Small Breasts and Crooked Teeth

We all have something that we feel vehemently about or, if you’re anything like me, a multitude of things. But, there is one thing that I have felt the same way about for as long as I can remember:

Love and accept the body you were given - unconditionally. 

Kids don't usually know that there is something "wrong" about their body until someone points it out to them. They happily go about their day not worried about the shape of their body, the contours of their face, or the size of their appendages. 

The real shitty thing is that there is nothing wrong with their body (or their face), it's completely perfect just the way that it is. You know the saying, "humans are perfectly imperfect." It isn't until some arbitrary fucked up societal and cultural standards are called out to them do they then start to feel like something is wrong with them... something different... something inadequate. And if they feel that way, then they better make their counterparts feel just as shitty. And so, the cycle begins. At a very, very young age. 

Biased comparison isn't innate. Babies and toddlers simply take note of differences and process them as neutral differences. "I'm this color, they are that color;" "my nose is shaped this way, their's is shaped that way;" "my hair is this color, their's is that color." They have a genuine curiosity but typically don't associate their observation with something negative until someone else like a parent, sibling, or playmate teaches it to them. They make simple and objective observations without viewing one as desirable and one as less desirable or undesirable. 

When I was about 12-years-old I was at a routine dentist appointment. The dentist started talking to me and my late step-mom about orthodontics and straightening my teeth. We were both a little confused as to why this was brought up and asked why he was giving us information on "fixing my teeth." His answer beat around the bush a bit. I was taken back. And, well, offended. We asked if this was medically necessary or if this was strictly cosmetic. He confirmed it would simply be to straighten my teeth for aesthetics. 

F-that. I was a tough little horse-riding BB Gun shooting cookie infused with The Doors, Metallica, and Alice N' Chains.

I laughed and told him I didn't need or want to have my teeth straight. My step-mom laughed with me and reflecting back, I think she was pretty damn proud. 

Before that visit to the dentist office, I didn't think much of my teeth. I smiled in pictures and laughed without concern of someone looking at my crooked teeth. But after that visit, there was little voice inside me that whispered..."Your teeth don't look like they should. You don't have a pretty smile." I increasingly become self-conscious of my teeth and smile. I compared my teeth to my peers, my siblings, and girls in magazines and on TV. In family photos, you can see me going from a teeth-showing smile to a subtle smirk, or pursed lips (before it was a raving trend), or even no smile at all. Thank God this was before the likes of Facebook and Instagram or even wide-spread internet adoption.

I even rocked my unibrow

I even rocked my unibrow

My siblings and I, me, far right

My siblings and I, me, far right

Of course, I negatively compared myself to others before then (like when I hit puberty and broke out with acne before other kids my age in elementary school resulting in relentless teasing by older boys), but this was certainly a time in my life when I became even more concerned with my looks. And, started to consider whether or not I was pretty enough just the way that I was. 

Thankfully during this time of my life, I didn't only listen to classic rock and metal. While I was questioning my beauty and uniqueness, Jewel was breaking records with her album, Pieces of You and my sister and I had her hits on repeat. 

Jewel's face was all over magazines and VH1, and although most images and clips of her were with her lips closed or slightly parted, there was the rare few that showed her now famed crooked teeth. 

I was affirmed. I wasn't alone in letting my teeth be au naturel. 

Jewel's teeth have been the topic of conversation on more than one occasion in the entertainment industry. In writing this post, I came across this interview were she intimately discusses her stance on her teeth. 

When I first got signed to a recording contract, I saw other girls in my industry getting nose jobs and boob jobs and chin jobs, because they wanted to gain an acceptance they were unwilling to give themselves. Of course I considered having my teeth fixed. But I knew that if I started down that path, it would be a slippery slope—having come from a broken and dysfunctional home life, I was not the picture of high self-esteem. I was, however, the daughter of pioneers. In Alaska, I was raised on a homestead. We lived off the land, which taught me that hard work pays off. It also taught me one of the most important things I have ever learned, something I still try to live by to this day: Hard wood grows slowly. I know, that isn’t a very flashy life motto, but make no mistake, it is profound. If you want something to last, it has to develop over time. An oak may take a long time to grow, but it lives for hundreds of years. Country living taught me that there are no shortcuts or quick fixes for a meaningful life. I had to figure out real solutions to my problems if I wanted them to be permanent. If I wanted to build a healthy new life, it meant learning to love and accept myself, and to be a friend to myself. It meant forgiving my short comings, accepting my flaws, and finding the courage to not make decisions out of insecurity. It meant letting people call me “snaggle tooth” or anything else they wanted, without losing my pride. Happiness and self- acceptance wouldn’t come overnight. They were a process, and if I wanted lasting results, I had to commit to that process—even if it was a public one. I had to define beauty for myself.
— Jewel

Jewel beautifully and profoundly states what I have come to fervently believe for myself.

