Why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk

I accidentally saw my weight back in June 2017. It’s the first time I’d seen my weight in two-and-a-half years. It’s the first time I’d even thought about my weight in over a year. In eating disorder recovery, you are blind to your weight in addition to calories and other nutritional information; those numbers trigger the eating disorder voice to scream that you’re fat or getting fat, eating too much, and doing “healthy” wrong. It’s dangerous to see your weight.

When I saw mine back in June, I was a little shocked, but I also had enough (strong) recovery under my belt to know that I felt great, my clothes fit, and I was comfortable inside my body. That number didn’t matter, and it held no value for me. I let it go.

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This week I accidentally saw my weight again. The nurse was new so she didn’t know to keep the weight blind; I didn’t even think to let her know I needed my weight to be blind; and I wasn’t careful about avoiding my eyes. It was a careless accident, and the number has been aggravating my mind like a loose hangnail. My weight was higher than it was in June, which my eating disorder voice was quick to point out: “You’ve gained weight! You knew it. You suspected it and now you know. What are you going to do about it!?”

What am I going to do about it?? Should I do anything about it? Why did I gain that weight? Am I not paying attention to my body? What am I doing wrong? Am I going to keep gaining? Am I eating too much? Too much sugar? Too much fat? Am I not moving enough? What the hell?

The sudden anxiety questioned all the body advocacy and intuitive eating truths I believe; all the messaging on this blog about not worrying about weight and body size became burdened with doubt.

Why?

Because of a stupid number.

This is why the scale is a dangerous piece of junk!

The number coming from an inanimate object made of plastic and metal doesn’t have the power to change anything about me, so why let it have a say?

Who cares if I put on a few pounds? Only my eating disorder cares.
Did the core of who I am change? Nope.
Am I still a good mom? Yes!
Do I still have an active heart and belief in the people for whom I advocate? Yes!
Does my husband still wrap his arms around me telling me how much he loves me, loves my humor, and honors all the things I do for my family? Yep!
Do I still believe that God is in charge of my body and my body knows what it’s doing? Yes!

Then what’s the problem?

Dumb scale.

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No one needs a scale. All it does is connect us with a number and distances us from our bodies and God. The scale induces anxiety, food rules, self-doubt, and shame–the barriers to body love and the joy to live freely inside our bodies as God intended.  Or if you like what the scale says because you value the number or drop in number, then your sense of worth and accomplishment are being validated by something that has no life and no vested interest in who you are.

The only people who need to know your weight are your doctors, and they can get that themselves–blindly! Turn your back; avoid your eyes; tell the nurse you don’t need to know. Look, if you own a scale. Smash it. I mean that literally. Smash it to pieces and then make art out of the debris. I did this with a friend of mine a couple years ago, and wrote about it here. It is so  liberating! Also, it wasn’t my idea. Check this out: https://www.southernsmash.org/

If you decide to smash your scale, I want to know about it and see pictures of it! You can tell me here in the comments or post on my Facebook wall  or Twitter!

Peace and love,
Leanne

Let the weight loss bandwagon pass

Twenty seventeen has been one of the most challenging years I’ve ever experienced. It started with my young daughter suffering through major depressive episodes that came with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and inexplicable anxious behaviors. In early spring one of our elderly cats of 17 years passed away. Late spring brought the murder of one of my dearest cousins in a tragic domestic violence murder-suicide event. By summer my daughter’s mental health was so unstable and scary that we began her on medication (which was unnerving because she’s so young). Fall melted into the holidays which included two surgeries (one for my husband and one for my daughter), my own knee injury that many times renders me to the couch, and a school change for my daughter.

Was the year all bad? No. In April my daughter and I both earned our Taekwondo black belts; in the summer we adopted an amputee cat who was slated to be euthanized; in late summer my husband and I celebrated 13 years of marriage; and in November we adopted a therapy puppy named Jade who’s been an unexpected gift to our lives.

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With all the changes and the extreme emotions my body, mind and heart have endured, it’s no wonder that my eating disorder has begun to chatter again. It tells me that I’m gaining weight; that I look fat; that I’m eating too many carbs; that it matters how I look. A few weeks ago it told me to skip lunch, eat a tiny breakfast, skip the cookie. With New Year’s Day approaching and the resolutions to lose weight and “get healthier,” the ED says that’s a bandwagon I should join. My eating disorder is a liar. And a bitch. (Pardon my language.)

