Anorexia and the Window of Tolerance

Warning: “informative read” aka kind of boring but really good insight #ifimaysaysomyself….

Anorexia Nervosa is physically visible as a disease of bodily malnourishment, and can be easily spotted in a struggling individual. Physical markers like shockingly low weight, gaunt face, cold hands and feet, inability to focus, among others, are easy to spot. However, the deeper seated malnourished inside the mind hides more than only the body shows. The psychological turmoil faced by those suffering ranges from abuse, trauma, pain, lack of control, a poor or non-existent self-worth, and more. Overall, the suppression of pain has been cultivated by the anorexic, in order to survive a life circumstance. Of the many causes, the reaction is the same, and can be expressed as an inability to stay within a symbolically thin window of tolerance. Mindfulness, and reconnecting with the lost sense of self as one learns to reacquaint themselves with safety in their own presence is key in healing from Anorexia Nervosa.

Trauma, regardless of the avenue experienced, is something many of us face in our lives. Through evolutionary coping mechanisms that instill a survival instinct, we engage in dissociation as a protective means to attempt to find peace and to live on. An eating disorder manifests in this way, by means of coping and controlling external stimuli when feeling out of locus of control. The Anorexic feels forced to dissociate from their body, to not live inside it, but to hover on the outside, where they feel safely disconnected from the source of trauma and pain. This is a very wise way in which to survive pain and threat, and is defined as the Fight or Flight response. The Fight response directly speaks to a feeling of emotional overwhelm, panic, feeling unsafe, angry, racing thoughts and anxiety. This can be named the state of “hyper-arousal”, and is a state of coping where we have left our window of the tolerable level of trauma experience in our lives, and are in overdrive of engagement. By contrast, hypo-arousal, the “flight” response, is where the individual numbs themselves, disconnecting from painful thoughts, engaging in feelings of shame and diving into a deep, isolating depression. It should be noted that both states cultivate a sense of isolation, as an Eating Disorder originates from feeling unsafe in one’s own body. And so, by receding from contact, the Anorexic is seeking to blanket themselves away from harm’s way.

Conversely, the happy window of tolerance that is to be cultivated for a physically and psychologically healthy individual is one that can be described as a condition where one finds it easy to carry on with daily life in a state of well being. When this window is in an appropriate range, life’s challenges are easy to cope with. When the window shrinks through dissociation, receding, numbing and when survival mode kicks in, many events are triggers into dissociation from the body, and the coping mechanisms harnessed are engaged. For anorexics, this being self-starvation.

Although the causes range drastically of why trauma occurred that shook the person so much that they found life to be unsafe, the idea of suppression and dissociation are always present. This is why the healing process must include a reintegration of the self back inwards. Emotional resilience results from a deep sense of connection with one’s needs, and is in a healthy state of balance within a range of tolerance when the boundaries of one’s limits are known, and able to be recognized in the present moment. Physical markers by form of body signals are shown, such as a rapid pulse, body temperature, observing racing thoughts, cold or hot flashes, restlessness or a sense of apathy. When these informative feelings surface, it is important to acknowledge them, and to reflect upon their source. This is the beginning of cultivating a sense of mindfulness back into the body, when the Anorexic has made it an innate habit to shut off the mechanisms of feeling emotions. By using meditative and mindfulness techniques, the healing journey can begin, and slowly, compoundedly, the Anorexic will gain awareness that the coping mechanisms that once saved them are no longer needed, as the threat is gone. In this way, the window of tolerance will widen, when occurrences are no longer seen as threats to one’s safety. A deep sense of ease will be reinstilled into one’s life, fuelled by an unwavering sense of self-knowledge, self-trust, and calamity to face life’s challenges. As this process takes place, the coping of self-starvation will slowly be weaned. Techniques like yoga, meditation, Qi gong, reflection, journaling, focusing on the breath, psychological therapy, and art expression are all means though which grounding self-knowledge provides a healing space to recover from loss of self, and from a life outside one’s shrunken window of tolerance.

