Insta-no

I was scrolling through Instagram this afternoon and Ambertheactivist’s account came up under ‘Explore’, I follow her Creatingconsentculture account and have great respect for the activism she does around sexual assault and rape culture. Amber is a survivour of sexual violence and uses her experience to create important dialogue and support other survivours. All rad things. However, I was upset to see her post on Ambertheactivist featured below:

I was so disappointed to see this kind of image and accompanying caption on an activists account that I have such respect for. Not only is it triggering for survivours of sexual assault, but for those who struggle with eating disorders.

Shaming people for their food choice is fucked up in any situation, but comparing the act of consuming cheese, yoghurt, ice cream, and milk to supporting sexual violence is disgusting, misleading and belittles rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Sexualized violence is a huge problem in our society and in recent years, we have finally begun confronting the effects of rape culture. There are many amazing activists and organizations that work tirelessly to make our culture safer for everyone. However, when activists use something as serious and traumatic as rape to further their cause (veganism), they are not only hurting survivors, but making it harder for those who are working towards ending rape culture to be taken seriously by the boarder population.

I have been a vegetarian for most of my life and have dabbled in veganism, but it was directly related to my ED and much too restrictive for me to be able to in recovery. Not everyone, even those who have/had eating disorders have this experience. I have a few friends who are recovered or in recovery and are vegan. They are healthy and happy, and I’m happy for them. I have other friends who were vegetarian or vegan pre-recovery and now happily eat meat. Both of these things are perfectly fine. The only thing that isn’t fine is trying to push a diet or shame anyone’s food choices. Food and body shaming are still big problems in activist communities – as much as they are in other communities. From shaming folks for not buying local or organic, to mocking the foods of a particular culture, to shaming veganism posts – it’s all fucked up.

I have seen a lot of shame-y vegan posts on Instagram and after a pang of guilt, I usually select “See fewer like this” and move on, but this one got to me. I am angry, really angry at this. I am all for animal welfare and ethical farming. I try to buy free range eggs and if a pal asks for suggestions of local meat, I’ll suggest a butcher who I know treats their animals well. I may not eat meat, but I would much rather support a local farmer who cares for their livestock over a factory farm. However, comparing dairy production to rape is SO WRONG. I wish I could put this more eloquently, but I can’t. Not right now. I am so disappointed to see an advocate of consent, feminism and ending sexualized violence post something so insensitive. Women are often compared to animals – cows, pigs, kittens – various kinds of non-human animals. It’s a way of dehumanizing and delegitimizes women and their experiences. Women/femme folks are disproportionately vicitimized through sexualized violence, so to call dairy production “Rape” is beyond ignorant; it is a deplorable, triggering, and false statement. It is ok to disagree with how dairy is produced, it is ok to choose not to eat it. Support vegan business, cook for your pals, do what makes you happy, but there is never a reason to shame another person for their food choice.

