Notes To My Younger Self

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By: Kat Reinhert

Dear 13 year old self,

Being on the gymnastics team might feel like you need to look good in a tight, ill-fitting leotard as people watch you jump up and twirl around or swing from bar to bar – but really, what you need to be is strong. Even though it’s hard, try to focus on the work and the joy in learning new tricks instead of whether or not people are looking at you. I promise, whether or not you get a good score or if you fall down and fail, show up the next day for you. You don’t need to purge your dinner because you think you are fat. You don’t need to overeat because you’re stressed. You are enough.

Dear 19 year old self,

Well, now, you’re in college. And you’ve decided to pursue music. Specifically, jazz singing. And you’ve moved to NYC.   I know it feels like you’re not good enough to hang with all these amazing musicians you are meeting. I know you’re working really hard to understand complicated musical ideas like improvisation and tri-tone substitutions. I know you cut off all your hair and a bum on the street mistook you for a boy. But you are beautiful. You are smart. You are driven. Don’t use your femininity to define your art. And don’t think that people are only working with you – and will only work with you – if you are thin and all put together perfectly. You don’t need to be perfect. Don’t date people who manipulate you. Date the kid who sees you for who you are. He doesn’t care that you’re almost a foot taller than he is. Don’t have so much pride that you can’t ask your parents for money because you’re hungry. Being skinny isn’t the answer. And when you go home, you don’t need to overeat and purge because your home life is stressful. Weight is transitive. It doesn’t define who you are or what you are worth. And purging really isn’t good for singing. And you’re a singer, so just stop.

You are enough.

Dear 27 year old self,

You’re engaged now. And I know he has the body of someone in a magazine. But that doesn’t mean you need to have the same image. You don’t need to be perfect even though it feels like you do. I see you looking at yourself every night wondering how you can lose weight. I see you hating your body. But I also see you letting go of some of that. You’re back in school now and about to embark on a new adventure. You’re going to learn so much and you’re going to walk away from something very important. And it will be the best decision you make. Because you’ll start making music. You’ll go on tour. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Even though you think it does, and everyone around you for the next ten years will make it seem like it does. But it doesn’t. Perfection is an illusion. It ruins experiences and lives. It stops you from doing what you love.

You are enough.

Dear 37 year old self,

You’re divorced. And you’ve finally decided to figure out who you are. Because you almost lost yourself. You will write some truly heart-wrenching songs (well, they are heart-wrenching for you). You will finally see a therapist. Together, with some friends, you will heal your heart and your soul and start down the road to becoming your authentic self. You will still struggle with your body image but it will no longer control or define you. You will have bad days and good days. But you will never go back. Because you have learned to love yourself. You will change your love of exercise to a love of being healthy. You will wear clothes you never thought you could. You will find joy and self-expression through style. Regardless of whether your pants fit easy or tight. You will fall in love with someone who loves you for who you are inside. Who sees you. Who celebrates all that you are – in both your struggles and your triumphs. Who holds up a mirror, but doesn’t judge you. And you will love him in the same way because you love yourself in the same way.

You are enough.

Hello, 40 year old self!

unnamedYou’re still having days where you don’t feel good about how you look, but they are few and far between. There are so much more important things to worry about. You have a PhD, you got a job at a major university teaching voice and songwriting. You have become and continue to work on being the authentic self you seek. And it matters. Oh it matters. You have become that which you sought. You have a finance. Your family loves you. Your students threw you a graduation party and wrote you the most amazing letters that brought you to tears. You have a wedding to plan. You have music to write and venues to play. You have someone in your life that you are going to walk alongside for a very long time. You’ve healed most of the wounds, although sometimes they re-open and you need to stitch them back up, but that’s ok. You’re ok. There are just so many more important things to work with in your life that have nothing to do with the size of your thighs. No one cares. Will you have days where you look in the mirror and hate what you see? Of course? Will you always strive to be healthy? Of course. Will you cringe when you get yourself weighed at the doctor and the number just feels like failure? Of course. Will you forever have days where it feels like you’re not enough? Of course. Will you doubt your purpose? Of course. Will you wonder when enough is enough? Of course. Are there still a million questions you don’t have answers to? Yup. But that’s awesome. Because it means you have a whole lot more to live for and figure out!

Besides, these things no longer define you. They are simply part of life and you can see them for what they are and let go. Because YOU ARE ENOUGH.


About the Author:

unnamedAn intriguing singer with a vision toward the future, Kat Reinhert enchants listeners with her original songs, signature style and insightful storytelling. Kat is passionate about teaching voice and educating students in the craft of songwriting and creative original music and is a sought after voice pedagogue, clinician and educator.

