Fat Phobia is real. Let’s make it dissapear.

I have not written a post in a while and I am not even sure how to start this one. Being home from college and having to adjust to a whole new routine is difficult. What is even more difficult is having to face old triggers.

During the school year, I did not have to attend family parties or gatherings and was not exposed to comments like “Wow Nicole you look fantastic, have you lost weight?” or hearing conversations about the summer diets and detoxes family friends are trying. Yesterday my parents had one of our good family friends over, and someone turned to me and said, “Nicole you look fantastic what kind of diet have you been on Seriously I need to lose as much weight as you have.”

            “Oh yeah! It’s this great new diet called the ED diet. Now if you really want to make it work I highly recommend creating a home in your head for a monster known as ED. Allow this monster to make decisions for you, run your life, and make you believe you have a false sense of control.”

            I could just imagine the reactions at the table if I said that. Silence so prominent that even the subtle tap-tap of water dripping out of the kitchen faucet would be heard. Wishful thinking. What I actually did was nod my head and smile awkwardly while making desperate side glances at my parents. I made a swift exit, but the comment ran circles in my brain. “I must have looked horrible before,” and “I need to lose even more weight, were just some of the thoughts I had.

Commenting on someone’s weight, whatever your intention may be, is reinforcing the idea that our physical appearance is always in our control, and complimenting weight loss further reinforces the idea that skinny is good and fat is bad. WHAT THE HECK! This idea is not a new one and is so ingrained in our societal values that even people who TREAT eating disorders have their own judgments about body weight and how a person should look.

“You could be the happiest person in the world and be fat or the skinniest person and be terribly unhappy.” This is something my mom used to tell me all the time when I was really struggling with bad body image. The intention behind the comment is great and what she was basically trying to say is that your weight doesn’t determine your happiness. I was said with nothing but good intentions, yet still displayed the idea that fat is bad and skinny is good.

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This prior assumption of happy and miserable, good and bad, fat and skinny, that makes it so much harder for people with eating disorders to recover. When someone with a restrictive eating disorder loses weight, that behavior, one that is fueled by manipulation shame guilt and anxiety, is praised, applauded. Commented on by other people as something positive. So when an eating disordered person starts letting go of their rigid food rules and ideals and starts indulging in life more and more, it is no surprise that they feel awful. Everything they have been praised for, their ability to lose weight, their self-discipline around food, is no longer source of pride. On the contrary, it is actually a sign that they are still sick.

How are we supposed to recover when we have people praising us for the behaviors that made us sick in the first place? We stand up for ourselves. We let the world know that we are more than just a body, a pants size, and a number on a scale. We are people. We share human experiences. We laugh, we cry, we feel passion and anger and love. There are so many other things to compliment someone on. I challenge you. Notice when you start to make judgments about peoples appearance. I am not saying to change your beliefs or your thoughts, all I am saying is, notice.

When I first started paying attention to my thoughts on this subject, it never occurred to me that, of all people, I could be biased Yet when I noticed those thoughts that were barely above a whisper in my brain, I realized I was associating a person’s appearance with their lifestyle. Making an assumption that they were lazy or didn’t know how to feed themselves healthy food. ME! I was surprised at first, and then I wasn’t. It makes sense! These thoughts that I am having are ones that I have grown up with. These thoughts are ones that I actively have to challenge. These thoughts need to be manipulated or my sake and for that of all the little girls and boys out there who believe that they are unworthy because of the way they look. I want for there to be somebody who read this at age 12 or 13 and realized that it was okay to love their perfectly healthy body. That no amount of praise or reinforcement would allow for them to truly accept who they are.

 

XoXO,

Nicole Anna

Peace out old shorts.

 

Hello humans! It has definitely been a minute. I have a running list of things I want to write about on this blog and approximately no time to write about any of them. Here is my first post of the summer. Yes, you heard correctly, SUMMER! Which means, freshman year of college is officially over for me. It feels like yesterday I was shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond with my mom for dorm room furniture; crazy how quickly time moves.

