Why I Went On a Social Media Detox

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By: Rebekah Wheeler

Creating a new mindset isn’t easy. I have recently entered a competition in order to fulfill one of my personal dreams and goals. Putting myself out there and scrolling through Instagram and Facebook can easily turn an absolutely fantastic day into one where I am spiraling into self-doubt.

I found myself going down a rabbit trail of reading comments and scrolling weeks and weeks back on other people’s social media feeds in an effort to gauge the level of competition. I was waking up in the middle of the night and finding myself lost in a social media chasm of comparison.

Far too often, I was having one of those days when I found myself six degrees of Kevin Bacon-ing my way to a person who looks perfect from their profile and posts with perfect life and a dream career and no problems or insecurities. It’s easy to immediately jump into the comparison game and start to feel ‘less than.’

Spiraling into social media comparison was making my anxiety worse and I found myself feeling sad to get dressed in the mornings because I didn’t have the newest and cutest outfits. I felt insecure in my clothes because I wasn’t the size and shape of some of the people I was following. I didn’t want to eat my boring food because it wasn’t plated perfectly with an avocado shaped into a flower.

A friend recently gave me some advice that has changed my life. “Unfollow people,” she said.

Sure, it sounds harsh. I want people to like me as much as you do. But just click that little Facebook ’unfollow’ button. Get ahead of triggering posts by unfollowing those who have triggered you in the past.

Because of my history with eating disorders and negative self-image, finding positive and uplifting accounts to follow is vital to my continued recovery. And often, I have to unfollow people I maybe went to high school or college with when their feeds are filled with negativity. I don’t want to be a part of a discussion where it’s okay to complain without presenting a solution. I avoid commenting on posts that can result in drama. I turn off notifications after posting a comment quite often. I don’t need to see what others say after my comment – comparison never breeds positivity.

Insecurity is loud – confidence is silent.

Unfollow people who make you feel less than worthy. Unfollow people who make you doubt your own blessings. Unfollow people who are negative and complain constantly.

Fill you feed and your timeline with things that bring you joy and make you smile. If those things start to make you question yourself all over again, repeat the unfollow process.

Some of my favorite accounts to follow are the Project HEAL chapter accounts, beautiful nature photography accounts, a select few fitness and health related accounts that promote total body health and not ‘get perfect abs’ goals, and some close friends who have similar interests and goals.

On the flip side, make your own social media posts matter. Before you hit ‘post,’ take a second to think about the people it might impact and how they will be affected. Ask yourself a few things:

  • Will this post uplift and inspire?
  • Is it vulnerable and authentic?
  • Does it serve a purpose or is it just a complaint?
  • Is it funny or cute or will bring a smile to someone’s face?

Something I love to do is to post a positive and uplifting post first thing every day. It sets my own intentions and keeps me focused on my own goals. When I am having a tough day, I can use my own feed for motivation and support.

I also love to share the little details of life that bring me joy! Share a funny moment, a quote, your cute coffee mug, your socks, your fun earrings – whatever it is that brings a smile to your face.

Take back control of your social media and take back control of your mindset!

Your social media feed is YOURS and you are enough.

About the Author: Rebekah Wheeler resides in Edmond, Oklahoma. Rebekah is a wife, mom of 2 boys, and works full-time in the oil and gas industry. At Project HEAL, Rebekah serves as a National Ambassador spreading the message of hope and recovery. She is passionate about sparkly things, true-crime podcasts, and reading. Rebekah’s favorite treat is caramel almond milk ice cream!

A Letter to My Eating Disorder, From a Healthier Me

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By: Etta Eckerstrom

Dear ED,

It’s hard to know where to begin with this one. It feels as though I am writing a letter to a person I once loved. Maybe because at one point, I did love you. Or at least believed you were more important than everyone and everything that deserved my love. You and the time I devoted to you kept me from my friends, family, and passions. I believed that as long as I had you, everything would be okay. I would be okay.

It’s been over a year now of fighting your voice. Over a year of actively working to slowly unthread you from my thoughts and day to day habits that you so expertly wove yourself into. To relearn how to live in a world separate from the one of numbers and calories and emptiness that you crafted for me. Over a year of watching my body change, and fighting the way you tell me that I am unworthy because of these shifts. Because you only see the changes in that meaningless number, how I have more curves in places that used to be skin and bones. You can’t see how I can think clearly again. You can’t see how I am no longer always the one shivering in 50 degree weather. You can’t see how far I have come in rebuilding relationships and the life that you stole from me for far too long.

And yet despite these things, I am grateful for you in a lot of ways. Without you, I would not have found my passion and purpose in life. I would not have met some of the strongest, kindest people, who I am proud to call my friends and inspirations. Through recovery, I have learned to stand up to my biggest enemy: myself. Myself, and the doubts and fears that so often cloud my vision and keep me from jumping head first into the ups and downs that come with living a full life. Pushing back against you leads me to push back against all the ways I feel as though I am not enough. You made me feel weak, physically, mentally, and emotionally, for so long. But thanks to you, I now feel stronger than ever.

