Category Archives: Health

What NOT to say to someone with an eating disorder

When you have a friend or family member who either has an active eating disorder or is in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s important to be mindful and respectful of what you say to avoid triggering your loved one into disordered and harmful behaviors. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, so flippant talk around food, body, and dieting reinforces distorted beliefs your loved one may have about his/her own body and food habits, thus spiraling them further into their disorder and/or making their road to recovery far more difficult that it already is.

Not to mention you need to be kind and gracious to yourself. Negative and judgmental comments around your own food and body beliefs can have harsh effects on your own mental health and sense of well being.

Unfortunately, much of the harmful talk we hear or speak around food and body value is so normal in our culture, we often don’t realize we’re being hurtful or dangerous. The following list of comments is not an exhaustive list of the commentary that is harmful to both you and your loved one, but these are the most common phrases of which to be aware (and that I hear and/or have had spoken to me).

DIET TALK

  • “You should try ___________ diet.”
  • “I’ve been on __________ diet and feel so much healthier.”
  • “I am so much healthier since being on _______ diet.”
  • “I need to go back on _________ diet.”
  • “I can’t eat that because I am on __________ diet.”
  • “I am trying this new _________ plan. My friend/daughter/mom/husband/coworker has had great results!”
  • “I’ve lost so much weight on this ______ diet. I feel great!”
  • “I’ve heard _______ diet is so great. You want to do it with me?”
  • “It’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle change.”
  • “This is more of a wellness plan. Not a diet.”
  • “My office is doing a weight loss challenge; we’re on day ______.”
  • “I’m on day ____ of _____ diet. I feel_______.”
  • “What diet are you on? You look great!”
  • “Let’s do _______ together and then compare. We can hold each other accountable.”

BODY IMAGE TALK

  • “I feel fat.”
  • “I am so fat.”
  • “Ugh. My _______ is/are so fat.”
  • “I’ve gained ________ pounds.”
  • “I’ve lost _________ pounds.”
  • “I didn’t lose weight but I lost inches.”
  • “I hate how these pants/ this shirt looks on me.”
  • ” I hate my __________.”
  • “You want to look through my clothes? I’ve lost so much weight I don’t fit into them anymore.”
  • “You are so skinny. I hate you.”
  • “Those pants are so slimming.”
  • “This color camouflages my rolls.”
  • “I can’t wear______. They make me look fat.”
  • “Have you lost weight? You look amazing!”
  • “How do you stay so fit/thin?”
  • “I just read an article that says if you exercise ________ per day/times per week you lose ______ pounds!”
  • “I don’t want to lose weight but maybe just tone/tighten up a bit.”

FOOD TALK

  • “This is so bad for me/you.”
  • “You should try ________. It is so good for you!”
  • “This has like _________ calories. I am so bad.”
  • “I’m going to need to work this off at the gym later.”
  • “This doesn’t fit with my _______ diet/plan, but I’m just going to cheat.”
  • “This is so unhealthy, but I don’t care.”
  • “This is so much healthier than ______.”
  • “Today is my cheat day!”
  • “I am such a _______ addict. I have no self-control around __________.”
  • “I haven’t eaten this in so long, I’m just going to indulge.”
  • “I’m going to be good.”
  • “I’ve been so good all week, I deserve this treat.”
  • “Ugh. I can’t eat that. I’ve been so bad lately.”
  • “I am going to have the ______, but without the ______ so it’s healthier.”
  • “Well it’s not the healthiest choice, but….”
  • “Did you know _______ is so bad? Studies have shown.”
  • “Are you going to eat all of that?”
  • “Is that all you’re going to eat?”
  • “I just ate _______ servings. I am such a cow.”
  • “I already had my amount for the day.”
  • “I read an article that said you should eat ________.

///

When in doubt about whether or not to say something, here’s a little tool I learned from my son: THINK

T: Is it THOUGHTFUL?
H: Is it HELPFUL?
I: Is it INSPIRING?
N: Is it NECESSARY? (This is the most important one to consider.)
K: Is it KIND (to both yourself and your loved one)?

What are some other comments you’ve either heard or said that might be better left unsaid?

You Do You

My brother has this saying: “You do you.”  It means don’t worry about what other people are saying about you or to you; you just do whatever is true to you regardless of the outsiders. The last time he said this was in respectful, quasi-disagreement with my views on intuitive nutrition. What I don’t think he realized is he was actually indeed agreeing with me.

