Third Wheelin’ It With ED

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couple-fighting1

Scene opens to women sitting in restaurant with a man

 

Man: What are you going to order?

 

Woman: looks up from the menu with palpable alarm I’m not sure. There- I don’t see anything that I am in the mood for.

 

Man Come on, why don’t you get the chicken? You were just saying how you were in the mood for it the other day.

 

Woman: looks away I’m not in the mood for it anymore. (thinks to herself ‘Cant he back off already? Geez’) Maybe I’ll just get the salad.

 

Man: Come one. You haven’t had enough protein today. begins to look mildly irritated

 

Waiter: Are you two ready to orde-

 

Woman: No! So sorry but we just need a few more minutes.

 

Woman: to man in a harsh whisper I’m sorry but there isn’t anything on here with protein that I’m into.

 

Man: Stop letting your eating disorder win. Get what you want. Come on, we can share it if you want.

 

Woman: UGH Please don’t play therapist with me. I’m not even hungry anymore. Come on lets just leave.

 

Waiter: Ok, ready to order now you two?

 

Woman and man glare at each other in heavy, heated silence

 

END SCENE

 

Relationships are complicated. Throw an eating disorder in there and it really gets complicated. While the above-mentioned scene no longer occurs with anything close to that amount of panic or intensity, this is a more than accurate play-by-play of most meals out that I had with my husband when we were dating, and the eating disorder was in full swing. As you can see, it was a difficult time for both of us.

 

The thing about being in a relationship with someone who has an eating disorder is that, despite the sufferer’s best intentions and efforts, you are not a dyad. The eating disorder is always there, the annoying third wheel that seems to pop up everywhere from dates, to family gatherings, to the bedroom. When my husband and I were dating, I will admit that my ED ruined more days than not. I was constantly preoccupied and obsessed with food, weight, and physical activity. In short, I was not a great partner. I didn’t have the ability to be at that time. If I am being honest, my eating disorder was probably more my partner than he was. I loved him. I don’t really buy that saying that you cant love someone until you love yourself because I did. I loved him more than anything. I think the saying would be more accurately worded if it said “You cannot properly show someone that you love them until you love yourself.” Because at that time, while I swear I loved him with all of my heart, when it came down to the wire I put my eating disorder first every.single.time. And I hated myself for doing so. I just didn’t feel that I had any control over it. Every time he asked me out to dinner I had to choose between turning him down and feeling guilty about that, or going and feeling guilty about the food. In reality the wrath of my ED voice was 1000 times worse than the guilt that I could ever have about anything else.

 

Luckily, with much time and treatment, I got well. It was a conscious choice, over and over again, every single day. And he stuck with me. I still have trouble understanding how he endured this, and why he decided to put faith in my ability to recover and become a real person again in our relationship, but he did. And here we are, years later, married, happy, and a true dyad. ED no longer has a place in our home.

 

The emotional toll that my ED took on my husband both during the phase when I was actively disordered, as well as when I was going through recovery, was huge. Eating disorders are incredibly insidious and all-encompassing. Though I tried my hardest to play the magician, to keep a front of being perfectly fine and perky on the outside, while falling apart on the inside, it just didn’t work this way. The ED had tentacles, and I had no idea at the time how much the effects radiated out and rippled into those around me. I was consumed by ED, so I couldn’t and didn’t see the pain that others were experiencing. During the hardest times, I was drowning, and, because he cared enough about me to stick around, I was pulling him down with me. But don’t take my word for it. Best if you can hear it from him:

 

*I like calling it ED. I was so happy when the therapist explained it this way to me because it showed me that I wasn’t crazy. She was totally different when ED was in control. I don’t want to call her a monster or anything, but when ED was around, she seriously become a different, hardened person- she became cold, calculating, and distant. She did bad things, like steal money from me for laxatives. At the worst of it she seemed to almost consciously change her outside appearance to reflect her inside experience- she wore huge black shirts with tights and, of course, her body changed and became completely foreign to me. Gone was the beautiful, athletic, fun-loving brunette. Here instead, was this frighteningly angular cold little person who rarely smiled. I think that was the worst of it actually- the way her smile changed. It became a “not-smile.” She smiled without her eyes. Now you should know, my wife is beautiful. She is smart as hell, and she cares more about people than anyone that I have ever met in my life. She is compassionate, funny, ridiculously sarcastic, and her smile lights up my day. Her eyes crinkle at the edges when she does and I swear that smile could pull me out of a coma. But like I said, when her eating disorder took over, her entire personality changed. She was a shell. Very sad, very angry, and very lost.