I wish I could say that you are no longer a presence in my life, that one day it all clicked, and I threw you overboard and let you sink. But sometimes a storm comes, and suddenly you rise to the surface again, hovering nearby, and riding the waves right along with me. You were my life raft for so long, the one thing I could cling to to combat every other way I felt as though I didn’t measure up, every other way I felt helpless in my own life. Missing all of the ones I have lost? Uncertain about my future? He didn’t see me the way I hoped he would? That was all manageable, as long as I could channel that anxiety and pain into you. You brought order for a while, with your rules and guidelines and routine. It was a great paradox, however: the one thing I clung to to save me also left me feeling like I was drowning. And sometimes, even now, you become that life raft for a moment, float over to me when I myself am thrown overboard. But I have learned to swim on my own, to tread water and keep my head afloat. And when the temptation to let myself cling to you, to collapse back into your prison, and let you hold me is high, I reach for my other life rafts. The community I work to surround myself with. The reminders of where I am now. The providers who helped bring life back to me. And when the storm ends, as it inevitably does, you have once again floated away, and I am left standing. So take your empty promises, the whispers that tell me that going back to you will make me worthy, and loved, and beautiful. That you can solve all my problems. That you alone are worthy of my devotion. You were a temporary solution to my inability to see my own worth. But only temporary. Because with you I am a ghost, a shell, a prisoner. And without you, so much more.

About the Author: Etta resides in Nashville, TN. She is earning a degree in public health and psychology from Vanderbilt University. At Project Heal, Etta is dedicated to having a positive impact, directly or indirectly, on those who are in recovery. She is passionate about empowering others and educating people on eating disorders. She can often be found studying at coffee shops around Nashville, going for a run, and spending time with friends. Etta’s favorite ice cream flavor is anything with chocolate.


How Constructing an Eating Disorder Pie Chart Has Benefitted My Recovery

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PictureBy: Charlotte Kurz

Interestingly enough, I did this “pie exercise” two days in a row with two separate therapists. It was SO needed. The way this works is that you draw two circles: filling in the first with the way you value yourself now or what the eating disorder says your values need to be. The second circle is filled in with your wise mind leading the way, or the way that you want to evaluate yourself. The point of this exercise is to determine where you are currently–what you value when you’re in the depths of an eating disorder/trying to recover, and what you truly value and want to make time and use emotional energy for. A big thing that has come up in my sessions is the idea of achievement, because I often over-evaluate achievement and it makes me miserable. I constantly set the bar higher than I need to, or put pressure on myself to achieve things that can’t be achieved (i.e. perfection, control, unrealistic achievements with weight/shape). This contributes to lower self-esteem, more negative talk, and an increased importance on appearance. This then strengthens the eating disorder thoughts, and the cycle continues.


An important note about achievement is that it depends on the context and the values that you’re trying to achieve. For me, if I’m trying to achieve something that takes up a lot of space in the ED pie, I’m probably using my eating disorder mind. If I’m trying to achieve something in the wise mind pie that I can actually achieve and that’s meaningful to me, that’s totally okay and very normal. It’s about checking the facts. The main fact is that you cannot achieve everything BUT that doesn’t mean that you’ve achieved nothing. This is a reminder that I desperately need to continue to tell myself, because it’s so easy to get into my head about how I’m not doing “enough” or achieving “enough”, when in actuality that’s just the ED pie taking over for the day.

Right now, I’m living in that weird venn diagram you could draw between these two pies. I’m in recovery, but I’m not recovered. Today, my therapist had me color in one of the parts of the ED pie, and asked me which part I saw. I colored in the “everything else” section, and saw only the white (weight, control, achievement). She told me that it’s all about perspective. Some days I’ll wake up and I’ll see the black, my values, everything else that’s important to me. And some days I’ll wake up and all I can do is be in that ED pie. That’s why I’m living in this overlap right now, and that’s totally okay.

It’s all about perspective and being mindful of my intentions, values, and which part of the pie/circle I’m in that day.

It’s also worth noting that even in the wise mind pie, ED is still there. It’s taking up much less space, but it’s still there, because eating disorders are chronic and there will always be some sort of maintenance being done to stay in wise and healthy mind. And I’m radically accepting that as okay right now.

I really enjoyed reflecting on what my values are, because it helps me step outside of my emotional eating disorder mind and see where I really truly want to be. And it reminds me that with a little perspective, I can focus on whichever part of the pie that I want to, even when it’s hard. Recovery is really, really, hard but it’s not impossible, and this was a really great tool to remind me that.

About the Author: You can find Charlotte at www.livingfreec.com

Recovery Is Not A Straight Line

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By: Jessica Koller

I am in a comfortable place in my recovery journey where I would like to talk about some of my achievements and some of my downfalls. Throughout the time leaving treatment at 12 years old to my life as a 20-year-old young adult today, a lot has changed to say the least.

