I am going to take a break from blogging about food and budgets, and write about something that has been on my heart the past few days, someone who has been on my heart. Maybe this has been brought on from all of the cooking I have been doing or food research, I don’t know. But I feel I need to get some thoughts out about a person who’s life is no longer here on Earth. Her name is Krystle, and she died from battling an eating disorder.

Krystle and I met while we were in treatment at the Eating Disorder Center of Denver back in fall of 2008. Her and I, and a handful of others battled through treatment while trying to find a way to escape what we were going through. Krystle could never fully escape her mind, and sometimes struggled with treatment. She left AMA (against medical advice) and returned home to Myrtle Beach that December. She was homesick, as I imagine any one would be, being thousands of miles away from home and your family for months. Her and I became friends, not real close friends, but close enough to share our stories, and hang out in Boulder a few times. She was a beautiful person, but I could tell the disease had a hold of her very tight. She told me before she left Colorado that she would be back, maybe even move to Boulder, and she would continue treatment. I had hoped that that wasn’t the last time I would see her because I enjoyed being around her and we had a lot in common, taste in music being one of them.

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out that Krystle had passed away. I was pregnant with Noah, about 8 months and I was “Facebook” stalking her, because I hadn’t heard from her in a while. I started reading her Facebook page and everyone was paying respects and writing their favorite memories on it, apologizing to her for not being able to beat this disease. Writing how sad they were that she was gone. My heart dropped. I started crying and just felt empty. She passed away just before Thanksgiving in 2010. I don’t know what Krystle’s life was like the 2 years after she left treatment. She would tag me in Facebook photos of herself. She looked like she was having fun and loving life. She loved to take pictures and paint. The last time I heard from Krystle was around July 2010 , asking me if we knew what we were having yet (boy or a girl) and telling me she would make it out to see the baby once he was born. I know that she can see Noah and Abagail now, and I hope she knows that I miss her.

I worry about raising kids in today’s world. We live in a world that focuses heavily on body image. The message that “that thin is beautiful” is everywhere. It’s on T.V. commercials, bill boards, radio commercials, even on the shows and movies we let our children watch. There’s too much focus on dieting: the new fad diet, cleanses, organic and natural eating, fat-free, low fat, low-cal, sugar free, gluten-free, calorie counting, vegan, vegetarian. There’s not enough focus on teaching our children or even ourselves that size doesn’t matter. That number on the scale, it doesn’t matter. I am not saying that being grossly overweight is OK, I am saying that a person can be a size 6, or 8, or even 14 and still be beautiful and healthy. I guess my next thought  or question is, do I believe what I just wrote? Sometimes I do, but not all of the time. Especially not lately. I find myself battling negative thoughts of myself and wonder if I will ever look the way I did before I had kids. And those thoughts are hard to ignore, they can be very destructive. But when I start to think that I might fall back into my eating disorder, I think of Krystle. I think about her brave battle and much pain she must have been in. I think of her family and how much they miss her. I think of Noah and Abagail, and how much I want them to have a mom who is healthy and alive. Then I think of Levi and how much I hurt him during the years I was sick and battling this disease. It was a real tough time for us, and I can’t put him through that again. As supportive as he is, he doesn’t deserve to relive that time. So I push those thoughts out of my head the best I can. And I pray. But sometimes I get sucked in, talking about food, and and diet too much or worrying about what I am putting into my mouth as well as my family’s. Eating disorders are dangerous little (huge) diseases, they sneak up on you, and before you know it, you are stuck. And it’s eating you alive.

Eating Disorders are more than anorexia, bulimia and binge eating (although those are the major, life threatening ones), but there is also restriction (extremely picky eaters, who restrict themselves from certain foods and modify their meals excessively at restaurants). Constant calorie counting, excessive exercising can lead to anorexia or bulimia. It is a complete lifestyle change, an obsession over food and control over our bodies. The disease is also more then just the fear of being fat. It’s an inner battle with the need to feel loved, accepted and in control. I wrote my senior thesis in college on the rise of eating disorders in the country, and society’s role in them. I am not a psychologist or a doctor, I am just someone who has been there. I guess you can argue that I am there, everyday. My degree coursework focused on women’s health and identity, integrating ideas from psychology, philosophy, anthropology among other fields. I am not a counselor. The only experience I have with this topic is my own. And sometimes that is the best knowledge.

So why I am writing a blog on such a heavy topic? To tell you the truth, I should have wrote it a long time ago. People like Krystle, they are everywhere. Sons and daughters are hurting, confused, lonely begging for their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, teachers, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend to pay attention to them. To love and accept them for who they are, not for what grades they get in school, or what job they have, or what that number on the scale reads. Accept them for them, for who they are, and who they have the potential to be. Please don’t put pressure on yourself or your kids to be perfect, to succeed, to be thin or athletic. Let them be who they are meant to be. Support them and love them no matter what happens. As a parent, friend or teacher, take time to research the signs that someone may be slipping into an eating disorder. I remember my first “intervention”. I was a freshman in high school and a good friend noticed my eating habits and took me to see the school health teacher. We had just watched a movie on anorexia in health class. The two of them talked to me, but I ignored what they said. It took a phone call to my mom for me to listen and agree to work on myself and what I ate.

It is never too late to help someone battling this disease. See the links below for resources in noticing signs of eating disorders and ways to help. Eating disorders kill more people in this country than any other mental health illness. More often than not, it is linked to depression, and it affects men and women. 1 in 200 women are diagnosed with anorexia, and 1 in 100 women are diagnosed with bulimia. A new study shows that 81% of ten year olds are afraid of getting fat. Those are scary statistics. And unless the world we live in steers its focus away from diets size 0, those statistics while continue to rise.
My 2 year old son out of the blue, told me I was pretty today. I hadn’t showered. I was sweaty and pretty sure I smelled like a trash can. But to him, I was pretty. To him, I am the world. And you know what, that’s all anyone really wants. To be the world to someone, even when they smell like a trash can.

RIP Krystle. Please know that you are missed and thought of everyday, and I pray that people can look at your life and find courage to fight.