 

But you know what? I stuck around. I went to interventions for her with her family. I held her hands while she cried and cried before going to treatment. I attended the therapy sessions and I learned about the meal plans. I encouraged her to eat (You take a bite I take a bite). The whole thing was a test of my patience, and I learned more about what I was capable of at that time than I have at any other point in my life because it was the most difficult thing that I ever experienced. When she wasn’t eating, I was obsessed with getting her to eat. I begged. I got angry. We fought constantly. There were periods of feeling hopeless. “You look nice” was triggering, but not saying anything at all seemed to be triggering too. Sometimes it just felt like my hands were tied. Some days I felt like I had to recover with her. The hard thing was that when she got out of treatment, she had been through months of intensive therapy, whereas I hadn’t had any. So I kind of had to play catch up. But in the end it was all worth it, because slowly, day by day, week by week, I got my girlfriend back. And being the support for her through that has only made us stronger. Storms and trees with roots and all that, you know? *

 

So for the partner of someone struggling- Remind yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It can be an exhausting experience, but don’t give up on your person. Their eating disorder likely has them convinced that they are not worth fighting for, so keep that in mind when you find yourself falling into the trap of feeling like your partner is intentionally trying to be difficult. Make sure that you take time for your own personal self-care. Remind your partner constantly that you wont give up if they do not. Strive to be a pillar of support as they work towards recovery, because if you do, their chances of being able to recover completely will be even stronger. And always remember- ED tires of consistent effort, vulnerability, and support from others, so keep up the fight! Recovery will happen, and with it will come healing for both of you.

Empowered Through Art

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Healing from an eating disorder can be a tremendous journey. It can be hard, exhausting and sometimes uncomfortable – but at the end of the day we know it’s worth it. It becomes nothing short of empowering when you are able to heal and discover a brand new life without an eating disorder running the show.

For many, it can be about finding that one thing that brings us some inner peace. Whether its through writing, singing or using art to explore our emotions. One of our awesome Project HEAL supporters, Jenna Rose Simon, has done just that. With almost 40K followers on Instagram she has been able to share her powerful artwork to not only heal herself, but bring light to serious topics through captivating images.

We hope her story of recovery can bring you some inspiration today!

1. How long have you been drawing for?
I’ve been drawing for most of my life, but I used to draw mostly portraits of either friends or celebrities.  I only recently started drawing concept art, or things that are based on raw emotion.
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2.  How has drawing affected your recovery?  
Drawing has affected my recovery in too many ways to list.  When I first started drawing concept art, it was really just for me and my therapist.  I didn’t think it could have an impact on anyone else.  She told me that one day, when I was ready, I should put my work in galleries and that it could really help others.  I wasn’t ready to stand up in front of people and talk about my work and the concepts behind them, So I started an instagram account solely for my art.  That kind of exploded quickly.  People did seem helped by it, and that really helped me therapeutically.  I’ve struggled most of my life to feel as though I was good enough, and struggled to feel that anything I ever did would be good enough too.  Drawing the artwork helped me cope with some of the difficult situations in my life.  Sharing it with others and watching it move people has started to help me heal the little voice inside my head that thinks that nothing I do is ever going to be good enough.  It’s still not perfect, but I have moments now where I sit back and say, “Wow, that really touched a lot of people!  I’m proud of that drawing,” and I’ve been able to relate that feeling to some non drawing activities as well.
3. Do you have any advice to those who may want to draw for therapeutic reasons?
I would say do it.  It is not even about skill level.  I went to college to study Art Therapy because I was so fascinated by how much it could uncover that regular therapy didn’t necessarily get to.  Sometimes drawing or writing, or even dancing… any other art form, seems to be an easier way to express feelings.  It doesn’t have to look like a masterpiece, and you don’t even have to share it with anyone else.  It just has to help you in some way.  Everyone is capable of that.
4. What is your favorite piece that you’ve drawn so far and why?
I have a hard time sometimes deciding on a “favorite” piece, because all of my pieces are different, and they all have different purposes.  I think in choosing a favorite, I’d have to say that the one I love is a self portrait I did where I am holding my neck and my brain is trying to strangle me.  The message behind it is “Your thoughts are what’s killing you.”  I feel this is such a common theme among people today, both in eating disorders and other disorders as well.  Sometimes we overthink things to the point that we create situations in our heads that aren’t even real.  I am so guilty of this and still, to this day, am regularly being called on it.  This drawing is meant to depict that we can be our own worst enemy depending on what kinds of thoughts we foster.  Within eating disorders, I think behavior commonly comes from thoughts we foster, which come from experiences we’ve had in our life.  It is so hard to change those thoughts, but this image shows just how important that is.
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5. What is your advice to anyone who is just now entering recovery?
 Try to remember that there is life after these few weeks.  This sounds so utterly specific, and possibly cheesy, but it’s so true.  The first couple of weeks felt almost unbearable to me, and in every moment, I didn’t think I would make it to the next one.  I couldn’t even think 4 weeks ahead to a time where it got easier.  I had people in my life who kept reminding me that typically, the first few weeks are the hardest for a variety of reasons, and then it starts to get easier.  I didn’t really trust them, and I don’t expect anyone to trust me either, I just hope that they take this information and think, “If she could do it, and she is saying this, then so can I,” and continue to have hope.  Sometimes we don’t get to the end because we feel like the current situation will never end.  I am literally still guilty of this on at least a weekly basis, but past experiences and being able to get through very difficult moments have taught me that it will eventually end, no matter how I feel right now.  And when it does end, you’ll be so happy that you stuck out these more difficult primary moments.
Connect with Jenna on Social Media:
Twitter: @JennaRoseSimon
Facebook: Jenna Rose Simon
Instagram: @AGentleTouchOfArt and @JennaRoseSimon
http://jennarosesimon.com

