My Eating Disorder: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Hello, dear friends 🙂

After a long and busy couple of weeks, I have finally found the time to type this post for both you and me. Last week was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and this is near to my heart because not long ago, I myself struggled with an eating disorder.

I mentioned last week that I shared my eating disorder story with a small group of people for the Boston University Nutrition Club’s NEDA week event. I had seen that the club put NEDA week as an event on their calendar, so I reached out and offered to share any sort of support or personal account. Thus, the club officers invited me to speak about my story following a discussion about eating disorders led by Jennifer Culbert, MS, RD, LD.

And now, here I am to share some bits and pieces of my story with all of you. Since I told a lot of my story for NEDA week last year, I am going to focus on some aspects of my eating disorder that I did not cover in that post. In retrospect, I’ve learned just how deep my obsessions ran and how profoundly (and negatively) those affected my life. As the theme of NEDA week states, when I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I had no idea.

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P.S. Grab a seat and some coffee or tea. This is a long one. 🙂

My obsession with body image started when I was only 7 years old. I did not even realize this until recently. The more I tell people that I used to figure skate when I was younger, the more I remember how I used to compare myself to other girls. No one ever pressured me to have a certain physique when I figure skated or danced, but I think the performance aspect of both sports comes with a hyper-awareness of aesthetics.

I distinctly remember wanting to have nicer legs and a six pack. At seven years old. I skated with one girl who had muscular quads and hamstrings, and I wondered why my legs didn’t look like hers. I was a fit young’n who trained several hours per week, supplemented with Pilates and ballet, but why didn’t my body look as toned or fit? My negative self-image made me believe I was weaker.

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My insecurities went haywire when I gained a little weight. The natural perfectionist in me freaked out when I saw in photos and dance audition videos that my hips were wider and my legs were bigger. Rather than embracing my womanly curves, I wanted to run far away from them.

I would “pull” at my fat constantly and make negative comments about myself. I know I’m not the only one who was (and occasionally still is) guilty of the fat-grabbing. I’m not saying that this kind of self-awareness is intrinsically bad, but when we pass the line of self-awareness into the territory of self-hatred, that’s when we need to make a conscious effort to change our mindset.

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I turned to healthy living blogs for my first source of advice, but I took the information completely out of context. Now, we all know that Jenn’s fantastic What I Ate Wednesday linkup is NOT about comparison, restriction, or judgement, but as a girl whose self-esteem was diminishing and desire to lose weight was augmenting, I didn’t take those rules to heart. I read blogs for a year or so before starting Daily Moves and Grooves, and when I first started reading, it was to find weight loss advice.

“She only had 1300 calories in a day, so that means I need to have 1250.”

“No more than exactly one tablespoon of nut butter at breakfast. That’s the standard.”

“She only ate one afternoon snack. I should limit myself to one as well.”

All I can say now is, what in the flippin’ heck!? I wish I could take younger Alison by the shoulders, give her a nudge on the forehead, and tell her, “YOU’RE NOT THAT PERSON. You’re an active, growing person. Your future self needs you to EAT.”

This was my dinner on a regular basis in the midst of my eating disorder. Lettuce leaves, fruit, a smidgen of cheese, and a drizzle of dressing to end a day of school, activities, dance, and studying.

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Had a major salad for dinner! 🍴

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Calorie counting escalated my obsessions very quickly. Calorie counting works for some people, and that’s great! But it absolutely did not and still does not work well for me in terms of my mental health. Where there are numbers, there is critical analysis for me.

I would hide my phone whenever I was counting calories at the table. Day by day, I would cut back just a few more calories, and if I went over my “daily allowance,” I needed to compensate by restricting even more the next day and exercising ASAP.

did have an idea that what I was doing was unhealthy. There were a lot of signs pointing to the fact that my behavior was unhealthy. I mean, I knew to hide my calorie-counting. My dance teachers called home. My hair fell out excessively. I was always cold. A priest told me I was getting skinny. I wasn’t completely naive, but my behaviors became ingrained habits, and they continued to snowball.

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I felt a false sense of discipline and pride in the fact that I allowed myself to starve. All the signs that I just mentioned meant that I was getting skinnier, and that’s all that mattered to me anymore. “What was health if I wasn’t skinny? I feel like I’m about to faint? Good. I have self-discipline.”

