Why I am Thankful for my Eating Disorder

Why I am Thankful for my Eating Disorder

This post comes a bit late, but rather than rushing to write a post for Thanksgiving Day, I decided to spend quality time with my family and friends and then take time in writing this post. So here I go. A few days late, but still very relevant.

Yesterday was the three year anniversary for Avolicious. Over these three years, I’ve changed, especially mentally. To be honest, when I started Avolicious with Serena, I was “recovered” from my eating disorder, but the frequency of those relapsing thoughts was quite high.

Especially, going to a high school boarding school, I was even more pressured and swayed by my peers. And my recovery almost faced a downward trajectory.

And so I started writing posts relating to disordered eating as initially a means not for others, but for me.

I needed to convince myself that I chose the right decision to seek recovery: that I needed to nourish my body, that I needed to give my body the love, rest, and appreciation that it deserves.

And over the three years, through meeting other bloggers on this platform, through trying as consistently as I can, through writing blog posts that I needed to hear as much as others did, I’ve made slow but significant progress in my recovery.

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The blog posts no longer serve as reminders for me, but to you, the reader. My blog posts have finished serving my purpose of convincing myself that recovery was the right decision and now have become that same purpose for you all.

And something I want to write today is that as ignorant as it may sound, hardships are something we can be thankful for.

Although I have recovered, the thoughts will stay with me forever. I’m not going to lie, some days are harder than others to keep those toxic thoughts in control.

To many, the Holidays can be a time where these thoughts flare up – we have lots of food, lots of events to attend meaning we have lots of people to meet (and want to impress).

But I’ve learned that having a resentful mindset toward my eating disorder past won’t do anything for me.

Yes, I will continue to be haunted by these thoughts, but this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my eating disorder.

Now let me clarify. I am not thankful for the actual challenges and hardships – the mental and physical pain – of my eating disorder. But I’m thankful of what I became of due to my eating disorder.

My eating disorder at the time was a coping mechanism for me to control something of my life. I was extremely Type-A, detail-oriented, and a perfectionist – and I was good at it. But as I got to middle school, I was slowly losing grasp of this (not to even mention high school, ha). And in a seeming sense of feeling lost and overwhelmed, I turned to one thing I could control: my eating.

In the thick of my eating disorder, when I realized that I needed to get better, my eating disorder gave me a chance to reflect on my life.  I realized that I was doing the same thing I did with my eating in my academics, social life, faith, and life in general.

The moralizing I put into my food choices (If you eat a hamburger, you’re bad. If you eat a salad, you’re a good person), I did likewise to my academics (If you get a B, you’re bad. If you get a A+, you’re an amazing person). And the same went to how I viewed my friendships, and my relationship with God.

But I never wanted to relive through that traumatic experience I had from my eating disorder in other aspects in life. Rather than chasing toward the unrealistic and restrictive rules society imposed on me, my eating disorder has taught me to loosen my grip on life. If I don’t fix my mindset now, I realized I’m going to be stuck in this restrictive mindset for the rest of my life.

I wanted to live a liberating life, a life that was peaceful without the noise from society of what I’m supposed to do and not do.

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By choosing to live a life that I was happy and excited about, I had to make the hard choice of having to quit extracurriculars that were becoming a chore and simply a name for college apps. These extracurriculars were restricting me rather than giving me the chance to flourish and grow. While I had reservations about giving up these activities that I had worked hard for by sacrificing my weekends and sleep, I realized I was working hard to a false distortion of success, an image that would ultimately make me unhappy. Instead, I consciously have chosen to be happy and make the most out of the present moment rather than looking to where I’ll be next. While in the beginning it was a bit tough, loving my current life allowed me to be much happier and free.

Numbers no longer dictate me, rather, they merely give me a snapshot, a rough outline of my progress.

And with my eating disorder, came a different Stephanie. This is not to say that I’ve completely reversed in my roles. Much like my eating disorder recovery, I’ve learned how to handle and control my Type-A, perfectionist thoughts.

And while I’ve failed countless times to control these thoughts, I know that success is the result of repeated and consistent trials and so I continue practicing that less rigid mindset day in and day out.

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I thank my eating disorder for teaching what it means to be resilient, patient, and determined. But above all, for changing my life view. I now regard my eating disorder as a time for me to pause, reflect, and change a lifestyle that was extremely toxic and unhealthy for me. If it weren’t something as significant as an eating disorder, maybe I would have continued to ignore those warning signs and still live that extreme perfectionist and demanding lifestyle.

And so, with all due respect, thank you to my eating disorder. Thank you for creating a new me, a me that I grow to love and appreciate more every day.