Five Mistakes I Made After Getting Out of Treatment

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They’re always saying that relapse is part of the process. That recovery is never a straight up-and-forward trajectory. They say don’t view relapse as a failure. Well when I was getting ready to leave my treatment center, I didn’t quite see things this way. I saw recovery as black and white- you are either moving towards recovery or you are moving towards an eating disorder. I ignored the warnings and told myself I would take recovery by the horns, that I would do things the way I thought was best. This proved to be a flawed approach to say the least.

 

First things first- lets not call them mistakes. I prefer, learning opportunities. Or better yet, growth edges. Yes that’s it- growth edges. After being discharged from treatment for an eating disorder, I had many growth edges to be learned from. It’s not surprising looking back- I felt like I had just gotten off of one of those tilt-a-whirls at the carnival, and was trying to stand up straight while my world spun wildly around me. I was both stubborn and ill prepared for what was to come. My hope is that putting this down in writing may help others in avoiding the same growth edges. So here goes: My top five missteps that I experienced after getting out of treatment:

 

  1. I ditched my dietician- I always had beef-no pun intended- with the whole dietician thing. I hated having someone try to steer my every food choice. I hated reporting back about challenges. I hated having someone see my weight when I wasn’t supposed to see it. So, after being discharged, one of the first things I did was call and cancel the appointment that they had made for me with an outpatient dietician. Keep in mind, I was still recovery focused at that point. I wanted to recover. Like I said, I just wanted to do it on my own terms. This meant a little less chaperoning with the food stuff. What I didn’t realize at the time was that recovery “on my own terms” really meant recovery on ED’s terms.

 

  1. I didn’t ask my friends to curb the diet talk- I actively participated in groups in which we discussed how we shouldn’t be ashamed of our illnesses. I spearheaded discussions with others about how to be proactive in our recoveries by addressing triggers with family and friends. Yet I failed to follow my own advice. Talking about how to ask friends not to bring up their most current juice cleanses in group therapy is pretty different from actually talking to them. I told myself not to bother them. I told myself that they would become annoyed by me, and that I would have to be the forever identified patient if I discussed my triggers with them. This definitely hurt my recovery. My friends didn’t have eating disorders. So they didn’t intuitively know what was triggering and what wasn’t. Who could expect them to? After all, a lot of the things that triggered me were things that your average college girl would love to hear. (“You look so good!”) Looking back, if I had simply talked to them, I know they would have been receptive. My tensions would have been diffused, the lines of communication would have been opened up, and I would have had one less challenge to work through in my recovery process (I know this because I did end up listened to my own advice and addressing things with them after my relapse. Hindsight hu?)

