Tag Archive | Optimism

Top Ten Strategies to Use at Meal and Snack Times


Until you are fairly far along in the recovery process, you may need varying degrees of strategies to help with your eating. Ultimately, you will be able to achieve a more peaceful relationship with food and your body, but until then, here are ten strategies to use. Also remember that you are very vulnerable to the “voice” of your eating disorder in the moments before, during, and after you eat, so mentally “arm” yourself for the possibility of hearing negative, critical, and catastrophizing statements during these times. Take your power back!



1.  Write down and use positive healthy statements for eating times, such as “I am going to do what is best for my recovery at this meal, no matter what negative thoughts I have.” “I need this food to help my body stay strong.” “By eating this meal, I am helping to gain clarity.” “There is no such thing as a perfect meal, but I will do the best I can to eat well.” “I need food for my organs to function at 100%.” “Even if I eat more than I set out to eat, I will not beat myself up because I am doing the best I can.” “Nothing bad can possibly happen to me by eating this meal right now. Only good things can result from giving my body nourishment.” “I will not base what my nutritional needs are on the negative feelings I have about my body. I will eat what I know to be the best meal for my overall health, and my psychological well-being.

2.  Try not to go longer than 4 waking hours without food. The body is designed to be fed at regular intervals and going too long without food may create heightened food obsessions, cravings, and extremes in hunger. By sticking to a fairly regular schedule of eating, you will be better able to think clearly and tune into your body’s needs better.

3.  Make sure you are in a calm emotional place when you sit down to eat. Eating while upset, angry, anxious, or in any negative emotional state can alter your hunger and fullness cues, and increase eating disordered thoughts, urges, and behaviors.

4.  If you need meal time support from a family member, friend, or other loved one, ask for it before you sit down to eat. Once you sit down with food in front of you, you are already too vulnerable. Sometimes a supportive person can distract you from the negative eating disordered voice and can help make the meal/snack a more enjoyable experience overall.

5.  There’s a saying that goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Try to think about what your day is going to look like in terms of schedule, activities, places you will be, and people you will be with. Think about, and plan for how you will meet your nutritional needs. You don’t have to obsessively plan everything you will eat, but be prepared for the day. Clients often say to me “I didn’t have time to eat this food or that food.” “I didn’t have time to prepare my food.” “I didn’t have xxx food in the house, so I just grabbed something at the last minute.” “I didn’t know what I wanted so I didn’t eat.” “I didn’t have anything I liked to I just ate random stuff.” “I ran short on time so I just grabbed something and ate it in my car.” These are excuses, justifications that are not putting recovery as the top priority. Decisions like these will ultimately set your recovery back. Recovery must come first, and having a plan to eat well, and often, must be priority #1.  (I am very busy during the week, and I never ever go to work or anywhere without either bringing plenty of food with me or knowing where I can buy a very satisfying meal/snack. Planning to be well fed reduces my anxiety and assures me that I will be able to meet my needs as well as I possibly can.

6.  Try your best not to multitask while eating. Even if you need distractions while eating, try to be as present as possible. The more mindful you are, the more you can be attuned to what your food needs are. Try not to eat while driving, watching TV, on the computer, or working?

7.  Make sure the meal/snack “counts” psychologically. Too often, people with eating disorders make food choices based on rigid rules, not based on what they like. If you are on a meal plan, or if you are working on intuitive eating, choose foods that appeal to you. Choose foods that you are in the mood for, not foods that you think you “should” have. Eating the same exact foods every day, eating by strict rules, eliminating certain food groups or nutrients, eating less than you know is best for you, are all forms of restriction and will potentially backfire sooner or later.

8.  Make sure you are working on incorporating a wide variety of foods and all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat). The human body has a need for all the nutrients, to work optimally. It is best to have at least three or four food groups at meal time, and at least two food groups at snack time. By having a variety of food groups, and having foods that appeal to you psychologically (strategy #7), your body will be well fueled and you will feel satisfied. By accomplishing both physical and psychological satiety, you will also get food off your mind a bit easier, obsessions may diminish, and your mind will be freed up to focus on your passions and other pleasures. Remember though, that your eating disordered “voice” will try to beat you up for eating foods that give you pleasure. Tell that negative voice that by eating foods you like, you are getting stronger and closer to recover

9.  Eat sitting down at a table or counter, with as pleasing of surroundings as possible. Use appealing tableware, tablecloth or placemat, and utensils. It is optimal to have all the conditions possible to have a pleasant, mindful meal. You could even make your own special placemat, bowl, or plate. Try not to eat standing up. Food eaten while multitasking or standing up doesn’t “count” psychologically, sets you up for feeling dissatisfied, and increases urges to crave more food.