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Freshman year was a long and bumpy, with many roadblocks in between. Mentally I went up and down and backward and forwards and backward again. Alas, the year is behind us and it is full steam ahead into arguably the best months of the year.

I want to talk about summer clothes. Summer clothes? Really? How much can you say about summer clothes? Surprisingly, a lot.

I think almost every girl knows the drill. After a long cold winter, you finally pull your old jean shorts out of storage. They have that musty, haven’t been taken out all year smell. You take out your favorite pair and flashback to the awesome memories you and your shorts shared. You go to put them on, one leg, then the other, and then as you start pulling them up you realize you can’t. Crap. The shorts are too small. You tell yourself to keep calm and try on another pair, then another, NONE OF THEM FIT. Now it is full on panic mode. You look yourself up and down in the mirror, scrutinizing, analyzing, pinching, trying to wrap your head around how you could have gotten so big that these shorts do not fit anymore.

Your heart drops, your stomach starts to churn, and you realize you have two options. Change your body to fit your old clothes or buy new ones. I have chosen the former more times than I can count. Yesterday, I tried on a pair of white shorts that fit perfectly last summer, and they were uncomfortably tight; to the point that I couldn’t sit down. My first natural thought was, well I have to lose weight to fit into these.

NO.

NO.

NO.

Why? We have only one body, our own. There are literally millions of pants out there. I can guarantee you that there is a pair of shorts out there that fits you. You can’t go shopping for a new body. You can try to model your body, change it, force it to fit a mold it was never meant to fit. Or, you could throw those old pants away, or even better, donate them and get yourself some new darn pants!

Holding on to the past, no matter how wonderful it was, will not help you live your life today. How can you possibly be in the now if you spend all your time in the before? Whether it is old friendships, disordered behaviors, grudges or pants. Let them go.

 

Let go and let live.

Xoxo,

Nicole Anna Francesca

 

 

Baby steps towards confidence.

 

I am sitting watching Hairspray trying to figure out why this movie makes me so incredibly happy. There is something about John Travolta dressed as a woman, Zac Efron (gorgeous), the big hair, absolutely adorable dance moves and let’s be real, a killer soundtrack, that puts this movie at the top of my list.

Something else though, something else makes Hairspray stand out to me. The movie is filled with a message of equality. Equality based on skin color and equality based on size. When I was in residential treatment we were allowed to watch movies on Fridays and Saturdays. A vote would determine the lineup for the weekend and for three weeks straight, Hairspray won. At the time, I was so emotionally out of it I was not able to analyze the message it sends. I am sitting here watching the movie now and my first thought was, “Why in the world would they let us watch this in treatment for eating disorders?” The comments about weight, size, and diet in the movie are constant. I let this thought roll around in my brain for a little bit and finally, I realized why we were allowed to watch this movie, and also why we wanted to watch this movie over and over again.

What Hairspray does is send a message that confidence in who you are in your own skin is what will ultimately make you successful. I love this movie because I see the main character, Tracy Turnblad, who is clearly much larger than the other characters in the movie, own her size.

Unapologetically.

Imagine that. Having the ability to own who YOU are, instead of trying to conform to someone’s idea of who you should be.

I am in a sorority, and this past week we said goodbye to the seniors in the sorority. Watching them made me feel something and for the longest time, I couldn’t put my finger on it. After watching this movie I realized that what I was feeling was jealousy. In the same way the main character owns who she is in Hairspray, the seniors emmulated this confidence. I seriously doubt all of them are certain about what they want to do with their lives; but after four years of college, it is clear that they have a strong sense of self.

I wish I could be like them. I wish I could own my loud obnoxious personality. I wish I could leave a conversation and not go over and over what I said, praying that everybody does not secretly hate me.

Watching Hairspray and the seniors made me realize that what I have to do is stop wishing and start doing. It is not easy but I think a good place to start is by realizing when I start comparing myself to others, or when I start to worry about how I am perceived. This is going to be especially important when it comes to how I see my body. I need to learn how to realize when I start shaming myself for not having small enough arms or legs. Right now, being my own worst bully is second nature to me.

