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Faith, Food, and Faulty Thinking

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you’d never think a negative thought again.”

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Thoughts have the ability to determine our day, even our outlook on life.  Our thoughts, when verbalized, have the ability to shape the minds of children and support or break down others.  Thoughts, especially in conjunction with words, are the most powerful weapons in the human arsenal.  Sometimes thoughts feel so uncontrollable, so overwhelming and demeaning to ourselves that we act based upon those thoughts.  This is the case with me when eating disordered thoughts once controlled my life.  Sometimes the thoughts are still powerful and it takes all the remaining mental strength I have to reason with myself and convince myself that an eating disordered life is no way to live.  Due to my own faulty thinking regarding food and body image when I am being controlled by the negative eating disordered thoughts, I am able to recognize the potential dangers in others when they verbalize their faulty thinking.  

In September I was added to a group on Facebook that seeks to support women on their weight-loss and healthy eating journey though a biblically based plan.  In order to protect the women of that group I will not name the plan or the group but the basics are this: balance your blood sugar through different types food/fuel combinations; typically resulting in weight loss but at a minimum resulting in change in energy level.  The principles are solid and I have reaped some of the benefits of utilizing this notion in conjunction with the knowledge base I have from working with a dietician for 18 months.  I have more energy and I’m less sluggish when I follow the food combinations outlined by the plan but I have not, and will not, go “all in” as so many in the group say.  I see the faulty thinking in this.  Food becomes about rules, competition with self and others, and all too often becomes about the weight loss.  Daily in this group women post photos of their feet standing on a scale to show how much they weigh or body comparison photos demonstrating their weight loss over the last few months.  I shake my head because I know weight alone does not signify health.  In fact, multiple women in the group have commented that since starting the plan and going “all in” they have lost a significant amount of weight (in too short amount of time, in my opinion) and, as a result, are struggling with hair loss.  That raises a red flag to this woman in eating disorder recovery.  Hair loss in the land of eating disorders symbolizes a lack of nutrients, and potentially a serious caloric deficit.  In fact, when I was in treatment we had a lengthy discussion about weight loss and hair loss.  The body is preparing for starvation.  This is not something I want.  I happen to like my blonde hair and would prefer not to lose it.  

Women also post almost daily about being discouraged, hating their stomaches/thighs/etc, and begging for tips on how to make the plan really work for them to lose weight.  It seems very reminiscent to pro-ana discussion groups in which I once found “support” and encouragement.  However, this group does it to “glorify God” by taking care of their bodies, as they are a temple for God (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I am not mocking the faith of these women, as I believe in God and have a strong Christian faith, but I believe most of them are not doing it for this reason alone but also because they absolutely hate and are ashamed of the way they look.  Some women who utilize this plan have been urged by medical professionals to lose weight or death and disease will ravage their bodies and, as a result, lose weight and truly become healthy.  Everyone has their own motives but I know not everyone has pure intentions and use the group as a means for comparison, self-deprecation, and a motive to lose more weight.  

The most worrisome posts to me are the ones where emotions are clearly tied to weight and body size.  Women who say they cry because they gained two pounds instead of losing two or saying they “feel fat” because they aren’t dropping clothing sizes.  These are borderline eating disorder thoughts, especially when combined with the strict rules being followed when going “all in” on the plan.  So often the “rules” associated with the plan remind me of the rules I followed when I was living in the eating disorder, which is what scares me for these women.  The most disturbing trend I keep reading and seeing in this group deals with the children.  Women post selfies standing sideways in the mirror often but the photos that really rip at my heart are the ones where these women are posing with unhappy, self-loathing faces (words to match) and their child is standing beside them, silently observing the self-hate and learning these behaviors.  I’ll be the first to admit that I still fall into the trap of body-checking by standing sideways in a mirror (when I have access to one) to determine whether not I like how an outfit makes me look but I never, NEVER do it in front of Vivienne.  However, some day she may catch me doing it and it is for that reason I need to continue to strive to change my behavior.  I can still clearly picture the photo that hurt me the most and it is of a woman who is doing just as I described and her daughter, the same age as Vivienne, is standing beside her with a sad face, too, while clutching her blanket.  Is this really what we want to teach our children? 

I know it isn’t what I want for Vivienne.   I don’t want her to look at her body after it has birth babies and hate what she sees because her stomach is no longer flat and her breasts aren’t perky.  We were all created unique in God’s image and that uniqueness extends to our bodies.  Some people are built to be heavier than others.  We aren’t all going to look like models, have well-defined muscles, or absolutely zero cellulite.  Sometimes we forget that while God created us with different personalities He also created us with different bodies, but all are still created HIS image.    All I can do is strive to take care of my body to the best of my abilities in this life I have been given.  I can’t get bogged down by playing the compare and despair game and I don’t want to pass that game on to my daughter.  