Anorexia Nervosa is a debilitating illness, whose cause has a multitude of trauma. However, manifestation in dissociation from one’s body, and a loss of sense of self are all present and necessary in order for the disease to form patterns in the Anorexic. By becoming aware of the self through methods like Yoga, Mindfulness, Meditation, Qi Gong, talk-therapy, journaling, reflection, art therapy and more, an Anorexic is able to widen their window of tolerance and learn to feel safe in the world. As this regrounding process takes place, the window of tolerance widens, and one can slowly learn to end the coping cycle of self-starvation. The hope of recover is something that every hurt person needs, and getting support through this process is integral to a wholesome recovery. Pain is not a feeling that is enjoyable to experience, but by observing it and trusting in the self to overcome it, life becomes more safe. It is not that we tolerate more pain; it is that fewer of life’s challenges cause us to lose our ground, as fewer are experienced as pain. Knowing thyself is the gift of liberation, and there is hope.

Sources:

“Mindfulness And The Window Of Tolerance”. St. Michael’s Hospital Mental Health (2017): n. pag. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.

Melanie Sakowski is a Holistic Nutritionist, a Yoga Instructor, a Triathlete and an Eating Disorder warrior on a healing journey in Toronto. She believes in the power of self-connection through mind-body work in a holistic view of wellness, and looks forward to helping others heal from trauma through a multifaceted approach to wellness.

Where I’m at Now

There are so many stories about post-recovery from dis-ease, and here’s one for the now of dis-ease. Being in The Storm is meritable, valid and crucial. The “in-shit”, not the “aha”that comes through healing. What about the pain in healing? I’ve struggled with eating disorders of all sorts for years. I am currently in a bout of depression, keeping afloat, finding peace within me, tempted by escapism and distraction albeit, but aided through therapy to return to the source, myself, to heal.

Lack of self-love and compassion are so harmful, especially when cultivated compoundedly, and one day, they avalanche into presence, and you don’t know how they built up because you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s so easy to continue with routine and avoidance, but half a life is not Life, not My Life.

There is so much wonderful information about the recovery process and causes of eating disorders. My roots lie in lack of self-love, lack of meaningful self-attachment, lack of self-purpose and pain avoidance as a form of survival. Ultimately, I’m “holding on”, attempting at an obtuse way to control where I feel I am out of control in other aspects of life. I’ve read Pema Chodron’s book “When things fall apart” recently, and her theme is that of groundlessness. This is the essence of life, not grasping on to solidity, not striving for consistency or any form of permanence. To breathe though all the shit and be. I have to believe that I am worth nurturing, worth thriving, worth a whole life.

Eating disorders, after all, are never about the food. With the visible symptoms of weight and food, it’s so easy to falsely blame source, but symptoms aren’t cause. Like Eastern medicine; Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both reach for the sources of illness, which lie deep within. Oh fuck, that’s The Work. In the Now. Right now, I had a controlled morning, a controlled breakfast, a controlled schedule. I have been doing 60 min spins on my indoor trainer since returning from my Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course (of which I stayed 3 days because #O#%*@&#$!!!!). I was doing little runs, like I had done in New Zealand, but my body wasn’t accustomed to the pavement and Brimley hill, and spoke in form of a calf strain. Body isn’t recovering well because I stand in the way via not loving myself enough to properly treat my whole self. And so, I spin first thing in the morning. I woke up hungry, and rode through it after taking a Ginseng shot from Xiaolan, a Chinese Medicine goddess in Toronto (an inspirational woman to my being, to the Healer I will become as I heal myself). Breakfast was a “smoothie bowl” with Vega pro and peanut butter, but so diluted because man, ultimately, a damn protein powder smoothie bowl isn’t real food to my body. Real food is how I will intuit my needs and properly fuel, instead of monotonously following routined habit because it is “safe”. This is fear based, because I am afraid of leaving the safe level of comfort with myself that I’ve chosen. The “safe” liking of myself that dictates the set point at which I choose to live my life and treat myself day in- to day end. Wow, fuck eh. That’s it. The thermostat switch needs to change right thur.