My recovery journey has helped me learn more about myself than I probably would have never discovered. I have learned how powerful my voice is, and that there is no reason to try and live your life desiring to impress others. Growing up, and especially when I was very sick, I was always a perfectionist. I played sports and ran, which was my biggest joy in my life, yet I always had to be the best and fastest. Also, in school, I would beat myself up over anything less than an A. These signs of having to be perfect are often very common among those with eating disorders. I now know that I do not have to be the best in everything I do, because as long as I’m working hard and trying my best, that is enough for me.

Also, when my eating disorder had taken over my life, that was all I cared about. Nothing else mattered other than food, calories, and the number on that scale. Throughout my recovery, I have discovered my own thoughts and how I really felt about things, the way Jessica felt, not what my eating disorder made me think and feel. That being said, recovery has not been a straight line in any means. Through recovery, I have gained my relationship back with my parents, that my eating disorder had destroyed due to the constant arguments over food and how mean and isolated my illness made me become. One achievement is that I graduated from high school, with not all A’s, but A’s and B’s throughout, which I learned is good enough! I had the best four years in high school meeting some great friends, and my boyfriend senior year, who I now live with today! I also got to go to prom two times, which my family never thought they would get to see me do.

I have enjoyed my years since my darkest times stuck in my eating disorder and am so happy I chose recovery. Recovery is still a daily choice, however not a daily struggle. I want to emphasize on the meaning of this in a couple different ways. First, throughout high school I tried my best to stay strong in recovery even through some difficult times. I was still listening to my eating disorder a lot of the time, which made some days harder than others. There were a lot of days when hearing the negative body image talk throughout my friends really began bothering me, yet I did not stop them or engage in conversation. I now remove myself from bad body image talk or ask the person to not talk that way about themselves because it is triggering me, and to let them know they are beautiful just as they are.

Senior year I was just ready to get out of high school, and ready to move into my summer shore house with all of my friends. However, I was not putting my all into recovery, and definitely not eating enough to sustain the energy I needed to get through each day in school and work. I wanted to look good and slim for prom and the summer, which gave my eating disorder a happy burst and thought it was his time to help me achieve that goal. Luckily, I stayed healthy throughout that summer and reached out to my friends when I knew I was beginning to slip up. This is what I mean when I say choose recovery. You see, a huge accomplishment for me is reaching out to people when I need some extra help. I recently reached out to my old therapist who I haven’t needed since I was 14 years old, yet I knew to prevent a possible relapse, I wanted and needed her help. I used to be embarrassed and ashamed of my struggles, but now I know the worst thing you can do is keep how your feeling inside. When I felt most alone, I began feeling anxious all of the time and of course out of control. To keep myself on track, this is what I need to do, and I will continue to reach out whenever I need to.

Another huge accomplishment for my recovery is eating intuitively. I was so scared for most of my life to eat when I wanted, and how much I wanted, until I was full. I always had ED on my shoulder telling me I’ve had enough to eat, and I continued to listen to the rules I had made up in my head regarding food. However, today in my recovery I am able to eat my fear foods I once had for a very long time as much as I want and how often I wish to chose to eat them. I no longer listen if ED wants to chime in when I am out to dinner and see the calories listed on the menu, wanting me to choose the lowest amount possible. I chose what I want to eat and that to me is my biggest achievement. I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt especially knowing I have the power to ignore ED in order to keep my sanity and health. I want everyone to know how much work I put into my recovery even to this day, and it’s okay to not be perfect. It is completely normal to have bad days, as long as you do not allow your bad days to overpower the good ones. Recovery is not a straight line, yet it is the most rewarding gift waking up every day freeing myself from my biggest demon that once controlled every aspect of myself and life.

About the Author: Jessica Koller resides in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Jess works as a daycare teacher for infants and young toddlers.  At Project HEAL, Jess is working on monthly blogs for our site to help share with others her story in hopes of inspiring individuals who are currently struggling or in recovery as well.  Jess is passionate about helping others, animals, and playing sports. Her favorite icecream is mint chocolate chip and loves spending time with friends and family. 

It (It Does Not Deserve a Name)

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By: Tracey Buckley

It has stolen years from me

It has kept me isolated

It was my best friend

It controlled me

It took away my dreams, hopes and desires.

It kept me small

It made me frail

It turned my bones into chalk

It bullied me

It gave me no direction

It controlled me

It became all I’ve known

It kept me weak

It left me frail

It was dark, ugly and deceiving

It did not have my best interest for me

It was loud

It left me empty

It left me broken

It made me feel invisible

It scared me

It was not my best friend.

Imagine having a friend like that?

I wrote this in 2008 when I was just so angry about having an eating disorder, and what it had done. I was angry about the impact it had on my life. I was angry at the years that it had stolen from me. I was angry, it was the first time that I felt angry at the eating disorder. At that stage, I was a year into my recovery.

