Recovery Party: Celebración de Merienda

Recovery Party: Celebración de Merienda

  Six years ago I began my journey in recovery from anorexia nervosa. Last Sunday I celebrated my recovery with a party! Every year I like to celebrate my recovery around the date that the denial shattered and I realized that I had an eating disorder. That day changed my life. Most years I celebrate my recovery on my own with some dark chocolate and big mountain smiles. Last year, I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I decided to have a Celebración de Merienda. In Argentina the forth meal of the day is a ‘merienda’ or teatime between lunch and dinner, a time to eat ‘torta,’ drink ‘mate,’ and be together. A merienda is a perfect time for a celebration! This year I decided to continue the tradition with a Celebracion de Merienda here in Colorado. On Sunday my house filled with the smiles of cherished friends, overwhelming amounts of chocolate and flowers, and many heartfelt conversations. Being surrounded by so much support and celebration was extremely powerful! Plus, I got to cook for everyone and host a party…which I love!   Below I’ve included what I said and the proclamation that I signed (in English and Spanish) at the Recovery Party or Celebración de Merienda:   Part I: Eating disorders are all about shame, silence, and insecurity, which is why I am so excited to have you all here today to face my recovery from anorexia nervosa with celebration, joy, and love!   As many of you know, I love questions! While preparing for today and reflecting on my recovery I found myself asking the question,...
Authentically Standing in my Truth

Authentically Standing in my Truth

  Six years ago I was at war with myself. Eighteen years old, getting ready to leave home for college, and totally lost. My journal entries were full of confusion as I realized something was terribly wrong in my life but could not put my finger on what it was.   Six years ago I still did not know I had an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, the most deadly of all mental illnesses, had stealthily taken over my life. Strongly blinded by denial I remember spending long minutes ordering at restaurants as I tried to figure out what item had the least calories. I remember lying to friends about stomachaches and food intolerances to avoid eating. I recall spending hours reading recipes and baking cheesecakes I would never eat. I wanted to be near food to feel the strength of denying myself sustenance. I was numb: constantly cold from lack of nutrients and emotionally numb from avoiding all feelings. I longed for emotional intimacy even as I isolated from the people I loved most. I constantly strived for perfection, grasped for false control, and wore a mask of vivacity to hide my emptiness and fear. I desperately wanted to be happy, knew that I was not, and had no idea how to get there.   Now, six years later, I almost find it hard to remember what it felt like to be anorexic. Yes, pieces of the disorder still burgeon when I am under stress and I must clip them away from the joy and authenticity in my life. And, yes, recovery is a continual process of becoming my...
How did my eating disorder begin?

How did my eating disorder begin?

How did my eating disorder start? I have a picture on a bulletin board next to my bed. It shows a brown-eyed girl with blond curls tumbling away from her round face in a halo. She looks to be only five or six years old but her gaze strikes me as intuitively wise, confidently determined, and full of questioning wonder. She is jean jacketed, ready to change the world, and unassumingly sure of herself. I have another photo hidden between the pages of a book. This one is of another girl. She too has curls but these brown ringlets are pinned up and fall stylishly around a face painted with new make-up and a fake smile. With a toothpick skinny arm propped on a bony hip she poses delicately. In her hazel eyes I see a constant striving, an insatiable hunger to be better, and a cold inside of her that she barely keeps from breaking through. She is pretending she can face the world but she has no idea who she is. Both photos depict me. Myself. Zoe. I. Zoe Vlastos. However, a wide gap lies between these two girls. They are separated by a question that seeks to explain the difference in their eyes and smiles: how did my eating disorder begin? How did that defiantly confident girl who was opposed to conforming to social norms become obsessed with appearance, body weight, and eating? How did she go from a happy little girl to an anorexic young woman? How did the eating disorder develop? That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? It’s the question that haunts my parents....
Starving: Unhealthy & Healthy

Starving: Unhealthy & Healthy

I have been starving twice in my life. Once unhealthily. Once healthily.   This may sound strange and backward so allow me to explain.   Unhealthy: t – 5 ½ yrs The first time I starved, I did not know it. Even though many signs pointed to the fact that I was slowly wasting away, the power of denial was strong enough to keep me blissfully ignorant. Even though I was constantly cold and my clothes no longer fit. Even though I dreamed of food almost nightly but would not eat. Even though my muscles atrophied, I was so weak I almost fainted if I stood up for too long, and my legs screamed in protest going up short flights of stairs. Even though I got sick easily and frequently. And even though I embodied the phrase “skin and bones.” I did not realize I was starving.   Not only was I starving. I was starving myself. Unknowingly. Unconsciously. Unintentionally. I had let an eating disorder take hold of my life. Unbeknownst to me anorexia nervosa had begun to govern my actions. In order to cope I made up excuses for my behaviors, weaving a veil of denial over my own eyes and the eyes of others. I slowly quit eating – first sugar and fat, then grains, and then proteins until I was barely nourishing my body at all. I would slice bread so fine that by the time I pulled out my half sandwich between classes at community college the tomato and mayonnaise would have soaked through the thin layer of scary carbohydrate fibers to make a...