Tag Archives: Body Image

3 Years

Today is kind of a weird anniversary for me. I was scrolling through TimeHop this morning (people still use this app right?) when I came across a post from 3 years ago today. I left for treatment for an eating disorder/self-injury that day. I remember (vaguely, however) being terrified to go out there and have all my vices of coping and not feeling stripped away from me. I was incapable of feeling anything besides numb. There were no plans for a future in my mind, no hope of things ever not feeling as if though they weren’t going to get better. All I remember is being exhausted 24/7; emotionally and physically.

I was vulnerable to the voices in my head telling me that if I only lost a little more weight I’d be happy, I’d achieve that goal of wanting to disappear, to live a life unnoticed. Only the thing is, the more I tried to disappear the more I stood out. That’s where the lies came in. I lived a life of lying, skirting around the truth that I was slowly killing myself. My closest friends would ask what I was doing to lose the weight I had, or if I was eating. I didn’t exactly lie to them, but I wasn’t telling the whole story. I was simply working out daily and watching what I did eat (although a piece of toast with a very miniscule amount of peanut butter isn’t exactly eating). I hid my eating disorder so well and didn’t disclose information about it that my therapist I was seeing at the time didn’t even catch on to what was going on with me (which led to a lot of misdiagnoses, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder) until a month or so before I was sent to treatment.

All these memories came back when I saw those posts from TimeHop this morning. It’s still kind of mind blowing to me that it was 3 years ago, because it honestly feels like it was yesterday. I have come such a long way in my life since going to treatment.

I feel content with my life and where it’s going. I’m now a senior in undergrad with a pretty killer GPA. I’m graduating with research honors next May and hopefully will be going off to grad school after that. Yes I still struggle with my weight, appearance and eating disorder thoughts sometimes but I don’t let them consume me anymore. I have so much to offer the world (that didn’t sound conceded did it?) and after years of struggling, have a pretty good sense as to who I am. The areas of my life which I lost to my eating disorder and mental health struggles, I have either gained back or am working on gaining back. There’s relationships I’m hoping to still amend and the friends I still do have I appreciate them and no longer take them for granted.

There is so much that I have gained over the past 3 years, that it’s incredible to think about how my life has changed for the better. The road here absolutely sucked and was painful. One psychiatric hospital stay, a month in inpatient treatment and a year in outpatient treatment (which sucked more than the hospital or treatment center) are now on my track record. I hated the things that beginning recovery entailed, but if I got my life back in a better way than I could have imagined, I guess I’ll take it.

So today is the anniversary of the day I began the long journey of getting my life back. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve last self-injured which is huge after engaging in it for 10 years. Being in recovery from an eating disorder is something I feel like I’ll always have to deal with. Every day I have to make choices and check in with myself some days to make sure I’m going down the right path because it is so easy for my emotions to take over and run the course of my life. But I genuinely love my life right now, and I’m so glad I am still alive to have these experiences.

The Barry Manilow Moments

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Is this title misleading? It’s probably misleading. Oh well, that’s just how I roll.

(be prepared for lots of psychology nerdiness in this post folks!)

Ok so there’s this study I learned about when I was in IOP last year. It’s called: The Spotlight Effect in Social Judgment: An Egocentric Bias in Estimates of the Salience of One’s Own Actions and Appearance. Pretty damn wordy right? It’s actually one of the most relevant research studies for those of us who struggle with social comparisons, poor body image & that ever so lovely feeling like whenever we go out in public that everyone is ultimately staring at us. Sounds like a blast right? No, no tis not!

So here’s the jist of the procedure. Researchers had participants put on a lovely t-shirt with a big ass picture of Barry Manilows face on it and walk into a room filled with people. Now before learning of this, I rocked my BM shirt like nobody’s business because listening to pop music from the 80’s coming from a middle aged man who sings the hits like Mandy & Copacabana really adds a big ray of sunshine into my life. But any ways. The whole goal was to see if people actually noticed this ridiculously absurd article of clothing, and guess what? Barely anyone noticed the picture of Barry Manilow gracing the front of said shirt.

