After Years of Disobeying My Body, It’s Now Disobeying Me

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Written by Project HEAL co-founder, Liana Rosenman

11203042_10153197326585041_7354793636075951106_nI spent most of my teenage years treating my body like an enemy: hating it, blaming it, manipulating and controlling it. Through recovery, I’ve learned how to appreciate myself as a whole person and to love myself for who I am. I have realized the strength and goodness that lies within my body. I became my body’s friend rather than its enemy.  

The thing is, I’ve done a lot of HEALing over the years. In a lot of ways, I became more in tune and aware of my body and was healthier than ever. My life was full of beauty, exploration and learning. I was in love with life and in love with living. My moments were filled with good friends, loving family and hard work. I was happy. Truly happy. But, that was once upon a time (or at least for now)!

I took my body for granted until I woke up one day and realized my immune system stopped doing its job. My body has become my own worst enemy because I am no longer in control of my body — Lyme Disease is. Lyme Disease is caused by a spirochete—a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme is called “The Great Imitator,” because its symptoms mimic many other diseases. It can affect any organ of the body, including the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, and the heart.

I have always prided myself in being productive. Organizational systems made me swoon. There is something about systematically organizing your entire life into one little book that excited me. I must say, one of the best feelings in the world is when you have a beautifully laid-out, organized, color-coded day where everything fits together like a puzzle (because I just couldn’t say NO and had to use every single square inch of time in my day on something). I got a kick out of ticking off a to-do list. Goals? I had them down baby! Success and my addiction to achievement were ingrained into the person I was.

My plate has always been full. I’ve had a go-go-go personality for as long as I can remember. I think I was born with it. I wanted to do it all, and to be the best at all I did. For me, what’s on my plate determined who I was, how I saw myself, if I allowed myself to be happy. I judged myself based on what was on my plate. Somehow I thought life was about putting things on my plate and continually having to add more.

But life with Lyme has changed that. Life with Lyme means that I can’t predict what I’ll be capable of doing from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next. Lyme Disease has a way of bringing you down. You feel like you are living life in a box — looking out of a window and watching life passing you by. Each day is unique and to what degree my body will cooperate is unpredictable. I am learning not to be stuck on how things are supposed to be done.

Sometimes it feels like Lyme Disease has stolen everything – my health, my energy, my time, my relationships, my focus, my joy, my plans, my dreams – literally everything. I am quickly learning that I have a choice: I can push myself to an unhealthy point and try to make up for what it seems I’ve lost, or I can choose to accept that who I am in this moment is enough.

I believe that there are life lessons in every circumstance joyous or otherwise. Whether it seems fair or not, obstacles present themselves for a reason and the experiences and introspection that these difficulties bring, allow us to evolve. I am learning to just be for the first time in my life. I am learning to find time for small daily rituals that keep my body healthy and happy. I am learning to rearrange my priorities to focus on my health. But most importantly, I am going to have to learn how to slow down, focus on HEALing and balancing life.

I hope that although I am not on the path I intended to be at this age, nor where I want to be right now that eventually, I will find my way onto a path that I will be happy with, grateful and thankful for. Most importantly, when I eventually look back on life in a few years, I hope I will understand why things turned out they way they did.

Don’t worry Kristina- I won’t leave Project HEAL and start another non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about Lyme Disease.

I Am More

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by Julia Gari Weiss

I use the mirror’s edge to chop blurry images of photo shopped pages,
slice numbers out of collars
to ward off rashes
caused by tag toxicity.
I am more than a label. More than
a beach body. I am more than plus sized, straight sized, or thin. I am more than
losing 10 pounds to love the body I am in.
I am a woman. Several sizes dress my closet to display the array of lives I’ve lived,
to encompass all that this body has held.
Oh, how I’ve grown
into power that spreads from my fingertips to the kick drum roar inside my ribs.
“You are beautiful” isn’t sold
I no longer buy
into flat abs, toned legs, I flex
my sizeable brain like a muscle, fuel it –
I was not born to diet,
to purchase fat-free, gluten-free, or diuretics. Sell me beauty agenda-free.
Invest in risk-free, cost-free
not sold at Target or Duane Reade
not on newsstands or the cover of
(insert standardized beauty magazine)
until vision becomes reality
say it loudly, “I love”
and this ends with “me.”

