The Four Seasons

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By James McLaughlin

Living in the northeast of the United States has allowed me to live life through the ever-changing four seasons. Over the course of my life I have found there is something intrinsically special about each one of them.

Autumn is a time to let go of things we cannot change, but also a time to accept and let go of things that have changed–just as the branches of a tree let go of their changed leaves.

I consider the winter months to be a time to go inside, not only physically, but metaphorically as well. It’s strange that people say things like “this blanket is so warm!” When the truth is that blankets do nothing but allow us to insulate and feel our own warmth. Winter is a season of hibernation for some animals, but for us, winter provides a period of introspection–a time to become cozy with oneself, a time for us to warm up to who we are.

And then there’s our current season, my favorite–spring. What I love about spring is the new life that begins to sprout its way into the world, primarily in the places that were let go in the fall. They say when one clears a space of the old, it makes room for the new–I agree with whomever they are.

I find that spring presents an opportunity for new perspectives. For me, the simple, yet exquisite smell of spring is a reminder to be present–to experience the world with all of our senses, to rediscover joy and gratitude in the small details of our life’s larger picture.

Perhaps there is no greater clichéd phrase pertinent to this specific time of year than April showers bring May flowers–perhaps there is not a clichéd phrase that holds so much truth.

Spring flowers and grey skies. Photo by: James McLaughlin
Spring flowers and grey skies. Photo by: James McLaughlin

Our lives are not always full of sunshine, and rainbows seldom appear after a storm has settled. And it is no secret that flowers need plenty of sunshine, but flowers also depend upon rainy, grey and gloomy days.

Similarly, our rainy days, our life’s difficult times, not only enable our ability to blossom, but also allow us to appreciate the light and love that shines in our lives. That light at times may be cloaked by grey skies, but it is always shining beyond that vail of mist–in the sky, and inside of ourselves.

When we let go of what no longer serves us, when we learn to love ourselves without our evergreen leaves or bold-colored blossoms, when we sprout new roots and grow into the person we truly are, we find that the joys of summer are not contained to several months of blue skies, but something unchanging, something exquisite, something that will always exist inside of ourselves.

10685458_10152412384291548_4590576595723063741_nAbout the Author: James McLaughlin recently became the blog manager for Project HEAL. He is a senior at Montclair State University majoring in Communication & Media Arts. His hope in managing the Project HEAL blog is to be a link between informative and inspiring content & a readership who can relate, grow and find peace with each written word.

#DontMiss Loving Yourself in Recovery

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It’s so easy to miss the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. I know, because I had one for over seventeen years, and I was a master at not only hiding it from my family and friends, but deceiving myself into thinking that I didn’t have one.

Thankfully, with the help of God and my support team, I was able to get into a healthy place in my life and learn that it is possible to recover. And just as easy as it is to miss an eating disorder, it’s easy to miss loving yourself in recovery. I am a hard worker, and I love helping others, in fact, it’s one of the things that has helped me to recover. So in this VLOG for the Eating Recovery Roundup, I’ve decided to focus on #DontMiss loving yourself in recovery. Enjoy, and if you have any self love or self care tips you’d like to share, email me at

With love and gratitude,

Nikki DuBose

Where is My Chip or Ribbon?

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By: Jeff Holton

I would like to first start by saying that I do not have an issue with anyone or any group that has representation for their struggles, triumphs, and circumstances.  In fact, it has been seeing firsthand the many different people that have been in my life and the joy, encouragement, solace, and unity that each have drawn from their own ribbon or chip, that identifies what they have personally dealt with, and many times still continue to battle through.  I greatly admire what each signifies not only for the cause, but as important the individual person.

When I initially decided, or maybe better finally admitted that I needed to enter treatment for ED my thought was that I would be away from work for eight to twelve weeks, gain a certain amount of weight, and come out on the other end as the same person I was prior to ED.  In fact I was so sure of this that when people would tell him how happy they were for me, and they would be thinking of me, I still remember telling many that it was no big deal and that I would be gone for a little bit of time and comeback with added and needed weight.  It is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong, but this I WAS WRONG!  In fact I was not even in the ballpark, zip code, area code, or whatever analogy you like to use.  I am still shocked at how much I underestimated the process.

I entered PHP September 6. 2016 and left October 26, 2016.  During that time I attended around 35 days of therapy.  The total hours ranged between 250 and 280 hours.  Safe to say that I underestimated greatly what would be involved while in full time therapy, what would be involved immediately after I left, and what would be involved for the next five to seven years of my life.  Since leaving therapy I continue to spend 1.5 hours a week working with my therapy team which includes a dietician and psychologist.

What I failed to realize is that treating ED is not something that has a defined game plan, path, timeline, or basically anything that my structured mind wanted.  In fact treating my ED at times feels like getting all four of my kids on the same page for what is for dinner, the movie we will watch that night, and what the movie snack will be.  There is always a chance that all four (ages 9 through 3) will agree on everything, but more than likely it will be much like treating ED– a 5 to 7 year process to see success.

I bring this up not for anyone to feel sorry for me and what I am going through.  In fact, the opposite.  This is process is me and “my team’s” battle, one that we ARE going to win, and I do not want sympathy, only empathy.  My point in sharing is that treating ED and getting to a place of recovery, which looks different for each person is a long and winding process over many years.

Battling ED, and yes I view it as a battle, is a process that one breath has you feeling as if you are on top the world, and the next scared of a menu or something on your plate. Then you find yourself contemplating what in the hell to pick for your snack, to not having confidence that you are following your meal plan, to being back on top of the world.  This can all happen before lunch, and can happen many times throughout the day for those of us battling ED.

It is a constant process to be mindful, breathe, use your skills, slow down, be present, ask for help, sit with emotions, not be self-critical, and many other things that occur throughout the day while battling ED.

Today there are over 80+ different color ribbons that are designed to create public awareness to health, medical conditions, disability, and other issues. An awareness ribbon is defined as a piece of colored ribbon folded across itself creating a loop shape. Today, awareness ribbons are used globally as a way for wearers of the ribbon(s) to make a statement of support for a particular cause or issue.  There are 100’s of different causes, issues, and diseases that are represented and are very much deserved.

I bring all of this up as I know many on the outside of the ED battle tend to think “Hey Jeff went to therapy for a couple of months, gained some weight, looks better, all is fixed and good.”  Yes things are MUCH better than they were when I entered treatment, AND I am now only six months into my process AND I know that at the very minimum I still have another twelve months left and in most situations another four or five years.  I am comfortable with my process, all I wish is that for myself and everyone else battling ED that we had a ribbon, chip, or some symbol that signified our process, how long we have been in the process, and where we are at.  The battle and process are real and there is no definite end date or finish line.

In the grand scheme of things I know that this is a small item, AND I also know that it is something that I want AND I have learned from many great people that it is healthy and necessary to ask for what I need.


About the Author: What does Jeff do on his days off?  Well, he has four children under the age of 9, so that keeps him pretty busy at soccer matches, basketball games, baseball games, and acro recitals.  In between chasing after kids, Jeff loves watching Ohio State Football and playing golf.  He is also quite the connoisseur of craft beer.

