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23rd July 2010

I’m Back…

by Greta

Hi Everyone,

It has been months since I’ve posted, and I apologize.  I’ve been ridiculously busy… first it was school, then graduation, working two jobs, doing proposal edits for my agent, and now I finally have a minute to breathe.  I have so many posts in my head, so I guess I’ll start with my personal life and recovery.  About six months ago, my partner decided (operative word) that she was going to become spiritually enlightened through Buddhism.  I couldn’t have been more happy.  Through this process, she has drastically cut out unhealthy food from her diet, essentially cleansing her mind, body, and soul.  She has been a long-time sufferer of IBS, so she had a reason to change her nutritional regimen.  Since she made the decision to change her eating, she has never looked back.  Of course, this has caused her to lose quite a bit of weight, and she was already thin.

Enter my insanity.

As an ED in recovery, I, naturally, think that this can’t be good.  My thoughts race.  She’s be in denial.  She doesn’t realize she’s doing this on purpose.  She really wants to lose more.  She must have an eating disorder. So, I allude to her that she’s becoming anorexic and she gets offended.  Okay so that’s my first clue that she does not have an ED.  Moreover, she tells me that most people who tell her she’s too thin are people who only wish they could eat as healthily as she.

Enter my reality.

She is right.  I was completely jealous.  After struggling for years with the ED, then struggling with mental obsession (although it has lessened) in recovery, I was dumbfounded how, in one swoop, she just decided to completely change her life.  Just how is it that one can evolve so quickly?  While she is not in a recovery program, her behaviors seem to mimic the 3rd step of all 12-step programs… Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him. I’m no longer a 12-stepper, but the third step just keeps popping up in my brain.  Another phrase embedded in my brain from “the rooms” was that we had a god-sized hole that we were trying to fill up with food, alcohol, people, etc.

What I’m learning is that god-sized holes aren’t just for addicts, and my partner has shown me that many spiritual solutions exist outside the rooms of AA/OA–no matter how much people in the rooms tell you otherwise.  Second, another major difference between my partner and I (besides being separate people, lol) is I’m the one with the eating disorder.  Solely losing weight does not make for an eating disorder–a symptom of an ED, yes.  But, as we all know, EDs are full of biopsychosocial/spiritual complexities, and considered a disease by most medical professionals.

I still have food patterns that bother me… though, it’s my perfection and ED voice that are most bothered by them.  By non-ED standards, my food intake is healthy.  So, because I have this “disease” hanging over my head, does that mean I cannot make a decision and evolve overnight?  It certainly makes me wonder.  I haven’t been able to do it so far, so probably not.  As “normal” as I try to be and free myself from the ED identity, it seems to always be hangin’ around in some form or another.  I remember in treatment professionals telling me that as many years as one is in the ED it takes an equal amount of time in recovery to undo the ED mindset.  So, I have about a decade to go I guess!  Something to look forward to, lol.

Anyway, that’s all for now!

More posts are on the way!!

posted in Author, Greta, Mind & Body, Recovery | 8 Comments

25th February 2010

NEDAW: Be gentle with yourself

by Greta

In the spirit of NEDAW, Rachel thought it would be helpful if  our posts focused on supporting recovery goals–I completely agree.  When thinking about my personal recovery goals, one phrase keeps resonating… be gentle with yourself, this is a process. Being gentle with myself… for nearly my entire life, even in recovery, I have done quite the opposite.  Growing up as a dancer, it was ingrained early on to be extra critical of myself, as well as compare my strengths and (most importantly) my deficits to my classmates.  With regards to the eating disorder, anyone who has ED knows that it’s all about beating one’s self up and being unforgiving of anything less than perfection.

Being gentle with myself and realizing that this recovery bit is a process–just as getting into the ED was a process–made me think of the transtheoretical model of change.  As a social work grad student, I am fortunate to get to attend seminars, and for the last five weeks, I’ve been in a Motivational Interviewing seminar.  Motivational Interviewing is an evidence-based, client-centered therapeutic intervention for all types of psychopathology (especially addictions), that aims to help clients argue for their own change.  MI is based on the transtheoretical model of change, which include six stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse.

This model of change is so helpful for me as a recovering person, because it recognizes that if you were to draw a line of what the process of recovery looks like on a piece of paper, it isn’t one straight line of successes.  Rather, it’s more like a zigzag, where somedays you may be ready to take action, and other days your back at precontemplation, unable to see that there is actually a problem with certain behaviors or ways of thinking.  I came from what is now considered to be a clinically “old school” treatment center, in that recovery is based solely on abstinence–either you are in recovery or you aren’t, depending on how well you behave within their prescribed definition of recovery.

Today, I still don’t do things perfectly in recovery, but that doesn’t mean I’m not in recovery.  It means that it is a process and that I need to be gentle with myself.  I was engulfed by ED for nearly 17 years, and it just doesn’t disappear overnight.

