All Posts Tagged ‘anorexia

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On Why We Don’t Use the F Word – And Other Family Rules

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No, I’m not talking about THAT F-word.

In our home, we do not say the word fat. Ever. Sound extreme to you? Maybe. But if you’ve ever spent time in that dark place of self-loathing because you can’t seem to starve away every single tiny piece of fat from your body, then you will understand my intense feelings surrounding that word. (Someday I will write in more detail about that dark place, but not yet.)

That’s my sweet daughter Charley in that photo on her first day of preschool. She’s three and a half and as happy as can be. It kills me to know that because I have suffered from an eating disorder, and even though I consider myself healed, she is at a higher risk of developing one in her lifetime. I’ve read the research, and it’s enough to make some very firm rules for our household, to protect her from becoming another statistic. (Even still, if I had never had an eating disorder, the statistics of women developing eating disorders these days are still frightening.)

You may see it as helicopter parenting or keeping my child in a bubble. But have you experienced the hell of an eating disorder? Or the hell of an addiction? The hell of mental illness? If you have, you will understand my desire to build that bubble around her as long as possible. Yes, she will encounter the outside world eventually, but not until our family beliefs and words are imprinted so deeply in her mind and heart that when she comes across the confusing ideas of fat that our society presents, she will be so strong in her beliefs that they will not be shattered by Victoria’s Secret commercials, false advertising, rude comments from men, outrageous diet claims in magazines, etc.

In our home:

We do not use the word fat as an adjective (or at all). Our society focuses on size so much. Why do we always comment on the shape of a person first? Instead of describing someone as fat, large, skinny, chubby, thin or huge, we use other characteristics. “Your Auntie Julia has curly hair, blue eyes, and wears glasses sometimes.” This is a tip that I learned a few years ago in therapy and have made a rule in my life since then, even when I’m not around my kids. The obsession with size in our society needs to end, and this is one tiny place to start.

There are no good foods or bad foods. Food is food. In our home I do my best to not label foods as bad or good, positive or negative, junk or treats. This is especially difficult for me as a Health Coach because I find the nutritional value and science behind food so fascinating. We do discuss that some foods can make us feel sick, slow, or tired and that other foods can give us energy and make us feel good.

Food does not make you bigger or smaller, fatter or skinnier. Yes, if you eat pizza all day, every day, you will get fat. And if all you eat is lettuce all day, every day, you will wither away into nothing. But neither of those are options in Charley’s life right now so she doesn’t need to know that. I never want her to look at ice cream and think it will make her fat.

That scene in Little Miss Sunshine makes me so angry. I want to punch my screen. I remember watching that before I had my own kids and vowing to never let that happen in my family.

We walk everywhere, as often as possible. The walking thing started out not by my choice. Charley was an extremely spirited toddler and absolutely refused to ever sit in the stroller. She was walking confidently soon after her first birthday and at that point we just packed the stroller away into storage and she walked every where from then on. It was annoying at first, but now at age 3.5, she can walk for hours without whining. She loves hiking and running and knows no difference. I absolutely love it. We go for long walks almost every day. We make it a priority so that it is part of her lifestyle now, and not something we have to worry about incorporating later on.

She sees my love for exercise. This one can be tricky and leads right into the next one.

I do not exercise to get smaller or skinnier. My kids see me exercise. I take them for runs, I lift weights while Xavier naps, and they watch myself and other moms workout at our Mommy Workout Group that my friend leads in a park. They know that once a week I wake up early to meet a good friend for a morning workout, and they know that once a week Daddy puts them to bed because I’m at a running clinic. The thing is, my exercise has nothing to do with shrinking. I’m not “working off that ice cream”, “shrinking my love handles”, or trying to achieve the impossible “thigh gap”. My children will NEVER hear those words from me. Instead, I tell them that I’m building muscles so that I can be strong to pick them up, that I’m getting fast so I can run with them and play with them, and so my body has more energy. And those things are true. I’m not exercising to get smaller or reach some goal. I’m exercising so I can keep up with my kids, lift heavy things when I need to, and open my own darn pickle jar.

I do not stare at myself in the mirror. It’s amazing how much little children observe and absorb. I don’t do it anyway (anymore), but I especially do not stand in front of a mirror and critique myself in front of my children. I need a mirror to do my hair and makeup, but I am careful with my facial expressions. No deep sighs of dissatisfaction, no grimaces or squeezing and pinching any extra skin. I don’t have a scale, but if I did, I would not weigh myself in front of my children. So many women I know weigh themselves every single morning. What kind of habit is that to instil in our children?

I am IN our photos. I am in those photos with my kids.  I will not stay out of a photo because I don’t think I look my best or because my outfit isn’t especially flattering that day. And I will NEVER say out loud that I don’t like the way I look in a photo. I avoid negative self talk internally and externally as much as humanly possible. With this same mindset, when we are at the beach or at the pool, I will be there in my swimsuit as confidently as possibly. (It has taken me a long time to get there, but my children are a great motivator.) I will be in the water, swimming and playing with my kids, and not caring if my make up runs or my hair gets drenched and stringy. I still don’t love being in a bathing suit in public, but I’m going to fake it until I make it and make sure my children don’t pick up on that.

