Thursday, February 25, 2010


Most of us know that this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Whenever NEDAW rolled around in the past, there used to be a slight awkward, uneasiness feeling for me. It's not that I didn't think awareness for eating disorders was important (far from it), but it left a two-fold feeling of worrying that someone was going to find out/guess and also feeling like a fraud for not being more proactive at recovery.

I see now how much this thinking was flawed as NEDAW week is supposed to bring eating disorders to the forefront in talking about it rather than just beating around the bush.

There's been much support shown through twitter, facebook, various articles, college events, advocacy groups, news channels, etc. It's phenomenal actually! It's funny, because if you follow me on twitter, you know I post a number of articles related to eating disorders, body image, mental health, psychology, as well as just my own random thoughts and observations. But yet, sometimes, I still feel on the sidelines. Some may call me an advocate of sorts, though I feel uncomfortable with that label. In all honesty, I'm not sure what I'd call myself. Perhaps, I feel this way because I'm not truly in the public eye, putting myself out there or disclosing my own struggles with eating disorders. But in real life, how many of us are really? How many of us could include ourselves in the campaign to talk about it beyond just the medium of the internet?

I know there is more to advocating than simply talking about it. Advocating is about awareness, education, health, and recovery. It's about defending and supporting the cause. It's about connecting and reaching out to those who need help. I am always amazed at the wonderful eating disorder/body image/self esteem advocates out there. They each make a difference and place their own stamp on the world. Although I may not put myself in the category of "advocate," I am hopeful that I can make a small difference in this corner lot I have here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Coffee and scrabble

This week has been very crazy, so I'm sorry for being a bit MIA here. After talking with my boss about the eventual plans for me and the business, work will not be slowing down any time soon. It's exciting but incredibly scary. Actually, I think the thing that scares me the most is that my name and photo is going to be on the business website, and that just causes a slight bit of paranoia. Not so much for my blog readers/twitter followers but just with former people I've worked with. This means that my name and picture are permanently there. It's not like an article that is there one day and gone the next.

Besides work, I've been trying to gather all my tax documents together to meet with the tax lady today. I don't know much about her, just going off a recommendation from someone. Due to the weather and my procrastination, we've had to reschedule our appointments several times. So today, I just knew I had to get my act together and not cancel again. I think a lot of this has to do with people viewing my financial crap and trying to explain my situation. I know as long as I get through this year, next year will be a lot easier.

Lastly, I met with a new match guy this past Friday. We met at a coffee place (different from Match guy1) which was cool except that as soon as I found it, I realized it was all parallel parking which I loathe. I actually drove around in circles to avoid this. Then, when I was in the coffee shop, I could not find the guy and had to text him asking where he was.

It was slightly funny, because when I went upstairs and walked passed a room, I heard someone say "where you going?" which was my date. I made my way back to the room, sat my coffee down, and then noticed a scrabble board. Match guy2 said whenever he comes here he plays scrabble or some board game. This was certainly different for a first date but I gave him points for creativity.

Match guy2 is very different from Match guy1. Match guy2 definitely has strong opinions about various topics. We actually got into talking about our impressions of, whether a picture was necessary, what men and women were looking for, etc. It was interesting, but he went off on a lot of tangents. Much of his speech was the use of expletives as adjectives which is a turn off for me, but if I omit this, he does converse well.

Unfortunately , I lost the scrabble game. I hate making excuses, but I had a lot of vowels and 1 point letters. I managed to get the "z" at the end of the game but could do nothing with it. I do not like bragging, but clearly,
I had better words and used more letters allowing for the board to open up. If you play scrabble a lot, you know that it is easy to pigeon hole the board if you do not use a lot of letters or play off of them.

At the end of the night, we walked outside, talked about running a bit, and then left. The last thing he said to me was that he wanted me to add him on facebook. I'm debating. It probably doesn't matter much since this guy has over 1,000 friends, I'm just picky.

