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Archive for February 26, 2015

Show Your Inner Beauty On the Outside

Submitted by Kristine Strangis, EPF Volunteer

My eating disorder has put me through a lot, but I have chosen to learn from these experiences and turn them into a positive by expressing myself through Photo on 1-1-15 at 11.52 AMart. Battling an eating disorder for as long as I can remember has really given me the strength, courage, and freedom that I needed to finally have a voice in this world and use this voice to speak out in order to inspire others.

Recently, on my journey throughout recovery, I have been learning to find myself beyond the eating disorder, and that can only happen through experience. By exposing myself to my greatest fears in treatment, I was able to take what I had learned into the real world, and, working hard to earn this “just do it” type of mentality, I had gained the motivation that I needed to express myself and my art that I had kept silent for so long. Now that I have the courage, curiosity, and spontaneity that I had found within myself through treatment, exploring this amazing world and all that it has to offer helps me appreciate all of the little things so much more. I feel like I am finally reawakening to life again, finding myself beyond the eating disorder as I continue to choose recovery.

Being a writer and musician, I wanted to try expressing my art in new ways, just to see what it would feel like because, honestly, what have I got to lose? So, I started trying new forms of art such as knitting (which was not a personal favorite of mine), playing the piano again, listening to Disney (my childhood) music, decorating my room with things that I believe inspire and define me, reading a fiction novels and poetry again, being out in nature, reconnecting with old friends through social media, and using my voice by publishing my writing on this blog. All of these hobbies came out either great or not so great, but at least I tried them, that was the whole point. Exploration is the only way that we are going to find ourselves outside of our eating disorders and, although it is hard, you may find that the rewards are well worth the effort.

The most surprising thing that I found myself to like was fashion. Who would have thought that me, an introvert who would rather spend all day reading and writing, would love shopping, wearing makeup, painting my nails, and putting outfits together. It is like a whole new person has emerged from inside of me, a person that my eating disorder had kept silent for so long, but was always there deep down. I always knew that I had an artistic and creative side, but that was masked behind the structured, miserable, rigid, and isolated world I had chosen to live in with my eating disorder. Now, I am choosing freedom and life and I have never been happier.

I used to think that wearing makeup, shopping, and all of that, as considered by society- “feminine stuff”-was conforming to the patriarchal hierarchy that keeps women silent. But then, after I broke away from my eating disorder and chose to live my own life, I realized that my eating disorder was the very thing that forced me into believing this, keeping me in the dark about my true passion to express my inner beauty on the outside. This was a revelation for me, and I hope that it can inspire you to go out and find yourself in whatever passions are calling to you.

Finding myself throughout the journey of living with an eating disorder was hard, but, now that I have done it, I feel like nothing can stop me from chasing my dreams. Being recovered has taught me not to get so caught up in labels, whether you like to wear makeup or not, it is what is on the inside that people find most beautiful. So, do not be afraid to search for yourself because, truly, that is what life is all about. Never let anyone tell you who you are supposed to be, only you know who that is deep down, so let that light inside shine through all of the darkness, and you will come to a better place.

Soundtrack to Recovery

Submitted by Joy Goodwin, EPF Volunteer

Therapy has encouraged me to be honest and public about a very private battle I have fought for more than 10 years. At 25 I was diagnosed with anorexia. While I received treatment and returned to a healthy weight, I couldn’t stop one of the behaviors of my illness. For more than 10 years, I continued to chew and spit food. Through therapy I found I did it because I needed a reason to hate myself; I needed a reason to make the voices in my head ring true. For most of my life the voices in my head told me I was a horrible, ugly person. My disorder was horrible and ugly, not me. Yet separating myself from it seemed impossible.

So what finally changed? I like to say, “I found the music,” or rediscovered how big of a role music plays in my life. Growing up, all my fondest memories are soundtracked by great songs. Today, I find listening to music helps to quiet the voices in my head. Paying attention to the details in the composition, production and lyrics does not leave much room in my head for negative self-talk. I funnel this renewed love of music to a column where I revisit old albums. So the rest of my recovery story will be in the form of one of my revisits.

