The Big Brains

Ok, so you guys aren’t going to believe this but a new study came out and I am pretty sure it’s going to knock your pants off. So take a deep breath and get ready for this . . . . . .

Anorexics have bigger brains than their non-anorexics peers.

Yep, you read that right. A few curious researchers at the University of Colorado  got ahold of 41 adolescent girls (19 of them had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa) and stuck each one of girls in a monstrous MRI machine. After analyzing the results, they spotted something rather odd – the brains of the anorexic females had a larger insula as well as a pretty big orbitofrontal lobe.

Now before you head on off to another post (or even worse, another blog) because you have no idea what these big words are, give me a chance to explain what these things actually are. . .

Your brain’s insula can be found hanging out deep inside your temporal lobes. It’s job is to do stuff you really don’t have time to worry about, like controlling your blood pressure, keeping your heart beating,  motor control, and other autonomic functions.  That way you can continue to do the important things in life like stalk people on Facebook and play angry birds. But finally scientists are finding out that this itty bitty part of your brain actually plays a huge role in some other very important things. Scientists now believe that your insula is the head-honcho  when it comes to controlling social emotions. This include things like lust, humiliation, pride, empathy, and here’s the one I think you will find interesting – it actually reads bodily states like hunger and cravings as well as gets excited when you taste food. This obviously makes it a prime-suspect when it comes to researching one of the most merciless and deadly diseases out there – eating disorders.

The other part of the brain that was found to be abnormal in anorexics was the orbitofrontal lobe.  This fella can be found in the front of your brain and is responsible for helping you out with organizing bodily and environmental sensations, making decisions, and controlling reward mechanisms.  It also tells you to stop shoving your face with another serving of your mom’s meatloaf when your tummy feels like it’s nearly about to burst!

Now that you know what these two areas of the brain are responsible for, I bet your wondering how abnormalities in these areas could increase the risk or even cause one to develop an eating disorder. According to the authors of the study,  the peculiar size of these areas in the brains of anorexics could result in altered taste pleasantness and also cause an anorexic to stop eating before their bodies get the correct amount of nourishment they require.  Another interesting fact is that the insula is also responsible for one’s body image, which possibly explains why an anorexic perceives themselves as a huge ball of fat instead of a malnourished skeleton.

I don’t know about you, but I was quite thrilled when I read this article and did further research. I mean, this makes us one step closer to finding a more successful and effective treatment for eating disorders. Maybe one day there will be a pill or surgery we could have for our  instead of having to go through grueling hours of therapy and being forced to eat when we really don’t even want to look at a plate of food.

Just give it some time folks! There is hope!

Food: The Wonder Drug

Savory grilled salmon, that melts like butter as you put it in your mouth. Perfectly cooked brown rice with a dreamy, fluffy texture. Sweet carrots and bitter, but scrumptious, fresh broccoli. To most people this sounds like a heavenly, balanced meal. I am pretty sure most folks would have no problem licking their plates clean just to get every last euphoric taste if they were given the chance.

But to people with eating disorders, this meal is not a meal. It is a threat.

Just by looking at a plate of food, our palms become wet with salty perspiration and we can feel our hearts pounding underneath our chests. Our thoughts are racing as our brains impulsively try to accurately calculate the amount of calories, fat, and carbs found in each component of the meal. You would think our minds would take a much needed siesta after coming up with the approximate energy and macronutrient value of the meal, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Ours brains continue to hastily work themselves to the bone in order to strategize a complex plan on how much how each food we should ingest in order to meet our pre-arranged daily caloric allotment.

Sounds like a lot of work if I do say so myself  and it makes me wonder, why does food have to be this way? Why does it have to scare us? Why does it have to make us feel like curling up into a fetal position every time we place a bite in our mouth?

Nourishment is necessary for every single living creature on this very planet. We need it order to carry out the most basic bodily functions, like keeping our heart beating and our lungs breathing. Even if we are sitting on our behind 24/7 watching back-to-back episodes of The Office or Family Guy, we would still need the energy found in food just to keep us from well . . . . dying.