I had to see that someone else was hurting due to my actions in order to change. My big turning point occurred when my dad confronted me with tears in his eyes and slight anger in his voice. He told me once and for all that I what I was doing to myself was unhealthy and that I had an obligation as his daughter and God’s daughter to stop my habits.

I realize today that eating disorders do not only hurt the victim himself/herself; they hurt the victims’ loved ones too. The more I meet people, especially close friends, who struggle with eating disorders, the more I realize how painful it is to watch them seemingly trapped in an unhealthy, self-loathing mindset. I also remember being cranky, stubborn, and hostile to others who changed my eating habits/schedule, even if they did not intend to.

Healthy living blogs have taken a new and improved role in my life. Both blogging and reading blogs have been a huge part of my support system during recovery. Whereas my focus was on calories and comparison when reading blogs before, my focus now is on overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. I cannot express how much I thank all of you for your support, whether you blog or not, comment or not. You all keep me going.

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The way I look at food will never be the same. And that’s not a bad thing. I feel as though once you’ve experienced an eating disorder, food never really has the same role in your life as it once did before you ever fell into an eating disorder.

When I was younger, food was fun, delicious, and often just a necessity.

During my eating disorder, food was something I so desperately wanted, but I made it the enemy.

Today, food is again fun, delicious, and a necessity, but I appreciate 100x more how important it is in keeping our incredibly created bodies in motion every day. I still know the number of calories in many foods, and there are the rare occasions when I feel guilty about eating something. But overall, my mindset has made a complete 180.

I’ve learned when I need to eat, even if I’m not hungry. I’ve learned that dessert in moderation (and sometimes not-so-in-moderation) is a good thing. I’ve learned that healthy food makes me feel good, junk food makes me feel meh, but there’s a place for both in my life/stomach, because they’re both delicious.

I am stronger, both physically and mentally now. Besides gaining a lot more physical strength now that I’m feeding myself properly, I’ve gained more mental and emotional strength than ever before thanks to recovery.

Just a few months ago, one of my close and beloved family members expressed that he thinks my legs are fat. If I had heard this at any point before last year, I probably would have spiraled into depression because my legs used to be the body part of mine which I despised the most.

But when I heard this comment a few months ago, I honestly just laughed it off. Yes, I was slightly hurt, but I know myself. I know my legs are naturally chunkier, but hey, more power to them. They carry me through an insane amount of activity throughout the day, not even including my workouts. If my legs’ abilities and strength have to be compromised in order for them to look skinny, then to hell with that. That being said, if they never look like a CrossFitter’s legs, that’s fine too.

If you have naturally skinny legs, embrace them. If you have naturally thicker legs, embrace them. If they’re somewhere in between, embrace them. They do a lot for you.

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If we can find beauty in others, then it is indeed possible to find beauty within ourselves. <— This right here is paraphrasing what my friend Lauren said during a Bible study last semester. We tell our friends how beautiful they are and how great they look all the time, and I like to believe that we’re genuine in saying these comments. So why not genuinely believe that we ourselves are beautiful too? Not just our bodies, but our personalities, our spirits, our smiles.

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The human body is an amazing instrument, which is why we want to treat it well. Treating the body well does not equate to attaining a certain shape or size. Rather, treating the body well equates to energizing, moving, resting, and loving it. And I believe that the body is just one element of God’s crowning creation of the whole human person. Energize, move, rest, and love your soul too. ♥

Holy moly.

The End.

Love you.

So tell me:

Anything about everything on this topic.

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Behind the Scenes #10: I Could Be at the Olympics

Good morning! I’m feelin’ some more behind the scenes action this Thursday.

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Head over to Amanda‘s blog for more thoughts from some great noggins

1. Ladies figure skating last night?! Naturally, the ladies single competition is my favorite event of the winter Olympics. All I have to say about last night is: Yuna Kim is a goddess, Gracie Gold is a sweetheart (go USA!), and I felt so sad for Mao Asada and Yulia Lipnitskaya. Oh and Adelina Sotnikova literally came outta nowhere!

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If you didn’t watch skating last night, I apologize for possibly making you feel out of the loop. Or maybe you don’t even care. I’m moving on now.

