My Secret Eating Disorder

By Abbie Lewis

I’ll never forget the day I stepped on to the scale and saw a number that horrified me, and made me want to change everything I knew about myself. I used to be a very overweight woman. I didn’t know or care a lot about healthy living, nutrition, or any of that stuff. What I did know was: that number I saw when I looked down made me feel disgusted with myself, and made me want to take drastic measure to make sure it decreased. Looking back now, I realize that that was my first mistake, not loving my body for what it was and not deciding to go a way that would benefit my health as well as celebrate who I was. Instead, I developed an eating disorder and went about things very wrong.

Eating disorders are common, and I’m sure if you really investigated, you would find that you know someone that has or had one at some point in their life. In fact, over 30 million Americans have experienced an eating disorder at some point. The most common eating disorder is anorexia nervosa, a disorder that implores people to starve themselves. The eating disorder that I developed was bulimia nervosa, where one either purges the food they intake via self-induced vomiting or using laxatives. I would eat what I considered pretty healthy but then take an obscene amount of laxatives to purge everything out of me so that I could lose weight rapidly. It worked to an extent and I dropped weight pretty fast but the pain it was causing me was unbearable. The stomach cramps and nausea was so intense that soon I saw what I was doing was wrong and changed my ways. I then did my research and learned how to be healthy and exercise to lose weight and ended up dropping over 50 lbs. and becoming very proud of my accomplishment.

I’m not telling you all of this to make you think that you have to be thin to be pretty or happy or feel accomplished. In fact, I’m trying to tell you the exact opposite. Going to insane lengths like bulimia to lose weight all because you’re so unhappy with yourself is not the way and chances are, there’s something going on inside that you probably need to deal with or you’ll never find inner peace. During my weight loss journey I also learned a lot about myself and what makes me happy and I truly believe that that is the reason I become so proud of myself. Being a woman or non-binary person in today’s beauty standards is really hard and I think we all need to be there for each other and lift each other up. We should share out stories and become one with them and only then can we learn how to overcome our hardships.

Concluding Everybody is Beautiful Week

By: Christina Terrell

Everybody is Beautiful Week is a movement that the UMKC Women Center puts on to celebrate body positivity and combat eating disorders. The idea comes from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). This nonprofit organization, based out of New York City, has been around since 2001 with a mission of supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders while serving as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Although this is the main mission of the NEDA they also participate and advocate for many other things that go hand and hand with spreading body positivity and uplifting others and accepting themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

There are many great ways that the NEDA tries to get involved and supply support to the world and one is through some of the events that they put on. For starters, they host an annual walk called the NEDA Walk, for families and friends to join their loved ones to walk in their own communities to silence eating disorders. Along with the NEDA walk, there are many other events that are put on in order to fulfill their mission.

In honor of Body Positive Week, UMKC Women’s Center decided to put on a project called Operation Beautiful. During this week we hosted several events that supported NEDA’s mission. To Jump start the week we began with doing a movement around the UMKC campus, which included students on campus making colorful sticky notes that had body positive phrases on them, stating things such as “RIOTS BEFORE DIETS” and “I AM STRONG, I AM ENOUGH, I AM BEAUTIFUL”. Throughout the week we, along with other students, posted theses sticky notes on campus to spread the word.

Some other great events that we put on during Operation Beautiful included a Crafty Feminist Session where students could come make shrink art or a body positive sticky note to spread around campus. To close out Operation Beautiful we hosted a tabling event here on campus, which displayed lots of information about the NEDA and other body positive information, the table also included activities that the students could partake in to get their own message about Body Positive Week out on UMKC’s campus!

Mass Media and Body Image

By: Brittany Soto

In a world that is heavy on technology and social media usage, it makes it easier to communicate and connect with others, but the question is, is the media always trying to spread a positive message to people out there in the world? This is especially true when it comes to body image. Advertisements such as TV commercials, for example, tend to emphasize that a person’s body should have a slim appearance to them and that they are less-than if they look any other way. This is far from the truth because, in reality, everyone has a unique body shape and structure and just because someone is thin, doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. These kinds of expectations that the media portrays can have a serious effect on an individual’s mental and physical well-being leading to low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction issues leading to even more serious conditions such as eating disorders.

