there was one specific doctors appointment with a GI (gastrointestinal) specialist where the doc gave me an info graphic that described the amount of calories that the average person’s body needs to complete various functions. Some of the functions on that list were vital things such as digesting food, pumping blood throughout the body, and the functioning of other organs such as the kidneys, the liver, the lungs, and the brain (YES your brain indeed uses calories do to all of your thinking!) But what I was surprised to see on that list was also things such as hair growth, nail growth, and skin production. In that doctors appointment, they explained to me that in order for my entire body to function the way it was supposed to, from my heart to my fingernails, I would need to eat enough to fuel each and every one of these parts of my body.

I have searched high and low on the internet to find the same info graphic but have had no such luck. But to help illustrate the importance of having enough fuel in order to keep your body functioning (and to grow your hair), there was an example given in Food Psych that I love. It goes like this:

Think of our bodies as a wooden home. Every part of this home is made out of wood, from the outside decorations, to the furniture inside, all the way to the structure of the home. Inside of this home is a furnace (made of metal, not wood, don’t worry). This furnace needs enough wood to keep it burning or else the fire will go out and the home will freeze. If there is not enough saved wood out back, you have to start taking some wood from different parts of the house in order to keep the fire going. So you start with some of the less important things, such as the outside decor. But once you run out of those things, you have to turn into some of the more important things, such as the furniture. And once you run out of the furniture, you have to start taking apart the very structure of the home in order to keep this fire alive. However, if there is STILL not enough wood, you’ll hit a point where there is no more home left… and the fire will go out.

The fire is your heart. The various wood pieces are functions of the body. The ‘outside decor’ or some of the less important things of our body are things like our hair, skin and nails. The furniture includes things such as our reproductive system (ladies), our muscles, and other ‘less important’ organs. The structure of the home is the big stuff- our bones, our kidneys, our brains, our digestive system. This is truly how starvation works; our bodies are incredibly smart. If we don’t have enough fuel, it starts to take away fuel from the least important functions of the body, and works its way into the most important things. THAT IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE ENOUGH FUEL. And if you want to enjoy the function of some of the ‘outside decor’, you’re gonna have to have enough energy stores to fuel it.

So my ‘secret’ to growing out my hair was simply having enough fuel to provide for both of my insides AND my outsides. However, it’s important to note that this is going to look different for everyone because genetics definitely plays a role with hair! I’ve been blessed to have two parents with heads full of thick hair that happened to be passed down to me.

So while hair can be fun to grow long, cut short, and style in pretty ways… it’s just another aspect of our lives that we shouldn’t spend stressing about. Because at the end of the day, the amount of hair, length of hair, or color of hair makes up such a small portion of who you are.

The Feeding Tube

The Feeding Tube

**DISCLAIMER: Before reading this post, I want you to know that someone does NOT have to EVER receive a feeding tube for their eating disorder to be labeled as ‘serious’. A feeding tube does NOT mean that a person’s eating disorder is ‘more serious’ than another person’s. Receiving a feeding tube in recovery is honestly just the decision of the doctors, nutritionists and therapists of an individual’s recovery team– and that decision is going to be different for each individuals team. Also, these experiences are personal to me, and may not be the case for everyone who receives a feeding tube.**

When I found out that I was going to be admitted to the hospital, my first fear was that I was going to have to get a feeding tube. Before we left our house, I made my parents promise me that I wouldn’t have to get one, but that was a promise that wasn’t theirs to make. Almost as soon as I was set up in my hospital bed, a nurse brought the dreaded tube and bag of ‘liquid yellow calories’ and I had a panic attack. Because of my panic attack, I had to be put to sleep in order for the nurse to place the tube. I woke up the next day and my ‘adventure’ with the feeding tube commenced.

The one word I would use to describe the feeding tube experience is discomfort. It’s physically uncomfortable, socially uncomfortable, and mentally uncomfortable. However, the thing about uncomfortable experiences is that it they are BEARABLE. It’s not enjoyable, but you can make it through with putting trust in the process. I’ll discuss some of the discomforts that I faced during my experience, with hopes that by sharing a few of my experiences I can not only help answer some questions and concerns of anyone who may one day need a feeding tube, but also help shed a better light on feeding tubes for everyone else so that they aren’t such a novel, intimidating thing.

Physical Discomforts 
One of the first questions I googled when I was preparing to leave to the hospital was “Does getting a feeding tube hurt?” Like I mentioned previously, I was not conscious when they placed my feeding tube, so I am unsure if the insertion process is painful. However, when I was getting the tube out the process felt as uncomfortable as getting my throat swabbed for strep. So I cannot imagine that if the initial placement of the tube is painful, it would be worse than the pain of receiving shots, getting blood taken, or getting a pap (sorry boys). As with any uncomfortable and painful medical procedure, the pain and discomfort ends, and you become a little bit stronger and more brave following.

