Posts tagged with 'health activist writer’s month challenge'

True Life Tuesday Blog Party: Binge eating disorder

  • Posted on May 8, 2012 at 10:19 am

Maybe I’m having a little bit of withdrawal from HAWMC and can’t resist the urge to take on a blog prompt. Or maybe I’m a bit crazy. In any event I’m taking on the challenge of today’s prompt for the blog party.

Prompt: You Think You Know…

You think you know, but you have no idea…” Sound familiar? The Mtv show “True Life” (and Diary) puts a face to many life events – so we’re using the tagline as part of this month’s mission to combat misconceptions…those things that others think they know about you and your condition, but they have no idea.

You think you know, but you have no idea what it means to have an eating disorder. I’m not anorexic, but I’m certainly a compulsive overeater, someone with binge eating disorder. Since May is mental health awareness month, I want people to know that it’s no laughing matter to have an addiction to food. Since I was at least 16, I’ve struggled with eating ice cream straight out of the carton until all vestiges of the contents disappeared. Having this dysfunction is a lonely place, with feelings of constant guilt and self-loathing.

My metabolism is such that my body has not really reflected all the addictive eating I do, even as I approach my sixties. Yet there it is: my secret is out.

In one manifestation of this disorder, the sufferer convinces himself/herself to buy a quantity of ice cream bars or candy, with the notion that these foods will be consumed only one or two at a time. Additional incentives to buy these junk foods include after-holiday sales and “buy-one-get-one-free” gimmicks. Before he/she realizes it, the entire package is emptied and trashed. If the disorder includes an addiction for chocolate, forget buying chocolate chips for baking cookies in the future. They won’t make it past the first day on the shelf.

In such a life, these phrases ring true:  Secret stashes. Empty packages hidden by rubbish. Vomiting. Desperation.

Recognizing my problem, my husband and sons would try to lock up or hide candy and cookies they brought into the house. Yet none of these measures stopped me from the addiction. People don’t realize that food is just as addicting to some people as crack cocaine or alcohol.

Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder:

1. Eating much more quickly than you should at each episode.

2. Eating until you are uncomfortably full or sick. What is full? Sometimes only reaching a state of sickness lets you know.

3. Eating large amounts of food when you are not really hungry.

4. Eating alone because you are embarrassed about all the food you eat.

5. Feeling disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating.

I’ve never sought help for this condition, believing I could stop any time I wanted by exercising that all-illusive myth called willpower. But I know better. Through self-help resources, support groups, therapy and behavior modification–such as journaling to discover eating patterns–I can alter those destructive habits permanently. I can avoid the onset of diabetes and other unwelcome conditions. I don’t need those illnesses on top of my two bouts with cancer and lymphedema.

So my advice? Be honest with yourself and assess which of the above five symptoms you might have. Take this quiz. Find an Overeaters Anonymous group in your area or seek professional help if you believe you have a problem. If you think you have a problem with food, you probably do.

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Recap #HAWMC

  • Posted on May 6, 2012 at 9:12 am

Okay, so I am late in providing this recap of my experience in creating blog posts based on WEGO health activist prompts for each of thirty days of April.

I needed a breather.

But now, looking back, I can say I learned much from the exercise. From creating a poster to pinning on Pinterist, to stream-of-consciousness writing, to creating prompts from a random image on Flickr, to creating word clouds–and more, I’ve tasted the gamut. And it certainly didn’t hurt that my blogging sisters Marie, Renn, and Yvonne chugged along in this challenge right beside me. Every morning I would check their blogs to see if a new post had been published. That was my signal to get–and keep–moving.

The easier posts to craft were those in which imagery played a large–or the only–role. Graphics and haikus often speak louder than prose. Especially when they are  concise and precise. In creating such pieces, we choose words that speak to us the most. One of my fellow bloggers used the word tamoxifen in her word cloud. Only those who have been down the road of hormone-responsive breast cancer can picture how that word can loom large in the consciousness: a daily pill for at least two years with potentially devastating side effects.

Is it our lifeline, or is it our death sentence?