10.  If one meal or snack doesn’t go well, or if you have used an eating disordered behavior at any time during the day, don’t write the entire day off as a “failure”. At the very next time you need to eat, in order to maintain your structure, you have the opportunity to turn things around. Try to never, ever, end the day with an eating disordered behavior or disordered meal. Make sure you end your day doing something positive with your food. There is no stronger statement you can make regarding recovery than going to bed having done the best you could at the end of the day.

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Books are Ready!

It’s a self-help book with a twist!

Books are officially ready for purchase! My first shipment arrived today! If you know any adult woman (30s-60s) who struggles with disordered eating – primarily binge eating, emotional eating, and/or yo-yo dieting, please send her to the link below:

Behind the Mask: Our Secret Battle: Adult Women End Their Lifetime War with Food and Weight, Find Their Voice and Learn Self-Acceptance

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Taking Risks

A week ago I attended a memorial service for a very dear friend who passed away at a young age from a terrible disease. She was 55 years old. She was a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend. She was full of life until her disease took her. As I sat in the church and witnessed the wonderful tribute to her life, I thought “I know she had a wonderful life and took advantage of all the fantastic opportunities she could. She died way too young, but she was loved immensely and lived life to its fullest.”

My friend’s death prompted this post.

Too many of us live life in a safe, predictable way. We don’t take risks because they are scary and we fear that we won’t be able to control all the circumstances around them. We don’t challenge our food behaviors beyond a safe amount because it is very hard to take the risks we know will make us “feel” uncomfortable – physically and/or emotionally. We don’t take the risk to speak up for our needs because we are afraid that others will get angry or upset with us and because we are people pleasers. We don’t take the risk to be vulnerable with others because we want to “fix” everything ourselves and not burden others. We don’t like to be vulnerable because it is terrifying to open up, so we don’t take risks and ask for help. We are so afraid to be “needy” that we pretend we are “fine.” Sometimes we are so tired from working hard at playing it safe and avoiding risks, that we isolate ourselves and our worlds become smaller and smaller. We devote a tremendous amount of effort in attempts to avoid risks and have a safe, predictable life.

Taking risks is scary, but we cannot allow fear to be an obstacle to emotional growth and well-being. Obviously I am not encouraging people to put themselves in unsafe circumstances where their safety and well-being are jeopardized. I am suggesting that we all evaluate our commitment to ourselves and the recovery process and determine which risks are necessary to further recovery and overall physical and emotional health and well-being.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, what are some risks that you are avoiding taking? Are you avoiding adding food to your meal plan because you are afraid of feeling full or because you know your eating disorder voice will make you feel guilty? Are you avoiding giving yourself more self-care time because it is too hard to figure out how to make it work or worried that it will necessitate other people’s help? Are you avoiding reaching out for others’ help because you don’t want to “burden” others or because you simply want your eating disorder more than you want to be free of it and you can use the excuse that you don’t want to bother others as a way to stay stuck? Are you avoiding going out with friends because it requires you to go outside of your emotional and eating comfort zones? Are you avoiding reaching for your dreams because you have convinced yourself that you will never get there or that you will fail once you do?

Try to evaluate how your recovery is going and understand which risks are needed to move forward. Once you do this, choose to take one “risky” step at a time. Understand that you will be scared. You will have doubt. That doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. It means that it is worth doing! There is no better feeling than to look back at the risks in recovery and in life that have paid off! I have never met someone who has taken risks to recover and has regretted the process. And, if by taking a risk, it fails, try again or try a different one. There is no magic pill you can take or magic wand that you can wave to make a full recovery or enrich your life. It is all hard work that eventually pays off.

