Healthy & Whole: Eating Disorders Awareness Week

*I actually started writing this post over a year ago, but never had the courage to publish it. However, since February 22-28 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and because I have friends and family who have struggled/are struggling with an eating disorder, I wanted to highlight this topic.

I still remember the way her big brown eyes peered up at me and how her sweet voice lacked its usual lilt when she said, “I’m the only one with thick legs.”

What??

My mind wavered between shock to fear and back again. I could not believe those words had come out of my five year old’s mouth.

I attempted to keep my tone light as I asked, “What do you mean?”

“My legs are bigger than theirs (her friends). I’m the only one with thick legs.”

I swallowed hard, took a deep breath and finally found my voice. “They’re like mine. It’s okay. Everyone’s different.”

And with that answer, C returned to whatever she was doing and the moment was gone.

But the memories that moment dug up came flooding back. Memories of a confused and impressionable teenage girl who once placed a bet with a girlfriend on who had bigger thighs. Memories of a girl who stood in front of the bathroom mirror every night to check on the appearance of her collarbone and hip bones as she stood on a scale. The same girl who skimped on lunch during the day and looked forward to running a cross-country lap during P.E. class to burn more calories. The girl who acknowledged the pains of an empty stomach as success, rather than a sign of hunger. A girl who controlled her life bite by bite, pound by pound, and mile by mile.

scale-403585_640

If you haven’t guessed it by now, that girl was me.

I never developed a full blown eating disorder, but due to my perfectionistic tendencies, I had some leanings toward anorexia. I remember my black hair turning brown and brittle, likely due to lack of nutrition. Old prom pictures show my collarbone jutting out from the off-the-shoulder neckline of my dresses. Even though my friends and relatives said I needed to eat more, I honestly believed I still needed to lose weight. That was how crazy my thinking was at the time.

I was my own worst enemy, forcing myself to meet impossible standards and never giving myself a pass. All I wanted was to be more – more accepted, more perfect, more beautiful – but in the process of getting there, I had become less – less satisfied, less grounded, less alive.

Things got better in college though; I was then on my own and surrounded by good friends. This was probably the best time of my life where I felt free and in control at the same time, as strange as that may sound. Because the root of an eating disorder is not really about the food, but about the comfort and security it brings in being able to control that part of your life. It is like any other addiction where what you really need is peace from all the other stuff in your life that you don’t want to or don’t know how to deal with.

Getting to that place of peace takes time, guts and love. Time to process through all the baggage weighing down your heart and clouding your perspective. Guts to face the hard things and feel the raw emotions. Love to convince you that you are enough.

What I’ve learned is that once you choose to stop being your own worst judge and choose instead to be your own best friend, that’s when you can start living.

These days, I focus more on health and wholeness and accepting my body for the awesome things that it can do. Even though I miss my pre-mama self, I know my muffin top is my badge of honor for having made two amazing people. When I do struggle with comparing and being content, I remember one of my favorite verses from 1 Samuel 16:7: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Above all, I make it a priority to never say anything negative about my face or body in front of my kids. I want them to know it’s perfectly normal and beautiful to have a squishy tummy, wrinkled skin, gray hair and, yes, thick legs. 🙂

Here is a compelling song by Colbie Caillat called “Try”. The lyrics ask an important question: “Take your make up off, Let your hair down, Take a breath, Look into the mirror, at yourself, Don’t you like you?”

What struggles have you (or the women in your life) had over feeling beautiful and liking yourself?

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo… margaritas!

That’s probably what most people think of in relation to the 5th of May. For me, however, I think of a white gown, spring allergies and 90 degree weather with no A/C!

Cinco de Mayo is my and hubby’s wedding anniversary and this year we celebrated eleven years. Yes, eleven years.  That seems like a very long time, long enough where I no longer just think about growing old with hubby, I am growing old with him.  Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but marriage, unfortunately, isn’t all fun and games.  Having a happy, fulfilling relationship takes a lot of work. I repeat, a lot of work.

As an almost only child (aka. someone who is selfish and used to getting my way) and non-communicator (verbally that is!), I’ve had to learn some tough lessons about a marriage relationship. Here are 3 of those lessons that have helped me tremendously in becoming a better (though not perfect!) and happier life partner.

1. Be positive. There was a time right after the honeymoon period ended when I started working on my math skills. More specifically, I got really good at keeping score.  I would have conversations like this in my head:

50 points for me for doing the dishes
100 points for me for cooking
50 points for me for doing laundry
– 30 points for hubby for not taking out the garbage
– 20 points for hubby’s “lost socks”

I may have gotten really good at addition and subtraction, but keeping track of all the things hubby wasn’t doing right (in my perspective) turned me into an unhappy, critical person.  I lost sight (and track) of all the things he was doing well, like surprising me with a milk tea at work or taking the time to listen to me vent about my job.

So I did the “Men in Black” trick – I tried to erase my (negative) thoughts and memories about hubby and focus on the good ones.  I didn’t have a fancy neuralyzer to help me do this, but just relied on good old fashioned technology, namely an attitude adjustment.  It’s amazing how having a positive outlook of hubby helps me to be a happier spouse, too.  🙂

2. Never assume.  You know how there are some people who speak their minds all the time so you know exactly what they are thinking about?  Well, unfortunately I’m not one of those people.  I’m all for the idea that silence speaks louder than words.  🙂  So, in the early years of our marriage, I admit I subjected hubby to many experiments to see whether or not he was a mind reader.

