"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

--Winston Churchill

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Movies and Books as Triggers

Both movies and books can be incredibly powerful and influential in a person's harrowing journey though an eating disorder. I've noticed that triggers seem to be more prominent during the denial phase and when a person is working on recovery it is easier to notice triggers and try to avoid them. Both the film Black Swan that I recently saw and the book Unbearable Lightness that I just finished have been labeled as triggers by people struggling or who have struggled with eating disorders.

In Black Swan Natalie Portman plays Nina, an emotionally and possibly mentally disturbed professional ballerina desperately vying for the staring role in Swan Lake in which she is supposed to embody both roles of the black and the white swan. Nina, like most extremely talented and professional ballerinas, appears noticeably thin and fragile, as is apparently the requirement for a true ballerina. Nina is depicted as a small eater to the point of anorexia and possibly a purger. She eats half a grapefruit and an egg white for breakfast (grapefruit was a common breakfast for me back in my dark days) and becomes noticeably anxious distraught when her mother encourages her to eat a large piece of cake to celebrate her gaining the starring role. She vomits several times during the film, but I can't exactly recall whether any of the times were purposeful or simply out of nerves or fear. This film brings to my attention even more the prominent eating disorder problem in ballet and that is isn't only the modeling and entertainment industry we need to be concerned about. Ballet is different than most sports which usually require a lot of food consumption as fuel for the intense training and workouts. In ballet, the goal is to appear as long and delicate as possible while gaining lean muscle from all the dancing. This means that food consumption must be kept to a minimum even with all the calories burned during dancing, which often leads to anorexia and/or bulimia. Sadly, Nina represents many dedicated and talented ballerinas, especially those who are petite like her. Shorter people look thicker quickly the more they work out, whereas tall people naturally look longer and leaner from the get-go. Other than her breakfast and a bite of frosting in the cake scene, Nina is never seen eating in the film. Natalie Portman is quoted saying that she didn't eat much during the filming and looks thinner than I've ever seen her before. It is reported that the already slender Portman lost 20 pounds to portray Nina. Nina is striving to be perfect throughout the film, and I think that perfectionism is reflected in her eating disorder and pushing herself so hard.

So, in terms of the film being a possible trigger to anorexics/bulimics, it is really up to the individual and how deep in the disorder they are. I found this article on the film and its relationship with food extremely interesting. I am very happy to report that I didn't fee triggered by the film in any way. In fact, I was so disgusted and disturbed by several elements in the film that the eating disorder aspect wasn't my primary focus. However, I think that anyone with eating disorders or tendencies toward one should be on their guard while viewing the film. While not glorifying anorexia and bulimia, the film certainly doesn't reveal the true damaging effects it does to one's body and also proves that both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis--who plays her rival in the film--practically became anorexic themselves for the film. That is in fact what I find more disturbing than the film itself, and is discussed in detail in the article I mentioned above. as well as this article, which echoes the other.

The book Unbearable Lightness chronicles Portia de Rossi's painfully brutal struggle through anorexia and bulimia that began at the tender age of twelve years old. Her memoir could not be more painfully honest and makes me want to jump inside the pages and shake her before hugging her and telling her that she's going to be okay. While reading the book, I identified closely with Portia's extreme self hatred and the voices in her head that kept pushing her by telling her she wasn't good enough. I identified with so many of her thoughts and feelings and even some of her methods of losing and maintaining her weight. Instead of being shocked or frightened by this, I was actually comforted to know that I wasn't the only crazy little blonde isolating herself and revolving her life around her little food and exercise rituals. As Portia says in the beginning of the book," I didn't decide to become anorexic. It snuck up on me disguised as a healthy diet, a professional attitude." I feel that many people including myself who have ever struggled with an eating disorder can identify with this. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself resisting food to the point of near fainting to achieve an impossibly thin body. Later in the book she wrote that she felt "trapped" in her eating disorder. I remember saying the exact thing to my mom after I finally opened up about it. There isn't a worse feeling than feeling trapped in your own self-destructive cycle. I remember so desperately wanting to be like the people around me who ate and didn't feel like killing themselves afterwards. I remember feeling like I'll never be able to enjoy food in a healthy way again. This book, though hard to read and incredibly graphic at times, really spoke to me and encouraged me in my continual quest for full recovery. I can understand why some people farther from recovery than me can see her descriptions of her crazy rituals that helped her get down to a mere 82 pounds as triggers, but to me they were horrific and so painfully sad. I commend Portia for opening up about everything and risking looking like a complete crazy person to people who have never struggled with the disease because for those who have, I'm sure she has touched many in a huge way. While scouring the internet for more information and people's opinions on her book, I came across this incredible blog called Body Image Rehab Blog which highly recommends the book to all people in the midst or recovering from an eating disorder. I am going to echo this by saying that if you are easily triggered by detailed descriptions of the crazy weight loss rituals of an extreme anorexic/bulimic to be on your guard. To the rest of you, read this book. My prediction that instead of trigging past unhealthy habits, it will inspire you to get better and maybe even write a memoir of your own.