Below are some quotes I found that may help you take some risks…

Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone.  Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking.  ~Tim McMahon

A ship in harbor is safe – but that is not what ships are for.  ~John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided.  It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.  ~Napoleon Bonaparte

Of all the people I have ever known, those who have pursued their dreams and failed have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure.  ~Author Unknown

Often we… expect and want every day to be just like today.  Even though we’re not satisfied with today, we settle for security instead of discovery.  ~Stephen G. Scalese, The Whisper in Your Heart

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you’re scared.  ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker


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Why Can’t I Just Stop?


“When I’m having a bad day at work, I fantasize about the food I have at home.”

“When I’m making dinner for my kids after a long day of doing a million things for them, I can’t wait till I put them to bed so I can be by myself and eat all the leftovers.”

“I look forward to the times my husband goes away on business so I can do whatever I want with food.”

“The split second I am upset, I race into the kitchen and eat, eat, eat, as though my life depends on it.”

“As I feel the anger start to bubble up, I race to the box of xxx and crunch until I feel calm.”

“On Sundays, I feel so lonely I can’t wait to dive into the xxx to feel better. Then afterwards, I feel even worse. I also feel defeated, like I will never get better.”

“I feel so overwhelmed at times, I just can’t stop eating. I’m not sure whether I am overwhelmed and then can’t stop eating or if I can’t stop eating which causes me to feel overwhelmed, or both.”

“As I am jamming my hand into the package for another mouthful, I am promising myself that this will be the last bite but I can’t stop until it’s all gone.”

The above quotes from some of my clients illustrate that an eating disorder is not about the food. It is about the “state of mind” or “state of being” that the food and food behavior accomplishes. These quotes also illustrate the urgency these clients experience when thinking about getting to use the food behavior, as well as the helplessness that they feel.

I consistently try to help my clients see the relationship between their food behavior and what they are trying to “accomplish” by engaging in that behavior. Look at the words highlighted in the quotes above:

Bad day>>>fantasize

Doing a million things>>>be by myself

Look forward>>>do whatever I want

Upset>>>my life depends on it

Anger>>>feel calm

Lonely>>>feel better>>>defeated

Overwhelmed>>>can’t stop eating

Can’t stop until it’s gone


If an eating disorder were just about food, these clients would be able to “just stop” doing these types of behaviors and eat without all the urgency and subsequent remorse. But, an eating disorder is a complex combination of brain “hardwiring” and chemistry, environmental and familial issues and traumas, inability to communicate and feel authentically and effectively, etc. These food behaviors are an adaptation to many things.

If you are suffering from the type of eating disorder that causes any circumstances similar to the types of scenarios mentioned above, you personally know how hard you have tried to “just stop”. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not that simple.

But, there is hope.

First off, you have to try to understand that you have a complex history of underlying issues, combined with a brain that is genuinely trying to make you feel better.  It’s not your fault that you have found a food behavior that “works” in the moment to calm you down, numb you out, or wash away the thoughts and feelings that are painful to you. If it weren’t such an “effective solution”, you wouldn’t be so urgently seeking it out. You wouldn’t obsess or fantasize about it. You would be able to “just stop.”

Second, you must be willing and able to be kinder to yourself. If a loved one were going through the same pain and suffering you were going through, you would have compassion for them. Give yourself the same compassion. Tough love or self-criticism is not only ineffective; it worsens the behaviors every single time.

Third, without judgment, you have to be willing to self-reflect about what the food behaviors are trying to “tell you”. What are they accomplishing? Insight is essential. Without it, you will continue to beat yourself up and try to “fix” the problem behaviorally. It never works.

Fourth, you have to be willing to discover and tolerate the feelings you are attempting to numb out from, without the fear that you can’t do it. This is an area where clients often ask me “how do I feel my feelings? I don’t know how to do that.” The answer is simple and complex at the same time. We know that the food behavior is designed to numb out the feelings, so by delaying using the food behavior, you will feel something. You most likely won’t be able to do this for more than a few minutes at a time. During the few minutes you are trying to be abstinent from using the behavior, you may only feel anxious and obsessed about wanting to use the food behavior, but use the time wisely to gain information about the function of the food behavior. You may want to say to yourself, “I want to eat xxx so badly right now, but I’m going to hold off for 15 minutes to try to learn something about myself. During these 15 minutes, I’m going to journal whatever I am thinking or feeling. Then after 15 minutes, if I want to eat xxx food, I will.” By doing this through repetition over time, you may get some answers and may elongate the time during which you can be abstinent from the behavior.

