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Tag Archive for words matter

Your Body: The Impeccable Machine

By Claire Prendergast

Many years ago an English teacher of mine was lecturing about the different connotations of words. For instance, although young and juvenile are synonyms, describing a person as young gives a very different impression than calling a person juvenile. Adjectives in particular tend to have very distinct connotations. The word skinny, as opposed to thin, often implies being thinner than thin. Theoretically, it is used to indicate a person weighs too little in a negative way, but with warped standards of beauty it is often perceived of as a goal. Skinny is a word associated with skin deep beauty: a standard based merely on the outside of your body, both physically and metaphorically. This word is so prevalent, but it does not consider the essence of a person. Although it may sound cliché, it really is what is on the inside that makes you so incredible. Step back and truly think about how amazing your body is.

You have a muscle the size of a fist which pulses in a such a way that seven liters of blood are circulated throughout your entire body each day. (To put this in perspective that is almost thirty cups of coffee.) It supplies everywhere, from your toes to the top of your head, with nutrients, oxygen, and hormones.

Then you have cells that through a difference in electromagnetic potential send messages to every nook and crevasse of you. Just from the flow of sodium and potassium ions, your brain is notified that your pinky finger is touching a very hot pan. Think about how quickly that message is not only relayed to the brain, but is then delivered to the pinky which is pulled off the pan. All in a second.

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Your pinky is pulled up off the scalding hot pan by skeletal muscles. Thanks to these, not only can you salvage your would-be burnt finger, you can run, jump, dance, and smile. The filaments that make up these muscles are merely sliding past each other, making the structure tighter. By strategically contracting some muscles and leaving others relaxed, your legs can kick or you can wink your eyes. Muscles allow you to give hugs, climb up a mountain, even type on a computer.

On top of all of this you have all of your sensory organs. Your eyes detect light rays, your nose has receptors that bind odor molecules, and your ears channel sound vibrations, all of which are transformed into electrical impulses that can somehow be understood by your brain. Just think about how incredible that is.

This is only a very basic, overly-simplified description of how a small portion of your body functions and the more you learn, the more jaw-dropping it becomes. Your body is truly magical. It is a complex machine that completes seemingly impossible tasks. You do astounding things every day and it is thanks to your body. Every cell, every joint, every muscle, is working so you can be you. Take advantage of the astonishing machine you are. Love your body more than just skin deep. Love it for the impeccable life it allows you to live. Do not be defined by such narrow descriptions like skinny, you are much too remarkable for that.

Beautiful Just The Way I Am

By Haley Bougie

The summer before my 8th grade year I changed schools. At first I was angry because I would miss my old friends, but it wasn’t long before I ended up liking the neighborhood and the city. I still didn’t have friends around though, so my days were pretty boring. When school started I was so scared and nervous I didn’t know what to do. I was worried about what I’d wear, what I’d look like to others, and even more worried about where I was going to sit for lunch.

On the first day, I walked into the school looking for my first class all the while feeling insecure about my new peers looking at me and even about those being nice to me. At one point, when I noticed that everyone had an ask.fm account for Facebook, a place where you can anonymously leave questions or comments, I wanted one as well. At first it was amusing, but then people began writing extremely offensive remarks on my wall regarding my bodies’ appearance and who I was as a person. Eventually, I deleted the app but I could not forget the comments directed towards me through it.130204111816-high-school-student-hallway-sad-bully-story-top[1]

Despite the fact that I did not know exactly who was writing the comments, I had a feeling they were from girls at my new school and I began to feel really nervous before leaving for school in the morning. From what started as an innocent Facebook App turned into a year-long downward spiral of bullying, depression, an isolating home life, self-harm and an attempt to take my own life.

Little did I know, it was after this moment that I began a life changing journey through mental health treatment. While I was there something remarkable happened. I began making friends in treatment who were compassionate and supportive who helped me to realize I was not alone. I knew that treatment had afforded me with the opportunity to surround myself with positive people who had similar life experiences. It was being there that made me better. Meanwhile, I was afraid to go back to school after the incident because many of my classmates knew what had happened. However, I was surprisingly supported by my peers. I felt that everything was going to be different.

When I was 16, all of the hopes that I had suddenly diminished when a friend and I posted a photo of ourselves in swimming suites on Instagram. The bullying started once again and I fell back into the familiar feeling of worthlessness and isolation from a pain that I did not know how to handle.

While dealing with my own bullying situation with these girls, I suddenly realized, that I was not their only victim. They were saying mean things about other girls as well. This is when it finally clicked for me that maybe it wasn’t my size or shape or appearance that was bothering these girls or any of the people that had bullied me in the past. Perhaps, they were struggling with their own identities and putting me down was something that helped them to feel better about themselves.

