Tag Archives: eating disorder

Goodbye, Martha

Spokane at night: courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Spokane at night: courtesy Wikimedia Commons

My dietitian is moving back home to Spokane, WA. This is a very big deal. I didn’t think it was at first. I was happy to hear that God was speaking into Martha’s life, as to what the next steps in the Plan were for her and that she was listening. She never wanted to move back to her hometown.

Here’s the first lesson: never say “never” with God because he’s likely to stick you smack in the middle of where you declare you’ll never go.

I once told God I would never ask for healing for my anorexia because the disease kept me close to Him. (Conveniently it also kept me skinny.) Nine months later I found myself in anorexia rehab, specifically sitting in Martha’s office.

You guys, I am not being dramatic when I say Martha is half the team that saved my life. When I sat in Martha’s office on November 3, 2014, I was dying. I had no idea how close to death I was, of course, but Martha did. She was so tender and understanding with me, simply listening to my story. Despite all the tragic details in my thoughts, behaviors and attitudes about food and my body, I didn’t want to be there in that office with Martha. I didn’t trust her. I believed she was there to make me fat.

Martha wasn’t offended. She didn’t turn her back on me or chastise me. Instead, she listened and asked me sensitive questions and offered grace. Never once did she judge me, tell me that my thoughts and behaviors were wrong or “bad,” or warn me that I was dying. Instead she developed a meal plan for me. Because I was starving and her first priority was to feed me.

The re-feeding process was arduous and painful, not because of Martha, but because my body didn’t know what to do with the food I was feeding it. My metabolism was severely damaged. It would take almost eight more weeks of eating on my plan before my metabolism even “turned on” again, and several more months before it was healed and working properly. The whole time, Martha was by my side listening to my laments, my confusion, and my bewailing in response to the physical side effects and emotional turmoil that came with eating again. She answered my questions, explained what my body was doing, and helped me understand that even though I had completely disconnected from my body and tried to kill it (my words, not hers), my body was trying to protect me to keep me alive. My body was working really hard to get better.

It's not a program. Or a lifestyle change. Its tapping back into your innate ability to feed yourself well.

It’s not a program. Or a lifestyle change. Its tapping back into your innate ability to feed yourself well.

In the midst of this process, Martha introduced me to the idea of intuitive eating. I’ll never forget the day she told me I could “trust my body.” I had bought in so deeply, even went into debt, on the notion that my body was bad and all the food I had been eating or wanted to eat was bad. Our culture teaches that food can’t be trusted and our bodies are not okay unless we strictly control them. We’re taught that we have to restrict what we eat, how much we eat, when we eat, how we eat, and how often we eat. This is why we have 14,000 different diets to choose from. On top of that, culture says we should concentrate on exercise to burn the calories and the fat and the carbs. Not only do we need to burn off the food, but we should also be sculpting and toning and chiseling our bodies into “that” perfect shape.

So when Martha said, “Your body knows what it’s doing. It knows what you need and what to do with. But it requires that you first listen to what your body is telling you and then to trust your body to do what it does once you give it what it needs and wants,”– this was revolutionary thinking for me. And refreshing. And terrifying. (Read more about intuitive eating here) Oh and exercise? Yes, of course. But do so for the joy of the movement, not for the burn.

In March of this year I had fully transitioned out of my re-feeding meal plan and into intuitive Healthyandwelleating. It’s a long process learning how to trust my body, but my body and mind have never been healthier than it is today. Is my brain completely healed yet? No. It’s getting there. Is my body healed and healthy? Yes! (It isn’t fat either. And I eat carbs… and sugar. And fat. So there.)

I have Martha to thank and a good God who deserves the glory!

Martha was a God-send for me. Literally. I was dying; God sent Martha to bring me back to life. So it is a big deal that she is leaving now. I am sad she that she has to go; I am scared to not have her by my side as I continue navigating my recovery. But Martha has set me up for continued and life-long health (not mention advocacy for intuitive eating). There are people in Spokane who need her now; I respectfully and prayerfully say goodbye knowing she’s in the hands of  mighty God who has special plans for her life and the lives of the people she’ll encounter.  I trust God to stay by my side through the rest of my recovery (I still have my therapist, Tamara, who is the other half of the team that saved my life!).

Martha and I and my children did a radio interview with Rose City Forum about intuitive eating.

Martha and I and my children did a radio interview with Rose City Forum about intuitive eating.

Listen to the interview here: http://recordings.talkshoe.com/rss134258.xml

What is intuitive eating?

