National Eating Disorders Association
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June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the successes and gifts of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities. As this month of celebration comes to a close it is the perfect time to reflect on the next steps if we want to keep making our world a safer, more just place for LGBTQ people. One important set of next steps is to build awareness and action related to eating disorders prevention among the most marginalized LGBTQ communities, including transgender and gender diverse people. 

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Ramadan is like a Spiderman movie.

I wait anxiously all year for its release. Once it arrives, it ends way too quickly. Afterwards, however, I am happy knowing that, inevitably, there will always be next year.

If you’re not a Spiderman fan (but...but...James Franco!), just fill in with your choice of Avengers/Harry Potter spinoff/Emma Watson project.

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Getting to the Root Cause to Treat Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are rarely solely related to abnormal or disturbed eating habits. In fact, eating disorders are rarely even about food. As an integrative medicine practitioner with over thirty years of experience in treating eating disorders, knowing the root cause of eating disorders like bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia is critical to developing an effective treatment plan for patients. 

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From an early age, I knew that I loved deeply. I loved people in a way that felt like too much at times. I had names for every single one of my stuffed animals and I'd always buy them used because I felt like I had to save all of the orphans that were being given away. Growing up in a big family, I never felt alone. My three brothers and two sisters would keep me company and I always had someone to play with. It wasn't until the end of 5th grade when I learned how to play by myself—not because I didn't have friends, but because I felt safer being by myself.

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I remember the magic of my first cross-country season back in 7th grade. I remember how running felt more like playing. How I literally laughed as I ran, because I was having so much fun. How races were adventures between me and my teammates. 

I remember so clearly, because this free-spirited joy in running now feels elusive. In high school, the pressure to perform in order to get recognized by college coaches is high. Once in college, the competition is fierce, sometimes even amongst teammates. Perhaps most insidious is the underlying belief that thin = fast.

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Perfectionism is often a trait of many folks who are in recovery from eating disorders, including me. My childhood traumas left me feeling flawed, inherently bad, and not good enough for anyone. I believed that if I was a “good girl” and excelled at all things, my life would be better. 

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There have been many moments in my life when I have questioned if I am lovable. My belief about what being lovable looked like began when I was a toddler and realized I'd much rather play with the boys than be around the girls. As we aged together I began to feel rejected as some of the boys uttered, “You can’t play with us. You’re a girl!” The words, “You’re a girl” would be repeated by many others as I grew into my young adult years. Each time was another blow to my gut, knocking the wind out of my body and leaving me feeling lost, broken, and unaccepted.

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The relationship between eating disorders and depression is a complex problem to understand, treat, and research. The parable of the three blind men who encounter an elephant illustrates the problem faced by patients and their providers. It is easy to misperceive that the elephant is only a long hose (trunk), a rope (tail), or the side of a building (body), depending upon which part of the elephant you encounter. People with eating disorders force us to face our collective confusion about the nature of treatment and intervention.  

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I remember the first time a dentist told me I might need dentures. I was barely 30 years old. I couldn’t believe it. I knew my teeth were bad. I knew that eating disorders were to blame. But dentures? Me? Seriously? 

I had always had great teeth growing up. I wore braces as a teenager and took good care of my teeth. My family and friends used to tell me all the time that I had a beautiful smile. 

But bulimia and anorexia took all that away. My beautiful smile was gone. Literally.  

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I used to become so depressed that I would hate myself for every little thing I perceived as a flaw. I'd spend hours daily making lists of the things I needed to work on and the things that just weren't right about me. This constant battle in my head left me never feeling good enough. I'd toss and turn in bed some nights wondering what I could do to just see myself as perfect. 

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