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Thank you!

heart-handsThis post is a follow-up of sorts to a Facebook thread that I accidentally started yesterday. What prompted the thread was an article that was sent to me written by a nutritionist who treated people for years for weight loss. It was an apology letter of sorts. The article really resonated with me because in the work that I do, I see many clients who, over the years, have been counseled by “professionals” about how to lose weight and have been harmed physically and emotionally by the advice. These professionals did nothing intentionally to harm their clients. In fact, I’m certain that they thought they were performing a valuable service or dispensing sound advice. But, an essential component to counseling an individual about food, nutrition, and their relationship with their body, is the human factor. It is essential to help the client see what is behind their struggles with food and weight. Their struggle is RARELY about the food or weight. It is OFTEN about other things. Trying to “fix” their weight in the hope of creating a happier life is missing the most essential information about the client. It is, essentially, missing the point. Helping the person to heal their life is where the real work lies. If someone is given nutrition information, factoids to help them become a smaller size, without addressing the underlying issues, it is like placing a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It will cover up the problem, and provide a distraction from the issues for a period of time, but eventually it will backfire and the problems will persist. Not only will the problems persist, but then they will search frantically for the next diet to embark upon, and start the cycle all over again, shoving all the underlying issues further and further into the recesses of their mind and body.

I have a client who has worked for several years to heal her relationship with her food and body. She had anorexia as a child and now, as an adult, she suffers with emotional eating, and binge eating. As a result of her “use of food” as a coping mechanism, she has gained weight. Thankfully she didn’t come to see me with the sole intent to lose weight, because I wouldn’t have been able to treat her. In fact, I tell all my clients who want to be in a smaller body thinking that their lives will drastically improve when their weight goes down, that I will help them to improve their lives and, if their weight goes down as a side effect of improving their life, then their weight is supposed to go down. We will never intentionally do anything together as a deliberate attempt to lose weight. Over time, this particular client was tremendously successful in making changes in her life, putting her needs on the list of importance. She was able to prioritize her mental health for the first time in her life. She took the time that was needed to listen to, and attend to her needs in multiple areas of her life – private, social, physical, psychological etc.

In the past, she used to exercise purely as a way to lose weight. She was the “cardio queen”, focused purely on how many calories she could burn, and how that translated into what she could eat for the day. It was all a mathematical equation. Food became both her friend as well as her enemy. There were good foods, bad foods. Food was never eaten in a pleasurable way. Getting pleasure from food was “bad”. The moment she put something “pleasurable” in her mouth and swallowed it, she would feel guilt and remorse, swearing she would never touch that food ever again. She wanted to need only the bare minimum of food, but her needs were consistently higher than she wanted them to be. She wanted to restrict and control her body, but her body told her otherwise. She restricted and craved what she wouldn’t allow herself, and then restricted harder and craved more and more till she would “break” and give into the cravings, gaining weight in a rapid fashion.

When this client finally gave up the quest to focus all her attention on calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, calories burned, and cardio, and turned her attention to what the issues really were (by the way, this takes an enormous amount of courage and fortitude. It is much harder than focusing on calories and fat grams), she began to lead a much fuller and rewarding life. In fact, the rewards she achieved were FAR BETTER than anything she ever felt by fitting into a smaller pair of jeans for the brief moments that she did.

Currently, as a result of living a fuller life, and not using food as a reward or punishment, a distraction or a drug, she has been able to eat a variety of foods and enjoy every morsel with NO GUILT. The only problem that occurs now is when a “professional” tells her to stop eating this, or eat more of that. Only now, the problem is not HER problem, it is theirs, because she will tell them point blank “Don’t tell me what to eat! I’ll eat what I want to.” It’s amazing the response she receives when she tells people that she never diets and she eats whatever she wants. Now, of course, she doesn’t eat whatever she wants in the quantities that defy her body’s needs. She eats when she is hungry (which took a long time to discover), she stops when she is full (most of the time), and she pays attention to the messages and information that her body and mind give her. She eats foods that provide her with nourishment, and she eats foods that are just for pleasure and don’t provide nourishment. She has the wisdom to know what she needs.

There is no weight loss information, fact, knowledge or instruction that could have “fixed” this client’s issues. There is no diet or subsequent jeans size that could have replaced the healing that she achieved. There is no amount of information that could been better than the wisdom she discovered she had all along, that just needed to be tapped into and unveiled. There certainly would never have been ANY judgment or shaming about her size that could even remotely done anything beneficial to help her along her journey.

So, it is the amazing healing journey of clients like this one that enable me to say that I am so eternally grateful that I have not been a weight-loss professional. I did not write this post to criticize those who want to focus on weight loss as a profession. There is no “one size fits all” approach that works for everyone. I am certain that there are numerous professionals who, with integrity, are helping many people with body image and weight issues.

My advice is simply this:

I would encourage all of you to find the approach that truly “works” for you, not only in the short term, but in the long run.

Don’t blindly take any advice from a professional, simply because they hold themselves up as an expert. If it doesn’t feel right, question it. If a professional doesn’t want to explain their reasons or philosophies, ask yourself why.

Do your own research, not only on the internet or in magazines.There is a lot of misinformation and bias out there.

Find what resonates with you.Discover your own inner wisdom. It’s in there, even if it is buried.

Challenge the notion that weight loss at any and all costs, is healthy. A jeans size cannot determine health or happiness.

Challenge any and all of your toxic dietary beliefs (those that may not be true or are hurting you).

Invest time and energy NOW in finding non-weight related things that can enrich your life. Experiment with different things. You may not enjoy the first, second, or third thing you try.

My approach is not perfect and isn’t right for everyone. I am very fortunate however, to do the work I do and work with the most remarkable clients who have searched for an alternative approach to their food/body issues.  We are on a shared journey. I am grateful for you! Thank you!

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Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She then pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, Mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity? Do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor of your life. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you changed by your surroundings or do you bring life, flavor, to them?

ARE YOU A CARROT, AN EGG, OR A COFFEE BEAN?

~ Author Unknown ~

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Vacations

When you go on vacation, wouldn’t it be nice to take a vacation from your eating disorder instead of having your eating disorder travel with you?