Comparing Match guy1 to Match guy2, they are truly really different. From the first date, I could tell you all about Match guy1 whereas all I could say about Match guy2 is what he does for a living. It's not bad or anything, just different. There was one question I did want to ask Match guy2 but couldn't get myself to. I wanted to know about his relationship with his mother as it seems like every time he e-mails me, he has taken his mother out to brunch, lunch, dinner, etc. I don't know the circumstances, so it's not fair to judge, but I do wonder.

The one thing I can give myself credit for with this dating thing is that I am putting myself out there. It's a huge improvement from the past of holing myself up in my house or attached to some piece of gym equipment. By actually dating, it does give me an idea of what I like, don't like, could put up with, couldn't put up with, what I actually WANT.

Note--*To my new followers: I hope you are able to get something out of this blog. Please don't feel shy to comment or leave me an e-mail through my profile.

Monday, February 15, 2010

V-Day update

Just a quick post on my "date" yesterday. I thought there might be a few of you who would be interested in knowing how it turned out.

I got to the coffee place about 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time to meet. I parked across the street and realized the shop looked really dark! When I walked over there to check, lo and behold, it was closed. I called new match guy (I'm going to abstain from a letter unless it goes further than a 1, 2, or maybe even a 3 date thing) to let him know. We were both kind of disappointed since that cafe got good reviews.

The good thing about this is that although we were in a downtownish area (I'm always kind of leary), there were other places open. We decided to go to a nearby Starbuck's in a mallish place. I ordered a cinnamon dolce lattee. Yummy! We sat looking over the river and bridge which was sort of romantic, though that was short-lasted with a bunch of loud kids pointing at the river, like they'd never seen one or something.

We chatted for a bit, just doing the whole "getting to know you" thing, talking about where we grew up, our families, jobs, dogs (he likes dogs yeah!), running, etc. We touched on a few what I'd call "taboo subjects, like religion but he seemed pretty open. These topics were brief which was good, because that type of thing can easily cause the date to be a disaster.

After that, we decided to see Avatar. I was quite curious, because I'd read a number of posts asking whether Avatar was making people depressed or even suicidal. I could see the depressed feeling of living in our society compared to the Na'vi, but suicidal? Umm, that seemed like a stretch. There was definitely a feel of "political-ness" in it with themes of deforestation and history of the settlers and natives long long ago. I also noted the thinness of the characters as I Hate to Weight and More wrote in her blog post. I think all the Na'vi people would all be considered underweight! Overall, I did enjoy the movie and found the whole connection with nature aspect moving. Gosh, I wish I could connect with a creature through my hair!

After that , we chatted and he walked me back to the car. I think generally speaking he seemed interested. I was pleasantly surprised as you can only get so much from an e-mail or phone call. Seeing someone face to face makes a big difference. I don't hold any big expectations o r anything, but he seems genuinely nice, caring, sensitive, is chivalrous, and has a sense of humor too. Sometimes, I wonder in this blog whether people think I have a sense of humor since I don't write particularly funny. I actually do have a sense of humor but it is more on the sarcastic side. I can throw good zingers though!

Anyway, so we'll see. There is another guy who I've been e-mailing a bit, but he's up in the air. I'll keep everyone posted on how this whole dating thing goes for me. It's seriously like exploring a foreign terrain.

Note--*I don't know if people ever used the labels to look at other posts, but I added a "related" posts right at the bottom of each post. It's set at 5 posts I believe. Anyway, it's there if anyone is interested.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Today marks a number of holidays There is the traditional Valentine's Day for couples. There is the alternative Singles Awareness Day. And today also marks the Chinese New Year.

With that all said, Valentine's Day has never held a huge meaning for me. Most times, the only Valentine's Day cards I receive are from my parents and occasionally a friend or two. This

doesn't bother me, although I find it incredibly funny that my mom has sent me the SAME Valentine's Day card for three of the last five years. She is not the type to buy multiple cards of the same card, but rather she has simply forgotten that she has sent me this card. In it, she always writes that this cards says everything she feels. Maybe that's why she sends it to me? In 2005, my dad actually sent me that card too. I guess this is one helluva a card!