2. Actually, I’m still talking about skating, BUT it’s a fun fact that doesn’t have to do with last night’s competition. When I was still competitively figure skating, my dad told me that I should work towards making it to the 2014 Olympics. That seemed like an insanely long ways away at the time he told me that, but here we are in the midst of the 2014 Olympics. And here I am, sitting on my couch…not there. Guatever, I’m still a superstar.

3. BREAKFAST YESTERDAY. *Jumping up and down* My mom and I picked up some Thomas’ Banana Bread English muffins from Wegmans at Binghamton over the weekend, and I tried them out yesterday morning.

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‘Twas as scrumdiddlyumptious as it looks. I topped one half with almond butter and the other half with sunflower seed butter. Plus a small bowl of Greek yogurt and sliced bananas, cinnamon, and nutmeg as an accompaniment. Three words: I want more. Although the English muffin isn’t quite like the real stuff, I love the hint of banana bread goodness in it. The texture is doughy too, which I love!

4. I really feel like I’ve been doing absolutely nothing this winter break. I stayed home yesterday and Tuesday, and both days involved the same things. I did homework, exercised (the only time I left home was to the gym yesterday), cleaned, read blogs, blogged, watched the Olympics, and ate. I’m totally not complaining though. I know I’ll be craving this down time once spring comes— I was updating my calendar yesterday…I’m a little scared.

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Kinda true.

5. Thanks to those who reassured me that I’m making the right decision about not going to the Blend Retreat this year. I want to be able to enjoy my time with my school friends and blends, but I know that my time with each will be better spent if I’m not trying to rush from one place to another. I guess my last days of high school are kinda important too. I’m definitely hoping to go to Blend next year though!

6. New addiction alert: pistachios. Luckily, we have the unshelled ones so it takes longer to shove pop them into my mouth.

7. I’ve been loving this Coffitivity app on both my iPhone and Macbook. I saw that Emily was using it a while back, and I loved the concept of it. You know how some people get the most work done at a coffee shop? The gentle murmur and bustle acts as a nice background noise, right? Well, Coffitivity provides that background noise for you on demand! So even though my AP Calc homework took, like, half a day to do, at least I was able to imagine myself in a cute coffee shop while I was at it.

8. It RAINED yesterday. Hallelujah! I would have crawled into a hole if it snowed more. Then again, the snow is practically burying us alive, so I wouldn’t even have to do that. (I’m so melodramatic.) The downside to the rain is that everything is slushy and nasty outside now.

9. Do you ever have a lyric/line/phrase stuck in your head that always pops up in every situation? Well, for me right now, that would be #lololololololololol. I don’t even say it out loud, but it’s always just ringing in my head when something funny happens. Speaking of that hashtag video, there’s a new one now. It’s not as good as the original with JT.

10. My brain was absolute mush yesterday. I just felt like my brain was working super slowly, and it just took a wee bit longer to process everything. I slept and ate well, so I dunno what was going on. Hopefully my brain is a little sharper today!

Alright, the noggin has {mostly} been emptied out. I hope you all have a joyful Thursday!

So tell me:

Figure skating last night?

Which food can you not keep your hands off right now?

What kind of background noise (if any) do you prefer when you’re working/studying?

Ever have a lyric/line/phrase stuck in your head? 

Behind the Scenes #9: Burpee Withdrawal

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Thinking out loud with the lovely Amanda today!

1. No school today. ‘Nough said.

One downside to the white stuff is the lack of road space. There are already those people that park on the narrow side streets, and now the buildup of snow is slowly bottlenecking the roads storm after storm. The polar bears should just come live in New York. There are enough glaciers here now.

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2. I miss burpees. Yeah. Ever since making the commitment to myself to keep my workouts low in intensity, I have not done burpees in the context of a workout. I have done some for fun here and there when I’m taking a study break or something, but I’m feeling a little burpee withdrawal…?

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3. That being said, I am still doing some strength-focused bodyweight exercises right now. I’ve found that the extra strength training definitely makes a positive difference in how I dance. Yesterday I did this new leg exercise because I wanted to mix things up a bit: single leg squat holds on a BOSU.

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Except I was not smiling.