When I first learned of this study I thought it was ridiculous. Honestly, I believed that clothing and body image were two completely different things, but guess what folks? It’s pretty relevant to body image! Shocking I know!

For a lot of us we tend to feel constantly judged. Example: I can’t leave my house without having my make up and hair looking as flawless as I can get it. Also the conflict of wanting to wear sweatpants out is something I just cannot get myself to do. What if someone looks at me? They’d obviously be judging my choice in looking comfortable as a bad thing.

But the truth is, nobody really gives a shit about what you look like! I’ve spent years terrified of being judged, and being judged by strangers none the less! I mean these people have no influence in my life yet there has always been something inside of me that needed them to like me and find me physically attractive which meant extra effort before leaving my house to make sure my outfit is on point (I struggled right there to not say “on fleek”, but I’m not that cool to use that phrase and I really don’t even know what it means). As I learn on a daily basis to love myself and accept the way I look I constantly struggle with having Barry Manilow t-shirt moments.

The truth is nobody is staring at me when I go out. Nobody is judging me when I walk into a room, even though it’s still something I think is happening sometimes. Sure some might look in my general direction, but really nobody is that interesting for others in a room to find fascinating to stare at. Even if they are looking at you, 9 times out of 10 it’s nothing negative. I mean it’s not like you’re Beyonce or Princess Kate. How many times do you glance at someone? Probably a lot is my guess. If you’re schema is focused on body image and how YOU look, there’s a really high chance that it comes into play when you’re out and about. Maybe you’re hair is on point or someone really loves that shirt you wore that day. Yet if you’re so self-aware of what you look like or how you feel about yourself (in a negative way) then those looks turn into something negative. The voices in you’re head tell you they’re judging you, yet like the Barry Manilow t-shirt study, I can bet no one is even noticing you.

What I’m trying to get at is this: people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t exactly take the time out of their lives to notice you and how you look. You’re body isn’t on the forefront of their mind when you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant or trying on clothes at the mall. They’re probably admiring how adorbs you look in that new skirt or thinking that they should have ordered what you did as the waiter brings out your dinner (their choice of that salad is looking pretty poor as you get handed that scrumptious sizzling fajita… ok now I’m hungry just thinking about this). So try and relax when you go out and you’re not feeling confident about yourself! You rock that confidence like you’re Kanye, just don’t be a douchebag (but feel free to interrupt T.Swift because that’d be more entertaining than having to look/listen to her).

The Media Is Not The Bad Guy

Internet-news The media has always received a bad reputation when it comes to mental health issues, where people see it as the root of all evil to those struggling with things such as eating disorders, depression, self-injury and so on. But you know what guys? I don’t really believe that the media is as bad as everyone would like to think it is.

Honestly, I believe we use the media as a scapegoat to not face the underlying problems. Sure seeing extremely thin individuals all over the place could cause some discomfort amongst those either in the midst of an eating disorder, in recovery from one or even healthy minded individuals who have some sort of body dissatisfaction (because let’s admit it here, we all do to some degree). But to say “hey I saw this on____ and it caused me to develop____” is a cop out.

Eating disorders aren’t media fueled developed disorders, but for a lot of people they like to point the finger towards mass media. The truth is, these disorders are much deeply rooted within the individuals mind than simply a mere exposure to what everyone unfortunately sees everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the world we live in today is all about the latest health/diet fad, exercise and having an “attractive” body which all boils down to being thin, but when someone develops an eating disorder it is not the advertisement company’s or production teams of movies and television shows that caused it.

The individual struggling with an eating disorder have probably always had a deeper issue,probably stemming from self-worth, self-image and self-esteem issues throughout their life. Nobody wakes up one day, sees an ad or commercial and decides that that day they will be anorexic, bulimic or any other eating disorder. These disorders never start out as full blown disorders, for many they simply start as a way to lose weight or have a healthier life style. But there’s something inside of their brains that becomes addicted to the weight loss, the exercise, the lack of food consumed or vise versa. The media only fuels that desire to fit in or “be perfect”, which I believe was never their intention.