The meme is terrible (it was not made by ambertheactivist, just reposted), but it is the caption that really upset me. Amber writes: “…that delicious vanilla creamer you put in your coffee this morning? A cow was raped for that milk.” My stomach dropped and I felt like I might choke when I read that. I had just finished a coffee after running some errands and enjoying the beautiful day. It took me 3 years to put cream in my coffee and not having a breakdown. I don’t always put in my coffee and I still feel guilty, but a little cream in coffee won’t cause my to cry or engage in behaviours anymore. I have the day off and really enjoyed my coffee, and as soon as I saw that post, guilt crashed down on me. I felt sick thinking of the comparison between dairy and a violent crime. I closed instagram and put my phone down. My mind was racing, but then it hit me: why should I let a stranger who posted this (probably without thinking) to control my choices? Through my involvement in  food activism, feminism and recovery advocacy, I have been slowly learning that my body is my own. It doesn’t belong to any man, to my eating disorder, to shame or guilt. I have been blessed with being able to access treatment a few years ago, to be surrounded by loving, supportive, rad people who validate my experiences, I have the educational background to understand  rape culture, feminist theory, food production and environmental issues. I am incredibly privilege to have the tools and support system that I do, but not everyone does. This post triggered me, but I can blog about it. I can rant to a friend about later if I want. Thousands of people will see that post, they may currently be in a violent situation, be a recent victim/survivour of assault, they could have an eating disorder, or a combination. They may not have the tools to deal with triggering and shaming posts like that. I am writing this less-than-stellar blog post to deal with it, I’ll probably call my Mum later, but it will still affect me. If we want to fully support survivours and anyone who is effected by sexualized violence, we have to be conscious is all of our actions and words. We all fuck up sometimes, and I hope the original poster/creator of that meme, Amber and others who repost, can take a step back and rethink their actions. There are many way to positively support animal welfare that do not capitalize on the trauma of those who have experience rape and sexual assault. I do not think this was the creator of the meme or Amber’s intention. I honestly think they are passionate about animal welfare and it was a terrible choice of words and way of writing. We need to be ok with calling-in our fellow activists. We need to acknowledge our mistakes and realize that we can reinforce aspects of rape culture without even realizing it. I hold great respect for animals and their welfare, but comparing dairy production a violent act that is predominately perpetrated against women is harmful to survivours and to our goal of ending sexualized violence.

 

 

 

 

 

New Year, Same Shame

 

Content Warning: diet-talk, weight-loss, eating disorders

 

The New Year should be a celebration of new beginnings, to remember our accomplishments and to drink enough Champagne so we forget that it is January and absolutely freezing. Unfortunately, there is so much focus on our cultural obsession with perfection that it makes this time of year challenging for many. Each year, the same tired tropes about creating a “New Year, New You!” are recycled through unhealthy diets, shaming tactics and other aspects of diet culture. Diet culture can be seen in shaming of those who are viewed as overweight, encouraging unhealthy weight loss, the 20 billion dollar (USD) weight-loss industry, prioritization of certain body types, and fad diets.

 

Most people who diet regularly (often called yo-yo dieting) will not lose weight, and if they do, they will most likely gain it back. Yo-yo dieting is also extremely dangerous, but is often overlooked. Yo-yo dieters may be suffering from low self esteem, be overwhelmed with cultural messages about dieting or may in fact be suffering from an eating disorder. The majority of those suffering with eating disorders fall under the category of “Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified” or EDNOS, which can include those who practice yo-yo dieting. Regardless of an official diagnoses, engaging in unhealthy dieting habits (such as pills, over exercising or depravation) is dangerous, both mentally and physically.

 

One of the challenges at this time of year is that if you are dealing with an ED, either in recovery or currently engaging in behaviours, or you are close to someone who has an ED, you will probably be hyper-aware of how triggering this time of year is. However, I find the majority of people are entirely unaware. Our culture is steeped in really fucked up ideas about bodies, health and food, so unhealthy messages about diets and bodies seem normal.

 

I dread conversations, advertisements and media about New Year resolutions. Most resolutions rely on shaming tactics and unrealistic expectations. Four months ago, I was trying to figure out how to deal with this, because each year is different. The messages are basically the same, but of course, we as people change. We might be in a very positive mental space or may be experiencing a relapse. Each year has new challenges and new accomplishments. However, New Year’s resolutions that focus on changing our bodies and engaging in damaging behaviours don’t recognize how unique, fascinating, strong and beautiful each person is. They rely on shame and guilt, not empowerment and self-care.

 

We all know most resolutions fail, yet many people continue to make unsustainable and sometimes dangerous resolutions. Mass media – from advertisements on Instagram, to magazines articles and programming on news media – presents the New Year as a chance to find all your supposed flaws and force yourself to change. Most of the content is aimed at women/femme folks and is based on physical appearance. Each year, media outlets, acquaintances, and family members talk endlessly about how much weight should be lost, how to eat “Healthier” and how to “get fit.” All this makes the week after Christmas and January hell for many people, especially if they struggle with an eating disorder/disordered eating.