You cannot fix the way you feel on the inside by changing something on the outside. Learning to love and accept yourself unconditionally is a feat most people will never conquer. 

Looking in the mirror and saying "I am beautiful," is fucking hard. Looking in the mirror and saying, "I am beautiful, I love and accept myself," is really fucking hard. Embracing it is really, really fucking hard and takes massive work. Work that is internal and that no one else can do for you or validate. This isn't to say that you are alone in the process, I've received massive support and guidance. I've asked for help in my times of darkness and visceral feelings that I was the ugliest human being on the planet and I was met with empathy; though I was alone the work to pull myself out of despair.

It's hard work that needs to be done over and over throughout our entire life. Through aging, illness, weight changes, injuries, depression, stress, and heartache. It's a practice that takes humility and it's work that I don't believe is ever finished or fixed. Certainly not through cosmetic surgeries, anti-aging bullshit, airbrushing, or “beauty” products. Time and time again, I've thought I fully accepted my body and then wham-bam I have some jiggly skin out of nowhere and my thighs have a couple more spots with cellulite that can be seen from my neighbors house. Some days, I am more accepting and graceful of myself than others.

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The next big kick to my self-esteem was when I was 19. My college boyfriend and I were laying in his bed one morning and I asked him (oooooh the naivety!), "what would you change about me if you could change something?" Fully expecting him to say "absolutely nothing baby," or something sweet and ironically complimentary like "the way you're so hard on yourself." Yeah, there is no Relationships 101 in college. 

No, what he said ( I still remember nearly 15 years later) was, "I'd have your teeth fixed and get you some bigger boobs." 

My dropped-jaw and complete silence must have signaled to him to backtrack. He then said "you know... if you want to keep modeling." At the time I was doing some modeling but little did he comprehend that the type of fashion modeling that I was doing gave a shit about my small breasts and actually preferred them small and rarely wanted a smile. Thin? Yes (which is one of the reasons I did not pursue a career), but big boobs and tattoos? No. Smile? Not really. Stone cold or seductive smirk, please.

I quickly left his bed and called my sister balling while I drove to go ride my horse to blow off steam and center myself. Riding always reminded me of who I was and what truly mattered in life - similar to how yoga does for me now. 

The paradox was that before that moment, I hadn't really ever thought about my breasts in a negative light before. I have small frame and for the most part, have always been slender. Having small breasts just kind of made sense. In fact, I found them to be sexy. I could go braless and wear plunging neckline shirts and chic dresses that some of my friends couldn't "pull off" without being judged for looking slutty (you can't win). Up until that moment, I felt quite confident with my breasts. They were perky and just... fit. I was never teased for being "flat" so maybe they are a cup bigger than the "pancake"? So, this was a big WTF moment for me. 

You can imagine what that did to my confidence. Despite how much I wanted to not care what other people thought about me, I did. Especially, my then boyfriend. And, despite his comment and pornography addiction, I stayed with him for four more years. 

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Along with my horse and sister, music came to the rescue once again and this time it was India Arie. Her Grammy winning songs helped to lift me higher and continuously  gave me the message that I needed to accept myself, even if others didn't. 

Her lyrics from  'Video' ran through my head day-in and day-out.

Don't need your silicone I prefer my own
What God gave me is just fine

Yet, I still had that tiny voice inside my head. This time it said, "no one will ever love and accept your body just the way that it is." The abstruse thing being that I really did prefer my own. Not once did I look in the mirror and long for bigger breasts - or straight teeth for that matter. 

Each time after that when a man told me, "I love your body," the thought inside my head was "yeah sure, you love parts of it, but what would you change to make me perfect?" And each time he said "I will love you forever," I told myself "yeah, he'll love me while I still have the elasticity in my skin or until he finds someone 'like me' with bigger boobs...or straighter teeth... or straight hair... or who is taller... or skinnier...or younger." I never believed that anyone could love and embrace all of me and continue to through the changes of time be it aging, illness, injury, pregnancy, and all of the other things that life may throw my way.