I’m sure some of you are not even able to go on a vacation because it so stressful that is sets back your recovery. I wanted to write this post because so many people will be embarking on vacations over the next couple weeks due to the spring break from schools. Also, summer is on its way and people often take vacations in the summer. This post is designed to provide you and your loved ones with insight into the challenges faced on vacations and strategies for working through them.

I recently got back from a vacation and realized how nice it was to not have my eating disorder tagging along. In the past, it would involve itself in every move I made, ruining the trip to the point where I was desperate to be back in the safety of my routine, the sameness, the disordered prison I called “home”.

Why is going away so challenging when you have an eating disorder?

No matter what type of disorder you struggle with, there are issues that you face that non-disordered people simply don’t worry about.

The following are some quotes from some of my clients regarding their challenging experiences on recent vacations, due to their eating disorders.

“I don’t remember anything fun about my family vacation. The months prior to the trip, I spent endless hours trying to buy clothes that fit and wouldn’t make me feel enormous. All this clothes shopping made me obsess even more about my body and reinforced to me how abnormal I feel. As the trip got closer, I pulled out all the stops and used every disordered behavior in my arsenal, somehow thinking this would make me feel better before I got there. So, by the time the day arrived when we left, I felt horrible, washed out and more obsessed than ever.

All I remember about the resort was scoping out every single bathroom there that I could escape to in order to use my behaviors. I spent the entire trip pretending to be normal and eating normally. Then when no one was looking, I would bolt to the least conspicuous bathroom. I was exhausted, bloated and depressed. I snapped at my kids and my husband because I couldn’t enjoy all the fun events we were partaking in.”

_____________

“I show up at a tropical resort after weeks or possibly months of anticipation. I’ve probably spent those weeks or months dieting and exercising because I need to look semi-acceptable in ‘resort-clothing’. Chances are that I have failed to lose any weight, so that weighs heavily on me causing me to be cranky.  Part of me says, ‘It’s not over. Try again.’ So, I decide to eat only one meal while I’m there. In fact, I even select cocktails that aren’t high in calories.

The attractive, thin, people around me make me self-conscious.  I feel awkward when I have to talk to them because I think they think, ‘She’s way too fat to be here.’ I decline when they out of pure politeness invite me to 8am yoga.

I try to make healthy food choices, but it’s hard because I am limited to what it available.  Depending on where I am, there may be a plethora of food, but the quality or the preparation may be bad, so I end up feeling unsatisfied, causing me to eat excess Carbs.  (Lots of Carbs at resorts!)  If the quality is great, then I probably indulge and feel guilty after.

Needless to say, at some point in my vacation, I snap and become super-bitch.   After I snap, I hate myself for starting a petty argument and that blows up to hating myself for EVERYTHING bad that I am and have including my body.”

_____________

“My family looks forward to this family reunion on a cruise every year. We all go away for a week where all there is to do is eat, eat, eat. For the months prior to the cruise, I agonize over wearing a bathing suit. I feel so awkward showing my body but I know it would be weird to not wear one. I find myself body checking more and more the closer the trip approaches. I strategize for weeks about how I will handle all the food. I devise a great plan to eat only three small meals, lots of fruit and vegetables, walk around the deck for exercise and drink alcohol minimally.

I am with extended family all the time. There’s no escaping them. The drinks are pouring. They are all feasting at every chance they can get. They stay up till all hours of the night at the clubs drinking and then binge at the midnight buffet.

I usually last about two days with my plan of restricting myself till on about the third day, I can’t take it anymore and a switch is flipped. I go wild. I begin eating like a crazy person. I gorge myself at every chance I get. I spend the next 5 days bingeing and purging over and over and over…usually at least 4 or more times a day. I keep trying to get myself back on track but I don’t have the energy to do it. I just resign myself to being disordered for the rest of the trip.

My personality changes too. I drink and become a ‘party animal’, so everyone thinks I am having a ball. Little do they know I am screaming at myself behind the scenes.”

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“We usually go on a big trip, often to Europe, in the summer. Last year it was to Italy and France. The thought of going somewhere this summer sends chills up my spine. I have such a hard time breaking out of my routine of safe foods and my exercise plan. Everyone tells me that I will do a lot of walking on my trip but it doesn’t feel the same. I end up with strong urges to compensate for the lack of regular exercise. I also have a really hard time eating in restaurants and when we go away, we eat all our meals out. I just get so scared about all the changes and things I can’t control, I do terribly while we are away.

My family ends up getting furious with me because I can’t enjoy the food like they do. I end up ruining all the meals because I always let them down by ordering the safest food on the menu. My parents get in arguments over my eating and then their trip is terrible. I feel like a burden.

When we get back from our trip, my parents get even angrier with me because my weight will be affected and then they are scrambling to get me to eat more to get back on track. It’s a disaster all around.”

_____________

Well…these four stories of vacations are all too real for those who struggle with these illnesses. So, what do you do? How can you go on vacation and keep your eating disorder from ruining it?

First, you need to understand that you have a psychological illness that has been used as a coping mechanism and it doesn’t just vanish because you decide to go away. (Wouldn’t that be nice if it did???) Depending where you are in your recovery, a vacation can be a positive experience or a negative one.

I have treated many clients who have had fabulous vacations, ones when their eating disorders haven’t ruined the trip for them. Those clients were either fairly far along in recovery and/or strategized for the trip so that they felt as comfortable as possible.

Some strategies for your vacation:

  • Accommodate the Time Difference: First, if you are going to fly, plan for your flight and the times changes if there are any. Often, when you are gaining time or getting up extra early, there may be some challenges with figuring out your meals. In my opinion, if you are awake for extra hours, you will need to have an additional meal or snack to accommodate the extra time. Plan for this “extra” and have something comfortable to add in for the day.