In general, Valentine's Day has gotten a bad rap due to all the commercialization. I can understand this. I mean why celebrate your love for someone once a year with glitz of cards, chocolates, and flowers. Shouldn't it be unrequited all year long? But at the same time, I can understand it too. Heck yeah, if I was in a relationship, I'd want a rose or a cute teddy bear or something. A friend of mine's husband gave her a stuffed pink poodle (they have standard poodles so it makes sense)

I guess this is one reason why Singles Awareness Day came about. Some feel like the holiday is just in their faces. Actually, this year, since Valentine's Day has fallen on a Sunday, it seems more conspicuous than usual. Though it doesn't help those in the business of Valentine's Day, I think it's been helpful for those who may compare themselves to their co-workers or friends.

As for me, it's sort of interesting. Normally, I'd just be sitting home, like any other usual day. But today, I decided to go meet a new match guy for coffee. So, my thinking goes like this: Valentine's Day is going to either 1) leave a happy memory of connecting with someone whom maybe I click with or 2) leave an awful, confused memory of wondering what the hell was I thinking. Either way, I bet this "date" will be memorable by being great, terribly bad, or memorable by not being memorable.

Note:--*And I should add that bad body image comes at the worst times sometimes!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Emotions, anger, and thin mint cookies

The other day a dog training colleague of mine posted on facebook:

"I'm so mad at my kids, I could eat a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies."

When I read it, I laughed, mostly because I remember how this red-headed looked when she was mad. Thinking about it, however, it's a good example of the effect of our emotions on eating.

Emotions can play such a gamut on our eating. For some, they turn to food, for others, they shun it. At times during my ED, I fell into both categories. There were times, I was upset, so I'd eat that piece of cake, then feel guilty, and purge. In other moments, I restricted, saying I'd show them-that how they hurt me, would teach them, and I'd become thin as a stick.

The emotion that was most difficult for me was anger. Growing up, I honestly do not remember ever feeling anger at all. But when high school hit, I think there was a period when all my pent-up anger was geared towards my parents and an eating disorder became my outlet. It seemed easier to express whatever anger I felt through starving, purging, overexercising than to actually express my anger or any other emotion for that matter.

I remember two specific incidents, both where I was incredibly angry at my father for something, and I cut my wrist with a knife. These were the only incidences of cutting I've ever had, and neither were life-threatening. However, at the time, I was so angry that I truly wanted him to hurt. I've had other incidences in my life involving anger and punishing myself, but I've gotten better with dealing with that emotion. It's no doubt an emotion that will likely always be difficult for me to express, but at least now, I can better manage it without harming myself so much in the process.

So what do I do? I find venting to non-judgmental people one of the best things for me. (My mom is very helpful for this) Sometimes, I'll shoot an e-mail to someone or just simply write as it dispels those thoughts into the air. Other times, I've taken a walk, driven somewhere else, etc. I have to be careful with the exercise bit, because that's gone to the extreme before too.

That comment reminded me of how powerful emotions can be and how it is so important for us (ED or otherwise) to be able to express and monitor them as well. As for my colleague, she later posted that she only are half of a sleeve of Thin Mint cookies but that last year it would have been the whole thing. I'm hopeful that at least by writing out what she felt allowed her to express her feelings. And I know for her, this did feel like some progress.

How do you do deal emotions? How do your emotions affect you eating disorder/your recovery? Does anger play a role in your ED?

Note--*I hope no one feels like I'm saying eating thing mints is wrong when upset and angry This is only an example.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I caught last night's episode of Intervention with the story of Marquel, an exercise addict and alcoholic. Although there have been a number of episodes on eating disorders on Intervention, there were a few unique aspects I appreciated about this one: 1) The show represented a minority. I know they have in the past, I just don't recall any with eating disorders but perhaps I'm wrong here. 2) The individual refused treatment despite all the actions of her family and friends. I don't think this has happened in many episodes, but I haven't been watching Intervention on a regular basis lately. I remember a few episodes of people having huge lash-outs or escaping the premise, but all eventually went to treatment. With Marquel, she suspected the intervention and flat out refused, walking away and not speaking to her family and friends for 4 1//2 months as of this date.