Signs of Disordered Eating in Children and Teens

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Written by the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders: Loren Gianini, PhD and Barbara Smolek, MPA.

Adolescence is a time of experimentation, rebellion and growing independence.  It’s not unusual for emerging adults to experiment with different lifestyles; after all, the transition to (and then from) college often provides a picturesque backdrop for personal reinvention.

There are multiple common areas of experimentation including the trying on of different school majors or career foci, political beliefs or activist agendas, and friendships or intimate relationships. Health-related domains, including alcohol and drug use, eating and exercise patterns, and sexual behaviors, are also common arenas of exploration. For most adolescents and young adults, health-related experiments may be short lived, or found to improve overall function (for example, learning that it’s important to eat well and get a good night’s rest before a big game). For a susceptible few, however, experimentation around health-related behaviors begins a slippery slope that can be detrimental to physical and mental health.

What should you do if your daughter tells you that she’s routinely skipping lunch at the dining hall or avoiding keeping snacks on hand in her dorm room, but insists “it’s not a big deal because all my friends do too”? Should you be worried if every time you check your child’s social media feed, you notice that she’s posing to look thinner? How about if your credit card bills indicate that your child is frequently buying large amounts of food, of if he has started to describe eating more than usual when feeling stressed about midterms? What is a helpful reaction if your child returns home from college for break and has either gained or lost a significant amount of weight?

In short: What are the signs your child might be struggling with disordered eating, and what can you do?

Here are some reminders about behaviors that may indicate your child may be struggling with eating issues and some tips on how to tease out “normal” young adult behavior from signs of a potential problem:

  1. Trust Your Gut

If you notice a change in your child’s eating behavior and are concerned, trust that feeling, even if your child’s physician says that his or her weight is in the healthy range (Many individuals with eating disorders are actually not underweight.).  For example, you may notice that your child, who has always been a picky eater, is now making excuses not to eat with the family at home, feeling stressed out by dining at restaurants, pushing food around on the plate, and covering their plate with a napkin before clearing it. If you’re wondering how to address your concerns with your child (of any age), read here how to ‘call it as you see it.’

  1. Eating Problems: Not Simply an Intake Issue

If your child seems to go above and beyond the training regimen recommended by their sports team, take note. This could mean trying to get in extra practice before or after school, or trying to train through an injury or illness, even though their coach has recommended they take some time to recover. Has your child’s friends expressed concern? And, if your child exercises in order to compensate for food they’ve eaten, rather than for fun or for health, or seems bound to a rigid fitness routine even when home on a school break, this may also be cause for alarm.

  1. Digital Dilemmas

Are you noticing your child using social media in ways that focus exclusively on appearance? Are they competing in the “thigh gap” challenge, or wanting to pose to show as little of themselves as possible? These challenges are unhealthy, unrealistic, and undermine a healthy self-image. Teach them – explicitly, and by your own example – how to manage normal body image concerns in the digital age. Remind them of those in the media who stand up to Photoshop and choose instead to show realistic images that accurately reflect the acceptability of a range of body types. Teens and young adults are old enough to engage in a meaningful conversation about how their relationship with technology impacts their focus, friendships, and feelings about themselves.

  1. Finding the Fine Line with Food Rules

Has your child recently decided to go gluten-free, even though they do not have celiac disease, or to become a vegetarian, and as a result is eating far less at meals or parties? Experimentation in moderation with new approaches to food, like vegetarianism, can be supported, so long as your child is still eating a broad variety of foods, i.e., not just eating vegetables. People who struggle with disordered eating may adopt rigid food rules which give them an excuse to exclude large groups of foods from their diets. They may say they are trying to be frugal and not spend money on food, or might report that they’re “just” dieting in advance of spring break to “look good in a bathing suit”. A healthy approach to eating includes flexibility, choosing from a wide variety of foods, and it’s important to remember that many teens and young adults in high school and college are still in the process of reaching a stable weight, particularly if they experience changes in activity level (e.g., starting or stopping athletic involvement).

  1. Food and Mood

Does your child seem moody and withdrawn? While it may be common for a teen to want to spend more time with friends than family, the notion that teens withdraw from the world or are constantly irritable is really a myth. Low mood is not specific to individuals with eating disorders; however, if someone has an eating disorder it often comes hand in hand with mood changes, or outright depression. There are many ways that mood and anxiety levels can track with increases or decreases in intake. In one scenario, a teen or young adult might respond to anger and sadness following a fight with a friend by retreating to their room with a pizza and a carton of ice cream. In another context, such as a heavy semester workload or career decisions, the experience of heightened anxiety may play out in under- or overeating. Research suggests that if eating behavior is tightly bound up with fluctuations in mood and anxiety, it is worth taking note. You may be able to help your child develop other, healthier ways to handle life’s inevitable stresses without turning to or away from food.

color-787251_640If you see a troubling shift in your child’s behavior, including but not limited to those listed above, say something. Be mindful to express your concern (rather than your frustration).

If your child is still living at home, you can approach this as you would any other kind of medical issue. If your child had a cold, you might monitor the symptoms for a while and then seek consultation from a doctor if the symptoms did not improve, or worsened. You can monitor what’s happening by talking to teachers and school counselors who can share observations of your child when they are not with you. Pay attention to the attitudes and behaviors of your child’s peer group.

For college students who are living on campus, you can certainly take note of both appearance and behavior when they are home for breaks and reach out to them if you are concerned by what you observe. If you are connected with your child via social media platforms, you might also be able to indirectly monitor their wellbeing based on what they are posting.  Investigate what student health resources may be available to students through their university, and speak with them about accessing those resources if you feel they might benefit from getting help from a professional. You might also refer them to some of our back-to-school tips and suggestions  for college athletes.

For emerging adults, do what you can to empower them to make their own decisions in service of optimal health and functioning. Encourage them to learn about treatment resources local to their area or through their employer’s employee assistance program. If the behaviors of concern persist or worsen, you can offer to speak together with an expert who can provide an objective assessment. This might be your child’s physician, or a mental health provider who is an eating disorders specialist. Remember, families play a vital role in helping those with eating problems (even those in adulthood), and research indicates that early intervention is key.

An earlier version of this post appeared in The Feed on January 4, 2017.

About the Author: Dr. Gianini is a clinical and research psychologist at the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders. Her current research aims to examine food-related decision-making across the weight spectrum. Be sure to check Columbia Center for Eating Disorder’s blog as well.

My Secret New Love of Spontaneity

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By: Heather Birchall

This may not be true of most anorexics, or even a portion, but honestly I can pinpoint the day I became anorexic, and the day I decided ‘enough is enough, now give me a piece of that lemon meringue pie’.

I’d battled the disease for four years but suddenly, like a cat with a ball of yarn, it unravelled itself overnight. I became determined to put on weight until my period started again, and I could look at myself in the mirror without seeing shadows. It took maybe a few months, and when it happened, I went out shopping.