So now fast forward ten years later and my life has changed so much, my world is so much bigger.

I had to decide that my life was worth so much more, I had to believe that I was a woman who deserved to live a life, to live a life without an eating disorder.

I chose to fight back, I chose to embrace my life and to get back what the eating disorder had stolen from me.

I really wanted to encourage you that there is hope, that recovery is possible, that your life is so valuable and you are so worthy of living a full and abundant life. You are so worthy, valued and loved.

Be encouraged.

About the Author: My name is Tracey Buckley and I live in Australia. Tracey is a Primary School Chaplain, who works with students from Kindy to Year 6 and the whole school community to help students with friendships, family and life skills issues. Tracey is also studying a Diploma in Counseling. At Project HEAL, Tracey is dedicated to letting people know that they are not alone in their journey and to know that recovery is possible. She is passionate about making a difference, coffee, family and friends. Tracey’s favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla at the moment.

Love At Every Size: Healthy, Happy, and at Home in Your Body

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Love At Every Size: Healthy, Happy, and at Home in Your Body

Written By: Jen Ponton

On my body love journey, I liken the first 24 years of my life to living in the Matrix–asleep in a pod of delusion, self-loathing, and eternal punishment of a body that refused to conform to societal standards. By 6, I had become a “soft” child. By 9, I was rolier and polier. My mom encouraged me to Jazzercise with her, which was just magical ‘80s fun until, at 11–peak adolescent terror–I realized the reason for her encouragement. My body was getting bigger, no matter how many baby carrots she fed me or how many Jazzercise classes I took. I could feel the anxiety radiating off of my perpetually-svelte mother. My dad would pull my hair in front of my cheeks before a big school dance to “thin my face.” They wanted so much to protect me from the slings and arrows of others–but as I internalized that body shame, I became my own worst enemy.

While I was never diagnosed with an ED, I recklessly engaged in punitive, disordered patterns. I would decide to stop eating until my stomach felt like a collapsing star. Then would begin The Great Binge, the primal destruction of a latchkey kid who was alone for hours. That was my first self-imposed “diet,” though I’d already been well-groomed–our cabinets sported SnackWells fat-free treats, diet Pepsi, and a lifetime ban on Hostess delicacies. I was ravenous. I was disgusted. I wanted to eat everything and nothing. Even as an active kid, dancing and Jazzercising like a madwoman, I continued to grow into borderline plus-sizes. When my breasts grew past the Victoria’s Secret size range, my search for a prom dress became torture–and even the women’s periwinkle gown that I chose (in tears, on the floor in Macy’s) pressed my ample muffins into pancakes.

As miserable as I was, I was living a life I had never dreamed of as a lonely outcast child. I had friends, I was doing well in school, I was performing and competing every weekend. I found it impossible to sustain my self-abuse, so I learned to work with my body. I bought a larger, homemade prom dress on eBay, I found bras that could contain my multitudes, and I was spending time with guys who looked at me sideways if I didn’t eat–so I did. For the first time in my life, I was feeling acceptance–from others as well as myself.

My body settled when I was 18. I was healthy, happy, thriving, and in love. But in the background, triggers lurked everywhere. I was enrolled in a theatre program rife with thin, fit actors picking apart their bodies, shrieking over carbs. If they think they’re disgusting, my mind whispered, just imagine what they think of you. Obesity was the new political buzzword, and suddenly every news segment and political platform became about waging war with bodies like mine. Genetic back problems had just begun for me, and I was feeling too soft, too big, and too incapable far too soon. When a diet guru came to speak at my campus, I was primed to sneak into the back of the auditorium. I’d even skipped out on madrigal chorus, one of the best parts of my week. Anxious for a miracle, I took in everything he said. I read his e-book, which preached that I should eat only raw produce forever. “You think you know hunger?” he challenged. “You will understand true hunger when you change your life.”

He was right. For 4 months, I turned into a raw vegan (previous classification: normal college student, liberal servings of late-night pizza and chicken tenders). I immediately dropped several sizes, and I was hungry all the time–but this was like no hunger I’d ever experienced. What was once a gurgling discomfort, like a car’s gas light coming on, became a roaring, lunatic monster–like a tire blow-out on the highway. I’m doing so well at punishing myself, I thought. I’m definitely gonna get thinner now. But instead, my slightly-smaller body decided it was pretty comfortable exactly where it was. I was beside myself. My boyfriend was worried about me. You’re changing, he said. I think this is affecting you. I decided I needed to go harder–so I began doing high-impact aerobics twice a day. I would jump and pant and for 2 hours daily, leaving my knees so sore that I could barely walk the next day. Once again, I was at an impasse: keep trying to be thinner, or live your life. I was exhausted and in so much pain. My boyfriend begged me to start eating like a normal 19-year-old again, and I did. I immediately felt better–happier, healthier, sated, and sane. I also immediately put on the weight I lost along with a little more. I don’t find you sexy anymore, said my boyfriend.