Do you want to be the ideal body type or do you want to be ideally healthy?

There is a difference, you know.

To be the ideal body type there are about 564,000 different diets, pills, exercise plans, and lifestyle changes to choose from. All come complete with rules, regulations, and restrictions that will guarantee the culturally ideal body type. However, they cannot guarantee that you will be ideally healthy.

To be ideally healthy requires only two things. Listening to your body and trusting what it’s telling you. This comes complete with the guarantee that your body type will be exactly as it was created to be; you will have no guilt or self-loathing of yourself as a person; and your quality of life will rest on the side of peace, contentment, and enjoyment.

I had chosen option A–ideal body type. I actually just skipped the diets and pills and found straight starvation combined with over-exercising to be more efficient in getting the body I wanted. It totally worked.

And also, I nearly died.

Note: Diets are a form of starvation. Diets dictate depriving, withholding, and/or restricting a nutrient (or several) from your body, thus starving your body of what it needs. Our bodies need all the nutrients. Whether you simply aren’t eating (as I was in anorexia) and/or you are strictly forbidding or restricting certain nutrients such as carbs, fats, sugar etc., through dieting or a lifestyle-diet, you are starving your body–>unless you have a special medical condition, such as diabetes or food allergies, that require an omission of certain nutrients. 

Here is what I am learning first-hand about option B:  Ideal health comes from eating intuitively. Eating intuitively shapes your body into the ideal body type meant for you. Your body already knows how to get to ideal health without external control.

Mind. Blown.

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Think of a dried-out sponge that’s all shriveled up and misshapen. When you give the sponge water, spongea steady flow of what it needs, the sponge soaks in the water and comes to life, returning to the size it was made to be and rendering itself usable to its potential as a sponge.  You turn off the water when the sponge is full. As the sponge dries out, you turn on the water, thus repeating the cycle. If you give the sponge more water than it needs, it takes a little longer for the sponge to dry out, but the sponge remains its natural size.

A sponge does exactly what it’s supposed to do when you give it what it needs.

Now, think of your body… all shriveled up and/or misshapen (from starvation). When you feed your body a steady flow of what it needs and wants, your body soaks in the nutrients (energy) and comes back to life, returning to the size it was made to be and rendering itself usable to its potential.  You stop eating when your body is full. You turn on the nutrients again when your body is hungry. If you give your body more food than it needs, it takes a little longer for your body to become hungry again, but it remains its natural size

With your body, you simply notice what it needs, respond accordingly, and your body bounces back to life, as the same size every time, and ready to be used in your life as you. Your body does exactly what it’s supposed to do when you give it what it needs. This is intuitive eating. 

Thankfully, the body is way cooler than a sponge.

The point is there are no rules and regulations necessary because your body knows what to do. Intuitive eating requires being in tune with and connected to your body so you can hear/feel what it needs and wants. You can feed your body what it wants because it reads both play foods and serious foods as energy. And when it’s had enough of any food (including your favorite), it will tell you, “I’m done.”

Your body will not betray you. If something doesn’t feel good or your body isn’t responding well, then its trying to tell you something.  For example, I have celiac disease, so if I eat something with gluten and I get sick, it isn’t that my body is rebelling or that gluten is evil, rather it’s my body saying “Mayday, Mayday, I cannot process what you have given me! Abort mission. Let’s recover… chicken broth and water, stat!” Once my body heals, it will give me a signal by shooting me a hunger pang and a craving… typically sushi. 🙂  This idea goes for any medical condition that needs special dietary consideration.

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Intuitive eating

Ignore the word “program” in the title. This isn’t a program. If I was their editor, I would’ve recommended a different title. 🙂

Intuitive eating is a sense we are born with; it is wrapped into how God created our bodies. So there is a process involved in recovering this intuition and reconditioning your brain to trust your intuition and ignore cultural ideals, noisy headlines and the diet mentality.  It takes time to build trust.

I don’t believe for a second God intended for us to count the grams of anything in our food; to track calories in and calories out (btw: if you have a metabolism, your math is going to be off); to spend hours focused on sculpting our bodies; to agonize over the numbers rising and falling on the scale; to utilize energy and emotion in self-shaming for not having the ideal body and loving the “evil” foods.

If you trust God with your life, you can trust the body He gave you. (If you don’t trust God with your life, you can still trust your body anyway because this part is biological.) Listening to and trusting your body will lead you to ideally healthy life and the ideal body type for you.

