Category Archives: Bulimia

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Sparklle Rainne

Me Vs. My Eating Disorder: How I realized that I was sick and learned to differentiate myself from my sickness

By Sparklle Rainne

My eating disorder began when I was only eight years old. It began with bulimia, but my diagnosis has changed multiple times throughout my life – I’ve been diagnosed with bulimia, anorexia, and EDNOS/OSFED at separate times during the span of my treatment. By the time that I was eighteen, I was binging and purging all day every day. It never ended. I felt like a hopeless case. I had attempted to recover many times at that point.

Since I was so young when it started, I grew up feeling that my eating disorder behaviors were simply a part of me. I didn’t know what an eating disorder was, so my eating disorder was just “a thing” that I did. Many people with eating disorders have a co-morbid illness, and growing up with a severe anxiety disorder, that was certainly the case for me. The first time that I made myself throw up, I was overwhelmingly anxious – you know that feeling when you’re so nervous that it makes you feel like you’re going to puke? I lived with that feeling 24/7 because of my anxiety disorder. The first time that I purged, I just did it to make that feeling go away. I got addicted to it.
Even though I didn’t know what an eating disorder was when I was eight years old, I had definitely heard of them by the time that I was ten. I was already devouring books about eating disorders like “The Best Little Girl In The World,” but somehow, it didn’t really resonate with me that I had an eating disorder myself. Despite this, living with my eating disorder was hell. I had enough of an inkling that I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to do to know that I had to hide it, but it took me a very long time to recognize it as something that I needed and deserved to get help for. There are two major reasons for this:

1. No one told me that eating disorders can affect people of any size. I identified with the people in the books that I read, I had the same behaviors, but because there was so much stigma around what someone with an eating disorder looks like, I didn’t see myself as “skinny enough to be sick.” This is a problematic misconception because eating disorders affect people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, backgrounds, income levels, genders, etc. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that do not discriminate.

2. On a similar note, I didn’t feel that I was sick enough because, well…I wasn’t dead. This is very common for people with eating disorders. I was in denial – even when the physical repercussions came along, which for me included fainting, thinning hair, blood in my vomit, amenorrhea, broken blood capillaries, weak bones, and more, I didn’t feel that I was sick enough to be taken seriously because, well…I was alive, and again, I didn’t see myself as thin enough. Most people don’t realize how sick they are until they’ve already done irreversible damage.

We need to change how we talk about eating disorders in the media. We need to continue to raise awareness and debunk myths about eating disorders.

I finally recognized that I definitely had a problem and definitely wanted help for it around the time that I was fifteen. Bulimia had turned into anorexia for me at that point and I was so sick of how much power it had over me. I felt that I had no control over any of my behaviors. I felt like I was possessed by a demon and since I had lived with it for so long, it was very hard for me to differentiate the demon from myself. In order to recover, I had to do just that: differentiate the eating disorder from myself and figure out who I was without it.

Obviously, that isn’t a fast process or an easy one. This is why early intervention is so important if it’s at all possible – the longer that you have an eating disorder, the more the line blurs between you and your eating disorder. For me, there was hardly a line. I grew up with my eating disorder. Unfortunately, the first time that I reached out for help on my own, I was paired with a therapist who had no experience with eating disorders. Looking back, I understand that she made a mistake – she should have referred me to a therapist that had experience with my issues. Seeing her made me feel even more hopeless. I stopped going to my sessions with her and sank even deeper into my eating disorder. By the time that I was eighteen, my bulimic behaviors had returned full-force and I was binging and purging 24/7.
I had been in therapy again with a great treatment team for about a year at that point, but obviously, my eating disorder was deep-rooted by then. My psychiatrist was looking for an inpatient facility for me. Oddly enough, that was my turning point. I realized that I had to recover, and more importantly that I wanted to. It has been a long road with one relapse in between, but I have been on the path to recovery for four years now. Trust me when I say that it is worth it and that everyone with an eating disorder needs and deserves to get help.

I’ve decided to end this article by listing a couple of resources that I have found helpful during my recovery:

NEDA (nationaleatingdisorders.org) – the official website of The National Eating Disorder Association. Their website offers information about eating disorders, a confidential online screening, contact information for their helpline, and more.

