Saturday, June 30, 2012

Do It Anyway ~ Mother Teresa

I just love this more than words can say:

NO girl/woman is better than another!

Like your curves or your sleekness all you want. I encourage it! Like yourself; LOVE yourself!

EVERYONE and EVERY woman should LOVE themselves.

with that being said...

Curvy girls are better than skinny girls!?!?

I was absolutely appalled at myself today when I found that I "liked" this page on Facebook. Please duly note, I am NOT advertising or endorsing this page by posting it's link. In fact, I am doing the OPPOSITE.

--What I do endorse and strongly encourage is two-fold:

(1) EVERY single woman should love themselves. If YOU don't love yourself, how can anyone else love you? In fact, if you don't love yourself, how can you love anyone else?

(2) EVERY single woman should respect other women. If we don't respect each other, why should men, our bosses, our kids or anyone else? Lead by example ladies - you, and you, and you, and I - we are NO better than each other.

--What I challenge is for every one of you to look into what you "like" and endorse, in life and on Facebook. If you are a fan of the mentioned page or any like it, I challenge you to make the choice to respect your gender - unlike it!

Kindness goes a much longer way than judgement, ladies & gents.

Curvy girls are NOT "better than" skinny girls --> coming from a "curvy" girl.
Curvy girls are NOT "less than" skinny girls, either --> still coming from a "curvy" girl.

This page and others like it are nothing less than ignorant and disgusting BULLYING.

STOP being a bully. STOP being judgmental. STOP being a...

Let's start a new trend - repeat after me:


Thursday, June 21, 2012

I just want to eat -- food is NOT the enemy.