I brace myself for the weight loss resolutions that splash across all the media platforms because they are always triggering for me. Plus I have a bad attitude about New Year’s resolutions because we often make them with no realistic strategy for how to accomplish them and fail before the end of February leaving us face-down in a pool of guilt and shame. It’s depressing.

However, as I reflect deeper on the cusp of a new year, I realize that my body, mind, and heart never failed me this year. God never failed me this year. Though my daily connection with God grew distant and the sound of his voice became a mere whisper, I know He was close because my body, my mind, and my heart never gave up. When I listened to my body I was listening to the Spirit. When my body told me to lie down, I did. When my heart told me to let the tears flow, I did. When my mind gave me a new strategy to try, I did. When I was hungry, I ate. When I needed to move, I walked. When my brain needed help, I went on an anti-depressant. When I needed a friend, I reached out. And all of it was HARD. The eating disorder was so loud and convincing at the same time.

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Here’s what I am going to do, and what I encourage you to do too: let the weight loss band wagon pass right on by. Don’t jump on. Resolve to stay in tune with your body each day as it is. Don’t think about what it should be, what you want it to be, what it needs to be. Think about and maybe even write down (as I did here today) all the challenges and joy it’s brought you through in its current shape. It doesn’t matter if we’re round or flat; curvy or straight; heavy or light. Life is deeper that shape and weight. What matters is that our body, mind, and heart don’t give up. Resolve to pay attention to yourself, grow appreciation for what your body does right now, and enjoy the freedom of being detached from food rules and body regulations.

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Given how hard 2017 was for me, it’d be easy to say “Sayonara! Don’t let the door hit you in the hiney on the way out.” However, not only did I survive the year fully in tact–well, except for the bum knee–I am ready to take on whatever 2018 brings. The lies of the eating disorder are just lies and I’m not listening. Thanks to God, my body, heart, and mind are strong and ready for 2018.

Sugar is NOT like cocaine

Sugar is not like cocaine. To say that it is, is a dangerous, distorted, and misleading view of the actual truth.

Ready?

Here’s a little biology 101: The human brain has a “pleasure center” wherein dopamine is released into what is called the nucleus accumbens. Ever hear of a dopamine high? The faster dopamine releases into this little party of nerve cells, the greater the pleasure or high one feels. Guess what? “The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a psychoactive drug, a monetary reward, a sexual encounter, or a satisfying meal.” (See this article in Harvard Health Publishing from Harvard Medical School.)

Whether you eat a piece of chocolate, laugh at a hilarious joke, jump out of an airplane, inject a recreational drug, melt into a sultry kiss, smell freshly baked bread, or whatever your pleasure may be, your brain responds the same way by releasing dopamine and titillating the nerves that make you smile and feel giddy.

There are two intensely significant differences between sugar and cocaine:

  1. Sugar is a nutrient. Cocaine has no nutritional value.
  2. Sugar is an energy source. Cocaine is a drug.

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I know many people (including myself) who’ve gone on strict sugar-free diets and cleanses because they think they have a sugar addiction. Addiction is a serious mental illness that is rooted in deep emotional disconnect from one’s feelings, healthy relationships, and healthy coping mechanisms. If you think you have an actual addiction with sugar or food as your drug of choice, you don’t need a diet;  you need help from a mental health professional–specifically an eating disorder therapist–to address the feelings underlying your addiction and to create new neuro-pathways in your brain for healthy coping.

However, if you crave sugar (even if all the time), remember that sugar is the body’s number one source of fuel–energy. Your body is simply asking for the energy it needs to do whatever you are asking it to do (run around with your kids, get through that afternoon meeting, run five miles, etc.) Your  body is always burning energy, not just in your physical movements, but also when you are thinking, feeling, and sleeping.

It’s also important to note that if you have gone on a sugar cleanse or sugar-free diet or even  a low-carb/no-carb diet and felt like total crap, blaming your irritability, lightheaded-ness, shakes, and headaches on sugar withdrawal, these symptoms are not evidence of a sugar addiction. These are the symptoms of hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. Your body is trying to tell you it needs an energy source and it needs one quick. (See previous paragraph.)

