Tag Archive | YOU

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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Book Release!

My book, Behind the Mask: Our Secret Battle, is in production and will be ready for purchase late November or early December 2012. Women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s who have suffered with lifelong low self-esteem, disordered eating, and body image issues, who have defined themselves by their weight, and experienced the relentless psychological “tug of war” that accompanies these issues, will relish this book as a means to help them deeply understand and appreciate their eating behaviors as a coping mechanism that no longer “serves” them, and as a hands-on skill-building tool.

Behind the Mask first details specific issues that many women struggle with during various stages of life that play an integral role in their disordered relationship with food, through the voices of two adult women with lifelong eating issues and the connections they have made along the way. It then provides my professional detailed three-phase approach to acquire the skills necessary to eat in a more peaceful way, find one’s voice, and practice self-acceptance and self-care. It is a book of connection, hope and tools for recovery.

 

Stay tuned for more specific information on how to purchase the book!

 

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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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WE

We are told we are too fat or too thin.
We are told we need to be perfect little angels.
We are told we are so smart, how could we possibly have this illness.
We are told we need to be perfect.
We are told we need to raise the bar.
We are told we need to keep up appearances.
We are told that everything’s going to be ok when it really is not ok.
We are made to feel we are damaged if we are imperfect.
We are told we are ruining the family.
 

News flash!!!!
 

We are not perfect.
We are not damaged.
We are not going to try to be voiceless angels.
Sometimes things are just not ok.
We are sick.
We need help. 

We are not victims.
We suffer.
We have strength.
We have courage.
We have hope.
We will prevail.
We will live.

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Owning My Recovery

The following post is from a client of mine. Thank you for writing this, PR. I think that many will find inspiration in your words.

A year ago I wrote a post titled Awake and Alive and I talked about the “pink cloud” I found myself in after committing to recovery. Today, I want to write about owning my recovery after a full year of struggling and fighting to stay “awake and alive”.

The “pink cloud” I experienced a year ago was the initial burst of good energy and happiness that followed my strong commitment to recovery. It was my first glimpse of how amazing my life could be without my eating disorder. It was the first feeling of freedom from the obsessions and rituals of my eating disorder. Unfortunately, the “pink cloud experience” didn’t last. It wasn’t that I gave up. It was just the natural evaporation of the cloud; as all clouds go. All was not lost though. Having the “pink cloud experience” showed me what my life could be like. It was a gift that gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty of life without my eating disorder. But gifts offer only fleeting moments of joy. True and lasting happiness comes from hard work and sometimes struggles through which one begins to establish ownership over their accomplishments. And that is what I’ve been doing for the past year. Struggling and fighting to own my recovery. Struggling and fighting to solidify my recovery and make it my own so that it could not and would not evaporate.

I will not whitewash the hard work of taking ownership of my recovery. There were times where I wanted to give up and times where I almost did give up. Then I would have to weigh the pros and cons. Did I really want to go back to my eating disorder with its obsessive, isolative nature? Or, did I want to continue on the road to recovery? I knew that the road of recovery was the only place where joy and happiness could be found. Yet, it was also a road full of obstacles, bumps, ditches, and boulders. Walking this road was tiring and sometimes I didn’t feel like going on. The battle of whether to continue the struggle or take the easy slide down was constant. And yet, amidst the tears I found moments of joy, beauty, and freedom which I knew I would never find elsewhere. By holding on to those nuggets of pleasure I managed to continue on.

There were days where bad body image skewed my ability to think clearly. Those were days where my perspective on life would become distorted and I would imagine that my happiness would only come from being a specific shape or size. On those days, I would cry and pound the walls in fury. I threw tantrums rivaling a two-year old. I hated myself and hid under the covers refusing to meet the world. And yet, despite the fear, terror, and self-hate that consumed me during those times I continued to walk on the road of recovery. Using reserves of strengths I never knew existed within me, I pushed onward.

Sometimes, the demands of my life overwhelmed me and I thought it would be impossible to go on. I needed my eating disorder to help me control my anxiety, and depression. I would dream about how nice it would be to use behaviors that would make me forget about everything else. Yet each time these thoughts surfaced I would force myself to see the bigger picture. Using behaviors and going back to my eating disorder was a packaged deal. Along with it, came the obsessions, rituals, and isolation. Later on would come the strong winds of depression and an inability to access the joys in my life. Did I really want to go back there? It was a question I faced again and again and again.

Owning my recovery meant learning to rely on myself for strength, encouragement, and love. This was perhaps the most difficult part of my recovery. When faced with challenges, I forced myself to go deep within and use my own resources to move forward. I built a support system for myself and wrote a list of activities that would distract as well as soothe me. Then, I made sure to use the list when the going got rough. I fought my eating disorder using every skill I could remember and created some of my own. I found the voice of my inner self and allowed it to speak against my eating disorder. I cried and laughed, learning to show and experience a range of emotions. I put words to my struggles and found new insight in every challenge. I made sure to learn from every mistake and used each experience as a stepping stone to greater heights. Most importantly, I learned to put the focus on myself. Recovering from my eating disorder was my responsibility. It was my fight, my struggle, my challenges. I was the most important person in my life and I came first. All the time, every time.