Another physical discomfort that became more of a frustration than anything was the TAPE. The tape that I was given to hold the tube to my nose and face didn’t deserve to be called tape because it would lose its stick within five minutes. The tape was important to not only keep the tube from flopping around my face, but it also helped keep the tube in place so it wouldn’t pull when I ate food (another uncomfortable, not painful, experience). My mother set out to find the perfect tape for the job and we tested out just about every medical tape you could find in the first aide isle. We decided this kind of tape was the winner. It had the longest lasting adherence and was opaque which I liked better than having a big wad of pale toned tape that I had to keep pressing against my face.

The last of the physical discomforts that I want to discuss are some of the side effects of refeeding that I experienced, mainly bloating… and the worst gas of my entire life🙈 With just about anyone going through recovery from a restrictive eating disorder, bloating will happen. I really wish someone would’ve explained this to me because it’s absolutely terrifying. Your brain automatically thinks “IT’S HAPPENING. I’M GETTING SO BIG SO FAST.” But guess what? It’s not ‘pure fat’ that will last forever that is causing your body to look bigger- it’s your body holding onto nutrients and WATER after being in a starved state for so long. This article explains some of the processes of refeeding wonderfully. But the biggest take home point about bloating and water retention is- it will not last forever. As long as you keep eating, and keep getting more fuel through the feeding tube, your body will feel safe enough to relax and start digesting and distributing any weight gain evenly.

Like I said, I had the WORST gas of my life (just ask my family to retell the horror stories of me being able to clear out a room). I felt so extremely awkward and uncomfortable, and I kept thinking that what they were feeding me must be absolutely terrible for my body if it was making me produce THAT smell– but in reality, it was just because my digestive system had been so extremely slow, that it was trying to start kicking into gear, and part of that process produced a lot of gas. Though uncomfortable, it was just my body trying to get back to doing it’s job, and there is NO shame in that!

Social Discomforts 
When you take a mental disorder and place a very specific physical attribute to it – like a feeding tube – people treat you like a delicate glass piece that could shatter with just the slightest touch. Friends talk to you with a nervous tone in their voice, family members try to awkwardly make jokes that come out wrong, strangers in passing give you looks that you interpret as pitiful, aaaaand pretty much every child will point at you and/or stare at you like you are a mysterious breed. You may start to feel like you are just a delicate glass piece that could break any second. But trust me, you’re not. YOU ARE STILL YOU.

If I could go back and change one thing about my recovery, it would be to not hide away like I did when I had my feeding tube. I could probably count on my hands the amount of times that I left my home when I had the feeding tube in because I was so concerned with what others would think of me. I was afraid people would judge me for ‘being that girl with an eating disorder’. But now that I am able to look back at this time of my life, I understand that there was absolutely nothing wrong with being the girl with an eating disorder. If someone were to judge me during that time, that says so much more about them than it did about me.

As mentioned before, placing a specific physical attribute to a mental disorder causes people to label you as ‘sick’… so when that physical attribute is taken away, many people will think that you are ‘all better’. I will never forget the week that I got my feeding tube out and went swimming with some friends that everyone thought that I no longer was battling my eating disorder. “I’m so glad that you are all better”, one guy said to me. “You ‘cheated’ to look that good in your swimsuit” another friend joked. For the rest of the night, and for a huge part of my recovery, those words haunted me. Getting the feeding tube taken out was just one of the very beginning stages of recovery, not the symbol of the completion of my journey. If anyone can take anything away from this blog post– This is it. The feeding tube is not the symbol of an eating disorder. Getting one placed does not represent the beginning, and getting it taken out definitely does NOT represent the end. So please, be considerate. The person with that yellow tube in their nose is a person just like you, simply going through a different journey.

Mental Discomforts
The placement of a feeding tube is so anxiety provoking because you are being taken completely to the unknown. Your eating disorder voice is loud, screaming at you practically every second that this is not right. And it’s absolutely draining.

I may have a smile on my face in this picture, but my eyes tell a completely different story. I was afraid, overwhelmed, angry, and exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to go home, rip the feeding tube out, and go back to living the eating disorder engulfed life I was before. But that life would never lead to happiness, though I couldn’t see it in these moments.

The feeding tube may seem like a reason to restrict and not eat because you are being fed with each and every bag of formula they give you but please TRUST ME: the more you eat solid food from your meal plan, the faster the tube can be taken out (and that doesn’t mean to just eat until the tube is out and go back to restricting… or else they will have to put the tube RIGHT back in if this happens). The feeding tube is there to help make these beginning stages of recovery easier. Though it definitely seems like it is harder, think about how hard it would be to have to eat double, triple, or more of the amount of food you are used to eating. The feeding tube allows you to begin to practice eating more, but it is there to pick up any slack so that your health doesn’t continue to deteriorate. The feeding tube is your friend, not your foe, and the sooner you start to view it as that, the easier the process will become.

The feeding tube process is not an enjoyable one to say in the least, but it is an experience that I am grateful for. My experiences helped to teach me that though I may be faced with challenges that push me completely out of my comfort zone in almost every area of my life, I am strong enough to work through those discomforts. I hope that if you are someone who has to go through the same experience, you can learn some of the same lessons. And if you are someone who never has to undergo these experiences, I hope you can look at others who do go through this experience with more open and understanding eyes.