Food is something I still think about during a lot of my time.
What to eat, what not to eat... when to eat, when not to eat... I still think about food and eating it a lot.
The main and amazing and humbling difference now is that I don’t ever even consider purging it. Never. I will never again force myself to purge. It is a firm and solid pact I have made with myself. Ya know why? Because, if I ever go there again, I really don’t know what would happen. I don’t know what cycle or whirlwind it would cause. So, I just am never, ever, ever doing it again. Ever.
I still, however, think of eating when I know I don’t need to, when I’m not at all hungry and sometimes even when I am fully aware that I am full, or if I know I have already eaten enough calorically and possibly then some for the day. The thoughts of food still linger and build in my mind. I’m not gonna lie - it still, to this day, is bothersome sometimes.
Sometimes like...
When I have an “event” coming up, I think about what not to eat. I think about making sure I am “good” and I think about trying to be sure I make the effort or time to make it to the gym. I think about what not to eat, what to burn and what to avoid so that I can look my “best”.
When the “event” is over, I think about freedom - freedom from having to be mindful and keep myself in check. After an event, finally, I am free. I can eat whatever I want because I don’t have any pressure to “look good” for anything. I have leeway because I don’t have any “event” that I HAVE to “look good” for right now or soon to come.
But, Freedom - freedom to just eat, to Eat to Live... I haven’t gotten there yet. 
But, like I say on the information panel of my blog:
I am a work in progress. Just like life, some days are better than others, and I have to work to succeed. This work is necessary and worthwhile! I think it is possible to go from Living to Eat to the healthy alternative, Eating to Live! This is my testimony and my story.
I am not going to lie to you, fans. I am not going to lie to myself either. Honesty and integrity are key for someone trying to recover or maintain recovery from an ED. So, I will be honest with myself here and therefore, I will be honest with you, too.
I am not there yet. Sometimes I am, but not always.
I find that when I have the best and most “normal” Eating to Live freedom is when I am able to get to the gym on a semi-regular basis. If I can do spin and get my cardio in maybe 3 times per week at least, I can eat to live. I guess this takes away most of my fear about gaining? Makes sense... 
I will also admit that when I work out, I am not thinking “Yes Jessica, this is so good for your heart and your health. Great Job!” 
When I work out I think, “this makes it all okay... this makes eating okay... everything will be okay... even if I gain or am not “perfect”, I am making an effort and thats all I will require from myself.”
Hmm... I guess the statement is semi-healthy. Yes, I said semi-... I know part of that statement is irrational and catastrophic. But, the other part of it, the leniency is my requirements of myself, is fantastic coming from me! That is marked improvement from a couple years back, trust me.
I still realize that when I can’t work out, I end up feeling slightly hopeless sometimes, honestly. I think instead of allowing myself to maintain this depressing feeling of hopelessness, I translate it into self-approved and self-directed, OK’d-apathy. When I feel like it doesn’t even really matter what I eat this week because I can’t try to work any of it off, I admittedly am practicing purposeful apathy. When I think, “well, If I can’t work off anything I eat, well then what the hell? I might as well just take a “break” and eat”
---> meet my coping mechanism = Apathy.
Sometimes I still eat to “cheat”. Sometimes I still have “cheat” days... days that I think, “hmmm... what is really good? What do I normally not eat. I should just go ahead and eat that today. I’ll just eat it today and not care... tomorrow I’ll care... next week I’ll care again.”
But, I do care. I care everyday. No matter how hard I try to play apathetic, I care.
I will wake up in the morning and look in the mirror - I look sideways in the mirror - I examine what the food I ate “did to me”.
You know what’s amazing though? You know what keeps me on that recovery trail? 
My gosh - it is AMAZING how forgiving my body can be. It is amazing how forgiving my body can be when I punch apathy in the face, start caring again, and treat my body with a little respect.
Well, guess what
...your body will forgive you, too. 
No matter what, your body will never leave you. Your body will never abandon you and your body will always forgive you. Always.
Weight is not permanent. Anyone can gain a few pounds, sure. But, everyone can also lose those few pounds, too. Both are just as possible!
Food does NOT have to be my enemy, and it doesn’t have to be yours. Even though I think of food often and you might, too, food is not the enemy. 
Even though food still takes its toll on my thoughts some days, I KNOW that food is NOT the enemy. 
Food is NOT the enemy. 
I’lll tell you the truth, I might be my own enemy and you might be yours sometimes. But, food has never been and it will never be the enemy. It’s just food.
I can wake up and fear that the food I ate will have overnight made me into some terribly horrendous and unworthy, grotesque monster. But, the mirror doesn’t lie folks. Before I looked in the mirror, I was lying - I was lying through catastrophic irrationality. Because even when I might be bloated from eating a “bit” too much the day before, I still never have found any grotesque monster staring back at me in the mirror [unless maybe I forgot to take off my dramatic eye-look make up :)] And, even if I do gain a couple pounds from being “lax” and taking a “break” and “cheating” and eating “forbidden” foods... eating healthy and well and doing some normal work outs can bring me right back to me. Avoiding the cycle and the pressure and the ridiculousness of being crazy hard on myself can shift me right back into “normal”. can bring you back, too.
**There are 2 things I think ALL sufferers or people who are just plain hard on themselves when it comes to their bodies and/or food consumption need to BELIEVE:


OK- wait... one more really, really important thing:

Your weight is not your worth because your worth is immeasurable. is NOT the enemy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Talking to, hearing from & forgiving ED - the empty chair experience.

I just left the class in which I had a chance to speak to her. I spoke about this proposed conversation during my previous blog entry, Talking to ED via the empty chair. [I never do this, but I would prefer for the readers to read that blog entry before this one]. As you have hopefully read in Talking to ED via the empty chair, I told you I was going to talk to her. I was going to tell ED that, although I appreciate her for all of the incomparable things she has done for me, I hate her.

In case you didn't know, I refer to my eating disorder in the third person - I explain this more in another blog that I will quote from below [Blogging in the 3rd person]:

"It is easier for me to speak of her as someone separate from myself because I feel she is truly another person. Her obsessive tendencies compared to my go with the flow attitude; her depressive outlook compared to my positive, self-actualizing outlook; her fake smile compared to mine aglow; her timid voice compared to mine in confidence ...its all so different. Like a she compared to a ME."