I think it’s time we stop using the media as a scapegoat and really look at the bigger issue at hand here; that issue is inside of us.

You Don’t Need a Label

I’ve heard countless times people trying to place a specific label on their issues, specifically when it comes to eating disorders. They’re not as black & white as the world would like to think they are. It’s not bulimia, anorexia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder. No, they’re so intertwined into the personality, and the personality isn’t something you can place neatly in this cute little box. Neither are eating disorders.

“I go days without eating.. but then I eat and eat. I must not have anorexia”

“I binge and purge. But it’s not all the time. Or sometimes I don’t purge but I kill myself at the gym. Does that make me bulimic or not?”

“I eat normally. I don’t throw up, but I can’t stop using laxatives. What does that make me?”

“I can eat my whole kitchen in under an hour. But then I don’t eat for days to control my weight. Am I anorexic, bulimic or something?”

Do you want to know what I’ve learned? It doesn’t matter the label. If you have an eating disorder, you have an eating disorder. It’s just my opinion but you don’t need that neat tiny label place over it and frankly I don’t understand why labeling something like this is “needed”. Maybe it’s more socially acceptable, maybe it’s an indicator for your friends and loved ones so they can “”understand”.

Sure someone who doesn’t get out of bed for days can easily be labeled depressed. Someone who attempts to take their own life can be labeled as suicidal. Someone who hears terrible voices in their head that compels their behavior can be schizophrenic. Someone who has manic episodes followed by terrifyingly dark depression can be bipolar. And for the longest time as I was in treatment, I would wonder hours on end just what labeled category I was neatly placed into.

But as I said, these disorders are so far from a simple label. I don’t know about everyone else, but my symptoms can switch like the seasons. I restrict, work out til I pass out or my muscles get deprived of oxygen that I have no choice but to stop. I eat more, but make sure to take laxatives until I lost the weight “I must have gained” that day. It’s not black and white, in fact a lot of the time those living with eating disorders live in the grey areas, and yes it can be frustrating as hell.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you have symptoms of an eating disorder that control your everyday life, you have an eating disorder. There shouldn’t be this added pressure to fit into a category identified by the DSM-V or professionals diagnosis. Nobody fighting like hell for their lives everyday don’t need that added pressure.

A disorder, mental illness or addiction are just that no matter what they look like.

Body Dissatisfaction Amongst College Males

shutterstock140181568Featured Image -- 342Hey guys so as the title hints, I want to talk about something I have been noticing on my colleges campus lately. Maybe it’s because the nice weather has finally arrived (it’s about damn time too!), but over the past couple of weeks I’ve been noticing a lot more males on campus have been making comments about their appearance and it strikes me as interesting.

As you know I talk a lot about eating disorders on my blog, and I must admit I am guilty of aiming it towards young adult females probably because I am one (if you didn’t know that, now you know.. See you learn something new everyday!). But as some of you may know, when it comes to body image, body dissatisfaction and characteristics socially associated with eating disordered behavior, males tend to be placed on the back burner so to speak.

I was in class the other day and this guy was talking to his friend sitting next to me about how he was working out in the campus fitness center. He said something that struck me as odd, yet sounded all too familiar as I often say something extremely similar. He mentioned something to the effect of how he hates working out on treadmills because of the bars on both sides meant for balance if you were to lose it mid-work out. He went on to say how he feels confined in them because his “fat ass” is too large for the space provided on the machine. Now, sitting two seats away from him I heard the whole conversation between him and his friend, and I must say I was in awe. Looking at him he was the furthest things from fat. In fact, from appearance alone he looked pretty damn normal to me. But I knew how he felt, as I struggle with my body image on a daily basis (it’s the biggest mind fuck when it comes to maintaining recovery from anorexia, at least in my opinion).