What unexpected thing are you thankful for?

xoxo,

Stephanie

How do you define an eating disorder?

How do you define an eating disorder?

This question or at least variations of this question ran through my head now almost four years ago. And this is a question I’ve been asked multiple times by other people.

Indeed, one of my closest friends after I opened up that had an eating disorder was worried that she had an eating disorder too. Unlike a physical illness, eating disorders are like mental illness in that they are hard to identify. In fact, during my eating disorder, I was convinced I was simply eating “healthy.” Eating disorders can be seen through one’s actions, but it is ultimately determined by how your mind processes food.

Personally, my go-to “short” and easy answer is that an eating disorder is any relationship with food that is unhealthy. But, of course, that is vague. So I’ll try my best to unpack what an eating disorder is truly is here today:

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What an eating disorder is not:

Saying no to a slice of birthday cake because you simply don’t want to eat it // Sometimes we’re just too full to eat cake (this applies to any food, but I’m using cake as an example) and sometimes we don’t want to anything sweet at that moment. Just because you don’t want to eat something doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder. The discussion changes when your reason to saying no to cake is rooted in a limited number of calories to consume daily.

Not consuming meat, gluten, or any certain food groups because they do not digest well for you // Along a similar line as above, some people stay away from certain food groups because they cannot digest it well. For example, my mom cannot digest red meat very well and consumes it probably once a month. Again, the reasoning to your choices is the key. If you are not consuming gluten or carbs not because you can’t digest it, but because you believe it will help you lose weight, etc.

Not eating as much because you want to MAINTAIN (or SLOWLY lose ) weight // I mean even at the early age of 10, I remember my mom telling me to eat fruits rather than potato chips or else I’ll gain weight. And I’m sure a lot of us grew up like so. The occasional indulgence is fine, however, potato chips should not be a daily occurrence compared to fruit. Or grown up, if you deliberately choose to eat a salad to watch for your waist line, that’s perfectly normal too. These incidents should be small and short-lived thoughts in your head. An eating disorder is something that exists ALL the time, where your head is constantly noisy – regardless of whether you are eating or not.

So what is an eating disorder?

Food or thinking about food dominates your life // This includes scenarios where you cannot go a day without worrying about what you have eaten or what you will eat. This can also include counting calories or tracking macros through an app on your phone religiously: if you go over your calorie goal, you beat yourself up for it but if you go under your calories goal, you are glowing.

You moralize food and you are extremely strict about not crossing that self-imposed line // You have determined already in your head that there are certain “good” foods that are okay to eat and “bad” foods you cannot ever eat. You restrict certain foods not for any other reasons but because they are “bad” for you and that line should never be crossed.

Your body image and self-esteem are extremely low: they rely upon others’ affirmations // You are constantly chasing after a certain body standard and unless others comment on how thin/toned/etc you look, you feel as if you have to restrict yourself more. It’s not a momentary desire to be _____, but rather a constant pursuit to become this body and you compare your body to others to see if you are “better.”

You make excuses regarding eating, especially for events with friends // You tell your parents that you’ve already ate dinner. You tell your friends you’re too busy to hang out with them for lunch tomorrow. All these excuses rooted in the fact that you don’t want to be tempted to eat these “bad” foods and would rather not eat or eat your “safe” foods.

My Story: As mentioned earlier, in the midst of my eating disorder, I did not believe I had one. I thought I was simply eating healthier. But what was happening was I was restricting my food consumption. I resorted to eating a mere 1,200 calories every day regardless of how much exercise I did that day. I moralized my food choices to the point that once I started eating dairy desserts, I had a huge stomach ache as my body wasn’t used to dairy anymore. I declined several social events all because I didn’t want to be faced with FOOD.

FOOD FOOD FOOD was all I thought about and it consumed my life. But for some reason or another, I thought it was normal. Maybe it was because I knew there was a stigma attached to eating disorders? Or maybe because I thought eating disorders were only designated to the extreme behaviors of bulimia or anorexia? Whatever it was, it took around a half a year for me to get a wake up call. This wake up call came when my nephrologist told me that my one functioning kidney had shrunk. This is for another day, but I only have one functioning kidney and while it is big than the average kidney, I have to be extremely careful. So when my doctor told me that my eating disorder (which at the time I refused to believe in) had shrunk my one functioning kidney, I was shocked. I finally woke up from my delirious state of mind. But this story is for another day 🙂

I hope this post cleared up any confusions you guys had regarding eating disorders. If you have any other questions, leave a comment, email me, or DM me on Instagram. I’ll be more than happy to answer.

How do you define an eating disorder?

xoxo,

Stephanie

What are you willing to fight for?