Julia Gari Weiss is the author of the poetry collection “Being Human,” published by Thought Catalog Books. She received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s John B. Santoianni Award for Excellence in Poetry. Julia has been published in The Huffington Post, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Thought Catalog, Old Red Kimono, 3Elements Review, Image Curve, and The Santa Monica Star. She is proudly from Santa Monica, California, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can follow her on Instagram at @JuliaGari and visit her website at www.JuliaGari.com.

 

 

The Dirt on Clean Eating

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Is it just me or is our culture sending a bit of a confusing message lately? On the one hand, the body positive movement is gaining momentum every day. On the other hand, the societal message that we must “eat clean” has never been more pervasive. This creates a rather puzzling cultural dynamic. And nowhere is the message louder than on social media. Food bloggers have sprung up in record numbers lately. One need only take to instagram to see five million pictures of acai bowls and chia pudding. An interesting twist? A not-insignificant number of these bloggers have publicly spoken about past struggles with disordered eating. The pictures tend to be gorgeous, but what is the message towards recovery here? I find it somewhat puzzling when people label their pictures with #edrecovery, directly followed by #cleaneating. Now I am certainly not a dietician, but I am a psychologist who has worked in several inpatient eating disorder treatment centers. From everything that I have seen and learned, recovery and “clean eating” typically cannot coexist peacefully.

 

Because what is clean eating exactly? A quick google search of the term yields a plethora of definitions:

 

“At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.” (fitnesscenter.com)

 

“Clean eating back to the natural health food movement of the 1960s, which shunned processed foods for the sake of moral and societal values (rather than health and nutrition issues)” (cookinglight.com)

 

“It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life. It means choosing organic whenever possible, drinking lots of water, and avoiding anything high in sugar and anything fried.” (cleaneatingmag.com)

 

“Clean eating includes structuring your diet to get proper nutrition, help manage diseases, avoid developing diseases in the first place, lose weight, remove toxins, and just feel better.” (dummies.com)

 

Seriously? How is it possible that something so talked about can have no agreed upon definition? One thing is for sure- those definitions do not sound particularly conducive to recovering from a disorder that involves a focus on manipulating food intake and weight. In fact, the definitions above suggest that clean eating appears to very much skirt the line between diet and disorder. Indeed, the term Orthorexia has been coined to describe an eating disorder that involves an obsessive pursuit of pure and clean eating, to the detriment of one’s happiness, functioning, and at times, health.

 

So what is a recovery warrior to do? I would strongly argue that clean eating is not something to pursue when in recovery, ESPECIALLY early recovery. Perhaps individuals who are not prone to eating disorders can “eat clean” and get away with it, but when you are in recovery, their diet is your eating disorder. It’s an important mantra to keep in mind, given the aforementioned cultural wave. So when you feel the pull to begin engaging in chatter about wholesome and pure ingredients, repeat to self :“Their diet is my eating disorder.” And make no mistake, clean eating does fit under the umbrella of diet. Recovery, true recovery, involves letting go of dietary restrictions and rules. The idea is to break the rules that ED created for you. Clean eating is restrictive. It simply is. And trying to eat clean may just be leaving the door open for ED to slowly weasel back in and morph those rules into being more and more restrictive and problematic.

 

So the dirt on clean eating? My vote is stay away warriors. Recovery means eating for nourishment, eating what makes you feel good, and eating in a way that helps your emotional and mental well-being. That can involve both sweets and salads. Freedom from rules and obsession is the goal, and getting back to living your life is the reward. And life should be fun, imperfect, and messy. Not clean.

 

 

-c

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ally in Recovery: A Boyfriend’s Perspective

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This post is written by guest blogger Stephen Hitt

heart sand project healI’ll never forget the day my girlfriend opened up to me about her struggle with Bulimia. I thought I knew her pretty well. On the outside, she was always outgoing, confident, and funny. Although she would never like to talk about it, I understood that deep down she struggled with anxiety and insecurity. I knew all these things, and yet, her admission shocked me. I kept my composure as she explained that she had won a treatment grant, and was finally going to get help fighting a disorder that had controlled her life for as long as she could remember. She had been ashamed to talk about it for so long, and didn’t even believe there was hope for her anymore.