 

  • Bring Food:  If you are flying, bring food with you on the plane. You can either buy things at most any airport, or take food from home. Think about in what time frames you will be flying and what meals and/or snacks you would be consuming if you were home…if you weren’t flying. I have been to numerous airports and I have found the packaged foods to be quite universal. I usually bring protein bars, nuts, and dried fruits for snacks. Depending on what time my flight is, I will perhaps buy a sandwich or a salad at the airport if my flight will be during a meal time. I always buy a beverage after I go through the security gate so that I have a drink on the plane. If you are lucky, you might be offered something on the plane, but lately, you have to buy the food. Plus, plane food often sucks. Always be prepared. You never want to be left with no food choices while traveling. Always pack food in your suitcase. Plan to bring enough snacks for every day you will be gone, at every snack time. Worst case scenario, you can bring them home with you. I look at food as important as medicine, and you would never forget to take your medicine on a trip. If you have favorite foods (obviously they cannot be perishable if you are flying), bring them – cereal, peanut butter, crackers, bars, nuts, etc. 
     
    If you are going to a destination and staying in a house or condo, hopefully you will have access to a grocery store once you get there and you might want to go to the store within a short period of time after you arrive so you have all the food you need. You will most likely have some meals in the house/condo which will provide you with structure and familiarity.If you are traveling somewhere by car, bring food as well. The good thing about traveling in a car is that you can bring perishable food with you like yogurt, cheese, sandwiches, etc. If you like to make stops periodically to get food along the way, you will have a choice of either getting something at the restaurant or “rest stop” or eat what you have brought with you. This would be a good time to challenge yourself if the restaurant or ”rest stop” has comfortable food. Most restaurants have a variety of options for a variety of needs. Get as much information about where you will be stopping before you stop so that you have a good game plan.

 

  • Add Structure to Your Meals:  You may need to be flexible if traveling with several people because everyone’s needs will vary, but try to get as much structure in your meals as possible on travel days as well as on vacation days. When you know where you will be going, make a “healthy” mental game plan for your meals and snacks. The last thing you want to do is plan to use behaviors while you are away. That will certainly ruin your trip.  Try to make sure your plan is to eat as recovery-focused, comfortable, and satisfying as possible. Planning to restrict, binge or purge will put your eating disorder in charge from the start and you will not enjoy yourself.

 

  • Try to Avoid Catastrophizing Things:  No matter how long or short your trip is, don’t let the time you are away overshadow the work you have done the other days, weeks and months of the year. Remember, it’s a vacation – a reprieve from the stresses of life.

 

  • Try Not to Compare Yourself to Other People:  You don’t want to ruin your trip by making comparisons that will only serve to make your eating disorder stronger. If you are feeling awkward, remember that people don’t really care what you are doing. They are more interested in what they are doing. On my recent vacation, we were on the beach every day. It was so freeing to just enjoy the sun and the water without feeling the awkwardness that my eating disorder used to inflict upon me. There was the momentary discomfort of walking across the beach into the water but the water felt so good and I am sure no one cared what I wore or what I looked like. Even if they did, I didn’t know any of them and I will never see any of them again.

 

  • Keep Your Food Expectations Realistic:   No matter what eating disorder you struggle with, the food will NOT be the same as it is at home. It most likely will elicit some challenging thoughts and feelings. Your eating won’t be perfect. It’s not supposed to be. This goes back to what I said previously. Go into the trip with a “healthy” positive, recovery-focused game plan and expect that you can’t control everything. On my vacation, the food was not that good. I was in an all-inclusive resort. Frankly, the food was disappointing. But, I ate what I liked, felt excited about a few things and was disappointed by a number of things. The food is a big part of what I look forward to on a trip, but although I was a little disappointed overall, I tried to maintain perspective and for me, perspective is key! If I look too much toward the food as the “make or break” aspect of the trip, I am often let down.

 

  • Get Support:  If you are traveling with family or other people, find someone who will support you when things are difficult. Maybe this will be a parent, friend, sibling, or significant other. Reach out and speak up about what your worries are. They may not “get” it but they can help support you through a rough patch, it can help prevent a disastrous trip.

 

  • Change Your Movement Expectations:  If you worry about movement during your trip, remember, once again, you are on vacation. Things will most likely not be the same as they are at home. Try to change your expectations about movement. If you follow an exercise routine at home and you won’t be able to do the same routine while you are away, use the trip as a time to practice flexibility in your routine. Please try not to catastrophize the change. Change is often very challenging for some people with eating disorders. Sameness is so safe, but once again, try to keep your expectations realistic. I find vacations to be a good opportunity to recharge myself, not to put pressure on myself to do everything the same.  The more pressure you put on yourself about all the things you “should” do on vacation, the more “guilt” your eating disorder will make you feel.

 

  • Stay OUT of Your Head!!! If you start going into eating disorder mode, press your mental “reset” button and try to challenge any negative thoughts and behaviors before they take over.

Remember, there are 365 days a year and your vacation is a small period of time within that year. Try to make the most of it. Try NOT to let your eating disorder and all the associated obsessions and compulsions ruin what could be a fun-filled break from the stressors you experience during the rest of the year.

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Letter To My Feelings

This post is a little unusual. Instead of writing about an experience I recently had, I thought it would be fun to write it in the form of a letter…a letter to my feelings. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Dear Feelings:

I’m writing this letter to you all because you always encourage me to express myself fully and not hold anything in. So, here goes!

First, I’ll start with a little history. Years ago when I was a child, the idea of expressing feelings was non-existent, unless the feelings were those that pleased others. I never genuinely felt anything.  I never felt truly happy. The idea of having and expressing feelings was a vague notion, something others talked about and said they knew of, but not me. I felt nothing…well, not exactly nothing.  The only feelings I generally could muster up and feel deeply were fear, defeat, worthlessness, and sadness. Yep, that’s about it. Then, along came my eating disorder. Just in time to “save” me from all the other negative feelings. Problem was that all those negative feelings were shut down but the potential for positive ones was squelched as well.  I’d use my eating disorder to prevent any of you pesky feelings from standing a chance of rearing your heads. I’d use whatever behaviors were in my arsenal to shut you down, shut you up, and continue to live life like an automaton.