 

  1. I tried on my old clothing- Everyone said not to do this. I said not to do this! I sat in group and earnestly looked others in the eyes and implored them to just throw out their sick clothes. Who needs em, I said. Why would you ever put yourself through that? What good will come out of it? Eating disorders are weird aren’t they? Most of us can more than eloquently talk the talk, but the walk is another story. I, for example, was actively plotting in my own mind (read: my eating disorder was plotting) how I would be trying on those jeans as soon as I got home, while I was telling my fellow group members to avoid doing just that. “I just need to check” I told myself. “It’s actually more recovery focused in my case to try them on to see how far I’ve come!” Clearly I was being fooled into listening to my ED voice. That actually proved to be a great learning experience- After treatment, my ED became even trickier, using staying recovery focused as a cover up to actually engage in certain behaviors. This realization was helpful to me, after I relapsed, in becoming that much stronger in the fight against ED.

 

  1. I didn’t feng shui- We talked about triggering places together in groups. I talked about it with my therapist. We made a plan together for my college housing- It was pretty simple actually. I associated my college room and bathroom with engaging in ED behaviors, so I needed to break those associations. The plan was to paint my bedroom-cheery yellow instead of the blue that was currently on the walls, and buy a new shower curtain/rug/sink stuff for the bathroom. But did I follow through? Nah. I got home and decided that I could handle it without all of that hassle. I told myself that it wouldn’t help anyway. Spoiler alert- it does and did help. I found this out when I actually did it the next time around.

 

  1. I stopped journaling- Journaling was one of the little pieces of the puzzle that saved my life. I was emotionally immature, stunted by years of retreating into an eating disorder, and consequentially, I struggled with discussing all and any feelings. Then I began to journal. This outlet allowed me to tap into all the tough stuff in a different way. I used it to track my thoughts and feelings, and quickly began to notice links in the environment. I brought it into therapy and had my therapist read it out loud for both of us to process. It was incredibly eye opening, so naturally, when I got out, I stopped doing it. I say naturally because I still had ED in one ear at this point, and he was extremely threatened by this shiny new coping skill. So he yelled back. And I listened. “I don’t have time.” “I had a good day- what is there to even write about?” “It’s too hard, and it doesn’t even help.” “You feel the same, so why bother?” Recognizing that feeling one way in the morning doesn’t mean that I will feel that way four hours later, was important in my recovery process later on. This allowed me to confront those nasty ED thoughts- “I feel like journaling doesn’t help me, but feelings aren’t facts. I had a rough morning, so my motivation is down. But think about how much journaling has actually helped so far. Think about the real conversations I have had with therapists about how this is not only helpful but necessary for my recovery. Listen to yourself, not ED.”

 

Recovery is never a straight trajectory. There will always be ups and downs. But, as I discovered through my own process of trial and error, you either succeed, or you learn. Yes, I relapsed, but you can bet I learned from it. One of the main lessons was this: it doesn’t matter how many times you fall down- keep trying. The more you try, the more likely it is that, in spite of the ups and downs, the general direction will be up. Besides, ED hates perseverance.

Up Your Recovery Game

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This post was written by co-blog manager & co-chapter leader of Project HEAL NYC Emily Costa IMG_2513

I was at work today eating my lunch at my desk and I glanced to my right where there is a stack of magazines directly next to my food.

 “Up Your Ab Game”

“Slim At Every Age”

“Burn fat faster – and smarter”

“7 tips to a flat stomach”

“What’s REALLY Widening Your Waistline”

Like an automatic reflex, I went to grab the issue on top of the pile and put my fork down. Without even much effort, my mind started to race thinking about what I had eaten earlier this morning and the calories in the delicious salad I was eating. I started questioning myself – could I go to the gym for a little bit longer today? What should I have for dinner?

I stopped and very quickly slapped myself back into reality. I don’t need to up my ab game, I needed to stay in line with my recovery.

Before we move on, I’d like to make it known that I don’t usually have Shape magazines just hanging out around me as I eat. I actually happen to be a student at a fashion school in NYC who currently works as a Fashion PR Intern. Go figure right?

So I spend half of my time advocating about eating disorders and recovery. And the other half working with fashion brands and magazines.

I would be lying if it weren’t affected by this stuff. I mean lets be honest, I have size 00 dresses to my left and a 2016 beach body guide to my right.

But to be perfectly clear, I don’t think the fashion industry or publications are to blame for my body insecurities and the eating disorder I’ve worked very hard to overcome. My eating disorder had a significant purpose in my life to fulfill emotional needs I couldn’t deal with. But as a young woman in society – it would be hard to say these brainwashing standards of beauty don’t bother me.

Yes I’m in recovery and I can now see through the bullshit of these words and images – but I’m not invincible. I still have to remind myself that those “fresh slimming recipes” and tips could easily land me back in a full-blown relapse. Maybe that’s not the reality for everyone, but it is for me.

