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Archive for the ‘Food Rules/Fears’ Category

slippery slope of anorexiaWe have been down to visit Sophie – my half semester visit to check she is going ok and to help with homesickness.

When she was home in July, I blogged how she had lost weight. Not in any danger zone, but certainly dropped a size. I hoped this was just her adjusting and her normal body shape and weight sorting itself out.

First impression when we saw Soph two weeks ago – “shit, she lost a lot of weight”. Dropped another size. Now there is NO room for movement in her weight. Loss of weight from here is the start of the slippery slope.

The complication is the trigger weight is not known. We used to know what weight would trigger the brain into full anorexic behaviour and make it difficult to pull Sophie out. Because of height, muscle and body changes during recovery and getting older, we don’t know what weight will start the trigger.

She had a good talk to me (whilst walking around the Victoria Markets). Makes it less intense for her this way. She admitted to having the voice back in her head and having to fight it. She admitted to having fear foods again and balking at eating them (or just not). The voice isn’t just telling her not to eat, but that she is a loner, is weird, no one likes her, she isn’t good at art – the whole sad, sorry and destructive stuff the anorexia does.

What can I say when I am so far away? Basically not a lot, except let her know I am her support and can listen. But I can’t make her eat and my encouragement is all I can give. I can only advise her to see her counsellor (thankfully she has done this twice since we left). What gets me most is that Sophie can see this happening to herself. She doesn’t want it to, doesn’t want to go back into anorexia land. But finds it so hard to fight back and gain back control from the voice. So easy for the anorexia to slip back in.

What made it turn up again? Nothing really. The internal issues she has, have surfaced more and she needs to deal with them. These are the same issues as before but she really has never broken free and forward progress seems to be very slow over time. Maybe the issues she sees are something she cannot solve as they are her character and personality. She misses home, misses my foundation support but also knows she has to stand on her own feet and fight this herself. The weight loss from sickness and not eating as well as she could, is probably the main trigger. Normal life just doesn’t happen in many respects for those in recovery from an ED. You always have to watch your health, stress, eating habits. It can be so easy to start falling down the slope again.

Supporting someone from a distance is tricky. Sophie is paranoid and super sensitive at the moment (all anorexia traits). She asks for advice and then tells me I don’t get it or understand. She dumps her emotions and then hangs up. The ‘fix’ she wants I cannot provide. The answers lie within her but she can’t or won’t face them. Supporting someone in an intensive uni course is also very difficult. The distraction tool box she has is based on her having free time to do some of the activities or take a break. When you are studying full time (5 subjects a semester and art being far more time intensive than essay writing) where do you find time to delve into the distraction box. We talked about this last night but it needs more exploration.

Whever this goes, we do it together. Praying and hoping the slippery slope doesn’t happen.

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Been called the Food Police yet? Had people go say how belittling or punitive the approach is?

Hold your headup and don’t let ignorant comments make you feel you are not doing your son or daughter any favours.

Refeeding at home for eating disordersLet’s remove the myths. Firstly, you are not the Food Police. The ones who say this view it through their own circumstances and teenage rights. If their child was sick with some illness they would oversee the medication taking and other treatments to ensure wellness occurs. These same people do not see that for someone with an eating disorder – and in particular anorexia – food is the medicine and the treatment. It is critical you get your child to eat and the only way to face down the fears and irrational thinking that anorexia has, is to have rules around food eating and to sit with them whilst they eat. Left to their own devices, those with anorexia do not eat or eat so little they continue to endanger their life.

Secondly, it is not belittling or punitive. The emotional role of the parent/carer is to encourage, uphold, strengthen, love, etc. It is being firm but loving. As far as I have researched, all relationships that undergo this stage of refeeding end up healthy and strong. Your child may say they hate you during the refeeding and fight back, but once weight is restored and they continue with recovery, they love the fact you stood by them. That you persevered and believed in them and their life. Actually neither is a NG feed punitive or belittling. It is medicine and if your child is that sick and still will not eat, then take the NG lifeline that is offered. Your child gets to live and fight this on another day.

