Eating Disorder

Letting it Go

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In the days since I have been home from Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training I have been working on reorganizing my life in a way that best serves me, both in general, in my own healing and also in a way that fits into my life.  Let’s face it.  I can’t just throw everything out the door, nor do I want to!  We can’t have homeless pugs walking the streets!

As part of this I’ve decided to let go of my very part-time job tutoring in Columbus City Schools.  While I did enjoy the work when I was there, a lot of the logistics weren’t working out well.  Rushing there and then rushing out to teach on most days was driving me crazy.  Not good for someone who is very vata! I am also picking up 3 more yoga classes and with adding in all my Phoenix Rising work of at least 20 hours a week this flying around like a mad woman wasn’t going to fly!

I’m also trying to figure out how to untether somewhat from technology.  While I love blogging and networking I am feeling that some of it has become a bit much.  In trying to reach out to others, connecting with those also on a healing journey, as well as to those in and around the yoga world I have somewhat lost sight of myself and where I, Hannah, fit in with all of that.  It can be exciting and addicting to see readership grow and while there is value in it I also don’t like becoming attached to the statistics and numbers and always trying to hit the ceiling of the “biggest day” my blog had or of trying to push it forward in some inauthentic way.  I feel like I always have to be on and at the forefront of the next big story that may be connected to eating disorders or yoga.  I am not a journalist and being in this mode is exhausting!  Add to that my bazillion RSS feeds that I follow and I don’t have much of a day left over!

There are many interests I want to follow in the yoga world and I need more real time in order to do this. Perhaps by unplugging somewhat I can become more plugged into my passions!  Yoga philosophy, anatomy and physiology, learning Sanskrit and continuing to grow as a teacher.  I am still intending to blog regularly but may not be as plugged in inother capacities.  A great quote I read yesterday sums this up.

“Technology is the God that limps.  It thrives on reason but suffers from a dearth of wisdom.”

No matter what we do technology will always be a left-brain dominated pursuits.  It takes the whole and makes it into parts, dividing and organizing in a linear fashion.  Like the left-brain it is at times helpful, but when too dominant it can lead to being unbalanced.  We need some of the right-brain pursuits in concert with the left to find our best path.  I invite you to embark on this with me.

On a related note here is an amazing clip of a TED talk relating to this left-right brain talk.  An amazing story.

 

I Lost the Script

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Somewhere between Columbus and Vermont I lost my script.  Maybe I left it at the airport in Washington, Burlington, Cleveland, or perhaps it floated out the window as I flew above the snow-capped mountains and sunset lit skies.  Whatever the case I lost it and I don’t want it back.  I’ve forgotten my lines and instead of thinking forward to what will be, planning, anticipating, waiting, I move to a place where I can live in the moment.  The idea that we know what is to come is an illusion.  I have planed and planned for some much of my life.  Fighting for perfect, linear alignment, but the truth is that nothing is linear and alignment is only fleeting.  Instead I move to embrace what is, no matter the shape, color, way, or method in which it comes. Ritual and routine have a place, but to become attached to them is only a set-up for failure.

This morning as I sat in reflection this idea of non-attachment, or vairagya is what stood out to me.

1.15 When the mind loses desire even for objects seen or described in a tradition or in scriptures, it acquires a state of utter (vashikara) desirelessness that is called non-attachment (vairagya).

Interestingly vairagya is often spoken about alongside practice or abhyasa.

1.13 Practice (abhyasa) means choosing, applying the effort, and doing those actions that bring a stable and tranquil state (sthitau).

Through my practice I move towards becoming aware of my actions, thought patterns and tendencies; this awareness is where ritual and routine are important.  They cultivate the ability to discern the actions, speech, and thoughts that move me down the right path towards non-attachment, not only in moving away from that which does not serve but ultimately in never taking it on in the first place.  This is vairagya.

I find that I don’t feel attached or drawn to so much of what I left in Columbus.  I wasn’t jumping up and down this morning at the first opportunity to make it to the gym.  I wasn’t excited to numb out again and return to my old ways.  No, instead I sat.  I sat and I felt.  I felt awkward and big, almost as if my body became a giant triangle at my waist, the energies of the unknown spilling over my boundaries, in my mind enlarging the confines of my body.  Perhaps something I could interpret as being fat, gaining weight.  I felt unsure of what step to take next.  How to facilitate the movement, the flow, of my life into something that is more authentic.