Leaving behind the daily task of providing a blog post based on someone else’s idea has been bittersweet. While I enjoyed the challenge, often it interfered with daily activity, including coffees or lunches with friends. Fortunately, I wasn’t yet working during that time. I could sit in front of  my desktop at home for a bit longer than most people. Still, if you get the opportunity, grab it. It will change the way you view writing, imagery, social networks–and even life.

Have you faced creative writing challenges? What was the hardest part?


Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 30 #HAWMC: Word Cloud

  • Posted on April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am

It’s Day 30 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue. 

Today’s Prompt: Word Cloud

A picture is worth a thousand words.  For today’s post we’re going one further and putting your words into an image, a word cloud or tree representing YOUR health focus, interest, or passions.  Write down some of your favorite topics off the top of your head or review the tags in your blog post for some surprises.


This exercise has sparked my imagination in ways I never expected. Just creating posters, pictorials and infographics proved to be enlightening assignments. I’ll miss the creativity of each daily prompt, but not the pressure of presenting a fresh, original post each morning. Like fellow bloggess Marie, I will welcome resuming  the familiar schedule of my day. I thank my fellow WEGO challenge bloggers without whom I couldn’t have completed this exercise: Marie, Renn and Yvonne. Congratulations to them for having the courage and fortitude not only to take up the gauntlet, but to complete the challenge in its entirety.

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 29 #HAWMC: Dr. Hobson’s Choice

  • Posted on April 29, 2012 at 8:43 am

It’s Day 29 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue. One more day left after today!

Today’s Prompt: Six Sentence Story.

In this day of micro-blogging – brevity is a skill worth honing. Can you tell a story and make it short and sweet? What can you say in six sentences? Will you give your post a title, beginning, middle, and end – or do something different entirely? You’ve got 6 sentences: be creative, inventive, and direct; this may include being generous with punctuation. Good luck!


Dr. Hobson’s Choice

The doctor paces his office, wondering how he will break the news to Mrs. Shaw that her tumor is cancerous. Throughout his career he’s noticed that each patient has reacted differently to receipt of this diagnosis: some stoic, some weeping, some staring straight ahead into oblivion. He is determined not to tell her how lucky she is to live in this age and not fifty years ago, knowing that such a statement doesn’t ring true with patients.  The walls of his office start closing in on him, Pinesol scent irritating his nostrils, the sterile environment mocking him with its x-ray equipment devoid of emotion. But the relentless tick-tock of the clock reminds him he must make haste–that other patients fidget in the waiting room, reading the same article over and over again or toying with their Blackberries. Walking down the hall, Dr. Hobson braces himself for the encounter, but first he stops at the restroom.


Have you ever wondered what doctors are thinking before they have to deliver devastating medical news to a patient? I’d like to have a doctor like Dr. Hobson, who’s learned from the school of hard knocks (Bedside Manner 101), that patients who’ve just been diagnosed don’t like to hear they are lucky. They are convinced that those without cancer are the lucky ones. They’ll envy them their carefree life devoid of constant vigilance for signs and symptoms of recurrence.


Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 28 #HAWMC: The first time I…

  • Posted on April 28, 2012 at 8:24 am

It’s Day 28 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: The First Time I…

Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it?

The first time I ever drew a caricature took place in my sophomore art class in high school. At that point I knew nothing about caricatures except what I’d seen in political cartoons on the editorial page of the newspaper. In the typical lampoon style of these cartoons, the President or a Congressman bore a Pinocchio nose.

The art teacher instructed us to make a pictorial representation of ourselves in which our distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect. What? Can you imagine a teenage girl capturing herself in a drawing that grossly exaggerated her noticeable features, making her an object of ridicule? No way did I want to do that. Beauty issues reign supreme in the minds of sixteen-year-olds. But do it I must, if I wanted a decent grade.

As my pecularities, I chose my nose and my glasses, the parts of my face that bothered me the most. After this exercise–and even before–it occurred to me to get plastic surgery so I could minimize the trauma. I didn’t want any of my classmates to see what I was doing. But curiosity impelled us all to sneak a peek at each other’s burlesque portraits. When I completed mine, I presented it to the teacher in a folder, hoping it would be graded and returned in the same discreet manner. Instead she displayed each piece of work on the classroom wall.