I mean hey, I still cringe when people talk about their new diets. I still get uncomfortable when people body shame themselves or others.

I still am a work in progress. But my skin is a lot thicker than it used to be.

I don’t feel the need to succumb to these external pressures of society that tell me I’m not thin, strong or sexy enough. I am me, and isn’t that the best thing I could be? I don’t need rock solid abs or a recipe for a slimming green juice to be the best version of me. I need my recovery to be the best version of me.

 

 

 

 

 

Calling BS on BMI

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Maybe you found out the number in health class. Maybe you calculated it yourself after researching “healthy” or “unhealthy” weights on line. Maybe your doctor or psychologist used it to diagnose you (or mistakenly not diagnose you) with an eating disorder. However the method, it is safe to say we have all been confronted with this oh-so-irritating number at one point or another. Well today, I’m calling BS on BMI (body mass index).

 

The National Institute of Health says that your BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Any doctor worth their salt will tell you that it was never meant to be used as the sole determining factor of your physical health; however, it’s user-friendly format has contributed to our society doing just that. Companies offer financial incentives for employees with a “healthy” BMI, life insurance rates are higher for those with an “unhealthy” BMI, and, infuriatingly, health professionals routinely bring it up during everything from yearly physicals to gynecological exams.

 

The problem is, as was previously stated, BMI was never meant to be an indictor of health. It was designed for a random research study on the physics of “normal man” in the mid nineteenth century. As such, the BMI boundaries are arbitrarily produced and completely subjective. According to BMI, a difference of a decimal point will place you in the underweight, normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese category.  Clearly, this formula is far, far too simplistic. It does not take into account cholesterol, heart rate, or blood pressure, nor does it interpret relative proportions of bone, muscle, and fat in the body.

 

The fact is, whether you are completely healthy, in the depths of an eating disorder, or in recovery, BMI can feel like one big mind game, toying with fragile emotions and encouraging self-doubt and poor body image. I have personally never ever plugged my height and weight into an online BMI calculator and walked away feeling ok with myself.

 

So why do we still use it? There’s simply no single number that can represent “health,” so why are we hinging so much weight (pun intended) to this metric?  The only answer I can come up with is that it is convenient and simple, so insurance companies like it. But I don’t think I am alone in questioning why our society insists on continuing to measure our health (and self worth) on an invalidated heuristic statistical measure.  In fact, when it comes to our diet-obsessed culture, the last thing we need is an oversimplified number deeming us “unhealthy” without accounting for any of pieces of physical wellness (i.e the ones that actually matter).

 

So in conclusion, my final message to everyone (including myself) is this: do not let your BMI (or weight, or jean size) validate or invalidate you. A number does not define your health, self worth, recovery, or anything else. You are so, so much more.

 

 

-C

Speak Up – World Eating Disorder Action Day

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Project HEAL blog post world edThis post is written by co-blog manager Emily Costa

A year ago my life looked very differently. Exactly 365 days ago, I would have been sitting in Intensive Outpatient programming in Miami. Away from my family and so called “life” in NYC (by now I would have thankfully realized living WITH my eating disorder was not a life).

I would have been probably pouring a little bit of my heart out in a group right now, reminding myself that vulnerability was they key to my recovery. Reminding myself that I was worth recovery in the first place.

I was working on myself with every ounce of my being (just as I still do today) and I luckily sit in gratitude today for that opportunity to mend the relationship with myself, my body, and my mind. Especially knowing some people aren’t so lucky.

Today is World Eating Disorder Action Day and I’m sitting in a café, not focused on the croissant I ate for breakfast, or the sandwich I will order for lunch; but focused on spreading the awareness and understanding of eating disorders.

This is all foreign territory to me – advocating for something that I once felt I’d never overcome. This whole using my voice and speaking about an illness that had once controlled my every thought is scary, but freeing all at the same time.

With sharing the nine truths for World ED day on social media, I realized how much each one meant to me.

It took years to realize that how I looked on the outside did not determine whether or not I was sick – or if I deserved help. It took years to realize that my diagnosis, although hard to process, was not a definitive life sentence of struggling; and that the diagnosis didn’t define me.

It took me years to realize I did not choose my eating disorder, that I wasn’t doing it for attention, and that I couldn’t just “stop.” It took me years to realize that eating disorders affect millions and do not discriminate.

All this awareness I have today is something I wish I could have come to realize a lot sooner in my life, but I’m grateful for the acceptance I have today.