But, then, in college, I started to get well, dear feelings. I established amazing relationships and I got help. And yes, you started to emerge. You would bubble up a little at a time and I’d feel you, without turning to a food behavior to shut you down. It was so strange. I was terrified of you, all of you. I was afraid of happiness. I was afraid of anger, fear, love, loss…especially loss. You and all your friends were awfully unfamiliar and uncomfortable. At times, I was afraid to feel happiness because I knew unhappiness was right around the corner. And sure enough, as fleeting as happiness and joy were, so were sadness, frustration, anger and the rest. What I began to realize was that all of you would show up at various times and in various intensities and forms, but if I listened to you and let you stay for as long as you needed to, you would find your way back out again. I also learned that the situations that would evoke feelings were sometimes fixable and sometimes not. I learned that I could only control so much in my life and I had to react healthfully to the situations that I could not control. Turning to my eating disorder was never going to fix any situation, nor was it going to help me feel or communicate. It was simply going to make me sicker and more unskilled as a human being.

So, why am I writing to you now? Well, this week was an example of why I am grateful to you and grateful that I don’t have my eating disorder any longer. I wanted to share it with you because I knew you would be happy and proud.  It all started about a week ago and culminated today with a particular food “event”.

As you know, I am afraid to fly. The thought of it sets off high anxiety. But, last week, I had to take four planes to and from my destination. So, as expected, I experienced intense anxiety for a couple days before the first two flights and then again a couple days before the second two flights. To top it off, there was a forecast of snow on my return two flights which increased the level of anxiety to a level which was off the charts. But, I had to get on the plane, so I did. I felt really, really bad. Then, a day after arriving home, I experienced intense overwhelm associated with coming back to an enormous work load. Fatigue accompanied the long days, and then I contracted a stomach virus that lasted several days. I was now afflicted with physical discomfort, concern about not being able to work at the office, and overwhelm. Interspersed with all these feelings, several situations came up that triggered intense anger, vulnerability, guilt, disappointment, worry, frustration, discouragement, fear, and loss.

But…sprinkled among all the above-mentioned “negative“ feelings, I also experienced some incredibly “positive” ones like love, joy, warmth, laughter, connectedness, appreciation, passion, courage, willfulness, and admiration.

Today, the perfect storm of negative feelings, intense hunger, and a particular food that was “unsafe” back in the days of my eating disorder, all collided unexpectedly. I was feeling loss and disappointment particularly intensely. At the same time, I was shopping for a small dinner party I was hosting. The crowds at the store caused me to be shopping longer than I had expected and my hunger was escalating. Then, I meandered down THE AISLE. “Oh no!” I thought. I want XXX food right now!  I had the obvious insight to know that I didn’t want XXX food because I was truly hungry for it. I was definitely physically hungry, but I am acutely aware of the difference between pure physical hunger and powerful emotional hunger. I also recognized that I didn’t want a satisfying piece of XXX food, but wanted the entire package. Alarm bells went off in my head. Immediately, I headed for the register. I paid for the groceries and left the store.  The whole ride home, I thought “these feelings suck!” I hate feeling so bad, and I’m hungry. Once I got home, I prepared myself a very satisfying meal. I began to feel physically better, but the emotions lingered. I used several healthy coping mechanisms to work them through (including writing this letter), and then took a nap. Several hours later, my company came, we had a wonderful time, and I had a satisfying piece of the aforementioned food. Yes, I did buy it. It is a food that i regularly eat.

I still don’t “enjoy” negative feelings. I never will. They are painful. And while I’m experiencing them, I have a hard time enjoying anything or anyone. But, they pass…and right around the corner are some positive ones too. Feeling them and using healthy coping mechanisms to express them are exponentially more satisfying than any eating disordered behavior ever was.

So, in summation, dearest Feelings, I know you are here to help me, not hurt me. I will always do my best to include you in all that I do. I appreciate you…all of you. Thanks for always being there for me!

Have a nice day!

Donna

 

 

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Accomplishments!

When you are in the throes of your illness, is it hard for you to see and appreciate your accomplishments? Does it feel like even when you achieve a positive step toward recovery, that others want more and more from you? Does it ever seem like when you accomplish a goal toward recovery, that you have a hard time accomplishing the goal repeatedly? Do you minimize the steps you take because there are numerous others that you haven’t accomplished yet?

Hopefully this post will help you develop a new found respect for the steps of your recovery.

Remember, first and foremost, that your eating disorder didn’t develop in a day, or a month, or perhaps even a year. If you have had an eating disorder for a “short” or a “long” time, the seeds of the disorder took time to develop, infiltrate your thoughts and manifest in behaviors. I’ve never met someone with an eating disorder who couldn’t trace “issues” back to a time period that predated the actual diagnosis. An eating disorder doesn’t begin on the day you are diagnosed with it. In this regard, you need to understand that your disordered thoughts and behaviors around food, developed over time.

It is an accomplishment in itself to be able to look at the specific behaviors and thoughts you currently have and identify which ones are disordered. Because eating disorders develop over time, people who suffer often aren’t even sure what is “normal” and what is “disordered”.  Differentiating between healthy and disordered thoughts and behaviors is accomplishment #1! Congratulate yourself if you have been able to sometimes discern (not necessarily always) between healthy and disordered thoughts and behaviors. This step is also is made much more attainable with the help of a professional who can assist you in gaining perspective, and challenge the thoughts and behaviors that you may have thought were “normal”.

Any single time you are able to act opposite of what your eating disordered voice says is “right”, that is a huge accomplishment. For example, a client of mine was able to successfully improve her dinner this past week and feel the fullness that accompanied it. Her eating disordered voice told her she was out of control for eating the additional amount, but she did it anyway. She called me right after the first successful dinner, because she was so proud of herself and couldn’t wait to share the good news!

When you can take any single step toward leading a more fulfilling life, you have achieved a real accomplishment. A client of mine challenged herself to go out to a diner for breakfast with her family. She ordered something that was a “challenge food”. She overcame her fear and disordered thoughts and had a successful meal and rewarding experience with her family. She took a very important step in her recovery as she gets ready to go off to college.

Any time you can avert a single binge type experience, you have achieved a step that is enormous. This week, a client was mentally “preparing” to binge because she had “time” to engage in the behavior. She was able to slow down her thoughts enough to ask herself if the binge was what she truly wanted. She asked herself if there was a purpose for the binge that she could identify. She asked herself if there was any way she could delay the binge for a little while to give herself the chance to do something else to express what she was feeling or experiencing. She asked herself how she would feel after the binge was over. After she spent time asking and answering these questions, and taking some time to engage in a self-care activity, she was successful in averting the binge. She felt great about the accomplishment, even though she couldn’t replicate it again for a few days.