If I had chosen to become enmeshed right away in the distraction of movement I would have missed the small flicker of excitement at reclaiming myself, the idea of nourishing and resting myself as I know I need.  Indulging in self-care beyond a massage or a manicure.  Self-care becoming self-love.  Something lost along the way.

Self-love.  No, not a selfish ideal, but instead selfless.

As I went through the day today I had a calmness about me that I haven’t felt in a long time.  Yes I did work out, but even then I wasn’t attached to what I was doing.  In the moment it felt good to move and lift weights, but if tomorrow doesn’t allow for that movement or if tomorrow my body doesn’t want to do it then so be it.  I’m choosing to listen to the vibrations of my soul, rather than the chatter in my head.  Will each day be this easy to choose one over the other, no, but that is also ok.  I am here and here I am. What is happening now?

Elissa Cobb, the director of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, posed a question that is resonating strongly with me and I pose it now to you:

What if your life became your spiritual practice?

Photo Credit: Acidcow.com

A Beginning of Consciousness

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So much has happened since I last left you with my journey into Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.  While my initial intent was to blog throughout my time in Bristol, Vermont I quickly found that writing publicly about my experience was proving to be quite difficult.  It was a jarring transition from the training environment to the rest of the world, even if a virtual one and I didn’t think that doing so was a good idea.  Even the few posts I had, short and sweet, were difficult to write as this technologically driven world doesn’t jive with the process of going inwards.

And so it begins.

After stepping out of my life for almost three weeks I now sit on an airplane typing this; preparing to step back into my life, and stepping into it in a much more authentic and present way.  Present in all the capacities that I can be: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  I’ve spent so much of my life residing in the safety of just the physical and the mental that I’ve missed out on a lot by neglecting the other two.  Perhaps I didn’t even realize that they existed.  Failing to meet the basic needs of food and rest will do that to a person.

 

I emerge from this training strong and empowered to flourish, grow, and heal in my life.  My time in Bristol had many different shades and tones and interestingly it was as if my life was sent into rewind and then someone hit the fast forward button. Even my tone and verbiage correlated at different points to certain times in my past.  In real-time I went through a hyperextended back, a break-up, three moves (one atrocious!), and then to cap it all off I came down with a bad cold and a low-grade fever for four days.  In my sick misery I stumbled through the days, almost unable to be present in any capacity except physical and gravely frustrated by this.  I found myself at a crossroad.  I’ve never before been away from home and sick, whether it was really sick or eating disorder related and not gone home.  On the second day of being sick I felt so horrible that I was ready to call it quits.  My body and mind ached and I just wanted to be home. Then I realized it.  I don’t have to be at my physical home to be home. I have the power to nurture myself and to make the decision to rest my body to allow it to heal, to recover.  This is the path I choose.  I remained in Bristol and I got better.

This power to heal, to nurture myself resonates in a bigger sense.  I have often likened eating disorder recovery to a dance, two-steps forward, one-step back.

I’m calling myself out.  I’m one-step back.  Before going to training, my struggles were worsening.  Too much working out and not enough fuel.  I have an unfortunate ability to ignore my body and not hear its sufferings.  It was only after stepping out of my life long enough to come to some sort of equilibrium that I realized how much I hurt.  Without the mask of a stomach ache I could feel my bones ache with fatigue and hear my joints click.  I can feel the fogginess in my brain and while I can go on with it and often do, it just doesn’t feel right.

I have an intention upon my return to come back to create a stronger structure.  A focus around meals and a balance in movement. I don’t need to be working out an hour a day and then doing an hour of yoga.  What I do need is to listen to my body from the inside and allow it to come into truth from the inside out.  Will I like the result?  Perhaps not externally, but that isn’t what I am choosing to live for.   Maybe the Hannah of yesterday, thin, sometimes too so, isn’t the Hannah of truth.  I’m tired of holding up those mirrors of a stranger looking back at me when I look in.  I’m ready at last for the external to match the internal.  Even amidst all my recovery I don’t ever know that I’ve allowed that to happen.  I’ve remained attached to what I thought I should be, what I thought I should look like.