Somehow us ED folks aren’t mentally “programmed” to view food in this light. Instead of seeing food as something the must be part of daily life, we immediately equate nourishing our bodies with becoming fat, worthless, and all around not so wonderful person. But hey, I don’t know about you, but I seriously am not a fan of despising every once of my being just because I am performing an act that is a prerequisite for survival.

We need to stop seeing food as a poison that is going to transform us into some hideous hag and instead, see it as medicine. And not just any medicine, one of the most amazing and health-transforming drugs on the market today. Food can be used to cure and alleviate the symptoms of so many diseases that cripple one’s quality of life. A great example of this is the ketogenic diet for epilepsy. The ketogenic diet is basically a diet of nothing but fat (and just so you know the people on the ketogenic diet do not gain a single once just from being on this diet. Why? Because they are under the watchful eye of a dietitian and physician). The diet is believed to have an anti-convulsive effect on the body due to the fact is produces ketones in the blood. A vast majority of people who go on this dramatic nutrition regime report a dramatic decrease (and sometimes even a disappearance) in seizures even though many anti-seizure medications just weren’t working for them!

So think of food as YOUR medicine that will keep your body functioning at an optimal level. That way you can enjoy all life has to offer. Remember, we only have one life so we have to live it to the fullest. There’s no second chances and sorry to break it to you, but there never will be.

This Week’s Weigh-in

8:58am. That’s was the exact time my dad took a sharp left turn and pulled into the driveway of one of Aurora Hospital’s clinics. The clinic is a two story complex with a roof composed of hideous blueish-green panels and exterior walls made of brown and red bricks.  Around the perimeter of the clinic, are a few sad-looking bushes trapped in a sea of round gray rocks – a rather lackluster attempt at landscaping if I do say so myself. This clinic is home to Aurora’s outpatient vision center as well as some other random specialties, but it is also home to the dreaded Diabetes & Nutrition clinic. If you read this blog regularly I am sure you know what happens in here – it is where my fate is decided based on a damn number on the clinic’s electronic scale.

This week I somehow managed to maintain my weight. Of course, I am still considered underweight if you are going off of those ridiculous BMI charts . . . but hey, it’s a hell of a lot better than losing some pounds. I mean, if I lost another pound, I’ll be packing my bags and heading on off to some treatment center where I’ll have absolutely no control over my weight and food intake. All they do there is stuff you with food till you feel like you are going to vomit and force you to sit your ass on beat up couches.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound pretty enjoyable if you ask me . . .

So I am going to cooperate with my outpatient team and try to put on some pounds. I’m 15 and I haven’t even had my period yet so I guess that pretty much proves I am not at a healthy weight for my build and hey, I love kids and I want to have a family. But why does gaining weight have to as hard as all get out! I mean come on! I meet all these people who just complain nonstop about how they just can’t lose even gram and here I am, a girl who can lose weight without trying, attempting to do the exact opposite! It. is. so. frustrating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lite Dressing

You know that feeling when you just want to give up? When you just want to grab a knife and starting cutting your skin till a river of blood oozes down your limbs? When you just want to die?

Well, that’s the feeling that is consuming me right now and it’s all because of a damn bottle of lite Annie’s dressing.

My story begins with me nonchalantly writing a grocery list, neatly organized in columns based on food group. As my dad grabbed the list and began to make his way out the door, I remember I had forgotten to write down my favorite salad dressing, Annie’s Lite Goddess. I run over in my fuzzy purple rope to inform him of this mistake and to ask him if he could add that to the list. As I told him what I wanted, he literally had a conniption!

“Why do you need lite salad dressing?!?!?” he demanded.

I tried to tell him that that salad dressing was healthier and lighter in artery-clogging saturated fats, but he wanted to hear nothing of it! I mean, I just don’t understand why he had to through such a fit! It is not like that dressing is free of calories. Actually, it contains a reasonable 60 calories per a two tablespoon serving as well as 5 gram of total fat  (which by the way, is considered a fat serving if you are going by the exchange system)!