When he broke up with me, my disordered brain relished the fact that my ragged grief left me unable to eat. I would buy a Naked Juice here or there to keep from passing out, but that puritanical sense of deprivation was its own sick reward. When I started dating the man who would become my husband, he would watch me push my food around the plate, demurring. You’re zaftig, he said. It means juicy–think of it like a plum. You’re a juicy plum.

I ate more. I enjoyed more. I was learning to judge myself–and other bodies–less. It was good timing, because I was about to go into the field of professional acting, where my new sense of self would be challenged again and again. And it was. I was asked to lose weight for a role. I was told that I couldn’t get work unless I went down to “TV fat.” And our glorious new first lady, Michelle Obama, whom I love for literally everything else she did and exemplified, decided to make her political platform about obesity–which once again triggered the blue blazes out of me.

Desperate to keep myself from another cycle of self-abuse, I landed in the virtual safehouse that truly saved me: The Fat-O-Sphere. A blog ring full of brilliant individuals, mostly women of size (many of whom have become prolific, well-known writers in the intervening years), the FOS was like my Body Love Library. After a day of work, I’d come home to pore through archives upon archives of Health at Every Size, Disordered Eating, Dysmorphia, Body Politics, Fat Activism, Intuitive Eating, and every origin story under the sun. For the first time, I reclaimed my most dreaded descriptor: fat. I learned to love that word as I took on a veritable Master’s degree in Kate Harding, Marianne Kirby, Melissa McEwan, the glorious photojournalism of Substantia Jones and the Adipositivity Project, and so many more. I learned to honor my cravings, joyful movement, and–most fun–exploring fashion and rewriting the rules for how large bodies can dress and visually express themselves. This makeshift education gave me confidence and a community. I connected with and befriended so many other people of size who were incredible role models, and who continue to show me just how fabulous we can be, despite the unpopularity of our size.

That community and foundational education not only supported me as my body got bigger, but also–perhaps even more challengingly–when it got smaller. I’m now celebrating 10 years of living a HAES-principled life. In that time, I’ve gone up some sizes–and and come back down. In the old construct of my mind, this journey would be incredibly triggering and unhealthy for me. It would fling me back into patterns that I never want to enact again. Conversely, it has helped me breathe through these changes, labeling these ups and downs as neither good nor bad. It’s helped me continue to listen to what my body wants, and ignore the scale. It’s helped me neutralize others’ well-meaning feedback when they comment on my body. It’s helped me make decisions based on my real health and wellness (i.e. my very real gluten intolerance) versus what is praised or demonized in our diet-overlord culture. HAES saved my life in 2008, and it continues to do so every day that I spend in my body.

In this political climate, we spend a lot of time talking about what particular activism is the most intersectional, the most representative of humanism across the board. I contend that the principles of HAES–the Constitution of my beloved Fat-O-Sphere–are the perfect representation of humanistic values. They argue: No matter how much your body is dismissed, devalued, or turned into a grotesque funhouse mirror for puritanical agendas, we respect and honor and value you. Copy, paste. Women, black folks, people of color, LGBTQ folks, indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, refugees, the differently abled. They are all worthy.

I finally know that I am, too. I hope you know the same.

About the Author: Jen Ponton is an actress, writer, producer, and body love activist who works for size inclusivity within the entertainment industry. Her work includes Orange is the New Black, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock, and an upcoming series for AMC, premiering in 2018. You can find her at jenponton.com, or follow her @jenponton on Instagram and Twitter.


How I’m Making Peace With My Childhood Trauma

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By: Crystal Campoverde

“Healing is not an overnight process. It is a daily cleansing of pain; it is a daily healing of your life.” Such an aphorism is well known to the warriors actively recovering from an eating disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. As humans, we stumble, we
bleed, we scar, we grief. We cope in any way to survive. If in our earlier years, we only knew how to “roam in the known” of chaos, oppression, dread, than as an adult, we continued to cling to this familiarity. We inevitability silenced our truth for years. The
unbearable silence occurs because of the fragmented pieces trauma leaves behind. As children, our only responsibility was to grow and develop. We were meant to move our bodies, explore our environment, and discover safety within our bodies and safety in those closest to us. When trauma took place, instead of being attuned with our body, we began to look at our body scrupulously and internalize the effects of trauma by numbing ourselves through self-destructive behaviors. For many of us recovering in our adult selves, we still have young exile parts that felt powerless and are stuck in that time and space of trauma. I call these young exile parts of mine – my unaccompanied minors.

