EDulting: Beach Body Bullshit

It's that time of year. It seems you can't shake a sarong without hearing some diet culture BS around getting "bikini ready," and the fad diets are in full force. The unfortunately reality, is that often it's really "relapse season" for many who struggle with eating disorders/disordered eating.

The transition from Spring to Summer brings expectations of more revealing clothing, outdoor activities, and changes from more structure (school, work, kids), to less structure. All of these, on top of the extra media focus on diets and bodies, can be extra stress and triggers for those working on recovery from an eating disorder (heck, for all of us).

This month we tackle these triggers, the frustration with how the fitness/wellness industry is often the diet industry in disguise, and what to say to the haters. 

EDulting is hard, but we can do hard things. 

If watching helps you listen, here is a link to the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/QG20tfRAMMY

EDulting: Embodied Recovery

Tara and I were so pumped to have Tracy Brown, RD as a guest this month on our podcast! Tracy is a somatic nutrition and body image coach and has a wealth of experience and knowledge in helping people come home to their bodies and heal their relationship with food and weight. In this episode we discuss the process of becoming connected with your body during recovery as both a source of important information, of joy, and as a way to live out body acceptance.

Like many practitioners who value embodiment, I believe the self is inseparable from the body, that the body isn't just "a vehicle for transporting the soul," so it's refreshing to connect with someone so like-minded.

(By the way, I hate that phrase. It's often invoked when trying to convey the importance of taking care of one's body, like you would a car. The problem I have with that is continuing to view my body as an object, something to be tinkered with, maintained, and repaired without regard to the essential interconnectedness and interdependency of mind, body, and spirit. Last I checked, your mind and spirit were not dependent on your car to stay alive and learn about the world and yourself.) 

 

Tracy also has some great resources and tools if you want to learn more: 

Body Bashing Decoder: https://tracybrownrd.lpages.co/opt-in/

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What the Hunger?

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So many of us have no idea what hunger *really* feels like. Above are some distinctions between physical and emotional hunger. This is very useful if you tend toward eating when struggling with a tough emotion. However, I think there is a third kind of hunger we don't give much lip service to. This is a type of hunger that occurs when you have been restricting. 

"Wait!," you say, "My problem is binge eating! I don't restrict!" Not so fast. Do you swear off sweets (or chips) the day after a binge? Do you resolve to "eat right" and thus hardly eat at all? Are you eating fewer than 2000-2500 calories per day on a "good day?" Then you are restricting. In fact, this restriction (no matter how severe or mild) is what creates this third type of hunger.

I call it "Survivor Hunger." This is the hunger that flips on when you are around food or start eating after several hours (or days or weeks) of restricting. The tricky thing is, it ALSO can feel urgent and overwhelming and can leave you feeling guilty or out of control (even though it is your body kicking into survivor mode. "There's food! We're allowed to eat?! Eat it ALLLLLL, it may never come again!!")

The unfortunate reality is that many restrictive eaters and binge eaters alike will misinterpret this as "emotional hunger," ignore or otherwise distract themselves from it, shame themselves for it, and continue to deepen disordered eating. 

The answer? Before you check for physical vs. emotional hunger, ask yourself if you're eating enough and eating regularly throughout the day. If not, fix that first. You won't be able to listen and follow your hunger cues any other way. 

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In Praise of Despair

Bear with me here. When I look back on the changes that have helped me become a better person (still a work in progress), nearly every period of growth was preceded by a period of despair. I'm using despair here as an umbrella term to cover a range from unpleasantness to utter destruction. That despair can manifest in a myriad of ways: a gnawing loneliness, existential anxiety, destructive relationships, disordered eating, overspending, or other self-harmful behaviors. These are the symptoms of despair, the ways it demands to be seen or, more often, attempts to relieve it. It was only in eventually turning to face the despair, to explore it, to excavate it that I was able to change. This is why one of my favorite quotes is from Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as just I am, then I can change.”

The trick here is not to confuse acceptance with affinity. I can accept things I don’t like. When I accept my role in creating some sources of that despair as well as my role in rising above it (or at least learning to live with it more peacefully), then I can make steps toward change. I see this play out in big and small ways in my life and in the lives of the brave souls I have the privilege to explore this with. Despair, like pain in the body, is a signal, a helper, telling us things are not right. If we listen, we have an opportunity to give ourselves what we need to heal. Like knee pain can drive us to the couch to rest and avoid further injury, emotional pain can drive us to retreat, reduce stress, reevaluate, and repair.

As we surrender, whether willingly or kicking and screaming, to this process, despair can somewhat be welcomed as a friend, a signal to pause, to take stock, and empowers us to change. After all, if something caused me no distress or despair whatsoever, why would I be motivated to change? In this way, despair is a catalyst for growth and healing, a part of the process. Now, that’s not to say you will magically start loving being in despair or the unexpected destruction that befalls us all from time to time, but it can provide it some much needed balance. If in the midst of my lament I remember that I can grow grit, self knowledge, or have a chance to treat myself more kindly through it, then it is not all destruction. 

In what ways have your struggles made you more resilient?