Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Experience With Eating Disorders

As I was reading some old journal entries, I came across one from September 21st, 2005. I was 16, and a junior in high school at the time. In the entry, I am talking about pretty standard stuff for a 16-year old girl. The Mexico mission trip I went on with my youth group, water polo practices from 6-9am during the summer that were "ruining my life", boys, boys, and more boys, parties, my boyfriend at the time and how we became a couple, and how "this year has been a year for love & partying." But then as I flipped the page to continue reading, I was completely shocked by what I had written next...

"I decided I'm going to do something very unhealthy, I'm going to stop eating. I want to get hella skinny & w/e (whatever) so I'm going to just not eat. It won't be hard to do. I just will eat on game days cuz that's crucial. This will actually save me money too cuz I won't be spending it on food."

This blew my mind. I couldn't believe I'd come across a written account of my decision to become anorexic.

I didn't become an anorexic the summer after my junior year, but I did my senior year. I'm not sure if I stuck to my choice that summer, I don't remember sticking to it, but I do remember being overtaken by the disease my senior year. It didn't last long, maybe just a semester or so, but it came on strong. I still remember opening the fridge and looking in at the food, telling myself that I knew I needed it to live, but also knowing I didn't want it, and choosing to close the door without taking anything out. I remember loving that all my jeans were saggy in the butt because of the weight I'd lost, in spite of my boyfriend making fun of me for it, and being told by my swim coaches that I was getting ripped, because a six pack was starting to show where there hadn't been one before. And I remember lying to my parents when they asked me if I'd eaten, and making up some meal when they asked what it was I ate.

It's because of the months I spent as an anorexic that I 100% understand when people say it's a disease that takes hold of you. I was an athlete, I knew I needed to eat. Food is survival. But I could not make myself eat more than half a Power Bar at a time. I just didn't want food, I didn't care about food, and the thought of putting it in my mouth made me sick.

Weight is a huge, huge issue for people, and one of the most-talked about topics of the western world. In a world where obesity is becoming a norm, and GMOs have infiltrated most of what we eat, we're becoming even more aware of health risks, and how crucial it is to be healthy. But there is a MASSIVE difference between being aware of your lifestyle, and being obsessed over your size.

When we look in the mirror, we usually see a distorted version of ourselves. It's distorted by the preconceived notions we have about ourselves, the opinions others have flung at us our whole lives, and the images we see in the media of men and women who are supposed to embody the ideal person, and who we forget is photoshopped. So when we see ourselves, we see our flaws. When we look at a picture, we can only find what we don't like, and rarely agree with every other person who could say that we look great. We become scared of food, like it's the enemy, instead of our minds, and start to treat ourselves like rabbits or test subjects, in hopes of turning out like the people in the pages of the magazines and on TV.

I have had body issues for as long as I can remember. I have never thought of myself as thin, in spite of what everyone around me said, and what I have seen in pictures from the past. Because I played water polo for so long, year-round for half of those years, I always felt broad, big, and too strong to be a sweet little female. I figured I wasn't truly a fat person, but that I was a big girl. And that is pure insanity, because I was so skinny growing up, my grandma thought my mom wasn't feeding me when I was a little girl. I was always this tall, thin, leggy little twig of a thing, but the second I was no longer a double zero pant size, I started freaking out, and thought I was getting fat. Accepting that my fully grown and general pant size is a five or seven took forever, and my broad water polo shoulders didn't help me at all when I wanted to be thin, but had to buy large screen print tee's. (Keeping in mind this was at stores like Abercrombie, where they purposefully size their clothes smaller to avoid larger people from being seen in the brand.)

Nearly every photo I see of myself from the time I was in seventh grade to now, I look at and think how thin I was. I see a trim girl, who looks athletic, healthy, and happy. I often long for that body, and think how stinking great I looked. And that's surprising to me, because with each photo I see now and think how great of a lil bod I had, I distinctly remember seeing it during that time period and seeing nothing I liked. I thought I was "fat", and while I still don't think of myself as really fat, I sure as heck don't consider myself as thin as I'm sure I really am. Even when I hit a record low-weight for me my last year in college during water polo, I still didn't see it. I am 5' 7", my healthy weight range is from 133-138, and I was at 128lbs. My dad thought I was anemic or anorexic, all my teammates and friends were commenting on how thin I was, and all I could do is get on the scale and smile, but still not see what they did. Not, of course, until now, when I'm about 15lbs heavier, and see just how thin I was.

This issue arrises as a result of so many different things. It's a combination of our constant chase for more, something better, and what's coming next, our dissatisfaction and removal from the present and grateful state, and the fact that we literally cannot realistically live up to the images we see. Combine that with the fact that we do not see ourselves as we truly are, and you have got one messed up mind to overcome.

I do not know exactly what we can do to try and help kids, but something has to be done. We cannot continue to raise children who think less of themselves than they should, and end up with eating disorders or suffer from self-confidence issues. We need to be raising children with a little tough love, and fill their minds with a lot of self-love.

If I have a son or daughter, and they ever get to a point where they think their best solution is to stop eating, I don't know what I'd think or do. It is not okay to continue this way, people! We have got to work on addressing this issue, and slam some healthy lifestyles down! When I read that, I ached for my 16-year old self. The me that thought she wasn't thin enough, and wanted to be so skinny, she just decided not to eat anymore. And the fact that she said it wouldn't be hard, wow.