I still have so much anger towards my eating disorder, towards her. I desperately want to let that anger go so I can truly let her go. I want to be ME, I no longer want to even know her. I need to tell her that I hate her and I need to forgive her. I need to do this so I can allow myself to completely let go of her. She no longer serves me and I no longer want to serve her.

Well, today was the day I spoke to her using the empty chair technique I mentioned in Talking to ED via the empty chair. Although I did speak to her openly and truly, I have more to say. I have more to say and more to let out; I want to involve my readers.

Before I get into what I have to say to her, I have to first thank my readers. After the exercise I will summarize and expand on below, I immediately felt a need to write about it. I immediately felt a need to write about it so you could experience it with me. I feel connected to my readers and I feel that my best therapy comes from opening up to you - whoever you are. And for that, I could never thank you enough.

A preface to the Empty Chair:

Before I began to speak to my eating disorder, my group members and I sat in a circle. My faux-therapist brought up that he felt I may have some unresolved issues with my eating disorder and invited me to speak to her, to tell her how I feel. He asked me to speak to the chair he moved in front of me as if it were her. He invited me to tell her exactly how I feel, right now, today, in this moment... to tell her.

Maybe you won't be surprised, but it is easier for me to get my complete thoughts out in writing rather than aloud. The following is what I told them, and then some. The following is what I have been wanting to tell her for quite some time...

Empty Chair - commence:

It's been a long time since you completely consumed me. I have been clean from you for well over a year now. When I talk about you, I almost always praise you. I praise you for all you have done for me. I praise you for the first hand knowledge I have because of you. Because of my experience with you, I know the inner workings of and the inner struggles caused by being consumed by you.
I know the reality of you and I know the realness of the pain and torment and guilt and shame and exhaustion that comes with you. I know what its like to have to hide you from the world; I know what it's like to be deathly afraid of your reveal; it is terrifying to know that someone might catch on to you.

Because of this, I know what it is like to live in a complete and elusive facade. 
Because of you, I am able to truly understand and relate to those who suffer or have suffered from a disorder like you. This experience and my ability to truly understand is something money cannot buy and textbooks cannot teach. I have an advantage now because of you. And for that, I endlessly appreciate you. I appreciate having known you and I believe you were in my life for an indisputable and divine purpose, reason and cause...

I am so humbled by the knowledge and purpose you have brought to my life. I am truly so thankful for that.

I hate you.
As much as I appreciate you, I still hate you... 
I hate you for the standards you put on me.
I hate you for the pressures you put on me to be perfect - whatever that means.
I hate you for setting me up for failure with those standards and with that pressure. You set me up, every time.
I hate you for the shame and the guilt, the sadness and the anger and all the cyclical bullshit you put me through.

I hate you for trapping me in your vicious cycle for so long. I hate that when I wanted to escape, you drowned me with your bullshit. You drowned me with your wicked thoughts and your horrible feelings of unworthiness. I hate that I was never good enough for you and your standards.

I hate you for my sophomore year of college in which you encouraged me to starve in preparation for your binging and purging. I was happier barely eating, by the way.

I hate you even more for the day I will never, ever forget - the day I snapped.
I hate you for this day in which you ate and I didn't. I remember what you ate. I remember what you were wearing. I remember looking at you from what seemed to be outside of my own body. 
I snapped and I lost control. I snapped and I lost myself to you. I lost control; you took it from me. I hate you for the first time YOU ate - binged - and I suffered. I hate you for this first time in which I purged. I hate you for the temporary euphoria and incomparable control you provided me with during this first purge. 