You can hear more about intuitive eating this Friday, June 12 on Rose City Forum; 12-1 pm (PST). My kids and I along with my dietitian will be talking all about intuitive eating, what it looks like for my family, and how it has played a crucial role in my eating disorder recovery. Log on to KKPZ.com to listen live. You’ll also have the opportunity to call in and ask questions. If you miss it, there will be a replay of the interview at 6 pm (PST).

What anorexia intervention feels like

IMG_20140117_090116She doesn’t want help because she thinks treatment will make her fat. 

What?! No. No one was allowed to know this. This was something I kept so hidden that I barely acknowledged it was there. How dare this woman know the ugly that lived in the mired muck of my soul. How dare she expose it! How. Dare. She.

I felt betrayed. Exposed. Hurt. Unsafe. Violated. Undermined. Angry.  Intervention feels like crap.

I was a wreck. The dam holding back my anxiety crumbled. I was crying and hyperventilating and angry and shooting evil-eye laser darts at my beloved husband, who, I felt somehow, had betrayed me. I hated him for calling the counseling center (on speaker phone) and answering all the questions honestly. I couldn’t believe the audacity of the woman on the phone who called me out:

  • Your wife needs help.
  • She’s on the cusp of needing hospitalization; her bmi is on the edge.
  • We wouldn’t put her in a support group until she was ready.
  • She doesn’t want help because she thinks treatment will make her fat.
  • She’s terrified; deep down she wants help.
  • She will be okay but she needs intervention now.
  • Tamara would be a great counselor for her.
  • We have a dietitian that can work with her dietary needs and food fears.

I can’t remember the rest of the afternoon. I do remember one thing, though. I was left with a choice: Do I accept the intervention and say yes to help, or do I say no?

The next day I felt exhausted and scared. I picked up the phone and dialed the number. Intervention lady answered.
“Um. Yeah. This is Leanne Sype. My husband called yesterday.” I started to cry.
“Hi, Leanne, yes. I remember. How can I help you?”
Through tears I said, “You said I didn’t want help because I think treatment will make me fat. Well, you’re right. And the fact that you know that makes me want to punch you in the face. You’re not supposed to know. But the fact that you know also tells me that maybe you can actually help me. I’d like to make an appointment.”
“You’re going to be okay. We can help you.”
I went into treatment the following Monday on November 3, 2014.
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What saying “yes” to intervention feels like

Ladybug
Have you ever rescued a ladybug? You know when you see a ladybug in danger, you so carefully lead the ladybug onto your hand or you even gingerly pick it up, so careful not to hurt it. And then you let it rest in your hand while you carry it over to place a safety?

Think about how scary that must be for the ladybug–to be lifted and carried by a giant hand, not knowing or understanding what is happening or where it is going. That little ladybug has zero control. How helpless it must feel!

I felt like that ladybug. I was resting in God’s hand while He carried me to a place of safety. While I knew the Hand that carried me was God’s, I was terrified as to where we were going. I had zero control. I could have lifted my wings and flew away, and trust me, in those days of waiting for Monday to arrive, my wings fluttered. But I wanted to be obedient and I wanted to let myself, for once, trust–to let God have control and let myself be carried.

I wish I could tell you that it felt like a glorious ride through the breeze. It wasn’t. I was a nervous wreck. If there was sand covering the floors of my house, you would have seen a well worn path in a giant circle from my front entry, through my dining room and into my living room where I had paced and paced. Yet, I had a sense of peace in being completely surrendered. I was so tired and ready to be carried–and to finally land in a place where I didn’t have to worry about food anymore.

I am six months into recovery now. I don’t worry about food. I am no longer in danger. Am I completely healed? Not yet. But I am happy and alive and hopeful and back to living life without anorexia as my main focus anymore.

So if you’re reading this, scared to see what help might mean, I can tell you the Hand that carries you has a destination of peace, safety, and healing for you. Healing is hard and uncomfortable. I’m not going to lie. However, as you heal there is freedom… from fear, from food,from pain, from uncertainty. I promise.

And if you are the one who is thinking about an intervention for someone you love… do it. It’s not going to feel good. Should your loved on say “yes,” know that it will be a hard road to healing and they’re going to need your patience, grace, and love. But it’s going to be worth the journey when they come back to life. I promise.

Why I am afraid of "fat"

I’m still afraid of looking fat.

This is where the bulk of my shame lives as I continue my recovery from anorexia. Nearly six months into my treatment, I am happy to say:

1) that I am up to a healthy weight (though I don’t know what that weight is and don’t care to know).