In my 18 years on this earth, if there is one thing I learned it is that change does not happen overnight. Change is the accumulation of small seemingly minute tasks that lead to something big, something new and wonderful.

I am starting to notice when I bring myself, and my confidence down. Today I was sitting in the library studying for finals and each time I got a math problem wrong I mentally said, “Stupid! You know how to do that.” This seems like a small, unimportant thing; I was paying more attention though and I realized that each time I put myself down for doing something wrong, I felt a little worse about myself. I felt like less of a person.

Of course, doing anything wrong was obviously not going to make me feel good, but calling myself stupid wasn’t either. The next time I caught myself putting myself down, I challenged my thought. It was as simple as “You are not stupid, that problem was hard and now you know how to do it.” That was it. Something so small, seemingly unimportant. Afterward, I felt myself sit up a little taller, and I even felt more motivated.

Go forth and be confident. Be your own Tracy Turnblad.

Xoxo,

Nicole

 

 

 

Dear Body, Thank You.

After having been given the all clear to work out again (I had to stop because of some sub-optimal bloodwork) I enthusiastically headed to the gym. As someone with ADHD working out is a fantastic way to rid myself of energy before I have to sit down and do homework. Sitting still is not my forte. On the other hand, my eating disorder likes to take advantage of working out, and an innocent promise to work out three days a week turns into a need to work out 7 days a week. Eventually, I end up somewhere in the realm of if I don’t work out I can’t eat, and I can’t eat because I didn’t work out.

 

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Really was not vibing with my body here. 

Okay yeah, working out and I have a complicated relationship, to say the least. Anyway, during my workout, I kept catching glimpses of myself in the mirror. The first time I looked I thought, “Ugh, what happened.” The next time I looked it seemed like my stomach had magically sprouted an extra couple of rolls. Five minutes later I was convinced that I had gained 100 pounds, I had really let myself go and the world was going to hate me.

 

For the rest of my workout, my thoughts raced. It wasn’t until I was stretching at the end of my work out that I looked out the window at the gloomy, gross, gahhhhh weather.

Then it hit me. Is it possible? Could it be? No? But? Maybe?

Yes.

The weather had made me feel gross (I tried finding a word to describe this feeling but gross is all I could come up with, it fits though). I did what I have come to realize I am incredibly good at. Turning an outside situation inward. That feeling translated to how I saw myself in that moment.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my dietician and she pointed something out that I had never realized before.

“You have been at a higher weight and told me you were happy with your body, and you have been at a lower weight and told me that you are 100% certain you look disgusting and unworthy.”

I would like to point out two things really quickly. The first is that I know gaining weight is not a bad thing, that our bodies are not stagnant, that they fluctuate and change and grow. Knowing that doesn’t make the fear of gaining weight, one that has been with me since elementary school, go away. Second, I don’t actually know my weight. I get blind weights done by my dietician but am not told the number.

Back to business. This and the weather incident today confirmed the fact that the way I see myself and my body isn’t 100% based on my actual size. Instead, there are things in my life that affect the way I see myself.

With this new realization, I took one long hard look in the mirror, and it was honestly as if the image in front of me transformed before my eyes. The girl staring back at me was proud of the little rolls she had on her stomach, her muscular legs, her strong arms.

I did something I have not done since residential treatment. I looked myself up and down and thanked every part of my body for the different things it does.

Thank you stomach for holding so many important organs.

Thank you legs for allowing me to move my body from place to place so I can explore new things.

This went on and on until finally, I took this picture. Can you see a difference from the on top?

 

 

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Definitely vibing. 

 

When you get frustrated with your body, with the way it chooses to take up space in the world, remember to thank it for all the cool things it does. Our bodies are freaking complex beautiful machines. They work hard. We deserve to treat them right and let them know we appreciate them.

Xoxo,

Nicole Anna Francesca

Maybe Is All We Got

I have had a really hard two weeks.

We have all been there, we have all done that. Those weeks where you have one bad day, go to bed thinking that tomorrow will be better, but tomorrow ends up being harder than yesterday. Suddenly it feels like walking through quicksand just to get up in the morning. You were on land, a flood came, and now you are treading water barely keeping your head up long enough to breathe.

