Friday, June 24, 2016

On Disordered Eating

I'd like to see the American who hasn't somehow been affected by disordered eating. According to the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, AKA DSM, disordered eating is defined as, "a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder."

A specific eating disorder would be something like anorexia or bulimia where the afflicted (generally a female) becomes so obsessed with their body image they forgo the intended purpose of eating (nutrition) in favor of becoming thin. Of course that's just a short definition. There's many layers to either anorexia or overeating. I've seen both the gleam of joy in an overeater's eyes when they indulge in a guilty pleasure and I've been the person pleading with an anorexic to eat so they'll finally lactate and be able to feed their baby.

Seeing disordered eating has been so common in my life, that I was always the odd one who didn't have a weight problem, who didn't overeat (or undereat).

But the nutrition I gave myself was neither normal nor particularly healthy. I went weeks before coming down with a cyclical vomiting episode eating very little. When I recovered I usually binged on food because I had lost so much weight during the episode. After I was diagnosed and began learning about my illness and how to take care of myself I stopped losing 20 lbs every 4 months or so. My body seriously didn't know what to do with itself. On top of that I stopped feeling hungry. On top of that, my body that had been so disordered from my illness that it hung on to every calorie I did manage to consume. So what did I do? I started freak workouts at the gym. It wasn't until I began working out insanely that I could eat like a normal person. Exercise seemed to do more for my body though than make me hungry. I noticed that I felt better than I had ever in my previous life. For the first time I experienced joy in an activity. Anything I ever did before my diagnoses I always had in the back of my mind that I might do something to cause an episode. There is very little out there for people afflicted with this strange illness. I am studying the health sciences in an attempt to heal my body and prevent others from going through what I did.

In the nutrition class that I recently took, the mitochondria was referenced. Through my own research of this illness, I have learned that many scientists attribute dysfunctional mitochondria as being the root cause of this disease. The mitochondria are the nucleus of every cell but the red blood cells. I explain the mitochondria of being like a car battery and you can read about it here. I also found out that aerobic exercise has been found to increase the amount of mitochondria in the muscles as well as increase the effectiveness of it. I'm not a scientist, I'm a journalist. I can't prove with my body's improvement that cyclical vomiting syndrome is caused by defective mitochondria. All I know right now is that I feel wonderful.

When it comes to disordered eating, I feel like my CVS protected me from becoming disordered in eating. Sure, I've had my battles with food. Specifically I was very upset as eating as healthy as I had the last decade only to find out it was healthy foods like wheat and legumes that were actually contributing to my illness.

I eat a balanced diet. It's just nutrition. For people who are disordered because of trauma or because they associate eating with feelings of joy or forbidden pleasure, know that I feel your pain. Although, I never have associated food with anything positive, I've thought of it so negatively that I get disordered eating. I had to come to terms that I needed to eat to live. So I understand.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

All In A Name

One of William Shakespeare's most frequently uttered quotes, "A rose by any other name would sound as sweet," spoken by the love-struck Juliette in reference to her beau Romeo and his unfortunate last name, makes me think of the name of my own disease Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. After my diagnoses three years ago this August, I accepted that people would have to know (and picture) that I puke a lot.

I'm not particularly keen on people visualizing me during an episode. And visualize me puking my brains out is something I'm pretty sure happens.

When I worked at summer camps I received quite possibly the best advice when it came to taking care of kids. Don't ever say don't. The reason you don't, is that whenever you say don't, that puts into the recipient of the don't the idea to "do." Still confused? OK. Don't picture pink fluffy elephants. See, you just pictured a pink elephant.

Therefore, when I inform people I have cyclic vomiting syndrome. I know. I just know. They are visualizing me puke. Imagine if you had a disease called Spinning Explosive Diarrhea. You had to tell everyone that you had epic spells of diarrhea. That would kind of suck, huh?

Perhaps I'm too sensitive. When I was pregnant I didn't even tell anyone until I was eight months along.  I couldn't handle people visualizing the biological means that causes someone to get pregnant. Everyone just thought I was getting weirdly fat.

Names. They are important. We are given a name when we are born. We name our pets. We name streams. We name oceans. Everything we as humans see or touch has a name.  I spent three decades not really understanding I had a condition that had a name. I thought I was more prone than others at getting the stomach flu. I knew that most people weren't hospitalized for the flu. I knew that most people didn't vomit six times per hour. I knew there was something different about my illness. So I gave my illness a name. I called it The Evil Monkey Flu From Hell. Long name, huh? Still, a little more poetic than Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.

For those of us suffering with this illness and suffering with telling people the name of your illness, hang in there. Those of us who regularly work with kids give up saying "don't" for one day and try instead giving them constructive things to do. You might be surprised. Or you might not. Kids are pretty unpredictable--especially that stubborn rebellious Juliette.  I mean, her entire family told her do not date Romeo. Look what she did. And what happened?