Fifth, take the information you have gathered and try to make some life changes with it. For example, the woman who found that she fantasized about being by herself with food, after a long day with her children, used the information she gathered to try to make more time for herself  during the day. This way, she wasn’t in such need for it at night. The client who experienced loneliness every Sunday, decided to plan an activity with a friend or at least reach out and talk to one or two people every Sunday to feel connected. By realizing what the food behavior is “telling” you, you can work on improving the quality of your life.

Lastly, seek support. Both professional and personal support will help you make the changes you are seeking. You truly cannot do this work alone.

By no means does this process change your food behaviors in a day, or week, or month. You didn’t get to where you are in a day and it will take some time to make lasting changes. It can be done though…one baby step at a time.

Through (1) understanding, (2) kindness, (3) insight and self-reflection, (4) taking time to feel, (5) making slow life changes, and (6) getting support, you will heal…


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A transition is movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another;  change

Transitions are challenging for those with eating disorders and need to be respected as such. Examples of transitions are:

  • Going from one job to the next
  • Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood
  • Transitioning from being enrolled in one school to another
  • Season changes – Summer to fall, spring to summer, etc
  • Going from being in a relationship to being single, or the other way around
  • Graduating from college and working on a post-college plan
  • Going from being employed to being unemployed
  • Going from living in one type of body to another
  • Experiencing the sickness and death of a loved one


There are numerous examples of transitions. Some are less anxiety provoking but others can evoke high levels of anxiety, insecurity, sadness and fear. When an individual with an eating disorder faces a transition, leaving the familiar and moving toward the unknown, they often have increased urges to use eating disordered behaviors as a way to feel “safe”, distracted, numb, or less anxious and fearful. This occurs even when the familiar situation is not a positive one. For example, if someone is transitioning from an unhealthy relationship to being single, and the change is for the better, it is still unfamiliar and will evoke uncomfortable feelings.

If you have an eating disorder and are in the midst of a transition, or if you are the loved one of someone with an eating disorder who is facing a transition, the first thing you need to understand is that increased negative feelings and urges to use eating disordered behaviors during this time are normal. Individuals with eating disorders like to feel in control and “comfortable”, and there are less feelings of control and comfort during transitions.

If you have an eating disorder, don’t set your recovery back by using eating disordered behaviors to feel better. Use the transition to practice your skills of feelings expression and communication. If you use eating disordered behaviors to feel better, the transition will still be a part of your life and you will be making it much worse by not facing your feelings associated with it, communicating your feelings and needs, and dealing with the necessary steps to help you authentically deal with the transition and feel stronger when it is over.  If you were to look at your transition objectively (not emotionally), how do you want to feel when it is over? Do you want to feel strong, empowered, and proud of yourself, or do you want to feel  worse physically and psychologically than you did before it started?

Many of my clients this time of year have finished school and are in the beginning of their summer vacation. Some of them are going to college in the fall. They have just left the familiar surroundings of friends they have spent years with, teachers and coaches they knew what to expect from, and a variety of other expectations they knew how to navigate through. As time gets closer to starting a new school, the anxiety of new friends, classes, and moving away from home may escalate.  If they want to have a successful transition to college, they have to stay healthy over the summer and strengthen their recovery skills so that in the fall, they are as prepared as they can be to navigate the new circumstances they will encounter.

A client I met with this week is transitioning from a residential treatment center to a lower level of care closer to home. Stepping down from the intensity of treatment in a residential facility to having only a few one hour appointments a week can cause heightened feelings of uncertainty as well as additional responsibility. This is a transition that often results in lapses in recovery if it isn’t well planned and structured.

Two of my clients are pregnant and not only working through the transitions that they are experiencing with their bodies but anticipating the transitions that will occur after the baby is born – additional body transitions, changes in family life, responsibilities etc. This transition brings up feelings of fear and inadequacy, body image issues, and others. Pregnancy is an especially important time to work through the associated transition issues in a healthy, recovery-focused way so as not to harm the pregnancy itself.