In the 90’s every student in the UK worth their salt shopped at Top Shop. It’s really hard to find clothes that fit when you’re anorexic. I wore kids clothes generally, or tied an unflattering belt around my waist to hold up skirts and jeans. But now everything was snug, and I gave myself a new look – a short skirt with tights, thick black ones in winter, sheer in summer and patterned or multi-coloured for occasions.

This became my outfit of choice at work, hiking up the Lake District hills and through two pregnancies. Even when I moved to California, where active wear is all the rage, I couldn’t shake the look. But, despite all the confidence I’d gained, there was one thing that just kept nagging at me, and it annoyed and frustrated me. I just could not be spontaneous. I’m not talking about booking a last minute flight to Hawaii spontaneous, but rather “do you fancy checking out that new place for lunch now spontaneous.”

Even when I was recovered, and considered my eating disorder to be a thing of the past, at the beginning of each day I decided what I was going to eat, and there wasn’t room for extra helpings.

restaurant-1284365_1280So, when colleagues asked me out I declined and, as soon as a gaggle of them left, I would take out a forlorn looking sandwich stashed away at the bottom of my bag.

After a while they didn’t ask anymore. Sometimes I would go with them and just buy myself a cup of tea. This honestly seemed feeble to my companion – a bit like pouring a glass of wine in the evening. You need a friend to eat with you, not make a cup of tea last for 40 minutes while they munch on sandwiches and cake.

I’m 40 now, anorexia over 20 years behind me, and it’s only recently that I have been able to take up that lunch offer without any qualms at all. It’s such a relief that I don’t have to plan, and deprive myself of something at the start of the day to make up for that birthday cake that someone wants to share after school pick-up, or that trip to Pinkberry on a whim.

I sometimes wonder though if my future might have been different if I’d accepted those lunch invitations in my twenties and thirties. Would I have progressed in my work faster by discussing things with colleagues at Starbucks? Would I have found out titbits of gossip that made the afternoon pass quicker if only I’d gone on that outing to Pret A Manger?

Maybe I’d have made some closer friends during that time in my life if I’d just had the nerve to go out to a restaurant rather then unwrap the sandwich I prepared each morning. Thankfully there will be enough spontaneous lunches ahead to outweigh the many I turned down. I can happily now raise a glass to spontaneity.

pumpkins 10.00.25About the Author: Heather Birchall started volunteering with ProjectHEAL in early 2016, and has primarily been responsible for interviewing new volunteers and chapter leaders. Before moving to California and developing a passion for the non-profit sector, Heather was an expert in Victorian painting and photography, and spent eleven years working in curatorial roles at the V&A Museum, Tate Britain, and Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester.

Cultivating Hope

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By: Kiernan O’Dell

If you are in the process of recovering from an eating disorder, chances are you’ve had that moment of “I just cannot do this any more!” That moment where hope is gone, the process seems too hard or overwhelming and you want to give up-or give in-to the eating disorder.

Actually, if you’re anything like me, you have moments like that often, even daily. Moments when recovery seems so far over there, elusively somewhere out in the ether and the road ahead looks impassable.

While I cycle through feeling like this, I also know that those moments, those emotions, are not forever. I think it’s important to look at why you feel that way, but not live there with that voice that tells you that you cannot possibly recover.

hopeSo what saves me, in those times? Hope. Every single time, hope wins.  I can hear myself reading this and thinking perhaps what you may be thinking: “But how do you find hope when you feel utterly hopeless?”

Well guys, it takes effort and I don’t have all the answers. For me, the biggest source of hope comes from connection. Usually when I’m in a place where I want to give up, I am alone. Perhaps I am with people, but still feeling very isolated. When I am actually–connected to myself, to other people and to this world, I find hope or at least the energy behind hope that inspires me to continue.

Sometimes I have to act as if I feel hope. I have to take the right actions. I heard once that esteem-able acts build self-esteem. I think that hopeful acts build hope.

Perhaps that means eating to my meal plan even when food feels hard and scary. It may mean making that phone call you don’t want to make because connecting with another human being gets you out of your own head for a while and reminds you that a world exists outside of the abusive eating disorder.

Sometimes it means letting your team hold onto hope for you and listening to them when they tell you that.

Hope comes from talking to those in recovery or reading articles about their journey to a full recovery.

Hope isn’t always an emotion that I feel and, to be honest, its not always an emotion that I have the time to wait for. In this arduous process, sometimes I have to go out and hunt hope down.

Sometimes I have to take care of myself just to prove to myself that I can. Sometimes I have to call someone and see how they are. Sometimes I have to pretend my way into the feeling of hope.

These actions mean that I’m taking an active role in my own recovery and THAT gives me hope. If I sat around waiting to feel hopeful before I started acting as if there were hope, I may not be on the path of recovery any more.

Hope is out there and there is plenty of it for the getting, it just takes some work to get to. I have hope for recovery because I have solid proof that it is possible. I’ve seen it happen and although sometimes my eating disorder tells me so, I am not the only person who simply cannot recover.

So where do YOU find hope? What keeps you motivated on hard days? Id love to hear your ideas: We can always use a new path to hope. What gets you there?

image1About 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.

The National Eating Disorder Association and Project HEAL Team Up For Recovery Heroes Campaign

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In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, February 26- March 4th, Project HEAL and The National Eating Disorder Association have teamed up for a new campaign, Recovery Heroes, to honor our loyal supporters who make recovery possible.

To get involved, post a picture or video of yourself and your hero on Instagram with a caption talking about how they helped you on your journey using the #RecoveryHeroes and #NEDAwareness hashtags.

Kristina Saffran


Recovery is never an individual process. That’s why I’m so glad @projectheal and @neda are highlighting the importance of #recoveryheroes. No big surprise that mine is my fearless, kind and passionate cofounder @lianarosenman. Thanks for saving my life.

Liana Rosenman


To begin, I’d like to thank Kristina Saffran for being one my #recoveryheroes Thank you Kristina for saving my life and showing me that I was worthy of recovery!


Recovery would not have been possible without my family’s constant love and support. Thank you Mom, Dad, and Josh for being my favorite part in this crazy life. Thank you for always being my loudest cheerleaders and for reminding me of my strengths when I was discouraged. I would not be where I am or who I am today with out each of you!

1*mQtOqbH8U6MDVYnWh3MJbgReflecting back on the years I spent sitting in classrooms, there is one thing that I know for certain to be true: I would not be the person I am today without the teacher who believed in me. Thank you for teaching me life lessons that are far more invaluable than anything I could have learned from a textbook. Thank you for giving me the tools to succeed. Thank you for always encouraging me and believing in me even when I didn’t in myself. And, finally, thank you for being the teachers that inspired me to be just like you.

1*55IMGUhjqcpxErgt2fztAwThey say I am their anchor that keeps them grounded. What they don’t realize is they are the light in the darkness, a shining source of strength and courage. Emitting wisdom, hope and love to those around them. Today I dedicate my #recoveryheroes post to the 70 Project HEAL treatment grant recipients.