Thirdly, you are removing a basic right and independence of your child. If your child ate normally yes you would be. But your child is so under the control of the eating disorder that normal, rational, logical eating doesn’t happen. They can’t eat nor take independent and appropriate control of their eating. The early stages of refeeding needs to have someone there to help and support them as they learn to eat and fight back against the control the eating disorder imposes on them. As later stages of refeeding occurs, the parents start to hand back the independence and self-monitoring of eating. There is a lot of basic relearning to do be done because the eating disorder wipes out what should normally occur.

And this last part is incredibly important.

DO NOT IN ANY WAY PHYSICALLY HARM OR VERBALLY ABUSE YOUR CHILD.

Incredible? no it really does happen. Some parents threaten, harm or abuse their child because they won’t eat. Yes it does get emotionally fraught and frustrating when you are trying to break down the eating disorder barrier. Everyone has a limit as to how much they can deal with, but in this case, your child IS NOT the enemy here. The eating disorder is and you can’t lash out at it, because your child is the one who ‘cops’ it. This kind of behaviour does not build or strengthen the relationship you have with your child in the long term. Nor does this behaviour establish healing and moving away from the eating disorder. You take your child’s independence and emotional wellbeing away and reduce them to an object. Violence on any level will not heal your child.

I do understand believe me. Sophie was violent, aggressive and lashed out during the refeeding stage. She was very difficult to refeed at home and refused to eat anything other than what she wanted. I would have had to tie her to the table to get her to eat, cause she just kept leaving the table. Or force feed her, because she would not eat no matter how firm, loving etc we were. In the end you have to do what is right for your family and your child. If that means slight compromises til they are able to fight back better against the eating disorder fears and voice, then so be it. It is far far better to do this than to resort to some sort of violence.

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I read quite a bit about recovery and those who think they are fully recovered. But their recovery statements are peppered with:

“but I don’t eat this food”
“I eat only healthy foods”
“Of course I don’t eat anything with fat or sugar”

So are you recovered or not? There are food rules all over the place in your thinking and diet. Flexible and intituitive eating does not mean you have banned or bad foods.

There.are.no.bad.foods.

It’s how much you eat of certain foods that causes the problems. Your body needs fats. It needs carbs. You can’t say you have recovered from an eating disorder if the two main food groups needed to fuel a body are on your ‘rule’ list.

You CAN eat that cake (or whatever food it is) today and enjoy it. It won’t destroy your weight, it won’t destroy your life. The difference is you don’t do this every day or several times a day. Eat, enjoy, move on.

Saying you have definite ‘do’s’ or ‘don’ts’ about food is tricky. You need to carefully and honestly look at why you are forbidding certain foods. If they feed into food rules that are reminiscent of an eating disorder, you need to seriously challenge this thinking. Also by ‘putting out’ there in the public arena your ‘recovered diet’, you can cause someone else to stumble badly in their recovery. Eating disorders are brilliant at distorting any information about food and diet and your comment about ‘healthy food’ is someone elses’ trigger.

It can be very easy to slip into a ‘disordered eating’ pattern instead of an ‘eating disorder’. Disordered eating patterns are not a recovered position and they can also set you up for relapse later on.

Be so careful in recovery with your diet and food intake. Be careful you are not unknowingly compromising with the eating disorder. Our society is so blended into dieting and healthy super foods, that we all forget that there is no bad food and flexible eating means eating widely from all food groups.

I deliberately didn’t put a picture with this post. Most show a huge creamy cake on one side and a salad on the other (you get the idea). Life is NOT like that. Food is NOT like that. Again the media and diet/health culture makes us think in black and white. Black and white (or absolute thinking) is just what lands us in eating disorder territory.

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What if you gain weight from all of this? You’ve already gained weight since last summer. What if it all goes straight to your expanding hips and thighs? What’s wrong with you? Did you really need to eat the whole plate? You know, you look pregnant, right?eating and food guilt

While I can’t control these automatic thoughts, I can remind myself that they’re definitely mistaken. I can remind myself of the truth.