Any single time you can question yourself or challenge a thought or behavior and redirect it, you are winning the battle. An adult client had a special occasion to attend. She wanted to wear a dress that she had worn to a previous occasion. She questioned if it would fit because she hadn’t worn it in a while and wondered if it was going to be too tight. She was tempted to try it on anyway but asked herself “how am I going to feel if it is too tight? Will I beat myself up? Will I judge myself? Will it ruin my mood?” She decided she was too vulnerable and wasn’t willing to chance the thoughts and feelings that the experience would bring, so she didn’t try the dress on. Instead, she wore a beautiful blouse and pants and was able to take the focus off her body and enjoy her happy occasion.

Any single time you are able to catch yourself saying mean things to yourself related to your behaviors, and replace a mean thought with a neutral or positive thought, you are accomplishing a huge step in recovery. A client I have seen for quite a long time, consistently falls in the trap of beating herself up after she has engaged in a disordered behavior. She says things to herself that she would never say to another person, because they are cruel, unfair, and untrue. She says these things because she feels defeated, angry, and frustrated at herself for not being able to consistently avoid certain eating disordered behaviors. For the first time recently, she was willing to replace the unkind words with compassionate words (even though, at first, she didn’t believe the kind words). She began to say things to herself like “I’ll get there. I am trying really hard. I’m going to put this behind me and move past it. This behavior doesn’t make me a bad person. I am a good person with a bad illness. I’m doing the best I can.” In replacing the cruel words with words of kindness, she was able to slowly notice that her behaviors lessened a little.

Unfortunately, others in your life may not “see” your accomplishments because of their own fears, frustrations, lack of understanding, etc. They may also seem like they want more and more. Try not to let their lack of understanding, lack of compassion, or fear, discourage you. You need to appreciate and embrace the little victories!

Try not to get discouraged either, when you can’t seem to string together your little victories. New patterns of thinking and acting take time. It isn’t easy to translate new healthy insights into skills consistently at first. Skill-building takes time and persistence. Think of it like you would think of another type of skill-building. Let’s say, for example, you were planning on learning a new language, like Spanish (if you are English-speaking). You wouldn’t expect that you would be speaking conversational Spanish in a month. You would first learn how to read and write a few words. Then you might learn a few short phrases. Then, perhaps you would learn longer sentences, etc. Each word you learn is an accomplishment, but speaking conversational Spanish would take much longer.

In pursuit of achieving a full recovery, over the course of time, each of your single accomplishments will add up. Celebrate each one right now! Don’t focus too much energy on what is yet ahead of you and don’t let other people’s opinions diminish how you feel about your successes. You will succeed in putting each of your accomplishments together and you will see the big picture of recovery. Keep moving forward…one little accomplishment at a time!

 

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Is Recovery Worth It?

“Is recovery worth it?” After you have answered the following questions, you will have a better idea for yourself if recovery is worth it?

Is it worth living a life that isn’t governed by unfair negative punitive thoughts?

Is it worth fighting to eat something, without doubting each and every bite and torturing yourself with catastrophic judgments surrounding a meal?

Is it worth being able to go to an event, party, wedding without obsessing about what you are wearing, or worrying if anyone is looking at you,  or panicking about what food will be served and when it will be served?

Is it worth trying to seek a passion, hobby, or career that fulfills you and makes you want to wake up every day in anticipation of the potential good that can come from the day?

Is it worth communicating effectively, and defending your wants and needs?

Is it worth feeling all your feelings, both positive and negative because it makes your life “real”?

Is it worth placing your energy and time on things that enrich your life, instead of the investment of time that your eating disorder behaviors take up?

Is it worth being free of the physical and emotional pain that your eating disorder inflicts upon you?

Is it worth eating foods that nourish your body and satisfy your appetite instead of eating foods you have convinced yourself you like but you really hate, just because they are “safe” and you incorrectly believe that they prevent you from going out of control?

Is it worth moving your body (if that is your choice) because it makes you feel strong and flexible, instead of hurting your body by exercising because a voice in your head says you need to in order to be “worthy” for the day?

Is it worth taking the risk of exploring who you really are beneath the cloak of the illness that you call your “friend”?

Is it worth really looking at your illness as a coping mechanism that no longer serves you and turning toward healthy coping mechanisms that are as effective as they are unfamiliar?

Is it worth trying not to be perfect as perfection is unattainable, but striving to simply do your best?

Is it worth waking up each day and saying positive things to yourself to start your day?

Is it worth looking back at some point and saying “wow, I am so much happier now than I was while I was in my eating disorder”?

 

I have never, ever met someone who after having recovered, has said that recovery wasn’t worth the time and effort. Everyone has the power and strength to recover. If you want to recover or even if you think you want to recover but you aren’t positive or don’t have the tools yet, keep moving in that direction and have the faith that you will get there. Step #1 is to make sure you strive for positive thoughts and shut down the negative ones. The positive ones are your foundation…the stepping stones on your personal path to recovery.

 

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What Does Recovery Look Like?

The second in the series of three questions I am asked the most is:

“What does recovery look like?”

Answer: Wow! I have changed my answer to this question over the years. In my opinion, recovery is a highly personal “picture”. Recovery to one person will look differently than to another. I’d love your answers, in addition to my own!

In my opinion, recovery doesn’t mean being a perfect eater. Recovery doesn’t mean having a preconceived body size. Recovery doesn’t mean eating to be a certain weight or size.

Recovery means consistently not using food behaviors to cope and communicate your needs and desires, because you have developed more effective healthy ways to cope and express yourself.

Recovery means never dieting.  That’s right! You can never diet again. This is such a challenging area for many people. So very often, clients say to me “Normal people diet. Normal people manipulate their bodies. Normal people overexercise. Normal people use diet pills. How come they can do these things and I can’t?”

“Normal” people don’t have a mental illness where any or all of these behaviors are symptoms of the illness, and when engaging in these behaviors are expressing symptoms of the illness and thus making it worse.

It is not “normal” to do any of those things. Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it is “normal” and it definitely doesn’t make it good or right or healthy or something to aspire to. In my opinion, recovery means not restricting, bingeing and purging, using other substances (diet pills etc), compulsive exercise behaviors, or any type of harmful behavior (even “mildly”).