I have experienced the heaviness of infidelity, verbal abuse, manipulation, anger, rape, and yet something came up recently that caused me to discover that I had never forgiven that young man all those years ago. An incident that is seemingly very insignificant in comparison and nevertheless, has impacted my life, self-esteem, and relationships for years. Since that discovery, I have forgiven him and feel completely unattached to that moment and his immature sentiments. I had no idea I had been tied to that moment for so long. It has me pondering the notion of forgiveness and do we sometimes tell ourselves that we have forgiven when in actuality, we have only attempted to forget?

It took me many years of internal work to get to a place where I could welcome love into my heart and it's an endless practice of opening. Years of self-help practices, energy work, yoga, solo travel, mediation, living alone, and mindfulness (I'm starting to not like that trendy word but it is valid).

I’ve learned walls are actually the least protective. When you let your walls fall down and stand naked and vulnerable, raw intimacy blankets you. 

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

BIG crooked smile with the man that loves it

Now in my thirties, I have a loving and gracious man in my life who embraces me fully and it's still difficult for me to be vulnerable and trust that he will continue to love me unconditionally as the years pass. Trusting your partner is a recipe I'm still learning but what I've found is that it's a concoction of a leap of faith, benefit of the doubt, conscious forgiveness, respect, reminding myself of who he is (rather than grouping him in with men from my past), reminding myself of who we are together, communicating my concerns and insecurities, and giving him the trust that I wish to receive. 

While that's a nice ingredient list, it's the relationship with myself that allows me to open myself up to my partner, to love him unconditionally, and welcome imperfections with myself, him, and us. I thank my 12 and 19-year-old self for staying true to myself and not giving into cultural and societal ideals and pressures. 

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I do not believe myself to be better than those who have made permanent changes to their bodies, I too have made changes to my body albeit temporary, such as dying my hair and wearing hot pink lipstick. There is a fine line and I try to understand my motives of any change I make to my body. Who is it for? Why will this make me happier? Is there something going on inside that I am trying to fix on the outside? What example will this set to those who look up to me? And, I do not think less of anyone who chooses to permanently change their body - men or women (because poor body-image does not just effect women), that's their prerogative. Though, I do wish for them the same thing that I wish for myself and that is the ability and willingness to love and accept their body unconditionally and the strength to do the ever-lasting internal work that makes that more attainable. 

With love, 

-AEB

Face Value is Destroying Us

Social media has become our society's arch nemesis. It's the thing most of us love to hate but also refuse to live without. 

We see white picket fences, the kiss after the argument, the corner of the house that's not messy, the angle of the face that meets society's standards of beauty, the filter that smooths out wrinkles and wipes away blemishes, the sucked in bellies, the flexed muscles, and the splurge masking the debt. 

We see the filtered and intellectually (most of us) know that it's there, yet turn a blind eye and are adamant and convinced that what we see is reality. We laugh and joke over the superficial and then turn around judge others or ourselves based on the face value we perceive. The result is spectrum with rage and disdain on one end, and envy and lust on the other. 

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We're conditioned to view flawless as desirable and beautiful yet we, as humans, are inherently flawed.

Even more ironic, is that perfection, flawless, and sameness is often considered boring, stodgy, uptight, and uninteresting. A double-edged sword. 

We choose the media we want to see and get a curated selection within that choice, and as a result, glean a skewed outlook of reality. 

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We see memes, images, videos, and stories conjured up portraying someone or a group of people as someone they may not be based on one characteristic. 

We see slivers of people's lives and personalities and assume we know what their all about. 

Don't assume that I'm anti-hunting because I drive a Subaru. 
Don't assume that I haven't shot a gun because I do yoga.
Don't assume that I don't support our president  because I drink green juice.
Don't assume that I'm Godless because I believe in the healing powers of crystals. 
Don't assume that I'm uneducated because I love country music. 
Don't assume that I had everything handed to me on silver platter because I'm well-traveled.
Don't assume I haven't experienced hardships because I am a white female with blue eyes, and (dyed) blonde hair. 
Don't assume I am against homosexuality because I believe in the right to bear arms.
Don't assume that my boyfriend and I never disagree because I post happy pictures of us. 
Don't assume I'm positive and calm all of the time because I meditate.

These face value assumptions don't just happen in media. They happen walking down the street, driving down the highway, passing through the neighborhood, attending a gathering, shopping at the grocery store, they happen anywhere, and everywhere. They happen in our everyday lives, in and outside of our online lives, and they are destroying our relationships with one another and with ourselves. 