If you’ve recently had the same kinds of demoralizing, irritating thoughts, here are a few reminders:

  • You have permission to eat whatever you want. The only rule, if there is a rule, is simply that you savor and enjoy what you’re having.
  • Normal eating is flexible.
  • You have permission to reach for seconds, if you like, or to stop after one helping. It’s totally up to you, your cravings, your hunger and satiety signals.
  • You aren’t naughty, bad, stupid, disgusting, an idiot or ______ for eating certain foods or for having more of certain foods. These are the words of the 60 billion-dollar diet industry (and many women’s and “health” publications). Unfortunately, they’ve become engrained in our vernacular. Which is understandable, because, sadly, such statements, seem to be everywhere. But they’re false (and manipulative).
  • Whatever you’re feeling is OK. Sometimes, we have a tendency to berate ourselves for feeling guilt or shame or discomfort. Why can’t these feelings just go away? Shouldn’t I be over this by now? But those automatic thoughts and feelings — yep, the negative ones — are OK. These may be deeply held beliefs. So try not to judge yourself for having them. Acknowledge how you’re feeling, and try to feel those feelings. Again, whatever you’re feeling is valid.
  • The guilt we feel is really more of a habit than the truth. Those are the words of Susan Schulherr, who told me a few years ago:

“…Feeling guilty about high-calorie foods, or fats or sweets, is a habituated response…the habituated thought is going to come up whether we like it or not. So the trick is to recognize it for what it is: a habit, not a truth.”

“As I say to my clients, you may not be able to stop the thought  or related feelings from popping up spontaneously, but you don’t have to set out the tea service and invite them to stay. Once we recognize we’re in the guilty feelings, the step toward change is to interrupt them rather than to let them romp at will in our psyches.”

“If guilt pops up when you’re trying to enjoy [food] in peace, you need to take that step back and respond with your own version of ‘Oh, of course, there’s that guilt stuff again. It makes me feel like I’m being bad, but I’m actually not.’”

  •  I also really like these other phrases from Susan: “I don’t have to earn the right to enjoy what I eat.” “What I eat has nothing to do with being good or worthy.”
  • Try to meet yourself — and those negative thoughts and feelings — with compassion. Talk to yourself in a kind way. Try to act in kind ways.

When guilty feelings and negative thoughts arise, try to remind yourself that you haven’t done anything wrong. Remind yourself that you are still worthy.

You are worthy whether you reach for a second helping or not. You are worthy whether you eat an apple or a piece of apple pie.

You are worthy whether you have these feelings or not.

 

From Weightless Blog

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Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

See more at: http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php

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You can have all the help, support, treatment and therapists but the bottom line about recovery, relapse and healing is this:

To beat anorexia you have to eat

This isn’t the “just eat” type of comment. It is the deep, caring, understanding statement that in the end says “the only way to fully fight back is to eat”.

It means fighting against the voice of anorexia and the deep fears it has created in you – the food rules, the list of forbidden foods, the safe foods, the fat fears, skinny is best rules.

Eating is a normal activity. It is an essential activity for life and health. The mind and body need to be fully nourished for us to perform at our best. Eating is meant to be flexible, intuitive, fun, enjoyable, social, delicious.

Sticking close to the safe food list not only slows or stalls recovery, but it tells the anorexia that it is still in control and winning. Having a strict routine of counting calories, weighing food, using certain bowls and utensils, eating slowly, missing meals is also telling the anorexia it is still in control.

To beat anorexia you have to eat. You have to break down the rules and fears.

The rules and fears aren’t real. I think this is the hardest thing to realise. That other people do not have these rules and fears in their heads. It is the anorexia and only the anorexia that is making up these rules and fears. It distorts your thinking and your perception. It creates denial, smoke screens, irrationality and lies.

The biggest freedoms from anorexia are literally not having the rules, routines, fears and bondage that you live with on a daily basis.

Beginning to eat again is not an easy process. I truly know how hard it is. Sophie had so many rules and fears. It took months and in some cases years for her to confront the fear for each and every food. The fears are not a blanket approach – each food on the forbidden list had it’s own fears. For someone who only had 6 safe foods, Sophie’s forbidden list was formidable. For her it was a matter of finally deciding to choose recovery and be committed to it. It meant facing one new food at a time. Some foods were easier than others. But it did get easier over time. As the anorexia lessened it’s hold, Sophie found trying new foods and adding them to her diet was not as hard. Telling herself constantly that the fears and rules were all false also helped. It’s like reprogramming your mind.