Once you have an eating disorder, you are VULNERABLE to all things that “normal” people engage in related to food/exercise. That isn’t your fault. It is simply a side effect of having an eating disorder.

Even when you are in a healthy place in your recovery, certain behaviors will still put you at risk. Dieting, for example, is the number one behavior that triggers eating disordered thoughts and can be a catalyst sending you right back into your illness. So you can never diet again…ever. Recovery means redefining “normal”.

How does exercise fit into recovery? Again, remember that you are vulnerable. Exercise (even if it has never been a part of your illness) can be tricky. Everyone knows that movement is good for people. When you have a history of an eating disorder, you have to be attentive to the purpose behind the desire to exercise. If you are healthy and you exercise, you have to be cautious that the purpose doesn’t switch from being healthy to “feeding” your illness. Be honest with yourself and set healthy goals for your exercise. Make sure it doesn’t take on a level of importance where it becomes a “job” or a “behavior”.

Recovery means having a peaceful relationship with food. Food is an essential part of life, but when you are in recovery, food doesn’t occupy all your thoughts. In recovery, you think about food in a neutral or positive way. You don’t have strict black and white rules regarding food, unless medically necessary.

Recovery doesn’t mean having a perfectly happy existence. But, your worst day well will still be better than your best day sick because you won’t be sick and your life will be REAL. Life has ups and downs. Life is difficult at times and joyous at times. Your eating disorder just makes life more difficult on every level, in every way. So, without it, your life ultimately will be less difficult. You will also feel all your feelings – the positive ones and the negative ones. Your feelings are essential, and feeling themwon’t kill you!

Think of all the things you cannot do because of your illness. You will have the opportunity to do any of these things, if you choose, when you are in recovery.  It is freedom.

Recovery means practicing different forms of regular, consistent self-care. Everyone has different ideas of how they can practice this. For some, self care involves having hobbies like reading, blogging, knitting, or doing crossword puzzles. Others like to have creative outlets like singing, painting, playing a musical instrument, or other art forms. Some like listening to inspirational music every day. Whatever you consider self-care, you need to do it regularly.

Recovery is whatever you want it to be. It’s your life. Define it. You only get one life, make it the best one it can be! It’s worth going for!!!

 

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Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Have you ever been feeling pretty good in recovery, feeling like you are getting more comfortable with yourself and with your eating, when you ask yourself  “should I or shouldn’t I try on that skirt I wore last year?” or “should I or shouldn’t I get on the scale?”

Should you or shouldn’t you?

You have to ask yourself a couple other questions first.

“Will I be ok with whatever the outcome is?”

“If this skirt doesn’t fit, will I be triggered, feel bad about myself and then be tempted to use eating disordered behaviors to make me feel better?”

“If the skirt does fit, will I be triggered to want to ‘step-up’ my eating disordered behaviors to make it feel even ‘better’?”

“If the number on the scale is up, am I strong enough to let it go and not have it influence the rest of my day or week or will I beat myself up and catastrophize everything I have eaten in the past day, week or month?”

“If the number on the scale is down, can I simply go on with my day or will I then overthink every morsel of food I put into my mouth next so that I can keep seeing the number go down?”

“If the number is down, but it’s supposed to go up, will I give up?”

“If the number on the scale is the same, will it make me overthink everything I have eaten in the past week or month and fill me with useless self loathing?”

Give serious thought to these questions before you embark on trying on that simple article of clothing or jumping onto the bathroom scale that you have given so much power to. Remember, if that simple act could perhaps create a storm of negative feelings or obsessive thoughts, you must refrain. Recovery necessitates that you trust the recovery process and not take certain chances with behaviors that can be a catalyst for a lapse or relapse.

The way your skirt, pants, or shirt fits, or the direction the scale is headed (unless weight changes are an integral part of your recovery) cannot overshadow the emotional and behavioral work you are trying to do in your recovery. Remember, an eating disorder is not about the food or weight. It is a mental illness that manifests itself in eating symptoms and subsequent weight changes. Try to keep your focus on making healthy changes in your coping/communication skills. Continue to strive for a peaceful supportive relationship with food. If your weight is a component of your recovery, it will be monitored with the help from a professional. In that way, you will be able to process it appropriately and not have thrown yourself at the mercy of your eating disorder.

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Can I Recover?

Many clients have been asking me lately:

“Do you think I can fully recover?”

“What does recovery look like?”

“Is recovery worth it?”

It is normal to be asking these types of questions. In my experience treating numerous people who have been and are continuing to go through the process, these questions come up often.

So, I’d like to answer them to the best of my ability in three separate posts. The answers are my professional opinions, based on my experiences.

Question one: Do you think I can recover?

Answer: I wouldn’t be working in the field of eating disorders if I didn’t think it was possible for everyone who has these illnesses to recover. But, what many people don’t often realize is that recovery takes an enormous amount of fortitude, time, insight, skill-building, and hope.

Fortitude during the good times is easier to attain. Fortitude when things are rough is much harder. It is during the roughest times that your fortitude will be tested, but will need to be an essential ingredient in the recovery process so that you don’t regress or relapse.

The time recovery takes varies person to person. I have never seen any individual recover in a short period of time though. You need to change your expectations if you thought recovery was going to be a “quick-fix.” Most estimates are between 4 and 7 years for the process. Some people make a quicker recovery and some take much longer.

Having insight into the origins of the illness as well as insight regarding it’s ongoing purposes is not only a gift, it is a necessity. If you know what your eating disorder’s functions are, you will be able to find better solutions for those issues.

Skill-building is the process during which you will need to practice using healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills in place of using eating disordered behavior. This new way of living is very challenging. It is uncomfortable. Resorting to comfortable eating disordered behaviors instead of healthy coping mechanisms is, in part, what causes the process to take time.

Recovery also takes support – in various ways – professional support, support groups, support of loved ones, friends, family, and peers. That doesn’t mean that you need to have full disclosure to everyone in your life, but seeking support in various ways from others is key.  Financially speaking, seeking the right type of professional support can be challenging, sometimes impossible. There are services that are free (some support groups and other group meetings). Finances may necessitate you being more creative in the types of support you can receive. There are also organizations like NEDA that have mentoring programs and group support via the internet. Project Heal offers treatment scholarships for people through an application process.