The message for myself, and to you, is to recognize the growth you’re making in your recovery and don’t be so hard on yourself.  It is a process.

posted in Author, Greta, Recovery | 5 Comments

21st December 2009

Brittany Murphy Dies… Is Hollywood “Clueless” or Just in Denial???

by Greta

I was so busy running around in preparation for Christmas yesterday, that I didn’t even know that actress Brittany Murphy died of “natural causes.” My first reaction is utter shock.  For years, tabloids have rumored that the actress has had anorexia, and the fact that she died of a cardiac actress seems to support such rumors.  I don’t know if it is because she’s close to my age or if it is because I love her as a comedic actress.  In any case, my mentality–which, even in recovery, still vacillates daily between wanting to be unconcerned with weight and wanting to be not-anorexic-but-just-thin-enough (whatever that means)–has just received a huge dose of reality.

Within a few months of moving back to NYC, I accidentally lost quite a bit of weight, because I went from driving everywhere to walking everywhere.  It just happened, really.  This triggered my anorexic mindset, which has not been present for years.  While I like how I look and don’t ever want to look “sick” again, my mind has become obsessed with the possibilities of losing more.  What can I say?  It takes years in recovery to recover from the ED mindset… at least for me.

My point in mentioning this, and why I am so shocked by Brittany Murphy’s death, is that the ED can kill you (or me) when one least expects it.  You’re eating a little less here, exercising a bit more there, and then, oops, you accidentally kill yourself.  Honestly, I didn’t mean to send myself into cardiac arrest… I was just trying to fit into my skinny jeans. Now I know, obviously, that there is so much more behind EDs than trying to look good in clothes.  But, a notion as innocent as wanting to try to look good in an outfit or feel more comfortable in your own skin can actually be deadly.  While my playing around with food is at a manageable or even “normal” degree, if I let it continue, which will eventually shift my behavior to a status of unhealthy and unmanageable, this could potentially happen to me.

Now, we don’t know the specifics of Brittany Murphy’s “death by natural causes”–the ED rumors have not been medically confirmed.  We never received confirmation of an ED on rail-thin Michael Jackson either… but that doesn’t mean he, nor Brittany, didn’t have one.  I’m not trying to scapegoat Hollywood, but the ridiculous standards that celebrities have to maintain if they want to continue to gain employment is just that–RIDICULOUS.  How many more celebs have to die?  When is Hollywood, and society, going to learn that public figures and celebrity role models need to start resembling real people, instead of real people trying to fit into these unrealistic and life-threatening ideals?  Now, I know that we all make choices; but, at the end of the day, most people want to feel like they fit somewhere in the world.  Hollywood anorexic iconography in the human form just doesn’t help and needs to stop.

posted in Author, Greta, Personal | 19 Comments

8th December 2009

Self Knowledge Avails Us Nothing… A Recovery Adage Proving to be True Concerning the Obesity Epidemic in the Big Apple

by Greta

Every morning, I take a small jaunt to Starbucks (my apartment building sits on top of it, literally) for my Venti-3-pump-sugar-free-gingerbread-half-calf-Pike’s Place coffee.  And every morning, I can’t help but notice the three-digit numbers adorning the drink menu and baked good case that lists the calories–a NYC law enacted by the NYC Board of Health and Mental Hygiene in 2008, to help fight the obesity epidemic.  Food addicts could’ve told NYC policymakers that merely listing the calories in chain restaurants and fast food outfits wasn’t going to cut the mustard.    Moreover, I’m guessing that the Board of Health failed to consult anyone who has had a food addiction.  If they had, they would’ve known that food addiction and obesity is much more powerful and complex than knowing what the calories are in a food or beverage.  I mean, really.  Way to reduce such a huge problem to an education issue.  I’m not saying education isn’t helpful–there are just so many other, more deeply-rooted layers.

A couple of months ago, and nearly one year after the law had been in effect, The New York Times ran a story about a study conducted by professors at NYU and Yale University, which measured the fast food spending habits of consumers in low-income neighborhoods, both before and after the employment of the calorie-listing-law.  While consumers felt like they were making healthier choices, the evidence–fast food receipts collected–showed that consumers were, in fact, choosing higher calorie items, thus contributing to the perpetuation of the obesity epidemic.

By the way… pardon the repeated mentioning of calories.  I couldn’t avoid it.

While the intention was good, the Board of Health is now, for lack of a better word, in a bit of a pickle I’d say.  The plan has backfired, so now what?  Clearly, there is no easy answer.  Just the fact that the study was conducted in low-income neighborhoods says that at least one of the issues around obesity concerns the social environment in which one lives and the type of food readily available to people with a low socioeconomic status.

I wanted to write about this article, even though it was back in October, for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m currently running a therapy group for people in recovery who have cross-addicted to food and are now overweight (more on that in another post!).  Second, it reminds me of my own experience.  Both I, in my addiction, as well as my group members, knew what to eat.  I planned every day to be a perfect food day, even in the height of my addiction.  And every day, I’d louse it up.  Why?  Because, as we know, it’s so much more than about food.

I’m living in a city where, depending on the geographic location, a large percentage of people vacillate between orthorexia and obesity.  I’m surrounded by thousands of restaurants, as well as athletic clubs, spinning, yoga and pilates studios.   Whether in the weight ranges of under, “normal,” or over, people in this city are definitely into food.  I’m also living in a place where free exercise is at one’s disposal; however, we have one of the highest obesity rates.  I think if policymakers are really into tackling the obesity epidemic, they need to look a little deeper.

posted in Author, Eating Disorders, Food Culture, Greta, Social Issues | 24 Comments

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