Forever etched in my mind is her look of delight and amazement when trying a strawberry for the first time in years.
It was a truly magical and amazing moment.

Whilst you are confronting the anorexia and learning to eat again, this is where the therapy and support come in. Help to encourage you and let you know you are not having to face this alone. Treatment to help you unravel the hold the anorexia has on your mind. Meal plans to help you learn to eat again.

Do you want to beat anorexia? Claim back you life? Finally have freedom?
Eating = healing

eating = healing

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In the starvation of anorexia, the body undergoes severe stress to stay alive. It shuts down many processes, slows others, simplifies functions etc. It’s goal is to survive and to at all costs protect the brain.

In refeeding the body also undergoes a lot of strain. Some things don’t work the same, like digestion and the rest of the lower digestive tract, how it stores and distributes the nutrition. The body takes longer to build up than it took to break down. The amount and type of nutrition is critical and dependent upon how long the body has been in starvation and the strain put on it.

So when the body starts consuming higher levels of food it doesn’t distribute the nutrition the same. It just puts it all (so to speak) in one spot, as it works out what parts need the most building up and nutrition first. The abdomen becomes the storage place. Hence the rounded tummy. It even has a term given to it – fluffy weight gain or fluffy fat. It means that it won’t stay that way, it is a transitional thing. The fat is not a bad word nor a wrong word, our bodies need fat to live. Only our society and culture has made it a bad word.

Your body isn’t going to metabolise or use food the same way as before. It has to relearn how to do this again, and relearn how to digest the food.

The brain and organs are the body’s first priority –
not your ‘need’ for a flat stomach.

Because anorexia has the whole body image and fat psychology in it, everyone literally ‘freaks’ out about the weight gained and the round tummy. The overwhelming fear of being fat and the body image of the flat stomach creates a major level of conflict. Many relapses happen because of this.

Here’s a truth and new concept to think about:

The fear is false and the tummy will flatten out. TRUTH!

And it won’t happen in a month, a few months or even a year. Your body has almost been destroyed, it takes a long, long time for it to heal and work like it did before. And you can’t tell your body which bits to heal first. Your body knows best and is doing exactly the right things.

It comes down to re-programming your mind.

First, remind yourself do you want to live, be healthy or be very sick and miserable and worse die. The choice is yours when it comes to recovery. If a flat stomach means more than your life and health, then there is a problem.

Second, remind yourself the ‘fluffy weight’ will go. It will redistribute properly, your body will work properly. This isn’t a dream or false wish. IT WILL HAPPEN.  The body will not leave your tummy in it’s rounded state. As it heals it will stop using your abdomen as a storage place and send the food nutrition directly to the correct areas.

Third, the fear in your mind about getting fat and putting on too much weight is false. It’s the anorexia giving you this fear and distortion of reality. It’s controlling your mind and making up fears to control you and stop you recovering.It takes a lot to defuse this fear, anorexia feeds and lives on fears. It takes courage to face the anorexia and say, ‘that’s not true and I don’t believe you’. Time will allow you to learn this one. But know it is possible and can be done.

Fourth, follow your meal plan. This helps by giving constant nutrition to the body and starts to stabilise by it’s consistency and regularity. It helps against binge eating which can also emphasise the fluffy weight.

Fifth, it will all take time. You cannot hurry the recovery process. It simply cannot be done. You also cannot measure your recovering body against someone else’s. Everyone recovers at a different rate – metabolism, muscle, body fat, and your other unique body blueprint. In the end you have to choose. What is your goal, what means most. Health, a life free or close to free from anorexia or do you want to be beholden to sickness, control, fears and no/little freedom.

Learn to relive, heal, find a life again. The more you get involved in your life, the less you will notice the stomach. I watched Sophie do the same things. Watched and walked with her all the same fears and rounded tummy. Her body is now normal with a normal abdomen size. She now knows the fears were never real or true.

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