Samantha

@samantha-w | contributor
Writing stories while being a woman who questions just about everything (including herself).
Community Voices

Changing the conversation about nutrition in schools

I learned to ascribe my value to a number on the scale under the supervision of professional educators. I remember taking the BMI test in 7th grade PE. I compared the number with those of my friends, determined my worth based on the number, and had all of that validated by the adults who I looked up to as teachers and role models.

Educators mean well–I get it, I’m a teacher. My students are teenagers; many of them eat gummy candy and hot chips for breakfast. Learning to fuel the body is certainly a skill that should be taught. However, nutrition needs to be considered in the context of what kids can access–the snacks at the corner store are a lot cheaper than the sandwich a block down the way. To top it off, lunch is the only time during the day that students have a break. In the land of adolescence, there’s a lot to do at lunch: talk to your crush, text your aunt, play basketball with your friends. The round-the-corner line for school lunch is not particularly appealing when there are places to go and people to see. And ultimately, excluding certain foods and food groups from one’s diet could lead to disordered eating. It’s okay for kids (and grown ups!) to have hot chips and candy sometimes. Every food has a place.

I teach a Health unit in my 8th grade science classroom, which has pushed me to think about what the word “health” even means. It is a tricky word–it is associated with diets and exercise, which do not epitomize whole-self wellness. In a world that is focused on image and numbers, health is more complex than a number on the scale or time spent on a treadmill. It is more complex than BMI–a test that was actually invented by a statistician (not a doctor) and never intended to measure individuals.

We need to teach our children to listen to their bodies rather than telling them what to eat. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder for several years, I still have a hard time listening to my body. Being mindful about what my body wants and needs in terms of nutrition, movement, and rest is something I continue to work on. Sometimes it is too hard to actively love my body, but I still need to act lovingly toward it. I need to fuel it, rest it, and treat it with care.

In my science class, we ended up learning about neuroscience, substance abuse, comprehensive sex education (including consent/birth control/healthy relationships), and body image. What was never on the table? Weight loss strategies. Teaching kids to love and respect their bodies is not about shaming them into a “healthy lifestyle”. Instead, let’s learn to live lovingly with and listen to our bodies–and teach kids to do the same.

Community Voices

Overweight and anorexic #EatingDisorders

I spent a long time in an eating disorder program for anorexia with bulimic tendencies meaning if I did eat, I would make myself sick to get rid of it. When I got out and started outpatient work, and started seeing my allergist, pulmonologist, kidney doctor, and other physicians, they were thrilled with my weight loss. They asked how I did it and I was honest and told them about my eating disorder. And they told me to keep doing what I’m doing and keep up the good work. That it doesn’t matter how I lose weight as long as u keep it up. I lost 90 pounds in four months. They don’t seem to think my is a bad thing. And it sucks, because I just want them to take me seriously.

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Community Voices

Overweight and anorexic #EatingDisorders

I spent a long time in an eating disorder program for anorexia with bulimic tendencies meaning if I did eat, I would make myself sick to get rid of it. When I got out and started outpatient work, and started seeing my allergist, pulmonologist, kidney doctor, and other physicians, they were thrilled with my weight loss. They asked how I did it and I was honest and told them about my eating disorder. And they told me to keep doing what I’m doing and keep up the good work. That it doesn’t matter how I lose weight as long as u keep it up. I lost 90 pounds in four months. They don’t seem to think my is a bad thing. And it sucks, because I just want them to take me seriously.

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Community Voices

Hallowe’en


#dailyaffirmation #CheckInWithMe Hallowe’en is a week away and I’m already a ball of stress over my Allergy son’s first night of trick or treating 😭 tell me it gets easier

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Community Voices
Community Voices

If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to San Francisco. That’s where most people are able to end their lives...💔 and I’m done living my life. I’ve lived my best life.

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Community Voices

How do you tell when you are sick FROM anxiety or sick while also anxious?

I have an upcoming transition that has brought out my anxiety physically with nausea, intense heat/chills, etc. I normally attribute these symptoms to my anxiety, but yesterday on a whim I took my temperature and it turns out I actually have a fever.

How do you tell when you are sick FROM or just sick (while also anxious because #)?

More importantly, how do you treat yourself during each of those situations? Are they the same or different?