I didn’t get out of it.

What I gleaned from this first-time lesson was not to be so harsh on myself. That message harkens back to the prompt we had on Day 10 of the WEGO challenge this month: “Dear sixteen-year-old me“.

Once I finished the self-parody, I decided to include my parents in a family caricature. The pencil drawing below is one I just found in a scrapbook my mother had assembled and saved. Since it is rendered in pencil, it is hard to see, but one can’t miss the drooping glasses.

Jan’s caricature in high school of Mom, Dad and herself

My art teacher had a reason for giving her students this assignment in self-critical analysis. Obviously we weren’t all studying to be political cartoonists, but we did need a means to express ourselves other than through writing. Perhaps my instructor took her cue from Goya. This famous Spanish painter seemed to rely on satiric art rather than writing to express himself.  According to the 100Swallows blog post on the Best Artists,

He was awkward at it [writing] and ended even this choppy letter with a drawing—a caricature of himself.  “I’m like this,” he says. He was always making fun of his own flat nose and here he makes his face into a crescent moon.

Goya may not have spoken much anymore, and he hated to write.  But he was all the same the greatest communicator of them all.  Few men in any time have been able to bring out of themselves and show so much of a deep and complex world.

I have learned much since the first time I drew this effigy of myself. I’ve learned to use humor in the form of artwork as a communication tool, as Goya did so eloquently. It’s time to dust off my pen and ink and create a new self-caricature. It would look quite different this time–and not just because of the weathering of my face over the decades. I’m a new edition, a more confident version of myself, ready to tell the world who I really am.

Do you remember the first time you attempted something? Did you learn a lesson from it?

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 27 #HAWMC: 5 Challenges, 5 Small Victories

  • Posted on April 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

It’s Day 27 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: 5 Challenges. 5 Small Victories.

Make a list of the 5 most difficult parts of your health focus. Make another top 5 list for the little, good things (small victories) that keep you going.

Finding five of each of these contrasting aspects to health seemed daunting at first. But Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, put it all into perspective for me with the above quote. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was “the infinitude of the private man.”

Inspired by Mr. Emerson’s insight, buoyed by knowledge from extensive research on health (hence, Dr. Google below), I’m now able to express my thoughts in groups of five, knowing I’ve no limits in life.

The five biggest challenges of my health focus:

1. Stress.

2. Lymphedema.

3. Sleep deprivation.

4. Our pink culture approach to beast cancer. 

5. Survivor guilt.

The five victories that keep me going:

1. Friends

2. Dr. Google

3. Blogging

4. Smiles

5. Humor

What do you see as your current health challenges? Your victories? Do you find it easy to come up with these lists?

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 26 #HAWMC: Health Tagline

  • Posted on April 26, 2012 at 8:49 am

It’s Day 26 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: Health tagline.

Give yourself, your blog, your condition, or some aspect of your health a tagline. Make sure it’s catchy!

Talented marketers create taglines (or jingles or slogans) every day on Madison Ave. in Manhattan to make a product or service memorable.

I couldn’t just go with one for my blog, so I came up with two :


Prancing on breast cancer to get answers.


Got lymphedema? Get Help.


How about you? Do you have a slogan that you can apply to your writings, your health or yourself? It’s fun to do.

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 25 #HAWMC: Third person post

  • Posted on April 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

It’s Day 25 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: Third person post.

Write about a memory you have but describe it using the third person. Use as many sensory images (sights, sounds, textures, etc) as you can. Don’t use “I” or “me” unless you include dialogue.

Mom promised them a raspberry pie. A luscious, juicy piece of heaven right from the oven.

To make this happen, Sarah and her brother Tim carried metal bowls out to the row of raspberry bushes growing beyond the orchard in the backyard. Bees buzzed all around, whisking from one walnut tree to the other. The berries glistened in the sunlight, sparkling in all different shades of red. Sarah had never before noticed that burgundy could take on so many hues.