Volbeat’s Outlaw Gentleman and Shady Ladies is sort of an anthem for my recovery and is one of my go-to albums when I am having a particularly bad day. The memories of my first Volbeat concert immediately put me in a good mood. It may seem funny that a concept album that is a sort-of western ghost story feels like it could be a soundtrack for my recovery. But, many songs are about fighting demons and outlaws, and beating an eating disorder means fighting a lot of demons.

Rock ballads, weird western instrumentals, heavy guitars, pounding drums, mixed with Volbeat’s signature rockabilly style make for an amazing rock album. The album provides a great outlet for stress with hard driving guitars and strong bass lines. Heavy metal songs like “Dead but Rising” and “Room 24” motivate me to fight the demons in my head. Meanwhile, I find deep, personal meaning in most of the lyrics. “Cape of Our Hero” is wedged between these two heavy songs and is the first song on the album that speaks to me with its beautiful lyrics.

All of the perfection nothing will and can be made
The old skin has to shed before the new one sees the day
Opportunities to find the deeper powers in ourselves
Comes when life is breathing and seems more than what it is

The tough guitars of “Room 24” flow right into the eerie tones that make up “Hangman’s Body.” To me, the hangman represents the very real voice in my head I can’t escape. No matter what, he’s coming for me. “Hear his boots and see the figure dressed in black. Echoes of him have been heard, spiritually, he’s all intact… judgment will prevail, the hangman is here.”

It’s very appropriate Volbeat chose to follow the dark “Hangman’s Body” with their upbeat cover of Young the Giant’s “My Body.” The inescapable demon in “Hangman’s Body” is no match for self-ambition and the drive described in “My Body.” Lyrics like, “I won’t quit because I want more. It’s my road, my war, I won’t quit,” motivate me to keep fighting for a healthy mind and body.

Music and writing allow me to put the self-hate behind me and find a new level of confidence that attracts new friendships and makes me step-out and try new experiences. It’s almost a level of confidence I imagine the enchanting woman in the song “Lola Montez” to have. While Lola Montez is a witchy woman who pulls men into her spell, I am pulling new friendships and new experiences with my new found positive attitude.

As the album continues, it mixes heavy tones with upbeat rockabilly in songs like “Lonesome Rider” and “The Sinner is You,” while peppering in inspirational lyrics.

Is this a sign for all of us

To take care of the life we have

Please wake up and feel the love

Moving beyond my ED, allows me to feel the love from my family and amazing friends around me. The cliché is true, when you love yourself, you can truly love others. This allows me to forge the new and renewed friendships that motivate me to stay strong. Fighting battles alone is futile; embrace those around you and seek professional help if you are struggling.

The album closes with “Our Loved Ones.” Complete with a great guitar solo, it caps the album with inspiration.

I used to think that life was ugly and a mess

Well, I was right but what else do you do other than your best

The meaning of it all you find within yourself

I hold the key but where’s the door

I kick it in

It’s not like one day you just wake-up and you are recovered from an eating disorder; it’s a daily struggle but eventually that struggle gets easier. I may always have to fight the demons in my head. But I have new ammunition.

Award Season Impacting Body Image?

Submitted by Tori Sundholm, EPF Volunteer

Awards season is here. For me, this means camping out in front of the T.V. with a bucket of popcorn for a number of the upcoming Sundays.

Awards season is glamorous and exciting. Watching the stars walk down the red carpets in their elegant gowns and fitted tuxes calls for never ending “ohhhss” and “ahhhss.” Celebrities answer interviewer’s questions with how excited they are to be at the awards and recite who they are wearing with smiles hiding a grimace, hoping they say the designer’s name right.

The Grammy awards, which never disappoint when it comes to entertainment, were held on Sunday, Feb. 7. Performances by artists like Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry and Usher had viewer’s entertained. Like always, drama concerning who won what award swirled around in the media during the show. This year, Kanye West didn’t disappoint when he went up on stage and pretended to interrupt Beck’s acceptance speech for album of the year and we are all still wondering if he was actually serious or not.

Although the excitement and drama of awards season can be alluring, it can also take a toll on self-esteem. Stars strut down the red carpet looking like what some may perceive to be perfection. It is important to remember these stars spend hours getting ready with a team of professionals who buff out even the tiniest flaw. Their red carpet looks are not real. Pounds of makeup and hours in the gym every day does not show who they really are.