I am slowly doing little acts of self-care, and believing that I deserve it. Fuck all this hippie spiritual non-consumerism sometimes because I really feel good in my new silk dress (although as I love myself more, my ass will look more apple-bummed and nicely “jolly” in it). I give myself the space to be human in this lifetime, in this consumerist age. It doesn’t mean that I am less spiritually grounded or rubbish like that. Although I’ve taken a break from social media; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all of which I had abused and was blinded into thinking that those relationships were real, when really they were void-filling. I see that these resources can be tools, just as Mind is a tool. My left hand pines for the phone to scroll on insta while eating, but I am reminding myself constantly to “use my mind” instead. Mindfully respect myself and food while I eat. I see how I treat food as a void filling my attachment needs (to self, to others, to purpose), and it is so easy to fall into habit of self-blinding when it hurts the most to accept where I am at, right NOW. Fuck, right now I have a bit of indigestion, and want to expend my being into something, to FEEL, and so I write. I am a little bloated after breakfast, because I know my set-point of Self-love has been hyper-vigilantly controlled after my morning spin – it’s like I am now able to maintain that “threshold pace” for the day after starting on that note. I am close to changing, to choosing Yoga in the morning instead of spinning. My legs are so tired from spinning and I don’t enjoy it. I love running, and want to heal so that I can run and do it out of enjoyment rather than compulsivity. To settle in the groundlessness of not knowing how the world will be tomorrow, maybe I run, maybe I don’t.   To love myself enough to trust in the adaptation process. To have my drives stem from a place of utterly compassionate self-love and a deep desire for self-care. That’s why I didn’t aimlessly walk around today, aimlessly trek downtown, aimlessly take my laptop to the plaza’s lib or employment services centre to punch out this post or to distractedly read or scroll though twitter feed. To side-tab endlessly at Craigslist job postings that I deep down know aren’t pursposed for me right now, healing is priority. I am so keen to help others and be of service, but see this at the time as a way to distract myself from healing Me. As I heal, I will be able to help so much, to give, to work, to be around others at this vibrational level in a balance of giving, receiving, wholesomely. It’s 10:17am, and in my head I know I’m counting down the time until lunch, kind of. I see how I fill my time with emptying and filling, as a means to play out a supposed life in the set-point I am at. I wish to raise my self-love set-point. I am starting with breath and awareness.

No phone at the table.

Compassionate shoulder-melting

Finding my “still-pointed awareness” prior to meals

Connecting, meaningfully to others that uplift me

Seeking inspiration from other Wild Women

Slowly letting go; cultivating curiosity with letting go of my “anchors” that aren’t serving me

Using muscle testing when I am uncertain of my path

Trusting that the universe has my back

Petting Cleocatra

Dear little Melanie,

I love you,

I’m sorry,

Please forgive me,

Thank you.

Raw Vulnerability

Inspired by Brené…and also because #YOLO

Things I know:

  • The gut produces like, 95% (or something) of our serotonin (happydrug)
  • The vata dosha is air, and imbalance is demonstrated by gas, bloating, bad shits
  • GERD and hyperacidity are calmed with wholesome grainy foods that “soak up and soothe”
  • I am “constipated” although I shit like 5 times a day
  • My running stitch that’s been chronic for the past 2 years now is definitely factored by constipation, hyperacidity, GERD, burps, and dishonouring my body’s intuitive eating needs, as well as stress
  • I hold stress in my body, stomach, in form of tension and this also wreaks havoc on the body, disabling calm bowels and deep breathing (causing chest breath)
  • Breath is Life force, Prana, Ojas, Qi: the more deeply I breathe, the longer I live, the fucking better I live, the better I feel
  • A good, solid shit is like, the gift from GOD (DONTDENY)
  • I feel so damn alive after a good, healthy run in nature, and darkoclockismyjam #iownallthestreets #butwhenimovetoBCiwillbehumbledbythequiettrailsofthebirdsbeesandbears #yikes
  • I fucking love puns
  • When I let go of control, I liberate myself
  • I want a community, I want to host retreats with like-minded people who together work for a cause of healing others, and I want to be financially stable through this endeavour, honouring my needs, healing my family, people in the rat race of cell-phone dependence and lack of self-awareness and connection with others, and I want them all to have customized coffee mugs with a great pun made by YoursTruly out of which we sip our tea (orwine) around bonfires, hugging trees in lieu of #ShinrinYoku

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I am now a certified Holistic Nutritionist after completing a course from New Zealand.

I am understanding to the point of nauseating monkeyminding overanalyzing of what I need to do in order to fuel well and feel good.

I am literally standing in my own way of happiness.

I watch how I fill myself with fibrous veg, while posting on instagram about “carb appropriate”, and yet I don’t want to feel good enough to thrive. I sacrifice feeling “#WELLTH” (whatevsMr.Waschob…butlikeyourecoolnstuff) for habit of filling up on green beans and balsamic vinegar. I know how to cook a damn fineasschanamasala, but find it challenging to eat based on effectiveness and less bulk because I rely on the eating process for my “high” in life (ever get “fear of finished meal syndrome”? GaborMatédoes I am watching how I get this. And man, it’s all CONTROL-BASED: being stuck in the vicious cycle of training (defuel), and eating (refuel) to satiate my addiction of busyingmyselfsothatiFeelAlive.