They are a part of me. They are showing up more presently since I have received space from my eating disorder behaviors. At first, I thought these young, anxious parts that were appearing through my emotions of despair, hopelessness, and restlessness were a sign of regression in my recovery. My therapist informed me that although this stage of trauma recovery is difficult, in healing my unaccompanied minors I was actually beginning to bear preliminary fruit because I was no longer numbing my feelings. These young exile parts that carry the burdens of people pleasing, anxiety, and despair, need to be healed in order to be brought into the present and see me as an adult capable of handling life, forming safe relationships, providing resources, and creating safety. A truth I had to unburden in healing these young parts was to separate the shame of my trauma from the shame I felt towards my younger self. Specifically, the shame that she couldn’t choose to change her environment and the shame that she felt powerless. When in reality, the only responsibility she had was to grow, flourish, and trust the people around her.

For too many years, I was trying to fit into a certain pair of “jeans” through my ED when in reality, I needed to learn to embrace my “genes”, my origin-myself. I am okay the way I am. When I think of my younger self in the midst of trauma, she did not perceive herself poor or judge her origin. She just wanted to be noticed, accepted, and loved. Realizing the shame I put upon her and attempting to change her at all costs, I knew that to heal I needed to mother my parts through compassion, curiosity, and grace. If one day on Venus is the equivalent to 243 Earth days, on what planet do we feel the pressure to recover by a certain deadline? Every person is a world within himself or herself; every person heals at a different pace. And just like a mango tree, we cannot rush the natural process of fruit to ripen. The moon goes through numerous phases and if the moon is allowed to change and evolve so are we humans in the duality of life’s brutality and beauties. I’m learning to live in that duality to hold space for my young parts through yoga and not allow my parts to bully me. I’m learning to mother my parts. I am beginning to expand my life more as my young parts are beginning to trust that I will take care of them and that trauma will no longer occur.

With each stage of healing, my younger parts are letting go of the adult roles they thought they had to serve to keep me protected. I envision they are taking on new roles such as sewing a pair of wings so I can continue to expand, take risks, and fly. In those moments when I wake up at 2am having the urge to cry, I say, “I’m okay, you’re okay, I will let you have your say.” She knows I won’t ignore her anymore. I am learning to plant my tears. I envision a mango tree that is blossoming as I recover and thrive. By planting my tears in the soil of the mango tree to nourish it, I begin to bear fruit at the pace it takes by pursuing recovery, blogging for Project Heal, teaching children’s yoga, pursuing a Masters to return to teaching Kindergarten. To me, the mango tree represents new life-new breath. How can you plant your tears to help you grow something beautiful that trauma can never take away from you?

We are made for connection. We are made to attach our hearts to others. I am witnessing that when I hem my heart to my most tender young parts and help heal them with my Higher being, I then can truly feel unsinkable no matter what waves or the waves of others wash up on me. Many times our youngest, wounded parts believe they have to solve every curve ball life throws at us. I’m learning that instead of having to immerse myself with all the tides life throws, I can instead focus on today’s life invitations that are encapsulated in a smaller body of water that I can handle. I am learning that safe relationships look different but that family can be defined in so many beautiful ways. The love that our closest relationships offer us in ways differently than we envisioned does not discount that love as less valuable just because it did not come in the form our fantasy part hoped it would.

This past Christmas, I swam in the Indian Ocean. The waves were crashing with such force and the temperature of the water felt like an ice bucket. Despite my best efforts, I could not keep my balance. I finally realized the waves were not meant to be at a stand still but instead to make their presence known. They were offering children nearby their first taste of salt water, momentum for surfers to take a ride, and a memory for adolescent friends to create. I realized life invitations that appear as curve balls are actually allowing me to make my presence in the world larger than I could have imagined. Although going with the waves was scary, once I surrendered, I experienced the bliss of laughter with my boyfriend, tasted pure salt water, basked in the present moment, and received a huge hug from nature in the form of water. I allowed someone to witness my vulnerability, messy hair, feely heart, and perfectly imperfect body. And whether he’s the love of my life or if he was only meant to gift me with a feeling of love for that season, I’m grateful for that experience to have attached my heart to someone safe in all of life’s ebbs and flows through those Australian waves.

I had the space to experience those moments (not to discount I went to the beach in a swimsuit for the first time in 10 years) because of all the steps I have taken the last 3 years in recovery. One of my favorite spiritual leaders Lisa Nicholas once said, “Can you give the world permission to love you and to leave you? Some of us are just as afraid of being loved as we are of being left. Can you give the world, people, permission to leave you and to love you?” A year ago, I would have said no for fear of feeling rejected, neglected, and unwanted. But today, from all the work I’ve done and am actively doing to heal my unaccompanied minors that were stuck in trauma, I can allow the world and the life invitations from it to teach me, love me, leave me, support me, because I have myself. The universe will always provide a source of safe love whether it’s a hug from a Kindergartener, a hug from a fellow graduate student, or a hug from a yoga student. I can handle life’s beauties and brutalities because I am learning to accept all parts of myself, experience safety within myself, and remain present to witness all that it is to be human. These are the things that my eating disorder robbed me of. You are a precious soul that has a one of a kind light to offer this world. Your younger parts will show up when they are ready to heal. Embrace them. They helped you stay alive. They are rooting for you as best as our child selves were capable of. Seek help. You are not alone. Even if you stumble, continue on your path of recovery at your pace. There is safety within this world and people that are safe and supportive. Recovery is possible.