It can be easy to get caught up in the glamor of the gowns and the delicacy of the makeup, but it’s important to remember accepting your body is always in fashion. Every body is different and every body is beautiful.

Beauty comes in diversity and imperfection. It comes in all shapes, sizes, outfits and hairstyles. Beauty is in your soul and it shines in things that you love. I see the beauty of singers and actors shine through because they are doing what they love, not because of how “perfect” they may be portrayed as.

So, if awards season is as much of an enchanting time for you as it is for me, this awards season let’s remember beauty is a state of mind, not a state of the body. Don’t weigh your self-esteem in the money and glamor of the celebrities walking the red carpets, but instead remember what you do and what you love that makes your soul extraordinary and beautiful.

Make a Statement

Submitted by Kristine Strangis, EPF Volunteer

Today, I felt like making a statement. I truly am a passionate advocate for recoverEDpro-recovery and mental health rights, especially in the field of eating disorders, and, now that I am recovered, I feel like speaking up for what I believe in. My eating disorder had kept me in the dark for so long, and it was time to break the silence. So, being proud of myself for all of the progress that I have made in recovery, I wanted to show it off by wearing my new recover(ed) shirt to my health club. This was a very metaphorical moment for me, being that compulsive exercise was the major symptom of my eating disorder that held me back from recovery, and also living my life. I wanted to prove that, because I am recovered, I can exercise without having it become obsessive, but rather having it be a part of my activities that I enjoy. I personally believe that part of being recovered means making peace with your fears and, although it took me a long time to get to this comfortable place with exercise, I have proven throughout my recovery that exercise can be a neutral thing, and even a healthy pleasure, just like I learned with food.

 

With that said, let’s get to what you all are probably dying to know, peoples reactions at the club. Well, I was actually surprised by the variety of reactions that I got. When I walked into the club wearing my shirt that said “recover(ed)” on the front and “Life Without Ed” on the back, I got some interesting looks; there were people that looked confused, people who looked away uncomfortably, people who stared and then gazed downward, people who looked slightly nervous, etc. Overall, my audience seemed uncomfortable, which made me feel out of place, like I did not belong. What is interesting about this is that, typically, people will see how hard I work while I am at the club and compliment me for it, but, when I wear my recovery shirt while working just as hard, they all avoid me like I am some diseased person. This experience really proves how stigmatized and secretive this disorder is; it is a silent killer, and that is why we must raise awareness and educate others about the truth behind this insidious illness because that is the only way that we are going to overcome it.

 

Now, not all of the reactions were like this, actually, there was one person that complimented me on my shirt, and that was my yoga instructor; she did not say anything directly, but, as I was leaving class, she took me aside, smiled and said “have a beautiful day, may it be full of happiness and peace.” I smiled back, and, just looking in her kind eyes, I knew that she understood. This moment made my day, and gave me confidence again, but also a sense of hope that maybe the world is not all bad.

 

Now, I do not want to play the blame game by criticizing health clubs; I honestly think that wearing this shirt in public anywhere would have produced the same reactions, but going to the health club was personal for me, it was a statement that I wanted to make by saying: I have made peace with the thing that once controlled me through fear, and I am proud. Health clubs are not the source of eating disorders, and placing the blame on society only emphasizes the stigma behind eating disorders being a choice rather then a bio-psychological illness. Honestly, health clubs have the right intentions and that is to help people stay physically healthy, which does improve mental health as well, but it is when we take these things to extremes that the problem begins. Of course, health clubs could do less with the over-promotion of weight loss, the intense focus on labeling foods, and the crazy workouts; but, honestly, we all have the choice on whether or not we choose to invest our money in and go to these places.

 

Now, I want to be clear that I am not placing the blame on anyone here; having an eating disorder is clearly not a choice, it is a deadly illness that must be taken seriously, but, on the other end of the spectrum, so is obesity. By putting the emphasis on fitness, society thought that they would solve the problem of obesity, but, as we all know, these problems are much too complex to just solve, especially when there are so many who suffer on both ends of the spectrum. This is why my personal mantra is balance; when one problem is supposedly “fixed” another always pops up in its place, which is just the way the world works; all we can really do is try to find the balance within ourselves.

