New Year, New You! The 3 New Year’s Traps Holding You Back

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By Stephanie Zerwas, PhD, Project HEAL Champion


We’re about a week into this new year and I’ve got to ask you, “How is 2017 treating you?” Are those resolutions you made sticking? Have you been able to stick to the promises you made yourself? The new year brings so many expectations. It’s a clean slate. It’s a fresh start. It’s just so shiny and new!

You make promises to yourself like, “This year I’ll be a different person! I won’t… I’ll always…. ” Having hope for renewal and transformation can be wonderful. But thinking that change is magically going to happen just because you started a new year is also a lie. There’s nothing new about 2017. It’s really just the next day in our shared calendar that allows us to agree on the passage of time.

Source: Flickr

The “new” year is just a shared illusion. Ugh. Just writing that makes me sound like a total buzzkill!

I love that the new year is a time when everyone reflects. It can be a reminder to dream about where you want to go. It can a way to check in with yourself about your values and a prompt to inventory whether behaviors in your life are helping you or holding you back.

It’s also easy to fall into these traps:



1. Setting your expectations too high.

High expectations are a good thing right? Aim high, dream big! Absolutely. But also realize that the way to get to that larger goal is based on small, incremental, manageable changes. It’s easy to make promises to yourself like, “In 2017, I’m going to eat 100% of my meal plan every day.” That’s a great goal but you’ve also already set yourself up for a slip up and ruining your “perfect” New Year’s record.

Set manageable expectations for yourself like, “In 2017, I intend to try to always I have a snack on hand so that it’s easier for me to meet my meal plan each day.” Or “In 2017, I’ll work on calling a friend or recovery mentor if I’m struggling with an urge to binge.”


2. Hating yourself when you slip up.

That eating disorder voice that tells you, “You suck. You’re bad. No one will like you or love you unless you’re thinner. You better prove that you can lose weight.” That voice only motivates for the eating disorder. It can even be motivating in other situations. But it’s not a really great motivator for recovery.

Talk to yourself like you would your best friend. If your friend struggled or made a mistake would you tell her how horrible she is? No, you’d encourage her and find ways to support her on her journey. Why would you talk to yourself any differently?


3. Trying to go at it alone.

Too many people feel embarrassed or ashamed about having an eating disorder. Although more people struggle than you realize, living with an eating disorder can feel very lonely. It’s easy to think that no one could ever understand what you are going through.

Everyone does better when they have support. Whether it’s your therapist, parents, friends, or all of the above, share your goals with the people you trust. Whether you need a coaching in the moment, someone to hold you accountable, or someone to eat with, find the people for your team and work with them to assist you in reaching your goals.


Take care of yourself in 2017. It’s a new year but don’t expect a new you overnight. You’ve got this but be patient with yourself as you recover.


About the Author:


Stephanie Zerwas, PhD is a psychologist, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and clinical director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. She is also a Project HEAL Champion. Connect with her on Twitter.

Eating Disorder Treatment: Leaving Before You’re Ready

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By Kiernan O’Dell

For many of us who have been in eating disorder treatment, the first few days are often a blur. You are whisked from one appointment to the next, either exhausted or full of anxious energy. You meet so many new faces and mistake staff for clients and vice versa.

That said, I can say that I almost always remember my last day in treatment. I remember how I left. I’ve left hopeful. I’ve left angry. I’ve left terrified. I’ve left determined to lose the weight “they made me gain.” I’ve left with the best and the worst of intentions. I’ve left because of insurance. I’ve left because of work. I’ve left AMA.  I’ve left with excuses. To bring you up to speed, I am currently sitting in treatment so it’s not difficult for me to admit: I left too early.

I know some of you may be sitting at home while you read this, struggling. Perhaps you have not been to treatment (and I encourage you to seek treatment, even if it seems impossible or scary!), but if you have and you are still engaging in your eating disorder, it may be true that you, too, left treatment before you were ready.

