National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 24 through March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

For a very long time, I thought men were only attracted to thin women (unfortunately, there are still times that I think this even though I know better). We women are constantly bombarded with images of thin and fit women on magazine covers and television (so of course, I thought “thin = beautiful.” It doesn’t). Sure, some publishers and TV shows have listened to the public outcry and added a female character with a few extra pounds but she is often the secondary character, the best friend. You would think, as a society, that we’d know better. On campus, I see girls going in and out of the campus rec center, complaining about the pinch of skin around their waist. Growing up, I always thought I was fat because I didn’t compare to my more slender girl friends and sisters. When I was in middle school, my stepmom questioned why I’d brought home half-eaten sandwiches. That began my regiment of dieting and binging which only got worse when I came to college. I was that college girl at the gym who thought she looked like a whale even though I looked fine.

This week is National Eating Disorder Week. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. 40% of female college students have eating disorders. Out of this 40%, a little more than half of these women don’t realize that they have an eating or body image disorder and they will not to get help. Let’s talk about the other side of the spectrum. As I watch women walk out of the campus gym, complaining, I see an equal amount of guys doing the same thing,  The rate of eating disorders among college men ranges from 4-10%. A recent study found that the female-to-male ratio of positive screens for eating disorder symptoms was 3-to-1. That study concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies, wanting an unobtainable physique. Women do feel like the pressure to look a certain way but men do, as well (if you haven’t listened to it, check out Silverchair’s song “Ana’s Song.” The band’s lead singer, Daniel Johns, wrote the song about his battle with anorexia. It’s incredible).

What can we do to end eating disorders? Well, there is the first step of recognizing what you’re going through and getting help. But as a friend or a significant other of one who might be feeling the pressure to look a certain way, remind that person that they are beautiful the way they are. Sure, working out to maintain health and wellness is one thing but one doesn’t shouldn’t spend all day at the gym, dieting and denying themselves just to attract someone’s eye (and if you’re with someone who doesn’t accept your body and the way it looks, drop them). Lately, I’ve been telling myself this line that Julia Robert’s character uses to comfort a friend in the movie, “Eat Pray Love:” “I have no desire to be obese. I’m just through with the guilt.” And I am so, with the guilt with all the calorie counting I used to do; with the way I beat myself for not going to the gym every day or for not going an insane 15-mile jog on an empty stomach. It’s okay if you want to treat yourself to a sugary iced coffee or a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. We’re only human and those things taste delicious.

Yesterday, I went on a run through the park after work. I felt some parts of my body jiggle as I sprinted along the dirt path. My stomach. My glutes. But for some reason, that jiggle didn’t bother me. My legs felt strong. My body was in motion. I was grateful that I could run- who knows how long I can do that? I run because for the rush of endorphins, which make me happy. It’s my stress relief. I maybe be overweight or “curvy” or whatever adjective (seriously, though, these labels need to be banned). I know I don’t look perfect with my cellulite, stretch marks, “fat rolls” and all. But I have this one body and I respect it and its purpose- I have arms for hugging and lifting; hands for high-fiving and typing. My torso will someday carry a baby. My legs help me pedal a bike, my most favorite activity in the world. I hope you respect your body, dear reader, and appreciate all that it does for you.

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Touch Me (the Power of Contact and Connection)

Touch is powerful

One of the things I miss the most about being in a relationship is being touched. Sex aside, I miss holding hands and kisses on the forehead (among other things). Before my last boyfriend, I sneered at PDA but now as a single, I embrace it (pardon the pun). When me and my friends hug each other goodbye, I hold them for a few seconds longer. I no longer jump when someone accidentally bumps into me as they walk by. It’s kind of funny how the one thing you dreaded so much is now something you crave.

Touch is powerful. It’s the first language we learn, coming out of the womb to the gentle hands of a parent or a doctor. As toddlers, we put things up to our mouths, exploring textures with our lips. The symbolization of losing one’s virginity is simply being touched in a particular place for the first time. Our bodies are built for connection. It has been proven that touch like a massage can help relieve and ease stress, anxiety and pain. I’ve been researching different ways touch can help improve one’s life. Below is a blurb from an interesting article I read about touch, its influence on relationships with one self and other relationships and how touch keeps people physically and mentally healthy:

Emerging research suggests that touch therapy works: In one landmark study, 16 happily married women were subjected to the threat of a mild electric shock; touching their husbands’ hands brought immediate relief from the resulting anxiety. Even a stranger’s touch was somewhat calming. “We know that anxiety decreases immune function and makes you get sick more often,” says study author Jim Coan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. “If touch can help you be less anxious, you’re more likely to stay well.”