Another client experienced a death in her family. She experienced the transition associated with the onset of the sickness and rapid deterioration of the family member’s health, and then his subsequent death. Her situation is an especially strong example of successfully experiencing transition because she was able to verbalize how challenging it was to abstain from using eating disordered behaviors to “help her” through the difficult time she faced and continues to face. She expressed how in the past, when faced with such uncertainty and then ultimately a grave loss, she would have engaged in eating disordered behaviors from the time she woke up until she went to bed, day after day, week after week, month after month, with the sole intention of numbing out all feelings. During this recent extraordinarily difficult circumstance, she was able to express her pain genuinely, and she was honest in talking with her family and friends about what she was going through. She is currently continuing to experience this transition in a healthy way, even though it is terribly painful.

The healthy way to experience a transition in your life is to face and discuss your fears and anxieties with loved ones. Share your thoughts with family and friends who may also be experiencing the same feelings. Don’t try to deal with it all alone. There is nothing worse than keeping thoughts and worries to yourself because if you do, your eating disorder voice will blow everything out of proportion and make everything seem destined to appear unmanageable, and destined to fail. Try not to let your eating disordered voice create negative or distorted scenarios about the future. Eating disordered voices are prone to creating fearful “worst case scenarios” to ignite worry and anxiety. Try not to focus on things you can’t control. Focus on the things you can control. Stay grounded and focus on what’s real, not what isn’t. Remember that every transition you get through in a healthy way will make you stronger and prepare you for future transitions. Life is full of transitions. They present themselves often, sometimes unpredictably. You can’t escape them, but you can use them as times to strengthen your recovery and your life as a whole.


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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?


~ Author Unknown ~

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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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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:


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

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Donna’s Top Twenty Five Affirmations

Why are affirmations essential in the process of recovery?

Negative  expressions or phrases that you may use when you talk to yourself, such as “I am such a loser!”, “I am so stupid!”, “I will never get better!”, “Recover is impossible!”, can result in significantly negative consequences.

There is a considerable “cost” to your self-esteem and recovery potential. You attract what you seek. If you continually speak negatively to yourself, you will attract negativity. Negativity makes recovery harder, not easier! The extent of the negative message and associated programming into your subconscious mind can be tremendously harmful!

Positive affirmations are a very powerful tool you can use to change how you think and feel about yourself, which translates into a more positive attitude and healthier recovery-focused actions. With continuous use of positive affirmations, you will be able to reprogram your subconscious mind, changing the negatives in your recovery and your life into positives. Similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you continually repeat an affirmation to yourself, your subconscious mind will make it become the truth. The most effective way to use affirmations is to constantly cultivate positive thoughts, and never let negative ones infiltrate your conscious or subconscious mind.

Make a commitment to use some of the affirmations below for your recovery from your eating disorder or make up some of your own! Experience the power and strength they will give you! (Download this list for daily viewing.)

  1. I make my own choices and decisions.
  2. I am free to choose to live as I wish and to give priority to the things that make me happy.
  3. I am open to finding MY healthy body, whatever that may be.
  4. I am flexible and open to change in every aspect of my life.
  5. I can act with confidence having a general plan, and accept that plans are open to modification.
  6. It is good enough to have done my best. I do not have to be perfect.
  7. I deserve to love and be loved.
  8. I am able to take care of myself and keep myself safe.
  9. I forgive myself for mistakes I have made in the past.
  10. I am open to receiving help and healing from others.
  11. I am committed to taking care of myself.
  12. I am open to trusting people who are trustworthy.
  13. I am committed to making changes in my life so I can become healthy.
  14. I appreciate being me.
  15. I can feel and express my needs and feelings.
  16. I am my own unique self – there is no one exactly like me.
  17. I nourish my mind, body and soul.
  18. I place my recovery at the top of my priority list each and every day.
  19. I do not give my illness power over me.
  20. I do not waste time waiting for “the other shoe to drop”. I spend my time living in the present.
  21. My thoughts determine my reality. I choose healthy and positive thoughts instead of distorted or negative ones.
  22. I do not expect others to read my mind.
  23. I do not look for excuses to stop my recovery. I persist even when recovery is at its most difficult.
  24. I only attempt to control my own actions. I do not try to control others’ actions.
  25. I choose kind, pleasant words when I speak to myself.
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Making Peace with Imperfection

This article was written by Vikas Malkani, and is an extract of the book, The Little Manual of Happiness


I have yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life is filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what is wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what is wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontented.