With that in mind I started to look at myself in the mirror and look at their words, over and over. It didn’t take me long to realize that I do not look like them and I did not want to look like them. I didn’t fit into any mold of what young women are supposed to look like, nor did I want to. I only wanted to be me. My features are different, my hair is different, my body is curvaceous, and I love it! It took toxic people to convince me that I was fat, worthless and ugly. I struggled for a long while, before I realized it was time to erase the toxicity from my life.

My weight is something that I still struggle with from time to time. My body is not the same as that of the average teenage girl, but I no longer feel the way I once did. I know that my curves are a sign of how satisfied I am with life as well as a sign of beauty, strength and maturity. Ridding my life of toxic thoughts and toxic people has changed everything. I no longer listen to what people have to say about me, because their words have no bearing on the way that I feel about myself.

 

Being a Friend to Someone with an Eating Disorder

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By Cathy Paper

Throughout the years I’ve seen many people move through eating disorders.  People of all ages at various times in their lives. And being a friend to someone with an eating disorder can be both exhausting and rewarding.  

What do you say to someone you care about when the person you see in front of you is clearly struggling?  Do you ask about their recovery?  Do you talk about food or weight and shape ever?  So many activities are around food that it can be challenging to find ways to connect.  Or maybe you’re mad because your friend is so absorbed in their eating disorder that they don’t appear to want to talk about anything anymore related to your lives.   

These are just a few examples of why being a friend to someone in recovery is tricky.

I’ve heard stories of young girls who have told their friend who is in a recovery program that they “Can’t be friends with them right now as it’s too difficult to maintain a relationship.”    This breaks my heart as the isolation that can accompany an eating disorder is great enough.

I’ve personally felt that feeling of being out at meals with someone who pushes their food around all night long and ultimately eats two or maybe three bites.  Do I say something?  Do I let it go?  Do I ask them if they are ok?  

It depends.

All of these instances are where being a friend requires figuring out how to support or ask questions of your friend who is working to manage their eating disorder.  Maybe you choose not to say anything in the moment, but you say something the next day.  Or you offer to go with your friend to a friends and family support group as that might spark good conversation.  Or you can acknowledge that you’re not sure what to say but you want them to be healthy and that you are there for them if they ever want to talk.  You can also encourage them to share with a professional if you feel anxious they may harm themselves.

Here are three tips I try to follow:

1. Be upfront. Ask how the person is doing with their recovery.  This way you can see what they want to talk about without saying anything about weight or food.

2. Spend time with the person or send a text to say “I’m thinking of you. Do you need anything?” Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to many people and friends offer to help even when they don’t know what to do.

3. Encourage your friend that you believe in them and you love and care about them. Just being present is reassuring.

I get tired of thinking about what I can and can’t say to my friends with eating disorders that are active.  I miss my friend that used to laugh and joke with me about silly stuff.  I worry about their long term health, but by being silent and not saying anything I am making it more difficult to feel like I’ve been a good friend.  And, a good friend, speaks up even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

 

Take Action for Mental Health Reform

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by Kitty Westin, eating disorder activist

The last time I wrote to you was on July 7; I was hardly able to contain my excitement! It was the day after the United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (422 to 2) in favor of mental health reform, which included provisions from the Anna Westin Act. At the time I told you I believed that after a 16-year marathon we were nearing the finish line. After 16 years of hard work and the commitment of thousands of grassroots advocates we were close to passing the first eating disorders specific legislation in the history of the US Congress. As I watched House Member after House Member vote “yes” I allowed myself to hope and to believe that this long journey was coming to an end.

Today, I am writing to give you an update and ask you to join me in a vitally important effort to push our bill past the finish line. The finish line is still in sight and I am still hopeful that we will reach it. However, if we hope to cross it before the 114th Congress adjourns at the end of the year we need to rally the troops and make one final epic effort.

The Eating Disorders Coalition is organizing a Virtual Action Day on August 30th. We are asking people from across the United States to contact their Senators. This is a national effort involving several prominent advocacy organization and thousands of individuals. We are collaborating with APA, MHA, APA, NAMI, and Sandy Hook Promise to do a unified virtual action week…with the eating disorders community and Sandy Hook Promise’s day being August 30th. Let’s show the Senate how active, committed, involved and vocal the eating disorders community is! Every voice is important and every voice matters.

We need to put A LOT of pressure on the Senate to pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) this September. The Eating Disorders Coalition was able to get provisions from the Anna Westin Act into the Senate bill and when S. 2680 passes so does our language! There are other issues that the Senate will be considering when they reconvene in September and we need to make certain that mental health reform is a top priority.