With love, 

-AEB

Adaptability

I have moved five times in the last three years and have had a handful of different jobs. So far in my life, I have lived in eleven different towns ranging from very small villages - nearly off the grid to large cities, and sometimes relocated several different times within the same city. In addition, I have had extended stays for weeks and sometimes months at other people's homes or hotels along the way. Not to mention the 14 months of my youth that I spent at a lockdown behavioral correctional facility (Meet 'Desperately Seeking The 60s Flower Child' - ahem, Yours Truly, in the early 2000s). 

Through this, I have discovered that I seem to have an innate ability to adapt to my environment. Like a chameleon, I can change my color depending on where I am in the world. But what I have found to be critical in navigating adaptability is walking my truth regardless of whether I am walking on a dirt road or a city sidewalk. Staying true to myself, my core, my roots - staying grounded in who I am whether I am wearing my flannel, jeans, and Sperry boat-shoes or my black slacks, silk blouse, and Gucci heels. 

After-all, a chameleon doesn't change it's insides , characteristics, or behavior - the change is reflected externally. In fact, I just learned while writing this that the chameleon doesn't change color due to surroundings per se but rather as a means of communicating it's emotions

Not to say that it isn't HARD (sometimes it is massively difficult!) to uproot and change environments, or that that there isn't an adjustment period or a moment(s) of complete shock. The key for me is knowing that I am right where I need to be in the world and trusting that the decisions I have made have been exactly what I need at any given time. The times where I have felt the most uncertain and chaotic are times when I have lost trust in myself and doubted my judgement. 

It doesn't matter where I am in the world, there are still things that I include in my daily life that make me feel... more me. Yoga, writing, walking, meditation, nature, nutrition dense foods, music... without these rituals and elements, I slowly become more detached from my higher-self and higher-power. 

From a palm-tree filled back yard in West Palm Beach to a building rooftop in Philadelphia, to a wide open deck in Bar Harbor to my (cozy) shoebox bedroom in Brooklyn, I lay my mat down and all is well in the world. 

My point - is that I may have different experiences and surrounded by vastly different environments, but the way that I live my life (with some tweaks along the way) remain the same. I still lay around for hours on the weekends listening to music and writing - coffee by my side - followed by long walks, farmers markets, meeting friends, yoga... No matter where I am, I love to 'see what I see, and do what I do.' And regardless of whether I am in a 9-5 or setting my own hours, on the weekday mornings I sip lemon water, get some exercise or journaling and reading in (depending on the day) and then begin my work for the day, usually followed by yoga and ending with meditation. Put me in the woods or above the subway - I am still ME. 

I'll end with song by Eddie Vedder, possibly one of my favorite soloists of all time. It's beautifully thought-provoking and humbling - and helps to keep me sane on my commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Even while jam packed into the train like a sardine - there is still a calm in my heart. 

 

"Society"
(originally by Jerry Hannan)

It's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need
Until you have it all, you won't be free

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me

When you want more than you have, you think you need
And when you think more than you want, your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
Cause when you have more than you think, you need more space

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
Hope you're not lonely without me

There's those thinking more or less, less is more
But if less is more, how you keepin score?
Means for every point you make your level drops
Kinda like you're startin' from the top
And you can't do that

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, you're crazy indeed
I hope you're not lonely without me

The times in my life where I have felt the most fulfilled, grateful, and that abundance is all around me, is when I have less - when my life is completely downsized - and even when my income has shrank (or diminished). 

When just about everything you own is packed into a car or a room and you realize you still have more than you need - it's at that moment you feel truly blessed. 

So go ahead and walk about. Feed your rat (an expression I picked up in Australia, meaning "feed your adventure"). 

Carry peace with you amid the chaos but don't ever fear the chaos for it will rip through you no matter where you are in the world. Just keep standing your ground. 

- AeBailey 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Orthorexia: Including Grey

Those of you that know me, know that I am equipped with an extreme personality. Grey is hard for me. Middle is hard for me. Subtle is hard for me. Waiting is hard for me. In between is hard for me. Balance…is hard for me.

*Note: Fair-warning that many of my paragraphs and sentences in this post will begin with an I. 

You’ll either find me with my phone in hand, ever-connected, or, I am nowhere to be found with my phone on Airplane mode accessing only the camera and notepad.

I either have my music on the loudest decibel or I am relishing in complete silence. 

I am either involved in one activity after another – working, jogging, yoga, hiking, cooking, cleaning, errands – or I am laying in savasana doing absolutely nothing.

I am either teetoll’ing it, or I am indulging in a few (or several) nightly cocktails.

