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Eating Disorder Awareness--Letting Go of the Log...

Posted Feb 27 2010 12:00am

Imagine yourself standing in the rain on the bank of a raging river. Suddenly, the water-swollen bank gives away. You fall in and find yourself being tossed around in the rapids. Your efforts to keep afloat are futile and you  are drowning. By chance, along comes a huge log and you grab it and hold on tight. The log keeps your head above water and saves your life. Clinging to the log you are swept downstream and eventually come to a place where the water is calm. There, in the distance, you see the riverbank and attempt to swim to shore. You are unable to do so, however because you are still clinging to the huge log with one arm as you stroke with the other. How ironic. The very thing that saved your life is now getting in the way of where you want to go. There are people on shore who see you struggle and yell, "Let go of the log!" But you are unable to do so because you have no confidence in your ability to make it to shore.

And so, very slowly and carefully, you let go of the log and practice floating. When you start to sink, you grab back on. Then you let go of the log and practice treading water, and when you get tired, hold on once again. After awhile, you practice swimming around the log once, twice, ten times, twenty times, a hundred times, until you gain the  strength and confidence you need to swim to shore. Only then do you completely let go of the log.

-Eating In the Light of the Moon, Anita Johnston, Ph.D.

This week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Above is an excerpt from one of my favorite books on disordered eating. The first time I heard this I was barely 16 years old. The Author, Anita Johnston, came to the Renfrew Center, where I was getting treatment for my own personal struggles with disordered eating. This passage meant so much to me, it helped me get through the first steps of confronting the shame, humility, and struggles that came with my recovery. It was hard to let go of the log, to trust oneself ...finding the strength, and confidence to make it to shore. This is something many of us can relate to when facing your own personal battles with food, behaviors and life struggles.

Many women, and men have faced some of the struggles that come with disordered eating at some point in their lives. Whether it's poor body image, love/hate relationship with food, using food to suppress your emotions, being ashamed of your appetite, constant dieting, perfectionism. Throughout my journey I have met women of all different ages, all shapes, all sizes, from all over the world that were struggling with compulsive overeating, anorexia, bulimia--and these obsessive, compulsive behaviors although become about your relationship with food...are not about food itself.  Food becomes the weapon, the safety-net, or the thing you control. The disorder is the "log" that keeps you afloat when you thought you were drowning, yet it is the same thing that will put you in danger.

I have come a very long way since that day, a little over twelve years ago.  I am happy to say I have a wonderful relationship with food, and with life. We should celebrate life, and cherish our bodies. I have turned something that consumed my adolescence into something positive, helping people to have a positive image of themselves, to be healthy, to have a positive relationship with food and their bodies. This is what I love, and what helped get me to shore without that log.

My hope is to inspire others to be at peace with their bodies, to be "healthy". Eat to live, enjoy food, and life, with people you love. Lets try and prevent eating disorders in young women and men....make cooking healthy, delicious foods a family event. Eat together often. Make exercise something that is "good for you" not something to make you "stay thin" or "lose weight." be a positive role model for body image, stay away from self-negativity. Love, and be loved. Shine. Live.

I love food. I am no longer afraid to indulge, or to show anyone that I will indulge. I exercise for a healthy body and a healthy mind, not to "burn calories." Weight loss should not become an obsession. It can be a goal to live your life to the fullest, in the "healthiest" body you can have, not the thinnest. I hope in honor of this week that I could be an inspiration to others, as well as every week. An authentic self is true. So love yourself. 

Every day is so wonderful
And suddenly, I saw debris
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I'm so ashamed 

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring me down
So don't you bring me down today

What is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

"Our aim of NEDAwareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses — not choices — and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder."

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