Generally, women are thought to be the only ones who suffer from body image issues and eating disorders as a result of what the media portrays, but this can also have an effect on men as well. “Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men. This effect may be smaller than among women, but it is still significant.” (National Eating Disorders Association, 2018). This is a growing problem since, nowadays, people spend the majority of their time on the media. I think it’s important for people to understand that what is portrayed on the media isn’t always the truth. I think it’s also important for people to practice self-love and self-acceptance, so they aren’t constantly measuring their self-worth based on the media. As human beings, especially as women, I think it’s important to emphasize these things when the media tries to tell us that we aren’t enough.

The Root of Eating Disorder isn’t About Food

Danielle Lyons

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Eating disorders are never really about food. It’s usually linked to a bigger issue or trauma. But that’s not what we see when we think about eating disorders. Our minds flash to some lifetime movie about a girl obsessed with her weight an appearance. But this isn’t Lifetime, folks.

Melissa A. Fabello insists, “Eating disorders are bio-psychosocial in nature, which means that there are biological, psychological, and sociological factors at play that make a person susceptible to, and triggered into, eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Eating disorders are seriously complex. But at its root, your eating disorder is a mental health issue.” Although looks can be a part of the disorder, it’s a very miniscule part of the puzzle. Eating disorders are extremely complex in nature. At the heart of it, many people use withholding, purging and binging of food as a means of control through a different time. It is important to remember that an eating disorder is a mental health issue. It is just the surface of a deeper issue.

Binge Eating: The Invisible Eating Disorder

by Danielle Lyons

When the topic of eating disorders come up, one thinks of the notorious two; Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. But alas there is another we tend to forget: Binge Eating Disorder. According to The National Eating Disorders Association It is the most common disorder in the US. So why isn’t it talked about? Many women experience other’s denial that Binge Eating Disorder exists. It’s just written off as gluttonous behavior. This disorder is much more than a mere character flaw. It deserves to be recognized in an equal light.

The National Eating Disorders Association says: GetFileAttachment

“Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. Binge eating disorder is a severe, life-threatening and treatable eating disorder.”

It is important to remember that weight or weight gain is different in each case. It isn’t strictly a disorder affected by the obese. That is where we make our mistake; we make that assumption. Eating disorders do not discriminate. If that were the case, one could argue that every person who is overweight struggles with the disorder. The fact of the matter is most overweight individuals do not have Binge Eating Disorder.

It is important to remember for eating disorders that root of the problem isn’t the food. Binge Eating Disorder is no exception. According to Melissa A. Fabello of Everyday Feminism, “Eating disorders are bio-psychosocial in nature, which means that there are biological, psychological, and sociological factors at play that make a person susceptible to, and triggered into, eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Eating disorders are seriously complex. But at its root, your eating disorder is a mental health issue.” Although each eating disorder is unique with their own complexity, they have one commonality. Recovery is a tough process differs from person to person.

If you suspect you or someone you care about might be suffering from binge eating disorder, there are resources available. Some resources include but are not limited to The UMKC Counseling Center, Binge Eating Disorder Association, And National Eating Disorders Association.

Happy Every Body is Beautiful Week!

IMG_1944 IMG_1932   IMG_1935 IMG_1936    By Kacie Otto

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In conjunction with the national campaign, the Women’s Center, partnered with the Counseling Center and Swinney Recreation Center, hosted a few events to encourage students on campus to feel positive about their bodies, no matter what type of body they currently occupy.

For the whole week, students can stop at locations all over campus including the Women’s Center, Swinney Recreation Center, the Counseling Center, the Atterbury Student Success Center, the Student Union and all of the Residence Halls to pick up packs of post it notes. Students are encouraged to write messages of positive affirmation on them and post them all across campus.

Students were also able to check us out at three different tables to play a trivia game and learn more about eating disorders, pick up operation beautiful posters, make buttons with positive messages on them, and “trash their trash talk.” It was so encouraging to see so many students take a bit of time out of their day to make others feel good about themselves and embrace body positivity.

Did you get a chance to post any positive messages across campus?

Marginalized Voices in Eating Disorder Recovery

NEDAwarenessLogoIn honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and UMKC’s Every Body is Beautiful Week, this is a guest blog from the  National Eating Disorders Association Blog.

For more information about UMKC’s Every Body is beautiful Week events, please visit our Facebook page.

By Melissa Fabello, Editor, Everyday Feminism

Pick up any eating disorder memoir at your local bookstore, and you are more than likely to find some iteration of this narrative arc.

