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Battling Anorexia Postpartum

Battling Anorexia Postpartum

Introducing our newest mom author Jenya. 34 year old mom of two boys, Walter (6) and Stanley (2). Jenya lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada but was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec.

I’m Jenya and I never thought I would be Anorexic.

I always thought anorexia was only about body image; not wanting to be fat, or gain weight. So people who were anorexic were those who just didn’t eat.

There was a movie I once saw when I was a teenager, it was about two young girls who were anorexic. I remember watching it and thinking, never me! Ew that’s gross! Can’t that girl see how skinny she is?! What’s wrong with her?! Why won’t she just eat?!

Looking back, I can see just how much I was judging this female character in this movie and I’ve come to realize….  be careful of what you judge, it says more about you than the other person. What you dislike in others is simply a reflection of what also lies within you.

My relationship with food early on in life was not a healthy relationship. Let me explain. As a child, I was a picky eater. Plain Jane, you could say. I ate very little. My mom would make me separate meals from the rest of the family. This would upset my dad and he often said, I ate “like a bird”. That comment to this day still haunts me.   

I was always a petite girl and my dad often made body image comments to me and my twin sister. As I grew and became a teenager, he would put his hands around my waist and say “What are you, a size zero?” My dad said it in a way that made it seem a size zero was a good thing.

I remember a time when I was around six years old. I was hungry after eating some raspberries. I wanted more to eat, but I didn’t mention anything at all to my parents. I just  kept quiet. Side story,  I did experience abuse, so I thought keeping quiet was a way to stay safe.

When I was six, my parents split up and my siblings and I stayed with my mother. Many things were broken in this house, one of them was the oven door. It would literally come off the hinges if you tried to open it. My mother was hesitant to let us cook because the stove was broken. She only trusted herself to use it. That being said, I myself didn’t do much cooking or baking growing up. Infact, I was often pushed out of the kitchen rather than pulled in to help with meal preparations.

We rarely sat at the dinner table as a family. My mom was a single mother, so frozen food became the normal option as a teenager.

Something that disturbs me is that I rarely saw my mom eat. She never really sat down with us at meal times and we often ate our meals in front of the TV. My mom was an alcoholic and often left food out overnight that would have to be thrown away. I believe this environment was not set up to establish healthy eating habits, but rather the opposite.
 

When I was 13 and in grade eight, one of my best friends who I looked up to was a star soccer player. I just knew she was going to amount to something. She lived in a beautiful home, in a beautiful neighbourhood and was a very talented soccer player and all around athlete. She ended up getting a soccer scholarship to the United States after high school. She was everything I wasn’t. I admired her so much!

One day at lunch, I saw her dump out her lunch straight into the trash. It shocked me. I mean she didn’t even open the bag to see what was in it. She didn’t care about what anyone was going to say to her or what they thought. She just threw her lunch out in the garbage as if it were garbage. Other times, she had these strict diets. This was all she was going to eat, nothing less and nothing more. I was so impressionable as a teenager. I was a follower. It was then I found myself skipping meals for the first time in my life. I would go six hours without eating anything and be proud of that. And when I told my athletic friend about it, she got mad at me. I didn’t understand why, but she seemed disappointed.

I noticed that when I would have break ups with boyfriends, not eating anything became my habit. Eating would be the first thing to go when I was depressed or stressed out in life.

When I was 18, my taste buds exploded and I enjoyed eating. I started to experiment with cooking for the first time ever, even with our (still) broken stove at home. I wanted to eat and I wanted to cook.

I myself have struggled with alcohol and addiction issues. From the age of 15-34 I struggled to cook and nourish my body properly. Partying and getting numb, was a priority for a long time and I’ve noticed that when I’m using, I don’t eat.

When I became a mom at the age of 28, I had not only myself to cook for but now, a family to nourish. This scared the shit out of me. I remember resorting to frozen foods, take out, drive through, and McDonald’s on the regular. I remember living with my husband while being pregnant and thinking, f**k, he doesn’t cook at all. It’s all on me. This stressed me out to the point of anorexia.

I had really bad postpartum when my firstborn son Walter was born. Becoming a mom totally rocked my world. I didn’t ease into motherhood. It was an extremely challenging and difficult, hard transition for me. I was breastfeeding the baby and I couldn’t feed myself. Instead of feeding myself when Walter was down for naps, I slept. I started smoking pot and cigarettes chronically to escape or cope with the reality of having a baby to look after. The stress of being a mom, the biggest responsibility on the entire planet, seemed too much for me to bear. So I smoked my brains out to cope. 

In doing this, my appetite suppressed. I stopped eating. I was eating only one meal a day, dinner. Even when I was starving during the day, I wouldn’t eat. I was living with my husband’s parents at that time and the thought of just showing my face to them in the shared kitchen area just haunted me. So I started isolating myself in the house and stopped eating, while still breastfeeding. And we all know that babies take everything from you when you are breastfeeding.

When I gave birth to Walter I weighed 180lbs. When Walter was seven- eight months old I stopped breast feeding him. I stepped on the scale for the first time since giving birth and I weighed 103lbs. I had lost 77lbs in almost eight months. I haven’t weighed that much since I was a young teenager. That scared the living crap out of me. I knew I needed help.  

I started to reflect on the past eight months and then my life in general with regards to food. Some of the warning signs that I was anorexic were….

1) Skipping meals. And not just once or twice, but skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner sometimes regularly.

2) Instead of having meals, I would only have snacks. A banana, a granola bar, yogurt or a shake of some sort.

