Saturday, 17 January 2009

What's Normal Anyway?..

This has been on my mind for quite some time, more so the last few weeks...

As the title of my blog suggests, and as I explained in my introductory post, I was very into dancing at one point. I started when I was 20- initially to accompany a friend who was too shy to go herself, and I fell in love. Over the few years that followed, my passion grew and I attended more and more classes. It was hard to define what was healthy for *me*- it gave me a reason to nourish my body, maintain some semblance of "health" and let me see my body in a new light (in terms of what it was capable of, as opposed to merely what it looked like). There were definitely periods when it was more an anorexia-driven compulsion- I would "let" myself eat if I danced. I worked with my treatment team to try to keep up with dancing as it was the first "hobby" I had had...double-edged sword and they also had a hard time figuring out when it was a good idea for me to dance, and when it wasn't.

I sustained a few injuries when I relapsed pretty badly in 2006. My muscles weren't strong enough to support my bones, and the classes became too exhausting and definitely weren't for fun anymore. I pretty much stopped dancing completely as my health declined. I don't know if NOT dancing made things worse for me, but I was too depressed/deep in anorexia to feed the creative part of me that loved dancing so much.

Since then, my health has been up and down. I've taken a few classes as I've moved around, but never 1) found a studio/class that I really enjoyed, and 2) never managed to find that love of dancing that was once there.

(I am rambling, but am getting to my point!)

Anyway, about 2 years ago I stumbled across a food blog. For those of you not familiar with them, there are bloggers out there who show photos/post recipes of what they eat. The first one I found was a registered dietitian and this blog was part of her job. It FASCINATED me to see what "normal" people eat. Part of this is, no doubt, my obsession with food/nutrition. The other part is definitely sheer curiosity of how someone without an eating disorder fuels their body whilst going about living their life. Over time, these blogs have grown more and more widespread and my obsession has grown. They have been real eye-openers to read- I've spent so much time obsessing over my own food intake, or in hospital on "prescribed" diets that I really had no concept of what is normal in a world outwith my anorexic bubble. I now have about 40 blogs bookmarked, over half of which I read daily. I know the ins and outs of their every day lives. I know about the "barney butter" obsessions, the oatmeal creations, the holiday eats, the family occasions. It has helped me to widen my food choices, try new things- I do THINK about these blogs when I am making my meals/snacks and I do add/change/try ideas I would never have the courage to do without knowing there was someone out there doing the same thing.

A common theme on the majority of these blogs is exercise. I generally skim over the working out parts- I don't belong to a gym, I've never gone running and I don't think I could even identify an elliptical machine in a line up :P It wasn't until recently that I noticed quite how much exercise these people do, and quite how often. Working out for 2 hours a day? Running 7-10 miles a day? Woah. I don't know anyone in "real" life who does this. I get chastised for my long power-walks, but these people get admiration (so they should- hell, I can't lift 30lb weights and do 3 spinning classes in a day!)

But now I am wondering what is normal after all, and I am really confused. Does everyone do this much exercise? Do these bloggers eat the amounts they do ONLY because they exercise, or does their love of exercise fuel their desire to be healthy? Do they enjoy it? Do they even consider whether or not they enjoy it?..

I know if I joined a gym, I would do what I always do and give it 110%, setting crazy goals for myself and either giving up completely too soon to achieve them, or run myself into the ground (literally) and relapsing.

How do these people manage eating, exercise and their jobs/work/relaxation stuff on top of everything else? How do they keep it all balanced?

Or, is it not balanced/"normal" at all?..


kali said...

normal doesn't exist ellie, everyone has some imbalance somewhere, just some are more imbalanced that others. i would think that those who go to 3 spinning classes per day, (and have a job with which to fund their gym membership) - have communication problems, lack friends and a social life. i am generalising here but trying to express a point. those who eat huge amounts? yes their either excercize it off or do not and gain weight, or have physically demanding jobs - such as building.

however many blogs you read, you will always feel others do more exercise/eat healthier/eat less. but like you know it is based on them, their lifestyle and their body-sort. its about what works for them and what works for you.

when i read your blog, it struck me so hard you miss dancing,it sounds like you find a level of life, a self expression that worked, but then the balance tipped. the bitch of anorexia is that if you are under bmi 16, it sucks up your passion and energy too, as well you know. maybe you should go do the rounds of dance classes, just to observe, watch some shows/theatre contemporary acts... try and find some inspiration in that. it could be your catalyst. ellie i hope this reads ok. my catalyst is travel, escapism and my son, they work sometimes they dont other and i think they either grow with you or they don't.

fuck. what i wanted to say. in very basic terms is: no-one is normal, everyone has an imbalance somewhere, it just depends on the degree and the rememdy. the remedy? a passion for something.

in your case a passion for anorexia/nutrition/dieat fuels the imbalance side not that balance. does that make sense?
you can tip it you just have to find that passion again.

god i talk semi-logical SHIYTE sometimes. does that make any sense at all??? sorry hun. if all else fails - im thinking of you and i care!

ellie said...

THANK YOU! I am glad you share my view that "normal" doesn't really's such a personal thing. What's normal for one person isn't normal for someone else, and also with the blogs I read, I don't really know these people. I don't know if they DO have great social lives or how they fill their time. I don't know if they maybe just love the gym as THEIR way of getting out frustration, or if they plan to make careers out of it or what. It's not important. They do what they do and I do what I do. Hehe. I'll define "normal" in my own way :)

Rosalie Y said...


(it's rosalie by the way! I read your blog sometimes after I discovered it on facebook!)

I know exactly what blogs you're talking about -- katheats, eat like me, eat live run, see bride run, veggie girl, carrots n cake.....right? I could go on and on and on because I, like you, have practically STALKD these people and what they're eating.

On the one hand, I would say that they're not disordered, because how they eat/exercise doesn't seem to interfere with the other facets of their lives. All the bloggers I follow are either going to school/working, they all have friends and family and enjoy spending time with them, they enjoy cooking and eating at home and at restaurants, etc. They exercise daily or almost daily as per guidelines and seem to do it for genuine health reasons. That seems like a fairly healthy relationship.

On the other hand, why would people with normal relationships with food go on to WRITE these blogs? I never became interested in food/what I was eating until I started all my eating disordered behaviors. Thats when I started watching food network24/7, learning about nutrition, reading everything I could about menus and restaurant review, etc. It's a fact that malnutrition/starvation causes people to be overly concerned with food. I just can't imagine how these people get the idea to START a blog to document everything they eat, unless they have had roots of ED or disordered eating themselves.

So as you can see, I'm really torn about how I feel about these blogs. Haha.

Anyway, I love you lots :)

Hearts, ME

seeleelive (for the love of peanut butter) said...

i have to agree with you that i first discovered Food blogs when i was struggling as well. i found it amazing looking at good food that i could be eating but would not allow myself. i was curious as well.

i do not exercise at a gym-that i will leave to the history of ED!! so there is no normal! my RD says its fine not to go to a gym-

ellie said...

thanks guys...

rosalie- thank you for reading and commenting. love you lots :) we seem to share the same conflict... :/

lee- definitely fine not to go to a gym...hey, if you came to scotland, you'd be hard pressed to FIND a gym, lol. there is such a bizarre fascination with what "normal" people DO- not just with food, but how they function without an eating interest that is prompted purely because I want so badly what THEY have (an ED free live) and when it comes to "life"...I am completely clueless. Take away ED/food thoughts and my mind goes completely blank- SO lame, but I don't even know what to think about!