It took me a while to realize that I should never assume hubby would know when I was upset about something or, even more importantly, why I was upset.  How could he know I’d been waiting two days for him to take the garbage out if I didn’t let him know?  Sure, I could hope he would see the garbage piling up and the flies buzzing around it (I’m kidding!), but it would be a lot easier to just bring it up.  Expecting hubby to know exactly what I am thinking about without telling him is like having a body full of hives and not wanting to do anything about the intense itching – it’s unrealistic and frustrating!

As I began to open up and speak up (and stop relying on my Jedi mind tricks), communication became a lot easier and simpler for both hubby and me.  Once again, learning this lesson made me a happier person to live with.

3. Row together.  On our honeymoon in Kauai, we spent a morning learning about kayaking and marriage from a tour guide.  He told us that tandem kayaking is a great way of seeing how well couples, especially newlyweds, work together.  He couldn’t have been more right!

Image courtesy of wiangya/freedigitalphotos.net

I learned on that day, and the 4,015 days that followed(!), that rowing together takes lots of humility and patience – humility to listen and take directions from each other and patience to keep rowing until you get the right rhythm.  Marriage is like kayaking; it’s all about cooperation, doing what’s best for the team and making sure you have your partner’s back.

The hardest lesson I’ve had to swallow is that all is not fair in love and war.  There are times when one person needs to do more than 50% (or whatever they think is their share in the relationship).  If one person can’t row for a while, the other teammate will need to do more to keep the kayak going.  It won’t be fun or easy, but this is definitely the “for better and for worse” part of love.

Hubby and I took turns “rowing more” so we could both finish our degrees.  He took on all the financial burdens of our family when I quit working full-time to go to school.  Later on, I took on much of the responsibilities at home (with a toddler and newborn) when he took night classes.  There were some crazy days (and I’m so glad I had family around to help), but we did our best to support each other.  We really made it a joint effort of earning those diplomas!  Now, if only I could claim his degree on my resume.  😛

In reality, I guess eleven years isn’t that long of a time period.  It’s barely like a teenager in terms of people years (it’s a completely different story though in dog years!).  I’m sure there is still much to learn about marriage.  So, I’ll just keep on rowing with hubby and see what the next eleven years (and more) may bring.

Here’s Colbie Caillat’s song for the one I said, “I Do” to on Cinco de Mayo… 🙂

What lessons have you learned about marriage (either your own or someone else’s)?

Brighter Than The Sun

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Hubby and I belong to a couples’ group and one of the recent icebreaker questions we had to answer was, “On a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being highest), how would you rate your marriage?”  Each spouse had to answer the question and thankfully hubby answered first (haha).  I actually don’t remember the number he said, but it was something “safe” like a 7 or 8.  My answer was probably “safer”; I said, “It varies, sometimes it’s a 7 or 8, sometimes it’s a 2, but I married a 10.”  Good answer, huh?  🙂  

I’m not trying to be cheesy, but I feel very blessed to have married my hubby.  I know he puts me (and the kids) first and even my mom comments on how well he treats me (that’s a definite compliment!).  He has been my number one supporter, giving me the okay to quit my full-time job so I could go to school full time to finish my degree faster.  It meant he had to work harder to make sure we could be financially secure, but he never complained.  He has been there supporting me throughout the births of two kids and the aftermath of crazy, sleepless nights and even encouraged me in breastfeeding (he jokes that he was my lactation consultant).  😛  He has supported me in being a stay at home mom, which means listening to my emotional rants and working even harder to provide for us.  He has seen the worst parts of me, yet still treasures me enough to have sold his prized camera to buy me diamond earrings for our anniversary.  I truly did marry a 10.

I’m thankful that we got married when we were fairly young and were able to do some growing up together.  There’s a quote I read from a book that says many of the wounds we have were caused by people and yet ironically (and appropriately so), it’s also people who help heal our wounds.  God has definitely used my hubby to help in my personal growth and healing.  I don’t know where I’d be without him.  Well, I’d likely be a prickly (think porcupine) and unhappy person.  Instead, I am a more confident, happy and whole person today.

I try to remind myself each day to be a “10” for him and to do my part in making our relationship the best it can be.  Even on those “2” days when we barely talk (asking “Are you coming home yet?” doesn’t really count as quality conversation) and I am exhausted from dealing with the kids’ tantrums, I make the effort to smile when hubby comes home (haha).  Believe me, it would be a lot easier to just hand off the kids and run out the door (for retail therapy!), but it means a lot more to stay and connect with him.  I know that if we commit to making our marriage a top priority throughout all of life’s ups and downs, we can someday reach that ultimate score of “10”.  Well, we could at least get a “10” for effort.  🙂

This song by Colbie Caillat is a good reminder of why I ought to treat hubby better than anything I’ve ever had… cause his love has brightened my life – “Brighter Than the Sun“.  🙂

Who has brightened your life?