Proud2BMe (proud2bme.org) – an organization that is dedicated to promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

IMG_20170225_215156_224I am so thankful to have been able to write this article during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I am a singer/songwriter and an eating disorder recovery advocate. My social media pages, my music, my businesses, etc. (read: anything that I create, own, or run) will always serve as safe spaces for people who are recovering from eating disorders. This is a topic that I am very passionate about and I am so thankful that Stigma Fighters had me back to write about it!

Sparklle Rainne can be found on Twitter and Facebook

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Stigma Fighters: RM

I Say, I’m Recovered.

However is there such a thing.
I don’t abuse laxatives, or make myself purge.
No longer restricting calories, or missing social events.

The Photo Attached: is from 2007 during the dangerous part of my struggle. I look at this picture it makes me want to be skinny. But I also remember how broken inside I was. I NEVER want to feel that way again.
However, is there such a thing as being fully recovered?
I do look in the mirror and say wow I’m fat.
Yes, I avoided the gym and eating healthy as the fear of falling back.

Am I really recovered?
If I was, would looking at old photos be this bad for my mental and physical health?
When I look into the future, there are no issues in sight. But when I look in the past some things makes me want to fall back.

This pain is real, the struggle is real.
But why do I call myself recovered? I’m not and not sure if I ever will!

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RM grew up in a household of dysfunction. She is trying her hardest to stay afloat!

 

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Stigma Fighters: Jen Venegas

A birthday party in my Chicano family looks something like this: all of my aunts are in the kitchen frying up tacos to eat with homemade rice, beans, and fideo while my uncles and the cousins are all scattered around the house, cracking jokes, watching sports, playing with the family babies, but mostly waiting for those tacos to hit the table. Food, aside from family, is always the major focus of our frequent parties and get-togethers. When I was growing up, my uncles would have eating contests to see who could eat the most tacos or the biggest piece of birthday cake. The winner would get bragging rights and cheers. Oh, and pats on the belly, which we all have. Almost everyone in my family is overweight, especially the men, to the point of priding themselves on it, seeing it as a feat to have eaten so much in one sitting and over time. Birthday parties also show the aunts and female cousins over-indulging and celebrating with food but there is always a sense of judgement and negativity lingering just behind the joviality. I am used to hearing a “this is going straight to my belly,” while watching an aunt bite into one more taco.

My family is big on nicknames and teasing – it’s one of the central ways we express endearment and familiarity. As a child, I was used to teasing coming from a place of love and so when my grandma would call me her little “gordita,” or “little pig,” I relished the attention. An older cousin, who I looked up to as a sister, called me “bally” because my tummy was big and round like a ball protruding from the center of my body. This was the same cousin who went on an extreme diet when she was 17 years old, spent hours exercising in her room, and binging on sugar free candy. I, a young chubby Chicana in junior high, watched my father go on the Jenny Craig diet. I watched him lose about 60 lbs (only to gain most of it back over a decade later) eating prepackaged meals that came every week in a cardboard box in the mail.

As the next generation of our family is born, I have seen these same insecurities passed down to the new children as their parents and grandparents comment on a two-year-old girl’s barrel chest or a three-month-old baby boy’s fat cheeks. Love is behind those comments but it is impossible to tell how these messages, coupled with messages from the media, will be received and processed by these children. For myself, the messages I received left and right, from so many sources, helped me form a toxic relationship between food and emotions, one that I continue to struggle with today.

Food and the body was always a major focus of attention and while some members of my family tried to fight this prophecy with strict diets, as a kid growing up with a strict Chicano father and a family that likes to eat, I quickly learned to equate food with emotions. Celebrations linked to food and happiness. On the other hand, food and eating was also linked to sadness and anger with my parents often engaging in explosive arguments before, after, and during family meals. Fear and anxiety I felt as a child found a release in second helpings, extra desserts, or sneaking sweets.