Well-to-do, young white woman develops an eating disorder, spirals into near-oblivion, seeks treatment for her eating disorder (which usually results in her being admitted into a residential facility), experiences a myriad of successes and failures, and eventually commits to finding her Self again. Well-to-do, young white woman walks out of treatment with a new sense of hope on the road to recovery.

From a consumer-driven standpoint, it makes complete sense. Of course people are buying (and selling) these stories. Just as we see in our media landscape, there is a huge market for the most extreme and “graphic” version of any issue, and there will be people who are attracted to cathartic memoirs that are moving in that they’re so terrifying. It takes courage to tell your story of struggle with a mental disorder, to confront the stigma. They may be written from a place of good intention to educate and raise awareness about how serious eating disorders are, but they can also have the unintended effect of making us feel better about ourselves, our lives – hell, even our diets. “At least I’m not like that,” or “I’m not that sick.”

From an eating disorder recovery perspective, we have to ask ourselves whether these limiting representations of life with an eating disorder are doing more harm than good in the absence of other diverse voices and experiences with these illnesses.  As important and valid as stories like the above are about a commonly misunderstood illness – and as necessary as it is for people, from the field of psychology to the general public, to read and understand them – they simply aren’t telling the whole story.

My eating disorder didn’t look like that, and it’s been difficult to find stories that more closely resemble my own. My eating disorder was private and lonely. My rapid weight loss raised a few concerned eyebrows and flippant comments, but only one intervention. My doctor didn’t offer anything to me except a nutritionist and an SSRI prescription – oh, and the dreaded diagnosis of EDNOS. My eating disorder wasn’t (yet) killing me. It wasn’t making strangers stare at me. It looked entirely from the outside – so long as no one ever got a peek at my journals – like a diet.

And yet, my eating disorder was terrifying. And it was serious. And it mattered. Considering most people struggling with bulimia are of average weight, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, most doctors hardly  receive any training about eating disorders, and people are socially rewarded in our culture for dieting or weight loss, I have a suspicion that I’m not alone.

While some may argue that these bestsellers are raising important awareness about a growing problem, my question is: How beneficial is it if the scope of what the shoppers see is such a narrow picture of eating disorder experiences? How concerning is it that many write these memoirs without realizing how critical it is to share their story responsibly – in ways that doesn’t invite comparisons of “not sick enough to count” or with triggering images and instructive behaviors?

Because here is what happens when the only eating disorder stories that we hear are the ones that fit the aforementioned description: We use them as examples to hold our own disorders up to. We use them to judge and determine what is and isn’t “really sick.” We start to trust that these narratives represent “real” eating disorders, and that experiences that fall outside of these confines just don’t count.

And that’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous for the men and the boys who are struggling when they’re looking in the mirror. It’s dangerous and invalidating for women and other people of color when eating disorders are chiefly looked at as a “white woman’s problem.” It’s dangerous for trans* folks whose body image battles are always lumped in as related to gender-related dysphoria.

It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever peered into the DSM for diagnostic criteria and thought, “Well, I don’t purge that much” or “I haven’t lost that much weight.” It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever thought that they must not be “that bad” just because they don’t see stars when they stand up or don’t have heart complications or haven’t been questioned about erosion by their dentist or don’t have to take a leave of absence from school or don’t ever see a therapist or don’t get admitted into residential treatment or don’t have to be fed through a tube.

As is every structure that exists to serve a hierarchy of power, when the landscape is primarily non-inclusive eating disorder stories, it’s dangerous to the marginalized. They say, “Your voices don’t matter. Your experiences aren’t important.” It’s dangerous to reality.

And something has to change.

So, with that in mind, I (in collaboration with NEDA) would like to collect and curate your eating disorder stories. We want to highlight recovery stories that challenge that dominant narrative formula. There are already some brave people out there sharing their stories, talking about how their ethnicity, gender identity, orientation,  age, or religion have impacted their experience with an eating disorder, but as a field and community, we have still have so far to go. You are invited to join us.

We want all of it: your successes, your messes, your relapses, your questions. We want to hear from people of marginalized identities and from different parts of the world. We want to span the entire spectrum. We want to create a collection of stories that tells the whole truth so that we can present the world with what the reality of most eating disorders look like – because how can we truly address a problem if we don’t know what it looks like?