Triggers can be sneaky and dangerous, so my advice to you would be to figure out the things that easily trigger you and to avoid them at all costs. For me, simply seeing images of thin and beautiful "perfect" looking women in Victoria's Secret catalogues or fashion shows tempts me to compare them to my own body and want to work harder to look like them. Fortunately, I am so happy and thankful to be able to say that I rarely ever feel triggered to starve myself, and even if I do I never listen to that voice. Instead I might be triggered to work out harder or more and to snack less and limit the kinds of food I eat or just to simply feel depressed that my body can't look like that and be healthy at the same time. So, as I stated above, triggers seem to pop up more often and are more common the farther you are from recovery. If you aren't as far along in your recovery process as I am, just know that you can and WILL get there. Just as I never thought I would develop anorexia, when I was at my worst point in it I felt trapped and never thought I'd recover as much as I have already. Identifying your triggers can be one of the healthiest and best things you can do to help you recover. With that my friends, I toast to you and wish you all a Happy New Year! Let's change the world, one recovered healthy person at a time!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Better Than Skinny

I can't believe it's already Christmas!! In light of the season and this new season of my life, I've decided to highlight the things that make me truly happy and that have nothing to do with my body and outer beauty whatsoever. When I was young and insecure from my changing body, I thought that if I was thin then I would be truly happy. I remember watching Mary-Kate and Ashley videos and thinking that if I just looked like them with their tiny thighs in their tight low rise jeans my life would be complete. I couldn't possibly be unhappy if I were thin and beautiful right? Well my friends, I became thin and my life didn't magically become perfect. I felt good at first, but as I became more and more obsessed being thin became my life and consumed me while tossing aside the things that used to matter most--including the people that mattered most in my life. Since I've gotten better and continue in my healing process, I've realized that the things that make me happiest have nothing to do with being skinny and everything to do with family and friends that love and accept me regardless of what I look like. I only hope that every person that reads my blog have people like in their life who love them exactly as they are.

Goofing off with my crazy family is better than skinny.

Hanging out with my cat Norma Jean who could care less if I'm feeling gross and having a "fat day" is better than skinny.

Getting ready with a bunch of fun bridesmaids and taking silly Myspace pics before our dear friend walks down the aisle is better than skinny.

Getting lost in painting is better than skinny.

Having a little African girl come up to me and hold my hand while walking through her village is better than skinny.

Watching hundreds of candles light up in a dark amphitheater while hearing O' Holy Night on Christmas Eve at my wonderful church is better than skinny.

Watching a friend's face when she opens a gift she never thought she would get from me is better than skinny.

Eating a delicious Christsmas Eve dinner that my mom prepared at our beautiful table with my family and eating the entire plate full instead of trying to hide the fact that I only had a few bites is better than skinny.

What is skinny anyway? Skinny should be used to describe a person truly hungry in a third world country. Skinny should describe someone in need of nutrients to feed their body. Skinny should not be used to compliment someone on their weight loss. It should not be used as a goal for someone who feels bad about their body. Skinny should not be our beauty ideal. Beauty is in health and happiness. Beauty is in all the things I posted above and all the moments you were at your happiest just being you and being with the people that matter most to you. What are those things to you? Please tell! I hope you all are having a very Merry Christmas and are soaking up all those happy moments!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

True Lightness

Goodness I feel like I've been absent from the blogging world for too long now, especially when I look at these photos which were taken almost a week ago. I love this scarf.

[Dress: Population from TJ Maxx; Scarf: From Avant Garb in Ashland; Belt: Part of a set of 3 children's belts from Fred Meyer; Shoes: Wet Seal]

Last weekend when I was amid much hustle and bustle making last minute preparations for the wedding with the eight other bridesmaids and enjoying girl time with the bride during her last hours of singledom, food and body image was one of the last things on my mind. In consequence, I ate well and had an amazing time enjoying people and celebrating. My lesson? When you're happily serving people and putting others first, you hardly have time to dwell on appearances and food issues. It was so simple and eye opening for me. On the way back we missed our connecting flight so I had plenty of time to finish reading Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi. I mentioned her memoir and the fact that I wanted to read it in an earlier post and let me tell you I couldn't put it down. It was both scarily relatable and scarily extreme. I couldn't believe how long she went before realizing that she actually had an eating disorder and wasn't just on a diet. She says that the book isn't only intended for those who have eating disorders, but should be read by anyone who has ever been on a diet. It'll make you never want to diet again. I'm planning on going into more detail in the book review I am planning on writing but I want to encourage you all to start reading it now! I think it's good for all mothers and future mothers to daughters to read too. It's not a happy book, but it was truly life changing to me. So needless to say my weekend was incredibly refreshing and eye opening and made me think even more about my New Years resolutions this year. I'll keep you posted. Until then my friends!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