I have the ability to thrive in the middle of no where – nestled comfortably in the country – miles from any major city with sounds of roosters and crows peacefully waking me in the dawn hours, or smack dab in the middle a city – downtown amid the around-the-clock sirens, horns, hollers and, screeches.

I am either an Unconventional Cave-Woman Paleo-er… or  a Virtuous Raw Vegan.

I am all natural, or bright hot pink lipstick.

I am an all in... or... all out girl.

I am all black. Or, all white. 

It’s the in between that makes my palms sweat. The middle-sized towns with things like Walmart, Home Depot , car washes, and chain restaurants that are missing the local cafes, mom-and-pop hardware stores, and farmers markets but far away from the cityscapes, fitness studios,  fashion districts,  coffee houses, and Whole Foods.

Obsessions. Extremes. Addictions.

All of these lie at the heart of Orthorexia, an unhealthy fixation on being healthy - specifically eating healthfully.

Obsessions and addictions are interrelated and so often serve as distractions - anything to get us outside of ourselves rather than looking (or living…) inward.

To explore this notion of distraction a bit further, watch the video below with Amber Valletta on her struggle with living with addiction.

An eating disorder (ED) is very much like an addiction. When I am active in my eating disorders (Orthorexia and Anorexia), I am all-consuming. Utterly fixated on my food… specific ingredients, where they are sourced, whether or not they are organic, availability (will I be able to get these ‘superfoods’ if I were to travel?),  how clean they are, how much I will eat and at what times, and perhaps the biggest one of all – how it will effect me physically, mentally, and even spiritually (i.e. "will eating this raise or lower my vibration?") 

My addictive personality only amplifies my predisposition to live in an extreme way.

Coconut is a miracle food? Oh, coconut EVERYTHING! Lip-balm, hair mask, sunscreen, lotion, cooking oil, coconut water, coconut milk, coconut meat, coconut butter, anti-fungal, anti-viral….Ok really coconut is a miracle food but I have taken it to an extreme. And have even been called, “Coconut Head,” on more than one occasion.  Another example would be my most recent rabbit hole, of living as a Fruitarian. Consuming not one, not two, no…not three, but upwards of twenty bananas a day. Yes, twenty. And no fats or protein other than the minuscule amount that is in fruit and vegetables. So this meant no nuts, seeds, or legumes either. On the surface, it was an honest attempt to ‘heal’ my body from illness, disease, and pain. 

Image found on: https://www.facebook.com/WellandGoodNYC/photos/a.175204979693.120205.91915774693/10153660388004694/?type=3&theater

The eating disorder(s) for me, only begin to scratch the surface. Beneath the fixation with food and being the healthiest that I can possibly be, I discovered that it was once again about control (a false sense of) and fear.  When I cut through the bullshit and take a good look back on this year and what sent me deep into the abyss of eating disorder insanity, the situation became very clear to me.

Earlier this year (2015), I felt scared. I felt defeated and helpless. And, I didn’t want anyone to know. Especially myself.

*Note: I have learned that denial with oneself can perhaps be the most damaging form of self-sabotage

Events that prompted my (recent) ED relapse:

This is not to BLAME any of these circumstances – these were stressors that occurred and triggered my Eating Disorder Demon

  1. Change in positions at place of employment
  2. Frequent travel for work
  3. Laid off from work
  4. Unemployment
  5. Selling/giving away belongings
  6. Moving out of my apartment
  7. Moving to a different city/town (3 times)

I was numb to my emotions and went on autopilot (survival mode).

I didn't admit ... to anyone that I didn’t feel ‘OK,’ that I may need some help… Instead, I ran. I left where I was living and went back to to a place that felt safe and comfortable.

I have learned that people (myself included) are doing the best that they can with the knowledge and resources that they have at the time.

While the debate is still out whether addiction is a disease, it is in fact, a mental illness. I am of the opinion that it is both. Addiction is complex, and wildly difficult to treat. 

While my intention wasn't to write about addiction - I feel that the behavioral aspect of addiction is so closely tied to that of Orthorexia, that I simply can't write about one without acknowledging the other. It seems that the word 'addiction' or 'addict' has a common connotation of drugs.. alcohol.. sex... gambling... but what about everything else? What about being addicted to things that are seemingly healthy?  Exercise, health foods, detoxing, cleansing, cleaning, working... even things like cooking, fishing, knitting... seemingly harmless - joyful activities can become an addiction. 

I'm reminded of an article that I read on Goop, "Why We're All Addicts." The article is so on point, that I could quote it all - so I implore you to give it a read. Though, below is an excerpt.