Yet his comments really made me start thinking, and I realized that males too struggle with this more than we as a society like to realize.

Research has shown that variables such as family pressures and self-esteem levels contribute to a poor body image in males (Palladino Green & Pritchard, 2003). I also found on the National Eating Disorder Association’s website that in recent years, when a survey has been given to men the findings researchers come across is that body image concerns across the male population has dramatically increased over the past 3 decades from 15% of males being dissatisfied with their bodies, to 43% (https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-males-and-eating-disorders, 2015). This means that almost half of the male population in the United States dislikes something about their physical appearance.

Heart breaking isn’t it?

It’s true that disordered eating habits and distorted thoughts about ones physical appearance doesn’t discriminate against gender, age or race. I wish more people would start speaking out for males, as the stigma of being dissatisfied with your appearance is strictly taboo for the male population. Hell, it’s hard enough for the female population to talk about eating disorders, and males have an added societal pressure on their shoulders of being “manly” or “macho”. So I can only imagine what it’s like for a male to feel like his body looks wrong, yet can’t openly talk about it. Things need to change people!

References

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-males-and-eating-disorders

Palladino Green, S. & Pritchard, M.E., (2003). Predictors of body image dissatisfaction in adult men and women. Social Behavior and Personality, 

The Real World & My Distorted World

**Possible trigger warning**

How does everything come back around to my eating disorder? As far as recovery goes, my mindset lately has been anything but recovery based. It’s frustrating as hell for me that I’ve been having such loud eating disorder thoughts the past month or so (god that’s such a cliche eating disorder treatment thing to say.. I apologize for that), and as the stress of life escalates more and more I find myself “not having time to eat” or simply being way too busy to eat breakfast or even a snack before leaving for class. It’s not too glamorous might I add. But like I said, everything fucking thing is coming back down to my eating disorder and I hate it.

If I do shitty on a test or quiz, I resort to counting calories again or simply not eating. I’ve talked about it in therapy tons and I know the reason I do it is because I know in my heart that without a doubt I am great at my eating disorder. How sad and pathetic is this? Call it a Type A personality, but my perfectionism has always gotten the best of me in life and as I’m fully in my life now it’s reared its head again and it couldn’t come at a more inconvenient time.

As I write this I know of everything I have going for me but when I lay my head down at night or am stuck in my head throughout the day, none of these things seem as promising or even significant as compared to things like my weight, how I look that day or other stupid and exhausting thoughts I have. That’s right, it’s fucking exhausting living in my head.

Even my relationship with my boyfriend is impacted by this stuff. I love spending time with him, but every time he touches me all I can wonder is what he really thinks of my body. My therapist would tell me he’s not even thinking about the things I’m thinking he’s thinking about but that feeling of disgust scares the shit out of me and when we’re together and doing things that couples do, I don’t enjoy any of it because I’m so inside my head. I don’t know if he even realizes that I’m not present and that I’m in some fucked up world where the staple in my stomach comes undone and he can see what I feel I really look like.

I always thought that after I got out of treatment I’d have a better mindset and things wouldn’t be this difficult. I knew that the day I got discharged from treatment that I wouldn’t be fixed, but shit y’all I at least thought I’d be able to manage my recovery in the real world and was strong enough and had enough of those lovely CBT skills that were drilled into my head, to be able to manage life stress without slipping down that slope that only leads to being sick.

Life thou art a heartless wench.

Prochaska’s Stages of Change & How it’s Relevant to Recovery

As a psychology major I have been loving research papers of studies done by others. For a while now, before I even entered into Research Methods & Statistics courses I have had a favorite study that has been of great interest for me: Stages of Change and Decisional Balance for 12 Problem Behaviors. I found this study after being suggested I read it by the person who is in charge of the IOP program I was in; it came about because I wrote a research paper on the differences of outcomes between residential treatment & an Intensive Outpatient Program for my English 105 course when I first went back to school last year.