When this happens, I do one of two things. Deny what I am feeling on the inside and turn to my eating disorder and self-injury, or………. Okay if I am being real that is what I usually always do. I wanted to say that I sit with my emotions and ride the wave (for those of you who don’t know ride the wave is a DBT term (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) that basically means emotions come in waves and you just have to surf the wave until it calms) until I feel better and realize that I can actually breathe.

Sadly, that is not what I do but fingers crossed one day I will. The majority of my life has been spent avoiding any kind of negative internal feeling. My coping mechanism has been to mask what I feel on the inside by trying to perfect the outside. As if controlling the outside world will put me in charge of what I feel on the inside. Time and time again I have come to the realization that this is not true, yet time and time again I do the same thing. On Monday, I had a Physics test and a Calculus test. I have not been doing well in either one of these classes, and for someone who is as perfectionistic as I am, these tests were life or death for my grade. I needed to get an A.

The week leading up to the tests I had generated so much anxiety that I didn’t even realize I was anxious anymore. In one of my other classes, we talked about sensory adaptations and I think, in a way, my body adapted to the feeling of anxiety. It knew that no matter what it did, that heavy feeling on its shoulders would not leave. To protect itself, my brain placed the anxiety I felt towards my test onto something else. Problem solved! I am not anxious about tests anymore! Haha! No.

Exactly a week before my tests I walked back to my dorm after class with a couple of friends. All day I had the same question running through my head over and over again, “What is the point, my existence doesn’t matter so why should I be so worried about some stupid tests? I am not going to do anything to change the world, I am a burden on those around me. Nothing matters, I am worth nothing, so therefore I don’t need to worry about these tests.”

I walked into my room, sat down on my floor, put my knees to my chest and started rocking back and forth with tears streaming down my face. Clearly, my brain is not very skilled about where it misplaces anxiety. I live with two wonderful roommates, M and P. They have so incredibly supportive throughout this entire year, and this day was no different. I had texted P to meet me in the room. She walked in, put her stuff down, laid down on the floor next to me and waited until I was ready to talk. P heard all about how I was feeling, and I ended my desperate rant to her with the statement, “What is the point of life if we have to fight for survival not only with each other, but we also have to fight ourselves to survive?” P’s response reminded me of something really important. The point of life is not all these goals we set for ourselves, or even trying to figure out what we want our goals to be or what we want our purpose to be. It is the little things. The kindness of strangers, a really delicious donut, coffee, a good heartwarming conversation, a long hug, puppies etc. Those are the things that make life worth it. I didn’t necessarily feel less anxious or miserable afterward, but my mood had lifted a little. She came up with an idea; everyday P was going to text me something to smile about.

Okay so I was receiving smile about’s every day, but somehow those moments of light were not enough. They were wonderful, yes, but that whisper in my head, the one telling me that I was worth nothing, slowly got louder and louder. Living in a state of denial I refused to believe that I had fallen into a depressive episode. I convinced myself that my inability to go to my sorority chapter meeting was due to physical exhaustion, not mental exhaustion.

The weekend was spent in the library studying. I saw the light of day once maybe. Test day came, I woke up made myself a healthy oatmeal breakfast, watched some Netflix and reviewed my study guides. I went to take my test with positive affirmations running through my mind. “I am smart, I am strong, I got this.” “Yeah right.” That voice, the one that had started getting louder and louder, was negating ever positive thing I said to myself. The beauty of denial is that I pretended not to hear that voice. I would learn later that day that pretending the voice doesn’t exist doesn’t mean I will not internalize what it says to me.

I took my physics test first, it went really well! Feeling a little less anxious I went into my calculus test full of optimism. This test did not go so well. Walking out of the exam I was furious with myself. I ran through the answers in had written in my head over and over again. I figured out the problems I couldn’t figure out, things I had studied that completely escaped my mind under the pressures of test taking. That “Yeah right,” felt completely true after this test. Of course, I wasn’t smart; I was stupid. The word stupid flowed through my body. It was as if STUPID was attached to every single blood cell, it was circling my veins and every part of me was shouting STUPID STUPID STUPID, YOU ARE STUPID.