So if you have ever read an eating disorder memoir and felt misrepresented, underrepresented, or unrepresented, we want to hear from you. Submit your story now!

Interested in sharing your experiences as a step toward public enlightenment? For guidelines and to submit your stories, check out our submissions page here.

And for more on what I wish people understood about eating disorders, check out this video.

Participate in Every Body is Beautiful Week 2014

Hello everyone! The blog below is a guest blog from UMKC’s USucceed Blog. It features our Every Body is Beauiful Week events (taking place dureing the 2014 National Eating Disorder Awareness Week), so check it out!

EveryBody“UMKC’s annual EveryBody Is Beautiful Week will take place February 24-28.  Stop by informational tables to get information on body image and eating disorders and “trash your fat talk”.  Take part all week in Operation Beautiful by posting sticky notes with positive messages around campus.  Supplies are available at the tables and all week at the Women’s Center, Counseling Center, Multicultural Student Affairs, Swinney Recreation, MindBody Connection, and Student Health & Wellness.

Join us on Wednesday, February 26 from 5–7pm in the MindBody Connection (ASSC 112) for a Love Your Body Party, with creative and relaxing activities designed to celebrate all our bodies do for us and fight back against unhealthy messages about weight and eating!

Schedule of tables:

  • Monday, February 24, 11 am – 1 pm in the Health Sciences Building Lobby
  • Tuesday, February 25, 11 am – 1 pm in the Atterbury Student Success Center
  • Wednesday, February 26, 11 am – 1 pm in Royall Hall

EveryBody Is Beautiful Week is offered by the UMKC Women’s Center and Counseling Center, with co-sponsorship from MSA, Swinney Rec, OSI, Student Health, UMKC Athletics and MindBody Connection.  Contact Rachel Pierce at 235-5186 or the Women’s Center at 235-1638 with questions.”

Wonder Woman and Eating Disorder Survivor: My Friend, Jamie

By Morgan Paul

Image from Google Images

Image from Google Images

As a part of the new body positivity project I am starting I plan on talking with various people who are willing to sharing their journeys and perceptions of body image. For my first article I got the opportunity to interview a strong woman, and good friend of mine, about living with Bulimia Nervosa and her recovery. Jamie was diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa at 15, Depression at 15, Generalized Anxiety Disorder at 16, Bipolar Disorder at 17, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at 17. Although she was never clinically diagnosed with Anorexia, she also suffered from Anorexia at a very young age, beginning at age 10. It began with diets, which led to restricting food intake and obsessive exercise. She was a gymnast at the time so she soon realized that with all the exercise she was doing she could eat whatever she wanted without fear of gaining weight. After quitting gymnastics at age 13, she realized she could not stop binge eating, and then rapidly gained weight. One Friday night, before a high school football game, she stuck a toothbrush down her throat for the first time. This is what started it all, and all because of a small salad. By age 15, she said she was binging and purging five to seven times a day.

Although she recognized her depression and anxiety from an early age, it got more severe as the Bulimia Nervosa worsened. Her other diagnoses played a huge role in her eating disorder. She told me that her bipolar disorder caused her to eat when depressed, and restrict when she was manic. Her PTSD made her blame herself, causing her to want to harm by body. And eating was a way to cope with anxiety. On top of that, she has a family history of alcohol abuse and depression.

Her distorted body image and past abuse caused her to believe that somehow her body fat was connected to her emotional baggage and pain, so losing weight would be rid her of said baggage. She strived to be pure; emotionally, physically, and sexually. But she identified other causes as well. For example, pressure to be thin from gymnastics, and the media exacerbated the disorder. I was surprised to hear that media did not have a huge impact on her, although it obviously did not help. She told me that when seeing very thin girls she would make plans to not eat for days, but she never held other girls to the ridiculously high standards she held for herself.

Jamie has received treatment five times, two of which for her eating disorder. She told me that she is a firm believer in hitting rock bottom, and explained that the first three times weren’t helpful because she simply wasn’t ready. She had friends who tried to force her into recovery, but she said it was the opposite of helpful. Even though Jamie has recovered, she still combats thoughts of restriction, binging, and purging. But it helps her to think about how well she is doing now, and she’s not willing to jeopardize that. It helps her to think of her supportive family and how proud she is making them with her new-found health. And since her recovery, her friends have been nothing but supportive. She believes that she still has a distorted body image, some days worse than others, and she is sometimes discouraged by the size she wears, even though she is working hard towards body positivity.