Mainly because I have so much respect for the woman I interviewed and because it was so relevant to what the paper would be discussing, I took to the interwebs & found said research article. Reading the work of Prochaska made so much sense to me and was so relevant at that time in my life, and still is today.

Basically Prochaska says that when one is stopping an addictive behavior they go about it through stages (which isn’t all that shocking as a lot of psychologists have theories of stages in their works); yet with Prochaska those stages are more concrete instead of abstract. His seem to be (in my opinion) more measurable or observable.

Precontemplation

Contemplation

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Over the past year or so I have heard those stages be discussed numerous times in psychotherapy group and I always struggled with pin pointing where exactly I was at that time. It was until recently that it really became clear to me that recovery & the motivation to do so really does “ebb & flow”. What does that mean? Think of a wave in the ocean as motivation. When you’re riding high on motivation it’s incredible, yet something can happen & you lose the motivation, thus crashing down into the ocean at the bottom of the wave you were once on top of. But rest assured, there will always be a new wave & your motivation will come back.

Since starting outpatient I don’t know if I ever was in precontemplation. I feel like I entered into the program in the preparation stage (seriously considering choosing recovery in a short time), but as we said time & time again in that program, “life happened” and I would find myself back in contemplation (considering making a change, but still holding off on said change). Prochaska’s 2nd & 3rd stages were the main ones I stuck to for the first 6 months or so I was in the program. It’s easy to dream of change, but when push comes to shove, I wasn’t all too open to experiencing that discomfort & anxiety.

I think the 4th stage, the action stage, tends to scare the shit out of a ton of people. It’s then where you actually have to do the terrifying, uncomfortable, anxiety inducing work that is mandatory if a real & valid change is going to occur. It’s in the action stage where a lot of us with eating disorders struggle with the voices telling us we can’t do it. I know personally, the action stage has sent my motivation for change in my eating disorder in a fucking tailspin so many times I lost count. I always seemed to get to a certain point & I would give a big middle finger to the treatment team & recovery process & quit. Where did that get me? Abso-fucking-lutely nowhere my friends. In fact, weaving back & forth between action & contemplation only made my stay in the program months longer than it had to be.

The maintenance stage is something I find hard to identify if I am in or not. For Prochaska, maintenance was defined as a period of 6 months or so after action is 1st taken & requires a continuation of change. Maybe it’s just because I am harder on myself than need be, but I’m not perfect & recently I’ve been slipping a lot. So does that negate all of the work I am doing & thus as a result places me back into the action stage? I don’t know.

But I do know that the very idea of being in the stage Prochaska would consider to be maintenance scares the ever living life out of me. I can’t imagine at this point in time being 100% symptom free for longer than 6 months. That’s a lot of skeletons in my closet I’d have to let go of, a lot of lying I’d need to come clean about and the biggest variable holding me back: a lot of fluctuation in weight that I am proving I cannot handle.

So yeah, maintenance stage is fucking terrifying. But taking this back to Prochaska, his theory makes so much sense. I have witnessed it time & time again, this ebb & flow of these stages, in not only myself but in the lives of my friends I am going through recovery with.

Sparks of Hope

Hey guys happy Thursday!

So last night I decided I wanted to try something a little different with some of my writing time. I’ve found it so easy again to let my negative thoughts come out on paper as of late and writing has become more of a “need to do” leisure activity than a “want to do”. I’ve always loved starting my days off with a positive quote and so I decided to try and come up with my own so-called daily inspiration book. I’m thinking that at the start of everyday I will jump on here and post what I have for the day, and maybe even impact others day by sharing what is on my mind in a positive way.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the bad and forget all about the good things in life. Below is the first entry I’ll be posting and I hope you all sincerely enjoy it. Comment below if you wish, I’d love the feedback from you guys!

canstockphoto-spark


“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”

                        – Rachel Naomi Remen

When you have close friendships or relationships in your life that hold meaning to you those people tend to come to you when they’re facing difficult situations. Often times while our friends or family are talking to us, explaining their situation, we are in our own heads trying to come up with a possible solution. I know for me, I have always been the kind of person who had to fix everything. But some situations I’ve learned don’t need that silver lining or words of wisdom; all that needs to be heard by those who come to you is that you heard them.