“Addiction is inside you no matter how far your soul has evolved.
The truth is that each one of us possesses the same attributes that fuel alcoholic binges, restrictive eating patterns, and marital infidelity. Yes, addiction is inside you no matter how far your soul has evolved. It resides in your psyche and binds you together with all other addicted beings in the world. Addiction is archetypal. This means that we all share its energy in the unconscious part of our psyche. It is a feeling that we know instinctively and is imprinted in our DNA. We could not shake it if we tried...
So, what is addiction anyway? This is a question that has sparked some debate in recent years. One contingent of prestigious psychologists considers it a genetic disease, while others would argue that it is a learned condition brought on by the trappings of one’s environment. I respectfully disagree with both of these theories. As someone who has faced my own addiction for over 30 years, I have come to know it well. It is my belief that addiction is simply energy. It is energy that flows through the body and lodges itself in the mind. Initially, it saturates the body with a sense of longing and fills the mind with invasive and obsessive thoughts. These repetitive thoughts will not cease until some sort of compulsive act has been committed. Here is an example. There is one homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookie left in the tin and you are thinking about it relentlessly. You have already eaten two and by no means are still hungry but still have the urge to eat the last one. In fact, it is difficult for you to concentrate on anything else until it is in your mouth. You have just succumbed to addiction. Addiction is the inability to control your urges in the face of potentially negative consequences. You are attempting to stay healthy and that cookie does not correspond well with your proposed fitness program. But you couldn’t control yourself so you ate it anyway. When this behavior becomes a pattern, you are in the throes of an addictive cycle...
It is my belief that addiction is simply energy. It is energy that flows through the body and lodges itself in the mind.”
- Dr. Carder Stout

So here we are - faced with choices. Choices of extremes. Choices of balance. Black or white. And if we look close enough, we begin to see the shades. All of these different shades. 

What I a coming to understand is that Grey – grey represents flexibility.
Grey is neither good nor bad.
Me.

Me.

Fifty Shades of Orthorexia

*Note: This list pertains to behaviors, thought patterns, and actions when I am in the depths of my ED (not recovery)

  1. In the depths of my ED, I become numb to feeling, both physically and emotionally
  2. I deprive myself of the nutrients that I need to properly function
  3. Emotionally I shut down to feeling
  4. Eventually,  I am unable to cry
  5. It's difficult for me to relate others
  6. I lack empathy
  7. And physically, with little to no food to digest... or only digesting one type of food (like fruit), one cannot feel the food in their body as much
  8. You're literally empty inside
  9. I become infatuated by this emptiness
  10. And find a certain type of comfort in the nothingness
  11. When I succumb to the tight grip of Orthorexia, I lose sense of my roots
  12. I become off balance
  13. I am not grounded
  14. As an Orthorexic, I have a constant need to feel 'pure and clean' 
  15. On the flip side of that desire to feel or be 'pure and clean,' I think that there is a belief deep down inside of me that feels I am 'impure and unclean,' I am working on that
  16. When I feel impure or unclean, I find it nearly impossible to accept myself
  17. Or love myself
  18. No amount of green juice, salads, fruits, water, herbs, supplements, showers, detoxifying cleaners, yoga, running, or saunas, will make me feel clean or 'detoxed' 
  19. Orthorexia offers a false sense of control
  20.  Restricting my body of nutritions is one of the ways that I punish myself for things that I have not forgiven myself for
  21. Not only do I restrict my body of nutrients, but I will also find ways to deprive myself of other joys in life
  22. Joys such as going out with friends,traveling, having adventures, taking (healthy) risks
  23. Orthorexia becomes a way that I sabotage myself
  24. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), I act out of fear
  25. And make rash decisions
  26. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), I am in flight or fight mode
  27. (My) Orthorexic practices provide a false sense of safety
  28. (My) Orthorexic practices provide a false sense of security
  29. Through regimented and methodological behaviors
  30. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), it's difficult for me to relate to others
  31. Or feel accepted 
  32. Orthorexia becomes a way that I isolate myself 
  33. When Orthorexia is ruling my mind (and life), the way that I eat is not sustainable
  34. And therefore, I have an easy excuse to have to deprive myself
  35. Orthorexia causes me to feel that there is constantly something wrong with my body
  36. Orthorexia is way for me to feel safe in a world full of uncertainties 
  37. Orthorexia fuels my addictive and obsessive personality 
  38. The stress and anxiety of dining out causes me to lose all sense of focus 
  39. Or the ability to stay in the present moment 
  40. Or the ability to truly enjoy the the taste of the food in my mouth
  41. Stopping for a quick bite turns into an hour or more of finding something that is suitable based on onerous or impractical requirements  
  42. Because I am not getting the nutrients that I need, I lose all sense of my hunger 
  43. I eat in fear and worry 
  44. My body is so deprived that my mind is consumed with thoughts of food
  45. Thoughts different recipes occupy my mind
  46. I obsessively read about food, recipes, and stare at restaurant menus as though I haven't eaten in days
  47. Because my hunger gauge is off - I become uncertain of my portions. Is this too much food? Not enough? Is this a normal amount to eat for dinner? Should I be having less snacks? More?
  48. I become uncertain at the times of the day that I should eat rather than relying on my hunger cues
  49. And when I do have a mouthful of something that I have deprived myself of - my anxiety sky rockets with worry about what it will do to my body (even if it is something that is known to be healthy like sweet potatoes)
  50. My passion is health, sometimes, I allow my passion to turn into an obsession

