Author Archives: Leanne

America has an eating disorder

America has an eating disorder. We eat by numbers, rules, regulations. We make decisions about the food we eat based on fear, anxiety, and righteous attitude. We restrict, omit, and regiment selected nutrients and food groups.

Our culture has great angst about obesity, weight gain, and body shape. We fear food and weight-related diseases and build our diets and exercises around these fears. We’re scared to be fat. So we put nutrition labels on everything as a tool to help control and avoid fat. We put devices on our wrists and smart phones to track every bite, every step, every heart beat to makes sure we don’t get fat.

We have countless diets and cleanses and every kind of work out program; we have diet pills and calorie strategies; we have workout equipment and memberships; we have safe foods, bad foods, healthy foods, demon foods, healthier foods, poison foods, clean foods. We avoid calories, save calories, burn calories.

We’ve got teachers teaching kids how to read nutrition labels and hanging their snacks on the wall in categories “HEALTHY”  and “NOT HEALTHY.” My eight-year-old daughter came home agitated because the girls at lunch were claiming her chocolate milk was bad for her, but M’s was okay because it was “healthier” as determined by the lesser grams of sugar. L didn’t agree about either one because her mom said all chocolate milk is bad for you.

Our culture calls all of this “being healthy,” but really it’s all to avoid “being fat.”

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We aren’t healthy, though. We’re anxious because… not enough steps, too many calories, not high enough heart rate, too much on the scale, too much on the plate, still craving “that thing,” not enough days at the gym, gave in, no self-control, pants don’t fit, back fat, tummy fat, butt fat, arm jiggle, thigh gap, not buff enough, not strong enough, no muscle definition, need to lose more, need to have better habits, need to work harder, faster, longer, need to restrict more, need a new diet, need better control…

Despite all the tools, rules, and media information, America still has an obesity crisis. Yet we also have a growing crisis of anorexia and bulimia in our youngest and most precious kiddos. There is something much deeper and more troubling going on here.

I don’t believe our culture is overindulgent. I don’t believe we lack self-control in our lives. I don’t believe we are bad people. I believe as a culture, we’re very sick and we need recovery. We’ve become disconnected from our bodies, obsessed with food as something to be feared rather than enjoyed, and distorted in our understanding of what it means to be kind to ourselves and our bodies.

Eating disorders are not about food. Eating disorders are not about weight. Eating disorders are the compulsive behavior and thought patterns that are rooted in distorted beliefs about food and body. Eating disorders are evidenced by extreme anxiety about food, body image, exercise. America has an eating disorder.

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Want to learn more? Click on the free guide below:

God doesn’t think you’re fat

God doesn’t think you’re fat.

You think you are.

The world may think you are–judge-y strangers, your doctor, your friends, your spouse, your kids. Whether they say it to your face or not, you can feel the judgement.

The shame, despair, and frustration sink deeply into you. These are sucky feelings; I had them too. I tried working them out for miles on a run or emptying my diet of calories hoping those feelings would empty out too. Maybe a detox would cleanse the heaviness on my body and my heart. If only I were lighter then I would be happier. Do you tell yourself that too?

We fret and feel bad because we live in a culture where we’re categorized as fat or skinny based on the size and shape of our bodies. Judgement of who or what we are is based off which category we’re in:

Fat= bad: unhealthy, not beautiful, lazy, not marketable, not profitable, not worth it.

Skinny= good: healthy, beautiful, motivated, marketable, profitable, worth it.

Our world is cruelly black and white when it comes to body judgement and, subsequently, personal judgement based on body-looks.

We’re left to live from the posture of– If I feel fat, then I must be fat and that’s bad. I need to… I should… Why can’t I just… I’m so bad… I got to be better…

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It’s easy to forget you don’t belong to the world;  you belong to God. 

God doesn’t think you’re fat.

He doesn’t think you’re fat because fat doesn’t exist to God. Skinny isn’t a thing; it’s unknown to God. Body size, shape, and image have no connection to beauty or personal value. None of these things are real.

But YOU are very real to God.

He cares only about one thing–your heart. Your heart is where your value lives. Right now, you’re hurting and frustrated and stressing out about food, how your clothes don’t fit, and why you can’t just stick to your diet. Your heart is flooded with feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness about your body; those feelings have washed away the truth about your value.

God isn’t asking you to lose weight. He’s not asking you to exercise more. Jesus isn’t telling you give up bread (or wine!) or detox from sugar. The Holy Spirit isn’t asking you to go on a diet or be more disciplined in your health regimen. The world is 100%, absolutely, most definitely telling you these things. But God is not.

All God wants is you as you are right now. There are no judgments, no categories, no expectations for you. God doesn’t think you’re fat, sweet friend.

Rest in this truth today.

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Did you find this post encouraging? I invite you to receive this guide I wrote for you called 4 Healthy Habits that are Hurting You. 

Two basic ways to take care of yourself

My family is going through a challenging season with our kids’ mental health. Between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, meetings at the school, researching, and writing countless emails, I am TIRED. While tired I still love, support (e.g. help with homework, listen to the social adventures of 3rd and 4th grade, answer questions about the universe, etc.), and snuggle my kiddos who are feeling their challenges first-hand; motherhood knocks me from tired into exhaustion.