I hate you even more for abandoning me afterwards. You took your euphoria and my control with you; you left me there, on the floor of my bathroom. You left me in shame and disgusted. You left me completely confused and totally devastated, feeling paralyzed, exhausted and broken. I hate you for leaving me there alone with my tears. I hate you even more for coming back - I hate you for your continuation of this brutal cycle for a period of 8 whole years.
I hate you for all the precious time and times I lost because of you.
I hate you for the friends I lost. I hate you for all the moments I lost out on with the friends who stayed.
I hate you for the relationship you helped ruin with my then loved-one and boyfriend. I hate that you kept me from my ability to be intimate with him. I hate that I felt so unattractive that I couldn't possibly allow him to be close to me, to touch me, to love me, nothing. Because of you, I was incapable of loving or being loved. I hate that I hated myself because of you.
I hate you for making me lose so many moments, days, experiences with my sorority sisters. I hate you for making me lose relationships with my sisters, particularly with my little sisters, in my sorority. I hate that I wasn't there when I should have been - you were the culprit of my sell outs. I hate you for making me not want to leave the confines of my house because I was exhasuted or felt disgusting because I had binged and/or purged or because I felt the obsessive need and the urge to do so. I hate that I neglected my sisters and my responsibilities of my sorority because of you. I hate that I was incapable of true or lasting connections and bonds with my sisters because I was consumed by you.

[*To my sorority little sisters, Hillary and Shannon, whom I am no longer close with but will always adore - I am so sorry. I am sorry I didn't keep up with you and keep a close relationship with you... I regret it. I wish I could have remained more apart of your lives, especially your recent weddings. You are both wonderful, and I love you. AOT Love.*]

I hate you for the way you made me feel. I hate that I didn't want to get dressed or socialize because of the exhaustion and disgust in which you made me feel. I hate you for the weight I gained and lost, gained and lost, gained and lost... I hate you for not allowing me to feel comfortable in my own clothes or in my own body - ever.

I hate you for the alcohol I drank and the pot I smoked in attempt to cope with you. I hate that even when I decided that I wanted to avoid or get rid of you and be strong, I allowed alcohol and pot to enable you to easily walk right back into my life. I hate all the times I smoked to feel better about your binge. I hate all the times I drank to feel better about your purge and the depression, hopelessness and loneliness your binge-purge came with.
I hate you for the unhealthy relationships and the one night stands I have had because of you. I hate that I lived to seek approval - I hate you for all of my approval seeking behaviors and all the consequences and the guilt and shame that came with them.

I hate you for encouraging me to steal [Bulimia and petit thievery]. I hate you for encouraging me to lie about it just to keep you a secret and remain living in the facade you forced me to create.

I hate that I was never-ever-ever good enough for you. I hate that I still, at times, do not feel good enough because of my history with you.

I hate you for the continuous body checking behaviors I participate in because of the fear you have instilled in me. I hate that I fear what the mirror will reflect back at me. I hate that, every morning, the first thing I do is look in the mirror. It's as if I am scared that overnight, I may turn into some grotesque kind of alien. I fear that no matter how 'good' or 'bad' I was the day before, I might look in and see something completely ugly and unworthy.

I hate you for the fear I have that when someone looks at me, I wonder what might be wrong with me. I hate that you made it so hard for me to ever take in and believe a compliment.

I hate you the most for making me believe that I am unworthy. I hate you the most for teaching me and demanding that I base my worth on my weight and on my appearance. And I fucking hate that I still do that... I still base part of my value and my worth on those things.
For all of these things, I hate you.

Deep Inhale...

                        Slow Exhale...


I told her...
Wow - as overwhelming as all of the above is to say and think and read - what a relief.
Finally, I told her...

-So, here is where my therapist stepped back in:
"Why don't you switch chairs with your eating disorder... Would you be willing to sit in her chair and tell yourself what you would want your eating disorder to tell you?"

From ED to ME:

(I imagine ED would speak to me in the familiar, sweet voice that belongs to one of the sweetest women who I have ever known - Mrs. Vicki Wasson. She calls me Sweet Jessica, and so shall ED.)