3) I couldn’t handle big meals anymore. The only thing I could eat in the morning was fruit, then about two hours later after eating the fruit I could eat toast, or bread.

4) My emotions started to get the best of me. I was losing control over my emotions. I was starting to cry a lot and getting angry quicker than usual. Things were starting to bother me that didn’t normally bother me. I was intolerable to a lot of things, people and places.

5) I was tired a lot and I had less energy.

6) I would clean rather than eat. I would do any other chore around the house other than eat.

7) Clothes started to not fit me anymore.

When I was anorexic a normal day felt like this:

1) I was angry a lot. I was impatient, more snappy with my husband and Walter. I was mad all the time. I was very aggressive. I started being violent, breaking things by smashing glasses on the floor or slamming doors and cupboards. I was always yelling. I was so angry all the time that even when I did eat I aggressively shoved food into my mouth.

2) I was embarrassed to have anyone see me eat. I hated people watching me while I ate. I would get upset with my husband if he watched me eat. I would yell at him to stop looking at me. I only wanted to eat alone.

3) I hated myself. I was so depressed, I isolated myself from everyone. I felt completely alone. I felt ashamed. I felt like I didn’t matter. I felt disgusted with myself.

4) If I ate big meals I would naturally throw it up sometimes because my stomach couldn’t handle it.

5) If I ate anything, it was fruit, popsicles or freezies for breakfast, then toast. It was really hard for me to eat during the day while my son was awake, but when he went down for the night, and he slept through the night, it was as if a weight of stress was lifted off my shoulders completely. And that’s when my appetite would kick in. As soon as Walter was asleep I would eat big meals and always wanted more than one meal. The meals were always something my husband made because I was no longer cooking at all.

6) I would feel very dizzy and would have to hold on tight to something to keep me balanced from falling over or fainting. I literally had no energy.

7) I wanted to sleep ALL THE TIME.

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8) I cried a lot.

9) I had suicidal thoughts often.

How can family and friends help?

If a mom in your life is suffering from anorexia here are some things I recommend you do to help. 

1. Make them nutritious home cooked meals that they can freeze. Casseroles, pastas, chiliis, lasagnas, chicken and rice, stir fry’s, veggies and rice. I always wanted someone to cook for me because I simply couldn’t cook for myself. It was as if I wanted someone to nourish and care for me because I didn’t care about myself.

2. Don’t wait to see them eat. Let them take the food and eat when they want to. Make sure they understand there is no pressure to eat it now.   

3. Keep making food and bringing it to them. If they have kids, make food for the kids too.

4. Don’t ask to talk about their condition unless you have been through it. Don’t offer advice on it unless you have been through it and can  offer some experience, strength and hope.

5. Point it out to them that they are losing a lot of weight and that you notice. The truth can hurt but it shall set you free. SECRETS KEEP YOU SICK, and condoning this behaviour isn’t helping. Pretending everything is okay when it’s not, isn’t helping. You don’t have to ask them to talk about it. All I suggest you do is point it out that you are basically not stupid and you know they are struggling and it’s at a point that others are starting to notice too. This may help in waking them up. 

6. Always offer that you are there if they want to talk to you after you point out the weight loss. Then tell them that you love them and they are worthy of your love.
If they open up to you, offer to take them to a doctor’s appointment. They don’t have to go through this alone. You got their back through and through.

I realized that when I’m stressed out in life, food is the first thing to go. My anorexia was not about body image. It was about stress. Not being in a relaxed state so that I could enjoy a meal. I was always stressed out and therefore, I was never relaxed enough to sit down and enjoy a meal. For me, cooking is such a spiritual act. Cooking and eating is a high form of self love. I wasn’t trying to lose weight or to look a certain way. I was anxious and my anxiety didn’t allow me to eat. That’s when I realized anorexia is so much more than the stereotype reason of just wanting to lose weight.
 
Recovery started when I scared the f**k out of myself. Weighing in at 103lbs was scary. Recovery started in my deepest despair. Recovery started when I was desperate. Desperate to not feel that way anymore- no energy, angry and suicidal.

Recovery started when I got rigorously  honest with myself and another human being- my husband. Recovery started when I asked for help and called my family doctor. Recovery began when I started counseling, telling all my family and friends the truth about my anorexia. I’ll say it again, SECRETS KEEP YOU SICK. THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE.

Anorexia is something I need to be aware of throughout my life. I’m not out of the woods. I know in life when I get stressed out and take on too much, I tend to start skipping meals.

Healthy me, understands that anorexia is in me and it can come out and take over when I’m not doing well in life. The very first sign is me skipping meals. It’s not about wanting to be skinny for me. It’s about stress, anxiety, and depression. When I’m in those negative head spaces in life that’s when anorexia creeps in. Healthy me knows the signs. Healthy me intervenes the moment I start skipping meals. 

Today, I cook, for me and my family. I eat every two hours. I have a fast metabolism and eating frequently helps to keep my energy levels up. Whether it’s an apple, some nuts or yogurt, these are my snacks before my three meals a day. I love eggs for breakfast, I love dinner time and eating at the table as a family. I love including my kids in meal prep and eating together. Eating at the same time is something I strive for along with having my kids see me eat.

It’s not just one thing that keeps me healthy. It’s all these little things stacked on top of each other that keep me thriving.

Healthy me has a supportive network of family and friends. I put myself out there to get the support I need. I don’t wait for things to come to me, I go out and get it.

Happiness looks great on me, happiness looks good on you too. Happiness looks fabulous on everybody. 

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