At school I was one of two fat girls in my relatively diverse classes and while I had plenty of friends, being in a minority size-wise was difficult. Watching my skinny friends borrow clothes from each other and go shopping at stores with clothes that I didn’t fit into still brings up feelings of isolation and literally not fitting in. In middle school, I was tagged the “Pillsbury Dough Girl,” and played along, “woo hoo”-ing whenever a friend poked me in the stomach. It was easier to put up a front instead of fighting back. I watched as these kids mocked other kids with differing traits, including the other fat girl in the class. While she was frequently called a whale or compared to the size of an amusement park, I took some sanction in the fact that at least my nickname was a cute white little baking mascot.

In high school, I grew isolated from my extended family, seeing them as symbols of excess, of difference, of “other.” Even though I was attending a predominantly Chicana all-girls Catholic high school, I immersed myself into the culture of the fashion magazines I’d been reading for years, the representations of skinny white girls everywhere I looked, and the fat funny woman, occasionally of color, that was suddenly popping up in the television shows and movies I was exposed to. I recognized my family’s difference, in both race and size, and shamefully removed myself as much as a teenager can. While I have yet to remove the Chicana or the fat from my core, as a teen, I sure as hell tried my hardest to fit into a culture that ostracized me from my onset. I needed that thin body, those white girl features, and the clothes and status to match it.

Once puberty hit, my father and I would get into epic fights – with him struggling to control me in any way he could and me struggling to maintain my ever-growing independence. I had been an emotional over-eater for much of my chaotic childhood, but now all of that got rehashed into a strict regimen of running miles a day and skipping every single meal possible. I developed an eating disorder in high school but it had been a lifetime in the making. While struggling, I convinced myself of two things – my family would never accept my need to be thinner, different, to fit in better and there would be no doctor that would take my eating disorder seriously after taking one look at my overweight body. Everything I had ever read or seen on eating disorders always showcased underweight rich white girls and here I was, a fat Mexican girl whose family just barely fell into middle class. Rich I was not. White I was not. Underweight, I definitely was not. I felt isolated from everything – from the society that simultaneously told me to hate my body, my weight, my culture and from my family that worshipped food and yet secretly, away from each other, hated their bodies and their attachment to food.

As an adult today, I have made huge strides in acceptance of myself, my body, my upbringing and my individual family members with their own struggles. I no longer feel the need to join in with my cousins as they bemoan our shared linebacker shoulders and barrel chests, a visual and genetic testament to our heritage and culture. Years of therapy and self-care have taught me ways to safely and respectfully distance myself from becoming enmeshed in my loved ones’ own insecurities and self-hatreds. The Fat Acceptance movement empowered me by normalizing different body shapes and sizes and by giving me permission to own and respect my bigger body and frame. I have achieved some solace and peace through growing up and the determination to get better.

No amount of personal growth or self-care, however, could compensate for the frequent appeals and pleas I was forced to make with insurance companies responsible for aiding in my treatment. Having been in and out of eating disorder treatment centers for my battle with bulimia had only helped to reinforce the stigma I feared as a teenager. Time after time, my doctors told me that my insurance would no longer cover my treatment because I didn’t meet the qualifications for bulimia nervosa.

These qualifications are usually determined almost exclusively by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a publication that not only defines anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) all by very strict and limiting definitions, but also undergoes regular revisions as the field of mental health advances. Patients that fail to currently meet the qualifications of either anorexia or bulimia tend to get lumped in with the catch-all of EDNOS. In April 2010, CNN.com reported on a recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics that found “more than 60 percent of patients with EDNOS met medical criteria for hospitalization and were, on average, sicker than patients diagnosed with full-blown bulimia.” These diagnostic restrictions can be extremely problematic considering that many people with eating disorders fluctuate between disordered behaviors and weight which may disqualify them from getting the proper diagnosis and therefore treatment he or she may need.

Because my behaviors varied greatly from restriction to binging and purging, my “official” diagnosis moved from Bulimia Nervosa to EDNOS and back again. Because I am fat and my weight fluctuates within “overweight” and “obese” on the BMI scale (yet another flawed diagnostic tool in the medical field), I did not always qualify for the treatment I needed. My constant obsession with food, the addict-like high I got from purging or from restricting, the food rituals and complications from years of abuse on my body were not always enough to guarantee necessary treatment. The medical and insurance industries told me that my struggle was not “enough,” was not worthy of notice or care, a message I am all too familiar with having grown up as a fat Mexican-American woman in Western society.