1*UF9u_ACzu1sQJ0VXirclrgWhat many people may not realize is that much of Project HEAL’s achievement would not be possible without the dedication of our volunteers. Their enthusiasm for Project HEAL and spreading the message that recovery is possible inspires me everyday. I am so thankful to work with such dedicated, kind, and loving people who are truly HEALing the world. Thank you for being #recoveryheroes to so many people and being my everyday heroes!

1*q_cKIuXT4YZXDgK3ctcB5AFor my final post, I am giving a special shout out to my treatment team. You invested heavily in my recovery when I couldn’t even begin to see the starting line. You constantly reminded me of what recovery was not only about from a technical aspect, but what it was for: my family and future, but, most importantly, for myself. Thank you for giving me the tools to succeed and for helping me reach a full recovery.

Tonya Brown

1*4ZToTO_N9FsmZZfBnHfO2gMy #recoveryhero is Megz (Meghan). Together we fight, we cry, we kick, we scream — together we do not give up — especially not on each other. From the time we met in treatment in 2015 and to this present day she has been my partner in crime, my best friend and my recovery sidekick. It’s easy to make friends in treatment, but to maintain that friendship afterwards; that’s dedication and commitment. The last time we saw each other was when she discharged from NYC, just weeks before me…the thought of reuniting gives me goosebumps and shivers down my spine and fills my eyes with tears.

This girl is my world. Recovery is not easy but with her by my side, it’s easier.

Together but apart — we fight.

Allison Dombroski

1*Wpcn3j_obYBzbkYPfr7hswTo celebrate #nedawarenessweek, I’d like to thank my friend Sara, who never gave up on me, even when I pushed away. In recovery it’s important to have a support system. They don’t have to understand exactly what’s going on in your mind, but they’re willing to keep seeing the true you deep inside. Sara helped and continues to help me overcome many obstacles, and ultimately, because of her loyal friendship, I can now say I’m recovered.

Cara Lyons
1*L7KZAw5iJnZKQeeTFZG3NQGrowing up, I was always told how much I looked like my mom — of course, when I was 8 years old, I couldn’t really see the resemblance. Now that I’m older, though, I smile when someone tells me that because she is exactly the woman I want to become. She is my role model, my confidante, my therapist, but most importantly, my best friend. She never forgets to text me each morning and night, even if we haven’t spoken all day and she’s never given up on me, even when wanted to give up on me.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly know how my eating disorder affected her because when I was at my lowest points, she was forced to be strong enough for the both of us to move forward. She never let me see how afraid she was of what my eating disorder had made me become because she knew that would only make me more closed off. So instead, she smiled. She laughed. She cheered me on when I asked to go for ice cream (at one point she even said she would have driven 100 miles just to find an ice cream shop that was open late at night for me). She pointed out the good things that the world still had to offer because I couldn’t see them for myself. And slowly, because of her, I began to get better.

Now that’s not to say the numerous treatment stays, doctor visits, and therapy sessions didn’t play a role too, but my mom was the one who never left my side no matter how bad things had become. She never gave up on me and constantly reminded me of my goals and potential to make a difference in the world. It is because of her that I always try to better myself in the hopes that just maybe, I can be half the woman she is.

Vanessa Frances Poulson
1*9UjD-i7QLeduqRpI4s7zTwI think, as with most children, out first love will always be our mothers. Mom’s are the ones who teach us to be brave, hold our heads up, and stand up talk for what we believe in. Our mother’s help to form and craft our personalities, breed us in strength, and protect us even in our tragedies.

Mothers are protective and understanding, caring and firm, and hold us close when the world tries to push us away.My mother was an incredibly powerful influence through my recovery journey. She was not only a guiding light, but a beacon of hope through darkness, and for that I will never thank her enough.

Recovery, however, is not just about those that helped us through the recovery itself, but also those that stood with us when we came out on the other side, and reminded us in our moments of weakness what it means to be something truly exceptional and valuable. Though I’ve always tried to be the girl that refuses validation from others, falling in love with someone who knew just the right way to keep me steady and moderated with perhaps the best thing that’s ever happened to me. He is the love of my life, and for that, I am so thankful.

These two are my #RecoveryHeros not only for their continued kindness and compassion, but because they are both the complete and well valued lives of my life. I don’t think that I would be half the woman I am today if I didn’t have the shoulders of these two incredible human beings to help me stand again.

Meg Burton

1*a1MLwqsK9at7bAKIrxD3QAI wouldn’t be where I am today without all of the amazing #RecoveryHeroes I have in my life.

This right here is Mary. Mary was my therapist when I first moved to Southern California for college. I was still having phone session with my therapist from home and having difficulty finding resources at Cal State Fullerton to help me with this new life transition. I found Mary online while searching for an eating disorder therapist within the area. Her website was awesome and she looked so kind — so I texted a friend consulting her on this very important issue and we decided that it would be good to send Mary an email. To my very anxious surprise Mary called me that night and then followed up by emailing me potential resources in the area.

I can’t explain how much this meant to me. I was pretty self-sufficient but I was having a hard time finding any help in this new place. On top of that nobody was even trying to help me. I was just having doors closed in my face instead of finding a hand reaching out to help me. And that’s what Mary did. She was the first person to extend a hand and allow me not to walk alone.

Our first interaction with each other pretty much sums up our time together. Mary never left me to walk alone. She stayed present with me through many highs and lows. The moments when I would hide underneath the blankets in her office, unable to communicate; or when I would decide to not talk to her if I was angry. And also the moments where I got stickers for self-care, told epic camp stories, and cried from joy and and gratitude for life after being featured in 17 magazine.

It’s so hard to sum up the impact of a certain person in your life. But I do know one thing, I would not be the same without the time I was fortunate to have with Mary in my life.

All you therapists rule. You have a hard job but it is filled with SO much meaning. Keep making a difference in this world because we need you.

Michelle Blazofsky

1*NTdQJlBRPDvkjIrMe4-mdgAs we approach National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I’m joining the #recoveryheroes movement, a collaborative movement between @neda, @recoveryspark, and @projectheal, to send out some love to those who have helped me along the way. I’m forever grateful and thankful for Liana, Kristina and all of Project HEAL for taking a chance on me and allowing me the opportunity to not only gain my life back but also grow in ways I never thought possible. I would not have made it through treatment without my recovery heroes. I went from daily meltdowns to daily triumphs. Thank you all for always being a voice of reason in times of struggle and true examples of confidence and self love.

Danielle Deutsch

1*rcDH8VCYhXgoD_jrephH1wI want to give a HUGE shoutout to Liana Rosenman for being a #RecoveryHero to so many people and being my everyday hero! You’re the most selfless and amazing person I know and I’m so lucky to be able to call you my friend.

Amanda Leigh Lupacchino

1*PufT7tgA_Fvk9hLrMAzlHgIt’s hard to believe that 3 years ago last month I went into treatment for my eating disorder, which I struggled with for 11+ years. As we approach National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I’m joining the #recoveryheroesmovement, a collaborative movement between @neda, @recoveryspark, and @projectheal, to send out some love to those who have helped me along the way. It takes a village my friends and these are some of the heroes in mine.