///

Intuitive eating is rooted in understanding, listening to, and responding to your own body cues–hunger, cravings, fullness, illness, what sounds good, what doesn’t, etc.–without the influence or pressure of external forces (such as diets, family opinions, media, or mainstream science.) Nutrition is just the beginning, though. This principle blossoms into intuitive living as a whole, rooted in understanding, listening to and responding to your body’s cues for rest, crying, movement, celebration, laughter, adventure, meditation, prayer, sleep, etc. without regard to external cultural rules and expectations. You do you. The result of living (and eating) intuitively is thriving in peace with who you are inside the body you have right now.

///

You were divinely created by God–your personhood, your heart, your mind, your purpose. He also created your physical body. The same way God speaks to your heart and leads you to/within your purpose on the spiritual level, while also guiding your thoughts on a conscience level, He also designed your body to take care of you on the physical level. Your body was created with all the systems, processes, and communications necessary to keep you thriving physically. Since God created you and you’re the one living inside your body, no one can possibly know your body better than you and God.

Therefore, the external forces that try to convince or control you into thinking your body needs to be different (smaller, lighter, trimmer, tighter, healthier, cleaner, etc.) don’t get to have a say in how you run your body or what your body looks like.

///

That’s all well and good, Leanne, but I have ______________ ( fill in the blank–diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc.) and my doctor–who is a trusted external influence–says I need to lose weight to be healthier and reduce my chances of early death. 

To this I say: medical health conditions are serious and scary; you should absolutely work with your doctor on proper treatment. However, while science says weight is a correlating factor with many health conditions, correlation does not equal causation. Furthermore, there is not one single diet or weight loss program proven to provide safe, long-term, sustainable weight loss. Within one to five years of any restriction-based diet, the weight returns plus more (which is a biological, protective response to nutrient deprivation), along with the mental anguish associated with feelings of failure, shame, and fear.

Weight loss cannot be the focus but rather reconnecting with your body—its cues and communication with you and your unique biology.

///

When I went into eating disorder recovery, I was severely underweight for what my body needed, and I was at serious risk of stroke, heart failure, and death. My metabolism was broken, hormonal system out of whack, and digestive system a mess. But gaining weight was never the focus of my recovery to health.  My therapy team focused on teaching me how to reconnect with and understand my body–what my hunger feels like, what my cravings mean and why they are important, what foods I like and don’t like and why. As I got deeper into recovery, I learned what kind of movement (exercise) my body liked as opposed to what I had been forcing it to do; I connected with my  body shape and strength as I meditated and prayed through yoga poses. Most importantly I learned to understand my cues for rest and how to tune out all the cultural messages that say I need to be different.

Eventually my body found its natural set point without ever focusing on “gaining weight.” Your body has a natural set point too, and as you learn to reconnect with yourself and your body cues, your body will find its own healthy place without focusing on “losing weight.”

///

 You do you. Learn to connect with your body through your own intuition around nutrition, movement, and living, without external diets/programs and regardless of what folks around you are doing, saying, or expecting. God designed you perfectly and purposefully, so if you trust Him with your life, you can trust Him with your body.

Resources to help you (these are NOT affiliate links):

Confession of a body advocate

“What does fat mean to you?” asked my therapist. My heart dropped into my gut with a giant ugh. This was the same question she asked me three-and-a-half years ago when I first entered recovery. I started to cry and replied, “Am I really back to this place again? I thought I processed this already… I thought I was over it.”  Problem is I was sitting in her office confessing that I had spent the previous day restricting my food, something I haven’t done in at least a couple of years.

Easter Sunday had been a tough day. While getting dressed for dinner, I was frustrated that none of my shirts were fitting comfortably. Since quitting Taekwondo last June due to a knee injury and restricting cardio exercise as per doctor’s orders until my knee is healed, my physical activity has waned significantly. I’ve been in physical therapy building strength and stability in my knee, hips, and core, but my whole body is in process of finding it’s new weight set point and shape. So my clothes are fitting differently and, in some cases, too small.

On Sunday my eating disorder simply told me I was getting fat. After a lovely ham dinner, I was comfortably full, but my eating disorder told me I am fat; I needed to eat less because I was eating too much; I am not exercising so I need to eat less; my body isn’t “changing shape” but growing fatter; and on and on and on. I was depressed all evening, and on Monday I couldn’t stand the feel of my body in my clothes, I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror, and I couldn’t stand the thought of eating a whole day’s worth of food. So I made the conscious choice to restrict my food intake, including skipping lunch.