I compliment Charley on more than just her beauty. Charley is beautiful, and she hears it all the time from family, friends and strangers. And I’m totally okay with that. I tell her she’s beautiful all the time. It won’t take long before our society tries to make her feel ugly, so I’ll tell her as many times as I can until then that she was created perfectly. I don’t think you can tell your children they are beautiful too often, as long as your compliments of their other strengths outweigh the compliments of their appearance. For every time I tell her she’s beautiful, I make sure to magnify two or three other strengths of hers. For example, things like “I love that you are so kind to your brother”, “You are so good at sharing”, “You are so helpful”. I learned this from a very wise friend of mine who is parenting a few years ahead of me and aim to use this tool with all people I come in contact with, not just my own children.

Food is GOOD. So many people have negative issues surrounding any and all food. In my darkest times, I would be kept awake all night from the shame of eating a plain chicken breast. I would imagine all the fat accumulating on my body as I lied in bed and how much bigger I would be in the morning. I know better now. Now I know that food equals life. Food is fuel for my body. Food is energy and strength, and strength is beautiful.

This all my sound crazy to you. I might sound paranoid and maybe I am a little. These rules may evolve as my children mature and can understand nutrition and science more.

But for now, instilling these values in Charley’s mind and heart is one of my biggest passions.


To read a bit about my story and why I’m so passionate about this, click here.

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How Whole30 Changed My Life

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Have you heard of the Whole30 craze yet? It has gained a lot of popularity since I first discovered it a few years ago. I discovered Whole30 about 4 years after ‘recovering’ from an eating disorder. I had finished my therapy and was now trying to figure out how to live a balanced life. Even though I was finally eating three meals a day, my relationship with food was still so damaged. I found that if I tried to focus on getting in shape again and being healthy, it would trigger old habits too quickly and I would start to obsess and quickly become miserable again. If I went the other way and didn’t try at all, then I felt sluggish and heavy and guilty. I was using an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication to dull the guilt and anxiety surrounding food, but I knew I couldn’t do that forever. I hated my postpartum body but was too scared to try and fix it. I feared becoming ‘sick’ again, and I had sworn to myself I would never do that to my husband and daughter.

About a year and a half after my daughter was born, a friend of mine posted a food photo on Instagram with the hashtag #whole30. I asked her what it was, and got the run down: No grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, or alcohol for 30 days. This intrigued me! I jumped in without doing much research and not fully understanding the concept. I admit that I desperately wanted to lose a bit of weight and this seemed like a great way to do it. (Now, years later, I understand that the program is NOT meant for losing weight, although most people do lose weight on it).

Seven days into the program, I couldn’t believe how different I felt. My body was settling into a natural and comfortable weight. Energy was coursing through me for the first time since before puberty. I was able to eat and not feel guilty after. I was having fun experimenting with new foods and new ways to cook. My clothes were fitting differently and I had an overall feeling of lightness. I often joke that I even became more fertile than usual as I discovered that I had become pregnant with our son during the thirty days, completely by surprise.

By the end of the thirty days I felt fantastic. I was so happy with the results. I was convinced that everyone I knew needed to try the program! Unfortunately a few weeks later I became extremely ill while pregnant and could not stand the sight or smell of any protein and very few vegetables. For the rest of my pregnancy I survived on toast, apple juice, goldfish crackers and the occasional carrot. I undid all the good things accomplished during my first Whole30 challenge, but this time I knew how to fix it. I knew that as soon as my pregnancy was finished, I could do another round of Whole30 and get back on track.

Six weeks after my son was born, I did my second round. This time I researched a lot and read It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, the creators of Whole30. I learned the reasons behind it, how to properly reintroduce food after the thirty days, and how to live a balanced life after. I incorporated all kinds of exercise. Again the results were so fantastic and came quicker during the second round.

The best thing of all: I learned to stop seeing food as the enemy.  I learned that the number on the scale is meaningless. I learned that I don’t have to waste my time counting calories. I learned that strength is beautiful. I learned that it’s important for my children to see me eat and enjoy food and use food to give me energy. I learned to see food as fuel for my body.

I can’t even begin to explain the freedom I have experienced. Freedom from medication, freedom from guilt, freedom from self-hatred. I used to fall asleep at night in tears, hating myself and hoping that the next day I would be able to eat less and less and less until there was nothing left of me. Now, I fall asleep knowing that I’ve done my best for that day to show my children that food is wonderful, food is energy, food is strength. 

So, now what? Almost a year and a half after my second round of Whole30, this is how I live: All the food that I eat in my home is Whole30 approved. Because I am a stay at home mom, this makes up about 90% of my meals each week. When I go out for dinner with friends, holidays, or special occasions, I enjoy myself and eat whatever I feel like eating, knowing that I will most likely not feel my best the next day. I understand that when I do this, I am not choosing the best fuel for my body. But because I do not do this often, I am completely okay with those choices. There is no more guilt associated with poor food choices. I am not ‘cheating’ on some kind of diet; I am making conscious decisions. This kind of balance works for me. My body feels better than ever. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I am a good example for my children. I feel healed.

If you feel guilty about your food choices, if your body feels exhausted, or if you just want to clean out your system, I really encourage you to check it out. Click here to check out the official program.

If you decide to try out the program or if you have any questions, I would love to be a resource for you. Almost all of my recipes filed under ‘Cooking with Joanna’ are Whole30 approved, and I think you’ll find my Ten Tips for a successful Whole30 very helpful. I am happy to answer any questions you might have and would love to offer encouragement! Follow me on Instagram at @wellnesswithjoanna also, as I am constantly collecting and sharing Whole30 approved recipes from other recipe bloggers. Happy Whole30-ing!

And PS – so much thanks to that friend for sharing her Whole30 experience on Instagram. You know who you are.