What are you willing to fight for?

To those who are struggling with eating and/or their body image, I ask, give me 3 minutes.

There have been many times where I wanted to restrict myself again. There are times where when looking at myself in the mirror, I do not love myself nor accept myself. There are times where I forget the emotional and internal hardships of restricting myself to a mere 1,200 calories every day, of saying no to anything processed no matter the occasion, of losing control of myself both mentally and physically.

But I stop myself.

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I don’t let myself redownload MyFitnessPal. I don’t let myself skip meals. I don’t let myself binge. I let myself be.

Amidst all the self-hate, I know that the happiness and satisfaction these restrictions will give me is temporary and short-lived. Yes, I may achieve society’s skinny and fit into size double zero clothes (to note, body image is whole spectrum so an unhealthy body image for someone might be another person’s healthy frame). But along comes a little to none self-esteem and constant noise inside my head. I can never eat peacefully, exercise peacefully, or live peacefully. I will continue to steer clear from social events in the fear of eating too much. I will continue to ignore my body and what my body needs.

And that’s all that takes for me to not turn back. While I don’t like where I am currently, I know that moving backwards won’t be any better. All I can do is continue moving forward, step by step with the faith that there is light (recovery) at the end of this long and dark tunnel.

So think long. Think hard. Think about what you want to fight for.

Stubborn or Perseverant? You Choose.

Stubborn or Perseverant? You Choose.

I’m coming off full on honest: I am not fully recovered yet.

I don’t even know if I am 50% recovered.

 

While I label my eating disorder time to my late middle school and early high school years, internally and emotionally I am still very much suffering with my eating disorder.

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September 2017
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October 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

^You probably can’t tell too much of a difference here of my weight fluctuation, but to give you a rough estimate, I’ve gained around 20-25 more pounds. What’s the same in these two photos is Serena (who I am constantly grateful to have since day 1) and a Stephanie who is insecure and unhappy with herself. That’s already three years of self-hatred rather than self-love . 

 

 

Yes, physically, I am back at a healthy place. My weight is normal (more than normal actually, leaning a bit towards the heavier side), my hair no longer falls out in clumps, my hands and feet aren’t icy cold, and my period is back. But yet, there is so much noise inside my head. So much noise.

 

Whenever I eat or whenever I see myself in the mirror (let alone even taking a selfie), I see an unwelcome version of me, a version I don’t want to embrace … just yet.

 

And that’s the problem. I keep on pushing back when I’ll love myself again. And this has been going on for 3 years. And I’m sick of it.

 

At the height of my eating disorder, my parents begged me to get professional help. But I refused – partly in vain and partly because I didn’t know how serious my eating disorder was. I think part of this vain came from how I was brought up. Unlike the Korean culture of sending kids to cram-schools and loads of tutors, my parents didn’t send me to any of these cram-schools or tutors because they just didn’t believe in the value of them. They trusted and knew that I had enough self-discipline and motivation to study on my own. And I did – I attribute my academic success to myself and to the friends and teachers that have supported me, not to any other outside professional help.

 

Along the same vein, I was resolved that I didn’t need any outside professional help to treat my eating disorder. Back then, I would have called myself perseverant — taking initiative into my own hands. But looking back, I was being simply stubborn. I was too prideful and  blind from the unhealthy and restrictive actions and thoughts I’ve been doing to realize that I desperately needed help.

 

Thinking to myself better late than never, I finally told my parents this spring break that I needed and wanted help. They told me that they were suspecting I haven’t fully recovered seeing from how I acted at home and what I was writing on the blog. Without any question but more so relief than confusion, my parents and I both decided that reaching out to professional help is the first step in the right direction to ultimate recovery.

 

So to those who are perseverant stubborn like me, I understand. I know you think that you can do this all alone, but you can’t. There’s no gentle answer to that. I promise you, the agonizing days, weeks, months and years of continually failing and disappointing yourself to the verge of relapsing back is not worth it. Are you stubborn or perseverant? That’s totally up to you. But from someone who’s been there, you’re more blindly stubborn than you think.

How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder

How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2018 was to reconnect with my old friends. Moving to boarding school, I’ve found myself losing contact with a lot of my friends from my old school. So on New Years, I sent a few texts to those I sincerely missed and one of them was Sara!

Sara is the sweetest, most down-to-earth girl you’ll ever meet. Her beautiful, compassionate and selfless personality is contagious! I was so heart-broken when she told she suffered from an eating disorder. In fact, both of us had no idea we suffered from an eating disorder — and we’ve known each other since 3rd grade!