I probably looked like a shaking leaf on that thing, but it was a great challenge!

4. Winter sports look so treacherous. Pairs skating lifts, snowboarding/skiing wipeouts (we just watched Kelly Clark take a major blow on the half pipe— yikes)…even speed skating. Blades are flyin’ everywhere, and I’m terrified that someone is going to trip over someone else. You’d think I would be a little more chill since I used to be a figure skater, but I’ve had some scary falls myself…that weren’t even that bad, relatively speaking.

5. On a similar note, the figure skating commentators are drama queens. As soon as one skater falls, one says, “Wow. That was just disastrous. So unfortunate.” Two minutes later, another one chimes in saying, “Knowing their dream has vanished, they’re still skating with all their hearts.” And then on the last fall: “If you’re gonna go down, you might as well go down swingin’.” “Yep, that was a big swing.”

“After the humiliation of being shut out in Vancouver, the Russians get first and second!”

I mean, these comments are pretty true, but I just get a kick out of how dramatic they can sound.

6. I’m ready for peach season (and anything summery, come to think of it). I told Davida that I wanted her to make a healthy version of peach cobbler, and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

7. I’m going on a college visit this weekend for an admitted students’ day— let the discerning truly begin! I’ll be back with more details about the visit on Monday.

8. Oh, I did this yesterday.

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I was debating going home and napping or just working out and napping later (knowing there would be a snow day today), and when the intersection to turn either way approached, I chose the gym. But then I got there and wanted to sleep. I’m a terrible decision-maker. Did I just go home then? Eh, I was already there, so I just took a 20 minute snooze and that did the trick. I didn’t even care if people passed by my car and judged me.

9. Speaking of which, I’m sleepy. I’ll sign off here on the elusive #9. Hope you have a wonderful Thursday!

So tell me:

What is one form of exercise that you miss when you take a break from it for a while?

What summery things are you craving? Or wintery things if you’re in the southern hemisphere? 

 

 

I ♥ The Olympics {MIMM #23}

Who else has been obsessed with the Olympics?? I don’t know what it is about the Games, but I just get excited for everyone and every sport and every cheesy-as-heck commercial. I’ve been loving watching figure skating especially since I used to be a competitive skater myself, back when I was a nugget (<— click to see proof!).

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Joining Katie‘s Marvelous Monday linkup!

Favorite athlete right now? Yulia Lipnitskaya. She’s a 15-year-old Russian figure skater, and she is ridiculous. Not only her flexibility…

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OW…But her jumps are powerful, and her artistry is mature. If you haven’t watched her yet, I highly recommend you do! [Watch here and make sure to watch the 4 minute mark.]

Saturday night included an incredible sushi dinner at my favorite Japanese restaurant ever. My parents and I calculated that this was my seventh time going to this restaurant, and it has only been open for less than a year. The waiters and waitresses recognize us pretty darn well now!

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My mom ordered the wagyu beef special as an appetizer, which was melt-in-your mouth amazing. Of course, my personal favorite was the sushi. Mom and I shared a roll combo (eel avocado, tuna, and yellowtail rolls) and the Amazing Tuna Roll special (seared pepper tuna and avocado inside and fatty tuna belly on the outside). Dad also ordered a spider roll (fried soft shell crab) and a Dragon Roll (eel and cucumber inside with avocado outside). GAH. No words.

I was famished when I walked in, and floating on sushi cloud nine when I walked out.

In other news, my dance pal Allison (fraternal name twin 😉 ) tried overnight oats for the first time upon my (and Lilly’s!) suggestion. The verdict:

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Woohoo!

Besides that, it has been a normal-schnormal weekend for us here. Dance, Mass, Sunday school teaching, homework. Before signing off though, I want to share the delicious dinner I ate last night after a long day of dance:

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Quinoa, marinara sauce, sautéd spinach, and roasted red pepper-spinach chicken sausage. 

Simple, yummy, and super satisfying. 

Well this definitely was not my most thrilling post ever, but consider this our Monday morning catch-up 🙂 I hope you all have a great week!

Get me up to speed with YOUR weekend:

Favorite Olympic highlights so far? Favorite athlete?

What did you have for dinner last night?

Highlights of the weekend?