Whether it is related to ourselves—a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an “imperfect” accomplishment —or to someone else’s ‘imperfections’—the way someone looks, behaves, or lives one’s life—the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our desire of being happy and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what is wrong with life. It is about realizing that while there is always a better way to do something, this does not mean that you cannot enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.

The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into your habit of insisting that things should be other than what they are. Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you will begin to discover the perfection in life itself. And yes, that is bound to bring happiness into your life.

Let me give you ten suggestions on how to maintain a state of happiness and joyfulness as you sail your ship in this ocean of life. Remember, we live in two worlds simultaneously, the inner and the outer worlds. To become joyful and experience happiness as an apparent quality in our daily life it is necessary that we maintain awareness of both these worlds in every moment. The steps below are intended to keep you firmly on the path of freedom and happiness in every moment of every day. Practice, and be happy—all-ways, always!

Step 1: Laugh at failure and defeat.  Defeat and failure are only a perception from a small vision. They have no real life of their own except what you give them. This means that the only time you have to feel the pain of any defeat or failure is if you ask for it, by delving into trouble.  Stay in the present moment. Consciousness likes great heights; dare to follow!

Step 2: Start all over again; if necessary.  Any time you truly choose, you can start your life over, without permission from any higher authority. You can have just as many new beginnings as you are willing to leave behind all your old ideas and conditioning about the concepts of right and wrong. Life can be as new as you choose it to be.

Step 3: Stop looking outside of yourself. After endlessly looking for it outside, realize that the answer is within you. Your life is only as complete as you are—no more, no less. Looking to your work, relationships or events for a feeling of self-completion is a self-defeating exercise. Being complete and whole is first an understanding, and then a state of being. It does not need a certain set of conditions to be perfectly manifested for its occurrence.

Step 4: Let go! Trying to control every moment of your life, or another’s, causes more disharmony than any other process. Keep in mind that everything and every person must go through their own lives, based on their own awareness, at their own pace. Allow this to happen. Let something higher have its hand at directing your life, in shaping your destiny. Learn to let go!

Step 5: Don’t live for others.  There is no satisfying the fear that you may displease others. Allowing what others may feel about you to dictate how you feel about yourself is like believing that someone else can decide your identity for you. This choice gives away your power. The only real strength comes from knowing that you have your own likes and dislikes in your own life, and can never make everyone happy with everything that you are, or can do.

Step 6: Believe in action. Wisdom turns into strength only if it is followed up with action. To learn how to swim, you must be prepared to get wet. Any weakness voluntarily faced and met is the same as greeting a greater strength. Wisdom lays the foundation, but it is action that finally changes life and the future.

Step 7: Be optimistic! You always have two choices in every situation—either curse the darkness, or light a candle. Choose the more positive. It comes at the same expense as the negative thought or choice but with extremely different consequences. Why wait until you feel down before you think of looking up. You can always glimpse the higher, in every moment, but you have to remind yourself to look in the right direction. Remember that if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see the shadows.

Step 8: Choose the heart over the head. No matter how much you try, you can’t think yourself into happiness. You must actually feel happy. However, you can sink yourself to your lowest low with a chain of thoughts that start from a single dark one. Bright, positive emotions spring from the heart. Heavy feelings can’t exist without the presence of negative thoughts. This means that sad states are just a trick of the mind, and begin with our thoughts.

Step 9: Walk one step at a time.  Don’t be too concerned about how much there is to do, or how impossible some of the tasks seem. Just get one thing done at a time, again and again. Just do what’s in your power, and brush aside all other concerns. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And the most beautiful tapestry begins and ends with one of ten thousand individual threads.