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Can you have too much sugar? Yes. And your body will tell you when it’s had enough or too much; it will also cleanse on it’s own what it doesn’t need. Do different bodies need different levels of sugar? Yes. Do you need to control and limit how much you take in? No. (Unless you have diabetes! Then please, please take care of yourself!) You have to listen to your body. If you’re crashing all the time or often feel sluggish, then you probably need to look the variety in your diet. Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, fats, and fiber with your sweet stuff, and make sure you are getting plenty of quality sleep. Check in with your mental health too. Stress, anxiety, and depression are big culprits of fatigue and general not feeling well.

You guys, it’s okay to love sugar and eat it. We were created to enjoy all of our food, including sugar. Two of my sweetest pleasures is soft, freshly baked chocolate cake with gooey chocolate frosting; the other is the sweet, fizzy crispness of ice cold Coca Cola. If sugar is like cocaine, then so is hearing the sound of your baby giggling, or the cozy pleasure you feel on a cold winter evening in front of the fire, or the warmth you feel snuggling under the covers with your sweetie. All these things light up the pleasure center, an amazing little gift God put into our brains when he created us, and are meant to be enjoyed.  So enjoy!

 

 

 

 

How psychological abuse affects your body

*Warning: While any form of abuse will absolutely affect your physical body, this post focuses mainly on domestic abuse. The following information may be triggering if you are recovering from abuse, dealing with PTSD resulting from abuse, or are currently experiencing abuse. Please please take care of yourself, which could mean anything from not reading this post to connecting with your mental health professional. There are resources at the end of this post for getting help.*

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No woman should ever have to suffer the wrath of her spouse or partner or loved one. I’ve experienced abuse in my own life, from both a family member and an ex-boyfriend. Also, a dear family member was murdered this year in an act of domestic violence. To say I am familiar with the topic is an understatement. Since entering anorexia recovery in 2014, I’ve had to face and heal from the psychological effects of abuse and understand how it affected my physical body and contributed to my eating disorder.

When we talk about domestic abuse, we usually think of the violent, physical assault that leaves obvious marks to the body. Another kind of abuse that is just as devastating because the damage is so insidious and cruelly clever is psychological abuse. This includes both mental and emotional abuse. It’s not nearly as obvious on the outside because there are no bruises, but both the mind and body are experiencing trauma and responding internally.

Psychological abuse is the same as physical abuse except instead of hitting, punching, throwing, or kicking, the abuser wields control using emotions, criticism, insulting words and threats, blame, belittling, tracking, and name calling. Over time, without even realizing it’s happening, you are living in a constant and heightened state of anxiety, low self esteem, doubt, and fear of wrong-doing. Yet you feel “normal.” Especially in the times your abuser is loving and kind. If you’ve ever heard yourself say “He’s great sometimes and even fun when he isn’t mad or upset. So it isn’t always bad,” then there is a good chance you are in a “normalized” abusive relationship.

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It’s exhausting and stressful to tend to life, (children, housework, career work, school and school work, social connections, financial responsibilities, volunteering, errands, etc.) while also trying to maintain the expectations of an abuser. Living with an abuser requires constant management and tempering of the environment so as to not upset the abuser OR in reaction to your abuser when he is upset (and likely blaming you for whatever is upsetting him). Constantly walking on eggshells to appease an abuser distracts and disconnects you from your own body and emotions.

Psychological abuse causes a plethora of physical and mental ailments, including but not limited to, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, adrenal fatigue , over/under eating, sleep deprivation, gastrointestinal upset, and depression.  You may not understand why you have aches and pains all the time, trouble with your skin (dry skin, acne breakouts, rashes), constant tiredness, weight gain or weight loss, or repeated illness. It’s easy to blame yourself, that maybe you need to eat better, exercise more, go on a diet or a cleanse. What’s really happening, though, is your body is trying to tell you that you’re stressed, there are emotions that need processing, and it needs rest. Taking care of yourself is not an option in an abusive relationship because all your effort is pored into taking care of the abuser and what he expects of you. Depending on how damaged your self-esteem is, you may even feel like you don’t deserve to take care of yourself or you aren’t even worth that precious care.

For the record, and whether you believe me or not, you do deserve self-love and you are worth the investment of time and care.

The first step to getting healthy is not a diet but getting help. It’s easy for people around you to say “Just leave. Why do you stay?” But I know from experience, it’s not that easy. Where are you going to go if your abuser has tabs on you? You can’t do it by yourself. Here are some suggestions to get you moving toward healing:

For immediate help and counsel:

OR

Seek counsel from a local domestic abuse therapist.