2) my metabolism is healed (did you know dieting and starving destroy your metabolism? I didn’t.).

3) my body cues are functioning on their own (meaning I know–for real–when I am hungry and when I’m full; when something sounds good and when it doesn’t).

4) I am eating intuitively, which means I eat according to when and what my body tells me in terms of what it needs and what it wants. No rules; no invitation for others to have a say.

These are huge leaps of restorative progress that have happened in a relatively short amount of time, considering I have had anorexia for 13+ years.

Yet, I still have an eating disorder. If you have ever looked at a skinny girl and said, “Dang, she needs some meat on her bones. Give that girl a cheeseburger,” I am here to tell you this disease has nothing to do with food or weight–and please, I kindly request, do all of us “skinny” girls a solid and stay quiet because those words just feed our disorder.

All of my progress is in long-term danger because I still fear “looking fat.” This is perplexing to me because on December 6, 2014, I wrote the following in my journal:

“I fear being ugly and invalid; society says fat is invalid and ugly. Therefore I cannot be this way. I have fallen ill by playing into society’s definition of fat. I bet “fat” isn’t even in God’s dictionary. I can’t define “fat” on my own because I am stuck between two worlds–> God’s and this fallen earthly place. I know God sees people beyond their size. Size literally does not matter to God. The condition of my heart matters; right now my heart is infected. I see it now from God’s world. Yet,God still sees me as valuable and lovable.

IMG_20150419_082316In my fallen world, infected minds have determined that size does matter and it reflects how good or not good we are (“skinny” is beautiful which makes skinny marketable, profitable, desirable–valuable. If you’re not skinny, then you’re not valuable).

This completely contradicts God’s perspective. 

I must decide who I will trust. Will I continue trying to define a word that simply doesn’t exist in God’s world? Will I keep striving to appeal to a definition outlined by infected hearts and minds? Or, instead, will I throw this word away entirely and focus only on the things of which affect–grow, purify, honor–the condition of my heart?”

Well, given my progress in health, we can see what I chose, right? But I confess to you, dear reader, I still fear looking fat. I feel ashamed by this. And frustrated. Why can’t my eyes see beauty when I look in the mirror? Why can’t my spirit feel confidence when I dress in the morning? Why can’t I let go of “fat” and “skinny” when I know these ideas don’t exist in God’s kingdom?

Idolatry.

God, the Father in Heaven, the Son in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in my heart, is no doubt my God. Yet, He isn’t my only only god because I still idolize my body. Part of me still stands with the cultural ideal, IMG_20150419_105452worshiping beauty and perfection as defined by a society that places value on what we manufacture for our physical body. I can’t let go of “fat” and “skinny” because I still place more value on my body image rather than God’s image. This is a hard dose of humility to swallow today.

I am not manufactured. I am created. . . uniquely created by a perfect God who made me in His image. I believe this, but clearly not with all of my heart because I still worry about “looking fat” and thus having little to no value (interest,validity, etc.) to other people. This is a dark depth that still needs transformation. I surrender to this truth today.

I can’t fix this today. I can’t fix this, period. God has to. My own self-efforts for change lead to manufacturing something that doesn’t align with what God has already created in and for me. He will heal this broken part of me; I got down on my knees in tears asking for forgiveness and asking Him to take this part of me and change it. He will. And when He does, the danger of relapsing into anorexia will become less of a threat. Cheeseburger or no, my eating disorder does not hinge upon food but rather the belief and deep understanding of where my value lies.

 

 

A letter to my body

What you are about to read was an assignment given to me by my dietitian, who has been an integral and God-given guide in leading me back to health from a 13-year battle with anorexia. In an effort to connect with my body, and to begin healing my distorted view of my body image, this exercise proved to be as powerful as it was awkward. While I still severely dislike what I see in the mirror, this letter was a starting point for disarming the shame associated with what I see every morning when I step out of the shower, and reaffirming me as a vessel for a heavenly Spirit. 

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Dear Body,

I wish this could be a love letter. It isn’t a hate letter to be sure, but it is more of an I’m-learning-to-like-you-as-I-understand-you-better letter.

I guess I never really understood you, how you work, why you function the way you do in all processes, and why your processes make me feel crummy. I don’t always feel crummy, but most of the time, at the very least, I feel uncomfortable in you.

