A Complete 360

So this morning I woke up and read yesterday’s entry. You know, the one where I am basically droning on and on about how absolutely dreadful schooling is? Well, after reading that, I’ve realized that in the past 24 hours I’ve had a change of heart.

Now I find myself slightly excited to enter the doors of the building I just recently dubbed a prison. How can this possibly be? I think it is because yesterday morning, I went to school registration. I honestly was not too happy about it, but then once I completed registering myself, I walked down a wide, empty hallway in the back of school. Then I made a sharp left, turning into a large, slightly disorganized room filled with computers and a conference table. This room was known as the student lounge for a charter school I attend in the afternoon and I knew that the teachers from the charter school would be there. For some reason that I can’t explain, I wanted to say hello.

In the back of the room I saw the curly hair of Mrs. U and the tan Italian skin of Mrs. M. They both had their eyes glued to a single computer screen, obviously trying to get some important, last-minute task accomplished. I timidly walked up to them and in my mousy, slightly childish voice, I said hello. They both turned to me and a smile immediately stretched across each of their faces. Mrs. M, a strict but fair disciplinarian, instantly greeted me with a hug. For a good 10 minutes I chatted with them about my summer and my favorite science-based documentaries I viewed on YouTube. After the chat, I felt the anxiety and stress about the upcoming school year melt away. Sure, it may be true that I am trapped in school for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but at least I will get to enjoy those hours with teachers who actually care.

This experience shows that one CAN drastically modify their thought process just by exposing themselves to the stimulus that is producing strong, negative emotions (anger, frustration, anxiety, and fear for example). What I found was interesting though is that I did not expose myself to the exact stimulus (which would be school not school registration) resulting in my feelings. Instead I exposed myself to a stimulus (school registration) that was slightly lower-key, but similar to main stimulus. By doing this I was able to ease my anxiety about the main stimulus. I believe this can directly relate to eating disorders and recovering from them. You see, the stimulus that invokes negative emotions is food or food-related situations (like going out to a restaurant). If an eating disorder patient is exposed maybe to a stimulus that is less stressful, but related to the main stimulus, then it could cause the patient to experience less strong negative emotions about the main stimulus.

So for a quick summary, the only way for us eating disorder patients to get better is if we actively play a role in our own recovery and face our fears. For example, some of us (including me) are extraordinarily fearful of fat in foods. This may be due to the fact that we realize fat it is the most energy-dense macronutrient or because nutrition science in America has falsely accused dietary fat as the main cause of people being fat. Whatever the reason may be, the only way to overcome this dreadful fear is by exposing ourselves to fat. I am not saying you go out and grab some of KFC’s disgusting fried chicken or ingest a glob of lard. Doing this would probably result in  a fierce panic attack which would cause you to form an even strong aversion to fat. Instead maybe you could pick a food that just has one measly gram of fat and taste a little bit of it. After a little awhile, see if your shirt still fits and your pants aren’t any snugger. I know you’ll find that your body is EXACTLY the same as it was BEFORE you consumed the food that contains little fat. By doing this exercise and repeating it regularly, you’ll begin to start feeling less of the negative emotions invading your mind.  Maybe as you get less fearful of a food that contain 1 gram of fat, you could try eat a slice of reduced-fat cheese or a tad bit of low-fat dressing. Eventually you’ll find yourself able to ingest foods that DO contain fat without feeling like you want to curl up into a fetal position and cry for hours.

This obviously will take a lot of time and dedication, but NOTHING that is worth it in this world comes easy.  We are ALL strong and we can ALL do this.

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