///

So why was fat such a big deal all of sudden and why wouldn’t it be okay if I was fat? I had come to terms long ago that fat and skinny aren’t terms that God sees or uses let alone attaches any value. So why did the size of my body matter to me?

Well, unfortunately it turns out cultural judgments about fat were starting to become my own judgments again. American culture says “If you live in a fat body, then you are unhealthy.”

I don’t want to be regarded as unhealthy. As a food and body advocate I fear people won’t trust me if I live in a larger body. I don’t know where my body is going to settle, but if it settles larger than what’s considered appropriate or desirable for “healthy” according to our societal standards then I may lose credibility… my value as an advocate. This feels scary and disheartening to me.

So, I did what anyone with an eating disorder and feeling lack of value does. I restricted my food in an effort to keep my body from getting any bigger. It was a terrible idea on many levels, and I felt miserable by the end of the day from starvation.

///

Sitting here now a week later, after using my support network, I have a much clearer focus on reality that I want to share with you:

    • Healthy doesn’t come in one size. It comes in all the sizes, including larger, shapelier sizes. You and I can live in a fat body and be 100% healthy–feeling good, living well.
    • Fat and skinny don’t exist in God’s realm, but they do exist here on earth. We can’t get away from those terms, but we can change how we think of them. We need to learn to use them as neutral facts. The way a shirt is pink or shoes are black or hair is blonde, so can a body be fat, a pair of legs be thin, a butt be round, or cheeks be plump. Fat and thin are observable descriptors rather than judgments of value or desire.
  • The human body has an amazing feature where it adapts itself based on life circumstances. It is literally the smartest device we own:

~When a woman is pregnant the belly stretches to accommodate space for the baby and adds weight wherever necessary to support baby’s growth and dependence on our body’s resources.

~When we have an injury, the body adjusts appetite to promote healing and changes shape to accommodate new movements and build strength where needed.

~ When we’re sick, it utilizes stored resources (like fat and sugar), pauses internal functions in effort to send energy to sick or damaged areas… always with the goal of keeping us alive.

~ When we’re over or under weight, causing medical malfunction, the body works hard to send signals of what it needs in nutrition and movement to find its best natural set point based on the life we’re trying to live.

///

I confess I lost my focus last week, and, worse, lost trust in my body, in where my value truly lies, and in what God is asking of me as an advocate. I judged fat and I got scared of what it might mean if I was fat. My only excuse is that I’m human… living in a disordered culture that values thin bodies and regards health on a single dimension… recovering from an eating disorder that still lives inside my brain and causes doubt sometimes. But thank GOD, literally, I have an amazing support network and an open line to the Holy Spirit to help me bring the truth back into focus.

 

 

Do you wonder:  What does Healthy Mean?

 

 

You don’t struggle with your weight

“She’d always struggled with her weight.”  This statement bothers me when I read it in biographical media or watch documentaries on famous ladies. Why is that even mentioned?They might as well just say, “She was always fat, trying hard to get skinny yet never seemed to get her act together.”

We don’t struggle with weight. No one does. We struggle being comfortable and happy inside ourselves.

///

When I was in the depths of anorexia, I was scared of becoming fat because I believed if I became that way then people wouldn’t trust me, wouldn’t find me beautiful, wouldn’t take me seriously; I would be sick, unhealthy, and “less than” in the eyes of others. As someone who craved acceptance, needed to be heard, wanted to be “enough,” fat was scary. So I went to extremes to stay thin. I didn’t know what thin enough was, of course, so I just kept getting thinner. With every comment about how good I looked or adulation about my good discipline, focus, and healthy ways in addition to praises in my work, the eating disorder clawed in deeper and I got sicker.

It wasn’t the weight or loss of it that was the struggle, you guys. I was insecure in my body because I was insecure in who I am and wasn’t sure that I would be seen, accepted, and loved. 