One thing my friends and family keep saying is: “Take care of yourself.” I confess when I hear that I do an internal eye roll. In what time-space continuum do I have the opportunity to take care of myself? What does that even mean on a practical level?

However, once I set my bad attitude aside I remember there are two basic ways to take care of myself, both of which make up the foundation of self-love: eating and sleeping. In doing these two things for myself first, I can then take care of my people so much better.

Same for you, my dears. Eating and sleeping are human things, not just Leanne things. If you can’t find any other way to love on yourself, then at the very least consider doing these two things.

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Eating

The most fundamental way to love yourself is to eat! And I don’t mean eating according to a diet, cleanse, or perceived “good” or “healthy” way. Diets, cleanses and rigid eating are all forms of restricting nutrients that feed you. If you’re restricting then you aren’t feeding your body, you’re controlling it. And control in any relationship, especially with your body, is not love. 

Listen to hunger cues and ask yourself what sounds good. Don’t question or judge what your body says. If your body is asking for something you (or culture) have deemed “unhealthy” or “bad,” I encourage you to throw that judgement out the window and eat the food. Body love trumps cultural rules.

When the challenges of life are pulling your body into fatigue, stress, or worry, eating becomes imperative for brain function so you can think critically and make appropriate decisions in whatever you’re dealing with. Hard times are demanding on the body; love your body–take care of yourself–by eating. Not restricting or starving.

This is not to be confused with eating to cope with your feelings. Eating as a way to avoid hard feelings is just as unloving as starving your body. Feel your feelings. Listen to your body; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

Sleeping

One of the most annoying experiences is to be exhausted yet not be able to sleep. When you’re anxious or worried or angry, sleep can be elusive, but it’s the best and most loving way to calm down. Sleep also restores energy and keeps your body cues accurate (which is important for eating!). In fact, if you’ve ever labeled yourself a “sugar addict,” I’d encourage you to take an honest look at your sleep habits. If you aren’t sleeping well then your body lacks energy. The body’s natural biological response to low energy is to ask you for fuel that has quick, efficient energy. The most efficient form of energy is sugar. Tada! Be nice to yourself. You aren’t a sugar addict; you’re probably tired.

It’s also important to understand that your body can be fatigued without you noticing or feeling tired. Anxiety has a way of tricking you into thinking you have energy, and thus getting plenty of sleep. This is called an inaccurate body cue.

So how do you know if you need a nap or need food? This can be tricky and you have to tune in to your body to learn the difference. Sometimes you might need both. It’s going to be different for everyone, but a couple of clues might be:

~If you’re not eating much and find yourself thriving on a mere four hours of sleep. This could be a clue that you’re running on anxiety. You’ll need both good nutrition (which will help you sleep) and sleep (which will help reset your body cues).

~If you’re constantly feeding your body yet always feel tired. This is a good clue that you might need more/better sleep.

~ You’ve slept great but have low energy OR you’re extremely tired and calm yet can’t sleep. This could be a clue you need more nutrition. Your body will not sleep or sleep well if it’s hungry.

One last note about sleep. Good sleep hygiene is part of loving your body. This means doing simple things that prepare your body for good sleep like:

~ Meditation to calm the mind and body. (Click here for my favorite bedtime practice.)
~ A hot shower to rinse off the day, soothe tense muscles, and calm your nervous system.
~ Massaging lotion into your feet and toes as an act of gratitude for holding you up all day.
~ Deep breathing to relax shoulders, gut, and butt (common areas that hold stress).

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Take care of yourself. If those four words cause you irritation or panic because you don’t know what that means or you think you don’t have time, remember the two basics: eating and sleeping. Start there. Listen to your body and honor what it needs.

 

 

The most important thing to know about eating disorders

One thing you should know about eating disorders is that there’s more than one thing to know, because eating disorders are multi-dimensional mental illnesses. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week  I want to give you my top three things that are important to understand about eating disorders, whether you have one, think you might have one, or have a friend/family member who is struggling with one.

1) Eating disorders have no single cause. Eating disorders are biological, psychological, physiological, social and familial, which means experiences, beliefs, trauma, and behaviors that start/happen in any of these areas will be exacerbated and distorted by experiences, beliefs, trauma, and behaviors in the other areas.

For example, I grew up in a household with emotional and mental trauma (familial, psychological); experienced bullying in school and had an abusive romantic-relationship (social & psychological); believed I was slow, ugly, and stupid (psychological); had disordered eating habits/behaviors that threw off both my metabolism and ability to read my body cues properly (biological and physiological); and struggled with anxiety and depression (familial, psychological, physiological)

So, if anyone has ever asked you “Why do you have an eating disorder?” or you’ve asked yourself, “Why does my loved one have an eating disorder?”–there are many reasons!