 

The semester I returned to university after treatment, I was sitting in a class and a few women were chatting a couple of chairs over from me. I wasn’t really paying attention, but then the conversation turned to how much weight they had apparently gained over Christmas break and how their New Years resolutions were all about weight-loss and diets. I felt trapped. Class was about to start and I didn’t want to miss it. My coping skills were better than they were before treatment, but I was still at the beginning stages and didn’t know how to handle this. Over the last few years, I have found some ways to cope and want to share in hopes that it will make this time of year slightly more bearable.

 

  1. If you use Tumblr, download the Tumblr Saviour extension. You can block triggering words and topics. It’s a lifesaver.
  2. Word Blocker and other similar extensions are available for Chrome (I find the ones I have tried don’t work very well, but it might be worth a try)
  3. Un-follow (even temporarily) certain lifestyle blogs and accounts. Many cooking, vegan and fitness blogs will be overrun with triggering content these days. If you like what they post at other times, you can always re-follow them later.
  4. Be ok with walking away from conversations. If someone begins talking about diets or weight-loss, it is ok to walk away. Self-care is always important, but at this time of year it is imperative to care for your mental well-being and that sometimes means walking away.
  5. If you are comfortable, ask friends and family to avoid diet talk. This can be challenging, especially if they do not know about your ED/disordered eating. You are not obligated to tell anyone who you are not comfortable with, but saying something along the lines of “I’m not comfortable talking about diets, etc. could we change the subject?” Many people who are not personally affected by EDs do not want to talk about diets or weight-loss.
  6. Accept support. If you have a friend who wants to listen to you vent or an option to see a therapist, take it! You may not think you need it, especially if you have been doing well in recovery, but a little support goes a long way. We all need support; it doesn’t make you weak to ask for some extra help.
  7. If you have no one in your immediate circle to confide in, look up support groups in your community and check if your insurance or schools offers support for counseling.
  8. Do something that makes you happy each day. Sometimes we can’t avoid being triggered, and some days are just harder than others. Take a nice bath or create some art. Do something that is positive for you.

 

If you are reading this, and are not personally affected by disordered eating/eating disorder, I hope you will take into consideration how damaging diet talk can be and how important it is to support a culture that accepts all bodies. Shame and guilt have no place in our relationships with food and our bodies. Food does not hold moral value and dieting/not dieting does not make you a better or worse person. Our bodies are magical, resilient and unique. We should celebrate diversity of bodies, “flaws” included. While there is more diversity of bodies seen in media, it is still dreadfully insufficient. Representation in media will not eliminate eating disorders and related issues, but it could help create a more positive, and realistic, culture.

 

I will end this post on a thought that has been crossing my mind lately had a therapist tell me once, “Imagine if losing weight was the only thing you ever accomplished, how would you feel?” At the time, weight loss was the only thing I cared about, but as I went through treatment, and accomplished other things that we not related to my body, I started to come around to the idea that my body is not my only worth. My body is not the sole indicator of who I am as a person. I hope we, as individuals and as a society, can begin to focus more on each others accomplishments and strength, instead focusing on a very specific, and unattainable, image of perfection.

Body betrayal

What do you do when your body betrays you? It happens to all of us at one point. It might be something minor, but embarrassing like tripping in front of a room of people after your leg falls asleep, or it might happen as you grow older, your eyesight worsens or your blood pressure rises. But what do you do when your body betrays you in considerable ways at a young age? I have been trying to figure this out for the past few years, and I’ve found some answers, as imperfect as they are.