///

Hear me well if you feel like you struggle with weight: The struggle is so much deeper than body size. You are constantly told, whether directly or indirectly, through media, doctors, health professionals, models, red carpet stars, and diet companies that larger bodies are “bad.” Larger bodies are unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined, sick, embarrassing, unreliable. The tragedy for for you if you live in a larger body or think you might be in a larger body is you believe the body labels are definitions of who you are: “If my body is larger then that means I’m fat, which means I must be unhealthy, ugly, lazy, undisciplined. I need to be change. Be better.”

So you wrestle with diets to help you be more disciplined, to be healthier. You get into workout routines you don’t really love, but you love the idea that the movement might make you skinnier. Then when the restriction of the diets are too hard (which is not your fault, by the way) and the hard core workouts become a cursed chore, you give up and further feed the belief that you’re lazy and undisciplined. The weight you might have lost comes back plus a few extra pounds. Then the cycle starts over again, with feelings of inadequacy rooted even deeper.

///

From the outside, all the world sees is your body size getting bigger then smaller then bigger then smaller, and judges you, as you do yourself, as “struggling with weight.”  No. The constant rise and fall of weight on any person is simply a symptom of a much deeper struggle with negatives feelings and inaccurate beliefs about who she is inside her body. These feelings and beliefs are rooted in past hurt or emotional/mental damage and are simply exacerbated by cultural ideals and expectations.

A diet will never cure low self-esteem; a work out regimen won’t change who you are. And a thin body won’t bring the happiness you’re looking for. Trust me. I almost died trying. Internal struggle isn’t solved by external work (this is part of the reason why diets fail). Internal struggle is healed through deep inner work, and usually cannot be done without the help of a counselor.

///

Do you feel like you struggle with weight? Do you know someone you’ve always thought of as struggling with weight? I want you to see yourself or your loved one as someone who is struggling with inward hurt rather than struggling with weight. There’s healing that needs to be done, and with healing comes the body satisfaction, and even body love, as physical health aligns with mental/emotional/spiritual health.

 

 

Have you been food-shamed?

That is so bad for you.

You shouldn’t eat that.

You should eat [insert food] instead.

Are you going to eat all of that?

Is that all you’re going to eat?

Why are you eating that?

That isn’t healthy.

You should eat something healthier.

Didn’t you just eat?

That looks disgusting.

I can’t believe you eat that!

That has way too much sugar.

That has too much fat.

That stuff contains poison you know.

You’re eating poison.

That is terrible for you; it’s like poison to your body.

///

Have you ever heard any of these comments? It’s called food shaming. Food shaming is analogous to someone telling you that you look fat in that dress or you shouldn’t be wearing those jeans. Or when you look in the mirror and harshly tell yourself your thighs are too big or your arms too flabby. These judgments fuel body dissatisfaction, lower self-esteem, and inflate the belief that you aren’t good enough… healthy enough.

Food shaming implies that your eating habits aren’t what they should be and cause doubt about your food desires, health, and even body shape. If you already struggle with food anxiety or self-consciousness when dining with others, invasive commentary about your plate elevates these feelings. Passive aggressive and even direct commentary about your food feed the lie that you’re eating wrong or something is wrong with you for making the food choices you have. Critiquing your food also makes the other person feel better or more “health righteous” about their own food.  No one has a right to judge you or what’s on your plate. 

Every single one of these phrases has been spoken to me AND/OR my children. These comments, while sometimes seemingly innocent or meant to be helpful, are harmful to your thoughts, behaviors, and esteem about food, your body, and sense of health.

Hear me well: no one should ever be in your food– including your spouse/significant other, children, and other close family. 

This means no one should be commenting on, questioning, or judging your food. Ever. (Nor should anyone be commenting on, questioning, or judging your children’s food, especially teachers and other students. More on that in a future post 😉 ) By the same token, if you’ve ever said any of these comments to yourself or even out loud to another person about your own food, then you are expressing shame about your own choices. You’ve pegged yourself as “wrong” or “bad” because of your food. Food doesn’t define who you are. Food is simply a fun, creative, and delightful way to honor your body’s need for nourishment.

///

It’s important to recognize food shaming when it happens and acknowledge how it makes you feel because it affects your relationship with food and your body. Understanding how food shaming affects you is a powerful step in building body confidence, empowering positive messages, and setting boundaries with others when it comes to your health.

If someone is all up in your food with their shamey commentary, stand your ground and trust yourself. You don’t have to defend your choices or feel bad about your food, and you certainly don’t need to feel bad about yourself. You know your body better than anyone. Love yourself and eat what you love.