I get goose bumps as I write this but over the past couple weeks I’ve gotten many signs that this is a chance at rebirth.  This is a chance to metaphorically give birth to myself.  The unconditional love that a mother gives their child.  I can give this to myself. A second chance.  After so many years I fear what could be on the other side of not taking that chance.  I don’t want to find out and will gladly shake hand of truth and step forward.  Both feet in.

This is where I find my balance.

Balancing on Two Feet.

 

Runway Models=Anorexic? Plus-sized=Size 6?

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Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman.

Today she weighs 23% less.

PLUS Model Magazine came out this week with a powerful pictorial in which it claims that most runway models meet the BMI criteria for anorexia, which is considered to be under 17.5. The pictures show a plus sized model (size 12?!?!?) paired with another strikingly skinny woman.

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The magazine wants clothing retailers to start catering to more women as they claim more than 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger.  What is a plus-sized model these days? A size 6 to 14.  Is that even plus-sized?  Last time I checked those sizes weren’t in a plus-sized section of a store!

In fact the skinny women in this case is more likely to be “unhealthy” than the “plus-sized” one.  These models fall within the healthy range of BMI’s.  A BMI that is too low can lead to a weakened immune system, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer.

What do you think of this claim about the models, the call to cater clothing more to the 50%, or these photos?  Should BMI be a factor in judging health as it doesn’t take into account those who have small or large bone structures or a lot of muscle.


Photo Credits: Dailymail.co.uk

Sunday Media Montage 1-8-2012

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Welcome to the Sunday weekly round-up!  Lots going on in internet world this week especially in the yoga realm!  New York Times and Briohny Smyth anyone?

This is going to be my last blog for a few days, until I return home from Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training. The intensity of it all has been making it hard to do what I need to take care of myself and share it all with you.  No worries though!  I will be back stronger than ever when I return home!

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Did you miss some of the posts on Balancing on Two Feet this week?  You can catch up here.

Monday: The Fat Trap

Tuesday: Yoga Inspirations

Wednesday: 13 Hours Later

Thursday: Before ED there was OCD

Friday: Pulsations of Truth

Saturday: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. A Response.

 

 

Photo Credits: Equinox.com, about-face.org

Pulsation’s of Truth

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As of yet the power of the work and teachings that Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy offers hasn’t failed to amaze me, both mentally and physically.  The ability of the body to hold emotions and memories is uncanny.  Our bodies want to speak, we just have to be willing to learn to listen and hear their innate wisdom.

On the day I left for training I somehow managed to hyper-extend my back.  Ouch.  The sensation was so bad as of yesterday morning that I thought at one point that I was going to be stuck on the floor for an extended period of time.  A sort of deep clockwise pulsing variety of feeling.  Totally consuming.

After our lunch break we were watching a demo when suddenly out of nowhere the reasoning behind my back pain became clear to me, along with some other odds and ends that had happened throughout the past two days.  This feeling was an indication of an opening in my first chakra, something that has been chronically blocked and anything but present especially in the past few vata intensive weeks.  This opening and grounding represents the ability to stand in myself, in Hannah, in my true nature.  I don’t’ have to reside in the monkey mind of my brain and in the past few days that part of me has been joyously quiet.  Even with the struggle about working out I have been calm in my thoughts, both waking and sleeping.  For the first time in a month I am sleeping all the way through the nights!

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SInce I stood up Wednesday afternoon my pain pain has disappeared.  Rather odd for something so intense. It was as if pain  was the only way I was going to hear my body.  Pretty amazing?  At least I think so!

Richard Simmons has been waxing and waning in popping up in my head. I’ve been walking to and from where I am staying to the training center, about a mile each way, but he can interject into my thoughts with that not being enough since it isn’t really “working out.”  The past two nights I have also gone to a modified Ashtanga class and then a full Primary Series, but again, not enough. I wasn’t dripping sweat and hadn’t lifted any weights besides my own body.  Thus a back and forth struggle.  Will I be able to tame this beast for the next 12 days?  I hope so.  What will happen to my body?  Will I really turn into that pile of mush I so fear? Perhaps I will emerge stronger and more able, allowing me to become a stronger support for both myself and others, an opportunity to step into the stillness of the work I advocate.

