Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recovery on Your Terms

I'm not going to address the obvious myths about eating disorders circulating such as the one that claims eating disorders are limited to white, upper-class, females who are vain or the one that suggests eating disorders are primarily about food addiction. These have been addressed and debunked in countless books, articles and talks. The following are myths or ideas on which I would like to focus:

1. Once you have an eating disorder, you will always have one. This, quite frankly, is bullshit. I know too many people who are fully recovered to believe that a person will always be stuck with the same illness or have the same set of symptoms for her entire life. There's no doubt that there's a genetic component and that people can have a predisposition to developing certain disorders, but this does not mean "once an anorexic, always an anorexic". You may have bouts of distress followed by periods of relief, but once you are on a solid recovery path, you always have the tools to deal with the disorder at your disposal. Sometimes learning to manage an illness leads to living life differently. You don't forget what it's like to suffer with it, but you don't have to actually suffer your entire life.

2. Ed. I already addressed Ed once in a blog post, so I won't go into too much detail here. While I understand the idea that it can be good to separate unhealthy and healthy thoughts by naming or identifying the unhealthy ones, I think this kind of strategy can become problematic when one refuses to accept that the disorder is part of the self, an unhealthy coping mechanism that once served a purpose and can be dangerous if continued. Blaming Ed for risky behaviors but refusing to take any action to change won't lead to improved health. It can help separate the person from the illness, but I stand by my words and say that this is a limiting and gimmicky strategy when it comes to dealing with eating disorders.

3. Eating disorders are a choice. No, they're not. No addiction is a choice, but we all make choices in life that either support or inhibit health. The problem with thinking a disorder is a choice is that you discount the physiology and genetic component of an addiction. The fact that they are not a choice doesn't mean those who suffer have no way of changing or overcoming them. It's more complicated that simply they are or they aren't, just like recovery isn't as simple as making a single choice to get well. You must address all aspects of a person and the disorder in order to successfully overcome addiction. Eating disorders are not a choice, and getting well is not as simple as choosing to eat.

4. Focus on who you were in order to overcome the illness. This is not good advice, because so many people never had a healthy relationship with food, even from a young age. Besides, going back in time is impossible, and why would you really want to? Instead, focus on where you are now and where you want to go. Go as far as describing what you want your life in recovery to look like, and then come up with some steps you can take to get there.

5. One diet fits all. This couldn't be further from the truth. Those who claim everyone can thrive on the same diet aren't considering the different dietary requirements for those with PKU, Hereditary hemochromatosis, Cystic Fibrosis or any number of genetic variations individuals have. Contrary to what some people believe, there is no magical diet for everyone. Anyone who claims that everyone, including all diabetics, does well on a high-carb diet hasn't looked into scholarly, peer-reviewed articles on insulin sensitivity or articles on varied diets in general. It's simply not true that everyone in all areas of the globe should eat the same diet.

Going past the physical requirements of diet, there's no doubt that there are psychological and emotional factors involved with eating. Comfort food is different for each person. Memories and scent are closely tied together, so certain feelings can arise when you smell or even see certain foods, but food can also affect brain chemistry. Again, why we eat what we do isn't as simple as feeding the machine. Food as fuel is fine, but it's better when we can learn to enjoy what we consume.

Speaking of diets, I recently bumped into another gimmicky recovery method called the MinnieMaud. It sounds like the "fuck it; I'm eating" way to better health. Honestly, I don't know a lot about it except that at a glance, it looks like someone compiled a lot of existing advice into a "method" that's easy for others to follow. These kinds of practices have pros and definite cons, so my only suggestion is that anyone who is thinking about doing something like this should check with his or her team and doctor and make sure it's safe to try given his or her situation and current state of health. Remember, refeeding for anorexics and other individuals with certain eating disorders can be dangerous and even deadly in some cases and should be monitored in most cases. Just be careful is all I'm saying. If it works for you, great, but don't push it onto others. Any program like this should be used as a guideline only, not something set in stone.

As far as recovery goes, I don't believe there's a magic formula or perfect method, or that you have to do X, Y and Z to regain health and sanity. There are some obvious changes that have to be made, and I believe there are certain issues that must be addressed in order to recover. Each person, however, will have a unique set of needs and issues to address. The path to health that one takes to achieve well-being need not be the same path someone else takes and probably shouldn't be. For example, some alcoholics believe that AA is the only way a person can get sober, but there are plenty of people who have put years of sobriety under their belts without attending meetings. More importantly, everyone who attends AA will have a different experience and will interpret what is being offered differently. The individual makes of it what he or she will. 

I often refer to this post when it comes to what I feel is essential in recovery. Use what works for you and discard the rest. By using your own approach combined with the guidance of those you respect and trusting that somewhere deep inside you are the answers, chances are you will have lasting success in your recovery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Quick Update

After three races this fall/winter, I decided it's already too cold for me to really race anymore. My body is feeling all tweaky. I lucked out at my last 5K because the weather was tolerable and warmed up to about 50 degrees by the time the gun went off. Sleeping in no man's land seems to be my thing, but I ran a hair faster than I did at the turkey trot the week before. It was nice to break the 23-minute mark, even though the time I ran is a good five minutes slower than some of my better times. Still, the cold affects my heart valve too much, and I feel uncomfortable running hard in the frosty air. My body feels like it needs a rest anyway. I'm also backing off because my toe is pulling the rest of my body out of alignment again, and I feel twinges that are somewhat worrisome. I had a string of a couple of good weeks, though. I'm glad about that. If I can stay on my feet through the winter, I will be happy.

I don't have any solid plans, and I'm still adjusting to all the weird positions my feet, hips and legs go into when I run. I'd love to be more social when it comes to training, but I'm not quite sure how to go about doing that when I can never predict how my body will respond from one day to the next. For example, the other day after work, my feet started shooting pain again and my left leg went all wonky on me, and shortly after that, I started feeling an uncomfortable tightness on my right side. This has happened before and has also resolved itself, but it's always unsettling. Lately, I'm feeling more pain than I had been in the fall. The only thing I can do is wait and see what happens, but I have to be careful about how I manage things.