Seek refuge in a local woman’s shelter.

Reach out to a pastor at a local church.

Your body is talking to you, warning you, and trying to protect you as you endure abuse and the psychological effects it’s having on your mind and heart. Not because you are doing anything wrong, but because someone else is doing wrong to you.

Much love,

Leanne

Dear God, please don’t make me fat

If you trust God with your life, then you can trust Him with your body. And I don’t mean by going on one of those “biblical diets.”

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In November 2014 I told my therapist that I felt like God was going to ask me to let go of something very precious to me. I feared it was my daughter. As I began the process of anorexia recovery, I realized what He was asking me to surrender was my eating disorder. In another tearful session I confessed to my counselor that I had come to a place of acceptance if God wanted my daughter, but there’s no way I could let go of anorexia. Did I really care about my eating disorder more than my daughter?

Where did I think my daughter would go if I surrendered her? To heaven, of course. She’d be cared for in the hands of God, and I trust God. But to let go of anorexia would mean risking getting fat, and that would mean everyday suffering, feeling unacceptable, ugly, imperfect. No way did I trust God with my body.

My therapist reassured me that I wasn’t a bad mother. Rather my eating disorder was telling me terrible lies and manipulating my mind.

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Somehow we’ve gotten into the habit of placing our body trust in the hands of culture and media. God gets to have our trust and faith about life… kids, finances, marriage, decisions, tragedies, etc. When it comes to our bodies, however, we’re more like “Dear God, please don’t make me fat.” We take back the control and decide what weight we want to be, what diet we want to try, what foods we will or will not eat, and what exercise regime we’re going to use to force our body into the shape we desire. These decisions are based upon the body image expectations set by culture, which, simply put, says one must be skinny to be healthy, acceptable, beautiful, etc.  But I submit to you a new perspective:

If you believe God created you

and

You believe God has a plan for your life

and

You believe He knows you better than anyone

then

you can believe that God has given you the exact right body.

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Because God is the creator of you and your body, you don’t need to need to take the reins to make your body different. What’s cool about God is he’s already equipped you with the ability to feed and take care of yourself without the outside influence of the world. The way you stay healthy is connecting to and listening to the body God created for you. The same way you pray and listen for God’s voice in all other areas of your life is the same way you can connect with and listen to your body.

Turn off the media, turn off the outside voices of friends and family. Be still and know the body you are in is made by God.  Remember that God doesn’t think you’re fat. Tune into that quiet space outside your thoughts yet inside your intuition and connect with your body. Start with your breath and slowly work your way down your physical self. What do you feel, what do you sense, what do you love, what do you hate, what do you hear?

I learned to connect to my body through Yoga. It’s a quiet, meditative practice that forced me to pay attention to the most fundamental parts of my physical being. I’ve learned to appreciate my feet because they hold me up through the weight of my days. I’ve learned how strong and able my arms and legs are to carry the loads life hands me (including laundry! 😀 ). I’ve learned the value of a calming, centering breath. Before, during, and after my practice I say prayers of thanks, prayers of confusion, prayers of frustration about my body. I talk to God and ask him me to teach me what is so wonderful about my body. I’ve learned how to connect with both grief and joy about my body and become vulnerable in God’s presence. I’ve learned how to listen to God through connecting with my physical body.

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Through connection you become aware of how amazing you body is, how it communicates with you about everything from hunger, to the movement it needs, to the rest it wants, to the unprocessed emotions it needs to release. And in this process a spark of appreciation ignites that grows into a burning love for this physical body God has given you. Over time you begin to see how culture’s expectations don’t fit with your body. And it isn’t because there’s anything wrong with you; it’s culture that is wrong. I can tell you that what you already have is SO much better that what you or media could ever force your body to be.

If you believe God answers your prayers

then

give trust back to God and pray: Lord, teach me to connect with my body. Let me see, hear, and understand You through this body. Help me learn how to love myself as I am–as You see me. Let my body image bear the image which with You created me. Quiet the voices of outside influence and the doubt that fuels my body dissatisfaction. Teach me to be intuitively healthy, to enjoy food, to find the movement my body thrives in. Thank you for this body and the things it does for me and for You, even though I don’t really understand how it works. Lord, I trust you with my life and my body.   

If you trust God with your life, then you can trust God with your body.