When I asked Jamie how often she tells herself she’s beautiful, I was ecstatic to hear “every day, whether I believe it or not.” Personally, I find this to be the first step to body positivity. Even if you have to lie to yourself, it’s nice to hear that you’re beautiful, and soon you may start believing it.

I also find it important to list things you love about yourself. Jamie told me that she loves her sense of humor. It is witty and cynical. She said that she used to be terrified that if she was happy she would lose her humor. As it turns out, she didn’t. Another thing was her creativity. It’s what has gotten her through the roughest of times. And lastly, has her ability to be bounce back from whatever her disorders decide to throw at her any given day. And what makes a woman beautiful in her opinion is their personality. And freckles. She love freckles. But she explains that beauty is different for everyone. Each person can “pull off” different things that make them a beauty.

Her advice for those still suffering? IT GETS BETTER! The road to recovery is the hardest thing you will ever do, but it is so worth it in the end. Happiness and acceptance is possible.

NEDA

Image from Google Images

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) can help. Call their toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237

Too Big for a Two-Piece?

female-body-issues

Image from Google

By Morgan Elyse

Friends, blog readers, mothers, daughters, good sirs: I. Am. Livid.

Normally I consider myself to be a very peaceful person, but after what I witnessed in the dressing room of a Target store last night, I simply cannot hold my tongue. And now thinking back at the incident, I shouldn’t have held it then!

Women (and men) struggle everyday with body image issues. For some of us it’s as minimal as a funky look in the mirror on a bad day, but for others it’s so cumbersome a matter that it leads to depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, alcohol and drug abuse, and even suicide – especially in teens. So why on EARTH would someone – let alone a child’s own parent – introduce that method of thinking to a child who isn’t even out of grade school yet???

The incident began while I was trying on a pair of shorts and a few stalls away, a mother was having a discussion with her daughter around 8 years of age which centered around her belly being “too big for a two-piece” bathing suit. I was outraged!  I felt like scooping up the heartbroken little girl to tell her how beautiful she was right before I gave her mother my two cents! This little girl was far from obese and frankly, even if she was, it shouldn’t have mattered! The focus should have been on whether the swimsuit was comfortable and had appropriate coverage. There is absolutely NO reason a little girl shouldn’t be able to wear what her friends are wearing (which her mother so conveniently rubbed in her face right before the tears began to pour out of it) and be confident unless it’s simply a matter of modesty.  Instead, this woman decides to shame her daughter for not being as thin as she was when she wore bikinis and tell her that she didn’t want her to get made fun of. Hey, here’s an idea, why don’t you wait and see if anyone actually does make fun of your daughter at the pool, then shame the perpetrators and their parents for raising bullies! In the meantime, you can build up your child’s confidence instead of making her feel she inadequately measures up to both you and her peers. Unless it so happens that you are a bully and such a superficial, awful human being that you’re ashamed of your own baby girl’s body even though it’s nothing shy of PERFECT the way it is?

WTG, Mommy! You’ve successfully perpetuated the defective messages the media’s been sending women ever since there’s been a media – the effects of which you probably experienced in high-school but were too busy making fun of other people to deal with in an emotionally healthy way. But you, my friend, you have accomplished something far more amazing than anything TV and magazines could ever dream of achieving: you have driven this message of body shaming first-hand into an even younger and more impressionable mind than yours most likely was when you first started picking out the body parts that you hated. And what’s worse is that your daughter’s mind undoubtedly takes every single word that comes out of your mouth to heart, a place in which those words will be held now, and probably fester for a decade or so until they burst into some sort of -enia, -philia, phobia, addiction, or other serious psychological disorder because You… Were… Her… Mother!

I know, I shouldn’t judge. I don’t know these people and I don’t know the mother’s full story or her relationship with her daughter; it could be extremely nurturing. Maybe this mom just didn’t know the right words to use in that situation. I know swimsuit shopping can be traumatizing for everyone. I just want to put it out there that, especially when speaking with children, we need to be fully conscious of and meticulously careful with the words we choose and the messages we relay because their little ears are not the end of the road. Our words resonate throughout generations and have an impact on every choice and every personal connection our kids will ever make in life. So make your words positive and make them meaningful. Please learn more about body image here (www.loveyourbody.org) and be sure you’re spreading the right message to our youth.

<3. Every. Body.