I never told her, but when I was finally at home that night, alone in my room, I began to sob uncontrollably. I couldn’t believe that the person I loved the most had been destroying her own body and spirit. It broke my heart; all I could think was “How can I make you see what I see in you? How can I make you understand how loved you are?”

At the same time, I felt terrified and alone. Even before she began treatment, I was under no illusion that it would a quick cure-all. Once she decided to take action against ED, there would be no going back. She would be struggling, and I would be a part of her fight.

She used to worry that she was too much for me to handle, and that pretty soon I would get tired of being with someone who had “issues.” She was never a burden to me. I was scared only because I felt like I could do nothing to help her. She was fighting her own mind, dealing with triggers I didn’t understand, and holding to beliefs about herself that I could never change. In the past year, I’ve made many mistakes trying to help her. I want to say or do anything to stop her from engaging in eating disorder. I’m never angry at her. I’m furious at a disorder that takes her joy, lies to her about who she is, and doesn’t allow her to love herself the way she deserves.

By now I’ve learned a lot about what it means to support someone who is struggling with an eating disorder. It isn’t hard to love her. I loved her before I knew about her ED, and I love her just as much now. The difficulty comes in knowing how to love. In any healthy relationship, we share in both the triumphs and failures of our partner. When they fall, we are there with them, helping them to get back up on their feet. A guy or girl who suffers from an eating disorder is stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of guilt and shame. When my girlfriend is struggling, I can’t help but feel like I must motivate her to change the outward behavior. I want to say “You can’t do this to your body. You ought to take better care of yourself. You are hurting yourself.” But this is more hurtful than helpful to her. Even though it’s motivated by love, it adds an enormous amount of guilt and shame, along with pressure to avoid disappointment. These feelings only feed ED, and keep her from feeling free to be open about her struggle.

Instead of telling her what she ought to do, I’ve learned that the best thing I can do is see myself as her ally in recovery. I encourage her to be open about her struggle. I remind her that I love her, and regardless of how well she is doing with ED, I’m not going to leave her to fight alone. I tell her how proud I am of how far she’s come, and remind her that I believe in her recovery today, even if she doesn’t. We do talk about the logistics too, but I make sure she knows that I’m only asking to help, and I understand how hard it is to struggle with the disorder. When she makes a mistake, we talk about what she did well during the day, and what she thinks she’ll do differently tomorrow to facilitate recovery better. Lately, the only thing I pester her about is staying open and communicating where she is with her recovery.

As much as we care about the person we love, we can never change them. We can only stand by as an ally and a resource, loving and supporting as best we can. Recovery is ongoing. There’s no quick fix, no easy solution, no over-the-counter remedy. But there is hope for change, and the best thing we can do is remind the person we love that we are proud of how far they’ve come and that we believe in their recovery even when they don’t believe in themselves.

The Importance of Self-Care

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This post is written by Emily Costa, Project HEAL’s Blog Managerwhat do you do self care

While in recovery we constantly hear the term ‘self care’ and how important it is to apply it to our lives to be our healthiest selves. I’ll be honest; upon arriving to treatment I was skeptical at this idea. In my head I looked at my treatment team and swore up and down that nothing would replace my eating disorder. Because in my head, my eating disorder was self care.

It took a while for me to settle into reality. My eating disorder was not something that took care of me; it was destroying me emotionally and physically. The problem was, in those moments I relied on my eating disorder I was often in such a state of distress it felt like that was the answer to my problems. I had fallen into the habit of self-medicating myself with negative behaviors, and it was going to take time for me to learn what self-care really meant.

Not until recently did I realize the importance of self-care. I think when beginning the journey to self-care its important to recognize that it won’t look the same for everyone. Not everyone is going to do yoga or be able to immediately quit the things we hate doing. But we make adjustments, we make our lives worth living and it’s a process that takes time.

Some ways I’m practicing self-care is putting my recovery first. I cut down on the hours I’m interning and the amount of classes I’m taking this semester. Focusing on myself is an important step in learning to live a healthy balanced life. I try to practice self-care everyday. Whether its taking a walk in Central Park, taking one of my favorite yoga classes or doing my gratitude list – I try my hardest to set time aside for me. I try to take a break from my cell phone and spend time with the ones I love or take the time to write in my journal.