John Keats wrote that touch has memory, especially the good kind of touch. Do you remember have your back rubbed as a child? If you have your back touched now, the memory portion of your brain overflows with relief. Our skin is our bodies largest organ and is receptive to everything from a high-five to being physically intimate. Touch may make one more alert and lessen symptoms of depression such as fatigue and irritability. The Touch Research Institute in Miami has found that a massage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depression and strengthen a relationship. Touch can help lower blood pressure and still a racing heart. A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the hormone, cortisol (which is known as the “stress hormone”). Touch even helps with problem solving. Post-massage, subjects showed increased speed and accuracy in solving the problems. Even a slight touch from a stranger for a brief moment can be beneficial to someone who hasn’t been touched in a while. Sure, touching a stranger is consider taboo in our American culture but doing so can help.

Some people go hours, days, even weeks without any physical contact in their lives, unaware of touch’s benefits. As I sit here, writing this entry, I think about the next person I get to wrap my arms around. Okay, this person will probably be my cat but I can’t wait until the next time I’ll be able to hug an actual human being. I hope you, dear reader, receive plenty of physical contact in your life- and if you don’t, I hope you can feel the hug I’m giving you through the computer screen.

Thoughts after Last Night’s Drinking

wine-red-whiteValentine’s Day this year wasn’t that great for me. Between me being single and still not being able to wrap my head around the idea of being single, I spent yesterday drinking, pre-gaming with my roommate and her friends before hitting the town for the infamous town wine walk and pub crawl. I can’t remember how many cocktails I started with and how many bottles of wine I ended with but within my first hour of downing the sauce, I was hammered. I spent the next several hours knocking them back and doing some things that I’m not especially proud of.

I never had a drinking problem. When I look at addiction, I look at my twelve years of self-mutilation- that is addiction to me. I don’t drink often and when I usually do, it’s only one cocktail or a glass of beer. I rather enjoy the caffeine of a cold Coca-Cola. I know how to drink in moderation and most days when I do drink, I follow those rules and recommendations. I also know that one needs to be in the right frame of mind with any drinking they do- let’s not drink our feelings now. But in some situations, like yesterday, I didn’t want to put anything down. If you handed me a glass of booze and it at least smelled good, I would have drank it. I was around like-minded people, so why not? Let’s have fun, especially after an unusual crummy Valentine’s Day. What’s the harm? Um, there is a lot.

Drunk texting is never a good thing and yesterday was terrible, texting my ex about how much I missed him and sending inappropriate messages to the WRONG people (now, I’m too embarrassed to text them back this morning, sober, saying that I was wasted last night and that I was just kidding). I knew better but I couldn’t stop. Now, I have to pay for the mistakes I made. (Next time, I’m either going to leave my phone at home, hiding it somewhere in my closet, or give it to someone who won’t let my tipsy fingers near the push keys).

I should have eaten something before I began drinking, especially since I’d didn’t eat anything since the day before. Food is good. Food is always good.

But most importantly, I have to remember that I’m human and this stuff happens. I remember the last party me and my old roommate hosted in Brooklyn before we moved- man, that was a crazy night. I spent it taking care of my roommate, who downed too many Jell-O shots and had alcohol poisoning. That was scary, going through that. The same thing happened this past New Year’s Eve, holding back a friend’s hair in the bathroom of a Mexican restaurant. I don’t think any less of these girls for what happened those nights. My roommate even vomited in my bed after I tucked her in. It wasn’t fun cleaning up her mess in the morning but I did immediately forgave her. I have to remember to forgive myself. Yesterday is just another learning lesson- and I have studied the hell out that lesson. I will try my best not to let it happen again.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m heading back to bed. Enjoy your Sunday, perhaps with a drink of… water.

Lost in Love

Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday. I know that many people dread the sudden appearance of February 14 but I’ve always loved it. I don’t know why I love the holiday so much but I do. I always thought I was the kind of person who had too love for herself so she had to share that love with other people. And that’s what I do- I share the love even though most of the time, I don’t receive a whole lot of love back.