Warning: This Product Does Not Contain Any Traces of Expectations or Stereotypes.

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By Florence Taglight, International Ambassador UK, Project HEAL 

Vulnerable was a word that I only ever heard when my year 6 teacher used to tell my class not to walk home with headphones on or on our phones as we made ourselves vulnerable to not hearing the speeding car coming around the corner, or being mugged. A word that I knew but scarcely used. A word with negative connotations – as being robbed isn’t exactly a good thing. To my younger self if I were vulnerable I was naively putting myself in a risky situation, on the edge, choosing danger.

Unprotected. Exposed. Liable.

Although the meaning of the word has not actually changed in any way, to me it has.

 No longer am I Liable, I am Accountable.

No longer will I be seen as Unprotected, I am Open.

No longer do I feel Exposed, I am Authentic.

 

 

It has been nearly 2 years since I was first encouraged to be vulnerable, to reveal my everything to a group of 30 complete strangers and professionals. Nonetheless it took almost 3 months for me to understand that being vulnerable wasn’t something I could do half-heartedly; it had to be done with every inch of me (which FYI Meghan Trainor thinks is perfect from the bottom to the top and I think you are too). Resembling jumping into a freezing cold pond, I had to be entirely exposed. There was no point just dangling my legs in, (which for a while I did, before realising it was pointless, the semi-exposure left half open wounds and lies, and although these were unintentional they were secrets nonetheless – Secrets that kept me sick) I had to fully immerse all of me – past, present and future, Sounds exhausting? Yep it is, but worth it too.

Although I am not one for resolutions, I believe if you want to start or stop doing something you should make that change then and there. There is no need to wait till the first (why?). This year (Oh, I forgot, Happy New Year!) I’m going to focus on being vulnerable in the manner I now see it A.K.A. accountable, open and authentic.

Overcoming this what was once a fear of being vulnerable has enabled me to make connections I would have never made if I still correlated it to being defenseless. By embracing my newfound meaning of vulnerability I am forced to welcome my genuine self in all its honest and unique ways. To divulge my soul, leaving myself undeniably open, susceptible to judgment, cognizant that some of those may be negative, but being confident enough to accept the disapproval and get on with my life the unchanged. However scary this may have be in doing so I have been
able to form relationships and discover passions that are entirely, unequivocally and indisputably 100% Florence.

So although (as eponymous with my blog,) I am still finding me, I am also vowing to find the real me.

The Florence that doesn’t come with a ‘may contain traces of expectations and stereotypes.’ The Florence that is well, who she was born to be.

 


About the Author:
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Florence Taglight is the International Ambassador UK for Project HEAL. She is 21 years old. Connect with her on Instagram, and read more of Florence’s blog posts at http://findingflo.co.uk/.

Project HEAL Awarded Eating Disorder Hope’s “Nonprofit Seal of Excellence”

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Project HEAL has been awarded Eating Disorder Hope‘s Nonprofit Seal of Excellence.

Recipients of the Seal of Excellence have made a profound impact on the eating disorder community through supporting those who are struggling, raising awareness, and promoting recovery.

“Eating Disorder Hope is proud to recognize those within the eating disorder community who share and embody our message of hope and healing. We are honored to partner with talented individuals and nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving eating disorder resources available to the community.”

 

 

 

Fearless Friday Feature: “Rescue Me”

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ShannonHi, I’m Shannon. I’m 32 years old and have suffered from the hell and prison of anorexia for 10 years. I am FINALLY in recovery as of January 2016. It took me losing my job, my income, almost my marriage and almost my life for me to (reluctantly) accept the help I needed.

When my husband and I decided to relocate from Washington D.C. to Cleveland before our wedding… I tanked. It was a steady decline for 2 years. Looking back, it was a slow suicide. Not just a physical death, it was a mental death, an emotional death, a spiritual death. ED literally stole my soul. I lost my joy, my carefree and bubbly personality, and I lost my sanity. I literally almost lost everything I cared most about. I loathed myself, I was a walking zombie, I was a monster to my own family, no weight or pant size was ever good enough… I was NEVER good enough.

So, last summer, I ran myself into the ground. I was a wedding planner under major pressure and I was working another event job during the week. I was restricting more than I already had been, and I started compulsively exercising. I had lost ALL sense of reality. My purpose was to keep losing and achieve this unattainable perfection. I was incredibly proud of my withering body; my sickness was my accomplishment. But my body finally made the decision for me. In every way, it was showing me, “I’m shutting down. I simply can’t do this anymore.” My hair was falling out, I couldn’t remember a damn thing, I felt incredibly weak, my husband would find claw marks, scratches and bruises all over my body, I barely had the energy to get out of bed in the morning, working was becoming unbearable, and worse, I started having severe chest pains. Then, I had fainting spells at work and almost in the car while I was driving home. After a much needed EKG, my doctor told me I had gone into bradycardia. I was petrified. For the first time, I was terrified of dying. But still, I couldn’t stop.