The two began picking the juicy jewels right off their green stems. Juice drained down their fingers onto the lawn. The thorns on the branches pricked their skin like syringe needles when they accidentally brushed up against the bushes. Despite the sting of the pricks, they carried on their task. Dragonflies and butterflies swirled all around them, lighting on whatever piece of nature caught their fancy.

When the two bowls were filled, the children headed back to the house with their treasure. Mother greeted them at the back porch with a winsome smile, bits of flour dust falling to the kitchen floor from her apron. She had been rolling out the pie crusts with grandma’s rolling pin while they were busy collecting the pie filling. After the children washed the berries in a strainer, their mother placed them in a bigger bowl, where she added sugar and other ingredients to make the filling even more delectable. Once she finished the filling mix, she poured it into the waiting pie crust and topped it with another crust. Mother finished the work of art by sprinkling sugar on top and making an X in the crust with a fork to let out the steam.

Sarah and Tim raced to see who could lick the most from the bowl that had just been emptied of most of its contents. Nothing need go to waste.

After an hour, the alluring aroma of raspberry pie met the children’s nostrils. When their mom took the pie out of the oven with her mitts, she set it on a cooling rack while the eager children watched, their tummies growling in protest against no instant gratification. After dinner, they finally tasted their treat, a dream come true for children who had the best mom and dad and the best backyard in the whole wide world.

The next day they set out again with a ladder to pick pears, so their mom could make her next pie. And then there were the cherries, peaches, and apples that waited their turn to be sandwiched in a pastry. Sarah and Tim were surrounded by abundant produce–all organic. Long before organic became a household synonym for ecological correctness.

Do you have any fond memories from childhood?


Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 24 #HAWMC: Mascot

  • Posted on April 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

It’s Day 24 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: Health Mascot. 

Give yourself, your condition, or your health focus a mascot. Is it a real person? Fictional? Mythical being? Describe them. Bonus points if you provide a visual!

Here’s the definition of “mascot” given in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company (updated in 2009):

A person, animal, or object believed to bring good luck, especially one kept as the symbol of an organization such as a sports team.

[French mascottesorcerer’s charm, mascot, from Provençal mascotosorcery, fetish, from mascowitch, ultimately from Medieval Latin mascamask, specter, witch.]

As my mascot I’ve chosen my brother Roy. He epitomizes the “Baird team”, all that is good and well with our sometimes-troubling world. Instead of sulking in bed when autumn winds blow (our parents both died in the fall), my brother uses that season to remind himself of their gentle nature.  He resurrects their kind spirits, charming everyone around him with a warm, magical smile and a kind deed. To me he’s the perfect mascot, symbolizing both good luck and alluring demeanor.

My brother at sweet 16

As to sports, I found out just today that in his sixties, my brother still jogs. I have been running since before 1980, but didn’t realize that my brother still does the same. By now, the thief of time and health could have stolen our knees or other body parts that would prevent us from continuing this recreation. It pleases me beyond measure to know he’s still in the running.

Although we live three thousand miles apart, our spirits and faith are connected as if we were just a breath away. That kind of bond takes my breath away. Would that the world could live in peace the way my brother and I do now.

You will live forever in my heart, Roy.

Do you have a mascot? How would you describe such a symbol?

Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 23 #HAWMC: Banquet of Consequences

  • Posted on April 23, 2012 at 9:29 am

It’s Day 23 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: Write about any health issue we choose.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said,

Sooner or later in life, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.

As the years roll by, I see more and more truth in those words. We are so eager to reach the age when we can taste our own choices, chart our own course. Then, after those choices have settled into our stomachs, we sometimes find they are disagreeable. What do we do then?

I just finished seeing the movie Eat Pray Love for the second time in two days. It’s about a married woman (Liz Gilbert) who, finding her marriage in shambles, looks to a new direction for her life. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to “find herself”.

What’s my fascination with this flick? I think it’s that Liz Gilbert finally sat down to her banquet of consequences

Her life-altering decisions (of boyfriends, life partners, travel paths, and careers) don’t differ much from mine. Now that I’m separated, I have questioned the wisdom of my choosing one path over another. Should I have married so young?  Should I have attended a different college? A different graduate school? Should I have chosen library science instead of attorney work? Should I have never lived in New Jersey near the polluted areas of the state?