Today, I stand proud and tall on the top of the mountain. I see other mountains in the distance and I know that I must continue to climb. But today I am taking the time to notice and experience the joy of owning my recovery. I have scaled the mountain that is my eating disorder. I know there is no going back. The world stretches out before me, beckoning with all its beauty and hope. There is so much to live for and I am full of true joy and happiness. Life is beautiful. My life is beautiful. I hug myself and smile. I own my recovery. It is strong and solid beneath my feet.

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Who are You? What’s Your Passion?

Can you learn to recreate your view of yourself, practice self-acceptance and discover your healthy identity and passion? Whether we’re speaking out loud or running the tape in our heads, what we say has a huge impact on how we feel and what we do. Changing our language about ourselves and finding comfortable ways of standing up for ourselves is important in projecting self-acceptance. Finding for the first time, or uncovering passions that have been overshadowed by our disordered narrow view of ourselves is our doorway to a life of freedom and happiness.

The mirror is not the most accurate reflection of us, because that view depends on our perception, which is misrepresented, distorted by emotion, past hurts, and trauma. Getting a better and more realistic view of ourselves involves creating a “holistic” view. It involves surrounding ourselves with people who love and accept us and who reflect back to us the love and care we give to them. It involves supporting and enhancing the things both physically and psychologically that we like about ourselves and NOT focusing all of our attention on the things we don’t like about ourselves. It also requires a lot of work on our part to remove ourselves from the warped view that marketing imposes on all of us.

A healthy identity is one that is based on passion for things other than our body or our relationship with food. The more attention we devote to our passions, naturally the less time we will have to obsess about our food and weight.

Here are some strategies some of my clients have found in order to recreate and reinforce a new, more positive view of themselves and find their passions in life:

  • I hang out with people who make me feel good about myself. I avoid those who criticize me, those who I feel silently judge me, and those who constantly comment on weight gain or loss (mine or theirs).

 

  • Because I am a large size woman, I work on accepting myself as I am. I continually try to see in myself the non-physical qualities that my children and grandchildren see in me.  I am tired of going up and down the scale trying to be some number or size that is acceptable to society or me.  Even when I have been thin, I couldn’t be happy because of the fear that another binge was just around the corner.

 

  • I no longer deliberately look at younger and smaller women as a means to make myself feel bad about who I am. I now look at women who appear radiant, strong, or smart.

 

  • I found an unconventional role model for myself, someone who epitomizes strength, beauty, intelligence, and compassion. I visualize this person when I feel myself losing power.

 

  • I had a very negative image of myself in my head for many years. It took a long time, but I came up with a healthier image. I even sketched it out so I could be very specific. Now when my negative image comes into my head, I imagine it bursting like a bubble and I consciously replace it with my new creation.

 

  • I am a perfectionist in many ways so I have struggled with giving up the rigid standards I adopted for how I imagine I should look. I am working at accepting myself exactly as I am today and every day. I’ve had to force myself to stop looking at magazines because the images in them just reinforce for me this unrealistic view of “normal.”

 

  • Celebrating my talents instead of concentrating on my weaknesses has become a priority.   When I am calm and feel good about what I’m doing, food is not such a big issue.

 

  • I have worked on writing down the non-physical qualities that others have mentioned about me so that I can remember about what others truly care. I also have to remind myself that no one has ever said that they loved me more or thought I was smarter, funnier, or a better person, during times when I was losing weight. I am who I am, regardless of what the scale says.

 

  • I cleaned out a room in my house that has now become my sewing room. I set up my sewing machine and I started sewing again. I love making beautiful things out of fabric. It makes me feel so good about myself.

 

  • I picked up a few of the hobbies I had given up over the years. I forgot how good it feels to think about things other than my body. I enrolled in a class in a foreign language and joined a travel club where I can meet people and go on trips with others.

 

  • I took a few tennis lessons to refresh my skills and started playing doubles tennis. The last time I played was when I was in college. I was very rusty at first but then the skills and passion came back!

 

  • I gave up a teaching career to support my husband’s career goals and to have a family. I recently went back into the school system to be an aide. I love working with the kids.

 

  • I blew the dust off my stained glass-making equipment and began making small pieces for family and friends. I made a “sun-catcher” in the shape of a heart to put in my kitchen window to remind myself to love and accept myself.

 

  • I began riding horses. I feel completely at peace while on the back of such a strong animal. I gain inner strength from my time with the horses.

 

  • I love to paint with water color paints. I’m not very good at it but I keep reminding myself that I’m not doing it to become a Picasso. I’m doing it because I enjoy it.

 

How do you want to live the rest of your life???  Do you want your eating disorder to define you or can you take some safe steps toward rediscovering the “real” you???

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