Sweet Jessica, I am sorry.

Sweet Jessica, you are good enough; in fact, you are better than that. The good things you do and the caring, thoughtful person that you are is better than good.

Sweet Jessica, you no longer have to listen to me or get trapped in my viscious cycles. I release you.
 Sweet Jessica, I'd like for you to forgive me. I want you to forgive me not because I deserve it, but because you do.

Sweet Jessica, I will never bother you or control you again; only remember me for the passionate purpose in which I have served you.

 Sweet Jessica, I want you to forgive me. Please forgive me.

Goodbye, sweet Jessica.

My reaction to her words:
I wasn't sure what my reaction was at the end of this empty chair experience. I wasn't sure at the time and I wasn't ready to figure it out yet. I wanted to reflect on it and I wanted to get more out - I did that here, with my readers.
When I told my group my reactions, I simply said it felt good to hear her say I didn't have to listen to her anymore. My words from her to me were different in class today. After reflecting and getting out all of my feelings of hatred that I have or have had towards her, I feel as though her reply would be genuine as reflected above. I feel as though she would be empathetic and release me.
I prefer the feedback I got from her above. I believe the feedback; I believe her. I believe that I no longer have to be afraid of her or of my past with her. I feel as though she would release me from the bondage in which I was tied under for so long. I feel as though she would know that I am worthy and that I do not deserve her or her sufferings.


I forgive you, ED.
I forgive you not because I think highly of you, but because I think highly of ME.
I forgive you not because you deserve it, I forgive you because I deserve it.
I forgive you...

*Special Shout Out to my love and future husband, Galo - my number 1 fan. I know, in your eyes, my beauty is unfading and true. I love you.*

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Talking to ED - the empty chair technique

As I mention often, I am in a master's program at the University of South Florida. Yesterday I had class - Group Theories and Techniques. Part of learning how to lead group therapy sessions is by being a part of a group - being both a group member and sometimes a co-leader with another classmate. We run two equal in length group sessions with our classmates at the latter part of every class. Today I was both co-leader and member.

During the first of two sessions yesterday, I was a member. I participated and some emotions were evoked during the process. Overall, it wasn't too deep and I felt put together when it was my time to plan to co-lead the 2nd of our two group sessions for the day. As I stood outside with my co-leader and our professor discussing our plan, something said put me in a whirl of emotion. It was so unexpected. I had no choice but to put it aside and put my co-leader game face on.

During this prep-talk, my co-leader mentioned a technique he was interested in utilizing. The technique is part of the Gestalt therapy modality and involves a sort of psychodramatic role play.

The Empty Chair.

The point of the empty chair technique is to allow a group member to process unfinished business or emotions with possibly someone in their life who has caused them grief or trauma. This person may be someone who has passed or someone they have disconnected from due to trauma or disagreement, or even perhaps an aspect of themselves that causes or has caused them a great deal of pain or anguish. The process is intended to allow the person to come to terms or find resolve regarding something in their distant or even recent past. Within this technique's process, the group member can talk to the person or the part of themselves to let go of some pent up expressions, emotions or statements they haven't yet been able to divulge to the party "sitting" in the empty chair. The group member can also switch roles as well as seats and reply or provide feedback to themselves that they might have been longing for or wanting from that person or part of themselves.

Well, next week I am going to be performing this empty chair technique as part of a small group assignment in front of my classmates. I am going to be talking to her, to ED. I am excited, terrified, anxious, heated... I have such a range of emotions towards her. No matter how far I have come in my recovery, I still have hatred towards her.  I often say and I truly believe that she plagued me for a reason. She was in my life for a purpose and she  has given my future career and life's work true purpose in which I am infinitely passionate about it. However, as much as I say I appreciate her for the hand's on knowledge she has provided me, I still hate her.  I still carry hatred for her for many things.