Thank God my family decided to rescue me! At the beginning of November, they took me to a residential treatment center in Florida. I was so sick that I still argued passionately with my husband up until they dropped me off. It was unbelievably surreal; I felt like I was being dropped off on an island and would be stranded. I felt defeated and betrayed. These people were trying to take this away from me and turn me into someone I hated even more. There I was, sobbing, thinking my life was over… when in fact, it had just begun.

They literally saved my life! The place I dreaded most became my happy place; my safe bubble. I actually didn’t want to leave. I had the best therapists I’ve ever had, met the most amazing women I have ever met; it was a life altering experience. Everyone there became my army, and the dining room table was my battlefield. Every morning when I didn’t want to get up to eat, and was so homesick it physically hurt, I fought with every fiber of my being to do this for my loved ones. A picture of them sat right next to my plate and that is what got me through every single meal.

It was nothing short of a miracle! When you hit rock bottom, sometimes you just have to surrender. My obsessive need to control everything had come to a tragic end. I couldn’t manage my life anymore, and clearly when I (and my “false god”) steered the ship, look where it got me! I came home a few days before Christmas, and felt like a completely different person. I had a new brain, a new set of eyes, a clear mind, a clean heart, a restored soul. I could really smile again! My marriage is repairing, my muscles are repairing, my organs are repairing, my friendships are repairing, my family is repairing, my faith is repairing, my spirit is repairing. I have energy, I can remember things, I’m kinder, less anxious, less judgmental, less irritable, more loving, more fun, more open, more present. I’m medically stable, following my meal plan, conquering fear foods, have color back in my face and light in my eyes! I am able to do things I couldn’t have possibly done before: hikes with my dog, yoga, going out to dinner with my family talking and chewing freely, laughing out loud with my sister, really feeling hugging my husband, not taking hours to get ready, actually tasting the food I’m consuming. I refuse to fail at my marriage and my second chance at life! The truth is, the enemy does not stand a chance when its victim decides to survive.

Recovery has become my full-time job and the thing I hated most has become my medicine. There is a quote I recently found that seems to beautifully sum it up, “She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” Although my actual weight when I was sick was low, the weight I carried around with me was by the ton. You see, anorexia doesn’t just affect eating (like so many think)… it affects everything. Let me repeat, everything. It is not a fad, it is not a diet, and it so not glamorous. Is recovery utterly exhausting? Yeah. Does it feel like I’m mourning a death? Yes. Are mirrors still painful to look in? Yep! Do I often still feel shameful for eating? Yeah. Do I fully love and accept myself yet?? Heck no! But am I actively and vigilantly choosing light over darkness and recovery over my illness? You better believe it!!

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I’m choosing my husband’s kisses over calorie counting, a homemade dessert over hiding and compulsively exercising. I’m choosing sunsets over scales, self-care over self-harm. I’m choosing bare feet and dirty paws, less makeup and messy hair, late nights looking at the stars, actually being a wife, feeling like we’re a family again! While the pain is far from over and I’m unfortunately not “relapse-proof”, I am choosing joy, love, freedom, and LIFE day by day, hour by hour, step by step, bite by bite.

Connect with Shannon on Instagram at @feedyoursoulonebiteatatime  

To The Warriors This Thanksgiving

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This post is written by Emily Costa, Project HEAL’s Blog Manager

For those overcoming an eating disorder, Thanksgiving can be a challenging feat to overcome. Instead of posting a list of survival tips or anything like that, I wanted to write a letter of encouragement to whoever needs a little reminder that they can handle this day.

Dear image1warrior,

 I know Thanksgiving can be scary. The plethora of food, the relatives you haven’t seen in a while, the memories of behaviors used in past years flooding your mind. But I wanted to write to you to remind you that you can handle this. Lets take a moment to remember how far you have come. You are here, alive, and dedicating every fiber in your being to recovery. Did you forget how strong that makes you? Because I certainly haven’t.

 I want to remind you that this meal is just like any other – and just because there may be more delicious sides on the table, does not mean it has to be any scarier. Give yourself permission to enjoy the food and the company that surrounds you. What you eat at this meal is not a determining factor in how great of a friend, daughter, sister or person you are.