Because this is an election year the Fall session will be very short, only a few weeks. With the uncertainty of the election season we must make our voices heard. We need you to encourage your networks, families, friends, neighbors…the mail man…everyone to participate!

The EDC makes it easy and quick to email or call your Senators.

We are targeting ALL Senators and we are putting extra effort to reach Senate Majority leadership and Senators in re-election campaigns. The following Senators are key: McConnell (Kentucky), Alexander (Tennessee), Ayotte (New Hampshire), Toomey (Pennsylvania), Kirk (Illinois), Johnson (Wisconsin), Burr (North Carolina), Rubio (Florida), Murkowski (Alaska), and Portman (Ohio). We’re also targeting Senator Minority leadership—Reid (Nevada), Schumer (New York), Franken (Minnesota), Klobuchar (Minnesota), Stabenow (Michigan), and Warren (Virginia).

Please help us cross the finish line. The time is now and with your help we can get this done. Mental health reform will help countless Americans who are struggling with mental health issues including millions of people who suffer from eating disorders. I promise that I will send photos from the Senate Chamber in September when the bill passes and standing next to President Obama as he signs it into law!

With deep gratitude,

Kitty

To the Ones Who Didn’t Give Up on Me

By Angela Haugen

I spent many years in the middle of my eating disorder. It literally ate me alive – the drive to continue as well as the drive to stop.  Those competing forces were so strong. They sent my mind into overdrive. letting-go-being-free-aiden-galvin

It never rested. There wasn’t a moment of peace.  More than 5 years on high alert trying to make change.  Keeping the same path.  Changing course.  Maybe this way would be better.  Or perhaps that way might provide more success.

What was success? How do I get there? The thoughts pulsed and pushed.  It was as if I opened the door to a flood that couldn’t stop coming no matter which door I shut or which one I opened.

I would still consider myself “recovering”, even more than a decade without any sign of disordered eating or disordered mindset of my body. I remain alert to what is being said around me and what I’m saying to myself.  This is as much for me as it is for my daughter – I pay attention to how I interact with others, how I interact with food, how I talk about and engage in exercise, how I encourage and compliment, and what I look for in compliments and encouragement from others.

I walked a long hard road to recovery, as anyone with an eating disorder does. Many addiction recovery stories include avoiding the triggering substance – ED’s are forced to face their biggest hurdle multiple times each day.

I find it easy to still think I’m in it all alone. So much of it is in my head – it must just be me that feels the weight of it all.  But in truth there are and always have been many along my path that helped me.

Sure, some got frustrated and left. It’s understandable, even though it was hurtful.  Recovery is a hard road and the square-root of the burden lays on the person engaging it.  The burden so greatly impacting the behavior; the burden so symbolically needing to be lifted to find recovery.  But it weighs on those around us as well.  Many could not handle not being able to control my poor choices.  They didn’t understand it.  They had no idea the dizzy speed of my mind or how desperately I was trying to find a way out.  They only saw the wrong in what I was doing and the need I had for change.

At the time I didn’t get it – but now I have more grace. I see their hurt and pain in the loss of control.  In watching me hurt.  It’s too much for some people.  I look back in love, understanding that they too were unable to hold that pain and had to release it to be lighter themselves.  Some people feel the need to hold on too tight.  Their letting go is for them and, truly, ends up being better for you.

Instead though, it’s the people that have stuck with me. Those that have held me loosely.  The ones that have known my pain in the midst of this low point – they are the ones that I know I can turn to with anything.  They continue to make my road lighter.  They accept my expectations, my boundaries – or they set their own with me.  They see me as I am: imperfect and trying.  I return the grace-filled favor.  I truly believe that those that held me in that time of internal chaos would hold me now even if I was still there.

We rarely talked food or weight or exercise. We talked life, and hurt, and happy, and annoyance.  They invited me out, they invited me over.  They invited me to talk.  They invited me to sit and be.  We had fun.  We went out.  We stayed in. We talked.  We ate… or not. With them, I wasn’t only a girl with an eating disorder – I was just a girl in the world that they shared life with.

They set an example and eventually, I followed. With them, through these relationships, my mind was set free. I eventually couldn’t focus on another goal or what was going on in my head.  I was re-calibrating.  I was feeling loved for who I was right there.

Despite needing to make changes on my own, I could not have overcome this on my own.

So, to the ones that stood beside me in the depth of my hurt, the ones who never let my setbacks define me, the ones who let me be where I was and loved me anyway – I have nothing but the biggest debt of gratitude. You allowed me to freely be me. To move at my pace.  You never took on my burden – you just made it lighter by walking beside me, helping me to focus on what was good about the moment, helping me to find a new identity. You sacrificed time and conversation – opening ears and schedules and space.

Thank you!