2)   Eating disorders don’t make sense to those who don’t have one. There is nothing logical about starving yourself (anorexia), eating more than your body can handle (binge eating disorder), throwing up after you eat (bulimia nervosa), or eating a strictly righteous “healthy only” diet (orthorexia nervosa). It’s important to understand that all of these eating disorders have nothing to do with the food itself or even the symptoms of the disorders. Eating disorders are diagnosed by the compulsive behaviors and thought patterns that stem from distorted beliefs about the body and food and overall self. You can’t attach logic or use logic to solve or change behaviors that are rooted in distorted beliefs. The beliefs have to change before the behaviors will, and that takes professional help!

If you’ve ever said to yourself or to a loved one “Just eat” or “Just stop binging” or “Just stop throwing up,” please understand that no one with an eating disorder can “just” do or not do anything. It would be like the brakes in your car failing and your passenger telling you to “just stop.” You can’t because the brakes are broken. With eating disorders, the brain is broken; eating disorders are mental illnesses.

3). Eating disorder recovery is 100% possible! Recovery takes professional help with a team of specialists who deeply understand the nature of eating disorders, who know how to properly care for the physical damage done by the disorder, and who are extensively sensitive to the mental misfires that are happening in the brain.

There are different schools of thought on whether or not eating disorders can be completely healed or if you simply remain in recovery your whole life, similar to that of an alcoholic. I can say from personal experience that my body is completely healed from the damage done by anorexia; however, my brain is still recovery and may always be because the mental paths worn by the eating disorder for 13 years are deep and automatic, especially when I am stressed, sad, disappointed, or even just tired. My healthy voice (healthy beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors learned in recovery) take effort when the eating disorder is loud. But most days my healthy-self is intuitive and strong.

Last but not least–

If you think you might have an eating disorder or want to seek help for a loved one you can call the National Eating Disorder Association helpline: 1(800) 931-2237 or they have an online chat option.

You can also visit my Resources page for some helpful places to get started.

You don’t have to earn your food

My son and father-in-law came home from skiing yesterday all damp, chilled, and tired. My daughter and her friend just finished baking chocolate chip cookies, so our house was all warm and smelled of freshly baked goodness. My husband handed the plate of cookies to my father-in-law and said, “Hey Dad! Have a cookie. You deserve it.”

“No,” I said. “We don’t earn cookies. Have a cookie because they smell amazing, and you’re probably hungry after a long day of skiing and driving.”

My husband smiled and gave me a soft, knowing chuckle. “Yes. You’re right. Dad, you want a freshly baked cookie? They just came out of the oven.”

My father-in-law partook, of course! As did my hungry son.

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There’s a message in our culture that you have to earn your food, especially foods that are deemed “special,” “guilty pleasures,” or “bad for you.”

And you believe that message. You wait for special occasions to have that “sinful” chocolate cake; you wait until you’ve eaten your grilled chicken salad with balsamic vinaigrette to enjoy the mint chip ice cream in the freezer (but only a bite because you already indulged in a brownie earlier today); you eat the plate of fettuccine Alfredo because you earned it on the hike this afternoon; you reward yourself with dessert this time since you’ve been “so good lately.”

The opposite is also true. You punish yourself when you’ve “been bad” and ate the extra cookie or two or the whole plate. Working out has become both the reward and punishment for how you earn or eat your food– burning off the doughnuts Joe brought into work today (dang you, Joe!); or burning an extra few hundred calories in preps for the family dinner tonight, because mom is making her dutch apple pie, and you know you won’t be able to control yourself to just one slice.

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You don’t have to earn your food. You don’t have to “be good” to enjoy the foods you love, especially the sweet stuff. You also don’t need to punish yourself for eating, enjoying, and even craving certain foods…you know, the foods with all the rules and regulations about sugar, fat and calories.

When you try to earn your food by being good enough to deserve it (whether through restriction or avoidance of fun foods, or burning off calories in exercise) you are defining your value based on food: “I was bad today; I ate the brownie. I need to run two hours to work that off.” OR “I was so good because I didn’t eat the brownie.”  You may think you’re being healthy by controlling yourself through reward and punishment, but what you’re doing on a deeper level is attaching or diminishing your self-value based on your behavior with food. And that, my dear friend, is not healthy. Nor is it kind to you.

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Your body has no rules about food. Your body doesn’t value foods as “good” or “bad”; your body doesn’t define you as good or bad.  Culture does, but your body doesn’t. Listen to your body, sweet friend.

Your body doesn’t judge you if you feed it mint chocolate chip ice cream before or with your chicken salad (or a bacon cheeseburger for that matter); your body loved the doughnuts Joe brought today because that maple bar sounded delicious to your brain, and your body was able to use that energy to get you through the 10:00 meeting; Mom’s dutch apple pie is both delicious and nostalgic because she would make it for your dad when he returned home from long business trips and your family was together again. Dutch apple pie literally makes your heart happy and your body thanks you for feeding it something you enjoy.

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Eat what sounds good, when it sounds good. You don’t deserve it because you don’t have to earn it.  And you don’t have to work it off because you didn’t eat anything wrong.

May you find joy in your food and peace in your body.

Much love!