A brief synopsis of Marquel: Marquel is a 30 year old Hispanic woman with two young children and a roommate in South Beach Florida. She was an elementary school teacher after college for several years but is now a fitness instructor. Her family feels she is an exercise addict, but Marquel does not, viewing exercise as "therapeutic:" She questions her exercise addiction (up to many hours per day) but does not feel like it has taken over her life.

Marquel also has a history of bulimia and alcoholism with symptoms of restriction and amenorrhea. On several occasions, she has passed out, been hospitalized for alcoholic poisoning, and was pulled over for a DUI and hit and run. Marquel does not view her alcoholism as a problem but says as many addicts do she has control over it and "I can stop drinking when I feel like it, I just never feel like it."

Growing up Marquel's family was a typical close-knit Hispanic family. When Marquel was 15 years old, her mother died of breast cancer which was very difficult for her, feeling like she never got a chance to mourn her death. Her father began dating soon after which was also hard on Marquel, wanting his affection.

When Marquel moved a way to college in FL, that was when her heavy binge drinking appeared. She found love, got married, and had two children. She presented herself as a "perfect" mom, but eventually that took its toll. She began to party, consume a high amount of alcohol, and neglect her kids. Five months ago, she separated from her husband and moved to South Beach with her children and began as a fitness instructor.

Marquel's entire family is very concerned for her and especially worried about her children. When the family tried the intervention, Marquel suspiciously picked up on it (possibly by her roommate who her family felt like enabled Marquel) and walked out, chased by her father who desperately tried to convince her to get help. She eventually agrees to come back to talk to her family which was not very productive. In the end, despite what everyone thought, Marquel did not agree to go to treatment.

As I said before, I liked the fact that this episode featured a Hispanic individual struggling with addictons and an eating disorder. In recent years, there has been an increase in Hispanics with eating disorders, making researchers realize they are not immune as once thought with better body image and different cultural expectations. And I have to admit that I don't think it is helpful that many live in South Beach which adheres to a similar lifestyle of "lookism" as Los Angelos.

In terms of treatment, it is obvious that Marquel needs help. She is at risk of hurting herself, others, and her kids. But like most addicts, will she have a rock bottom, will she get tired of the lifestyle she is living, tired of missing her kids enough to stop, or the lack of communication with her family? I think whenever many of us watch this show, we always hope that the individual will decide willingly to go to treatment. In many of the shows, it seems like it takes just a few minutes of tears, and then they decide to go (we really don't know how long this takes due to editing). But in reality, unless there is absolutely no other option, it usually takes awhile and with multiple attempts. Everyone is different when it comes to treatment and when they decide to get help. We hope that when they do decide, it is not too late.

I'll be interested to see whether Intervention will do a follow up story if Marquel does decide to enter treatment.

Related posts on Intervention:
Sonia and Julia

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The difficulties of hunger and fullness

I just read this blog post over at 360 Degrees of Mindful Living about fullness. From the blog:

First, the sensation of hunger goes away. This is a moment of hunger relief. This happens almost too fast for us to have time to enjoy a meal. If you stop eating at this point, then you no longer feel the painful emptiness of hunger, but you also do not yet feel full.

If you keep on eating, you will next experience a moment of pleasant fullness as the food distends the lining of your stomach, but not so much as to cause pain.

If you keep on eating, you will eventually experience a moment of unpleasant fullness as the stomach distends to a painful degree.

I wish feeling satiety and fullness like this was so easy. For many of us with eating disorders or are in recovery, we have a hard enough time establishing, distinguishing, "being in touch" with our hunger cues. For so long, we have ignored them that when they arise, they feel foreign and uncomfortable (what my body needs food now?). After awhile of continually neglecting these signals, our body stops producing them. And then there is just silence. Ahh, sometimes, I admit, I kind of miss those days where I did not have to make such decisions and efforts about food, or my body telling me it actually needed something to live on. But the aftermath is not so pretty as we all know.