Dinner was a no-go that day, and I returned to my dorm and crawled into bed. My brain couldn’t focus on doing the homework that I had due tomorrow, it couldn’t focus on Netflix. I didn’t realize this until later, but I tried to protect myself from the disappointment and shame of not doing well on the test by calling myself stupid, and I tried to protect myself from that feeling of stupidity by denying that I felt anything. Of course, all this protection lead to distraction. It did not work, and the intense hatred I felt for myself was not going away. I needed to get rid of it and I needed to get rid of it fast. If I didn’t I was going to explode. What could I do? I had already worked out that day, I hadn’t eaten dinner so there was nothing my eating disorder could help me with. A switch turned in my head. A wave of calm came over me as I walked to my desk and grabbed a pair of scissors. Meticulously I carved the letters S T U P I D into my forearm.

The pain, watching the blood escape, seeing that word stupid written on the outside, it was like the world finally caught up with what I was feeling on the inside. The relief was short lived and when my friend R heard about how upset I was she came over to be with me. I got up enough courage to tell her how I had hurt myself. I broke down and showed her my arm, and after that everything that I had been holding in for weeks, all the hate I felt towards myself and how exhausting surviving had become escaped from my mouth. It was all out in the open now. I cried, she hugged me, and when I mentioned that sometimes I thought it would be easier if I weren’t alive tears welled up in her eyes. She understood. R didn’t tell me that it would get better and I just have to stay strong. All she said was that it would suck for a while, but there is a chance it will get better.

pexels-photo-1006340.jpegProbability, chance, maybe. Maybe things will get better. Maybe it will become easier. Maybe my anxiety towards tests will go down one day. Maybe I didn’t actually do as poorly as I thought I did. Maybe.

It’s been three days since my little Monday night breakdown, and I can honestly say I am doing better. As I type this I literally feel a sense of shock, because I felt so hopeless and so miserable. It is hard to believe that that feeling was with me on Monday. The next time I start to feel hopeless, I am not going to wait as long as I did to talk about it. I am going to reach out, and I am going to talk about it. The minute I talked about it, the maybe that had disappeared, reappeared. I know a lot of people feel guilty about sharing their problems with others because we don’t want to burden anybody else with our own self-pity.

What I have come to realize is that there are some instances where the problems become so big, so heavy, that the load cannot be lifted by one person. Ideally, I should have talked to my therapist, but I am in the process of switching therapists and that was not an option. I did the next best thing. I turned to P and to my friend, people who I trust, who I care about deeply and who care about me. Bad weeks happen, it is inevitable.

Remember the little things. The point of existence, of living, of connection. The little things are your maybe. They are your chance. It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I can tell you that finding something to smile about every day can be hard, and the reminder from P is what sometimes exactly what I need to snap out of a funk. To remind me that there is always a maybe. This is why I am going to make it a goal to post daily Something to Smile About’s every day. Not everybody is as lucky as I am to have a P in their life, so if you need the reminder, don’t worry, I got you.

Xoxo,

Nicole Anna Francesca

Airports are my Inspiration….. Kind of.

The blue glowing numbers on the digital clock in the uber switch to 4:59 as you thank your driver, grab your suitcase and stumble into the brightly lit airport terminal. The sun isn’t even up yet, but the airport doesn’t care. Kids are running around, parents are stressfully trying to make sure that they have all their passports, and business people in neatly pressed suits sit with a cup of coffee in their hand, oblivious to the chaos happening around them.

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The view from my plane while flying over Italy.

My parents are avid travelers, and as a result I have been flying since before I could speak. When I was younger, the best part of the trip was often getting to be in an airport. There is something about the massive glass windows in airports and the way the light hits the sparkling tile floor that is so calming. An airport is an opportunity. An opportunity to go anywhere and do anything.