A woman now scarred by two bouts with cancer, lymphedema, a looming divorce, and a premature retirement from a professional career, I have no answers to these questions. In Italy, Liz Gilbert revels in the tastes of the cuisine, sitting down to banquets of her own making, paying the consequences of “bigger jeans”. I did the opposite. When my marriage went south, I stopped eating. But the consequences of the anorexic extreme aren’t any better. It’s a banquet of a different sort, of nothingness and depression.

Liz sums up her lesson in Italy after touring some Roman ruins originating with Augustus: “Ruin is a gift; ruin is a road to transformation.”

Profound. Maybe all roads lead to transformation.

In India, land of meditation, Liz Gilbert comforts a seventeen-year-old girl who laments her upcoming arranged marriage to a computer geek. Is choosing your own life mate any better than this? Maybe not. Maybe father does know best. The Indian girl may actually come to enjoy the banquet of consequences forced upon her as her love for her husband grows and matures.

Maybe I’ll reach that space where my ruin transforms me into a creature demonstrating a more mature, zestful love for life.

Early this year, I resolved to make the rest of my life the best of my life. So last Friday, I hiked with my neighbor, who is 15 years older than I, through gullies and poppy fields on a butte covered in wildflowers and grazing cattle. The sun shone brightly, revealing peacock blue skies. The perfect day. Bitter root flowers poked up through rocks, proud of their ability to grow under such adverse conditions.

My friend promised I’d only have to crawl under one barbed fence to see the most distant, but most spectacular, waterfall on the tableland. After rolling under three barbed wire fences (with my lymphedema arm), I started to wonder how many more fences I would have to endure to get there, and how many on the way back.

But soon we approached Coal Canyon, home of Phantom Falls, our destination. We had to work our way down a steep dirt-filled slope to reach the bottom. We ended up facing the cliff as we slowly found our footholds downward, holding on to roots and sturdy rocks.  Good thing I was wearing my arm compression sleeve.

The journey proved its worth, even though I risked getting a sprained ankle (I’ve had four) with all the loose lava rock on which we had to balance. The falls were breathtaking. As we watched in awe, we glimpsed dozens of cliff swallows dotting the sky, their  transparent wings reflecting the sunlight. They were bringing mud into holes in the cliffs to make nests. Without the difficult hike I would never have witnessed this spectacle. It was an exquisite banquet of consequences. We watched them swoop and dive from our protected perch in a cool cave near the falls.

My hiking companion did not care to join me on the trail that led to the very bottom of the falls. She had already been there many times.

But I had to go.

On my way down the slippery slope to the back of the waterfull I inadvertently grabbed poison oak vines. Shocked to see the telltale three leaves, I ran to the cool mist of the falls, relishing in the relief from the heat for two minutes, before scrambling up to the safety of the cave. I wondered how many more things I would touch before I could wash off the poisonous oil, to which I’m very allergic.

But the coolness of the mist and the beautiful surroundings more than made up for the consequences (for which I am still waiting) of getting the rash. Maybe I’ll be spared the red dots of itching torture.

Bitter root

Back end of Phantom Falls

Owl's clover

South falls of Coal Canyon with rainbow

Then there’s yesterday. The temperature has been so hot, I had to relieve myself in the coolness of the community swimming pool. There I met up with some children eager to play and swim with an adult. Their dad didn’t seem inclined to get in the rather coolish water. I joined in the fun of ball-throwing and playing monkey in the middle as I laughed my head off. I did this without  my lymphedema sleeve, raising my arm to get the ball when a doctor told me not to swing that arm and aggravate my inflammed cartilage.

I couldn’t resist. How could I? This is what having grandchildren nearby would be like.

Eventually, another couple and the Dad joined in the fun. After 30 minutes we all dispersed to our flats to get a bite to eat. But the laughter still rings in my ears.

Sometimes choices are worth the consequences. And so we go on and do the things that make us giggle, give us joy, make us happy to be alive.

What are some consequences you’ve paid in life? Were they worth it?