Rooting for you! Xoxo

Sororities & Bulimia: What Can I Do to Help My Sister?

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By: Libby Lyons

Dieting behaviors among college students are becoming more common. 83% of university females have consciously tried to lose weight or engaged in dieting behaviors [1].  The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA), reports that 15% of women aged 17-24 have an eating disorder and 20% of college students say they have previously had an eating disorder, and 91% of college females students have attempted to control their weight through dieting [2].

Types of Eating Disorders

There are three main types of eating disorders that have different symptoms.

The three kinds are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. It helps to know the difference between the three categories to understand better how to help your sorority sister.

Anorexia is when a person feels that they are overweight or fat and want to become leaner. Typically this leads to eating disorder behaviors such as over exercise, food restriction and dieting practices; She may have an obsession with being ‘thin’ even when underweight.

Signs include an intensive drive for thinness, a refusal to maintain a minimum weight, a fear of becoming fat, and a distorted body image [2].

Women in college who experience a distorted view of their body may avoid situations with food such as eating in school cafe and may start to withdraw socially. There may be emotional changes such as irritability, depression, and anxiety.

Friends sign

Bulimia is episodes of binging where large amounts of food are consumed in two hours or less followed by self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and laxative or diuretic abuse, or a combination of all three.

Feelings of shame and guilt are typically felt by individuals who struggle with this disorder. Physical signs can be swollen glands, discolored teeth, calluses on the knuckles, broken blood vessels around the eyes, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.

Women with bulimia are obsessed with their body weight and shape and often have a distorted body image. They can become socially withdrawn, depressed, and self-critical.

Other signs can include missing amounts of food, frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, and night eating.

Binge Eating Disorder is when a person engages in episodes of binge eating with no compensating behaviors. It is also followed by feelings of guilt and shame. Typically those who engage in binge eating are overweight or obese. They may eat when they are not hungry and have remorse for their behaviors.

Helping a Sorority Sister

With eating disorders being common in sororities and universities nationwide, there are things that you can do to help a sister who is struggling.

1.  Be gentle with your friend about your concerns. Often the person struggling will feel overwhelmed and defensive when approached.

Address your friend with care and compassion. Share your observations of concern as well as your support for an assessment and seeking resources on campus.

2.  Know that your friend may not be ready to accept help or admit that they have an issue. They may become irritable with attempts to address their disordered eating and may become defensive.

Do not give up on your friend. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready to talk and that you will check in with them at a later time to see if they are willing to talk.

3. Have resources ready for your friend when talking with them. Let them know what resources are available on campus and in the community. Inform your sister that you are willing to go with them to an appointment if they would like.

Sorority sisters

It’s important for your friend to feel that they have control over their treatment. Most often eating disorders are about power and control when they feel out of control in various areas of their life.

4.  If your friend is resistant and you are still concerned about your friend, reach out to your sorority mom and let her know that you are concerned. From there, you and your sorority mom can work together to help your friend get the help that they need.

5.  Get your friend engaged in social activities, grab a coffee or tea, or do something that does not involve food or intense exercise. Being able to get your friend out of their environment and connected to other things such as nature, friends, family, spirituality, art and other activities can help them disengage from the eating disorder for a while.

6. Ask your friend what they need from you and how you can help them. Some individuals may be in therapy or treatment already but could use a meal buddy during the recovery process.

Asking what support your sorority sister needs and helping them through this tough time is rewarding for both of you.

Helping your sorority sister get through bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder is important and could eventually save her life.


[1] Smith-Jackson, T., Flint, M., Brown, M., & Lehmbeck, J. (2016). Eating Disorder Behavior as Normative for College Women. Science Med Central, 4(3). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from https://www.jscimedcentral.com/PublicHealth/publichealth-4-1065.pdf.
[2] Eating Disorders Among College Students. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://www.waldencenter.org/popular-searches/eating-disorders-among-college-students/

This blog post was originally posted here

About the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


What Is An Eating Disorder Treatment Team?

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By: Kristina Zufall

Eating disorders are psychological illnesses that by their very nature, often have medical complications. As a result, treatment for eating disorders often require a team of professionals from various disciplines to ensure comprehensive care and the best treatment prognosis. Some professionals that may be involved in the treatment of eating disorders include:

  1. Physician – Medical doctors are necessary to monitor medical status. Eating disorder can compromise medical status in a variety of ways, and medical status can change throughout the recovery process. Their role includes ordering lab tests or imaging, interpreting the results, and prescribing necessary corrective measures.
  2. Psychiatrist – Because eating disorders may occur alongside other psychological illness or substance use disorders, psychiatrists who specialize in the use of psychopharmacological treatment are often part of the eating disorder treatment team. Their specialized role involves using specific medication to assist in helping a patient reach psychological recovery.
  3. Therapist – A licensed psychotherapist is a mental health professional that helps an eating disorder patient challenge negative thoughts about food and body image. Different therapists may use different modalities, but common therapy modalities for eating disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Non-traditional therapies such as equine assisted, expressive arts and movement, or even yoga, may also be incorporated into the therapy process.