 If things get tough, remember you are not alone in your struggle. Remember that there are many people who want to be there for you. Remember that whatever happens during this day – does not determine what will happen tomorrow.

 Lastly, this is a holiday about being thankful; so let yourself be thankful for recovery.

Because, recovery has opened so many doors for you to live a happy and healthy life. Let yourself sit at the dining table with a sense of strength. Let yourself laugh with loved ones reminding you that food simply has the power to connect. Let the meal be a small part of a day that slows us down, brings us together and ignites wonderful conversation. Let yourself be thankful to the friends and family that have held us close during our journey of recovery.

 But most importantly, let yourself be thankful for YOU. YOU are the one who decided to get better. YOU are the one who chooses recovery every single day. YOU are the one who doesn’t give up despite how challenging things may get. YOU are a warrior and I hope you enjoy a slice of pie and freedom this year.

 With much love,

Emily

Take A Breather

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This post is written by Emily Costa, Project HEAL’s Blog Manager

The other day I saw a post on Facebook that said something along the lines that being between the ages of 18-25 is like playing a video game without the tutorial so you just try to figure it all out by hitting a million buttons. I thought to myself “that is RECOVERY.” I’ll be honest – more times than not, I have no clue what I am doing in recovery. Most of the time, I am taking it day by day and figuring it out with the guidance of my support.

But in the rare case, what can we do when our “support” is being triggering?!

I unfortunately ran into a situation like this today. My nutritionist took the liberty to send me some dining out tips that she thought could be helpful. I welcomed the idea knowing I’d be going on vacation and could use a reminder on how to trust myself when out for meals.

Upon opening the email with the tips, I shook my head in confusion. Lets not get into details, but telling someone with an eating disorder to immediately box up half of their food before eating is NOT exactly in line with my idea of recovery. After reading the message, my mind went on a rampage.

These kind of tips were like fuel to a fire raging in my head. My eating disorder started to shout things like “she thinks you need to lose weight” and “these tips are probably 100% necessary”. Luckily, I was able to fact check this information with all that I learned in my time in treatment. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath and thought to myself:

• I know that food is fuel for my body
• I know that I can eat when I’m hungry
• I know that I can stop when I’m full
• I know that there is no need to fear calories
• I know that there is no need to restrict
• I know that there is no need to limit myself when it comes to food OR life

For a lack of a better word, those tips were just non-sense. They did not have to set back my day, I could move on and feel strong for how I handled the situation. It is important to fact check information we get from others. It is also important to remind ourselves we have the power to step back and take a much-needed breath. Take-a-Deep-Breath-Whale
Today I learned that all my hard work has paid off, that I know how to be intuitive, and I know how to be the healthiest and happiest version of myself. Never forget the power of a breath.

A Testament to the Power of Motivation

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Emily Weinig is the founder and president of Recovery Is Now, which publishes the  Recovery Planner. This planner  has been shown to help those in any level of care for eating disorder recovery. Recovery Planner is available on  recoveryisnow.com . In her free time Emily enjoys painting, hiking, listening to music, and spending time with her friends. She painted the picture below, titled “Change”, during her path to recovery.

recovery is now

 

“I have my dream job, I love my apartment, and I am loved by my friends and family. I love everything about my life… yet each day feels like a nightmare. I am so undeniably miserable in every sense of the word and it’s only getting worse.”

These are the words I wrote in my journal mid-December of 2013.

I had finally achieved the life I had been dreaming of. Never before had I been able to reflect upon my life and be completely satisfied with every element. I had absolutely everything I wanted and despite being so grateful for all of it, every day was unbelievably torturous. All along, I had been under the impression that I would be happy and fulfilled when I achieved these goals of an independent, successful, and social life. This idea, of course, is a common misconception of what happiness truly is.

What I realized throughout the few days in December when I was contemplating my life and happiness is that being fulfilled has nothing to do with reaching external goals. Much to my dismay at the time, I realized that it involves significantly more introspection, dedication, and perseverance. It is comprised of exerting significant effort into altering one’s thinking patterns and improving one’s emotional awareness. These two things then subsequently lead to great personal growth. In a nutshell, I came to the unavoidable conclusion that the external factors in my life were not causing my unhappiness… I was.

Once arriving at this difficult truth, I acted quickly with the encouragement of those I trusted most. I was completely unaware of my crippling anxiety and eating disorder until a close friend mentioned that my relationship with food seemed abnormal and worrisome. The chronic depression had always been blaringly apparent to me, so I instinctively knew that I needed an immense amount of help. Despite my fear, I searched tirelessly for a residential treatment facility by calling treatment professionals and scouring the Internet.