I can't wait to tell her how I feel - I can't wait to tell her that I hate her.

My hope, and the point of the therapy technique, is that by telling her all of the things I have been wanting to tell her that I will have hatred no longer and she will be permanently removed from my life, my head and my heart.

I am going to clear my mind now and wait for this empty chair experience so I can express true, raw and real hatred towards her in front of my classmates. Of course, I will blog about it next week.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Are genes or "jeans" more of a causal factor in ED and OB development?

As mentioned in my last blog post, Is Emphasis on Body Image in the Media Harmful to Females only?, I am in graduate school at the University of South Florida in the Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling Program and am taking a course that hits pretty close to home this summer. It is called: Obesity and Eating Disorders. 
Weekly assignments include discussion posts to a particular, possibly controversial topic in the world of body image, obesity and eating disorders. This weeks discussion topic:
Genes or Jeans?

A variety of professional disciplines, including medicine, pharmacology, biochemistry, psychology, psychiatry and sociology have investigated both obesity and eating disorders, focusing on that component of the disordered behavior most unique to that discipline's professional contribution. This promotes a unidimensional model and fragmentary view of what leads to, constitutes, and maintains the disorder. In a mechanical and reductionist paradigm scientist search for identifiable predisposing or causal evidence which contribute to the etiology of specific mental or physical diseases. A medical model of etiology may focus on the biological contributions and/or genetic factors whereas a psychodynamic model will target emotional or psychological variables. Sociology studies the sociocultural factors which are contributing factors. Which factor/factors do you believe contribute most to the etiology of ED and OB. 

Wow, I could go on about this for days... here is my response:

I have to begin with a neutral answer as I believe it is ignorant not to consider both "jeans" and genes and then some in the development of any psychological disorder. Psychological contributing factors to obesity and eating disorders include but are not limited to compulsivity/impulsivity, depression, perfectionism, narcissism, anxiety, etc. Other biological factors that may contribute could include metabolism, body type, etc. Psychosocial and other factors that may contribute to the development include parental eating habits, education on proper nutrition (or lack there of), the fashion industry and, my personal favorite (not) MEDIA.

OK. Now that I stated there are multiple possible causal factors to consider for the development of OB and ED, I will get into my humble opinion...

"JEANS" = Media. Advertisements. Billboards. Magazine covers. The "diet" business. Commercials. Movies. TV Shows. Music Videos. Pornography. 
...shall I go on?

What do all of these "jeans" have in common?? 
-Ans: Digital enhancements.

What does that mean to some people who, perhaps, have more genes that make them more susceptible to internalizing digitally enhanced media? It means OBESITY and it means EATING DISORDERS along with possible body dysmorphia, probable slim-to-no self-esteem, etc.

You see, digital enhancements mean that the images were "photoshopped" and changed and "perfected"... that means they aren't even real. So, in the world of "jeans", if you are someone who internalizes these images and makes a firm self-worth-dependent decision that, unless you look like what you see (fake images), you aren't good enough. What do you think happens when people strive to become what they see in the world of "jeans"? They fail. They fail because its impossible. You know what failing to achieve what one sees in the world of "jeans" does to someone who has decided they MUST look like the fake and the impossible? It creates a vicious, ugly cycle called OBESITY and EATING DISORDERS.

I'll give you just one detrimental example of what the world of "jeans" and media did for me in my former eating disordered perspective:

Picture a popular gossip magazine cover. Picture the "best and worst beach bodies" edition cover. You see sand and beach chairs, designer bikinis and wedge sandals, 6-pack abs and perfectly flowing hair.... and then you see a zoomed in shot of cellulite. You know what I have? Cellulite. And, lots of it.

But, wait...What is cellulite anyway?!?

You know what my biggest trigger to developing and maintaining bulimia? ...feeling worth LESS and scared to DEATH of my body because of magazine covers just like this one...