Because of the complex interworking of the mind and body, a person who is nutritionally compromised as a result of their eating disorder may have difficulty working through the cognitive and emotional components of their eating disorder. As such, therapy often occurs alongside nutritional interventions as well.

Family therapy may also occur alongside individual therapy. Because eating disorder patients often require much support outside of the treatment setting, family therapy is way to educate families on support techniques for the eating disorder patient.

  1. Dietitian- A registered dietitian or nutritional counselor works with the eating disorder patient to develop regular and healthful patterns of eating. They play a large role in education of “normal” or “intuitive” eating, and can work with patients on food preferences, allergies or intolerances, and work to reintroduce high-anxiety foods. Further, dietitians work alongside medical doctors to ensure weight and nutrition status are adequate and can recommend any changes as appropriate.
  2. Group leader- Groups can be a therapeutic part of eating disorder recovery and may be led by therapists, dietitians, or even nurses. They have several different purposes that include education on a variety of topics including health and nutrition, ways to cope with disordered eating, or garnering support from others who have had eating disorder experiences.

Communication between treatment team members is a necessary aspect of treatment. Dietitians can tailor their nutrition interventions based on medical diagnostic testing, therapists can work utilize exposure therapy when a patient identifies a fear food with the dietitian, and therapists and dietitians can help psychiatrists understand current psychological and medical status to help tailor medication choices. Further, different treatment team members may have different relationships and experiences with the patient, and it is important all team members have an accurate picture of recovery status.

Some facilities may have these various disciplines under one roof. This is most common in high levels of care including inpatient, residential, and partial hospitalization. On an outpatient basis, it is more difficult to find a facility that has the necessary disciplines under one roof. as a result, ask your treatment providers if they have preferred treatment partners. Further, for ease of treatment, ensure all your treatment team members have “release of information” on file for each provider. This is a document that grants permission for treatment providers to communicate each other to stay up-to-date on your treatment.

If you aren’t sure who should be on your treatment team, ask your providers for guidance.

About the Author: Kristina resides in Houston, TX. She is a University of Houston alum where she earned her master’s in counseling. At Project HEAL, Kristina is dedicated to leading the Greater Houston Area team in awareness and fundraising efforts. She is passionate about the Houston Astros, Texans, and her black cat, Hallie.  Kristina’s favorite flavor of ice cream is birthday cake with sprinkles!

Why I’ll Never Stop Sharing My Recovery Story

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By: Brenna Briggs

Sharing my story of recovery has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. To take such a negative time in my life and turn it around into something positive is something I am so thankful for.

I was talking to my dad last night and he made a comment how he always knew I would turn my story around and I would do something good with it. My response to him was “Really dad?” and he said “Of course, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. ” Maybe he really believed that, or maybe that helped him cope with the intense stress and scary life we were all living during my disorder.  I told him last night, there were times I really wasn’t sure if recovery was in the cards for me, and when I said that my heart sunk. It sank for the younger me, and it sunk for all of the people I know who are struggling right now. Feeling like you are going to live a life trapped in this ongoing cycle, being a slave to your disorder and the mind games it plays on you is hopeless, draining, and exhausting.

Knowing that there are people feeling like that, gives me even more reason, even more purpose to continue sharing my story, to continue reaching out, to continue education, to continue fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and eating disorders.

The more people I reach with my recovery story, the more people will feel confident in their own recovery, more family members will know that there is hope and this is just a minor road block and the destination to recovery is on the map.

I’ll share my story with anyone who will listen and I’ll continue to share it because you never know whose heart strings it’s going to tug at, you never know who has a friend of a friend struggling. Recovery is real and living eating disorder free is real. There is help, there are resources, there is support. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.  

I used to be ashamed of my eating disorder, I kept it hidden from so many people for so long. I even kept my recovery a tucked away. So many people worry that others will think differently of them. I thought that too, until I realized that my story could help someone. My story IS helping people. I’m not just sharing my story so that people who are struggling will reach out for help, I’m sharing my story so that others who are recovered will stand up and share their stories too. We lived it, we fought it, and we are better and stronger because of it.

If even 1 person hears my story and it means something to them, I am doing my job and I won’t stop until the job is done. I didn’t quit on recovery, and I won’t quit advocating.

“Recovery was the hardest thing I ever did. Recovery is the best thing I’ve ever done,  Recovery is my biggest accomplishment, and recovery is worth it.”

About the Author: Brenna Briggs is a Project HEAL Boston Chapter volunteer.