It is time to change the conversation.
We, as women, have a responsibility to the young girls in our communities to teach them to love who they are, regardless of body size.
We, as mothers, have the chance to change how our daughters look at themselves in the mirror and the dialogue they have about their bodies.
We, as Christians, have a responsibility to celebrate all bodies and the uniqueness God created.

No two people were created exactly the same and that is something we should celebrate!
It is time to quit playing compare and despair.  
It is time to teach our daughters that bodies change over time but their abilities should still be praised over appearance. 

With Body Love, 
Lane

Appreciation, Bikini Body, Body Acceptance, Body Appreciation, Body Image, Body Love, Body Shape, Body Size, Eating Disorder, Emotions, Faith, Feelings, God, Gratitude, Hope, Joy, Love, Recovery, Social Media, Weight

Radical Body Acceptance Reality Check

Bad dreams are ghosts of our fears and worries haunting us while we sleep.
-Maria Snyder

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Food dreams.  The dreaded food dreams.  Most people who have struggled with an eating disorder at any point in their lives know exactly what I am talking about.  For those who are fortunate enough not to know about food dreams here is a brief description: Often while I was in the grip of the eating disorder I would have crazy, vivid, and sometimes scary dreams about food.  I always said I never dreamed, at least I could never remember them, unless they were about food.  My food dreams were more realistic and memorable than any other dreams I might have had.  The food in the dreams might have been something I was not allowing myself to eat, such as sweets, or any food at all if I was really struggling with restricting.  I realize (now) my body was trying to tell me it was starving; that it wanted and needed food more than sleep.  Once I began to follow my meal plan and truly nourish my body the food dreams stopped.  I haven’t experienced a food dream in several months and I can only attribute that to keeping my body nourished instead of starved.  However, I was completely caught off-guard the other night when I woke up suddenly after experiencing a weight dream.

Immediately I felt a little bit of fear because I believed my brain was replacing my food dreams with weight dreams.  I feared my sleep would now become haunted with weight dreams frequently.  Instead of speaking to the physical deficit nutritionally, my brain seemed to be speaking to the emotional deficit I have regarding my body weight and size acceptance.  When this dream happened we were on vacation.  The entire trip I had not experienced any negative thoughts or feelings toward my body until the day the dream occurred.  For some reason, earlier that day, I began struggling with the negative emotions regarding my size and weight.  I was struggling to find the radical body acceptance and only saw the the weight I’ve been carrying since having my daughter.  Looking back at photos from the week I began to harshly critique my body in all of them.  I found every thing I thought was a flaw and picked it apart.  It was as if I had forgotten every bit of radical body acceptance I had been practicing over the last several months.  Instead of seeing the joy I felt while digging in the sand with my daughter or the on-top-of-the-world feeling I experienced while standing on the Point Udall sign in St. Croix, USVI, all I saw was my physical body…and I hated it.    

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Not only was I just seeing my physical body and hating it, but I was not appreciating it.  Earlier in the week we hiked in the rainforest, in 93 degree heat, and I carried our daughter most of the way.  However, when I saw the photograph of us after the hike I zoomed in on the parts of my body I thought looked terrible and wanted to make sure that photo never saw the light of day.  What I didn’t see in that moment is that my body is a beast.  If I had tried to carry her in heat like that last year, when fully engaged in eating disordered behaviors, I would have been wiped out for the remainder of the day.  My body is amazing.  I have worked too hard on radical body acceptance to let photographs take me back to self-hate.  A photograph can only show a still-life image of a moment in time but it cannot show the joy, love, laughter, and life being lived in that moment.  It is not a realistic representation of the moment.

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What I realized while looking at those photos was that I needed a radical body acceptance reality check.  Since when was my physical appearance more important than my physical ability?  When did that become number one again?  My body is a machine, a work of art, and the vehicle to help me achieve my dreams.  I love my life and I really love my life being lived in recovery.  I love being able to hike while holding my daughter, to laugh while digging in the sand, and to experience joy looking out over God’s beautiful creation.   When I place importance upon physical appearance instead of physical ability and appreciation, I lose sight of body acceptance.  I lose sight of all the things I am able to experience by living in this very body; this very unique body.  So this is my radical body acceptance reality check.  

Do you need to conduct your own radical body acceptance reality check today?  

With Body Love,
Lane

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