Step 10: Know that the time to act is always ‘now’.  You can’t change the mind of the person you are later. There is no later, it’s always now or never. The moment, ever present, ever powerful, is before you. And it has limitless potential. The time to accept responsibility for your happiness and freedom is now. The time to change your destiny is now. Accept that change is inevitable; it is part of our life’s journey. Confucius wisely said, “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

Be ready to accommodate change in your life. Your personal growth depends on this. So does your state of mind. Do not delay. I have always maintained that there is really never a better time than the present. Remember that if you keep your face to the sunshine, you cannot see the shadows. Accept imperfection.  Don’t have to wait for perfection to be happy.

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Yikes! I’m having a Bad Body Image day! HELP!

A fabulous post from a client.

Most of you, or even all of you with an eating disorder, can relate to having a “bad body image day” and the experience of being overwhelmed with hateful and negative feelings on these days. At one of our support group meetings, the group spent some time discussing the issue of bad body image and ways to deal with the barrage of negativity that accompanies it. I took the liberty of putting together some of the ideas we shared so that all of us can benefit from it. Please feel free to add your comments and thoughts so that we can continue to support each other in fighting this powerful demon.

DISTRACTION! On those days, when your body is your worst enemy, distraction is the weapon of choice. Do not do anything that will cause you to add unnecessary focus on your body. In this battle, the more time you spend in face-to-face combat, the more danger you are liable to find yourself in. Read a book, play with your cat, or go for a walk. Call a friend and chat – do not spend time talking about your body! Focus on your relationship and find something fun and meaningful which you can do together. When all else fails, take a nap or if it is nighttime, go to sleep. Things may look very different tomorrow.

Your body IMAGE is a PERCEPTION! While distraction is very important, there are many times when it is clearly not enough. Therefore, you might have to add a dose of self-talk to your distraction. If you can’t talk to yourself (because you’re taking a walk in the park and are afraid that people will think you’re crazy) then you can think it. Even better, write it down on an index card when you have a chance and keep it with you at all times. Here is something to remember:

An image is a perception. Therefore, your body image is YOUR perception of your body. Generally, that perception is not based on reality. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this. I am usually told unequivocally that my perception of my body is NOT grounded in reality. However, as an intelligent person I always find that a little disconcerting. I like to believe that I’m capable of recognizing the truth in myself and the world around me so I don’t like being told that my understanding of my body is imaginary. However, recently I came to realize that my eating disorder has skewed my ability to see my body for what it is. The lens I look through when I look at my body has not yet been properly set, thus making it impossible for me to see myself the way others see me. Therefore, I need to accept that the way I see myself IS a perception and is NOT based on reality. I believe this is universal to all of us with eating disorders. And acceptance of this is critical. Body IMAGE is a perception and remembering this when the going gets tough is a sure way to rack of points against your eating disorder.

Accept yourself in your current body! Recognizing that your body is constantly evolving during recovery and that where you are now is not where you will stay might make it easier to fight bad body image.

Very Important! Remember that your body is genetically set for a specific size and weight. It is virtually impossible to change unless you are using behaviors. Unfortunately, in today’s society we expect everyone to fit into a certain mold and size. But think of it this way. We don’t force everyone into the same shoe size because we recognize that each individual’s foot has a specific genetic size. In China, the women used to break their toes so that they could all have “little feet”. Today, we consider that barbaric and medieval. However; in our Western “enlightened and advanced” society we are using similar methods to make sure we all have “little bodies”. The methods might be different but the torture we put our bodies through is the same.

Focusing on your body image is coming closer to the edge of the cliff and from there it is a slippery slope down to the rocks below. Play it out in your mind. What will you gain from using behaviors to have the body you think you want? For one thing you will never really have the body you want because you will never be happy with any weight or size you are at. Your eating disorder will make sure of that. Think back. Have you ever been happy when you were using behaviors? What is your life like when you use behaviors in an effort to create a body that is not your own? Obsessive? Unhappy? Lonely? Depressed? Do any of these words sound familiar? And what exactly will you gain from having a certain type of body? Happiness? Love? Self-Esteem? It is impossible to get the things you really want from life by using your eating disorder because focusing on this one external aspect of yourself makes it impossible to develop your inner self. And happiness, love, self-esteem, and joy come from inside.