Have you ever had to step into stillness to find your truth?

Before ED there was OCD

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My first brush with mental illness predates the beginning of my eating disorder.  When I was about 8 years old I developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.  The onset of this was rather rapid as it was triggered by a traumatic event.

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As a child I was deathly afraid of fire and the idea of a burning house was the worst thing that could ever happen in my mind.  Early in the morning of one 4th of July I was woken up by my mom telling me that I shouldn’t  be scared, but the house across the street was on fire.  After taking a minute to comprehend what she was saying I turned to peek out the window.  Sure enough giant flames were shooting up out of that house.  I decided to be brave and go outside with everyone else to watch the spectacle, but got no further than our doorstep when I turned and bolted back inside.  I could feel the heat of the flames and the intense smoke filling my lungs.  I ended up in a sobbing heap on our kitchen floor and then spent the rest of the night in our loft watching reruns of the TV show Hey Dude on Nickelodeon.  A fire that should have been put on rather quickly took over five hours due to the malfunction of several fire truck’s equipment.

From that day on I was unable to sit in the loft without irrational fears of evil creatures creeping up on me or something bad happening. I also suddenly developed a fear to riding horses which was part of a camp I was in.  Why does this matter?  The TV show Hey Dude takes place on a dude ranch and each episode is full of horses.  I had taken my fear of the fire and transferred it to horses!  The OCD symptoms began to fill my life to deal with the trauma that my psyche had undergone during the fire.

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I never engaged in the ritualistic hand-washing the you may often hear about in relation to OCD, but instead got very into doing things a certain number of times, numbers, adding, time, and the like.  On rare occasions I would force myself to say something ridiculous to strangers because I feared that if I didn’t something bad would happen.  That bad thing that was going to happen?  I never figured out what it was, but instead just lived in utter fear of it.  Sometimes these rituals would get my locked into hours spent engaged with them.  I would finally get done with whatever it was I was doing and end up exhausted, crying, and feeling worthless.  Was life really going to be a continuum of this madness?

I asked for help and started to see a psychologist.  Through that work I was able to start to challenge these urges and each time I didn’t do what I thought I had to and nothing bad happened I became stronger.  Eventually I told myself that if these bad things was going to happen, then well they were just going to have to happen.  I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it so why bother going through all these motions.  To this day one of my greatest achievements is that I overcame my OCD on my own, without the use of medication.

While most of my symptoms had disappeared by the time my eating disorder developed, the OCD paved a way for the eating disorder to form.  Much of the ritualistic and routine behavior found with Anorexia is rooted in OCD and during the times of deepest illness my OCD symptoms were totally absent.  A good trade-off?  I think not.

At times I still feel the OCD urges, but I can easily tell that voice to stop and walk away.  It took my own faith in myself and some risk to step into a place when I could challenge what I believed to be true.

The stigma of mental illnesses still prevents many from speaking out.  You don’t have to be afraid.

Speak your truth.

Photo Credits: Charlesandmarie.com,

13 Hours Later!

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Yesterday I finally arrived in Bristol, Vermont for the kick off of my Phoenix RIsing Yoga Therapy training marathon albeit a day late and weary after 13 hours of travel, a hyper-extended back that I had hurt that morning and an unexpected night in Burlington after arriving into a deserted airport at 2 AM! Somehow the biggest travel problems I’ve ever run into have been in getting here!  Coincidence perhaps?  Doubt it. Just divine timing!

I was thrilled to arrive into the warm embrace (even with the freezing Vermont winter temperatures) of the staff at PRYT as well as the family that I am staying with.  Oddly enough all of the stress that I had been feeling was gone, even prior to the hours of arrival when I was enmeshed in difficult travel.  My body and mind were happy to be in motion to be here!  Especially when I am greeted by these creatures:

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I am amazed ts how much of my mental chatter is already gone and I am feeling able to hold space yet again. However one of the samskaras that I am struggling the most with is that little devil on my shoulder, you know that one dressed in tight short shorts, a tank top, tall socks, and sweat band.