We have got to love each other more and harder than we do now. We have got to stop giving ourselves reasons to compare ourselves to others. We have got to address the fact that nearly every human in our society has these issues of self-doubt. ANAD says that up to 24 million people suffer from eating disorders.


We cannot let this continue. We cannot continue to lack love. We cannot continue to disregard ourselves, and allow others to do it too.

Love one another harder, longer, fiercer, and with everything you have got. Compliment people as often as you can, strangers and friends alike. And don't be afraid of being some bubbly weird-o, tell people they're awesome! Be bold, be beautiful, be daring, and dare to care enough about your brothers and sisters to embrace them as they are. We can make a massive difference, and we must. Why should we continue living with these destructive thoughts of "not ______ enough"? Let's choose to accept ourselves, and others, and let's choose to select a healthy, happy lifestyle!

Please reach out to anyone you know that's suffering from an eating disorder. There are people everywhere who are waiting and wanting to help. And if you yourself are, find your favorite picture of your most healthy self, and speak love to it, till you feel full of it. And then sit there in it, and know that it is you, you are it, and love and beauty is all that exists within. It is time we change this trend. It is time we start to focus on feeling good and being healthy, instead of feeling hungry and being skinny. We can do this!

Major blessings of health and healing, love & light

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Alone in America

I've been home now for just over a month, and have been to parts of four different states (California, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada). This has given me ample time and opportunity to observe my own culture, compare it to the culture I am used to in Spain, and come to some conclusions. Now, like anything, this doesn't apply to everyone, every city, or every anything. These are simply my observations, feelings, and conclusions. And my biggest conclusion, is that here, you are so alone.

In the United States, it is very common to live in a house. Most of the cities are composed of neighborhoods and shopping centers, but it's hard to find a block like those that are common in Europe -- apartment buildings, sometimes the ground floor is also a store, but if not, there's probably also shops, bars/restaurants, and other retail places scattered within it all. Here in the States, we have the area where you live, and the area where you shop. There are big clusters of houses that make up the neighborhoods, and then you, usually, get in your car and drive if you want to go eat, shop, or run errands. In Europe, you just walk downstairs, and probably within ten minutes on foot you're wherever you need/want to be.

Our homes are large enough that we don't really need to leave them if we don't need something from "the outside" world. We store up so much in the walls of our homes, that until it runs out, we try to avoid the store. We make small talk with our neighbors when we see them, but not many people try to take the relationship to the next level and actually turn it into a friendship. (Which is strange and silly, because who ever wants to stop living with/near their best friends?) And then, when we do have to leave our house for anything other than work, which is also found at home for many these days, you're in your car, apart from the other people doing the same things you are. You aren't in a public bus, because "they're dangerous and ghetto." You aren't in a metro, because, well, they don't really exist here. You aren't walking or biking along next to someone, because things are so spread out, to think about biking to Costco makes you prefer the thought of eating the grass in your backyard. Even the stores you could walk to in ten minutes, you never would walk to, because the thought seems so strange, and you are probably going to buy more than you can carry back. You aren't in contact with anyone until the moment of whatever transaction you left the house for, unless you had to ask which aisle it was in, because stores are so oversized and overly-filled here, that even with those little signs telling you what's there, it's still impossible to know it all. And then, you get back in your car, separated from the other people around you, traveling in your own world, thinking about your own time, in this little capsule that closes your off from everyone and everything else around you. And you go back into your garage, and close the door, locking you into the confine of your comfortable home, away from the world outside.

We are so alone here.

Our culture is not one that is designed around walking everywhere, seeing your neighbors on the streets, running into the checker from your usual market outside the pharmacy, seeing the same faces sitting in the plaza or park near your building, or all the kids playing together while the parents and grandparents sit on the benches and chat. Our culture is spread out, it's separate, and it almost feels designed to keep us apart and alone.

I know it's becoming quite a global way of being, that we keep to ourselves, stay in the mold, and try not to interfere with other people's lives, but when I see an older couple, clearly struggling, their electric wheelchair doesn't work quite right, so the wife gets out to try and push/navigate it across the street instead, then the plastic bottles they're collecting start spilling out of the bag, all the while they're on the corner of a major intersection, and there's another two people sitting less than 20 yards away, not moving a muscle to try and help, it makes me stop, think, and actually cry. Because, why are we so wrapped up in not being together, one, connected, to jump up and help a sister or brother in need? Why are we so comfortable with a distance being kept between us and others, that we are almost afraid to cross that line or border? Why aren't we actively correcting the loneliness that we feel inside, when all it would take it is saying hi to any stranger you see? Why are we the most socially connected people that have ever lived, yet we're the loneliest?

I love the U.S., I really do, and this trip home, seeing more of it than I might ever have before, I love it even more. It's a beautiful place, full of beautiful people, great food, and so much to see and do, but I cannot believe how alone we are in America. I can't believe how we could have such a strong sense of community and patriotism, but only because we live in a neighborhood, not because we are connected to the people living around us. Why do I sit here, surrounded by so much space, but feeling like I need to make myself even smaller? Why do I keep my eyes dead ahead on the road, instead of looking at the cars stopped next to mine, and smile at the other drivers? Why do I see hundreds of faces a day, but so few of them are smiling? Why are we so alone?