I was ecstatic when Sara said she would be totally up for writing a blog post for avolicious! I believe that Sara’s story will inspire and motivate many of you or those that you know to really make 2018 your healthiest and happiest year yet!

xoxo, Stephanie

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How Veganism Helped Me Recover from My Eating Disorder 

Guest post by Sara

I’d always had a disordered relationship with food. My naturally large appetite and love for pasta made it hard for me to stay healthy. My weight was constantly fluctuating, and I couldn’t stand my body. I developed an eating disorder when I was fourteen. I suffered from anorexia for about three years.

Although it’s hard to say that I’m fully recovered, I’m glad to report that I no longer deprive myself. I definitely still have some intrusive thoughts wondering how many calories are in that cookie, but now I consistently nourish my body with healthful foods and indulge a few times a week to keep me sane. Going vegan this past July radically changed my relationship with food for the better.

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As an animal lover, I had contemplated veganism for months. I thought I could never go vegan; I assumed it would be too hard and too restricting. But the moment I stepped into that leather shop in Italy, my perspective changed. I realized that what I consumed had a significant impact on the animals. I was supporting animal cruelty with everything I bought or ate. I cut out meat the next day and gradually cut out all other animal products over the next few weeks.

The greatest concern for me and my family was that I would lose weight. Plants are generally less calorie-dense than animal products. I initially was reluctant because I didn’t want to see myself spiral out of control again with my restrictive eating, but I had already decided to help change the world for the animals. Finally, I came across one of Bonny Rebecca’s videos about how veganism helped her overcome bulimia. I’d never been so determined. Her story showed me that veganism could help me recover from my eating disorder. I did hours of research online and met with a nutritionist to ensure that I ate sufficiently. What I failed to realize in the beginning was that food truly, really was my friend. I thought I was eating too much and felt guilty for wanting more — that was my anorexia talking to me.

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“I exercise to celebrate my strength and my body. I am so lucky I got to go on a hike with such a beautiful view.”

When you’re vegan, your body knows what you need. If you’re not satisfied, then eat more! This is the only way I have been able to maintain a healthy weight for the past few months. Often I fail to realize how few calories my meal has, and my body cries for more. It’s amazing what listening to your body can do. I thrive on a vegan diet when I listen to my cravings. I can eat when I am hungry, and I stop when I am full. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t ever feel weighed down, no matter how much I eat.

Although some perceive veganism as extremely restrictive, I have never felt so free. I no longer have to worry about how much I’m eating because I know my brain will take care of that by telling me when to start and when to stop eating. I am the happiest I have ever been. I hope that you can have the same loving relationship with food that I have gained through veganism.

 

What will you do this week for your body and mind?

XOXO,

Sara

Thankful for my eating disorder

Thankful for my eating disorder

This post comes a bit late, but I had to make sure I had enough time to process and think about this topic.

For those who don’t know, I suffered under an eating disorder in middle school all the way leading up to the beginning of high school. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% recovered at this point, but I feel that I have recovered to a point where I am comfortable enough in sharing.

This Thanksgiving, as per usual, I had a lot of things to be thankful about. Thankful for my family and friends, especially those who have stayed constantly supportive of me through thick and thin. Thankful of the amazing education I’ve received. Thankful of a warm home. Thankful of being surrounded by (more than) enough clothes and great nourishing foods.

But something that was new when I counted my blessings this Thanksgiving was my eating disorder.

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Yes, my eating disorder consumed my life. I was constantly thinking of food food food, of the calories, of my weight. My eating disorder made me miserable. I hated going out to eat with my friends because that meant another battle time where I had to avoid the tempting foods. I hated when my mom made a carb-rich meal for dinner. For a girl who since as a baby had a huge appetite, my eating disorder made me hate all these things. I hated these things and instead loved sleeping with my stomach empty, loved seeing my weight go down one by one, loved almost in a sense depriving myself.

So how on earth could I be thankful for my disordered eating?

While I am not thankful of all the deprivations and restrictions I place upon my mind and body, I am thankful for the new perspective. I am thankful for being able to experience and to ultimately understand and sympathize with not only those who underwent/currently going through an eating disorder but also anybody has an unhappy relationship with food or their body.

Growing up, I was that girl everybody envied. I would eat so much (I would literally eat two servings of rice for every meal…) yet all that food would never go into gaining a pound but into gaining an inch. I never understood the deal about gaining weight, never understood why people couldn’t just enjoy stuffing their faces with amazing food.  Anorexia and bulimia which I learned from health class were as distant to me as Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower.