With a disorder that centers greatly on feelings of inadequacy and disenfranchisement, I didn’t need anyone or thing to validate these feelings. On a bad day, I already parroted the notions that I was not sick enough, not thin enough, not white enough, not rich enough. If only I had those things, I would have qualified for the treatment I needed and I would be able to pay for it myself. Instead, I was forced to find recovery out of treatment that is founded on the false notion that individuals with eating disorders fit a very specific mold, a notion that no doubt is echoed from bigger societal constrictions on race, size, and sex. Recognizing this fact and being able to relate it to the struggle I felt as a child to find a place in my body, my family, and my culture has been key to my progress for health and peace. Remembering how far I’ve come as a fat Chicana woman only makes how far I’ve left to go seem more attainable.

Today I have over four years of recovery but a lifetime of disordered eating. I fight hard every day, still fat, to maintain my recovery. And so far, I’m doing it. I’ve beat the odds.

selfieJen grew up as a Mexican-American queer feminist in Los Angeles. She is passionate about sociopolitical issues, especially coupled with the fashion industry. Jen believes strongly in body-positivity and previously made a living selling vintage clothing for fat women and men. The store was an experiment in creative reuse and providing a resource for plus size women interested in fashion, both present and past. Aside from fat fashion, Jen is also an advocate for queer and mental health rights and awareness. While she’s been writing and creating since she was a child, Jen took her first forays into publishing with zines, or independently published magazines, in her late teens. Her most well-known zine series, She’s Not a Morning Person, was distributed by independent distributions all over the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe. Additionally, Jen was educated in English from California State University, Los Angeles as an adult. While attending the University, Jen also edited the student submissions for university anthologies and magazines. If Jen’s not writing or knitting, she’s cooking up a vegetarian dinner, baking some yummy sweets, or watching a horror or documentary film. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her three gorgeous cats.

Jen is the editor and lifestyle blogger at Skinned Knees. You can email her at jen@skinnedknees.net

Jen can be found on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Stigma Fighters : Erin Campbell Thompson

Living In A Grey World

The first time I ever purged was in the bathroom of a Friendly’s restaurant at the age of 15. I had just finished eating a colossal burger, french fries, and chocolate ice cream with hot fudge and gummy bears. You may be thinking, “after eating that combination of food no wonder you felt sick!” — This was true. It was a lot of food, but it wasn’t the food that made me sick; it was how I felt about what I had eaten that was making me sick to my stomach.

After I was finished regurgitating the $16.00 lunch my mother and father had bought me, I felt this immediate calm rush over me. This calm felt like a hug or a heated blanket, it was that comforting. I thought to myself, “I feel better, this is okay.”

I felt better than before I had eaten. It’s as if I never had eaten.

This “event” (as I will refer to it) started a fifteen year battle, which I still must contend with every day.

See, back then I thought of bulimia as a skill, and for me, it was. I could eat all the time and all I had to do was make myself “get rid of it”.

I felt powerful.

However, even way back then, I knew that this wasn’t something I should do all the time.

I said to myself, “I’ll only use it on weekends.”

“I’ll only use it at holidays.”

However, this “control” I was so pleased about — being able to “get rid of” food I would overeat — started shifting into every weekend and then, unfortunately, over time, every day.

After I graduated from high school, I moved out to Denver from New Hampshire to live with my best friend. This was the first time I had ever lived on my own and I was 2000 miles away from my family. It was at this point in my life, where I was purging up to five times a day.

However, I wasn’t overeating every day. No. I was purging after the consumption of normal amounts of food. I couldn’t stand the way anything felt in my stomach. The instant I would feel food or liquid in my belly, I would immediately start to panic. I could feel myself expanding. I looked fatter. My jeans were tight around my waist. This feeling couldn’t be just in my head, I could physically feel my body react when I ate.

I couldn’t rest until I could “get rid of” what I had consumed. If I didn’t evacuate my system, fast, this feeling would consume me.

To the people around me, I looked normal. I wasn’t underweight. At times I was slightly overweight. However, people started to notice that I wasn’t myself. I was much more anxious and much less happy. I made comments about my weight 24/7. I made comments about what everybody else was eating. As you can imagine, the relationship I had with my best friend became very shaky. In fact, we spent over two years not speaking to one another as a result of the person I had become.