It is a portal to the rest of the world, one that can serve as a reminder of the vastness of our universe and all of the beauty in it. It is also a reminder that people aren’t all that different. Today we are bombarded with images of people from different cultures living lives that we feel are so different from ours. That changes though, when you see a woman in a hijab, and man from Mexico wearing a fanny pack with khaki shorts, and a Chinese teenager oblivious to the world scrolling through their phone, all standing in the same place, at the same time with the same goal. McDonalds.

That is the beauty of airports, they bring people from all walks of life together. I don’t think there is any place in the world that is as diverse as an airport.

(If I got 10 dollars for every time I typed the word “airport” in this post, I could definitely buy myself something nice.)

I flew home for Easter Break, after a rough week of tests, homework, and annoyingly obnoxious eating disorder thoughts running through my head. The night before I left, I made a deal with my eating disorder. Since I was travelling the next day, I wouldn’t need any energy so it was the perfect opportunity to take a day off from eating.

As I was sitting in the terminal doing some quality people watching and trying to convince myself I wasn’t hungry, I overheard a conversation between two flight attendants. They were talking about how excited they were to fly to Hong Kong. They were young, maybe 22 or 23? I started to think about how cool that would be, getting to travel the world and getting PAID while doing it? Sign me up yes please. Of course, that would mean that I would have to eat different food, food that is not safe to me, food that wasn’t carefully planned out by me.

My stomach started growling which immediately snapped me out of my traveling fantasy and threw me right back into the internal battle I was having with my eating disorder. Eat, don’t eat? Eat, don’t eat? I wish I could say I got up right then and bought myself breakfast, and refused to restrict food ever again because I was so inspired by these traveling flight attendants.  But I can’t, because that definitely did not happen.

I think one of the hardest things with eating disorder recovery is remembering that it is a constant battle, one that you can’t always win. What my airport experience did for me though, was remind me that there is more out there than the monster in my head controlling my every move. When I finally got home I made myself lunch and emailed my therapist about making a couple of extra sessions to try and get my recovery back on track. The ball was back in my court thanks to the airport. Eating Disorder -1, Nicole-1.

Engaging in your eating disorder is a form of instant gratification, a way to make yourself feel better in the moment. You will not feel better for long, and ultimately all it will do is lead you to feel even worse later. Fighting it, in the moment, feels like someone is stabbing you in the heart. In the long run, the only way to defeat your eating disorder is to fight.

Sometimes we need an airport moment to give us perspective, so that we can see that there is more to life than calories, weight and perfectionism. Find your own airport! Find somewhere you know you can go that will make you see things differently. It might be something as simple as petting a dog, or as drastic as moving to a commune in Fiji. (Okay, not really but you get what I am saying right?)

Remember that even if you don’t get the immediate epiphany you hoped for, you never know that moment might do for you in the long run.

Keep fighting even though it sucks,

xoxo,

Nicole Anna Francesca

p.s. I put off studying for my physics test to write this blog post and now I have to study. That is all, I just thought you should know.

Introducing Me

Ahhh my first blog post! Well anyway the picture you see is me, my name is Nicole (if you couldn’t tell by the website name.) IMG_2820

I am terrible at punctuation and grammar, please forgive me and also feel free to tell me if I need to fix that way something is written.

Okay now that I have that out of the way, I will tell you a little about myself. I am a freshman in college studying biomedical engineering on the pre-law track. My parents were born in Poland and moved to the US right before I was born. Basically I am super polish and 98% sure one of my first words was “KIELBASA.”

I am loud, really really loud, love performing and being around people. It is kind of ironic because I have social anxiety disorder, which makes it hard to be around people when I actually really like being around people. Confusing right?

Well that is not all folks, there is even more! I also have generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, moderate clinical depression, and an eating disorder. I used to be afraid to show the world exactly how much I had going on in my life, because I thought I was the only one. As I started opening up I realized that a lot of people deal with mental illness, but they are afraid to talk about it.

Being in college while also recovering from an eating disorder is hard, really hard. I want other people who are in college and struggling with mental illness in any way, shape, or form to know that they aren’t alone. YAH HEAR ME? YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Here is a look into my little corner of the universe.

xoxo,

Nicole Anna Francesca