Just like making progress in recovery, learning self-care can be new and scary territory. But over time it may just become your favorite part of the day! Now it’s time for you to share your favorite self-care activity. Leave us a comment below or post a picture on Instagram doing your favorite activity using the caption Self Care and #WhatDoYouDo

#WellnessWednesday: College Survival

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Written by Emily Costa, Blog Manager at Project HEAL

As most of us know, recovery is a full time job. There are no vacations, days off or breaks. And then along with recovery comes school, work, internships and plenty of other responsibilities life throws at us. How do we do it all!?

I myself am returning to school after taking a semester off to go to treatment. As the end of August approaches, I grow increasingly nervous AND excited to be back in school. But I am here to not only tell myself that it’s going to be okay, but I’m here to tell you that we are going to kill it this year. I have made up the Recovering Students Guide to School!! Below are 15 simple rules to follow to balance recovery and college!

1. Build A Support System

It’s extremely important to have a solid support system in place while in recovery. In order to stay happy and healthy you have to surround yourself with supportive people. The ones who want to see you happy and healthy are the ones worth keeping around!

2. Trust Your Treatment Team

As you get busy with school life, don’t forget to take time aside to focus on recovery. Your treatment team is there to help you adjust and get through any road bumps along the way. Always follow their advice and plans to keep you on track!

3. Know Your Triggers

It can become really easy to return to old behaviors when triggered. It’s important to have game plans on how to tackle these triggering times such as finals week or holiday breaks! Talk to your family, friends or treatment team to come up with a way to get through these tougher times.

4. Prioritize Emotional Health

Don’t get caught up in your social life or getting good grades that it leads you to forgetting about how important your overall health is. In recovery we learn that taking care of ourselves both physically and emotionally are equally important. Take time to reflect on how you are really feeling.

5. Free Your ED Identity

Always take pride in the fact you are learning to live in freedom from your eating disorder. Remember that you are simply you – a strong, resilient and determined person and you don’t need your eating disorder. You are more than an illness.

6. Reach Out

It can be really hard to do this, but when you are struggling or simply feeling down its important to reach out to friends, loved ones or your treatment team for extra support. Remember, you are never alone in this process.

7. Be Honest

You’ve heard it time and time again but being honest is truly the key to recovery. Having a hard day? Had a slip up? Or thinking about acting out on a behavior? Tell someone! Although this is a difficult step to take, owning up to our actions or thoughts helps us a lot in the long run.

8. Take A Breath

School can get stressful! If you feel overwhelmed or stressed out during class don’t hesitate to get up to step outside to take a deep breath. Try to do a mindful breathing exercise to calm any anxiety or stress.

9. Remember You Are Capable of Being Healthy

Take a moment to reflect on you progress. YOU have been doing the work you need to tackle to get better. Remind yourself you are worthy of recovery and capable of coping healthily.

10. Get Involved

You might find yourself with a lot of free time now that you are gaining freedom from your eating disorder. Why not fill your free time by joining a new club. Or hey, why not look into starting a Project HEAL chapter on your campus?! There are plenty of students just like you rocking recovery.

11. Remember You Are More Than Grades

It is really easy to get caught up in school and grades. It’s always really important to remember that you are more than grades. You don’t need the validation of an A to know you are working hard! Keep doing your best and be proud of yourself everyday

12. Start a Morning Ritual

One of the most important practices I learned in treatment was dedicating 15 minutes to myself every morning to create my very own centering morning ritual. Mine consists of meditating, journaling whatever pops into my head and doing a gratitude list. As silly as it is, saying you’re grateful for coffee and your pets can kick off a really great day.

13. Keep an Eye on Partying

Sometimes in recovery it can become easy to jump from one coping mechanism to another. Make sure your intentions to party comes from wanting to have fun with friends and not a new way to deal with emotions. As Demi Lovato says “If you’re spending your entire early 20’s chasing the next party, what are you running away from? That’s not a badass. What’s a badass is when you can sit through your problems and feel emotions when you don’t want to have them.”

IMG_316114. Its OK to take time off

Sometimes things happen and we fall into bad habits again and need help. Don’t forget that recovery is a far from perfect process and its okay to take time for yourself. Whether its taking a week off, or taking the semester off – remember it’s okay to take care of you. Health comes first. School can wait, your recovery cant.

 

15. HAVE FUN!

The most important thing to do regardless if you are in school or not is have fun! Enjoy everything life has to offer you.

Have a great semester and remember, you are worth recovery!