After I finally found what I hoped to be the perfect fit, I felt obligated to relinquish my secrets to my loved ones. I divulged to them the unhappiness I had desperately attempted to conceal and the countless lies that I had told them in order to prevent worrying them. I admitted to the irrational and self-destructive thoughts that plagued my mind every minute of every day and the dangerous behaviors in which I routinely engaged. Most importantly, I confessed that I was pursuing treatment as soon as possible at an inpatient facility in Philadelphia for an unknown period of time. Not only did I sacrifice my secrets, I also sacrificed my job and nearly all of my savings in order to attend the inpatient program. Within a month of my epiphany, I sat terrified and alone on a train with a single suitcase that held the only belongings that I would have for my residential stay that ultimately lasted two and half months during the worst winter that Philadelphia had seen in years.

I am unable to gather the words that would adequately and accurately describe my inpatient experience or the exorbitant amount of effort, motivation, and perseverance it demanded of me. However, what I can tell you is how much motivation I drew from the journal entry I wrote and the sacrifices I made. Maintaining motivation is one of the most difficult and most important aspects of eating disorder recovery. Because recovery from an eating disorder can be so immensely trying, motivation is essential to the resilience and perseverance necessary to recover. While in the depths of treatment in Philadelphia, during moments in which I felt my soul was irreparably broken, I held with all my might onto the truth that I had expressed in my journal. I vehemently reminded myself that I had given up everything for the chance to truly live, given up everything for the potential to be anything but miserable. To this day, the epiphany I had and the monumental sacrifices I made remain two very powerful motivators that are now among countless others.

I cannot say for a minute that I was consistently able to pursue recovery with all my might. There were undoubtedly occasions when I couldn’t be convinced by anyone (including myself) that recovery was the superior choice. There were so many times when my eating disorder overpowered me…times when those who best knew me approached me to say that I wasn’t acting like myself and that they could no longer recognize me. As I recall those instances, I recognize their true significance. The moments in which one has the intense inclination to give up but does not are the moments that define one’s character.

So how does one move forward when the eating disorder is relentless, consuming, and powerful beyond belief? I only speak for myself when I say that grasping onto any reason possible is remarkably helpful. Another technique that worked for me involved mechanically going through the motions of recovery, which then led to a clearer mind that was increasingly motivated. Of course, there were numerous instances during which I lacked any shred of desire to move forward. When those situations arose, I used the opportunity to surrender myself completely to my treatment team and attempt recovery simply because I was expected to pursue my treatment goals. All of these techniques were significant in my path to recovery, however one tool stood out more than others. This tool is something that I named Recovery Planner.

After becoming discouraged repeatedly throughout treatment, I gradually created a tool for myself- an agenda handbook replete with everything I knew would help me succeed in my recovery. It included goal setting, meal logging, space for appointment notes, reasons to recover, affirmations, and more. After months of use and significant progress, I adapted it into a planner that is now available to the public. I was compelled to share this tool that helped me so much with the recovery community in hopes of helping others achieve a life in recovery, too.

I am proud to say that I now live each day without the misery I experienced prior to seeking help. While my dream once consisted of a fulfilling job, a nice apartment, and a support network of loved ones, it has now grown into something much bigger. My dream, and now reality, is to show others the light of recovery via the Recovery Planner that I’ve now published. I am passionate about and dedicated to sharing the incredible experience of recovery with everyone. Remember when you’re struggling that there is a light out there, even if it may be hard to see. Hold on with all your might. It’s worth it.

In the Spotlight: Eighth Grader Olivia Pitasi

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oliviapSending a HUGE thank you and congrats to Olivia Pitasi, 8th grade eating disorder activist and cousin of Project HEAL’s NJ co-founder, Jessica Jurinich, who raised over $700 for Project HEAL by selling our tee shirts and bracelets in a fundraising drive at Waterford Middle School during the last couple of weeks. You are a rising and shining star and a wonderful example to everyone! Thank you for helping Project HEAL to help those who want to recover from their eating disorders but can’t do so without financial assistance.

Project HEAL Chapter Leaders’ Stories for Conscious Magazine

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In honor of National Eating Disorders Association Awareness month Conscious Magazine is helping Project HEAL get the word out there by sharing one story of recovery once a week for the month of February. The first one is from Project HEAL New Jersey Chapter Co-Founder, Tina Zapata. Stories to follow for the month: Jessica co-founder of Project HEAL New Jersey, Meg co-founder of Project HEAL – Southern California Chapter and Christina co-founder Project HEAL New York City Chapter!

http://consciousmagazine.co/national-eating-disorder-awareness-month/