Samantha

Traveling Abroad in Eating Disorder Recovery

I am on my way back to my California home after a two-week trip to Europe. I had been excited about this trip for a while, and it was actually a big motivator for my eating disorder recovery. The last time I travelled abroad was when I studied in Spain for four months, and during that time I was in the depths of my eating disorder. This trip, unlike Spain, would be different. I am now actively in recovery and haven’t experienced eating disorder symptoms for several months. I worked hard in treatment so when I was abroad I would feel comfortable with things I hadn’t been comfortable with before. Even with my preparation, my trip took me by surprise in several ways. This is what I learned: 1. Jet lag is challenging. Before my trip, I took time to prepare for my travel days, the time change and eating on long flights with my dietician. This preparation was crucial for me, but food still became a challenge when I experienced jet lag. I felt sick and my hunger cues went out the window for a few days. It ending up being helpful for me to eat by the clock. 2. Snacks are the MVP. When traveling in a new place with a busy schedule, it was easy for my friend and I to lose track of time. Having snacks in my bag was key for both of us when we were stuck on lengthy tours or had to eat on the go. I brought snacks from home I was comfortable with and even bought some fun local snacks at each destination. Having both options allowed me to choose depending on my taste preference and my level of anxiety at any given snack-time. 3. Perfectionism around food will try to creep in. Before my trip, I was already worried about what I would eat when I arrived — I was going to three new countries after all! My dietician gave me a key piece of advice in our session prior to my trip. She said, “You will never be able to try everything, and that’s OK.” Letting go of that initial expectation helped, but I still struggled with perfectionism when making food choices. My stress lowered tremendously when I accepted that not every meal had to be incredibly adventurous. Sure, it’s awesome that I can try new foods in recovery, but food would not be what singlehandedly defined my travels. When I let go of that pressure, I was able to relax more and actually enjoy my meals. 4. Connecting to support is key. When I was abroad, emotional challenges came up that I hadn’t experienced at that intensity in a while. I was feeling very distressed and anxious at times — more than what was typical for me. What helped me get through those moments was reaching out for support. I checked in with my therapist and dietician a few times by text, and when I really needed to, I had an emergency phone session with my therapist. Accepting my feelings and accepting I needed support did not ruin my trip like I thought it might. It allowed me to remain recovery focused and eventually get back to enjoying my trip with a clear mind. *Pro tip: many cell phone companies offer call, text, and data plans for people who are traveling. It was absolutely worth it for me to pay a little extra that month to have the safety net of support. Just like packing snacks and sandals, setting up my phone was a necessity on my pre-travel to-do list. 5. There were challenges, and that’s OK. During my trip I had some American snacks, slept nine hours each night and took breaks from sightseeing for self-care. I also spent time with family I haven’t seen in years, smiled and laughed with friends, tried new cuisines and embraced beautiful sites. Initially when I struggled with anxious, depressed or eating disorder thoughts, I would experience a big setback in my recovery. In reality, this trip was a huge marker of how far I have come. I don’t have many clear memories of the last time I was in Europe because of my eating disorder, but this time I was in charge of the journey; full of joys and challenges, successes and struggles. I am grateful I took this trip, imperfections and all. Prioritizing my well-being in each moment, rather than doing whatever I thought the trip was “supposed to” look like, was the best thing I have done for myself in the past few weeks. I’m leaving Europe feeling connected to recovery and excited for the next adventure. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image via ipopba

Samantha

Why This Passover Will Be Different for My Eating Disorder Recovery

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. Passover is a Jewish festival of freedom. For years, Jewish people have come together this time of year to celebrate the liberation of the Jews from the Pharaoh. To do this, we have a seder — a festive meal guided by a book that we use to honor the sweetness of freedom along with the bitterness of loss. In my communities, we try to focus on modern-day oppression, reflecting on bonds that still exist in our world. It is also traditional to abstain from eating chametz, or leavened foods, for the weeklong duration of Passover. Before I struggled with my eating disorder, taking part in Jewish traditions — including those involving food — helped me to connect with my community. As I became entangled with my eating disorder, I lost the joy and connection I felt on Jewish holidays. I started to see each tradition involving food restriction as a “personal challenge” I could either win or lose. The eating disorder clung to my losses, punishing me with isolation, self-loathing and purging. I could not get through a seder without feeling extreme guilt, and I would plan for eating disorder behaviors once others left the room. Last year, I found true meaning in a seder that a friend and I created ourselves. As we talked about modern-day issues, I passionately read words about liberating others. Yet, I was unable to set myself free; at the end of the night, I purged alone. My eating disorder stripped me of the very connection and hope that made Passover my favorite Jewish holiday. This year, I am taking my life back from my eating disorder. I will not be subject to its power to silence me and distance me from the people and things I care about most. For me and where I am in my recovery, Passover is not — and cannot be — about the food; I will be using this year’s holiday to reclaim my life, my body and my spirit. I will continue to distance myself from bulimia. This year’s seder plate will feature self-compassion, acceptance and patience — and those things are certainly kosher for Passover. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via chameleonseye.

Samantha

When I'm in the Darkest Moments of My Eating Disorder Recovery

I have long known that eating disorder recovery would not be linear, but lately things have been looking pretty low in my recovery. When I’m in a place like this, it’s hard for me to admit to myself — let alone to my family and friends — that I am struggling. It is sometimes hard for me to recognize what I need. But as my supporter, there are ways you can help me during this time. Remind me of what I’m doing right. Working on recovery truly is work. Show me that getting up this morning deserves a high five. Remind me that showing up to my last therapy appointment was a “win.” Let me know you’re proud of all the work I’m doing. Even though I may struggle to see it, I have committed to this work before, and I can do it now. Show me what I have to recover for. Remind me what life has to offer that the eating disorder will never be able to give me. Give me a sneak peek of what a fun Saturday afternoon looks like. Show me pictures of your new puppy – I could really use a smile right now. Even just a moment of joy might help me remember why I’m doing this. Hold hope for me. Sometimes I feel like giving up on myself, but when you hold hope for me it helps me keep going. This includes helping me get the support I need from my treatment team and reminding me that I am strong–not weak–for asking for working on myself. I don’t expect you to “fix” anything. Just be there and remind me that you believe in me and my ability to recover. Don’t comment on my weight. When I’m in recovery, my weight is in flux. I know you think you’re being helpful or offering a compliment, but no matter how my weight is changing, it is devastating each time you point it out. Please keep our conversations about events and ideas outside of my body. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Purestock