 

Goal: This week if a close friend or family member confides in you, make a conscious effort to simply listen. Try your best to hear what they are saying, pause before speaking and remove the pressure from yourself of having to fix it.


Body Image Fuckery

**This may be triggering to some of you, but I’m not sure so here’s your warning**

Today I feel like shit about myself. It was the first day of classes, and I was super anxious; not about the classes or the work that is soon to come my way, but of the way others would see me. It’s like I’m caught in the middle of two fears:

1. I don’t want people looking at me and speculating I have an eating disorder

2. I don’t want people looking at me and thinking I’m fat

See my problem? I’ve had this struggle pretty much since I entered residential 2 summers ago. Even there I felt like a lie. I felt like I was the fattest person to ever be admitted with anorexia, and even today being in treatment and therapy I still feel like a fraud. I see new people come in who are loads smaller than I am, and I wonder if they see me as a binger, not a restricter. I know it’s completely selfish but the body image piece still brings me to tears. I don’t see what I look like, but I feel like I’m hands down the largest person to have anorexia. It sucks but it was what went through my head all day today on campus. I was in class wondering if those who were in my classes last semester saw that I had gained weight, I wondered if I looked sick to them (and the fucked up part is I kind of want someone to tell me I’m ‘skinny’). I want that validation that I’m not this overweight person my mind makes me think I am on a daily basis.

I know I shouldn’t be feeling this way still, but I am so fucking conflicted it’s not even funny. I hate body image shit, and I just want to see myself the way I really am before I gain too much weight.

Again, sorry if this fucked with anyone’s head.


I’m not going to miss 95% of life to weigh 5% less.

Body Image & Gender Stereotypes

I was starting my work for my psychology of gender course I am taking over winter break and came across something I found rather interesting and hope you all might as well. Before I start I am pretty well aware of the fact that the reason I found this to stand out to me and took an interest in it is probably because of the schema I have towards this type of thing.

I also found it interesting, however, because I am currently working on my own study regarding ones ethnicity and levels of social comparison/self-esteem levels. I’ll be conducting it this upcoming semester and I must say I am thrilled to be getting hands on experience in the research field. I’ll more than likely post more about this some time later but I digress.

According to Sex & Gender: an introduction 6th edition (Lips, 2008) this is what they have found regarding appearance and gender stereotypes:

  • Beauty is defined as a feminine attribute
  • Physical attractiveness is a more central part of the self-concept for women than men
  • Women are less satisfied with their body appearance and function than men
  • Heavy weight is often linked to low self-esteem
  • Women who describe themselves as feminine and men who describe themselves as masculine are most likely to feel dissatisfied with their bodies
  • Stereotypes vary by group. For instance, African American women report less concern than European American women about heavy weight

When I read this in my book it all made sense to me. It’s something I’ve wondered so much about, the question of why do we as women in society only view ourselves as good enough if we have that perfect body, and why is it supported that if we are not this thin-ideal body type do we interpret that as not good enough or somehow it makes us feel bad about who we are?

It’s upsetting to me that the way we look defines our self-worth a lot of the times and that the attractiveness of ourselves allows our emotions to dictate how we feel. It upsets me, but at the same time I understand it and get it. For so long, and even still although I’m trying to change it, I’ve let my weight/shape be a major aspect of my self-concept. Reading this in my book today however, made me realize that if it’s mentioned in a publicized textbook sold at colleges, than there’s a bigger problem and a bigger picture. It made me realize that the problem isn’t with body image, that’s only a manifestation of the bigger issue at hand; the problem are these stereotypes and how they’ve changed over time.