First and foremost I’m forever grateful for Liana, Kristina and the Project HEAL family for taking a chance on me, giving me the opportunity to receive the proper treatment and for sticking by my side. A shout out to my amazing bosses Mel, Hanne and my DDF crew for being an amazing and understanding support system. My EDTNY family for walking through the unknown with me. Pippa, Diana, Natalie, Kylie, Garrett, Marisa, Ginny, Dr. Hong and the many others who have helped me, supported me and tough loved me through this process. The countless friends, family, recovery warriors, theater communities and even strangers who have had a positive impact along the way. There are no words that will ever adequately express how grateful I am for all of you, but I can say confidently and adoringly that I could not have wished for a better team of recovery heroes. Thankful every day. THANK YOU!

Sarah Kravette

1*A0zWfDxX21eTEWKOBtVrnwIn honor of #NEDAwareness Week, I’d like to give a shout out to my “Recovery Hero.” Liana Rosenman came into my life at exactly the right time and showed me that there is an incredible life worth living beyond an eating disorder. To my best friend, thank you.

Christina Grasso

1*osRPObzIP0S42tMfRYCF-QWith upcoming #nedawareness week, we @projectheal-ers are launching a new campaign today with @iskra and @neda called #recoveryheroes to highlight the importance of a support system in eating disorder recovery. I’m lucky to have an incredible family, wonderful friends, and a special doctor who have gone above and beyond to save my life and help me through this process.

But Liana Rosenman is one friend in particular who gives me hope and purpose every day. I met her 5 years ago when I started working with @projectheal, which she co-founded at the age of 15 (!!) while recovering from her own eating disorder. Since then, we’ve grown very close and she is always there to celebrate the good days and let me vent on the not so good days. She watched Betty Piddles for me while I was in the hospital last summer and wrote cute notes on my mirror for my return. Most of all, she is my living proof that recovery is possible. I don’t know where I would be without her and Project Heal, but I do know I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today, that’s for sure. Thank you Liana for changing my life, inspiring me to share my voice and story,and giving me the opportunity to turn the ugliest, most difficult thing in my life into something beautiful and meaningful.

Hannah Smiley Jones

1*8HDY33OuGqC5HQ70fX-gwQMy #RecoveryHero is my best friend, my partner in crime, my person @tessmichelemullen When I found out I was being admitted to the hospital she dropped everything and hopped on a bus from Pittsburgh to Philly to work my two nannying jobs and take care of my cat while I was learning how to care of myself again. She’s seen my good, my bad and my ugly and has loved me unconditionally through it all. Her unrelenting support and belief in both me and my recovery empowers me everyday. I’m so lucky to have had you by my side and I cannot wait for the day when we don’t live on opposite sides of the state anymore. Thanks for being my bestie and recovery hero.

Kelly Byram
1*tZFUWBKstYTNFpvhtVW_sgWhile there have been SO many people I would love to thank who have helped me over the last 12 years and continue to help me on my journey towards recovery…. I want to thank my 3 biggest #RecoveryHeroes-my mom, my best friend Anthony and my precious niece Avery. These 3 people have given me to strength and courage to continue to fight even when I’ve felt I no longer could. Whether they know it or not, they have saved my life. I want to thank them for always believing in me. For cheering me on in the darkest of times and for being there to celebrate my triumphs.

Caroline E. Och
1*kvnsJk0g3QQaEeIZEB1qgwIt’s almost #EatingDisordersAwarenessWeek, and here are my #RecoveryHeroes! Mom, Dad, and Sarah, thank you for your constant support. Because of you, I’m able to recover and pursue my dreams of helping others. I love you!

Jacquie Rangel

Summer 2016- my brothers, mom and I first met my father in Kuala Lumpur before taking off to Thailand for a family getaway. It was our first visit there in nearly six years and it was a truly incredible time to reflect and think about how much has happened in a seemingly short period of time. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as we sat at the beach for lunch that first day, thinking how the five of us were fundamentally different humans than the ones who sat in a similar formation just years before.

Though I had been developing and attempting to manage an eating disorder for some time then, the Thailand 2010 trip was the moment in time where I think we all truly realized that I was deeply entrenched in behaviors that could end my life and therefore all of our lives as we knew them. Here we were last summer, what felt like several lifetimes later and I sat relishing not only in the freedom to enjoy some of my favorite Thai dishes; but also with the cognitive ability to stay present and open heartedness to recognize how making a full recovery from my eating disorder had, in many ways, liberated the people I love the most. I recognize my family as a group of recovery heroes because I appreciate the absolute fact that we ALL fully recovered from an eating disorder. Yes, I was the one with the symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that I was the only one who was faced with the challenge of a healing experience. In many ways, I believe the pain my family endured was more grueling than my own since they had to go through it without the well-rounded care that I was afforded in treatment. They carried on with their wounds, not even thinking twice to let them heal until they were sure, years later honestly, that I was better.

While I spent a long time feeling a lot of guilt for what I put them through, I’ve come to better understand the ripple effect of healing. My mom says that she always knew I was going through my eating disorder to be able to heal others. However, I believe that they, too, have great amount of healing to share with the world. Their individual experiences of what happened triggered transformation that has healed pieces of them and as a result, provided further space in the world for them to extend this further still to others. Felipe, only eleven at the time, was required to grow up much faster than I did in many regards, yet in the process tapped deep into a thoughtful nature that I see him channel into his many positions of leadership today. Nicholas, my middle brother, was afraid to visit me in treatment, carrying around the preconceived notion of what mental health treatment looks like. In facing his fears, he was able to destigmatize this perception in his mind and I watch with amazement when I see him compassionately showing up for people in his lives when he recognizes a struggle. Then there are my parents of course; who showed up for many difficult conversations and willingly undertook the battle with insurance companies to provide me with life-saving care. Now, I watch as their friends reach out to them, riddled with shame for feeling as though they have failed when their children develop eating disorders. They are able to comfort these people and let them know they are not to blame and counsel them on what did and didn’t work in their experience. I think are times in which we all feel responsible for fixing all that is wrong in the world around us. One thing my journey to being recovered from an eating disorder has opened my eyes to is that we are really only responsible for our own pain. We can be there for others and comfort them, but the action of recognizing and transforming the painful experiences in our own lives eases a fraction of collective suffering in the world. When we do this, we let other people know they have the power to do the same.

So there we were with our Thai spread and the sound of calm waves rolling in. Far from perfect, but that’s not really the point, is it? In that moment we had our health, we had laughter, and we had our ever-expansive healing. Again, I smiled in infinite gratitude for a family that is both strong and easy. These people are my sunshine, my warriors; they are my tribe of recovery heroes.

Letter to a Younger Self: A Project HEAL Series

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Dear me (nine years ago),

I’m writing to you because I believe in you. If I really thought you were hopeless, this wouldn’t have a purpose.