And so when we eventually head toward recovery, one goal is to relearn these hunger and satiety cues (aka intuitive eating). For me, it's really been more about mechanical eating--it's a certain time of day, I need to eat something, etc. This isn't to say that I completely ignore intuitive eating, but just that the mechanical technique for me has been easier right now. I find if I am hungry, and my stomach roars, and I don't eat right away, well, it will either go away completely, leading me to forget it or something like what occurred on Friday will happen.

My schedule was different, and I didn't plan it out well. I had a hunger attack and nothing to eat at the time (was at a client's house). Since I was two hours off of my scheduled time, my stomach felt horribly awful-distended and bloated which half the time makes me not want to eat. But since I knew this was probably from not having eaten in several hours, I found something to eat at home while letting the dogs out which my stomach did seem to thank me for. (If it could smile, it would)

Besides the hunger cue thing, we have to tackle fullness as well. The post above distinguishes from pleasant fullness and unpleasant fullness. In the early stages of recovery, for many of us, there is an unpleasant feeling of fullness, not only physically but emotionally as well. It takes a lot of time to reach a feeling of pleasant fullness where our bodies realize it can rely on food substances and our minds can feel at peace with it and maybe even content too.

The post offers some good suggestions for pleasant fullness and unpleasant fullness words. It might be something good to do as an exercise or in explaining to someone how you may feel after such a meal.

Note--*There's been some research on the poor or lack of interoceptive awareness (ability of an individual to discriminate between sensations and feelings) here, here, here, and here among those with eating disorders.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The honks that encourage

I don't know if anyone has noticed all the Canadian geese out, but they are certainly around. I know a lot of people find them a nuisance with their loud honking and spread of geese excrement. At times, I certainly do, especially with dogs who think geese poop is like caviar.

But all in all, I have a fondness for them. One of my client's have a large lake right beside their house. The Canadian geese have taken to the water, swimming around and hanging out. I've tried hard to get these client's dogs to stop barking at them which is only somewhat successful. Some days Tovah comes along to play with these dogs, and she is just enamored with the Canadian geese. I can't figure out whether she is unsure of them or whether she is wondering why they sound like one of her plush geese toys.

When I watched the geese today, I found myself smiling. There were nine geese on the grass by the water. I guess the geese decided it was time to adjust their location, because five of them opened their wings and took off to land on the water. Then, they all began honking loudly. Two more joined them while two stayed behind pacing back and forth. The honking continued. To me, it was like they were trying to encourage the other two that they too could fly onto the water with them. The two continued to pace, but finally one got the courage to fly and join them. The geese still honked, encouraging the last one who was unsure he could do it. If geese could have wrinkles in their forehead, this one certainly did. *He really didn't know if he could do it. He paced and paced, conversing to the other geese that he was just too scared. The other geese still honked and honked. But finally, he took off and joined everyone on the water. Then, they all honked together in unison, like there was now a sense of peace in the community.

I loved watching this scenario. It reminded me of recovery and how we all need to root for each other in this process, even during those times when things are bleak, we are unsure, and we think we cannot. Support and encouragement are vital to recovering from any mental illness. I hope we all have this on our journey in recovery.

Related post: "V" formation

Note: *I realize I am anthropomorphizing the geese behavior, but it just felt so relevant today. In my line of work, we quickly discourage anthropomorphizing as owners often get it wrong i n terms of what is really going on with their dogs. However, sometimes you just can't help it. Even trainers fall into this trap too at times. The difference is we just know when we are doing it. :grin:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vote for Tovah

Quick post because I forgot to mention it in my last post.

Yes, I'm shamelessly plugging for my own pet here. I've entered Tovah in the Bissell MVP Pet photo contest. Her voting period is through Thursday. Please vote for her and her photo. I'd so appreciate it.

You can vote here for Tovah or on the widget to the side.