Thursday night, I completely cut off all communication from an ex who I really wanted to be friends with. It’s hurts because part of me is still in love with him, wishing the world for him and that part still wants to be with him, severely regretting our break-up. Yesterday morning, the relationship that I had with the guy I was most recently seeing ended, citing the fact that we’re in two different places in our lives and that we would never work out. I spent most of Saturday crying- even after a pause to grab a quick coffee with a friend at the coffeehouse down the street and some mild flirting with the cute barista (something that always perks me up), I sobbed myself to sleep.

It’s tough seeing love everywhere. In movies. In the songs I regularly listen to. Other couples, especially- watching some old friends kiss their new fiances while twirling platinum engagement rings around their fingers. My roommate and her handsome suitor that she had over in the morning after a night of hooking up. absolutely everything I see hurts. I turn 28 next month. In all honestly, I thought I’d be married by now. Or at least have had an “accident” and would be running around after a four year old (I’ve actually always wanted children more than a marriage). Now, surrounded by my post-break-up bubble, I feel incredibly discouraged about ever finding a true and genuine love that lasts.

When I moved back to Reno in 2012, I told myself that I was only going to focus on school. Finish school so you can move back to New York City. Don’t waste your time on making new friends or dating people- it will only hurt you when you leave them or break up. I forgot that I told myself so (or maybe just ignored it) and I fell in love. As I look toward my future, I realize that I made many relationship mistakes and the best thing to do now is what I told myself right when I stepped off the plane in Nevada. A large wave of my tears last night were dedicated to the fact that I’m going to be alone for a while. I don’t know if I can handle that- I love being a girlfriend. I love being physically intimate with someone. But sometimes, that time alone is what a person needs and right now, I need that. I need to focus solely on my future. That’s it. After all, I am going to write for Vogue one day. Focusing on shoes and Chanel maybe a little more important that fixating on finding that one love.

A week ago, an old friend and I got drinks at a wine bar nearby and we chatted about her dating problems. She complained about them and later, we laughed about her misfortune as we looked at her experiences as major learning lessons. I think our laughter symbolized the love she had for herself, always being brave and trying something new even if it doesn’t work out. In the end, that is it. It’s the love you have for yourself. It is the most important love you can have. Sure, I am going to be alone (Lord, that hurts to write), but I’m going to be okay. I love my dreams and am working my damn hardest in order for them to come true (here’s to you, bright and shiny future!). I love my friends and family. I love and am grateful all the things I’ve experienced and gone through. But above all else, I love myself. And that is a true, genuine love.

Happy Groundhog’s Day

"Bread feeds the body, indeed... But flowers feed the soul."  -the Koran

“Bread feeds the body, indeed… But flowers feed the soul.” -the Koran

Did anyone catch what Punxsutawney Phil had to say this morning? Do we get six more weeks of ice and snow? What about the Super Bowl- who do you think is going to win tonight? (I’m personally more excited about seeing Bruno Mars sing during Halftime.)

Things have been going good and I’ve been on riding a week-long wave of happiness, full of friendship, success and adventures. That feeling was crushed this morning by the news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. I’m usually not the one to get upset over the passing of someone I don’t know (especially a celebrity) but this untimely event stirred something in me. He was a talented man. I don’t know what was going on his life for him to result into drug use but it is unfortunate. I hope he knew how many lives he touched with his tremendous acting abilities.

It it times like this remind me to be kind to everyone I meet. It’s that saying goes, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Their battle may be small or seem insignificant- maybe this person just missed their bus this morning- but it still counts. We don’t know what everyone is facing and assumptions make asses of ourselves. So, it’s best to be considerate and compassionate to all you run into. I’m disappointed in myself- it takes someone’s death for me to remind myself to be sweeter to people but let this be the lesson to all of us. Give everyone a smile. Better yet, give everyone a hug.

My terrific roommate, Brianna, stood in line at the local Trader Joe’s yesterday, waiting to buy her goodies. The woman standing in front of her, handed her a beautiful bouquet of pink tulips. No explanation. Just a little token to brighten up a particular Saturday. Just imagine if the entire world handed a stranger some flowers. How different, better would the world be?

Remember to be kind to one another, dear reader. And most importantly, don’t forget to be kind to yourself.

Now back to my all day Bill Murray marathon as I work on Valentine’s Day gifts. Happy February, everyone.