I started therapy to work on my bulimia and emotional eating issues, and got to a point for a while when I wasn’t purging at all. However, to make up for the lack of control I had with the food I was eating, I decided to take up an excessive amount of exercise.

I would run five miles to work, be on my feet all day long, and then run the five miles home and then some. Every day. I thought that it was good for me. I mean, I was exercising, right? Surely cardio is better than sticking your fingers down your throat multiple times a day.

However, my exercise obsession soon caught up with me. I would give myself heat stroke, flu-like symptoms from dehydration, and my hair started to get coarse and thin. My therapist told me that I was replacing one compulsive behavior for another and that we should start paying closer attention to my “triggers”.

I thought, “lady, I don’t have any triggers other than the fact that I have to eat and I hate the way it makes me feel!”

I kept food journals. I wrote down what I had to eat. I wrote down how I felt before and after I ate. I documented the times I exercised and purged. I visited a nutritionist. I visited a psychiatrist. I tried anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, and meditation.

I still obsessed over food and felt it’s complete control over me.

After I graduated from college, I moved to New York. I moved in with a boyfriend who was a secret alcoholic and 14 years my senior. I was a secret emotional eater and bulimic and 24 years old. You can only guess what this choice did for my eating disorder issues, I’m sure.

At first, as with any relationship, things were great. We were in love and things were perfect (well, as perfect as they could be). I got a job, settled into life, and tried to keep a balanced diet and exercise. I kept my bulimia issues a secret. I would get up in the middle of the night to eat hidden food and then would purge in the bathroom. I would binge eat on my lunch break and purge in the bathroom in the warehouse where nobody could hear me. I guess in those days I thought, “as long as nobody knows I’m doing this and I can get away with it, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

What wonderful logic, huh?

If a bulimic binges and purges when no one’s around, did it really happen? If only it was that easy to ignore or deal with.

As two people living with addictive personalities will clash, my boyfriend at the time and I started to bring out the worst in each other. I drove him to drink and he drove me to bulimia. It was an awful cycle. It was at this point that I officially switched from binging and purging and moved into simply emotional eating. I didn’t care about having friends or doing anything with my life. I just cared about making myself numb by eating all the time. When I went to the doctors for a yearly pap smear, they weighed me. I weighed over 150 pounds. I had never weighed that much in my life. As a 5 foot tall girl, this was considerably overweight for my frame. I became emotional. It was as if it was the first time I had really felt anything for months, but it wasn’t a good feeling.

I decided I had to do something. I knew I was unhappy. And I knew that what I was doing to myself was much bigger than what I could understand. I decided to go back to a therapist, but this time I was going to be selective. I couldn’t pick a decent boyfriend. I couldn’t control myself with food. However, I could control who I chose to help me get myself back.

My therapist’s specialties were eating disorders and anxiety; the two things I was suffering from. I never understood how much anxiety I had until I worked with her. I also never understood that it was the root of my problem. Therapy helped me to understand the patterns of my behavior and how my underlying anxiety contributed to my disordered eating.

For once in my life I actually felt like I was capable of understanding my behavior.

I learned that the cycle I was trapping myself in was something I could gain control over.

A couple of times, like during the recession when I couldn’t find a steady job and while my father was dying from cancer, I did relapse.

After I lost my father in 2011, I decided to change my life and take hold of my health.

I became a fitness instructor, certified personal trainer, and certified nutrition specialist. I educated myself about exercise and food and how to use the two in a respectful and balanced manner. I also started a blog, so I could talk about my passion for wellness and living a happy life.

In November, I married the love of my life and in March I moved to Scotland to live with him.

My logic is no longer about all or nothing, black or white, and yes or no decisions.

I live in a grey world and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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beetsErin is the author of BeetsPerMinute, a health and fitness blog. She is a personal trainer and nutrition specialist living in Scotland with her husband, Luke. As an individual, who, after years of suffering from an eating disorder, self-doubt, and aimlessly jumping from diet to diet, decided to change her life and get healthy for good! She knows how difficult getting through an eating disorder is, and feels she can relate to so many other people facing the same issue.

Erin can be found on her website, Facebook and Twitter

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