Resources are available. Support is available.

The question I often ask my clients when they ask me if they can recover is “Do you think you can recover? I believe in you, but you have to believe in you!” Often when people are in the throes of these illnesses, they truly don’t know the answer to this question.  They are unsure, scared, and haven’t build the confidence necessary to truly know. If you don’t know the answer to the question for yourself, you need to trust that others have gotten better and with time, strength, and practice, you can too.

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Holiday Cheer

It’s that time of year again when food is the focal point of the holiday and family gatherings are aplenty.  How will you manage the holiday season this year?  Better yet, will you be able to come through the holiday season stronger and healthier than before?

Here are a few points to keep in mind as you join your family for holiday cheer.

  1. Holidays are NOT about the food. This is despite that fact that they seem to be just one big party.  The key word is “seem”.  You need to tap into and find the real meaning of the holiday for YOU!  It may be about vacation, relationships, spirituality, or just all around fun.  Make the real meaning of the holiday your focus and ENJOY!
  2. Holidays are a time to create memories. Make them memories you will want to look back on.  Enjoy the scene of presents piled under a sparkling tree.  Enjoy the bright lights of the menorah.  Enjoy the joyous laughter and the hugs and kisses.  Soak it in by concentrating on the creation of memories that will last a lifetime.  Oh, and take lots of pictures.
  3. Take care of yourself. Excuse yourself when conversations become triggering.  Go to the bathroom and breathe, count to ten.  Prepare a list of reasons why you don’t want to use eating disorder behaviors.  Read it.  Memorize it.
  4. Don’t try to make everyone happy. It’s impossible.  Make sure YOU are happy.  This is difficult to do when you are around family; especially if you are a people pleaser.  Ask yourself if you are helping others at your own expense.  Be extra careful not to make your eating disorder happy.  It’s not worth a dime!  Don’t become your eating disorder’s holiday gift.
  5. Get support! Surround yourself with people that understand and can help you when the going gets rough.  USE your support team.  They are there to help you.

And the most important point of all…HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF!  DON’T GIVE UP!

You can and will get through this holiday season.  It’s a once a year event and no matter what happens things will go back to normal on January 2ndSo sit tight if you must, breathe if you can, and SMILE!

 

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Donna’s Top Ten Things to Tell Yourself in Those Moments When Your ED is Trying to Drag you Down!

When you are feeling beaten down by your eating disorder or questioning recovery, what do you say to yourself??? Here’s my top ten things to say to yourself when you feel like you need to reinforce staying in recovery.

  1. None of my problems will get better if I act on my eating disorder urges right now. Nothing ever gets better if I stay sick.
  2. Using this behavior right now is just masking the real problem. What am I trying to “accomplish” by using it? What is this urge trying to tell me?
  3. I cannot use a behavior just once and expect that I won’t want to use it again. Eating disordered behaviors are addictive. The more I use them, the more I want to use them.
  4. I need to stay stronger than my illness. I need to fight hard every single meal, every single day.
  5. I need to remember that recovery isn’t supposed to be comfortable. If I am not comfortable right now, I must be doing something right!
  6. Recovery doesn’t have to be perfect right now. I just need to do the best I possibly can in this moment.
  7. It is never too late to start over. No matter how long I have struggled, I can start my life over right now.
  8. My body doesn’t define me. I cannot hurt it through my eating disorder behaviors or other forms of self-harm. My recovery has to involve taking good care of myself – mind, body and soul.
  9. I need to eat food to nourish my body. I need to eat well each and every day for my body to be strong and healthy.
  10. I am NOT my eating disorder. My eating disorder is NOT my identity. It is an illness, not a choice but I am free and able to make the choices I need to make each and every day to get better, find my true identity and live free of this illness.
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Three Words

How many times have I heard these phrases?

  • I can’t.
  • I won’t.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I’ll never get there.
  • I don’t know how.
  • What if I’m not happier when I am recovered?

 

Ask yourself: Do I really want to get better or am I on the fence? Do I only want to get better when it is “easy” enough to do the work? What do I need in order to make recovery happen for me? What’s holding me back?

Take out a piece of paper (or create a word document) and make two columns. In the first column, write down all the reasons you want to keep your eating disorder. What do you get from it? In the second column, write down all the things you could do without your eating disorder. What do you want your life to look like? What have you been able to do during times in life when you weren’t so bound to your eating disorder’s rules and demands? Fold that piece of paper in half so that you can only see the reasons you want to get better. Place the paper somewhere where you can look at it every day.

Then, take out another piece of paper and get out the boldest marker you can find.

Write down at least three words that represent what it will take, each and every day, to win your battle with your eating disorder or what you hope to attain when you are better. Maybe you will need to post these words in your kitchen, or your bedroom, or your car, or in your mirrors. You need to see these words every day to remind you what you need and what you are striving for.

When the work is hard and you want to quit or feel you “can’t” do it, look at the column of positive things you will get when you are better, and remind yourself of your three words!

My three words are:

THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS

I’d love to hear what your three words are!


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NEDA Walk NYC 2011

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Who’s voice are you going to listen to???

How many times during the course of your life or during the course of your illness have you doubted what you were doing? How many times have you felt vulnerable and someone said something that completely blind-sided you and threw you into a tailspin? How many times has your recovery been set back by the voice…the words of another?

 

How many more times will you let it happen???

 

Your eating disorder wants to control you. It wants you to feel bad about yourself so it can soothe you, distract you, numb you out, or communicate for you. Your eating disorder takes advantage of things in your environment (like others’ comments) so that it can manipulate your thoughts and make you feel like you need “it” to get through life.

 

Several of my clients experienced the triggering voice of another person in the past few weeks. I too, experienced the triggering voice of another this weekend and completely understand how the words of another can make you question yourself, undermine your strength and self-esteem…if you allow it.

 

One thing that specifically upsets me (most definitely because I am a nutrition therapist) is when my clients hear nutrition or eating/dieting information from others…others who are NOT experts (and even sometimes from those who claim to be experts but who are not). These vulnerable individuals who are struggling to tune out all the triggers in the environment and stay focused on recovery, are easily impacted by information of all types…but particularly diet/weight loss/nutrition information.