 

Throughout recovery, and life, I have learned that there is no black and white in anything, but rather ever-changing views that shape who we are over a lifetime. I do not know about you, but I do my best to take a neutral (balanced) stance on everything; I do my best to understand both sides of the spectrum because my overall goal is to learn. But, because I am human, there are things that I tend to fall more toward an extreme on, and that is okay, as long as we do not hide our true beliefs from the world. I expressed my passion today at my health club for me because I felt inspired to do so, not to make a scene (this was actually the last thing that I wanted), and not to silently analyze everyone’s reactions (although, as an undergraduate psychology major, that may have slightly been an intention), but rather to make a statement, my statement of who I am and what I stand for.

 

By expressing and staying true to what it is that we believe in, the world will fall into place.

The “Thigh” Gap

About the Author: Emily Champoux is a sophomore nutrition student at the UMN-Twin Cities

In today’s society, women are constantly bombarded by the ideals that to be confident you must be beautiful, and to be beautiful you must be thin. Monthly issues for magazines like Women’s Health, Allure, People, and many more always have cover stories that push weight loss or getting thin. Whether it is how Jessica Simpson lost the weight the media has shamed her for gaining over the last year, or the top 10 tips and tricks to shedding the pounds that are lingering after the holidays, the media never disappoints our society’s obsession with size and weight. The relentless covers and advertisements push these “think thin” ideals on us whether or not we truly want them and unfortunately, they take a toll on many of us. I speak for myself and probably many other young women when I say this.

Just today I looked in the mirror and came face to face with the “thin ideal”.   Regardless of how others may view me, I am an average woman and like many other average women, I have days where I look in the mirror and only see things I don’t like about myself. Today, it was my thighs. For someone else it may have been their stomach, or skin, or even their arms, but today’s insecurity brought with it the reinforcement of the dreaded “thigh gap” ideal.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this term, thigh gap refers to the “space between the inner thighs when standing upright with knees touching”. The Wikipedia page, titled “thigh gap” says it all, this definition included as the introductory line for the page. The fact that an entire page is devoted to this twisted ideal of beauty is honestly quite sickening. Now, as a disclaimer, some individuals may have a natural thigh gap that even at an average, healthy weight, still exists. Those individuals are not the concern that comes with this ideal, nor are they the targets of this expose. The thigh gap however, is frequently featured as a defining feature of models in many of today’s advertisements. In addition to protruding rib cages, emaciated arms, and prominent collarbones, the thigh gap is all too often the defining characteristic of media beauty.

Today’s society holds not only outer beauty but thinness to a high standard. After reading a refreshing and honest personal account from the Huffington Post by Jenni Schaefer about how the thigh gap drove her eating disorder, my moment of insecurity today was replaced by a moment of empowerment. Sure, my thighs touch and I don’t have a 6-pack or a perfect “bubble butt”. But I am an almost 20 year old woman that loves being active, has a killer smile, and a strong body that allows me to live my life to the fullest. Many of us get caught up in the “I hate this about my body” mentality, and fail to see how incredible our own bodies truly are. After having a stress fracture in my left leg this summer, I was quickly reminded how much I take my body for granted. I can not only walk, but I can go for a run, or hike a mountain, or even go rock climbing. My body is amazing, and so is yours. Instead of focusing on something miniscule like say, a thigh gap, I feel we should all take the time to focus on the things we love about our body and what our bodies allow us to do every single day (no matter how small it may be). Strive to embrace the amazing strength and support your body gives you everyday. Olympic athletes like Misty May Treanor or Shawn Johnson are perfect

representations of strong women, both physically and mentally. They work hard day in and day out and do they have a thigh gap to show it? Not a chance. Yet, these women, these olympic athletes, are what embody strong, successful, and beautiful women. And so do you.

Even though today’s society may push ideals of beauty that are not realistic or healthy, it is important to remember what makes each woman beautiful. It’s not a small space between your two thighs that defines you. It’s your contagious laugh, bubbly demeanor, ability to throw a spiraling football, or your daily routine of dancing in your underwear to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, that makes you a beautiful and strong woman.

For those interested in the article mentioned in this post, follow this link to the Huffington Post to read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenni-schaefer/how-i-fought-to-get-rid-of-my-thigh-gap_b_4832848.html