The unfortunate thing is that leaving treatment often depends on two factors: 1) Insurance coverage and 2) Our own ideas of readiness. While there is amazing progress being made in Congress to combat the limited coverage available for eating disorder treatment, unfortunately and often infuriatingly, I personally know and have been one of those people who have been sent home long before they were ready. They left because their insurance provider thought they had made enough progress or not enough. Because they had limitations on their policy or on time available for treatment at a certain level. Because their case manager didn’t understand how to fight insurance or simply because they had been in treatment before that year (or that decade).

It’s a fight we need to keep fighting but often, there feels like there is little we can do about it.

Source: Flickr
Source: Flickr

I have also seen too many people leave because they are, like I was, angry. Unwilling, Terrified. Uncomfortable. They had, emotionally, come undone. They thought they’d be ok. To turn this to myself, I will tell you that I have been in eating disorder treatment on and off for the past 15 years. In so many ways when I left all of those treatments, I was not ready to leave. I usually either needed more time or more surrender. I alternately felt misunderstood or way too understood. Fear often drove my decision to leave abruptly, if it was my decision, and fear also ruled my world if I left after completing a program.

Now I think that fear is healthy when leaving eating disorder treatment. On one hand, I usually knew I was not ready to be in the world; not ready enough to continue the work outpatient. There were times I was confident that I could continue implementing what I had gained in treatment and was not afraid, but to be completely honest, I was willing to use the knowledge while still holding onto back pocket behaviors that kept me sick. I kept a scale at home, just in case. I didn’t throw out those jeans. You know, those jeans. My meal plan became optional and while I really wanted to be in recovery, I was not ready to take the steps.

If this is where you are, I understand. Sometimes I was simply not ready to be in recovery. Sometimes I really did need more time in treatment and did not get it because of financial reasons. Yet here I sit, trying again and maybe that is what is most important.

Maybe we never really know when we are leaving too early. Sometimes it really is an illusive concept, readiness. Perhaps some more important traits are willingness. Surrender. Teachability. Openness. I think that these mindsets, put to use, engender readiness.

Prepare all you want, but if you are not surrendering to the process, all of the process including your body, mind and soul, you may not be ready. I know I wasn’t.

While I never had made New Year’s resolutions, this year am resolved to carry hope and tenacity into 2017.

I am surrendering. I am willing to learn and take a real look at myself. I’m willing to stay as long as I can or need to. I’m willing to keep trying when I get home. I am honest with myself and my team. In 2017, I believe I can recover, but more importantly, I have hope in my heart that I can recover.

I don’t know if I’m ready to be in recovery, but I truly believe that ready or not, here I come.



About the Author:


Kiernan O’Dell was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. After earning a BS in Psychology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, she attended Columbia University’s Psychological Counseling Program. O’Dell enjoys writing, and hopes to one day adopt it as a full-time job. According to O’Dell, the current road to recovery and sobriety enabled her to discover her purpose, which is to serve as a mentor for others using her firsthand experience.




7 New Years Resolution Ideas To Help in ED Recovery

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by Madison Swart


It’s pretty well understood that many people set ‘losing weight’ as a goal for themselves in the New Year.

Gym memberships spike in January, as people feel guilty after eating throughout the holiday season. In recovery myself, I know how frustrating it can be to try to keep your ‘recovery hat’ on while everyone around you seems to only be able to talk about calories, steps, sizes etc.

SO – while I can’t knock everyone upside the head, asking them to think about how this situation might not be conducive to someone trying to kick Ed to the curb, I have come up with 7 ideas for things you can focus on for 2017! (Things that don’t have anything to do with a FitBit or MyFitnessPal!)

These are some things I have found are helpful to focus your energy on, when Ed seems to be dictating everything crossing your mind.

The reality is that there is SO much more to life than the size of your jeans, or the space between your thighs.

There are days this is easy to remember, and there are days that it seems impossible. So whether today is a great day, or you can’t wait for it to end – these short term and long term goals will help to keep everything in perspective.