That’s it:

I

WANT

TO

FEEL

ALIVE.

Julie Daniluk said this in a talk she presented at the Hay House summit years ago in relation to Bulimia – the simple desire to FEEL. And then comes forgiveness, all I fucking want is to feel.

So then, Monkey Minding Mel, what do you need in order to feel good without this rubbish way of unliving?

We all deserve: Compassion, unconditional self-love and to feel good.

I want desperately to help others, and I am awakening to the need to first help myself. I don’t know what it’ll take in order for me to trust that I want to feel good. I don’t like living in Scarborough, isolated from community and wherearethepeoplewhogetwhatisaywhenimentionTheUniverseandEnergyandtrailrunningfomo?!

I want to be in BC, but I don’t want to run away from myself anymore. New Zealand was phenomenal, but it taught me that in my search to “find myself”, I couldn’t look outside of myself. I must sit and look inwards. Do the “little Melanie”, inner-child work, meditate on it? Fuck. The Work: capital W.

Who get’s this shit?

Here’s to a Raw and Vulnerable post, the Good Shit (pleaseletsallhaveagoodshit).

I’m totally screwed for one hell of a ride come mid-Nov for my 10 day silent meditation retreat: Vipassana.

Challo, omies xo

Miso Salmon Recipe

Ever since I tried the Miso Black Cod at Susur Lee’s restaurant downtown Toronto, miso in love with it I’ve been remaking it with more affordable and sustainable fish.

Salmon is great, I recommend buying good quality with marbling, and skin ON because my god that shit’s gold.

This recipe is best when marinated with a little massage to the fish #itsnotonlyforkale and for up to 48hrs.

Recipe: (adjust for number of salmon pieces you’ve got)
1 T organic non-GMO miso paste
some grated ginger
smashed cloves or two of garlic
2T mirin (sweet Chinese wine)
splash of sake
squirt of wasabi

Bake at 350 F for 20 mins until flaky.  Check often, don’t overdo it!

photo (8)

Feeding your Inner Child

food cravings

Food cravings are often confounded in media towards sweet and fatty foods. When sitting down for a meal, are you mindful of what your body is craving?  Steak (low in iron), veggies (alkaline/acidic), ginger (antiinflammatory), or anything else.  Whether your body is acidic, alkaline or nutrient-deficient, the body language speaks in hints and whispers to tell us what we need. Often we seek the advice of health professionals, external resources once illness ensues, in order to get the answer we seek. But if our own bodies are posing the questions, should we not know the answers ourselves? We are all we need to be happy and healthy, and when we tune into our body’s requests, bringing mindful awareness into and around feeding, rest, and our fundamental needs, we will not reach the point of illness. And if we do, if we listen, often our own voices are enough to tell us how to heal and repair.

self-care_-bomb_Think of a pregnant woman, nurturing inside her a child. She will have these fluctuating and demanding food cravings. Some, seemingly bizarre. As a mother is carrying a child, we are also carrying inside us our inner child. We have food and specific flavour cravings, but unlike an expecting mother, we are often taught mixed signals about suppressing our needs in favour of work and other demands. A mother knows the critical importance of feeding her child, but we often sideline and back-burn our needs as adults. These whispers and pleas from our body build up, we get confused, and often end up reaching for a sugar hit when stress accumulates and we have forgone our needs for too long. Our inner child needs to be addressed; our awareness needs not be clouded. When we practice mindfulness around body signals and tuning into our body’s language, we learn intuitive eating, just as an expecting mother does when she craves certain things that the baby needs. However in society, an expecting mother is given the space to help the child grow. Her purpose is for giving the baby the best care it can in order to grow. Society doesn’t give space for adults alike to learn this, let along children. Our purposes lie in the roles society subliminally guides us to through social norms. Be that work, school, parenting, caring for others before ourselves. We cannot help others if we have not yet helped ourselves. So, we must relearn to listen. In this way, we can learn to give our bodies what they need instead of suppressing requirements in favour of what society deems priority.