I’m worried about your complete and utter denial of how ill you’re getting. Right now, I know it seems like all you’re doing is simply not eating. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it will be for a little while. But let me tell you something: it won’t last forever. I’d like to share with you what’s actually going to happen:

journalYou’ll be worrying about food 24/7, weighing yourself ten times a day, crying at the number on the scale, and bearing through the insane cold in order to stand stripped in front of your mirror for several hours seeing nothing but fat. You’ll be waking up five times every night from body- wracking chills unable to feel your fingers or toes, regularly dozing off at school, fainting in the most inappropriate situations, and running on the treadmill until everything goes black.

Comparing your body endlessly to everyone’s around you, isolating in your room because you don’t want people to see how fat you are, lying to those you love, creating clever excuses for why you can’t eat dinner, hiding food, and seriously worrying people who care about you will become part of your everyday life.

You’ll stop caring about everything that’s truly important, and you’ll eventually lose all the things that make you who you are.

If you don’t reverse it now, that is.

It doesn’t get easier with time; it only gets harder. Don’t wait until you feel inspired – just go for it. Sometimes everyone has to do things they don’t like to do.

Take care of yourself. Be well. I know you can do this, and you will.

With enough love to make up for your lack of love for yourself,



Project HEAL’s new peer-based support program, Communities of HEALing, will include an evidence-based eating disorder prevention and body acceptance program known as the Body Project. The Body Project is an intervention that was developed by renowned researchers Eric Stice, Ph.D and Carolyn Becker, Ph.D and is backed by two decades of research at Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Oregon Research Institute. This program has been delivered to over one million young women around the world and is the only program that has repeatedly demonstrated reductions of body dissatisfaction, negative mood, unhealthy dieting and disordered eating. Further evidence indicates that the Body Project intervention reduces the risk of future onset of eating disorders and obesity.
Recently, Project HEAL held its first facilitator training of the Body Project with some of our volunteers from NYC and PA, all of whom are in recovery from an eating disorder. One of the activities that all volunteers completed as part of the Body Project program was to write a letter to a younger version of themselves using the information they learned from other sessions of the intervention and advise their younger selves on how to avoid developing body image concerns. The letters shared were truly powerful and we are thrilled to have some of our new facilitators share their letters with you!

Round Table with the Experts: How to Survive the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

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By Melainie Rogers, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

The Holidays are often said to be the most wonderful time of year. For many, it is a time to see loved ones, eat delicious food and celebrate the New Year. But for the 30 million Americans struggling with eating disorders, this time of year can be stressful and overwhelming.

For those in recovery from Anorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia or other eating disorders– it is anything but easy. Whether someone is a year into stable recovery or 10 years into his or her process of healing, there are many components that can still make the holidays an ultimate challenge.

As a dietician and the owner of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center in New York City, I know how crucial it is to prepare clients in our program for this difficult period. In an effort to shed light on these struggles I wanted to come up with a comprehensive arsenal of tips & coping strategies to help those recovering from eating disorders. Therefore, at BALANCE we recently hosted a Twitter Chat with leading eating disorder professionals and organizations dedicated to helping those who suffer from this complex illness. With our experienced co-hosts, we discussed the struggles that arise and explored various ways to address specific concerns related to recovery during the holiday season.

I am pleased to be able to share with you the responses we received from experts in the field. We hope that together we can help to make this holiday season a happy and healthy one!

  1. What makes the Holidays so difficult for those struggling with eating disorders? Why is there often an increase in eating disorder symptoms during this time?

Brian Pollack LCSW, who is currently the only male Certified as an Eating Disorder Specialist in the entire state of NJ and on the board of The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders says, “The holidays are a time when the social expectation to connect and “love one-another” is all over the television and media. Many of us with eating disorders struggle to find comfort in doing this on any other day – but when there is pressure to love and be loved, we want to hide and use whatever we can to remain safe. Additionally, with the holidays often surrounding food, we often can feel like sheltering ourselves in is a safe way to avoid all the expectations, anxiety, and judgment of our love ones.”

  1. What normal day-to-day recovery challenges are amplified during the Holidays? What kind of preparation is effective?

Norman Kim, the Director for Program Development at Reasons Eating Disorder Center and Center for Change comments as follows; “For many people in recovery, one particular challenge that is amplified is how to manage your own and others’ expectations that one ought to be filled with the joy and happiness of the holiday season.  During those moments when how you are feeling internally may not match the festive nature of the holiday season, that discord can amplify your internal struggle as well as increase the pressure you might feel to put on your “happy” face for others.  Even when that is true for you, because you are also struggling with the daily challenges that come along with the process of recovery, it may be difficult to be as expressive about it. In terms of trying to prepare – you can practice whatever skills help you to ground yourself emotionally, and find meaningful ways to practice giving yourself compassion and grace to relieve some of the pressure.  I cannot imagine a better and more deserved present you can give yourself than that.”

  1. Many people feel an immense pressure to appear perfect, especially with family members or friends they haven’t seen in a while. Do you believe perfectionism plays a role with eating disorder struggles during the Holidays? What are ways to overcome this?

We asked Megan Bruneau for her input on this question- Megan is a mental health therapist and Forbes podcast host who has personal experience of recovering from perfectionism-fueled depression, anxiety and eating disorders. She told us “Perfectionism always plays a role in eating disorder struggles, holidays or not! Remember that what drives the desire to “appear perfect” is a fear of uncomfortable feelings. We think that in creating a false sense of control and predictability, we’ll protect ourselves from anxiety, insecurity, hurt, loneliness, etc–that we’ll protect ourselves from vulnerability.

Difficult feelings are a part of the human experience, and the more we avoid them the more power they have over us. Perfectionism-fueled ED behaviors often ramp up over the holidays because the holidays tend to be more triggering of those difficult feelings and vulnerabilities–for example, lack of structure and routine, complex family dynamics, triggering foods, alcohol, etc. My advice would be to really ramp up the self-compassion, trying to acknowledge, make space for, and validate as many of the difficult feelings as possible.”

  1. The use of behaviors like restricting, purging or binging arise when there is immense stress. What self-care and stress management tips would you give to someone struggling to help them overcome the overwhelming Holiday season?

Project HEAL’s Director of Communications, Brian Kearney, told us, “Some tips to help navigate the holiday season for those struggling would be to use healthy coping skills that you find are already working for you. Just because it’s the holiday season does not mean you need to change how you handle stress and triggering situations. Participating in family conversations and basking in the love that’s surrounding you can also be helpful.”

Megan Bruneau also added, “Anticipate triggering and vulnerable situations, and ask yourself what you need for support; but also recognize that a slip-up or relapse means you probably stepped out of your comfort zone in some way. Consider it an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you need to have a more serving response to a triggering situation the next time around. Finally, connect! ED will tell you to isolate; to go to the gym, skip a family meal or holiday party, etc. While it’s important to set boundaries and take time for self-care, be honest with yourself about what’s driving your desire to isolate.”

  1. Often times it can be helpful to distract oneself from the Holiday craziness. What are some festive, yet non-food related activities someone struggling could plan to do during this season to distress?