Before I close, I'd like to thank Dr. Steven Bratman, who coined the term Orthorexia in 1996, for all of his time and work into the study of Orthorexia. 

"Enthusiasm for healthy eating doesn’t become “orthorexia” until a tipping point is reached and enthusiasm transforms into obsession.
Orthorexia is an emotionally disturbed, self-punishing relationship with food that involves a progressively shrinking universe of foods deemed acceptable. A gradual constriction of many other dimensions of life occurs so that thinking about healthy food can becomes the central theme of almost every moment of the day, the sword and shield against every kind of anxiety, and the primary source of self-esteem, value and meaning. This may result in social isolation, psychological disturbance and even, possibly, physical harm.
To put it another way, the search for healthy eating has become unhealthy."
-Dr. Steven Bratman

I am learning to live and be comfortable with grey. Embrace grey. And dance in the glorious and delicate balance of the rainbow of colors that surround grey.

So here's to the Grey... and everything in between, 

-AEB

 

Anitya: Processing and Embracing Change with Grace

Let me just tell you, that you can change the circumstances in your life. I’m not saying that it will be easy. In fact, I am willing to bet that it won’t be. But, I assure you that it is worth it.

We all feel the desire to create change in our lives, but we don’t always act upon it. In fact, I think we often don’t. We, as humans like to be comfortable.  It is during those times that we are really comfortable with our life that it seems a force far greater and more powerful than ourself comes in and throws a wrench in our perfectly predictable and relaxed routine - and a dust storm obliterates our white picket fence.

This isn’t to say that we need to be constantly changing our lives (habits, routines, lifestyles etc.), though change need not be feared - but rather accepted, welcomed, and embraced. 

Change, the heartbeat of life, is inevitable. It is through change that we continue to evolve into the best versions of ourselves with more awareness, perspective, and gratitude.
Change is… variety. And what is it that ‘they’ say?
Variety is the spice of life.


The process of change is simple.

·      You decide
·      You act with intention

Now, this isn’t to say that it is predictable. There will be unforeseeable events. There will be unanticipated people, places, and things that catch you off guard. But, with each minor change involved in a major change, you still take it day-by-day… or, hour-by-hour… or, moment-by-moment.

Over analyzing and excessive worrying will make the process incredibly more challenging, or it will stop the process all together. This, my dear ones is commonly referred to as: Getting in your own way.

Yes, there may be situations that are part of your physical (i.e. external: children, pets, possessions  / internal: chronic pain, auto-immune disorders, diseases) or mental (disorders/illnesses) world that are unique and need to be properly considered. It’s important to view these things objectively rather than allowing them to block you from making a necessary change in your life. They are not blockers. They are simply factors. They are part of your equation. They have a function. Learn how to manage them. Better yet, learn how they can work in your favor.

Photo Source: http://i.livescience.com/images/i/000/036/124/i02/shutterstock_112794550.jpg?1359486624

Get well acquainted with all of the facts of your life. Know what isn’t going to change (i.e. your height or nationality), what you want to change (i.e. your career or weight), what you don’t want to change (i.e. your pets, kids, spouse or place of residence), what may change (i.e. the amount of wrinkles around your eyes as you age or who your colleagues are), and what will inevitably change (i.e. the weather or political leaders). Lay it all out on the table. When everything is out in the open, things become less scary and more manageable – and easier to accept.