Increase Your Vocabulary

Try to learn a new word each day! I really like to use the thesaurus for this. Type in how you are feeling, the color of your nail polish, or the first item you see when you look around the room! Then, click a word that catches your eye. Do this as many times as you want? Before you know it, your ‘fancy’ entry will show ‘superfluous’ before you. The more you try to incorporate new words into your writing, or even conversation – the more it will happen without even a second thought!

Journal Daily5874685638_2a38d207ca_z

Journaling is one of those things that I love to start doing, will do for about a week, and then a year later find the journal half written in at the bottom of my closet. When I do journal, I instantly feel the benefits. So while it does take a little bit of discipline – try to use the discipline you used to use with Ed and channel it into something constructive. Like journaling.

Volunteer More

There is nothing more rewarding than giving back. The second you look at a child whose parents don’t have enough money to buy him pencils to use at school – your problems will suddenly feel so minute.

Call Grandparents/Parents More

I like to write my grandparents letters. I probably only wrote two or three this last semester to my Grandma Norma. Over Christmas she was referencing letters I had written a year ago. I guess I never realized how special these letters were to her. What takes you half an hour to do – whether its writing a letter, or making a phone call – your parents and grandparents will have their whole week made from that small amount of time you’re willing to carve out of your day.

Set Aside One Hour Each Day for Yourself

It’s hard to manage balancing time for yourself and time for your responsibilities. Something that I have found astronomically helpful, is to set aside one 401258891_d56d54ea84_zhour, each day, to use however I want! Whether it’s writing, taking a nap, watching Netflix, doing yoga, reading a book, or just sitting on my front porch with a cup of tea! You’ll be so amazed how refreshed you’ll feel after having some time to yourself. And by giving yourself an hour to use however you please, you will feel much less distracted while doing the things you need to do (really – take it from someone who has struggled with ADD their whole life- it helps!)

Be On Time

In my 21 years I have found that you always need to leave 10 minutes before you are planning to. There are few things more stressful than being late. Whether it is for class, an appointment, or a meeting – you’re always going to feel strung out and stressed if you’re rushed and behind. So, if you are planning to leave for something at 6, leave at 5:50. The worst thing that will happen is you’ll be a few minutes early, and have time to take a deep breath. This also allows for things like traffic, inability to find a parking spot, failure to find your keys, and all the other fun stuff that happens RIGHT when you need to be somewhere.

Go One Day – Each Month- Without Looking at Your Phone for the Whole Day

I hate my phone. So much. It allows for you to be connected all day every day. And the reality is, that if you don’t text your friend back till tomorrow – no one will die. That kid in your class asking you to send him your study guide for the test tomorrow – it’s his fault for procrastinating, not yours. I like to take the first Saturday of each month, and set it aside for myself. This is the day I turn my phone off and leave it in my bag. (Granted, I do take it with me, in case something horrible happens.) You’ll be amazed what you’ll see on your walk home, when you aren’t skipping through Spotify. And if you are going somewhere you aren’t sure how to get to – break out a map. It’s amazing the things we rely on technology for. When we slow down, and appreciate what is around us, our whole outlook can change!


I hope these ideas are things that can inspire you to make some healthy and beneficial changes in your life this upcoming year.

Believe me, your body knows what it needs to weigh. So listen to your support team, and remember that there is no better time to start your recovery than today!

That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect – it means quite the opposite. It means being okay with a slip up, and not letting your whole world come crashing down because you ate a brownie.

You’ll be fine, I promise. In the meantime, try to focus on some of these suggestions, or any that maybe these sparked up in your mind!

This year, is your year – So let’s make it great!

Recovery IS Possible!!

0e6fca243e254133b5e305ec6d7825c5About the Author:

Madison is the Founder and President of the Ohio State University Chapter of Project HEAL! She is a senior majoring in Social Work and Psychology currently working as an addiction counselor for The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center. After graduating in May, Madison plans to stay involved with Project HEAL while pursuing a career in Social Work, hoping to help individuals struggling with mental health struggles. Madison runs a blog,, and paints in her free time.