Stacey Lorin Merkl, founder and executive director of the organization Realize Your Beauty shares these thoughts, “reliving a happy childhood holiday memory can bring joy and take the focus away from food. For example, looking at lights, ice skating, singing holiday songs, or playing a board game. As an adult, this can also be an opportunity to create those memories with your own family and friends.”

  1. How do treatment professionals like therapists or nutritionists assist eating disorder clients during the Holidays? How can someone struggling apply this information on their own?

Being a clinician myself, I think it is critical to have a qualified treatment team in place is essential to providing a solid foundation of support to navigate the often unpredictable holiday stressors that someone struggling may encounter. Therapists help identify emotional triggers and can help explore feelings that otherwise may be repressed and acted out through eating disordered behaviors. While dietitians can help with setting up an appropriate meal plan and reinforcing mindful eating practices.

Unfortunately families can sometimes disappoint and not come through in meeting expectations. Having a strong team backing you up can make all the difference in the end and can often counter-balance negative family conflict and strife. If you find yourself alone and trying to cope with recovery issues there are many supports available to you and it is essential that you take advantage of them.

  1. College students return home during this time for Winter break and are quickly thrown out of structured routines. Why is this a prime time for relapses to occur? And in what ways can parents/families help a loved one with an eating disorder while they are home from?

Ginny Jones, the founder of, a website providing information to parents who have children with eating disorders told us, “The disruption of a break from college can make sticking to recovery plans even harder. The added stress that typically surrounds Holidays make it a prime time for relapse. If your college student has previously or is currently recovering from an eating disorder, then it is so important as a parent to plan ahead as much as possible to keep recovery on-track. For example, talk to your college-age child in advance about how best to structure the break. It’s been a while since she or he lived with you at home – what should you know about what works and doesn’t work now that she lives apart from you?

Also, consider carefully and discuss how holiday plans with extended family and friends might impact recovery. Remember that sometimes it’s best to downsize the holidays to focus on recovery, especially if holidays typically involve traveling to and staying at other people’s houses. Most of all, be sure to find ways to truly listen to your child when they are home from.”

  1. Many people struggling avoid treatment and higher levels of care, like residential treatment, during this time to be with family. What is your advice to people opting to delay treatment due to the Holidays?

Jenn Friedman, a singer-songwriter, eating disorder activist, speaker and mental health advocate says, “As someone who has recovered from eating disorders, I understand the pain that accompanies the inability to participate in the celebrations of life due to receiving treatment. While in treatment, I wanted nothing more than to be out in the world and so being in a hospital unit seemed like ultimate contrast to the freedom that seemed to lie just outside the door. That is where I was wrong. Being inside those doors was in fact my freedom. I was not ready to co-exist with triggers that would have inevitably presented themselves all around me.

You are building a muscle in treatment – the muscle that will let you live your life, participate in the holidays, be around people, be in various types of food situations – all without conditions. Treatment in the short-term is a means toward benefiting from recovery in the long-term. When you’re strong in recovery, not only will you be “allowed” to participate in the holidays – you will whole-heartedly CHOOSE to be PRESENT during them. That is worth waiting for.”

  1. There are so many food-focused events during the Holiday season. What are some ways to plan ahead for challenges around meals that may arise?

 Crystal Karges, a San Diego based dietician who is the Director of Content at Eating Disorder Hope told us, “Definitely work with your treatment team to go over possible scenarios you may encounter that could potentially be triggering.  Talking through these situations ahead of time and brainstorming effective ways to cope can be a helpful way for preparing for challenges that may arise around meals and other food related events.  Have your support and/or accountability system in place – whether someone you can text or call before/after a meal or someone you trust that you can periodically check in with during an event that may be potentially triggering.  Consider being involved or participating in non-food related activities around meals to give you the opportunity to engage with family and friends in a more relaxes setting.  Keeping a relaxed and flexible perspective on food/meals can also help you keep a situation more neutral.“

  1. What are some positive and healthy New Years resolutions to support recovery? And what are effective ways to shut down the inevitable and triggering “diet talk” at holiday dinners?

Diana Denza, the Communications Associate at the National Eating Disorder Association says, “General resolutions like learning a new skill, spending time with family, participating in a book challenge, or planning a vacation can take the focus off of weight and calorie-related goals. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself in the New Year by holding yourself to unattainable goals. It’s one thing to say, “I’ll read more books than I did last year.” It’s another to try and break a near-impossible record. Remember – your well-being should always come first!”

Christy Harrison, a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor and host of the popular Food Psych podcast series based in Brooklyn says,  “There are two main strategies, and the one you decide to use will depend on the family and friends you are surrounded by, and your own comfort level discussing recovery and anti-diet topics. The first approach is the most direct: assert your needs, and explain to friends and family why comments about weight, calories, “cheat meals,” or “working off” holiday food are so damaging. The other approach is simply to change the subject, and leave any conversation you don’t feel comfortable in. If you go that route, you could consider calling or texting a compassionate friend for additional support. Remember that you have the right to remove yourself from any and all triggering situations, no explanation required! Use whichever one of these approaches makes you feel empowered and safe, and consider it an essential part of your holiday self-care practice.”


I want to thank all of our wonderful co-hosts for sharing their comments and advice via Twitter and by contributing to this article. We look forward to connecting with you and welcome further discussion on this important topic. Wishing you all a warm & peaceful holiday season!


About the Author:

Melainie Rogers, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD is a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and accredited supervisor in the treatment of eating disorders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™ and melainie rogers nutrition, llc in Manhattan. Among her many affiliations Melainie is the founder and recent past President of the New York City Chapter of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (IAEDP) and currently an Advisory Board Member at the Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia (CSAB). Melainie has earned a strong reputation among her colleagues as an expert in the field of eating disorders. She is a dynamic speaker and has been invited to present nationally and internationally on the latest scientific discoveries and treatment approaches within the eating disorder profession.




Frequently Asked Questions Friday-Pregnancy and Eating Disorders

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Frequently Asked Questions Friday



This week’s question is:

How do I maintain recovery from my eating disorder during pregnancy?

So this is an interesting question, because I think that the answer very much depends on the individual. I have had friends in recovery who have said that being pregnant saved them, that those nine months were the most carefree nine months ever, because the pressure to maintain an idealized body was gone. Others that I have worked with have told me that pregnancy was the time that their eating disorder was the loudest. Others still have confided that pregnancy sparked a relapse.

What is important to note is, if you have a history of an eating disorder, it’s likely tricky to predict how you will react to all of the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that pregnancy brings. This is why I think this question is good for EVERYONE to consider-not just for those who are currently in recovery and pregnant, but for anyone who ever might become pregnant one day.

Because pregnancy is so personal and individualized, I felt that this question deserved a more well-rounded answer than my sole clinical opinion-so I called in the troops! Two brave, smart, warriors who have experienced pregnancy during recovery agreed to share their feelings, tips, and tricks about this very topic with you all!