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Yes, Richard Simmons, also known as the Workout Devil. He wants to know when I am next going to hit up the gym and why I haven’t yet.  Admittedly the whole not working out thing is one of the hardest things for me in being away from home.  When I was here in October it wasn’t quite as bad since I was only here for 1-week, but 16 days?  Yikes.  During that time I did do yoga and walked a mile to and from where I was staying, but that doesn’t count in my mind.  Weights and sweat is what me or ED wants.  I’m still not sure which is which at times in that vein.

So what to do.  I need some input here and am asking you, my awesome readers to help out.  Bristol does have a gym that I could join for a week at a time and while I would have the time to do this after my training and could maybe rationalize going 3 or so days for each of the two weeks, I wonder if I really should.  Maybe I should give my body two weeks off and see what happens.  I haven’t taken that long “off” since ED treatment!  Speaking out of the other side of my mouth I will be walking and I will be doing yoga when my back is feeling better.  Oh that’s right.  That hyper-extended back I got when I was getting ready to leave for Vermont?  That’s what I get for too much working out in the time leading up to now, even though it wasn’t preemptive!

So yes or no?  Join the gym or step into truth? Please give me your opinion in the comments! (FYI ED is telling me that you will all say that I shouldn’t work out just so you can laugh at me getting fat…as I said, raw, real truth here!)

 

Photo Credits: Hannah Siegle, trliax.com

Yoga Inspirations

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In my own yoga practice and in teaching I find inspiration from many different places, both on and off the mat.  One of my biggest inspirations has been my mentor and teacher, Laurel Hodory, who I have studied with over the past year and whom I did my 200 hour training with.  Aside from Laurel one of my other biggest inspirations has been Kathryn Budig.  I first came across Kathryn when I signed up to take a workshop with her at last year’s Yoga Journal conference in San Francisco.

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Kathryn embodies what I go to the mat to find: strength, play, confidence, and acceptance.  Since I can’t practice with her in person I frequently do her classes via YogaGlo, an online yoga subscription service that has a wealth of amazing teachers.  I never know what to expect in her classes and she challenges me both mentally and physically.  At times I end up in places I never imagined and at times I choose to not push so hard.  She has a brutal, positive, refreshing honesty about her and I admire that.

Her last two classes on YogaGlo have at times almost brought me to tears as she talks about how strong we are for just doing a certain posture.  This means a lot even though it is conveyed via a computer screen and especially if it is a day where I am struggling with my body.  If I can flip the negative self talk into how strong I really am it helps to get me out of my head.  Instead of focusing on the feeling of my flesh I can flip in into:

“Yeah I really did just do that.  That is awesome.”

At times yoga instructors, especially those who are well known can be idealized as very thin, wiry, and strong. Depending on the day this could also be triggering as I think I have to be that way to be an amazing yogi. It is refreshing for me to see Kathryn who is strong and shapely and can still do amazing things with her body without having protruding bones!

Before I left for Vermont I did her most recent class.  In it she discusses 2012 as being the year of learning to listen to our bodies, to listen to what we really want and not where our minds take us.  If we listen enough she says our bodies will tell us the answers as they are wise creations.

Jetting off to Vermont I have the opportunity before me to really step into this.  To step into listening to my body and throwing away routine and that which my mind dictates.  Before leaving admitidtly some of my over-exercising instincts were trying to rear their ugly head and indeed in the time leading up to my departure they were trying to get me to get into the old preemptive working out game.  While I didn’t give into that I still was struggling with doing too much at times.

Wait you say, isn’t doing too much really preemptive working out?  No not in my head.  I have categories for it all and this wasn’t falling into that. Ridiculous and all just semantical, right?

This is also the first winter in over ten years where I’m effectively not on an antidepressant type medicine.  As discussed in the early fall I had been working to taper off my Effexor XR.  I ended up at a place where I am now taking a very low dose which I pretty much count as nothing.  It has taken a while but I am noticing some of the mental noise coming back as a result of this.  Not so much depression, but mostly anxiety and OCD type tendencies.  I am hoping that these noises don’t get too loud that they can’t still be quieted through yoga and mediation.

Here is to a 2012 and to continuing to listen and hearing my body!

Photo Credits: kathrynbudig.com

 

 

The Fat Trap?