San Diego Bound

[Sweater: Free People; Jeans: Diesel; Shoes: Bakers]

Well tomorrow I am off to San Diego with my sister to be bridesmaids for the second time this month! The wedding last weekend went splendidly and we're hoping the same will be for this one. There are a few things we're a bit more nervous about that include some public speaking which we both HATE, but sometimes you gotta face your fears and things you dread deeply for friends, right? I especially can't wait to present the newly married couple with a painting I created especially as a wedding gift.

Davina, my friend getting married loves birds. In fact I'm convinced she'd marry them if Bobby (her future husband) didn't come around. Ok, maybe she's not that crazy but she is seriously obsessed with them in a big big way so I knew I had to incorporate at least one in her painting. So I stuck one on this lady's head and I think I pulled it off! I'm pretty sure Davina doesn't read my blog so I think I'm safe.

I love the back of this sweater, even if it doesn't exactly keep me warm.

I can't get over how nice pictures look when taken on a good camera. Not that my lovely friend Jessica isn't a good photographer too :)

I love my new shoes SO much that I had to give them a double photo spread. I bought them to wear in my friend's wedding last weekend and let's just say that I was lucky to have made it down the aisle in one piece. These babies are a PAIN to walk in but I can't seem to stop wearing them because they are so fabulous.

Have a lovely weekend, my friends! Look for a weekend recap and more pictures next week!

Monday, December 13, 2010

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

Well my friends, today begins the twelve days to Christmas countdown. I can't believe how close it is! Time to sing the Twelve Days of Christmas song...

Tshirt: Urban Outfitters, Lace cardigan: Xhilaration for Target, Jeans: Diesel, Shoes: BCBGeneration.

On the twelfth day of Christmas I found a gift for me under the tree :)

I LOVE this sparkly Burlesque special edition nail polish by OPI. The nail polish fanatic in me took over and made me buy it over the weekend. I layered it over a purple polish I had.

Lately I have been realizing how important it is to give. Whether it be time, money, gifts letters, or even compliments. Every time make an effort to bless someone in some way I always feel on top of the world. Why do I forget this? The other day I brought my mom home chocolate and a bottle of wine (after all, what could be better?) after hearing she had been having a hard day and felt so great after giving them to her. Last weekend I finally finished a painting I had been working on to give as a wedding gift to one of my best friends who's getting married next weekend. I can't wait to give it to her and her new husband! But it's not just gifts that I want to give more. My friend Kelly and I just had a conversation about wanting to do more for people because we realized that it is one of the things that fulfills us most and keeps us happy and inspired. We are planning on holding each other accountable on doing things for people, whether big or small. It could be crafting something for someone or writing a thoughtful card or a letter, bringing someone flowers, buying a homeless person food, helping someone who's moving, or visiting someone who's sick and bringing them movies and chicken noodle soup. I'm pretty sure giving gives the same happy feeling to everyone who does it. So my friends, let's make a point to stop focusing on ourselves and try to do something every day for someone starting on this twelfth day of Christmas. I'll use my blog and Kelly to hold me accountable and I highly encourage you to find someone to do the same for you. Have you done something for someone that brightened their day and yours lately? Please do share!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I hear Wedding Bells...

Today my adorable friend Jessica (who I am lucky enough to work with) and I went on a mini adventure on our lunch break to do a photoshoot on the train tracks. I wanted to document today's outfit featuring an amazing delicate vintage blouse (a find from our resale store Avant Garb) paired with a black Forever 21 tank, a Paul and Joe for Target wrap skirt, black tights, and Steven by Steve Madden ankle booties that were a gift from my dear friend Kelly. I accessorized with pearl accented jewelry and a headband and felt very victorian chic.

How lucky am I to have my dear friend and fellow fashion blogger as a coworker?! You really must check out her blog Monster Cakes which documents her life in fashion and witty stories. You won't regret it.

Now, on to the topic of the title of this post. This weekend I get to be in the wedding of one of my dearest friends, Grace. Being the romantic that I am, I have always been a sucker for weddings and have secretly wanted to be a bridesmaid for as long as I can remember. Now that it is actually happening I am excited but also freaking out a little. My friends are getting married! Exactly a week after Grace's wedding I head down to San Diego to be a bridesmaid in one of my other dearest friend's wedding. Tis the season! I am feeling a bit sentimental and old.

In honor of this season of weddings and because of the movie fanatic that I am, I have decided to list my favorite movies from my favorite genre of chick flicks: wedding romantic comedies. There have been too many made to count, but these are the ones to weed out from all the others and watch asap!