Processing change requires perspective.
Have you ever completed or watched someone else complete a jumbled rubix cube? It may take time, and it may look messy during the process, but with patience and perseverance, the cubes will align, the colors will match, and the cube will begin to make sense. Often it takes looking at a situation (cube) objectively- to gather the information needed to make sense of the seemingly (impossible) chaos.  Often – it is not that something cannot be done; it is simply that we didn’t have enough information to choose a different way of accomplishing the task.

As soon as you believe that there are no options – that there is no way out, you’ve boxed yourself in.

Once the process of change begins, it can be extremely invigorating and liberating. This energy is hugely powerful! Although you may feel superhuman during this time, you still need to give yourself time to process and time dedicated to the things in your life that you enjoy and wish to stay a constant (yoga, meditation, music, time with friends, jogging etc.). Skipping these things for a long period of time may leave you suddenly feeling lost and out of touch with who you are…you see, with change… you are still you.  It may be - that part of the fear of change lies in the fear of losing ourselves - of not knowing who we are anymore. Without the same front door we walk through, the same café we frequent, the same hair we pull back into a ponytail, the same driveway we drive up, the same familiar faces at the grocery checkout, the same route to work, or the same hand we hold on our evening walks – it’s difficult to stay grounded with who we are at our very core. Change, whether initiated by you or by someone/something else, doesn’t strip the you away from you. You are still you. And, you still need to rest. You still need to eat. You still need to breathe. You still need to live your life. 

Omitting the processing part is a short-term solution born out of the desire to get to the next destination/phase/point as quickly and painlessly as possible. Which is actually a protection mechanism. But this sort of instant gratification – will catch up with you, maybe days, maybe weeks… but more than likely months or even years later. Often times, we don’t neglect this part intentionally… we plow through change on autopilot, wanting to stay strong and “make it through,” and then the aftershock hits us. Which is why it’s important to stay grounded within yourself and aware of how you’re responding and feeling before, during, and after change.

Meditation, yoga, breath work, stillness, music, journaling, nature, and talking with close friends and family are all awareness techniques that can be used to help process change. It’s important to have multiple forums as they all provide a different sort of perspective. For example, what you will discover within yourself while out on a hike in the mountains in solitude is going to be much different than what you will discover while talking to your sister over dinner about the events in your life and how you feel about them. Yet each is equally important.

Whether you change your hair, your place of work, your place of residence, your status from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single’ or visa versa, or the car you drive, the necessity to process the change is still relevant – regardless of the perceived significance. The weight of change is relative. What may seem like a minor, insignificant change to one person may be a major significant change to another.

And what about the changes that aren’t something that you wanted or intended to create??? A spouse leaving, a loved one dying, being laid off of work, a catastrophic event, an unexpected pregnancy…The fact that something wasn’t anticipated or planned for doesn’t mean that we skip the processing part – it’s a change – a shift in your life. And deserves proper acknowledgment.

Welcome change into your life, become comfortable with the state of change

  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Get comfortable with the unknown
  • Get comfortable with impermanence

Where there is Anitya, there is a way

Anitya (or Annica in Buddhism), is a Sanskirt term symbolizing the concept of impermanence. 

The Buddha explained that we should not become too attached to our bodies and their sensual experiences and thoughts that arise from them, because the attachment to our bodies and to life causes us great dukkha, suffering and misery. Sense contact brings us sense experiences which we then term as desirable or undesirable. From this judgment arises the desire to re-experience similar sensual experiences, which lead directly to attachment. This attachment then leads to a great thirst or craving for the experience. Soon we are entrapped in the need to continue such experiences, for we feel we need or want them. But all experience is very momentary. Hardly have we grasped onto one, when it disappears and a new attraction grabs our minds. Soon we are enmeshed in a great, complex web of desire, all of which is very transitory, and thus unsatisfactory.

The Buddha stated that for us to become free from the constant round of rebirth and suffering, we would need to realize the changing nature of things in its true perspective, so that we could free ourselves from the need for certain experiences, attachment to self and to the illusion of permanence.

One of the major causes of dukkha is our puny attempts to make impermanent things permanent. We want to amass and hold on to things which please our ego concepts. We strive to hold on to youth, to wealth, to fame, to romance. All of these experiences are fleeting. They arise, mature and disintegrate. It is not change itself which causes the greatest pain, it is our resistance to this change that causes the real dukkha. The Buddha again and again explained: “Impermanent indeed are all conditioned things; they are of the nature of arising and passing away. Having come into being, they cease to exist. Hence their pacification is tranquillity.
— http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/buddha/Teachings/041-anitya.htm

There is always an option. There is always another way – an alternate route. 

Here's to Anitya, 

- AeBailey