One more thing. We often say that our eating disorders make us “unique”. The individuality we think we gain from our eating disorders makes us want to hold onto it. However; have you ever stopped to realize that your eating disorder takes away your uniqueness and individuality? You become a number in the statistical data of individuals with eating disorders. You become a file in the hospital or program you enter. On the other hand, fighting your eating disorder and recovering gives you the gift of true uniqueness. Without your eating disorder all your individual talents and abilities can blossom and bloom. Without your eating disorder, you become a true unique individual because it is only then that your distinct personality can shine through. So go ahead. Take the road to recovery and begin the journey to discover your true individuality. The world needs you because there is no one that is just like you.

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The Wolves Within Us

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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I AM ME – self esteem affirmations

Saying positive affirmations each day can help to shift your thinking from negative to positive and can provide you with hope. Perhaps you could write down a few affirmations that you can read to yourself every day and watch them manifest into positive life changes! Below are some wonderful positive affirmations written by Virginia Satir, an author and therapist (1916 – 1988) who was especially known for her approach to family therapy.

In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically me. Because I alone chose it. I own everything about me…my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions.

Whether they be to others or to myself, I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.

Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know. But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.

However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me – If later, some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded.

I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.

I own me, and therefore I can engineer me – I am me and I am ok. © Virginia Satir, 1975

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Guilty as Charged!

Take a look at Merriam-Webster’s definitions of guilt and guilty. Notice  several of the words and/or phrases in the definitions – breach of conduct, violating law, penalty, offense, inadequacy, self-reproach, grave, crime. 

Think of how you feel when you have engaged in a healthy eating behavior like following your meal plan well. Think about when you have “enjoyed” something to eat. Think about when you have had a successful day. Or, think of how you feel when you “slip” and use an eating disordered behavior. Is your eating disorder right there, waiting to tear you down for having a good day or doing something good for your recovery? Is the healthy part of your brain making you feel badly for making a mistake… for not being perfect?

Isn’t it incredible how almost anything you do with your food can elicit this powerful, negative, undermining feeling of guilt? Your eating disordered mind tries to make you feel “guilty” if you do the healthy thing so that you won’t do it again or makes you doubt if you can keep it up. That’s the game that your eating disorder plays. It’s a “no win” game that’s designed to make you lose, no matter what move you make. It’s like playing chess against an expert who knows all your moves in advance.

But, the perfectionistic, authoritative, inflexible part of your mind might also make you feel guilty when you make a mistake, as though you have to do everything perfectly in order to recover and if you make a mistake, you need to feel guilty or be “punished” in some way.

So, are you going to let this “brain-altering parasite” aka your eating disorder, steal away your recovery? Will you allow it to make you feel guilty for trying to save yourself? When you do self-caring behaviors, are you going to let your eating disordered thoughts hijack you and make you feel so bad and guilty that you immediately fall back into disordered behaviors?

No, no, no!!! When you do something good for yourself, you should have a victory party! You have NOT committed a crime for which you should feel guilt! You have performed a recovery step for which you should be PROUD!

Second, should you feel guilty for not having a flawless recovery? Are you going to let your perfectionistic mind (or the pressures from others) make you feel like you either have to get everything picture perfect or you’ve failed?

No, no, no!!!  Recovery cannot be perfect. That is an unattainable goal. Recovery is imperfect and has ups and downs. The key is that you are always trying to move forward, not backward. But in moving forward, you may take two steps forward and one step backward.

There is no room for guilt in recovery, not for doing the “right” thing, and not for making mistakes along the way. As long as you are trying to get better and learning from your mistakes, you should feel proud of yourself for fighting an illness that is challenging, confusing, fearful and one where there is no “magic pill” to make it go away.

Fight for your recovery, feel proud of your accomplishments, and by all means, don’t let guilt derail you off your path.

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Donna’s Top Ten: Defining Recovery

Below are my top ten definitions of the qualities that will help you in your recovery.

Print them and post them all over your house, in your room, in your car, in your kitchen, in your journal or wherever you made need to remind yourself of them!!

If you have any words that represent the qualities you feel you need in your recovery, please let us know!!!



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