It seems that the idea behind self-love by treating your inner child with love and proper nourishment is thought to be insignificant and selfish versus necessary and self-interested. So our busyness leads us to a block with our awareness channel of our minds to our bodies, and we get sick, overweight and unhappy. We cannot change other people’s stigmas on the need for our health as a priority, but we can change our own belief systems. We can start by understanding the need to nourish our inner child. After all, we are the beings that were so cared for in the womb. We owe it to ourselves to attend to ourselves with as much care and intention. It is time for us to treat ourselves as our little child versions, as did our caregivers and mothers.

Start with mindfulness around your needs. Before eating, take a brief second or a walk around the block if you can spare it, and inquire to your body what it is craving. This takes time and a healthy dose of self-interest (not selfishness) to devote yourself to your own health. Remember, without this space for yourself, your body’s voice will be muffled or silenced, resulting in a buildup of cravings, eventually a crash.  Beginning with a mindful practice around eating opens opportunity to truly nourish your body instead of ending up confused, deprived, famished and ill.

 

I chose me

I chose me.

Yesterday I started work at a new job, I’d been very excited to begin being of service, meeting people, and making some cash. We had a 15-minute lunch break, and when I asked what time, one of the baristas said that the previous day, they started at 6:30AM and didn’t get a spare moment until 3PM to eat. This girl was forking in mouthfuls of the order I mucked up in the kitchen in between serving customers, and I asked if she liked that dish, and she said, “food is food I guess, it’s not my favourite but when I can eat, I do.”

So although I started at 10AM, and my own routinized unserving habits (that I’m mindfully chipping away at to shed) meant that I hadn’t eaten since 6AM before my bike training ride, and while I will ideally learn to be able to plan ahead for these scheduling and work plans, I was damn hungry by 11:30AM, and had no idea what to expect on my first day. I worked till noon, when a big order of people was to come in, but my swa-dharma necessitated that I nourish my body. I come from a place of over thinking with food, and coping through monotonously detailed control over my own fueling. This is my purpose in New Zealand, to let go of that, to blossom, to learn and grow, and to give back what my gift to the world is.

I back-burned my self-shoulding, and expressed my need to eat. So I hurried off on my paid 15 minute break to “eat as fast as I could” in the female change room inside the pool.

What is that?

I unpacked my lunch, knowing fully well that I wouldn’t be able to finish in 15. I let the chief know, and then said, “Fuck it”, I gotta eat, man. Eating is not a privilege, it is a need. I know deprivation, and I am learning to overcome the self-inflicted deprivation and restriction of needs; food, pleasure, self-care. I have struggled enough with my own self-inflicted restrictions, I had a strong sense of awareness in that I would not allow outside forces to inflict this on me. So, I took 30 mins, still rushing and being mindful to respect my time constraints, but fucking chewing now just swallowing (that’s what she said?). Guilt ensued on my face as I walked out of the pool deck back into work; they were “in the weeds”. Boss told me I took 45 and should pack up and leave, expressing my disrespect. So I did, and it was alright.

Does respect come from self-disrespect? I think there is a need for both. But fuck, I’m getting a car today, and am strapped financially. Financial independence is so important, and I’m so ready to work, but not at the expense of my self-healing. I have much to let go of with my restrictions, but I believe that it is OK for this to take place in a “safe” environment. This doesn’t mean by force. Mind you, coming out of my comfort zone will be necessary, and a little discomfort will accompany this. But, my self-love isn’t something I’ll sideline in favour of serving café customers and starving myself. What happens then? I’d be fucked, my body would reject it, and I’d crash. This I know was the gunshot that used to initiate my coping though purging and binging. I’ve since learned from it, and refuse to put myself though it. I don’t look back, as I’m not traveling in that direction.

So now, it begins.

I am waiting for my car to arrive at 10:30AM. I’m blessed. I’m seeing a therapist later this afternoon, namaste, and in the meantime, I’m going to calmly eat my lunch, look at jobs, and ponder what to do. I am now a student, and am craving work. I am not unfamiliar with dedication and hard earned fruit. I am attracting abundance and expressing service.

I am really looking to connect with Cliff Harvey at Holistic Performance Nutrition because I feel safe in his space, and I feel that my gift lies somewhere intertwined within the paradigm of holistic nutrition, mindful health, and guiltlessly bountiful and unconditional self-love. Love, just love, uplifts all. Thanks Yoko, and all the barefooted beauties that believe in breathing the mantra of tremendous energetic self-empowerment, and the collectivity of thriving in a community that permeates love like an exploding star.

Happiness only real when shared.

Don’t you dare give up.