I will say that sometimes I get defeated that more don’t understand the complexity of an eating disorder or what it entails to live freely from this illness. But that alone makes me want to speak louder, fight harder and be braver.

But ultimately? I feel lucky to be living at a time where there are so many people fighting so hard to share the reality of eating disorders. And most importantly, that recovery is possible.

Take part of the action: http://worldeatingdisordersday.org

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your Project HEAL Gala ticket for tomorrow night: http://bit.ly/1PnPu2h

 

On Recovery

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They say eating disorders are not about food. That food and weight control are simply symptoms of an underlying issue. So it seems reasonable to assume that recovery from an eating disorder is not all about food.

 

However…

 

It is.

 

It’s about sitting up at night with your roommates, eating pizza and laughing. It’s about early afternoon brunch fests with the girls. It’s about egg and cheese omelets, and chocolate chip pancakes. It’s getting that Frappuccino that looks yummy at Starbucks. It’s about stopping randomly at Rita’s for that ice cream cone, and eating it without remorse. It’s about buying a bag of gummy bears and sharing them at the movie theater with friends. It’s about eating an apple because you feel like it, not because it is “low cal.” It’s about getting rid of the diet food- the sugar free mints, the skim milk, the soda with the weird aftertaste. It’s about going out to sushi and getting the rainbow roll, because it looks good. It’s trying something new when you’re out to dinner because you feel adventurous, and not calculating the calories in your head. It’s about eating the next meal, even if you felt like you ate a lot earlier. It’s eating regardless of if you are having a bad day. It is donuts and chocolate chip cookies and vanilla cream frosting. It’s scheduling time in for lunch even when you are bogged down during a busy workday. It’s going out to dinner with your family and not frantically looking up the menu beforehand. It’s drinking juice instead of water because you are craving the juice dammit. It’s eating a salad when you feel like it, and a burger the next day, when you feel like that. It’s nourishing your body not because you need to, but because you want to. Recovery is about enjoying food again, eating to nourish and fuel you body, and eating because the food tastes good.

 

But ok. Lets be real. It’s about much more than food.

 

It’s about taking back control of your life. It’s about letting go of rituals and numbers. It’s about finally stepping off the food-bondage carousel ride from hell, and working to stand up straight while the worlds feels like it is reeling underneath your shaky feet.

 

It’s about letting yourself be “perfectly imperfect.” It’s reading that paper that is due tomorrow two times, and then going to sleep. It’s about letting yourself get a full nights sleep. It’s about dreaming of things other than food. It’s about taking naps when your body needs a rest. It’s about going to bed when the floor isn’t vacuumed and the laundry isn’t done.

 

It’s about staying home from the gym when you are sick and honoring your body. It’s about jumping off the treadmill gerbil wheel, and jumping into that yoga class instead, because you are now exercising for fun! It’s about giving up the guilt of not exercising and letting yourself relax.

 

It’s about rejecting diet culture, though it may seem as everyone else in the world subscribes to it. It’s about living at your set point and finding peace with it. It’s about walking away from the mirror, the scale, the measuring tape, and walking into the real parts of life. It’s about fully participating in those real parts of life.

 

 

Recovery is coming home to yourself. It is about learning who you are, and being proud of it. It’s calling the ED out on the smokescreen and trickery. It’s about talking back to that ED voice, telling him to shut the hell up, telling him to f-off, telling him that you have a life to live, and one that he no longer dictates. It’s about letting go of the pseudo-control that comes along with counting calories, and stepping into taking true control of your life.

 

Recovery is vulnerability. It is about letting yourself feel the feelings. Even the messy ones. It is about learning how to surf those urges, instead of succumbing immediately to them. It is about recognizing that feelings are not facts. It is about honoring your emotions. It is about living in the present moment. It is about screaming, sobbing, hitting a pillow on the bad days. It is about recognizing that all of that is preferable to being numbed out from the world. It is about taking risks and making mistakes. It is about crying when you need to, and laughing too loudly without a second thought. It is about snorting while you laugh and smiling the smiles that make your eyes crinkle. It’s about asking for a hug when you need one. Recovery is about believing the fact that they will accept you regardless of your weight, that you don’t have to punish your body to earn their love.

 

It’s about hanging out with friends. It’s about being worried about judgment, but doing it anyway. It’s about wearing pretty clothes, getting dolled up, and going out on the damn town. Recovery is going out with people that you don’t know as well. It’s about having a spontaneous cup of coffee with that co-worker that seems like she would be cool to hang out with. It is going out to do something when you feel like staying home and isolating. Recovery is about connection. It is about love.

