This yo-yo or extreme dieting may be seen as harmless or even vain but we must recognize it stems from a very dangerous place. Negative body image is the negative self-perception of your body. It is often accompanied by shame; the unworthiness we feel due to our flaws. This combination of negative body image and shame is what leads us to take desperate measures with our bodies.
In my family, we do our best to be open about it. We share with each other and talk openly about the challenges and struggles surrounding mental health -- challenges that have touched our family directly, and the families of countless Canadians. The conversation can sometimes be uncomfortable or difficult, but it is too important to let that stop us. We work hard every day to try to reduce and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. In order to recover, we must be willing to find and accept help. We can have conversations with our family and friends, even when it is difficult to do so. Some of you may not have families who are available or open to conversations about mental health, but that does not mean you are alone.
This month, The FDA approved a device that promises quick weight loss in minimal time and it has many physicians furious. The device is called AspireAssist and it's appalling. a tube is surgically implanted into the patients stomach using a port valve, which is an opening just above the belly button that can be opened or closed to drain food. Let's discuss the implications of all this.
There's been a lot of visceral (read: ICK) reaction to the stomach-draining device that was just approved by the FDA. An alternative to traditional dieting and more invasive than traditional bariatric surgeries, the AspireAssist system is definitely a new way of preventing calories from being absorbed by the body.
By and large, we live in a diet-obsessed society, so my health nuttiness went unnoticed. Plus, like most individuals with eating disorders, I was a master at hiding all this dysfunctional behaviour for many years. I was also incredibly successful at outwardly presenting a well put-together front when facing the world. I had been a model student, a star employee, a good friend and doting auntie to my young nephews. Until it all came crashing down on me.
Eating disorders don't care if you're male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old. They'll destroy anyone who's ripe for the picking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.
A few days ago, I came across a blog post in which the blogger made a comment about how each roll of skin on her tummy represented a happy moment with her family in which she enjoyed that chocolate cake at her child's birthday party or had skipped the Jillian Michael's exercise DVD that morning so she could sit on the floor and colour with her daughter. For the first time in my life, the realization of my sick mindset entrenched in the lost, wasted, hungry hours I chose in order to be the thinnest mom on the block finally beat me over the head with a barbell.
To be happy not only with the squishy parts of my body but also to simply have so much self-worth that happiness is not directly correlated to my efforts to control my weight is such a foreign concept, and yet, I can't help but feel envy for those who, like Pink, do not rely on their daily caloric intake for their sense of identity.
The absence of visible symptoms is not the most accurate measure of someone's recovery from this disease. Weight is a physical thing, but anorexia also resides firmly in the psyche. Anorexia is like having the person who hates you the most, the most irrational tyrant you can imagine, living in your head rent-free, trying to burn down your physical foundation from the inside out. It's an interminable abusive relationship that's nearly impossible to leave because it transpires in your own mind. Those voices can cause problems before the weight loss starts to show.
I've spent these past several months adjusting to the diagnoses of my mental illnesses, redefining who I am as compared to who I thought I was. Sadly though, dependent on how news of my illnesses is viewed by others and based on the fact that my healing is partly based on perseverance and strength, never has the company I've kept been subject to more scrutiny.
Although my mental illness was recently diagnosed, I've known since I was a teenager that I had an eating disorder. In the case of the eating disorder known as EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), lack of physically obvious symptoms makes it not only easier for this disorder to persist for years, but it also makes health care providers less willing and/or able to diagnose it.
Thinking of people with eating disorders as crazy or self-destructive is just wrong, says Dr. Steiger. In fact, there are still too many myths attached to eating disorders -- like the following. It's a rich girl's disease: In fact, eating disorders cut across all economic groups. Goals and values of being upwardly mobile, of being achievement oriented affect all social groups.
Are we doing enough about an illness that is silently eating away at both a mother and daughter? Twenty years ago, People Magazine headlined one of their covers with, "Princess Di: Struggle with Bulimia Brings a Puzzling Disease Out of the Shadows." Eating disorders still remain a private battle for millions of young women, and the faces of those affected are changing. We'd be downright wrong to frame it as a "rich, white girl's disease." How do you capture the cost of subjecting millions of women to calorie counting or religious scale stepping?
It is with great apprehension that I write this post and confession. Two weeks ago, I reentered a treatment program at the hospital, because I have relapsed into bulimia, and can't fight this alone. The treatment program will last at least seven months, involving multiple weekly visits to the eating disorder clinic at the hospital, where I will participate in supervised meals, various groups and one-on-one therapy. This is my third time going into treatment. The hypocrisy of preaching healthy eating while doing ED treatment fills me with guilt.
Recently I was asked if I ever worried that I was putting my children at risk for developing eating disorders by being so open and honest about my own. The truth is that they always knew their mom was a bit "different," they just didn't know why. I may have convinced myself that they were oblivious to my disorder, but how could that be true when we'd be walking out the door to go for dinner and one of them would ask, "Are you eating today, Mommy, or just watching?" or they'd shout, "Look, Mommy's a dinosaur!" because the bones of my spine would poke out so sharply from under my skin.