Veronica:  When we found out we were having a baby we were so excited, but in the back of my mind I was afraid of how I would do with gaining all of the weight that comes along with the blessing. I was afraid that it would trigger old habits and behaviors with the new changes that were about to begin. Throughout the 9 months as my belly grew, I just kept reminding myself of the little miracle that was growing inside of me and how he was depending on me to take care of myself in order to thrive. I was actually a little surprised with how much I loved being pregnant. I loved that I was eating not only for me, but for my baby. For once in my life I didn’t worry about the weight I was gaining, but instead embraced it. Embraced the life that my body was able to nourish. How amazing is that…my body was able to nourish and grow another human being! So wonderful!

I think the hardest part for me was after my son Lane was born. My body had changed, but now I had a tiny human to take care of other than myself. I was nursing so I was starving all the time (even in the middle of the night). So although my body had changed, and I weighed more than I did pre-pregnancy, I knew I needed to eat in order to produce enough milk to feed him. Things were different. It was far more important for me to eat to fuel my body and his than for me to fit back in my clothes. I also knew that once he was older he was going to watch me. I knew that from this day forward I was not just taking care of me; I was taking care of him and setting a good example. That meant having a good relationship with food and exercise.

I am now 24 weeks pregnant with our second son (!) I continue to remind myself not to worry about the changes in my body. It continues to be a daily challenge, but I am using the same coping tools and support systems as I did during my first pregnancy to work through it. I went to the doctor today for my standard check-up and was dreading getting on the scale. I wasn’t going to look-but then I reminded myself that I am more than a number. My weight and body shape does not make or break the woman I have become. Our bodies are amazing, God designed them to grow another human being, and that is a true gift.

Jen: It was surprising to me how quickly my eating disorder voice came back as soon as I found out I was pregnant; I had been in recovery for a solid eight years by the time we got the news. Some of the voice’s content was the same, especially surrounding numbers and perfection. I was quickly obsessed with being a “perfect pregnant woman.” I wanted to gain the perfect amount of weight, no more no less. I wanted to eat only the most “perfect” foods. I was gripped by the thoughts of being a perfect mother and took on so much of the responsibility. Often my thoughts went something like this, “If I do X, then Y would happen to my baby, and I am a terrible mother.”

My first piece of advice and truly the most important is to rally your troops. Tell your support system about the thoughts you are having or that you are concerned you will start having the thoughts. Make a plan before you are “in it.” Second, become informed and educated about your pregnancy. Doctors are good sources, google is not. It is easy to get swept up into new mother forums because it can give us instant gratification (instant gratification is totally not something people with eating disorders like or anything…sigh), but it can almost always give us something else to worry about. Lastly, actively practice awareness, mindfulness, and gratitude. My favorite moments in pregnancy took place in my bathtub. I would be fully immersed in my connection with my daughter. I would be gratefully thinking about the incredible things my body was doing in its efforts to grow a baby. I would accept my anxious thoughts if that came to me but kindly bring my mind back to my baby. Towards the end, this would usually result in sweet reminder from my girl giving me a kick or a roll, as if to say, “I love you.” I was unbelievably grateful that I could be so terrible to my body for so much of my life and it was still willing to give me my most precious gift. You are a goddess, Mama, let your body do what it was made to do.


As you can see, Jen and Veronica struggled and triumphed in unique and separate ways with their recovery journeys during pregnancy. Veronica talked about the body negativity that plagued her throughout both of her pregnancies- specifically when it came to gaining the necessary weight. This aspect of pregnancy can actually be upsetting to both recovered and non-eating disordered individuals alike; especially if low body image and self-esteem were a struggle prior to pregnancy (which research tells us is the case for the majority of women).

As Veronica mentioned, it is important to use continuous self-talk when these thoughts pop up. Remind yourself of the miracle that your body is making (despite, as Jen stated, how much you may have put your body through in the past!) Remind yourself of how much this miracle needs the energy from the food that you are providing him/her. Perhaps you may even take on a mantra at this time-something simple like, “Nourish to (help my baby) flourish!”

And of course, if weight gain feels overwhelming to you during your pregnancy, ensure that you have professional support, as well as moral support systems in place to lean into and discuss these concerns.

Contrastingly, Jen struggled with the idea of being the “perfect mom,” and having the “perfect pregnancy.” She referenced how this was most definitely her ED voice, albeit cleverly disguised as thoughts of wanting to be the best for her child. That is the thing about eating disorders. They are wily. And they might not present themselves in a completely overt manner. This is why it is so important, specifically during pregnancy, but also during every other phase of life, to be very mindful and aware of how ED speaks to you. When do these thoughts get loud? How have they tricked you in the past? The more aware you are, the more pitfalls you can pinpoint and avoid-like a true warrior. For example, if you, like Jen, are drawn to instant gratification, but also suffer from anxiety, be sure to avoid things like the mom forums that she mentioned. If you tend to be a perfectionist, and you know that this has triggered your ED in the past, identify one or two point people that you can talk to about this during your pregnancy. People that know this tendency in you, and that you can trust to be honest and empathic. (“Listen I’m feeling a lot of pressure to use only cloth diapers and make all my food for my baby by hand when she is born…Is that doable or is my perfectionism getting on top of me again?”).

Summarily- I don’t know that I can put it better than Jen- “Rally your troops.” Make sure you have a solid professional and personal support system in place for this journey. And, as Veronica mentioned, use your coping tools! Whether that means mantras, daily reminders, journaling, self-talk, mindfulness, gratitude-doesn’t matter which one it is, as long as it clicks in and works for YOU. Because along the way during those nine months, there are a plethora of other triggering situations not addressed here that can arise-feeling sick, feeling very full, comments from others- “You have GOT to be having twins!” “You are getting so big!”-But as long as your have your professional support systems, personal support systems, and coping toolbox, you will likely be able to handle these as they come. Sure, they may not be the most enjoyable situations to endure (seriously, why do we feel it is our right to tell pregnant women how big we perceive their bellies to be-or TOUCH them at that?!) but with the awareness and tools, you will be able to b r e a t h e and utilize healthy coping mechanisms instead of resorting to eating disordered behaviors during these times. Shine on recovery mamas.



Jen Misunas Buckwash is a happy, healthy new mom to a 5 and a half month super girl. She is a practicing professional counselor in PA and will complete her doctoral degree in Psychology in May. She has been in recovery since 2008.









Veronica Carr Yerger is stay at home Mom and online fitness entrepreneur from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband Mark, little boy Lane and another boy on the way in March 2017. She shares her 20+ years of experience in coaching, mentoring, and fitness with her clients on a daily basis emphasizing a strong balance of positive body image, family, life, and faith., FB@verionicahealth, IG @veronicahealth








Colleen Reichmann is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in the treatment of individuals with eating disorders, body image issues, self-esteem issues, and women’s issues. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, goldendoodle and (brand new!) sheepadoodle.

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*The views expressed in this posting are based on this writer’s professional knowledge, training, and experience in accord with current and relevant psychological literature and practice. These views do not indicate that a professional relationship has been established with any recipients. Readers should consult with their primary medical professionals for specific feedback about any and all questions.