 

Recovery is acknowledging the eating disorder, without making it your identity. Is about respecting your journey, letting yourself recognize that you walked through hell, also reminding yourself that that part of your life is over. It is reminding yourself that their diet is your eating disorder, and holding yourself accountable to your Achilles hell, while simultaneously not letting this fact paralyze you with fear. It is learning how to think your own thoughts, and becoming independent from ED.

 

Recovery is a process. It is going for it even when you are not ready. It is trusting your journey. It is a series of leaps of faith. It is not comparing your middle to someone else’s end. It is planning for the relapse, then eating lunch anyway. It is actually relapsing, then getting up again. It is recognizing that the most inspirtational of all people are not those who never fell, but who fell once, twice, ten times and kept getting back up. It is being terrified but showing up anyway. It is courage. It is never giving up hope that you will break free of this eating disorder.

 

Recovery. It is the hardest, most rewarding journey that you will ever take. So come on, take the step forward. I promise you wont regret it.

C

Holding Onto Hope

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This post is written by co-blog manager Emily Costa. Check out her new site bodylovebabes.com

hold onto hope

Today, exactly 365 days ago I sat in residential treatment for the eating disorder I had struggled with for years for the last time. After 3 and a half months of treatment, I was finally ready to leave the secure and safe walls of the place that made me me again. The place where I was given a second chance. The place where I was given back the hope, love and strength to live my life for the first time.

Those 3 and a half months were the hardest thing I had ever gone through. See, there is no escaping yourself in treatment. You are given this very rare opportunity to face yourself every second of every day by being vulnerable and letting your guard down.

This place changed my life. Correction, it helped me change my life.

But I didn’t know this would happen when I first arrived. I felt hopeless when I arrived. My mind was convinced simultaneously that 1) I didn’t have a problem and 2) I wasn’t worth this chance at recovery.

My first day of treatment I wrote this in my journal: “I feel as if I forgot how to be me in the most pure and natural way – or maybe I never even learned how to be me in the simplest form. I am holding onto the small bit of hope I have that things will get better”

And thank god I held onto that hope. That hope pushed me and grew wildly dat by day that I could do this, I could get better.

There were moments in those first few days where I sat and swore to my team I was going to pack my bags to return home.

Yet I stayed. I fought. All because of that small ounce of hope and I became Emily again.

Those days I spent there were the days I chose me again. Those were the days I let go of the chaos and comfort of my eating disorder to live in freedom. Those were the days I learned to use my voice again. Those were the days I learned that my eating disorder and struggles do not define me. Those were the days I realized I am worthy of life and recovery. Those were the days I allowed strangers to become my support system and aid me back to health and strength. Those were the days I realized I am MORE than my body.

Today, I sit in gratitude for that time and chance I got last year that gave me my life back.

Recovery is such a beautiful, difficult and amazing process and because of that I wouldn’t change my path for anything else. It is weird to be grateful for a disease that has made my life challenging – but I am. It has made me who I am, a strong girl who wants to share her truth with the world.

Hold onto the hope you have, no matter how small. Because things do get better.

Today I am proud for all the wisdom I’ve gained and the ability to live in my own truth.

xo, Emily

Finding my way Through Recovery

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Author Bio: Ayanna Bates is from New York, and 19 years old. She writes about her battle with disordered eating to spread more awareness of this mental health issue.

 

As a mental health advocate, I love sharing my story; I think being open about your struggles is such a powerful tool and it could save lives. So today I share with you my recovery from disordered eating.
First off, what is disordered eating and how does it differ from a full blown eating disorder? The main difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating is the severity and the frequency of symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms described on psychologytoday.com:
Symptoms of disordered eating may include behavior commonly associated with eating disorders, such as food restriction, binge eating, purging (via self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise, and use of diet pills and/ or laxatives).

However, disordered eating might also include:
Self-worth or self-esteem based highly or even exclusively on body shape and weight
A disturbance in the way one experiences their body i.e. a person who falls in a healthy weight range but continues to feel that they are overweight
Excessive or rigid exercise routine
Obsessive calorie counting
Anxiety about certain foods or food groups
A rigid approach to eating, such as only eating certain foods, inflexible meal times, refusal to eat in restaurants or outside of one’s own home.