I have been experiencing chronic illness/pain for over five years and an eating disorder for about twelve years. I don’t have a clear diagnosis for my chronic pain, but right now I do know that it affects every aspect of my life. I have days where I can’t get out of bed or where I double over in pain, I have days where my body just seems to stop working. I don’t want this post to be me complaining about being chronically ill, but just to set the scene; I will say that my body often does not act in the way I would like it to. I was a pretty healthy kid/young person, besides the occasional cold, I was never sick. Even for the first few years of my ED, physically I was “ok”. Of course, my body (and mind) was being severely damaged; I just didn’t realize it yet. When I first started to experience chronic pain, it was something I could push through, but as the years went on, I had more trouble dealing with it. I am very blessed to have lots of people, professionals and loved ones, to support me. However, most of the time it’s just me dealing with my health problems.

On the bright side, I have found a few things that help: reality shows that are too embarrassing to list but great for distraction, breathing exercises (everyone hates it when professionals suggest this, but they work) and probably the most beneficial, making sure I really embrace every single moment I don’t feel like shit. I try appreciate everything my body can do. I may hate my body 99% of the time, but I am also fascinated by it. A friend of mine recently invited me to yoga, and I’m amazed, that after all the terrible things I have done to myself, and regardless of how much pain I am, my body can do amazing things.

I was a little frustrated leaving yoga class today. I felt ill and off balanced, but with some assistance from the teacher and modifying poses, I completed an hour-long class. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but each day I can get up and go to work, or have a conversation or go for a walk, it’s an accomplishment. Every day will not be a good day, and that is ok.

Another very important lesson I have learned from being ill is that it is ok to have shitty days. Whether it’s a bad day due to a physical or mental illness or you are just feeling “off”, it’s ok to have a rough day. I have learned that sometimes I should not try to push through, I have found that stopping and just sitting with whatever I am feeling can be the best solution. Yes, it is not fun to explain why I can’t do something or have to sit something out, but it helps me survive.

Maybe I will never know what is wrong with me. Maybe I will find some treatment that will help me get rid of the chronic pain. Maybe I will recover or maybe I won’t, but at least I know I can survive a bad day.

Being young and chronically ill has taught me a lot, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I often wonder how different of a person I would be if I didn’t have these illnesses. My GPA would be higher and I probably would have been overseas by this point. I like to think being ill has made me more self-aware, more compassionate and less selfish. I like to think that all of this has a deeper meaning. I know I appreciate my life more, little things bother me less and I am more driven to embrace all the seemingly inconsequential things in life. I don’t claim to have any special understanding, I still get frustrated and sad. I just know that I – my body and mind – can accomplish more than I thought I could, even if it takes me twice as long. The hardest things to learn is there is no time limit on healing or growing. I am still working to accept this, but at least I have time.

Lapses & Perfection

Each time I have attempted recovery I went into it with the idea that I would have the “perfect” recovery – whether that meant following my meal plan to the letter or exercising a certain way for a certain time, I wanted to be perfect. I spent over a decade trying to be perfect in my eating disorder, and failing.

 

Lapses are a normal part of recovery, there a shitty part, but completely normal. My first lapse, I came to my therapist almost in tears I was so ashamed. I told her how sorry I was for “ruining” my recovery. I thought I was all over because I engaged in eating disorder behaviours. I couldn’t have been more wrong! As I went through treatment and made more friends in recovery, I realized we all struggle, we all trip, we all fuck up. And that is ok.

 

This isn’t just for ED recovery, no matter what you are recovering from: PTSD, depression, OCD, etc. Slip-ups are normal, the main this is that we learn to cope with our struggles in a healthy way. After a lapse, it can be easy to beat ourselves up, feel like we have failed – we haven’t.

 

Often people with eating disorders, anxiety disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) have perfectionistic tendencies anyway, so when we bravely attempt recovery and then slip up, it normal react strongly.

 

Lapses are terrible, confusing and scary. Lapses also give us the opportunity to reassess our needs, to practice self -care and to fight even harder for recovery. If you lapse, the best thing to do it is reach out to a friend who you can trust and remember that you are human and perfection is impossible.

 

We will never be perfect in our illness and we will never be perfect in our recovery. We find who we are through our imperfections, there is more to life than striving for perfection. Trying to be perfect through recovery will only hurt progress. Let yourself be human.