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This is 10 year old Stephanie. As I was tall, I had to wear big sizes but then that meant all my clothes were loose

However, through my eating disorder I understand how stressful and how consuming these things can be. I understand that weight and food can ruin some people’s lives and can cause them to be miserable. Through my eating disorder I have been able to gain a more nuanced perspective on an otherwise heavily stigmatized topic.

In fact, my eating disorder was what propelled me to start this blog with Serena. I discovered how nutritious and nourishing food can be through my recovery. I wanted to share as much as I could about how amazing food was, especially when I came from a period where food made me anxious and fearful.

I want to thank those who have been there to help me in my recovery. This counts my mom, my dad, a handful of friends back home and at school, my prefect at school, Mack from mackmarie, and God. When I felt so insecure about myself and my worth, these people trusted in me, they loved me unconditionally, and gave me so much support and steadfast guidance.

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I have so much love and respect to this girl. My pillar of strength and support and who unfailingly makes me laugh daily

So long story short, yes, I am thankful for my eating disorder and I wouldn’t want to change it in anyway.

If you’re still reading, thank you so much! You’re the best!

Was there anything special/new that you were thankful for this Thanksgiving?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Talk. Just start talking.

Talk. Just start talking.

If you guys have read any of my blog posts, then you know that I am quite immune and familiar that I have dealt with body image issues and not being “normal” with my eating.

And as much as I love sharing it here on the blog or writing about my experience with body image and my attitude towards food. Nevertheless, there is power and beauty in physically talking to someone. Face-to-face.

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I go to a boarding school so in my residential house, we have prefects. Prefects are seniors who serve almost in place as our parents. However, prefects tend to be so closely integrated into our house that they are our friends but our parents.

So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go one of my prefects and just open up my whole situation. And I’ve shared this story so many times. Here on the blog. In my journal. But being able to talk to someone about this – someone who can respond and react to my story as I tell it, was powerful.

Another great thing was the prefect I told this apparently went through a similar situation. She was nodding the whole time and almost smiling to herself because she knew exactly how I was feeling. And after talking to her, she gave me a couple of tips, but what I cherished the most was that I had someone I could share my feelings and my experience with. Someone who went through something similar and understood me.

So with that, I really urge those who have something that they want to share, to just share. Go to someone you trust, trust that they’ll reserve judgement. There’s such a huge difference and power in telling someone face to face. Trust me.

Have you ever opened up about your experience regarding body image/eating disorder?

xoxo,

Stephanie

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck

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Personally, I think this is such a powerful quote. As one who is a perfectionist, I always want to do things perfectly. Perfect grades, perfect work ethic, perfectly organized desk, perfectly organized room, a perfect life. And of course, this perfectionist attitude took a toll on me (and I’m sure with others too), when I wanted a “perfect” body.

Now “perfect” is such a relative word. How do you measure what is perfect and what is not? Most times, if not all times, it’s the image that society and the media show. Those tall and lean girls with toned abs, thigh gap, and no bat wings – that’s what we deemed as “perfect.” Now, I’m not going to talk a lot about body image on this post because 1) I’ve talked about it on the blog before and 2) there’s a lot on the Internet about this topic.

So I want to address the second clause of this quote: “you can be good.” I lost a significant amount of weight over the course of three months in order to reach my “perfect” body. I was determined and resolute that this would make me happy and fulfilled. But as I lost my body, I lost my self-esteem and my self-confidence together. I started putting my worth as an individual on the number of calories I ate that day, the number that was put on the weighing scale. My happiness and my self-esteem solely came from those factors: that I was skinny enough and that I was eating only 1,200 Calories.

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Eating to my heart’s content – eating what I want to eat, NOT what my calorie limit tells me I can.

But when I hit the low point of this “perfect” body – I was losing hair, my hands and feet were getting increasingly cold when it was the middle of summer, I haven’t a period in four to five months, I was constantly tired despite clocking in 8 hours a day. My doctor, my family, and my friends were warning and advising me that this was extremely dangerous for me – that this is not the Stephanie they used to know and should not be the Stephanie that should follow. So long story short, I realized that I don’t have to have the perfect body. I don’t have to have that thigh gap. I don’t have to have perfectly toned abs, it’s fine and normal that I have flab hanging over my stomach when I’m sitting down. I don’t have to have slender arms, I can have a mini bat-wing or angel wing (whatever you want to call it). I don’t have to be perfect, I can be simply good. And for me, good means not the physical appearance but the internal state. To nourish and fill myself up with nutrient-dense, fresh, green, and clean foods. To give my body the nourishment, the physical activity, the rest, and the meditation that it so needs and deserves.

So again, mini-rant here today, but remember, GOOD, not perfect. GOOD.

Have you had to switch your mindset from perfect to good before?

xoxo,

Stephanie