 
I started exhibiting symptoms of disordered eating my senior year of high school. It was my self-destructive way of dealing with depression and anxiety. I would restrict all day and every day, avoiding as many meals as possible. I would eat my dinner quickly because it was the only meal I ate with my family and I did not want them to suspect anything. The hardest part about disordered eating is being able to talk about it. As a black woman struggling with disordered eating, people don’t really want to hear about it. Some people refused to take the time to understand what I was going through.

 
This made it easier to hide my disordered eating from all of loved ones. It wasn’t until I had a major break down at school, crying my eyes out, mumbling through my tears, “I just don’t want to be here anymore,” that I sought help. In my head, I thought I could just starve myself until I disappeared but in reality I was just killing myself and hurting those who loved me.

 
I made a choice; I chose recovery. That meant talking about it, seeking out a therapist, a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and being open with my family and friends. That meant making the decision every day to eat, to fuel my body, to take care of my soul. There is no such thing as “not sick enough.” You can get help now before it turns into something severe. Early prevention is possible. Recovery is possible. I do see being “recovered” as my new reality. I still have a lot of work to do and as of now recovery will remain my friend. But one day I will be able to say that disordered eating is in the past and that is where it will stay.

Sideways Saunter: What I Learned From My Body Tracing

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When I was in college, I lived in a house built in the early 1800’s with low ceilings and narrow doorways. The doorway that opened into my bedroom was particularly narrow. So narrow that I used to turn sideways to enter the room, to avoid getting stuck or, ya know, dislocating a shoulder. Did I mention that I was suffering from an eating disorder while I was in college? Ah,- important fact that I left out there hu? My sideways entry makes a little more sense given that my entire body image was grossly distorted (to the point that one therapist even referred to my perception of my physique as “on the brink of psychosis.”) This was a very impactful part of my eating disorder. Cognitively, I knew that it was just a small doorway, that my roommates walked through just fine, but it always made me feel like I was literally filling the entire doorway. I had visions of my hips getting caught between the sides with a solid “thunk” as I tried to saunter through.

In order to fit ourselves through openings like doors, we need to have a basic estimate of the size of our bodies. Most non-eating disorder individuals have a somewhat accurate idea of their general shape and size, and consequentially do not find themselves trying to contort their bodies to fit into doorways that they can clearly walk clean through. This basic body image awareness can often be impaired in individual suffering from eating disorder. As a result, body schema, which relates to how we actually move through the physical world, can become extremely distorted.

As you can probably imagine, the sideways saunter was not the only way my distorted body schema affected how I maneuvered around my world. I refused to sit in certain chairs, nixed standing next to specific people, and contorted my body into odd positions when I sat, desperate to take up less space and positive that I was taking up far more than I should. This symptom of my eating disorder was both anxiety provoking and attention-drawing. That is why, when I finally got help for my eating disorder, I was recruited for a body tracing almost immediately.

Body tracings are a common component of ED treatment, where you draw out what you think the outline of your body is and then the therapist traces your actual body. You then process if and how your perceived outline of your body is different from the therapist’s tracing.

I remember being downright terrified that my drawing would be bigger or even the same as the real tracing. I remember thinking, “What it it’s accurate and there is no explanation for how I feel about my body size except that’s the way it really looks and they are all trying to make me feel better?” Tensions ran sky high as I stood against that wall and watched my therapist trace an outline around me. I remember watching her like a hawk, sure she was going to try to fake something. I remember sweating and clenching my muscles, then unclenching them thinking, “What does that prove?” I remember getting into a near yelling match with my therapist over the fact that the two drawings were so vastly different from one another. “But there’s just no way! How can this be?” And “Who cares if my true body looks one way if I feel like it looks another? Doesn’t how I FEEL MATTER TO ANYONE HERE?”

After the battlefield cleared (read: my 10/10 anxiety dissipated a bit) and I got some time away from the dreaded tracing, I was able to think a little more clearly. My therapist even brought it into our next session, and we were able to process the distortion together. Talking out how much pain this distortion had caused me, and how it had actually gotten in the way of my day-to-day functioning was one of the few “light bulb moments” that I have had in my years of therapy.

So post body image tracing, post treatment, post body-scheme light bulb moment, where am I now? I live behavior free. The ED thoughts come and go, and I am getting better and better at challenging them every day. My body schema has slowly gotten more accurate, but I wont lie to you- I had to put my trust and faith in the fact that I did not see my body clearly for a long time during my recovery (which sounds odd, but for me and my constellation of symptoms, it was just what I needed). I’m not perfect, but each day gets a teeny bit easier. And no, I no longer do the sideways saunter 😉