My Best Friend's Wedding

I love love LOVE this movie so much it's gross. My sisters can vouch for the fact that I know every line by heart and have a hard time not talking along with the movie. In other words, you wouldn't want to watch it with me. This is the first movie that made me really want a gay best friend. You can't get any better than George.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

This movie cracks me up every time. And that's saying a lot because I've probably seen it at least twenty times. It's mostly Aunt Voula that has me in stitches. "What do you mean he can't eat no MEAT?!" Classic.

The Wedding Planner

Another staple I've viewed more times than I'd like to know. This is the only role I find Matthew Mcconaughey attractive in. Who can resist Steve Edison's smoothness? As much as I want to hate him, I can't. I also love watching Mary Fiore's type A control freak personality. Perhaps because we share too much in common? I'm afraid it might be true...

27 Dresses

This movie (and Grey's Anatomy a little later) are what made me a true Katherine Heigl fan. She has a way of making you feel like you're her best friend...or at least really want to be because she is so relatable and likable and hilarious. And James Marsden? As my friend Ruby would say, let me just give God a round of applause right now.

Bride Wars

I was so surprised with this movie. I went in thinking I would get another entertaining and very predictable and over the top romantic comedy, and I ended up getting what would become the movie my sister and I watch on a regular basis because it is so freaking hilarious! I was just quoting it this evening and thinking I am due for another viewing. Anne Hathaway's annoying coworker character is the funniest part of the movie. Just watch it and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Ok, I need to now focus on warding my cat off the chocolate I'm trying to eat. Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

All Tangled Up in Vanity

Last week I finally went and saw Tangled in 3D. I was expecting a cute, entertaining animated movie with hopefully a few laughs, but what I got was one of the best movies I've seen all year. It wasn't just because this precious gem of a movie brought me back to childhood (when I repeatedly watched Disney films--especially those with princesses involved and would pretend I was one of them) though it did, but it was mostly because everything about Tangled was just plain wonderful! From the hilarious moments (especially those involving a horse which you'll learn when you see the film) to the touching ones where I actually cried, this movie grabbed me and never let go till the very end. After it was over I felt so warm and satisfied. It was worth every penny of that pricey 3D ticket. My friends, I promise you that you don't have to be a youngster to see this film and truly enjoy it. That's what's so great about it. You can bring along your little daughter or niece and get just as much out of it as they do. As embarrassing it is for me to admit, I actually got a little crush on Eugene, the attractive love interest of Rapunzel's ; )

What this movie also made me realize after thinking about the deeper message behind it is that the theme of vanity is incredibly prevalent in many Disney films through the years, especially with the villain characters. In Snow White the evil queen asks her magic mirror on a regular basis for reassurance that she is the fairest in the land. In Beauty and the Beast the prideful prince has a spell cast on him turning him into a Beast till he can find someone who loves and accepts him for who he is. In Sleeping Beauty the evil witch Maleficent puts a coma-like spell on Princess Aurora after her 16th birthday because she feels threatened by her beauty, and because she didn't receive an invitation to her christening. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame (originally an epic Victor Hugo novel) the hunchback is cooped up in the cathedral tower after being deemed too ugly to look at by his evil master and later finds love and acceptance from the beautiful Esmerelda. And in Tangled (an updated version of the classic Rapunzel story, in case you haven't figured that out yet) Rapunzel is kidnapped by an evil vanity obsessed elderly women who knows that Rapunzel possesses magic hair that will keep you young and beautiful when you sing to it. She keeps Rapunzel locked up in a tower and visits her whenever she needs her youth fix. What can we take from all these cases of vanity gone too far? In almost every one of these stories, the beautiful princess or future princess doesn't take her beauty too seriously and doesn't even realize the full extent of it. She is so full of love of her family, or creature or fairy friends and wants to please them that her own beauty seems to be one of the last things on her mind. Looks don't matter to her and in the end, I think that is what makes her most beautiful and something we women, young and old, can all learn from.

Mandy Moore does an excellent job voicing Rapunzel in Tangled and I love what she recently said about dieting and body image at the Tangled press event in Disneyland:

"I'm not obsessive about dieting. If I want to have a burger and fries like I did the other night in the park, then I'm going to do that because that's okay. [There have been times] when it's the first thing on my mind all the time. I'm so affected and driven by that diet and what I'm eating and how much I'm exercising. I've just realized in time that if it's a constant thread in the background of my life, that's when I'm the happiest and that's when I feel the best about myself."

This is the healthy mindset I hope to develop one day and in my opinion, Mandy Moore has never looked better.

Lesson to take from the lovely animated Disney characters and the voice behind one of them? Vanity should be the last thing on our mind and when it is, that is when we are our most happiest and the most beautiful. Let's practice that starting today!