Since entering rehabilitation, however, I am beginning to learn more about you, and as I do,  I find myself appreciating you more. Let me just say, thank you for always trying to protect me. I think the biggest lesson I am learning is that you are always, and always have been, working hard to protect me. Even when I was abusing you, starving you and ignoring you, you were trying to keep me alive. I am sorry for taking you for granted.

I ask for your patience as I continue trying to understand you, because while I am beginning to feel genuine appreciation for you, I simultaneously feel irritation, confusion, and discomfort toward and inside you.

For example, Belly, I have a love-hate relationship with you. I love that inside mypregnancy2 gut hosts the epicenter for my immunity. When you are feeling good and operating normally, you are working to protect me from illness. Also, I think it’s amazing how you stretched to accommodate my babies. While it was no picnic for me to carry around an extra human inside my body (twice), it’s pretty damn cool that you could house, feed, and grow my children . . . And shrink back down to a relatively normal size without too much evidence that I had babies. Pretty incredible. Props to you too, Uterus (I’ll get back to you in a minute).

Overall, dear Belly, I think you are pretty neat. What I struggle with, though, is that for some reason you often feel like a freshly pumped bike tire. It usually happens after I eat or drink anything. Now that I feed you regularly, I feel like a Huffy bike tire regularly. I understand that my brain is sort of broken and tends to distort reality; I probably don’t look as puffy as I feel. However I do feel like by the end of each day, after all the food and drink is in, my assessment of you is pretty accurate. It causes me angst to feel larger than I actually am. I want to understand why you puff up, and maybe if I understood better, I could have a bit more compassion and grace rather than shame when I wear a fitted shirt. Or pants.

Since we’re here, I may as well address my female reproductive team. First off, Sean and Haley Cookiesthank you for giving me children. Without the work of all the parts (ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus) there is no way I would have Sean and Haley today. I have friends who have had lots of trouble conceiving children, so I don’t take for granted what you have done for me.

Here’s the deal. You hurt and exacerbate the issue with my belly at least once a month, sometimes twice when we consider ovulation. Wouldn’t it be nice, now that the babies are born, if we could retire from the menstruation process. I know it’s a lot of work for you, and it’s no monthly vacation for me either. Once again, though, maybe if I could better understand why your process makes me feel so miserable, and why the protocol is necessary post-reproductive season, then maybe I could have more patience and understanding for you.

Body, there are parts of you that I really do try to take care of, but I feel like you don’t cooperate in return. Like my skin. I have come to accept that you don’t tan, and I have become less embarrassed by the permanent porcelain tint you have chosen for my legs (which, by the way, Legs, I like you). But I am constantly covered in rashes and bumps. Again, your blemishes, which randomly appear on my abdomen exacerbate my displeasure with Belly. What can I do to heal you and keep you rash free? And moist? You are always so dry. Do you need more water? I would love to show you confident and cool in shorts and swim suits, but it is tough when you are covered in itchy spots. People ask questions and I don’t know what to say.

As I just mentioned, I do like my legs and even my arms. You guys have good shape and the capacity for good strength. I love that I have all of you and you serve me well for walking, hugging, lifting, and holding. I am working to build the muscles and bone strength to keep you healthy and strong all the way through my senior years. Hands, I am so grateful for all you do in helping me with–everything. I don’t know what I would do with you. You are literally writing this letter!

Brain, I understand you the least, and I find myself frustrated with your thinking quite often. Why do you fight with my heart so much? What my heart knows to be true, you tend to negate and persuade me otherwise. You house the voices that try to convince me that I am invalid, unworthy, and ugly. Yet, you also feed my introspection, helping me process and express my truest thoughts that have nothing to do with those false voices. I know if I didn’t have you, my body would be lying in a hospital bed, completely dormant. You are a little bit broken, but I feel you yearning for healing and working to accept the new beliefs that debunk the lies you’ve been holding.

DearBodySo you see, Body, I am trying to improve my attitude toward you. Everything you have and do has a function. As I figure out what is harming you, like I did with gluten and starvation, I desire to heal you–to engage in better behaviors and habits that will help you thrive. I want to love you. All parts of you. Even when I don’t feel good, I know that as I learn the whys and hows around how you work, loving you will become easier.

Last but not least, in fact, most importantly, you are a home for which the Holy Spirit dwells. This is a new perspective that I hadn’t considered in earnest until today. In honor of the the One who created me, this home called Body, I simply want to respect you with care, compassion, nutritional fuel, so the Spirit can work as it was designed. I pray as we continue to heal together, the image of the God shines through.

In growing understanding,

love,

Leanne