 

I’ll give you a few examples to illustrate this issue.

 

A binge-eating patient (I’ll call her Sarah) recently went to the doctor for a yearly medical exam. She was already in a vulnerable place because she worried she would have to get on the scale and the nurse would say the number out loud. She has worked very hard at recovery and accepting herself and the body she is in. She has reduced the frequency and intensity of eating disordered behaviors and is trying to find a personal style of eating that fuels her and that she enjoys. She mentally prepared for the office visit and decided she would ask the nurse not to weigh her. All was going well with the nurse. But when the doctor came into the exam room, the first thing he said was “I see you haven’t lost any weight since your last visit. My wife just went on the XX Diet and lost XX pounds. Have you ever considered doing that diet? You need to cut out all XX and you will see great results.” All Sarah could think of was how to prevent herself from bursting into tears. She tolerated the rest of the exam, paid her co-pay and fled the office. On the way home, she drove to the drive-through at XX restaurant and used eating disordered behaviors for comfort and to numb her feelings of shame, guilt and powerlessness.

 

Another patient (I’ll call her Beth) who is in recovery from anorexia was at a family party recently. She was trying to eat what she felt comfortable with because social eating continues to be difficult for her. She got a plate of food and took it into the family room where several other family members were eating. A family member who doesn’t understand eating disorders and who thinks Beth is simply “attention-seeking”, yelled to Beth from across the room “Wow Beth! That’s a lot of food!” Beth immediately saw everyone’s eyes on her plate. She was speechless and just got up and walked out of the room, leaving her plate on the table.

 

This weekend, I received a gift from a well-intentioned family member. The gift was a book. The title and photo on the cover of the book expressed how terrible XX food is for health. She was very excited to not only give the book to me but also to explain how she had been following the guidelines for two weeks, had lost weight and felt “so much better”. She told me that I should use the book with my patients (clearly clueless about the nature of my work). Meantime at breakfast, while I ate the specific food the book was bashing, she explained to me the benefits of all the foods she was currently eating.

 

All of these examples illustrate how the words of another person can completely undermine your recovery, if you let it happen. In the case of Sarah, the doctor (person in authority) was perhaps attempting to “help” her by offering her advice but acted completely inappropriately and triggered her to feel a barrage of negative feelings about herself. With Beth, the person who commented on her plate of food was ignorant not only to what an eating disorder is, but also ignorant to the sensitivities of someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. The family member who gave me the book was well-intentioned but also jumps on each new food bandwagon that comes her way, only to jump off a few weeks/months later.

 

 

What did I do in the situation? I thanked her for the book. I laughed with her about the irony that I ate the very food that the book alleged was dreadful. I told her that “balance” was key and I didn’t believe in the “all or nothing” principle. Then, in the rebellious fashion that I am known for, I ate that type of food several more times that day. I’m not sure whether I did that because I really wanted to, or because I was proving something to myself…probably a little of both. I considered the source. I love this person but I don’t consider her an expert on nutrition/food/eating disorders.

 

My advice is:

Take the “source” of the information into consideration. Remember that no one knows you better than you do, and no one else has the right to influence your actions except you. Also, think about what the “advice giver” has to gain by dispensing this information. Does he/she want to help you? Does he/she want to appear important or intelligent by doling out bits of information? Is he/she trying to undermine your recovery? Is he/she trying to exert power over you?

 

There is no right or wrong way to handle or process these types of situations or triggering comments. The goal of recovery isn’t to turn into a “perfect eater” or be a specific size or weight. The goal is to have a healthy relationship with yourself, other people, your environment, and your food/weight/body. If you experience the triggering voice of another, try to put it into context, speak up for yourself if you can. If you feel you can’t, then reach out to a “safe” accepting person who will understand and will help you process through your feelings.

 

 

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Energy vs. Effort

How much energy do you put into your eating disorder recovery?

I bet many of you think about your eating disorder 24/7. I also imagine that it takes an enormous amount of energy to get through every day with your illness, whether you are fighting to get better or fighting just to get through a day co-existing with it.

Many of my clients say to me “I wish more than anything that I didn’t have this illness. I want to just wake up one day and be normal.”

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Recovering from an eating disorder not only takes an enormous amount of energy, but it takes even more effort.

A patient of mine comes to her sessions once a week every week. She never misses. Even during the blizzards we have had, she drives her SUV to the office to have her weekly sessions. She works on trying to follow the goals we set each week. She puts an enormous amount of “energy” into her recovery. What she continually struggles with is the “effort” part of recovery. She does the work she needs to do until the work gets anxiety provoking or fearful, and/or until her eating disordered voice gets its way and wins. Then she backs down and quits. She has said to me during almost every one of our sessions “I want to get better so badly. I really tried, but I got so scared I couldn’t do it.” I believe every passionate word she says. It breaks my heart that she struggles so much. But, this illustrates what I mean by effort.

Recovery steps are NOT EASY. They will not be devoid of anxiety or fear. When you defy your eating disorder, you will feel like you may lose the (fake) control you get from your illness. You may feel like you won’t know who you are or how to live without your eating disorder.

Your eating disorder will not relinquish control over you without a fight. It will not quiet down when you have a healthy thought or healthy behavior. It will challenge you, create fear and anxiety. It wants to remain in your head, like the opportunistic “parasite” that it is. What you need to do though, at the exact moment that you feel the most scared or anxious, is push through it. You need to experience and tolerate the fear and the anxiety. You do this by staying positive, doing the “healthy” behavior and feeling whatever emotional discomfort that emerges. You don’t quit once the discomfort comes up. All that does is strengthen the fear, makes it just as hard to do the “healthy” behavior again, and makes you feel defeated. Once you can experience the discomfort and survive, you will begin to build your confidence and will be able to repeat the process again and again and again. This is true effort…sitting with the feelings and anxiety that your eating disordered voice stirs up, doing the healthy behavior and not backing down. Then, repeat.

Energy must be matched by effort. Wanting desperately to get better combined with unending effort will create the shift in power from your eating disorder to the authentic person inside you who is desperately searching to emerge!

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