*Written by Nicole Rohr Stephani
Founder, Body Boop
I’m living the best part of my life right now, but I almost did not make it here. I’ve been married to my husband for one year, we have a darling puppy together, and we live in a beautiful early-1900s house in Chicago. But the one thing that always gets me is that I still run into eating disorder triggers – eight years after I left treatment for anorexia and bulimia for the third time.
In early 2014, I found myself getting frustrated that there weren’t more resources for men and women like me, who have been in recovery for five years, 10 years, 20 years, or more. I would run into issues with getting rid of my “skinny” clothes, with conquering fear foods after they had not given me problems for years, with being in a group of women and dealing with the constant weight and self-loathing conversations.
How do you find a balance between not going to the gym at all and the unhealthy amount of time you spent there when you were sick? How do you eat nutritious foods without skewing all the way to restriction? Do you see an eating disorder therapist after 8 years of recovery, or can you see a general social worker or psychologist and talk about other things some of the time? What do you do when you are denied life insurance because of your eating disorder history?
I wanted to read something that spoke to me and to my dedication to recovery, even after so long. In March 2014, I founded Body Boop, a blog and community dedicated to eating disorder recovery and positive body image. I wanted to build an environment in which men and women could speak candidly about the fact that eating disorder issues do not just evaporate once you exit treatment – there are really tough days, and even weeks, when recovery just isn’t easy. What started out as a personal outlet and endeavor to find comfort on these tough days has now become something much larger – a support for those dedicated to #edrecovery, a media aggregator for non-triggering stories of triumph, and a fundraising source for amazing eating disorder organizations already in existence.
I did not want to recreate the wheel. I already admire what Project HEAL is doing, so I didn’t want to do that and try to compete. Instead, I’m building a platform where I can hire writers to share their truths about recovery and body image issues while still supporting these organizations I love.
On Nov. 8, 2015 at City Winery Chicago, Body Boop and Emilie Maynor Living will be hosting a body image workshop called NOURISH: A Body Image Conversation. Early bird tickets are on sale now, so I hope you’ll join us as we have honest, valuable conversations about where their perceptions of body image come from. As a group, we’ll work on tools for healing and acceptance, and hopefully provide you with a feeling of liberation that you can ride all week long. Ten percent of profits go to Project HEAL. I was lucky enough to complete three stints in treatment, because my mother is a second grade teacher at a public school and I was covered under her amazing state-funded health insurance plan. Everyone who needs treatment is not that fortunate, I know this much. I watched many patients in need leave treatment early because their insurance benefits had run out. They were not ready to lead healthy lives in the real world, but there was no money left for them.
I hope you’ll also support the Anna Westin Act. Led by a bipartisan group of female U.S. senators, this bill builds on the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act by requiring that group insurance plans cover residential treatment for mental health and addiction.
The most important thing to remember is that eating disorder recovery is a journey – and it’s your journey. When that fitness nut is sitting there talking to you about calories and weights, it’s okay to feel stressed and confused, even if you’ve been in recovery for a long time. There’s no right path or correct way to do things in recovery, and you may need to lean on your circle of friends more often than you think is “okay.” My circle includes two friends from treatment, my husband, my family, my therapist, my psychologist and many more people. I’ve worked hard to survive, and I’m committed to recovery.