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A few days ago I came across an online article from the New York Times Magazine called The Fat Trap, written by Tara Parker-Pope.  It was run yesterday in print as the lead story of this widely read weekly magazine so I suspect that word about it has gotten out.  This story hit a sensitive nerve with me amid the New Year’s weight loss hoopla as it discusses the science behind dieting and why it is so hard for many to keep weight off, focusing on the genetic play that may be at work as each human has their own weight set point which their body will vehemently defend.

The article does offers a good reality check for many as to how hard it can be to go where our bodies don’t necessary want to, both up or down.  While I often focus on weight loss in a negative way I am very aware of the problems with obesity that much of our country struggles with.  The story chronicles a women, Janice Bridge, who is extremely vigilant about the structure of her life in order to keep the weight off.  She measures and weighs each morsel of food that goes into her mouth and works out six times per week, about 100-120 minutes each day.  Depending on what she is doing during this time this may qualify as actually being too, much maybe even slowing the metabolism.  She even travels with a scale to weigh herself daily in order to keep the weight off.  This sounds pretty extreme to me and while physically she may be overweight there are many mental issues with disordered eating and body maintenance going on here.  Why is this ok and even lauded in this situation and not more clearly recognized as eating disorder behavior. NewImage

It is thought that after dieting the type of muscle fibers present actually shifts, moving from more fast twitch fibers (high burning) to slow twitch fibers, that are highly efficient, thus burning about 20-25% fewer calories.  These are the muscle fibers that are present in endurance type activities such as running or walking. While initial weight changes migrate towards these muscle fiber alterations couldn’t they also be changed back through other means that strengthen the body?

Losing weight, even if necessary is a stress on the body and the faster it is accomplished the stronger the backlash will be and the more the body will try to preserve itself.  This shows up in the many faceted physiological effects of starvation.  If everyone wasn’t in such a hurry to change would the body still react this way?  Shows like The Biggest Loser definitely don’t help out with this mentality.  And now even if you aren’t cast on this show you can pay $1,995 for a week of 3-hour workouts on 1,200 calories a day (the lowest allows without medical supervision…um, Special K anyone?!?!?!?!?!).  An observation by the author of that article was that most of the women there only needed to shed perhaps 20-pounds.  One body rebellion rebound coming up!  Scary.

Coming from my own “eating disorder history” metabolism I know that if I was to induce such extreme working out and low calories diets onto my body I would actually gain weight for a period of time.  Pure evidence that my body is not happy and has entered starvation mode.

I’m also sure that all the fad diets out there: meal replacement shakes, supplements that speed up the body, and the total exclusion of food groups add fuel to the fire.  While weight loss may occur via these methods, they are not natural and thus will also trigger a physiological backlash.  However as long as companies are making money on these methodologies these things will be here, good or bad.  Take a look at all the ads that are out there, especially this month.  Lipozene and HCG are only a couple of the offenders.  These ads even try to make the after effects of having a baby scary!  Yes, when you bring life into this world you body does change.  Why do we need to run from that?

These types of articles have the potential to be triggering, as while this type of information about loosing weight doesn’t apply to I do have a tendency to superimpose these issues onto my own.  As soon as I read about years of dieting ruining a metabolism I go into panic mode thinking that my own metabolism is wrecked for all eternity.  While I know this isn’t true and hasn’t been in the past it still gets to me and I wonder how this type of information also affects others with eating disorders.  In fact many who have had eating disorders actually have to eat more than others of similar size due to a hyper-metabolic state that happens when the body starts to get re-fed.

It takes a strong recovery mind to be able to step aside and remind ourselves that not everything we read applies to us, especially in this case.

Perhaps this article can in a positive way help people to come to a place of peace with their bodies and realize that no matter how hard they push they are going to end up where their body wants.  Short of a magic pill we can’t change our genetics and to spend so much time fighting against them is a waste of this precious time we are given on this earth.  Rejoice in our bodies and our breath.  If we can only start to look inside and see that light then our bodies will end up where they are meant to be.  RedLin, who so graciously offered her belly last week, offered this quote in response to some comments:

“So if you are self-conscious because you also have some scars or some cellulite or some fat rolls or some dimorphism or whatever, I would encourage you to rethink it… If you can change the thing that bothers you, change it. And if you can’t, make peace with it and own it.”

Photo Credits: nytimes.com, kitchensocial.com