I don’t understand why this is the cross they long to die on. I have been eating and actually I have been eating quite well. My belly constantly feels bloated and begs me to refrain from ingesting food, but I still do it. Not for me or my health, but so my parents can stop constantly being disappointed in me.

I wish they would just fucking realize that I am trying because after this, I don’t see the point in fighting ED much longer.

Ballerina

Sometimes I will sit and just look at pictures of ballerinas. I’ll glaze longingly at their elaborate leotards decorated with intricate embroidery and sparkly sequence. I observe their faces, so peaceful and yet so focused on moving their slender bodies with grace. Ever so often I will close my eyes and pretend I am that ravishing ballerina, dancing so confidently on stage.

But my daydreams of dancing are as far as I am ever going to get to actually wearing my own leotard and tutu.

Whenever I express this aspiration to my parents, they cut it down as if they were lumberjacks throwing their axe at a tree. They tell me dance will only exasperate my eating disorder, they tell me I am too old to put on ballet slippers, they tell me they will never allow me to set foot in a studio. All in all, they dismiss my dream as nothing but a mere childish fantasy.

But I believe that dance will help me in so many ways. It will certainly rebuild my confidence and self-esteem. Plus it will allow me to experience first-hand one of the most renowned forms of classical art there is today.

Unfortunately though, I am left to just keep on dreaming and hope that one day my parents will allow me to pursue something I always longed for.  . .  

Mother and Anorexic Daughter

Yesterday morning seemed as long and unending as the dark blue waters of the ocean. It began with me being dragged to my psychiatrist for an incredibly early 8 am appointment. In his clinical-appearing, disheveled office, I was weighed and interrogated. Now let me get this straight, my shrink is pretty caring guy. I know he only wants me to get better, but when people start asking me things like “how did you challenge yourself since I saw you last?” or “have you tried any new foods?” I get a little threatened. Mostly because I just don’t know how to answer them and even if I did, I don’t think I would trust him enough to tell him such details . . .
After my shrink conducted his through investigation, I was free to leave. Believe me, by this point, I was absolutely desperate to do something I enjoyed. That way at least one of the final days of summer would be relatively pleasurable.

So I did something I rarely even attempt to do. I asked my mom to take me shopping and to my surprise she actually ceased doing her tedious job tasks and took me! We stopped at a few thrift stores and I found a cute lime green bohemian top. Then we headed over to Old Navy where I was able to find some cute skirts and tops. I will admit I did get a little anxious. I kept thinking that when I would try on the clothes they wouldn’t fit. Not because they would be too tight, but they would be too big. My mom gets upset I think when clothes that should fit, make me look like I am wearing an oversized potato bag. I believe it is then that she realizes that I am still struggling. But it’s not like I can get better overnight. Recovery is a process, not a quick fix. I just got to keep reminding myself that so I don’t get discouraged when I see the pain on my parent’s face.

A Different Life

Sometimes I wonder what my life would of been like if I was born in a different family. With a different name. A different mother. A different life…

Maybe I would have a mom who was there for me and whose job never came before her loved ones. Maybe I would be a young ballerina, dancing with fluidity and grace across some of most lovely stages. Maybe, just maybe, a beautiful smile would stretch across my face and I would be happy.

But unfortunately I haven’t been dealt those cards in life. I have a mom who barely has enough time to talk to me on the phone. My parents both have forbidden me from ever wearing a leotard and pointe shoes ( due to the fact they believe ballet causes anorexia. What idiots). And a true smile is something that is seen on my face rarely.

But I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. I have two parents who have good jobs. I have food on the table and I go to a relatively good school. That’s a hell of a lot better than half of the other folks living in this world. Maybe my situation isn’t ideal, but if I think about it, it could be quite possible that it has made me a stronger, more independent young woman. I have learned that I can’t depend on others to get me what I need. I have figured that if I want something in life, I better get off my ass and go for it. These are all important skills. Skills that will help me get out of this house and catch my dreams.